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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Father’s Day is always a bit tough for me. My father died in an accident before I was born so I was never able to meet him. I always think about him on this day, what he would have been like, how we would have celebrated. Would he have been a BBQ type of dad? Would he have watched baseball or (ew) golf? Maybe a bonfire and s’mores with a beer or two? It does make me sad, but then I remember what I do have and that I am blessed.

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I had two wonderful grandfathers who loved me. This I know. They didn’t always say it, but they showed it through their actions, whether it was paying for me to go to beauty school, slipping Marty $20 to make sure I got a Zehnder’s chicken dinner in Frankenmuth, or just showing up on my birthday every year. Grandpa Nick didn’t live long enough to see me get married and have kids, but I had the privilege of seeing Grandpa Ballantyne hold and play with my boys. He was a real softy by that point and it melted my heart to watch them together.

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My uncle, my dad’s brother, stepped up seven years ago to be Uncle-Dad. He and Aunt-Mom didn’t hesitate when I asked if they would help me get my rightful name on my birth certificate and I love how they’ve embraced me as their Daughter-Niece. It means the world to me.

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Then, there’s my husband. From the day I told him he was going to be a father, he’s been all in. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a dad and see how his relationship with our boys has evolved over the years, especially as they’ve entered or are getting close to adulthood.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Zach Brown, Marty Brown and Julie Ballantyne Brown

So, even though I don’t have my dad here to spoil today, I have plenty to celebrate. I wish a very Happy Father’s Day to every father and father figure out there. I hope you know that you are loved and appreciated.

 

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During a conversation with my husband the other night, we happened upon the topic of change. It came up because I’m going to Detroit Pride this weekend to join up with Free Mom Hugs. For those that don’t know, Free Mom Hugs, a group which also includes dads, gives free hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and encouragement to LGBTQIA individuals who have been rejected by their families. I’m totally stoked about being able to show a bit of love to someone who may just need it, lord knows we all do from time to time.

I reflected on how this was not what I was raised to believe, and how people can grow and change.

I know because I changed.

I was raised in a very conservative home where I was taught, especially in church, that being gay, or at least, being in a gay relationship, was a sin. It was never really an issue, just one of the countless sins we were told about. I didn’t know any better until I actually met people who were “out” in high school and in my first year of college. Listening to their stories really made me question the belief system I had been taught. Why were people being judged and condemned for how they were born, for who they were, for who they loved? The more I reasoned, the more my views changed and I struggled with what my religion said vs. what I knew in my heart to be true.

My brother came out soon after. He had been raised with the same teachings, I know he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would God make him that way if it was sinful? Why would God make anyone gay if it went against what He wanted? It didn’t make sense. I started reading more and researching, not only personal stories, but articles and studies on religion to see what was actually being said in translations and realized that I didn’t agree with the interpretation that had been preached to me for all those years. I was soon completely convinced: people don’t choose their sexuality, it’s hard-wired from the very beginning.

With this realization, I made it a point to be an ally. We’ve raised our kids to be accepting of everyone. We’ve also been very fortunate to belong to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what, with no agenda to “fix” people. One of our pastors even risked her job to marry two wonderful men a few years ago and we became an official Reconciling Ministries church the year after. The current pastor and his wife are all in, letting the rainbow banners fly. Our denomination is in a struggle right now to officially adopt a policy where gay marriages can be performed without penalty and I’m happy to say that there has some progress made on this. It looks much more hopeful now than it did a few months ago. We have wonderful new members who came to us because they have faith, but have not felt welcome in other places. There is still much to do.

Faith is important to a lot of people and it makes me sad that being gay is a reason for some to shut others out, no matter what the religion is. Do the homework, not just “research” from the conservative side, but objective research from real science. Talk to gay Christians, or gay Muslims, or gay Jews. You’ll find many. There are plenty of gay atheists, too, in case you’re not religious. Get their perspective, and really, truly, listen to them without judgement. Listen to religious scholars on the other side with an open mind and pray for understanding.

