Monday, October 17, 2016

One Step at a Time

As I grow older, but am still very young
I take tiny steps forward,
But I'm nowhere near done

I can see more clearly, love more dearly,
But still so easily
Break down and blow up

My pride is much smaller
But it's not small enough
When things are good I ignore You
Until times are tough

One more step at a time
Until this day is done
Help me with this sin
And tomorrow's to come
Break me free from these walls
Of my sin and my shame
And hold me as I
Take one step at a time

When I am weak and brought down by sin
The hurts I have caused
And the pain that I'm in

I can hate myself and hate this pain
But the situation
Will come up again

My sins are much smaller
But they still cause pain
My heart is washed white when
You remove the stain

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 16

I'm back again with another Live Trax review.  This one is a favorite of mine.

DMB Live Trax Volume 16

1) #41
2) Warehouse
3) One Sweet World
4) Say Goodbye
5) Jimi Thing
6) Sweet Up and Down
7) Typical Situation »
8) Little Thing
9) Grey Street
10) Bartender
11) Crush
12) Drive In Drive Out
13) The Song That Jane Likes
14) JTR
15) Too Much
16) #40
17) Digging a Ditch
18) Two Step

The last three Live Trax in the series (13-15) were all from the summer of 2008.  For this album, the series returns to the summer of 2000 to give us the third release from that tour as well.  This particular album was picked by the fan site  I don't know how they got the right to pick the release nor do I have any idea if they had restrictions on what they could or couldn't pick.

I'm really not one much for the DMB Internet Community (despite a series of blog posts to the contrary).  I'm not one to message on boards, although I do occasionally lurk on them.  I actually prefer the most as I feel more of the discussion is on the music and the releases there than anywhere else.

I digress.

This particular show is unique from the summer 2000 tour as it's the one of the early shows.  Butch Taylor had not yet come on board (he would be there the next night) and the Lovely Ladies, who had been guesting since 1998 sporadically, did not show up for this show either (again, they would be there the next night).  In that sense, it's the last show of the summer 2000 tour to feature the original five members (although Dan Myers did guest on three songs).  In 2001, the very early shows followed the same mold and the last original five show was played.

The release has a much different feel to it than its companion summer 2000 releases, volumes 3 and 11.  The Lillywhite Sessions songs are much earlier in their development and have a really raw feeling to them.  The most recent album, Before These Crowded Streets, also isn't showcased with only Crush making an appearance.  It's very much a fan favorite set list with a few Lillywhite tunes thrown in.

The show actually begins with a small tease of Little Thing as an introduction to #41.  Warehouse has got to be the best second song in the catalog too.  Both performances are fantastic here.  One Sweet World, complete with instrumental introduction, is great as well.  Say Goodbye is always a treat and it doesn't disappoint here.

Jimi Thing features the middle section similar to the 1998 and 1999 versions and it's not a great groove.  It feels too "stop and go" for me - it never really gets going.  However, Leroi is fantastic on it and it finishes fine.  Sweet Up and Down was a new song for the summer and basically disappeared after it was over.  It's popped up occasionally since then but never like these early versions.  The lyrics are complete gibberish but it's a great version.

Typical Situation is fantastic early in the set and transitions into a substantial Little Thing performed solo by Dave.  It's not quite the whole song, but it's close enough.  It's a nice break in the middle of the set.

Grey Street is up next and this particular version is of note as it's the only time (that I know of) during which the song had a story revolving around a male.  However, it's obvious Dave is still figuring out where the song is ultimately going as he transitions later to "she" in the choruses.  The lyrics are horrible - cringe worthy at some points - but the early groove of the song is present, as is a third verse.  It's also the only released version of the song with the original 5 members so it's unique in that sense.

Bartender is really in its infancy here as a full band piece and Dan Myers guests on the outro.  It's not as strong here as it would become later in the summer but it's still a force to be reckoned with here.  Crush is absolutely fantastic with a flute solo as was common in the early days of the song.  Dan Myers also guests here (and JTR later in the set).

I'll skip Drive In Drive Out to offer that The Song That Jane Likes is wonderful here.  This is followed up with an early version of JTR which is very solid.  The show ends with Too Much.  If you have access to the IEM of this show (of which I do not condone - just saying), you can hear Dave indicating how he wants to "Too Much" the audience and get out of here.  It's a funny moment.

