Rhoda Lea

Thoughts on the Journey of Life

Archive for the category “Rants and Meanderings”

COLOR

I am white.  I have white skin and light eyes.  My hair is dark, but frizzes like any Spanish girl’s hair does when conditions (and hair products) are not optimum.  My DD 214 says I am Hispanic and that was my choice.  I grew up in an amazingly diverse household and community.  We ate Spanish food, we celebrated the bulk of our Christmas’ on Christmas Eve, and usually had Mexican food for our holiday meal.  We lived in Jamaica, among the people, when I was a child.  I went to a predominantly black parochial school there.  I have traveled extensively in Mexico and not as a tourist.  We lived with the people, ate the food, spoke the language.  We have lived in WASP suburbs and in the predominantly black inner city.  As an adult, I have purposely chosen to live in demographically diverse communities.  I graduated from a wonderfully diverse high school, wealthy but diverse.  The same was true for my College and my Masters level cohort was made up predominantly of African American women.

My birth heritage is a montage that tells the story of immigration and religious and economic persecution.  One side of my mother’s family I can trace to Plymouth Rock, and the foundations of this country.  Then another branch seems to have been born out of the influx of Irish immigrants as a result of British occupation in Ireland.  Still another is Welsh, coming to us through the Wesleyan movement in Christianity.   My mother’s maiden name is Cofield, which is an Anglicization of the Irish name Caulfield.  This name derives from Northern Ireland and a village there named Castlecaulfield.  The ruins, preserved and protected, of the original Castle Caulfield are still standing there today.   It fascinates me that there may have been a time an ancestor of mine walked the walls of this stone castle and led his people in protecting his land from the invading British.  (Maybe another novel?)

I had a member of my family run in the Oklahoma land rush, one who married a Chrysler (yes, THE Chryslers), and one who traveled the west in a covered wagon as a circuit riding Wesleyan minister.  I can also assure you, that at least one member of my family has fought in every American War since the Revolution, whether they wanted to or not.  It’s just a fact.

These stories and this knowledge was long in coming.  Much research, conversations with my grandparents when I still had them, looking through the old photos with my mother, researching old family documents and some casual research on-line, has painted a dim and foggy picture of my historical past.  The reason this picture is foggy is because each of my ancestors ran to this young and crazy nation to get away from something.  No-one wanted to talk about where they had been or where they had come from.  The other problem associated with finding these bits of foggy information is that so often my family, either by choice or by force, had their names changed.

This current tirade isn’t as much about my heritage as it is about this idea of choosing.  We choose our racial and cultural identity, or do we?  Census season is always a hard time for our family.  What do we check when we get to those series of boxes that ask about our race and cultural identity?  The 2000 census was particularly problematic for us.  There seemed to be so many of those types questions, all designed to ascertain what color we were.  I remember going through my spouses census packet (yes, it was a packet) with him and getting to those questions.  He asked, “Didn’t I already answer this question?”  My response, “Richard, they want to know what color you are.”  He yelled at me from across the room, “Write across the damn thing in crayon these words: ‘I’m caramel!'”  Sadly, he was serious.

In writing my novel I have taken little snapshots of history throughout it, in the belief that Confucius was right when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”   Naturally, this entails touching upon the appearance of the people from those places and those times.  Yesterday, I ran across this statement while doing some research on-line, “Why is it that unless it is specifically stated, the characters in books are always assumed to be white.”

This forced me to go through my book and specifically look to see if I had described ALL my characters in such a way that it was clear what color they were.  What I found was that I had a plethora of characters who were neither “white” or “black.”  They are a blending of wars, history, crossing and expanding  of borders.  The genetics of pure race mixing clearly written on their faces and in their skin.  I realized my life-bias was played out in the pages and that is at one time we all pretty much looked the same, and that one day we will again.  (See illustration from Time Magazine.)

In fact, I was looking at my ex-husband while he, his new wife, and I were sitting on their patio a couple of days ago.  I studied the features of this face and suddenly blurted out, “You know, you could be anything, blend in anywhere.”  It came as a revelation.  Richard could be a dark skinned French man, an Israeli or Palestinian.  He could, with a little more sun on his skin, walk the streets of any middle eastern city and have the locals immediately assume he was one of them.  He looks like the sarcophagi of the Egyptian Pharaohs.  He could be Indian or Nepalese.  He is lucky he was born Hispanic because they come in all colors and all bone structures.  No other people are as ethnically and culturally diverse as Hispanics, unless it’s Jewish.

These thoughts have driven my research the last couple of days as I am working on a chapter about 1800’s Louisiana, right after Thomas Jefferson’s fateful purchase.  What I have learned is that the mentality in our nation today still mirrors “The One Drop Rule.”  Which is as follows, according to Wikipedia:

The one-drop rule is a historical colloquial term in the United States for the social classification as Negro  of individuals with any African ancestry; meaning any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was considered black. The principle of “invisible blackness” was an example of hypo-descent, the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union between different socioeconomic or ethnic groups to the group with the lower status. The one-drop rule was not adopted as law until the 20th century: first in Tennessee in 1910 and in Virginia under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  

Racial Intergrity?  Really?  And, we were different than Hitler’s Germany how?

Also, ironically, this mentality seems to most be found within the black community.  They have embraced the idea to identify with that side of their heritage that was oppressed instead of identifying with their oppressors.  It is cultural and political statement for them.  I’m not saying there aren’t white people out there who believe this as well, but believe me when I say, most of us think of those people as the lunatic fringe.  They rank right up there with neo-Nazi’s and the KKK.  I see people as who they are in their totality, not merely by the color of their skin.  My former spouse has a brother who looks like Will Smith, while he also has a cousin who could be my sister.

