Family Portrait – Totem Pole Style

Family Portrait - Totem Pole Style

A dear friend is getting hitched this week so I thought a family portrait would make a nice gift. After thinking for a while, it came to me–

Ask each person in the family what their favorite critter is and sketch them with some unique add-ons in the shape of a totem pole.

Historically, totems often represented the family’s genealogy with patron spirits intermingled between the relatives. However, not all is historically sound. A thunder bird is quite inaccurate to the true totems of Native Americans in Western America. But, as in-accurate as a thunder bird on top a totem pole is, I went ahead and put soon-to-be dad right on top, arms stretched out. How could I not?! He chose a flying squirrel, people. LOL! Quite often elders were near the bottom holding everyone up. I know, I know- what about the whole “bottom of the totem pole” cliche? Well, research showed me that is kind of a farce and just 19th century american’s lack of understanding.

Any who, so here’s a poor picture of it. I need to scan it and will this weekend. Cheers!

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United States News Lies to the People?

Say it ain’t so! Tell my post WWII exceptional worldview that it ain’t so! I bleed red, white and blue! We are the only good in the world!

Said no one with a brain of their own, ever–

Our country has an awful foreign policy of provoking nations to overturn their governments, then we come in and rescue them, or send the rebels guns, and establish a puppet government, I mean, “democracy”.

This video is compelling to me because the narrator draws many of the same conclusions I’ve been drawing from following the most recent and sudden overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

Give it a look see if you are familiar with current events and research the events, don’t let the news reports tell you how to eat the information. Pick it apart with the fork of history and the knife of logic and figure it out for yourself.

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Don’t mess with my fairytales…

Rochelle Cavanaugh:

Exactly. Well written article shoving back at society’s current leanings.

Originally posted on See, there's this thing called biology...:

I’m fed up, fed up I tell you! When did we become so pompously obsessed with our own versions of objective reality? For centuries humans have used myths and legends to hand down history, preserve language, share the wisdom of our elders. Here we are in 2014 and it seems as if we’ve decided to spit on a few thousand years of human tradition. Somebody has declared war on fairy tales.

First fems decide Barbie doesn’t reflect reality. Did you ever consider that some of us girls like to engage in a bit of fantasy? Who wants to dream about frumpy Barbie? I know I don’t look like Barbie and I never will. I also will never be a robot, a dragon, or have the ability to fly. I think in the name of fairness and equality, I should be able to sprout wings, but life doesn’t work that way.

Next fems…

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Research for Writing Children’s Books: Stereotypes

After reading this article I began to think, for the first time, intentionally and critically about the subject of stereotypes in American Children’s Literature.

In this post I’ll be using naughty words like racism, oppressive and I’m sure you will locate a few more. When I do, beep your nose. Yes, I said “beep your nose”. I work with children all day– don’t judge me.

As a white Midwestern American female (I can feel the stereotypes stirring in you already, resist the dark side, Luke.) I feel I’ve been inoculated with a great ignorance concerning my own use of stereotypes. Until now. After reading the above article, which basically was a complaint, I feel like I’m a retired logger admiring the trees in the forest for the first time.

So how do I use stereotypes? Like many Americans, I’m not aggressive with my use. It’s more, or less, used in passing. Like when I am joking with friends and drop the, “well that’s because you’re [enter stereotype].” Or when I’m speaking about some politically significant world-event and end the subject with, “well, that’s because they’re french” or “a Jew” or whatever other nationality representing millions of individuals I just lumped together into one disgusting baked stereotype.

I want a war. A war on Stereotypes.

Who’s the enemy?

Stereotypes, the harmless and the profane, both are breeding grounds for racism and seeing others as less-than which abhorring-ly gives us a sort-of  “exceptional” view of ourselves. A prominent world leader pointed this out about Americans last year. Russia isn’t our enemy, we are.

Does this subject upset you? It angers me. My anger is two-fold though: 1) How am I suppose to joke now? Is there no room for satire? 2) Stereotypes seem to narrow our view of the world. Having a skewed view of anything upsets me, i.e. feeling ignorant of the world around me. (I’ll be writing more on question two than one. Maybe some folks reading can duke-it-out about satire and editorials in the comments below.)

Well, let’s define our terms. A stereotype is a lot of things. In printing “stereotype” describes the process of making a copy of the metal type, or type plate, by pouring or pressing another material like papier-mache over the plate and peeling it off to be used for printing. But we’re talking about people, not metal. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines stereotype:

“a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group: The cowboy and Indian are American stereotypes.

