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Giving Up On Lent

LentI have no idea what our pastor said that caused my daughter a moment of panic in church last Sunday, but he obviously said something that triggered her concern. She looked stricken then leaned over and whispered, “When, exactly, does Lent start?”

I pointed to an announcement in the bulletin about Ash Wednesday services, and she breathed a sigh of relief. That afternoon, she asked me what she should give up for Lent. I told her that was a personal choice.

Days later, she announced she was giving up playing the game Flappy Bird. I must have sighed because she asked, “What’s wrong with that? I like Flappy Bird.”

She may like Flappy Bird, but I don’t think she’s making any great sacrifice by giving it up. She  downloaded it on my phone, not hers. In other words, she only plays the game when her phone battery is running low and she is looking for something to do when we are out running errands.

My daughter’s decision reminds me of a student who lived in my dorm during college. I’d always considered the young woman superficial. My assessment of her proved right when she announced that for Lent she was “giving up eating junk food after getting drunk.”

She was missing the point of Lent, and I think my daughter might be too. She can certainly spout the reasons Christians give up something during Lent, but I’m not sure she has fully embraced the concept of spiritual growth.

Sometimes, I wonder if I have either.

That’s why I’m not giving anything up this year. Instead, I’m taking on something, and I already know it’s going to be much harder than giving up caffeine or chocolate.

I know it’s going to be challenging because I’ve been practicing. At least, I’ve been trying to practice, and I’ve been failing miserably.

I’m taking on praying daily for people I don’t like or who have hurt me. And the purpose of those prayers isn’t about my relationship with these individuals or my hopes that they will change their behavior. My prayers are simple: that they find peace and happiness. My emotions aren’t as simple. Letting go of anger is difficult and embracing forgiveness is tough.

As Lent begins this week, I hope I find the strength for both.

365 Reasons to Smile Day 163

My husband isn’t just a dad or a father.  He is a parent.  That means he has always taken on significant responsibility. He’s even taken on costume fittings for dance. But the one thing he’s never taken responsibility for annual science and social studies projects. I’ve always sucked it up and taken full responsibilty for the last minute projects…until yesterday.  My son’s science project was due today but I had surgery yesterday morning.  That left my husband in charge, and it left me smiling.

Letting go of things I can’t control always makes me smile.

Day 163:  Letting go of things beyond our control

365 Reasons to Smile Day 162

I am writing this from my hospital bed in a great pain.  While walking my dog, I went down and broke both bones in my wrist in  multiple places.  The pain has been excruciating and I am scheduled for surgery.

There may not appear to be much to smile about in this story, but there is. 

I am just unable to type much right now, so the story will have to wait.  But that is a reason to smile.

At least it would me.

Anticipating a good story always makes me smile.

Day 162: Anticipating a good story.

Read the rest of this entry

A Movie Moment

Life is comprised of millions of moments.Cardinals  Win

Some are significant, and some aren’t. Some have a long-lasting impact on us, and some don’t. And some are memorable, and some are easily forgotten.

The moments that make headlines either tell us about events that will affect us or are intended to engage or entertain us.

But the moments that help shape who we are and who we are becoming are often less dramatic or public. But sometimes they are, and in those rare occasions, they might get a brief nod in the back pages of a newspaper.

Such were the events of last Friday night.

Anyone who attended the Spring Mills High School football on Friday night probably recognized the events had everything a good Hollywood script requires, including an ordinary beginning.

Students, parents and community members trickled into the stadium to the sounds of rock music. The football team, cheerleaders and band warmed up. And the announcers checked the sound system.

The only thing outwardly unusual about this Friday night was the biting cold and the students who came dressed in costumes.

“It’s the last football game before Halloween,’ the younger sibling of one student told me. “Of course they are going to dress in costume.” She then puffed up a bit. “My sister is the one in the poodle skirt.”

Almost on cue, the night became magical.

When the band played the national anthem, the whole stadium was unusually silent. Even the younger students who are generally unruly, paid tribute. Later, when a boy didn’t have enough money to buy a hot chocolate at the concession stand, an adult offered him change. The boy looked at him in awe and said, “thank you, sir,” at least three times.

And then there was the game itself.

Spring Mills High School, which has no senior class and, until Friday, had never won a football game, scored 14 points in the first half.

The other team didn’t score anything.

For the first time since August, our team had hope.

During the third quarter, the other team tied the score, and that hope began to diminish until Spring Mills scored another touchdown.

As the final seconds of the game ticked down, the energy in the frigid stadium went up. When the final buzzer sounded, the student body rushed the football field and celebrated for a long, long time.

Some students may have been celebrating a win for the sake of winning. Others may have been celebrating the football team’s history making moment. And others were celebrating the individual successes of all the young men who had persevered.

One by one, the students left the field. Then the football team left the field. And then, finally, the band members left the field.

The band, like the football team, is new this year, and it, like the football team, is smaller than those of other high schools.

But, for the first time ever, as it marched off the field after a football game, the band played in celebration. The band parents in the concession stand stopped what we were doing and started clapping and cheering and crying.

The moment was movie perfect until the young girl, who hours before had bragged her sister was wearing a poodle skirt, came back. In child-like innocence she said, “Did you see the other team? The looked so sad when they left the field, Their heads were hanging down.”

For an instance, I felt guilty about all the jubilation.

But then, I realized we weren’t really celebrating our defeat of another team or the points on the scoreboard. We were celebrating the community we are becoming. For the first time, we had collectively experienced a memory that will stay with us the rest of our lives.

There were no reporters and television crews at the game, and the victory received only a brief mention in the local newspaper.

But for those of us who were there, the script for that evening unfolded in a way usually reserved only for movies, and we will all carry that perfect movie moment with us forever.

Riding In Cars With Dogs

My husband’s trip to the vet with our dog Rodney.

First days of school 74 years ago

My dad is now on WordPress! Go Dad!


The school year is or will soon be starting for kids across the country. Remembering  my early school years may not be totally accurate or chronologically correct, but most certainly they are nostalgic.  We had no school food service, which meant we went home for lunch.  Maybe march home would be a better description.  We would assemble outside in groups by neighborhood and ‘march’ two abreast on the sidewalk till we reached our home where we would ‘fall out’.  Discipline was administered by a patrol leader assigned by school staff, usually the meanest kid in the neighborhood.  We straggled back to school.  At the end of the school day the march home was repeated.

A good bit of  recess in first grade was spent trying to avoid a girl who almost daily gave me  candy and chased me incessantly  in attempts to deliver a kiss.  The next year we moved across…

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Last offensiveTuesday was a V E R Y  L O N G  day.

I left my parents’ rural home and drove more than an hour to a day-long meeting. When that meeting was over, I drove five more hours home.

The drive got longer after a received then ruminated about a phone call from an angry friend.

“Trina,” she said. “I have to talk to you, because I know you’ll understand.”

Even though I’d been talking to people all day, anyone who strokes my ego always has my attention.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I just got the worst phone call I have ever received. It was absolutely horrible.”

At first, I was really concerned for my friend, but as she continued to talk, my concern turned to anger.

The Sheriff’s Association had called asking her to donate to a program to conduct drug education in the schools. Since my friend and her husband had previously supported the organization, she let the man on the other end of the phone talk.

What he said was absolutely despicable.

“We have all these kids whose parents don’t care about them,” the voice said. “All they want to do is sit at home and collect their welfare check. They don’t want to talk to their kids about drugs. They just don’t care enough. That’s why we have such a drug problem.”

According to my friend, she pulled a Trina Bartlett. (I have to give myself a little credit in this story).

She asked the man on the phone if he knew whom he was talking with, gave him an earful and then hung up.

‘I don’t know if he was following a script or if he was just expressing his own opinions,” my friend said. “But either way, the fact that he was trying to raise money by blaming people on welfare for drug abuse was absolutely offensive.”

I agreed.

I was not only offended by the sweeping judgments about anyone who receives public assistance but also by the fact that he was literally preying on the prejudices of other people. Public servants shouldn’t be perpetuating stereotypes. The should be countering them.

Ironically, the man making the fundraising call targeted the wrong person.

She is a parent who knows drug abuse is not an income nor a class issue. She knows that no matter how much parents care, their children sometimes still make poor choices. And she also knows that blaming people is not the best way to approach drug prevention.

The day after she received the fundraising call, my friend called the county sheriff, whom she knows personally.

He has yet to return her call, and something tells me he probably never will.

Yet that’s not the end of this story.

This story only ends when other people also call him and complain. It only ends when other people have the guts to stand up to stereotypes and prejudice. And it only ends when people stopping blaming and simply join together to help and support each other.

I can only hope this story ends sooner rather than later.

Shame is Not a Form of Birth Control

I had to double-check my calendar this morning to assure myself that it was actually 2013 and I hadn’t been sucked into a time warp.

I hadn’t been.

Instead, I was sucked into reading news articles about a school assembly featuring an abstinence-only proponent whose only educational credential is a Psychology Degree from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

See: and .

I can’t emphasize enough how inappropriate the assembly was.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was working in the field of sex education, experts had already proven that abstinence-only and shame-based tactics don’t work. And promoting a particular religious philosophy in a public school is simply prohibited.

But self-righteous people, who believe they actually know what God is thinking, seem to find a way around these issues.

The speaker, Pam Stenzel, and her sponsors, a religious group called Believe in West Virginia, say her speech wasn’t faith-based. Instead they say it was just a warning about the dangers of sex before marriage.

Those few words should have been enough to keep this woman out of the public schools.

A real sex educator doesn’t pretend that a wedding ring can protect people from a sexually transmitted disease, an unplanned pregnancy or heartache.

A real sex educator doesn’t outright dismiss homosexuals, who are still fighting for the right to even be married.

And a real sex educator doesn’t condemn, judge or shame.

Instead, a real sex educator gives facts – not statistics that have been manipulated to fit a certain dogma.

A real sex educator will agree that sex is the only human behavior that has the potential to create life or to threaten a life. The educator’s job is to help individuals make decisions to prevent unwanted consequences.

And a real sex educator will spend time talking about healthy relationships and about treating others with respect –  not condemnation.

Years ago, I was that person, and I will never forget making a presentation about AIDS and HIV in a middle school classroom. As I interacted with the students, the teacher, who was obviously not happy I was there, took out his Bible and placed it open on his desk. He pretended to read, and I pretended to ignore him.

A year later, I had the same assignment and found myself in the same classroom. But instead of taking out his Bible, the teacher made a point of welcoming me and telling his students they should listen. He then privately told me that “a really good person” from his church had been diagnosed with AIDS. Instead of noting that a lot of “really good people” had been diagnosed with AIDS, I was just grateful that he had become a bit more open and less judgmental.

Now, I am hoping the same for all those involved in permitting the recent school assembly at George Washington High School.

The Permanent Mark of Bad Behavior

Mena-Peopel-Suck1There are times I feel as though mean and difficult people are the masterminds behind a sinister plot to take over the world. They know they’ll eventually just wear out the rest of us with their rude comments and insensitive behavior.

But then I come to my senses and realize if they were actually smart enough to carry out such a plot, they’d have more sense than a second grader. That’s when you learn some of life’s most important lessons. For example, I learned that a poor decision or a mean word will stay on your permanent record card forever, and a blemish on that card is never going to help you succeed.

Of course, I learned that lesson the hard way. I got the first black mark on my permanent record card when I was in second grade. I’ve had countless since then, but that’s the one that taught me about consequences and guilt.

The exact details of my crime are rather fuzzy, but the guilt is forever etched in my conscience.

The problems started because I was a bus rider.

In second grade, we didn’t have cliques, but there were two distinct groups: bus riders and walkers. (In those days, only the children of teachers came to school in cars.)

I perceived the walkers as privileged. They didn’t have to wait for anyone or abide by any schedule other than the ring of the bell. They didn’t have to arrive at school until the very last minute, and they could leave as soon as the bell rang at the end of the day.

I was jealous.

Those of us who rode the bus were just stuck. Since my bus ran earlier than others, there was a group of us who arrived at school much earlier than we actually needed to be there. In order for school officials to maintain order, they required us to immediately go to the cafeteria and sit quietly until given permission to go to our classrooms.

The wait was long and boring, especially since we were always being told to “quiet down.” Even now, almost 40 years later, I find that difficult. In second grade, it seemed impossible.

I don’t remember who came up with the scheme or how we executed it, but a group of friends and I decided we were going to escape the prison in the cafeteria. We didn’t make it far and were soon discovered hiding in the bathroom. After yelling at us, a teacher escorted my fellow criminals and me to the principal’s office.

The only thing I knew about the principal’s office was that it was where the really bad kids went. I was pretty sure there was a jail cell in there, where we would be handcuffed and chained to the bars as punishment for our crime. My worries grew as we were told to sit outside Mr. Mitchell’s office and “think about what we had done.”

By the time Mr. Mitchell opened his door and told us to come in, I was shaking.

Mr. Mitchell sat behind the desk and lectured us and lectured us and lectured us. As he talked, his face got redder and redder and redder. The only words I remember were “your permanent record card.”

I gulped.

I was supposed to go to college and get a job. I had no idea how I was going to tell my parents that all their hopes and dreams for me had been erased with one stupid decision. (Yes, I really did worry about such things as a young child.)

For years, I worried about my permanent record card and that time in the principal’s office. Many nights, I would lie in bed thinking about the implications. My concerns finally began to fade when I was an adolescent and transferred to a different school district. As my records were being reviewed, no one mentioned my criminal past.

I had been granted a pardon, and I was grateful. But, now, I find myself getting tired of passing on the gift of a pardon to others.

This week I am especially tired. I wrote in another blog about the death of a young West Virginian. While most of the feedback was positive, there were also individuals who left comments that belittled the individual and his way of life. The comments were hurtful and rude and pointless.

They were also permanent. Even if they are deleted, others have already read them, including friends and family members.

The situation bothered me to the point I couldn’t sleep at night worrying whether or not I should even have written about the young man’s death.

But then I remembered another important lesson from second grade: most people are mean to others because they don’t feel good about themselves, so you should try to be nice to them anyway.

I guess I’ll keep trying. Even though the marks made by  negative behavior (by both me and by other people) may be permanent, marks for positive behaviors can be permanent too. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

My Lazy, Cheating Blog

Just over two years ago, my husband convinced me that I should write a blog. Initially, I was hesitant, but he was persuasive and I decided to take the plunge. I wrote my first entry.

Then, something happened.

People actually read what I wrote. And they commented on my words. And they encouraged me.

They changed everything.

My Type A personality kicked in, and I felt compelled to write regularly. For the most part, this has been a pleasure because I generally have a lot to say. Actually, most of the time I have a lot to say. There are also times when I’m tired, or busy or just not inspired, so finding the motivation to write my blog at least once a week can be difficult. But I tend to be very obsessive, so I write anyway.

Until this week.

This week, I’m cheating.

I’m cheating because I’m spending four days with an amazing group of women in Hatteras, North Carolina. I just want to be lazy and laugh with my friends. I also want to meet my compulsive need to blog every week. So, I’m linking to two of my recent posts for the Charleston Daily Mail:

Next week, I’ll be back. This week, I’m not going to feel guilty about my lazy, cheating blog.