Category Archives: thoughts

Sometimes I Want To Not Care

I have a secret. Sometimes I want to not care about things happening in our world today. It would be easier. I’d have more time for fun. I could be frivolous at will. Maybe I would live in the moment more easily than I do now. Certainly, it would be a relief to live in a bubble free from deep thoughts and anything unpleasant that didn’t directly affect me. Society’s problems would not disappear, but it wouldn’t matter because as a member of the white population in the United States I’m super privileged.

But this indifference to others is not me. I hope for a more peaceful world, and understand that I need to actively participate to create change in it. I care beyond what’s happening in my immediate world.

I care so much it makes me cry tears of rage and sorrow when yet another white male perpetrates a school shooting and kids are killed in the line of fire or while protecting their classmates. The papers call the murdered ones heroes, but that’s not the right word – martyrs would be better. We don’t have to continue our complicity and keep allowing our children to be murdered in mass shootings. We can change the laws by providing better access to (and quality of) mental health care and limiting gun rights in the name of public safety. The Florida legislature’s response (besides its usual thoughts and prayers) to all this of arming teachers – it will not help. Kids deserve and need to feel safe and protected at school. If their teachers are carrying, they are inherently unsafe. Guns do not belong in classrooms with students.

Another facet of education that I wish I didn’t care about is the world of high-stakes testing. My kids aren’t old enough for the FSA, and the incredible pressure that comes along with it. I feel anxious for their future selves because I know how terrible it feels to bomb a single test that determines whether you get to move on to the next grade (or get into a top tier law school). I am a mediocre test taker when only given one shot to prove myself. I may know the material backwards and forwards, but my anxiety causes me to freeze up, misread questions, and panic. And I’m an adult. Now think about how kids feel when faced with the FSA.

We fail our students when we submit them to testing that is designed in the name of education reform but is truly created to destroy the great equalizer that is public education. Tests are rigged so a certain percentage of students fail, which allows the government to label schools as failing. Parents rightfully become upset and begin looking for a way out through vouchers and for-profit charter schools that are publicly funded with our tax dollars (siphoning off money from public school systems) but with less (or no) public oversight. I have family and friends who send their kids to these programs because they view the public schools as broken. They aren’t wrong. They want what’s best for their children. We all do. But as a collective society, if some kids are slipping through the cracks it is our duty to look out for them and lift them back up.

The current inequity in our public schools is astounding, but it can be fixed. Rozella Haydée White’s new book, Love Big: The Power or Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World, contains a roadmap for seeking peace through moving toward justice. She “define[s] justice as equitable access to resources that provide people with the ability and agency to create a life of meaning. Working toward justice requires dismantling any system, ideology, or institution that promotes inequity….Justice becomes a reality when we recognize that we need one another. When we become justice seekers and peace bearers we recognize that our lives are inextricably linked. What one person does, thinks, or even believes affects another.”

“What if we practiced the belief that we belong to one another daily?”~Rozella Haydée White

As I read her words, it clicked that I have been actively working through this philosophy of peace and justice through my membership with FAST. Over the past two years I’ve become increasingly involved with its youth suspensions and arrests committee where we have researched and learned that if restorative justice practices (RP) are properly implemented in our schools, students and teachers succeed. Behavior issues are handled with student accountability and compassion, giving kids a toolbox to deal with the big emotions they feel on the daily. This in turn allows teachers to spend more time teaching the material and keeps kids in the classroom versus being removed, suspended, or arrested for disciplinary issues. Teacher retention rates in schools using RP methods are higher (but we still need to pay them what they are worth, an entirely different battle).

