Monday, December 9, 2013

examining my racism

In Junior High, a teacher mockingly called me 'Mandela.'  And though I knew it was more of a play on my name than a genuine commentary on the sit-in I tried to lead when the boy I liked got expelled unfairly (in the expert opinion of a 13 year old with a crush,) I became intrigued by the great leader.

I am no scholar on his life, but I have been fortunate enough to an admirer of Nelson Mandela from a very young age.  And whether from my fascination with him, or my personal experiences, racism has always been something that makes my blood boil to a point that  it is hard for me to speak rationally and without emotion about the subject.   

And I know that I am not alone.  It is universally an emotionally charged issue and there are people who use that fact for their petty advantage.  I have been in conversations and have allowed people to twist my words and accuse me of being a racist any time I disagree with certain social programs or with President Obama in general.  Then, I react just like they want me to and I sputter and flail and try to defend the fact that I'm not racist instead of redirecting to whatever the issue was at hand.   

Well, I used to... It has happened enough now that I see clearly that calling someone racist is a red herring tactic that people use when they are are losing an argument.  I don't get flustered by the attack anymore, and I see more clearly the person using it for who they are.  

But all that said, two days after Nelson Mandela died, and on my mind is all the reflections I wanted to write about his words that have inspired me, I called the police on two innocent black gentlemen.  And it resulted in a crisis of conscience.

You see, there have been a few mid-day break-ins throughout our neighborhood.  The reports have said there was possibly a white delivery truck seen at the site of the crime and the perps used the back door to enter the house.  On Saturday at almost noon, my husband, our kids and I were leaving our home and I caught sight of our neighbor's home just behind ours.  In the driveway was a white van backed up all the way up the driveway and two gentlemen walking around to the back of the house.  One was holding a long tool, the thing that goes in the truck to let down the ramp? a crowbar? The other had a smaller tool of some kind in his hand and started walking toward our yard.  When he caught eyes with me, he immediately ducked his head and walked back to his truck.  I got in my car and watched as they continued to kind of pace from the front to the back of our neighbor's house every once in a while glancing in our direction.  

My first instinct was to call our neighbor... but, I lost his number.  So there is lesson one... get your neighbor's number.  My next instinct was to ask if I could help them, but when I kind of waved and started saying, "hey, can I..," the gentlemen both ducked their heads and walked back behind the truck again.  I internally argued, people wouldn't rob in the middle of the day on a Saturday, that makes no sense.  On the other hand, this neighbor was often out of town and why would delivery men be walking to the back of the house and checking out the neighbors?

I sat idle in my car and mulled it over... something wasn't quite right and instantly my mind flashed to the stories where people get caught in the middle of robberies and get hurt... 

So, I stopped Rob from walking next door and called the police non-emergency number.  Very apologetically, I explained to the officer that answered the phone that it was probably nothing, but if someone was in the neighborhood and could just drive by, that maybe something was happening at our neighbor's house?

"How would you describe the gentlemen?" came the question, "white, black or hispanic?"

"Black."  And I felt my gut turn... are the police going to think that I'm calling because they happen to be black?  What if these poor guys are just trying to deliver something and I gift-wrapped them for a racist cop wanting to vent some frustration?  

It was after I hung up the phone and they walked once again from the front to the back of our neighbor's house and then up toward our fence that I finally let my husband go while I stayed with the kids because it'd seem to me that if crime was their aim,  they'd of given up by now. 

He had to yell twice and walk all the way to the other house, "can I help you?"  The gentleman with the longer tool quickly walked behind his truck again which made me nervous and I kept my phone in hand.  But the gentleman near our fence finally came closer and with a big grin asked for our help. 

"Do you know your neighbors?  We're here to deliver some furniture and both their doors are wide open, but we can't get them to come to the door.  We tried calling them three or four times but there's no answer and we've been knocking on both the doors.  We aren't going open the doors though..." 

I sheepishly called the police back, "hi, I just called, sorry... the guys are trying to deliver something and the doors were open and...  I'm sure my neighbor just has the volume up... sorry to bother..."

She thanked me for both my calls, said it's good to be vigilant and to have a good day. 

In the car as I drove away, I had a 'come to Jesus' moment.  I honestly tried to analyze myself.  Was I more suspicious because they were black?  My first instinct was to say yes, to blame myself, to believe the hype that I've been told.  Of course you are racist... I told myself, everyone is,  especially republicans, especially people in the south... right, isn't that what you've been told?

But I took a breath and measured the arguments in my head. 

The facts are, I've called the police non-emergency number two other times in my life.  Once when a creepy guy was standing uncomfortably behind me at the dog park and then when I revealed my bitchy 'I will kill you' look, he wandered off toward the only other single girl at the park.  The other time was when an older gentleman at the park had an anger outburst at the swings. Their behavior was suspicious, they both happened to be white. 

As for these delivery men, I was suspicious because their vehicle matched that of the one reported being seen.  I was suspicious because they were walking from the front to the back of the house and in 5 minutes, I didn't witness them knocking on the door or using a phone (probably what they were doing when they ducked behind and into the truck.)  I was suspicious because they seemed to be watching us... which they were, but it was because they wanted to ask for our help.  

But the kicker is that there is a reality that can not be denied here.  They may have been 'acting suspiciously' because they haven't always gotten the best response when asking people if their neighbors are home.  And maybe these two delivery men know the statistics as well as I do and know that if they peek their head in the door innocently -like my pest service guy once did just to make sure I was OK when my door was open- it'd likely be found A-OK in a court of law if they were shot because odds are... they were up to no good.  

Of course there is racism in this world from every race to the other.  And we all make snap judgements about people and events around us with the visual cues we are given and the life experience we have.  It affects us in ways most of us don't even comprehend.  However, the bastardization of the word 'racist,'... the throwing it around like throwing the word 'raped' around, is sick because it makes us all lose focus on genuine issues that we need to work on together.

The second you use racism to win arguments or elections, you've demeaned the work of not only the civil rights leaders whose names we know, but the countless lives of black Americans from the time of slavery who held themselves up to a higher standard by teaching their children to read, by teaching them to keep faith and by promising that with steadfast devotion to striving for a better life, that better day would come.  

