Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

After a tumultuous 2013, this year turned out to be a calm and happy one.  We’re grateful as always for all the really wonderful people that cross our paths—past and present—which means we’re grateful for you!  Here’s an update on the Taylors:

If you missed last year’s update, we moved to Houston and love being near old friends and making new ones.  We joined our neighborhood church--Willow Meadows Baptist—where we are the worst church members ever, only because Trisha is often traveling and Craig is regularly preaching at area churches. 

Speaking of Craig, he continues to love his work at Mission Centers of Houston, serving volunteers, church teams, staff and summer missionaries as they minister in several inner-city neighborhoods.  Go to Facebook and like the Mission Centers so that you can keep up with their terrific work!  He also enjoyed getting to see James Taylor in concert for the first time and the Eagles for the fourth—and has tickets for Fleetwood Mac in March, so 2015 should be another good year!  The highlight of the year for Craig was probably being at the opening BU game at the new stadium--it's hard to believe how far the Bears have come!

McLane Stadium with Old Main in the background across the Brazos

Trisha continues with her counseling practice in west Houston and wears other hats as well.   Working with pastors and congregations as part of the Ridder Church Renewal process, she travels quite a bit:  multiple trips each to Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Ontario where she gets to be with people who have become dear and treasured friends.  She also continues to serve with Faithwalking and Missional Marriage. 

Just a few Ridder friends:  Scott, Jess and my dear friend and colleague Jim Herrington

The highlight of 2014 for Trisha was the blast-to-your-past central Texas tour that Craig surprised her with for their 29th anniversary.  Starting at the Pizza Hut in Cameron (where they had their first date 30 years ago) and ending at Central Baptist Church in Thornton, Craig and Trisha revisited the special places from their dating, engagement and first year of marriage.  What was really fun was how many of you joined us on Facebook!

Craig and Trisha in 1984 and in 2014

Andrew graduated with his master’s degree from Harvard in May and came home for awhile before leaving again, this time for a year in China where he teaches at Hebei University in Bao Ding, about two hours southwest of Beijing.   Unlike his previous trips abroad, we get to talk to him via Skype on a pretty regular basis and that makes us both really happy.  He seems to love teaching and is very popular with his students. 

Andrew and Rebecca at the park across from our house

Rebecca is thriving as a senior history major at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton.  She worked this summer as a history programs intern at the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco and found her calling (small museums, not Dr. Pepper).  She was also accepted in the school study abroad program and will spend the next 4 months in London, living with other students in a flat near the British museum.  She couldn’t be happier.

Rebecca being official at the Dr. Pepper Museum

It’s been a truly good year for us and our families and we’re grateful that we get to share it with some of the best people in the world—our friends, colleagues and families.  We love you and wish you a happy Christmas and a very blessed new year!

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Had a Dream

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Kingdom known as the land of the free and the home of the brave.  

One day, some people in that kingdom began to sing a sad song, one of the saddest any had ever heard.  A Great Silence fell over the kingdom as each one in his own home listened to the sad song. 

And no one said, “Stop singing that sad song.  It makes me uncomfortable.  Don’t you know any happy songs?” 

And no one said, “That sad song is the wrong sad song to sing; sing another one.” 

And no one said, “Well, it’s your own fault that your song is so sad; you made your bed, now lie in it.” 

Instead, the people came out of their homes and into the street and listened together and their eyes said to one another, “I’m sorry.” 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In light of recent events, ladies and gentlemen, a poem

Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Men

Come, dear brothers,
let us cheerfully acknowledge
that we are the last hope of the world,
for we have no excuses,
nobody to blame but ourselves.
Who is going to sit at our feet
and listen while we bewail
our historical sufferings?  Who
will ever believe that we also
have wept in the night
with repressed longing to become
our real selves?  Who will
stand forth and proclaim
that we have virtues and talents
peculiar to our category?  Nobody,
and that is good.  For here we are
at last with our real selves
in the real world.  Therefore,
let us quiet our hearts, my brothers,
and settle down for a change
to picking up after ourselves
and a few centuries of honest work.

This is one of my favorites from Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Forgive me if I'm not surprised

I’m gratified to see the outpouring of support (from men and women) for UAE Major Miriam al Mansouri  whose heroism and aviation skill Eric Bolling reduced to “boobs on the ground.”  Watching him say it, I wondered how long he had been saving that clever little tidbit, he looked so pleased with himself.   And my heart sank.

