I miss old school blogging. My posts reflect that, meandering from current events to family updates to long form articles. I know, I know. . . current blog gurus say Find your audience! Write in your niche! But whatever. It’s my website.
Still, you're probably here for some mommy-encouragement or theological talk. The shortcuts below will help you find that content quickly.
The Connection Equation
Don't you wish there was a magic formula for good parenting? We know there isn't. . . and yet, there are things we CAN do to build connection with our kids.
On the Bookshelf
Books I'm reading. . . Books Hubby is writing. . . Books that come in the mail. Always looking for your recommendations, too.
Whether you are in the throes of changing diapers or giving driving lessons, we all benefit from inspiration from others. The Mommy Encouragement Files are where I collect wisdom other moms and record what I'm learning, too.
This week I had several friends share a recent HuffPo piece which, well, basically branded me as evil. And why? Because I disagree with the author on policy solutions.
According to this self-described “relatively young” author, I am without the “basic human emotion of empathy,” and “content to see millions of people suffer needlessly.” Other words used to describe me? “[D]etached cruelty,” “terrifying,” “chilling,” “callousness,” and “heinous.”
I am part of the “hordes of selfish, cruel people.”
While the author doesn’t use the word, she is communicating that she believes those who do not support her politics are evil.
You know what I find “chilling,” to borrow her phrase? Just how many people I know who were sharing this article in agreement with her perception of conservatives.
As this illustrates, the political discourse in the US has gone from “I’m right, you’re wrong” to “I’m right, you’re evil.”
The author posits that people must completely lack empathy if they disagree with what she believes are the most compassionate policies. The examples she highlighted included increasing the minimum wage to combat poverty, raising taxes to fund quality education, and ensuring all people have access to health care (the article is unclear but suggests government-provided universal health care.)
Anyone who disagrees with these policies must not care about people, poverty, education, and healthcare. Furthermore, she wants nothing to do with you, you uncompassionate, callous, cruel person.
Compassion and Empathy
With empathy we relate to what another person is experiencing. Compassion is understanding another’s pain and desiring to alleviate it. These traits are powerful and motivate us to take action in caring for one another.
And so I consider my own empathy for the writer of this piece. I hear her frustration, her anger. I know she wants to help those in poverty. She truly believes that raising the minimum wage, raising school taxes, and providing universal health care will alleviate the suffering of those around her.
These policies make sense to the author, especially on an emotional level. She feels good about a little extra from her paycheck solving such huge problems. That satisfies her drive to act. With these government-driven, tax-funded initiative, she believes she is showing compassion. And therefore anyone who disagrees must lack compassion and empathy.
This is a simplistic false dichotomy. Ignored is a third option — that someone is caring and loving, but thinks other approaches best help the vulnerable and hurting.
Problems and Solutions
The author and I have many things in common. I believe that no one in this land of plenty should go to bed hungry. I agree that all children should be able to access a quality education. The healthcare system in the US is imperfect and the poor suffer more because of it. We share compassion for the least of these and want to make things better.
There are very real problems in this country. We simply disagree on how to solve them.
I don’t support raising the minimum wage. The author is scandalized that I don’t think “fork[ing] over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac” will solve the issue of poverty.
In fact, research that evaluated the best-designed studies indicated that raising the minimum wage actually hurts the people it is supposed to help. Many lose jobs. Prices go up for basic goods and the higher minimum wage still has limited purchasing power. Because I do care about people in poverty, I cannot advocate for policies which cause more harm than good.
The author and I agree that children in the US should have a quality education that is accessible to all. Where we differ is how to best get to that goal. Most if not all children have access to public education; the problem is the quality of that education.
Raising taxes for schools, as the author suggests, is overly simplistic. I would posit that lack of funding isn’t the problem – the US spends $12,300 per student, which is 29% higher than the average of $9,600 in the industrialized, OECD countries. Perhaps that money needs to be distributed better – more to quality teachers so they stay in teaching rather switch to administration. Meeting the needs of children in attaining a quality education is complex, and our policies need to be more nuanced than simply to spend more money.
Access to quality, affordable health care is important in our country – which is another area the author and I could find common ground. I assume the author has ideas for addressing the health care crisis in the US that are beyond “pay a little more with each paycheck.” Most likely the author of this article and I would disagree on where to start addressing the problems in our health care system, and what the responsibility of the federal government should be. I believe patients should be in charge of their health care decisions, not the government.
The specifics of the above policy proposals? That’s not why I’m writing this. Instead, it shows to illustrate that reasonable people of compassion can see a problem and prefer different solutions to solve those problems.
