It’s Alright to Cry

Growing up in the 1970s, I used to go to our public library and check out albums to play on my record player back home. One of the albums which I would check out over and over again was entitled, Free to Be You and Me. This album was the work of Marlo Thomas and many other celebrities such as Alan Alda, Carol Channing, Tom Smothers, Dick Cavett, Harry Belfonte, Shirley Jones, Diana Ross, Mel Brooks, and Rosey Grier. (If you are too young to know any of those names, Google them.) The 70s was a time when society was beginning to reinvent itself and its view of males and females. Although it was a good start, there would be over thirty more years of work before we actually began to let people be free who they were born to be without the stereotypical expectations. One could easily argue that we still have not fully arrived, but we are a lot farther along than we were in the 1970s and this album is one of the efforts to move us along.

I greatly enjoyed this album and would sing along with it over and over again. I am sure my parents got very tired of hearing this music come out of my room so often. My love ofthis album was linked to the struggle which I was having not fitting into the stereotypes of a young boy, and eventually a teenager, growing up in a rural Iowa community. I was bullied a lot as a child and became the source of many jokes. The songs on this album spoke to me about the pain I was feeling, my struggle with “fitting in,” and my hope for a better way to live.

One of my favorite songs was sung by Rosey Grier. Rosey was a professional football player who was very large in size. The song, It’s Alright to Cry, was a conversation that Rosey was having with a young boy who was crying and terribly ashamed for doing so. Here are the lyrics to the song:

It’s alright to cry

Crying gets the sad out of you

It’s alright to cry

It might make you feel better

Raindrops from your eyes

Washing all the mad out of you

Raindrops from your eyes

It’s gonna make you feel better

It’s alright to feel things

Though the feelings may be strange

Feelings are such real things

And they change and change and change

Sad ‘n’ grumpy, down in the dumpy

Snuggly, hugly, mean ‘n’ ugly

Sloppy, slappy, hoppy, happy

Change and change and change

It’s alright to know

Feelings come and feelings go

It’s all right to cry

It might make you feel better

{Spoken}

It’s alright to cry, little boy

I know some big boys that cry too

Written by Carol Hall

Since there were many days that I would return to my room after school and cry, hearing Rosey Grier sing a song which gives permission was very helpful. I grew up in a household which had a strong English ancestry and the concept of a male crying was not acceptable. My tears reminded me what a failure I was and how my inability to fit the stereotypes was really because there was something wrong with me.

Society’s view of males who cry has changed tremendously since the 1970s. Thank goodness! We have come to realize that tears are a natural response to emotions, or as the song says, feelings, which is a part of every human being. I have also come to accept that my crying is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength enough to let my emotions be visible. You can find me occasionally crying during a movie, while watching a television show, or some days when life events bring on a flood of sadness.

Over this last week, I have followed the postings of friends, family and strangers back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa which experienced a derecho last Monday. I have been on phone calls with them, received text messages, received pictures, and watched videos on social media (since national news media has only covered it minimally). There have been times that I have cried in grief and empathy. I cannot even begin to imagine how many tears most of them have shed as they have lived through a horrific experience. Yes, Iowans are strong and able to overcome any obstacle placed in their way. Yes, Iowans generally do not whine and sit around waiting for help. Iowans go into action and make a difference. But there still have been times of exhaustion, grief as they see the destruction all around them, and periods of uncertainty as they sit without electricity, cell service, and internet. These are the times that Iowans go to their quiet place and cry.

I want to tell all my fellow Iowans, it is alright to cry. I want to tell everyone who is reading this, wherever you may be, that in life there are times that crying will be one of the most therapeutic actions you can take for yourself. Do not be afraid to cry. Like Rosey Grier sings, “Feelings come and feelings go,” and “It might make you feel better.”

Inspired

What is it that inspires you?

This is a question that I ask myself often as a writer. When I sit down to plan out blog posts or work on some other aspect of my writing, I sit quietly in an effort to open myself to being inspired. Writing, like many other artistic forms of expression, requires inspiration. However, it is not just in the artistic areas of my life which requires me to be inspired. I need to be inspired throughout many aspects of my life.

Admittedly, there are many days in which I need to be inspired to get out of bed. When the alarm goes off and it is time to roll out of bed, there are occasions when I lay there and wonder why not stay in bed. Usually, our two dogs are the first inspirations for me to get up. They depend on us to take them for a walk in the morning. They also know the routine well enough that they will bother me until I get up and start my day. Other days I am inspired to get out bed because of my husband and plans that we may have for the day.

