Friday, October 13, 2017

#tellyourstory

My friend, Kristin, and I were talking the other night about how deeply disturbed we are regarding Harvey Weinstein and the sheer depth and breadth of his hideous, nightmarish behavior. We need to tell our stories. We need to put faces and names to sexual harassment and assault.

This is my story.

"PASADENA--Police arrested a motel employee Wednesday after he allegedly groped two women during a breakfast buffet. 

Jose Martinez, 35, was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor sexual battery, Pasadena police Sgt. John Luna said.

Martinez was working about 9 a.m. at a motel in the 1200 block of East Colorado Blvd. when the incident occurred, the sergeant said.

He groped the lower bodies of two 29-year-old women, above their clothes, Luna said.

After his arrest, Martinez confessed to the groping, police said."

I wrote about this at the time. And, in truth, at the time, I was pretty disturbed by what had happened. However, when I wrote the story, I added in humor in some sort of attempt to make light of the situation. It's what I do. I make jokes to break the tension in my own life. It was minor, but it was NOT OKAY and it was NOT FUNNY.

In 2011, two of my friends and I spent a couple of days in Pasadena. On the first morning, I stood at the counter of the continental breakfast, waiting to make a waffle.

A male employee was going in and out of the room checking on things. He walked past me and groped my butt. My brain began to process what had just happened. Could it have been an accident? Was there any way that someone could accidentally grope a butt for that long? Was there anyway that someone could have mistakenly done something so overtly sexual? I walked up to my friend. "Maybe it was an accident but I think..."

We quickly realized that he'd done the same thing to both of us.

As I waited for my waffle to be done, I kept my butt firmly planted against the counter. When the waffle was finished, I turned to remove it from the iron. I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye. It was as though he'd been waiting for me to turn around. I saw him reach out and I felt the same unfamiliar hand inappropriately touching me in the middle of a breakfast buffet. I tensed. My nerves buzzed. At this point, I was pretty shaken. The first time I was disturbed but confused. The second time left absolutely no room for confusion.

I went to my table and told my friends, "It happened again." My arm was shaking and unsteady. Setting my waffle down, I hit the cup of hot chocolate I'd already made. It flew up in the air, sailed forward, and dumped down the front of my white pants. Embarrassed and emotional, I blurted out, "That's how worked up I am about all this." A man asked if I was burned and began to help clean up the mess. The man who had touched me, whose name I later learned was Alfredo or Jose (the news article called him Jose. The court documents call him Alfredo), came immediately over to our table.

I assured everyone that I was alright and I backed up into a corner to protect my butt from further touching. As everyone else tried to clean up the mess, I stood, frozen, against the wall. Jose/Alfredo asked me, repeatedly, if I was okay. I largely ignored him and then left to change my clothes.

I headed up to my room but, in my state of shock or panic or whatever it was, I wasn't sure which room was ours. I went back down to my friends, still covered in chocolate and asked them. As I got back into the elevator, I saw Jose/Alfredo coming toward me. I frantically pushed the button to close the elevator doors but he darted in just as the door was closing. I was 29. I should have screamed. I should have tried to jump out. I should have done something other than stand there, frozen. But I did not. I could not. I stared at the ground. His shoes were covered in paint.

I thought he was going to rape me.

The touching had been unwelcome, unexpected, unwanted, and completely inappropriate. But the elevator ride, the myriad of terrifying thoughts I had in those few seconds, was horrible.

"Are you okay?" he asked me.

"I'm fine," I said as firmly and unmoved as I could. Make yourself seem fierce. Make yourself seem bigger and braver. I squared my shoulders.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yes! I am sure," I exclaimed. I should have slapped him across his face and told him never to touch me again. I should have, at the very least, told him that I was covered in hot chocolate because of him. I did not. I could not. All I could think was that he would stop the elevator between floors and hurt me. Or that he would wait until I was in my room and use some master key to force his way in.

He asked me my name. I have no idea why I told him. I should have said it was none of his business. I should have, at the very least, given him a fake name.

He repeated it, smiling. The door opened and I dashed out. Then I stopped abruptly, terrified that he was going to follow me. Thankfully, he went right and I needed to go left. I changed my clothes as quickly as I could and dashed back down to my friends.

"He followed me onto the elevator," I told them.

We all went back up to our room to decide what to do. We talked about our options. We knew we wouldn't stay a second night. We didn't feel safe there. Ultimately, we decided to call my dad, who is in law enforcement.

I think I somehow believed that it wasn't a big deal. Because society feeds us this lie that it's not a big deal. Because Harvey Weinstein can get away with rape and lewd and lascivious conduct for decades. Because it was only my butt. Because he hadn't assaulted me on that elevator. Because he didn't force himself into my room. The truth is that, yes, it was my clothed butt. A whole lot worse has happened to a whole lot more people. Thank goodness for my father. He knows the penal codes and he told me to call the police immediately.

In California, penal code 243.4(e) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and is for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery. As used in this subdivision, "touches" means physical contact with another person, whether accomplished directly, through the clothing of the person committing the offense, or through the clothing of the victim. "Intimate part" means the sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.

When the officer arrived, he was so kind and caring. He said that what we described was minor sexual assault. I do not bring up the fact that he said "minor" to in any way imply that he made light of the situation. Rather, to hear an on duty officer who wasn't my father describe the incident as assault was simultaneously overwhelming and relieving. He gave us the option of pressing charges. At that point, wanting to be free of the situation, we opted for a stern tongue lashing by officers in uniform. Ultimately, we just didn't want this to keep happening to other women. We watched the scene unfold from our window. More cops showed up and, suddenly, Jose/Alfredo was being cuffed. We found out later that the officer had pulled surveillance video from the buffet. He said that what he saw was so obvious and so predatory in nature that an arrest must be made. One of the officers who had arrived on the scene, a female, commended us for calling. She said that all too often, these things go unreported. She said we did everything right.

I credit my dad. When I would have otherwise been way too afraid to speak up, way too worried about confrontation, way too embarrassed or timid, he gave me courage. I never saw the tape. I only felt what I felt. But, later, the district attorney was very disturbed by the footage she saw. She wanted a punishment more severe than we ever would have thought in those first few minutes.

It was only my butt. But it was unsolicited and wildly inappropriate. I stood with my back against things for a long while after. I became much more aware of my surroundings. The fear that he was going to rape me, the thought that I would be powerless to stop it if he tried, those feelings stayed with me for a long time. Still, I sometimes feel uneasy when I'm on an elevator alone with another man.

People are wondering why these young Hollywood women didn't speak out at the time. There were two of us. We were 29 year old wives and mothers and we didn't exactly know what to do or say. He was a motel employee. To expect young and terrified women to have stood up to a Hollywood mogul when they think that they're the only one is unrealistic.

We must first create an environment where women (and men) are not afraid that speaking up and speaking out won't make things worse. Until then, individuals in positions of power will continue to get away with horrible atrocities. Perhaps, in order to create such an environment, more people need to tell their stories. Perhaps then, the world would be forced to listen.

#tellyourstory

Think what you want of Megyn Kelly but this is a good and short watch. And then, if you're feeling like getting worked up, read the comments. So many of them blame the women. So many. What can we do to change this narrative?





If you hate Megyn Kelly, watch Anderson Cooper instead.



The link to the article about our encounter can be found here.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Memories That Mean Something

As has been well documented in this particular space, I'm not a crier. I almost never just sit down and have a good cry simply for the sake of crying. If people are around--forget about it. As I've said before, if you've seen me cry, you're in a rather elite group of people. Even my current television obsession, This Is Us, doesn't make my eyes spring a leak in quite the same way that it makes the rest of the world. I love it, don't get me wrong. It's perfect and poignant and almost always spot on, but I've only choked up a handful of times.