Now you tell me what “color” is the woman in the picture?  Which block on the census should she check?  As the mother of children who are Swedish, Norwegian, German, English, Irish, Welsh, Cuban and Puerto Rican – which in turn would make them Native American, African American, and European – this is a valid question.  Which Block do they check?  Honestly, which block would any of us check and why do we need a classification that clarify’s the color of our skin anyway?  It’s kind of like the “English” in Northern Ireland – after 600 years at what point do you just become Irish?  At what point, friends of all shades and religions and cultural backgrounds, at what point do we just become American?

In doing my research on Louisiana I ran across web pages by black supremacist organizations as well as white supremacist ones, both equally upsetting to me.  I also ran across some really interesting articles written by our young millennials coming up behind us.  They seem to be way more eager to embrace the totality of their ethnicity and use terms like bi-racial or multi-cultural when describing themselves.  I see this trend acting itself out in my children.  They are as excited by the castle in Ireland as they are by the fact that all the Berrios’ of Puerto Rican descent can link themselves back to two brothers who came from Spain.  When asked, they usually say, “We’re Hispanic, but my mom is white.”  I can only laugh.

Oh, regarding the 2000 census with the extended demographic section?  The final question was, “How do you define your household?”  I checked the following blocks:  Caucasian, Native American, African American, Hispanic of European Descent, Caucasian of European Descent, and Hispanic of Caribbean Descent.  I sealed up the envelope and mailed it in thinking, “Have fun with that!”  At the time we lived in a predominately African American neighborhood.  I’m hoping we skewed the demographic data for the next ten years.

 

S.W.O.T.

S.W.O.T.

Convincing yourself to Change

My wonderful friend, Kim, of almost 30 years, posted this on her blog site today and it’s such good, concrete guidance for anyone trying to change something in their life.  I’m working my SWOT for an issue TODAY!  Why don’t you join us?

Quiet Desperation

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Henry David Thoreau

Atlantic Beach Florida my old home.

I have been thinking a great deal about change and about relationships.  I understand that both of these continual factors in our lives are hard, but how meaningless and dull would life be without them.  Yet, these two things, more than any other, can often make us feel as if we live lives of quiet desperation.  I am going through a season of endings right now.  I am feeling as if the time to grieve what was isn’t long enough, or poignant enough to close that chapter.  Sometimes things that feel as if they should be a celebration turn into something that breaks your heart.  Other times things that feel as if they should break us actually rejuvenate and free us. A friend of mine expressed these feelings to me this way, “I can’t be in the life I have, because I’m stuck in the life I don’t have.”  I found that poetic.

I graduated with my Masters this past May and began the process of job hunting after a six year sabbatical from the official work force.  I have spent day after day, sitting at my computer, working at reinventing myself for this new economy, decade, millennium.  I have submitted resume after resume, job application after job application, to no avail.  My ex and his girlfriend had expressed in the past the desire to have the boys and I closer to them.  On my graduation weekend, he sat down and talked to me, issuing a very gracious invitation to come to Knoxville and asking me if I had a drop-dead date in mind to make a decision.  I said, “July 15th.”  Graduation day was bitter sweet as I sat with my cohort waiting to take my walk and be hooded.  Something I had deeply enjoyed was ending and the future seemed very unclear.  As we prayed the invocation I whispered these words to God, “Lord, I need a job by July 15th.  If I don’t get one, I will accept that for some reason I cannot see, you want the boys and me in Knoxville.”  With those words I threw my hopes, my dreams, my future up to the heavens and breathed in the “peace that passes all understanding.”

Since May 5th, I have hung onto that peace fairly well.  I have had moments of depression, as each day, I looked at my e-mail and still had no response to my resumes, but they didn’t last.  When July 15th came I wrote out my official notice to vacate to my landlord. I cried, a little.  There were some frantic phone calls to friends and family during the weeks surrounding that decision.  I realized that I was giving up the freedom and independence I had fought so hard for in a city I love.  For a brief moment in time, God had graced me with everything I had wanted.  I had the house at the beaches, just a bike ride to sand and surf.  I had a close circle of smart, spiritual, educated and intuitive friends.  My kids were thriving at school and in their youth group at church.  The one thing I lacked was steady income in a meaningful, new career.

The thing about change in our lives is that they often touch more lives than just our own.  In the case of deciding to move the decision not only affects me but my boys, their dad, and his girlfriend.  It was four conversations that gave me clarity regarding my feelings about this move.  The first one was with the ex.  He tends to beat people over the head with the logic stick and I tend to make decisions from an emotional place.  He called me and proceeded to pummel me with logic, which made me feel as if I was being belittled and attacked.  This only made me more emotional about my concerns and sadness over the move.  In turn, this only frustrated him.  It was a non-productive phone call.

I then called my niece and she brought some things to light that gave me some clarity.  She said that I had the boys for the hard months of the year, when life was full of school, and that the ex had them for the good times, like holidays and the summer.  Their life with me was all work and no play; and their life with their dad was all play with no resemblance to reality.  Additionally, when they were with their dad I had no control and no input on their behaviors and activities.  My values and beliefs weren’t represented.  By closing the physical gap between their dad and myself it forced a balance in their lives where both parents had to honor and respect the wishes of the other.  She said, “You’re lucky that you and he can discuss the boys calmly and respectfully.  You are lucky that you still care for each other enough to maintain a relationship for the good of your kids.  This is a blessing.”  I had to admit that she was right.

