This one’s for the girls

Ok, so I’m not a particularly huge fan of country music, but who doesn’t love a little Martina?

Yesterday, we witnessed the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States and the 49th Vice President, and I am not the first to point out that the day was all about the women. I don’t care which side of the political aisle you identify with, I think we can all agree that the level of representation present was nothing short of inspiring. For the first time ever, young girls saw themselves being sworn in as Vice President of the United States. They saw themselves supporting, and being supported by, their fellow women. They saw themselves delivering their original poetry to millions of viewers. And they did it with poise and style.

We tell our kids from a very young age that they can be or do whatever they want when they grow up. We encourage them to work hard and they can achieve anything. And when little girls say “I want to be President!” we look at them proudly and tell them, “Of course you can!” And we mean it. Or at least we think we do. We want to. But historically, we haven’t modeled it, and if kids don’t see it – how can they really believe it possible?

This behavior and way of thinking isn’t isolated to positions of prestige and power. Fields like construction or mechanics are stereotypically male dominated, and even positions such as doctors and lawyers see more employed men than women, not because men are better at these jobs than women, but for reasons ranging from hiring discrimination to sexual harassment. There has historically been concern that if a woman has a demanding career, it will take away her ability to be a nurturing, supportive matriarch. As if 1) a woman can’t effectively balance both a career and a home, and 2) we as a society can’t require the same level of domestic commitment from men.

There are obviously many reasons we have been slow to see women step into these positions, but one common theme that seems to be keeping women from thriving in male dominated areas is lack of representation. The more women we see leading, the more empowered young girls are to believe they can be in those roles, too.

This is why representation matters. This is why Kamala Harris being sworn in as the first female Vice President matters. Because we can’t keep telling girls they can do and be anything they want if we have no way of showing them that it’s true; they need role models and success stories that look like them. The time is coming when the glass that was once the ceiling that held us in is completely shattered. I believe we’ll continue to see women being elevated to positions of leadership, and before long, we’ll see a time when we won’t even use the qualifier “female” President; it’ll just be President.

This one might make you a little uncomfortable… It did me

Type furiously, select all, delete, type furiously, select all, delete, type somewhat more slowly and contemplatively, re-read, overthink, worry what the reader will think/that I haven’t made my point clear, select all, delete, delete draft.

These are steps I often go through with any blog post, but the ones that I have strong feelings about doubly so; which means I have written and deleted some version of this post probably half a dozen times already. I justify it by saying that no one really reads my blog posts anyway, so it’s not like it’ll be missed, but the truth is that I do it to avoid the discomfort of hard conversations.

How nice it is, to be able sit here in my privilege while the awful events of last week unfolded and not have to acknowledge it if I choose. To know that a mob of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists was able to somehow breach a government building with little resistance as I go on about my usual day to day. To have read the tweets that had been sent out by the current President of the United States encouraging these people weeks before this happened and pretend to be surprised when they did exactly what was expected of them. To not address the blatant double standard this whole situation has exposed. I can sit here in my privilege, and shake my head and click my tongue, and type furiously, and select all, and delete, and delete draft. But as disgusted and nauseated as I am by the whole situation, every time I hit delete, I am complicit.

Last Wednesday, I had the news on TV as background noise while I was eating lunch (not even by choice if I’m being honest, but because the vote certification process preempted Days of Our Lives – just in case you needed more evidence of my privilege). I watched as Mike Pence began the repetitive process of certifying the electoral votes from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona… objection. As lawmakers retired to debate the objection, the reporter threw it to an anchor outside where protestors were marching. The scene looked like a cross between a typical protest march and cosplay, but for the moment, everything seemed under control, and I zoned out, scrolling through my phone and finishing my lunch with the whole scene playing out as background noise. The next time I focused on the screen, there was a crowd of protestors at the top of the stairs of the Capitol building, and obviously had no intention of stopping there. My stomach was in absolute knots as I watched this mob of people push into the police guarding the building, and quickly overwhelm them. “Where is the tear gas?” I asked my empty living room. “Where are the rubber bullets? Where is the National Guard?” At this point, I was so sick to my stomach I turned off the TV. Because of my privilege, I had that choice. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to distract myself with mundane tasks, while neurotically checking my phone for updates; increasingly blown away each time I read that not only was the situation not under control, but had escalated even further as rioters breached the building; vandalizing government property and threatening the lives and safety of the people inside.