Last night's episode did me in. I mean, I can't even talk about Randall's character without losing it. "My whole childhood, I felt split inside." And then teen Randall, "It's like a ringing in my ears and, uh, it quiets down sometimes. It can quiet down so much I almost forget it's there, but then, there are sometimes where it's so loud, I just feel alone." I was basically a wreck thinking about my boys.

But that's not even what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Sylvester Stallone.

"So it's a funny thing, when you think about it, time. Your sister sings a couple of bars of Rocky and for a split second I can smell the ring again. And then she tells me that when you were little kids, you watched a lot of my movies, and I'm thinking for a moment about my kids when they were little. The messy hair. The matching pajamas and all that stuff. And I swear to you I can see it all so very clearly I could just reach out and touch it. In my experience, Kevin, there's no such thing as a long time ago. There's only memories that mean something and memories that don't."

I thought about Kate. Which is weird. Because I don't really have any memories of Kate. I never saw her running down the stairs in her pajamas to see what Santa had left under the tree. I never heard her voice or danced with her or snuggled her into bed. I never saw her kick a ball, climb a tree, or twirl in a frilly dress. My memories of her are mostly painful.

But even those excruciating memories mean something. I see it all so clearly I could just reach out and touch it. Her tiny body in my arms feels like yesterday. The way I could feel every nerve buzzing when I heard that she was gone forever. The sound of my own heartbeat banging loudly in my ears. Trying to get off the phone because I thought I was going to die, right then, and I needed to do it alone.

I visit her grave and sometimes I say hello to a soul that isn't there, wipe the dirt off her name, and get back in the car. And sometimes I want, inexplicably, to dig her up, cradle her once again, and breathe life into her dry bones.

My friend recently lost a baby to stillbirth. She asked me if I would share some of the things we did to honor Kate. In the course of our conversation, I said, "Thank you for asking me. I don't pretend to know what it is like to give birth to a stillborn baby and I really appreciate that you just look at me as a mom who lost a baby. Not a lady who got too attached to a kid she never carried."

She replied and said, "I think of you as a mom of a stillborn. Not like that's your label. But it's part of your story."

And really, it meant the world to me to have her say that. In her own fresh grief, she accepted my long time ago sorrow. That's not an easy thing to do.

It's in the ebb and flow of grief that we learn to live. Like a surfer waiting for the next wave. Life is calm and serene and full but we know that the pulse of the ocean will bring another swell. On a birthday. When someone else experiences unfathomable loss. When Sylvester Stallone says that there is no such thing as a long time ago.

It was three years ago that I first heard about this birth mother who was pregnant with this baby. To some, three years is a long time. In those years I have loved and lost and loved again.


I cannot tell Will's story without telling Kate's. Two hearts. One birth mom. Sister. Brother. And a mama who isn't sure that there will ever be a day where grief doesn't surprise her in the strangest of places. My hair is tucked behind my ear the same way. My face, somehow, looks the same even though the circumstances could not have been more different. Devastation somehow filled with hope that the Lord would fulfill the promise He placed in my heart. Joy filled with sadness that he would never know the sister who first stole my heart. These are memories that mean something.


It's a funny thing, when you think about it time.
Your sister sings a couple of bars of Rocky, and for a split second I can smell the ring again.
And then she tells me that when you were little kids, you watched a lot of my movies, and I'm thinking for a moment about my kids, when they were little the messy hair, the matching pajamas and all that stuff and I swear to you, I can see it all so very clearly I could just reach out touch it.
In my experience, Kevin, there's no such a thing as "a long time ago.
" There's only memories that mean something and memories that don't.

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=this-is-us-2016&episode=s02e03

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Pygmy Antelope

I have an eleven year old. I used to blog about him here, when he was little and said hysterical things. I remember his chubby baby hands and his adorable baby voice. Daddy went to work and, for a minute there, it was just him and me all day long. I didn't work outside the home. There weren't any other kids until he was two and a half. I don't remember how we filled the days but there must have been a great deal of playing and reading. He took a nap or, at least, a rest, every day and I blogged a lot about life back then.

More children came. Preschool started. Then he went to kindergarten and first grade and second grade and third grade and fourth grade. Life barreled along with soccer, swimming lessons, homework, kid's club, scouts, and so many other things. I blogged less and less until it seemed the old fishbowl was just a thing I used to do.

But this first born of mine is pretty fantastic. He's always been one of my most favorite people on planet earth. He's an average kid in so many ways. Pretty average at sports, he makes up in heart what he often lacks in physical ability. A good student, but he's not a card holding member of the Genius Club. I doubt he'll graduate valedictorian or get a sport's scholarship to college. He's a loud mouth with more ego strength in his index finger than some people get in a lifetime. We're constantly telling ourselves that if we can harness all that confidence for good, he'll make a fine young man some day.

He's playing football right now. He plays down an age group because he's a miniature human. Even playing with ten-year-olds, he's one of the smallest. Even playing with ten-year-olds he made the B team. He didn't care. He shrugged off the disappointment, assuming he's right where he's supposed to be. He has a work ethic that won't quit, the heart of a lion in the body of a pygmy antelope.


He is small but he has all the confidence in the world. He made student council--a position he had to interview for. Last night, he earned his Tenderfoot rank--which required a Board of Review that he had to request himself. He's soaring so high above grade level in reading. He carries on conversations with adult strangers and experiences zero anxiety. He chooses to be a leader. The school librarian recently told me, "He is so kind. I do not know him very well, but I know that he is kind." 

He has befriended a student who struggles socially, sitting somewhere on the autism spectrum. This boy adores my son and is doing really well having Garrett beside him. In my drama class, I often ask the students to pair up. The other boy instantly stands next to my son. Perhaps Garrett would like, from time to time, to be paired up with someone else. But when asked, he shrugs his shoulders. "It's okay, Mom," he tells me. "He's comfortable with me and I don't want to leave any man behind."

He wants to be in the military when he grows up. Many mamas try to steer their precious boys away from such a career. But my son, at 11, doesn't want to leave any man behind. I can't imagine a better man to stand by on the field of battle. And I have all the confidence that he would run into enemy fire to drag a brother out of harm's way. 

He is average in so many ways. But he is also amazing. And as I think back 12 years, to a time when I was begging and pleading with my Lord for the gift of a child, I have to smile because this precious child is worth every second of the wait.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Will Their Verse Be?

"The arts must be considered an essential element of education...They are tools for living life reflectively, joyfully, and with the ability to shape the future." -Shirley Trusty Corey

There's a problem. It's a problem that has its roots in the general idea that arts have no place in education, that they're not to be valued. In college, I did a research project on multiple intelligences. There are students sitting all day long in a classroom, practicing spelling and math through rote learning, that are kinesthetic learners who would thrive by moving around. There are students who learn best through naturalistic approaches, students who would really, really learn if they were taught through music, and others who learn best in groups. We cannot cater to every learning style in every classroom, of course I know that. But when we give our children an opportunity to learn in a way not typically represented in their day to day lives, we open up the door to reach them on an entirely different level.

Some people assume that my classroom is play time. I assure you that it is not. It is teaching students, from five years old to nearly middle schoolers, to work together, to encourage one another, to be brave and bold. I am attempting to cultivate an environment where students shed inhibitions and realize, maybe for the first time, that they can stand in front of their peers and speak. They can be creative without fear of failure. I am teaching playwriting and storytelling, dramatic structure, character analysis and SO MANY MORE STANDARDS, y'all. And I'm teaching students not to be afraid of their own shadows. In this day of technology and screens and computers and iPads, I'm teaching them to look one another in the eye and CREATE SOMETHING TOGETHER.

Innovation comes from original and creative thinkers.