Lawn care is another area of life in which I need inspiration. There are many weeks that I would like to avoid having to mow the yard once again. Some days I would prefer not to have to go through the process of watering plants and trees we have throughout our landscaping. Especially when it is hot like it currently is in Texas, I want to be inside as much as possible. Unless of course, I am spending time in the pool. Which requires daily maintenance that I only can do because I am inspired to get into a clean pool. In all of these situations, my inspiration comes from the beauty I see when I have completed the chores.

When it comes to writing, I find that it is more difficult some days to find inspiration than other days. As I was just beginning my writing career, I would become very frustrated on the days when I struggled to be inspired. I would sit and stare at my computer screen, or maybe outside a window, only to have a spark of inspiration elude me. Over time, I discovered that it is alright to have periods where I felt uninspired. My experience was that there would be other days when the inspiration seemed unstoppable. On those days I would record all the ideas so that I had them to fall back on during days without much, if any, inspiration.

What things in your life require inspiration? Where do you find that inspiration you need?

May you always find the inspiration which you need to be successful in accomplishing whatever lays before you.

Division

I am troubled by the way our country seems to have gone over the last ten years. A pattern has been established which should cause all of us to pause and take some in depth inventory of our attitudes, perceptions, and reactions. When I assess our country’s current situation, I see more division than unity. This is clearly visible in social media, the press, and the public conversations. The norm currently appears to be for people to choose sides and to argue vehemently with one another without consideration of the impact of their words and actions.

I am reminded of two important responses to division. The first is found in Scripture in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is speaking in response to accusations of religious leaders and his family regarding their perception that he is possessed by Beelzebub, or at the very least insane. He was drawing large crowds who listened to his unorthodox teachings. Jesus’ response is that there is no way he can be from God and be possessed by an evil spirit at the same time. He makes the statement, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25, NIV) Clearly, Jesus is indicating that division will bring about negative results.

The second response is a speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 when he was accepting the nomination of the Illinois Republican Party to run for United States Senator. Lincoln is warning against slavery-based disunion in his speech. He quotes the passage from Mark by stating:

A house divided against itself, cannot stand.

I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Lincoln understood that the nation could not move forward as long as division existed.

I feel a lot like Lincoln must have felt at that time. Looking around I see constant uncivil debate and an apparent unwillingness for anyone to listen to another perspective. I see a large amount of energy being expended to identify differences without seeking areas of agreement. Little effort is being made to address the points of contention. Instead, the prevailing attitude is one of “my way or the highway.” Add to this that there are agitators on both sides of each issue whose main goal is not resolution but continued acceleration of the division. This division is increased by a population who seems to be easily offended by everything that is said or done.

Our current state of affairs is not unique to our contemporary setting. Division among peoples can be found throughout all history and within every facet of human life. If one reviews history, when division becomes great, then separation is attempted. Sometimes those attempts are successful and probably in the best interest of the parties involved. Other times separation is prevented and a healthier whole is produced.

There is so much feeding into the growing division within our nation. Debate is one of the positive aspects of living in a free society. Expression of thoughts, feelings, and ideas is vital to a healthy democracy and representative form of government. However, when the methods and tactics used to express those thoughts, feelings, and ideas are meant to tear down people and their lives, they are not beneficial but destructive. When it becomes easy to label and accuse without evidence and a fair examination of that evidence then those labels and accusations do nothing more than persecute and oppress. Sharing of information continuously and quickly without ensuring the accuracy of the information only leads to distrust and misinformed individuals.

We need to find the wisdom in the words of Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. We need to listen carefully to one another. Instead of being offended by those who have a different point of view, we need to take the time to understand that point of view even if we continue to disagree with it. Energy needs to be expended in an attempt to identify those areas of life we have in common while celebrating the diversity which makes us whole.

Everyone plays a role in mending our division. The press needs to stop being concerned about finding the latest sound bite to grab people’s attention and instead identify the truth and facts which will honestly inform the people. The political leaders need to discontinue attacking the personhood of individuals and seek ways to compromise with the goal of benefiting the nation as a whole. Religious leaders need to present the examples of those who have brought healing to the world from their faith traditions and strive to show what it means to live in unity as the human race. Each individual needs to work at ending their own selfish focus and seek ways to be educated, informed, and compassionate. Name calling, violence, false information, personal attacks, labeling, assumptions, and setting up battle lines needs to end.

My Return

It has been quite a while since I posted on either of my blogs. I thought I should probably give an explanation as I start writing once again. Over the last few months we have had the great pleasure of hosting some family and friends in our home. These times have been filled with joy, laughter, food, swimming, and exploring our city as much as the restrictions of the virus have allowed. For me, it has been a time of great happiness.

