Wednesday, November 16, 2016

We Will Be.

Baby Bird scurries across the floor, her hands banging one after the other. I am here, she says with her hands and knees. I am coming. First she reaches my feet and her hands wrap around them, her mouth opens and I feel fear as I watch her contemplate biting me with her brand new, sharp as knives teeth. Instead she stands on her knees and lifts her arms toward me. I pick her up and she nuzzles her tiny little head into my neck, then she pulls back and looks into my eyes with the intensity only a baby is able to pull off. The intensity of someone who spends all of life observing. The intensity of someone who Knows. Her face breaks into a smile and she hugs me tight. She cannot form words but she has just said, “You. Only you.” with such clarity that all my doubts go away. She has accepted me. Her love for me is unabashed. She reminds me that I am good. 

Because somehow in this day and age, I need to be reminded that I am good.

If our children are given to help us learn, my first-born teaches me to question who I am and my last-born teaches me to be who I am. 

I squeeze her so tight, wanting the world to stop, wanting her to curl into my neck and Be with me for the rest of time; but she squirms and wiggles, and reaches for the rest of the world. That moment of remembrance is all she needs. She must explore. She must climb. She must destroy.

She becomes a collection of her experiences. We will love and be loved. We will hurt and be hurt. We will be brave and fierce, and we will stand up for what we believe is right. We will all be a collection of our experiences and we will work together for the good and the holy. We will allow messiness into our lives, we will crawl over the laundry baskets and the climbing toys and sometimes we will fall on our heads. We will be broken and we will be lovely and we will be. Most of all, we will be.

Friday, November 11, 2016

This one hurts

    If you find that you are judging me for my faith and my politics, and yet have been willing to overlook President Elect Trump’s words and actions, I ask that you would read this with an open mind and a loving heart. That stance has struck me at my core, opened wounds that I thought had healed, and I’d like a moment to explain.
     Throughout junior high, college, and post-college I attended a variety of churches in the same denomination. I attended these churches off and on (though, mostly on) until my late 20s. During this time, I made lifelong friends, grew in biblical knowledge, and developed a strong faith in Christ. I  didn’t just believe my faith was Right, I believed my church was Right. I trusted the words of the denomination's pastors and missionaries often more than the words of the bible. I watched plays and movies, and read many books that taught me sinners were going to be thrown into the fiery pits of hell by angry red demons, and I was encouraged to make it clear to all sinners that this was their destiny. I cried out, wept, and stayed up through all hours of the night praying for the souls of the lost. This was our plight and our only hope. Their salvation was on my hands. I was not taught to love these sinners in any other way. Praying for them: good. Weeping for them: better. Letting them know they were headed for hell: best. Those were the best and only things I could really do. 
     Eventually this philosophy stopped making sense to me. All around me, I saw the people I was taught to judge, and they were deeply hurting. My heart swelled with love for people like I had never felt before and I wanted to see things as they saw them. I wanted to understand how they hurt and act in compassion instead of fear. And when my religious philosophy stopped making sense, it started a journey in my life that was filled with anger, confusion, doubt, and uncertainty. My husband and I decided we needed to make some difficult changes. Those changes affected our friendships and our family lives. When we decided to join a different denomination, people we loved and trusted - people who were formative in the foundation of our faith started whispering behind our backs. Nobody reached out to us. Nobody who worried about our souls offered to listen to our concerns, our doubts, our hurts. The few people who said anything to our faces told us we were making mistakes and argued with us; the rest whispered when they didn’t think we could hear. Friends and family members who left the denomination (or similar denominations) around the same time supported us and commiserated with us. Friends and family members who stayed left us out, talked with us less, and stopped inviting us to things we would have really like to attend. My anger grew by leaps and bounds. I wanted to be angry at God. I had many doubts and I wanted to disbelieve, but I couldn’t; and I realized I wasn’t angry at God, but angry at the people who helped steer my faith.
     Over the many years since this time, I’ve done some good and some bad. I’ve been generous as well as selfish. I’ve grown, regressed, grown, and still have so much more to learn. I’ve been really angry, and I’ve been able to deal with some of that anger. I’ve worked on forgiveness and worked on channeling my anger for good. I thought I was doing okay until Wednesday morning when the election results came in.
     Candidates I have rooted for have lost before. I have disliked many, many, many aspects of politics throughout my voting life. I have voted republican, independent, and democrat, and I’ve even often been disappointed with the very people I have voted for. It’s politics, people disagree, and life goes on. If Donald Trump as the president elect was simply a matter of the votes of people I disagree with, I could handle it. But people voting for a guy like Donald Trump in the name of the Lord has shaken me to my core. 
     My feelings are hurt. I have felt many of the conservative Christians in my life judging me for more than 10 years. They judge me because I don’t go to the same type of church as them. They judge my politics. They judge my parenting and my salvation. They judge the books I read. They judge me as a teacher. They judge me because I do yoga. They barely talk to me and they almost never ask me anything personal, but I hear their whispers and I see their glances. Not only has it been difficult, but it has affected every aspect of my life and the person I am today. 
     I feel I have been given less grace for my transgressions than I’m watching conservative Christians give to a man who has bragged about grabbing women by the pussies, is awaiting trial for fraud AND allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl, clearly disrespects women, has been through multiple divorces, has a clear involvement in today’s pornographic culture, and the list goes on. Those things can be overlooked because … he’s a republican? The thing is that I can’t understand it and I probably never will, but I am experiencing it and it hurts. 

