677: Hooking Up

Becoming part of a couple is an enterprise fraught with uncertainties. Face it, all you can really know is YOUR side of the relationship commitment. You think you know the other person. You know what they’ve said and you’ve seen how they’ve acted in the past. You think you know. Still, the only person whose heart and motivations you really can depend on is you. You are making your best guess on your partner. For some, that trust is warranted. For others, not so much. Does that mean you never take the leap? HECK, no.

No risk, no reward.

Still, if your primary consideration for a partner is the way that person looks – you deserve everything you get. There are studies that show that, pretty much, the less you spend on the wedding, the more likely your marriage will succeed (https://bestlifeonline.com/expensive-wedding-divorce-news/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20study%2C%20recently%20married%20couples%20who%20spent%20just,less%20likely%20to%20get%20divorced). If your focus is on the show, you’re missing, overlooking, not thinking about the foundation of your relationship with your partner.

For men, the biggest problems are women who are looking for that Mrs. degree, and women who overlook a good hearted, stable, decent man because she is wildly attracted to the men who are the “dangerous” type. Guys – you have no business teaching those girls how to be emotionally mature women, and teaching a “material girl” that there are more important things than “things” is also a complete waste of time and an almost guaranteed heartbreak.

For women, the biggest problems are men who still believe a woman is their property, their maid, or worse, their mama. Ladies – don’t waste your time.

Look for the things that last. How’s their sense of humor? How do they treat people who some think are “beneath” them, people such as wait staff, cashiers, custodians, nurses, teachers, small children, handicapped persons, animals, customer service representatives, and other service personnel, for example? How does that person react when they are inconvenienced in traffic, or when the computer connection is slow? How do they treat the others in their family? In your family? Their friends? Your friends?

Do they donate their time in service to others? Do they donate funds for that purpose? What charities and organizations are they supporting?

Those things indicate character that is beautiful or frightening. Those things show what’s deep inside, and how that person thinks. Those things last. Looks don’t. Sex doesn’t. Money can disappear overnight.

Try this set of questions to start the process: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/09/style/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html. THINK about the answers you provide and the answers you get. What do these answers say about how you and your partner-to-be relate to the world and to each other?

Whatever you do, don’t ignore your brain. Your hormones will lie to you. Use your brain to think about this person. They will be the other parent to your children, should you have any. Make a wise choice.

676: Psalm 23

King James Version

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

This Psalm is one of the most beloved pieces of scripture in the entire Bible. Many have committed this Psalm to memory, and that’s a very good thing, because I’ve often said that it is difficult to “stand on the promises of God” when you don’t know what the promises actually are. This lovely chapter is chock-full of them. We are going to take this song lyric (because that’s what it is, the lyrics to a song) and explore God’s promises that are found here.

The verses can be divided into two parts – verses one through four and six are God’s promises to you specifically and personally. Verse five is God’s promise for actions He provides on your behalf in front of the rest of the world. This mirrors the Christian life in that most of it, like the verses in part one, are about that relationship that you have with God. The rest is about how you relate to the rest of the world, and how God cares for you there, too.  

Let’s start with the first verse. It acknowledges that God is our shepherd, and by extension, that we are His sheep. Sheep are very valuable animals to shepherds. Sheep provide wool, meat, milk, and money (wealth) to their shepherd. They are also warmth and companionship. In Morocco, I visited a farm in the countryside and explored a house that was built above a “basement” sort of structure that formed the first floor, and that space was the sheep fold for the family’s flock of sheep. Sheep are secured at night to protect them from predators, both four and two legged. The neat thing about this particular arrangement is that the body heat of the sheep in the first-floor fold helped to heat the house where the humans lived on the second floor. Shepherds who roamed the hills with their flocks were a common sight in that country, and the shepherd was continually with the flock, leading them during the day and bedding down with the flock at night. Sheep are known to be foolish creatures, needing the protection of their shepherd. I don’t know about you, but that truth about sheep applies very well to me as well as a follower of Christ. I’ve been known to do some boneheaded things that my Shepherd’s had to rescue me from, too. Scripture makes multiple references to believers as God’s sheep all throughout Christ’s ministry on Earth.

It’s the second part of verse one that has special insight for us. It says, “I shall not want.” Now, there’s two ways to take that statement, and the first, most obvious way, is pretty clear and a marvelous promise of God to provide for our needs. I will want for nothing. God will provide what I need. Hallelujah! There’s backup in other Bible verses for this promise, too – it does not appear just here in this Psalm. In Matthew 6:25-34 it says (in red letters, too – just listen to these promises):

25 Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto [a]the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles (or those with no knowledge of God) seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Now there’s some promises, straight from the Almighty! I can get excited about that!

The second meaning to this phrase, “thou shall not want,” has to do with your relationship with God, your maturity as a Christian, and your dependance on God. See, God supplies our NEEDS. He does not, in any way, shape, or form, promise to supply our foolish, fleshly, greedy, sinful DESIRES. Those are unholy wants, and our God is a holy God. So, basically, ya ain’t gettn’ em. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Another amazing, wonderful, uplifting promise from God.  

In the next verses of this Psalm, we see all the blessings God promises to believers who are earnestly seeking Him and working to be obedient. Let’s look at them:

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: doesn’t that sound lovely? I can rest in the Lord, in lovely places and in unlovely places, both. My rest is in God’s green pastures.

he leadeth me beside the still waters. Calm – peaceful. God promises us His peace in John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

He restoreth my soul: I am no longer a slave to sin and death, He has restored my soul!

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The Holy Spirit will guide me in what’s right, if I will listen to Him and obey Him. That’s my choice and God help me to always choose the right path He’s showing me.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: WHY? for thou art with me! I don’t have to be afraid – Hey, worst-case scenario, I get to go to HEAVEN!!

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shepherd’s staff is a tool of rescue. What’s the rod? Remember hearing “spare the rod and spoil the child?” That’s a Proverb of Solomon, and the rod is a tool of chastisement. It says here that the tool of chastisement will COMFORT ME. This right here is another one of those mature Christian relationship sort of things that doesn’t immediately make sense to our humanness. Who gets comfort from chastisement?

Well, think about it this way. I used to tell my children that if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t care how they behaved. But, because I do love them very, very much, I cared how they behaved, and I sought to correct their mistakes and misbehavior. Guess what? God is our FATHER. He does the very same thing – pruning off our bad branches so we are better – like His better plans for us. It probably won’t mean we LIKE being chastised and corrected, but it ought to be serious comfort that God loves us enough to want to help us fix our rough spots. Our part in that process is to understand that God is pruning us because he LOVE US and wants to help us to become better – more like Jesus. We have to ACCEPT his chastisement, LEARN from it, and grow to be better Christians because of it. Doesn’t mean it’s fun. I can tell you that it isn’t fun when God is doing that in my life. But it IS necessary, because GOD IS DOING IT, and He does not play nasty games. He does what I need.

Verse five says, Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointeth my head with oil; my cup runneth over. This is a promise God makes that He will provide for us even under the very noses of our enemies. He anoints us with blessings when we are persecuted. He promises our blessing cup will be so full it won’t be able to contain all of it! No enemy can take us from the hand of God. No weapon formed against us will prosper. He will take what is meant for evil and will turn it for good. He protects us all the way to the Pearly Gates. That’s a promise!

Finally, he promises us that: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Since He is with me always, like it says in Matthew 28:20, OF COURSE goodness and mercy will be with me! Like. . .DUH!! And then, I get to go to HEAVEN! I win! And so do you.

So now, you’ve got a cupful running over of promises from God that you can count on, all the days of your life, from this one short Psalm. Take those promises with you today and spread them around – share them with others who need them.

Profligate Waste

The US government strives to do the right thing. They provide food for free to students who attend a designated Title 1 school – which is a school where the poverty rate in the district is high enough that all students who attend there qualify for free breakfast and lunch. All well and good, right? Well – not so much.

Here’s how that munificence actually plays out in at least one locality. My school had a situation arise in this era of no substitutes where nearly 20 of our small high school’s faculty would be out on a given Friday. Being that they were utterly unable to obtain substitutes (not even by making the remaining staff sacrifice their planning periods and cover classes for colleagues) they decided to just make tomorrow a “virtual learning day.” OK – I get that.

However, because we are a Title 1 school and we provide federally funded free food to students daily, that meant our cafeteria staff had to scramble to provide and pack sack breakfasts and lunches for all of our students who would not be present at school to be fed, so they’d have food at home for the virtual learning day (yes we did this each day of virtual learning during the pandemic, too).

So, at the end of our regular instructional day, the admin called students to the cafeteria to collect a bag of food prepared for the next day – a breakfast and lunch. Having experienced this situation previously, I told my class that if they did not want the food that they were provided, to please give it to another student FIRST (because that’s who the food was paid for) but to PLEASE not throw away food, because I (as their teacher) would GLADLY accept food donations. I had one student in that class who took home two full grocery bags (paper bag size, not plastic bag size) that weighed so much he could hardly carry them. I hope his mom was thrilled that her son brought home so much food – probably a hundred dollar’s worth – from school. I ended up with a sizeable bag of food the kids didn’t want (the vegetables, mostly), which I actually will eat.

Class dismissed and students left the building. Then, I went “dumpster diving.” I have no shame. I went classroom to classroom on my hall and mined the trash cans of teachers who obviously did not tell their students not to throw away food. I left the building with EIGHT paper bag sized loads (more than 100 pounds) of food. It took me THREE trips to my car with as much as I could carry each time. Apples, juice, Pop Tarts, fingerling carrots, Ranch dressing, cheese sticks, a few Doritos chips bags. What the kids ate out of the food bags they got? They ate the chips (the least nutritious item in the bag), and the Smucker’s peanut butter and jelly “Uncrustable” sandwiches. They trashed the rest.

When I got home, the workers who were finishing a flooring job for me at home were happy to take home a bag of food. This is what I had left:

A bag of apples at my grocery store costs five bucks. I had at least four bags of retail apples (probably more), red and golden delicious. It’s a good thing I have a food dehydrator – I can preserve them for apple pies later this winter. I had almost two quarts of Ranch dressing. I got dozens of cheese sticks. I got well over a gallon of fruit juice (which I do not usually buy myself because it’s expensive) and I am enjoying it thoroughly this evening with Captain Morgan’s Black Spiced Rum. I got LOADS of Pop Tarts (which I won’t eat, either). I’m sending those with my husband to his job site where he has co-workers who have small children who will enjoy them. I have enough fingerling carrots to eat them daily at lunch and dinner for about three weeks. Good thing I like them!

I get it that our school has a high poverty rate in our district and we qualify for federal food assistance for all of our students. HOWEVER. This has happened over and over again in my county. Because I abhor waste, I will trash dive to recover perfectly good food our students throw away. What this means is that I look forward to “days off” when students are provided food, because I take home hundreds of dollars worth retail cost food per year – every time that I rescue from the trash what the students discard.

I am benefitting. I am not the one who is supposed to be benefitting. Still, I’m not going to let the perfectly good food just be thrown away – that’s just WRONG. *sigh*

How to fix this? I do not know. Since I can’t fix it, I will continue to save food that would be trashed. Maybe this is a job benefit?

674: Can it be saved? No, it cannot, and here’s why:

After 31 years of teaching, I am coming to the sad conclusion that public education in the USA is almost to the point that it cannot be saved.

Federal agents, state agents and district agents have played all they can play on the one string they can easily control in the orchestra that is public education – the teachers. What is coming to fruition is the result of that relentless twanging on that one string, compounded by the problematic, stifling effects of teaching in a Pandemic, added to the ineffectual and undermining policies that have been enacted over the past several decades, to wit: teachers are leaving the profession in unprecedented numbers, and the supply chain of new teachers is not keeping up with the demand. I myself, cannot recommend teaching in the USA, and instead, suggest that those who desire to teach consider international teaching instead of domestic USA public schools.

Why do I believe public education is almost unsalvageable? The federal policies that began with No Child Left Behind and have continued with the various equally flawed mandates since then, have set up a current system of comparison that allows no school to have their “numbers” drop. This race to obtain the necessary “numbers” to avoid having a school taken over by the state (mandated by the feds) has resulted in chicanery of the worst sort that would have an accountant brought up on criminal charges for cooking the books.

Shifting the responsibility for learning back to the students (because the teachers actually are teaching their hearts out under a ridiculous progression of “effective practices” professional development courses) will mean actually holding students accountable for attendance and achievement. Implementing this will mean (since it hasn’t been done for YEARS) a resultant drop in inflated grades and graduation rates (mostly worthless pieces of paper that purport to be diplomas certifying acceptable levels of achievement) that will result in schools being slated for takeover, meaning that entire school faculties will be terminated. As if they could actually replace those professionals in the current labor market, which is highly unlikely, given that more schools than not are currently understaffed because of the shortage of qualified professionals.

Why will “numbers” drop if schools actually return accountability to the learners? Because students have been catered to in a decades-long atmosphere in public schools of complete absence of responsibility, contributing to the “entitlement” generation employers are discovering as schools churn out “graduates” with zero work ethic and very questionable knowledge. One public school system, for example (by no means unique) has no grade reporting through the entire elementary school experience (PreK through grade 5 – that’s 7 years).

This is then followed by “grades” reported in grade levels 6-8, but no zeros are allowed to mar students’ academic averages. This means points are required to be entered from teachers for zero effort – AND students are passed along to the next grade level regardless of grades or achievement in their classes. So, not only is zero effort rewarded, it isn’t necessary to actually attend to the lesson content that IS BEING PRESENTED by the teaching staff. It absolutely does not matter what a student learns or does not learn during those three years of middle school, because they are automatically going to be socially promoted. Yes, the school does have attendance requirements (by state law) but there is NEVER a case brought legally for truancy, and students who exceed the maximum absences allowed are routinely exempted from any consequences if they merely request an exemption. So, neither learning OR attendance matters.

This is the situation now for the first 10 years of a student’s academic experience. By now, the student is 14-15 years old, and they’ve had a decade of complete and total academic irresponsibility. They are reading and performing academically two and three years (or more) behind where they should be (and those expectations are being lowered to match).

At this point, students enter high school where there are requirements for Carnegie Units, and now, for the first time in nearly a decade, they have to actually pass a class. So, seeing as this isn’t happening for up to half of them, the school now gets into creative accounting to keep their “numbers” up. See, if they suddenly began failing students whose lack of knowledge/achievement deserve to fail, their enrollment numbers will rise as precipitously as their graduation rates will fall in order for those failing students to retake those failed courses next year. This means schools will have to hire additional teachers to handle the load (if they can be found), and/or class sizes will rise. It also means some schools literally will not have space to accommodate those students, meaning portable units, or floating teachers who are teaching classes in rooms when other teachers have planning. All of this results in pressure from administration on teachers to pass students who have not passed, by replacing grades for work not done, putting in points for learning tasks not attempted, and finagling any other way that can be finagled to shuffle kids on though who haven’t learned or performed to minimum standards.

And, for some school systems, what will trump the educational, staff, and space reasons for speciously passing along students who have not earned their diplomas, it is a fact that increasing enrollments from failing students who might have been held accountable for the first time in their lives means that rising school enrollment will result in the school will be placed in a higher sports bracket. And this is without a potential rise in eligible athletes since the enrollment rise is from failing students who aren’t eligible to be athletes and they will then be forced to compete in football (and other sports, but let’s be realistic, only football counts) against larger schools. OMG.

I know of one school near the top of one sports classification bracket that routinely won the state football championship for years by finagling their attendance numbers, striving to avoid being reassigned to the next larger bracket where they then would be competing against larger schools. They shuffled off low-achieving students (except for those who were athletes, of course) to an alternative school in the county to lower the enrollment at the primary high school in order to stay within their desired sports bracket numbers. Not kidding – talk about creative accounting.

For those schools that actually aren’t a sports franchise that does academics as a side hustle, they are currently forced to pander to students who have a history of doing very little – and who have no desire, like most other habitually lazy people, of actually expending any effort to achieve their education. If schools return to traditional education – since the modern “effective practices” research quite obviously has not resulted in a better-educated graduate, there will be a period of time when students who are discovering the reality of failure drops the school’s “numbers.” In this day and age, that means the school will be taken over, by the evidence of their falling “numbers,” because numbers don’t lie, do they? Of course they do. Thus, administrators actually cannot effect meaningful change, and must continue to pander and pad their “numbers.”

Employers can already tell it. Our society can already tell it. And it isn’t going to get better, because there aren’t administrators who are willing to make the necessary changes because of the consequences to their careers. Same thing for the teachers who are forced by administrative orders to award points to students who’ve done nothing in class – they also need a job, and are unwilling to be the first one to stand up and say, “I’m not doing this crap, because it is crap.” They have income and a pension riding on that crappy job, and they aren’t willing to rock the boat, even though they know full well what is happening. It is a self-perpetuating disaster, and it’s been happening, is happening, and will continue to happen.

A school that has the sort of teachers/administrators with the guts to call a spade a spade are so rare, Hollywood makes movies about them.

673: Being “equitable”

Some schools, in an effort to pass and graduate more students (this has nothing to do with teaching them anything other than finagling), have come up with a new policy. Students who have missing or zero grades at the end of term will have all of the work they chose not to complete replaced with their final exam grade.

Now, let’s just suppose – let’s extrapolate that policy to the nth degree, shall we? That means I can attend class for the entire term (180 days, or 90 days for block schedule), do absolutely nothing, and squeak out a barely passing grade on the final exam, and all of that work I refused to complete all term will now be excused and replaced (scored, so to speak) with my squeaky passing grade – meaning I passed the course. I barely passed, but I passed.

Here’s an idea hatched from that cauldron of crap that might actually be “equitable” to all students: let’s give everyone a final exam on day one of the course. Those who achieve a passing grade can now exempt the course with credit, and they don’t have to show up all year. Isn’t that the exact same thing? Haven’t they proved (in advance, at that!) that they have enough knowledge to pass the course already?

Problem: No employer wants their employee doing nothing for the year and then turning in a barely acceptable performance for one day – and expecting to be paid (rewarded) like everyone else who showed up and did what they were asked to do on a daily basis. So this nifty educational idea bears no resemblance to anything that happens in actual life – at least, not for all those of us whose numbers didn’t hit on the lottery. And not everybody has a ready-made business they can run and therefore avoid being an employee, either.

672: Education

image from Buzzfeed.com

I was riding with my dad today on a several-hours-long trip and trying to explain why I am fervently hoping this will be my last year teaching public school in a rural, Title 1 high school (year 31). Being eligible to retire and being able to retire are not the same thing, unfortunately.

First, back in the day, the students who made it to graduation were, for the most part, the cream of the crop. This was so because approximately 20-30% of the student population dropped out along the way. Yes, there were academically competent students who had to drop out for financial reasons to help support their families, but the majority of those who left school did so because they weren’t interested, were determined not to be interested, or were unable to keep up academically, and they mostly went to work at what (then) were sometimes decent-paying manufacturing or other jobs. These days, schools keep most of those students. Teachers spend a great deal of time and effort trying to bring up the lower third to acceptable standards and the upper third (the ones who might be discovering the cures for cancer) are essentially not academically challenged, but pass because they are “good enough” for the standardized tests – and the SAT was “scaled” some years ago to make declining scores less obvious, too.

Second, many schools transitioned to alternative scheduling, primarily block scheduling in the 90’s. Instead of eight classes taught for 180 days, students frequently now have four classes taught for a double-length time in 90 days. That sounds like it is the same thing, right? Six of one or half a dozen of the other, right? Not so much. Back in the day when this new innovation was introduced, teachers went through extensive professional development to learn how to teach on that schedule, or two classes in one day. In this modern era of block scheduling, too frequently, it has translated into 90 single class days, and students are getting roughly half of what they previously covered, back in the day, in 180 days. That isn’t helping the learning curve.

In addition, many school systems have virtually removed a student’s ability to fail. Teachers are being commanded by administration to award 50 points (or more) for zero academic effort. The last time I checked, breathing wasn’t an academic activity. Half credit, or more – for nothing, no effort, no learning. Some systems absolutely will not retain a student grades pre-K through grade 8, regardless of educational attainment, or lack thereof. The students are just promoted each and every year.

That’s NINE YEARS of dedicated learning that they do not have to learn what their teachers are teaching, because they will be promoted anyway. And then, at age 15 (approximately) they come to the 9th grade in high school and all of that laissez faire schooling comes to a screeching halt. Now, for the first time EVER, they are expected to actually earn credit and pass a course of instruction, often accompanied by state-mandated content exams at course final assessment that count a significant percentage of their course average academic grade. AND most of them arrive several grade levels behind where they should be in skills – that I, as a ninth grade teacher, am expected to “catch up” for them. . . . in five months on a block schedule.

And dad’s eyebrows kept climbing higher and higher as the list went on. His sideways glances at me got softer and sadder as the story unfolded.

I do not believe that our public schools are now working to create decent employees, citizens, or humans. I don’t believe in what I am doing as a part of education any longer. Yes, it is time for me not to be a teacher any longer. I can’t keep doing what I no longer believe is helping make better humans. And COVID-19 has added the last nails to that coffin. Because I am a dedicated teacher and I do my level best every day to catch up and accelerate the students who are assigned to me to teach, I was again this year nominated for Teacher of the Year. Again, I declined to participate. One new reason this year not to participate is that the application asks me to disclose all my social media accounts so that they can check up on what I’m posting, and I am far too honest to ever seriously be considered a model teacher who might be chosen for Teacher of the Year.

670: Ceremony of the Innocent

Taylor Caldwell wrote the book by this title as a Romanticist who viewed life with a seriously jaundiced eye. If you haven’t read it, it is the story of a young, devout, innocent (natch) girl’s life. She manages to keep her innocence almost to the end because of the combined and dedicated efforts of several people who earnestly believe they are “protecting” her and her own innate naivete.

The author has several recurring themes (which I do not necessarily agree with, but can see as logically derived), such as religion being a tool to keep people downtrodden and accepting of their lot in life, the venality of mankind, the class snobbery of the upper AND the lower socio-economic classes, the innate superiority of ‘intelligent’ people as opposed to the hoi polloi (everybody else), and the ungratefulness of children/people in general.

Eventually, the totality of her life’s experiences unmask the people whom she loves (destructively, but to the best of her generous and misguided ability), and the loss of this essential (to her) innocence removes her will to live. She takes her own life.

There is a social trend of the last few decades to blame one’s parents for, well, pretty much everything that isn’t perfect in one’s own life. This has been reflected in TV over these years by the depiction of children in shows as the wiser, more mature persons residing with their dysfunctional, idiotic, irresponsible parents. This theme recurs in many different “modern” shows, and is in marked contrast to shows of previous decades where parents might be portrayed as making mistakes, but were still acknowledged as adults and leaders of their families.

First, for all children: we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to our parents for the simple fact that we were born, because the option for abortion has pretty much been available to our mothers from forever (legal or not), and they carried us to term and birthed us – and raised us (mostly) until we could create lives of our own. For that one thing, we owe them.

Second: true maturity is being able to reflect on past experiences with a, hopefully, mostly unbiased view. WE do not hold OURselves accountable for being perfect and never making a mistake, so how in the hell do we manage to transfer that expectation to our parents, who are ALSO every bit as human and fallible as we ourselves are? And that whole “yeah, my issues are directly a result of my parent’s parenting?” Can you not also see that your parents have issues derived from THEIR parents and family of origin’s parenting, too?