There’s another reason I think this is an incredibly important topic. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and LGB youth seriously think about suicide three times more than heterosexual youth. (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00001dqohxj19xof4dx2kuf9llet1) They would rather die than deal with the pain they feel from being rejected by the world, their places of worship, even their parents. That should say something to even the hardest heart. Think about that. Children would rather take their own lives than subject themselves to the humiliation heaped on them by those who think they are less than. As someone who has been on that precipice, that decision is born out of desperation, not attention-seeking. The methods used to change children are bogus, as proven over and again. Conversion therapy is cruel and it doesn’t work. You can’t “pray the gay away”, you can’t beat it out of someone, and you can’t change their mind. That’s not how it works. Again, do the research. Hear them.

LGBTQIA people are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed. Like everyone, they need to feel loved, they need to know that they are accepted, and treated with dignity and respect. I thank God, those long-ago high school and college friends, my brother,  and my sister-cousin, for being brave, for opening my eyes, for opening my mind. My life is richer and fuller for that, for the friends I have, for the love I am shown daily. I shudder to think of what my life could have been like if I hadn’t followed my heart.

Growth is often uncomfortable, because you often have to fix stuff, but the rewards are wonderful. When I see anti-gay protesters, so angry, waving their vile signs, it’s difficult to not be angry myself. I want to jump in and defend my friends and family so badly, but getting in someone’s face rarely changes their mind. Instead, I try to love. I try to set a good example. I try to stand up for what I know to be the right thing. I teach my students that using the word “gay” or “queer” as insults is not acceptable when the situation pops up, besides teaching acceptance of all as a norm.

I’m also still learning. As I mentioned, I want to be the best ally I can and I want to do it right. I make mistakes sometimes (I still have to make myself think of and say correct pronouns for the gender fluid, just because it’s a habit) but that’s part of growth and understanding and I welcome it, even when I screw up. I can do more.

So, Happy Pride Month. Much love to my family and friends who are celebrating and know that I have your back, always. May God bless you always.

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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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On my Facebook Author page (@JulieBallantyneBrown), I posted this question tonight:

SATURDAY NIGHT QUESTION TIME!!! Name a book that changed your life. One of mine (I have several books that have changed my life or have caused me to reflect.) is Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans.

I’m posting this because Rachel Held Evans needs your prayers, good thoughts, and/or vibes tonight. She is currently in the ICU in a medically induced coma, according to her husband, Dan. (https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/health-updates) I don’t know her prognosis, but it does sound extremely serious.

I wrote the truth in my post. Her book, Faith Unraveled, did change my life. While growing up, I had questioned so many things about my faith and most of the time, I felt alone. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to question my faith, that I was supposed to see everything in black and white when it came to religion. As I have written about before, I was raised fairly fundamentally, leaving that behind when I had my own family because i didn’t want to raise my kids with the levels of fear and shame that I had grown up with. To me, God was not supposed to be a terrifying entity who sent people to Hell on a whim, but a loving presence who wanted the best for me, for all of us.

Those thoughts of a dreadful God  stayed with me for years, even though I had physically moved on. Then, one day, a friend of mine recommended a book online. It was A Year of Biblical Womanhood. In that book, I was introduced to someone who spoke what I was feeling: my doubts on my faith, my thoughts. I eagerly devoured her other books, but Faith Unraveled really resonated with me. While our experiences weren’t exactly the same (I was never the astute Bible student that she was), it spoke to me that I was not alone, that it was okay to question religion, to question, gulp, God, and to be okay with it because He welcomed our thoughts, our questions, and even our doubt.

I’m not writing to preach tonight, but to ask for help for a woman who has given me a new perspective on faith. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, or if you have any at all. I’m quite positive that she would agree with that.

Shalom, A Blessed Passover, and a Happy Easter (Buona Pasqua, Sabri) to you all.