Later that evening, I posted on my personal Facebook page inviting anyone on my friend list to please take leave of my space if they, in any way, supported, or thought they could justify the behavior of the people involved in the events of the day. For the most part, though, I kept key details of my own views tucked safely away where my words could not be argued as “political,” because while I think the only role politics should play in human rights is to guarantee and protect them, apparently this view is controversial. So after nearly a week of typing, and deleting, I’ve decided if that’s what it comes down to, I’ll take “political” over “complicit.”

So here we go.

First of all, I refuse to believe anyone can be truly surprised “something like this” happened. Plans to protest the election certification had been planned for weeks. The President himself called his supporters to the Capitol to protest the certification as early as mid-December, and if anyone thought it was going to be an afternoon of linking arms and sing alongs, they’re not being truthful to themselves or anyone else. Even if authorities were operating on good faith that the protests would be peaceful (because when has a group of angry white people ever gone wrong?), they have no excuse for being “unprepared.”

Interestingly enough, the same police force was completely “prepared” for a Black Lives Matter rally at the same location last summer – complete with tear gas and the National Guard (just in case) – and those protestors weren’t anywhere near breaching a government building. If you don’t see this as a blatant double standard in support of whiteness, I implore you to challenge your views. It’s my opinion that most people have a hard time accepting that they are on the privileged side oppression because they’re afraid that makes them bad people, and that’s where we get into the “not all…” rhetoric. I’m asking that instead of taking the situation personally, you try and step back and look at things from a different perspective. The fact is, this situation would have been handled very differently had the protestors not been a group of white people in attendance at the invitation of the President.

I’ve said before that I’m not interested in arguing Republican vs. Democrat in this issue. While protestors present were there in support of the President, who claims to be Republican, I doubt any of them could give a very compelling argument to which Republican values they were there to stand up for. This was an opportunity to further the platform of hate and division and violence that so many of the groups in attendance stand for, and while it failed to stop the vote certifying the next President, it succeeded in stirring a now boiling pot that has been bubbling at the surface for years.

“This is not America.” Actually, it is. This is what happens when history is ignored, and generations of hate and intolerance are waved away with excuses and claims that “it’s not like that anymore.” As sad and as disgusting as the entire situation is, we’ve reaped exactly what we’ve sown. We’ve allowed ourselves to become complicit in our division. To put all the blame on “them,” but never on “me” (because we’re all so individual – there is no “us”).

So where do we go from here? This is where the talk of unity has come in. “We can’t let this further divide us!” “Shouldn’t we show them they can’t win by coming together and being peaceful?” As someone who goes through life avoiding conflict at every turn, even I have to shout a resounding HELL NO! Make peace?! With people that stand for violence and white supremacy and civil war?! What kind of message does that send?

Listen. I hate conflict. I hate the knotted up feeling it gives me in the pit of my stomach. I hate how on edge even the slightest feeling of contention puts me. Even typing this post makes me uncomfortable. But as I said before, choosing to ignore it makes me complicit; and making peace with groups and individuals that stand for values that I am so strongly against is a level of complicit I just can’t sign on to. The events of last week crossed a very large, very bold line, and the people held responsible – ALL the people held responsible (including, and especially, the President) – have to be held accountable, or it will happen again – maybe not soon (but maybe), but if we set the standard that this kind of behavior is tolerable at all, it will be a green light for extremists from every angle to incite violence. There has to be accountability.

And then, once accountability has been issued for this event, maybe we can start talking about unity and healing. It’s not going to be a quick thing. It’s going to be a lot of hard conversations involving looking into some very dark areas of our past, and taking responsibility for things we have done or said – or maybe didn’t do and didn’t say. “WE” – not “them.” It’s our job to see our own defects, because those are the only defects we have the ability to do anything about. It’s important that we realize that we didn’t just wake up a divided nation one morning, and we can’t wake up united in the same small time frame. We’ll never be effectively healed as a community unless we acknowledge and work through the areas we are broken. I have faith in humanity though, and in the belief that there are more good people out there with a heart for peace than there are those with a heart for hate.

There are no resolutions here

It’s New Year’s Day, and this year is a weird one. There are plenty of posts out there that will break down in detail what a mess 2020 was (and don’t get me wrong, it was), but this is not that post. There are also many posts talking about finding the blessings amidst the destruction of 2020 (of which there are plenty if you bother to look), but this is not that post either. Though there is much value in reflection, and we’ll need to do a lot of reflecting to even begin to heal from the events of last year, this is a post looking forward to the year upcoming. But instead of resolutions and specific goals, I am choosing instead to focus on improving specific areas of my life through habits and systems. There are five areas in my life that I have decided to focus on for growth this year.