Theatre is every art form rolled into one brilliant attempt to tell the next story. It is dance and music and visual. It is technical and verbal and organized. It is not practical. Who among us will make a rich living through drama? No. It is not practical. Neither is algebra. For who among us is using that on a daily basis? I certainly am not. Oh sure, there are many jobs that require algebra. Most of us are not doing them. We find our niche. We embrace the things we love. Who are we to tell a child what that will be? Who are we to tell them that math and science and language arts are more important than theatre or visual arts or music? Who are we to value the core subjects as instruction and everything else as disposable? Who is to know when we might be teaching algebra or spelling to the next Van Gogh, the next Bach, the next Stanislavski?

Please, I beg of you, do not tell your children that the arts are not valuable. In fact, they are invaluable. Your child may think and learn and grow in a typical classroom environment and may never, personally, see the value in a class like drama. But I assure you, so many of them do.

"...the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote Whitman, 'O me! O life!...of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless...of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here--that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" -Dead Poets Society



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trash Collector

My 15 month old son has a compulsion to throw ALL THE THINGS away. To be fair, he has no earthly idea that the trash disappears and never, ever comes back. He just thinks the large plastic tub is another storage bin. Still, I've opened the lid of that can to find:

Dozens of packets of oatmeal
Matchbox cars
Water bottles
Sippy Cups
A box of aluminum foil
Dish towels
(partial list)

One day, in the not so distant past, our wee broom and dust pan disappeared. "Where could it be?" we four asked one another in confusion. It's a dust pan and broom. It does not grow legs and walk away. We searched high and low, low and high before declaring it gone forever. There was simply nowhere that an object of its size could be hidden. Will must have thrown it away. I have no idea how many other items have been tossed without my knowledge. 

This past weekend, with my parents visiting, Will disposed of three of his beloved Weebles (the kind that wobble but don't fall down). We searched in cabinets and under furniture. We dug through bins of toys and drawers of clothing. At one point, there were four adults and two elementary school children simultaneously hunting for Willy, Winston, and Wendy Weeble. One of those elementary aged children claimed to have looked in the trash can not once but twice. However, upon an adult searching the receptacle, the missing Weebles were discovered. This was splendid good news because the Weeble family and their tree house just happen to be at the top of the list of Will's most favorite toys.


My mother suggested a locking trash can so that nothing too terribly important got hauled off to the dump. My brother and sister-in-law have one so she knew just what to look for. Off we went in search of a wastebasket that was smarter than my toddler. She texted my sister-in-law. "Where did you get your locking trash can?" My sister-in-law replied, "Tessie or Will? I'm guessing Will." You don't have to live near family to have a finger on the pulse of their circumstances. Also, they have a two-year-old. She said she'd gotten it at Walmart or Target. We couldn't find any locking cans at Walmart but Target didn't disappoint.


Meet my new trash can. 

Will is HIGH energy. He's into everything. He screams like a crazed banshee when he doesn't get his way and I've told many a teacher that he's going to be the kid who needs his own private desk in the corner and, maybe, Ritalin. I'm joking. Maybe. I hope. But the thing about that kid is that he has a mechanical mind. I know it's a weird thing to notice about a toddler but he observes the way things work. He watches his brothers do things. He tries to copy them. I recently discovered that he knows how to unscrew bottle caps which I happen to think is COMPLETELY NUTS for a kid who doesn't even regularly say, "Mama."

That kid marched over to the new trash can. He tried to open the lid and inside I laughed a maniacal and somewhat evil laugh. "Muahahahahahahaha!" His grand plans to throw away ALL THE THINGS was foiled at last. Will dropped to his hands and knees. He peered, quizzically, at the foot pedal. He looked behind and beside the trash can. He stood back up. Examining the lid, he ran his hand around the lip. Then he placed both hands on the locking latch and pulled. That happens to be the exact way to open the trash can. He is mighty but he is still quite small and even the bigger boys have to pull pretty hard to get the lock to open. Will was unable to muster enough force to actually succeed. But I'm convinced that, had he been strong enough, he would have figured out that trash can in approximately three minutes.

This leads me to believe that he will grow up to be a mechanic or an engineer or a rocket scientist. But, it is ENTIRELY possible that he wants to be a trash collector.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Atatood

Who's to say how my youngest child will turn out. Right now he's fifteen months old and has more energy in his smallest toe than I have in my whole entire body on a good day. He's a nut case and I'm, quite frankly, a little concerned about what all that energy might do some day. Burn the house down by accident? Maybe.

But, the other two are a little more settled in their ways. And Matthew has a tendency to be quick tempered. Over ridiculous things. This is almost always a result of being over tired. At eight years old, the child still occasionally needs a nap. Garrett hasn't needed a nap since he was two years old so it is true that you cannot parent any two children the same way. 

On Thursday, I asked Matthew to go read. This is a school requirement and I had already recorded his minutes in his daily planner. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that an insane amount of football coupled with being back in school caught up to my kid. He FLIPPED his lid. The meltdown was immediate and...a little crazy. 

I fully implemented the "you just wait until your father gets home" tactic. In the end, he lost screen time until he could earn enough points to get it back. He was given a list of ways to earn points. Most of them involved doing chores. One of them was writing me an apology note. He wasn't given any help with spelling or content. He brought me a note, folded and taped into a third grade version of origami. 

Dear mom, Sorry for my bad atatood. Next time i won't get mad. I will not flail my arms and huff and puff and blow up. I will never act like this again.


First off, I am contemplating only spelling attitude this new way. From now until forever. For the duration of my life. Second, I nearly died laughing about the huff and puff part. Once I recovered from that, I moved on to the little bit about how he would never act like that again. Idle threats, friends. He certainly will act like that again. And when he does, if you think I don't fully intend to present him with this note, you'd be dead wrong.

I love that kid. I do not love his quick temper so much but if he can just learn to harness his atatood, that kid is going places.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Crazy Season

Once again, I'm here weighing in on the racism debate. I wish I wasn't. I wish my kids were going to turn into adults who were judged only by the content of their character. Not terribly long ago, our son was told--by another boy his age--that he wasn't allowed to drink from the same coffee pot as "the white man."

Some calm, non over reactive digging unearthed the fact that this boy had seen Hidden Figures. Unaware of the fact that it had taken place in another time period, the boy took it as truth for today's society. This is precisely why we need to dialogue with our children constantly. We cannot assume that they understand context. I cannot stress this enough. Beat a dead horse if you have to. Make sure your children understand. Clearly, the boy was sorely mistaken. I do not believe he was a tiny little racist.

Still, the fact remains that, while I hope it was addressed with the boy, there was never any further discussion between the boy and my own son. Embarrassment, the assumption that it was all said and done, or some other reason entirely, prevented a genuine apology. I'm sorry, I was really confused would have sufficed. I tell my son that the boy didn't understand, has been spoken to, and now knows that, in today's society, everyone can drink from the same coffee pot.

And like I said, I highly doubt the kid hates black people. But do you think it felt personal to my son? He was called out, in front of a group, and told that he couldn't drink from the same pot as White Man.

When it comes to our bonkers country, I do believe that there is racism on every side. I absolutely believe in calmly trying to figure out if the issue at hand is actually racism or some kind of catastrophic failure to communicate. It's a crazy season and we are trying our best to navigate it with our family. I've heard and seen things that hurt me, personally, for my kids and for my country.

And still, my goal, as I have said before and will continue saying, is to teach my own children to love. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

My husband and I seem to spending every night discussing all that is going on racially in our country right now. He recently wrote about it in our church newsletter. These thoughts are just his two cents and, obviously, there are a million ways to approach this issue. What I do know is that if we try to match hate with hate, if we respond ugly, we gain no ground. We must respond to hate and ignorance with Love. We must shed Light onto darkness.

Crazy Season -- by Troy Bassham


See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17


It seems we have entered another round of the crazy season.


