This is how Christmas break is going…

Dec 29 2014

This isn’t a real post. This is Christmas break. This is Christmas break, and this is how it’s going, in three small bits…

A) We had lovely Christmas. Truly magical. Really rad. Totally awesome. We baked. We wrapped. We cleaned. We unwrapped. We made majestic messes. We were kind to each other just as long as we could stand to be, and now we’re done with all this Quality Family Time.

DONE.

Done-done.

Done ditty done done done.

We’ve peaked. For sure. It’s all downhill from here, man.

Oh, sure, we may have a surge or two; a nice family meal where no one makes retching sounds because “GAG, Mom; you know I HATE cheese sauce,” but by and large it’s all puking noises from here on out, and running straws from our lips to our armpits to make farting noises in our sisters’ faces, and punching our brothers in the nuts because they wrecked Minecraft AGAIN and that totally deserves a good nut-punch.

Even our kid whose sullen communication is more subtle these days has made her feelings known.

Stockings

Yep — that’s every single stocking turned around backwards except hers.

I asked her why, and she said, “I guess that’s Santa’s way of saying he hates everyone except me.” Then she shrugged her What Are You Gonna Do? shrug and brushed her hands together in the universal Pontius Pilate I Wash My Hands of You sign and sauntered off. Probably to light someone on fire. 

B) I am pathologically incapable of not commenting when my kids use up all the toilet paper and don’t replace the roll. 

I tried to not comment yesterday when it happened again.

I did. I really tried.

I sat there staring at the empty cardboard tube and the full roll someone had helpfully plopped on the wet counter 4 inches from the empty roll, and I tried to simply replace the roll myself and say nothing

Saying nothing lasted 12 seconds.

It was like trying to cap a hose. 

I tried, but then my words sprayed all over. 

“This only takes seconds, you guys!” I hollered coming out of the bathroom and raising the toilet paper over my head like the Scepter of Motherhood. “Seconds. SECONDS.”

They all ignored me because they were playing Minecraft and punching each other in the nuts. That’s OK, though; being ignored and watching nut-punching rarely shuts me up. I soldiered on.

“Did I mention that it takes seconds? Because I timed myself, and I can put a new roll on in FOUR. FOUR SECONDS! Why do you not do this?” I cried, “WHY? It take NO time out of your day. It’s SO Not a Big Deal. WHY?”

One of the nut-punchers piped up and said, “Obviously it is a big deal, Mom, or you’d just do it and not complain about it so much.” 

GAaaahhHHH. I just HATE it when my kids are right. 

C) We did family photos.

There we were, all dressed up for the first family photos we’ve taken in 6 years. It’s been SIX YEARS since we last got our poo together enough for group pictures, folks, and we were, I kid you not, clean and groomed, and we even smelled OK, but my youngest had that terrible, fake smile plastered on his face. You know the one that elementary school kids do that looks like they’re half way between a vicious sneeze and losing their breakfast? That’s the one. 

The photographer, bless her kind, Christian heart, asked my kid to think of something that makes him laugh. He lit up, and his eyes sparkled, and he said, “You know what always makes me laugh? Like, every single time? Thinking about that time my mom got mad in the car and yelled, ‘You have got to be fucking kidding me!’” 

 

So, yeah. We’ve got a week to go before school resumes, and you can pray for us.

The End

 

P.S. Are you on break? How’s it going? How are everyone’s nuts? 

Christmas Came Early: Introducing Someone Very Special…

Dec 20 2014

The tentative whispers and the cautious what ifs — the quiet perhapses and the hesitant maybes — can change your life. 

I know they’ve changed mine.

Again and again, the what ifs and maybes changed mine.

Like, maybe I love him. And, what if I marry him? And, perhaps I should follow my heart.

Changed my life. 

They were toes in the water and the slow first steps, those perhapses of wondering which were born out of longing and transformed into hope. 

Hope for a future.

Hope for a family, because the what ifs of marriage turned into the perhapses of having a baby… and then two more perhapses and a couple of maybes after that, and, whew, five kids is a lot of kids, you know? Like any number of kids is a lot of kids. Any number of kids is a LOT of kids because kids are made out of human like the rest of us and, well, any number of humans is a LOT of humans because we’re all wild and weird and wonderful which is a LOT to take all at once.

Over time in our family, we’ve wound up and down that ladder of perhaps and maybe. A whole lifetime of ups and downs, and downs and ups, and a few more downs, and not all of them pretty. 

