Monday, March 5, 2018

The Truth of It: Continued Reflections on The Hate U Give

I grew up in incredibly diverse neighborhoods.  I have no close white friends from college.  My parents grew up around the world, and my dad was an Ethnic Studies major in college while I was growing up.

And still? I wondered what the black men who the police killed must have done before the police killed them.  What were they guilty of? Surely, they had done something that triggered this kind of response. I looked for the evidence that these men were innocent; I sought it out.

Just like the characters in Angie Thomas's novel, I believed the media's stories about drug and gang connections, about behaviors that are just "asking for" that kind of police attention.

I am an educated, experienced, knowledgeable teacher who still got drawn in by the media's version of the truth.

Despite diverse neighborhoods, diverse friends, and working with a diverse community, I am still guilty.

I may not exhibit the overt racism of my grandparents, but I still had those thoughts, those assumptions.

And the irony of it, is that even though my dad had a career in law enforcement, I have a lifelong...discomfort...around police officers.  As a toddler, yes a toddler, I witnessed a police officer dragging a boy up the escalator in the mall by his ear. And so cemented a lifelong discomfort bordering on fear.

I wouldn't look at my dad in his uniform when he came home - he had to change first before I would hug him.

And still.  I made assumptions.

And I couldn't face that until I read this book.

I don't know what's next. I did join the "Showing Up for Racial Justice" Facebook Community in my area. I'm reading. I'm gathering information. I've missed a lot in 30+ years of not paying enough attention; so, this will take time.

I'm making a change.              

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Hope You Have: Reflections After Reading The Hate U Give

For just a moment...

Let's forget that I was raised by two married parents, who'd known each other since adolescence.

Let's forget that my parents owned a home by the time I was four.

Let's forget that both of my parents (eventually) went to college.

Let's forget that I went to private school.

Let's forget that both of my parents were always employed or in school.

Let's forget that I had my own car four months after I turned 16.

Let's forget that we always had food.

Let's forget that I attended a public ivy.

We can, for the moment, remember only the following:

We were not always financially secure and often bought clothes on layaway.

My dad worked 70+ hour weeks at a stressful, dangerous job.

The homes my parents owned were in neighborhoods where, with the exception of Halloween, we didn't go out at night.

For much of my early childhood, family arguments and violence, largely in my mother's parents' home, were a real and frequent threat.

My appearance, behavior, and the fact that I went to different elementary schools than my peers, meant that I often dealt with bullying, taunting, and cruelty.


And yet...

I have white skin. 

I just finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and I had to do some serious thinking about how I few my own struggles.  It almost doesn't matter how many struggles I put on that list, because the color of my skin grants me a privilege I cannot ignore.

Like Starr Carter, the main character in the novel, I had a vastly different background than most of my peers at my private high school (which was far from the elite school Starr attends but was still private).  But that's about where the similarities end, and I can't fit my story into hers.

Even living in less-than-savory neighborhoods (yes, we knew the streets to avoid wandering down because of gang presence), I never actually feared for my life...but I know people who did.  And, you guessed it, they didn't have white skin.

I'm still wrestling with what to do after reading this book. There's something about the story, about Ms. Thomas's writing, that drives home something I haven't been able to grasp in the news stories.

Bear with me.

My great uncles risked their lives for the French Resistance during World War II.  My grandfather fought in three wars, three. My dad served in the military police and went on to try to reform thousands of criminals. My mom always fought for the underdog.

What do I do?

I like to think that my power, my path to making a difference is in teaching.  I hope that's true...but...this year?  I've had some students who do not, shall we say, bring out the best in me.

I'm struggling.

I have this skin. I have these degrees.  I have this knowledge about what's right and wrong.

What do I do?

For now, I write this.

And then, I find ways to right what's wrong, to forge a new world.

I don't have answers, but I have hope...and I have a voice.





Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Forty Days: Lenten Renewal

I used to give up candy and then binge on bags of peanut M&Ms on Easter Sunday.

Once, I gave up gum and ended up not chewing it again for two years.

I've given up soda and dessert. As an adult, I've given up alcohol.

I have made these physical "sacrifices," but I prefer to take action, to do something rather than give up something.

Lent 2018 has snuck up on me - it begins next week, on Valentine's Day, in fact, and I needed to sit down and think about how I will honor this sacred time of year.