The uneasiness I felt had merit and I would've made the call regardless of the color of their skin, I know that.  Through 20/20 hindsight of course I wish I had made a greater attempt to approach them before the original phone call.  But the doubt I had in my own intentions made me sick because it means that though I thought I got past it, I had internalized the accusations of those desperately trying to win arguments at any cost.  

And that internalization made me lose focus.  It created doubt that was like a muzzle that made me feel like I'm not allowed to talk about racism. I let other people set the tone and guide the conversation.

I am ashamed of myself for letting the negative and weak minded so strongly influence me.  And I strive to be stronger in the future and set the tone for progress and understanding instead of name-calling.

But while I'm still working on taking the high road, let me just say that of course there is racism in the world.  And the purposeful cheapening of the word 'racist,' like it means nothing, is one of the plainest places I see it.

thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A dream about a friend.

"I miss you," I said.

"Remind me your name one more time," he said with a smile.

"Be serious," I tried to be solemn but how could I not return that smile? I challenge anyone in the world to not return that smile.

"I finally figured out how we knew each other." I said,  "I figured it out seconds after I heard the news."

"Yeah, I knew all along.  It was just funny listening to you try to figure it out all the time."

"I miss you," I said again.  "But, why are you here? There are so many people that are broken-hearted and confused.  You need to be with them."

"I am," he assured.

"Just like usual," I told him, "you're making me feel like the most important person around.  But didn't you know how much you were loved? How many people craved being around you?  How many people were there for you?" His eyes were sad but his smile never ceased, just like the night he talked about being a teacher.

"It doesn't work like that," he explained.

"What do you mean?"

He didn't say a word but something clicked and it felt like he thought I had a sliver of understanding because I had once been been lost in darkness.

"You and I got closer every time we saw each other, like our friendship was building and I wanted it to keep building so badly."  I stopped and looked down, this whole conversation was selfish but I couldn't help but add, "I needed more laughter. I can still hear your laugh so clearly.  I wanted more time."

He quietly hugged me.

"Did you think of me?" I cried into his shoulder. "Did I ever come up as someone you could talk to? Someone that would miss you? I was just a blip on the periphery of a beautiful life.  You could have talked to me about your pain and never seen me again.  It could've been our secret. I could've held your burdens for you, if only for a moment."

"Of course I didn't think of you."

"Then why now? Why think of me now?"

"Because you needed me to.  Because the fog is gone.  My confusion is replaced with light."

"You were always a light for everyone else.  You were so bright, so handsome, so merry."

"And I know now that I had light all around me.  But I lost sight.  I see now.  I see the pain I caused and the confusion I left behind.  I want to alleviate as much as I can, but it will take time."

"It's true, you know," he continued.

"What is?"

"That poem you love, except it doesn't mention the course.  And this..." he said as he pointed goofily to his own grin, "this money maker is going to be beams of sunlight shining over a perfect round."

He laughed and the very room became brighter. His eyes gleamed and his smile radiated.

I locked that laugh away for every time I needed it.  We embraced.

And in that moment I knew I loved him, though I had no right to, though it made no sense.  Whether I was drawn to something flawed just behind the bright eyes or attracted to the light of his grin, I knew that he had always been important to me.  And just as I claimed it I started to wake up.

"But wait, wait, I am angry with you.  And if I am this upset, your friends your family, your loved ones that I love... how are they supposed to heal?  You left behind hearts that are devastated."

He was gone and I knew it was just a dream, but it left behind a knowledge I hadn't had before.  I was not angry with him, I was angry with what took him.  And I knew with certainty then that the part I was angry at died.  The demon illness that won in the short term had died that day; but his true light, the light almost too brilliant for this world, lives on.  It brings joy in people's favorite memories and stories.  It inspires songs to be written and friendships to be forged.  It lives in the hearts of those of us who know we are better for having known him.

Even if, like me, we only had the blessing of knowing him for the smallest blip of time.  

And as the morning's sun shone through the windows, the poem he mentioned came into my mind and I knew that it was true...

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


I've been filled with the love of the Holy Spirit.

And i think it weighs 15lbs. 

I feel as though I have been allowing myself to eat and drink the Lord's word in the Bible more earnestly and searchingly than ever before.  And all that eating and drinking has led to me consuming the love of God, getting fat with inspiration, and getting tubby with grace. 

I've been doing a kind of elongated religious retreat called Women of Grace on how to live a full life as a Catholic woman in today's social climate.  The group is wonderful.  I'm not sure I'm getting exactly what I am supposed to be getting out of it... but it has been a call to me to focus on my prayer life and especially to address my greatest spiritual struggle.  

I have always been spiritual in the sense that I've known there is something else there, something just beyond the veil of our eyes and the understanding of our minds.  I have my share of ghost stories that I can tell to wide-eyed nephews lest they forget who the 'cool aunt' is.  And I've had my share of unbelievable moments of chance, whether they are encounters or visions, that though they could be reasoned away by coincidence, I consider small miracles. 

And yet, where some people struggle with whether they believe in the divinity of Christ, or whether or not they should follow all church doctrine, my greatest struggle has always been... is there a God... really.  really.

And even as I write that, two voices in my brain spout off near simultaneously "of course there is," and "of course there's not." 

I actually have a little cartoon angel and devil talking to me on my shoulders, except instead of being so clearly marked, they are both self-assured identical twins that have the ability to argue their side until the moon turns blue.  Dissenting interior voices can be kind of awesome (I'm never lonely)... but it can also be frustrating for issues that seem more important.  Like, for example, belief in God. 

I let my forbidden fruit breathed voice have roam as I find myself re-examining biblical stories and seeing how important they were as guides to live a healthy life in a time before antibiotics and refrigeration.  I find myself recounting lives of saints and wondering if really all the fuss was necessary and also wondering why on earth would anyone want to be called to be a saint if fiery deaths and early graves tend to be the fashion in those circles. 

And I see people all around me that say they believe in sin do awful... really awful things.  

"Rob," I'll say to my husband, "If people really believed... really really believed, that it was 90ish years here vs. eternity -ETERNITY- in Heaven... No chance people screw up this much.  I mean, really." 

