Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Educational Outrage

When we stop teaching our children the atrocities of the past, we are robbing the future of the knowledge needed to make sure history is not repeated.

My sixteen-year-old and I had a very disturbing conversation last night. It all started with a video that my dad sent me. During which, a camera crew asked “random” Americans who Adolf Hitler was. A frighteningly large number of them had no clue. To be honest, I think the video was skewed to get the results the producer wanted. I have to believe that a higher percentage of Americans know of Hitler because of his crimes.

Out of curiosity, I asked both of my teen sons who Adolf Hitler was. To my relief, they both knew. But my eldest son knew far more than I even did. He gave a remarkably detailed rendition of Hitler’s life between World Wars I and II, even telling me how many times Hitler had tried to gain office before he became a dictator.

To say I was impressed in an understatement. I had an amazing history teacher (thank you, Mr. Jeffery!), and because he had a passion for history that carried over into his teaching style, I loved the class. When my eldest blew me away with his knowledge of Hitler I asked where he learned these things. It turns out that he learned some in history, but most of his knowledge came from his German language class

You see, his teacher was from Germany and the effects of Hitler on her country were personal. Because of this, she taught the kids not only about the language, but also about the dictator who had done so much damage to her people. Jewish and non-Jewish alike. She was an amazing, passionate teacher who actually educated her students. A rare and valuable breed.

So why am I disturbed by my conversation with my son? Well, after telling me how much he’d learned from this teacher, he informed me that she quit last year. Why? She was disgusted with the upcoming textbook and curriculum changes. It turns out that they’re no longer going to be teaching the Holocaust because they find it too offensive.

WHAT?!?! History is offensive. We are an imperfect people who have made countless mistakes. When we stop teaching our children the atrocities of the past, we are robbing the future of the knowledge needed to make sure history is not repeated. What can possibly be learned by sweeping the dirt from our past under the carpet? Are we so anxious for a repeat of our historic hate crimes?

Out of curiosity, my husband asked my eldest what he knew about slavery. At sixteen, the most he could tell us was that slavery was bad and was the reason for the revolutionary war. But what he couldn’t tell us spoke louder than what he could. He had no idea how the slavers had came in possession of the slaves. He couldn’t tell us basic information about slavery, but instead told us that the book they’d had him read talked about a slave owner who helped his slaves. He explained that they didn’t really teach a lot about slavery. I guess no one really wants to talk about topics that are connected to emotions.

Personally, I’m a little outraged. I encourage you to also be outraged by the atrocities committed in the past. So outraged, in fact, that you educate your children and grandchildren against repeating them.

Obviously the school system isn’t going to.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ten Years with a DPS Rogue

Tomorrow marks ten years of something I honestly thought was impossible.

But despite my sordid history and my insistence on being independent and never relying on anyone for anything, Meltarrus Washington crept into my life. Oh he was a stealthy one, pretending to just “hang out” and challenge me in video games. I was on to him from the beginning, though and told him there’d be absolutely no relationship. Ever. He gave me that cocky half-smile of his and said some canned response like, “Yeah, but you’ve never met a guy like me before.” Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

Then he told me he’d beta tested the game I was playing so I decided to give him a shot (don’t judge me! I did it for the good of the guild). Besides, he had this great sense of humor and did some serious damage to keep the mobs off my healer (okay, yes I’m a nerd). And no matter how much I tried to deny it, that was just straight-up hot. Then he turned serious and before I knew it, he had dragged me into church (kicking and screaming) to start marriage counseling with Pastor James Boyd (henceforth known as Mel’s partner in crime). After a few months of these sessions, Pastor Boyd decided Mel and I were sane enough to be married (boy did we have him fooled!).

Mel and I worked at the same place and despite our denials our coworkers seemed a little suspicious that we were dating. Since telling them about the wedding would give us away, we didn’t invite them (I think we were trying to figure out how long we could go without telling them). Instead we had a very small ceremony and disappeared for a few days to LaPush, Washington (now known as werewolf country, but Mel was the only furry beast I saw while up there).