What if we never should’ve done this?

What if it was all a mistake?

What if I’m lost forever? What if I can never find myself again?

Maybe they’d be better off without me.

Perhaps I can’t fix this.

I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never wondered whether my kids and my partner got the worst end of the deal when they landed me as a mom and a wife. I’ve wondered that a thousand thousand times. And I’ve wondered it most of all for Ian, my kid with special needs who’s strong and kind and suffers all the time because the world is an anxious place and he’s unsure where to find safety and solace. 

Maybe if I was a better mother.

Maybe if I was a better comforter.

Maybe if I wasn’t so totally batshit crazy.

It doesn’t seem to matter that I know my son’s early years, without us there yet, were full of uncertainty and neglect.

Maybe if I’d gotten there sooner…

Maybe if I was more patient…

Maybe if I’d advocated better or got to the specialists faster…

But it turns out that one of the biggest challenges of my life this far is the act of forgiving myself for everything I cannot be and all the things I cannot fix and to embrace myself for being one of those wild, weird, wonderful humans, after all… and then choosing, somehow, to dip my toes into the hopeful side of perhaps again. Choosing, somehow, to believe in the good what ifs  and the magical maybes

We sat in the counseling office a few months ago with our son. We talked again about the panic attacks and the scariness of the night. We talked about the fight or flight of anxiety. We talked about watching our kid hurting. And we talked about hope and help, and the counselor had a what if.

What if… a service dog? What if… a warm companion? What if… affection, no strings attached? What if… she’s trained to help? What if… she can do for him something special? Something extraordinary? 

I said no. It’s too complicated. It’s Another Thing in our Busy Lives. It’s unmanageable and unrealistic. My husband won’t go for another dog – no way, no how. 

But my son’s whole face lit up, and his body relaxed, and my heart whispered maybe.

Zoey5And so I’d like to introduce you to our new Zoey… a maybe born out of longing, transformed into hope, and here in the flesh and the fur.

Christmas came early in our house, no question.

Christmas came early, and Love is made real. 

Again and again, Love is made real. In the form of a Baby. In the whisper of maybe. It’s just, this time, she came with floppy ears and a tail.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas… or a Happy Hannukah… or a Wonderful Kwanza… or whatever says Love and Light to you this season… and sending Joy and Hope because I have extra right now,

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Here are some pictures of a Dog and Her Boy.

Zoey4Zoey3

Pardon me while I use this entire box of tissues. 

And P.P.S., for those of you wondering who we went through to make this happen, we’re incredibly thrilled and grateful to be working with Aliesha Shepherd at Sit Spot Click Dog Training. Aliesha found Zoey for us and is training her and… the biggest challenge… training US. 

3 Wise Men and a Virgin Are Coming to My Church; You Should, Too

Dec 18 2014

I’m not saying my church is better than your church, I’m just saying that one pastor at my church (let’s call him “Nate”) recently found another pastor’s email (let’s call him “Paul”) left open and sent a message from Paul to his two adult sons disclosing Paul’s recent breast augmentation surgery.

Which Paul did not have.

Which is why that’s HILARIOUS. 

Gosh, I love my church.

We are weird weirdos who are weird.

And funny.

We are weird weirdos who are weird and funny and not afraid to play.

More churches should try that tack. The whole Be Your Weird Self approach. And Laugh. And Play. Someone should probably elect me President of Church, is what I’m saying. We’d send bizarre emails to each other’s family members. And tuna casserole would be BANNED FOREVER. And the punch would be full strength. And there’d be real half and half for the coffee. And we’d host weekly Beer and Bible Study; heavier on the beer or the Bible, depending on the week. And I’d award bonus points for every person willing to tell an embarrassing story out loud in front of the congregation; it’d be a Regular Sunday Feature like the Offering or Announcements or the Sermon or Prayer… except it would be Embarrassing Story Time and we’d have to provide good quality tissues for laughing ’til we cry, and maybe some inconspicuous absorbent pads on the pews for those of us who laugh ’til pee. And on sunny, warm Sundays, we’d ditch the plan and the building entirely and go lay flat on the lawn, and not care about grass stains or dew or children jumping over our heads, and we’d stare up at the sky and tell wild truths about being both lost and found at the same time, which is grace. 

