My Parents Gave Me Syphilis for Christmas

Feb 3 2017

My parents gave me one of those automatic vacuum cleaners for Christmas.

My sister-in-law got a membership to a wine club.

My brother got $50,000. (Or $50 plus books. Whatever. Same same.)

Greg got a 3D printer.

I got a cleaning implement.

My brother was jealous. He’s a younger brother. It’s what they do best. “SURE,” he said. “I get a money and books, and BETH gets the COOLEST VACUUM EVER. So what do I have to do to get a gift like that? JUST NOT CLEAN MY HOUSE FOR 12 YEARS, LIKE HER?”

Yes, Jeff.

Yes; that’s exactly what you have to do. Not clean your house for 12 years. And in retrospect? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Look at me, planning ahead!

So we have an automatic vacuum cleaner running around our house these days.

Greg named him Sisyphus, after the Greek mythological King of Corinth. As the tale goes, Sisyphus was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, on repeat, forever.

We don’t know what our vacuum robot did in a previous life to have to be reincarnated as the object that tries to clean our house, the ultimate act of futility, but it must have been BAD, friends. Very, VERY bad.

Some of our kids, though, can’t remember how to pronounce Sisyphus.

They call him Syphilis.

As in, “Syphilis got stuck under our couch again.” And, “Mom, have you ever noticed Syphilis seems to be EVERYWHERE in this house?” And, “Mom, I like to play with Syphilis and see if I can outrun it.” And, “MOM! Syphilis got me again!”

You know, we try really hard not to have secrets in this house. We’re much more of the Live Life Out Loud Even Though We’re Weird kind of family. And BE BOLDLY US. And LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS. I feel, though, like Syphilis should be the exception that proves the rule.

In conclusion, my children are not allowed — EVER — to talk about our vacuum robot at school. Syphilis just became our family secret. I mean, what could go wrong??

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me Syphilis for Christmas. I like it very much.

P.P.S. I’m supposed to write a post about the February book for our Escapist Book Club, but people at my house are still barfing, and it was easier to write about Syphilis. Sorry. Here’s the February book, though, in case you’d like to get started:

More soon, I hope, about January’s book which I thought was RAD.

On Leaving Our Church and Entering the Wilderness of the Unknown

Feb 1 2017

What a weekend. What a week. What a weird, weird world.

Wild.

Weird.

Wonky.

Wonderful, still. Probably. Probably?

But for now, OH MY WORD.

My son has been throwing up since Saturday, and, with the state of the world right now, the state of my country, and the state of my church, that feels wholly appropriate to me. Like his body has offered the only reasonable response to what’s going on. Vomit.

We thought he was getting better by Monday, but NOPE. More puke. Cherry Popsicle just everywhere. Also, he keeps pooping his pants because gauging soft poopies versus farts is VERY, VERY HARD when you’re sick. He keeps laying in bed saying, “Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to let my poop out,” which is exactly how I feel. I’m trying, dammit, not to let my political or religious or familial poop out, but I’m not exactly sure when it’s going to slip out anyway.

In a turn of events that has taken us quite by surprise, given years of effort to stay together and stay in conversation, believing there’s room at the table for people who disagree, our broader group of churches — the umbrella organization of 60+ churches in our region called Northwest Yearly Meeting — has let us know those of us who are open and affirming of LGBTQ people must leave.

Because we belong to a church organization that operates based on consensus and not hierarchy, we didn’t see it coming. At all. In a group that purports to believe in consensus — that has the process of discernment over years if necessary written into its doctrinal statements — there was none, and there is no appeal. The decision was mandated, the process was bypassed, a “time sensitive” clause of questionable application was brought to bear, and, as a result, Greg and I and our children will be leaving the church family into which Greg was born and where we’d hoped to raise our children. Not right this minute. Not immediately. In fact, our smaller church — the one we actually attend — may stay with the larger group; it’s far too soon to tell, and they’ve made no decision yet. But within the next year and a half, we Woolseys will be leaving the Northwest Yearly Meeting and leaving behind Greg’s family, who advocated for the separation and who will, I assume, remain with the churches that have no room for us.