     It makes me angry and it makes me want to lash out. The injustice is astounding. The message being sent is loud and clear, and I feel over it. I feel finished with trying to play nice, over trying not to rock the boat. I don’t want to be a whiner … I want to work for a difference. I have been upset with politics for most of my voting life; but I can’t sit back and watch a world that accepts a man like Donald Trump as its highest leader. So it begins. I don’t have the answers, I don’t yet have a plan. But today it begins.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I decided to write about Prince's death.

The morning was a little too quiet, the sky was grey, the rain was gently falling, and I turned on the radio. The Current DJs were talking about a death at Paisley Park and I thought something terrible must have happened to someone on staff. My mind wandered to those I know who have encountered and worked for Prince, and I said a quiet prayer for their well-being. 

Then rumors came that it could be Prince. I called my husband and told him about the rumors and his response was, “No. Prince doesn’t die.”

The baby was napping and I stood by our sliding glass door watching the rain turn our grass green, thinking about the purple lilacs that would soon bloom. The DJ returned to say nothing has been confirmed, but that many reputable sources were stating Prince was dead. And I burst into tears.

I don’t consider myself a music junkie anymore. Being a person with children and a big fan of sleep, I have traded nights at concerts for early bedtimes. The space in my brain no longer has room for obscure band facts or even most song titles. The person I was before parenthood would have seen my tears and passed harsh judgments. 

Prince is by no means my favorite musician, he has never made his way onto my desert island list, and I don’t know a whole lot about each of his albums and when they were released. Regardless, Prince was an integral part of my life with his musical brilliance having woven itself into many of my core memories. It began with those muscle-shirted men walking the streets during Grand ‘Ol Days sporting boomboxes playing Prince’s hits and continued to jumping on the trampoline while singing Raspberry Beret. Little Red Corvette became meaningful when my dad started sporting a little red vehicle himself, and boy did I giggle (and baffle) when entering my teens and starting to understand the racier side of his lyrics. I dreamt of partying like it was 1999, and then I actually did.

And of course there were the many local experiences. The Minnesota pride, the Prince sightings and stories. There were the friends who spotted him at Barnes & Noble, were lucky enough to be at one of his surprise shows, worked in his studio, and more. It was about a year ago that I laid myself prostrate in a friend’s kitchen as he told me about an old youth group acquaintance who was working with her husband as Prince’s personal chefs. The notion that I had a connection with Prince’s pancake-maker was a little more than I could handle. Not only that, but I love Minnesota and felt a connection with this incredibly famous person who loved it enough to stay here and maintain a strong presence in the area.

