My Hello/Goodbye (or Goodbye/Hello) Experience

*Disclaimer: This is not a solicited post in any way. Pastor Steph and Jo Saxton don’t even know who I am (though I think we would be great friends if they did). This is simply a resource that I found a lot of value in and it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself.*

I’ve mentioned my views on the idea of New Year’s Resolutions before. It’s no secret that I’m not really a subscriber to the whole “new year, new you” mentality. If I’m asked to really break it down though, I think it’s more the messaging than the actual notion. I just have a hard time signing on to the idea that because the clock struck midnight on a given night, suddenly all our goals are more attainable. As if in that exact moment, we somehow collectively morph into completely new, more disciplined, more capable people, and THIS is going to be the year we drop that 20 pounds/write that book/quit that habit/travel more. Don’t get me wrong, as an optimist I love the intention; the universal hope that comes with wanting to leave every crummy part of the previous year behind and magically move into a bright and shiny new one. As someone who has previously set resolutions and repeatedly let myself down though, I’ve grown a little bit jaded to the concept.

All that said, I do appreciate the symbolism of ending an old year and beginning a new one as an opportunity for reflection and goal setting. It just requires a little different mindset (not to mention vocabulary) for me. For starters, the word resolution is out. If I ever start a sentence with the phrase “This year I resolve to,” just know that it will never happen. I have magically set myself up to fail with one word. I acknowledge this is a self-defeating attitude, but I stand by it. I need something a little less rigid. A little more practical. I stumbled across a resource put out by Lead Stories Media called Hello Goodbye, and it completely changed the way I looked at the old year out/new year in notion.

I have followed Pastor Steph and Jo Saxton online for a little while now, and while they have apparently gone through the Hello/Goodbye process many times over the course of several years, this was my first exposure to it. An extremely oversimplified explanation is that the resource walks you through a process beginning with meditating on scripture and really digging in to what God is calling you to say Goodbye to and leave behind, as well as what you are being invited to say Hello to. I’m not sure how long your average person spends on such a process, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that it is not a thing you can hope to get through in one sitting. In my case, I spent an average of 2 hours/day for probably 6 days total (not in a row – there were some days I didn’t have the emotional capacity for such a thing – it got heavy at times). The takeaway here is that this is not a process to be taken lightly. While the specific details of my reflection are mine alone, I did want to share a summary of my 2021-2022 Hello/Goodbye.

In looking back at 2021, I am saying goodbye to those labels and identities that no longer describe or define me. I am saying goodbye to expectations I have previously placed on myself as a result of what I think others expect of me. I am saying goodbye to the fear of uncertainty knowing that certainty is a fallacy and fear hinders growth.

In looking forward to 2022, I am saying hello to the pursuit of a true calling over a job. I am saying hello to the belief that I am a creative being. I am saying hello to a deeper relationship with God and to being curious about my faith. I am saying hello to embracing community in all these spaces.

My prayer for the year ahead is that God will grant me the courage to embrace uncertainty and push beyond my comfort zone, for the confidence to believe that my dreams are worthy and achievable, and for guidance in figuring out the next steps necessary to move forward.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope it finds you with a renewed passion to dream.

New Year, Real Me

Here we are in the first few days 2022, and the resolution/goal setting/new year, new you mentality is running rampant. While that type of approach has proven to be ineffective for me to say the least (destructive would be a more accurate word), it works for some; and if that’s true for you, then let me assure you there is no shame here. You do you.

On the other end of the spectrum, is the new year, same me rhetoric. The idea that just because the calendar turned from December 31 to January 1, there is no reason to change anything but the page on the calendar (if you still use calendars with pages. I do). This outlook is also ok. After all, change can happen at any time you choose – no specific date or day necessary.

Somewhere in the middle, you have me. While I won’t be found with a list of specific things I will accomplish starting on January 1, I do have a list of things I would like to be curious about this year. And while I fully embrace the opportunity to make change at any time, I do like the symbolism of a new year – especially in these uncertain times.

One of the things I would like to embrace and be curious about this year is authenticity. I like to consider myself to be a mostly ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. Mostly. But while I like to think that I don’t go through life pretending to be something I’m not (anymore – I’ll admit to spending a lot of time trying), there are parts of me that I keep hidden in probably 99% of situations. These parts vary depending on who I am around, but the overarching truth is that I can’t think of one single person who fully knows me 100%. (My immediate family is probably pretty close, but I don’t even fart in front of them, so no – not 100%).

