The Wisdom of Teenagers

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf Published in the Albert Lea Tribune on September 6, 2018

sprinkled ColumnMany kids these days don’t know the song called “School Days” written in 1907. I’m not that old, but my mom loved the song as she was a teacher. The first verse went something like this: “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days, readin’ and writin’ and ’rithmetic, taught to the tune of the hickory stick.”

Today I think the “hickory stick” would be considered child abuse if I get the meaning right, which to me meant if you didn’t behave you got the hickory stick. During the time I was in school, it wasn’t unusual for a nun to rap a child’s hand with a ruler — I was scared to death to speak in case the ruler would be directed at my hand. I know that is hard to believe since I am a chatty person but my parents at conferences always heard that I needed to speak up, raise my hand and answer questions.

In high school it wasn’t unusual for someone to have to bend over and grab their ankles if they were misbehaving, especially from one teacher. We all loved this teacher, and though it happened I don’t know that any hard feelings linger. It also wasn’t unusual to hear someone had been slapped or berated and yelled at in the principal’s office. And if those things happened, our parents were even tougher on us at home.

It is 2018, and the word on the old people street is that kids have changed. It is harder to teach because kids are more disrespectful, teachers can’t discipline and teenagers are out of control. I dislike when we lump all kids and teenagers together. I happen to love teenagers. They have always been my favorite group to work with. I love their honesty, how they keep us honest and real because they call us adults out occasionally in our behavior, and they do have wisdom beyond their years. Their world is much different than the world I grew up in. Teenagers today deal with social media, broken homes, academic pressure and also problems such as bullying, homelessness, LGBT issues, suicide, and stress.

One morning this past summer, I followed my church youth group’s media page as they traveled to the National Youth Convention in Houston, Texas. I was surprised and impressed with the posts of one young lady called Aly. She was very insightful, so I decided I wanted to know more about her interactions at this convention.

This is the post which caught my eye: 

Have you ever had communion @ mass with over 30,000 people? We have! day 5//we started off the day with Sunday morning mass, where we praised the Lord one last time with the ELCA groups from around the country. On the way to church in the morning, my mom & I met this amazing lady. She was originally born in New Jersey, but now lives in h-town. When my mom asked who she lives here with, the first thing she said with a big smile on her face was “no one, I travel with God”. I instantly knew this chat with her would be one of the most powerful things I will experience on this trip. We started off talking about how we were going to have a church service with over 30,000 young people who have come across the country. The conversation only developed & got deeper from there. Some things she said that has stuck with me are:
“I travel with God’s grace everywhere I go”

“We the people are the church, I take it w me everywhere I go”

“I just enjoy the fight (of life), if you don’t like the fight then you’re not gonna make it here very long”

“Anyone trying to take down your faith is the devil”

“I am the spirit of my dreams”

“You’ve gotta strut because Jesus is the only way in (to heaven)”

These are just a few. To most of you, this may just seem like this was just an ordinary small talk conversation. But it left both my mom & I in tears when my mom told her that I am her daughter, the lady looked @ me & said: “& shes your strength”. It made us both cry. but the EXTREMELY ironic thing about this conversation with this woman was that what she was preaching to us was EXACTLY what the speakers @ the youth gathering the previous night before were saying. The speakers just kept repeating how WE are the church & those were the exact words this woman said to us. She was so into our conversation she ended up missing her stop, but she was so content about it. She said, “That was God’s work, this conversation is happening for a reason”. @ that moment I knew I had seen God already that day. Another thing we told her was that a speaker the previous night had said, “We just need more love in this world”, but this woman told us that there is already PLENTY of love in this world right now, people just need to learn how to share it. This woman will leave an impact on me for the rest of my life

 

 

I decided to interview Aly. I asked why she chose to go to this convention. She explained her pastor wanted the youth to start helping people, learn more about themselves and God. Aly’s faith changed during confirmation classes, and her mentor was a big part of that. She learned that talking about faith wasn’t something to be ashamed of.

Aly didn’t know what to expect of the convention. The speakers had an impact. She stated, “There wasn’t a time I didn’t have goosebumps. We had speakers who addressed what we are going through in our lives and touch us every day, things we don’t address in our smaller churches and these problems are our world, too, and it helps us understand what is happening and how God connects us to love others.”

We don’t often have homeless people on the streets of Wells or Albert Lea. They are there but hidden, and that was one of the other takeaways for Aly from being in a larger city.

“People were on the streets with blankets and some had tents, just random people, women, and children, too. I learned to not be scared while doing some mission work. They aren’t bad people. They have suffered some bad circumstances.”

Aly is one teenager who chose to speak out on her learning experiences of that which is different and that which expanded her faith. There was 30,000 youth at this convention. Other churches have conventions and mission trips teaching teenagers of a different world than the one they live in. It expands their humanity, their world and their vision for the future.

When I asked Aly what else helped move her faith forward one of her answers was CRAVE. CRAVE describes itself as a party with a message of purpose. CRAVE was started after a friend of the co-founder died of suicide. CRAVE came to our community this summer.   One of the comments of one of the speakers still stands out in Aly’s mind. The statement was from a former drug dealer and he said, “My first job was being a drug dealer, and now I don’t deal drugs, I deal hope.” It reminded her people are going through struggles in faith, in living and relationships, and there is hope. She hopes to carry that hope into the future.