Yes, yes, there is original sin, free will, only human yada yada yada... but what are we doing?  I look around and I am at a complete and utter loss for words at what people will do or say for comfort, popularity or pride and I'm just talking about a night at Bunco for goodness sake. 

And what this course has helped me do over the last several weeks is to finally understand the meaning behind taking the log from my own eye.   

Because what 'we' are doing.  What 'they' are doing doesn't matter.  And whether 'people' believe in God or not doesn't matter.  What matters is what I believe and what I do with that belief.   

And when I quiet myself and drive out fear and pray with love, one voice kindly rises above any other and it says assuringly, "I am here." 

And, I remember something that I knew easily without question once... 

God is kind of amazing. 

I believe.

I believe in God.

And I've gained 15lbs. 

And I'm hoping the two aren't related because I'd like to lose one without the other. 

But I feel really bad about praying for weight loss.  So I signed up for Pure Barre ballet classes instead. 

I'll let you know if I'm a believer of those in a month or so... but I digress... 

thanks for reading, 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Full of Grace

One of my favorite aspects of the Catholic faith has always been the way we honor Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I love the meditative and reflective nature of the rosary.  I love that my religion accepts in faith that our spiritual mother continues her work on Earth.  And I love that my faith places the role of mother as one to be revered, respected and, indeed, honored.

As a mother wholly unlike any other, Mary accepted her challenge and burden with grace, humility and obedience.

There's a dirty word anymore, huh? Obedience.  We are strong, ego filled, individuals... and with God forever pushed from the forefront of our thoughts, we generally think of obedience as only pertaining to interaction from person to person; wife to husband, children to parents, employees to bosses and that idea gives us chills so we toss the entire word out the window.

But here's the kicker.  Mary, whom we call 'obedient' was anything but to the societal mores of her time.

From getting pregnant out of wedlock to allowing her son to question elders, Mary, in trusting God, broke rule after rule.

She was completely alone in her situation and had to trust God entirely.  She had no parenting books like, 'Balancing mixed families, Deity and Stepfather under one roof.' Nor coffee dates where she could vent, "I know Cheryl, I'm sure little Matty is a hellraiser, but try telling God's Son to stop talking to angels and go to sleep."  And she couldn't even pull the, "it's your genes," frustration line to Joseph when Jesus had aversions to leeks and chickpeas.

(*not teaching theology of Jesus' diet.... just go with me here..)

Anyway, while contemplating Mary's incredible task, it dawned on me just how rare it is that I trust my own God given instincts in parenting.  I turn to the internet when the sniffles come on strong, I consider consulting a psychiatrist when discipline issues arise at school, I read books on birth order and giftedness and I compare subconsciously on Facebook to see if my kids vacations, activities and accolades are on par with their peers.

And suddenly I saw Mary in a new light, as a new kind of source of guidance.  Because, though, I am not raising God's child, I am raising children of God.  Do I have the faith to raise them as God intended, and not in response to the noise of societal norms around me?

Can I accept the uniqueness of my parenting situation?  Can I accept the individuality of each of my children? Relying on faith, love and grace can I raise them obedient to God's standards instead of popular standards of the day?  Can I accept that God gave me every gift and capability I need to raise them, teach them and guide them?

Can I, in turn, accept the God-given uniqueness of the situations of other mothers and not be so quick to judge, blame or assume?

And though each book, friend and counselor can be a gift from God in and of itself when I need help, can I let go of absolute control and truly trust in God's graces?

Can I toss aside the 'rules' of how to be the cool mom, envy of carpool drivers everywhere and instead listen to and Obey God's rules?

There is a cacophony in my head telling me no.  Telling me maybe just one more book, one more article, one more blog.  Maybe my kids need more activities? Maybe it is more important to be popular than kind?  Maybe they'd be more popular if I dressed cuter so other moms would want to hang out with me.  Maybe it is more important to be successful than giving?  Maybe I should be smart and teach them to look out for number one.  Maybe I'm doing every single thing wrong.  Maybe I should just give up because does what I do as a mom really matter anyway?  And Mary was such a great mom and look at what happened to her Son.  And even if I did matter, aren't we all going to die in climate change or WW3 or from the next flu anyway???  GAAAHHHHH

When the noise begins to deafen and chaos clouds my thoughts there is a small, gentle voice calling me and calming me.  And I remember why I began to write today.

One of my favorite aspects of the Catholic faith is that it taught me to ask help from Mary, ever faithful, ever full of grace.

     Gentle woman, quiet light,
     morning star, so strong and bright,
     gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
     teach us wisdom; teach us love.

If you were looking for something a little lighter... here are some clumsy cats. God wants me to teach my kids to laugh at animals falling down... right?

thanks for reading, 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Sex. talk. fail.

I was totally ready.

I knew the ABCD's.

A-answer the question they ask.
B-be matter of fact.
C- cut the extraneous information.
D-don't be embarrassed or shaming or condescending.

Oh, and don't freeze, like me, today, in the car with all three kids (ages 7, 6 and 3), when the question came out of the freaking clear blue sky.

"How do babies get in tummies exactly?"

Now before we get to this one, let's just say that despite being ready... I had failed before.  For example, when my middle child at age 2 was sitting on the potty and was checking himself out.

"Mommy, what's this called."

"That is your penis." simple. I rule.

"No, not this," he said annoyed shoving his penis out of the way and taking hold of the package behind it... "THIS, what is this called?"

My mind reeled.  And I didn't have much mind left, 3 kids under 4, including a newborn, no sleep... (yes I'm giving lots of excuses... you'll know why in the end I feel excuses are necessary)

anyway, do I say balls? no... testicles? scrotum? these are not 2-3 year old vocab are they?? and what came out of my mouth was bad.  It was really pretty bad.  And from that experience I learned that "I don't know, ask your father," will be my go to answer for all male anatomy questions from then on.

I fared a little better when my other, less detail oriented 3 yr old son was a witness to me sitting on the potty.