The encore is the weak part of this show.  Although #40 is nice, it's a definite tease here and transitions into an early version of Digging a Ditch.  Two Step ends the night.  It's a long version (clocking in at over 15 minutes) but the ending gets boring and drags on way too much.  By the end of the summer, the outros were much more controlled and urgent.  Even still, it's 100 times better here than say, Central Park's Two Step.

The show overall starts really well, is very solid in the middle, but drops off towards the end.  The bass is really out of control on this particular mix (it rattles the windows in my car, and I drive a car with a standard crummy sound system - nothing should really rattle my windows at low volumes).  But, it does sound like you're in the audience listening to it which is nice.  The next few sound this way and it's a distinct change in how the Live Trax albums sound.  It really sort of started on Live Trax 11, got much more pronounced in 14 and 15 before going full blown here in 16.  For the most part, they haven't sounded the same since.  I don't mind the sound.  I wish the bass wasn't so heavy here, but it's certainly not a significant issue.

Once again, this one is a purchase.  It's 4/5 stars and is my second favorite release of this tour.  Even though I give it a slightly lower rating that Live Trax 3, I get into moods where I really want to listen to the original 5 members playing together.  This is a great example of this and about as late of a show that exists where I can do that.  Plus, the sound of the Lillywhite Sessions songs at this point is nice.  Because of all of that, occasionally I'll rank this one higher than Live Trax 3 as a go to for this tour.  Make no mistake, Live Trax 3 is the better album.  But if I'm in the mood, I'd prefer to have this.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 14: 2/5, purchase
Live Trax 15: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 16: 4/5, purchase (52)

Overall: 3.3/5, 11 purchase, 5 skip

Sunday, July 17, 2016

People Are Human

If there's one thing I've been thinking of more than usual lately, it's the sad and strange fact that all of us are human. We hold some people up to higher standards for whatever reason (pastors, politicians, police, etc.) However, even those most austere and auspicious, are still only people. People with sin. People with personalities and passions. People with ideology and false theology and tendencies and past experiences and misinformation.

Isn't it a beautiful and strange thing?

Yet, especially in our act-now, social-media world, it becomes so easy to defend our own humanity that we lambaste someone else's without realizing it. We can follow only those who agree with our opinion, and suddenly wonder why other people "in real life" are disagreeing with us, when all our online friends have the same opinion we do.

So what do we do about this?

Realize the beauty and sadness in humanity. We are all broken people. We all need a Savior. Those of us sitting in church pews are the rule, not the exception.

Don't get caught up in pride of your own ideals. Take some time to consider the other point of view and love someone completely different than you. Spend more time in person than online. Pray for others, and yourself to be brought closer to Christ in humility, faith, and love.

It doesn't need to be more complicated than that, but I'll finish off my point with a little free verse...

If you've lost your hope and faith,
     seek solid ground.
If you get easily offended,
     don't be.
If you hold onto your anger,
     let it go.

Don't try to make the teaming, pulsing, organism of humanity into your foundation.

You are not alone,
     but don't think that you're better.
Your church, community, culture is
     as big a mess of humanity as the rest.
Bumping and bouncing into one another
     with offenses, opinions,m and personality galore.

Isn't life beautiful?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Golden Handcuffs

One problem in our society today, is the "golden handcuffs" phenomenon. I'm sure you've heard of it before, assuming that it applied only to the very wealthy. In reality, I feel that the golden handcuffs apply to way more people in modern society than we might think. Essentially, what the term means, is that you've gotten used to living a certain lifestyle, which requires a certain income, and you can't see any way to make significant lifestyle changes so you are therefore "trapped" in your job indefinitely, unable to make career choices as you might otherwise.

Why is this big deal? And why do I slap the label "religion" on this post?

Well, as a Christian, I can see how many "churched" people find no time to volunteer in the causes they care about. I see them unable to donate to the charities they claim to support. I see them stuck in a job where their lifestyle, morals, or family life is at significant risk. Jesus called us to go, but he didn't put qualifiers on it. He didn't say, go when you win the lottery. He didn't say, go when you've paid off the mortgage. Now, I'm not saying that Jesus wants everyone to give away so much money that their family is in danger, but He did call us to live differently. So what does living differently mean?