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Proud mama moment: Oldest Child has a grown up job. Well, he will as soon as he graduates in May, the next week, in fact. He went through the interviews, the stress of not knowing, all that jazz, and he succeeded. He has a big boy job on the other side of the state doing something that he loves and finds interesting.

This, of course, is awesome. He’s worked so hard, he’s always been an amazing kid, and he deserves every bit of good that’s coming his way.

There’s only one teensy thing that’s just starting to sink in. This is his fourth year of college, he hasn’t lived “at home” full time in almost four years, but now, this is where the feels get a little jumbled.

He’s not coming home anymore.

I don’t want to go totally melodramatic. Of course he’ll come to visit sometimes, Christmas, if we’re lucky, or the occasional weekend, but he’ll be living two-and-a-half-ish hours away. Living, not going to school, but living. He’ll be going to work, going, ulp, home, and will do it all over again the next day. No more Spring Break, no more summers off, he’ll be really and truly adulting now. Marty and I were just talking the other day about how we’ll take him off of our insurance as soon as his kicks in. Again, ulp.

It’s starting to hit home as I clean the empty bedroom where the college kids stay when they come home. I’ll be making up two beds, but only one will be slept in this summer when Middle Child comes home. We’ll move his basement storage boxes to him, the extra clothes that he’s left behind in the bedroom, his stuffed puppy, Sadie. He’s on to building his own life.

As well he should! This is what we raised him to be able to do, this is the job of parenting, to make them independent so that they can survive on their own. (Coming in second only to being a good person. Raising kids to be good humans is always first on the list, but self-sufficiency is a close second.) He’s following the natural order of things and doing a damn fine job of it: working, paying his own bills, buying his own car and paying for repairs. He even has a cat of his own, for crying out loud!

But my mama heart is cracking a little tonight as I remember the baby who loved to cuddle and whose hair smelled so sweet, the inquisitive toddler who made friends with everyone and everything, the studious tween, the social butterfly of a high school student, the proud graduate. Those are just memories now, and precious ones. He’s going to make his own memories now: his first place, his first real job, and all of the adventures, good and bad, that go with them.

It’s okay, it’s supposed to happen this way. I’m just a little leaky, is all.

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First year of preschool, three years old.

Hug your babies, new parents. It goes by fast.

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Well, it’s happened again. In case you’re living under a rock, there’s been another mass shooting, this time in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Forty-nine people. Muslims. Immigrants. Men, women, and children, were massacred at their place of worship, the place where you should feel the safest and most at peace. Another mass shooting, sure to be followed by more, if the past twenty years are any indication. It’s almost commonplace now.

If you think this is going to be a blog on gun laws, at least directly, you’re wrong. It’s about hate.

You see, I’m a teacher. More than ninety-nine percent of my students are Muslim, true story. They range in age from 11-14, old enough to be aware and somewhat interested about what is going on in the world. I encourage them to discuss world issues that are important to them (this leads to good research and writing) and, especially in my first hour, we’ve had some really good talks this year.

When I saw the news last night, and then again this morning, I knew that there would be questions in first hour. Real, honest, questions that I didn’t have any good answers for, especially as someone not from their background, someone who can represent ugliness to them because of the actions of others who look like me.

I fought back tears watching the footage this morning, the disbelief and horror still fresh on the faces of the survivors, standing in their blood-spattered clothing and speaking to reporters. I shut the TV off and left for work, dreading what I knew was coming.

First hour came in, got settled quickly, as they always do, and began their morning work, journaling and reading. When we came together after their reading time, we started the day by sharing out answers, and then, as I always do, I asked if anyone had something else they wanted to share before started the day’s assignment. A hand went up, I called on him, and the question came.

“Miss, did you hear what happened in New Zealand?”

Twenty-nine other faces stared at me, some nodding a bit because they had already heard, some questioning what had happened. I wondered how I was going to tell them, what I was going to tell them. This is the internet generation, I’d rather that they heard it from me first. But that’s not what bothered me the most. The worst thing was that I had to tell them this at all.