Before you start hashtagging #notallmen, let me start by saying of course not all men.  But there are still plenty of men who consistently see women primarily as potential sex partners and evaluate them accordingly. 

This means that women who are young enough, thin enough, attractive enough and willing enough have value, communicated by an approving look or an inappropriate comment.  Of course, anyone this man doesn’t want to have sex with—older women and overweight women, especially—and anyone who won’t make herself available to him—educated women and feminists, especially—doesn’t have value.  Just look around at our culture or read the comment section on any popular blog and tell me I’m wrong. 

These men fly below the radar because they can be very affirming of women and can  successfully act as professional mentors for women as long as those women are younger, attractive and appropriately deferential.  And they will be perfect gentlemen as well, not expecting sexual favors.  They are often married and well-respected. 

But you will never see them championing a woman they wouldn’t want to sleep with, because why would they?  Instead, they will ignore her, rendering her invisible.  Or they will make comments about her appearance, her clothing, her aggressiveness or her sexuality and then they will say that they were just kidding.  If she or other women protest further, then they are blamed for being humorless or strident. 

As Bolling said himself, his words were “not intended to be disparaging of her but that is how it was taken.”   The fault was not his for reducing a heroic woman to her physical form; the fault was ours for taking him wrong.

When a US senator has to routinely field comments about her weight and her appearance from her colleagues, when a secretary of state is routinely disparaged for wearing unflattering pantsuits as she brokers international peace, when military women are in more danger of being assaulted by their colleagues than they are by the enemy or the general public, when the top television news anchors are wearing sleeveless, short shift dresses tugging at their hems while their male colleagues are wearing the full coverage of business suits . . . well, suddenly Eric Bolling makes a little more sense.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


It's all about the bathroom. 

When I was in high school, a lot of really smart and passionate people were working on an amendment that would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against women for being women.  Looking back, it seems a reasonable corrective to the idea that all men were created equal, opening up the founding fathers' dream of America to include the other 50 percent.  

But in my small city, I didn't know many of those smart and passionate people who were working hard to make sure that my dreams could be realized and my daughters' too. The people I knew were mostly oblivious, too busy living their salt-of- the-earth lives to worry about the Constitution.  

But there were also a lot of loud voices in my world--in school, at church, oh my, especially at church--who opposed this effort because, they said with utter certainty, it would usher in the End Of Life As We Know It. 

And their main reason for opposing those who opposed sexism?  The bathroom. If women's rights were actually constitutionally protected, there would no longer be any gender differences (as if that's even possible?) and we would all have to share a unisex bathroom. Even the word unisex became a term of derision.  

It was all about the bathroom. Something in me knew that was bogus, even then. I knew that we actually had unisex bathrooms at home and everything seemed to be okay. Something in me knew, even then, that the playing field was not level for women and girls and that the smart, passionate women in the newspaper weren't working so hard so that we could share bathrooms with men.  But what I didn't know then was how to think my own thoughts when the powerful people in my life were so certain. 

And I certainly didn't want to be responsible for the demise of Life As We Know It. 

So fast forward more years than I want to count. In my city, there is a proposal on the table to create an ordinance to protect the rights of all people, regardless of gender, sexuality and sexual orientation.  We are the last of the major  cities to approve such an ordinance and it is being heavily debated. 

This week I received an email from the pastor of one of the largest mega churches in our community reminding me to express my opposition to the ordinance by contacting my council person.  The first reason listed as to why I should do this?  Bathrooms.  

Apparently, if this ordinance is implemented, hordes of trans women will invade our powder rooms and assault us.  Never mind that in the places where similar ordinances are in place, there have been exactly zero such cases.  Never mind that if a sexual predator wanted to dress up as a woman in order to infiltrate a women's rest room, he could do that now.  Never mind that sexual assault is still against the law, even if trans women can share the ladies room with the rest of us. 

