Thoughts on “Bowling for Columbine,” Back to School Edition

Watching Bowling For Columbine, finally. They’re talking about school violence, and I still wonder what I would have turned out like, had I not been delivered from my own little hellish experience in Glenwood. I know the three years I was there did enough damage on my ability to relate to people –I still assume people think the worst of me and I’ll never fit in. It’s taken decades of willfully deciding not to listen to the voices of self-consciousness picking myself apart to finally approach people with some semblance of self-confidence. It took me about five years to discover that the things for which I was kicked around there were not things to be ashamed of, but to embrace. So, when I heard the news about Columbine back when it happened, after the initial shock, I felt ashamed that I sort of understood -maybe- what would make someone at least think that way. My thoughts of violence never went beyond harming myself, but there’s something really sick and evil about an environment that makes a 5th grader listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” and wonder what it would fix to off oneself. I wish I were kidding. Better, I wish I could go back and tell my classmates that this is the way their words, their behavior, their ignoring me felt.

I went back to Glenwood years later, can’t remember for what, and ran into a school group going through the park. Fifth graders, I’d guess, and I watched them. Watched as a boy mocked the girl in front of him, and watched in third person replay the sort of crap that happened to me. Watched the teacher completely ignore what happened. Wanted to pull that little punk by the collar, slam him into a picnic table and tell him exactly what I thought of little boys who couldn’t keep their punk mouths shut and leave people alone. But I didn’t. And I guess that’s a good thing. Because it likely wouldn’t have fixed anything except my overdeveloped sense of vengeance.

Since then, I’ve discovered that forgiveness really is far better than vengeance, and I’ve healed. Some. I still have that little mocking, name-calling voice, courtesy of the students in my class, that I frequently channel that vengeance on –telling it to shut up and leave me alone. But, really, that experience made me who I am today. It gave me the strength (even if a strength through scar tissue) that really doesn’t give a rip what people think, in the end, if I’m doing what I know to be right. It gave me an appreciation for who I am. It helped me learn when to speak up and when to shut up. It gave me the eyes that see the ignored, the picked on, the overlooked. What got me through those years was, in my own childish, maybe silly way, standing up for the Heather Lebishaks and John Shulls of the world. What did I think when I heard the story of Columbine? There but for the grace of God go I. And I am thankful every day that He didn’t let me go there.

Sigh. My kids go back to classroom school tomorrow after two years of school at home. One of the things I desperately loved about keeping them home was being able to keep them from what I’d experienced. But I can’t keep them in a closet forever, and I’m not always going to be the one able to teach them the lessons they need. Sometimes those lessons come through some really crappy experiences, like my years in Glenwood. And as much as I will do my best to protect, defend, walk with them through those crappy experiences, I can’t prevent them. But you can bet for sure I’ll be waiting for them here at home, hugs, cookies, milk and listening ear at the ready. And I’ll know to tell them that maybe punk little kids have a story of pain they’re not letting on. If my kids know they’re loved by God and loved by their family and know the things that make them awesome, maybe they’ll be able to discern that that punk little kid is a liar, and they won’t believe his lies because they’ll know the truth, and can kick it in his face. Lovingly, of course :).

endnote:  Of course, we know a bit more about Eric and Dylan now. It looks more like there was some very real mental illness going on there, beyond the usual family issues and teen angst of being an outsider. Millions of kids survive an outcast existence in school and never think of violence. Some do. Either way, I will always view Columbine more about the evil behind the eyes of the person holding the gun than about the gun itself.

What kind of America do I want to live in?

In the quest to answer the question, “Who would Jesus vote for?”, that question has also come up. I think of stuff like September 11, and about Katrina and the response there. I think of how much more difficult our life is now than it was four years ago. Don’t think I’m blaming our life situation on Pres. Bush –just saying that I see life a whole lot more differently from this side of the poverty line. I know what it is to need and obtain help from the government now. Way different. I know what it is to lose a job and not be able to find a replacement right away. I know what it is to be hesitant to go to the one place you should be able to go to first, the church, because you have heard the (innocently uttered) judgmental comments about the poor before.

So, I’m a registered Independent, and have been ever since Bush ran the first time. And, yes, I did vote for him, both times. After Sept. 11, there seemed no better choice. He seemed much more prepared to deal with and take seriously the threat of terrorism. He stood for unborn life, and supported faith-based initiatives to help the poor. All good things. But now, I see things differently. I’m finding myself asking different questions. How is it possible to be completely “pro-life” when we spend so much time defeating legislation that hundreds of thousands of moms are slipping through the cracks and left with no answers as to how to support those children yet to be born -or not. Laws are important, but did paper get more important than our neighbor? Is it “pro-life” to be sending young men to war? Is that war worth the lives lost? Maybe. Jury’s still out on that one in my mind. Both sides make some sense. …And what about the quality of those lives we are protecting? Are we creating a society that protects the poor? That defends the downtrodden? What else was Jesus about if not that? Jesus is for losers, after all (think about that statement –it’s not a slam on Him, but our sinful condition).