Changing the culture in public education is difficult, but I truly believe RP is the real game changer into creating an inclusive culture where all students feel heard and wanted as assets in their classrooms. Because I truly believe this transformation needs to happen, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and feel uncomfortable. With FAST, I flew to Louisville to learn about RP from a school district that is effectively implementing the initiative. Earlier this year, I spoke directly to school board members not only at meetings but also in front of a crowd of 2500+. This scared me because I’m uncomfortable speaking in public…not only the everyone’s eyes on me part but also my need to deliver my message perfectly using the correct words with the proper gestures and presence. I want to convince people this matters, and I know my discomfort is nothing compared to what kids face at school. So I woman up, lean in, and demand change to make the system more equitable.

I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m a parent who believes that public schools offer the best chance for all kids to become the people they are meant to be. I care, and I want others to take responsibility in creating change, too. Don’t you?

Forget January, Bring On February!

If you haven’t seen this picture circulating around the internet yet, here it is:

At first, I laughed about it, but then the more I thought about it, the more I felt it’s totally true for me. January felt like an entire YEAR rolled into a single month. What’s up with that?!?

January was rough with waiting for my melanoma to be removed. It’s hard waiting for treatment for weeks after a cancer diagnosis knowing there’s nothing I could be doing to stop its growth. Except for surgery. Thank goodness only surgery was required to treat it, because stopping all normal activities for two weeks was definitely difficult.

Not being able to pick up and hold my 2 and a half year old, who is a supremely cuddly little, was torture for both of us. He quickly figured out I couldn’t keep up with him so he threw down some of his most epic flops and temper tantrums to date. The worst occurred at the library where he sprinted away while I was checking out books, climbed the stairs and almost made it inside an elevator to head downstairs that way. That kid is FAST! And I can usually hang but not this January.

I also couldn’t work out beyond walking at a leisurely pace. If you know me, you know that drove me bonkers! I’m at the gym 5-6 days a week normally taking various classes for my mental health. It helps decrease my anxiety and is my time to not focus on anything else in my life but myself (and mostly my breathing, because dang I take some challenging classes!) And walking at a 20-minute mike pace could not compete.

But January is over and done with, thank God!

My surgery went better than I imagined (because of course my brain occasionally went to worst possible scenario of extreme pain, permanent disfigurement, and/or death). Although exhaustion took over post-surgery thanks to the anesthesia, I never really had pain. My scar looks great so far, especially because it’s only been 3 weeks. My melanoma genetic testing came back in the lowest possible category, and my two basal cells have been removed.

I’m cancer-free! We’re settling back into our regular routines. February is looking lovely with Bad Kid Christmas only 2 weeks away!! And I’m working on my five-year plan, trying to figure out my place in this world. Everything’s coming up Sunshine, and I’m ready for it!

On Kindred Spirits and People Who Give a Shit

If you’ve been friends with me for a good length of time, you probably know of my love of Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I discovered her series when I was in elementary school, and subsequently found the gorgeous Canadian miniseries of the same name at our local Albertson’s where VHS rentals were 99 cents on Wednesdays. I spent good portions of my childhood renting and rewatching the movie (and its sequel) until I knew it by heart. I desperately wanted to be Anne, and create adventures with my own bosom friends. And I did.

I also went through a period of time when I didn’t feel like anyone I met was a kindred spirit; I had friendships, but no shared connection of acceptance of self. Maybe because I didn’t know who I was becoming. Maybe because girls are jerks to each other when they want to be thought of as cool. Maybe because my best friend had moved away. I don’t know.

Today, I have a couple handfuls of friends who are my people, my kindred spirits. You know, the people who rejoice in your joys and cry with you in your sorrows. Friends who fly down to spend the weekend with you before surgery so you will be distracted from obsessively thinking about it and friends who use their day off to help with your kids when you can’t easily handle your normal routine. Friends who offer and bring meals. Friends who give epic hugs. Friends who call to catch up because they can’t be here in person (although I wish they could) and I sometimes don’t pick up the phone because I hate it but I listen to their voicemail over and over and feel loved. I feel so very loved.

It’s just as Anne taught me – kindred spirits exist in droves; even when we are far apart, we are still together, and that hasn’t changed and won’t change over time.

