2.18.2013

New Year's Resolution 2013


Or, "The Annual February Progress Report"

This year, I decided to teach myself to skateboard. 

For those of you keeping track at home, this is my third New Year's resolution since starting this blog. The difference between those other resolutions and this one is that, this time, I'm going to accomplish my goal. No more half-finished classy as balls for me. This year, all the stars have aligned—I have access to non-interstate asphalt, I have a place to practice when the weather's bad, my youngest son got a retro dart for Christmas, and I'm finally, finally, FINALLY coordinated enough not to kill myself. 

Yessiree, 2013 is the year of skateboard.

The thing is, almost no one is taking me seriously. I realize there are some ridiculous elements to a stay-at-home mother of two learning how to skateboard and that most of those elements are in the way I phrased this sentence. But I'm already making respectable progress. I know how to shift my weight to weave around something, how to make a very, very wide turn, how to go up and down small hills without falling off or sliding backward, and I'm working on sudden sharp turns.

Since most of my detractors have the same "concerns," I'll be addressing them in this handy FAQ.

"Yes, skateboarding is a skill, but what will you do with it once you learn?"
Well, not become a professional skateboarder, that's for sure. I've got a busy year ahead of me. In case you haven't heard yet, I'm turning 26 tomorrow at 6:19 a.m. and that's kind of a big deal. What with making Halo (How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town, for you non-inside-my-headers) a best-seller, finishing Halo II, spanking my kids, getting snakebite piercings, and spending as much of this this summer in the water as possible, I don't have the kind of time it would take to find out how somebody becomes a professional skateboarder and then become one.

"Why waste your time learning, then?"
Because I've always wanted to know how to skateboard. My whole life I've thought, "That looks like so much fun! And it's so cool." And guess what? I was right. Skateboarding is fun and cool.

There's also this brilliant article I read a few months ago called, "6 Harsh Truths that Will Make You a Better Person." If you need motivation to do anything at all, you should read it. It will also help answer the question, "Why bother?"

"But if you're not going to use skateboarding for anything—"
I'm going to use it for being awesome and having fun. What other anything is there?

2.13.2013

Agapao

This is the blog post I was writing the day that I learned that my friend hung himself. He killed himself because the other guys in his barracks found out that he was gay and made him feel like he shouldn’t be alive anymore. Before you decide that my conclusion was biased by his death, let me assure you that I had written everything but the very last paragraph before I heard the news.
__________________________________________________

I was at my sister Emily’s house the other day while she was checking Facebook. One of her friends had just gotten engaged. That friend is gay.

“How am I supposed to respond to this?” my sister asked. “I believe that gay marriage is wrong, but I also don’t think the government should be allowed to take away anyone’s [right to visit the their significant other in the hospital].”

Some people are lucky enough to have older siblings with all the answers. Emily isn’t.

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to figure this out and the only thing I’ve come up with is that this is a bigger deal than just a simple “like,” ignore, or comment on Facebook. My sister and her husband lead the youth group at their church and they have a baby boy. They’re role models. The way they respond to this engagement and the others that come after it is going to affect the way their son and those teenagers in their youth group respond to the world.

Let’s get one thing straight—the LGBTQ community is here to stay. It’s been around since Bible times and it hasn’t disappeared yet. Alternative lifestyles (and by “alternative” I mean “other than one male and one female of the same race, religion, and nationality”) are only going to become more accepted as time goes on. Christianity and other hetero-centric religions or belief systems haven’t changed that in the last 2,000+ years, and they’re not going to in the time we have left. As long as there’s an agreed upon norm, there will always be an alternative to the norm.

There are a number of different viewpoints on homosexuality within Christianity. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I believe that God gave us a model He expected us to follow when He made Eve for Adam and any time humans miss the mark, even by a little bit, it’s considered sin. I’m not likely to change my mind without hard scriptural evidence.) But whether homosexuality is right or wrong isn’t the issue here. The question I’m going to try to answer is how a Christian should respond to their gay friends getting engaged and married.

Let’s start out with a baseline and work our way up. No matter what you believe, one thing we can all agree gay and straight people have in common is that they are human. Right? No disagreement yet? Cool, let’s continue.

If you are a Christian, you believe that God created all humans in His image.

Still with me? Awesome.

The second thing all Christians should agree on—Jesus preached the truth while he was on this earth. If you believe that one thing he said wasn’t true, then you can’t believe anything he said—but that’s a post unto itself. If we believe that everything Jesus said was true, then we must believe that he wasn’t just kidding around when he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it—‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Get ready to bear with me. I just spent three coffee-soaked hours in my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (“Strong’s—so you know it’s good!”). It’s about to get semantic up in here.

The word “love” that Jesus used is the Greek word agapao which means “to love in a social or moral sense” and is the root of the word “beloved.” The type of love is used in both Jesus’ command to love God with every bit of yourself and in the command to love your neighbor is the same love that Jesus commands us to love our enemies with.

Furthermore, Strong’s invites the reader to compare agapao to the word phileo used in verses like Matthew 6:5, about the hypocrites who “love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people” and the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21, where Jesus asks three times if Peter has agapao for him and each time Peter responds that he loves him, phileo-style. Phileo in Greek means “to be a friend to” or “to have affection for.” Compared to one another, agapao is the broader, stronger term. It encompasses duty, propriety, and the deliberate decision to love no matter what, whereas phileo is more of a fleeting feeling towards a person or object.

Did that digression into ancient semantics help us in any way? Let’s watch.

Okay, so if the second greatest command in the whole Bible is to love your neighbor as yourself in a way that’s deliberate, proper, and your duty as a Christian, and your neighbor is defined as any human being on the face of this earth (“Neighbor” is, by the way. I can Strong’s it for you, too, if I have to.), then the real question becomes “How should I respond when someone I love has good news, for example, that they’re getting married?”

