Changing Times, Their Ensuing Struggles, & How to Press On

Some of us are recovering from job losses.  Art is a great way to work through grief.  Social media abounds with promises for book writing and entrepreneurial opportunities.  So, I’ve been slugging away at it for over six years.  Here is how it started.

I had a vision one day pushing my baby buggy up the hill at the National Zoo.  We were on the Asia trail on the upside of the hill that overlooks the red panda exhibit.  I was hearing similar complaints from the other visitors, “That’s not a panda!” ” Where are the pandas?”  “I want to see the pandas!”

The icon of the Smithsonian National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.  is the Giant Panda.  In fact, I think it may have overturned the famous portrait of George Washington and may even be the icon for the entire Smithsonian as a whole if my memory serves me right.  So, one can some what empathize with the poorly informed visitors of their expectations.

But, I learned something new that caught my attention.  These adorable balls of fluff were the first to be named panda, not the giant pandas!  So, I parked my stroller closer to the viewing area and listened closely.  Then I questioned, what if these two critters could hear these comments?  Would they take offense like my 8th grade students do in public school?  That evening before bed, I asked my husband if it would bother him if I stay up huddle over my computer next to him to write out this story that came to me.

That night I scoured over the Internet researching to learn more about these animals because the gift shop only had books on giant pandas. As I learned more,  I typed away an allegory or parable for my daughter of many lessons I had learned the hard way through broken dreams, relationship and job losses, and bouts of depression.  I was also concerned that in less than 10 years she would be struggling like many of my students because her genes express mixed race.

I like most parents wanted to give my daughter a better future.  But the future I was thinking about was an healthier outlook resilient to anxiety and depression, not a bigger and more secure paycheck.  Even though I was a big believer in the asthma and allergy products that I represented for a major pharmaceutical company for 9 years previous to my return to teaching public school, as a patient, I had no relief from various classes of different anti-depressants I tried.  Each one seemed to exacerbate anxiety and suicidal thoughts except one of which numbed my pain and ability to think deeply which eventually caused a potentially life threatening rash.

I was absolutely clueless as to why I struggled with so much depression.  Overall, I loved life, had good opportunities, and enjoyed a wide variety of activities.  I read my Bible daily since I was in the 3rd grade.  It didn’t make sense.  The spiritual experience that strengthen me in middle school that I write about in my August 28, 2016 blog wasn’t giving me the joy that I once knew.  Honestly, I felt pretty happy during those middle school years unlike most.  However, what took a toll on me was hearing my mother go on for hours on the phone with dramatic prayer requests regarding my situation.

I need to clarify that I’m not trying to blame my mother right now.  From what I’ve been able to piece together,  she was doing all she knew and was taught to do.  Her parents were very religious individuals in a church that has a history of being pretty emotionally and religiously abusive.  This is really hard to unravel for those of us that love God at an early age and buy certain explanations of how to interpret, “Honor thy father and mother.” “Pray for your leaders.” “Respect those in authority.”  It can behave like the perfect combination to set one up to co-depend upon others.  It also ensures plenty of compliant individuals for bad leadership to dominate with their corrupt authority, otherwise known as narcissistic bullies.

The other problem that occurs is where the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do” comes into play.  My mother came to Jesus soon after I was born.  So I was the child who she nursed with Bible Stories, songs, and prayers.  However, her default behavior was to mirror her parents behaviors which were to live in complete fear of an angry God who will punish you if you don’t comply.   They faithfully attended all services at their church, ran a strict religious home, and lived in fear of poverty and concentration camps.  They didn’t live in freedom of the joy of the Lord.  Rather, they over worked to try to fit in a small town and persuade people they were on America’s side.

To complicate things further, my mother grew up loving many of the religious practices in her home.  They provided a sense of identity, some joy, and love that was shared in her family.  But they were culturally strange to my father and his parents.  To make matters worse, my father was taught to love others through an abusive form of humor: making fun of them.  Yes, my father truly believes that you make fun of those that you love.  And many others do too.  It wasn’t until the late Dr. Elda Arce, M.D. Assistant Professor of Adolescent Medicine at Children’t National Medical Center that I learned that it is teasing can be a form of emotional abuse.

Dr. Arce was born in Peru.  She had a special respect and concern for me.  I earned her respect as a peer in the area of asthma and allergies.  I was trained to be a medical liaison for an American pharmaceutical company that spent millions of dollars into research to find alternative therapies for asthma.  However, liver studies revealed safety concerns and reality that these drugs would not be recovering any of their investment in the market.  So I jumped ship and returned to medical center sales for an International pharmaceutical company who had products already on the market with more promising they would follow.  This is how I met and became friends with Elda.

What I loved about my friendship with Dr. Arce was that she could clearly see, identify, label, and deal with the flaws of American culture because it wasn’t her native one.  However, she embraced it, loved it, and was committed to improving it not just for her own sons and each and every patient she treated.  She cared about me.  At the time, I was a pharmaceutical representative, some one that frequently was disdained and blamed for high prescription drug costs at cocktail parties.

I’ve mentioned before there is a common trait that unites all humans that no one wants to embrace.  Naked we come into the world with a selfish propensity and desire to self-preserve at the cost of others.   How that impacts each culture varies.  For me, what I’ve learned and say as a motto is, “Everyone is getting something right and everyone is getting something wrong.”  Therefore, I seek opportunities for cross-cultural experiences to see what they might be doing that I’m not that I’d like to try.  One of the experiences I was looking for was a Black Christian Church service.  And Wanda made that easy.

I had just snapped this photo:

to post on my book, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the ZooFace Book page for the upcoming National Holiday.  Wanda came out of the church and invited us to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th Birthday Celebration while she hopped into her car to head out for the day.