  • “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
  • “True friends are always together in spirit.”
  • “Kindred spirits alone do not change with the changing years.”

Then there’s whole other group of awesome people who have been impactful in supporting me, and I’m affectionately referring to them as people who give a shit. Please don’t be offended by my cursing or by not including you in my kindred spirit category, but I’m so thankful for you, too. You all unexpectedly showed up and have kept showing up and checking in with me.

On social media we seem further apart yet more aware of the inner workings of each other’s lives. We tend not to have conversations in person because texting or messaging is so easily available, or we just read up on someone’s life via their Facebook page and count that as checking in. That’s not what you all have done.

You are sending prayers, good vibes, positive thoughts – whatever faith you practice or don’t practice doesn’t matter – your affirmations and solidarity lift me up.

Some of you are cancer survivors, and I had no idea. Thank you for telling me about you. Your shared stories fill me with hope that the cancer will stay gone now that it has been removed.

What I’m trying to say is thank you family, friends, and everyone who has shown up. I’m feeling much better and more at peace with the whole thing (despite being swollen, tired, and in some pain), and that’s because of you. Thank you.

Merry Christmas! I’m Totally (Not Really) Fine!

Today is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. So I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post that is all over the place and full of my rambling feelings. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like being in an emotionally precarious state when you have to keep it together so your family can have the best Christmas ever! Isn’t that how parents feel about Christmas every year? Matt Damon and the cast of SNL seem to agree.

Something I didn’t include in our Christmas cards this year even though it’s pretty significant change to our lives is that just after Thanksgiving I found out I have melanoma. Merry Christmas! I have cancer! It puts a damper on people’s holiday cheer so I left it out. Even though I can’t stop thinking about it.

I have cancer.

Skin cancer. And I’m only 36.

I’m angry. And terrified. And upset. I’m short with my kids who don’t know what’s going on with me. I cry at nothing. And then pretend I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

Maybe if I say it enough times I’ll trick myself into actually being okay. Sometimes I actually feel mostly fine. And I’m not even faking.

Just kidding. I’m not fucking okay. Thanks for asking.

I’ve continued my normal routines like a boss. I’ve gone though various events and fun times this holiday season, and had fun. Really. I promise I did. I can compartmentalize and ignore the voice in my head shouting “I HAVE CANCER” without ruining everyone’s party. I’m fine. I’m drained. I feel loved.

I feel so very loved. Really, I have the best family and friends. I could go into their amazingness in excruciating detail, but it would get embarrassing…that’s how awesome my people are. I’m keeping their love and support to myself because I need it all. Sorry not sorry.

Meeting with the plastic surgeon definitely helped me feel more at ease with the situation. My melanoma was caught early and should be easily removed. It is on my hairline so it’s in the best possible spot for removal with minimal scarring. It will be like a mini-face lift on one side.

I feel extremely fortunate that my cancer can be cut out and that its removal should be the end of the cancer in my body. I won’t have to have chemo or radiation or anything like that. But part of me is terrified it will return. Because I’m more likely to have another one now that I’ve had one already.

I’m especially scared because my FIL has been dealing with melanoma for 9 years now. I’ve seen him cut up again and again, watched him deal with experimental therapies that harmed his body as much as they helped, and observed him not being himself as he received treatments.

January 10th I say peace out to my melanoma. I hope and pray it’s for good. Although if for some reason it’s not, I’m going to fight. Besides, if the Notorious RBG can come out swinging against Round 3 of cancer, I can certainly do likewise (although I can only hope to match her intense exercise regimen).

On Women, Truth-Telling, and Hope

I feel like I’m being told that women don’t matter. We can be believable in our statements but at the end of the day men can set that belief aside and totally disregard fact in order to protect and honor themselves.

Our bodies must be regulated.

By men.

Men’s bodies are not similarly regulated and in fact are enhanced by performance equipping drugs.

Our pain is not believed. Our statements are not trusted. If a man causes a woman pain and suffering the burden is placed on her to deal with it. The man often has no repercussions.

