Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gen Z'ers and Selective Memory of Baby Boomers

While some people with an agenda may portray them as Tide Pod detergent kids to demean them and try to dim their voices, the majority of this generation of Gen Z’ers that I have had the pleasure to be around (including my grandchildren) are intelligent, articulate and eager to make positive changes in the world. Generation Z are the kids born starting in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. From their earliest recollection, they were brought into a world haunted by terrorism.

 These kids remind me a little of us baby boomers who were brought up in the Cold War era. We reminisce now that we had happy childhoods, but there was also that ever-present fear brought about by a Russian threat of nuclear war. Every child of my generation knew the locations of every bomb shelter within a 50-mile range of where we lived, and we prayed that we would have time to get there before we died of radiation poisoning or worse, burning to death. It was scary stuff for a child; I know, I was there.

Yet it is this very same group who are criticizing our youth of today and making them feel like their voices don’t matter. Are our memories fading so fast that we don’t remember that fear? Our threats were far away; the enemy on the other side of the world, and the threat was just a threat, a possibility. We didn’t experience it personally. The threats our children are facing are up close and right here on their own turf. How much scarier is that? 

Have we forgotten that as we became teenagers in the 1960’s, how frustrated we were with our own government for throwing us into a war in Vietnam with no purpose? A war that would kill or maim the very kids we went to school with? We all knew of someone who had died, lost a limb, or whose mental stability would never be the same. But these young men valiantly fought, seeking to make the world a safer place.

These kids are fighting a battle too. To them it's a war zone battle, but with nothing to fight back with but words.  And solidarity. It's an unpopular war and they've been treated with humiliation. They're kids, in danger of losing their lives, and they're facing more than one enemy. Enemies with guns and enemies who refuse to do anything about those guns; enemies in leadership positions that could. 

Tide pods; just something tried by a select few. Our GenZ'ers make up for 26% of the 325.7 million people population of the entire United States. That’s 84.7 million Gen Z’ers. According to the American Association for Poison Control Centers, 12,299 laundry detergent exposures were reported in 2017, and more than half of those reported were children 5 years old and younger (accidental exposures). That means approximately 6000 intentional cases of kids over 5 years old and if even 75% of those were high school age, the percentage is only .0059%. That doesn’t sound like a rampant problem among high school students to me. Throughout the ages, there have been those select few who thrive on danger. We had them in our day too. Drag racing was one, or the game of “chicken” where two teenage boys would hop in their cars and barrel towards each other seeing which one would swerve first. But those select few who were stupid enough to try these things didn’t define our generation. Neither should Tide Pods define theirs.

Because we don’t fully understand the ways of this generation doesn’t make it right to demean and demoralize them. Their shaved heads, their piercings, their ripped-up jeans. It’s foreign stuff to me just as it is to you. But our parents didn’t like the boy with the Beatles’ haircut that we brought home. They didn’t understand the music, the peace symbols nor the protest marches. We grew up with prejudices handed down by parents. Some of us overcame them; some did not. But for the most part, we turned out okay. These kids will too. They’re fed up with fear-mongering; they’re fed up with adults who don’t seem to care; they’re fed up with lawmakers too afraid to make decisions for fear of losing campaign funds. I’m fed up too. I may not understand these kids, but I like them. They’re strong. They harbor hope, not hate. We could all learn from them. But we need to pull from our memory banks those hopes and dreams we had of changing the future and pass the torch on, even when we have reservations, to the ones who will live the future. We’re in the declining years of ours. If we try to guide them with our wisdom instead of berating them, we will have a much greater influence on what they choose to do.

For those who still don’t understand, maybe you don’t have grandchildren. Maybe you don’t have a granddaughter like mine who has a buzzed haircut, but who has a college grade point average most people could only ever dream of having; one whose biggest vice is studying her way through school to the point of exhaustion, but needs a slightly rebellious way of expressing herself through dress and appearance. Maybe you don’t have one who dresses a little bit weird, but has a kind and giving heart, thinking of other people’s feelings more than she thinks of her own. Maybe your children or grands look and act perfectly in ways that you approve of. I have one of those too; he's in seminary. But not all kids are like that. Does that mean we should love them less? I'm extremely proud of my granddaughters, as well as my grandson.

I’m happy to give them a chance to make right what we’ve done wrong. Maybe they won’t succeed, but instead of sitting on their duffs complaining and doing nothing like a lot of us are doing, they’re trying to make the world a safer place for kids. We should be doing that too instead of being so caught up in our love for guns that we can’t see the fear that is consuming them.