In addition to being weird weirdos who are weird, though, we have some amazing musicians at my church. Like, professional musicians… recording artists… members of the Portland Symphonic Choir… blah-di-blah-blah blah… and, along with their completely talented musician friends (of whom I’m surprisingly not one), they’ve put together a series of Christmas Concerts which I’m telling you about for two specific reasons.

  1. 3WisemenandaVirginTheir group name is 3 Wise Men and a Virgin** which is, obviously, the VERY BEST name for a 6-person music group EVER. 
  2. 3 Wise Men and a Virgin** are playing in the Portland, Oregon area this weekend, including at my church on Sunday, and I’d love for you to join us for the concert and hang-out time afterwards.

 

**P.S. The group name is technically not 3 Wise Men and a Virgin. That name was proposed and discarded in favor of “Eclectic Christmas,” which may be more accurately descriptive but isn’t nearly as entertaining. Whatever. I’m still calling it 3 Wise Men and a Virgin, and you can, too.

P.P.S. In case you want more details, here’s the scoop: Eclectic Christmas 3 Wise Men and a Virgin is a Christmas concert for all ages, with music from jazz to folk to blues and everywhere in between. The group is comprised of Aaron Pruitt, Frank Verhoorn, Nate Macy, Nathanael Ankeny, MelissaThomas, and Nolan Staples. Desserts to follow the concert on Sunday evening. $10 suggested donation.

Friday, December 19, 7:00pm: West Hills Friends Church
7425 SW 52nd Ave, Portland, Oregon

Saturday, December 20, 7:00pm: Newberg Friends Church
307 S College St, Newberg, Oregon

Sunday, December 21, 7:00pm: North Valley Friends Church
4020 N College St, Newberg, Oregon

(CAUTION: They’re letting Woolseys attend that last one. You’ve been warned.)

P.P.P.S. All the best bands have riders attached to their contracts so their needs are met. Through secret sources, I obtained a copy of the Backstage Rider for 3 Wise Men and a Virgin. 

The following are the expectations of you as the host for Eclectic Christmas 3 Wise Men and a Virgin:
  1. You will provide cash in the following amounts for our merchandise table: 17 $1 bills, 14 $5, 2 $10, 3.5 $20, 7 $50, 32 $2 bills, and 7 quarters. This can be Monopoly money as the merch table is imaginary.
  2. We will sign autographs provided Nate has a minder since he can’t spell his own name.
  3. We do not require food, but there should be a veggie platter. The platter must not include carrots, broccoli, celery, snap peas, peppers, or cherry tomatoes. 
  4. In and Out Burger is our preferred catering institution. Nolan insists on pickles. Aaron will not eat anything that has been in a bag with any pickle products and consequently will not play due to emotional upheaval.
  5. Melissa requires the green room to literally be green and kept at 65.7 degrees.
  6. Frank prefers to be called Jim.
  7. Nathanael’s children often have serious communicable diseases. They will require oxygen tents but need to be in the front row. There are restraining orders against his parents seeing the kids, so they will need to sit behind the organ and have an usher blindfold them. Nate’s uncle has a violent dislike of Nolan’s mother so they will need to be monitored and seated at least 50 yards from each other.
  8. Our sound person, Joel, will only answer to the Spanish pronunciation of his name and is likely to charge anyone wearing red.
  9. All power outlets will need to be 220 volts with a provided 110 watt diffuser.
  10. We require spouses to be checked in with their names written on masking tape and placed on their backs. Spouses will only be released from the care of the meeting with an approved signature.

P.P.P.P.S. I can’t be held responsible for what I or my children will wear to the concert. I’ve got one who plans to wear her dragon wings and tail, one who’s back in love with his kilt which is now a mini-kilt since it’s 4 sizes too small, and I can’t guarantee I won’t have given up on real clothes and be back in my pajamas by 7pm on Sunday. Just saying – you get what you get, friends, and All Hail the Weird Weirdos Who Are Weird!

P.P.P.P.P.S. I hope to see you there. 

 

3WisemenandaVirgin

 

 

 
 

Living Between the Hallelujahs

Dec 15 2014

I’ve been listening to Pandora’s classical Christmas station for two weeks now, which is a mistake for a couple reasons.