There are many things I don’t talk about in this space, though I’m sure, given all I do discuss, it comes as a shock I have any filters at all. Disagreements with extended family are usually one that stay on the down-low, although I assure you we have had plenty of disagreements. Some resolved. Some unresolved. Many that carry significant hurt, as I suspect is true for all families, everywhere. Now, I have a strange choice: to remain silent in an effort not to exacerbate the extended family’s pain and our own, or to speak out with the hope of alleviating the pain of those who have been made even more marginalized and vulnerable with this decision. With this type of theological purging, though, and with it the knowledge that our LGBTQ friends, an enormous number of whom are already at risk of assault and violence in the greater communityspiritual harm by church communities, and who are more likely to cause self-harm or engage suicide as a devastated response to the loss of family and community, I cannot remain silent. I cannot, from my silence, contribute to that loss and cause more harm to a people already so vulnerable. I can’t do it without it costing my soul. I won’t.

So. We will soon be without our broader church home. Our choices: adhere to a statement of human sexuality that categorizes homosexuality with incest, bestiality, pedophilia and rape, and remain with the church Greg was born into, with many people we love very much… or follow our conviction by the God whose other name is Love, and follow our best understanding of Scripture which is to welcome our beautifully and wonderfully made LGBTQ friends, to repent for the ways we’ve belittled and discriminated against them, both explicitly and insidiously, to ask for forgiveness, and to try to do and be better.

Our choice is clear. We will make our way in the wilderness of the unknown. 

It is, as my friend Paula put it, a rending.

This is a week when our country is in chaos with a ban on the world’s most vulnerable.

And a weekend when our church is in chaos with a ban on the church’s most vulnerable.

And in the midst of it, in the midst of the rending, we had one 10-year-old boy puking and his twin brother finishing, finally, after 13 months straight, Harry Potter Book 7.

I spent Saturday rushing between the puke bowl, Popsicles, Gatorade and cold wash cloths… and the child who was riveted by the ending of Harry Potter.

And, because I’m a mother, I hovered. And I worried. And I posted to Facebook, as he stayed up too late reading…

…and read into the next day.

FACEBOOK:
“Mom! You will never believe what Mrs. Weasley said to Bellatrix!

‘Not my daughter, you bitch!’
Ha! I think Mrs. Weasley is just like you, Mom.”
He has 11 pages to go. Harry Potter, Book 7.
#BeStillMyHeart #HarryPotterForever

……….

FACEBOOK:
“MOM! I love this! THERE ARE, LIKE, 100 GOOD FIGHTERS for every Deatheater!” 

He has 8 pages to go. Harry Potter, Book 7.
#ImportantReminder #InRealLifeToo #HarryPotterForever

……….

And then, he finished.

At the end of Saturday.

When our churches, apparently, finished with each other, too. The end of a long story, full of good and bad, that we’d hoped wouldn’t end.

As his brother puked, he finished Harry Potter Book 7, and I was a wreck.

HE was fine.

*I* was a mess.

I managed to ask him through my blubbering, weary and worn in more ways than one, what he thought, and he said, “It’s such a good story, Mom. SUCH A GOOD STORY. But why are you crying?”

“Oh my gosh!” I said back, “Dobby? Dumbledore? Lupin? Tonks? FRED, kid! FRED DIED. I just can’t. Twin boys, and one’s gone.”

I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face, looking at my kid, one of my own twin boys, losing EVERY BIT OF COOL I HAD. Cool dribbling down my face.

And you know what he did? He reached out and held my hand and said, “But, Mom. You can’t lose heart during the bad parts. You need to think about the whole story. You need to think about how good wins in the end. Right, Mom? Isn’t that what it’s about?”

Oh my word, friends. Oh my word. Out of the mouths of babes. And out of the pages of Harry Potter.

You can’t lose heart during the bad parts.

You need to think about the whole story.

You need to think about how good wins in the end. And you need to do your part to make it so.

In conclusion, what a weekend. What a week. What a weird, weird world.

Wild.

Weird.

Wonky.