In our church, we often talk about working inward and working outward. I like the feel of that, and so I have two focuses, one about my mindset and one about turning outward to my community.

Honoring My Husband

Over the past half decade and change (since a certain tiny human made his appearance), I have not necessarily focused as much as I would like on my husband.  We go on date nights. We try to have time together, but, especially in the last year, I realize that a part of me has almost ignored him. 

That's not fair.

We've gotten caught up in the busy-ness of life. We talk about home repairs, about school choices, about weekend plans.  I've slowed down to work on myself, and as the fog has cleared, I can see my husband there, patiently waiting.

In January, I decided that I need to jump back into focusing on building my faith, and the first study I completed was Five Days of Praying for My Husband. 

Towards the end of the plan, I was prompted to make a list of the ten top reasons my husband blesses me.



After I wrapped the brief devotional, I browsed through the additional resources and found Thirty-One Prayers for My Husband. Once I realized that Lent starts next week, I decided that this book would focus me during this season.  I enjoyed taking a structured time to focus on my husband, and I want to build on that.

Giving with Grace

Over the span of just a few years, we needed a lot of help. We bought our house and started making it our own. We had two energetic kids, including one who still would prefer to never sleep.  We began truly building our careers. I lost my mom.

Our community gathered around us and helped.

For the first time in a long while, I feel ready to start giving back with more than a quick donation. 

And so...forty days...forty acts of service.

I am certainly open to suggestions, and I am aware of my own limits.  I want to start small, but I want to start.

For now, the ideas only involve me, but it would simple to bring my children, especially my kindergartner son, into this spirit of giving of ourselves.

I've opened this up to my small book club, and I'll share on social media. I want to hold myself accountable, get ideas for opportunities to serve, and build community in the process.

I'm ready to say THANK YOU to all those who have helped our family over the past several years and begin giving again. 

With these two plans in place, I feel ready to observe this holy time.

How will you focus during this Lenten season?

 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Fitness and Health: Preserving the Joy

A year ago, I would not have bet money on pumping up a paddle board and setting out to meet a friend in the middle of the Napa River.  But it actually happened. I pumped up my own board and had a wee adventure - one I hope to have again and again.

On the way back from that adventure, I suddenly felt the full force of the joys in my life. I have a wonderful husband, two rambunctious kids, and I had just spent the afternoon on the river with a fantastic friend.  I have a fulfilling job. I love my home.  I could go on. I could list all of my blessings, and I did, and I felt overwhelmed with joy.

I felt like a little piece of time had opened up, and I could, just for a moment, whisper back to my 17 year-old-self, wrestling with all of the 17 year-old drama, and say, loud enough to be heard through time, "It gets better. I promise you that it gets better."

After that moment of time travel, I thought, "I have a lot to lose."

I want to keep this life full of love and light - a life that takes effort and prayer and intention.  A life that did not come easily.

Keeping my life means keeping up with my health. 

After my daughter's birth, I had my first genetic screening for Breast Cancer, which revealed a 35% lifetime risk of Breast Cancer.  Last week, I got the results for a more targeted test through Myriad. 

Thankfully, my lifetime risk has gone down to just under 30% (thank you, breast feeding!), and my doctor offered me several precautionary tips. She put me on a new regimen of vitamins and prescribed 30 minutes of exercise daily. Adding more exercise into my life isn't a huge change, given that I fully believe that a healthy life makes for a happy wife, but I took this to truly mean that paddle boarding is now prescribed by my doctor.

I want to do all that I can to stay healthy and fit for my children. I'm rededicating myself to my own health and wellness - body, mind, spirit, and soul.  

It's been a journey - none of this happened over night, but changes include:

  • Keeping up with bi-annual intensive breast cancer screening. 
  • Seeing a chiropractor to ensure that my body remains strong and limber so that I can exercise
  • Revising my skin care routine to be cleaner and simpler and setting a delivery of my makeup for every 6 months so that I'm not using old makeup on clean skin
  • Meal planning, meal prepping, and streamlining my grocery shopping routine
  • Cleaning up our family schedule to make it more nourishing and less stressful
  • Demonstrating fitness to my children with Yoga, walks, hikes, biking, and more 
  • Paddle boarding
  • Reading, reading, reading - I always have a book on my night table and something new playing on Audible, and reading is a crucial part of my kids' bedtime routine
  • Scheduling a standing date with my mom tribe - no guilt, make it or not, but it'll be on the calendar, regardless
  • Starting an online Bible study/book club (no pressure - one chapter a month)
  • Seeing friends regularly for shared meals and adventures
This list may sound like another version of "do all the things," but each one, individually, nourishes and refreshes me. I am working to keep the blessings I so longed for as a teenager and young adult. 