Most recently, The Local Current promised to go all-Prince once an inch of snow had fallen in Chanhassen. This happened in early December when I was almost 2 weeks past my due-date. The Prince lever was pulled shortly after my water broke and I spent the day at home having occasional contractions and wondering what Prince song might help me dance my baby into the world.

He was an artist who crept in and out of my atmosphere. He was such a huge cultural phenomenon that I took him for granted as somebody who would always be creating and influencing the music scene. I never went to Paisley Park because I thought I had plenty of time to get there. As a music lover and as a Minnesotan, Prince’s death hit me a lot harder than I would have thought. His incorporation into almost every aspect of my life from childhood to parenthood was like a heartbeat. I didn’t put much thought into it until it was interrupted. 

Perhaps the realization of his humanity is hitting me this way because I’m experiencing a personal crossroad - on sabbatical from my chosen career, experiencing life through the wonder of a newborn, and reflecting on what I’m actually doing to make the world a better place. I have known and experienced the truth that life is fragile, I get that live music won’t always be live … I’ve heard it over and over again, yet I still think I have time. So when somebody like Prince - somebody who is too famous, too influential, possibly too powerful, and maybe too good to die - actual does die, it puts a pause in my universe. It’s another heartbreaking meditation in this life we are living together. And I’m sad that his time is over. And I’m inspired yet uncertain about what I will do to make this world more beautiful. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The first 10 minutes, #2

Today I have a headache. Headaches have been a fairly normal part of this new mom process for me because I've spent much of most of my days hunched over in my chair attempting to feed sweet Margot. I say attempting because breastfeeding for me has never been the "normal" or "natural" process ... It was difficult with Rosemary and it's been difficult with Margot. It's going better this time around; but it's still a tough process.

I want to be happy about all the snow that's falling today. It is peaceful and pretty and I love the snow. But for tonight it is going to mean that Joel comes home and goes outside to shovel instead of all the things that need to be done on the inside. Our house is a perpetual mess. I try to embrace this as a place we live, but I feel so much happier when there isn't clutter everywhere. Sometimes I would just like to throw everything away.

Speaking of that mess, I think today I'll write for 5 minutes instead of 10.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The first 10 minutes, #1

I keep tell myself I am going to get back into the habit of writing. I would like to write my birth story, write a memoir, make something up ... anything that involves finding a creative voice. And then I start the dishes, get a text message, check Words With Friends, get sucked into Facebook, and fold a load of laundry. It is always something. For years, it's always something - lesson plans, beautiful weather, a sick dog.

Maybe I could write for the first 10 minutes of Margot's nap. I could ignore the editing process, be less picky. Maybe I could write about the mundane, like how I need a haircut, but I'm not sure how to make plans like that with this tiny little creature who relies on me for everything. Each day gets easier, I'm sure it won't be long before I figure out how to get out alone.

A good 4-inch chop would do. My hair grew so fast when I was pregnant and now it has slowed down - will I regret the cut? It's just so long and takes so long to dry and looks mousy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Her words were a gift

I want to write something about the differences between my first pregnancy, nearly 10 years ago and my second pregnancy, now. I want to write about the kids my husband and I were when we ventured upon parenthood with all the confidence and arrogance in the world; and we found that it was actually the beginning of a long, exhausting, and troublesome road for our family. 

I want to summarize how my daughter’s birth was the catalyst for the most extreme emotions I have ever felt. The intense love for this perfect little girl, the weariness of mothering a newborn and feeling so alone, pride over thinking I could do it all myself (when I really couldn’t), intense anger over the way life’s circumstances began to move and feeling I deserved better, a deep skepticism and feelings of betrayal in regards to a faith I had been blindly following for many years, doubt and anger that God wasn’t working the way I thought God was supposed to work. 

I want to mention the ways our family has struggled. The many joys and sorrows, the stress of moving - making new friends and then leaving these friends, the arguments my husband and I had and the times it felt like our marriage was being held together by a thread.