But wonderful, still. If you think about the whole story, anyway. And about how good wins in the end.

Sending love, friends,

 

 

 

P.S. Um… and now let’s talk about privilege. Because have you noticed how I’ve made this entire story so far about me and my family? MY sense of hurt and disenfranchisement? And Greg’s? Yes. I’ve noticed, too. I’m quite good, it turns out, at making things all about me.

My friend Elizabeth spoke my heart earlier this weekend when she wrote: “I am sad to be removed from the conversation and from the invitation to worship. I know you don’t understand this, but I actually think it is important to worship and be in community with people I disagree with. I want the opportunity to learn and grow from you. I want to get to know your kids at camp and I want to hear the Spirit speak through you in worship. I want to be witness to your gifts and challenged by your passions. But I can’t be and that is a slap in the face for this privileged middle class white lady. I suppose that is one good thing coming from this: an understanding that I never had before of what it is like to be rejected from a group of people you want to call your own. I promise I will spend the rest of my life working hard to not recreate this experience for anyone in the future.”

Our LGBTQ friends have suffered far, FAR more than what those of us who are removed from fellowship are experiencing this week. We are, in fact, SO privileged to have even been able to say phrases like “I want to be in community with people I disagree with,” because being in such a group did not come with the price of our sanity, our faith or our lives. Now we get to enter into a new kind of privilege; the privilege of experiencing, in a tiny way, the kind of disenfranchisement and marginalization our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have been experiencing for decades.

I am ashamed it has taken this long to enter your suffering, LGBTQ friends. I am grateful to get to do so now. You, of course, are the very ones who have taught and are teaching me how to be welcoming and gracious. Thank you for being Jesus to me.

 

A Firsthand Look at the Refugee Crisis and Surprising Hope

Jan 27 2017

Two weeks ago, I met a man with a gunshot wound, and a woman with tuberculosis, babies with malaria, and a toddler so malnourished she looked like the photos we saw in the 80’s coming out of the Ethiopia famine. I waited in line with refugees who arrived in Uganda from South Sudan that very day, babies on backs, belongings bundled, future uncertain. And, though we saw tragedy and enormous heartbreak — I sat a while and squeezed the hand of a mama whose baby couldn’t be saved during childbirth the night before — what took me by surprise again and again… what stuck with me and wouldn’t leave me alone in story after story after story after story…

… was hope.

Hope.

What a strange thing to find half a world away in Africa where I presumed to find only despair.

Hope.

And do you know why?

Because these people, who are fleeing violence, who are uncertain, who are longing for a better future, who want peace, are not alone.

There is hope because they are not alone.

There are people waiting to receive them.

Do you know, in this age of worldwide isolationism and xenophobia and shutting down borders and building walls — in this era where we choose to fear for our personal security, though it has not been threatened, and deny our neighbors safety, though they are under attack — how the government of Uganda has responded to the 400,000 refugees flooding their country since July alone?

Uganda has responded by throwing their borders WIDE OPEN.

Can you imagine?? Wide open borders for refugees rushing to safety. As though the right things to do are to welcome the stranger, and to look after the widows and orphans in their distress, and to reach out to the poor who cry out for help.

And do you know who has shown up to help their neighbors? The Ugandan people.

I mean, yes; Medical Teams International, the organization I traveled with, is there doing health intake and triage for every single refugee entering the country. Every single one of hundreds of thousands of refugees, more coming all the time. But do you know who makes that work possible?

Ugandan doctors and nurses and administrators and janitors and midwives and surgeons and cooks and data analysts who show up every day to love their neighbors as themselves.

It was hope. Over and over and over again. An infusion of hope in a dark world.

Look, friends; I don’t know about you these days. I don’t know what you’re thinking or feeling while strange things are afoot on our planet. I don’t know whether you, like me, want to hunker down some days and mourn and grieve how we’ve lost our way. I don’t know whether you, like me, are populating your personal Facebook feeds with hashtags like #CallingOutTheLies and #RefuseGaslighting because you’re unwilling to be party to alternative facts. I don’t know whether you, like me, have a stash of pretzels and chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups on your nighstand you’re eating late at night to swallow your feelings. I don’t know whether you, like me, vacillate between fight and flight, back and forth in rapid succession — I MUST FIGHT one minute, and Oh Dear God, Let Me FLEE THIS INSANITY the next. But I do know all of that is OK. All of it. Shock, anger, grief. It’s all normal. It’s all OK for a time. But eventually, we need to remember hope.