First, there are approximately six songs total on Pandora’s classical Christmas station and five hundred thousand different arrangements of the six. Honest to God, if I have to hear another classical arrangement of The Holly and The Ivy or its tied-for-most-mind-numbing-Christmas-song-ever, Here We Come A Wassailing, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Although, in defense of Here We Come A Wassailing, it’s a song meant to be fueled by booze like One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall or the movie, Dude, Where’s My Car, which are awesome but only after some seriously questionable amounts of imbibing, and I was listening to it stone cold sober, so… my bad.

The second reason Pandora’s classical Christmas is a mistake — and the reason I keep listening to it — is the Hallelujah Chorus.

The Hallelujah Chorus, you guys!

So bold!

So triumphant!

So beautiful and BIG and powerful and filled with joy!

I love the Hallelujah Chorus.

I mean, I love LOVE the Hallelujah Chorus. 

I can hit that high A note, too, so I’m practically obligated to sing along every time it comes on. Which is a lot. A lot, a lot. It’s like every second song on Pandora’s classical Christmas station, and sometimes, when my children are very lucky, it’s every song. Song after song of nothing but the Hallelujah Chorus.

Let me tell you, my kids think the very best part of Christmas is their mama twirling in her nightie and bunny slippers throughout the wreckage that is our house and singing the Hallelujah Chorus full throttle, rockets firing, tearing down that runway and TAKING OFF toward that high A like I mean it. Which I DO. And, sure, they compare my singing to the tragic wails of a dying walrus, but their words belie their hearts which are crying out for more. “MORE SINGING, Mommy!” their little eyes say, filled with hope/dread, “MORE SINGING.” And so I do even though their words say “NO!” and “STOP!” and “I’LL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONEY, MOM!” Their words are just kidding, and our house is filled with joy, so I’ll take it.

I’ll take it.

The mess. The madness. The music. The magic. The mundane. The mystery. The magnificence.

I’ll take it.

I’ll take all of it.

Except the parts of the mess and the madness I don’t want, of course.

I’m not quite so eager to accept those with open arms.

The cute messes, yes; glitter and flour spills; shirts on backwards; the 8-year-old who lets one rip in church during quiet prayer time, fine. And the adorable, quirky madnesses? The middle schooler who believes in unicorns; the kid who washes the same pair of socks every day in a load all by itself; and the 2nd grader who can’t sleep without a separate, second bedtime snack every, single night? Great; I’m in. Whatever.

I’m just… less of a fan of the messes that wind their way to the murky darkness and the madnesses that cut us past our core.

My cousin’s cousin died last week. Overdosed on drugs. I didn’t know him, but I hugged his aunt who’s also my aunt tight on Saturday and whispered, “I’m so sorry” in her ear and she whispered, “me, too” before she squeezed tighter and said, “stupid boys; stupid, stupid boys.” Next month will be 15 years since her own boy died, lost in a maze of depression and confusion, and there was a whole world of grief and love and longing in her voice. We hugged in the middle of a party. A party celebrating a graduation and a milestone for yet another cousin. An enormous accomplishment. A BIG DEAL. A joyful day. My aunt released me but grabbed my arms and locked her eyes with mine and said, fiercely, “But now we celebrate.” And I gripped her back and said, “We party like we mean it.” And she said, “We party because we do mean it.” And I said, “Both/And.” And she said, “Both/And.” And it was magic in the mess.

This is the Season of Light in the Darkness.

My Jewish friends begin Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — at sundown tomorrow, and we Christians wait now in our Season of Advent. 

This is the Season of Anticipation. The Season of Hope. The Season of Love Made Flesh. The Season of Light With Us. Of Divinity and Humanity Intertwined. The Season of God, as finite and eternal and fragile and strong as a baby, which is the best miracle I know.

But the darkness persists.

Doesn’t it?

The darkness is resilient, too.

Damn it.

Light walks among us and darkness still exists, and I find in this whole season and all of life, I am so very Both/And. Both deeply content and always unsettled. Both certain of the Light and sitting in darkness. 

‘Tis the Season, friends.

Both/And.

Both Joy and Grief. Both Light and Dark. Both Steady As She Goes! and Brace For Impact! Both Human and Divine. Both Steady and Unstable.

I got an email last week from a friend who’s recovering from major surgery. He linked to a blog by Fred Smith about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, which is so very different from the Hallelujah Chorus I’ve been singing around my house.

So very different, and yet… the Hallelujah Chorus and the cold and broken Hallelujahs are only as different as two sides of the same coin, I suppose. And so it’s not difficult in the end to consider that both joy and grief — both mess and magic — spill out as Hallelujahs, after all

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said, “but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’…

“The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!’