Hug a kid today. Tell them you understand their frustrations; you've lived through frustrations of your own. Tell them that even if you don't agree with their agenda, you're willing to listen and that you're proud that they're standing up for their rights. All they want is a future free of fear.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Seven Wings to Glory

I don't normally review books in my blog posts, but every now and then, a book will come along whose characters are so richly-developed that they capture you from the beginning, so this time I felt I needed to share it. 

In Kathleen Rodgers’ first book, Johnnie Come Lately, Johnnie Kitchen’s life unfolds on the pages, flaws and all. But Mrs. Rodgers weaves the story so well, that instead of judging her, I found Johnnie’s openness and honesty so endearing, it made me love her just as she was.

 In Seven Wings to Glory, I once again found myself under the spell of Mrs. Rodgers’ excellent writing skills. This story deals with the topic of racial issues in the past and present of the little town of Portion, Texas. Johnnie’s troubled mother is back in town. Will Johnnie get past the feelings of abandonment and deceit from her childhood and learn to love her mother again, or will she let those feelings simmer and come to a boil like the crockpot of pinto beans on her kitchen counter?

And how will she handle the racial hatred that threatens her own family’s safety?

I think my favorite part of Seven Wings to Glory is the way Mrs. Rodgers portrays Johnnie as a military mom. Her love for her children is intrinsic and unwavering, and as her son goes off to a war zone, she lives in constant fear of a black car appearing in her driveway bearing bad news.

The characters were so real; the story line so authentic, I found myself frantically worried that, (1) Victoria, Johnnie’s mother was going to try yet another suicide attempt, (2) that her friend Whit was going to be targeted for her skin color,  and (3) that her kitchen window would be bearing the load of a gold star rather than the blue one presented to her upon her son Cade’s deployment.

Please have a box of tissues handy when you read this; not that the book is filled with sadness only, but that it is filled with all the trials and joys that go along with our humanness and our ability to laugh and cry over them at the same time. Thank you, Kathleen Rodgers, for bringing about all these emotions in us that verify that we’ve just read an outstanding book!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tender Hearts

Have you ever had one of those "being in the right place at the right time" moments? I experienced one of those today when I met someone who left her footprints indelibly stamped across my heart. She is a soon-to-be sixteen-year-old girl and I saw her at the hair salon while I waited my turn for my hairdresser. She was dressed in a chic black and white sundress with shoes that matched. Her blonde hair was shiny clean and in a mid-length stylish cut. Fingernails and toenails were polished a vibrant pink to go along with her pink-tinted lip gloss, and her pink purse was hiked upon her shoulder. My first thought was that she should be walking down a runway working for a modeling agency; she was that striking. She gave me a big smile when I walked in so I initiated a conversation with her, telling her how pretty she looked. An animated conversation ensued and I was impressed at how easily she talked to an older woman. 

She's a little nervous about starting high school this year because it's a different school and she worries about making new friends. She tells me about her gymnastics classes but laments that she'd rather be taking piano lessons. It's her passion, she says. But it's apparent she has more than one passion; another is theater. In a recent school play, she played Maria, Julie Andrews' role in The Sound of Music. I shared with her that my granddaughter is also involved in school plays but works behind the scenes. She was familiar with that role and said, "Oh yes! A play can't go on without the set designers and lighting crew. I love the behind-the-scenes people." Is there anything she doesn't love, I wondered. Her goal is to be a Broadway actress, she says, and I told her that with her personality, talent, and enthusiasm she could be anything she wanted to be. I asked her name because I want to make sure to watch for it on a Broadway billboard someday. She laughed and said that her name is Brady.

I asked if she was waiting for a haircut and she said, no, she was waiting for her best friend who was getting her hair trimmed. I asked if her best friend was her age and she told me no, it was her teacher; the one who had taught her all three years of middle school. She then shared with me that she'd cried when she graduated from middle school this year and she was really going to miss her teacher and her friends. I was sitting there marveling at what a wonderful teacher she must have that would take time during her summer vacation to spend with one of her students. It takes a special kind of teacher to do that, but most teachers in that field are indeed special people. You see, Brady is a high-functioning Down syndrome child. She is also the most delightful young lady I've ever met. 

I learned a valuable lesson in the twenty minutes I chatted with Brady and I'll share what I learned. Don't ever hide behind your phone in a waiting room texting messages and reading Facebook posts. Don't read a magazine when there are interesting people all around you to talk to. You may miss an opportunity to meet someone like Brady who will make you realize that the world is a better place because of the person you just met! And you may, like me, walk out of that waiting room with a much more tender heart than when you walked in.