Well that’s ironic, like rain on your wedding. (to kill your Alanis ear-bug click here)

For those who needed to kill a bug, welcome back. Now, focus.

The exact stereotype that offended the author of the article above is used to typify stereotype in the dictionary! Maybe this is meaningful? Maybe her complaint is valid?

Now, I need to ask some different questions. Instead of asking, “can’t people take a joke?” I need to ask, “can I make a joke that people actually think is funny?” Or, better yet, “can I make a joke that edifies others instead of smashing them into a type plate?”

It’s commonly known that people are not nice neat little malleable type sets. We aren’t sorted and neatly placed into type-labeled drawers on the earth’s surface-print shop of countries. We are unimaginably different, yet surprisingly knit together with similar threads of emotions, likes, dislikes, etc. Stereotypes just don’t leave room for people to surprise us. And, they are oppressive.

Stereotypes, at best, passively oppress people. Pressing them like papier-mache into a metal type plate, forcing them, squeezing them into every faulty assumption our exceptionally-narrow minds can make. This kind of thinking butchers creativity, mutilates beauty and beheads discovery.

Trends (I’m beeping my nose!) seem to be the bastard child of stereotypes, not creativity. Is it okay to like a trendy (beep) thing? Of course. But what makes a trend trendy? When people who really don’t like or care for a certain band, brand or movie feel pressed into the mold by ridicule and rejection simply because they don’t share you’re enthusiasm. Yeah, I’m talking to you(and me) who hate and judge and huff all over your(our) latte(s) when someone doesn’t like what you like. Stop it.

Stop judging people and making them feel inferior because they don’t like something you do. Likewise, don’t let their distaste deter you if those purple skinny jeans and V-neck is really what you like to rock. Haters gonna hate. But that doesn’t mean we’ve got to be jaded by it. If we hate people for hating we’re only giving in to the culture of hate. (resist, you must resist the dark side, Luke!)

Stereotypes are assumptions we make about groups of people by pressing them, disregarding their individuality, into our small-minded molds. If you’re like me (beep- that could be a bad thing..) you may think, “well, stereotypes help us to make sense of the world and people in it.” Well, I would like to respond to myself (and others),

“People aren’t that simple. We are the most complex creatures walking, climbing, crawling, wheeling on the planet! And when you love someone or something, you try to understand them, or it. You ask questions, stop assuming to know and please reject your own innate desire to judge everything! People don’t need your opinion about them. If they do want your exceptional opinion, wait for it… they’ll ask!”

Okay, done yelling. I’m getting too excited. (beep)

This is just one way to love people better. Quit judging and stereotyping and forming opinions about them. Let them surprise you.

*     *     *

I attribute this revelation about “loving people better” to the life-altering sanctification of God’s Spirit in my life. I am sorely faulted and sinful offending both God and others daily, but because of his gracious love shown through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, I believe he is helping me to love people better everyday. If anyone has the right to judge, it’s a perfect creator, but he chooses to be slow to judge and patient with us. Every breath is a gift. Don’t waste it.

If you want to expand the conversation please comment below and we’ll talk! This is more of an introduction to the subject. Maybe later posts we can dissect it further, like answering questions about satire, politics, editorials, etc.

Happy Reading everyone.

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Peter Newell, The Hole Book

This book from 1908 is a great read! Inspirational.

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Introducing, Dande.

Introducing, Dande.

Here’s an original character I’m working on for a children’s book. He is Dande, [DAN-dee], the tiny and cynical dandelion gnome. He plays a major role in my story idea as a guide for the protagonist.

This is one draft of many.

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Saturday-Slowdown: I Don’t Spank My Child

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:10-14, ESV)

Alright. Let’s imagine for a moment that children are ignorant of most things because they haven’t learned them yet. Let’s also imagine that just because a child does something right once, it does not mean they have procured a habit enabling them to do said right-thing again.

Most parents have 20+ years of practical lessons learned about the do’s and don’ts in Life. Is it fair then to demand or expect someone who only has 2 or 3 or even [gasp] 13 years of life experience to respond patiently and with a quick “Yes Ma’am” or “yes Sir”? Of course not! And, I think if we slow down and think honestly about the times we scream at them and/or hit until they’re compliant we’ll see our behavior really isn’t different from theirs except that we justify our behavior and condemn theirs. This breaks them. “Do what I say, not what I do” crushes them under an iron-fist.