My friend signed his email, “living between the bookends of hallelujah,” and I thought, yes.

Yes, this is it, entirely. We are living between the bookends of Hallelujah. A whole, messy life lived inside of Hallelujah.

Because there is a Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And through it all, together, somehow, Hallelujah.

Living Between the Bookends of Hallelujah,

Signature

 

 

P.S. Please, if you feel so inclined, share your Hallelujahs, friends. Whatever kind. I keep meaning to ask you for updates — to inquire how this season is for you — but my season is busy and I haven’t and I miss you.

I used to worry they’d call Child Protective Services on me. Now I plan to offer the social worker a FREE, All-Inclusive, 7-Night Stay in my home while I wait out the results in Tahiti.

Dec 10 2014

I used to worry the doctor would call Child Protective Services on me. I’d bring my toddler girl — my first kid — to the pediatrician for her well child check-ups, and I’d look at the bruises on her shins and the inevitable goose egg on her forehead, terrified the doctor would be on the phone to social services before I could explain I seriously — like, for reals, Doc! — didn’t beat her.

I imagined the social worker showing up. I imagined taking the lie detector test because my imagination houses a very technologically advanced social services interrogation room. I imagined sweating and worrying and blowing that test all to pieces. I imaged sitting in prison with my head in my hands as a single lightbulb hung by a thin cord overhead and flickered. I imagined it all. The whole nine yards. 

Inevitably, I’d open those early doctor visits by stammering out some sort of explanation at the doctor, “she’s running… there was a coffee table…,” and he’d tsk tsk and shake his head and issue his proclamation. “Looks like you…” he’d say, and pause dramatically, “… are letting her learn to run. You probably even take her outside to play.” And then he’d look at me accusingly for a split second before he’d wink and tell me she looked like every other toddler he sees. The punk. All that good panicking for nothing. Geez.

Well, we’re five kids in, now, and we’ve had All the Injuries over the last 16 years, so whatever. Just whatever. I shrug my shoulders, I toss up a few Hail Mary Full of Grace’s, and I look forward to the plaque they’ll someday put in our local hospital to honor our endowment of the emergency services wing.

And I still consider the fact that Child Protective Services could show up, but I no longer sweat it. Like, AT ALL. 

Like this weekend, when Greg gave our 15-year-old son a real shiner.

FullSizeRender (2)Turns out, two man-sized people barging through one opaque door in opposite directions is a bad combo, man; a bad, CRASH BANG BOOM shiner-inducing combo.

So I sent my kid back to school this morning saying he ran into a door, which, coincidentally, is what people who are beaten say. “I ran into a door.” It’s not even BELIEVABLE, people! Plus, this is my kid with expressive language disorder, and so far, all he’s managed to say by way of explanation is, “Dad hit me with a door.” Which is technically true, so technically worse

Nevertheless, I’m prepared.

Honest to God, when that child welfare worker walks through the door, I’m going to offer him a 7-night stay in my home – FREE OF CHARGE; FOOD, LODGING and BARKY DOG INCLUDED – and see if he can pull off a lower injury rate than we do. I’ll be waiting it out at a resort in Tahiti. 

At the end, I expect they’ll fly in the President of the United States to honor us for valiant services above and beyond the call of duty. We will, of course, accept graciously.

……….

P.S. Far more torturous to this child than being hit with a door and having his eye turned into mush was taking selfies with his mama. Someone should arrest me for trying to make my kid smile. I’m a horrible, horrible person.

FullSizeRender

P.P.S. Tell the truth – have you ever worried someone will call CPS on you??

The Screw Chart Incident

Dec 8 2014

My husband just came to our bedroom to inform me he printed out a Screw Chart.

I asked if that’s like a Special Advent Calendar for grown-ups but Greg looked at me like I was confused and said slowly, “It’s a Screw Chart for the iPhone,” so then I had to remind him we’ve had conversations with our teenager about this kind of thing, and, specifically, about never, ever (EVER) taking those kinds of pictures or videos on one’s phone because HELLO, INTERNET — you just don’t know where that stuff will end up. GEEZ, Greg.

