Thursday, May 29, 2008

On the Edge of Night

Have you ever noticed the lighting at the edge of night - right at dusk, especially after a rain. The light has a sort of haze to it - sometimes gray, sometimes yellow, sometimes pink. The colors of trees, grass, leaves...everything...seem to take on a brighter, almost unrealistic hue. It is as if we step into a world that exists, right on the edge, between day and night. It is a world that is only revealed because the rain has washed away the barrier that keeps us from seeing it on every other day. It is a beautiful place - and it calls to me.

Last night, I was looking at such a world from my kitchen window. I was compelled to take a walk, so I allowed myself the time to enjoy this special time of day. Rain still fell from the leaves of the trees and its coolness was a balm to my skin. The squirrels were about, chattering incessantly. The leaves and pine needles did not make any noise underfoot, because the ground was soggy enough to cushion my footfalls quietly. The air was fresh, cool and moist. I could have stayed out there all night, but the reality of my life (those dishes in the kitchen) was not going away by itself. As I returned to the house, a gentle rain once again began to fall. I stood there for a few moments with my face upturned, allowing the rain to wash away the stress and pain and aggravations of the day that my walk had loosened from my mind.

Once inside, I watched the rain from my kitchen window and I completed my mundane tasks and thought about how special something as simple as a rain shower at dusk can be.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Financial Pressure

It appears to me that our country has evolved into one of have's and have-not's. Don't get me wrong - it has always been this way to a certain extent. However, in recent years, the line that divides the two has widened greatly. The middle ground is in danger of becoming extinct.

I used to consider myself to one of those on that middle ground. I was not well-off, but I had what I needed to provide nessecities for my family and sometimes a few "luxuries", too. My luxuries are not the same as most - I do not mean a cruise or trip to Disney World. My luxuries are an extra swimsuit for the summer or dinner out at a nice restaurant. We have been happy on our finances and we have even enjoyed life on our finances.

Recently, I actually feel financial stress. With gas prices continously rising, I am considering forming a carpool from the subdivisions in my area into town. As I was mulling this over on my way to work, I was also marveling at the number of cars on the road. It has not changed, despite the ridiculously rising prices. Either people really are not hurting from what they must pay at the pump or they have decided not to give up their cars regardless the cost. It makes me wonder where they are cutting their budgets in order to pay for those near $4 gallons of gasoline. Not that it is any of my business...

This has been a rough year for me in terms of cutting back on my budget. My youngest daughter is graduating and while many of the expenses are not necessities, a mother certainly desires certain momentos to mark the occassion. It has pained me that I had to forego senior photos, a yearbook, etc. Nonetheless, she will be beautiful as she walks across that stage in her cap and gown to receive her diploma and my pride will be no less at her accomplishments.

What I really worry about are the families that are cutting their budgets in ways that none of should have to do: medical care, food, clothing, perhaps even basic utilities. Our government argues as to whether or not our economy is in recession; however, these families can tell you without a doubt that we are. The cost of fuel has hit us in places other than the pumps, as producers, shippers and retailers must pay increased prices for the process by which the product is supplied to the consumer. It appears to be a never-ending cycle and those $600-$1200 economic stimulus checks are not going to solve the problem. People are too afraid of what lies ahead to let that money flow easily through their fingers. And I don't blame them!

What is the solution? I certainly do not have a clue. But I hope that someone has a bright idea soon...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Minority Status

What I realized today is that I am in the minority. I have never considered being part of the minority before - it just never occurred to me. But I am...

I live in the Deep South, the Bible Belt. Honestly, I love it here...until something happens to rile up the unyeilding prejudices that exist all around me. This week I was hit with two such situations - suicide and the GSA. The double hit made me realize that I exist in a minority and that I don't like it very much.

I mentioned earlier that one of my daughter's classmates committed suicide this week. It was a shock to all. The statement I hear most from my daughter and her friends is, "I don't understand." They didn't notice any signs, they didn't have a clue. They are confused and hurting. The last thing they need is for adults to tell them that their grief is misplaced and that their friend is in hell. (I don't care what you believe, a teenager in grief does NOT need to hear this!)