Now, before you face-palm and think you’re a horrible parent, or proudly quit reading because you think your way of parenting is perfect, hear me out: Both the child and parent need a learning curve. Does this let parents off the hook for blowing up in anger at their kids? No– certainly not. The responsibility falls on the parent’s shoulders, but I want us to focus on something in the above quoted Psalm that I really think will help to level the playing field because it’s not “you” against “them”, it’s you teaching them: for better or worse,

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

God the perfect Father shows us how to be a good parent. He reminds us about who we naturally are: clay. Clay is malleable, but have you ever conditioned clay from the earth? It takes time, patience, consistence and is a sl-o-o-o-ow process.

Children do not come out of the womb knowing when they annoy you, make you late to an appointment, embarrass you, irritate you or understand what is dangerous or unproductive. Likewise, they aren’t born knowing what is a helpful thing or hurtful thing, how to make one happy or what makes one sad. They come to us as the most unrefined but exquisite art media in the world. And God entrusts their canvas to Y-O-U.

But they will learn. Boy, they will learn. Clay will still absorb water even after it’s been fired in a kiln if placed anywhere near moisture! Even if a child, say 13, seems set, they’re still learning, still absorbing all our subtle gestures. Like when we ignore how they’re feeling or thinking just to pound our lecture further, go to spend time with them but have our face in our phones, or forget to hold them with full attention and say, “I’m proud of you because you are a learner. Never stop learning, Sweetie.” They are still learning and so are we.

Children will grow and learn, but what they learn is dependent on us the parent. Show them compassion consistently and they will learn compassion. Show them you are slow to anger and quick to listen seeking to understand why they’re feeling or reacting the way they are, and they will be slow to anger with us and quick to listen seeking to understand what is so important to us. Give them empathy, not a solution. Give them a task and wait for them to ask for help. Give them imperfection and teach them repentance and forgiveness.

What about the times I don’t teach them compassion, but teach them impatience, anger and hatred?

Ask that sobbing child you just screamed at or hit if they’ll sit with you then apologize. Tell them specifically what you’re sorry for and why it was wrong and that you don’t want to hurt them. And if they ask why you lost it tell them how what they were doing made you feel (e.g. they were ignoring you so that made you upset).  Then ask them to forgive you. Ask to give them a hug if they aren’t already in your arms and tell them you love them.

I do this with my three-year old and man, it has made a huge difference in our lives. We seldom scream at each other, she actually listens when I talk (sometimes, but learning!), I don’t feel a need to spank her and she says things like “Oh, I’m sorry mom. I won’t do __________ again. When I tell her something like “Chelsea that’s not safe please don’t _______ again.” Or “Chelsea, that hurt my feelings when you ignore me. Please listen when I’m speaking to you.”

It has taken months of what seemed like poor practicing to get us here, but it’s possible and we’re better because of it. She even encourages me with the absoluteness of God’s forgiveness when I hurt her feelings and apologize more than once. She says, “Mommy, it’s done. It’s all done. I love you.” These hurtful moments, if you’re humble and sincere, can become the most powerful and impacting of all lessons in life: the lesson of repentance and forgiveness.

We also have to evaluate ourselves regularly asking ourselves, “am I trending DOWN with my poor behavior or trending UP?” We must trend down with our hurtful behavior showing our children we aren’t perfect, but that it’s possible to learn and get better at something. Prayer is powerful and absolutely (redundantly) necessary for effective self-evaluation.

Humbling ourselves regularly before God by asking for forgiveness and help keeps our hearts aware of our shortcomings, which dismantles prideful thoughts like, “I’m not that bad, at least I don’t ________ my kids like so-n-so.” Humility before our children is the best position we can take for instruction. If it’s good enough for Christ, it’s good enough for me. (Philippians 2) If we have received the kindness of God leading us to repentance than surely we must show that same kindness to our children.

Learning to think first and respond second is the hardest habit to form when becoming a parent because most of us are still learning how to do this to various degrees. We must remember our children are born with no practical knowledge, even if they do something right once or twice, it takes doing something right consistently for weeks before it becomes a habit! Remember, they aren’t any different from you. Speak to them how you’d like to be spoken to if you were learning something and practicing it imperfectly.

Lord, help any parent reading this to humble themselves before you remembering we are dust as well as our kids- clay really, and need a patient potter to mold us and shape us into vessels for honorable use. I don’t want our children to be vessels that just store up rebellion and hatred because that’s what they learned from us. I want them to learn empathy, compassion, and love. Help us shape them as you are shaping us: patiently and gently. Amen.

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21, ESV)

For more resources about parenting and practical examples giving you a better vocabulary for instructing them patiently check out titles like consciousdiscipline.com, 1, 2, 3 The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Care Givers

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