For me, I've struggled with the past year in our new home with a new income. Not from a having enough money standpoint, but from having too much. It feels weird to me to be able to buy a small $5 or $10 treat for my kids without wondering if there is enough money. Now I do know that there's enough money, but that means that I feel a bigger responsibility to be doing wise things with that money.

I'm not saying that we're wealthy by today's standards. We drive, and have always driven, used cars. We mow our own lawn. We shop sales and coupons at the grocery stores. We rarely buy clothing or shoes. I probably spent upwards of 5 hours comparison shopping for homeschool curriculum online to find the best deal, and determining which books to go without or which ones could be found at the library. Our household income is pretty much spot on to the median household income for our area, so why does it feel like we're suddenly rich?

I think what a lot of families in our situation do, is that they look at the people ahead of them in lifestyle. They want to live as good as their parents do (you know, now that their parents have two solid incomes and no kids at home to feed). It got me thinking about what we should really be comparing our lifestyle to.

So, if you want to break the golden handcuffs, here are some real world situations that you can strive for today.

  1. When I was little, my dad had a retail store job, and we had very little money. We got pencils and shirts for Christmas, with maybe one or two toys and we were happy. What little money my mom did make went to medical bills, and the ridiculous high housing payments caused by high interest rates during that time. We occasionally got bags of used clothes from neighbors and friends, and it didn't matter to me whether they were boy or girl clothes, I had no qualms wearing my brother's hand-me-downs if they made it that long. 
  2. My in-laws grew up in a poor, rural community. One of them grew up in a family of 12 kids, and they mostly shared one or two bedrooms. You had to go to bed early if you wanted to sleep on the mattress, and you certainly would be sharing it (the bed, not just the bedroom) with at least 3-4 others.
  3. My father grew up in a tiny square 2-bedroom house on a farm in South Texas. When he was 12 or 13 he would drive the pick up truck across the border to pick up migrant workers for the day. If you drive to South Texas today, in the same town (now one of the fastest growing towns in Texas), you will drive past thousands and thousands of "McMansions". It's a little disconcerting to see the difference in just a few decades in lifestyle.
  4. I recently read a book called "Half Broke Horses" about a woman born in 1902 and growing up mostly in the Southwest. If you want to read that book, you may feel a bit better about your kids sharing a bedroom, since at least you don't live in a dugout with one wooden wall and rattlesnakes and moles popping out of the dirt surrounding where you sleep and eat.
So, when you think of the "hardships" you are suffering financially, let's take a more realistic look at what is necessary and what is nice to have.

