Power-hungry “toddlers” are trying to take over. Be a grown up and don’t let them.

I’ve never understand why people want to be “in charge.” They must think there’s great status, or acclaim, or money.

But it’s responsibility, criticism, and working far more hours than one will ever be compensated for.

That is, if the leader in power is doing things right.

I suspect most who crave power are intent on doing things wrong; they want people to praise (worship) them, they want every convenience and toy available, and they want no one to stand in their way.

Those who are power-hungry are simply toddlers. You can tell by their tantrums, their screaming, their raging, their demands to get whatever they want, and everyone else can just shut up.

The first time one of my toddlers screamed at me in a fit of fury to “shut up!” I was at first astonished, then I burst out laughing. My toddler responded by screaming more and more, until I put her into time out so that I could try to stop laughing.

Worryingly, adults who demand power and influence, and throw tantrums when the don’t get it, are much harder to put in a chair in the corner. Nor are they nearly as funny. I rarely find myself laughing anymore.

I’m deeply concerned that someday they may get exactly what they want, through their manipulative bullying tactics. And the last thing they’re going to be concerned with is their responsibility to others. They want the power to serve themselves.

Such “toddlers” in power would be a terrifying thing. That’s why we all need to act like grown ups and not give in to the tantrums around us.

“If they can’t manipulate me—and they’re discovering quickly that I’m no Stumpy—then they’re going to discredit me and try a new tactic. Call me paranoid, but since I don’t know who’s working for whom—and if anyone is actually on my side besides the enlisted men who I bribe with snacks—I can’t trust anyone,” Pere confided.

“Oh,” Relf said, his voice small. “That’s why you didn’t want me to speak until we got home.”

“Exactly. There are spies everywhere, son. Walking casually past, following a few steps behind, waiting in a shrub. It’s also why I don’t employ servants, or want to move into a larger home where we would need servants. Trust no one, Relf, not even your servants. They’ll bring you your meal with a smile one day then stab you in the heart the next.”

“Pere!” Banu exclaimed. “That’s not fair! My friend is a servant.”

“And maybe we’ll employ her when all of this mess calms down. Until then, I stand by what I say, Relf. If not the servant, then the relative or friend of one. Remember that anyone in power is a target for anyone without power.”

~The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, available now on Amazon and here

It’s always been individuals who fixed the world; it’s never been a government

I know of many generous people who quietly go about doing great things for their neighbors. They donate money, they create opportunities, they sacrifice their time, talents, and everything they’ve been blessed with to help others through rough patches, to get job training, to give them a boost up to self-sufficiency.

And they do it anonymously. They choose to live well below their means so that those means can lift those around them. 

I know about these generous people only because they’ve helped us, or because a mutual friend revealed to me the lengths of their care for those around them.

I stand in awe of them, because no one told them or forced them to do it. And that’s why it works. Only individuals can care for each other properly; governments have never got it right.crawdads taxes and help

 

Download the full series for less than $4 here.

I used to think prom was a waste of time and money, but last weekend I realized why we need it (and a sneak peek to book 8)

My inner anthropologist compelled me on Saturday night to go to our high school and witness a cultural phenomenon called “walking out.” At proms in the west, this doesn’t occur. But here in Downeast Maine it’s the event of the year.

Before the prom begins, the juniors (even though all grades were invited) link arms with a friend or date and march out on a catwalk to pose for pictures. In the audience seated below, their family and friends whoop and cheer as the music plays.

It was fun to see my students all dressed up: the muck boots and hoodies swapped out for buttoned shirts and jackets. The stretchy pants and plaid tops traded for beaded gowns and updos.

prom WA taylor and kistin

And the beautifully decorated gym never smelled better—the combination of perfumes and colognes replaced the usual waves of B.O. (Then again, the dancing hadn’t yet started.)

prom picture carissa

But, according to the comments I heard around me before I left, it was all very painful.

“Seventy bobby pins! That’s what’s holding this hair up—seventy. My head’s killing me.”

“Are dresses supposed to feel like your [bahonkas] are going to fall out of them every five minutes?” (If I had my sewing machine with me, I would have taken her to my classroom and made her straps, if only to get her date to stop staring.)

“I already kicked off my shoes. I don’t care what my mom says, I know I should have worn my moccasins.” (Still the dancing hadn’t started.)

PRom pictures madelyn and andersen

“Dude, I spent an hour with a Youtube video trying to figure how to tie this tie.”
“Why didn’t you just order a clip-on from Amazon like the rest of us?”
“What’s a clip-on? Man, that would have been WAY easier.”

prommikaila and friends

“No, I can’t eat anything. My mom rented this tux from Bangor [a two-hour drive away]. She said she’d kill me if I got anything on it.”

