Saturday, May 25, 2013

To My Reckless Parents

Dear Dad and Mom,
I am just going to get right to the point with this letter:
You were flat out reckless. You really were.
On my way home from work today, I saw parents walking their kids to the pool and I realized that when I was young, you didn't go with me to the pool. I mean, how could you let me at only eleven years old, walk two blocks all by myself, cross a busy four lane street to the community pool to swim with only the lifeguards watching? Shouldn't you have been hovering over me with sunblock like loving parents should? I didn't even have a cell phone!  How was I supposed to get a hold of you if I something bad happened?! What if I wanted you to come pick me up because I was tired?  Oh, that's right.  I had to walk there AND back. No, not uphill in the snow, but still, I was alone and I had to carry my own towel.

Oh, and that's not all I remember. How could you let me actually EAT my Halloween candy? You didn't even take it to the hospital to have it x-rayed first! We lived during the time when razor blades were showing up in apples for goodness sake! Tylenol was being poisoned! Guess I really dodged a bullet when I just popped those mini-Snickers into my mouth right out of the pillowcase. I still don't even know why you let us celebrate that holiday anyway. Many of the other Baptists at our church tried to warn you about celebrating that "worldly" holiday.  Thank God I went to a conservative Christian college where they cleansed me of my past devilish tendencies (well, some of them at least) and reminded me that the only real "Hallowed Eve" is Christmas Eve.
Halloween wasn't the only celebration where you showed what wild parents you were. Remember the birthday parties you used to throw for me and my brother and sister and the neighborhood kids? Why in the world would you let us bob for apples? We were literally drinking other kids' spit! No wonder we got the flu, the chicken pox, tonsillitis and the like. If that wasn't bad enough, you also let us have pillow fights at these parties. No, let me rephrase that--you dragged over a rickety wooden picnic bench, told two of us to stand on either end of it and then handed us pillows and shouted "Go!" Do you realize you were encouraging us to fight?! One time, I caught my sister's chin with my knuckle and gave her a bruise! It's a wonder she ever got over being punched in the face by her older sister. AND it's a wonder I didn't turn out to be some violent criminal with all the aggression you allowed me to show, even at my own birthday party. Thankfully, I turned out to be a law abiding citizen, but there were years where my brother and I used to put on our yellow snow mittens and go into the garage and box like Sugar Ray and Muhammad Ali. We were teenagers then, and just horsing around, but my point is, we were continuing the violence, and doing it all UNDER YOUR WATCH.

Was I a bad kid? Is that it? Is that why you were so careless about supervising me? Did you want me to learn lessons the hard way?
What could explain why you would let me play for HOURS far, far away from home at dangerous places like parks, shopping centers and creeks? Maybe you didn't know that my brother, sister and I used to actually TOUCH the frogs in the creeks. We lifted big, green islands of slimy algae looking for tadpoles. And we used to PICK UP crawdads.With our bare hands! We could have died from ecoli or salmonella or some other strange amphibious scum disease. Man, Mom and Dad, didn't you love me?
If so, then why did you let me ride my Huffy bike all by myself around our neighborhood like a crazed BMX wanna-be? Did you know I used to jump it off of that hill at the end of the street? Yeah, the one near that busy parking lot by the toxic gas station? Oh, and not just my bike! You let me ride the go-cart we bought at a neighbor's garage sale off that same hill until one time, I rolled it over and ruined my Vans and blue jeans. My helmet was undamaged because...
I WASN'T WEARING ONE!! (By the way Mom, I need to let you know all these years later that it was DAD who helped us hook the lawnmower motor up to the go-cart. I know with the statute of limitations he is probably going to get off scott free, but you might want to talk to him about this. Obviously, he showed total disregard for our safety.)
I am sorry to pile all of this on you now, but as I said, it occurred to me on the way home from work today watching those kids who's parents were practically draped on them, just how incredibly free-wheeling and wild my childhood was. I am shocked at how much freedom I had! I mean, my childhood excursions would make modern helicopter parents sputter and crash. I should really give you the benefit of the doubt, though.  Maybe you didn't take enough parenting classes, or watch enough Oprah, and I know that Dr. Phil wasn't around back in those days, so how could you know that letting me eat Lemonheads and Jawbreakers would make me hyper and disrespectful? I am sure all that sugar had a long term effect on my development. That, and all the butter and Jif peanut butter you fed us with all the trans fat and preservatives. Did we have to have both butter AND peanut butter on our Thomas English muffins in the morning? And then for dinner, you served those vegetables that came in those terrible, chemical leaching cans.  And if that wasn't enough of a nutrition nightmare, we had ice-cream for dessert like almost every night. Tin Roof Sundae. Rocky Road. Pecan Praline. How could you pump me full of processed sugar and simple carbs?  Lunch was no better---you served sandwiches that had bologna AND mayonnaise (YIKES!) and then you would let me swim in my neighbor's pool with my friends without waiting a half hour for the food to digest! It's an absolute miracle that I did not get a cramp and drown. Now that I think about it, I could have drowned even without the cramp, because we ran on the pool deck when it was wet, we used the slide that was later re-called by the manufacturer, and we had contests to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater and all the while, YOU WEREN'T THERE! You were probably working, grading papers, shopping for groceries, or doing laundry instead of doting on us and providing for our every wish. Wow. I am really lucky to be alive despite your recklessness.
BUT...I want you to know -- I forgive you.
I forgive you for letting me play tackle football with boys despite the risk of injury and intentional feely fouls.