Focus 1: Physical Health

First, let me emphasize this focus has nothing to do with weight loss. I haven’t weighed myself in months, and I have no intention to do so anytime soon. It’s not even about how my clothes fit or what the mirror shows. It’s all about how I feel. For example, I know by listening to my body that I am sensitive to sugar. Too much in the morning makes me nauseous, and too much any time gives me a headache. I also know from experience that sodium effects me pretty strongly. My hands and feet swell when I am the slightest bit dehydrated and have had anything too salty. I know I feel my best when I eat real food that is prepared fresh and hasn’t been in a package for who knows how long. The solution to this problem seems pretty obvious: just eat healthier, home cooked food. Ironically, I actually enjoy cooking. But often by the end of the day, I’m tired, and I don’t feel like it, and it’s really easy to talk my family into ordering takeout (we are a family of loving enablers). But in the interest of focusing on taking care of my physical health, I am putting in place a system that at 5:00 each evening, I will cook dinner.

Of course, physical health isn’t only about food. Movement is important too. I go through pretty drastic hills and valleys with regard to exercise. I’m either working out 6 days a week and feeling amazing, or I haven’t gotten off the couch in a week with no current desire to do so ever again (one guess as to which extreme I’m at now – hint: I’m currently lying in a recliner watching my 4th Marvel movie of the day, typing on my phone because my laptop is charging in another room). The challenge with this one is finding the best time to do it. If I start my day with movement, I feel great, but then I feel like my day is running late. If I wait until the end of the day, it’s likely something will get in the way and I won’t get to it. So the system I’m putting in place for this one is at 4:00 each afternoon, I will move my body for 30 minutes. This could be a jog around the neighborhood or a workout in the garage. Hopefully before too long it can be a gym workout, but right now that’s not in my comfort zone due to Covid.

Focus 2: Mental Health

A lot of the mental aspect of health can be improved by improving physical health, so if I can get that under control, I feel like I’m that much closer to better mental health. Unfortunately, I have historically focused specifically on one or the other meaning that the one that wasn’t the focus at the time only got as much benefit as the other provided. For example, in times that mental health was the focus, I tended to make sure that I was prioritizing rest, meditating regularly, and being kind to myself without putting any real emphasis on nutrition or movement. My mental health systems are small, but impactful. Most of these practices are how I start my day. I will list 5 things to I am thankful for first thing. I will not check my phone for the first hour I am awake. I will meditate and reflect each morning before I start my “work” day (more on that in a minute). I will continue to meet with my counselor every other week.

Focus 3: My Work

This is a tough one because it doesn’t yet have a specific focus or determined direction. That’s why I’m putting these systems in place – to establish that direction. I have joined author Kathi Lipp’s ministry team as an intern to learn more about how to build my brand and put myself out there. In joining this team, I have joined the Writer’s Collective which is a program that I feel will really strengthen my progress toward my goals. The program is broken down into three categories: create, build, and serve.

3a: Create

Creating for me means making progress toward writing my memoir. The plan is for this manuscript is to follow my evolution of a mother through my life as a pregnant teen, teen mom, single mom, married mom, and now that my kids are mostly grown, as a self aware individual. I will spend 90 minutes daily, Monday through Friday, working on some aspect of this manuscript.

3b: Build

In addition to writing, I am also putting a system in place to spend 90 minutes each day building my platform and community. This will be useful in hopefully increasing my readership, but also in attracting an audience that will actually find value in what I hope to offer in terms of hope and support and acceptance.

3c: Serve

The final 90 minute block in my “work” day is dedicated to serving my community. Right now this will be primarily through blog posts, but as I get more comfortable reaching out and as it becomes safer to interact in person post Covid, I would like for service to be feet on the ground serving marginalized communities wherever I can.

As I mentioned before, all things “work” related are pretty vague. The systems are there, but the projected outcome is not. Not yet anyway. If nothing else, I’ll be learning.

Focus 4: Personal Growth

Another pretty nondescript category, but not any less important than the others. I would like to set aside time to discover new interests and rediscover interests I have set aside. I mentioned earlier that I enjoy cooking. I’d like to remind myself that regularly and make a habit of it. I used to play piano, and while I hated it as a child (to be fair – my teacher was really mean – even my mom will back me up on that), I wish I still played. We got rid of our piano about 5 years ago, but I think maybe I’ll pick up a keyboard and try to get back into it. Part of me would like to learn to dance, though that sounds terrifying. Regardless, I plan to set aside 30 minutes per day for some sort of personal growth activity.