We need to remember hope, and we need to fight for it.

But in case you, like me, sometimes forget — in case sometimes hope slips your mind or you find it hard to grasp — slippery, slippery hope — we can rest for a tiny bit knowing the people of Uganda are carrying it for us until we can pick it up again. Like kites made of garbage bags and flown with joy, we can pick it up again soon.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. All photos here were taken by yours truly, but are owned by Medical Teams International and are used with permission. All thoughts/opinions here are my own, however, and should not be held against Medical Teams. 😉

P.P.S. The refugee and displaced people crisis is expected to increase in 2017. But do not despair! There are real things we can do to help refugees around the world. Learn what the UN Refugee Agency, one of Medical Teams’ valued partners, is doing to support refugees, more than 50% of whom are children. Learn what it could mean for refugees and displaced people if the world, including the U.S., continues its policies of isolationism. Designate your donations to organizations like Medical Teams International by specifying “refugee relief.” And remember hope, and that we get to help in building it.

P.P.P.S. I’m terribly sorry I’ve been offline so much lately. After our flights were so dramatically messed up, we ended up extending our trip to Uganda so we could still see ALL the amazing work being done there. I was home only 10 hours before leaving for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat I run… which was AMAZING thanks to incredible participants and staff who let me recover from jet lag at the gorgeous Oregon Coast. It’s been a whirlwind, in other words. A GOOD whirlwind, but a whirlwind nonetheless.

P.P.P.P.S. The GOOD NEWS is the writing retreat DID afford me the opportunity to finish the latest draft of my book proposal, which is now back in the hands of my literary agent. I do hope to have more news to report on that soon.

P.P.P.P.P.S. The writing retreat participants, particularly Jen and Heidi, DID spend significant time advocating that I STOP DROPPING THE BALL on updating you on Betty and the kitchen remodel, which is … wait for it … COMPLETE, but about which I’ve failed to tell you. So stay tuned for more.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I do feel very silly ending a post about refugees with an update about my kitchen. Gross. But I’m also grateful you let me be very Both/And, friends. Both deeply, abidingly concerned about people suffering around the world and what I can do to change that AND excited to cook with Betty.

Sending love, friends.

 

Feet on Dusty Ground

Jan 12 2017

True confession: I’m not very good with suffering. I don’t like it. And, whether it’s my suffering or others’, I invest quite a lot of energy in avoiding it. I turn off the news. I hide the sad things on Facebook. I take Ambien to sleep at night. I eat all the french fries. And I shudder whenever I hear Christians say, as Christians often do, “I pray that my heart will be broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus.”

I get it.

I do.

I understand what they’re trying to say in praying to be people of compassion and people of Love and people who see the suffering of others and thus respond.

But I shudder because my heart is already broken by these things.

And I avoid sadness because I’m not sure my heart will keep beating if it’s broken any more.

I plug my ears and squeeze my eyes closed and say LALALALA very loudly to drown out the suffering din because I feel helpless and like there’s nothing I can do, anyway — there is only one of me and so many who hurt — so it feels like an exercise in futility to continue to offer my heart to be pulverized.

The truth is I don’t intend to stop shutting down the news and hiding the “too sad to bear” items in my Facebook feed, because it’s OK to have coping mechanisms and to know how much on any given day I can take before breaking utterly, beyond repair.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

I took pictures the past few days in refugee camps where mamas and their babies sat in nutrition and feeding classes taught by Medical Teams International. Mamas who fled South Sudan only the day before, afraid for their lives and the lives of their children.

I held hands with small kids and waved to the big ones.

I walked through hospital wards and met men recovering from gun shot wounds, women recovering from rape, children recovering from malaria.

And, friends, many smiled.