Go Brady! I predict that you will have a good and happy life and I hope to see you on Broadway some day!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

New Book Release for September!

Agatha, owner of Park Place’s newest Bed and Breakfast is enjoying a refreshing glass of sweet tea and a plate of cookies with one of her guests this afternoon. It’s hotter than the 4th of July, but a wisp of a breeze is stirring under the shade of the large oak tree where they sit and enjoy each other’s company. Agatha is quite the character in my soon-to-be-released book, Miss Marple’s B & B. Her husband Charlie, dead going on two years now seems to be playing games from the grave. The old adage of “you can’t take it with you” doesn’t seem to hold true in this tale of the missing fortune. Regretfully when Charlie dies, his fortune disappears and Agatha is left nearly penniless with nothing to fall back on except the beautiful Victorian home that’s been in her family for four generations. Turning it into an Inn may be the best decision Agatha has made in her entire life. In fact, it may be the only decision she’s made in her entire life since she’s led a fairytale existence going straight from a controlling family into a marriage with an older man who has made sure she has the best things in life. Join Agatha for tea. She’ll soon reveal her story of how a leap of faith brings about a change so profound it will change her life forever. "The rest of the story" is due to be released in September. Watch for it!

But for now, she wishes all of you a Happy Independence Day weekend!

Glenda Manus, Author

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Getting inside the head of your characters

When I’m in the beginning stages of writing a book, I work really hard to get inside the heads and into the homes of my characters. When I’m doing mundane things like washing dishes, making the bed, or going outside to water my flowers, I use those quiet moments to get to know them. I’ll say to myself, now what would Agatha be doing right now, this very minute?

She lives in a large Victorian house at the end of West Main Street in Park Place. I’ve sketched the floorplan of her home. I’ve walked with her through the library, the living room and up the massive stairway that leads to the four bedrooms she’s going to be letting out to the guests of the Bed and Breakfast she’s just opened. I’ve watched her read books by the light of the lamp beside her bed, and I’ve enjoyed hot tea with her guests while they sit beside the fireplace and chat.
I’ve created a front porch with rockers and painted her porch ceiling blue. I’ve marveled at the turret tower with the circular walls on the left side of the house that reaches toward the clouds, and I’ve looked from the outside in as the upstairs guests gather there in the little circular drawing room to look out upon Main Street as the shoppers pass by during the day and ooh and ahh over the Christmas lights as they’re turned on at dusk.

 Agatha’s front porch is surrounded by boxwoods and there’s a walkway leading to the sidewalk, with street lamps on each side. She has lots of shade trees, a separate 2-car garage, and an old carriage house on the right side of the house. You can look down from one of the second-floor bedrooms and see her English Garden and the exquisite statues and water fountain imported from Italy that anchor it. Beyond that, you can see the blueberry orchard where she gathers the berries to make her jams and jellies.

When I go outside in my own backyard, I see the lush green of Spring, but I have no trouble getting into Agatha’s shoes and following her into her own English Garden right smack in the middle of winter. I know that her husband, the avid gardener, died two years ago and the garden is in a state of disrepair. Winter tufts of brown grass and a small mulberry seedling are growing up between the flagstone squares, trying not to disturb the serene setting. The pump on the fountain quit working shortly after Charlie died and the water that’s left in the bowl by a recent rain is colored a murky brown from the leaves that have fallen from the trees. Agatha breathes a heavy sigh as she looks at what has become of Charlie’s garden. She can only do so much, she thinks, still a little angry at him for dying. Then a new thought enters her mind. A gardener, when Spring comes she will hire a gardener! Why had she not thought of that before?

And where does my character go from there? I make it up as I go along, but wait, I just had another thought.  Agatha is only sixty years old. She’s not dead yet! As she thinks about the gardener she will hire, she decides he must be easy on the eyes. Be careful, Agatha. Don't go there. We're writing a nice clean book.

See how quickly our imaginations can lead us off track? But the amazing thing is that we can merge our minds with our characters and a book is written. I still don't understand how. And we know we had to be a little bit crazy in the first place to have ever wanted to write a book because, by the end of the story, we've begun to act a whole lot like our character, good or bad!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mountains, Molehills and Miracles

Sitting out on the beach always inspires me to write, which is why in my beach bag of necessities, I always carry a pen and notebook. If I’m having a problem with writer’s block, the beach atmosphere suddenly clears it. If I’m seeking answers to a difficult situation, I usually find that the salt air and fresh sunshine make those difficulties seem less significant.