(There was a lot of “killing me,” and my inner English teacher was chanting, Hyperbole, Hyperbole.)

Overall, the kids looked great. Girls squealed in delight at each other and their dresses and hair, boys guffawed at their friends, punched them in the shoulder, and told them they looked “sick.” (That’s a compliment, by the way. Took me only a few months to figure that out.)

Another teacher murmured to me on our way out before the dancing began, “They clean up pretty well, don’t they?”

They really did.

A few boys who barely seem awake in my class were bright-eyed and dashing. I almost didn’t recognize a few others without their trademark baseball hats (oh wait–there they are, proving anything can go with a baseball hat if you’re a Mainer boy).

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Then there was the girls who usually wear torn jeans and apathetic expressions, but were instead smiling shyly with smoky eyes and in gorgeous gowns. There were a few girls I didn’t even recognize in their glamour gear and huge grins.
(And occasional winces, because of shoes. And because of hairdos. And because of dresses which threatened to pop out strategic parts of their anatomy.)

I always thought the school had a lot of pretty girls, but that night all of them had progressed to “stunning.” And the boys were so close to “debonair” it was jarring.

I was surprised at my pride in all of them, especially when I recognized a few of my students strutting on the catwalk. (But calling out “AP LIT POWER!” would have sounded ridiculous.)

prom karli

prom isaac

I have a terrible confession to make: for years I’ve thought prom was a waste of time and money. I seconded the griping of one of my students about his date. “Her mom’s taking her all the way to Bangor to get her hair done. It’s gonna cost $200. For what?”

Exactly. All this effort, expense, fanciness—for what? Some of my own children went to prom, and I made dresses (less than $100) and helped (sort of) with hair, and hoped the dates didn’t spend too much money.

But why bother at all?

Saturday night, I knew why: to let these newly-emerging adults see what they can become.

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No, not some glamorous model on a magazine (but pink mermaid above certainly could be). But that with some effort, care, and attention, they can shine and dazzle.

Sometimes I’m given insights into people—glimpses into who they were before they were born and who they can become later in life. And it’s a good thing those glimpses are rare, because they overwhelm me. C. S. Lewis was right in that we never talk to “mere mortals:”

“There are no ordinary people. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

I sometimes see who my students were, and who they can become. It’s staggering. So much strength. So much potential. So much power, wrapped up in these tense bodies of anxiety and worry and worldliness. It’s good for them to see themselves—and each other—at their “best” that none of them knew existed.

To feel, just for one night, the grandeur of what may be.

No wonder their parents were there, proudly taking pictures and cheering. They have glimpses, too, I’m sure. At least they have hope. They sigh and think, “Almost there . . . almost there . . .”

prom nevin

(Uh, Nevin? It’s not “hoodie optional.”)

And as their teacher, it was good for me to see them, too. These are the moments when I think, “There’s still hope for the future. Look at these kids. Don’t despair just yet. Give them a chance to shine like this all the time.”

(NOTE: I didn’t take any of these amazing photos, but gleaned them from Facebook and emails, and my students agreed I could use them.)

[Sneak peek to Book 8: The Last Day]

Cloud Man smiled as he wiped Young Pere’s face, as if he were washing up a toddler. “Chin up. Up, up. Too bad there’s no time for a shave. You grow the most ridiculously splotchy beard. Now, behind your ears . . . And over to your forehead . . .”

Sergeant Beaved, observing the cleaning up of his prisoner, rolled his eyes and turned around in embarrassment.

Young Pere struggled to keep his face from contorting. Cloud Man was the best.

“Now close your eyes. We need to get all that dust off. Why, you’re not as tan as I thought you were. Most of that coloring is dirt. Tsk, tsk. What would you mother say? Oh, I guess we’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?”

Young Pere snorted.

“Now your hair . . . hmm. I think I have a comb somewhere. Ah, here it is! I don’t think I’ve even used this. Let me comb through this . . . It’s as if you haven’t bathed in days, Young Pere.”

“Because I haven’t, Cloudy. None of us have. We’ve been invading Salem, remember?”

“Tsk, tsk. Your hair would be better if it was shorter. Guess there was no time for a decent cut after they released you from the dungeon. We’ll just comb it up and over your ears. Now, let me look at you. Hmm. Guess we need a woman’s opinion. Do they generally consider you handsome?’

“Generally.”

“You might pass for handsome. Ruggedly handsome, since you’re not cleaned up properly—”

“Are you about finished?” Sergeant Beaved interrupted hotly. “Because I’m supposed to bringing him at any moment!”