Focus 5: Spiritual Growth

This one is a little bit scary for me as my spiritual upbringing swings between my step-dad’s extreme Old Testament, fire and brimstone beliefs and nonexistent avoidance. I’m in a place now where I’d like to learn actual truth. I have a hard time accepting a God that is ok with things like misogyny and white supremacy and homophobia, yet sends his son to teach love and peace and acceptance. I need more information. I need reconciliation. Last year, I started to get involved in the Daughters of Abraham and was looking forward to learning more not only from women from my own faith background, but women from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds as well. Covid put a damper on that though, and it fell by the wayside with so many other intentions. I plan to get more involved with the group this year – even if it is virtually. I also virtually attended the Evolving Faith conference this year, and found myself among a group of seemingly like minded people. My hope is that in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have the opportunity to make some connections in person and find a church community that I can plug in to and learn from.

So there you have it. No actual resolutions, but plenty of areas to focus on growth. I’m seeking out accountability resources to keep me from losing focus, and the only real goal is growth. Here’s to 2021.

An unsolicited plug for a local business

*These are my own opinions. This is not an ad for a product or company. I was in no way solicited or paid for this post (because let’s be honest – they’d likely pay someone with a little more clout).*

Last week, I posted about stumbling across a local nonprofit business called Oluna while watching the midday local newscast (something I don’t normally do, but what a happy coincidence). The first thing that caught my attention about this company is its mission: “to strive to bring attention to menstrual health inequity by donating a year’s supply of period products to an American in need.” With all of the challenges different groups face, this was one I hadn’t ever really considered, but they’re right. Roughly half the adult human population are women that menstruate, and need hygiene supplies. While many of us don’t think twice about running to the store to pick up a box of pads or tampons, there are a lot of women that don’t have that luxury (never thought I’d consider that a luxury, but awareness is a funny thing). So I decided to give the Oluna website a peek.

The first thing you notice when you go the Oluna website is that these pants are cute! They look flowy and loose and comfortable and come in a pretty decent selection of colors and patterns. I can get on board with supporting a worthy cause pretty easily, but when my support comes with a pair of cute pants, it’s a no-brainer! So I took the plunge and ordered a pair of The Chiara pants.

Now, I’ll be honest: I was a little nervous about these pants. One thing you notice about the models on the Oluna website is that they are all very tall, very slender women, and I was concerned about how the pants would fit me being the exact opposite of tall and even less slender. Regardless, I reasoned that the worst case scenario was that I would end up with a pair of pants I couldn’t wear, but there would be a woman in a local shelter with a year’s worth of period supplies, so no one was really losing.

When the pants were delivered, the first thing I noticed about them was the fabric. The material is super soft. It reminded me of when LuLaRoe was a big thing with their buttery feeling leggings, only no one was bothering me to join their team and sell for them.

Next up: the moment of truth – how do they fit? The website size guide recommended I order a Medium. The caption of the very tall model said that she was wearing a Small, but she and I seem to be built a little bit differently, so I went with the size guide’s recommendation knowing there was a pretty good chance the pants were going to be just a little bit long. I was not wrong.

Vertical challenge aside, I was immediately in love with the way these pants felt. They’re loose and flowy, but as previously mentioned, buttery soft, so the few places they actually touch you is like being brushed by cherub wings (presumably – I’ve never even seen a cherub in person, but their wings look soft in pictures). Therefore, I was determined to make these work somehow that didn’t involve scissors or a sewing machine, because while I have many talents, altering clothing is not among them, and I was not really excited at the prospect of owning the world’s softest dust rags. So I dug into my short girl bag of tricks and tied the ankles, and BAM – new favorite pants!

Paired them with an equally flowy and soft top, and you might never see me in leggings again – and that is quite a claim!

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the entire experience. The company has a great backstory, a worthwhile mission, and sells a high quality, comfortable product. I was able to support a local, woman-owned business, while also supporting women in need, and I got a new favorite pair of pants out of it. There are no losers today.

Hope (an Advent post – kind of)

*I am not a historically religious person, nor am I in any way a Biblical scholar, so please forgive my elementary interpretation of all things theological in nature as I attempt to educate myself.*

Yesterday marked the first Sunday of Advent, the 4 Sundays before Christmas that focus on waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ; the theme of the first week being hope. Although my knowledge of the history and meaning of Advent is incredibly limited, it has always been one of my favorite seasons, and marking the beginning of the Christian calendar, I thought it a good starting point to try and deepen my understanding of the Christian faith as I attempt to reconstruct my own.