Well, not only did she do that, but she opened the door yesterday morning and welcomed my daughter and I with the warmest hugs.  We arrived early to ensure we got parking and a seat.  But it was really early, so we followed Wanda back down the stairs where she introduced me to Docent Brenda.  Brenda proceeded to choose really well.  She focused on educating and encouraging me and let the other ladies put my daughter to work in setting up the tables to receive lots of visitors.

First, we got chatting about the March books (depicted above) I had packed to keep my daughter busy while we waited.   Brenda had just seen a PBS special the evening prior discussing these books.  I had purchased volumes 1 & 3 at The Freedom Riders Museum last year when I learned about it after my daughter re-enacted as a Creek Indian at Alabama Frontier Days while we were still traveling in our RV from our evacuation from Hurricane Irma in South Florida.

Then we moved on to so many other topics.  What moved me most, is Brenda validated the racism I experienced at the hands of a former Chinese’s boyfriend’s parents who ended our relationship because I wasn’t Chinese.  This docent wasn’t indifferent like so many of my own kind have been to the troubles I’ve experienced in my life.  She cared.  We bonded.  And then before I knew it we had to scamper quickly up the stairs before no more seats were left because we talked too long.

In route, I noticed a beautifully painted mural on the wall that covers a significant time period in  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.  I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a picture faster than I could read the sign that my daughter embarrassed had to inform me stated, “No pictures of the mural.”  What happen next amazed me.  Nothing.  No one yelled at me.  Do you know what happens to them when they break a rule???  Instead, they saw and continued to greet me with a smile.  Now, I’m going to mind my manners and not post that photo here.  Instead, I’m going to invite you to go visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama to see it for yourself because it took the artist over 2 years to complete it.  It’s not something a photo can do justice of.

After we found seat, I picked up the African American Heritage Hymnal 2001 by GIA Publications, Inc.  I am shocked but not surprised at what I read in the introduction, “The majority Protestant community in the United States has not paid much serious attention to the exercise of faith and practice in African American life.  The telling impact of gospel music in the religious life of the nation and of the world is a sign that America is probably poorer culturally and spiritually for ignoring the musical tradition of African American Christians.”

All the puzzle pieces in my head connected.  These statements are absolutely true.   Why else did Vivien Thomas experience what he did in his life especially when he moved his wife and young family to Baltimore Maryland to join Dr. Blalock at Johns Hopkins?  Why did I hear my dad and grandparent make certain derogatory comments when I grew up in the North who was supposed to fight in the Civil War against Black slavery in the South?  Why did I feel that I had better not come home with a black boyfriend even though one of the earliest songs my mom taught me was Jesus Loves the Little Children?  Why could I not locate There is a Balm in Gilead in the old Lutheran and Presbyterian Hymnals that I have?  Let me get back to waiting for the service to begin.

A family of several women, three young children, and a man asked if they could sit next to us.  After they squeezed in, I felt selfish that I had more leg room at the end of the pew than this big man.  His knees extended right into the pew in front.  I asked him if he wanted to switch for more comfort and he declined.  He was fine.  Wow,! That wasn’t how I got treated on a bus by a professional male in Philadelphia when he indignantly continued to read his newspaper comfortably in his seat while my 5 year old daughter and I stood dangerously in the aisle in the front of the bus a few years ago.

Since it was still early before the service began, I pulled out three copies of my coloring sheets (depicted above) and my colored pencils.  I offered them for his kids.  He thanked me and then returned the pencils when the kids were done.

The children were so well behaved and waited so patiently for 30+ minutes.  (How many other young children would be so quiet and patient?)  I began to realize that what my daughter said last week was true, “Mom, the blacks get it.  It’s the whites that don’t.”  Being very white and raised WASP myself I finally got it.  This family had more to teach me than I them.  So, I mustered up the courage to ask the guy if he recognized all pictured in the flyer.

He did.  I only recognized a few, but he knew them all.  Now I recognized most of the names, but I couldn’t match the names with the faces.  Why not?  I wasn’t taught that it was important.  But gee, go back to Vivien Thomas, where would modern surgery be today without him?  So as we approach Black History Month, February, reconsider its importance and take time to learn more.  For example did you know MLK Jr. was not named Martin at birth?  I didn’t know until yesterday’s service.  But first, back to the service.

Rev. Cromwell A. Handy, Pastor, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church led this service so beautifully.  He accredited musicians to being the one who gave the strength before the historic march.  He permitted the congregation to break out in song to the pianist offertory How Great Is Our God.  The emphasis was on God and his greatness through a faithful servant.  It was not a praise service for MLK Jr.   There was also no disrespect for the current administration in Washington, slams, or innuendos.

Then Dr. Shannon stepped up to the pulpit and preached on Luke 8:23-28.  He emphasized that we need to stand strong.  God creates out of nothing.  Yet preparation is key.  That’s exactly what God did through MLK Jr.  he was preparing him through each phase of his childhood to do what he would do between 24 and 38 years of age.  We need to correct our hermaneutics before the homily can be delivered.  Too much of scripture has been misinterpreted. We need to listen to the calling of God on our lives not matter how uncomfortable it may make us.  We should take heart when experiencing rejection.  Because that must be experienced before a yes can be received.  Don’t always look for money.  You will never be comfortable until you do the will of God. You must calm down before you can be of any useful service.  High emotions regarding injustice must be worked through and settled if you’re going to be effective.  And in summary Galatians 3:28 we need to be one, not constantly bickering and casting stones at one another.

Thank you all who were involved in this special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s 90th Birthday Celebration.  It filled in many of the gaps and questions in my own life’s challenges and has inspired me to continue on in my art, calling, and mission which is to grow beyond beyond my childish selfish pity me and entitled ways to become emotionally healthy and spiritually mature so that I can encourage others to do likewise.