I realize the weight of the blessings, and I value them beyond measure. 

I will do everything in my power to keep this life. And I'll probably color my hair...just for the joy of it.


Monday, January 29, 2018

On FOMO.

Perhaps the roots were planted long ago, when "everyone" was invited to a party I had no clue about. 

Or maybe it's a deep-seeded fear that my own social ineptitude will impact my children's lives, that my awkwardness will limit their invitations to friends' birthday parties.

Or, maybe, it's FOMO, defined, helpfully, by Google Dictionary as:

anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.

Yes.

Whatever the causes, I can't control my immediate reaction to posts from long-ago friends (more accurately described now as, "Someone I follow on Instagram") wine-tasting in Napa every weekend and, like, never, reaching out.

There are other examples, but that one stands out the most, largely because I live in an incredibly popular tourist destination and people are allowed to visit it without stopping to pay a toll at my house. 

Emily Ley presented a social media challenge that spoke to me, "Unfollow anyone who makes you feel inadequate (even friends)." 

My emotional response to people having fun with someone other than me is not the responsibility of anyone else.  People are allowed to have fun, to live their lives.

My FOMO and I need to change something.

I've gone on a bit of an unfollowing spree since the summer, but I need to pare down more.  If I'm incapable of feeling positive about someone's posts, I have to unfollow.  

This year, I want to model my life on two major points. 

First, "Grace and gratitude." I want to give people grace and also feel gratitude for what I have. Second, I'm inspired by my husband's grandfather's humble prayer at mealtime, "Dear Lord, we have all we need, and we are grateful for it."

I am incredibly grateful for the friends I do have, the invitations I do receive, and the life I lead. 

I don't need to worry about what I'm not doing. Who has time for that mess?

Not every post on social media is meant for me. Before social media, we moved in and out of each other's lives, without constant access to daily updates from people we no longer know, without being privy to information that really isn't ours - which means I don't need to follow everyone I've ever known or met. I can let go.

I'm moving from "saying less yes" to outright saying "no." 

For me, the first step is admitting my own FOMO.  

The second step is curating my social media - I don't need to have a front row seat to all of these lives.  It's not my business, and, if it activates my FOMO, it's not healthy for me.

And what's unhealthy has to go, even if that means I'm left with approximately 12 people to follow...



Monday, January 22, 2018

Grief is a Funny Thing

One year ago today, my mama died.

Mama.

Mommy.

Mamacita.

Little Mama.

Mother.

My grandma always told me I'd outgrow the first two, that "Mom" was inevitable. Thankfully, she was wrong (as she was wrong about a great many things). I have not, and likely never will, outgrow needing Mommy.

A year ago, I lost my mama. My soft spot. The best hugs in the universe.  

Grief is a funny little thing.  Sometimes it is overwhelming. Sometimes it is invisible. And sometimes I'm walking on another planet. 

Sometimes grief means that I yell and cry at my husband because I can't just say out loud, "Please be extra gentle with me right this minute, before you even say your first words to me today." So, grief lurks and leaps when he says just the wrong thing, through no fault of his own.

This past year has shown me a lot about myself. And I have oh so much more to learn.

I've learned to nourish myself more.  I've learned to text my dad after his nine paragraph posts on social media...just to make sure he's okay. After all, we are grieving together, in our own ways, and we can't let each other go.

I've learned that, even though a big part of me wants something bigger in my life, that even though my suburban life sometimes seems so tiny, this life is exactly what I always wanted.  And my kids do not care one iota how many followers I have in Instagram...especially if those followers interfere with playing Magnatiles or reading a story at night.  And, as it should be, I care way more about my kids than I do about my "brand."  Good to know.

I have lots of questions that will go unanswered. I'm raising kids without my mama. This hits hard, for a lot of reasons.  What should I do when my son has trouble at school? What do I do when my daughter becomes a teenager?  I keep praying that her wisdom will trickle down and magically show up in my brain when I'm talking to one of my weeping children.  