The visitors began with a visit from my oldest son, his female friend, and their two dogs. They traveled across the southern states to arrive at our home a bit worn out and definitely ready to get out of the car. I also had the privilege of meeting a new grand-puppy and seeing once again the other grand-puppy which they had on their last visit. We spent a nice amount of time in our pool. One of the dogs enjoyed swimming with us but the other one did not find the water inviting in any way. My son even cooked an outstanding meal for us on the grill one night. Many of the places which I would have taken them were closed due to the virus, but we still explored a lot of the city, and they were able to see some of what makes the metro area so wonderful. They were able to spend ten days with us before heading back home to Florida.

After my oldest son left, I thought we would not be hosting anyone for a little over a month. Much to my surprise, my youngest son and his girlfriend showed up at our door the Friday before Father’s Day. He had worked out the surprise with my husband and I guess had been planning this all for a few weeks. Once again, we had a great time enjoying the pool and seeing sites around the city. At this point, some places we wanted to see had opened up with restrictions, including Six Flags Over Texas. We were able to also go visit the National Soccer Museum which pleased my son who had been active in soccer throughout his childhood and high school career. It was another enjoyable week and like with my other son, I was sad to see them leave.

The day after my youngest left, I picked up a friend at the airport. He is the son of one of my very close high school friends and wanted to get out of Iowa. We had been talking about his visit for a few months, so I was excited to greet him at baggage claim. Throughout his ten days with us, we had wonderful talks while spending time in the pool. He is going to school in hospitality management, so we went to see one of the premier hotel and convention centers in the metro area. I was amazed at how it looked and all the amenities available for someone who was staying there. It even had a huge fountain which I truly enjoyed. His background also included working for an airline for a period, so he loves airplanes. We went to the Pioneers of Flight Museum located at Love Field. The collection is not a huge one but seeing the planes throughout history, even including space flight, was a lot of fun. On his last night with us, we went out to one of our favorite restaurants where they bring endless amounts of food and meat to your table. Again, I was sad when I took him to the airport and sent him back up north.

As you can tell, I have spent a large amount of my summer spending time with some wonderful family and friends. I have enjoyed showing them the city which we now call home. My time in the pool has grown tremendously. The conversations and sharing of ideas has truly enriched me. However, I have not been able to find a lot of time to sit and write. My limited writing time led me to not post over the last couple of months. Now I am back though, so I hope you will continue to read my blogs. You can expect a couple of posts a week. As always, I enjoy your comments and input.

Beauty or Longevity

It seems as I increase in age, I have continued to place a high value in longevity. I think that this has always been a part of my psyche because my mother used to often tell people how I was very meticulous about taking care of my toys as a child. Maybe it is because I grew up in a lower middle class family that I quickly learned that if something does not last, it will not be replaced any time soon. Whatever the cause, over the course of my life, I have had the importance of longevity reinforced often.

We live in a world of throw away. Stop and consider how many items in your household right now are “disposable” in nature? In our community we have the choice to place large items on the curbside once a month, and they will be picked up by our waste management company. When I walk by houses and see the items placed on the curbside each month, I am amazed at how much we throw away. We have grown accustomed to the idea that everything is replaceable and not to worry if we break something because of a lack of careful handling.

The other element at play here is we are easily bedazzled. I mean that often we look at two items and choose the one that looks better over choosing the one which may be more durable or last longer. If it looks good, we tend to be drawn to it. The idea of image being important often drives this response. Yet, the most beautiful item may be short-lived in nature.

It is true that beauty and longevity do not have to be mutually exclusive. There are pieces in this world that have lasted for a long time period which still are pleasing to the eye. However, I am one that looks closely at the longevity of something whether the beauty is present or not. I will always choose longevity over beauty.

What is most important to you? Do you prefer beauty no matter how long it lasts? When are there times when beauty should trump out longevity? I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Unrest

As I sit and watch the events unfold in my own community and throughout the nation, I feel a loss of words. I realize that being a white male of European descent places me so outside the bounds of understanding that I am not even sure I have any right to share thoughts on the protests which are occurring. There is no way I can ever understand what it is to live as a black or brown individual. I do not experience life as a racial minority. The closest which I can ever come to any type of understanding is my life as an oppressed person due to my sexuality but that is not an equal comparison since my sexuality is only visible to whom I choose to make it visible. Yet, I have a nagging feeling that I need to say something about the surrounding unrest.