One of the most familiar images of Advent is the wreath of candles representing the themes of the season – three purple (representing hope, love, and peace and lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent), one pink (representing joy and lit on the third Sunday), and one white (the Christ candle lit on Christmas Eve).

Now that I have shared my elementary Sunday School knowledge of Advent, let’s dive in to the main idea for this post: Hope.

This is a pretty timely topic for me as it has been the subject of more than a few recent conversations I’ve had with my counselor as I continue to explore what I feel called to do since leaving the classroom this year. Changing paths is a hard thing to do when you only have a vague idea of what the new path is. All I have been able to come up with so far is “I want to empower people – especially those in seemingly impossible circumstances. I want to give them hope.”

From that stemmed a conversation about hope in general. What does hope look like? What actually is hope? Where does hope come from? Who has provided me hope? All questions pointing to a bigger issue: I cannot aspire to be a source of hope if I don’t acknowledge where my own hope has come from. Thus began a long period of reflection.

First, I had to figure out what I meant by hope, because I feel like hope can mean different things in different situations. Some days I hope the chicken I set out won’t thaw in time to start dinner, and oh darn, we’ll just have to order take-out. This is obviously not the hope I am talking about here. When I say I want to give people hope, I am referring to the hope that encourages them to get out of bed each day with the belief that they are greater than their current circumstances and that some day their circumstances will change to reflect that.

But how? To be honest, the how has been slow to take shape. So slow, in fact, that it is still in some abstract form out of reach from me. More important than the how though, is the why. This was a big part of the reflection I’ve been doing over the past several weeks. And as difficult as the work was, the why suddenly appeared very simply: because someone once gave me hope. And that is where things started to make sense.

I got pregnant when I was 16; just before my junior year. Being an accelerated honor student, I had extra credit hours and was able to enroll as a senior, putting me on track to graduate a year early. Now, if you’ve ever been a 16/17 year old, you know it’s a rough season under the best circumstances, and hope can often be elusive; but even more so when those circumstances involve challenges like the obvious pregnancy and an entirely new cohort. It was an incredibly lonely time, and many days doing my best was comprised of just getting out of bed and making it to school. Hope didn’t exactly spring eternal during that time, but it wasn’t altogether absent either, and it came in the form of a teacher. My senior English teacher was one of the primary sources of hope that year. Without going into vast detail (she gets an entire chapter in the memoir), I will just say that she made an impact on my life beyond any teacher I had ever had – and I had some pretty incredible teachers.

Back to present: I had identified my why: I want to provide hope where it is scarce because someone had once given me that hope. But now I needed to acknowledge that hope in a way that went beyond my own private gratitude, because what good is gratitude if it’s not expressed to the person to whom it’s owed? So at the direction of my very bossy counselor (who I am positive does not follow my site, but I have to get a shot in just in case), I got out a pen and paper and wrote a letter to my former teacher. And then I marked it up and scratched things out, and threw it away and wrote another letter. And after a lot of indecision, I stepped out of my Enneagram 9 zone and reached out to her and asked how I could best share it with her. She shared her address with me, and before I could talk myself out of it, I mailed it. To my surprise (and a little bit to my introverted horror), she replied a few days later with her phone number and asked if we could chat by phone. We set aside a time, and as nervous as I was when I dialed her number, my nerves were almost immediately calmed as we talked and I was reminded of why I saw her as such a huge source of hope in my life all those years ago. We talked for an hour about how important it is to give people hope and take care of each other. We shared stories about life, about challenges and successes and failures and heartbreak. And above all, hope.

And so here we are in this first week of Advent, with its theme of Hope. And I feel incredibly fortunate to have been the recipient of hope so many years ago, and to have the opportunity to pass it on.

Go Ahead and Have Dessert

Body image and diet culture are topics that have been heavy on my mind lately, largely due to the fact that they are in our faces constantly. You don’t really even realize it until you start to look for it, but pay attention to conversations with friends or family, advertisements you hear on television or radio or see on social media, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll be exposed to something that addresses body image and diet culture on more than one occasion. It’s so normalized that we don’t even think about it until something comes out of left field to make us rethink how we approach these things.

