My teenaged daughter thinks she’s in love. She floats around the house, chattering constantly about The Boy. For every breathless discovery she makes I, too, am breathless. I know this story – we all know this story. Most of all, we know how it ends. It ends with change.

Right now, there is a delightful child twirling through my kitchen. She believes that love, particularly her love, will save the world. She believes in glass slipper magic and midnight kisses.  “Happily ever after” is the biggest thing on her mind. But I know that even if she finds happily ever after, she will not be this same child when she gets there. Once again, I am facing motherhood’s most dreaded closet, the one where we leave precious scraps of wide-eyed naivety and take out rich cloaks of adulthood. We hand these cloaks off to our children and hope they keep them warm and safe, but to us they just look like ill-fitting hand-me-downs to be grown into.

I am happy that she has reached this milestone. First love is so precious and I desperately want her to enjoy every moment, but I wish she were prepared for what she has twirled into. I wish she understood that she has chosen to give The Boy a piece of her heart and when she gets it back, it might not fit quite as perfectly. It will have been shaped by a story of its own. If she doesn’t get it back, he will hold it forever. Sometimes he’ll crack it a little and try to fix it. He could drop it. He could lose it. Regardless, he will be her first teacher about who she is on her own, apart from her family. That part of her heart that he holds will be the beginning of her beautiful story.

I would be less alarmed if The Boy were not her first love, if she were not radically consumed by thoughts of him. As a parent, I wish that her first love were Jesus so that her heart was already spoken for and The Boy just got added to the story she was already creating. God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). If He held her heart, she could weather a first love, a second love, and anything else without her foundation shifting (Romans 12:2). The pieces of her heart may still be cobbled together, but the biggest piece would be perfect and strong.

And here’s where the doubts creep in, the regrets, the feeling wholly inadequate to raise a child in this day. In the parental pressure cooker that is social media, there are countless Sunday photos of toddlers praying, little ones reassuring the weary that Jesus loves them, tiny hands dropping coins into offering plates. There are a million reminders that I did not do enough to raise the perfectly faithful child. Frankly, I didn’t even know about teaching my children these adult lessons until they were practically adults themselves. So when I hear about kids who have been so faithfully raised that they believe a dollar is only .90, I am convicted and fearful for the upbringing my children had in this noisy, imperfect, and barely-tithing home.

But God. He steps in with His promises and soothes my heart. I pray for her and I know He hears (Psalm 66:19-20). I know that He chose me in my brokenness to be this child’s mother and walk her through a life in this world (Psalm 139:13-16). I know He honors my efforts. They were paltry, but at the time, they were the best I had and He had compassion for the life I lived (Lamentation 3:22-23). And most of all, I know that she will find Him (Proverbs 22:6). She has to find Him on her own; it’s something I couldn’t do for her no matter how much I want to.

I want so much to hang onto this tiny twirler in my kitchen (she’s not tiny. When she’s next to me, she’s 6 inches taller than I am. But when she’s in front of me, she’s still a tiny girl who needs me), but she’s not mine to keep. Somehow, God trusted me enough that I got to hold her hand while she grew into the plans set forth for her life (Jeremiah 29:11), but she couldn’t possibly grow if her life was as perfect as I wanted it to be. Just like our physical bodies, our hearts, minds, and character all get stronger under strain.

This first love will change my daughter, there is no doubt, but I look forward to her next step into adulthood, for the cloak to fit a little better so it’s easier to see the beautiful stitching that holds it together.

Tiny Twirler

Stranger than Fiction in the Colorado GOP. That sound you hear the one million Colorado Republicans face-palming

It’s nice to know that both sides are deviant. Huisman runs down the reason behind the attempted coup in the Colorado GOP. She is correct that Steve House is to be lauded for not giving in, regardless of personal cost. After all, that is how a leader should behave. Time for our leaders to lead all of us and stop looking for personal gain.

WISDOM LINGERS

Colorado Republican Party Chair Steve House Colorado Republican Party Chair Steve House

The last 36 hours have truly been the most bizarre in recent political memory, and that’s saying a lot. On Monday evening, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffeman and former U.S. Representative and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo executed a failed ambush and extortion plot to oust State Republican Party Chair Steve House. Pueblo County Republican Chair Becky Mizel was also in on the failed coup attempt. She was to be the new State Chair were this asinine coup attempt to succeed.