Divisions--political, racial, and otherwise--dominate the news and much of social media. A cycle of anger and response (creating reciprocal anger and response) spins faster and faster leaving a wake of confusion and damage. It reminds me of when my washing machine is out of balance, loudly thumping and banging around the laundry room, threatening to fall over and spill all of its contents.

So what do we do as believers? How do we respond to the crazy cycle?


I’ve thought about this a lot because of the recent and racially fueled rhetoric. Clearly, I have a dog in the fight. My family is white, black, and biracial. I love my family. I hate racism and all of the damage it has brought across continents and centuries. I don’t like having to have conversations about why my son was called the ‘N’ word at a recent softball game. Maybe it does help our family to have a deeper understanding of what it means to live as Christ’s followers in a world that is far from Him, but it is distasteful nonetheless.


Even more importantly, I love Jesus who died for people of every nationality and pigment of skin. I want to represent Him and His values.


...How do I respond when the world seems to have gone crazy? Here are just a few ideas. They are not new or poignant, but I hope they are helpful when the news seems even worse than usual.


Step One: Refuse to play.
What I’m not saying: I’m not saying to ignore real issues. We certainly need to stand up for what’s right and true. But we need to respond with maturity, both spiritually and emotionally. I remember a Christian relationship speaker talking about the ‘crazy cycle’ that can happen in marriages. A perceived offense leads to a response in anger which creates another response in anger . . . and on and on it goes. The cycle only stops (in a healthy manner) when one person realizes what is happening and decides to stop playing. Instead of responding in kind, we need to determine a mature response to move toward resolution. To quote the 1980s movie Wargames, ‘the only way to win is not to play.’


Step Two: Affirm what is right.
In the middle of angry back and forth banter there are going to be many gross generalizations and faulty narratives being thrown around. Often we can get caught up trying to debunk falsehoods and we forget to affirm the things which we think should be evident. Make sure you spend at least as much time speaking out for what is good. Sometimes what we stand for isn’t as obvious as what we are against (which is easy when there is so much sin, darkness and pain in this broken world). We need to make sure we are shining the light and not only fighting the darkness. For example, even if you think someone has leveled a false accusation of racism, make sure you take the time to affirm that God loves people of all races, creeds and colors and our response as his followers is to try and live in like manner.


Step Three: Be the Light
I kind of just addressed this. We live in a broken and sinful world. It has been so since the fall of man and will continue in like manner. Until Jesus makes all things new in His glorious final victory we will be witnesses and ambassadors in a less than ideal environment. Do not despair when it looks dark. Rather, be of good cheer and boldly shine the light and love of Jesus.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6


Step Four: Pray
Actually this is step one, two, three, four and fifty-two. Pray. No crazy season comes upon us that has taken God by surprise. No difficulty has come before us that God cannot handle or work through. We need to remember that we are in a spiritual battle:


For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12


While we are we unable to fight the battle on our own, we can be greatly encouraged by remembering that Jesus has already won the victory. He has overcome. Pray then, as God calls for His people to do.


These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33


Remember that this crazy season will pass, another then another will come. It is the reality of living in a broken world. Let us not be baited or distracted. Do not despair, but think of how we can live as light and witnesses for our Lord and Savior. It may be that as the days grow dark we have the opportunity to reflect Him more clearly. And we have the firm hope that these days will one day pass because Jesus is coming back to make things new and make things right. Maranatha!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Teach Your Children About My Family

I wrote a post about how I feel, about how I really just want to teach my children to love their neighbor, about how God is love, about how we should all be better than all of this, but I couldn't express my heart with words.

I couldn't make my fingers say what my soul sings about love. I couldn't give narrative to the way I felt when I woke up this morning--having had a nightmare about racism, remembering the tears streaming down Matthew's dream face. I couldn't explain the way my eight-year-old son taught me about love and acceptance when, after explaining Charlottesville to him, he replied simply that, those people are not loving their neighbors as themselves.

I just don't have an answer for how we fight racism. But it starts with educating our own children.

Biracial.


White.


Black.


Biracial.


White.


Biracial.


Black.


Brothers.


Brothers.


Brothers.

 

Brothers.


This family is everything. We are black and white and mixed and love. No one boy has my heart any more than another. Biological. Adopted. Black. White. Biracial. 

Sons. 

Period.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The N-Word

I didn't grow up with a great deal of racial diversity. Home was a small town in southern California, northeast of the city of San Diego by about 45 minutes. Predominantly Caucasian, we had a fairly substantial Latino population but, beyond that, there wasn't much representation of minorities.

I don't remember much at all about my early education on slavery, segregation, and racism. I'm sure I learned my fair share in a classroom, surrounded by all my white peers, hearing about the Civil War and Martin Luther King Jr. Then, just as now, we tapped briefly, told the white students a few highlights of black history and moved on. My parents must have educated me further because I can remember, for forever, knowing that there is a VERY bad word that we NEVER, EVER say. I feel pretty confident in guessing that there wasn't a lesson in my mostly white school about not saying the n-word.

I can never remember saying it. Not to someone, not in the privacy of my own bedroom just for the sake of saying it, not ever. As a child, that word was, to me, the most angry and evil thing imaginable. Somehow, I had to have been taught. I had to have had, instilled in me, the idea that the n-word carried a weight, unforgivable and inexcusable. I struggled through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird--loving them with an affection that continues to this day, but wrestling with how we might adequately remember a piece of our American history without THAT piece.

I've wondered if my intense aversion to this six letter word was somehow born of a subconscious, God-given foresight that, one day, I would be the white woman trying to grow the black boy to manhood.

I have said the n-word. I've said it as calmly and as matter-of-factly as I can manage. I have said it because I have instructed my son. I have told him that he will hear it, that people will say it to him and about him, that it will appear in literature and history. We have talked about its use in pop culture and within the African-American community. It was not easy for me to say because in such a small word there is so much history and heartache, so much degradation of an entire people group--a group in which my son belongs. It is pointedly inflammatory and I highly doubt that it will ever be free of its connotation of intimidation and oppression.

"The word n-----, you see, sums up for us who are colored all the bitter years of insult and struggle in America." -Langston Hughes The Big Sea

An online dictionary begins with a usage warning and lists the word as extremely disparaging. It's warning says this, "The term...is now probably the most offensive word in English. Its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly in recent years, although it has been used in a derogatory manner since at least the Revolutionary War...Extremely Disparaging and Offensive represent meanings that are deeply insulting and are used when the speaker deliberately wishes to cause great offense. It is so profoundly offensive that a euphemism has developed for those occasions when the word itself must be discussed, as in court or in a newspaper editorial: 'the n-word.'"

Saying it--in painful lessons to my son--did not prepare me for the look on his face when it was used last night. I might have dared to hope that he would not be only 8 years old. I might have hoped that it would not come from an older, white boy.

"Mom, I have to tell you something," I've never thought I'd seen the color drained from the face of my perfect, brown boy. Something was wrong. His whisper, when I went to him, was barely audible. "A boy said the n-word."

Every nerve, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes began to buzz. I calmly asked him to point me to the one who said it. He was, maybe, 12 or, perhaps, 13. Older than Garrett. Old enough to know. I found myself feeling thankful that it hadn't been a, "Hey you, n-----!" or "Get outta here, n-----!" Instead, the boy had asked my son if he knew what it meant.

I have no idea what his plan was or what he hoped to gain or make Matthew lose in the exchange but, after Matthew mumbled, "yes," the boy said, "It means you're black." My son, who is usually almost deathly afraid of new people and circumstances, whose default when threatened is always flight and never fight, apparently looked this bigger white boy in the eye and said squarely, "Stop." And then he came to find me.

Perhaps the boy didn't assume that the white lady coming to talk to him was related to the brown boy he'd decided to instruct in the ways of oppressive language with more than two centuries of historical baggage. I instructed him more perfectly. Calmly, but with fire in my eyes. We. Don't. Say. That. Word.