The next conversation was with his girlfriend who I called to discuss openly my concerns.  I will have to live with them for an indefinite period of time until I get a job.  The potential for drama is limitless.  I don’t think it’s fair to her or me, but there is no other way to make this move.  She acknowledged my concerns and admitted that she shared them with me.  However, she said, “Rhoda, I can’t get past the feeling that the only way to make this new situation work for all of us the way you want it to work, is for us to be together.  Sometimes, you have to welcome the drama, then face it, to get over the past and create a better tomorrow.”  I like her.  She is often very wise.  She also said, “When Richard hung up the phone with you he started crying and said, ‘This is my fault.  I did this.’  So, honey, he gets it and wants to make things better.”  One day he will find a way to say those things to me, but I was grateful none the less.

Finally, I talked to my boys.  I expressed my sadness and my concerns.  They listened like men and remained calm and objective.  When I asked them, “How do you feel?”  They said, “We like Knoxville and would really like both of our parents to be a daily part of our lives.”  They want both parents at band concerts and football games.  They want both parents with them to celebrate their birthday and the fourth of July.  They understand why their dad and I aren’t together, probably better than I do, but don’t want to give up their sense of family.  Thankfully, I have raised them with big hearts, where love is freely given and there is always room for one more.

Since that conversation a couple of things have happened that made me feel lighter and more hopeful.  On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, I finalized my divorce.  The night before I felt a little grief over what might have been; but, as I walked out of the courthouse on that bright morning all I felt was relief.  There really isn’t anything left now for the boys dad and I to argue about.  Joy Bevere once said, “When you face the thing you fear, you become fearless.”  My divorce was my greatest fear.  Facing that fear and accepting that failure has made me fearless.

Knoxville Tennessee my new home

The boys and I wrapped up a two weekend garage sale and started loading what was left into the van to donate to charity.  The next day we moved the boxes we had packed into the garage and, even with the bulk of my household goods stacked in there, it felt empty.  Letting go of what no longer serves you can help you see the possibilities.  As the boys and I stood looking at the garage I said, “I’m getting kind of excited.”  Then Adam responded, “That’s so good.  It’s so much better to be excited than it is to be sad.”  What a wise son!

God is deeply concerned about relationships – our relationship with Him and our relationships with each other.  It is why He created us and why He sent His Son to us.  Changes in ourselves and in our lives often can make or break those relationships.  Those changes that signify an ending are often the hardest ones to face.  The end of school, the end of a marriage, the end of a career, the end of a time spent in a specific house or city, can send us into turmoil, leaving us to emote all over our relationships. Times of change, or lack of change, can make us feel that we are living lives of quiet desperation, but like Adam said it’s better be excited than to be sad.  It is also good to remember the second part of Thoreau’s statement.  Despite our moments of desperation most of us will go to our graves with the song still in our hearts, and that is a very good thing.

Meditations:

Check out these two boards on my Pinterest Account that illustrate changes in my life – the boards are a tool for processing and assessing my life changes.  They are a work in progress so click the follow button to join me on this journey!

http://pinterest.com/rhodalea/places-i-ve-lived/

http://pinterest.com/rhodalea/change/

Make a list of your major life changes and how long ago they occurred – Change affects our stress level and stress affects our state of mind, our health and skews our perspective.  After evaluating your life changes make a list of good things you can do to alleviate stress and calm your spirit.

be your original best

I ran across this blog today and the amazing artist was discussing how she has had her art and her words stolen from her many times.  For many of us in the blog-o-sphere our blogs are something we take very seriously as a way to promote our businesses, our writing, our work, our gifts and our talents.  They feed our futures and create an environment that allows us share things that are important to us to the world.  Don’t be a copycat!  Be your original best!  We all have greatness in us that we can express to the world.

be your original best.

 

Fruitfulness

I have had a saying that I have sometimes been very good at following and at other times pretty lousy at living.  It is, “Grow where you’re planted, bear fruit where you grow.”  Having just visited my family in Illinois for some reason this saying has been brought to the forefront of my mind.  My sister is a late riser in the morning.  She always has been.  Nine thirty is about right for her most days.  Years of being the ministers daughter and then the ministers wife has instilled in her a habit of late to bed then late to rise.  Her husband, in contrast is one of those classic type A personalities that seems to function at his best on about five to six hours of sleep at night and, although he is often up late, it is rare that he is not out of the house by eight in the morning.  I, like John, have a tendency to get up early.  I love those early morning hours when the dew is still on the grass and the birds are just waking up.  I love that even in the hottest climates on the hottest days the morning feels fresh and the air is clear with a hint of coolness.

No where was that more true this past week than in Illinois.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on my sisters back porch with my coffee in one hand and a book in the other for that couple of hours that she was still catching her beauty sleep.  It was uncharacteristically perfect Seattle or San Diego weather the whole week I was there.  Perfectly clear, no mugginess, cool nights and crisp mornings.  Not at all how I remembered Illinois in August.  The thing that impressed me the most about her home and her yard while I was there were her hostas.  They were HUGE and full and perfectly lovely, about three feet in diameter, all along her brick pathway through her yard.  I asked her about them and she said they just grow like weeds and each year they divide them and they just flourish.  These hostas truly exemplified to me those words I have tried diligently to live by.