There are probably good reasons to debate the ordinance.  Religious considerations, for one thing.  Practical considerations related to enforcement, for another.  The possibility of unintended consequences for a third.  I welcome a vigorous debate about those things. But bathrooms?  Seriously?  I won't make that mistake again. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Guest post #1

I've been meaning to do this for awhile . . . open up this space to my gifted friends and family to say whatever they want.  I kept saying that I wanted to boost my readership first since this blog is currently read by ones of people but today I have the chance to link to the blog that my friend Emily writes over on Sometimes I Wonder, Sometimes I Wander.  She writes a lot about birding and about nature and her photos are often stunning.  But today, she wrote about her mother, her childhood and about going back to open up a way forward.  I hope you enjoy it:

Happy Mother's Day, Bonnie Ruth

I spent a good half century of my life not looking at this photograph.  I always hated this picture.  Why?  No other reason than my immature narcissistic focus.  I couldn’t look past the baby in this picture.

Let me be blunt:  that’s one ugly baby.  The head is too big; the eyes look crossed; and how about that double chin?  That one ugly baby would be me.

Some lifetime ago I birthed a child.  The day after, in the hospital, some five doctors walked into my room. 

“Mam,” the lead doctor said, “Your baby’s head is unusually large but we are confident there is no underlying problem.  When the child’s hair grows in, you won’t even notice.”

“And your baby has one eye that appears larger than the other, giving a somewhat cross-eyed look. But there is no underlying problem and the difference in eye shape won’t be noticeable, probably around the age of two.”

I listened to the words of the lead doctor and watched the four followers nod their agreement.  I just smiled the smile of a mother who understands more than any other, including five doctors, when it comes to the child of her mother’s child.

And so recent days brought me back to this photo; and after a half century of living I FINALLY got it:  It is the MOTHER in this photograph that I should give my focus.  Just look at her award-winning smile--and a happiness that over-powers any hint of exhaustion around her eyes.

I’m not going to use this day, this morrow’s holiday to expound on what tugs at my heart these days.  But simply stated:  We adults too frequently disparage our mothers.  And we are in the bad habit of making these disparaging remarks to others.

Sometimes our harsh judgments are rooted in the dysfunction of an abusive, or negligent, or absent set of two parents.  But I believe our harsh judgment is more often rooted in today’s popular culture that embraces the criticism of our mothers. 

But mostly I believe that it is the ignorance of our narcissism that nurtures our critical voices.  We’ve convinced ourselves that growing up means tossing out the baby AND the bath water.  And in this case, the bath water is our Mother.

I’ve listened to the most loving and highly-functioning of friends criticize their mothers over the least of harms.  I’ve heard casual acquaintances feel comfortable in expressing angst against their mothers with no balance of praise.  I cannot judge them because I see too many years of MY OWN VOICE, in their words.

This frustration in my belly, over our culture’s disparaging of mothers, is NOT coming from some ignorant, innocent, picture-perfect childhood of mine.  My mother was ill for the ENTIRE lifetime of memories that I hold with her.  Her illness did not make her loveable. 

But my reaction to her illness was worse because it did NOT make me loveable.  And that was my mistake.

So when it comes to the harsh judgment we adults so easily hold against our mothers, I quote a modern day philosopher (and tennis coach):  “Get over it!”

If your mother is alive, I encourage you to strive to know her as the woman who is so much more than your mother.  Learn about her early life; her passions and dreams.  Learn about the girl in her. Learn about the woman who became pregnant with you. 

Seek out ways to give her your love and respect.  Choose to ask and learn from her—you may find you better learn from her mistakes if you understand HER perspective on what she considers to be her mistakes.  And you may be surprised to learn of her life’s successes that you know nothing about; not to mention her passions and dreams.

Share the good in her with others.  Honor her with being actively present in her life.

If your mother has died, as mine has, seek to know her and give her credit for the most possible, even if that most was no more than birthing you.  But my guess is that the great majority of us should give her way more credit than birth.  Seek out those who knew her.  And if nothing else, look at old photos with new eyes.

I now love to look at this photo.  Now I see a healthy, happy baby.  This baby girl is dressed and held with love.  But the photo of this baby is NOT why I now love this photo.  I no longer look at the baby in this photo.

Now I see a young woman looking healthy and happy.  I see her award-winning smile that I never saw often enough. 

And I recognize that smile, as she gifted it to two next generations of family.  And still, I do not see it enough.

Happy Mother’s Day, Bonnie Ruth.  Thank you for the life you gave; for the stories you shared. 

How I wish I could ask you more.  And how I wish I’d chosen to learn the more, that you so wanted to share.