So, I’m in a bit of a quandary, still, but the conclusions I’m coming to are really scary. Lots of questions that lead to more questions that lead to answers that I didn’t want to find. It’s so much easier to live in a box. That’s why I’m an Independent. Sometimes I need to do hard things, and I may have to do just that on election day. I’d like to believe that the Church could take on poverty single-handedly. God can do anything, I believe that. What is changing, however, is my observation that perhaps the “powers that be” are one of the ways God works to take care of poverty. To be continued (in other words, my mind isn’t made up yet 😉 ). For further reading, go check out Still ruminating through the stuff there…

And, again… they have to go back to ’92. Give up, already!

So, I guess this means he’ll probably lose his many homosexual supporters (rolleyes)

…And, once again, he doesn’t back down. Go Huck!!!

During his Senate run, Huckabee also told the AP in the questionnaire that he found homosexuality to be “an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle.”

Speaking Monday in Miami, Florida, Huckabee said he still stands by his earlier remarks on homosexuality.

“Let’s understand what sin means,” Huckabee said. “Sin means missing the mark. Missing the mark could mean missing the mark in any area. We’ve all missed the mark.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, May I Present …a Viable Presidential Candidate!

You know it’s gotta be true –the press (a.k.a “The Liberal Media”) is already in full-on attack mode trying to trip him up. Sounds like they’re smelling a threat to me (grin)! …How ironic is it that they have to dig all the way back to 2002 to find any dirt?

Good grief. A Republican candidate that actually handles himself like a leader with character, not a sniveling defensive apologetic scapegoat. Seriously, I don’t know if I can handle this. …If only he’d run against (Mr.) Clinton. I haven’t seen a candidate handle the press this well since Ross Perot.  I think this guy has some serious potential… Stay tuned.

I’m Mad as …well, you know.

Quoted from an article on regarding an Ohio school shooting case:

“I ain’t justifying nothing,” a friend told CNN affiliate WOIO. “I ain’t saying he did the right thing, but I am saying he got pushed for a long time and asked them people to help, help, help, help, but nobody helped.”

I have GOT to come back and write about this. It’s been on my mind and heart since Columbine. THIS is the reason this stuff happens, people (other than the obvious “big” reason –human depravity, of course). When are we going to wake up and defend the weak? When is society going to stop trampling young students whose cries for help are not in a language that we want to hear? Sooner or later, that language we don’t want to hear (acting out, calling attention to oneself, being “antisocial”) becomes violence, and if we had LISTENED, and RESPONDED, maybe not so many students would be dead.

It’s almost 1 AM. I’m tired, and I’m furious that this kind of stuff is still happening. It’s not going to be bullying programs or even formal counseling that solves this, it’s one on one human compassion. And I don’t mean the enforced kind.

I know we live in a depraved world desperately in need of God’s redemption, but I am sick and tired of people who don’t understand what it is to be a misunderstood social outcast. …In short, there but for the grace of God (and a move to Des Moines when I was 12), would I have gone. For every school shooting that happens, EVERY DAY there are hundreds of thousands of names called, putdowns, nasty notes, fights on the schoolyard, mocking gestures …do I need to go on?

It’s late, and if wordpress eats this, I won’t worry about it, but I had to get that out. I don’t mean to make insignificance of the tragedies that have happened in the last few years, I just think it’s about time we do some REAL prevention and stand for no less than every student being treated like a human being. I’m going to bed.

but, maybe there is hope after all!

Currently on ABC, the championship round of the national spelling bee is pre-empting a rerun of Grey’s Anatomy. I am one happy camper. Perhaps there is hope for this media-obsessed nation after all :). One question, though. How on earth did a CANADIAN wind up in the AMERICAN national spelling bee?!? Come on, you mean we can’t come up with enough homeschooled well-read kids here in America?? …Okay, the American kid just beat him :). Hope reigns eternal. Go shut off the computer and pick up a book. …Or at least go rent Akeelah and the Bee.

