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Have you ever wondered why every known application on file, whether for a loan, college, job, or survey, requires you to choose an ethnicity? Not a nationality, but an ethnic group. Why? How does one’s ethnicity affect one’s job performance or worth? It doesn’t, anymore than one’s gender does.

So what’s the big deal with labeling someone by ethnicity? I have Native American blood running through my veins (Cherokee on my mother’s side, Seminole on my dad’s), but not enough according to someone’s flow chart to “claim” that heritage, as if a 64th Cherokee is some how less Indian than a 32nd. On the other hand, my daughter often claims she’s “white Asian” and my husband has been identified as “Hispanic” not because of their skin, but because of their hearts. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I checked the “other” box on those forms instead of “Caucasian”? Today, I’m feeling Japanese. Konichiwa. There are days when I do have more in common with someone from Japan than America in terms of cultural values. Or maybe, I’ll write in “Martian”; after all I’ve identified Mars as my home planet since junior high days when I formed the Misfits from Mars club for those of us who didn’t fit into rural Oklahoma junior high society.

If gender can be a choice, why not ethnicity? If we see everyone as human, then ethnicity doesn’t matter. It’s one less thing we have to fight about or use to denigrate someone else. People adopt different ethnicities all the time, from the city slicker who chooses to live in the country to the missionary who chooses to live among a different people group. We adapt to that culture, sometimes changing our manner of dress, speech, what we eat, and even our name. Some folks don’t start out that way, but are soon “adopted” by the people they are living among. If the locals see us as the same, why can’t we claim it? My daughter was born in Ecuador to American parents. She claims both ethnicities, even though she can only have an America passport (Ecuador doesn’t allow dual citizenship). She has also spent considerable time working with the Maya, and so inside she feels more Hispanic than white.

I can already hear the protests. What about driver’s licenses and passports? They have to have ethnicity on them to prevent falsification. Oh really? If I’m intent on stealing someone else’s passport, it isn’t going to be that hard to change the ethnicity part. Several years ago, while we were overseas someone “borrowed” my husband’s passport. The first we knew about it was when we were coming back into the States a year later and he was flagged at the airport for having been in Boston the previous year. He was flagged, not the person who stole his passport. You have to understand my husband is a 6′ 3″ white guy and the person who used his passport obviously wasn’t. But the immigration officials stopped him, not the perp. So ethnicity on a passport isn’t helpful at all.

I guess I will still tick the “white” box just to avoid unpleasantness when filling out paperwork, but know that in my heart I’m rebelling. The more my current ethnicity moves away from who I am, the closer I will come to checking “other.” Ciao.



Catty wompus, conniptions, and whopperjawed

You gotta love Texans….if we can’t think of a word we just make one up one the spot. Doesn’t matter what word we use as a placeholder or invent, most of the folks ’round here instinctively get our drift.

The other day I was in a store chatting with the clerk and she used a term I hadn’t run across before: whopperjawed (also whomperjawed). Such a lovely word! I immediately had to add it to my expanding vocabulary, along with catty whompus, doofachy and conniption.

The other interesting thing about these made up words is the inconsistent spelling. After all, most of them are based on phonetics and the dialects will dictate the spelling. For example: catty whompus, cattywampus, caddy wampus, cattie wompus.

I also love the variety of words for gizmos and gadget–you know, those things that we either can’t recall the real word for, or just plain don’t know whatchamacallit: thingamabob, thingamadoodle, doofachy, thingermajig.

Some words work equally well for people or things, such as doofachy. When used with a person, you can substitute for first and last names: doofachy zizbattery; although only when referring the person in the third person.

Conniptions and hissy fits are apt and descriptive and sound more colourful than simply saying, “he got mad.” And a board that is slaunchways seems more off kilter than merely stating, “it’s crooked.”

Language is personable and evolving; and while some terms should be dropped in to abysmal darkness of the Marianna Trench, these slightly old-fashioned and interesting terms ought to be around for a long time since they transcend geographic and political boundaries, as well as language boundaries. Anyone can use them and you still pick up the meaning from context.

So what’s your favorite nonsensical word?



Surrender–humanity’s real issue with Christianity

Over the years I’ve heard lots of reasons given why people reject Christianity; some have basis in legitimate issues, but most are flimsy, tissue paper excuses that come apart under close scrutiny.

It’s always amazed me that the very people who poke fun at Christianity have a tendency to believe equally incredible philosophies; perhaps because it is easier than admitting the real reason people wrestle with Christianity.