#racism #tourismMontgomery,AL #MLK Jr. Day #dexterkingmemorialbaptistchurch #Freedomridersmuseum #hymns #praisemusic #depression #healing #blackhistorymonth #overcome #civilrights #crossculturemarriage






Lessons from Mary Poppins

It took me a while to coordinate finding the time to get to the silver screen to see this latest masterpiece from Disney.  Usually, I wait until they appear in Redbox so that I can accommodate my personal schedule and enjoy the comfort of my home with some of my best company, my two large black dogs.  However, the significance of who Mary Poppins means to me personally, it was time to make an exception.

Actually it has been a combination of Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie, Julie Andrews, and the 1965 movie The Sound of Music that has contributed to the inspiration of my song writing and parenting style.

As well intended and loving as my mother was, she ruled our home by shame inducing lectures, yelling, and tirades.  Ironically, she is the one who also ensured I grew up watching these classic films as well.  Isn’t this so human of all of us?  We are all so full of contradictions.

When I finally became a mother myself at 39.5 years of age, I began to understand my mom much better.  Children usually do not listen the first time they are instructed, they pitch selfish fits, and demand literal justice for every little thing.  It can be quite draining and easier to yell than to take a deep breath as Julie Andrews and Emily Blunt model fantastically as Mary Poppins in both films.

I had been teaching 8th Grade Science in Montgomery County Public Schools for the year prior to the arrival of my precious bundle of joy.  Professional development and faculty meetings inspired me to manage my classes without resorting to yelling even though it was my default template when my patience had expired.  How could I pour such creative energy into children who weren’t mine and leave my own to suffer through my screaming even though her behavior most probably warranted it?  More importantly, I saw that it didn’t work for my daughter at all.  She was born resilient to it and would instead incite more of it.  Why?  because it’s all about power.  She discovered this gave her some ability to control or rather “push my buttons”.  Therefore I wrote my own tune to sing to calm both of us down.  Who needed the lyrics more?  Me or her?

What I found in Mary Poppins Returns was much more than just more fun catchy tunes that Julie Andrew had sung for over 50 years to me as I watched the original Disney classic.

Emily Blunt just like Julie Andrews portrayed the ever calm and highly needed Nanny for the Banks family.  Most families need an outsider to help with each family’s limitations passed down generation after generation empowered by life’s usual  pain filled struggles.

Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins taught George Banks what was truly important and needed in his life.  He made the changes needed that he was convicted of and raised Jane and Michael much better after Mary Poppins left.  This is evident in the career choice Michael made.  He didn’t immediately follow into his father’s foot steps in the financial industry.  He pursued something very daring especially when one needs to pay the bills, the art world.  But when life’s hardships came as they do to each of us, Michael defaults back to his father’s model.

Over come with grief of his wife’s death and the responsibility to fill both parent’s roles in his three children’s lives, he had fallen prey to take out a bad loan that would be difficult to pay with his fluctuating income as an artist.  Unable to keep up with it and other financial responsibilities Michael’s faith begins to waiver.  Desperate times call for desperate measures so he secures a job as a bank teller.

Then the three banks children behave in just that manner.  Annable played by Pixie Davis,  mimics everything that mother taught and said.  Georgie, played by Joel Dawson, easily distracts and wanders off accordingly.  John, played by Nathanael Saleh along with the other two blame the others for all that is wrong, but seeks to try to save father and the home.

To complicate things further, the world is full of evil individuals who feed off of the vulnerability of others, especially the nice ones.   Colin Firth plays the typical menacing bully Wilkins at the bank.  He has no regard for others and views any of their hardships as an opportunity to feed his selfish narcissistic greed further.  He changes history to suit his own agenda, usurps the law to his advantage, gives lawyers a bad name, twist the truth, and calls those who bear it liars,

Therefore, Michael Banks played by Ben Whishaw is in desperate need of the Christ like figure in Mary Poppins to return in Emily Blunt.  His sister Jane, played by Emily Mortimer, and he struggle to believe what was once their childhood dream.  Through the tough love of Mary Poppins and good friendship in Jack played by Lin-Manual Miranda, neighbors and housekeeper, Ellen played by Julie Walters, Michael comes around to see the truth, embrace it, face it, and rediscover what is most important, love.

May we each in turn continue to grow up in similar manner.  First, let us accept help from the outside observer who see our families needs better than ourselves.  Then, honor our parents by accrediting them with it was the best that they knew.  Continue on to find inspiration in wonderful lyrics contained in each song in this soundtrack especially, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.”  And put it all together as we take responsibility for our lives by maintaining order and taking time to read the whole book, fly kits and balloons with our children and/or loved ones.

#MaryPoppinsReturns #MaryPoppins #Disney #Growing Up #Healing #Parenting #HealingGrief #Grief




Insights gained from the theater

A gift I gave to my daughter and self was tickets to see the end of the year shows at Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  We were somewhat aware of the Sound of Music from watching the movie and listening to its accompanying sound track.  I had read the Gospel of Luke several times and was quite curious what the “show” would be like.

We attended the Wednesday matinee of the Sound of Music to see two of our friends acting in the cast as Von Trapp children.  The stage was curiously set with hills as the floor and  two fake grand pianos set back to back in the center.  The female adult cast opened the doors with angelic song and the story proceeded. Courtney Bassett, Maria, won our respect and hearts quickly, but I was still distracted by the setting and the two pianists.

Then Angela Dickson, Baroness Elberfeld, and Kevin Ligon, Max Detweiler,  portrayed the parts of two indifferent self serving people who topped it off singing No Way to Stop It.  I had no idea how different the Broadway Show was from the movie.  How Can Love Survive was another unfamiliar tune with thought provoking lyrics.  Enraptured by this shift of story line, I wanted to come see the show a second time.

This was easy to justify because one of the girls who acted as a fellow orphan with my daughter in ASF’s production of Annie this past summer was scheduled to perform in a different cast of Von Trapp children Saturday night.   I had already purchased our tickets to see the Saturday matinee of the Gospel of Luke, so sticking around for a second show would be possible.