-Side note, gotta admit that I can't wait for when going to the bathroom no longer requires an audience.-

"Mommy, are you going poop?"
"um, no, buddy I'm going pee pee, can I have some privacy?"
"Wait, you can not go pee pee, you do not have a penis."
"Well, that's true, but girls still go pee pee."
he looked confused for a bit but then worked it out in his head, "you go pee pee from your butt?"
"kind of,"
"Ha! that's weird." and he walked out.
 I consider that talk a success.

Fast forward back to the van with a couple failures, a couple successes under my belt.

I can do this.

I went through all the tips described above and immediately threw them out the window.  Surely people who said 'they'll be ready to know the truth when they ask,' forgot to think about the little siblings that may be around.

So I took a breath, reasoned that it was logical and simple, and said, "Love."

"When people get married and love each other very much, that makes a baby."

yup. I said it. And, I reasoned to myself... I wasn't exactly lying... people do call sex 'making love,' so indeed love does make a baby, hurray me.

Until, of course, the follow-ups start coming from the booster seated press corps.

B (age 6): "Wait wait, hold on. So you're saying people just really really love each other and a baby starts growing? just like that?"
M: (age 7): {heavy sigh} "No. There is obviously more to it than that, right mom?"

"uumm not really, I mean, yes, I guess, technically speaking there is more scientific stuff going on."

M: "Ok, well, that's what we want to know."
B: "yeah, we want the scientific details."
J (age 3): "sfientific Yeah!"

sweat is breaking out on my brow,  my hands are kneading the steering wheel like dough and I sound like a yogi. "ummmmmmmmmmmm."

My eldest saves me.

M: "Or... is it gross... like one of the gross things that girls have to deal with."
B: "Hey, boys deal with gross things.  We like mud and worms and..."
J: "poop! poop is gross!" (because he is helpful in all conversations these days.)
M: "No, boys, I mean there are some things... "
B: "I can understand anything you can!!"

and so it devolved into a glorious fight amongst themselves until we arrived at our destination and the focus immediately turned to the reason for our journey to the store.

So did I maybe leave it implied that sex was a gross thing to deal with later instead of a beautiful gift from God?

Damn straight I did.  And it bought me some sweet precious time.

Because the last thing I need is another fail... like telling my son his testes are called... sigh...
bon bons.

I'm praying he was too young to remember... but it will forever be my fault when he inexplicably giggles inappropriately when someone uses the phrase, "sitting at home eating bonbons."

thanks for reading and good luck on talks in your future


Saturday, August 10, 2013

giving what I need

I can easily get to the ugly place of feeling sorry for myself.

Don't get me wrong, at the exact same time,  I can be appreciative of how lucky and blessed I am and still yet, somewhere in the dark folds of my brain think,"I AM blessed and lucky... so why aren't I better, happier, more productive.... sigh. poor me."

Recently I was lamenting on how I didn't feel supported by my loved ones.  I felt like there were all these people around me that knew my goals and hopes and yet no one was going out of their way to ask me how the book was coming, or if they could read what I had so far.

Poor me. No one cares.  My dream doesn't matter.  How can I go on without support?

I was recently talking with one of these awful unsupportive people when, in a moment of wine induced clarity, I realized I had never asked once how their dream was going.  Though I also knew all about their goals, I had never offered any direct support or encouragement.  So, then and there, I did.  And it was true and earnest and great.  And I got out of my own jumbled head for a few moments and delved into another's.

And it was good.

I walked away from the conversation feeling wonderful, supportive and guess what? I felt motivated again.  Turns out, giving support, gave me all the support and encouragement I needed.

If you're Catholic, like me, the Prayer of St. Francis is probably popping into your head about now as it popped into mine then:

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

It is oft noted that those characteristics that you detest in others are those that you see in yourself.  Which is why parent and children that are alike most butt heads so famously.

Maybe similarly, the things we need most in our lives are the things that our soul is screaming for us to give.

If you are feeling lonely and without friends, give your friendship.  Be a friend.

If you are sad and need joy, spend any energy you have figuring out how to make someone else smile.

If you crave multiple 'likes' on Facebook, give 'likes' freely.

wow, can't believe I just wrote that...

{ahem} Let's try again...

If you feel like you are screaming at walls... maybe it's time you listen.

And if you bemoan about how there is not enough tolerance in the world...
be tolerant.

thanks for reading, Here's a little George Harrison for your day.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Fear: the greatest winner in the Zimmerman trial.

Just like you, I was not there at the awful moment that a 29 year old took the life of a 17 year old.   I don't know for certain how the confrontation began, I don't know how it escalated and I don't know exactly what was going through Zimmerman's mind when he pulled the trigger.

Normally in times like this, I lament on the tragedy, say some prayers and hope for healing where its needed.  But something, other than the constant media onslaught, kept needling me.  I listened to Zimmerman's call to 911, I read testimonies from trial and biased opinions on both sides... but something, something, something was on the edge of this trial that was giving me the most disturbing itch and I couldn't quite find where to scratch.

And then I allowed myself to listen again to the 911 call where you actually heard the shot.  I listened to it when it was first released and got so sick I couldn't sleep or eat or think straight for a while.  It is soul jarring to hear screams for help and then more so to hear the gun shot that definitively took a life.

But it was upon listening to this awful moment again and many other 911 calls made just after the shot that I realized what had been bothering me.

Someone cried for help.  No one came.

People keep asking would it have been different if Zimmerman listened to the advice of the police, or if Martin just ran home, or if Martin wasn't black or wearing a hoodie, or...

But what I wonder, is would it have been different if just one person, upon hearing a scream for help, yelled something back.  In any scenario I can think of, just a simple call from a window may've changed the outcome.

If Zimmerman was the aggressor and Martin was screaming and a witness offered help, wouldn't he have wanted to seem like a hero? 'I've got the perp,' I could hear him calling.  If Zimmerman were screaming and being attacked but knew that someone was there with a flashlight and a phone, wouldn't he have had no excuse then to pull his gun?  And if Martin were attacking and knew there were someone else coming, wouldn't he have just run away?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not shifting blame from Zimmerman nor am I saying I would encourage anyone to go charging into the blackness into the middle of a fight... And I'm definitely not saying they shouldn't have called 911.

But of all the people that heard screams for help, no one investigated? Not one person called out the window, "Hey, everyone ok?" or "What's going on?" Not one person shined a flashlight to let the fighters know that someone was watching... that someone was there?