Surrender. At the heart of the gospel is man’s need to surrender everything he is to accept the gift of salvation. People struggle with the concept of surrender; we see it as weak, as conceding defeat, giving in or giving up. Surrender reveals the fallacy of our belief that we are the captains of our souls, the masters of our fate. (Invictus, by William Ernest Henley).

Yet there is nothing weak in admitting we need help in the midst of impossible circumstances. No matter how accomplished a swimmer, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, one is still powerless to save oneself. Nothing we have is worthy of bringing us to God’s notice, and that is an uncomfortable truth to admit in a culture that prides itself on self-determination, independence, and the ability to overcome.

Surrender is also the great leveler. Our innate desire is to be better than others, to separate people into groups or categories of differing levels of ability or worth. Surrender makes kings equal with beggars and that chafes our souls as nothing else can. We cannot tolerate the idea that everything we have accomplished is worth no more or less than the filthy rags of a Skid Row bum.

Too long conditioned by our culture to see surrender as a negative quality, we miss the blessings of surrender. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were struggling with health issues, which took a financial toll on our family. We were getting by, but there was nothing left over to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Some dear friends decided to gift us an anniversary trip to Alaska, complete with cruise, plane tickets, and hotel accommodations. It was an overwhelming gift. The only thing we were required to do: surrender in the face of such love and friendship.

Terror Unmasked

Fear drives humans. Fear of hunger drives us to work for food. Fear of death drives us to take unprecedented measures of protection and avoidance of risk. Fear of failure and rejection causes us to design defensive barriers and wear masks lest we betray who we really are.

The true terror, however, comes from unconditional love.

Unconditional love sees us naked and defenseless, bares our inadequacies and failures, depicts the ugliness of the human soul and still accepts us. Unconditional love finds us, not worthy, but desirable; for who we are, for the uniqueness of the creation due to the nature of love. It simply is. Unconditional love defies human understanding, goes beyond human boundaries. It meets us at our most vulnerable, at our most unlovable, and still takes us in.

Humans dare not face the reality of ourselves; we cloak our faults in excuses, hide behind noise and activity and busyness. Bring us face to face with the silence of ourselves and we run terrified. Unconditional love forces us to see ourselves as we really are; to admit the awfulness of the human condition and the lack of anything good in and of ourselves, and finds us acceptable not in spite of those faults, but because of them

It is a truth that is hard to bear. It is a truth we find unpalatable, and therefore unacceptable; so we run from it screaming and hide behind false philosophies and vague, confused ideologies.

In so doing, we lose the most precious treasure of the cosmos. For unconditional love finds us as we are, accepts us and by its very nature transforms us into the people we always desired to be. Humans cannot change on their own. We want to be as we perceive ourselves, but are unable to complete the transformation without outside help. Unconditional love demands transformation; not for approval, not for acceptance, but for our completeness. It takes the raw materials and transforms coal into diamonds, sand into pearls, humans into enlightened beings

Unconditional love is vital for the evolution of humanity. Without it, we are and forever will be completely lost.





Why Governments Don’t Work

Anywhere you find people, you will find some form of government; something designed to maintain order, protect the citizenry, and build wealth. However, governments by their very nature don’t work.

The problem is all forms of government are created from a flawed idea: the idea that there are inherently good people who have the best interests of others at heart and are willing to work to that end. The reality is that humans are fallible and government officials are human. It’s also why political television series are so popular and the public loves a good scandal. And while this makes for interesting television, it makes for bad reality.

Most politically oriented television series proceed from a faulty premise: that good is weaker than evil and principles aren’t powerful. Again, this makes for good television, but bad government.

America’s founding fathers seemed to understand this; which is why they framed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from a position of rationality rather than emotion. They chose to limit lawmaking and governmental power because they understood that in spite of best intentions, those laws would eventually be used by people who had personal agendas or axes to grind or just worked from a position of sheer greed.

I believe in government. It is something we must have to survive, but it doesn’t always work. In spite of this, life goes on as usual for common folk no matter what country they live in. And flaws and problems not withstanding, America’s form of government is still the best there is.

It is the best simply because the founding fathers created a form of government which despite the machinations of poor leaders or inefficient officials still could move the country forward and sustain a measure of liberty and freedom, while protecting its citizens. It is a system of government that manages to protect people under flawed, selfish leaders and to elevate people under leaders of integrity.

As long as there is a Constitution and a Declaration of Independence, there will be an America; there will be a place of hope for generations to come.