I forgive you for letting me slide down our sloped driveway in a plastic trashcan lid and occasionally crashing into our metal fence. And then doing it again. And again. And AGAIN. Because it was fun.
I forgive you for letting me ride the neighbor kid's ATC in his backyard because this was before the warning that came out in the 90's about how these motorized bikes can roll over and cause injuries. (I could have told you that in the 80's, but it's OK.)
I am going to also try to forgive and forget that you let me ride a skateboard without a helmet, let me build a tree fort without a permit, that you didn't make me use hand sanitizer before I ate orange slices at halftime, and how at my first soccer game when I told you I felt "sick" you told me to "Get out there and play the game!" Even though you were not thinking of my feelings and needs, I know your heart was in the right place. You wanted me to be the best I could be, even if it meant that I had to think of others once in awhile and stop being a wuss.
Just know that I realize now that you were very, very reckless and while I am not going to report you to the Department of Children and Family Services at this point since I am over 40 and have learned to adapt, I am going to report you to whatever group happens to handle the nominations for "Best Parents Ever" and make sure you are, at the very least, a finalist.
With love and appreciation to my reckless parents for a wonderful childhood,

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Twitter @HopeNote

Friday, May 24, 2013

Amazing Grace

I just finished the book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. This book was a "Notable Book of the Year" and I found it to be an engaging read. Ms. Norris goes through words that we use in the faith community regularly--God, preaching, belief, incarnation, etc., and turns these words around slowly so you can seem them from several sides, like a crystal, reflecting on what these words mean to the Christian church, to history, to well known Saints, people of other faiths, and to her. Sometimes she and the church don't agree on what the word means, sometimes they do. Sometimes you'll agree with her, sometimes you won't.  Most of the time, you'll find yourself saying, "I never thought about it like that." And that is her point.  I recommend reading a chapter or two a day, but you can just breeze right through it because it is an easy read. Either way, you'll find she shines a unique light on familiar faith terms.

Here are some excerpts for your reading pleasure:

INHERITANCE - A reporter asked the Dali Lama what he would say to Americans who want to become Buddhists: "Don't bother. Learn from Buddhism if that is good for you, but do it as a Christian, Jew, whatever. And be a good friend to us."

COMMANDMENTS - Christians have been remarkably adept and remarkably inventive at interpreting God's commandments to cover just about anything they don't approve of. The effect, of course, is to make the surpassingly large God of the Scriptures into the petty Cosmic Patrolman. Addictions are not petty, but for Christians, fretting over them as exclusively moral issues can be a convenient way of ignoring Jesus' admonition that it isn't what we ingest into our bodies that is at the root of our troubles, but what comes out of hearts and minds.

GOD - "One finds God because one is already found by God.  Anything we would find on our own would not be God." - Catherine M. LaCugna
Thomas Aquinas said that God was active, always in motion--an ocean of being, the sun lighting up the atmosphere, not noun, but verb. The God-Who-Is.

CHOSEN - In the suspicious atmosphere of the contemporary Christian church, it is good to know one's ground.  When others label me and try to exclude me, as too conservative or too liberal, as too feminist of not feminist enough, as too intellectual or not intellectually rigorous, as too Catholic to be a Presbyterian or too Presbyterian to be Catholic, I refuse to be shaken from the fold. It's my God, too, my Bible, my church, my faith, it chose me. But it does not make me "chosen" in a way that would exclude others. I hope it makes me eager to recognize the good, and the holy, wherever I encounter it.