And why is no one talking about that? If it was a woman or a small child screaming... surely someone would have done something? At least called out conspicuously from a window??

Again, I'm not judging... I'm sure I would've done the same thing and wanted to hide with my phone... but the whole time I would be cursing the fear that paralyzed me from doing more... and I would have been cursing my husband who I couldn't have stopped in a million years from 'just checking it out.'

I linked already to an Archie Andrews story that talks about the greatest enemy and obstacle to God is fear.  And I feel like every part of this tragedy solidifies that point.

It was fear that caused Zimmerman to follow Martin in the first place.  It may have been fear that caused Martin to "act suspiciously."  It was fear that Martin was 'carrying' that probably made Zimmerman take his gun with him to investigate.  It was likely fear that made Martin hurt Zimmerman and it was likely fear that made Zimmerman shoot Martin.

And all the while, fear kept scores of people shut in their houses, quiet and waiting while a tragedy took place outside their windows.

And now, fear is getting front page press and encouragement... because what is racism if not fear?

Some people say that the opposite of fear is courage.  But I've been taught that the opposite of fear is love.  If any of those people thought that it was their loved one in danger... they would've rushed out.  What if we really tried to see other humans... all of them, as potential loved ones.

If we truly let love in, like God begs us to over and over through Jesus' words, we could see each other as brothers, sisters, equals on a journey that none of us really understand.

Not a huge fan of the song... but the lyrics from 'Where is the Love' keep playing in my head... so I'll leave you with this,

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria

Where is the love... 

thanks for reading,


Friday, June 28, 2013

About Wendy

The entrance bell rang minutes to closing time and I confidently walked to the front office.  Miles from where I had been six months ago, I no longer instinctively put the reference binder front and center on the desk.  I had administered dozens of pregnancy tests, referred countless doctors and adoption agencies and had collected and distributed hundreds of dollars worth of baby goods and maternity clothing.  

I had met girls who were looking for advice and I had met girls who wanted to shut me out. “I know what you’re about here, and I just want to tell you right now that if I’m pregnant I’m getting an abortion and you can’t talk me out of it.”  

My mission was the same regardless: to love them like they were my own sister and know that I have not walked in their shoes.  “I’m not here to tell you to do or do not do anything, I’m here to offer any assistance and information you would like, if you would like any... but first thing’s first, let me tell you a little bit about the test you’ll be taking.” 

I felt trained, I felt ready, then I met Wendy.  

She was walking slowly into the office at the same time I arrived from the other room.  Clearly pregnant, I hoped she wasn’t here for a test and did a mental rundown of the baby furniture we had in stock.   

After a brief introduction about myself and what we do, I waited in silence.

“I don’t need anything,” she said finally. “I’m pregnant, my baby’s doing fine.”

“That’s wonderful! Have you been to a doctor?”

“Yes.  They did the ultrasound a while ago and they could already tell it was a baby boy.  They said they usually can’t tell so early but my baby was  movin’ around and givin’ a show.”

The sentiment was joyful, and I would’ve normally laughed, but her tone and her face kept me silent.  Maybe there were issues with the father? her parents? money? these were all things I had covered in my short time here. 

“I didn’t know it was really a baby in there.  I swear I didn’t know.”  She started to cry softly into her hands. 

I walked around the desk and put my hand onto her shoulder.  It was painfully evident to me that I was woefully unprepared for this particular session. 

She proceeded to tell me how five years earlier, in the early stages of her relationship with her now husband, she had gotten pregnant unexpectedly.  She didn’t even know until she was almost three months in and she went to the student center because she thought she had mono.  The center gave her the news and immediately referred her to a woman’s center.

She said she went straight there without stopping or calling anyone.  When she walked in, she was told she could have a procedure the same day. 

She remembered asking if it would hurt while she was signing her name.  She said a nurse reassured her and said it hurt less than childbirth.  And when she asked if it would hurt the baby, it was the only time that it felt like the process had paused.  The nurse asked kindly, “You sure you want to do this honey, ‘cause its not really a baby yet.”

“I told her ‘no way I could be a mom,’ and that was that.”

“It was awful,” was all she could muster to say about the procedure and she quickly moved on. 

“I had nightmares but I pushed it down and kept telling myself that it wasn’t a baby, and I really started believing it.  I was doing ok.  It wasn’t until this ultrasound...”

She pulled out photos from her purse.  The profile of the face was formed as was the bulk of the body.  The legs kicked out awkwardly from the center mass a little bit like ET.  “I know it sounds crazy but I swear he already looks like his daddy.” 

I smiled weakly and said he was beautiful.

“But that’s not all,” she cried, “he moved while the lady was taking the pictures and she said that sometimes the baby reacts to the sound.” She stopped and looked directly at me, “If this baby can hear the sound... what did my other baby hear? or see? or feel?”

My heart sank.  I didn’t know what to say.  I was sad and ashamed at the same time.  She came here for help and here I was this punk college kid that thought I was worth something because I could read a pee stick and hand out business cards.  I was sure that someone else could have done a better job and was close to asking her to wait just a minute while I desperately dialed the numbers of everyone I could think of.... but, that tiny voice that pops up when you need it most reminded me, ‘she needs someone now, are you going to turn your back?’

So I helped her up, and we walked together into the more comfortable sitting area.  She talked and I listened.  I learned how her boyfriend had to take time to forgive her for not talking to him before the abortion.  She told me about her Christian family and her fear of what they would say if they ever knew about her choice.  She talked about the utter confusion she felt and how deep down she knew how much she had hoped that it really was ‘just cells.’  She said she wishes now that she taken more time or trusted her family enough to talk to them first.  

I wish now that I had known about Project Rachel or any of the other many post-abortion counseling services.  But I hope that God had put me there for a reason as all I could really do is listen... maybe that’s all she needed.  At least when my guilt hits me that I couldn't be better... that's what I tell myself. 

I gave her my phone number and encouraged her to keep in touch,  but I was sure I’d never see Wendy again once the door shut at the clinic and of course, I never did. 

Over the years, through my own ultrasounds and personal health struggles, I often think of her. 