Judge Kavanaugh’s job interview for the Supreme Court should be terminated and his nomination rescinded. There are plenty of other jurists out there who don’t have these types of allegations against them. Pick any of them. I’d prefer a female Justice, but at the very least I want a truth-teller.

This election season, I just want to watch the whole thing burn.

But I can’t.

Because part of me still hopes for a better United States. Especially because of my two young sons. I want them to be kind and know limitations when someone says stop or no. But they’re figuring it out at an early age, so I’m hopeful.

White men, you better have outstanding credentials when running for elected office because I’m just not sure I can vote for you. I’m ready for women to run the world, for our ideas and policies to create change. We can do it. I’m voting for you. I’m ready for people of color, people who are LGBTQI+, refugees, and all people who feel like second-class citizens in this great nation to rise up and be honored. I support you and your ability to lead when hope seems dark. I’m rooting for and voting for you.

I’ve read through the Beatitudes several times today looking for clarity. I’ll continue meditating and working through them many more times in search of some kind of answer. I don’t know why I feel like an answer exists, and it can be found in part by reading Matthew 5, but I feel an urge to keep searching. I feel the need to be blessed and at peace. I’m seeking…

Speaking Without Thinking, My Christian Freedom of Speech Fail

Earlier this week I spoke unkindly about someone close to me, and they directly heard me say the words (I didn’t know they were on speakerphone). I spoke the truth, but I would never have made the statement if I knew they were listening.

Clearly, the lesson of Ephesians 4 that Keith preached on a few weeks ago did NOT sink in. He stated that although the First Amendment grants us the freedom of speech by law, as Christians, we live by a superseding set of principles. These tenets are explained by Verses 25-32, and require us to ask ourselves three questions before speaking:

  1. Is it true?

  2. Is it necessary?

  3. Is it kind?

If the statement I’m about to make fails one of these prongs, then I shouldn’t respond. My statement failed parts two and three – it was unhelpful and unkind. Yet still I spoke. Why?

To make a joke.

To mutually complain.

To be mean.

So it probably serves me right to have the person I spoke about actually hear what I said. But I love this person, too. And I feel terrible about hurting them. And I hate having people I love angry with me.

The words I spoke have consequences. The person I spoke about tends to hold grudges – I’m talking about decades-long grudges. That’s their prerogative. But I plan to call today and apologize for my hurtful words, and ask for forgiveness.*

And moving forward, I can work towards thinking about the three questions before speaking. When I’m angry and ask myself, ‘Is it true?,’ I can attend to my anger. Not with silence or violence, but with truth through looking at the root of my anger.

Next, I can ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ Am I helping the other person? Just like the thief being given a new purpose in verses 28-29, how can I use my power through my words to build up?

Finally, I can ask, ‘Is it kind?’ This will be the hardest because I find myself drawn to negative thoughts and harsh statements. It is incredibly easy for them to slip out of my mouth and judge. I judge others so much and find myself full of rage these days with our governmental leaders, people who support them, and people who fundamentally disagree with the way I believe people should be treated.

But there’s hope because I’m a work in progress. I’ve been marked by God through grace. Not by anything I have done, not because I’m a good person, but because He/She has identified me as His/Hers. And I strive to live up to that call of holy unity by being kind and forgiving others, including forgiving myself when I harshly speak without thinking. That’s my Christian freedom.

*Please pray for me today as I call my loved one to ask for their forgiveness. I desperately need courage because (1) I hate making phone calls and (2) This person intimidates me even when they aren’t mad at me. Thank you.

Why I Go To Church, Even When Haters Gonna Hate

Today I had my first overtly negative, specifically addressed to me, response to my kids being in worship at church.

Congregations say they want kids in worship. That we need more families in the pews because they are the future of the church. Right? That’s the line I continually hear, especially from older parishioners. But when kids are actually present in a Sunday morning worship service are they actually welcomed? Are the parents?

