Monday, November 03, 2014

Your Voice, Your Choice

I read an article the other day.  It was a pretty devastating look at Texas' voter turnout. (

Yeah, this is my, you better vote, blog.

Texas is dead last in voter turnout.  Actually we are 51st.  How is this possible? Well, EVEN Puerto Rico votes better than us.  This is the one and only thing I HATE about Texas. It is actually embarrassing when you think about what 26 million people could accomplish if all of them voted.

I know what you're thinking.... But Broc, it's not even a Presidential election year.  You are right, but you need to understand that this is the biggest swing in Texas politics in 14 years.  Rick Perry has been Governor since 2000.  The Governor appoints state agencies.  If I were a teacher I'd be sure to vote because the Governor will appoint the head of the TEA.  With a new Governor, even if it's a Republican, there will be a new head appointed.  Even if the Republicans keep the Governors seat there will be many changes to the state.

Also, David Dewhurst has been Lieutenant Governor since 2013.  These are the two top Texas elected officials and they've been the same for over a decade.   This shift will affect all aspects of the politics of Texas.  It is my belief, that state politicians affect you more than federal ones do.  Yes, the Federal government makes laws but the state politicians interpret how those laws affect you.

You can see that voting this year has consequences.

If we don't vote we are giving our voice, our say, our rights, to someone else.  I love watching the women in Iraq vote. They know how important and significant it is because they know what it's like not to have the right.  We have the right, YET, are just too lazy to do so.


Monday, September 29, 2014

A Year of Claire-ity

I am sitting in our living room reminiscing with my wife, Kaylee, about the past year.  What a year. Why? Because this is the year that we became parents to the most amazing little girl who stole our hearts, named Claire Jewel.

I will be honest, I have always been fearful of being a parent.  I think it comes from my childhood and dysfunction I grew up in. I knew too much how the families can affect children, and especially parents to children.  Fear gripped me when Kaylee came bouncing down the hall to tell me we were pregnant with Claire.  Fear paralyzed me, it gripped me, it had me in it's vice.

Then I decide to just have faith.  Yes, there are times when I worry about things, like  how I respond to my sweet little girl.  I have fear that I will become like my past.  Then I let it go.  It's not easy, but faith never is.

By the time Claire was set to be born, I had started to see that just because I had known a way it didn't mean it was the only way it had to be. I can honestly say the fear of the past was lifted off of me.  I really enjoyed the last few minutes of our family being just the two of us.  

Then Claire was here.  She was screaming at the top of her lungs while enduring the Apgar tests. Not really knowing what to do, I just started talking to her.  "Hey, little girl, you're okay." BOOM, she stopped crying and looked over at me.  I turned to tell Kaylee just how precious she was.  She screamed louder than before. I turned and said, "Hey sweetheart, you are okay,"  She stopped crying and turned her head towards me.  She knew my voice and it brought her peace.  I felt the tear roll down my cheek.  This was surely God's way of showing me everything was going to be alright. She was comforted by my speech.  The world stopped and at the moment she had me wrapped around her little fingers.

The first two weeks of her life were, well, the hardest thing I have ever endured. Anxiety filled my every minute.  I mean between the new schedule, the amount of concern over pooping or not pooping, is she getting enough milk when nursing, is she staying awake while nursing, is she crying because she's hungry, is she crying because she's in pain, is it gas, are we missing something, is she at her birth weight, as she lost weight, and all those terrifying things .  I had taken off work for two weeks so I could "help" Kaylee.  I am pretty sure other than waking for a few minutes during late night feedings to talk to her, I wasn't much help.  Actually, I felt helpless. I couldn't do anything than change a diaper, a lot of the responsibility was squarely on Kaylee's shoulders.  She accepted the challenge and did so amazing.  I cannot express how proud I am of Kaylee and how great of a mother she is.  She really earned her cape as superwomen.
We fell in love with her. Although, all she did was eat, poop, and cry, we knew we had something special.  That something grew and grew.  She smiled at us, and acknowledged us, and was comforted by us.  This year I learned a lot about why people do this parenting thing.  I also learned a lot about myself.  Kaylee and I's daily conversation now include dialogue about poop and if Claire has had enough of them for the day. We talk an awfully lot about poop.  Really, is rather bazaar how much of our talk is about poop.

I learned also why mommy blogs are so popular and why they are so dangerous.  Usually a mom "discovers" that she's the great mom since Mary herself and they espouses her views on a blog, and in-so-doing effectively making all other mothers feel inadequate Also there are a lot of moms who are judgmental.  "You aren't breastfeeding?"  Is the new,  "You are a terrible mom."  The mommy shaming is ridiculous, and mothers should calm down and realize that there is not just one way to raise a child.   It's like no one can do anything right.  This is the only negative that I can recount from the year.