When my arm had the smallest hairline fracture and the doctor made sure to show me detailed pictures so I could understand as much as possible before we talked about treatment I thought about how little information she was given. 

When the scheduling nurse asked if I wanted to have my husband there for a brain MRI, I thought about how Wendy wasn’t encouraged to have anyone by her side.

When the dentist gave me a detailed analysis of my options when I chipped a tooth and then suggested I take a couple days to weigh the options, I think of how Wendy was treated as though hers was a simple decision that could be made on the spot. 

When my OB gave me the laundry list of feelings I may experience from physical to emotional after the birth of my child, I think of how Wendy was never told that depression is a possibility nor where she should turn should it become a reality. 

And I think about her when I hear about another Wendy in Texas being called a hero for doing her best to stop a law that would improve medical safety for women having abortions and make elective abortions illegal after 20 weeks..   “It’s all a trick to take away all abortion rights!” claimed the protestors of Texas... but I can't help but wonder how informed those protestors allowed themselves to become on the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

I look at what the abortion debate has become in this country and I am at a complete loss.  The same people who want the operation covered completely under medical plans, don’t want anyone to think that its a medical operation.  The same people that scream that women deserve more respect don’t want women to be fully informed about a decision that could change their lives.  The same political party that mocks the other side for not listening to science in cases of climate change and evolution, want Americans to turn a blind eye to biology.  

I often hear, its been especially true in light of what happened recently in Texas, that this is a 'feminist issue.'  With that in mind, I will end this with the words from one of the founders of the feminist movement.  

“When we consider that women are treated as property it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” 
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton

and to Wendy, wherever you are... I'm sending prayers and hope that you and your family have been able to let go of pain and embrace joy.  

thanks for reading. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gun Control: one child's perspective

My six year old, taking great interest in the world around him, has taken to reading and interpreting signs everywhere we go and reporting his findings to me. 

Upon leaving the library this week, he noticed a 'no weapons sign' similar to this, which he reported as:

"No Knives. No Guns."
"That's right."
"That's a good rule."
"It is."

there was a bit of a pause as he mulled something over... 

"hmmm... but I bet robbers won't follow it." 
"what do you mean?"
"Well, robbers always carry a gun."
"ok, well, maybe if they see the sign, they'll leave it in their car? If they know that's the rules?"
"No they won't."
"Why not?"

"Because robbers are bad guys.  Bad guys don't follow the rules." 


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Love song to sleep

Its early
or late
I guess.

Beautiful Baby has drifted back to sleep
lulled gently by the sweet beginnings of a bird's song.
My bed looks gorgeous and I
dive hungrily into your embrace.

'Hey chirpy,' I think as my eyelids close,
'the sun's not quite to the horizon'
'check your internal clock please.'

but its too late, woodstock's asshole cousin
has just awakened our snoopy.

The tell tale claws trick-trock upon the hardwood.
every morning's answer to nature's call.

But on this morning,
for some reason,
she goes to the kids room before I can get to the stairs.
And she licks the first perfect angelic face she sees.

and its over.

Everyone is awake.
The day has begun.
I punch my dog in the face
and immediately start to cry when I see her fear.

I desperately needed you tonight.

Oh Sleep,
Oh one and true

In my arrogant youth I cried
'I don't need you!'
'I'll love you when I die!'
but you didn't tell me that our easy love affair
was short-lived.

No one told me that my entire adulthood
was designed with the sole purpose
of keeping us apart.

First come the tiny soldiers who
before they even show their face they fight you away.
Bladder stomping rib breaking little bastards
residing in swollen bellies.

They are born with a full arsenal
to continue their mission.
Their weapons are shrill shrieks of gas and hunger and
just because... deal with it.

Tiny soldiers become skilled snipers.
Their battle wages on through
years of fevers, bedwetting, nightmares, vomit and
just not being sleepy... deal with it.

Their actions and the spiraling what-ifs
keep you away
for days at a time.

And when it is no longer their battle to fight.
It is our very own traitorous bodies
that pick up their dropped swords.

Stress, insomnia
shrunken bladder and restless leg syndrome.
Why did God make me unable to live without you
then design every part of my life
to keep you away?

Oh sleep.
You gentle caress, you comatose silence, you big black beautiful escape.

Without you I am a raging, giggling, crying whack-tard.
I need you.  I love you.  I miss you.

Take my dogs.
Take my husband.
Take my children.

And please don't forget me.
Take me.
Hold me.
and for at least 6 hours,
Keep me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yoga Ninja

As someone who genuinely enjoys exercising, my weight woes come directly from my psychotic relationship with food.  

Indeed, in my history are such incredible feats of unhealthy eating that most would laugh them off as ridiculous hyperbole. Truth is stranger than fiction says the girl who once ate plain butter and pure packs of Equal. 

But the girl with poor habits becomes the mom and, for her kids' sake, healthy, normal human dietary habits must take hold. But old habits die hard my friends. And so often they do not die at all, they just hide... in the pantry.... with the mixed nuts. 

Half marathons have come and gone, sprint triathlons have been completed in respectable fashion and dance classes have been taken and even performed. My love of exercise has not changed; neither has my struggle with food. 

I've tried little tricks before. First, I just wouldn't purchase anything unhealthy, which was great when my kids were only eating out of jars or my breasts. But once they started eating real food, I realized that even semi-healthy things could turn evil in the hands of a food psycho. Saltines were eaten by the sleeve, Cheerios were doused in milk then doused in sugar and shoveled mercilessly into the welcoming abyss. And candy and special treats meant for the kids? Gone. Gone down the gullet of a sadistic little girl still crying, "I can eat anything so long as I exercise!"

Next, I tried to allow myself rewards. "Ok," I reasoned, "don't swarm and engulf everything meant to be for your children, and you can have dessert at night." Only problem with this, of course, is that if there were something 'dessert-worthy' be it cookies, hershey kisses or yogurt covered pretzels... when the 4 o'clock madness hit (moms, you know what I'm talking about) they were devoured. So, my husband had to hide said treats. It worked for  a little while because he's remarkably good at finding odd places to hide food. Yes it worked great... for a while. You can see how this played out can't you?