With these hostas in the back of my mind I made the rounds, visiting with each of my nieces and my nephew, and their spouses.  We celebrated my sister’s birthday joking once again that we are the only family we know who sings “Happy Birthday” in six part harmony.  That meshing of voices on a well-known song always brings me joy as I dutifully find my second soprano line to blend with my sisters alto, her daughter Debbie’s clear soprano, and her daughter Rachel’s well-trained mezzo soprano.   We even called my nephew Joel on speaker phone who was out of town on business to insure we had the base line.  This miracle of music is the fruit of my mother’s natural gift for music and love for it.

I looked around at my nieces children and saw these little babies coming into their teens years, much like my two boys, and marveled at the miracle of  that fruit in our lives.  Despite whatever our personal challenges and short comings we are all raising some pretty amazing kids.  Sixty-six years ago my handsome father and my beautiful mother got married and had three pretty amazing daughters, who have raised seven pretty amazing kids.  Other than my two young men, these amazing kids are now raising even more amazing kids.  I hope and pray that God gives me the strength and wisdom to insure that my two also go on to raising amazing kids.

I have spent the greater part of the last six months just plodding forward, often torn by sadness and regret.  I have looked at my life and wondered where it all went so wrong.  Sitting around that table looking at just one segment of what has become a very fruitful family I recognized that I come from a legacy of strength and faith that just seems to survive no matter how hard the struggle.  I found hope.  I am not as messed up as I have been thinking I was and I have a wealth of gifts to give to the world.  More importantly, I have a history of faith, love, and family as well as my own talents to pass on to my sons.  I truly am blessed and my years of struggle have not been fruitless.

I have two great kids who have a great legacy and destiny ahead of them.  I did that.  I have good friends who love me and tolerate me with grace and wisdom, to include my ex-husband (or soon to be ex).  I have never had a day without food or a night without a roof over my head.  The greatest thing I have is a deep abiding faith in the mercy, love and goodness of my creator.  This faith has been fought for, cried over, questioned and defined – then redefined.  It challenges me daily in my actions, my choices, my past and my future.  It comforts my heart, emboldens my spirit, and engages my mind.  I am who I am today because of my parents, my sisters, my nieces, my nephew, their children and even my husband, and I am at peace with the person I am.  I will grow where I am planted and bear fruit where I grow.  Sometimes it requires a clear view of the present to move on from the past.

That and some beautifully fruitful hostas in the morning dew.

Where Have I Been

Christmas 2003 In August of last year the boys and I finally got a relatively firm date for their Dad’s return home from Afghanistan.  He would be  back in the states by the 1st or 2nd of October.  My plan while he had been gone was to keep a weekly blog, if not daily, of what it was like being the one left behind when a soldier goes to war.  Well, as Steinbeck said about the plans of mice and men, that plan went awry.  I started a new job, broke my leg, had about six months of recovery time with nothing to do but think and sit, lost my job, and started work on my Master’s (again).  I was busy and preoccupied.  So, when we got the news Richard would be home within a couple of months I started going through my FaceBook page to see what had happened when since Richard had left back in January of last year.  And, I started writing.  Blog, after Blog!

I was doing really well and Richard’s return was delayed because of a problem with his knee that required surgery.  When he realized that the Navy was planning to ship him to San Diego for that surgery he jumped into his government rental car and drove from Gulfport to Jacksonville to spend a whirlwind weekend in mid-October with me and the kids.  It was lovely.  There were none of the arguments and bickering like his seven day visit back in March and the weekend was loving, calm and quiet.  It felt like a gift.  On my birthday he arranged for me to pick up a Kindle at my local best buy and at the end of October he flew to San Diego.  Our phone calls, e-mails, and Skype visits were warm and relaxed.  I was jubilant about the changes I had made in myself and for the first time in a long time was hopeful and excited about our future.

Then my world bottomed out.  On December 6th Richard called me and told me he wanted a divorce.  I was devastated.  After calling my phone list of support I found my feet and my strength and started to wrap my head around his decision.  By the time he came home for Christmas I had met with a lawyer and had a list of terms,to which he readily agreed.  He had his surgery and the Navy released him almost a year to the day of when I broke my leg last year.  It seemed ironic to me.  During that five months he was in San Diego I completed two terms towards my M.Ed.  I moved with the boys to a smaller, more affordable house at the beaches, near their school.  And, I began the process of separating Richard from our day to day lives and from the circle of my responsibilities.  I cried a lot when no-one was looking.

He came home for ten days at the end of April and went through his things, packing up what he wanted.  We talked a lot and really did have some really nice times together with our boys during that time.  At the end of the two weeks he loaded up his Penske truck (it looked really empty) and after hugging us, praying with us, and crying, he drove away.  It still doesn’t make sense to me, but my job is to soldier on.  This does seem to be a reoccurring theme in my life, this need to just keep going.  My brother-in-law once said to me that life was a series of highs and lows.  We learn from the lows, we celebrate the highs, and in between we just keep plodding on.  So I plod.

In typical Richard fashion the responsibilities for his decision rest with me.  He is off living his new life in Tennessee.  So, needless to say the final ties are still in the process of being cut.  For me, it’s more than just the legal stuff required to end almost 14 years of marriage, it’s the stacks and stacks of little things.  I still have a BIG box of nothing but paperwork that needs to be sorted and shredded.  I’ve started it three times, and make a dent, and then run across that first receipt from the first real furniture we bought together.  I start crying and shut down.  I still have a BIG box of photos that I need to go through and scan copies of things I know Richard will want to give to him.  Other things that need to be wrapped in tissue and photo paper and stored for my boys for later.  Cards and letters we have exchanged with each other over the years.  If a receipt reduces me to tears how do I even begin with tangible memories.