The brouhaha centered on House’s decision to hire Tyler Hart as his chief of staff and his decision to not tap Ted Harvey as Executive Director of the State Party. House was told he had to resign or he would be both slandered in the media with ginned up rumors about an affair, and be bogged down with frivolous lawsuits.

Apparently, the person…

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Teacher’s Unions are the Bullies Hiding Behind the Little Guys

Teacher’s unions – or associations – across the country are disrupting the education process.  Last year I sat in a conference here in Colorado.  During a bathroom break, there was a union bonding session in the ladies’ room where members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, those who cost students precious instruction time while they picketed, mad plans to help Colorado unions mirror their tactics.  In my own district, the local union, Thompson Education Association, is disrupting their own contract negotiations to avoid a pay for performance program.  They are rallying citizens around their own propaganda and dividing our pleasant city to the detriment of our children – and our future.  It’s important to ensure that the truth is heard over their noise.
First, the union would like to assure that they are known as an association, not a union.  But according to Webster, The Thompson Education Association IS a union. They engage in collective bargaining, holding taxpayers hostage to the demands made of their money.  They disrupt school board meetings, representatives shutting down any civilized discussion.  Instances of cutting and bullying in our Loveland schools have increased exponentially as drug dogs roam the hallways – of the MIDDLE SCHOOLS.  There is a culture problem in the Loveland schools and, having attended several board meetings, I have witnessed the example set by these teachers.  This is shameful because I KNOW that Loveland has great teachers, but an aggressive and frightened union misrepresents them.  
This same union is using students, exploiting the trust and admiration students have for their teachers, to pressure Loveland citizens to oppose a very fair, even beneficial, collective bargaining agreement.  Yesterday, a civic organization on Facebook promoted a union-supported rally.  When I asked what the rally was for, there was no response.  The union is using affections for beloved educators to short-change students.  I grew up in a mining town dominated by union activity.  The town was divided and intimidation was the standard operating procedure.  The TEA behaves in this way – board members must be escorted to their cars by police?  This is the height of intimidation.  If these teachers are actually concerned about the students, why the hostile attitude at meetings?  Education should be fun.  It should be rewarding.  The only thing that could undermine that would be self-interest.  I am sure that is why TEA opposed Prop 104 and seems to struggle with compliance.
Union members would have the public believe that pay-for-performance advocates are looking for cost savings. Teacher salaries are one area that should never be looked at to save costs. Teachers are heroic for choosing an emotionally rewarding career over one that pays well.  While their pay is less than the job calls for, anyone who chooses this profession is certainly aware of the salary prior to becoming certified.  Performance pay is important because good teachers are invaluable and that should be reflected in their wages so that school districts can keep them.  On the other hand, disengaged or less-talented teachers can actually cause harm to a child’s future and they should be encouraged to choose a better fit where they may make a better living.  In the private sector, employees appreciate the reward that comes with performance pay and the recognition of a job well done.  This system inspires competition, ingenuity, and fosters high morale.  I struggle to understand why teachers look at it as something punitive.  In districts that implement performance pay, most teachers find that they are paid better than they had before.   In fact, parents and taxpayers should be concerned when teachers en masse to fear pay for performance.  They either doubt their own effectiveness, or they have been led to believe that this is not a positive.  They have been manipulated.
 
In the end, the TEA is determining how tax dollars are spent and how children are nurtured, but they are doing so under the guidelines of their own self-interest.  Their wages are low, but they are essentially in line with private-sector wages, particularly once hours and vacations are accounted for.  I understand that teachers work outside the classroom, but I would say that is no different from most professions, which are usually much more limited in their paid time off.
I am a Loveland citizen but my children DO NOT attend Loveland schools.  The schools are not acceptable.  While house-hunting, my husband and I did not find a single school with a good rating.  I do not blame the teachers for this; as I mentioned before, I blame the fact that they are misrepresented and the significant socio-economic challenges they face.  However, as a citizen, I have a vested interested in improving the schools so that Loveland may attract more people, jobs, and affluence.  The best way to ensure a great future for our city is to ensure a great education today.  This means supporting great teachers and having the freedom to ensure they are paid well.