Think Mommy Dearest looking for her last hidden bottle of booze. Cabinet doors swinging, pots clanging, pupils dilating. A forlorn child enters the scene, "mommy?" "not now honey,"  "but mommy, I..."  "DON'T DISTURB MOMMY!! MOMMY's BUSY!! DARN YOUR FATHER WHERE IS THE CHOCOLATE?" 

Hmmm.... it was time for introspection.  

I couldn't put this responsibility on someone else, it was time for me to look at myself and my issues with food.

Unfortunately I took that notion too literally and came up with the following brilliant idea. 

I put mirrors up in my pantry. 

You see, like I said, I didn't want to put my food issues on my kids, so usually when I was partaking in a binge-like fest, it was while standing in the pantry. How filthy, how horrid how disgusting a habit, I thought. I would never want to look at someone participating in such a degrading activity. Clearly, with a mirror there, I would take one look at myself in the pantry and think, "Gosh, you are better than this, go now beautiful one, live healthily."  I would thank my kind mirror self and take my kids for a walk. Yes, that was the new shiny plan. 

Turns out that my mirror self is a huge psycho bitch. Huge. Think Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin mirror self. 

"Hey mirror self, it's cool, just grabbing some all natural unsalted almonds."

"Oh, that's nice, do they make you feel better?"

"No, it's not about feeling better... I was just needing a little protein."

"Sure, of course. Hey, did you see that those chips are open? May as well have one before you close it up nice and tight."

"Oh, umm yeah, good idea mirror self, just a few chips couldn't hurt."

"Thaaat's right, did that fill the hole that you feel your life has become? did it? if not... there are marshmallows right there to your left... they will provide the fulfillment you look for... fatty. Yes, cry... shove it in, the salt makes the pain go away!"

Right. Green Goblin. Clearly introspection is not my key to happiness. 

So, as the title indicated, I have a new plan. That plan is Yoga Ninja. 

Instead of having my husband hide food... I will have him hide my yoga exercise cards. He'll put them in each and every container of snack food I may be tempted to bust into when my self-control runs low. And once I find a card, I must immediately do the pose I find, killing that time and inclination to shove unwanted crap in my face. And I know I'll actually do it, because its kind of game-based (like finding the hidden food became a sick game!)

Going for Easter bunny ears? Wassaa Yoga Ninja!! Finding Downward Dog.  

Mid morning spoonfuls of ice cream? HIIYA!! how 'bout a Salamba sarvangasana.

Nachos look like a logical lunch? Boom shaka-ninja-laka your ass best get in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.

I will spend that time and energy doing something so healthy for myself that my entire outlook will change and I will focus on the gift that is my body and all the incredible things it can do. 


I will find the card that shows a remarkably fit woman doing an ungodly flexible pose... and while I clumsily do my best to imitate it, I will think about how I just gave a stack of likewise women to my husband to look at and compare me with. Maybe I'll think about how even if I never ate again, my ribs still wouldn't be that small.  

where did you say the marshmallows were again green goblin self?

just one won't hurt... 

HiYah! Whoosh Zing.  Cat-Cow yoga card in my mallows... 

Oh, yes.  this will work.

Bring on bikini season beatches.

thanks for reading, 


Monday, April 15, 2013

Finish Line.

So what did you think when you were placing the bombs

at the finish line?

Athletes would be exhausted and thinking about themselves,

volunteers would be confused and scared,

families and friends, young and old would be helpless and stranded in the rubble?

How did it feel seeing you were dead wrong?

When runners ran to the danger instead of away,

when officials seamlessly transfered a recovery tent into a triage

and when, in the absence of a recovery tent,

Bostonians sprinted in and out of their homes and businesses providing

water, food, blankets and shelter for the stranded runners.

How did it feel when soldiers and citizens worked side by side

through the smoke
with more determination and compassion than fear in their eyes?

When they took the shirts off their backs to create bandages for strangers?

When they gave phones, rides, comfort and prayers to people they've never seen before?

Whether it was your god, your politics or the voice in your head

was this a 'great evil' you wanted to destroy?  did you accomplish your goal?

Because, just in case you haven't heard....

The volunteers stayed and continued to hand out water, blankets and medals.

The medical personnel and first responders sprinted to help with no regard for themselves.

And streams of athletes, after running 26 miles, continued on to nearby hospitals,
volunteering to give the blood from their veins to help anyone that was hurt.

It's true, we are sad and praying for the people that are hurt

but you did not change us.

And though we may be kind and loving, we also believe in justice.

And you just messed with Boston, you dumb son of a bitch.

And anything good and productive that you could have done with your life just
went up in a pathetic puff of misdirected cowardice.

And when you bombed the finish line,  another beginning was created.

Athletes are lining up to run in honor of the people whose race you destroyed.

People are uniting to wear colors and hold
 events to honor the great city you attempted to hurt.

And the red, white and blue will continue to strongly wave

over this land of the free and the home of the brave.

Prayers and love to every family affected by this tragedy.
Gratitude and respect to everyone that rushed into the chaos, you are who make this country strong.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Driving Miss Lorraine

Our girls' day had been, like our hair, cut short.  Even though we were both thrilled with our new 'dos, the freezing cold rain and bone biting wind made it absolutely miserable to traverse from car to store and back again.  So, we decided to make it a 'girls' day at home.'  A movie and some nail art in front of the fireplace. good times.

just a quick trip through Bojangles for a sweet tea and the party could begin.

But there she was.  She stood inexplicably outside of the bus shuttle looking confused as she glanced from the street sign, to her phone, to her umbrella that she couldn't quite work.

She must've decided she was on the wrong side of the road because she stepped out through traffic and, dropping her phone in the process, made like a chicken and crossed to the other side where a bus stop wasn't even an option.

I witnessed all this as I waited for an overpriced sugary beverage to be served to me in my heated car while my freshly coiffed daughter and I contemplated the warmth of our fireplace.

"Never ever ever do what I'm about to do, Mags," I heard myself say as I zipped the car into a tight U-Turn and pulled my car over.

I whispered a silent prayer that I wasn't being an idiot before I offered, "Excuse me, can I give you a ride?"