Last week Richard’s uncle posted some pictures on FaceBook he had found from a visit we had taken to Miami when we first moved to Jacksonville back in 2002.  There were pictures of the four of us with the Abuelitas (great grandmothers) and a one of just us and the boys, but the one that reduced me to quivering bowl of jello was a candid shot of me and Richard.  He had seen his uncle with the camera and had come up behind me and had spontaneously grabbed me.  We were both there, 10 years younger, laughing into the camera.  I was thinner, he had more hair, and I remembered that at one time we had been very happy.  I had kind of forgotten that.  For so long, neither one of us had been happy.

Circumstances can be horrible things.  They can isolate, devastate, and alienate.  Circumstances played a big part in killing our marriage.  We bothJuly 3, 2010 did not handle life’s curve balls well.  It took both of us to break us.  Do I believe we could have fixed us?  Fixed ourselves?  Absolutely!  But, Richard doesn’t and I am figuring out what it means to be a single mom.  In the midst of this, we are friends and continue to be the best parents we can be as a team.  I guess that’s the very best I can hope for at this point and I continue to take consolation in my faith.  “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity.  Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

APRIL 26, 2010 – DAY 104

APRIL 26, 2010 – DAY 104

The struggles keep coming.  On April 11th  I slipped and fell in my kitchen, breaking my right leg in two places.  Richard’s immediate reaction was one of anger and his response was to start barking orders.  I call it the drill Sergeant mentality.  The military is a crisis management organization.  The organization is designed to respond quickly and efficiently to the world’s crisis.  It’s people are highly trained to be calm, assertive, and responsive in a crises.  Unfortunately, this creeps into our everyday lives.  It is especially prevalent in the psyche’s of servicemen and women deployed to a war zone.  His response, while inappropriate, was understandable, and my response to hang up on him was equally inappropriate and understandable.  The next day found us both apologizing via instant messenger for our lack of empathy.

I think what broke my heart the most was his confession to me in that I.M. session, “I just feel like we get to a place where we are finding some balance and it’s just another hit.  Where is God and why do things have to be so hard?”  This hurt me because I recognized that he felt my pain and frustration as his own.  He took the burden of my broken leg as his own, while 8000 miles away.  His anger of the day before had more to do with his frustration with not being here.  He couldn’t be my night in shining armor who carried me to the car, and took me to the hospital.  He couldn’t be the strong man who could hold me up in the shower and help me wash my hair.  He couldn’t be the loving, caring husband who cooked meals, did laundry, and managed a household in my place.  He couldn’t help.

However, it also hurt me because he couldn’t see God in the struggles as well as the joy.  I have to say that this negativity he seems to wallow in is my greatest challenge in our marriage.  It truly does suck the life right out of me.  No matter how often I quote Jeremiah 29:11 or the Sermon on the mount the message does not seem to register.  I remember this past summer when we were both unemployed, job hunting, living off drill pay, reserve orders and temp jobs.  It was insane.  However, I look back and see how we survived.  How we, often with the help of others, kept food on the table, a roof over our heads, the lights on, and the internet and phone connected.  I honestly don’t know how we did it and see the miracle in that survival.  Richard just sees the struggle, the despair, the frustration.  This saddens me.

I remember a conversation we had during that time about the book of Job.  I had gotten up ahead of him and was watching Joyce Meyer on the computer.  He got his coffee and went out on the patio.  As soon as the program was over I poured a fresh cup and joined him.  I found him reading his Bible, the book of Job.  It was ironic as that had been what the Joyce Meyer broadcast has been about.  I mentioned this and he started the conversation with some version of that age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I responded with, “I think you’re missing the point of Job’s story.”  Joyce Meyer that morning had refreshed in my mind the lessons I had already learned and I got my Bible and began to discuss the following with my husband.

When I was in college my Old Testament History professor sited this scripture in his very first lecture.  “As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in days of the Son of Man.  What was the great sin of Noah’s days?  It was living as if there was no God.”  What I learned from Dr. Hopson is that God is God and there is no greater insult to Him than for us to ignore Him.  Mankind makes decisions without considering Him and focuses on impermanent things, like careers, money, success, the accumulation of things.  Any recognition of God begins with humility.

We spent over four hours of class time out of a nine hour class on the book of Job.  We learned that the book of Job is a morality tale, written like a fable; much like the stories of Greek mythology, and that the point of Job wasn’t whether or not if he was a real person who actually experienced this tale of woe, but rested in God’s response to Job when Job was at his lowest.  Job has argued his righteousness, his lack of sin, his uprightness within his community to his three fair-weather friends.  He has given examples of his good life and his clean living and has questioned why such calamity has fallen upon him.  He claims not to deserve it and that God has somehow been unfair.  He, like most of us who face difficult times, has fallen into the “woe is me” syndrome.  At which point God speaks, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man and I will question you, and you shall answer me.”  God then proceeds to list His greatness and the mighty works of His hand for four chapters – phrasing each statement as a question, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand”.  Ultimately, Job’s redemption begins with humility, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  And, his redemption is completed when God calls upon Him to forgive and pray for his accusers.

Job was characterized as a good man, righteous man, upstanding in all his deeds.  It becomes evident that he took great pride in his own goodness, owing the blessing in his life to that instead of the generous gift of a loving God.  However, it is apparent in scripture that the selfish and the prideful will be sent to hell no matter how pious their lives may appear.