Those first couple of years weren’t easy. To be honest, there were times when I wanted to delete his character and vendor all his gear (not necessarily in that order). But I think during those marriage counseling sessions Mel and his partner in crime (yes Pastor Boyd I’m talking about you), worked some deal with God to turn me into a little less ice wielding wizard and a little more into the caring healer I liked to play. Both God and Mel continued to pour love and forgiveness into me and I got a respec – shifting my points from damage wielding to healing done.

Now, as I sit on the lanai at our rented condo on Kauai, I can’t help but feel blessed. I’m thankful to Mel – the high DPS (damage per second for those of you non-gamers) rogue who did enough damage to destroy the ice around my heart and to God – who never gave up on me and always forgave me for being stubborn, pigheaded and downright stupid.

I love you, Baby, and here’s to another ten years!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Death wishes and crooked mirrors

I hate myself and I want to die.

Which of us hasn’t felt that way once or twice? Monthly? Daily?

The truth is that 7 of every 10 girls feel they don’t measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school, and relationships. It’s amazing the amount of time we ladies spend on trying to improve our outer appearance—trying to conform to the world’s view of beauty. We are so busy focusing on our failure to measure up, that we forget to focus on God.

I’m definitely not exempting myself from this “we” I speak of. I’ve glared into multiple mirrors, hating the face and body I saw, wishing I could change … everything. But while studying for a girls-group discussion this weekend, I have discovered that my self-loathing is just another form of egotism. In my hang-ups with my appearance, I am just as self-centered as the most egotistical, conceited people. My appearance rules my activities and my life has became “all about me and my shortcomings.” For instance, I hate taking my boys swimming because I’m not comfortable with the way I look in a bathing suit. I’ve neglected displaying several family photos because I hate the way I look in them.

But my discomfort with myself doesn’t just affect my family. My self-image has an enormously destructive impact on my ministry. Even though I know God has called me to, I’m hesitant to speak in front of groups; afraid they might judge or dislike me. I sometimes hold back when I know a teen needs prayer, because I’m afraid that teen will reject me or think I’m weird.

Woah. Self-absorbed much, Manda?

The problem is that when I’m focusing on myself—be it egotistical or deprecatory—I’m not focused on God. How can I look up if I’m looking in the mirror? How can I be used by God if I’m busy wondering if these jeans make my butt look big?

Well, who cares? After all, it’s not about me.

That’s actually a very liberating realization. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!

Our hunger for self-worth is a God-given hunger that only He can satisfy. We can disillusion ourselves for a while—believing we can satisfy that hunger with approval from friends or family, self-righteous achievements, or introspective evaluations. In reality, everyone—even ourselves—will let us down.

I’ve also learned that with every self-depreciating thought or comment, I’m insulting God’s handiwork. Psalm 139:13-14 tells us: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I haven’t been very nice to God’s creation—me. And every minute I’ve spent degrading myself is a stolen moment from God’s will for my life. I’ve been complaining when I should have been serving. Ephesians 2:10 tells us: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has a plan for our lives.

Come to think of it, the happiest, most fulfilled times of my life have been in service; serving my family, friends, strangers, and God. Helping others truly brings joy. Volunteering with the Living Hope youth group has been an incredible experience that is constantly blessing me with hope, love and increased faith. But of course it is. After all, when I’m busy looking up, I don’t have time to look in the mirror.

So, from now on, I’m applying the writing mantra I share with my friend Krista Darrach to the rest of my life as well. “It’s not about me.” Nor is it about the miserable feelings of inadequacy that focusing on me brings. Life is about utilizing the forever-dwindling moments I have left to serve God, my family and others. I now understand that only when I focus on God will my desire for self-worth will be fulfilled.

PS. I read this to Mel (my husband) and his response was, “I’ve only been telling you that forever.” 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The beginning of my day

Here's the situation:

My 8-5 gig occasionally requires me to attend board meetings. Such was the case today. As my boss and I pulled up to the venue, my boss began checking his email so I told him to keep at it and I'd go find out which room we were in then come back for him. Since this was our first meeting at a new location, my convention and education directors (Kim and Pam) asked me to evaluate the place and determine if it would be a viable option for some upcoming classes we were scheduling. 

In other words, be nosy ... sure, I can do that. 

So when I saw two signs, one with our company name pointing down toward the basement and the other sign pointing up toward the restaurant, I naturally went to the restaurant. Keep in mind that I was instructed to be nosy, after all, so I needed to size up the restaurant. 