How do you look at a roomful of adolescents and tell them that there are people in this world who hate them just for being who they are? How do you look these kids in the eye and tell them that there are people who would rather see them dead than get to know them because they’re Muslim? It’s not that they haven’t already experienced racism, they hear it all the time. They’ve been called terrorists, among other horrible things. They and their parents have been discriminated against before and it hurts them, but they are, sadly, used to that and a lot of them have great parents who tell them to not pay any attention to that, to be proud of who they are. But this is different. This was massive bloodshed, people like them who do what they do every week were shot dead for the simple fact that they were Muslim. They don’t cover how to do this in college.

I took a deep breath and explained it the best I could, as honestly as I could. My voice broke a couple of times and I had to take some deep breaths to stop more tears from coming and upsetting them, but they knew. They know I love them. This is a pretty awesome group of kids, my first hour, and I didn’t want to upset them more than necessary, but I was upset, too. I still am. I’m upset that someone with such public, racist, views, who spews vitriol all over social media, is cleared for a gun license. I’m upset that such hate festers and warps, whether it’s due to mental illness, drugs, or a dysfunctional upbringing, enough to carry out an act as brutal and as senseless as this. I’m upset that parents lost children, wives lost husbands, children lost parents. I’m mad as hell that there are people like that in this world. He grinned while being arraigned. Did you know that? I just read that on Al-Jazeera tonight.

As expected, they were horrified. You could have heard a pin drop as I briefly spoke about it. I talked, again, about our lockdown drills, that they needed to take them seriously because there were sick people like that out in the world. We talked, again, about what we would do if it were ever a real situation. The same hand went up again when I was done.

“Miss, why do they call us terrorists, but when a white person does something like this they’re called a mass shooter?” I sighed. This was definitely not going to be an easy morning. I told him that the Prime Minister of New Zealand had, in fact, called this man a terrorist and that’s who he was. I also said that he was right, that many times that is the case, but that things were starting to change. More people are standing up and speaking out, demanding fairness. I told my class that we had a long way to go when it came to race, that their generation had a really good chance of making their voices heard, of changing perceptions of Muslims to ignorant people. I hope I’m right.

They probably could have gone on all day, but I didn’t want them to dwell on it, so I brought our discussion to a gentle end and got them started on researching the Greek gods and goddesses, a project that they are excited about. It morphed into a more normal class time. I got a lot more hugs on the way out today, though.

I can’t let it go, though. Do you know what haunts me right now? Their eyes, their eyes that ask me, “Why?”

I don’t know. I don’t know how to solve the problem. I couldn’t give them a good answer. This is what I do know: There is evil in this world and it kills. It spreads through social media, through fear, through ignorance. We have to stand up to it, whether it has to do with race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, sexual preference, or disability. We have to make it uncomfortable to spout that crap, even when we’re scared. I’m guilty of staying quiet, I know I need to step it up, especially around people I know. If enough people speak up, maybe minds will open, hearts will change. Maybe love will win.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll let Lin Manuel Miranda.

“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” ~Lin Manuel Miranda

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Nine years ago, I left a class at college, not knowing that my phone had been going off. I had it on silent so that it wouldn’t ring during class. Marty had been calling to let me know that my Grandma Ruth had been taken to the hospital from her assisted living facility and that things didn’t look good.

I raced home and hurriedly made sub plans for the next day to email to my principal, along with an explanation and then went straight to the hospital. She had been unconscious since the staff had found her a few hours before and she never woke up. My family and I stood around her bed and made quiet conversation until she quietly slipped away, around 11:00 pm. It was characteristic of her, to go quietly, not wanting to make a fuss.

My Grandma Ruth was a beautiful lady, a strong soul. A Grandma who, after my mom married out of Catholicism, made sure that I knew where my bottle of holy water was on her dresser. A Grandma who kissed boo-boos, who made Christmas cookies, who, when I had my wisdom teeth out, brought over Jello. She wasn’t a gushy grandma, but she loved me. I knew it.

I always knew it.

Rest well, Grandma. I miss you terribly.

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