I disagree with this author’s policy solutions, and therefore she believes I am one of the “hordes of selfish, cruel people.”
Building Bridges and Starting Dialogues
Sadly, this progressive young woman is unwilling to “have those difficult conversations.” She has written off each of us who disagree with her and is convinced we lack compassion and basic human empathy. She has rejected people who have different perspectives. She believes she has all the solutions (oh, I wish she did!)
It is somewhat understandable. She has in effect considered those who disagree on these policies as evil – and how can you dialogue with evil? How can you compromise with evil?
Unfortunately, her mentality is all too common these days.
Laboratory of Democracy
Both the author of this piece and my more progressive friends will probably be surprised to hear me say this — I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think that conservative politicians or think tanks have all the answers.
I advocate for the policies I think are best, and I base that on research, historical patterns, and the actual impact it will have on people. But I’m realistic enough to know that not every policy I support is going to work the way I think it will. I have seen the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in play.
Similarly, some policies which progressives advocate will have greater benefits than I anticipate. This is why I believe that across the political spectrum we need to work together.
One of the strengths of our system is that the federal government doesn’t have to solve all the problems. The federal government doesn’t have to have all the answers. We have the states as the “laboratories of democracy” to test policies on a smaller scale.
Massachusetts had state-wide health care reform which influenced the development of the Affordable Care Act. Seattle has raised the minimum wage to $15. Washington and Oregon were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. What has been the impact of those policies?
As citizens we can watch the experiments in the other “laboratories,” see the results good and bad. Then we can decide how our local and state governments should proceed, based on what works and not just what we feel will work.
Policies that Work
Yes, I’m a conservative. Am I lacking compassion and empathy? Quite the opposite. I care about people for whom these are every day problems. I recognize that they are individuals, and not a monolith. Our country’s problems are complex and require nuanced solutions. I’m stirred with compassion and motivated to help – both directly as well as through governmental policies.
Compassion drives me to continue acting in good faith with all people, even with those who are determined to see the worst in me. I assume progressives really care about issues—even when their solutions are ineffective.
Even when you think I’m evil, I’m willing to work together with you to make our neighborhoods, our country, our world a better place.
Because I care.
It’s hard to express just how exciting it is to see a creative project start as the seed of a “what if?” idea and then grow into an actual physical book. Thinking about how Heir to the Raven began brings back a flood of memories.
I remember when Hubby and the boys first began talking about this story about six years ago. As I remember it, we were living in Kenya and driving to Diani for a beach get away and one of the boys mused that it would be fun if zebras could be saddled and ridden.
We talked about why zebras are biologically not designed to be ridden, and then the conversation meandered into why Africa doesn’t have horses on most of the continent. What would Kenya have looked like if the tse-tse fly didn’t exist? How would the continent of Africa developed differently if horses were part of the cultures?
We all started talking about a savanna setting with horse lords and that evolved into story ideas and we spent almost all of that beach vacation playing with story ideas and plotting what has now become the Breaking of Jandaria series.
One of my most vivid memories of that trip is sitting around the living room of our friend’s beach house with a strategy game in front of us on the coffee table, unplayed. Each of the four boys, Hubby, and I were too excited about the brainstorming we were doing.
While Hubby is the author in the family, the kids and I have all been very involved at each step of the way. They have a five-six book story arc already plotted (though, quite frankly, I can’t remember all of the threads of this epic fantasy!) We’ve sat around the dining room table talking about characterization, world-building, story development.
Heir to the Raven is more than a book to me, it is a snapshot of a season of our life as a family.
To hear more about Hubby’s books, go to jwesleybush.com and sign up for his newsletter.
This year, I’m in a FB group for this college for parents. So many questions… Ones I didn’t even think about… About the dorms, transportation, lots of details.
It’s triggered a little mommy-guilt in me… Was I not supportive enough? Should I have gone with him to settle in? Should I have bought him a dorm minifridge? Did he have everything he needed? (Thank goodness for those international student-sheets!)
But the story I’m telling myself if that he is a capable young man.
And he is. Well-traveled and able to handle unexpected bumps in the road. His faith is strong (and weak, and strong. . .)
Our relationship is honest and he knows he can always text me. He’s handling his independence well.
I’m visiting my mom (retired Navy wife) in her two bedroom condo. She’s been open-handed with letting things go through the years.
What she has now is a carefully curated collection of eclectic loveliness. Seriously. I love it. It is eclectic. It is only the most beautiful and sentimental of 40+ years of moving. Well, mixed with some whimsical pieces that currently catch her fancy.