CHRIST - I began to realize  that one of the most difficult things about believing in Christ is to resist the temptation to dis-incarnate him, to not accept him as fully human and fully divine. "When emphasis is placed on the divine at the expense of the human (the conservative error), Jesus becomes an ethereal authority figure who is remote from earthly life and experiences. When he is thought of as merely human (the liberal error) he becomes nothing more that a superior social worker or a popular guru." - From Gregory Wolfe

SINNER-WRETCH-REPROBATE - I am a sinner and the Presbyterian church offers me a weekly chance to come clean, and to pray along with others, what is termed the prayer of confession.  But pastors can be so reluctant to use the word "sin" that in church we end up confessing nothing except our highly developed capacity for denial. One week, for example, our confession began: "Our communication with you Jesus tends to be too infrequent to experience the transformation in our lives you want us to have" which seems less a prayer than a memo from one professional to another. At such times I picture God as a wily writing teacher who leans across the table and says, not at all gently, "Could you possibly be troubled to say what you mean?"  It would be refreshing to answer, simply, "I have sinned."

PREACHING - Quoting the 13th Century poet Mechtild of Magdeburg: "Of the heavenly things God has shown me, I can speak but a little word, not more than a honeybee can carry away on its foot from an overflowing jar."  In a sermon, I must allow the listeners into a story rather than tell them how to feel about my feelings, or God forbid, my ideas.

CHRISTIAN - From a bumper sticker - "He died to take away your sins, not your mind."
If there is any difference between the self-righteousness of the narrow-minded Christians who believe that being saved by Christ manes that they are morally superior to everyone else, the New Age types who consider themselves more spiritually evolved than the common folk or the devout free-thinkers who take pride in being beyond any need for God, I haven't been able to detect it.

HOSPITALITY - If you are keeping up with the Psalms and the prophets (of the Old Testament) you are keeping up with the news.

CONVERSION - In the process of conversion, the detestable parts of our selves do not vanish so much as become our vanity, our sharp tongues, our talents for self-aggrandizement, self-delusion, or despair. But we can convert, in its root meaning turn around, so that we are forced to face ourselves as we really are. WE can pray that God will take our faults and use them for the good.

HELL - It may be permissible to identify another's behavior as foolish, particularly if it also forces me to reflect on my own foolishness. But to say, "You Fool," is to negate God's presence in a creature God has made. It is to invite God's absence, which is my definition of hell.

ASCETISM - Asceticism reminds us that our time, and our bodies, are not truly our own.

And near the end of the book, in the chapter called HEAVEN, she leaves us with the words of Saint Augustine:

Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing one day in full security...we shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God's praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung in anxiety, there in security, here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by hope's fulfillment, here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.  So then...let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors.  You should sing as the wayfarers do--sing, but continue your journey...Sing then, but keep going.

Yes, Sing.
And Read.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Twitter @HopeNote
Get Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris on Amazon

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It Happens to the Best of Us

I am exactly the same age as the Egg McMuffin.
I discovered this skimming a Reader's Digest.
I just realized that both of the above statements mean I am old even though I wasn't reading RD with a magnifying glass under a Florida sun lamp and the Egg McMuffin is a 1970's McDevelopment. That keeps me out of my 80's, but I'm still old. Oh well. It happens to the best of us.

Yesterday morning, while I was jogging, I thought, "I wonder how long I am going to be able to do this?" Then deep in thought, I tripped over a rock jutting out from the dirt and nearly stumbled headlong through a paseo fence.
"Not long if you don't pay attention to where you are running, stupid."  (Yes, I do talk to myself. Another sure sign of aging.)
Then yesterday afternoon I caught a few innings of the NCAA women's softball championship. These girls move like I used to. All swagger and slugger, perfect "non-girly" throwing arms and even some spitting and black tar under their nails. I sighed as I watched. I miss the good ol' days. If I spit or have something black under my nails these days, it is because I have been out in my backyard trying to yank monstrous killer weeds out from under the roses and accidentally swallowed a lady bug.