When I entered the restaurant the first thing I saw were bathrooms - a very welcome sign after a venti latte, 32 ounces of water and a two-hour drive through Portland traffic. Besides, Kim and Pam would probably want me to check out the bathrooms as well. 

The bathrooms checked out fine, so I investigated the rest of the restaurant. It was clean enough but strangely vacant. I roamed around long enough to deem it acceptably clean and quaint, then went for the door. 

The door wouldn't open. I shook it, beat on it, and may have kicked it, but the stupid thing wouldn't budge. After another quick sweep of the restaurant, I confirmed that I was alone and dialed the office for help. The conversation went something like this:

Kim - "Hello?"
Me - "So ... funny story. We're here and well, I had to go to the bathroom. But only now I can't ... uh ... get out.
Me - "Like I'm locked in. I can't ... get out."
Kim - What? *hysterical laughter*
Me - *clears throat*
Kim - *more hysterical laughter*
Me - *crickets*
Kim - "You're serious?"
Me - "You guys told me to check it out! So I went upstairs instead of downstairs so I could check out restaurant and the door wasn't locked when I came in. But now it's locked." 
Kim - *chuckling under her breath* 
Me - "Kim! There is no one in here and I can't get out. I have to get downstairs for the board meeting."
Kim - "I'll call my contact and call you back." 

It took another ten minutes for Kim to convince her contact that despite the fact that the restaurant was closed, I was, indeed, locked inside. But the highlight of the adventure came when I strolled up to my boss' car (approximately 20 minutes after I left him to go "find the meeting room"). He rolled down the window and asked, "What happened, you get lost?" 

Me - "No. Actually I was locked in."

And that was the beginning of my day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Children are passionate. If you don't believe me, ask one to describe his or her favorite video game or movie. They will go on and on, utilizing body motions and expressions, to make sure you understand the depth of their passion. 

Like little fires, burning bright and clean, roaring with excitement.

But children grow up. The circumstances and people around them quench that fire with "reality" and "acceptable behavior." Zest for faith, love and life gets suffocated into a perfectly boring, dull glow. Somewhere along the way, we fail to remember the importance of committing our whole selves to a cause or a belief. So we hang back with the other embers, sputtering out, forgetting what it feels like to be completely on fire. 

After all, it's safer to be mediocre. No one looks at you funny or talks about you behind your back. But I definitely wouldn't call it an existence. We spend our whole life quenching our inner fire for social acceptance, only to find out that a life without passion is a drab, destitute death. 

So in the words of the human torch, "Flame on!" Don't be afraid to let your light shine. 

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. - Romans 12:11 NIV

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bread Crumbs

As a writer, I often get discouraged.

I've only been writing for a little over two years, and in that time I have learned so much. But in no way do I feel like I know all there is to know. I've had amazing teachers, friends, writers, readers, etc. who have helped me along the way. The journey hasn't always been pleasant. At first it was quite difficult to pick apart my creations, deciphering the usable material from the unacceptable refuse. Hours upon hours of writing, followed by an endless circle of editing, can go beyond tiring, stretching into the realms of tedious and grueling.

And wow this is whiny.

But it's also real and raw - what's truly on my heart. Despite the fact that writing is difficult, time-consuming and often discouraging, I feel called to it. Sometimes plots and characters play so continuously in my brain that I'm afraid I'll go crazy if I don't write them down. So, I write. Then I edit. Then I send it to my blunt and honest friends who force me to edit some more. Usually after the editing comes wake up calls in the middle of the night that fill my head with ideas to further the plot or character development. Then those ideas need to be edited....

That's what it's really like to write. You find yourself balancing on a ledge with one hand on sanity, tip-toeing across sleep, as the wind gusts around you, taunting you with whispers that you don't know what you're doing and you'll never be good enough. Doubt. Ick.

But through it all, God is still amazing. As I venture down this path, He offers bread crumbs to lead me in the direction I need to go. Encouraging emails and messages pop up when I need them most. From least expected sources comes guidance and support, reinforcing motivations and goals. Reminding me that I'm part of something bigger and more important than myself and my stupid self-doubts. Slapping me with reality and prompting me to get my butt in gear.

Thank God for the bread crumbs.