The Publishing Game

Publishing isn’t always about good writing; it’s about making money.  So the trap new writers (and sometime established authors) fall into is if I’m not making money and no one will publish my book, it must not be any good. Someone once told me, “Marketable isn’t the same thing as good.”

The whole publishing game reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Heinlein novels: Starman Jones. Max wants to be a navigator in space like his uncle before him. However, the space guilds place rigorous restrictions to block anyone but a select few from participation. Since there wasn’t anyone in the “inner circle” to sponsor Max, there’s no hope; until he meets a savvy and streetwise con artist who finds a way around the guilds.

The publishing industry is like those guilds: only a select few win and you have to know someone in the inner circle who sponsors you. Yes, I’ve heard all the other reasons and some are very valid: strong writers, good plots, etc. But a lot of the “polish” we see in professionally published novels come afterwards, as the book goes through the in-house editing process. The same polish applied to an unknown novel would have the same end results.

I’m a prolific reader, have been since elementary school when I read everything I could get my hands on and practically lived at the library. Once I even took a speed-reading course to have access to a library that was out of bounds to normal students. My point? I approach publishing not as a writer, but as a reader! And it’s the main reason I’m a proponent of self-publishing. There is a vast ocean of books out there with no traditional backing, but every bit as entertaining and gripping. Some may lack polish, some may even have a few grammar errors, but it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed the story.

Yes, some self-published books are boring and poorly written. But you know what? I’ve struggled through some “critically acclaimed” best sellers and put them down after the first chapter. What traditional publishing companies find marketable isn’t always what I, as a reader, enjoy reading.

The bottom line is: where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you have a story, write it. If you have a book, publish it. There is nothing more rewarding than a reader who says, “I liked your book.” No amount of money can equal the feeling. This is the best time in our century for new writers. Social media gives new writers ways to connect with readers and publicize their books. Self-publishing allows new books to be born every minute and with so much variety there is sure to be something every reader will like.

If you write it and publish it, someone will read it.




Be Still My Beating Heart

Poets have written reams about the way to a woman’s heart. Flowers, candle light dinners, chocolate, diamonds, romantic encounters, etc. Yet, these all pale in comparison to the true way to a woman’s heart: a self-cleaning house!

There is nothing more mind-numbingly boring than housework. Oh, I have friends that take pleasure and pride in keeping their homes spotless and beautiful; and while I like a clean house, the repetitive effort needed to keep it spotless seems pointless to me. While technology produces cutting edge products for the office and entertainment, no serious attention has been given to making housework easier. We have more efficient vacuum cleaners and mops, but one still has to stoop to do either chore; and bathrooms are the worst places to clean in the entire house.

l2_p339627_488_336-1  Until now. I’ve fallen in love with the elegant design, the clean look: no dirty tanks to crack, no ugly pedestal with nooks and crannies to catch and hold filth. Ah, the sheer beauty of its multistage self-cleaning regimen that requires I do nothing! No abrasive, smelly cleaners. No ugly brushes, no ring around the collar!

Japan is the land of techno marvels light years ahead of the U.S. and in terms of making life easier for housewives they have outdone themselves with the Washlet, a series of self-cleaning toilets. With a unique sense of style and flair, the Japanese turn an uncomfortable aspect of human life into something pleasurable.

My question is this: Why is the U.S. so far behind in creating elegant, useful and affordable toilets that can clean themselves? We have the technology. We can rebuild them. And advertising would have customers lining up by the droves.  Maybe there’s still a bit of chauvinism in the technology field. Maybe women are still enamored with having maids. Maybe Americans haven’t realized that housework is meant to be shared and what makes life easy, also makes life pleasurable.

Meanwhile, I’m saving my dollars and for my next anniversary I’m asking for an international order: my very own self-cleaning toilet!


What’s in a Name?

Lately, the news media seems full of crazy people throwing fits over names. The most recent being some college/high school group changing their mascots from “cougars” in order not to “offend” women.

Excuse me, but I’m already offended. When did we lose sight of common sense? When did we become such a thin-skinned culture so afraid of “political correctness” that we lost sight of rationality? Isn’t imitation supposed to be the highest form of flattery? So where do we get off thinking certain groups are offending by certain names. Even when those certain groups fight to maintain a trademark name, special interest groups come along and force changes. It makes me wonder who those special interest groups really represent.

Personally, I think it’s a severe form of reverse discrimination, or maybe a disguised version of racism. After all, if I truly believe some person or group is “less human” than myself, wouldn’t I do everything to erase all mention of those groups, even if I have to do it under the disguise of “protecting” them?