We, little white boy. You and me. We are not guilty of past atrocities but we are responsible for our actions and our words. We can remind the black man, with one six letter word, that there was a very long time in our history when he was forced to be less. When that boy said that word, when he told Matthew that it means he is black, what he really meant was that there was somehow a clear distinction between him, the scooter riding punk kid, and my son. And that the distinction "clearly" placed the white boy on top of their social order.

Let me be clear. I am not calling the boy a racist. (Nor am I calling RACIST on everyone who has ever said that word.) "Racist" is not a word to be thrown around lightly or tagged on to someone without serious consideration. He is a kid. I truly do not believe that he hates Matthew and wanted him to suffer. I do think he is operating from a place of severe ignorance. Please, if you are in a position of influence in the life of a child, teach him that there's a word that carries a punch he doesn't want to throw.

I firmly believe that it is only through conversation and awareness, forgiveness and love, that we can even begin to bridge the racial tension in our country. I will always be the white mother of a black son. And I will always do whatever it takes to see that he is given every opportunity to rise.

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
I rise
I rise
I rise.
-Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Spaghetti Goo Debacle of 2017

I think I was a teenager when my mother made the now infamous orange chicken. I have deduced my age simply because, before about the age of 13, I detested Chinese food and would have automatically hated that we were having it for dinner. Sometime, around late middle school, I swiped a bite of her Panda Express in the food court at Parkway Plaza and the rest is a history centering on a pretty intense love affair with take out Chinese.

My mom, excited to make something in her own kitchen that resembled the culinary expertise of Panda's signature dish, served up orange chicken. Except, I feel like we all should have known, when the recipe called for actual orange juice, that this was going to be an epic fail. And, truly, if I remember correctly, it tasted like I'd taken a plain chicken breast and submerged it for half an hour in a glass of O.J.

It was not good. I can't remember what we ended up eating that night but it wasn't the Orange Juice Chicken my mom had made. It was a night that will live in infamy. My mom is a good cook. In all my years of eating her meals almost exclusively, I can remember things that were not my particular favorite but through no fault of her own. I just don't really like meatloaf. The orange juice chicken, I am thoroughly convinced, was the fault of the recipe, not the chef.

It's been nearly 14 years of married life and in that time, I have made dishes that I wouldn't make again. Things that, say, weren't our very favorite. But normally, even if there's a person who doesn't like something, there's a Matthew around who will gobble it up with starvation level enthusiasm. Give it to Matthew, he'll eat anything. It's finally happened. I've had my Orange Chicken Experience.

I unknowingly signed my life over to football for the next three months. (Stay with me here.) This is particularly curious because I also signed my life over to the Jordan School District, Beverley Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program, and Utah's Alternate Route to Licensure. I am not sure how to divide my life so that everyone gets the appropriate parts but one thing has become abundantly clear. Something has to give. And that something is dinner.

I can't actually not make dinner but I thought that I might be able to simplify things a bit moving into this fall. I already love my crock pot like she's a full fledged family member but I've decided that it's time to up her status to full time cook. I'm planning--if I can get my act together--to freeze a couple dozen meals and throw them into my crock pot (who is rapidly reaching a status whereby she will need a name) for our particularly busy days. My boys have been practicing football almost every day for two weeks now and not getting home until 7:45 or 8:00. I decided that today would be a great day to use my crock pot and have dinner waiting for them when they got home.

I wondered if you could cook spaghetti in a crock pot. It turns out that you can (according to the Internet) and that you cannot (according to my family). I found a recipe that was basically spaghetti ingredients plus water. How could you go wrong with that?

I placed the spaghetti noodles in the bottom of the pot. I drizzled some olive oil over the top (to keep them from sticking to each other, supposedly). Next went the sauce followed by the water and then the meatballs. The recipe said to cook the dish on low for five hours but my crock pot is a tricksy little minx and she is apt to scorch anything I give her enough access to. I knew my crock pot spaghetti wouldn't need five hours. I planned to cook it for about three, turn it off, and warm it up just before the boys got home.

I checked it once. It looked like hard noodles floating in tomato juice. I became a skeptic of this spaghetti's ability to woo me. I replaced the lid and ignored it for awhile. The next time I checked on it, I was excited. The water had soaked up and it looked like delicious sauce and meatballs. I took a spoon to stir it. To my horror, the noodles had turned to what can only be described as goo. They had mushed together. What I was looking at were a few meatballs sitting atop one big blob of starch.

Troy had gotten home about an hour earlier and was working from our home office. I went down and explained that dinner was ready now. More than ready, really. And I'd just go ahead and feed the boys a very early dinner before their practice. I explained that we were eating Italian Goo for dinner. His look was one of...cautious trepidation.

I tossed the bread into the oven to crisp and dished up bowls of fruit because I didn't want those noodles in the pot for another minute and I didn't have time to toss a salad. A few minutes later, I called the family to the table. Because there was bread, my two growing boys wouldn't touch the pasta (if it could still be called pasta in its nearly liquefied state). I took the first bite.

Great Scott! It was horrible. I am not one to say Great Scott but if ever there was a Great Scott level of amazement, it was this. How could something so common as spaghetti taste so horrendously awful. It looked like wallpaper paste and tasted worse. I began to laugh. However, not wanting to sway my children's opinions (Matthew will, quite literally, eat anything including fish eyes), I tried to pass off my mirth for something else entirely.

Troy tried it. If his eyes could speak they would have been leading the spaghetti revolt. I very quickly spelled out (my children can spell but if I do it fast enough, they get confused) that it was inedible. We both began to laugh. Soon, we were shaking so hard that Will, having no idea what was so funny, began to join in. His laughter only elevated the situation and soon, tears were streaming down my face. The stuff was, in a word, revolting. Strangely, our 14 month old was chowing that mush down with wild abandon. It was the first time I'd ever given him a fork and he was enjoying smearing sauce ALL over his face so it's hard to say whether he enjoys eating wallpaper paste or whether he enjoyed the general merriment of the meal.

The boys still hadn't touched it. I gently encouraged them to take a bite and then all but forced them to PUT THE BREAD DOWN AND TAKE A STINKIN' BITE ALREADY! Garrett was the first to do so. The moment the pasta touched his tongue, he allowed his mouth to hang open as if to caution his taste buds against any further engagement. "I don't like the pasta!" he moaned as it sat, like a lump, on his tongue.

For the record, Matthew didn't like it either.

When Garrett finally managed to swallow his initial bite, he told me how much he hated it. Feigning offense, I said, "Well, that's rude. Tomorrow night you can make dinner." To this, Troy replied, "Please?"

As we ate meatballs and bread and fruit, for some reason, which I will never understand, Troy took another small bite of the gelatinous starch. "It's not that bad," he said. "If we were with the Donner party, I'd eat this before I ate the other people." I'm so glad my husband would eat my meal before resorting to cannibalism. He told me he was glad that I hated it too because he wasn't sure how he'd have eaten the whole bowl if I somehow thought it was good.

There was, literally, zero danger of that happening. The night shall go down in history as, probably, the single most hysterical meal I've ever had with my family--and we didn't even eat it.

I blame my crock pot who tried her best but is just too hot for her own good. Much like the poor woman who served up Orange Juice Chicken, I do not blame the chef for the Great Spaghetti Goo Debacle of 2017.

        (After we pilfered for meatballs.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

You Never Know When You'll Need a Blanket

We always keep a small blanket under the seat in our van. Maybe it's because I read a book about a guy who was trapped in his car at the bottom of a ravine for weeks. If that ever happened to me, at least I'd have a blanket. When I was packing up the car to go to Tahoe, I saw that there was an extra blanket under another seat. I almost took it out but decided that I didn't need the space and it could stay. But I pondered that blanket for a solid minute before making a decision.