Cloud Man nodded and patted Young Pere’s hand which still held the unlocked chain together. “I think we’re almost ready.”

~Book 8, The Last Day, coming Summer 2018

They may do that, but we do NOT

It’s getting harder to teach my children civility when they see mature adults deliberately flouting the law.

Like right here:

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We were at the grocery store waiting for my daughter when a seemingly healthy man around 60 and wearing nice vacation clothes pulled his Subaru up to this sign. I watched as he eyed it, pondered it, then shut off his car and got out. Astonished and knowing he saw the sign, I watched as he took a bag of trash to a can at the front of the store. But he wasn’t just tossing garbage; he took a cart then went in. This wasn’t a quick trip; he was shopping.

As I blinked in confusion, I heard, “Why’d he do that?”

Yessirree Bob, you who broke the law: a 13-year-old saw you ignore legal parking spaces ALL AROUND us, and saw you instead choose to do whatever you wanted.

“That’s against the law, isn’t it? Parking where you shouldn’t?”

Think about this: how are kids supposed to become civilized adults respecting the law when they see seemingly-respectable adults deliberately ignore it?

And people wonder how seeds of anarchy are planted, how civilizations crumble. It’s this way, folks. Seriously–THIS WAY. It starts with our youth witnessing selfish arrogance, and their own begins to grow.

Except when kids have moms like me who don’t put up with that behavior.

Fuming quietly, I said, “That IS against the law, and even though he may choose to do that, we do NOT.”

Now I try very hard to always think the best story about people, to assume goodness or innocence when something seemingly bad is happening. So perhaps this man has early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s and the sign confused him (a worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe, because marijuana is legal in this state, he was buzzed (another worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe he can’t read English and didn’t understand the sign (which is doubtful because he could have seen where the other dozen cars were parked and easily deduced where he should leave his Subaru).

Still, no matter what the reason, what an impressionable youth saw was an adult showing no regard for the law, or anyone else for that matter.

This is a huge problem.

I still believe in respecting the law, in treating others with kindness, and in doing what’s right even if–

No, ESPECIALLY when no one else seems to care.

So to my son I said, “Look how his car is blocking traffic, how he’s created a dangerous situation. People can’t see around him at that intersection. The sign is there to protect everyone, and he’s causing problems by his behavior.”

Don’t misbehave around me, because my duty as a mother demands that I draw attention to the behavior and teach my children what is acceptable and what is NOT.

Disrespect is exploding everywhere. I’ve written before how I’ve told my kids why I’ve “hidden” a number of adults they know on my Facebook feed because they won’t post anything civil. Name-calling, ridicule, snarkiness–none of that is ever acceptable behavior, but now it’s become a pastime.

Two days ago I came across a house listing posted on Facebook by someone with a large following. It wasn’t her house, but because she found its decor gaudy and over-the-top, she went out of her way to hold it up in a public place to mock the owner of the house. She went so far as to insinuate that certain religious groups “helped” the seller create such an “outrageous” house.

More than 80 people joined in the public derision of this innocent home owner’s pride and joy. All she was trying to do was sell her house. She didn’t deserve to be bullied, and that’s what it was: bullying.

Even more disgraceful was that many who commented were those I knew who claimed to be Christians.

It was if they forgot that Christians don’t bully one another. They don’t post snide comments about anyone–public figures, politicians, neighbors, random people they’ve never even met–no one.

And Christians certainly aren’t supposed to deliver hell to someone. My heart ached for this home owner who would undoubtedly discover how she’d become the object of ridicule simply because her decorating tastes were different than others.

This is not how grownups are supposed to behave. We should have outgrown this childishness back in 8th grade. Immaturity, selfishness, and disrespect is what causes civilizations to collapse. These seemingly-little moments of, “The rest of the world can go to hell; I’m going to do and say and write what I want” will be the downfall of us all.

Because the younger generation is watching. My kids, your kids, someone else’s kids are learning from adults, and what they’re learning is, Anything goes.

Why do adults treat others so horribly? The best I can guess is that they are arrogant yet also insecure. They can feel superior only by trying to show others to be inferior. They’re not interested in building up the world, but in tearing it down so they might have a chance to stand on top of the rubble in some position of authority.

But it won’t work. You can never increase your confidence while putting down someone else’s. Just because more people are engaging in selfishness, arrogance, and bullying doesn’t make any of it right; all of that just makes the world nastier.

There are, however, adults who do behave properly, and being a mother demands that I also point out their civility to my children.