On our most recent trip there, I had the beach all to myself; not a soul was in sight, so it was inspiration without distraction, a rare thing indeed!

With every swell of a wave, then the subsequent crash that follows, I’m reminded of the mountains out of molehills I’ve made during my lifetime, and of the insignificance of those baby mountains that usually work themselves out with or without my interference. But God’s interference can work out even the worst of my molehills. How do we seek God’s interference? It’s a simple word with big consequences: prayer.

I believe that God has a plan for us, but Jesus’ words also give me a promise. A promise that He can change His plan if I sincerely petition Him to do so, not always in the exact way we ask, but who I am to say what's best? We've all experienced miracles in one way or another. I have experienced a few myself and they’ve always been the result of prayer. I’m trying to learn, through faith, to expect mountains of goodness and not to resign myself to molehills of pettiness. It's not always easy; those molehills can drag me down in an instant, without warning....until I remember to whom I belong.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Writing though Grief

I'll admit to it. I'm grieving for a country I've always been proud to be a part of. Being patriotic is part of who I am. It was instilled in me by my parents, especially my father who made sure we were all schooled daily on national and international current events. He would sit down nightly and read the day's newspaper, sometimes reading it aloud and sometimes just conveying his feelings on a subject that he'd read. Much like my mother, who would read and comment on the Bible research she was studying while preparing for the Sunday School class she taught. Our home education was steeped in God and Country.

I grew up Methodist and there was nothing luke-warm about our Sunday morning sermons. I attended other denominations when I spent weekends with cousins or other friends and got the same dose of worship and praise in their churches. We were all in this together, some just a little more structured than others. I also remember the day that Jesus reached down personally and touched my heart, making it His forever.

Daddy was all about the little people. Being a farmer, he knew what it was like to have good years and bad. He knew what it was about to be on the receiving end and what it was like to be on the giving end. I was also born privileged, but not in the way people speak of privilege now; privileged that in spite of being born and raised in the rural South, there was no racial hatred taught in our home, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.

I was also taught to respect the office of the President of the United States of America, somewhere along the line shortened to POTUS, which sounds like a rather disrespectful term if you ask me.  But if you didn't like a president, you just sucked it up and waited for the next four years, but you still were taught to respect the president. The only time I remember my father truly grieving over a presidential election was when Richard Nixon was voted in for a second term, and we all know how that played out. He was sick for days. I know he would be sick if he were alive today. Instead though, he is basking in God's everlasting sunshine in a place that knows no physical or emotional pain.

I am a Christian writer, and for this entire process of election, I'm ashamed that I've remained quiet about my feelings on Donald Trump. The few times I've alluded to my feelings in written word, I've done so gracefully as not to offend other Christians out there who somehow think this vile man is the answer to the world's problems. I stood by in shock as I watched people defend this man's actions, some of the most un-Christian like actions I've ever witnessed in not only a presidential candidate, but in a person in general. One who believes in the idolatry of money; of pride and ego; of self-aggrandizement. I heard the issues brought up, and I too have struggled with some of the issues, but still I could not even look at this man and not get a sense of revulsion that made me literally sick to my stomach. It was an emotion straight from my heart and soul; a place where the Holy Spirit resides in me.

We've studied Isaiah recently and all I keep thinking about and wondering, is God hardening hearts so that we as a nation are not seeing things clearly? We are told in scripture that he hardens the hearts of unbelievers (look what he did to Pharaoh), but what about believers? And if so, whose hearts have been hardened? I feel mine has been softened as I've prayed and gained clarity in the months leading up to the election, but does the other side feel the same? And as a Christian, why are my gut feelings so much different from those of other Christians. It's so troubling to me - maybe something I will never understand.

I hope and pray that our next president, (excuse me if I can't yet say his name) will not be like King Ahaz of Isaiah's day - too stubborn to listen to the advice of God's prophet and too quick to side with the wrong rulers. If so, we are all in trouble.

I do know that I need my space right now. I need time to grieve. I hope and pray that my friends and family who voted differently will understand if I can't see or talk to them right now. I thought I could move on faster than this, but it has taken its toll.

As I finish writing this as a healing process, I want to encourage my friends who are also grieving for our nation. God is sovereign. He is the ultimate ruler. I don't think he is rejoicing in our choice of leaders, but He has given us hope. There is the hope found in Isaiah, a Messianic hope where we can imagine all of creation is healed and restored, a place where we can live in peace.