It's inexplicable, really, why my toddler decided that sleeping was optional on our recent trip. He's been sleeping through the night for more than 10 months so I'm not sure why he woke up--more often than not--in the middle of the night, shouting, "Ah duh!" If we ignored him because, no, son, we are not all done with our sleep at 3:15 am, his pleasant conversation turned to hysterical sobbing.The walls were paper thin. You could clear your throat in the next room, with doors closed, and everyone heard it. My mom and I had full conversations through the shared bathroom wall as we did our hair. So leaving him to "cry it out" wasn't really an option. Unless we wanted two grandparents, two parents, two brothers, and a dog crying it out in their own beds as they endured the shriek of the banshee.

At first, we thought it was because he was in our room with us. Perhaps the curtain we'd hung from the cabin's roof wasn't fooling him as to our whereabouts. So we played musical rooms and moved him into his own space. A couple of times, we gave him a bottle, hoping he'd grow weary as he quietly guzzled his pre-dawn snack. This wasn't really a solution though. He hasn't needed a bottle in the middle of the night in many, many moons. Sometimes he'd snuggle up to us and be just about asleep when, "Bing!" he'd sit straight up and grab a nose or squeal in delight that we were still there.

One particular night, Troy had gone out to the couch with him. After an hour had passed with Will fussing or wailing or full on summoning any nearby coyotes, I went and got him so that Troy could tap out. I'd been lying in bed, not really sleeping anyway.

I tried all my tricks. With Will, I've developed an almost fool proof way to get him to sleep. It works at least 9 times out of 10. On this particular night, as I bounced and rocked and gently swung--simulating an experience that can only be described as hopping on the top of a working washing machine while riding in the back of a school bus--he stared at me with wide eyes, letting out a cry every once in awhile.

"That's it," I thought. I'll take him for a drive. We have never once taken Will for a drive in the middle of the night with the intention of getting him to sleep. Come to think of it, I'm not sure we've ever done that with any of our children. I texted Troy, in case he woke up while I was gone, letting him know that I was out driving. I put my glasses on and grabbed the keys, closing the door behind me.

That's when I realized I didn't have my wallet and that I probably shouldn't drive around the lake at what was now 4:15 in the morning without it. I went to put the key into the cabin doorknob when I realized that I'd grabbed the wrong keys. I had my key ring, which did not possess a way to get me back inside the locked cabin. I stood, tired and confused about what to do next.

I thought about knocking but no one knew I'd gone outside. I assumed I'd scare the crap out of anyone who heard me. In the light of day I can't say that I really care much about scaring the crap out of my husband or my parents but, for some reason, in the middle of the night, this seemed like a mean and potentially dangerous idea. I imagined them jumping a mile--thinking everyone was safe in their beds and being very worried about who was rapping on the door at an inhuman hour. Or, perhaps, they'd hear me, whisper about what intruder was attempting to rattle them in the dark of night, and finally open the door and clobber me with a rolling pin before realizing who I was--their only daughter, his beloved wife.

One thing was for sure. I wasn't standing out in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains before dawn. Those mountains are deadly--ask the Donners. I will, probably, meet my death at the paw of a bear because I am not actually afraid of them and have been known to follow them for photo opportunities. But, I was standing out in the open with a small crying child and I feel like that is infinitely more tempting for a bear than a lady with a camera.

I buckled Will into his seat and decided to forego the wallet. It took nearly 45 minutes of driving before Will fell asleep. His shrieking escalated to war time loud and I was slowly losing my tired mind. I drove around the neighborhood. I drove from just north of Carnelian Bay to Tahoe City and back. Three minutes before I got back to the cabin, he fell asleep.

And because I didn't know that he'd transfer if I tried to move him, and because I was still worried about terrifying the whole house, and because I knew I had those two blankets in the back, I decided to stay in the car. I covered up the now snoring baby. I reclined my seat. I tried to sleep. And I could not.

Sometime, just after 6:00, I managed to drift off. At 7:00 my alarm went off so that we could meet my brother's family for breakfast. Will awoke with my alarm, poked his head around the side of his car seat and grinned the sweetest, happiest smile of delight to discover himself in such a situation. Sleeping out in nature, the way God intended it. Sort of. Except, not really. That's the trouble with that kid and it's going to be the death of me (unless it's the bear). He is the wildest of wild men, getting in to trouble wherever he can find it. And I don't expect him to grow out of that any time soon. But his smile can literally reduce to mush even the strongest of mamas.

I texted my own mama. "Are you up yet?"

"In the bathroom, doing my hair," she responded.

"Can you let me in? I'm on the porch."

Her bewildered look when she pulled that front door open was hilarious. Everyone wanted to know why I didn't knock. It was hard to explain in the light of day. But it was okay. We'd camped out in the van. The baby had slept. And I'd burrowed under the blanket I'd apparently left there for a reason.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nickels, Pennies, Odds and Ends

I was just organizing our office--the place every bit of clutter, old floppy disk, and hippo pencil sharpener from when I was a child goes to die--in the hopes that I could clear just a wee bit of space to organize myself for the upcoming nightmare I've gotten myself in to.

"Do you want to teach drama?" they asked.

And I eagerly jumped because I love drama.

It's that love that has kept me taking one step at a time during these last few months as more and more and more and more commitment and responsibility have been revealed to me. Deep breaths. It'll all be okay.

I hope.

As I was going through boxes rarely opened, I discovered my old yearbook from the time I was teaching high school drama. I reread some of the hilarious things that my students wrote to me. Apparently, I was very concerned with them not getting tattoos as it would ruin their clean theatrical bodies. Or something. I have no idea really, but several of them promised me that they wouldn't get tattoos. Those students are all well into their adult years but I remember them as these eager theatre kids--just waiting to fly.

I miss them.

I found my faculty picture. I was 25. I look like a baby.

As I uncovered old Bible studies, notes from speaking sessions at conferences, and a coffee table book dedicated to the life and times of the sitcom FRIENDS, a loose square of paper fell out. I glanced at, remembering the desk top calendar I had as a very young teenager. It was full of little heartwarming stories or funny jokes.

Two Nickels and Five Pennies

       In the days when an ice cream sundae cost must less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?"
        "Fifty cents," replied the waitress.
        The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired.
         Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely.
         The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.
         The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies--her tip.

I have held on to this scrap of paper for--I don't know--close to 23 years. I cannot read it without getting choked up. Every. Single. Time. I don't know why. I'm not usually sappy or overly emotional. I don't even know if it's a true story. But I want to be like that little boy. I wants to raise boys like that little boy. Maybe that's why it grabs hold of me the way it does.

The moral of the story: Teach your children to be kind and also, if they want to go into the theatre, apparently, teach them not to get tattoos. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eleven

Dear Eleven,

Once upon a time, there was a baby. He was thin, long of limb, with a large brain or, at the very least, a big skull. As he grew up, he maintained his slight appearance, with the exception of a time during toddlerhood where he resembled an Easter ham--chubby, warm, and sufficiently succulent. One day, quite suddenly, he was eleven. His mother realized, with a bit of a surprised jolt, that he was somehow closer to turning 20 than he was to that day she first held his squishy body in her arms. If there was such a thing as late onset postpartum depression, she would certainly be presenting all symptoms. For it had come to pass in those days that her baby boy had grown up right before her eyes and she had somehow failed to see it until, perhaps, that very moment. Or she had seen it every day but faithfully perfected the art of denial. 

Garrett, you are, somehow, all grown up. And, oh, I know that isn't exactly true. I know that you have to grow facial hair still and eat me out of house and home and grow taller than me. I know there are still countless report cards to bring home and proms to go to. I know that I still have time. But you have become your own person and sometimes, I still want you to be that little boy who made me fast forward through the part of Finding Nemo where the mama dies, that little boy who made me sing him to sleep for years, that kid who kicked the preschool director in the gut because there was simply no way he was going to stay there for one second without his mom.

