The joyful heartache of growing up

I seem to stay the same, but all around me children are moving on. The semester is ending this week, my students will wave good-bye and new groups will come in, many I’ve had before but are now older, many seniors for whom this will be the last semester of high school. Then they’ll walk away.

At home, I will have new grandbabies this year, a new in-law joining the family, and adult children on the move in all directions. I feel the need to chase them down, as I did when they were toddlers racing to the toy section of the store. But now, they run faster than I can.

My only consolation is that my adult children with families also express their happiness at their babies’ milestones, then complain that their children are growing too fast.

I think every generation for thousands has endured the same joyful heartaches.

Children grow away

 

It’s time to be brave and fight the current

“It’s time to be brave.”

My friend messaged me those words yesterday after we had been chatting about Ricky Gervais and his audacity to public tell his “Hollywood friends” what hypocrites they are. I wrote that I wished I were so brave, and she replied with only five words that have been echoing in my head:

“It’s time to be brave.”

I have another friend online who every day stands up for his beliefs in religious and moral issues, and is castigated by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. I’d cower under such scrutiny, but he wrote, “I have to say what I know is true, so that others know they’re not alone.”

“It’s time to be brave.”

In towns, in cities, in states, in countries, lines are being drawn, and we’re no longer able to straddle two worlds and pretend they’re not at odds with each other. We can either drift along helplessly with the current, letting it drag us wherever and act surprised when we find ourselves somewhere we really didn’t want to be.

Or we can fight the current, swimming with those who school like fish alongside of us, refusing to drift to an uncertain end. There’s enough of us willing to stand for our beliefs in God, in morality, in family, in our country, and in each other.

It’s time to be brave. I’ll fight the current.

rather fight the current

“Why fight it?” Mahrree asked her neighbor. “Because what if everything we believe is wrong?”

Mahrree saw her poor neighbor’s eyes glaze over. She knew better than to get into a debate with Mrs. Shin. That was something else everybody ‘knew.’ If Mahrree didn’t break people down by logic, she did so out of sheer persistence. Mrs. Hersh realized too late she’d been dragged into the discussion, and the dread in her eyes demonstrated a frantic desire to escape.

But there was also something else there: a sudden loyalty to her society that demanded no one step out of bounds. “Then we’re wrong together,” Mrs. Hersh decided. “Being united is important,” she said as if realizing she actually believed that. “What everyone thinks together is correct,” she reasoned out loud, “and so if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be wrong.”

Mahrree’s shoulders fell. How can you open someone’s eyes who holds them firmly shut, yet claims she sees just fine?

“It’s like the river,” Mrs. Hersh went on, emboldened by Mahrree’s discouraged silence. “Everything flows downstream. Simply . . . go with that flow. It’s just easier that way.”

Mahrree saw her way back in. “Fish don’t flow downstream.”

“Yes they do.”

“No, they don’t.”

Mrs. Hersh put her hands on her hips. “Why wouldn’t they?”

“Because then there’d be no more fish up here in Edge!” Mahrree pointed out. “I’ve seen them when I’ve taken my students to see the river, and when I’ve dragged my fishing husband home again. Many fish swim in the same spot, fighting the current. A few species even swim upstream, against everything pushing them to the southern ocean.”

Mrs. Hersh pondered for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t they just go with the flow of the river?”

“Because,” Mahrree tried not to sigh at her neighbor’s inanity, “maybe they don’t like where the river is going. Salty water at the end of it likely kills them.”

Mrs. Hersh squinted. “How would they know about the salty water? Besides, so what? At least they had an easy time getting to it. They’re going die eventually, so might as well go easily instead of fighting the current.”

And right then Mahrree realized, to her horror, that the Administrators had won.

People didn’t need to think for themselves, they only needed to think what everyone else thought. They didn’t need to worry about the color of the sky, because everyone agreed it was only blue. They didn’t need to worry if they were drifting to an irreversible tragedy, as long as they were doing it together, united.

Because as long as everyone else was doing it, you should too. Hold hands and jump off the crevice together, never questioning why.

“I’d rather fight the current,” Mahrree said quietly.

Mrs. Hersh shrugged her shoulders. “You’re a lovely neighbor, Mrs. Shin, always willing to lend an egg, but I truly don’t understand you.”

The debate was over.

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door, available here.

Something’s wrong when children don’t have questions (but sometimes, I really wished they didn’t)

I wrote these lines before I became a high school teacher. Now I sometimes wish my students would stop asking questions. Take yesterday, for example:

Me: Today we’re going to start Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, which is–
Students: What’s a shrew?
Me: So glad you asked! Remember when we were discussing archetypes, and one of them was a shrew? Here’s a perfect example–
Students: I thought a shrew is a small mouse?
Me: It is! And what do you know about those small rodents?
Students: They’re mean.
Me: Yes! And that leads into–
Students: And they carry rabies, right?
Me: Uh, I’m not sure–
Students: If you get bit by a shrew with rabies, will you get rabies?
Other students: You get rabies from raccoon bites, right? We had a raccoon in our trash and that’s what my grandpa said.
Me: Yes, I’ve heard that about raccoons, but I’m not sure about shrews. I would assume that–
Students: So you die if you get rabies, right?
Other students: No, you can get shots in your stomach. That should cure you, right?
Yet other students: Mrs. Mercer, if this is a Shakespeare play, are people going to die from rabies in it? Or is that only raccoons?
Me (now not even sure what play we’re about to start reading, so I look back to what I wrote on the board: Taming of the Shrew): Look, let’s get back to Shakespeare–
Students: I can look up rabies and shrews on my phone. Can I get my phone to look it up?