Sitting up, crawling, and then walking.  These three phases should come with an instruction manual.  I mean, it's like the craziest time, but fun all at the same time.  Then little Claire said, "dada." I thought, if she only knew how much power she had when she says that, she could take over the world, well maybe just get anything she ever wanted from me.

I can't tell you how much I love being her dad. It's just the best.  The first year didn't lack in troubles but it never lacked in love.  I realized throughout the entire process that all the fears I had were really unfounded, and that I love this little girl named Claire like none other! And my wife is literally superwomen. Life. Is. Good.

There is a song  that is a Schoolhouse Rocks song, that I have always loved. I will leave you with it.   Three oh, it's the magic number... A man and women had a little baby, there is three in the family, and it's the magic number.    

Monday, August 11, 2014

#ClaireMusings: Why I am not teaching my daughter "modest is hottest"

Ten months or so ago I became a father to a precious little girl. Her name is Claire Jewel, and she's been getting me to thinking a lot.  I have started to see the world in a very different way than I think I did before she was born.  It's just some of what churches and Christian based organizations are teaching girls seems to be quite flawed.  When I say the Church, I am not talking about any one church but Christian culture in America.

One of those things is teaching our daughters that "Modest is Hottest." Looking at that, it looks like a great statement, and that we should teach our daughters that being modest is appropriate, but that's not what this is saying. This is not the purpose of this "cute" little rhyme in my opinion.

We live in a very sexualized world.  Women and girls face a world where their worth is put into how "pretty" "beautiful" "sexy" the package is, and how they get what they want based on looks and appearance. We live in a culture that says if a women isn't pretty, by a photoshopped standard in the latest women's magazine or fashion brand's latest advertising,  then she isn't valuable, and even farther, she isn't worth our time.

See I believe that the teaching that modest is hottest came from a very genuinely good place.  I can see someone using the culture of the world to sell modesty to little girls who are exposed to what the world is doing to women through images of perfection.  I can see it's origins.  I can see a counter-culture trying to make sense of the current culture.

My beef with modest is hottest is that it's STILL sexualizing women!  It says, you still need to be hot, but modest at the same time. I believe that the teaching modesty is important, but based on teaching girls the VALUE of themselves.  I think my daughter is valuable because she is, not because of what she looks like.  When you say modest is hottest it's cheapening the worth of her, her intelligence, her abilities, and her as a human.

You shouldn't fight fire with fire.  You should use the current culture as an example but not in agreement.  My daughter is valuable, not because of what she looks like, but because she was created by a God full of love! We may not have control over how the world works or how it portrays women and girls, but we do have the ability to provide truth in the midst of chaos.  We have to teach our daughters from as early as possible to value themselves and to be examples; while addressing and exposing what's going on around them at the same time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Volunteered in the Kids Cafe Kitchen

I walked into the place where all the culinary magic happens one Wednesday afternoon.  The Kids Cafe is our response to the child hunger epidemic.  Every day Kids Cafe sends out 1,000 meals to various locations throughout Amarillo.  The program is in its 11th year and is just one of the best things around!
Recently, the Kids Cafe kitchen needed some help from staff members because the summer meal program really has a hectic schedule.  They are up serving breakfast at 5:30 am and finish dinner service around 5:30 pm.  Oh, and on top of that crazy schedule, they are preparing to move into their new kitchen that’s opening in September.  Needless to say, this has been quite the busy summer for the staff. 
I walked in and started by prepping the next day’s meals.  I sliced oranges, and prepped rice and the list went on and on.  There is really only one prep station so you must clean up immediately to start the next phase.  Really only one person can prep at a time because the quarters are so close together.  This is less efficient and is a source of stress when you’re on the deadlines the Kids Cafe must meet every day. 
Then I began to wash dishes.  The sink is on one side and the garbage disposal is on the other.  I found myself walking back and forth a lot, and it seemed a little bit cumbersome to me.  Leigh, the Kids Cafe Director, showed me how the three compartment sink worked and more importantly how it didn't work.  I asked about the divided sink situation and she smiled a big smile and said, “Oh, it’s tough, but only until September.”  Leigh has been at the Food Bank for 10 years and has had the fortune or misfortune of working in 6 different kitchens in her tenure.  She has a book of thoughts where she’s recorded her wish list of things for the new kitchen.  She knows from experience just what is needed to make the Kids Cafe successful.  As we prepped more of the meals for the next day, Leigh kept pointing out how it will be different in the new kitchen.   “See how we are sharing space as I prep the entree and you’re getting the rolls together, “Leigh said. “In the new kitchen we will have more than one space to do this.”
After we prepped more I began putting away dried dishes.  I had to roll the cambros out of the way first.  These are huge thermal storage units on carts that are used to keep the meal components hot or cold while in route to the serving location.  Leigh again laughed at me as I fumbled around acting as if I knew what I was doing.  “That will be different in the new kitchen too, “Leigh said. “We will have space to line these around the wall, and they would not need to be in the middle of the room.”
I realized at that moment that we needed the new kitchen, not just to increase meals but to make the important work of the program possible.  Needless to say, when the new kitchen opens I will have insight into just how monumental this is to the staff.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Two Friends Diverged and I offered to Help