I like to listen to what teenagers have to say about the way we adults interact with them, so I asked what our small-town churches can do for our teens today. Aly suggested our small-town churches need to address the subjects our teenagers are struggling with today, which were addressed at the ELCA youth gathering.

After listening to not just Aly, but other teenagers, I feel we, as adults, need to address these issues from the pulpit and offer tools and support for them. We need to offer acceptance rather than judgment, so they feel the church is a soft place to fall in times of trouble — a community of all ages to guide them through their challenges. We need to not sweep what is happening in today’s society and what we perceive as large-city problems under the rug and never talk about the elephants in the room. We have the same issues in smaller communities; we may choose to ignore them because of fear or lack of understanding or hoping by ignoring they will go away.  Teenagers are not alien or bad; they are teenagers with vast wisdom — which may be different than an adult but wisdom non-the-less — and they want to be heard.

Teenagers may not always go about getting our attention the right way, but underneath the lashing out are real feelings. We need to see beyond the actions and hear the unspoken words. They are our future.

“We need space to discuss unspoken, uncomfortable dark truths.” —Janet Mock

Young and the Restless, Bold and the Beautiful What Happened?

bold and beautifulI don’t usually write posts on the soap operas I have watched for more years than I can count. At least it is that way with the Young and the Restless. I have followed the soap from the beginning. I began watching the Bold and the Beautiful when As The World Turns went off the air. Yes, I am a soap junkie starting from my teen years when my mom got me hooked. I won’t tell you how old I am now. Let’s just say almost older than dirt.

I will start by commenting on the Bold and the Beautiful. Since I have begun watching this soap, and I am not sure why I am watching anymore, it has pretty much consisted of Hope in love with Liam, Liam marrying Stephy, then divorcing Stephy and going back with Hope, and then back to Stephy and letting Stephy go, throwing  in a few more people for them to marry before they trade around again.

Then we have Ridge and Brooke. Ridge is with Brooke,  he marries someone else and back to Brooke, another distraction and then he is back with Brooke. You get my gist. In between, we have had a few other storylines like the one with Sheila coming back. I wasn’t in on the first times Sheila was in the mix but it was tiring having her come back again. You knew exactly what was going to happen. I really felt the mark was missed on the Quinn shooting too. The story could have been so much more.

I am a mystery writer and as a long time fan, I think I could even do better than what has happened. I was very hopeful when someone shot Bill and they had all these suspects. But then they ended the story quickly. My mystery writer mind had all kinds of twists and turns along with offshoot stories that could have kept us fans enticed for a long time. Add some history and the writers could have rocked it. But no, first the writers showed us Liam shot his father and then it was Taylor.  And I might add I have been very disappointed with the way the police are portrayed in this soap opera. It doesn’t do justice to what would really happen if crimes unfolded they way they did the past few months.

Elation bubbled over me when they brought the Spectra’s back but again it was quickly over and the writers dropped the ball not only on Bill’s involvement in trying to try to kill Sally and endangering Liam but also in the entire story that could have developed with Spectra and Forrester once again going head to head especially with Thomas helping Sally lead the battle.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the actors playing the characters. They are doing an excellent job with what they are given but I feel as if the Bold and the Beautiful are living in the movie Groundhog Day and every day is the same. Perhaps the problem is the writers and the networks are too young and not seasoned enough to understand what makes a soap great or what makes fans keep watching. Maybe they should hire a real author who spends their lives writing great stories.

Here is what I imagine in my head when I think of the Bold and the Beautiful. Liam and Wyatt actually finally say enough and start their own company to compete with Spencer Enterprises. Someone starts to sabotage Spencer Enterprises and of course Bill blames Liam and Wyatt but who is lurking from the past that could be the villain? Hope and Stephy finally both have had enough of Liam’s waffling between the two of them. Stephy becomes a single mother and though Liam will have a say in her child’s future, she doesn’t need a man to complete her. She is an independent woman and takes charge with her dad at Forrester. Hope takes time to figure out why she can’t move on and spends time figuring out who Hope Logan really is, maybe meeting someone new along the way that could take her in an entirely new direction. I feel this program shows a disrespect to these two characters who are supposed to be leading executives and strong women. Meanwhile, Liam and Wyatt also have someone sabotaging their efforts to start their new company. Both father and sons are too busy blaming each other to see what is really going on right under their noses.

Ridge and Brooke, Eric and Quinn become the stable couples although Quinn still has that impish spark inside of her and decides she is going to investigate who is trying to take down her son. Of course, her life might be put in danger but does she pull Eric into it too or does he still try to be the voice of reason?

We can’t forget about Pam and Charlie. They add a comedic touch to the show. As for Wyatt and Katie, well use your imagination and find a story for them so they don’t get boring. After all, they don’t do much right now as a couple except having trysts in Katie’s house or worry about what other people on the soap thnk of their relationship.

I know my storyline dreams might be lame but what I am saying is get off the same ole, same ole. A subject is talked about for days with not much action. It is very easy to fast forward through many conversations because there are not many surprises. Bring back some history. Tie the show together and add some mystery, strife, and comedy. Make us care about the stories and the characters. I might be wrong but it is time to find someone who truly understands the Forrester’s and is bold with the storyline and makes it a beautiful tale to weave.

Tomorrow my take on the Young and the Restless.

Who am I? Just a fan that wants my soap opera back. Is that too much to ask?

 

The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.