Greg shook his head and used his I’m Very Disappointed in You face, which, coincidentally, is the exact same face he used last night at the dinner table when I taught our children the very best technique for spitting their vegetables into their napkins without getting caught. Until I stepped in with a solution, they just kept complaining and complaining about eating their vegetables, you guys; SOMEONE HAD TO DO SOMETHING, and Greg’s only offering was, “Eat your vegetables” with an occasional “It’s only TWO BITES; just EAT YOUR VEGETABLES” thrown at ’em for good measure. Listen; I don’t want to imply I’m the more effective parent here, but my method got them to stop complaining about their vegetables and Greg’s, well, didn’t. You be the judge.

The only difference in Greg’s reaction between last night’s Vegetable Debacle and tonight’s Screw Chart Incident is last night’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face made sense because *I* was disappointed in our kids, too. 

I mean, collectively they have 60 years of childhood under their belts; you’d think at least one of them would’ve stumbled on the Wipe Your Mouth and Simultaneously Spit Into Your Napkin technique without having to be given a step-by-step instruction guide, but sometimes our kids aren’t quite as bright as we imagine. Makes even those of us committed to science doubt evolution a little, doesn’t it? 

Now, it’s true that Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was pointed at me during my selfless Vegetable Heroics last night, but I just assumed his neck was broken/stuck due to the incident earlier in the evening in which he and our son tried to burst through an opaque door at the same time, but headed in opposite directions. Just so you know, that’s a bad combo; I’ll tell you about it later. For now, what’s important to know is Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was pointed at me last night, but only by accident, I think, and because he neck was stuck.Otherwise, it would obviously have been pointed at the kids where it belonged.

This time, though, during the Screw Chart convo, Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was directed at me, which is weird because he’s the one who brought the Screw Chart up, and also we were in our ROOM and if you can’t talk openly about Screw Charts in your bedroom with your husband, where CAN you, you know?

Anyway, long story short, Greg says a Screw Chart for the iPhone is a chart that shows you how to assemble and disassemble an iPhone and put all the parts back in the right places when you’re done, but I’m pretty sure that would be called an iPhone Assembly or Disassembly Chart because who would call something like that a Screw Chart? That’s just dumb.

On the other hand, if any of you Pinteresty types are looking for a Christmas project, I have got a GREAT Advent Calendar idea. Just saying.

 

On Michael Brown, Eric Garner, A Loss for Words, and Hope Anyway

Dec 4 2014

I tried to write tonight, but my heart is stuck.

Kind of pffttt.

A little bleh. 

And I know why my heart is stuck; only, I don’t much like thinking about it because it makes me feel helpless and afraid and like I can make no difference at all. ReleaseNeverAfraidBut I have a sign I made this summer which sits on my desk and reads, “I release the belief that I must never be afraid,” so I’ll write anyway, even with a sticky heart full of fears both petty and powerful.

My heart is stuck because of Michael Brown.

My heart is stuck because of Eric Garner.

My heart is stuck because of Trayvon Martin.

Now, my heart isn’t stuck so much because I’ve Picked a Side, but because I straddle the sides and find myself heartbroken for the less and less subtle racial divide in America, heartbroken for the families of these men specifically, and heartbroken for the many dedicated, honorable policemen and policewomen of all races who faithfully serve both law and peace and yet find themselves on public trial.

I find myself in the middle of this mess, and it’s very personal. It affects my family. It affects my children and the way we live our lives. And I’ll bet I’m not alone, here in the middle. Here with my sympathies running wild and to all sides. I’ll bet I’m not alone, and yet I haven’t heard many voices like mine. Saying “racial oppression is very real” and “the system is broken” and “there are people who should be held accountable” and “there are good people trying to do a good job to treat people fairly and enforce the law.” Both/And. I haven’t heard a lot of that.

Mine is not a story of personal racial persecution, of course. Not my story as a white, middle class woman in America. Have I encountered discrimination because of gender bias? Sure; I’ve had my fair share. But it’s my children – my Asian and Latino babies whose hearts I hold – who’ve pulled aside the curtain and let me see into a world different than mine. Despite living in a house together. Despite eating at the same table. Despite all the advocating I do for them and the advantages I try to give them. Despite their educations and upbringing. They live with one foot in a world different than mine.

photo 4 - CopyMy heart is stuck with my son.

Stuck with my son whose brown skin has already changed how some people treat him.

Stuck with my son because, now in his teens, there are people who no longer see his brown doe eyes or his ridiculous long lashes. They see THREAT. Not Tender Heart or Sweet Soul. They see MENACE. 