Working at the Food Bank is such a great eye opener on what’s really happening underneath all the hub-bub and political wrangling that can so often isolate us.  I see and hear all the time things that challenge my beliefs dear to my heart.  I also get to see a lot of the great organizations and programs that truly do help people make ends meet.  When I hear that programs are rampant with fraud, I wish people would look past the lens of what’s broadcast to see people who really struggle. 
Because of what I do, I have friends and others who reach out to me on a regular basis to see where they can go for help.  I can also spot situations where I know there is a need for help.  Recently, a friend of mine, who I’ll call Jack, went through a very unusual set of circumstances that resulted in him being a single dad of 4 kids.  I also have another friend who was extremely injured had not been able to work for 2 years.  We’ll call him Matt.  I could see that both of my friends needed help, and fortunately, I knew just what they needed. 
I reached out to Jack and had a conversation about getting SNAP and we talked about how it could help him with his newly found life.  I explained that if he came to our offices we would be able to get him the application and get it submitted.  I sensed he felt ashamed as he immediately got a little defensive.  Luckily, I was anticipating this.  My response was, these programs exist to help people; they are a safety net for your family. I am not going to tell anyone, but I know you need help and I can help you.  His response was, “I do not need the help; it’s for other people that actually need it.” I understood and told him to call me when and if he felt like he needed the help.  Meanwhile, I’ve been watching him struggle and struggle.  I know there will be some people who will read this and think it’s good for him to have to struggle.  I agree that working is important, but I also know there are 4 kids who need their only parent to be present. 
There I was sitting at my desk typing out a press release when my office phone rang I answered it, and the caller said, “Broc, it's Matt, how are you today?”  I was so happy to hear his voice.  He had just moved back to town and I was happy to actually be hearing his voice.  We talked about his accident, and I told him we have been praying for him for over a year.  He had endured countless surgeries and was in constant excruciating pain.  We talked and caught up about our lives.  Then, I started to sense there was some urgency in his call to me.  I stopped the small talk and pleasantries and started in on options to help his family.  His condition required constant care, and because of this, his wife was unable to work.  He told me the program he was utilizing -- SNAP.  He said, “We get about $1.32 per meal which, we both know is impossible. But, we’ve been able to make it work with the small amount of work my wife has been able to do,” he said.   “But this month, wow, I can’t even begin to tell you about this month.”  They had a car in need of repairs and that took all the money they had plus some credit card charges.  He explained that they had made it possible to get food for their young son, but that he and his wife hadn’t eaten in days.  My heart sank as I thought, “How could a friend of mine be hungry?”  I had just been living my life, and while I am very sensitive to the needs of others, another perk of the job, I had totally spaced and now one of my friends was hungry.  I got on the phone to call a couple agencies and managed to get him and his wife some food.  I also gave him a list of other agencies.  We talked about their family qualifying for WIC, and he said he felt bad about applying.  I stopped him right in his tracks and said, “Listen to yourself, Matt. You’re calling me because you need help.  Accept it.” I could hear him tearing up on the line, and he admitted his excuse was not at all valid.  In the end, he did apply and got approved. 
Sometimes, it’s more about swallowing your pride and realizing that you need help.  Help is a temporary thing, and I believe and know that help can make the difference in others’ lives.  Another takeaway, listen to what’s actually being said by those around you.  Be sensitive to help others, and don’t judge the circumstances. Just help!
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I choose to disagree not abandon.

Recently someone told me I was offended at my church.  I wouldn't normally let that bother me, but it hit a nerve.  I turned and said,  "Just because I disagree doesn't mean that I am offended."  Then I kind of did some examining of my heart.  I learned a lot about myself and why it ticked me off.

