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Two nights ago, I had a talk with God. Well, not so much a talk as it was a depression-fueled temper tantrum on my part. It’s been a long school year so far (already!) and the frustration with work and where I am in my life has been steadily building. Thursday was a horrible day: disrespectful kids, strangers giving stupid feedback in my classroom, no prep time due to meetings, and no prospect of things getting better. Remember what I’ve written about depression? When it kicks in, you literally can’t see a way out at that moment. Combine that with being sick all week and normal teenage stuff at home and it becomes a recipe for a major depressive hole.

By bedtime, my chest felt like it would explode with frustration and I could barely keep the tears in. In the bathroom, I let it all out at God. Why wouldn’t He help me? Why was I getting thwarted and blocked at every turn when I was trying to help myself? Was this all there was going to be of my life, feeling trapped and miserable? There were other things, too, but that was the gist of it. It didn’t last very long, I was exhausted, and I went to bed dreading the puffy eyes in the morning that come from late-night tear fests.

The next day (yesterday), I walked back into my classroom after cleaning up broken shards of a cologne bottle in the hallway. I can still smell it on my hands this morning, despite repeated washings. Ugh. My clock caught my attention at 10:23. That doesn’t surprise me. Those numbers, my birthday numbers, always seem to appear when my attention is required for spiritual things. This has happened throughout my entire life. I know that a lot of people, especially those skeptical or dismissive of such things would bleat that it’s no big deal, it’s 10:23 twice a day every day. No kidding, but experience has taught me that when my attention is specifically being drawn to the clock at that time, the universe and God mean business. Whether you believe it or not is your own business, but I know what’s true for me.

Anyway, as soon as I had registered the time, a voice popped into my head. “For I know the plans I have for you…”, it said. I stopped in my tracks. Now, I know a lot about the Bible, but I’m not one to memorize and quote verses, so this was a surprise. And I had the feeling, the feeling I get when something spiritual is happening. I knew the verse, I had heard it before, but hadn’t thought about it recently, even remotely. I immediately went to my computer to look it up: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  Well. I knew then, I knew, that this was the answer to my outburst last night. It felt good, it felt right. I don’t know how else to explain it. After months of pleading and trying to get an answer about my life and what I should be doing, I had a clear communication. Not a direction about where my life is going, exactly, but at that moment, I had peace about it. I still do, today, twenty-four hours later.

Does that verse solve my problems? No. Will my frustration disappear? No, but yesterday went a long way in restoring part of my faith. I’ve been struggling for a while, a long while, actually, and I needed something like that. I debated about posting this, as I usually do when I experience spiritual/metaphysical things, knowing that there are people who don’t believe or who won’t think I’m the “right” kind of Christian and will definitely think I’m on the train to Crazy Town, but you know what? I really don’t care anymore. Actually, I think that’s a part of what I’m supposed to be doing now, writing more about things like this, being more open about things about God and other things that we can’t explain. We’ll see what the future holds.

In the meantime, I wish you all the peace that I’m feeling today.

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Last February, I signed up for a work conference that was to be held this past week. Admittedly, part of the reason I signed up was because it was in downtown Detroit at the Cobo Center. I get weirdly excited anytime I have a reason to hang out downtown or in midtown. I have a strong attachment to the city where I was born, in a small hospital on Tuxedo Street, and it’s such a treat to explore.

I live about 15-20 minutes from the heart of downtown, depending on the traffic and I don’t get there nearly enough. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love big cities and Detroit, while not as big as some, is no exception. They’re so busy, the energy is so high, and there’s always something going on. I can’t explain it, but I love it. I love the country, too, but for different reasons and I’m ready to leave after a few days, but I haven’t gotten tired of being in a big city yet.

There’s so much history, the architecture of the older buildings is so beautiful. Detroit has a wonderful collection of skyscrapers and other buildings that have gorgeous Art Deco designs and decorations that mix in with the modern, like the Fisher Building and the Fox Theatre. And construction isn’t finished! A new skyscraper is going up on the site of the old Hudson’s building in addition to the new (delayed) construction that’s going up in the midtown area next to the new Little Caesar’s Arena, better known as the LCA, where the Red Wings and The Pistons play, just down the street, literally, from the Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Lions’ Ford Field. And let’s not forget the beautiful Detroit Riverwalk where you can watch freighters and pleasure boats pass between you and Windsor, Canada on the other side. Couple that with dozens of restaurants and cool bars and you’ll never run out of things to do.

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A view of the Detroit River and Windsor from Detroit’s Cobo Center.

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Honoring Detroit as part of the Underground Railroad in Hart Plaza.

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Assorted skyscrapers

 

I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I bought into the ideology that Detroit was a terrible place, nothing but blight and run by corruption, a virtual hellhole. Like many ideologies that people buy into, this one was false and fear-based. I was taught those things and believed them because I was afraid of things I had heard, not because they had merit. Now, the blight and corruption do exist, especially in some of the neglected neighborhoods, but Detroit with all of her imperfections, is beautiful. I learned that by actually going there and doing things, not staying secluded in the suburbs.