In my case, that something is a 12-year-old boy. My youngest son has never been lean and athletic like his older brother; nor has he ever had a metabolism that burns higher than it consumes like his oldest brother (due to heart defects that require his body to work a little harder, though we’ve heard “he’s so lucky he can eat whatever he wants and not gain a pound” so much I could scream). My youngest was the cherubic baby with round cheeks and thigh rolls that just made you want to squeeze them. As he got older, he “slimmed up” as toddlers do, but has always had a bigger build; “husky” if we’re following clothing labels. He has never been medically labeled “overweight” or “unhealthy,” and he has always followed a steady curve along the pediatric growth chart. And he has never been bothered by any of it… until about a year and a half ago when he fairly rapidly gained 10-15 pounds. His nutrition didn’t change. His activity level didn’t change. I was not concerned until he expressed concern. Since he is a very fact reliant kid, I did some research and confirmed what I had been trying to explain to him: This is normal. It happens to most kids in the year or so before puberty fully kicks in, and it’s completely necessary for normal and healthy body development. He is healthy and his body shape and size is unimportant.

This should have been a pretty open and shut case. Problem identified, problem explained, not a problem. But of course it wasn’t. Between the media and middle school peers, my son got so self-conscious about his weight that he started trying to hide his body, being very hesitant to take his shirt off to swim (this was a child that didn’t wear a shirt for probably 5 years of his life). Eventually, he dropped out of Boy Scouts – which he loved – because other boys made fun of his weight. That made me incredibly sad, but what started scaring me was his evolving relationship with food. He started obsessing over food nutrition labels; and while this may not seem like a bad thing (we should be educated about what’s in our food, right?), when any activity hits an obsessive level, it can be pretty dangerous – especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Suddenly I found myself fielding questions like “how many milligrams of sodium is too high for lunch” and “are there too many calories in this soup for me to have a little more?” Soup! It is not ok for a 12-year-old child to be concerned about whether or not the soup he is eating has too many calories!

We started having some pretty tough conversations about trusting our bodies, and how this is something that is not intuitive anymore, but absolutely should be. Our bodies know what they need. They know when they’re hungry and when they’re sated. They know what kinds of food they need. And once upon a time before diet culture and convenience foods, people ate intuitively, because there was no other way. We talked about how health and thinness are not the same thing, and no one should be ashamed of how their body looks because all bodies are different and not an indicator of a person’s character. I tried to explain to him that calories are a unit of energy and not to something to be obsessing over, and it’s ok if he wants to have ice cream in the evening. A 12-year-old kid should be able to enjoy food without constantly beating themself up over it. We all should.

Finally, what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t take some accountability for this whole situation? I could go on about how I don’t know why my child would be so self conscious because I have never obsessed about any of my children’s weight, and that would be true; but what is also true is that he has no doubt heard me comment on my own weight, or likely even on someone else’s. He has heard me say hateful things about my body, or comment on how much weight I’ve gained or need to lose, or turn down treats because as much as I would love to indulge – I don’t need the calories. He has seen and heard me do all the things I am telling him not to.

So I’m actively trying to change the conversation – not just where it concerns him, but overall. I’m making conscious decisions in how I talk about food and bodies – mine, his, and anyone else’s. When we started planning the menu for Thanksgiving dinner, I saw him start to get concerned when I mentioned the desserts. He was already trying to decide which of the three to choose. We went back to the conversation about listening to his body and not eating past when his body says it’s no longer hungry (which is not the same as full), and then, when your body is ready for dessert – go ahead and have a small amount of all three. You don’t have to choose, and you don’t have to feel shame for it.

Like memoirs?

My friend, Ticcoa Leister wrote an amazing memoir that I have read a total of 3 times now. It is her story of the journey out of the despair that came when those in a position to build her up and empower her on her path instead told her that her dream was not for her. She took that disappointment and began a new journey that put her in a community that has done what her past community refused to do – encourage and empower her to be who she was meant to be.

Not only was I given the opportunity to read an advanced copy as part of her launch team, but I had the honor of being a beta reader of the manuscript as well. If all that wasn’t enough, today I got my AUTOGRAPHED copy of this gem in the mail!

Y’all it really is such a great story – relatable, inspirational, and beautifully written.
Order it here: Unbound: A Story of Freedom and Sisterhood https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L8MFGH1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_GGdSFbWV2WEEP

A Personal Growth Post (i.e. a semi-coherent brain dump)

Two things are going on in this post. One is that I signed up for the #30day10k writing challenge though the Writing at the Red House group, and as such, am committed to a whole lot of writing this month; but I’m not really feeling my manuscript today, so a blog post it is. The other is that since my bi-weekly appointment with my counselor Wednesday evening, I have been processing a lot of thoughts, and since part of the tagline on the logo that my dear friend Anna created for me says “personal growth,” I thought it appropriate to ruminate here and use the words toward my word count goal for the day (which is 500, so buckle up because we’re only 124 words in).