An ancient case in point: Speedy Gonzales, a feisty little mouse that always got the best of the big, dumb gringo cats. The cartoon, immensely popular when I was a kid, fell out of favor with white liberals and was pulled from networks as being “racist”. Racist to whom? Not to Hispanics, who cheered Speedy and loved the series. Or take Little Black Sambo; finding a copy is virtually impossible now that the PC police got their hands on it and blazoned the “racist” button everywhere. Again, a small black boy creatively outwits the big, dumb “white” tigers and provides food for his family.

We don’t have to look far today to see the same idiocy mirrored in football teams forced to change their names and mascots in order to pander to some crazy white liberal nonsense.

The race button is too easy to push, and overused too often. Isn’t it time we stopped being afraid of words and feared mob mentality more? Isn’t it time we stood up for freedom of speech and the ability to think for ourselves before we find ourselves in a country where we have lost that privilege and others are doing our thinking for us?


Truth Requires a Response

My daughter is working in Portland this summer and is keeping an online blog about her experiences. One such experience dealt with a misunderstanding over who Jesus is and the reason for His death and resurrection.

It always amazes me how people will believe a misconception over the truth. Truth is not comfortable. Truth is not safe. Truth requires a response and most people find falsehood easier to swallow than truth, which demands they become responsible for their attitudes, actions, and destiny.

We take refuge in all sorts of misconceptions and fallacies, from blaming others for our shortcomings to denigrating others to make ourselves feel better; from dismissing what we don’t like about our world because it makes us uncomfortable to re-writing history to justify our actions; from name-calling and insulting what we don’t like or understand to passing laws to prohibit anyone from disagreeing with us.

Truth stands on its own. Truth doesn’t require a defence, nor does truth need my explanations or justifications. Truth spans centuries, crosses political, economic and cultural barriers. Truth endures; but most of all, truth transforms.

In the final analysis, it is the transformation we fear; which is why people will stubbornly cling to misconceptions, falsehoods, and outright lies. Transformation means we forgive ourselves, we forgive others; transformation means we step outside of ourselves and our belief system to embrace something bigger than ourselves.

Truth requires us to see ourselves for who we are, not who we want to be; and to realize our worth does not lie in ourselves, our possessions, or our accomplishments.

Truth sets us free.

The City Hunter

A couple of years back, my daughter introduced me to Korean telenovelas. Between work and writing, I didn’t have a lot of time to invest; but since school is out for the summer, I’ve come across several surprisingly great series, including The City Hunter.

It’s fairly easy to write a series where the misunderstood hero battles the corrupt officials and kills them one by one. It’s much harder to write such a character who is noble and uses the law and nonlethal means to take out the officials at great personal cost. The City Hunter repeatedly throws the hero in tense situations where his ethics are at stake against someone’s life. And the writers are creative enough to some up with truly exceptional solutions that violate neither the story line, nor the hero’s character.

One of the major differences between Korean series and American soap operas (which I despise in all forms and varieties), are the length of the series. Each series is short, running 22-24 episodes and none of the series leaves the viewer hanging at series end wondering what happened. (Lost being one of the most notorious of the more recent nighttime soaps). A second difference is the length of each episode. Viewers get a full one-hour of action packed adventure, and each episode leaves the viewer wanting more.

Other outstanding differences between Korean television and American television focus on dialogue (yes, it probably loses something in the translation, but the gist is still there), character development, and some of the best plot/counterplot writing I’ve seen in either television or books recently. While the American trend is to “dumb down” plot, as if the viewer isn’t intelligent enough to keep up with all the twists and turns, Korean drama is rife with political intrigue, plots and subplots; and just when the hero thinks he’s got a handle on events and beginning to gain ground against the enemy, wham! Another breathless plot twist keeps you guessing right up until the edge-of-your-seat resolution.

There’s another feature of Korean dramas I find a vast improvement over American television: the elegance of romance. While American viewers watch actors and actresses eat each other’s face in some sort of animalistic expression of “romance,” Korean television generates passion with a single look, or touch of the hand, or a solitary, chaste kiss. More elegant, more passion, and you can actually watch it with your kids present. Actually, in a way, it’s more expressive of real love and romance than the trivialized American “one-night stands” or the “I just met you, let’s go to bed.”

And oh yeah, the best part: happy endings. No matter how tense, no matter how hopeless the situation, the hero wins and gets the girl.

In the final analysis, you can keep your Grammy and Emmy award winning series and movies. I’ll take Korean telenovelas every time.




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