I wonder what it would look like to embrace my full self in all situations. To not sit quietly with my opinions because they might be unpopular (like my dislike of animal prints), or not keep my ideas to myself because they may come across as stupid (they’re actually often pretty good – it turns out you can repurpose meatloaf for spaghetti), or not be quiet about my spiritual beliefs because they might threaten the superior identity that many cling so tightly to (I don’t have a cheeky example for this one – the evil of supremacy in any form doesn’t leave a lot of room for humor).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m in no way implying going around calling people out for wearing leopard printed everything, or picking fights with anyone who looks sideways at my culinary recreations (because the leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves and there are only so many identical meals in a row that one can tolerate). But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to allow myself to speak up from the proverbial (and sometimes literal) corner of the room when I hear something that I genuinely feel should be challenged, or defend something that I genuinely feel should be defended. So in the symbolism of a new year, I’d like to lean in to authenticity in all areas, in all situations. I’m curious about what we will all learn about me in the process.

A Convoluted Musing about Prayer

It turns out that the first Thursday in May is recognized as National Day of Prayer*, and it got me thinking about my personal relationship with prayer. What feels like another lifetime ago, I wrote a blog post about my inconsistent faith journey in general (you can find that post here), so my complicated relationship with prayer should be no surprise.

I grew up around recited prayer: Our Fathers and Hail Marys; nice words with unknown meaning behind them. As I got older and started saying prayers that weren’t memorized, I tried to be very fancy about it – everyone I had ever heard pray out loud always sounded so articulate and well versed. Meanwhile, I would stumble around thanking God for vague blessings, asking those same blessings on others, and guiltily asking for… I’m not entirely sure what, because I always felt very selfish asking for anything at all.

In adulthood, I have questioned a lot of elements of my faith; prayer being front and center in those. Questions like, with all the billions of people in the world – many undoubtedly holier and more deserving than I, praying beautiful prayers, and dealing with far more important issues than I could even fathom – are my prayers even important to God? Am I being selfish for bothering God with my wants and needs? Or, even if my prayers are important enough for God, how will I know if He responds? Even if signs are real – I’m not very good at recognizing them. I’m more of a someone needs to explicitly tell me what to do type of person. People on social media request prayers, and I’m always happy to oblige, but I can’t help but wonder if my prayers are actually doing any good.

But that’s why it’s called faith, I suppose. Faith is believing in something even when you can’t observe it with your physical senses. I have to believe that God is there, and that He is listening, and that He does care; because if I don’t have that belief, then what is the point of anything at all? I also believe that not all of my prayers are going to be answered, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been heard. It may not be the right time. Or they may be answered in a way I didn’t expect. I hear the requests my kids make, but that doesn’t mean they always get what they ask for. Furthermore, I have decided that God doesn’t care how I pray. There doesn’t need to be recitation of something specific, or beautifully articulate and ceremonial prayers. My prayers have evolved to something more like a running conversation. I stutter. I stumble over my words. I explain things that God doesn’t need explained because… well, He’s God, but I need to process out loud. Sometimes I cuss and yell and cry. And sometimes I keep it all in my head like I’m communicating telepathically. After all, if God is omniscient, I shouldn’t have to say it out loud right?

So on this National Day of Prayer, I don’t really have anything beautiful to recite. I don’t have anything profound to pray for. If you want to pray a memorized recitation, I think that’s ok. But if you just want to ramble on in an incoherent string of words, I think that’s ok too.

*It’s also World Password Day, but I opted to not write about that after spending half an hour trying to figure out the master password to my password recovery app

Under Construction

It’s been a little over a year since I started this little blog project of mine, and about 9 months since I submitted my resignation to the school district I taught in, with the intention of discovering more about myself, whom I feel called to serve, and in what capacity. Over the course of that time, I have found myself in a cycle of reading, reflecting, writing, and deleting. I have plugged myself into groups where I have found great community, and groups that have not been for me. I have made plans, scrapped plans, pivoted plans, and rethought plans, and while I would love to say nearly a year in to this journey I feel closer to knowing what my true calling is, that would be a lie. Some days I feel no closer to clarity than I did when I made the seemingly impulsive decision to leave the comfort of concrete expectations and a regular paycheck. If I really stop to think though, while I haven’t quite found my specific calling, I have gained a little bit of clarity on some of the steps I need to take to get there. The first of which is that while I am in the process of figuring out what my path is, I need to be intentional and consistent in my writing and posting. Since I am only one person, and an unemployed one at that, I am the web designer, editor, content creator, and whatever else comes with the territory; and not by trade or education. The bottom line is that I’m taking some time to learn to make this site more attractive and more useable for the reader while providing consistent, authentic content. Basically, this site is getting a facelift. I won’t be taking any of my past content down, because as I undoubtedly grow as a writer, I want to be able to look back and remind myself of the journey; but I don’t plan to post any new content here until the bandages come off and the site is ready.