As the pastor’s family, my kids feel like the church – the building and the people who come together as Christ’s Family – belongs to them. They are quintessential pastor’s kids (PKs) who have tons of energy and love for the church.

They’ve been known to run laps around the altar and play hide-and-seek in the pews (usually after worship, but not always).

My almost 5-year-old has been especially inquisitive lately about Jesus – specifically how he lived (“tell me more about the cave and the big stone”) and why he gets to live forever when everyone else just dies.

My almost 2-year-old invaded the Palm Sunday processional because he heard his jam begin on the piano (“All Glory Laud and Honor”) and he needed to get closer to where the music is happening so he can get down. A loving choir member took his hand to help.

They love the teens (and have already attended more youth group meetings than I can count) and get so excited to see their friends both in worship and at Faithworks (our version of Sunday School).

They hug and high five their honorary grandparents each week during the passing of the peace (when we make it to that point in the service without fleeing to the nursery for a break).

They dip their fingers in the baptismal font and then do crosses on their foreheads (mine, too) on their way up to communion, which they aren’t quite old enough to take.

They are usually the last ones out of the building on a Sunday afternoon, and are there multiple times during the week to see their Daddy. And his office’s toys – because he always has some scattered throughout his office.

We three are there together, practically every week, to hear the Good News and worship with our chosen faith community. The majority of my time is spent wrangling the littles – trying to keep them in a pew, or sitting quietly on the ground near the pew, eating all the snacks and coloring all the pictures. But they are little. And like to run. And play with their friends. So it can be rowdy. When it gets to be too much, we head down to the nursery (the area, as Henry calls it), and play there until Communion or for the remainder of the service. It’s a nice break for all of us.

Even on the Sundays where I am frustrated or overwhelmed, generous people in our congregation come up to me and thank me for bringing the boys to church. They tell me tales of how they raised boys and totally understand my life, and that it will get easier. They tell me I’m doing it right.And I take comfort in their kind words.

Until today.

After service, a woman decided it was important to tell me that my children were rude and distracting from the reverent atmosphere that is church on a Sunday morning. She told me that she had kids, so she knows all about that, but that I needed to do something about my kids’ behavior in worship. She mentioned that she was a visitor, and that she couldn’t hear my soft-spoken husband over my kids. I said some kind of apology I didn’t really feel about how I was sorry they bothered her worship today, and she cut me off to say that it happens every week. It seemed like she was going to continue indefinitely, so I turned around and walked away.

What. The. Shit.

Never mind her emotional baggage that made her feel it was her duty to inform me about my kids’ behavior, which I already knew about. In fact, I thought they were mostly fine at church this morning (there was some airplane throwing and palm frond sword fighting that got quickly shut down). Better than a lot of Sundays, that’s for sure. Keith only noticed when Elliot grabbed a maraca and shook it like a salt shaker, so I’ll take it.

I cried in the Sacristy. I cried outside Keith’s office while talking to one of my favorite people. I cried inside Keith’s office. My tears came from a place of embarrassment, exhaustion, and anger because each week I already internally feel all those words she said to me. I’m doing my best, but it’s just so damn hard. But I don’t give up. I continue to bring my boys to worship because it matters to me that they are worshiping with their community. Not separate from it.

As I calmed down, I read the comforting words Pope Francis spoke as his Palm Sunday sermon. Children should shout out loud and be like those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem instead of those who yelled to crucify him.

I find my sons’ joy in the Lord and for their family and friends to be an all-encompassing love, and I refuse to silence it. Their presence at church matters. So does mine.

A couple of readings for today seem especially on point (even though I’m only reading and reflecting on them now, since I was a bit preoccupied when they were first read); here they are, in part:

  • Isaiah 50: 7-9a. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
  • Psalm 31: 14 and 16. But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. I have said, “You are my God.” Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

The Word comforts, but I remain incensed. My kids will not be invisible at church. They continue to be a vital part of the community. I love them, and trust in God as I seek peace over the whole thing.