I used to be really competitive.Well, I guess I still am, now I just find myself standing on the sidelines yelling competitive things like, "Rip their hearts out!" or "You gonna take that?!?" while young employees or employees wearing head to toe ligament braces shoot hoops. While they work up a sweat, I massage my knees and fan away people who ask me to play. I blew out my meniscus about a year ago, never had surgery, just took copious amounts of Motrin and stayed off it.  Now whenever I think about joining the basketball, softball or competitive crochet league at work, my meniscus rises up from under my kneecap and screams:
"What the heck are you thinking?!  Don't you know how easily I can take you out!? What do you think you are 20!?"
I also find myself afraid of things I never used to be afraid of.  Like roller coasters. I used to be a camp counselor from hell dragging crying, annoyingly sheltered, over-parented teens on every ride at Magic Mountain whether they wanted to go or not. I was the one who would yell, "Let's go again!" as soon as the coaster pulled into the station at the end of the ride and then jump off, realize I still had my seat belt on, sit back down, unbuckle, then jump up again and race down the ramp, pushing past pregnant moms who shouldn't have been on the ride anyway while my group of sixth graders were still sobbing into the sleeve of their Ralph Lauren polos hoping that the nice employee in the khaki pants and the Tweety Bird name tag would unbuckle their seat belts and save them from another round of the Riddler's Revenge.
Now, I stare up at the metal loops and downward death spirals and think, "Will I live to see another day?"  I'm 41, not 91, so I get on, but the whole time I being whipped around, jangled and dropped, I am thinking, "This is NOT how I want to die! Not even close! God no! Let me die the way I want to - withering away in some rest home all alone!  Please!"
One time my younger brother and I went on the "Supreme Scream" ride at Knott's Berry Farm. The ride is basically a sadistic parachute drop. You go up and up and up in this open cart until you can see your house, and then they drop you. Suddenly. Without warning. Straight down. You fall, but your stomach stays in the clouds. That's not the worst part though. The worst is the five second wait at the top. My brother had enough time to say one thing while we sat up there awaiting punishment from the zit-faced teen poised over the drop button miles below.
"Wow, this is really high!" His laugh was nervous, but eager.
I hated him in that moment. I was gripping the lap bar with one hand and crunching a fist-full of his sweatshirt with the other. My fist wanted to move north to his chin. I wanted to curse him out for all the things he did to me when we were growing up--reading my diary, tattle tailing, losing my baseball cards, but all that came out was:
"Shut up! Shut up!  I'm too old for this s---
And then I was on the ground looking up wondering if my stomach was coming down in the next cart. The zitty kid was smiling like a hyena.  A young hyena.

Another way I know I am getting old is I am starting to care less and less what people think.  I am less concerned with the latest fashion or a perfect hair day. Of course, I have never been on the cutting edge of fashion, unless you think Eddie Bauer is fashion. And my hairstyle is virtually the same as it was in high school only without the Sun-In highlights. My Mom told me the other day that I have always been very independent--"not easily influenced by others" so maybe I have never really cared what people think to begin with, but at least now I have some sort of age justification for being a snob. I can freely and openly embrace the approaching days of white Keds and loud floral prints.

Yesterday, I really showed my age. I hugged a volunteer who I barely knew who came to my office with a bunch of store-bought pastries to say thanks. (Why are you thanking me? YOU are the one who deserves the thanks!) I gave him a big hug right in front of everyone in the office. Maybe a handshake would have been more appropriate? A follow up call from the office secretary? A thank you on company letterhead---
Ms. Horner would like to thank you for your generous donation of baked goods which were eaten with the utmost pleasure by all of the staff in the office. We look forward to our continued pastry partnership.
Nope, I bear hugged him and he hugged me back, after he got over being startled. At first, he might of thought I was trying to dive headlong into the Albertson's bag full of doughy goodness, but no, I was really just trying to say thank you. One of my co-workers who saw us hugging giggled nervously. She was probably worried she was going to end up a witness in some future sexual harassment case.
I didn't care. I hugged him and thanked him. He smiled, turned pink, and then we chatted for awhile longer and he walked out.
After he left, someone in my office told me his story.
"His wife and children were all wiped out in a car accident several years ago."
I went silent for a few seconds.  I felt the hair on my arms start to stand up. "All of them?" I asked.
"All of them. Gone." She went on. "He was in the service, working overseas and gets the news. Comes home to no one."
At that moment, I was so glad I had been too old to care what anyone thinks. I was glad I gave him a hug. Right there in the middle of my office. So sue me.

Besides hugging in the workplace, there are some other benefits to getting older--like AARP, senior discounts and 4pm dinners which I am looking forward to. One benefit I feel I am already starting to enjoy is feeling more and more assured as each day goes by, that this world can NOT be all there is. There is just no way that it all ends when we take our last breath. There is just too much about life and living that points to something more. I believe the Bible when it says that someday "we will mount up with wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31) and I look forward to that day because it means I won't trip headlong over rocks, my meniscus will be muted and I might actually enjoy a scary amusement park ride with my brother.
If I ever forgive him.

Hope A. Horner
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seven Wonders of the (Working) World

Want to be a leader as rare and inspiring as the Seven Wonders of the Modern World? 
Want to make your employees feel as valuable as the Taj Mahal?  
Break down the Great Wall of China between you and your boss? 
Stop fighting it out in the Colosseum of egos? 

Then bring these 7 'wonderful' traits to the workplace:

  1. Seek FIRST to understand, then to be understood. 
  2. Listen aggressively.
  3. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  5. Say "Thank You."
  6. Refuse to gossip or listen to it.
  7. Do what you say you are going to do. 

Of course, these traits can enhance other areas of your life too, so feel free to take your work home with you.