If I truly loved the person, this is how I would respond—“WOOHOO! YEAH! GOOD FOR YOU! AWESOME! I WISH YOU A LIFETIME OF HAPPINESS!”

You may disagree with me. I welcome well-studied, scripturally supported arguments, but I won't listen to is hatefulness. Gay, straight, male, female, or some other third thing—we’re all human. To hate any human is to deny love to another creature of God, a love that He gave you first, then commanded you to spread to the people in your life. People who He created in His image. To deny love to even one small part of God’s image is to willfully disobey the greatest command—to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Maybe you disagree with your friend’s lifestyle. As a Christian, it’s still your moral obligation according to Jesus’s word-choice agapao to love your friend anyway and react appropriately.

And here’s something that I didn’t expect to find while researching this question: You’re not just supposed to agapao your friends. Jesus said to agapao your enemies, too.

2.06.2013

How to Bloom Late


Or, "Understanding Gender Denial"

Guess what, readers? I am a girl. Female. Woman.

I’m okay with admitting that. Or, really, I’m becoming better at admitting that. Growing up, I wasn’t able to. I didn't want people to think of me as a girl. I wanted to be tough, strong—“totally b.a.” is a phrase I use nowadays that I didn’t know back then, but it’s definitely what I wanted people to think when they thought of me. I wasn’t gay and I never felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body. I just didn’t want people to see me as a girl.

Why? Because I didn’t want anyone to think that they could hurt me. I had been a girl before. I’d worn skirts and headbands and got my hair cut in all the cute ways that little girls do. And I’d been hurt.

So I dressed in boy’s clothes. I wore button-down shirts and combat boots and—when I could get away with it—pants to church. No makeup or jewelry, ever. Skirts when the religious guilt and yelling got to be too much, but only huge tent-like messes that looked awful and dragged the ground. I was the first female in the history of my school to buy a men’s letter jacket, the kind with the gold sleeves. I tried to speak and sing in a lower voice.

Nothing girly was allowed in my interests. I could only like the things I thought boys liked—wrestling, hunting, BMX. I read comic books, horror, and epic fantasy. In band, I played the drums because that’s what boys played. And I didn’t just want to pack second or third snare in marching band like some dumb girl trying to be cool. No, I wanted the quads and I wanted to be the drum line captain.

To be fair, some of the “boy” interests were genuine on my part. Drumming, for example—I love the drums. I love horror and epic fantasy and comic books. But I was a die-hard Cowboys fan who had never watched a full game.

There are a lot of things I could say about a girl trying to be a boy in a rural area, but I wasn't trying to make a statement or change anything—all I really wanted was to be safe. Gender barriers are fragile things, though. The year after I ordered a gold-sleeved men’s letter jacket, another girl did, too. The year after her, four girls did. It’s such an insignificant thing, but I like knowing that those girls got what they wanted instead of what they were expected to.

With the good, though, you take the bad.

While we were still in elementary school, I told my best friend, a boy, that he couldn’t make me cry. I spent the rest of the week taking punches, kicks, getting scratched, and having my face smashed into playground equipment by the boys in my class. I made it. I didn’t cry. But there’s still a scar where my best friend dug a freshly sharpened pencil into my thumb until the lead broke off.

For the first six years after I started puberty, I denied having my period. If we were out of tampons or pads at the house, I had to buy my own from the school bathroom. I couldn’t tell anyone when I was having cramps so debilitating that I almost passed out. I couldn’t take medicine to ease the pain.

I couldn’t do things the way that girls did. No flirting. No being catty. No long stories that could be summed up in a few words. No depending on anyone other than myself. If I had a problem with someone I either had to fight them, outsmart them, or show them up. I couldn’t have the emotions that girls had. No crying. No fear. No feeling hurt.

No boys.

No one at my school ever asked me outright if I was a lesbian. I know people wondered, though. I don’t blame them. I had all the other clich├ęd markers of a bull dyke—including weight lifting. But I loved guys. I loved the way they looked and the way they smelled. The way they talked and joked and how their bodies moved when they walked or played sports. I knew they would feel great to touch. Kissing one would be incredible.

But I couldn’t like boys—not where someone could see me.

Then I met Josh. For two years, I admired him in excruciating silence. He was all I thought about, the only thing I’d ever wanted so badly. What was weirder, I wanted him to want me. It was as if a safecracker had started working on the locked-away girl part of my brain.

Josh and I limited our interactions to a ridiculous and incoherent set of rules. He smiled at me; I put on a pair of broken glasses and said I’d been hit by a bus. He gave me paper towels from the boys’ bathroom; I wrote a stupid song and sang it in front of hundreds of people to impress him. We spent half a class scraping a rock-hard wad of gum off the bottom of a desk; I popped it in my mouth and tried to chew; Josh laughed and got in trouble. Each new, crazy exchange was another tumbler turning.

One night I couldn’t hide it anymore. Driving home from Upward Bound, I told my best friend that, “I…think…maybe…I like Josh.” She told me everybody already knew. And since everybody already knew—and no one had changed the way they acted around me—maybe I could do something about it without jeopardizing the image I thought I’d built for myself.

I asked Josh out my senior year. We dated according to those first rules of engagement—muddy cemeteries, chemical lakes, and hanging out with each other’s grandpas. I sent Josh encoded letters without a key; he bought a family Bible. After a few months, we held hands, then he asked me to marry him.

Sorry, guys. I didn’t realize this post was going to turn into a love story. I guess that’s a good metaphor for my life.

There are still times when I find myself avoiding something because of that stubborn, scared part of me that doesn’t want to be seen as a girl. I can’t force it. Locks take time to pick. I have hope that it won’t always be such a struggle to admit that I am, in fact, female.