My goal date for reveal is April 1, 2021.

Wrapping up February and an apology

I’ll start with the apology. One month ago, I made a commitment to share information on my Facebook page about a Black change maker each day in February in honor of Black History month. Like so many other things in my life, I started strong and made sure to highlight a new person or resource every day. As February went on, life started happening as it often tends to do, and I started making allowances while still fulfilling my commitment. An example of this was the few days following receiving the COVID vaccine, I felt weak, achy, and tired; so instead of posting something original, I shared posts from other accounts. I’m not apologizing for that – the information was still valuable. Then Texas was hit with a monumental snowstorm (relatively speaking for Texas), and our power grid was exposed as garbage. While I was fortunate enough to not lost power, thereby making keeping up with my commitment possible; I suffered mentally and emotionally (and I really can’t even explain why) and withdrew from any and all social interactions: especially online. When we got past what could have been a much larger catastrophe, but shouldn’t have been a catastrophe in the first place, I tried to get back on track; telling myself that I would feature as many people as days I had missed and go forward from there, only I didn’t. I did pick back up with sharing about historic and current Black change makers daily for a few more days, and was hopeful that I would honor my commitment, and have a total of 28 people honored by the end of the month. Only I didn’t. My last post was on February 23 when I reflected on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on that day one year ago.

I think there are a few responses to this. There’s the “February was a rough month – you did the best you can” response, or the “don’t be so hard on yourself – no one really reads this blog anyway” response. But to be honest, it’s not any phantom reader that I am really apologizing to. In a sense, I am apologizing to myself. I made a commitment that the only person holding me accountable for is me, and I failed to honor that commitment. Again. Self care practices suggest that you treat yourself as you would treat another person, and that includes honoring commitments. I am known for being reliable to other people and following through with things I agree to do, but when it comes to following through with things that require internal accountability – forget it. And so, I am sorry, self, for not honoring this commitment to you (me?), and I will work harder to do better next time.

I am also apologizing to any member of the Black community that does read my blog because Black History Month matters. It’s important for poeple of all races to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices that have been made by people of color not only throughout history, but currently as well. It’s vital that we look back through the our history through a lens of diverse of experiences, and not just the whitewashed version that we have generally been exposed to.

As a farewell to February, I am listing all the resources that I did post about throughout the month as well as links to learn more. Today is the first of March, but let’s not stop honoring Black voices. Life is a cumulative test and it’s not enough to forget the content because the unit is finished. Listen to diverse voices, invest in Black-owned businesses, read authors outside your realm of experience, watch movies that feature customs and cultures that aren’t yours, and most importantly, believe the experiences these diverse voices tell you about. Resist the urge to pushback, argue, gaslight, or defend. If the conversation makes you uncomfortable, embrace it – it’s a sign of growth.

*Resources I posted about throughout February (a microscopic sample of amazing Black change makers)*
Marah Lidey
LaTasha Morrison
Rachel Cargle
Austin Channing Brown
Vivien T. Thomas
Amanda Gorman
Kizzmekia Corbett
Thurgood Marshall
John Lewis
Simone Biles
Cicely Tyson
Black Lives Matter
NAACP
Toni Morrison
Luvvie Ajayi Jones
James Baldwin
Malcom X
Ibram X. Kendi
Nannie Helen Burroughs
Bayard Rustin
Pauli Murray
Ella Baker
Claudette Colvin

Ahmaud Arbery

Processing… (alternately titled “A mini autobiography leading up to my current existential crisis”)

Gosh it’s easy to get knocked off track. Today is Friday, and here in Texas, it’s the first normal feeling day I have personally had all week thanks to the winter weather we had starting last weekend. That’s actually not true – the winter weather had very little to do with the absolute standstill we have all been at this week. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I lost most of last week as well due to the lingering immune response that my body had to the second Covid vaccine that I received the weekend before. It was rough, but well worth the resistance to an infection that has knocked the entire world on our collective behinds. But I don’t really want to talk about that either.

What I want to drone on about today is calling. More specifically, my calling. What is it? How do I find it? What do I do about it when I do find it? Can I borrow yours until I do find mine? “Oh great,” you’re thinking, “one of those posts where she waxes all what-am-I-supposed-to-be-doing-with-my-life.” Well, you’re right, so either suck it up and buckle in, or move along.

So here’s the thing: growing up, I had this ambition to become a teacher. Everybody I talked to (literally tens of people) knew it. I spent weeks during the summer at an aunt’s house that was a teacher, and my favorite thing to do was go through her classroom decorations and decorate my pretend classroom where I taught my obedient class full of dolls and stuffed animals. It was all I ever wanted to do.