Sleeping With the Nanny State

Last night, I walked through protests in the streets of Washington, DC. According to the news, this was not unique.  As I walked through the city, I was able to thank the officers who stood patiently at roadblocks, allowing these citizens to sit in busy intersections chanting “No justice, no peace” to the beat of a lone drum.

“No justice, no peace” has become a rallying cry of the disenfranchised.  Unfortunately, they are not completing the thought – “Know justice, know peace,”  most likely because they DON’T know justice.  These disruptive protests have become the new normal in the US and lately, news footage is full of images that make our civilized country look like any destabilized nation.  Is instability the new normal, too?

If it is, it’s hardly a surprise.  The minority populations struggled through the civil rights movement, aspiring to a promise of the safety and stability to build a future.  Instead, they have been relegated to inner cities, 21st Century reservations.  They have no role models to help overcome a welfare state that promises prosperity yet deprives them of it behind their backs.  The mentors that they do have are vilified and torn apart as a complicit press send the soothing message of big government, “why work so hard when WE take care of you?”  Yet, in caring for them, the nanny state has put a price on them.  It has defined their worth through assistance with formulaic increases based on family size, the price of a child.  No wonder this nanny state is invested in killing minority children.  They tell women to turn their back on conscience because it is the kinder thing to do, while they happily remove these dependents from the liability sheet.

We are a nation under the rule of law, not just the law of the land, but the law of nature as well.  A nanny state seeks to disrupt that law, defining common truths that we all know to be true and confusing citizens.  They know it’s not fair.  They know that there is no justice.  Nanny dependents recognize their oppression, but they cannot identify their oppressors. It is no wonder they are angry and frustrated. Under their anger, there is fear.  Fear of instability, fear of loosing control.  Fear so often hides behind anger.  Thus, fear is the true driver of violence.  These people are fighting for their lives, lives the nanny state has taken only to return in pieces.

Last year marked 50 years since the war on poverty began.  In a retrospective, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute said that in 2012 state and federal governments had spent $952,000,000,000.00 on entitlement programs for the poor.  This breaks down to over $80,000.00 for a family of four that lives under the poverty line.  The 126 different programs funding the poor make it difficult to quantify their annual benefits, but if it were near $80,000.00, this would be a blog post about inflation, not anger.

While trillions are spent on the war on poverty and numbers of the impoverished remain stagnant at 23 million in 2012 vs. the 22 million in 1964, profits and wages are growing.  For instance, JP Morgan Chase is tasked with administering the EBT (food stamp) program in most states.  The sum of the contracts between the USDA and JP Morgan is over $560,000,000.00.  But for Chase, it’s more than contracts.  This program attracts the elusive unbanked crowd and turns them into yet another fee source.  Program participants are responsible to pay ATM fees, lost card fees, overage fees, and any other fee that Chase can add.  Since the decline of interest rates in the US, banks have adopted a fee-driven profit structure and this customer group is ripe for exploitation.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Chase has seen revenues nearly double since they got involved in the EBT program in 2004.  And for the sake of argument, let’s not forget that taxpayers bailed Chase bank out in 2008 – to the tune of $25,000,000,000.00.  I WISH that were a typo. This is just one example of our Federal government and it’s adulterous relationship with big business.  Unfortunately, just like when a father sleeps with the nanny, the children suffer.  They may not understand why they are angry, but they WILL act out.

It is always the most vulnerable who suffer first when leadership behaves in such a way that stability breaks down.  The media can tell us these riots are race-driven, but they are certainly not a race problem.  They are a behavior problem, a problem that comes naturally when a nation stands on a pile of lies.