ASF upgraded our seats to the front row for the Gospel of Luke.  We settled in.   My daughter and I briefly discussed that this show would be very different from the Sound of Music.  It was a one man show, with very few props, no fancy costumes, and no music.  Bruce Kuhn deliver just that.  But what surprised me was his first line was the beginning of the Gospel of John, not Luke.  Immediately, I regretted not bringing my Bible to follow along to see how the story differed.   My memory was all I had to rely on.  I was enthralled at the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Luke, John, or mix there of in similar manner to how it actually would have been told early on.

Most are unaware that original biblical scripts have no chapter or verse numbers marked much less any subtitles or headings.   They are also unaware of how story telling occurred and that this is how the history and teachings were passed on from one generation to the next.  Wow!  my daughter and I now propelled centuries back into what their world might have been like.

Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared to listen as intently as those back then would have.  It was tough to stay alert and listen closely, Mr. Kuhn did a great job trying to keep our attention, but I certainly appreciated a coffee and brief walk in the park at intermission.   I likened the experience somewhat to the best and longest sermon I ever heard preached . So, I came back for the second half much more in tune and ready to observe.

Prior to the evening shows at ASF we stood in the waiting area behind back stage to great my daughter’s friend and parents from Annie.   We were surprised when Mr. Kuhn came through the door and was happy to say, “Hello.”  I enjoyed such pleasant banter with this fine actor regarding the irony that this Gospel of Luke actually starts with the Gospel of John.

We proceeded to enjoy our second viewing of the Sound of Music much more as I had determined not to allow the hilly stage floor, fake grand pianos, and pianist distract me.  I wished that I could have watched the Gospel of Luke  a second time too, but I can’t.  What I can do though is sit down and read the entire Gospel of Luke in a single sitting.  And that’s exactly what we did the next day.

Some get hung up on “artist’s privilege” otherwise known as the changing of the original story line to make a show.   One reviewer of my book, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, had issue that an Asian animal was speaking Spanish.

But art is what makes the world colorful and hopefully inspires us to learn more.  The Von Trapps were a real historical family and figure.  How true are either the silver screen or stage versions to their experience?  Even the book written about it will be slightly biased.  It’s just how it goes.   So, we can either get all excited about these varied perspectives in a negative combative manner or in one that inspires us to learn more from a different angle.   What will you choose?

*Just an interesting side note: We learned from visiting the Knoxville Zoo that there are fossil remains that have been uncovered nearby matching that of red pandas.  They could actually be American!

#ASF #AlabamaShakespeareFestival #GospelofLuke #BruceKuhn #Broadway #SoundofMusic








Insight and Inspiration Processing the Death of President George H.W. Bush

The true test of a person’s impact is what mark they leave on history when they die.  The 41st President George H.W. Bush knew that and even answered accordingly in an interview I saw replayed.  The interviewer asked if he thought he was a good president.  He humbly replied that the historians will determine.  Jon Meachan, author of Bush Senior’s biography,  spoke at the State Funeral as if he ranked with the founding fathers like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.  But the truth is, each can believe what they want.  Was he a great leader or not?

I grew up fed on typical media spin with a dad who played too much golf after work and mother who felt she was a golf widow.  The arguing usurped family dinners over meaningful discussion of the news, politics, and what was being learned at school.  So I held the belief that Bush Sr. was a failure because he promised, “Read my lips.  No new taxes” and then proceeded to do to the very opposite.  But, I didn’t know the full story.   Thankfully Alan Simpson set the record straight in his eulogy yesterday. Click here for the full transcript.

Little did I know that George H.W. Bush knew very well what was going to happen to his popularity and political career by this tax increase.  I was fed a lie that I believed for way too many years.  I cried so hard during Bush Senior’s State Funeral because of it.  Another great leader who impacted the world through a humble life and meaningful death, Jesus Christ, is recorded in John 8:32 for pointing out truth is what empowers freedom.

The self-help literature and advocacy groups like NAMI are replete with how “stink’n think’n” fuels depression and anxiety.  It’s not a wonder I cried so hard while I watched the funeral.  My wrong thoughts about President Bush dominated my thinking for over 20 years during which I’ve struggled with many dips into depression fueled by anxiety.  There are many other lies I’ve ignorantly subscribed to that have contributed as well, but the power of uncovering this lie with the truth was encouraging and the tears that flowed healed.

Children are very literal and get hung up with rules.  This is sometimes referred to black and white thinking of which I refer to in Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo.  The immature don’t understand why someone changes their commitment.  They just take offense.  My daughter helped me to see this last night through an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.   She asked why Andy  Griffith had  changed what he had initially taught and was asking of his son.  Thankfully, the story continued as Andy lovingly lived out his explanation to the kids.

This vignette turned out to be very timely with the Bush Senior’s legacy issue. My 11 year old got the idea faster than Andy’s 8 year old.  It’s a gentle process of maturation which presents with other challenges.   In similar manner too many had been led astray by sound bites and political jabs to the defamation of Bush Senior’s reputation by this “but you said” mentality.

Another obstacle to growth is  how pain, suffering, problems, illness, and death are perceived.  These are inevitable experiences of life.  They aren’t something to completely fear and avoid.  Rather, they are powerful means to invite us to grow and to love.   George H.W. modeled this well.  When he asked, “Why me? Why was I spared?” He heard a very high calling to move on living for others and not just for self.  We need to grow up.  Whether George Herbert Walker Bush was one the the great presidents of the United States of America might be debated.  But doubting his maturity as a leader has very little evidence.

Now I move on to the message delivered by Rector Hollerith at the State Funeral.  His message made me recall a particular discussion that took place when I was visiting at a nearby church for a Wednesday night Bible Study. The passage covered was Romans 3:1-9. Two moving comments worthy of quoting were made. One man pointed out that the enemies of Jesus called him a “friend of sinners.” And then Brother Doug replied, “That’s right. We can be friends of sinners without being friendly with sin.”