Coping with the Low Valleys of Being a Mama

Right now, I am one weary mama. My Fitbit tells me exactly how much sleep I’m not getting at night. And then it tells me I should sleep more. I want to sleep more than 6-7 hours, but my body will not let me. And I love sleep, especially naps, so this hurts me.

My allergies and asthma work together in concert to exhaust my lungs and body systems. This year’s pollen crop keeps up its attack without ceasing. My usually black car now has a yellowish-green tint to it. Going outside to play with my kids for an hour sets me back at least a day in terms of system recovery. And my boys live to play outside and run around. So we coop ourselves up in our house or indoor play areas, but they just aren’t the same as playing at a park.

My asthma got so bad this week, I breached proper theatre etiquette and walked out, mid-song, of The Color Purple, a musical I’ve been waiting all year to see. All because I couldn’t stop coughing and I knew it would be worse for those around me if I stayed. So I interrupted 16 people to escape the theatre, and didn’t go back inside due to fear of the same thing happening again.

I can’t exercise the way I want; I have to take breathing breaks because I’m sucking wind. Or I can’t even muster up the energy to take my regular classes because moving my body seems impossible.

These are all my coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and life that make me a better mama to my boys. And I can’t do them right now. So we are all suffering.

I get angry over little things (and big ones, too). The house is more of a disaster than usual because we are in it more and I can’t stop coughing enough to fully clean it. I cry easily, and feel like I’m letting everyone down. I am not at peace with myself, and am struggling.

I tell myself it’s all right; it’s going to be all right. I pray and ask God to help me feel better. But it’s so hard when I can’t even breathe. I’m being carried away and cannot ground myself.

So I ask for help. I hate it; I want to do it myself, be strong and persevere. But I can’t. My husband is pretty fantastic at supporting me when I get like this. He’s positive, and affirming, and full of hugs. It’s difficult to float away when you are receiving a hug. My boys give full-body snuggles, too. Their empathy is outstanding and a great comfort to me. I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I’m working at accepting it. I am loved, and enough.

Love Is What It’s All About

My word for 2018 is LOVE. I want to love myself, love my neighbor, love my friends, and love my enemies.

I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish this. But here’s what I know so far:

I’m working on self-care. I’m discovering my favorite new things, and relearning old favorites. Reading a great book. Sweating so hard at the gym I can’t think about anything else. Catching up with a friend. Drinking all the coffee. Learning to be more like Jesus through his biblical teachings. Stepping outside my comfort zone into new challenges. Practicing loving myself, because I often don’t think I’m worthy (although it’s been much better lately, I have work to do.)

I’m searching for ways to be kind to my neighbors, not just the people in my neighborhood, you know the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street (shout out to Sesame Street). I’m talking about all humans being my neighbor. I know I have biases and prejudices, but I’m learning to see and understand the world from others’ points of view. And it’s hard. And sometimes I don’t want to do it. But like Glendon Doyle Wambach says, “We can do hard things.” And I’m stepping up.

I’m telling family and close friends, everyone in my world whom I love, that I love them. I don’t care if they find it awkward or weird, I want them to know they are loved. And I love them. We don’t tell the people who are most significantly in our lives how much they mean to us, and I’m stopping this failure to communicate now. If I say these words to you, I mean it. No need to say it back (although it feels wonderful to be told I am loved).

Finally, I’m trying to figure out how to love my enemies. The people who simply don’t care about me and my clan. The ones whose thought processes are entirely foreign to my own. How did Jesus love those who persecuted and hated him? Clearly, it’s because he’s of God, as his son. But humans are made in God’s image so we can love our enemies, too. Right? Someone tell me the secret of how to do this. I can’t figure it out. But I’m going to try.

There’s too much hate and nastiness in the world right now, so I’m going to focus on my love. I cannot control other people, I can only control myself. And I hope that’s enough.