I want to talk about how, because of where we are today, I would not change a thing. I am deeply thankful for the family we have grown into and for the people we have become. We are far from perfect, but we recognize that we do not need perfection; we need each other and we are better for knowing that.

I want to express just how different this second pregnancy has been. It was an incredible surprise to our family, and we lingered in a state of shock for a fair amount of time. When we finally told our daughter, she responded in anger. And I could relate because I felt angry too. The three of us experienced extreme heartbreak over my inability to get pregnant and it seemed like a mean prank to randomly end up pregnant after we had finally embraced our perfect little family as it was.

I want to share my reflections on the past 40 weeks. With today being my official “due date,” I’ve spent much of the morning comparing this one to the first. Last time, I didn’t make it to the due date. Instead, I faced the weeks before labor in fear, worry, and misunderstanding. I was induced early and it wasn’t until I went through a birth that would give me a sense of PTSD and take many years to heal from that I got to hold my incredible little daughter in my wavering hands. I have no regrets, but I have lessons learned from the past, and I have the understanding that there is still so much more to learn. These past 40 weeks have been full of life and love, hopes and fears, tears and joys … and because we know that we do not have all the answers, we have faced them with questions and hope, and a family bond that I will treasure throughout my life. I have a confidence in myself and a confidence in the people closest to me that brings tears to my eyes as I type this. I believe we can do this no matter what the future holds, and I feel so lucky to be facing the birth of this new child with this perspective.

I want to tell the story of how my daughter, now a tween, has been talking to this baby for months. She has let go of her anger and she seems to be letting go of her anxiety. For the past few days, she has been telling the baby it’s time to come out. The other day I said, “You know, once this baby comes out, it will always be here. It will be part of our family.” She responded, “It already is a part of our family,” and she gave my belly a kiss. Her words were a gift; they were the final piece of the puzzle of how our family is going to embrace this change. 

Pregnancy #1 was filled with the over-confidence and arrogance of youth, blacks and whites, and lots of certainty. Pregnancy #2 has been filled with questions, humility, and an openness to uncertainty. And through all of that, I feel healthy and confident and full of hope. Here’s to the future, come what may.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This sweater has a story to tell.

And my husband decided to strike a pose for that story ...

It began in the summer of 2012 after R's grueling year of kindergarten. It began with boredom and a little over-confidence. After agreeing on this pattern, I promised my husband it would be finished by Christmas.

Then came my first teaching job and boy, did that take a lot of my time! Around Christmas, I explained that it would probably be more like spring or summer ... he would have it, at least, by the next fall.

The next fall, in my second year of teaching, I made a bit more progress, but not much. I brought it to my annual knitting retreat with high hopes of making the significant progress that I did make, but upon returning home, I was knee-deep in research papers and new lesson plans, and well, I kept putting the sweater off to the side.

Suddenly, Joel and I decided to move out of Wisconsin back to the town in which we grew up. We made some big decisions, took some chances, and I was lucky to find another teaching job near my new home. It was a new grade, a totally different curriculum, and a ton of work. I went to the 2014 knitting retreat STILL working on this sweater, and before I left, I told my girlfriends to throw me in the lake if I brought this project to the next retreat.

At the end of each day, I was tired. Whereas I used to knit on long car-rides, or while watching TV, my teaching job was taking so much from me that I just wanted to be still. I started having visions of a cold dip in the lake in the fall of 2015 ...

This sweater, which took me more than three years to complete has seen so much of our lives. It was there when R overcame her biggest fear upon entering first grade. It was there through some long days and long nights of juggling the teacher life with regular life. It was there when we went through many of our infertility heartaches, and it was there when we went through the utter shock of finding out we were actually expecting. It's been with me through this entire pregnancy, contributing to my hot flashes because I decided this sweater was going to be finished before the baby was born - or it would never be finished. It was there with me during the 2015 knitting retreat, when my gracious friends decided not to throw a pregnant lady into an ice cold lake.

And now, less than a week before my due date, it's finished. Look, my husband even threw it over the railing ... like a real sweater.