Have a great weekend!

-Hope Horner, 2013
Twitter @HopeNote
Trait #1 is my favorite habit from the classic leadership book by Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People   Get it Here!
What are the Seven Wonders of the Modern World?  You're never too old for the Disney channel!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Greatest Combined Story Ever Told

I have been reading a commentary on the gospel of John and it has been quite eye-opening. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, ( Read it Here ) I was raised in a Christian family, so I grew up going to Christian schools, camps and churches. I never missed Sunday School so I heard all the Jesus stories. Yet, I never remember hearing about how the stories of Jesus in all four gospels differed from each other. I am not even sure I understood the complete story of Jesus, at least chronologically, until I started to study it on my own as an adult. I just knew the isolated stories, their spiritual implications and the important verses from each story. I earned my Pioneer Girl badges and summer camp awards and that was it. I had a very myopic view of the gospels. My view has since opened up. Wide. And it is a amazing view. Yes, even with all the "contradictions." Which as they turn out, aren't really contradictions after all, at least as I am coming to understand it.
Bart Erhman, a famous professor, atheist and writer, says what Christians do is they put all the gospels together into one--mash them together so to speak--to make another gospel.
Yeah, so?
The gospel of John is missing Jesus' birth story, you know--Mary & Joseph, the inn being full, angels, etc. You can get details on that part of the story in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Does it mean that the 3 gospels contradict John? No, it just means John skips that part and goes right to Jesus' baptism. Does it mean I can't take Mark's description of the birth of Christ and combine it with John's account of the crucifixion without creating my own Gospel?  I don't think so. I think of it as picking up pieces of the same puzzle and putting them together. The puzzle pieces aren't all in the same box neatly packed together for easy assembly, but they're still all pieces to the same puzzle. Anybody with kids knows that puzzles only come with all their pieces together in one place when you first open the box. After that you find them in toy bins, under bunk beds and in the dog's mouth. Even if they are bent and dripping with drool, they still all fit together into the picture shown on the box.  By putting them together you don't create your own puzzle.
So I say "Big deal" when I hear critics say the gospels have different, missing or incomplete stories. John writes it as he remembers it.  So does Matthew, Mark and Luke. I read each of them to see what they saw, heard, and experienced as they traveled with and loved Jesus. So John leaves out Jesus' birth. What is wrong with getting the rest of the story from someone else?
If I wanted to hear how the Lakers game went the other day I could ask a few friends.  If Heather leaves out the amazing first quarter slam dunk by Kobe, but Joe elaborates on it in great detail, does that mean Heather wasn't at the game? I mean how could she miss it?  Kobe took off from practically the top of the key and slammed it with one hand!
So what, says Heather.  Kobe is a ball hog. Let me tell you about the great pass from Steve Nash in the 2nd quarter. Behind the back. Perfect.
They were both there. They were eyewitnesses to the Lakers pitiful play that got them eliminated from the playoffs despite Kobe's spectacular slam. Put together their testimonies with your Dad's who listened to it on the radio in his car on his way home from work and you'll get a pretty good summary of the game.  Heather, Joe and Dad will all see different highlights and emphasize different players and moments, but Heather won't say that the Lakers won, while Dad and Joe describe a devastating loss.  And if Heather says there were 5 blocked shots and Dad swears there were three?  So what.
The major difference here is we are not talking about the Lakers home game, we are talking about the story of Jesus in the gospels, so the story is much more important because it has spiritual and eternal implications. (For some of you Laker season ticket holders who dress in purple and gold even in the off season, the differences may not be as obvious.) All four gospels reveal the life of Jesus in powerful ways that show the particular point of view, preferences, and writing/speaking style of the author.  The major points and message of the story don't change thanks to the influence of the Holy Spirit on the writers:

Jesus lives, loves, heals, serves, teaches, saves, declares himself the Son of God, Messiah of all, is crucified and resurrected on our behalf, promises eternal life to all who believe, reveals himself to many before he ascends back to heaven, promises to return. 

A Good News story indeed!

Here are a few highlights from the story as presented by the William Barclay Daily Study Bible I am working my way through:

Mark saw things plainly, bluntly, literally. John saw them subtly, profoundly, spiritually...John's aim is not to give us what Jesus said like a newspaper report, but to give us what Jesus meant. John is not so much the gospel according to St. John, but the gospel according to the Holy Spirit.

Eternal life is a life which knows something of the serenity and the power of the life of God Himself.

To believe in Jesus is to take Jesus at his word.  It means the conviction of the mind that Jesus is the Son of God.  It means the conviction of the heart that everything Jesus says is means to base every action in life on the unshakable assurance that we can take Jesus at his word.

