Thursday, January 12, 2012

The father that I remember

One hundred years ago today, my father was born. I would have missed the significance of this day if I hadn't received a blog from my sister Gail early this morning. And then my brother Bill called me this evening telling me I needed to blog on this memorable occasion. Both Gail's and Bill's blogs made me cry. I miss my dad.

I wish I had called more, visited more, asked more questions. Dad is my hero. He was always glad to hear my voice and see my face. I was the child mom and dad always had to call because I never called them. I had no idea everyone else called them once a week. I wish I had too.

One of my favorite memories of my dad was at the breakfast table on school days. He taught me how to correctly slice a banana for my cereal. Mom always slept in so it was his job to get us off to school. Funny how I remember the little things.

I can only remember one time that dad really got mad at me. Our mom had left town for a few days and he was in charge. I was probably 15. I asked him if I could go on a blind date but apparently didn't give him enough details. He almost didn't let me go when he found out what was really going on. I think he thought a parent was driving instead of the guy I had the date with. I still don't know if mom ever found out. It was a horrible date by the way. First and last.

One fleeting memory of my dad was when he came home from a business trip once. He got home really late and I guess maybe I was worried about him. Anyway, he came in to wake me up to tell me he was home. I remember clinging to him and giving him such a big huge. I felt so connected to him in that brief moment.

I so desperately wanted dad's approval. (I always felt his love, just not his approval). I finally got it when I went to work for the bishop of Oklahoma or at least the bishop's right hand man. He was so proud of me. I think he finally thought I was going to be ok.

I have often wondered what he would have thought about my work with children affected by incarceration. There have been so many times I wanted to ask his advise. I so wished he was around to do the financials for me and help me with the business end of things. Unfortunately I didn't inherit his business sense.

Now that I am retiring at 61 I wonder if I'll start another job as he did after he retired for the first time.

I marvel at the fact that the Walsman line almost died out. The only son who didn't marry until he was 30 but then went on to have seven children, three boys who have produced nine male grandchildren who thanks to Tom's kids have produced I don't know how many great-grandchildren. The Walsman name has no danger of dying out yet 100 years ago today, he was the only child of two young people, who I don't know much about except that they died way too young and I never got to meet my grandparents on my dad's side.

I loved my dad. I don't think he ever expected to have seven children but I don't think he ever regretted it. I think my father loved his children. The boys might feel differently but I know he loved all of us and I know he was proud of all of us. I know if there is a heaven he is bragging to all who will listen about his children, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren.

Thanks dad, for loving our mom, for loving us, for giving us a life that was all I could have asked or hoped for. You were the best!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

As promised, my sermon I preached last Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa.

There are three connecting themes running through our Genesis lesson this morning: Lamenting, waiting, and sacrificing.

Abraham is lamenting that he is still childless. He is crying out because he has no offspring and his servant will become his heir. More than likely it is a public lament. People back then didn’t go quietly to their rooms and have quiet discussions with God. They lamented loudly and publicly.

Abraham has been waiting. God has called Abraham out of Ur to go to a strange land. He has been wandering around for a long time and is still homeless and is still without a child of his own.

Abraham laments to God and God answers by having Abraham look to the heavens and promises that his descendants will outnumber the stars. God promises land and he promises children. There is no real sign that either one of these promises will come true, only God’s word. Yet Abraham believes God and his faith makes him righteous in God’s eyes.

God makes a promise, and even though Abraham will have to wait for the promise, he believes and a covenant is born. Abraham offers a sacrifice of a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon to seal the deal.

Lamenting, waiting and sacrificing.

It reminds me of marriage. Girl laments that she can’t find a suitable man to marry. After much searching and waiting Mr. Right comes along. During the marriage ceremony, the couple makes a promise to each other. Each one believes that what the other has promised will last “till death do us part.” Then comes the sacrifice. A sacrifice is always part of a covenant. Each and every day of a couples’ life together is full of sacrifices. When and if children come, the sacrifices get even bigger. But the sacrifices are worth it, because of the love and commitment that each partner has for the other, because of the covenant they have made together.

Think of the hen who gathers her brood under her wings. Can you picture it? The little chicks keep darting out, away from their mother’s protection and she keeps bringing them back in. It is a full-time job. Full of sacrifices. There is no time for herself. She might lament loud and clear to her chicks and anyone else who is around as she tries to gather them up, but she will go without food to make sure her babies get enough. She sacrifices because she has waited a long time, sitting on her nest waiting for her brood to arrive. And as she sits she makes a promise, a covenant that she will love and protect her little ones at any cost.

That is Jesus’ lament this morning. He so longs to gather Jerusalem together like a hen gathers her brood but they are not willing. God has been waiting since Abraham for his people to get their act together and they just don’t get it. So, he makes the ultimate sacrifice that seals the covenant forever. But in this covenant God makes the promise to love us unconditionally, and makes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Then God waits for us even if it takes forever.

That is the promise, the covenant that we spend Lent pondering. God’s love, so complete that God will make any sacrifice necessary for us to get it, to receive it, to embrace it. Lent is the time for pondering the Love that is so perfect that the ultimate sacrifice of death on the cross is not too much to bear. It is a most profound mystery that the church encourages us to focus on during this time of preparation.

Lent is all about lamenting, waiting and sacrificing. On Ash Wednesday we lament as we pray the Litany of Penitence. We confess that we are unfaithful, self-indulgent, envious, exploitive, and negligent in our prayer and worship. We say we are sorry for false judgements, uncharitable thoughts towards our neighbors and our prejudice and contempt; for our waste and pollution and we lament that we have not loved God with our whole heart and mind and strength.

Then we make a sacrifice. We give up something that we like or we take on some discipline that is difficult for us. And then we wait for the resurrection. Even when our sacrifice is trivial, like giving up soda or chocolate or sugar, it makes the forty days seem a long time to wait.

But often in today’s world we want the promise, the covenant, without the wait or the sacrifice. We want to go straight to Easter without experiencing the forty days of Lent or Good Friday.

Remember the young woman waiting for Mr. Right? Sometimes we don’t want to wait for the good thing to come along, sometimes we choose Mr. Wrong because we want the promise without the wait. Perhaps that is why divorce is so rampant today. Or perhaps it is because couples forget that in order for love to be complete, sacrifices have to be made.

Think about credit card debt in this country. It is skyrocketing. Why? Because people want the promise of material things without the wait or the sacrifice.

Our teenage pregnancy rate in Oklahoma is among the highest in the nation. What surprises me is that many of these teens get pregnant on purpose. They want the promise of unconditional love and they are tired of waiting to get it from their family or friends. What they don’t understand is the sacrifices that come with it.

How many times have I heard a young girl say, “I want something of my very own who will love me unconditionally.” The amazing thing is that they get what they long for but don’t always see it. I have worked with enough kids to know that a child’s love for their mother is the strongest bond on earth. No matter what that mother does, the child never stops loving her. She can be a drug addict, an abuser, she can go to prison but the child never stops loving her. A mother’s love for her children is strong as well, but she doesn’t always want to make the sacrifices that come along with being a parent. Unfortunately it is often the child who has to make the sacrifice. Sometimes they give up playing with their friends or going to school because they are caring for a sick, addicted mother. Sometimes they sacrifice their entire childhood when they are victims of abuse

We want the promises without the waiting, and without the sacrifice.

God wants to gather us under his wings but we are an impatient people. We want to do things our way. We are not willing to sacrifice anything and we are certainly not willing to wait on the Lord. We want what we want and we want it now period.

The problem is, when we do get those things that we think we want, we are not really satisfied, we never have enough and we are not truly happy.

This Lent let us lament. Let us confess our faults to God so that we are open to God’s healing embrace.

Next, let us wait on the Lord. Sometimes it takes a long time. But God still speaks to his people, count on it. God may put something on our hearts. God may speak to us through someone else. God may whisper his love in the stillness of the night.

And when God does speak to us, and he will, we must be ready to make a sacrifice. It might be a sacrifice of time. It might be a sacrifice of money. It might be a sacrifice of pride or lust or greed. God might be calling us to forgive someone we don’t really want to forgive or to love someone who is hard to love.

If we lament and open ourselves up to God; if we wait on God and listen for his call to us; if we make sacrifices necessary to answer that call, then we will experience a resurrection more glorious than we have ever experienced in our lives and we’ll know that eternal life begins right here, right now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Blog

For my followers, I have started a second blog reviewing movies. Don't miss it at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What does it mean to "give up?"

The book I am reviewing tonight is called raise them up: the real deal on reaching the unreachable kids by Kareem Moody. This is a very short book, easy to read and I read it in a couple of hours. I didn't get it off my shelf; my program director, Heather, ordered some books from Amazon and they came to the office addressed to New Hope so I opened them. The author has no special credentials other than he has worked with difficult kids for a long time and was one when he was growing up.

Mr. Moody first talks about the 40 assets that the Search Institute has identified that are building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring and responsible. I considered listing all 40 assets here but it might resemble too closely Bill's telephone book list. So if you want to know what they are you can go to .