It still remains true that the most important thing she ever did for me was listen, and I'm trying, each and every day to do that.

My daughter, after finally finding her voice at 2.5 years old, insists that we all listen,"No, you don't talk now. I TALK NOW."  

My son interrupts himself every 13 seconds to ensure I'm still listening, "So, the anvelopes were roaming in the fields, Mommy...Mommy...Mommy...and the anvelopes had their new baby anvelopes...Mommy....Mommy."

They keep me accountable.

Grief is a funny thing that makes me weak and vulnerable but also keeps motivating me.  

I'm going to keep listening, to keep spending time with those who matter most, to take time off work.

I'm going to drink more sparkling wine. I'm going to laugh at ridiculous things. I'm going to quote my mother (often inside my own head) multiple times per day.  

I'm going to fight for what's right. I'm going to get angry when I need to. 

I'm going to do all those things she did. But I'm also going to do what she didn't. I'm going to take care of my body - I'm going to believe that I deserve to be nurtured, nourished, and loved.  

She never believed she was worthy of love, and I'm taking that thought and crushing it under my Nikes.  My body deserves attention.  My heart, mind, and soul do, too.

Grief is a funny thing. We remember the best. We remember the worst.  And we act on those memories.

So, here we go. Into a brand new year.








Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolutions Without Goals

I ended 2016 facing a full-scale burn-out. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, my work held "wellness workshops" and we were "cautioned to look for the signs of burn-out. I could check a box next to every single symptom.

I struggled with how to keep my life in balance while maintaining all of the things.

And you know what? It didn't work.

Sure, for a while there, I really could do it all. 

I could feel like a halfway decent parent, wife, friend, teacher, and maintain my other interests (hobbies that turned into businesses).  Upon closer inspection, though, I really...wasn't. Something always lost.

I spent much of 2017 trying to restructure my priorities, and it became abundantly clear that hobbies needed to remain just that - my life could not support deadlines (self-imposed or required by other organizations) or engagement requirements. 

In March, I vowed to say yes less, to stop adding to my list of "priorities" (because when the list is so long, is anything really a priority?). In April, I checked in with myself and realized I liked how it felt to stop doing all of the things. In August, after a summer focused on entirely new things, I started to re-align my priorities. In September, I officially parted ways with my direct sales businesses. It's been a long year of reflection, of self-evaluation, of realizing that these goals I had for myself were only getting in the way of any real progress.

So, I am not starting 2018 with any big, tangible goals. I am happy with where I am career-wise (at least for the moment). As much as I once wanted recognition as a writer, photographer...blogger, I have to let all of that go.  It may feel like giving up - and in some ways, it is - but I'm also opening myself up to something bigger - the opportunity for God to move within my life. I'm giving up some of my intense control...which terrifies me.

What kinds of resolutions does someone with no specific goals set, then?

Face the day with grace and gratitude - I have slowly worked my way through Emily Ley's Grace Not Perfection (I still have a ways to go), and this new mantra stands out to me. I have a personal struggle granting others grace. I'm constantly at work on myself, and I grow easily frustrated with others who aren't in a place of growth. It's a weakness, a failing, and I don't like that quality in myself.  I'm vowing to change it. 

My husband's grandfather gave a dinner blessing our first night in Oklahoma for the holidays. This classic cowboy said, "Dear Lord, we have all that we need, and we are thankful for it." And I kept repeating that to myself for the rest of the trip. I don't lack for anything, and I am immensely grateful for what I have.  And I need to remind myself of that daily.

Focus on health - I let a lot of things get in the way of my fitness and health.  If I can't find the right fitness group, I give up. If I can't afford cross-fit. If I feel bad about leaving my kids in the daycare center (even though they always have a blast). If I get frustrated with my daughter's hatred of the stroller.  If I complete a challenge and then don't do anything for weeks.  My fitness is the first thing to go to make room for something new, and that has to change.

Spend time with those who matter most - Whether by text, phone, or actually in person, I will focus more on the people I want to have in my life. I get caught in the trap of social media feeling like an authentic connection, and in reality, it's not (at least not for me - y'all do what works best for you!). 

That's it.  And it's a lot. 

But I'm relieved to not have numbers to track (three workouts a week! sell, sell, sell!) or followers to count. 

This is the year I finally don't do all of the things.

Happy 2018.