Let me first apologize for my ignorance. I am aware that I have not taken the time or made the effort to truly understand the daily struggles of a black or brown individual. I have no comprehension of the level of fear, hurt, and frustration which appears on the faces and in the words of those who are now visibly protesting. Like many people, if I am not directly affected by actions or events, I often only pay attention in passing. This ignorance is likely part of the problem being played out in the lives of my black and brown neighbors and community members.

As I watch some protesters being interviewed on television, one message that has struck a chord with me is the request that someone listens to them. Some of them have indicated that the reason they are participating in protests is an attempt to get someone to finally listen. I thought to myself that this plays directly into my ignorance. As I confessed above, I have not taken time to attempt to understand their struggles. I have not sat down with any person of this racial background and listened to them. I am one of those who the protesters are trying to wake up to their need to be heard.

My community, like others, has instituted a curfew for a few nights. This seems amazing in a community of over 900,000 people but the authorities have claimed the need for it because of the repeated nights when peaceful protests have turned into acts of violence by a small few once the sun has gone down. It is vital to realize that it is a small group of individuals who transition from peaceful (and necessary) protest to violent and illegal actions. Too many times this distinction is not made and general assumptions and opinions are formed about all of those trying to effect positive change through peaceful protest. When this happens, it proves the concern of racial minorities that the tendency of the majority is to use a broad brushstroke when forming opinions of individuals. An example would be the tendency to assume the color of a person’s skin automatically means they participate in illegal activities.

I have experienced joy when I have seen news reports of protesters, law enforcement, and elected leaders taking a knee together. While this does not diminish the real level of the problem facing our communities, it does acknowledge that only by working together and listening to one another are we ever going to make meaningful change. This cannot be just an act during this time of unrest but must go into deep discussions within our homes, our communities, and our nation. Racism is taught, not natural by birth. We need to sit down with one another in our homes and discuss why making assumptions about someone because of their skin color, or acting in a demeaning way toward someone of a different color is wrong. We need to listen to one another, learn from one another, find ways to support and encourage one another. We need to stop waiting for someone else to make a change and start making the change ourselves. Let us not move forward with life as it was prior to this unrest. Let us learn from what we are hearing and choose to take the time to change the way we are living.

The truth is that change is not going to be implemented by the political and social structures we have in place unless we, individual citizens, neighbors, coworkers, friends and humans require the change. As we seek protection for ourselves and our emergency responders, let us also seek protection for those whose voices have gone unheard for so very long. As a Christian, I am confident that this is what God’s love expects and demands. If you are a believer, remember these words found in the Bible…. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17, NIV)

Finding the Gold Nuggets

Life has definitely been different since Covid-19 has entered our world. Adjustments have been numerous and concerns for the well-being of one another have multiplied. It can be very easy to become discouraged and negative. However, all is not doom and gloom with the impact of Covid-19. We have discovered new ways of occupying our time. We have seen a positive impact on creation as once hazy skies have given way to clear skies which provide beautiful views which we had lost. We have been given more time to be with family and those whom we love. This last benefit is exactly what I write about this morning.

My oldest son who lives in Orlando had the misfortune of being laid off from his work since he worked in the entertainment district of Disney Springs. While this created some concern for him initially until his unemployment benefits were approved, it has allowed him to have time on his hands. His girlfriend has remained employed through one of her jobs but her position with Disney also was laid off which gave her some flexibility with her time. This led to both of them deciding that they needed to get away from their apartment for a visit to Texas, so they could spend time with me and my husband. I was delighted since it had been almost two years since I had the opportunity to see them.

Last week, they packed up her vehicle, their two dogs, and some essentials. Traveling overnight, they arrived on Tuesday morning and the adventures began. Like every other place in the United States, most of the attractions in our area are closed down. This limited the opportunity for us to show them some of the wonderful aspects of our metropolitan area. However, we were able to safely visit many of the places we would have taken them but at some we had to just admire from the outside instead of having the opportunity to go inside to explore. We also were able to spend time on our patio and in our pool to cool off and have conversation. We even introduced one of our favorite dominoes games to her and provide him a chance to get reacquainted to a game his grandmother taught him.

I hated when the time had come for them to pack up everything and return to Florida. However, I am so extremely grateful that the impact of the virus allowed them to have the time to travel here for a visit. All of this reminded me the importance of finding the gold nuggets of joy which exist even in times which can test our patience and create some difficult challenges.

Find your own gold nuggets!

We Are The World

Like many of you, I am growing tired of experiencing all the impacts of the Covid-19 virus. I am thankful that none of my family or friends have had medical issues related to the virust. For all those who have had to deal with hospitalization and more serious results from the virus, my heart goes out to you. I pray that all who read this can remain healthy and safe until a vaccine or other treatment puts a control on the virus.