It’s no secret that in recent months I’ve been on a journey of self discovery. I’ve felt an enormous, unrelenting tug on my heart to serve in some way that makes a positive impact on members of marginalized and oppressed groups. The main challenge is that I’m not sure in what capacity I am meant to serve, what my gifts are, or where my focus lies, and so my counselor has shifted the focus of our sessions together in a more career coaching sort of direction, which has given me a different perspective of myself and my goals. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel any closer to clarity than I did four months ago when we made this shift, but I’m finding the process to be incredibly enlightening. One of the first “assignments” she gave me was to write a mission statement. She gave me no hard deadline, which was a rookie mistake, because I’m not sure if anyone of the three of you that read my blog posts have ever written a mission statement, but it is flipping hard. At least it is for me. I have wrestled with this thing, written, rewritten, thrown away, walked away from, and written again for the better part of nearly three months now and it’s still in draft form (though it’s way closer than it was even last week). On Monday, I finally texted the latest version to her and told her to “chew on it and give me feedback at our appointment Wednesday”. Of course, when Wednesday rolls around, instead of telling me how she felt about my statement, she goes the counselor route and says “how do YOU feel about it?” Ugh. After a whole lot of stumbling around for words I thought maybe she’d like to hear me say (please tell me I’m not the only one that does this), I finally said “Well, it’s still pretty vague, but if it was a mission statement for an organization I was considering serving, I’d work for them.” To which she said, “So are you proud of it?”

Am I proud of it? We had roughly 15 minutes left in our session and with one word – proud – she secured me as a counseling client for at least another three months. Am I proud of the statement I wrote? I can’t say that I am. Which is stupid, because I worked hard to come up with it, and on a rational level, I know that even if I’m not yet completely satisfied with the outcome, it’s ok to recognize the effort I put in to it, but proud? Can I have a different word, please? She said I can’t. Proud. After a lot of uncomfortable squirming and mentally hoping the internet would fail and cut our connection and damn – we’ll have to pick up again in two weeks (and maybe she’ll forget what we were talking about by then), she asked what my problem was with the concept of pride. Nothing. No problem at all… for other people. You finished that marathon? Way to go, sis! You defended your dissertation? That’s astounding – you must be on top of the world! You dragged yourself out of bed and made it through the day? You’re amazing, and should celebrate with a nap! I am completely comfortable with, and excited about, celebrating other people’s successes. Sincerely and wholeheartedly. But can we please just look the other way when it comes to me?

Of course, now I have opened the gate to the never-ending (though admittedly necessary) conversation about core beliefs; how they can be challenged and changed, but first you have to figure out where they come from. So begins the hard work of meditating on the questions: What do I want to believe about pride? What was I taught about pride in childhood? What accomplishments would I like to feel pride in? How can I feel qualified to empower people if I am not empowered enough to acknowledge my own accomplishments?

So far there are no answers, except to the last question which is I can’t, and while I can’t say I’m excited about this step in the process, I recognize the value in the work. I’m committed to discovering my calling and I acknowledge that challenging my core beliefs is key to unlocking my potential, and therefore required for any kind of success.

I’ll start here. Today I wrote 872 words, and of that accomplishment, I am proud.

It’s Time to Just Start Writing the Damn Book Already

In the months since I resigned from my teaching position to “discover how I am meant to serve,” and write a book, I have done exactly zero in the area of writing. Actually, that’s not entirely true – I have journaled a bit, but nothing coherent, and definitely not anything I would want to include in a book that other people may read. What I have done, is make excuses.

June/July: We’re trying to sell our house, so my focus is on that – once we’re past that obstacle, I can get focused on actually writing.

July/August: We sold our house, so now I need to focus on finding a place to live. Once we’ve figured out the details of that, I’ll focus on writing.

August: Crap. There are no houses we are interested in buying. Where will we live? I don’t want to be tied into a lease for a year; what if we sign the lease and find our house two months later? This is way too stressful; there’s no way I can focus on writing right now.

September: Wouldn’t you know it, things worked out and we found a house to rent short term, we moved in, and we’re as settled as we plan to be here until we start the house hunt again in a month or two. What’s the excuse now?

What’s the excuse now?

The truth is that I could fairly easily come up with at least half a dozen excuses, but the reality is that they would all be just that. Excuses. Could I validate them? Absolutely – I’m a master at validating excuses. But as I went through my morning, I decided it was time to just stop with the excuses and either start the process, or quit pretending like I’m going to. To fish, or cut bait if you will. Shit or get off the pot. Propose or break up. Choose your preferred colloquialism, the bottom line is that I’m either going to start writing this thing, or I’m not; and either choice is fine, but a choice has got to be made.