  •  Food, but not all of it. Food. is critical to life on earth. Healthy foods are great and can lower your health costs in the long run. However, generally speaking, there is absolutely nothing you "need" at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods that you can't get an alternative for at Aldi's, Kroger or Food Lion. Some of the healthiest foods, are also the cheapest. Add some beans to your diet instead of meat one or two nights a week. Buy a huge container of oatmeal at Aldi's for $2 or so, and see what you can do with it. Start making a few of your higher priced convenience foods from scratch. Start a garden with a few seeds (the Dollar Tree has seeds in spring at $0.25 per packet). We've recently increased our food budget (because we have more income) to about $125 per week for a family of 4 (although our two kids are pretty small). 
  • Clothing. Every person in your family likely needs 5-7 basic outfits of each type of clothing that is regularly needed and one or two pairs of each type of shoe needed. Any more than that is going to be considered a lifestyle choice. Now, my husband has a ton of dress clothes (enough to last him a month) but his parents bought most of them for him when he was graduating college, and we've only replaced a few items in the almost 10 years since then. If you were to look at our nice, new to us walk-in closet you would see about a one foot section of my "dress" clothes, and then all his dress clothes, and a few pairs of shoes I bought years ago and rarely wear. Most of the shelves are just storage for us (camping gear, pool gear, luggage, etcetera), because I have no idea who wears that many clothes, 
  • Housing. Again, basic housing is a need, but people's definition of basic seems highly skewed since the 1950s. The average size of a new home in 1950 was 983 square feet (and families were larger back then). So, I think if you're looking for a 1,000 square foot, 2-bedroom house for your growing family, then you're on the right track. If not, then you are likely suffering from a golden handcuff situation. Now, we purchased a house about twice that size when we got an increase in income, and had some equity from our previous much smaller house. But honestly, the space in our current house doesn't always work better than our previous house which was 1100 square feet, and the kids are currently sharing a bedroom of their own volition. So the "necessary" housing is much less than what most of us currently have.
  • Transporation. For most people today, you need some type of transportation to get to work or the grocery store. Especially where we live, there are very few places to access public transportation. However, you do not need a car for every person over 16 in your family, and you probably don't need the giant gas-guzzling SUV. You certainly don't need a late-model car with under 60,000 miles (the way they build them today, if you buy quality, I would start looking for a new car when your current one reaches between 140,000-160,000 miles). Also, really analyze your daily trips. Most weeks I only travel about 30 miles total. That includes the library, park, and usually at least one trip to Aldi's. Some of that is our convenient housing location, and some of it is analyzing whether you really need to visit the special park or museum across town very often. Also, I hate driving more than 10 minutes with kids in my car, lol.
  • Medical care. Unfortunately, in today's world, medical costs are skyrocketing. The easy answer to this, is to take care of your own health. Exercise, eat healthy foods, don't eat fast food or sit around watching TV all day. The harder part is to look at our healthcare system a bit more closely and really analyze what our doctors are recommending. I plan another blog post about my apparent "pre pre hypertension" and how doctors are using prescription medicine to treat side effects of other medicine that is used to treat "illnesses" that were not illnesses ten years ago. So, try lifestyle changes, avoid unneeded medical costs, and try to convince our legislature to actually make a change that would fix the problems of pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies buying whatever they want in our government.
  • Entertainment. Guess what's free and healthy and fun? Nature! Take a hike, walk through your neighborhood, work in the yard, go to a park. Turn off the TV (and cut the cable cord) put your smart phone in the deep freezer, and get some free entertainment. People (including me) have become so addicted to our smart phones, that the average family spends HUNDREDS of dollars on cell phones and I can't imagine how many hours per day. My husband still has a dumb phone, and he's way more productive than I am. We don't really "need" those smart phones (in my case it was simply cheaper, and we don't buy new phones every year or pay anywhere close to hundreds or even fifties of dollars for it a month). Internet may be a necessity for some families, especially those like myself that work from home.
Have something not on my list? Then you probably don't need it! Well, that may not be entirely true. But if we really want to break out of the golden handcuffs, it's important to look at what's really necessary and what we just want to spend our money on. Everyone should have a few dollars a month of "fun money" to spend on whatever makes them happy, but in reality money will not make us happy, and those that spend unwisely will end up least happy in the long run.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 15

DMB Live Trax Volume 15

1) Dancing Nancies
2) Seek Up
3) Proudest Monkey »
4) Satellite
5) So Damn Lucky
6) Bartender
7) Corn Bread
8) Spoon
9) Eh Hee »
10) Water Into Wine
11) Burning Down The House
12) Louisiana Bayou
13) Anyone Seen the Bridge » Too Much [fake]  » Halloween  »  Water Into Wine [reprise]
14) Out of My Hands
15) Crush
16) Money
17) You Might Die Trying
18) Ants Marching
19) Don't Drink the Water »
20) Two Step

This is one of the most debated Live Trax in the series.  Either you really love it or you just don't see what all the fanfare is about it.  There aren't many inbetween.

When it was originally announced, the artwork made mention of both this night and the following night as well.  Everyone thought it was going to be a huge six disc set.  Of course, it was going to be released along side the new album (Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King).  That would be two full concerts and a new album all on the same day!  To top it off, these two shows in particular were cited as fans amongst the best of the tour (if not the very best).

Well, although a few songs have been released from night 2, the initial indications about this particular release showcasing both nights did not come to pass.  However, this particular release does feature a few unique selections from this tour not present on any of the previous 2008 releases.

At this point in the tour, Jeff Coffin has really started to come into his own while filling in for Leroi during his injury.  Tragically, within two weeks Leroi would pass away and Jeff would be taking the role full time.

Dancing Nancies and Seek Up are both very strong here.  It's actually the same start as Live Trax 3. The similarites between that album and this one end there, however.

Proudest Monkey, with a fresh guitar solo, is considered by practically everyone to be the definitive version of the song.  I don't really have a favorite version myself, but this one is very good.  Satellite follows, with an extended So Damn Lucky and Bartender up next.  Stunner, there's also a Corn Bread thrown in the mix.

Up next is Spoon, a real rarity.  It was played here for the first time in almost 5 years.  It's rough (it tends to be rough anyway since it's played so infrequently), but it's good for a hardcore fan.  Eh Hee is fairly standard and segues into Water Into Wine.

Burning Down The House is up next and, up to this point, was unreleased by the band.  I've commented before that they started to play this song so much that it sounds like one of their own.  It's definitely an OK cover - nothing more, nothing less.  Louisiana Bayou brings up the energy, but as a song it is still lacking to me.

For those keeping track, the show is starting to get a little middling for me here in the middle.

Out of nowhere, a stop-time (for lack of a better description) Anyone Seen The Bridge segues directly into Halloween.  It's not the best Halloween, but it was starting to be played (it had long been the Holy Grail to catch a concert) and to have it come out of nowhere in the middle of a set is fantastic.  It's still a little jarring to hear.  The only one I've heard that was more jarring was the Everday introduction which abruptly changed into Halloween in Cincinnati also on this tour (it made Warehouse 8, Volume 8 if you're interested).

It also segues into Water Into Wine, which is nicely placed afterwards.

Out of my Hands is a downer for me so I'll skip it.  The Crush, although a monster in length, is not exactly the same as it was earlier in the tour.  It was probably cool to see live but it's my least favorite version of the released 2008 ones.

Money, a Pink Floyd cover, didn't last long in the rotation of cover songs.  It's for the best.  It just doesn't fit.  You Might Die Trying and Ants close out the main set, and there is a fantastic Don't Drink The Water and Two Step encore.

It seems the story on this particular release is the number of rarities played (Spoon, Halloween, Water Into Wine, Out of my Hands) and the venue (Alpine is a HUGE venue for DMB).  To me, the show set itself is okay but is certainly not the best I've ever seen.  I think the release would've been much better had it included both nights.  But, for a hardcore fan like myself, it's nice to have some of the rareties and seques (that Halloween seque is fantastic on the recording).

The sound on this one is one of my least favorites.  I'm not sure what it is that bothers me so sounds boomy.  It's certainly still a mixed live album so it's not terrible, but it's not what I hold up as an example of how I like an album to sound.

I've giving this one a 3 out of 5 stars.  Again, it's decent, and it's got some great songs, but it just never really comes altogether for me.  Perhaps it's just me.  I'd still offer that it's worth a purchase though because of the rareties.

For the overall numbers, it's interesting to me that my average is right around 3 but I've only given 3 of the 15 releases a middle of the road rating.  Regression to the mean, maybe?  Or perhaps the initial criticism of the series as having some really high moments and some really low moments is holding truer than I initally thought.  I'm still at a solid 2:1 ratio of purchase/skip.  I'm definitely a fan.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 14: 2/5, purchase
Live Trax 15: 3/5, purchase

Overall: 3.2/5, 10 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My Own Racism

Unfortunately, I think the problem of racism won't completely go away, until we acknowledge the subtle forms of racism that take place everyday. Yes, there are big issues, but people tend to ignore the big issues. They assume the severe cases of racism are just a "bad apple" here or there and neglect to address their own, more subtle brand of racism.

Even supposedly "progressive" people, writing a story about a teacher in a low-income neighborhood who ends up with an unplanned pregnancy at about the same time as one of her students, whether the movie-maker's did it on purpose or not, the teacher asked the girl what she was going to do about her baby (if she knew all her "options"), but no one asked the white teacher what she was going to do with her unplanned pregnancy.

Hmm, so if a black girls gets pregnant, we assume she should at least be willing to abort it (I mean that was the initial purpose of Planned Parenthood after all) but a white woman should not have that same assumption? When the girl turned it around on her and asked the same question, she seemed almost surprised.

Or, an another less serious topic, my husband wanted to go for a run, and I needed to get out of the house, so my oldest son rode his bike next to his dad while he ran, while I followed (walking) with the 3 year old in the stroller. Eventually, it looked like just me walking along a busy road, with a 3 year old in a beat up old fold and go stroller. However, I can almost guarantee that 80%+ of people driving by assumed I was out for exercise (even sans jogging stroller or workout clothes) whereas, in a different neighborhood, a different colored woman my age with young kids, would be assumed to be just not having access to a car.

Racism does go both ways, I have experienced some reverse racism. Some was funny (you must be a debt collector to be knocking on doors in this neighborhood) and some was not so funny (girl, you so white you look dead). But the point is, that we all have at least a little bit of racism in our hearts, minds, and actions.