The truth is something that must be known with the mind, accepted with the heart and enacted in life.

The "glory" of God means quite simply the presence of God.

If you want to see what God is like, look at Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the distant, unknowable, invisible, unreachable God has come to men, and God can never be a stranger to us again.

Jesus not only sees what man is, but what a man can become. "Give your life to me and I will make you what you have it in you to be."

No need on earth can exhaust the grace of Christ.

Jesus was not simply a prophet. He was not simply an expert psychologist. He is not simply a pattern or example. Jesus was Savior.

When we are tempted to despair we would do well to remember the salvation of men is the plan and the purpose of God and that nothing, in the end, can frustrate the will of God.  The evil will of man can delay God's purpose; it cannot defeat it.

The resurrection is the proof of the indestructibility of Jesus' claims.

Stay tuned for more of the story. I'm only up to John Chapter 6 in the commentary and my guess is there are a few more puzzle pieces to be found.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hawk Squawk

The hawks have been fighting all day. Three big obnoxious ones, circling over the dry creek bed that lies just a few yards from my backyard.  It's a bunny buffet, but they don't seem to be looking to fill their bellies.  Today, they would rather dive-bomb each other and squawk.

Hawk Squawk.

I was outside with my dogs this morning when the Hawk Squawk began. The big birds screamed, flapped, and tumbled mid-air for a few minutes, then circled lower and lower, closer and closer to my backyard, until I thought one of them was eyeing my little Chihuahua for a quick brunch between bouts. I sprung out of my lawn chair and grabbed Cinnamon so hard she yelped and gave me a dirty look. I told her that she would thank me later because my fingers jabbing into her ribs would feel a whole lot better than the un-manicured talons of a hungry hawk. My other dog, Maya, is bigger, maybe 30 pounds and stocky, like a dachshund--a hawk would probably pull a groin trying to lift her up so I didn't panic so much over her. I just called her inside while I carried Cinnamon under one arm. Maya looked at me like I was crazy because we had just gone out, but she trotted right inside.  I think she could hear the urgency in my voice, but then again she is afraid of her own shadow, so it doesn't take much to get her to run inside.
The hawks circled and squawked for a little while longer and then drifted off, out of eye's view to the section of the dry river bed on the other side of the bridge. I hoped the wind would carry them away to the next valley. It's not that I don't like hawks. I appreciate their beauty and purpose in the circle of life. I just don't particularly want to see Cinnamon go airborne.
The hawks didn't go far.  They came back a few hours later. This time, there were only two. One was obviously pretty angry and acted as the aggressor, while the other hawk mainly tried to get away, but occasionally they would tussle in mid-air. Then, as if they needed a break, they would separate and circle peacefully as though nothing had happened--go quiet and just soar in the gray-blue sky. I noticed something peculiar when this would happen. When the hawks would shut up, the little guys would start up. The sparrows, wrens, and assorted songbirds who attach themselves to my bird feeders and perch along my back fence, would get noisy and spring to life as soon as the squawking stopped.  In a chorus of joyous peeps and flaps they would appear to gobble up seed, jump around in the trees and flit on and off my back fence. Maybe they were watching the hawks too, like me, and when they heard the squawking, sensed danger and shut up? I have heard that hawks eat smaller birds, but maybe that is just bird urban legend. Anyway, these little guys would start chirping and hopping around as soon as the hawks would shut their big mouths. Or beaks that is.
And I realized that this happens in the world of humans, too.
There are the people who do all the talking. The Hawks.  You know who they are. They're the ones you can tell are in the room without even looking. They monopolize meetings. Dominate dinners. Control conversations. They verbally intimidate. They can't wait to say what they think. They always have to chime in. Always have an opinion. In fact, they have opinions about opinions. They're more interested in being heard, then hearing. They don't always come out squawking. Sometimes, they begin sentences with fake-humility chirp lead-ins like this:
"I don't mean to be rude, but..." (Then they usually are.)
"Sorry to interrupt, but..."  (No, you aren't!)
"Maybe it is just me..." (Yes, it IS.)
"Call me crazy, but.." (OK!)
"I really have to chime in here..." (As if you ever DON'T?)
"With all due respect..." (And now with total disregard for it!)
Then they SQUAWK.
They love the sound of their own voice.  They have favorite words and phrases like:
"Ladies and Gentlemen"
"Good people"
"Listen here"
"In lieu of"
"Once again"
"If I may offer a word of advice/caution/wisdom"
and "After further review"
They never miss a conversation or an opportunity to butt into yours. When they say, "Let's hear from others" what they really mean is "Let's hear from others who agree with me and my worldview." When they ask, "What do you think?"  They are really asking, "You agree with me, don't you?"
And if you dare to utter a word that isn't in line with their way of seeing things?
That's when the Hawks Squawk.
Just like the dive bombing that went on outside my window today, hawks love a good fight. They like to stir the pot. They would be very helpful if you were shipwrecked on a deserted island and it was getting dark because they could start a fire where their wasn't one. They disagree just to disagree. They love to play "The Devil's Advocate."  They are so good at this role in fact that they probably receive a ashy, singed paycheck twice a month.  It's bad enough if someone they LIKE disagrees with them, but when someone they don't dares to challenge them? Oooh, let the swooping begin- - and the noise!  Big squawks in important meetings, little sarcastic squawks in passing, whispered squawks behind a cupped hand to someone sitting next to them, little passive-aggressive huff and puff squawks of indignation and disgust...They circle and circle and squawk and squawk and pretty soon we all just want to cover our vulnerable bellies, grab the innocent and run inside.
During all this hawk squawking, the rest of us become silent little birds.
We retreat and go quiet.
We wait until they have finished their tirade or their tantrum or their "little outburst".  We're silent until they are done stating their opinion on the matter at hand. (You know the one they say that ALL decent Christian/Democrat/Employee/Member/Fill-in-the-blank people should have?) The Big Birds bully the little birds into sitting quietly in the office chair, in the meeting chair, in the committee chair. Hawks like hot seats. Little birds prefer chairs warm and comfortable--like a nice, smooth branch away from the wind and too high for the neighbor's cat.