I don’t mean to downplay the bad things; I’ve seen some of Detroit’s problems firsthand. I once dated a guy who lived in southwest Detroit, in one of those gorgeous old houses with a huge front porch. One lovely summer night, not long after we began dating, we were sitting out on the porch when I thought I heard fireworks. His dad stood up and said, “Honey, those aren’t fireworks and it’s time to go inside.” I’ve stood next to a crazed addict in a rage at a corner store while trying to buy coffee creamer for intermission at the Hilberry Theatre and have been yelled at by a prostitute who thought I was elbowing in on her territory when my car broke down in Delray. (Once she realized that my car broke down, however, she made sure to get me somewhere safe, then asked me for money, which I gave.) I’ve been lost driving in neighborhoods full of burned out and abandoned buildings where it would be foolish to roll the windows down and avoided rats as big as small cats. I used to teach Detroit students at a charter school and some of those kids had seen and experienced things that no child should. I see the stories on the news every night of violence and theft, of shootings and murder and rape and I pray. Detroit definitely has it’s troubles, there’s no denying that.

But I also see the wonderful things: the activists, the Detroit men who band together to mentor children with absent fathers and to protect women who walk alone, the Angel Night volunteers who have put a serious dent in the number of arson fires that used to be so prevalent the night before Halloween, the absolute talent that is fostered and nurtured in schools like Cass Tech, where students thrive in spite of drug deals going on just a block away. I see the crowds that gather for clean-up days, cutting grass, hauling old tires and abandoned appliances away, revitalizing playgrounds. I see the initiative to fix and install streetlights to help deter crime, the abandoned houses being either restored or torn down. I see the missions in full force, like Focus Hope, Gleaners, and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen who help thousands of people every year. I see growth and I see hope.

Of course, Detroit has it’s issues. What big city doesn’t? Detroit has had to come back from the white flight in the 1950s and 60s, the riots of 1967, racism and extreme political corruption, as recently as when Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor in the early 2000s, but Detroit bounces back. It rebuilds, it changes, and it thrives in spite of it all. The city’s heart continues to beat strongly, no matter how many hits it takes.

I took time this week to just stand at the river and watch, letting it soak into my bones, reflecting on how much it has changed in the last 318 years since Cadillac landed on these shores. I always feel my best when I’m near water. It gives me peace. I took advantage of the long lunch times to walk the streets, joining the downtown bustle of working people hurrying to and fro, absorbing the energy. I gave 75 cents to a man who wanted to get home to Inkster. (It’s all I had on me.) I watched families push strollers down the Riverwalk and saw the same philosophical homeless man sitting outside of the parking garage three days in a row, his spot, and took it all in.

It was sad when the conference was over yesterday afternoon, not because of the conference itself (although it was a really good one), but because I wouldn’t get to be in the midst of that every day. I did make a promise to myself, however, that I would get down there more, for no other reason than I want to be there, in the city. My city. I am a Metro Detroiter and proud of it.

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The Ambassador Bridge to Canada, taken from the Riverwalk.

 

 

 

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So, I wrote this article and it got published!!!

Here it is: https://introvertdear.com/news/yes-introverts-can-be-actors/

For those who don’t know, Introvert Dear is a site geared toward introverts. They publish articles on a variety of related topics. Mine just happens to be about being an introverted actor.

I hope you enjoy it and the other wonderful articles on the site. Spend some time there; I do.

 

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After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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Do you want to know one of my favorite things?  It had been blah-cloudy all day. You know what I mean, cloudy and muggy with no good reason. Seriously, it’s a real downer and I spent a lot of this afternoon trying to get motivated to do something.

So, after watching Jeopardy, I made myself go out side to do something and saw the pile of branches I’d been meaning to cut up all week. Not my favorite thing, but it had to be done. Awesome.

I was outside for maybe half an hour, which encompassed not only cutting branches, but a petting session with one of my favorite neighbor kitties, the wind suddenly picked up with a purpose. All of the little hairs that had worked loose from my braid suddenly stood straight up in the rush and there was a note of change in the air. It was exciting, exhilarating. I could smell the rain, but it didn’t arrive for a good ten minutes after it began announcing its arrival. I continued cutting dead branches, just enjoying the feel of the wind with a purpose running through my hair.

It was a wind of change, a wind with a job to do.

I felt joy.

Suddenly, the day that had been somewhat boring weather-wise (I did get some good reading and writing in) was now exciting and unpredictable. I stayed out as the first few sprinkles fell and didn’t go inside until it was a semi-decent rain.

Life is beautiful sometimes, God gives you these little gifts. You just have to be open to find the joy and I need to learn this more than anyone.

Many thanks for the joy of the wind tonight.

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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.

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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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