Thoughts on Stuff and Food and …other stuff

We stopped by the library this morning and I picked up two books by Peter Menzel –“Material World,” which (I’ve not read it yet, only scanned it enough to get the idea) compares the worldly possessions of various people around the world. The second, which I’m almost half finished with is “Hungry Planet,” which is a comparison of what various families around the world eat in a week. It’s absolutely stunning, in the whole sense of the word. Currently, I’ve been revamping our family grocery budget and going back to meal planning after way too long depending on last-minute nutritionally void things like peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and frozen pizza. What I’ve discovered from personal experience is that it’s actually far cheaper to eat crap than it is to eat healthy. I no longer wonder why so many low-income families are overweight. When you’re living a busy life and can’t afford to go to places like our local “Main Dish” that allow you to assemble healthier meals to be frozen ahead (an ingenious idea, by the way –one I wish I’d thought up), it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of frozen pizza and sugar- and sodium-laden meals in a box. Food stamps will buy you a lot more twinkies and cheap TV dinners than they will fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread (ask me how I know…), and when you’re shopping with children (something I generally try to avoid), things like Teddy Grahams and cheeze puffs tend to fly into the cart a whole lot more readily than they do otherwise.

I have a love/hate relationship with Aldi. For the non-midwesterners, Aldi is the low-income salvation of many a grocery budget. They have about 95% store-brand items, almost all of which are far below regular grocery prices. White bread can be bought for under 75 cents a loaf, a box of graham crackers for 98 cents, a frozen pizza for under 2 bucks, a large bag of pretzels for around 98 cents as well… The problem is, there’s just so much cheap junk food and processed food there that it’s easy to justify filling a cart with things I wouldn’t normally buy just because, hey, I can “afford” it here! So far, I’ve managed to keep it to a minimum –just buying staples like white flour, sugar, butter (usually around $1.75 a lb. –far below other stores), white bread for grilled cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese, chocolate chips, animal crackers …okay. You see what I mean?

Where was I? Oh. Food and world hunger. And Peter Menzel. Anyway, it’s really convicting to see a picture of a week’s groceries for a family of six in Australia (think lots of frozen fish sticks, sausage, soda –oh, and did I mention the family is overweight and diabetic?), then turn to a week’s groceries for a family of 5 in Bhutan. Whoa. Talk about extremes. For the homeschoolers out there, this would be a fabulous book for a unit study for upper elementary kids, by the way –lots of opportunities for doing charts and graphs and comparisons… Even before I cracked the book open, I’ve been concerned with the amount of trash we’ve been generating lately. It’s been around 4-5 bags a week. Probably not a lot for some, but for us, that’s quite a bit more than normal. Lots of food packages, which means we’re probably eating too much processed stuff. I’ve been inspired by the book to work toward more cooking from scratch, less empty calorie snacks (which probably account for my extra 10 lbs…), and thinking more about my attitudes toward food.

I did Weight Watchers early last year and managed to lose almost 15 lbs, 5 of which I’ve regained over the summer. The whole “weight loss journey” was started by a fast from “junk food” and desserts for a weekend. That experience taught me a lot about my attitude toward food, and let me know that something had/has to change. I, for some reason, have come to think of food (specifically snack food and desserts which make up far too much of my diet) as entertainment and a luxury rather than nourishment. I know that what I eat directly affects my health, mentally and physically, but somehow, I don’t want to carry that out to living in light of the fact. I’m quite comfortable ignoring it and going on, sick of being overweight, sick of being short-tempered and sugar-crashed, but not so sick of it that I will stop buying Pringles or quitting after two chocolate chip cookies. Doing Weight Watchers taught me that I don’t have to live that way, and dropping Pringles from the shopping list and eating fewer cookies has a very real payoff in my energy level and my attitude. 

However, I’m not sure that was the answer in and of itself. Basically, their plan is a well-organized system of the only diet lifestyle that works: Eat Less (or at least better) and Move More. I don’t feel like paying money for someone to tell me that any more. Somehow, though, not having a weekly weigh in and keeping a record of what I eat has not helped me this summer –there’s 5 lbs. more of me than there used to be. The old attitudes crept in again. Accountability is, I think, one thing that helped keep me on track.

Bringing it full-circle, I think reading this book helped wake me up to the fact that what I view as needs and moan about not having really isn’t that essential after all. Tonight, my little victory was squashing the urge to call for (or make) pizza and instead using the eggs that are going out of date and the leftover cooked brown rice in my fridge to make a souffle (in case you’re interested, it’s the “Cheese and Rice Souffle” in the “More With Less Cookbook” published by Mennonite Central Committee) …which, by the way, tasted pretty good. And it means a few less things to haul to the curb next Friday after I’ve had my weekly frustration session after cleaning the fridge of all the forgotten items I meant well to save, but didn’t use because I ate what I wanted instead of what I should have (“ooh! cottage cheese! Darn! That was supposed to be in a lasagna …three weeks ago! Aaargh!”). Somehow, I don’t think they have those problems in Chad… I have such a long way to go.