Not all.

Not everyone.

Certainly not.

But many.

Mommies are proud of their babies everywhere. All over the world. And when you coo at the little ones and tell the mama her baby is beautiful, she shines, because she knows it’s true. It’s like she’s been in on the secret from the beginning — this baby is everything, this baby is precious and perfect, this baby carries light and life, this baby is made in the very image of divinity and Love — and so, when you see it, too, and show the mama with your eyes and your smile and your hand on her baby’s brow, you quite literally share a piece of her soul.

And she smiles.

And in that smile is hope.

I’ve spent the last few days walking dusty ground, sweating and smiling with people who are sweating and smiling and sobbing with me. And I’ve been reminded that entering into suffering is also entering into hope. Entering in. The reminder that we don’t walk dusty ground alone. The reminder that our highest calling is to learn the ways of Love and to love each other as we love ourselves. The reminder that we are here to bear witness to each other’s lives. The reminder that entering in is also an action as vital as food and medicine.

And I am glad — truly glad — to be here.

Sending love… and hope in the middle of pain… with feet on dusty ground,
Beth

P.S. The photo above is of our momrade, Margaret, and her son Christopher whose life was saved by Medical Teams International (MTI). Margaret is a mama of twin boys, just like me; Christopher’s twin is John Baptist, not pictured. I’ll be writing more of Margaret and Christopher’s story in the days ahead and sharing via MTI. You can follow MTI’s work at their website, www.medicalteams.org, or on Facebook here.

P.P.S. MTI is not sponsoring this post, nor paying me for this opinion. All thoughts shared on this blog are my own. Obviously. Or I’d be a lot more careful about what I say. Heh heh heh.

P.P.P.S. By mistake, I only packed one pair of socks for this trip. I have now become an expert at handwashing socks in Africa and drying them by the next morning. Totally putting that on my resume for the future. This is why travel is important; because LIFE SKILLS.

P.P.P.P.S. I also have spilled something at nearly every meal and also in the car on long, back-country drives. Because I’m traveling with me, and my skill set is Expert Level in Spilling Everything. To date, I have spilled milk, coffee, passion fruit juice, and mango juice, some of those all over myself. HOWEVER, I only spilled on the CEO ONCE, and that was a bag of beef jerky which doesn’t soak in, so I’m considering that a win.

On Connecting with Our Hearts

Jan 10 2017

We arrived in Africa after 54 hours of travel. It was supposed to take 26 hours, but, as Greg messaged me shortly after my arrival, “no plan survives contact with reality.” It turns out the ice storm in Brussels was very, very real, which meant six hours sitting on a plane that would never take off, six more hours of waiting in line to rebook, and three more countries added to our routing – Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Ethiopia – before we arrived in Uganda. But arrive we did, so WOOHOO! AND, most importantly, my traveling companion, Martha Holley Newsome, CEO of Medical Teams International, UNDERSTANDS THE IMPORTANCE OF COFFEE, so it’s all going to be OK. We’re here. We’re safe. WE’RE GETTING COFFEE REGULARLY.

We’ve spent our first two days meeting with the Kampala staff of Medical Teams International and with the Uganda Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, a man named Bornwell with a beautiful smile who walked me down the stairs after our meeting. I asked him why he does this work — why he’s done it for 28 years, which is his entire professional life — and he told me it is his heart. “If you do something not connected with your heart,” he said, “you are in the wrong job.” Which, amen, right, friends? Amen. Being connected to our hearts would save the whole world. Connected to our hearts and connected to each other.

Tomorrow, we head to refugee camps to visit our momrades there who are fleeing South Sudan to save their children and, thus, themselves. I won’t have time to write a lot while I’m here, but will try to update you as I have connectivity and a minute to spare. Bear with me if it’s slow and sporadic going. I may only be able to share a few snippets — a “thought for the day” — and personal photos since I’ll be focused on my work with MTI, but I want to keep you in the loop and have you join our world here as much as possible.