Dr. Hobson came into class the day after he had finished his lectures on Job and offered us a wonderful closing illustration on the topic.  He had been on an archeological dig in the middle east some years back and while there had purchased a little wooden figurine that was a replica of one of the ancient god’s that at one time had been worshiped in that region.  He pulled this little idol out of his pocket and placed it on the podium saying, “This is my little god.  I carry him in my pocket.  When I’m stressed out or worried or upset I just reach in my pocket and rub him and I feel better. If I run across a sick person I take my god out and wave him at the person so they can get healed.  If I have a problem I don’t understand I take him out and talk to him and beg him to fix my problem.”  By this time, he had the class chuckling, smiling and nodding.  “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I think you get my point.  We are like Job and we are like those folks of Noah’s day and those of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We try to keep God in our pockets.  I’m sorry to tell you.  He’s too big and He doesn’t fit.  God is not a big aspirin tablet.  We must pay attention to Him and acknowledge Him for His greatness.  If we do not we are no better than the Pharisees.  We are as Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power.'”  (II Timothy 3:5)

Richard and I spent hours that morning going over these truths.  However, his response and reality remained the same.  “We don’t deserve this.  We’re good people.  We try to do our best and do right by others.  Why can’t we get a break?”  I left the conversation frustrated and broken hearted, and still remain so.  For whatever reason, he’s trapped in the dark.  He cannot see that breaking my leg now, while we have insurance is a blessing.  He can’t see how many people have risen up to assist and help me.  Despite his absence, I am not alone.  He can’t see how blessed we are to have such great kids who have cared for me and acted like men in his place.  Each day that he’s gone this is my urgent prayer. He learns the lessons of Job.  He learns that joy and peace are not about your situation, but about knowing a powerful God.  He learns, most importantly, that God isn’t as concerned about us having an easy life, but about how much we look like Jesus at the end of it.

What’s Going On

Let me start by saying:  trust me – I have noticed the climbing prices – it’s rough on any income and currently we have NO income and we are fast becoming a huge part of the current economic statistics.  We don’t know how we’re going to make the rent come the first.  We have some money coming to us from our Georgia state income tax refund and Richie cashing in his TSP, but it’s not here yet, and we haven’t found jobs yet – I keep getting rejected, but Richie is in the running for a couple of jobs, but govt jobs are long in processing.

Also, he is in the process re-affiliating with the Naval Reserve and they’ve looked over his record and offered him one year force protection recall orders already – they need bodies with his force protection classification code in Iraq.  Sooooo, if all else fails, I get to kiss him Goodbye and pray a lot.  He’s in the running for a job with Florida Fish and Game as a protection officer, and one with the Corps of Engineers as an airboat operator in Palatka, and one with AIMD on NAS as a comptroller.  If he gets one of those jobs prior to getting his orders, but the orders are in the pipeline, I know they will hold a position for him for when he gets back – which, like it or not, would be the best thing for us financially right now.  It would buy me time to re-invent myself and go a different direction career wise, while still keeping us above water financially.

I’m not getting anywhere with my resume as it stands right now – a three year break did not help, I’m sure.  As much as I HATE to see him go, I have to be honest, tax-free pay looks mighty good right now.  If he doesn’t get one of those jobs prior to leaving then I’m going to urge him to run a recruiting package and go back on active duty as a reserve recruiter.  So, time will tell.

Interestingly enough, despite my concern, I really am at peace about things.  I just have this gut feeling that things will go exactly as God intends them to and that we will have exactly what we need exactly when we need it.  Not a moment too soon or too late – for this first time in my life I am really learning what walking by faith and not by sight means.  I fully expect to go to bed on the 31st of May not knowing how we’re going to pay the rent and wake up on the 1st of June and the income tax money is going to be in our account.  Sometimes I feel like God is playing with us! LOL!

Meanwhile, my boys are in Miami living it up large with Richie’s family.  Richie is doing day laboror stuff with a staffing agency.  I am running application, after application for both of us. Then unpacking a box and running more apps, then unpacking a box, so on and so forth.  I pray a lot when I’m alone, and meditate on Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity. Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

MY THOUGHTS ON RACISM IN AMERICA

MY THOUGHTS ON RACISM IN AMERICA – response to Michelle Obama’s Senior Thesis:

I believe three things to be true regarding racism in America.

The first:  minorities in this nation are still, and often, disenfranchised with our Judeo/ Christian society and our white (wealthy) male dominated government.

The second is:  blacks, as whole, seem to be the one minority most affected by this disenfranchisement.

The third is:  based upon my personal experience, black people are by far the most racist culturally of all the people groups.  Each of these three truths are examined below.

Minorities in this nation are still, and often, disenfranchised with our Judeo/Christian society and our white (wealthy) male dominated government.

There is a pervasive belief that our country is run by a few very wealthy white people – however, this is a viewpoint shared by people of all colors, ethnicity, religious background, and creeds in this nation.  L.L Cool J (a black rapper now actor) was interviewed in the early 90’s on the Arsenio Hall Show and he made this statement, “It’s not about black and white in this country.  It’s about green, and if you have enough green you have a voice.”  It’s a statement I remembered because I agree.  This is not a uniquely black viewpoint.