For example, a gentleman I know–and he is a true gentleman whom I’ve award the Internet Civility Award to–is plagued almost daily by a childish adult who posts on his Facebook page why this gentleman should no longer be friends with those of a certain religion. And every day this gentleman kindly says, “Thank you for your input, but your statements don’t change my mind.”

Then his attacker–and he does attack–goes off on a furious rant against this kind man, throwing at him all kinds of vitriol as if the gentleman deserves such rancor for his willingness to befriend others from different walks of life.

The gentleman never rises to the fight, but always walks nobly away.

I watch closely other truly mature adults, men and women who encourage, instruct, and gently, kindly admonish others to live a little better, to be a little kinder, to be more Christlike. Their posts are loving, heartfelt, earnest.

And never, ever mean.

They are my heroes, the ones I also point out to my children and say, “They do this, and so should we.”

12 reasons why I want to be a better Grown-up

A young mother who was recently put into leadership of our church women’s group told me she was worried that she didn’t “adult” properly on her first Sunday in charge, but I assured her that she displayed a great deal of “adultery” at church. (She’s still hesitant to speak to me.)

I was proud of her worry, though. She understands that being an adult, or a “Grown-up,” is a good thing, and she wanted to do it right. Too many people, however, are content to remain “Children”: they don’t want responsibility, they expect to be handed everything as if they were still babies, and they’re easily offended if the world doesn’t go their way. 

But being a Grown-up is a great thing. Here are 12 ways that Grown-ups make the world a better place, and why I’m resolving to be a better one. First, some definitions:

“Grown-ups” can be any age, and they’ve discovered that life isn’t about satisfying themselves: it’s about serving others. And when you take care of others, most of your problems take care of themselves.

“Children” are adults of any age who still think life is about getting all they can for themselves, and whose single-minded selfishness causes frustration to just about everyone they come in contact with.

Here’s why being a Grown-up is better:

  1. Grown-ups are modest. While they’re proud of their spouses and family’s accomplishments, they aren’t Children who brag incessantly about perfect grades, or post college acceptance letters online, or post a hundred photos of their latest and expensive vacation. Grown-ups will discreetly mention a promotion or a child going to college to let friends know that a change is occurring, but they also know that many of their friends are struggling, and that boasting about successes frequently make others feel inadequate and discouraged about their own failures.
  2. Grown-ups are discreet. They’re careful with what they reveal, especially on social media. While Children air out all of their dirty laundry about family, work, or awkward personal problems, Grown-ups think before posting, pause before venting, and consider if they really want the entire world knowing their troubles. Grown-ups realize that most people don’t want to know, and that unloading your troubles to only a couple of people who can really help resolves their problems much faster.
  3. Grown-ups build up others. They are concerned about making everyone around them feel comfortable and loved, and when they ask how someone’s doing, they really want to know. Children, on the other hand, are concerned only that everyone notices they are in the room. And they want to be The Most Important Person, too, so they frequently insult or tear down others, then claim they are only “teasing” when they go too far. Grown-ups, however, go out of their way to lift those who are flailing, encourage those who are discouraged, and be genuinely kind to everyone, everywhere. It’s rare when someone notices that a Grown-up has a problem; they won’t advertise it or draw any attention to themselves.
  4. Grown-ups are secure. They don’t need expensive cars, fancy clothes, remodeled homes, or any other status symbol because they are confident in who they are. Children, however, are easy to spot because they make sure you see they have the latest, biggest, and most expensive of everything, because that’s how they feel important. They excessively post selfies of themselves desperately searching for praise and approval. Their possessions define them, whereas Grown-ups are defined by what they know, who they love, and what causes they worry about. Grown-ups never create drama, but Children always do. Children crave drama, and never realize that everyone else hates it. 
  5. Grown-ups are selfless. They care more about others than themselves. Among Grown-ups is the company president who stays after the holiday party to vacuum so the janitorial staff doesn’t have too much extra work; the grandmother who’s absent from the big family party because she’s in a back bedroom with an overwhelmed four-year-old, reading him a book; the popular teenager who decides each day at lunch to sit with the loner kid because he needs a friend. Children, on the other hand, steer every conversation to themselves, don’t listen to anyone else, and sulk when not enough attention is given them. A Child may be the grandfather who pouts because he thinks he’s been disrespected by a clueless grandchild, the employee who feels her accomplishments should have been publicly acknowledged at the boss’s luncheon, and the college student who complains no one is his friend when he does nothing but play games on his computer all day.
  6. Grown-ups make life easier. They step in when a problem arises. They clean up the messes, they offer the jobs, they pick up your kids, and they spend their Saturdays helping you move. Children cause problems, and when their family/coworkers/friends see them coming, people tense up and tell each other to brace themselves. But when the Grown-ups arrive, people relax, smile, and know that everything’s going to work out. 
  7. Grown-ups are responsible. They pay the bills, balance the checkbook, clean up the house, cook the meals, go to work on time, and check the air pressure in the tires, even when—especially when—they don’t want to. Grown-ups work first and play later. Children reverse that, and as a result their lives are more chaotic than they need be. Children have to be prodded and nagged to do nearly everything, and are resentful when someone doesn’t swoop in and rescue them from their consistently poor choices. When a financial windfall comes to Children, they blow it on vacations and toys. When Grown-ups come into money, they pay off debts, donate some to charity, save the rest, and blow maybe only a hundred bucks on dinner out for the family.
  8. Grown-ups are generally happy. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. But because they are mature, they seek solutions to their problems and humbly change their behavior when they see their faults. They realize that everyone has struggles, and they don’t see that as something to resent, but to transcend. Problems become challenges, which become triumphs. Children, on the other hand, are generally miserable. Because they expect the world to conform to their desires, they are frequently disappointed and rarely see that they are the root of their problems. Children demand others make them happy, without realizing that happiness is cultivated from within. 
  9. Grown-ups are tolerant. They don’t feel threatened by others’ ideas, but allow all people to make their own choices and believe what they want to. Grown-ups don’t need everyone to approve of them, nor do they need constant reassurance that what they do or want is perfect. Grown-ups are content with themselves and with who they are, so they aren’t easily brought down by dissenting opinions or nasty barbs. Children, however, feel threatened by everyone and everything, if insults are intended or not, because they have no sense of self outside of public approval. They demand everyone to conform to their views and desires, and feel terrified of the world at large because it doesn’t acknowledge them as the center of it.
  10. Grown-ups take care of themselves. They get proper amounts of sleep and exercise, they pick up new skills, they learn how to use new technology, they read books and newspapers, and they pay attention to their health. Grown-ups realize that hot dogs and soda hasn’t been an acceptable lunch since they were eleven years old, and that their physical and emotional health is something they can—and should—take control of. But Children want to follow every impulse, and balk when someone suggests they eat better, or exercise more, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. They want to live like irresponsible teenagers as long as they can, but then are resentful when they need a handful of pills each day just to function. Children rationalize and whine they have no control over their situations, that genetics or family expectations hold them back, but Grown-ups accept that nothing, really, is out of one’s control.