Though I think there is merit to these assets, experts tell us that we can't remember more than seven things at one time. That is why phone numbers are seven digits. But now we don't even have to remember seven digits as long as the number is in our cell phone and we don't lose it or as I have done twice now, soak it in water. The first time I soaked my phone in water was when it fell into the toilet. The second time was when we were making a vampire movie with the kids at camp and I was being drug into the lake by a vampire or maybe I was going into the lake to save someone who turned out to be a vampire. Anyway my phone was in my pocket. But I am digressing. I don’t like the assets because I can’t remember them.

I like the five promises that all children need to become successful adults as determined by America’s Promise Alliance because I can remember them: Positive adults, effective education, healthy development, safe places with constructive use of time and an opportunity make a difference by helping others. And it seems to me that you could place each of the 40 assets into one of the five promises. When I discovered the five promises a few years back, it really made a difference. I finally have a focus. I am finally able to say what we are about. Each program we offer, each activity a child is involved in, provides at least three of the five promises children need to become successful adults.

For example, the kids in our service club fed homeless people at a soup kitchen on Friday. There were positive adults who assisted them and made sure they were safe; they were definitely receiving an effective education; and they were making a difference by helping others. Five promises are easier to remember than 40 assets but I’ll look over the list from time to time and see what our kids need that we might be able to help with.

Though this blog is getting kind of long (I could break it into two blogs thus improving my standing in the competition) but I think I’ll just make the other point from this book that I want to make. Mr. Moody says that you should never give up on a child. This is something we continue to struggle with at camp. There are some who think we should never send a child home no matter what they do. Others of us feel like if we don’t send the most difficult children home, then the “easy” children don’t get the attention they deserve. I am on the fence. I understand both arguments. The most difficult children fail at everything and they expect to fail when they come to camp. If we can keep them all week, they have a needed success in their life. But it does take a lot of time and energy to keep these children at camp and perhaps 75 percent of our time is spent on 10 percent of the children. Is that fair to the rest of them? Do they think they have to act up to get our attention?

I think I might be missing the point. Sending a child home from camp does not necessarily equate to giving up on them. Summer camp may just not be the place for them to be or perhaps the time is just not right. Two years ago I had to send a girl home for threatening another girl. Last summer I met with her before camp and laid out the conditions for her coming back. Of course, I tried to listen and ask her what she thought the problem was. But she did come back to camp and she made it through the week. Her behavior was much improved from the year before.

I was talking to a great-grandmother yesterday whose great grandson was sent home last summer and she was telling me he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to come to camp this summer. My response, “of course he can come back.” Perhaps ignoring his behavior and letting him stay at camp would have been giving up on him. Perhaps expecting and requiring decent behavior is how we don’t give up on him. I have to say that some of my best conversations with the children are on the way home when they get my full attention, and they know that I still care.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It is a matter of perspective

So John and I were at one of Tulsa’s elementary schools for Boys Council last Wednesday. We had seven little boys ages 8 through 10. We had them for an hour and a half and I was exhausted by the end of the session. I am convinced that children get all of their energy zapping it from the adults around them. For an hour and a half the boys were kicking, pushing, and shoving each other, and sitting on the tables. (At least they weren’t standing on the tables.) The first week the boys came up with a list of expectations for the group. Number three is about personal space. Not working! The theme for the day was connecting with each other. They definitely connected, just not what we had in mind. At one point, John passed out magazines and scissors and told the boys to find a picture to cut out and then we were going to share with each other why we choose the picture. I was out of the room when he did this. I was going after ice for one of the boy’s jaw that got hit during a game that went well for the first 30 seconds and then disintegrated into mayhem. Anyway, by the time I got back, the boys had torn the magazines to shreds and were using the scissors as swords.

When the very long hour and a half was over we took the boys out to meet their caregivers. The counselor who set this group up for us exclaimed, “Oh my, I didn’t realize you had all of those boys.” What she didn’t say (but what I surmised from conversations I had with the boys) was that each of these boys spends more time in the principal’s office than they do in their classrooms.

The good news in all of this? John is going to a training in New Jersey on Tuesday and he is going to learn how to keep these boys from killing each other. The bad news? He is going to be gone on Wednesday which means unless we hire someone by then I’ll have these little guys all by myself this week. I am praying for a foot of snow.