The Puritans came here to escape religious persecution and then proceeded to oppress every community they gained a foot-hold in because of their zealous desire to create a “Christian utopia in the new world.”  (Do some research on the Ana-Baptists.)  In the early foundations of this country we allowed the proliferation of slavery and justified it from our pulpits.  We oppressed, killed, and finally quarantined the American Indian.  The Jews, Italians, and Irish all came to America and experienced abject discrimination.  There was, and continues to be, from many pulpits, in our government, and in our economy, very well recorded discriminatory practices against Catholics.  Attend any small southern baptist church in the south and you will still hear it.  We locked Japanese Americans up in “Internment Camps” during WWII that were not much better than concentration camps or POW camps.  The Hispanics today.  As Richard said within a few months of moving to Chatsworth, Georgia, “Face it, Rhoda, Hispanics are just the new nigger on the block here.”

The two things that have brought some measure of equality and justice to all of these people groups through our history have been education and money – and not necessarily in that order.

Finally, we hear espoused from our pulpits and from our politicians that we are a Christian nation.  I assert that we aren’t and never really were.  Our founding fathers were not Christian in the true sense of the word.  Most of them were Masons, humanists, and deists.  They did not believe in a personal God or that Jesus was THE Son of God.  In fact, Benjamin Franklin was a self-proclaimed agnostic, as was Thomas Jefferson.  Read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It’s not hard to see.

Despite the fact that we invoke the name of God all over the place, there is no concrete clarification of who that God might be.  In doing some recent research on the Electoral College I learned that our founding fathers felt that the public needed to be protected by their government and guided by any means necessary towards the best common goal.  Hence, the Electoral College.  Overall, our early leaders viewed the vast majority of it’s constituents as the great uneducated, unwashed, little better than easily misguided children.  It was commonly felt that appealing to their most common belief of God was a necessary evil to reach the desired end of the more lofty goals of liberty, peace, etc.  There are some good books on this subject.

Blacks, as whole, seem to be the one minority most affected by this disenfranchisement.

I believe this disenfranchisement of the black community is for these reasons.

A weakened nuclear family in the black community.

A pervasive poverty within the black community.

A weakening of the church within the black community – historically the Christian Faith and the consistency of Black churches have given stability and balance to the black community at large.

The above three factors lead to an increase of crime, addiction, abuse and dysfunctionalism within the black community.

Black people are physically more unique than other minorities.

European Jews look European and most of the Jews in this country are of European descent.  Italians, though traditionally darker than most white Europeans, are still white.  Hispanics though usually dark of skin come in all colors and once the accent is gone and the language sublimated they are, usually within a generation, fully amalgamated.  The Irish, once they lose the accent, are indiscernible.  Asian’s, though visually different, are more palatable to us because their skin is lighter.  In short, blacks experience more discrimination because they look so different and because of the long, intertwined, and bitter history between the black and white communities.  Remember the 60’s?

In my personal experience, black people are by far the most racist culturally of all the people groups.

When I was 6 going on 7 and in the first grade in Sioux City Iowa I was initially enrolled in a, predominately, black inner city school.  I had no friends and was called horrible names by the little black children I was in school with.  This was a major factor in my parents enrolling me in private school, and the fact that the education at that school was inferior to other schools in the predominately white suburbs of the same community.

When I was 7 going on 8 we moved from Jamaica to Waycross Georgia.  I had just been in an environment where I was surrounded by black people and I never felt afraid.  I loved them and they loved me.  But, in Waycross, I had little black girls following me home, calling me names and throwing rocks at me

When I joined the Navy these experiences from my childhood which I never understood, came flooding back.  Black and whites rarely mingle socially in the Navy, unless it’s a command function.  I would walk up to a group of black people having a conversation and the conversation would stop and everyone would stare at me.  Often, If I asked what they were talking about I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t a part of that conversation.  There were people I worked wtih, joked with, and talked to every day one on one, but in a group of their “peers” I wasn’t welcome.

It wasn’t until  I married Richard that I started developing more black friends.  The only black friend I had before he came into my life was my friend Adrian and he’s Jamaican.  Blacks, whites, and Hispanics that we knew all marveled at the fact that our home was the only one they knew where all people groups co-mingled.  We could have a black Muslin (Robbie), sitting next to a white Wiccan (Nettie) at the same table with a gay Catholic (Kevin), and a Hispanic Pentecostal (Richard, all freely and openly exchanging ideas and beliefs peacefully.  I didn’t realize at the time that it was so unique but everyone I’ve kept in contact with from those days has commented on how special it was and how they always felt love and acceptance in our home.

So, what do I think of Michelle Obama’s thesis?  I think, first of all, she’s not that far off the mark in her observations and viewpoints.  I also know that she wrote that thesis 20 years ago and I know that in the last 20 years I’ve changed a lot.  I think it might be fair to give her the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe she has changed too.  I also know that she, like all of us, is a product of her environment.

The one thing my friend Kevin had to say about Chicago after living there was that it was the most racially divided city he’s ever been to, outside of Paris.  It is divided by color, religion, ethnicity, language, cultural background – everything.  The Polish in Chicago feel just as isolated and oppressed as the blacks, Jews, Catholics, and Hispanics.  She was a black kid who grew up in a lower middle-class black neighborhood in Chicago going to a white, affluent university.  I think I might have had the same bias.  And, hasn’t the American public confirmed her bias?  Her husband  is white and black, and he was raised by white American’s.  Yet, we see him and describe him as black.  Halle Berry is white and black but her white mother who raised her told her, “Halle, everyone will always see you as black so you might as well own it.”