But mostly, MOSTLY, I really love this version of you. You are a joy and a delight to me. Son, in my days as a substitute teacher, I have met A LOT of kids. Some of them are wonderful, to be sure. But when I see you walking through the halls or laughing with your friends at lunch, my heart swells with pride. I am SO GLAD that you are mine. And occasionally, as misguided and arrogant as this is, I feel sorry for everyone else in the world because they aren't lucky enough to call you their own. Then you'll tell some horrendously corny joke, thinking yourself to be hilarious, and I'll close my eyes, shake my head back and forth, and praise God for humbling me.

You are bold and brave. So much bolder and so much braver than I am. You're smart and athletic. You take direction and criticism but don't let either soak in and change your core. This past year, you participated in a geography bee and were the only fourth grader to advance into the second round. Sitting at that table, with all the bigger kids, you looked small and nervous but somehow confident and sure. You're gaining skills and speed on the soccer and baseball fields, and in a quick minute you'll be trying your hand at football. We tried to convince you that you're too small, that you'll get smashed--possibly beyond repair--but you won't have any of it. Of course, we have friends who look at us like we're psychotic parents for even thinking about letting you play but, Son, parenting is nothing but a fine line between letting your kids live and keeping them alive. I don't want you to look back on your childhood and say, "All I ever wanted to do was play tackle football and you wouldn't let me."

You're already going to blame us for the fact that you'll never reach your full potential as a rugby player. Because that's what you really want to do. And fencing. But the closest fencing place (studio? field?) is in Park City and that just seems treacherous in the winter and rugby is like football without rules. I'm apprehensive enough about football WITH rules. But you look stinkin' adorable in the shoulder pads so I'm embracing it. I know, I know, you aren't "going for" adorable. You're going for menacing but have you seen yourself? You're nothing but lanky limbs and a cute smile.

You love Jesus and that is a source of abundant joy to me. I hope and pray that you keep that fire as you get older. This isn't the easiest place for a pastor's kid who passionately loves the authentic Jesus of the Bible to grow up but you've made the best of it for the past decade. I'm so proud of your unwavering dedication to learning about the one true God.

I continue to believe that you were born in the wrong decade. You're such a free spirit, like Huckleberry Finn without the abusive father, and seem to have been born to wander. But, as Tolkien reminds us in The Lord of the Rings (look at ME quoting LOTR!), "Not all those who wander are lost." You long to fish, hunt, camp, and live a life connected to the land, to the elements, to the wide open countryside or mountain top. Your soul longs for the next journey and almost everything is an adventure in those twinkling green eyes and welcoming grin. I fear and rejoice in the fact that you cannot be contained.

Use your wanderlust for good, my boy. Be respectful, always. Love others, always. Show the light of Jesus to an unbelieving world, always. And when they hit you hard in football, hop back up again because your mama can't handle waiting to find out if you're gonna live.

I love you.

-Mom

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Side of Grief

Before I say anything else, I want to preface all of this by saying that I know, by the grace of the detachment of time, that everyone meant well. I know that people were speaking to me from a place of utmost compassion and love. I appreciate the way that many of my friends reached out to me and gave me support, encouragement, and permission to be authentic. All of that needs to be recognized, thanked and celebrated.

I have an analytical mind. I'm organized and administrative despite my detestation of math, science, and pocket protectors. In spite of my penchant for the arts and my flair for the dramatic, I need everything to fit into appropriate boxes. Everything has a space and a home. Perhaps this is why I escaped into a place where grief was categorized and shoved into a sort of child loss flow chart.

I knew at the time that this was horrendously misguided but I couldn't stop the distraught thought process. I somehow needed to place grief against grief in some sort of fight to the death. I still don't know why this comparison felt vital to my existence.

In that intense Anger stage of Grief I wanted to say to everyone, "This is the worst thing I've ever felt. My baby died inside a womb that wasn't mine ONLY EIGHT WEEKS BEFORE HER DUE DATE! I held a pink blanket wrapped refrigerator bag at the funeral home! I drove my daughter inside of her casket in the back of my van to the cemetery!" Find me someone else who has done that. THAT woman I want to have a cup of coffee with. THAT woman has something in common with me. I felt all alone because my situation was uniquely mine.

In the many months since, I have purposed in my heart not to compare pain with an actively grieving woman. I will not feel the weight of her grief because it is uniquely hers. We can talk later, when the pain is not acute. Of course, if she asks, I will share. But I will not place my grief on top of hers, unsolicited.

Two and a half years after the fact, I'm not gasping for breath in the survival state of grief and I have come to recognize that It destroys people in different ways. It cannot be quantified. No one life matters more. No one human's existence is any less or any more important. No one mother's grief is bigger or better or more deserved than another's. I'm willing to bet good money that every mother, in the smack center of grief (and, maybe, forever), feels like hers is the absolute worst pain that ever there was. I realized that I was comforted most by hearing someone saying, "I cannot imagine your pain." Even if she believed she could. Even if circumstances were seemingly identical. Even if she believed hers to be much, much worse. Maybe if more people said, "Your pain is unbearable. It is the worst pain there ever was," the one grieving could honestly and wholeheartedly say, "Thank you. Thank you for seeing me and meeting me exactly where I am, swimming in the most pain I've ever experienced."

I would like to say that I've come out on the other side of grief. It simply isn't true and I'd be lying to pretend it so. There's a family at our school whose little boy is the exact age that my little girl should be. Their due dates were about a week apart. We ran into them at the pool a few weeks ago. I can still barely look at him. My brain fights my heart because I'd like to think that I'm not stupid. That little boy is not my girl. But my heart knows that his life reminds me of hers. It is not his fault that he makes me want to cry. The waves of grief ebb and flow and rush more slowly in the passing of years. But I do not think it is something we can walk through and come out on the other side. I think it attaches itself to our bodies, like a tattoo we cannot erase. It becomes a part of us. Forever.

It creeps in, like ink through skin, to the very fiber of our existence, so that when someone hurts, we long to tell our own story, to breathe life back into the corpse. As time goes on, tell their stories. For all the love in all the world, remind people that you had a child who is gone. Write. Share. Speak. Weave that One throughout your narrative because her life mattered. Because his soul still exists. But also, consider taking a moment to step outside of pain and whisper to the one who is surviving in the acute stage of grief, "I cannot imagine."

Because I think we can all agree that the weight of a little life lost is simply, unimaginable.

Interview with an 11 Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Dual Survival
2. What did you have for breakfast? A bagel.
3. What do you want to name your future son? (This is a new question. I got rid of "What's your middle name?" because, well, he's known that for years now. Interestingly, the answer didn't change even though the questions did.) John.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown. (Some things never change)
7. Favorite lunch? Totinos Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go on cruises.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A cruise through the Mediterranean.
10. Favorite sport? Football, wrestling, soccer, baseball, swimming...
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? (This is a new question. I also decided to get rid of, "When is your birthday?" because he's also known that for years.) Lori. (Oh child. I hope not. Although it is better than Brickannlie. Or some other atrocious thing he could come up with.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Ummmm. Morning.
13. Pets? I have a hamster. (Now that he has his very own pet, he's forgotten the existence of his dog and cat.)
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Um. No. Not really.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to work at Little Caesar's and then Subway. Then I want to go into the coast guard. Then I want to be a pastor.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeer.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Oh. I don't know. Is it Israel, Mom? Yes. Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Stranded series.
19. What are you most proud of? Having hammy. (The hamster. It's a pretty big accomplishment. Lol.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Gettysburg. Or the Hunger Games. (We recently let him watch the latter. His brother has not seen it yet. He really liked it. I mean, in that way that you can really like something that has a very disturbing premise. Time for him to read the books, I think.)
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Probably dangit. Me: That's your favorite word? In the whole world? Him: Probably. (Oh dear.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Using the Lord's name in vain.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") I like pizza.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Asparagus.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I like Will laughing.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Will screaming at the top of his lungs.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shut up.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A person who studies hamsters.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Cleaning up people's flooded homes.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bring Me Here to Die

The baby is asleep.