    Image result for ron swanson eating a banana gif

    Ron Swanson eats the occasional banana, although he hates it, because he’s doing it for his wife and children. Ron’s a Grown-up.

  11. Grown-ups ‘fess up. They are honest—with themselves and with others. When they make a mistake, they own up to it, apologize, and try to make amends. But Children will rarely admit their errors, and will pretend, in the face of all evidence, that they didn’t do anything wrong. They’ll even try to shift the blame to someone else, even when everyone else can see they are at fault. Children think that admitting faults makes them smaller, but in reality confessing mistakes and rectifying them like a Grown-up is what earns people’s respect.
  12. 23 Times Ron Swanson Was Inarguably Right About The World

And finally,

  1. Grown-ups sacrifice, without telling you the cost. They will give you their time, their money, and their love without ever letting you know how much it may inconvenience them. They give whole-heartedly, because they’re more concerned about you than themselves. Children may give those same things, but they’ll remind you—even years later—about the cost of their sacrifice. Their concern is not with your well-being, but with getting acknowledgement for their service, which then is no service whatsoever.

People love and admire Grown-ups.
They barely tolerate Adult Children.
I want to be a better Grown-up.

   “Perrin, I don’t know of another family that would give up as much as you have. Shem told me that you and Mahrree had amassed a fortune in your cellar. You were by far the richest family in all of Edge.”
   “Wait,” Peto frowned, “we were even richer than Trum?!”
   Mahrree waved him off, but shrugged. “Well, I suppose . . .”
   “When you saw people in need,” Gleace continued, ignoring Peto’s slack-jaw and Jaytsy’s rapid blinking, “you gave every last slip of gold and silver, along with the jewelry you inherited, to pay off everyone’s losses in Edge. You also took that caravan of supplies from Idumea, despite the fact that you could have lost your position in the army, because you felt it the correct thing to do. You and Mahrree don’t care for possessions or status, but for people. Already you understand.”
   “How much did all of that cost?” Peto demanded, still shocked to realize his parents had given away a true fortune.
   “We never counted the cost,” Perrin said. “Never count the cost.”

~ Book 5 (releasing in 2016) Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti