It’s the End of the World as We Know It

And if you feel fine, you either heavily delusional, or you are a much better adjusted person than 99% of the population – myself included. Seriously, what in the actual hell is happening? Two weeks ago, I was on Spring Break at a ski resort in Colorado with my family, hearing about this new virus that was running amok in other countries and starting to show up in the US as snippets on the news. Was I concerned? Not really. How naive of me. Sitting in my ignorant privilege thinking that surely “they” would get a handle on this before it hit my tiny corner of the universe. By the time we left Colorado to head back to Texas, there were 4 presumed positive cases in my county. A little closer to home for sure, but still nothing I was really overly concerned about.

We got home on Friday, March 13, and with very few and and very strategic exceptions, I have not left my house since. This seems absolutely wild for me to wrap my head around. I am a textbook introvert. An avid homebody. But I am also a person who enjoys a quick jaunt to Target to pick up whatever my heart fancies whenever I darn well please. Give me the choice and I’ll stay home all day every day. Tell me I can’t leave and I kind of start to turn a little feral.

By that Saturday, the decision had been made that we would not be going back to school on Monday after spring break. The district made the decision to extend the break, giving everyone involved time to figure out what on earth we were doing and for how long. On Tuesday we met as a school to put some guidelines in place and we were off to the online learning races. The rest of last week disappeared in a blur of putting together online classrooms and virtual lessons, communicating with parents, and just trying to stop and catch our breaths. Everything still seemed surreal. Everything still seems surreal.

The next weekend (the one that just passed), we were ready to roll out this new online learning. We had tested the video services we planned to use, and posted our first online lessons to be done. The teachers and staff of my school took a 3 hour drive through our attendance zone honking and waving at the kids that we hadn’t seen in 2 weeks by this point, and when we’ll see them again is anybody’s guess. It was one of strangest experiences I’ve ever had – seeing these kids and their amazing families from a distance cheering and waving and smiling. Simultaneous feelings of excitement and heartbreak.

Monday morning we started what has since become our new normal, and it’s strange how both new and normal it really has seemed. I’m down to only one kid at home that’s still in grade school, and he’s old enough that he has picked up and managed this whole thing with very little direction from me. I provided the structure, and he ran with it. He has gotten up, eaten breakfast, and gotten dressed (why?) at almost the same time he did before. He logs on to his classes and gets his work for the day done. I sit in my “office” (it’s a corner of my bedroom, because my husband is also working from home and has already laid claim to the actual home office having already been working from home periodically for years), and I plan lessons and check log ins and website activity and hold virtual “office hours” where I conference with kids that have questions, or can’t figure out how to log in, or just want to say hello (those are my favorites). Sometime about the time of day I would be getting home, I come out of my “office” and go about my evening. And some time over the course of the past 3 days, it has become so normal that I have to remind myself that it’s weird.

And I hate it. I hate it for so many reasons. The obvious reasons like I want to see my students in person, and I want to buy groceries, and I want to go see friends in person, and bless it – I want to go to the gym (because the first thing I need to buy when I’m allowed to go out shopping might be jeans); but I hate it for so many other reasons, and for so many other people. I hate that my oldest son is still out working in this crazy world, because he just started a job that he absolutely loves and is terrified to give up at a hospital of all places. It’s scary to think that even though he is not medical staff, that he could potentially come into contact with this thing that we know so little about, but that has changed our lives so radically. I hate this for my middle son, who is having to finish his 2nd semester of college online (which I actually don’t think he hates all that much), and has had to make the hard choice to tell his boss that he will not be coming in to work during this season, and distance himself from his girlfriend, who has been his best friend since ages before they actually came out and started dating. I hate this for people that came into this situation already so fragile – whether medically, emotionally, or financially, that this thing has the potential to completely break them. I hate this for high school seniors that are having the crappiest of senior years. For residents of nursing homes and the families that can’t visit them. For the medical staff that are putting their lives at risk on the front lines of a war against an invisible enemy. There doesn’t seem to be one single person unaffected by this thing in some way.

But in the bad, there is always some good to be found, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t found some good in this mess. While there have been days in the last 2 weeks that I have barely kept it together, I have held fast to whatever constants I can. Routine has saved my life. Small things in my routine like my mornings. Getting up early to have my coffee and meditate on what I want for my day to be. Starting work at the same time each morning, taking breaks at the same, and putting work down at 4:00. These routines were intact before this mess, and even though the fine details are a little bit altered, they are intact still. There have been other bright spots in this storm. In the 12 days since we’ve been home, we have played more games, taken more walks, and had more meaningful conversation as a family than we have in collective months. Maybe years. And while I am sure that in the very near future, all this connection and positive engagement has the potential to go very south, I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. And maybe, when we’re past this nightmare (because at some point we have to get past it, right?), I can only hope that the bright spots of my new normal will stick around and make what was a pretty enjoyable old normal even better.

I’m on a Launch Team… Whatever that means

Let me introduce you to my best friend, Jen Hatmaker. I’ve never actually met Jen, so she doesn’t know we’re best friends, but we have so much in common that if we ever do actually meet in person, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a BFF at first sight kind of situation.

I honestly cannot remember exactly when I first came across anything about this person. There are vague, scattered memories about adoption from Africa, reaching out to the homeless population in Austin with food and friendship and shoes, but no succinct “this is the moment I learned about Jen” experience. Still, the name had been familiar in my mind for years before I ever began actually reading her books, or following her on social, or attending events where she is speaking. Once I did start reading her books, I was hooked. She’s just a genuinely real person. Her writing style is conversational and relatable, and her books are fun and engaging even while tackling topics that are hard and impactful. I read Of Mess and Moxie first, and then got it and For the Love on Audible, and let me tell you there is no more fun way to read a book than to have the author herself read it to you; and go completely off text down a side road of personal story. Pure greatness.

I had been drinking the Jen Hatmaker Kool-Aid for a couple of years by the time I had the privilege of seeing her speak at Rachel Hollis’ Rise conference last July, and it was everything I thought it would be. She is just as precious and fun and authentic in person as she is in print and on her podcast (For the Love). She brought the entire venue of 7,000 women to tears with a beautiful story about how female elephants form a circle around a laboring mother to protect her and her newborn calf, and then trumpeting in celebration and solidarity; and relating that situation to how we as sisters rally around each other when we are in need of support. We have each others backs in times of need, and we celebrate each others accomplishments in the good times. It was breathtaking.

Given how much I have spent the last few years loving every single thing about this person, when I heard that she had a new book set to be released this spring, and there was an opportunity to be on the launch team for that book, it was a no brainer; I had to apply. The day the launch team was to be announced, I checked my e-mail every chance I had, and was thankful for distractions to keep my mind off it. I alternated between telling myself that disappointment was a part of life, and that rejection wasn’t tied to my self worth – that I would still get a copy of the book through the Jen Hatmaker Book Club (yep – she even has a book club), and it would still be great; and telling myself that there was no reason to doubt myself – that I was just as qualified to participate in a launch as anybody else. AND I MADE IT!

So what does this mean? It means I get the opportunity read what is guaranteed to be one of the most honest, genuine, and true texts to be put in print before it comes out. I get to tell the world (my tiny corner of it anyway) about it as I read it. I get to be in community with a group of people that have the same ideals and goals and enthusiasm for this book as I do. Other than that, I’m not sure. I’m not sure how my being on this launch team benefits anyone other than me, because this is obviously a home run for me. Regardless I am going to do my best to do Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You the greatness it will no doubt earn. This book is sure to be a life changer, and I am 100% here for it!

Because I Gotta Have Faith

Let me just start by saying that if you didn’t read that title in song, I might not be the person you need in your life. You’ll figure out pretty quickly that I often reference songs, books, and movies; and if you can’t get on board with that, well then I’m not sure you can be saved. On with the post…

Faith is something that has recently hit my radar pretty hard. Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s just where I’m at in my journey of self discovery. Regardless, it’s been something I am feeling called by; and so in an effort to find some clarity, I thought I’d write it out a little.

My faith journey is scattered and inconsistent at best. My early memories of anything church related are of my grandmother, who was Catholic. Like, the most Catholic a person can be. She lived a few blocks away from the church she attended, and walked to mass 6 times a week. Monday through Friday mornings at 5:30 or some equally obscene hour reserved for devout Catholics and fitness buffs, and Saturday evenings. I’m sure she would have gone to the Sunday mass as well, but it was in Spanish. I would go with her to the Saturday evening mass, and occasionally when the weekday service was at 8:00am or something more reasonable than 5:00, but I never went through the classes or participated in the sacraments or anything.

When I was about 9, I moved away with my mom and my step-dad, and we began attending a “non-denominational” church, which I never fully figured out. It was a pretty big church relative to our small city of about 200,000 – not quite mega church, but big enough to feel totally alone. We went, sat in the seats, and listened to the sermon, but we didn’t ever actually plug in. We didn’t have church friends or go to church sponsored events, and on the rare occasion I went to Sunday school or youth group, I may as well have met those kids for the first time every time so inconsistent was my presence. I just sat through the service with the grown ups and tried to stay awake. This was the bulk of my experience through high school.

It’s probably no surprise given my mostly unplugged and unengaged background that once I moved out on my own, a church home was not the first thing I sought out. The opinions that I had formed about church by that time was that it was stuffy, and judged, and oh so boring. I could be spiritual without all that. I never really had any kind of huge crisis of faith where I questioned the presence of God or anything – I just had a problem with the way every church I had ever attended taught. So I decided I would worship in my own way and focus on being a mostly good human.

As time went on, I kind of started feeling like maybe my kids could benefit from church. I knew enough people that had great past experiences with church; had grown in their faith and made lifelong friends along the way. I couldn’t imagine ever being friends with the type of uppity people I had encountered in church in the past, but I was willing to overlook that and maybe try a different church. So I dragged my little family to a few churches, and eventually found one that I absolutely loved. It was an old building with the awesome architecture and the stained glass windows. The services were traditional in that they sang hymns out of the hymnals to music being played on an actual organ. But the traditional feel ended there. Where I was used to church services being long and boring, and preachy; the sermons at this church were timely and relevant. This church tackled tough issues speaking from a place of God’s love and acceptance; not hellfire and damnation. I learned that this church was a member of the Reconciling Ministries, a network of congregations dedicated to full inclusion of the LGBTQ population, and I was sold. It had never occurred to me that there were populations marginalized by the church, and knowing that the church I was attending was fighting to end that discrimination spoke to me in a way organized religion never had (this was probably one of my first realizations of my own privilege and kickstarted my fervor for equality and social justice). It was the only church my family ever actually joined. All 3 of my boys were baptized there, and 2 of them were confirmed.

Fast forward to present day, and I now live roughly 400 miles away. We have lived here for nearly 4 years now, and while we have visited a several churches, and really actually liked a few of them, I am still without a home. This is due in large part to the fact that I haven’t put a huge priority on it. I have gotten complacent to spending Sunday mornings drinking coffee in pajamas under a blanket, and leaving that comfort zone (both the literal and the figurative) is pretty unappealing. I’m just so afraid I’m going to have to muddle my way through church after church of unaccepting, noninclusive doctrine. As I mentioned before, though, I’ve been feeling pulled to explore (restart?) my faith journey, so I’ve begun searching again; only this time I am looking for more than just a church home, but for a community of like-minded people that I can learn from – in whatever form that may come.

Enter the Daughters of Abraham. The Daughters are a group that was established after 9/11 to bring women of the three faiths descended from Abraham (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) together to celebrate build community with, and learn from, each other. They meet once a month and discuss issues important to society in general from the perspective of each of the three religions. After promising myself for months that I was going to check out a meeting, last week, I finally did. The topic was Women Leadership in Our Houses of Worship: How Do We Make Our Voices Heard? I had absolutely nothing to contribute to the discussion, and that was ok. I was only there to listen. It was fascinating to hear all these women from different backgrounds, different cultures, different beliefs share their experiences and wisdom. I left that meeting inspired and excited for next month’s meeting to continue learning from these women.

So my faith journey has begun. Again.

Greetings and Salutations

Hello! Welcome to my corner of the internet! I like to picture it as a tiny, broom closet sized space tucked in to the corner of an enormous building; easily overlooked, but home. It’s a safe, judgement free space; cozy, warm, and inviting; and all are welcome here. I’ll serve tea, or coffee, or wine, and of course there will be snacks (all fictional of course – it is an imaginary room afterall), while we have all the conversations ranging from the superficial to the very difficult.

A brief introduction is probably in order at this point. My name is Monya. I’m 40something years old, and while I tend to think I have the wisdom of a much older, more experienced person, at the same time, I’m certain that my sense of humor and maturity level is often that of a 14 year old. I am sarcastic and funny, and I love a good prank as long as it’s harmless to all involved. I’m a wife, a mother, an educator of young children, a runner, a writer, an avid reader, a lover of nearly all music, a lifelong learner, and an advocate for social justice. I’m big on self care and protecting one’s mental wellness. I believe we’re all fighting our own battles, and it hurts nobody and costs nothing to approach our fellow humans with kindness. I’m an Enneagram 9, Peacekeeper. I am easygoing and agreeable, and tend to avoid conflict and confrontation if possible. While I don’t think this is a characteristic I will ever not have, it’s one I’m working to challenge. I’m comfortable in my conflict-free, optimistic bubble, but growth is not achieved by staying in a comfort zone.

My goals for this blog are to establish community with people that share my affection for humanity and my passion for social justice and to learn about different people, customs, cultures, etc. outside of my very small circle of experience.

Again, welcome. I’m eager to see where this adventure goes, and fly or fall, I’m happy to share the journey.