Then conversation turned to why discussion of sin is so unacceptable in society. In many settings this conversation often turns to focusing on the sins of others and those condemn by us or a theological discourse on why non-believers can’t come to terms with their debased nature and need of a Savior.

Could it be the later shares a similarity with the inherent flaw in the first? Being that we ALL love to remain in our sin and blinded to its glaring reality?

The ruler of the world does have power and the culture in which he leads with is Humanism which denies the sinful debased nature of humans and focuses only on the good that we are capable of. (The philosophical system that inspires how American public and many private schools are run.)

So for those unbelievers out there, you know those open minded people when it comes to condoning other ideas, have you considered why it is so hard to be thoughtful of others when you are sick, tired, sleep deprived, cold, and/or stressed? Is it possible you are not as good as you think?

For you believers do you pray daily to your dear Lord asking him to be the light in your own dark heart and listen to him reveal to you where you are in error? Or do you just focus on the speck in your brother’s eye while continuing to hurt yourself and others with the log in your own? (Matthew 7:3-5) And then focus on how they have hurt you and caused you trouble? And then list of your “shopping list” or “honey do” of what you want God to do for you? Please be mindful that you may be praying out of unbelief or rather belief that its up to YOUR prayers and efforts to get God to hear you. You might be in more trouble than the unbelievers. At least they are up front and don’t claim to have faith in Christ.

Then I believe another factor plays in. Inherently, society whether it regards God or not, does call persons like Hitler evil and want justice served, not the “forgiving grace” that some espouse that Jesus offers through his life, death, and resurrection. It also praises those who contribute self-less heroic work towards the common good. So now what?

I believe it is the WHOLE of the Bible that is the answer here, And the greatest problem is while there are Bibles everywhere and talked about, the bulk of the book isn’t read much less interpreted properly. Instead of being used to unite believers it is masterfully used by the wolves in sheep clothing who use it to divide us and to take our time, money, and to influence how we think and behave.

Ask yourself this, how do you react when someone points out that you fell short of something? If you deny it, minimize it, change the subject, excuse it (“If you only knew what I went through xyz…”), or worse yet flip it around to blame the other consider Proverbs chapter 9. Those behaviors describe fools, those who do not bow the knee to the lordship of the LORD.  The wise take to heart any correction. Their response is one of contrition, remorse, and changed behavior. These reactions describe the wise and they are synonymous with true believers throughout scripture.

The best and wisest instruction is usually called the greatest commandment: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. It is also refer to as the Shema and consists of three paragraphs in Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. Jesus quoted it as the masterful answer to enemies trap question on which was the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-39.

This is was the core message deliver yesterday at the The state funeral of President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral.  If you want to review or hear the message for yourself go to click here for my Facebook Page.

October 31st: What Holiday Do You Celebrate? Last Day of Bully Prevention Month, Reformation Day, or Halloween?

by Hope Mucklow

*Right click on words in green font to open a link in another tab to more information about it.  A left click will open the link and take you away from this tab.

ASF at Night

What a lovely evening I enjoyed on this park bench waiting for my daughter while she rehearsed for tech week in Alabama Dance Theater’s production of Dracula.  Several conversations ended up taking place here that led to my inspiration to write this particular blog.

One lovely talk with a mom revolved around our experience with ADT.  I pointed out how impressed I was with their encouragement that it wasn’t too late for my pre-teen  daughter to start ballet classes with them.  In fact one of the administrator of ADT  pointed out to me that it was ideal because she was now motivated (unlike when she was 4 years of age and dropped out of the community ballet class in Potomac, Maryland.)

I continued rambling on about how grateful I felt that her teacher encouraged my daughter to audition for Dracula and Mistletoe.  I envisioned my tween being rejected as her dancing ability is far below from the impressive dance company girls and professionals who will perform the lead roles.   Little did I think my Ballet I student would land a part as a Gypsy Villager which requires more acting than advanced ballet skills.

We chatted on about how great it is for our daughters to have such encouragement and experience.  So, I was surprised to listen to an upset dancer on the ride home.  Here some of her little or rather younger “Gypsy Children” that she works with sassed and mocked her for only being in Ballet I.

My first approach was to discuss how disrespectful our culture has become.  I pointed out what kind of humor dominates the most beloved cable children’s networks.  Then I pointed out that these children are much younger and therefore more immature than she.  It is childish behavior that is being exhibited and rendered at her expense.  I think this is why the expression “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” has been repeated so much over generations.  Children can and often behave very meanly towards one another.  Especially when they are hurting and it makes them feel better about themselves when they put another child down.

These two points nudged my daughter a little towards extending forgiveness and compassion towards her disrespectful gypsy children.  But still her wounds gaped open with pain.  I had to step into the “Mama Rojo” role from Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo.  I needed to strengthen the identity in my own child.  It had been insulted and it must be restored.  There’s something else that needed to be done.  I had to acknowledge that it is wrong how these children behaved towards her.  This is why Ruby Redfords poem, that clearly states that words can also hurt me might be a more useful and timely poem for us to recite to our children.

Too often we are afraid to call out inappropriate behavior.  Would it be because we’re afraid of being called a “Tattle Tale?”  First, I put it on her that she needed to go to one of the adults helping with the production.  Then it dawned on me… she came to me.  I’m an adult.  Do I have the courage to write about this in a blog and figure out a graceful way to handle this?  Well obviously, you’re reading what I decided to do.

In no way am I trying to pick on the children out who are mocking my daughter.  But I am capitalizing on using it as an example in order to encourage other parents out there who are reading this on what we can do in this age of out of control bullying and narcissistic culture.  So what?

There’s a plethora of discussion regarding the various types of abuse.  What I have come to believe is that emotional abuse, in particularly covert emotional abuse, is the most damaging.  Many support this idea in the current blog world, but it wasn’t until last week that I realized why.