I have explained to my daughter that the confusion does not stop with her and her friends. The adults around them are confused, too. They expect that other teens wouldn't notice anything wrong, but they hold themselves responsible for not noticing anything wrong. Adults do not like to be afraid. Generally they express fear in one of two ways: They get angry or they avoid it. Neither are "good" methods for dealing with fear and neither give our teens constructive guidance in how to deal with their own fears. But it is what we do. If we can compartmentalize, then we can accept; if we can accept, then we can deal. Being in the dark, without a clue, is more frightening to adults than to teens.

Adults need to realize that their actions - and reactions - are closely watched by teens in order to decide how they, too, should act/react. We need to do a little better with the compassion, understanding, and guiding.

As if this was not enough this week, our local high school principal resigned from his post becuase he was told that he must allow a chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. He went further to state, "I feel the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at (name of high school) implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes." He elaborated further, saying that the school's sex education was abstinence based and he felt that the GSA was not of the same philosophy. Yes, we made CNN again - I am highly embarrassed to say.

The Gay-Straight Alliance is not about “having sex.” The GSA provides “a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation, and work to end homophobia.” Furthermore, the GSA is a “support group to provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.” But even when this nonthreatening fact is explained to the school administration and faculty, there is still a problem.

Teachers are admonishing students who are in support of the GSA to the point of questioning whether they are Christian. If they are, then they must not understand the implications of the GSA, or they would definitely not support it.

What is with the bigotry and the ignorance in this town? Twice in one week a group of students struggling to become healthy, happy, productive adults have been informed that they are going to hell in a handbasket for displaying tolerance, understanding, and compassion. Somehow I thought those were desirable qualities in a human being.

Heaven help us all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The past twenty-four hours has been filled with tragedy. A classmate of my daughter's and part of the graduating class of 2008 committed suicide yesterday afternoon. He was an amazing student athlete, obtaining scholarships on both his academic and athletic merit. From the outside, he seemed to have every reason to live. But something that the rest of us could not see was more than he could bear. Suicide is a tragic end to a life that was meant to be so much more. My heart aches for his family and his friends who will struggle to understand what they did not see and why he did not let them close enough to help him.

For all of those who have dealt with the loss of someone you love by their own hand, my heart goes out to you. May you find peace. To all of those who have considered or are considering suicide, please reach out to someone. There are people who care and who will hurt when you are gone. Let them love you in life rather than death.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Keeping My Head Above Water

This weekend I attended a conference where I was quoted some alarming statistics. First, I was told that the average per capita income for an individual in the United States if $45,000 annually. Second, I was informed that in the area in which I live, the average per capita income is $60,000 annually.

Why am I alarmed? Because I am apparently living well beyond my means, as my average income is well below that for the U.S., much less that for the area in which I reside. It is no wonder that I am struggling to keep my head above water.

I am a single mother of two daughters who are both now technically grown. One is living on her own and the other is graduating high school this year and will be attending college in the fall. The one going off to college has received substantial scholarships to continue her education, for which I am extremely grateful. However, I am still struggling to find a way to pay for the portion that is my responsibility. She has been offered subsidized student loans, which we are accepting; however, I am still coming up short in paying for the remainder. Additionally, I actually had to pay income taxes this year. There is a huge difference in how the numbers fall upon the page when your child is no longer considered to be a tax credit! Yes, she is still a dependent, but that has little effect on the end results. Between juggling my tax payments to the IRS and her college tuition payments, it appears that I may have to give up the family home and move to an apartment in order to maintain a budget that is workable.

With the increasing price of gasoline, food, etc. (because everything is going to continue to rise in price), I find it laughable that so many companies and government agencies are refusing to initiate even "cost of living" salary increases. How is the average individual supposed to survive? Why is anyone surprised at the recent increase in mortgage foreclosures? And how can anyone still debate whether or not we are in a recession?

Ah, the American dream...I will let you know whether drowning in a dream is actually possible.