C'mon Little Birds!
Let's stop hiding. Stop muting ourselves.
Let's come out of the bushes and chirp!
Let's break our silence.
We have something to say that matters, too. We have a different perspective that needs to be heard. We can't just let the hawks do all the talking.  Let's ask the hawks to listen.  If they will, great. If they won't, maybe the other birds, the ones sitting quietly in the bushes will hear us, be inspired by our courage and join in? Maybe a few sparrows together can chirp loud enough to be heard?  Maybe our collective chirp will rise above the squawk? We might have to raise our chirps a little more than usual. You know, chirp like we mean it--like the bird feeder is empty or the cat is too close.
Let's not squawk though.  Keep it to a respectful, but assertive chirp.
Oh, and let's not fight. There is too much of that going on already.  The hawks may be surprised when we start to chirp up a bit.  They may try to give us the hawk eye to shut us down, or challenge us to a mid-air battle, or try to squawk over us, but again, if we chirp together, we'll  be heard.
Let's say what needs to be said, Little Birds!  Let's speak the truth in love. We must raise our chirps for the sake of the other little birds out there. The ones who are new to these skies, or scared, unsure of themselves, tired, vulnerable, or easily intimidated. The ones whose chirps aren't easily heard.  The ones who will never be heard if we don't do some chirping ourselves.

Chirp on.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

Sunday, May 5, 2013

You Sure You Don't Mean 1867?

If you are a writer and you need something to write about - go to Facebook.  Peruse the site for awhile.  "Like" some local businesses.  Spy on friends. Enlarge pictures. You'll get plenty of writing fodder.  Look what I found today:

Awesome Moments in History 
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to enter the Boston marathon. After realizing that a woman was running, race organizer Jock Semple went after Switzer shouting, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.” However, Switzer’s boyfriend and other male runners provided a protective shield during the entire marathon.The photographs taken of the incident made world headlines, and Kathrine later won the NYC marathon with a time of 3:07:29. 

There were many comments on Facebook about this post:
"You go girl!" 
"I'll add her to my heroine list!"
"Make a sandwich boys!"
Here's what I wanted to post (but ultimately didn't):
You sure you don't mean 1867?
Read the post again and note the date when this happened. Is it just me, or do you find it very hard to believe that this happened at the Boston Marathon only 50 years ago?! We had national news coverage about a woman running in a race having to be protected by men so she could finish only five decades ago??
Seriously, you sure this wasn't the 1800's? 
It was just 50 years ago folks.  
And it reminds me of a few things:
We have come a long way in a short amount of time.
The world that I live in is not the world my parents lived in.
The world my parents lived in is not the world their parents lived in.

My mom used to tell me a lot of stories when she was a kid. She was a nurse before she was a teacher, so for awhile most her stories were about the various medical conditions and patients she encountered during her shift at the hospital. One story she told, had nothing to do with missing limbs or a deadly high fever, but it was memorable none the less.
"When I was in high school and we played basketball we had to pass the ball after dribbling it three times and we couldn't shoot unless we were in the key."
My jaw hit the kitchen floor when she said this. We were washing dishes. I put down my sponge.
"Are you serious?"
"Yup," she continued, "and we couldn't wear shorts."
"So wait a minute." I said. "You mean you would be dribbling down the court and once you got to your third dribble you would have to pass?" I was baffled at how this could possibly work. I was playing high school basketball at the time, in shorts, and only passed if I could no longer dribble because of a sideline or a defender. And I had shot more than once from outside the key. Most of my shots missed, but evidently I was a radical feminist.