It is all about getting the right diagnosis first in order to prescribe state of the art treatment.   It is well established that forgiveness is one of the key remedies for one to recover from a traumatic experience.  But one cannot forgive something if it’s never identified (covert) as being inappropriate behavior exhibited towards you.  At least in physical abuse the evidence is obvious it is not hidden and denied.  Likewise you can’t say, “no more” if the behaviors is mislabeled under the guise of love, care, or fun which abusers are masters at doing.  This is the first enlightening thought that came to me.  Re-establishing healthy relational boundaries is the other key ingredient to bouncing back from a negative situation.

If you consider the initial approach I took with my daughter I almost excused the behavior and turned the bullies into the victims, “Oh they must not feel good about themselves because of xyz.”  That might be true, but there’s a lot more that needs to be acknowledged.  While it may not be polite, appropriate, or much less needed to point out others flaws and weaknesses (which we all have), this should not be confused with speaking up for oneself when personal respect boundaries have been violated.  It needs to be called out for what it is: hurtful.  Anything that hurts another person’s identity is wrong.

The idea of  the need for strong healthy boundaries comes in with the other conversation I had on that park bench.  Most of the summer I passed by this exact spot with some fantastic parents of the orphan cast of Annie.  One of whom helped me to see that my latest author visit invitation (which I’ve not had since May) may not be in my best interest and really an unusual draw for them to attract people to come to their event who very well may not.

As much as I’d like to believe that people would flock to this particular venue because I was scheduled to be there, I’ve been at this long enough to know that most people don’t come to hear a lesser known author whether they’re local or not.  They might come to hear Brad Meltzner like my daughter and I did in Miami a few years ago, but even he only gets 30-50 people to show.  At least that’s what I experienced reading Rojo Read to Learn Ragged Anne

all around South Florida with the Read to Learn Books for Free Program.

Read to Learn Books for Free

Back to the park bench.  What I learned reading my emails was that my Annie orphan mom friend was right.  This author visit invitation was not at a good time.  I had expressed from the beginning that my daughter was scheduled for tech week prior to 4 performances the weekend they wanted to host me and it wasn’t a good time for me.  However, I reluctantly agreed because the owner insisted on November 3, 2108 and I had been feeling desperate for an opportunity to publicly read, sell, and sign my book.  I needed better boundaries and respect of my own family schedule.  Do you want to guess what the answer was when I offered to reschedule for one of their December venues?  Yup, “We’re sorry that won’t work.”  Did it hurt?  Yes, but not nearly as much as it would have if I hadn’t learned what I’m writing about.  And perhaps I created this rejection because of how long I took in finally mustering the courage to request rescheduling.

I don’t need to sell myself short in the hopes of an opportunity that probably isn’t going to come.  Folks may be going to the venue this weekend, but they’ll most likely choose to be entertained at the many other fun activities rather than slow and quiet down to hear a book read.  Watching pumpkins fired away and smashed into the field is what they’re going for.  And they most likely are going to spend their money on the admission fee and food, not my book.  It’s just reality which is why I groan anytime an excited individual has a story in mind that  want my advice on how to get published.  It’s really hard to get people to buy books these days, but its not to self-publish.  Most consumers would either rather push electronic buttons or they are already overwhelmed with stuff and don’t need to find space on their home to store another product.

So what does this story about me and the cancellation of the author visit have to do with my point?  I was not taught how to say, “no” as I child.  Rather I was taught to be co-dependent people pleaser.  Worse was I had created a deep seated value that I was honoring God in the name of loving others because of this teaching and inappropriate interpretation of Bible verses like I Corinithians 9:19-23.  I had confused Paul’s teaching that meant we should work hard to respect other’s differences so that we can to relate to them in their cultural/economic/sexual/racial context. It does not mean to  become a door mat to be abused.

I have also come to learn in my own odyssey of emotional healing and personal growth that healthy boundaries need to be taught to our youngsters as they are growing up.  We need to applaud them when they do it and gently correct their childish self-preserving response to do so in a respectful way.  Otherwise the natural reaction is to fight back which too often escalates the problem.  Then the kids get hung up on taking justice into their own hands.

One of the greatest and prevalent themes in the first 39 books of the Bible that consist of the Jewish Pentateuch, Prophets,  Psalms, Proverbs, and other poetry that Jesus affirmed to be worthy of study and teaching is that God will avenge his enemies.   It is to a believers honor to entrust that God will execute justice appropriately at the best time.  It is not for us to demand now.  Rather like Joseph (of which Dream Works produced Joseph King of Dreams) we can rise above negative experiences by trusting that they may be used to cultivate in each opportunities to grow and to mature in order to become a better blessing to others in the future.  That’s why Joseph in Genesis 50:19-21 assured his brothers that he would not repay their wickedness with punishment but rather he would continue to preserve their lives and many others.

Children have an innate pre-occupation with justice don’t they?  We hear them cry out, “It’s not fair!” Perhaps they need to be inspired by what I just said in order to let it go.  Otherwise if they hang on to the injustice it can fester to an emotional point that turns out to hurt themselves much worse than the original problem or offense.

We need to as parents, teachers, leaders and therapists to listen to our children or patients to guide them into healing ways that will restore their damaged identity.  Had I been feeling better about myself (respect), my book, writing,  and known how to set better boundaries, I would have stayed firm and declined the November 3rd invitation from the start.  That would have saved me the turmoil I went through every night of knowing it was too much, but not wanting to let go of the possibility that I might get my name out there, sells some books, and secure more author visits.  Likewise it would have save the owner and manager the aggravation about planning on having me and then my canceling.

So what is taught is very important because it leads to our values and ability to respond appropriately.  This is what brings me to reformation leader,  Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was very much concerned about the teachings that were going on in 1517 that affect his parishioners’ identities.  And he choose October 31st to set some boundaries about it making it know as Reformation Day .  I happen to share Peter Smith’s (his article is the link in green above) speculation about as to why Martin Luther choose this day.