Now to the book that I read last week, S’more than Camp— A guide for camp counselors and the rest of the world about kids, camp, and working with each other by Scott Arizala. Scott has a lot of good ideas about interacting with children. It’s not as organized a book as I would like and I have to keep going back over it but no matter what page I choose there are words of wisdom. For example page 80. “Don’t talk about the rules. Ask about what we should be doing; ask what we should remember or what the rules are; ask why or how come; restate everything in the positive.” For example: me--"What are you suppose to doing?" boy: "Not hitting Tommy." me--"Right, we are suppose to give each other their personal space. What guideline is that?" boy--"Number three." Me--"exactly. Why do we have guideline number 3?" boy--"So no one gets hurt." Me--"I wonder what you could do to help you remember to give Tommy his personal space..." As you can see, this takes alot more energy than saying "You are breaking rule number three. Stop hitting Tommy and go sit in the chair," but it can be much more effective and it teaches them problem solving and helps them become internally motivated instead of externally motivated.

The overall theme of the book is “meet kids where they are. Work to gain their perspective and respect what they think, feel and say.”

I forget this a lot. It is easy to remember when I am reading the book but when I have seven boys kicking and pushing I forget to think of their perspective, what is going on in their lives. As one of the boys was getting into his car, the counselor explained that his dad is in prison and mom is in jail awaiting trial. Grandma just recently died so he is living with an uncle.

Each one of our boys has a similar story. It helps me when I remember their perspective. The boys may act up every time we are together, but there is a reason for it. They feel as though they have no control over their lives and for the most part they are right. They are trying to gain some control somewhere and pushing and shoving makes them feel a little in control of something.

I might not be able to do anything about their behavior but maybe it is enough just to show up every week. Maybe it is enough to be one positive adult in their lives who doesn’t abandom them through incarceration or death. I can continue to learn behavior management, but meanwhile I’ll try just to be present and patient; to listen and learn what their perspective is and maybe help them find positive ways to control a piece of their life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The grant is finished

There are several reasons I have finally decided to start my blog. First, my twin sister Gail has been bugging me to do it for a while now. Second, I didn't want to be the last of the seven siblings to create one. Tom and John, thanks for dragging your feet. Third, I really do want to stay in touch with my family and this seems like a great way to do it. I am not very good at telephoning, duh. I found out after our parents death that I was the only one of the seven that didn't call them every week to check in. And as my siblings can attest they almost never get a phone call from me. I have lots of excuses: way too busy at work... well I guess that is my only excuse but I just don't like to talk on the phone. My husband Randy doesn't like to talk on the phone either so that works well for us. I don't bug him with a phone call while he is working and he doesn't bug me while I am working unless one or both of us is hungry and want some company for lunch or dinner and then we have a ten second conversation. "Are you hungry? Where do you want to eat? Ok, meet you there." Perfect. I think the reason I don't like to talk on the phone is because in highschool my boyfriend would call every night and then have nothing to say. I tried to keep up the conversation but there would be long silences where we just sat on the phone and listened to each other breath. yuk! Actually, now that I think about it, it is not that I don't like talking on the phone, I just have a hard time initialing the call. When my family calls me, I love it. Gail decided recently that she would call me on a regular basis even if I didn't ever call her. I love hearing from her. I don't know why I have problems initialing the call. Might take years of therapy to figure that one out. Anyway, initialing phone calls isn't my thing and initialing e-mails doesn't seem to work either and I am sure not going to send a letter so perhaps this will work. A one way conversation. Perfect! I love reading my siblings blogs. I love finding out about what they are doing. I feel really close to them as I am reading. So I hope I can connect back with mine. Finally, (the reasons I am starting a blog) I am pretty obsessed with my job which happens to be working with children who have a parent in prison. I have all of these books on children and best practices and how to make a difference in their lives but I don't get them read because I have so much other stuff to do like raise money so we can conduct our programs and pay my few employees. Oh yeah, that is another reason I am starting my blog. I told myself that as soon as I got this grant finished that I have been working on, I'd start. I put it in the mail today. Anyway I have decided that I would read a book each week and then I would blog about it. I love reading books on how best to work with children and I love buying books even more (I'll put my books up against Jane's Christmas decorations anytime), so when I finish reading the books on my shelf, I can start buying books again.
A word on the title of my blog, "Just because they are children." A couple of years ago my son John was creating a video for New Hope (that's the name of my non-profit) and he was interviewing some of the counselors and asking them why they volunteered a week of their lives to be at camp. One of them said, "I come to camp to be with the kids. They deserve a chance to come to camp just because they are children." A lot of the kids I work with don't get to be children. They have to grow up way too fast, taking care of younger siblings, sometimes taking care of mom or dad who are addicts. They live in unsafe neighborhoods and don't get to roam the woods like I did growing up. Sometimes their childhoods are stolen from them through abuse. Some of them never learned how to play. Anyway, I am really reading and blogging for them, just because they are children.
I am half-way through my first book. Hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow and give you the high points.