It took a touch of convincing, but she looked incredibly relieved as she got into the passenger side.

And that was the precise moment that my panic began; because, though everything in me knew that this was the right thing to do... I knew it was wrong too.

Here I was, picking up a stranger with my daughter in the car.  I nervously dialed Rob... as he was expecting us any moment.

Rob often reminds me that his biggest pet peeve from when we were dating was that I had a 'penchant to be friends with homeless people.'  He thought it was a death wish thing, or at best a disregard for personal safety thing.  It really wasn't... but as much as I try to tell him that I often found conversation with them more interesting than with most... he made me promise to do my best and curb that habit.

So, though Lorraine, as I learned her name was, certainly did not look homeless... I knew that he was not going to be pleased.

"Rob, hi, I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't get nervous... I'm taking Miss Lorraine to the Whole Foods."

The silence I expected answered me so I continued...  "It's fine, honey, I swear.  I'll be home in a bit.  I love you."

After a tad more chatter, enough for Rob to be assured we hadn't been hijacked and it was just a poor decision by me, we hung up with the clarity that this would be a serious discussion later.

On the fifteen minute ride through the freezing rain, Miss Lorraine explained to us how the DMV used fear and intimidation... like the Gestapo, to take away her license.  Her friends were all afraid of the DMV... again, like the Gestapo.

From there she went in between stories of her food allergies and sensitivities (thank goodness for Whole Foods) and stories, with genuine emotion, of how the Gestapo were supposed to be the police... she should have been able to trust them.

It was an incredible ride and an unexpected and heart wrenching education.

We said our goodbyes as she got out of the car and she tried to give me her umbrella, because 'she didn't like the way the darn thing closed anyway.'  And though we both knew we looked forward to disapproving lectures by our loved ones we knew that both giving and accepting the ride was good.  and right.

We say, WWJD... but though we know that clearly Jesus would give a lift to someone he felt was in need... we can't heal a knife wound like Jesus presumably could should we choose to try and help the wrong cat.

So how do we move forward?  How do we really live? As I drove home that day I drilled it into my daughter's head that not only should she never ever do what I just did, but that her brother could never hear about what we did because we had a tough enough time teaching him caution around strangers.  With every word I felt my heart breaking a little.   I can't help but feel that when I teach my children important social and survival skills, I am giving them the fruit of the forbidden tree.  Fear, distrust, knowledge must come before your human instinct to be kind, open and giving.

It is a confusing time for parents.  We are informed by our faith to love our neighbor as ourselves and to give the coat off our back and to forgive not 7, but 7 times 77 times.  Yet we must teach to not approach strangers, save your money and choose your friends carefully.

I'm at a loss so if you've got tips on how to navigate these waters, I'd love to hear 'em.

For now... I just pray that my kids have the perfect mix of faith, common sense, kindness and intelligence... to overcome any and all mistakes I'm making.

Especially since I may just give up and teach them to ask themselves, "what would Brian Boitano do?"

thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another couple that needs our attention.

I address you, oh mothers and fathers and caretakers of every age, shape and size.

Though I, like you, am wrapped up in Easter planning and Supreme court decisions and wondering when the shnike global warming will kick in...

There is another national dilemma on our hands.

A couple, a pair of words to be exact, is going extinct.  This pair is vital to our existence, it is vital for our sanity and most importantly it is better for our kids than drinking organic-paleo-green smoothies during their suzuki method violin lesson!

I have had years of research through nannying and mothering.   And it wasn't until I heard these words uttered by an older generation set of parents that I even realized that they were missing from my own vocabulary... the words?


We, two sets of adults, were sitting at a table enjoying conversation when a child of the other couple approached us uttering two words that are in no danger of extinction: "I'm bored."

While I mentally drew up a list of things the child could do to entertain himself, even admonishing myself for not setting up a series of activities before I tried to have an adult conversation, the father of the other couple interrupted my thoughts with these two magical words I heard often in my youth.
Go Play.

Go play.

Not, 'well, honey, there are crayons here, or play-doh there, or why don't you play freeze tag? or show your friend your button collection?'  And certainly no, "I pinterested a wonderful pillowcase craft for you to do, let me grab the stencils and paint."

Nope. No hint, no suggestions, no help.  Go play. Figure it out.  Use your brain, your imagination, your creativity.  Go play.

How did this get lost?  Were we so incensed as kids that our parents did not schedule every minute of our free time that we vowed no such mistake would be made again?  Did we hate those hours of exploring our local ravines? Are we miffed about wasting time hunting down the unicorn that we thought left tracks in our yard (only to find out that indeed they came from the dog)?

As the fifth of six children I had very few 'planned activities' prior to school sports starting and the few activities I remember... I remember being so angry at my mom for forcing me to go instead of letting me 'just play.'   
I mean, I needed to get back to my Talk 'n Play! It let me hear Beatles songs backwards and my friend and I were totally going to be the first to figure out all the Beatles' songs 'real meanings!!'  Yeah... can guarantee my parents didn't suggest that activity.. and it still makes me grin from ear to ear!  And, bonus, I bet I know more about 'revolution #9' than you and ya can't take that away from me!

I read blogs about parents begging that we calm down the Holiday activity craziness and I read articles about college kids not being able to create a resume or dream for themselves without the help of their parents or a career counselor and I see symmetry.   

I see myself filling my kids summer with camps and swim teams and 'theme weeks,' and I flash forward to planning their class schedules, wardrobe and college applications and I shudder... I'm already freaking exhausted!!

So for me, and for them.  I am going to stop the madness in my own home and I am going to revive with aggressive CPR a dying phrase.  GO PLAY. 

"Mom, I'm bored,"   "Go Play."

"Mom, there's nothing to do."  "Go Play."

"Mom, J's head is bleeding." "Go... wait, what?"  

Ok, I agree... it could be seen as a path to lazy parenting...  but I am going to do my best to find a middle ground.

So, if you'd like to join me for a cup of coffee, or a glass of sangria this summer.... come on over and bring your kids... but don't count on me planning a craft or whipping up a snack shaped like the founding fathers... your kids can go and play with mine... 

and we'll talk... 

probably about them... and what activities we're signing them up for in the fall... 


thanks for reading,