The very phrase “Trick or Treating” implies manipulative bullying from a very selfish and rude stand point.  It feeds and grooms entitlement thinking.  (And then we wonder why it is so prevalent.)

So this October 31st my family will read more about Martin Luther’s brave move to take on Johann Tetzel’s manipulative message that bullied the common people of that day in the name of God, their deceased loved ones, and the church of the day .  And then discuss how we might better believe that whether you are big or small, black or white, you matter because God made you with dignity, honor, and purpose that is redeemed through one very popular historic individual who lived an amazing life and died in the place of your shortcomings, weakness, failures, and vulnerabilities.  He was called a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief because he took on all that pain that we struggle with in order to free us from how it binds us up to think poorly of ourselves and to succumb to believing unkind words about ourselves, to take personally disrespectful treatment, tolerate abusive working conditions, and therefore limp through life with depression and anxiety. Bully Prevention Coloring Sheets 2

So what will you celebrate this day?  Happy October 31st the last day of National Bully Prevention Month!

#Anti-bullying #Bullyproof #BullyPreventionMonth #abuse #covertemotionalabuse #emotionalboundaries #Healing #Depression #Anxiety #peoplepleaser #co-dependent  #recovery

National Bullying Prevention Month 2018


Click on the green font to download a complimentary blank copy of each coloring sheet to print and copy.  RojoWhether you are big or smallRojoWhether you are big or smallEspanol2

Secure a copy of Rojo at

Rojo the Baby Red Panda at the Zoo

Do you want some live inspiration?  Book Hope for an author visit for your class or youth group.  Click on the home tab for more ideas of what she can do with and for your students.  Local visits are just $150.00 which will be waved if your group buys 10 books.  Out of town visits may include travel expenses.

Inspiration from St. Patrick’s and Red Pandas

St. Patrick's day

What in the world do red pandas and St. Patrick have in common? Most people know very little accurate information about both.  And for me, both are inspirational figures that help me rise above the lowest common denominator of my debased nature.

The first similarity is that both are usually known by common pseudo names.  Firefox and Lesser Panda are often the names to describe the red pandas.   St. Patrick’s name originated at his birth was Maewyn Sucat, not Patrick.  He took on Patrick decades later when he trained in the Catholic Church in France to become a Bishop.  The second would be the inspiration that I derive from both.

St. Patrick was Roman British, not Irish.  He was born in an economically privileged home in Brittan, and some accounts report that he usually behaved as a spoiled one.  The nearest country neighbors were not friendly and the political envy and strife that describe many today rampantly prevailed in the hearts on both sides.

Supposedly,  Maewyn  behaved as the typical spoiled teen with little interest in moral much less faithful behavior and beliefs.  One day he was nearby waters that Irish raiding pirates sailed, landed, captured him, and took him back to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. The job he was enslaved to was shepherding.

The combination of the humility of slavery,  separation from all he knew,  and time alone out doors caring for the animals began to change him.   Teaching  received in his youth from his family and church began to speak to him in his heart.  But, first, his natural human response, is what he does…run away.

When the opportunity presented he escaped back to his home.  There he finished a formal education and felt called to enter the priesthood.  A dream convinced him that he was called to go back to minister to the Irish.   But, he was turned down many times by the church hierarchy.  However, this only burdened his heart more and compelled him to persevere.

Who would do this?  These people kidnapped him and sold him against his will and economic condition when he was just a teen boy.  Yet, he was a changed individual who now knew personally and experienced the love and forgiveness of his Creator through a Savior.  This is why.  Personally encounters with the living God requires a life change.  One can no longer live the status quo or clamber up the ranks of personal promotion.  Instead a life of humble service and courageous leadership ensues.

When St. Patrick taught the Irish, he did so through what was already known to them.  He took the elements of the pagan worship that had some truths, magnified those, and then gently corrected the flaws.  He used the nature around them to teach basic tenets of the Christian faith.  The one  most see marketed today is the 3 leaf clover of which he conveyed the unique godhead properties of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit yet being the same one true and living God.

It was this style of teaching that I see as similar with my writing and inspiration that I found through the red pandas.  So many metaphors of life came to me as I listened to the zoo visitors respond, “That’s not a panda, where are the pandas?”  It is through these literary associations that I compare the red pandas to giant pandas for little Rojo to work through her identity crisis that has spiraled her into an emotional pity party that if left unchecked by her mother will spiral into a full blown MDM (Major Depressive Episode).

Check one of them out further for yourself.  Rojo is available at Chattanooga Zoo, Zoo Miami, Books and Books, The Bookstore in the Grove, and at most online retailers including the publisher Mascot Books.

#St. Patrick #RedPandasandSt.Patrick’s Day #St. Patrick’s Day

How Herbie Saves The Day from Narcissism

I humbly reflected on my morning and questioned my manners. Had I spoken too much in that morning discussion at the adult class at church? Had I over posted live blogs on Face Book? Was I practicing what I had written in my last blog? My spirit convicted me. So I promised my daughter we would watch that DVD that we borrowed from the library later that evening (after I took a long winter’s nap).

As the time came to watch the DVD, the week ahead began to overwhelm me and tempted me to break my promise.  Movies take up so much time and we really need to keep working on organizing the attic.  Thankfully,  my daughter resisted the negotiated offer and insisted on the first deal.  So into our DVD player went Walt Disney Productions’ 1974 family comedy Herbie Rides Again.

What a delight the next 88 minutes became.  This story written by Gordon Buford and screen play by Bill Walsh offers more than foolish cheap laughs to distract you from your reality.  The “good guys” model four different inspirational ways to work together to fight the narcissist bully, Alonzo Hawk, acted by Keenan Wynon all in hilarious manner.  Each character, including Herbie, have a mind of their own and have something to inspire in each of us.