So, what do we do about this?

  1. Acknowledge. Admit to yourself that you are capable of racism. Don't say that you don't see color, because you do. This will cause you to be more aware of those supposedly minor thoughts or reactions you may be making subconsciously.
  2. Act, don't react. When something happens around you that seems a bit racist, act on the side of right, without reacting. Let your friends and family (I know that one is hard) know that you don't stand for even subtle forms of racism. Even if that's what you were thinking yourself it's not an appropriate way of thinking and everyone needs to change their thoughts. Don't react in a negative or harsh manner, just stand up on the side of justice and peace.
  3. Be Aware. If you are aware of your own capabilities, you will be more likely to handle situations appropriately. If your problem is people in turbans, visit an area where more of them live and go to the specialty restaurants, marketplaces, and libraries to learn more about their culture. Talk to someone at the park who is a different color than you (if there isn't anyone of a different color, find a different park, or go at a different time of day). If someone needs help, help them regardless of color (or don't help them regardless of color, if you feel they are trying to take advantage of people - I had a white man accost my family for gas money in the Kroger parking lot, and I almost called the cops on him before he drove off).
Hopefully, if we all look at changing our thoughts and actions, we can start to make a real difference in this problem. It's not a "them" problem, it's an "us" problem, and we need to work together to fix it. I know that a lot of people feel the problem should be fixed already, but we have a much longer history of racism in this country than we do of anti-racism. The civil rights movement only started when my parents were children, so these deep cultural issues won't be resolved overnight. There is a history of hundreds of years of pain and shame regarding race in our country, so really, do you have the right to stand by and stay silent any longer?

Monday, June 06, 2016

Pro Everyone's Choice

I've seen a few disturbing things from supposedly "Pro-choice" people lately. Mainly, their arguments are completely invalid, but they are looking for every excuse in the book. Here are two examples:

  1. The first example comes from an article circulating around Facebook. I have no idea why the article was even circulating because it was completely illogical. Basically, the article was from a doctor who said abortion should be legal and then went on to describe a very sad miscarriage of a 20 week old baby that wasn't initiated by any doctor, but couldn't be stopped. Here's the thing, that particular situation doesn't meet any requirements at all of the pro-life vs. "pro-choice" debate. Yes, doctors use the term abortion for miscarriage, so technically my own medical records list an abortion (spontaneous). Spontaneous means that the baby was coming and couldn't be stopped (and in my case had already passed away). So, yes, "spontaneous abortions" will still happen because you can't save a baby's life if it's not in God's plan to do so. That's an absolutely ridiculous argument. I believe this doctor was attempting to nitpick over the "medical necessity" clause that most pro-lifers actually agree with, when in reality, he couldn't even find an example from his own experience to use. The truth is that only 7% of those who had abortions (according to a Planned Parenthood affiliated survey) were due to a perceived risk of the mother or baby's health (according to doctors the true "medical necessity" number is likely closer to 1%). 
  2. Next, I was reading something else a pro-lifer had posted to their Facebook page (not inflammatory at all, just talking about how important it is to consider all life valuable). And a comment on there was "what about a woman who is raped?" Again, playing on emotions here. Most pro-lifers also make exceptions for women who are raped. However, according to the same Planned Parenthood affiliated survey, less than 0.5% reported that as a reason for having an abortion, and again, I think almost all pro-lifers agree that exceptions should be made for women in those situations.
So what's the final breakdown of numbers according to the 2004 study? Over 92% of women reported that "social" or "other" factors contributed to their abortions. "Other" included mainly such things as being financially unable to afford another child, "not being ready", or other personal career and family goals.

So here's the thing, I have two kids of my own, and they do make life more difficult. They also make my life abundantly more precious. They've taught me more in about 6 years than a dozen self help books that I could have tried to read. I'm sure that living with the guilt, shame, and stress of an abortion isn't easy either. Rather than making abortion socially acceptable and the "common" thing to do, why don't we make parenting skills classes, affordable daycare, and maternity leave the more "common" things. Why do we discount the life of a child simply because we can't see him or her? 

I am absolutely pro-choice, but not in the way you think. I am a huge proponent of allowing and encouraging women to make the difficult choice. To close their legs and say "No." If it's sex with someone you wouldn't want to raise a child with, don't do it. If you aren't old enough to raise a child, don't do it. If you just don't think you're quite ready for a child yet, but you might be, then use double protection until you're definitely ready. And no, you will never be ready for the changes that come with a child, but the thing that most women don't understand is that you can't take away the consequences of your decisions so easily. 