The big boys are at the lake with their dad. The dog went too.

For five minutes, it is as though I am the only one, the very last one left in this mountain escape.

I see the vast expanse of blue sky. Pine trees. Squirrels. Cones, fallen from their place in the needles.

I close my eyes and welcome the chatter of birds. A machine buzzes in the distance. The sound of tires on mountain roads-- taking people to all the places they want to go.

The smell of pine fills thick when I inhale. Reminding me of a time when I was five years old. Reminding me of yesterday. Reminding me of all the summers in between.

I feel the hot Sierra sun falling down -- not so far as it falls anywhere else. I am higher here. Closer to the light. A breeze meanders through my hair, blowing it slightly.

This place, this wonderland of nature and beauty, this small niche of space leaks nostalgia from my eyes when I am found alone. Memories of years gone by. Hope of years to come. A glimpse into the peace of eternity. If fate would so permit, bring me here to die. When my time has come, when my breath is close to done, bring me here -- if only in my mind's eye -- that I may leave this earth a little closer to heaven.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Tale of Two Messes

Disclaimer: I don't believe in psychics. I mean, I guess I do in the sense that I believe we can screw around with demons and stuff and get really messed up in all kinds of evil. But I don't believe in them in the traditional way that people do. I definitely don't believe in my own ability to have psychic premonitions.

Yesterday I had a psychic premonition. Except I did not because, as stated before, I don't believe in that. I do believe in the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, even, on really silly stuff. Like checking the outside freezer.

We're leaving for Tahoe tomorrow. I'm really glad that I had this strange premonition yesterday and not a week from now. I was backing up my car so that I could get to a cooler to take with us when I had the sudden and overwhelming thought that I needed to check my freezer. This was followed by the thought, "Well. If it isn't working, it's going straight back to Costco because we have not had it for very long!" I walked toward it and opened it. Cold air blasted me and I thought, "Oh good." This was immediately followed by my wondering aloud why the bottom of the freezer was red. And wet.

I don't know how long it wasn't working but it couldn't have been terribly long because the ice cream still had a partially frozen blob in the center. I was incredibly thankful that I had some ice frozen in there which had served, for a time, as a cooling device. The popsicles were everywhere. And no longer chilling in their popsicle formation.

I hauled everything out of there. I threw things away. I mopped up sticky juice. I cleaned everything up. Not once did I lose my cool even though I had 99 better things to do. And even though it was approximately 2,000 degrees in my garage. I was so happy for my strange idea that I needed to look inside the freezer. Praise God! At some point in all of this, I'd needed the scissors for something. I can't remember what.

I continued on with my day.

Later, I decided to get my spare key. It wasn't hanging where it usually does (correction: it WAS hanging where it usually does but I failed to see it there) so I started looking in places we've hid it before. That led me to a water toy that I thought would be fun to turn on for the boys. I needed scissors to free it from it's cardboard prison. "Where are the scissors?" I wondered aloud before remembering that they were in the garage. As I walked past the laundry room on my way to the garage, I saw it.

My entire laundry room and bathroom floor were covered in standing water. It was seeping into the carpet. I threw open the lid to the washing machine and the basin was full to the brim with soapy water. And that is the moment that I chose to start crying dramatically.

It was ridiculous. It was a cross between actual crying because I was upset and frustrated and theatrical crying because I did not feel like cleaning it up and if I cried loud enough then maybe the universe would hear me and come do it for me. This crying is reserved for things like minor floods and head lice. My boys stared at me.

"What should I do?" Garrett asked? I had no idea what to tell him because I had no idea where to start. He called Troy who did not answer. This is really quite common, When my husband DOES answer, I am genuinely surprised. I'm not sure why we pay for his phone. I didn't know what to even do but I wanted someone to feel sorry for me so I called my parents.

Meanwhile, I'd sent Garrett for towels. He returned with ONE dishcloth. To clean an entire floor of standing water. Good luck, kid. My dad told me to see if I could manually get the washer to engage in a spin cycle. I could. Praise God! Because I did not want to bail an entire basin full of soapy water. Within a few minutes, Troy came home.

Y'all, I was GEARED up. I am not typically a crier, as has been largely documented here. But I am dramatic. I will immediately think that my cough is lung cancer or my flooded washing machine is THE END OF THE WORLD. (Especially when I have somewhere to go. And where I needed to go was Vacation Bible School in two hours to do a skit which I did not have memorized yet. I also needed to go on actual vacation.) Troy came in and I was all high pitched and incoherent. He just looked at that DISASTER and calmly said, "Oh wow." Then he set to cleaning it up.

I decided to run a load and watch every step so that I could tell a repair man exactly where it went wrong. Strangely, the cycle went perfectly. More strangely, we have since done three loads of laundry without a problem. PRAISE GOD! I'm not assuming it's cured. I'm just thankful for the temporary calm before the storm of needing to shell out big bucks for a new one.

Guess who slept through the freezer fiasco? Guess who slept through half of the laundry room fiasco? That's right, the inquisitive man cub who would have found both messes to be thoroughly enjoyable adventures. PRAISE GOD! Because I would not have found it enjoyable when he went running through the neighborhood with all the temporarily relocated freezer food. And I would not have found it enjoyable when he began swimming lessons on my bathroom floor.

The point of this tale is not that I cleaned up two giant messes when I needed to be packing. The point is that while my reaction was to CRY on the phone with my MOMMY and my DADDY, my husband's reaction was basically a quiet, "Good times."

WHAT IF I HAD MARRIED MYSELF? (I mean, someone like myself.) That would have been the greatest disaster of all. Both of us standing, immobilized, in the bathroom, crying. Both of us calling our daddies? Thank goodness God brought that calming presence into my overdramatic life.

Friday, July 7, 2017

For Those Who Wait

My heart breaks in half inside my chest when I think about parents who are waiting for an adoptive situation. Every once in a blue moon, I look at the adoption websites and I click on the waiting families. I count how many there are. I cannot look more often, because empathy bleeds out thick through my eyes.

I look at their faces.

Some of them--many of them--have been waiting for a long time. Some of them have been waiting since before we were matched with Kate almost three years ago.

And I think about the grave that I visit.

And I think about the curly haired toddler who is sound asleep in his bed.

Sometimes, I forget about just how blessed we are. We have gone through the adoption process three times. We were chosen. It was not without heartache. Oh how the Lord knows He grew us and molded us and changed us through each of those experiences. My heart broke each time. But He brought those children to us. He was so very, very faithful to us. When the going gets tough, when I want to give up on whatever it is that has me begging for change, I think about this family He has made for me and I rejoice.

When I watch people waiting and waiting and waiting, it makes me want to cry a river that will flood an ocean. I believe in God's perfect timing, of course. But my mama heart is in anguish for those moms and dads who are desperately hoping that today will bring the call they are eagerly anticipating.

I celebrate those who are willing to wait, those who are willing to put their money and their energy where God has called--maybe not all of us, but so many more than actually answer--, those who know that their children are out there and must be found.

To those who are waiting, my friends as well as those I will never meet, I see you. I understand your frustration and your sorrow, your hope and your expectation. I hope for you because I see the result of perseverance and love in my own children.

You may never know me. You may never know that I am praying for you. But I am here, beseeching the Lord on your behalf. May He lead you to your children, wherever they may be.