The universe seemed to know I needed a gentle nudge (or a swift kick), because my morning guided meditation/journaling had to do with vulnerability; specifically why it’s so hard to be vulnerable; the obvious answer in my case being fear. Once I gave it a name, I spent some time sitting with that fear, and digging in to exactly what it is I’m afraid of, and I realized that the majority of my fear is judgement. What if I write my story, and nobody wants to read it? Or what if people do read it, and hate it? What if everything that I have set out to do turns out to be a waste of not only my own time, but that of all the people that have sacrificed to support me? So I decided to start with the very last words I wrote in my journal this morning:

PUBLISH THE POST

So here’s the elevator pitch: I am writing a creative nonfiction/memoir. It does not yet have a title, but it will basically be my story of personal growth from who I was as a child, becoming a teenage mother, escaping toxic relationships, getting my crap together and being a functional member of society, learning who I am and what I believe as an individual, and hopefully finally arriving at what gives my life meaning, and how I am meant to serve.

I have spent a lot of months stumbling over various combinations of these words in an attempt to convince other people that the idea of writing my story isn’t stupid, and you know what’s funny? For the most part, no one has even questioned it, so who am I trying to convince? What is or is not “stupid” is incredibly subjective, and as long as I think it’s an idea worth pursuing, nobody else’s opinion should even matter. So I’m doing this. I’m fishing. Shitting. Proposing. Whatever. And I hope my writing is well received, but if it’s not; that’ll be ok too.

A Brief Recap as We Prepare to Move Forward

When first I abandoned this site, it was but a wee baby blog with a few scratch the surface posts and a handful of views. Shortly after the world went crazy in March, I put the whole thing (and most everything else in life that wasn’t essential for pure survival) aside and went on full autopilot. In preparation to move forward with this whole writing adventure, let’s take a brief look back at what would be called a highlight reel of the last few months if only most of the events didn’t suck.

The Coronavirus pandemic. Obviously. I know I’m not alone in my reaction to have completely shut down shortly after everything else did. I have said before I am a 9 on the enneagram, and shutting down in stress is what we do best – do not even try to compete. I did what I had to do from one day to the next and not one thing more. The end of the school year came and went with no real sense of closure, so for all I know, we’re still in the 2019-2020 school year.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. It really is a shame that it took something as vile as racism with a side of police brutality to pull me out of a pandemic induced mental haze, but these events did it. I felt myself in a constant state of anger the likes of which I have never felt before. Injustice has always been a button of mine, but this, man. This was rage like I had never felt. I attempted to go full keyboard warrior more than once, and each time deleted my post because it just didn’t feel like a productive use of my voice. Instead, I took to education. I have spent the last few months reading books by black authors, learning about different policies specifically designed to oppress black people, following various BIPOC on social media, listening to podcasts, and doing as much as I can to call out racism and be an ally.

I resigned from my teaching position. This had nothing to do with the pandemic or politics or any of the various other reasons that you typically hear teachers leaving the profession over. This was completely a decision made by listening to my heart telling me that as much as I love working with kids, and I know that teaching impacts lives and makes a difference, that it was not the impact that I was looking to make. And while I’m still not 100% sure what that is, it made sense to me to step away for a year to explore it.

So where are we going from here? Well, while I don’t have anything that resembles a roadmap or a timeline, there are a few things I’m working on in terms of my own personal journey (which I’m hopeful will lead me to some clarity on that whole making an impact thing). I’m working to reconstruct my faith, which I touched on in an earlier post. This doesn’t simply mean I’m going to put myself back into a church setting. This means a deeper dive into the specific values and beliefs of different denominations/churches. I’d love to get involved with a faith community, but I need to find one that aligns with my own values, and with as muddled as my spiritual background is, I’m not sure what that looks like. I’m also continuing to educate myself on how to be an ally to groups that I feel are oppressed or underrepresented – BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, etc. by reading and researching different agencies that help these communities and how to get involved with them. And finally, I’m writing. In addition to committing to regular posts here, I have started writing a book. Right now it’s not much more than a collection of personal stories, but the plan is to put it all together eventually and try to get it published. While I don’t know that my story is all that fascinating or inspiring, I figure putting it out there will be a form of therapy for me; and if by chance some teenaged mom, or single mom, or married mom who knows she’s living the dream, but isn’t sure who’s dream it is she’s living can find some thread of connection then I’ll call it a success.

So there it is. The last 5 months in a nutshell and a vague look ahead. Hopefully along the way I’ll catch an eye or two – it’s a lot harder to quit when people are watching.