A little back story:
I go to a mega church, and while it's really popular to hate on them today, I certainly don't hate my church.  I see the great and the bad of such a behemoth.  Recently, I found myself  disagreeing with something the church is doing.  It's something small but enough for me to think I didn't want to participate. Yes, I see things that make me cringe but I am a church advocate.  I think it's extremely important.  As someone once put it, the local church is the hope of the world.  I agree.

I was talking with someone about it and they totally misunderstood what I was talking about.  They assumed that I was leaving the church.  Well, no.  Just because you disagree with something doesn't give you the right to leave.  That's how I would have known I was offended.  If I have let something so trivial affect me to leave.  Over the years I have not agreed with my church on occasion.  I think it's healthy to not follow blindly everything a church does/says/believes.  This doesn't mean I am in rebellion as someone once put it.  I can simply disagree without being in rebellion.  I still tithe, volunteer, and participate.

I believe that when you have crossed the line is when you let little offenses blow you off course and leave and go to another church, sit in the audience, and compare how much better you and your current church is.  I think when you get to the point where you would leave, you need to examine your heart.  Talk yourself off the ledge and realize it's probably best to talk to someone about this.  Barring, that is, if your church is doing something wrong.... like heresy, which probably happens but not as regular as people claim.

I have seen many people leave a church because.... well there are a lot of reasons.  When you boil it down, it's an offense.  The sad thing, when they get comfortable in their current church they'll just get offended and move to another.

In the end, I kind of like it when I disagree with my church.  At the end of the day, I either learn why I agree with my assessment or I mature.  Either way I win, and in the end the Body at large wins when we invest in our churches.  Abandoning the ship shows our immaturity.

Churches aren't perfect.  To think they are is to fool one's self.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Republicans Get Out of My Vagina"

Perhaps that title is a little suggestive, but it was a sign I saw in all the recent hubbub in Austin last year.  What happened?  Well it all started with Senate Bill #5 in the Texas Legislature.  The bill banned abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization and it undoubtedly stirred up emotions, tempers, and especially voices.

Both sides of the abortion issue were very vocal about their opinions regarding their stance.  It was interesting to watch democracy in action. I am a person, that if you must label me, then you would say I am pro-life.  I hate that we are either or we're not, but that's how America has become.  We are two sided on issues, and live in the us vs. them mentality.

Why do I think abortion is wrong?  It's simple.  If you do a little research, then you'll see what done to the fetus when it is aborted.  It's pretty gruesome.  But we as humans like to sugar coat things.   We say, "It's done humanely."  This is somehow supposed to make the who operation seem like it's okay.  I use the term operation because if a women has a miscarriage, the same procedure done to an aborted fetus is used in this instance, which is referred to as an operation.  There is a lot of debate, that somehow this has become a religious fight?  I can argue abortion without bringing up religion at all.  If a women chooses to do with her body what she chooses then she ought to have to face the responsibility that she faces.  Just as a man if he get a women pregnant should have to face those consequences.  No one is telling women or men they can't have as much sex as they want to, but that if it result in a baby, they need to take responsibility for the child. Part of this issue is that people believe what they want.  

Then this image floated to the surface:
This picture makes me so sad.  I mean I am glad she has the right to say this, but I think it's just plain sad.  At the end of the day, if you can't decide to have an abortion before you're 5 months pregnant, then maybe you shouldn't have done what it took to get you into that predicament.  That's the problem I have with abortion.  It let's my generation off the hook.  Unfortunately, we can go to a "clinic" (most abortion facilities are not usually of good quality or safety) and you don't have to face the consequences. Religion isn't the only indicator that abortion is wrong.  Talk to ladies who have have them.  They will tell you that there is not a day that goes by that they don't think about what they did.  I have met women who became infertile because they chose abortion when they were too young to know that it could effect their whole lives.  That's what needs to be talked about.  This decision that's make in an instant will have consequences that will haunt.  That's what I think we need to talk about.   

Back to that sign.  I kept thinking about the wording "Republicans get out of my Vagina,"  and I just wanted to tell that lady.  Maybe if you cared about what was in your vagina more than you wouldn't need an abortion.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Memphis Blues

Recently I participated in one of our mobile pantries. What is a mobile pantry you ask? Well, in short, it's just like it sounds, taking food to a location.  But, it's really a lot more than that. To some, it's vitally needed food for their family.