Gifting Angst

Think way back to eighth grade. Remember the insecurities, the bullies, the first kisses, the crowded and loud hallways.  It’s still hard to hear the slam of a locker without getting sweaty palms. Right now, my daughter is going through eighth grade. She attends a charter school full of children whose parents take the time to drive several miles to and from school.  These children have healthy lunches packed for them every day and they all seem to have a battery of after school activities.  Every one of them arrives at school dressed for a day of learning.  In short, these are well-cared for children.  While they may not all be wealthy, they at least have the advantage of parents who are intent on providing brilliant futures for them.

Statistically, these should be happy kids filled with promise and intellectual curiosity. Instead, these eighth-graders are filled with angst.  They are cutting.  They talk each other down.  If you were to ask, most of them would say that their parents don’t love them and they’re o-kay with that. This is a hard attitude to understand; I know most of their parents and I know how much these kids are loved.

This is a complete K-12 school, so after graduating one child and seeing another to eighth grade, the families have become familiar to me.  Many are friends.  Our children grew up together, which means that we have grown to know each other through the intimate clarity of our children’s eyes.  There aren’t a lot of secrets.  In that context, this angst is most concerning. It defies studies, economics, theories, or conventional wisdom. Given the unrest throughout this nation, I don’t think that this is isolated to our small charter school.  Perhaps we can explain the unrest in some areas based on all the usual factors like economics and parental involvement, but when we accept these excuses, we risk missing the true cause and we forfeit a solution.

The one thing these charter school children have in common is the generosity of their parents. Is their self-loathing borne of the knowledge that they may not deserve the lavish lives they live?  We parents look at the education, the activities, and the leisure time as opportunity.  But perhaps the children see it as a burden.  It is difficult to receive a generous gift that feels undeserved.  The gift, however well-intentioned, is humbling and sheds light on all of the shortcomings of the recipient.

When I was in eighth grade, I played the flute.  Very well.  I had a locally-renowned talent.  As I prepared for high school, my parents gave me a professional-grade flute, an instrument that cost thousands of dollars they didn’t have.  The flute was beautiful and from the first time I played it I thought I sounded like James Galway.  But after an hour or so, I resented the instrument.  I wasn’t James Galway, not even on the same sheet of music with him, and having a comparable instrument just made me more aware of that. The next day when it was time to practice, I put the flute together and felt wholly inadequate to even leave my fingerprints on the sterling silver.  I didn’t want to play that day but I knew I had no choice because of this investment that had been made.  From that point on, my playing was no longer an expression of my heart.  Instead, it was a payment against an unwanted debt.  A wrong note wasn’t just an obstacle, it was a delinquency.  Music ceased to be a refuge for me and my practice was spotty at best for some time until I finally was able to forget about the price I didn’t pay.

As Americans, we have all received such a gift in our freedoms.  Few of us have paid for the privilege of enjoying unprecedented wealth and opportunity, but at least as adults we make a token sacrifice by working for all we have.  Because of our work and the economy we enjoy, we are able to provide lavish lifestyles to our children without them having to struggle. It’s a wonderful thing and I think every parent loves giving things and experiences to his children.  This shouldn’t be a bad thing, but is it possible that our children live under the shadow of inadequacy?

Perhaps we could teach children to seize these opportunities.  The generous gifts, whether flutes or freedoms, that we receive are more than largess, they are opportunities to rise to a challenge.  Eventually, when I became more comfortable with it, that flute was what I needed to be a successful musician.  I couldn’t have achieved what I did without it, but I had to understand that and rise to the generosity.  I had to put in the practice time that Galway would have put in.  The flute was a valuable tool, but the value went deeper than responsive keys.  It was valuable because I had to push myself to become worthy of what I had been given. If I hadn’t pushed forward, I would have eventually been to ashamed to play anymore and I would have been resentful.

Perhaps we parents could hold more reverence for opportunity.  Even as the benefactors, it is easy to take what we do for our kids for granted.  It seems as though the driving and paying and packing should fulfill our responsibility, but that is short of the most important part.  We must clearly show children how to USE what they have received so that they may be better equipped for growth. We are not merely giving TO them but investing IN them.  We invest in what we believe has potential.  It is up to them to grow.  That is the one thing that we cannot do for our children and they must not just do it, but do it in full.  It is only through the journey of growth that our children can earn the self-respect they need to survive eighth grade and the life that comes after.