Somewhere at this point I blacked out.

Ok, not really, just wishing I did. Somehow I got them back on track, but now I’m thinking about a version of Taming of the Shrew which is a tragedy where everyone dies of rabies.

children no questions

Get Book 2, Soldier at the Door, here.

What, really, is the point of power?

A wonderful university where I worked 15 years ago tried to instill the idea of Leader-Servant, that leaders serve those they lead, and no one makes a truly good leader who hasn’t been first a humble servant.

But we have it all backwards. There’s a battle in America now for who gets to be in charge and have the most servants (meaning, us). But America’s leaders are supposed to serve us; that detail has been ignored for some time now. (An interesting side note–historically, no republic has even lasted more than 200 years without a revolution; we’re now at 244 years. We’re overdue.)

Ppoint of power

(I personally hate having power or being in charge; it’s too much responsibility and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Being #2 is far better–I’m a good helper, not a good leader. Ask anyone who’s had me in charge of something.)

Try to smile, even if it looks scary

After spending a wonderful but fast week with my children and grandchildren in Washington DC, and getting home late last night after driving through snow and ice, and taking down all of Christmas this morning, and trying to wrap my head around the idea of returning to school tomorrow (who thought a two-day week after Christmas would be a good idea?!), and realizing that I’m very far behind in grading, but still trying to plaster a hopeful smile on this weary, weary face, this quote seems quite appropriate to begin the new year:

strained smile

I’ll do my best to face my students tomorrow with a “naturally pleasant face,” but it’s gonna be tough. I just checked the weather, hoping for a sudden snow day, but alas–the weather gods are against me. It’s going to be partly cloudy and 36 degrees. Curse you, decent weather!!!

IMG_6131.JPG

But being with all of them again (even though two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and a granddaughter are missing) is totally worth it. I’m a wife, mom, and grandma first, and always.

Get Book 2, Soldier at the Door, here.

Because we all deserve to live

A person’s value has nothing to do with what they can provide for others. Each of us begin life already with immense value, brought from the spirit world where we first resided.

A newborn baby arrives with the potential to become an unstoppable force for good. An embryo still in utero is a unique genetic pattern, never before seen, never again to occur: precious beyond anything else on earth just because of that uniqueness.

And even if someone never achieves “greatness,” or “wealth,” or “success” in the eyes of the world, that soul is still of infinite worth to the Father of us all.

p you deserve to live

Get the prequel, The Walls in the Middle of Idumea here.

What do you do with the truth when it confronts you?

It’s fascinating to watch people suddenly clam up when they’re hit with the truth. What they do next is very telling. They’ll either dance in a frantic way to jig around what was said, or they’ll outright deny it with avoidance or accusations, or they’ll ponder in silence then thoughtfully say, “You may be on to something . . .”

I know I’ve done all three when hit with a truth I wasn’t expecting. Surprise makes us stumble. But I’ve always felt the most at peace when I consider that maybe I was wrong, and that maybe the other person is on to something.

pstop talking truth

Remember to get the newly-released short story, excerpted from Book 7: “Teeria Rigoff; Age, over 50.”

There’s even an audio component, too, if you want to listen to my dulcet tones put you to sleep for 40 minutes. Apparently my 10th graders love it when I read to them. They say it’s the best nap they get all day in school.

Short story pdf: CLICK HERE Teeria Rigoff–age, over 50

Audio book: CLICK HERE

Teeria Rigoff short story cover

Merry Christmas and have a NEW SHORT STORY! (And there’s a free AUDIO version!)

My Christmas gift to you: a new short story! “Teeria Rigoff; Age–over 50”.

Teeria Rigoff short story cover

This was actually a “deleted scene” from Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World. I took it out because it wasn’t quite fitting the pace. But Teeria Rigoff is one of those minor characters you just really grow to love. She’s solid and reliable, and because of that, often doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

Well, I wanted Teeria to get her day. So I took the “deleted scene” and developed into a full short story which you can find only here.

But I tried something more: I read it out loud and recorded it, meaning you can LISTEN to me reading the whole story! (Still not sure if that’s a good thing or not.) Click here for the audio format.

Huge, huge thanks to the lovely Jason and Bethany Cousins of Numinous Band for editing and converting my audio file. (Really, I have no idea if any of that jargon is correct. All I know is that I sent them all of my hiccups and coughs, and they beautifully put it together with bits of music that makes me sound half-way competent.)

Many friends have said they don’t have time to read my books, but would listen. So I took a random scene from far into the series and turned that into audio. Not sure if that’s what you were expecting, but there you go. My students like it when I read out loud to them, but I think it’s because it puts them to sleep.

(I’m really not selling this well at all, am I? Good thing I’m just giving it away for free.)

So THANK YOU all for your support and emails and reading my books. Here’s what I can give back: A short story that I hope you’ll like, even if you are age 50 or older, like me.

Short story pdf: CLICK HERE Teeria Rigoff–age, over 50

Audio book: CLICK HERE

 

Is it the truth, or a poor assumption we’re desperate to cling to?

I’ve discovered that learning a “new truth,” which means that my “old truth” was actually a “poorly constructed assumption,” can be very unsettling.

However, when I ponder the “new truth” and realize the wisdom and growth that comes from it, I’m able to let go of the “poor assumptions” which I was so enamored with, and move on to a far more “stable, honest reality.”

Granted, judging what’s “assumption” and what’s “truth” is a struggle, but it’s the ultimate struggle of life. It’s the whole reason we’re here: will we accept the truth when we discover it?

Pnot ready for the truth

Get the prequel The Walls in the Middle of Idumea here!