"Yup.  That's how it worked."
I don't remember how our dish-washing conversation turned to sports or why she told me this, but I'll never forget that story nor my bafflement at how "old-school" that was.  Until that moment, I had no idea that when my Mom was growing up women weren't playing basketball the way I was. Did my Mom grow up in the Middle Ages? Nope, the 1950's. These were the rules and my Mom played by the rules.  She didn't try to dribble four times or wear shorts. (The latter could be a blessing in disguise as MY gym shorts were made of polyester and very "chaffing.") Mom played the game the way women were supposed to. She bounce-bounce-bounce-PASSED. She waited for the key to be under her feet before she dared take a shot.To do otherwise would have made her a1950's feminist. Or at least a failing P.E. student with a referral to detention. Maybe she went to a super conservative private high school?  Nope, public. Maybe this was Alabama? Pennyslvania.
So, sometimes, when people of this generation say things to me like "women should never lead in the church" or that "feminism is destroying the world" or that "women just aren't as good at math as men are," I have to remember that they grew up in the 1800's, the 1950's. I can take what they say with a grain of salt because they grew up in a world where there was no WNBA and if there had been, the women would have played in skirts and black people would have sat in a different section from the whites and used separate drinking fountains. And I have to remember that even a decade later, in the 1960's when my parents were in their twenties, a woman named Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston marathon and needed her boyfriend to protect her from an angry race coordinator. (She probably needed the police to protect her after she went on to win the NYC marathon.)
And all this happened just fifty years ago.
So when I pick up a basketball and bounce, bounce, bounce...
I am clearly a feminist.
Most of the time, I am a traveling feminist.  Hey, softball was more my thing.

-Hope Horner
Twitter:  @HopeNote

Saturday, May 4, 2013

AAA - Affordable Apology Assistance

In my town this past week a special event was held where leaders got together with the Mayor to pray. The guest speaker for the event was a certain leadership consultant who had made offensive comments within the past year at a rally against Proposition 8 (gay marriage). Protesters gathered outside the event to remind him that the comments were not appreciated. As he exited the event, he had a chance to talk with some of the them. As a result of his interactions with the protesters and as he describes it--"a  humility that came over him", he apologized.  
Well, kind of.  
Here is his apology as quoted in the local paper:
“I was humbled by prayer when I realized that a quote that I once gave at a rally might be misconstrued. I didn’t intend it to be taken that way and that prayer - that humility - compelled me to apologize to anyone that I’ve offended because of that misunderstanding.”

Check out this cartoon from The New Yorker below and see if you notice any similarities:  

It is clear that people like this guest speaker, as well as politicians, celebrities, professional athletes and government employees need assistance with their apologies.They just can't see to say "I'm sorry" in a way that makes any sense or sounds anything like real remorse (except for being caught of course. For that, they are TRULY sorry.They are also pretty good at being sorry for you because you didn't understand them.)

So after hearing this "apology" and so many others like it over the years, I decided to open up a new business. 

Affordable Apology Assistance
Saying Sorry Sucks:  We Can Help!

From boo-boo to blow-up, let AAA create the perfect apology for you.

1 Apology: $19.95 
All proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders since it is clear this epidemic knows no boundaries. 

Bundle of 3 Apologies (Variety Pack): $34.95 
All proceeds going to the American Heart Association since it is clear that this epidemic causes a hardening of the heart.

Specialized Apology (A Custom Apology): Cost varies 
Price determined by how many times you have screwed up and need to apologize. For example, if you need to apologize not only for your actions, but also for the major cover up you championed for several months before we figured out you actually DID "have sex with that woman" then be prepared to get out the Visa. 
All proceeds go to me because this is going to be a lot of work.  

Special Offer!  Today Only!
Today as a special offer to celebrate the grand opening of AAA, we offer a FREE APOLOGY!
So, Mr. Guest Speaker and all others who struggle to let real humility and contrition settle on their hearts, here's an apology you can use for FREE. It works for almost any screw-up.

"I am sorry that what I was said/did was hurtful and demeaning. I did not mean to hurt anyone, but I did. I should be more careful about what I say/do. Please forgive me. I hope and pray to never, ever, ever do anything like this again. God help me."

Hope this helps.  If not, contact AAA for further assistance.

Hope A. Horner
President, Affordable Apology Assistance (AAA)