Memphis, Texas, is a sweet quaint little town that anyone who's ever driven highway 287 between Amarillo and Dallas knows as one of the "slowdown spots" dotting that commute. It's the county seat for Hall County, which has the highest food insecurity rates in our service area. Because the need is so vast, the local partnering agencies don't have the capacity, resources, or ability to meet the need in their communities. That's where we come in! We work with the County Extension Agent, a local church, and local volunteers to deliver food directly to individuals, 12,565 pounds to 215 families. It's no small task and that's why it takes so many groups to put it together. We give them what we call a "family box." It's 35 lbs. or food that will supplement the pantry for a family for up to a week.   
We opened shop about 1:00 pm and a well of emotional stirring began as we started down the line of recipients. Edna, our Agency Relations Coordinator knows these people because she's here every month checking people in, making sure they qualify, and facilitating our mobile pantry. She's a bit of a rock star to the people in the line. I heard one call her the "Food Lady," and another Miss Edna. 
The stories of lives start to flood in. "My aunt is sick, and I have her kids in my house. We just don't have enough money," said a young mother.

"Miss Edna, my $15 in food stamps will not last the whole month or a week for that matter," said a sweet -- faced senior.
"I work for the school, and it's just not enough since my ailing parents moved in with us," said a mother.
"My wife's in jail, my kids have to have food. I'll make sure they have food first," said a first-time dad.
I realized there was a tear rolling its way down my cheek as I heard the countless stories of hardships, fixed income expenditures, and kids needing food their parents couldn't provide. It was at that moment that I realized the true deeply profound work we do. We enrich lives, and also just provide an ear to listen. I heard a comment about last month's giveaway. A sweet little lady received a jar of Nutella in her box. She was so excited about it because for her it's much too expensive in the store. So you can imagine the excitement she felt when she opened her box.  
Yes, I'll admit it; sometimes I forget the things the Food Bank does. I get caught up in the stresses of event planning, policy work, and exhaustive lists of things I'd like to accomplish, and lose sight of the work I am really doing. It's in those moments that I realize I need to see clients. I need to remember this stress is worth every ounce. It's a refresher course on why I chose this career.
Memphis may have the reason to sing the blues, but we are there to lighten their load.

Friday, January 03, 2014

I've changed my mind

Exactly 6 years ago you would have pegged me as a red state conservative, Bush loving, Republican bot. It would have been easy to tell, based on Facebook rants (who thought we would even coin a term like that), and the sheer ignorance in which I spoke.  I thought the poor were lazy, and food stamps needed to be more shameful for users.  I thought people in poverty were there by their own choices.  I thought big business was the best idea, and that's what will lift people out of poverty. I thought only teenagers worked for minimum wage. I felt I was doing to poor a favor and would judge them out of poverty.  I thought if you needed help it was easy to get.  I thought that "cheating the system" was a way to live like a king. I wanted there to be more hoops for the people who needed help to jump through.  I thought if a person needed help it was a consequence of their own behavior.  I thought that people cheated the system for a living.  I even thought there shouldn't be welfare, but just let them eat cake.

Yes, this is how I lived.  I didn't care about the "fellow man," I certainly didn't care about social injustices. That was until I started looking around.  Because of my job, I was thrust into a seat at the table of the poor. I met person after person and heard story after story.  Their stories cut me to the core.  They gave me chills.  They forced me to see an alternative to my thoughts. They showed me just how hard it is to be in their situations.  They made me feel 2 inches tall.

I was at a chasm.  Do I continue to hold these beliefs, or do I accept people's testimonies?  Do I continue to turn my head, or do I look them straight in the eyes?  It was like God shined a light and I had to either put on sunglasses or see what He was showing me.

I chose to change my mind.  I chose to not judge a person.

What I've learned?  The system is extremely confusing.  It's not set up for emergencies.  If you need help because you lost your job.... stand in line and you'll get help in a month.  I found that people in poverty are some of the most loving and generous people I know.  I found that consequences are the reason people need help, but that it's not usually their's.  I learned that food stamps are not enough, and charity isn't either.  I learned that big business isn't pulling anyone out of poverty, and neither is the economy. I figured out why Jesus hung out with these people.  I learned that single mothers work for minimum wage.  I learned that what I thought was reality was republican rhetoric.  I learned that the poor were pawns of the democrats, and that neither party truly cares.

So are you saying you're a Democrat Broc?  No, I am not saying that at all.  I am saying that politics are less than humans.  Don't be jaded by a political party.  Don't let some guy in Washington tell you what reality is, experience it for yourself.  Look outside the fray, and you will find something that challenges the things you hold.  As Mother Teresa says, "Come and see."