Nothing seems cluttered, but everywhere I look is a treasure. Many I recognize from my childhood, but others are items she’s added since I left home.
I know so often in the Foreign Service we share the simulataneous struggles and adventures of being given an odd space and items to combine to make “home.” My mom has done it, has modeled it for me.
And now, here in the other side, she’s made a peaceful home with the beauty and memories she’s collected along the way.
I drove a little purple Honda Civic hatchback when I was in my 30s. It was a great car, but it was low to the road and I could hear the tires on the road and every noisy bump. When all four boys were in the car with me, it was super noisy. I’d hear them chatter in the back seat. (Okay, sometimes fuss at each other in the back seat.)
Then I got hearing aids.
And I realized for the first time that they weren’t just being noisy in the back seat — but they were also trying to talk to me.
Hearing aids changed my life in a way that makes me both sad and happy. They made me a much better mom, because I realized that my kids in the back seat actually wanted to talk to me — and weren’t just making noise! Sad, because I realized that for so many years I was tuning them out because I couldn’t really hear and understand them.
My hearing loss is in the speech banana. Part of the reason why it took so long to have my hearing loss diagnosed was because I could hear — just there were sounds that I couldn’t pick up.
Our brains are so amazingly adaptive. The actual phonemes that my ears couldn’t hear were “filled in” by my brain.
Li_e when you _ead th_s _ente__e — you ca_ u_dersta_d wha_ I’m writi_ by the lette_s and patte_ns you ca_ _ead, an_ you_ b_ain fi__s in the b_a_ks.
That’s how I hear conversations without my hearing aids. My brain is working overtime, not only filling in the missing sounds but also taking cues from the patterns of speech. It is easier for me to understand people with whom I spend a lot of time, because I’m familiar with their speech rhythms. (That’s one of the reasons I understand Hubby’s Russian more easily than the average Ivan on the street.)
Because my hearing loss requires so much extra decoding of language, it is no wonder that now that I have hearing aids my brain is less tired at the end of the day!
Many people don’t realize they have hearing loss because they can still hear quite a bit, and their brain is working hard to help them understand what others are saying. Often hearing loss comes on gradually, and we adapt. Or the loss begins outside of the speech banana, at higher pitches, and so the loss of hearing isn’t initially impacting conversation.
In addition to not realizing the onset of hearing loss, many people are resistant because it is associate with getting older and many have a resistance to acknowledging that. I was in my mid-30s when I was diagnosed with moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I felt validated — it wasn’t all in my head! But also I was young enough that I didn’t feel like it was a sign of getting older.
Have you wondered whether you may have the beginning of hearing loss?
Is it harder to understand the speech of little girls than other people? Do you prefer to talk in person rather than over the phone? Do you avoid noisy restaurants because it’s hard to have a conversation with people? Can other people hear the music playing at a store, but you can’t? These may be hints that your hearing needs to be evaluated.
I had no clue what the first step was when I wanted to get my hearing checked. There are three primary paths you can take to have your hearing evaluated.
I was referred to an ENT who had an audiologist on staff, and scheduled an evaluation with an audiologist. This is often covered by insurance, billed through the ENT.
An audiologist may also have an independent office, not affiliated with an ENT. After my first hearing test, my follow up appointments have been with the audiologist in her office.
You may also be able to get a screening, but not full audiology exam, through a local hearing aid business. My local hearing aid specialist at Lifestyle Hearing is a great guy and provides screenings. This is often a good low cost option. (Ye, some hearing aid businesses do try to oversell higher end hearing aids, and so I recommend this with caution.)
I’ve been wearing hearing aids over a decade. I’m so thankful for the impact they have had on my mothering and the ability I have to really listen to my children.
I was recently invited to discuss parenting teens on the Theology Gals podcast. It was so encouraging to me and I feel even more committed to praying for my teens after talking with Coleen and Angela
I invite you to listen in as we discuss topics such as…
- How can we build stronger connections with our teens?
- How do we help our teens with mood swings?
- How do we encourage our teens spiritually?
- How do we handle our teens questioning the faith?
Schedule an Event
Whether it is facilitating a workshop or speaking to a group, I'm available to help you develop practical skills to help you connect with your teens.
Always happy to do audio, video, or written interviews on topics related to connecting with teens, covenant theology, and expat living. firstname.lastname@example.org
I love connecting with friends -- old and new. Feel free to email. I try to respond quickly. Try. email@example.com