Ok, here are my two final thoughts.  Newsweek ran an article a few years back, their cover article, which you can still access on-line, about “The Most Racially Divided Hour in America.”   The article was about that hour from 11 am until Noon on Sunday when most people go to church.  The reason why the Al Sharpton’s and the Jerry Falwell’s are allowed to flourish is because we still don’t worship together the same God we espouse.  It is rare to find a truly racially diverse church.  I found one in Norfolk, one in New Orleans, on in Jacksonville, and one in miami, but never found one in Seattle, Rockford, Alaska, or chatsworth.  If we can’t worship together how do we really expect to find a common bond?  And, how do racially mixed couple’s choose a church?

Which leads to my final point.  About 8 years ago Warren Beatty did a movie entitled “Bullworth.”  In the final moments of that movie Beatty’s character, Bullworth, states, “We should all just hook-up until we’re all the same color and we can’t blame our problems on that any more.” (Paraphrase)  I went to high school with children whose parents were children of the 60’s.  We had Asian and white, Asian and black, Hawaiian and black, Hawaiian and white, white and black, Native American and white – or black.  And, you know what, they all pretty much looked the same.  Everyone blended and no-one was left out.  My yearbook is full of beautiful pictures of  these beautiful young people arm in arm with their white friends and their black friends, laughing and hanging out together.  It was never an issue.  So maybe Bullworth is right.

The First Step

I am, once again, beginning this journey into the world of blogging.  I have been driven to it by my friends on facebook etc. who say I must find a way to “get with the program.”  This blog will be linked to my Windows Live profile – so look for me there.  It is interesting that I am starting this when I am in a dramatic change in my life.  For the past, almost 3 years, we (me, my spouse, my twin boys, and my three dogs) have been living in North Georgia.  It’s been 3 years of hate and discontent.  I’ve never liked it here, and my frustration with this environment has grown with each passing day.  But, my husband kept saying how much he liked it and out of love for him, I stayed and tried to make it work.  I have always had this unique ability to know when I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.  In some instances, it wasn’t the place, but the situation that needed changing.  However, if the situation didn’t change quickly, it wasn’t long before a change of place would occur.  Almost 2 years ago I stood on our back porch, waving my arms and stomping my feet, and yelled at my sweet husband, “Come on! Wake up and smell the coffee!  We don’t belong here!”  Finally, even he could no longer deny the irrefutable evidence and we are in the process of moving back to Florida.  YAHOO!

Perhaps the question has arisen regarding how I knew this wasn’t our place in the world.  I will enumerate.  1)  I couldn’t find a job.  I did work for a short period of time twice, but the first position was a really bad fit and my boss was an insecure, manic-depressive with control issues.  When she screamed at me and collapsed into hysterical tears in the middle of the buildings lobby in front of all my co-workers I knew I had to resign.  The second job was an hour away, but I really liked it.  I was speaking Spanish everyday and genuinely liked my co-workers.  However, it was a temp position and due to budget constraints they had to let me go.  Which was a good thing in the long run as gas prices soon jumped to $4.00 a gallon and I would have been losing money just to get there.  I continued to search for other jobs but did not get a single nibble on my resume.  Not one call back or request for interview, not one!  Which was a shocker.  I’ve never not been able to find a job, any job, when I needed or wanted one.  I’m college educated and have a diverse background of experience.  I also have an enviable job record and veterans preference in hiring.  It didn’t make sense.  So, obviously, we didn’t belong here.

2)  We have had nothing but drama, clerical and financial, with the mortgage on our home.  Which will be covered in future blogs.  Trust me.  It will be a page turner.  But, the upshot, due to no fault of our own is we had to file bankruptcy about 9 months ago to keep our home out of foreclosure, and the clerical issues are still not resolved.  It should be interesting to see how the courts are going to handle it when we say the bank can have the house back when we currently hold the title on our  home free and clear.  You get the picture.  Complicated story and more proof we did not belong here.

3)  Our best friends in the whole world, the reason we moved here, no longer speak to us.  That is also a whole seperate blog and one that must be handled delicately.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be that careful or that caring – so it may wait for quite awhile.  Let’s suffice it to say, a 20 year friendship may have been irreparably damaged because of a burrito.  My husband and I call it “The Burrito Incident.”  My best friend calls it “Burrito Gate.”  Another indication we were hanging on to a dream that wasn’t real.

4)  My husband has had the worst luck and lack of real opportunity to further his career.  In short, although he’s been working, either the pay was lousy or the situation intolerable, and a lot of this is linked to the burrito incident.  Further, insight will be offered in up-coming blogs.  However, this has been the icing on the proverbial cake.  He finally walked in the door about 2 weeks ago and said, “I’m ok, I’m at peace and I know we should have never left Florida and that we should go back.”  After my subdued, “Alrighty then.”  I danced across the living room floor shouting, “Thank God!”      It sucks to be broke and lonely and to be constantly facing inexplicable legal, financial, relational, spiritual, emotional, and career challenges.  Every week we have been here it has been one issue after another.  No week has gone by without some drama, all of it with no explanation and none of it making sense.  I’m continually amazed when looking back how I have continued to get out of bed each morning and face the day, the week, the month, the year.  I know that God has been faithful through these dark days and I am seeing the fruits of my prayers blooming and growing.  Everything makes sense eventually with God lending you His perspective.  Which will be the on-going central theme of these blogs. 

 

In these dark times, it’s important to see the hand of God in the affairs of men.  Some blessings are disguised as challenges, but that doesn’t change the blessing that comes out of them to those who believe.

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