Ken Berry plays the part of Willoughby Whitfield.  He has recently finished law school and his overprotective mother sends him to visit his ever powerful uncle.  His timing fits perfectly into the greedy Mr. Hawk’s latest plot to get what he wants with no regard for the little old lady, Mrs. Steinmetz (acted by Helen Hayes). Willoughby, the naive young man, trusts his mother and the lies of family ties.  He quickly accepts the mission to convince Mrs. Steinmetz to persuade her to sign the papers and accept the payoff to abandon the historic firehouse where her belated husband led heroically during the San Francisco Fire.

Nicole, played by Stephanie Powers, a beautiful young single airline attendant wastes no time in defending Mrs. Steinmetz, who she calls Grandma,  from Mr. Hawk’s relentless attempts to knock down the historic firehouse by delivering a blow to Willoughby’s jaw.  But her violence accomplishes little except to instill fear into the recipient of her blow.

It wasn’t until Willoughby experienced a ride with Herbie that he came through to see the truth about his uncle.  He quickly resolved that even though it was his first professional assignment gained through beloved family ties that these were no excuse to follow through with such wickedness.  He wrote his first resignation letter and rehearsed how he would deliver it.   Willoughby, however  quickly surmised that confronting a narcissist will only hurt one further.  He also learned that not only did he need to cut ties with his uncle, but his mother as well in order to develop the hero inside and to live the adventurous life before him.

What endears me most about the film is Mrs. Steinmetz’s impeccable manners and unwavering courage to continue to fight for what is right.   As a elderly widow, she is the epitome of society’s label of insignificant, weak, and vulnerable.  Never once does she rely on Nicole or Willoughby to save her.  She has unwavering confidence in Herbie.  She models a faith that truly saves.

To add to this she has fun.  She never gives into self-pity or anxiety.  Instead she acts.

Mrs. Steinmetz earned the title of Grandma from Nicole because she treated her as the ideal one.  She took her in to live with her in the historic fire house when Nicole’s apartment was knocked down by Hawk.  She also ever so graciously corrects Nicole on her default method to defend her and self with violent force.

Grandma lives her belief that manners matter no matter what.   Her reply to the guards who were about to arrest them was that she wouldn’t put her hands up until they asked politely.  She always kept her composure and never gave way to panic, even in the end when Mr. Judson delivered the bad news that there was nothing else that could be done.

What I love about the film is there is a role model for each of us to emulate. There’s a young professional single woman, single man, a elderly widow, and widower.  The overcome the obstacles and never give into the bully.  They even devise a way to win the bully over.  But the sad reality  is they cannot reform the narcissist,  Hawk.

It would do us all well to maintain suspicion, guard, and doubt in regard to a narcissist’s positive change in behavior.  Unfortunately, the definition of such selfish abuser implies that they are only laying a trap again to catch their naive prey in repetitive cycle.  But that’s no excuse for us to stoop to their low level tactics and forget our manners.  Let’s inspire our children to be mindful of others and follow Mrs. Steinmetz’s lead.

Resources on dealing with narcissists and abusers:





School Shootings, Safety Concerns, and What to Do About Them

by Hope Mucklow, blogger and author of Rojo, The Baby Panda at the Zoo

February 15, 2018, Jugal Patel complied some very disturbing numbers that more than 400 individuals have been shot in over 200 school shootings in an article published in The New York Times after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy this week in Parkland, Florida.

This is so tragic. Anyone who teaches public school understands more than the general public.  But the problem is even worse. Each and every day can be a war zone in our schools. The hostility, anger, disrespect, lack of motivation and pain of which these students attempt to learn in is rampant. Movies, video games, and certain music stars who glorify violence and killing have too powerful of an influence on many of the students. Guns are neutral. They are just the tool and scapegoat for a very deep societal problem. Yes, gun safety and responsibility should be a high priority, but let’s also focus on the underlying problems that lead to their misuse.

Too often reactions focus on blame, political issues, and trying to undo the horrid history.  May I suggest channeling energies on something else?  Instead of using a recent tragedy as fodder to support  political beliefs by arguing and fussing over a new law or cause, commit to focus on your local sphere of influence to make a difference.  This means healing your own personal issues so that you can respond better in each and every personal encounter you make.

That begins with reinstating basic manners like taking turns and listening respectfully to one another.

I wrote this poem for both my daughter and myself.  Birthing her surfaced all those life long hurts that still gaped open wide and therefore crippled my ability to truly love and teach her well.

I understood that my behavior communicated more to her than any of my didactic lecturing ever would.  Singing this poem (yes, I wrote a tune to accompany it) helped to calm both of us down in addition to reminding us  that which we needed to do.

Guns, social media, games, alcohol, drugs, smart phones etc. are all neutral.  It is how they are used that can be problematic.  Seriously, one can dredge up data on use of each mentioned on how much good they have accomplished.  Likewise history can be revisited on how fruitless instituted laws have been to curb harmful usage of each.

So before you jump on whatever side of the gun control debate that you believe it, spend time reflecting on how you handle your emotions, channel your energies, and spend your time.  Because you, yes you, a single individual make more of a difference than you may think.  Antoinette Tuff sure made a difference by talking a gun man into turning himself in to get help rather than to fire at the learning center that she works at.

Jordan Shapiro wrote an article The Truth About Parenting and Smartphones that exemplifies my point with cell phones.  I highly recommend reading it and considering all he has to say and how it pertains to this week’s news.

We all must chose what values we will subscribe to AND  live them accordingly.  There’s nothing worse than a preacher who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches.

If you are obsessed with your problems and needs, I’m sorry,  but you are contributing to the underlying problems behind the tragedies.  If you are willing to engage and care about others then you might make a positive difference.  There’s a classic world known book and popular man of history that has a lot to say about this.

Consider joining me in facing your life’s pain, healing, learning from it, and choosing to be content instead.  Find your favorite art form to convert those experiences into beauty that uplifts, encourages, and edifies rather than fussing and fuming.  There’s a time and place to address problems, but most are handling this week’s news poorly and could stand to consider my point.