This afternoon, I needed a little inspiration as I thought about Covid-19 and the changes it is making in our lives. I went to YouTube to see what might be available for insipirational music and ran across the video I am placing at the bottom of this post. I clearly remember the first time this song was recorded in 1985 as an attempt to combat the hunger crisis in Africa. I may still have the cassette tape upon which it was released somewhere in my house. Just as the situation was in 1985, today we need to be reminded that the crisis which we face is a crisis of the world and that we are the ones who will assist one another make it through this.

Thank you to all the frontline workers who continue to inspire all of us and provide the critical aspects which move us forward!

Enjoy this video and remember, WE ARE THE WORLD!

Life Inventory

Last month I celebrated another birthday. It was not one that is usually considered to be a milestone birthday and yet it did cause me to pause for some reflection on my life. I realized that like everyone else, I have experienced a long list of wonderful events in my life. Also like everyone else, I have experienced a number of challenges.

As I mentally created lists of both the positive aspects of my life and the challenging ones, I realized how blessed I truly have been. Like others, I have not always made decisions which produced beneficial outcomes. I did make the decisions that seemed right to me at the time. Most of those decisions were after consulting others. Yet, even after making some wrong choices, I would have to state that my life so far has leaned much more to the positive then the negative.

Reflecting upon where I am now in my life, I am grateful for the outcome so far. I am living now with integrity and honest display of who I am as a person. This has led to having an amazing husband who is a true partner who supports me completely. I also have two wonderful biological sons and two “adopted” foreign sons who bring me joy. Both of my sisters remain an important part of my life and I treasure our conversations in between too infrequent visits. My home provides shelter and comfort with some wonderful additions such as an amazing front porch to sit upon, an amazing backyard which I can view while sitting on the covered back patio, and an in-ground pool which I am starting to use for exercise. I am currently engaged in a new career as a writer (and blogger). I am also preparing to lead an online faith discussion group. I would be remiss if I did not also state that I have two loving dogs who always provide entertainment, challenges, and affection.

There have been plenty of challenges as well. I have experienced the extreme sense of grief when my eight-month-old nephew, my mother and my father each died. Having to be honest with the woman whom I married and had children with in regard to my sexuality was difficult. The divorce which was necessary after being honest caused pain and overwhelming fear. Leaving jobs and a number of moves each came with their own challenges even though they advanced my life in positive ways. At various points there have been lesser challenges as well.

Looking at my life to this point. I determined that the positives have far outweighed the negatives. My success has been due to the amazing people in my life. In fact, I would say that the relationships which I have had and continue to have been the greatest positive in my life. This truth leads me to say thank you to the family and friends who have made my life as wonderful as it has become.

During this time of isolation due to Covid-19, I challenge each of you to do a life inventory. Even when we are faced with challenges which this virus has created for many of us, when we reflect on where we are in life, I am confident that each of us will see how much better we are than we often realize. I am also confident that our positive outcomes can be linked to the relationships from our past or present.

Raising Up

Today, I was looking for some inspiration as I prepared to write this post. Once a week, I sit and jot down ideas of possible blog post topics. When I looked at the one which I had planned for today, I discovered that I was not completely sure what I meant when I wrote down the idea. I also decided that I did not feel inspired to write on that topic even if I could figure out my initial intent. This left me with the question of what the topic was going to be. I sat for a while seeking inspiration while looking out the window….nothing. I changed rooms in our house to get a different perspective, still nothing. Finally, I decided to check out some videos on YouTube and inspiration came my way.

The video which caught my attention was of a group in an outdoor setting singing the song, You Raise Me Up. You can check it out by following this link. I think the reason that my eye was drawn to this video is due to the reality of our world currently. We all are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, our jobs, our families, and our activities. The title of the song made me pause to consider what raises me up. As I listened to a talented group of young men singing this song, I thought of those in my life who have been, or currently are, the ones who raise me up.

Here are the lyrics to the song made famous by Josh Groban and written by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland:

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up to more than I can be

These lyrics remind me of the times when I have felt down, times when it seemed I could not go on another day. I recall those individuals placed by God into my life who have supported me, built me up, given me confidence, walked through rough times with me. The list seems endless. Faces rush through my mind as I recall these incredible individuals. The list includes family members, friends, teachers, mentors, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers.

During this challenging time in many of our lives, I encourage us to think about the words of this song. As we listen to or read these words (or both), let your mind list the names of individuals to whom you would sing this song. Consider how many people were part of getting you to where you are today. As you do so, realize that there are still people in your life who can, and are, raising you up even today. Be sure to say thank you to them. Be sure to thank God for placing them in your life.