I graduated high school a year early with a 2-week-old son who had undergone a heart operation less than 24 hours after birth, and my priorities shifted pretty drastically (I found they would do this several more times). I spent the summer between high school graduation and starting college in a NICU learning how to care for a medically fragile infant, and made the decision to pursue nursing. I was basically getting on the job training minus the pay, how hard could it be? So when I started taking community college courses, I loaded up on prerequisites for the nursing program. What I quickly found was that I hated it. Anatomy and Physiology was the first class I ever dropped because I just couldn’t memorize all those bones (this was probably the first two weeks of the curriculum). The truth is that I could memorize all those bones – I just didn’t want to. Nursing is a noble profession, and I appreciate all the nurses out there, but it was not for me. So I cut my losses and graduated community college with a Certificate of Proficiency in Office Technology. I was basically certified to be a secretary (a profession that doesn’t actually need a certificate).

Fast forward a few years of employment as – you guessed it – a secretary, and I decided if I was going to advance my situation in life, I should probably get a real degree. I worked at a university at the time anyway; surely I could just take a few classes around my work schedule. So I did. I declared a Computer Science major, and off I went. The first couple of semesters were all about taking care of basics, but since I had tested out of both the required English classes as well as Psychology, I had some room in my schedule to take an early class in programming so when I began my degree work, I wouldn’t be so behind. I quickly learned that while I was definitely a technology savvy person, Computer Science was not going to be a field in which I was going to find any kind of fulfillment. C++ was every bit as boring to me as the bones of the face had been a few years prior. Introduction to Programming was the second class I ever dropped.

In the five years that followed, I tried out Journalism and Marketing as majors before finally declaring Public Relations as the one and started focusing on just getting the degree and getting out. It wasn’t just that I had screwed around and taken classes long enough that I needed to just be finished (though the community college that I had previously attended did send me an Associate’s Degree simply due to college hour accumulation), the coursework in the Public Relations program was actually interesting to me. A lot of it was centered around nonprofit work, which I found incredibly rewarding, and I felt like I had found my calling – to help people. Somehow.

Some time after I graduated with my degree in Public Relations (minor in English), I took a job with a nonprofit organization as their Youth Program Director. I was responsible for presenting existing programs to kids as well as developing new programs. I loved it. I loved connecting with the kids and reaching out to the community. It provided a lot of different experiences with different audiences, which was nice since I’m the type of person to burn out pretty easily when things get mundane. After about a year, the organization restructured a little and the scope of my position changed, and I left the organization with a lot of valuable insight into myself and a renewed desire to become a teacher.

And so I did. The following school year, I took a job as a special education classroom aide and started a program to work toward becoming certified to teach. Because I was already plugged into a school system, I was able to begin student teaching as soon as I finished the coursework (which also didn’t take long), and in just over 6 months, I received my elementary teaching certificate as well as an ESL and a Gifted and Talented supplemental certification.

Over the course of the 6 years that followed, I had what I always thought was my “dream job,” but I struggled to feel what I thought I was going to feel. I’m not really sure how to articulate the conflict between what I expected and what I actually experienced, but I can say that I never really felt successful as a teacher. I loved my students, and a lot of them seemed to genuinely love me back; connecting with them never really seemed to be the issue, but I never really felt like I was successful in actually delivering the content. My last year in the classroom, I was assigned to teach 4th grade Writing, and I was pumped. I love to write, and I was excited to pass that love on to reluctant writers and to encourage those that already loved it as well. The reality was that kids at that age have very little actual experience in writing anything organized because until that age, focus is put on other subjects, so teaching writing turned out to be less encouraging kids to become better writers and to love writing, and more teaching them the rules of grammar and writing, which we all hate. In the back of my head the whole time was a nagging feeling: You are not fulfilling your calling – this is not where you are meant to serve. So I resigned from my teaching job.

In the months since, I have taken on the mission of finding what it is I am meant to do, who it is I am meant to serve, and in what capacity? Unfortunately, the nagging feeling that lead me to leave teaching hasn’t really offered up any further guidance. The universe has done a good job showing me all the things I am not called to do, but has yet to open my eyes to what I am. When I embarked on this journey to find this calling, I had a list of criteria that I would like for it to include. I want to write (but what?). I want to speak (to whom? About what?). I want to empower and give hope (again – who? And how?). I have read books, listened to speakers, and talked to coaches about finding purpose, and the recurring theme is that your purpose is at the intersection of your skills and expertise, your talents (apparently those are somehow different from skills and expertise), your values, and your passions (again – apparently those two things are different). As easy as that formula sounds, I am no closer to knowing than I was 8 months ago.

So now what?

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.

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.