I’ve only been in Africa two days, and yet I feel a little like I’ve come home. Growing up in SE Asia has its similarities, I suppose, and I find myself at ease in the developing world in ways I never quite do in America. As though America is the cross-cultural experience, and the developing world understands what’s important. Food, water, safety, health, and a future for our kids. I just feel so… distracted… in the States. Like I’m chasing the strangest things and pretending they’re important. Status and stuff and an entire aisle in the grocery store devoted to nothing but cereal; what an odd way to live.

Sending love, friends.
Beth

 

January Book Selection for It’s a Likely Story Book Club

Jan 7 2017

Waving in the dark, friends. And in the light. It’s 12:52am at home and 9:47am where I’m typing this from the Brussels airport, ready to board my flight to Uganda in a few minutes. Light and dark, chasing each other across the world, and I feel like I have a foot in both at the moment.

I’ll try … try, try, try … to write periodically while there. We’ll see how the internet holds up. I’m eager to meet our refugee momrades and to sit with them in the dark, in the name of all of us, and in the name of Love. To hold hands. To live in the mud. To see magic there. Stay tuned, friends. I’m holding you close in my heart while I’m there.

In the meantime, I’m late (because OF COURSE I AM) in telling you our January “A Likely Story” Book Club selection. This one comes suggested to us by one of my favorite librarians, Korie Buerkle, who has, for several months now, been reading books with protaganists who are not white. The book below is an epic YA fantasy, and is the first book of a series, only two of which have been written to date. I must say, I’m about a third of the way through it and am enamored already.

Enjoy, friends.

And see you on the flip side.

 

 

 

ALikelyStory

A Likely Story Book Club
Announcing: January’s Book Selection!

An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

“Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s eighteen-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash, and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks, and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.”

And here’s a review of The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore, our December book club book.

img_2487

On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the worst, most heinous book in the history of the world, and 5 being I WILL FORCE EVERYONE I KNOW TO READ THIS) we rated The Stupidest Angel a 3.1. You’ll note the rating scale is a little harsh. It’s, like, practically impossible for anyone to rate a 5. Like that annoying college professor who thought awarding me an A+ meant I actually had to EXCEED expectations for my specific work according to the parameters set out in the syllabus instead of to do just fine and be generally smart as a person which was the system I preferred. So I guess I feel the need to point out a 3.1 is a solid C grade for this book, which is a C, and, as I told my college daughter when she brought home her first semester grades, C’s GET DEGREES! GOOD JOB, BABY!

Comments from our Facebook book club group:

Terry FischerWolfe: I loved it. It reminded me of another of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins. Quirky books have always been a favorite of mine. I give it a solid 4.

Alissa Cowan Norman: I loved it. My husband was entertained when I picked it back up after a couple days and said “Gotta see if the zombies eat everyone now…”. The language didn’t bother me at all, and I already recommended it to my MIL, so… I give it a 4.

Diane Bognar: I read maybe half of it and then returned it to the library. Couldn’t get into it at all. The part I read would be rated a 1.5.

Sarah Kessler: I read it and really enjoyed the writing style! That said, I would give it a 3.5 for the language and some of the content which I just felt was unnecessarily vulgar. Highly entertaining tho and very funny 😊

 

On the New Year, Autism, and Thanks, Anyway

Dec 31 2016

I gave my nephew, KG, a frog book for Christmas. He did not want a frog book. I knew in advance he didn’t want a frog book. I gave him the frog book anyway (though it was supplementary to another gift I gave him I knew he’d want, so I’m not a total monster).

KG is in second grade, has autism, and also has 100,000 allergies to All the Things, so he’s our bubble boy. He’s not like the kid who gets a tummy ache from dairy. He’s the kid who ends up in the ambulance and the hospital and sometimes the Pediatric ICU because he stops breathing, even though we have a strict NO NOT-BREATHING ALLOWED rule in our family. He’s the kid we wildly celebrate because he’s a survivor and that status can’t be taken for granted for him like we do with the rest of our kids.

We love KG for lots of reasons. Obviously. And I sort of feel like I’m supposed to say we love him in spite of his autism, except I feel like the truth is we love him in part because of it. We love his brain. We love his quirks. We love that he’s inspirationally truthful. We feel on a deep level there are lessons we can learn from him about authenticity, and self-advocacy, and eschewing our collective cultural bullshit, and unapologetic honesty.