My heart is stuck with my son because people find his Guatemalan features suspicious. They’ve called him Spic already, and Retard because he has special needs, and both terrible words will happen again. And again. And again. The deck is stacked against him, and the deck embedded in his skin and in his brain… and in the hearts and minds of people he encounters. The deck is stacked against him, and I can’t fix this broken world or the words we call each other. 

Like I said at the beginning: Helpless. Afraid.

I’m afraid someday he’ll be walking in a store with his hands in his pockets.

I’m afraid someday he’ll be walking down the street in the dark.

I’m afraid someday he’ll commit a minor, stupid crime.

And I’m afraid he’ll pay with his life because THREAT.

So I stand peering through the curtain into a world that’s not my own, living, as I do, in a land of privilege, and I watch headlines that read “Trayvon Martin” or “Michael Brown” or “Eric Garner” but I see them as My Son

Perhaps Helpless and Afraid are some of the roles we mommies simply must play in this life. Perhaps they’re just part of it. Bit parts if we’re lucky. Helpless and Afraid as characters in life’s script. They can steal the show, though, sometimes. Sweep it clean away.

I want the story back from Helpless and Afraid. I want to put my spin on it. I want to beef up the roles of Hope and Help. I want to argue with my fellow playwrights to cast Love and Light as our leads. But our collective story is more muddled than that. More muddled and messy and mired in the muck. 

And so my heart is stuck with all those who have to maneuver through lives filled with injustice.

My heart is stuck with my son’s and daughters’ communities of color. My adopted communities. 

My heart is stuck with police officers who preserve and promote peace, who build up communities, who selflessly put others’ needs ahead of their own every day, but who are on trial by the public anyway. 

My heart is stuck with the Us-ness and the Them-ness of it all. And with my inability to be, fully, an Us or a Them. 

And I’m stuck wondering how we, collectively, move forward in ways that make us, truly, a nation of liberty and justice for all. Not blind to our failures. Not unapologetic or defensive. Not full of unrealistic, Pollyanna style bandaids over gushing wounds. But a people of hope. 

A people of hope.

That’s what I wish for us.

And, with that, I suppose I’ve found my words tonight after all, and I’ll end by sharing this, which I wrote originally on day of the Sandy Hook shooting and reminds me that hope is, after all, always on the way… and Light is with us to the marrow of our bones.

The Light and the Dark

We sit in this season of darkness. Cold. Helpless. Lost. Afraid. Consumed, at times, with our despair and our weakness and our lack of control over life and death and the events in between.

It doesn’t seem strange at all that it’s winter. I can’t imagine today without gray.

And yet.

And yet.

There’s a part of me that cries out against it, this soul-sucking sorrow. This agony and angst. There’s a spark, bright inside me, that quietly waits with its hopes and its wishes and its sweetness and its aches.

This is the season of darkness, it’s true. But I believe today more than ever that one of our most profound acts as human beings, and perhaps our most unifying, is our insistence on celebrating the Light at the exact time it appears lost to us.

Do you know that we all do this? This Light Dance? We do. All over the world, across genders and borders and creeds, we do.

We Swedes wreath our eldest daughters in candle crowns at the Festival of St. Lucia. We Dutch hand our children lanterns in honor of Sint Maarten who showed kindness to a stranger. We pagans light bonfires at the winter solstice and dance naked in the snow. We Jews light the Menorah faithfully for eight nights because we believe that somehow, miraculously, Light will find a way to keep shining. We Christians burn the candles of Advent, anticipating that Light will walk among us, at once as frail as baby and as strong as God.

We celebrate Loi Krathong in Thailand. And Diwali in India. And in doing so, we defy the dark and choose hope instead because we trust, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Light is coming. That Light, in fact, is already on the way.

Everywhere in the world, we rejoice in this triumph of Light over darkness as though we believe it will inevitably come to pass. We are ludicrous, ridiculous, irrational, and unreasonable people to do such a thing. And we are gorgeous and stunning and amazing for celebrating the Light as though we’re already victorious. For celebrating Life in the midst of death. For celebrating Peace in the midst of pain.

So come, Light. Come quickly. We’re ready for you. Especially now. Especially today when the darkness edges close. The spark inside us beckons you home, keeping the faith, and it knows your best secret. The spark inside us knows the darkness doesn’t win in the end.

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“The Light and the Dark” was originally posted on the day of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
December 14, 2012
In loving remembrance.