One final note, for those that say that my viewpoint contributes to the overpopulation of the world, or keeping people in the cycle of poverty. There are ways to prevent pregnancy, and those ways absolutely should be utilized to the full extent of their ability. There are also plenty of people unable to have children, and who would love to adopt, so if you truly can't raise a child, let someone adopt them. I have a heart that breaks for a woman who finds herself in a situation where she doesn't feel she can care for any more children, but there are other options, and other resources. Abortion does not have to be the only answer, and it certainly shouldn't be the first.

 Oh, and if you are so concerned about the population of the world, the real way to fix that is to create multiple civil wars or genocide across the world, and I don't see anyone "fighting" for those rights.

Sources: Planned Parenthood Study

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

A Community Feel

I've noticed a lot of churches and towns try really hard at building community. The towns or areas of town throw community block parties, or host festivals. The churches have sermons on reaching out to new people and making them feel comfortable. You may have even tried to have community yourself by following a list of ideas and then trying to replicate that process over and over until you can build community.

However, I've noticed in my life, none of that has really seemed to work in the past. When I went to a large church in a large city, I did all the right things. I volunteered, I joined small groups, I talked to my neighbors and had part-time jobs to meet people. I joined mom's groups and tried to follow all the "how to make a friend" lists out there. Sadly, after nearly 8 years, I still had only a tiny handful of close friends who I could count on to help out in a crisis (and some of them were moving away at the same time we were). It was incredibly difficult, to say the least, putting myself out there day after day, and not getting anywhere in my goal of building relationships and friendships.

I had pretty much given up, when we moved to the Raleigh, NC area to be closer to family and because of a great job opportunity. We first moved to the North Hills area. It was temporary housing, and I thought I would try it out. Because if it's the place everyone wants to live, then it must have some great community vibe and be a great place to meet people. That's when I realized where I had gone wrong. The place to meet people is not the "nice areas" of town. The place to meet people and build community is in the middle ground.

So, since you can do all the right things, and still not have community, what should you do? Well, don't give up, but also keep these key traits in mind for building community.

  • Percentage of People. Community by definition cannot be something you do yourself. A large percentage (in my estimation a minimum of 5-10%) of the people living in the area or within the organization need to be naturally community focused (more on that later).
  • Self-sufficient, but not self-contained. A community must be self-sufficient in order to truly be a community. However, it does not need to be self-contained. For instance, I usually go to the library, grocery store, doctor, coffee shop, fast food, and more in "our town". However, that doesn't mean that I don't invite community members from my community to go with me to other areas of town and do fun things. We are self-sufficient, but we don't have an idea that other places (or people from other places) are in any way less than we are.
  • Community Minded People. What does this mean? It can mean several things, but this is what I think of when I think of a community minded person. 
    • 1) Open hearted. Willing to let someone see the true you and being willing to look honestly at the other person in return with an open heart. 
    • 2) Working together. Being willing to ask for and receive help, regardless of the situation. 
    • 3) Outgoing. Again, not everyone in the community needs to have this trait, but many people in the community need to be willing to start the conversation, or you will lose whatever you have built within a few weeks or months. 
    • 4) Welcoming. This is a bit different than open hearted. This comes before open hearted does. People must be willing to welcome those who are new, strange, or different. This is more than a "greet you at the door" church. To me, being welcoming is an understanding that you are not better than the stranger you see. It's welcoming that person first and always as an equal, no matter their story, town, or creed. For instance, I was at a mom's group event that had a Facebook invite, and I didn't personally know anyone there. It was 30 minutes from my house. The moms all sat in a cluster, or circle, with their backs to any new people. They made snide comments about how, "at least in this town" they could leave their purses laying around and nothing would happen here. Most of the kids had no such problem or preconception about outsiders. My kids were playing with their kids and had a great time, but not one of the adults in this "mom's group" welcomed someone who was clearly an outsider. It definitely made me glad that I hadn't moved to that particular town.
I hope this helps the next time you are looking to build a new community, or improve your currrent community. The biggest thing, I think, is getting that initial momentum going. If you don't have enough people on board with this idea of building community, you will fail. Community, by definition, cannot be done alone.