KG opened his frog book present at Christmas, and his shoulders slumped in defeat. “NOT A FROG BOOK,” he said, because he detested it.

His daddy, my brother, said, “Nope, KG. What do we say when we get a gift?”

“Oh, yeah,” said KG, as he looked at me with sorrowful eyes, “Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”

Total Eeyore voice. Absolute melancholy. Working to be grateful anyway.

“Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”

I would like to only give gifts to people with autism in the future, please, or to people who have learned from them, because they’re my favorite. They can learn to be polite when necessary, but they’re also not going to pretend a situation, even one requiring gratitude for the sake of social nicety, is OK. Frog books suck. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.

This is exactly how I feel about 2016.

2016 sucked, collectively if not personally. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.

Thanks, anyway, for the horrible frog book, 2016.

My sister-in-law, KG’s mama, told this story earlier this year when he was on steroids following another spell of Not Breathing:

When a small person is on this amount of steroids, it means more of EVERYTHING.

The day following anaphylaxis, KG and I stopped to get gas on our way to see the doctor, and had the car turned off with the windows down. While we were fueling up, a Beekeeper, wearing full beekeeping gear including the hat/mask, pulled up in the lane right next to us.

Seizing the teaching opportunity, I point out our fuel companion to KG. “Buddy, look over there! A beekeeper! Check it out! Look at the gear he wears to work with bees!” My announcement was met with total silence (which can be a side effect from the massive amounts of medications). Undeterred, I tried again– “KG, did you see? Look over on your side– a beekeeper!”

My inquiry was met with yelling, through the open window, with the power of a thousand fiery suns. “I hate you! I hate YOU! I hate you, BEEKEEPER! I! HATE! YOUUUUU, BEEKEEPER! You steal from BEES! You STEAL! From BEES! THIEF! THIEFFFFFFFFFF! Beekeeper, I. HATE. YOU!!!!!!”

Despite my direct commands to knock off the yelling, it continued. Until the tank was full. (This felt like an eternity, but was likely a minute or two.) Driving away, with the windows safely secured in the upright position, I asked KG what in the world happened back at the gas station. He shared a righteous anger that a person in a position of power would take advantage of the smaller, lesser creature, that the beekeeper would selfishly steal all the hard work of the bees, and explained how this was a justice issue that concerns everyone.

I explained to KG how Beekeepers are actually the biggest advocates and defenders of bees, how bees are rapidly going extinct, and how the efforts of beekeepers are what sustain the bee population. We discussed how the beekeeping/bee relationship is symbiotic, especially considering protections needed/offered during winter and from predators.

He took in all of this new information. Completely unaffected (and unashamed), he replied “Oh. I was not aware of this.”

These adventures brought to you by Autism on steroids.

I don’t know about you, but 2016 has me feeling a little strung out. A little like yelling out the window and lashing out. A little relieved we get to drive away now from 2016 which was a THIEFFFFFFFFFF for so many millions who lost their homes, their countries, their babies, their lives. And from 2016 which may have been good in some ways I’m not yet ready to acknowledge.

May we learn a lesson from my nephew, though, as we head into the New Year; to champion important causes, to understand WE are one of the important causes, to be honest, to be grateful even if we have to do it reluctantly, to give no time to things that don’t matter (like stupid frog books), to be open to new information when we can listen again, and to be unashamed because we are, after all, wildly, wonderfully, weirdly, perfectly made.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year,

 

 

P.S. I DID give KG his real gift later — Pokemon plushies — which met with his enthusiastic approval. May 2017 learn THAT’S how it’s done. 😉

(This is the niece and nephews posing with the things I got them that they actually liked. Notice there’s not a frog book to be found. Hehehe. KG is the one pointing to Evie.)
(Also, yes. Yes, I did get that hideous golden lion necklace thing for my oldest nephew. He wanted it, and I’m a sucker.)

 P.S.S.My mom left her computer open HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Cai