MOST (yes, I know full well this does not apply in every situation and circumstance) people had parents who loved them and tried to be good parents. Perfect? Hell, no. But, for most of us, good enough. What’s up to us, now, is to get on about the business of making our own lives and our own decisions, standing firmly on our own two feet, establishing our own support systems and families of our own – where we ALSO will not be perfect parents to our own offspring. Here’s hoping that provides some of us with some much-needed humility and understanding when it comes to our own parents – living or dead.

Have some gratitude that your parents gave you the life that allows you that opportunity.

669: Butternut Squash – Easy!

I found an easy, delicious way to prepare butternut squash using the microwave. Start with a butternut squash, and peel it using a standard vegetable peeler. Cut open, remove seeds, and cube it up into a covered, microwave-safe casserole dish big enough to hold all the bite size cubes your squash produces.

I top the squash with 3-5 pats of butter, and drizzle a little (tablespoon?) of olive oil over the cubes, and spice it with Badia complete. I have also had good results with other spice mixes, such as garlic and herb, so you might want to experiment with your fave blend. I also add Badia bagel topping for the nutty flavor, but you could add sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (tablespoon?) for a similar result.

Depending on how big your squash was, the microwave time will vary. I use full power. It also depends on how “cooked” you want your squash – I like the ‘al dente’ firmness of lightly cooked. You can adjust cooking time to your personal taste – more minutes equals softer cubes. A small squash can be ready in as few as 3-4 minutes – a big one can take 15-20 minutes. I like to stop and stir, because it distributes the spice flavors and recoats the cubes with the butter/oil mix, too.

Once you are satisfied with the doneness, stir the cubes once more and serve!

668: End of Season Garden

Cleaning out…

Today was the day to polish off the summer garden in preparation for getting the fall and winter garden going. Where I live in southern Georgia, winter’s usually temperate enough for several varieties of cold-hardy vegetables to grow.

As I weeded, trimmed, removed wire support cages and uprooted the dead and dying summer vegetable plants, I observed that planting a garden certainly is one practical way to commune with God. When in a garden, you can observe a lot of God’s truths, plans, and laws in action.

Weeds flourish in hidden, sheltered, hard to get at spaces – just like “weeds” of the heart, mind, and character do. Uprooting them when they are small and weak is much easier than when they’ve had time to firmly root themselves. Ditto with those soul weeds. Be careful of your protected, sheltered places. Weeds that sprout there are hard to get out.

When there’s no fruit or growth, there are no pests. Pests come in times of growth and bearing fruit – just like in life. If you are dead, nothing wants to bother you – what for? If you are vibrant with new growth and ripening fruit – THAT’S when the pests attack.

Many plants need support to bear the best and most fruit. That is SOOOO like me. I can do a lot on my own, but how much more can I do when I have support? Sometimes support is freely given and I just need to accept it, like the big wire columns I place in among the growing peas. The plants accept and reach for the support, and climb the wire baskets eagerly as they bloom and cover over with pea pods. Sometimes I need to ask, like the sturdy eggplants that normally stand well on their own, but which all needed support when the hurricane-lashed wind and rains came. They were so pitiful and bedraggled the next day. I lifted them and helped them stand with sturdy wire cages after that storm, and they continued to faithfully bear fruit, even after the pummeling they took in that storm.

Fruit-bearing plants often need pruning to bear more and better fruit. So do we. Pruning probably doesn’t feel really good to the plant, either. Sometimes, there’s a branch that is perfectly good and healthy that I prune off, because it is growing towards the center of the tree, and I know that it will eventually be choked out with no light or room. Sometimes a healthy branch is pruned off because it is growing where it will interfere with another healthy branch that is already established. The plant doesn’t know these things, and neither does the part that’s getting lopped off. The gardener knows. God, help me trust you as the Master Gardener, and let go of the branches you are wanting to lop off, even if they appear to be healthy branches (to me).

It takes about four months, maybe five, for God to make a hearty and delicious squash. Good things often take time, including growth and fruit-bearing. On the other hand, it takes God about a hundred years to make a mighty oak tree. I can relax – I’m not a hundred years old yet. There’s time.