Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dear Scot


I couldn’t do it today. For a lot of reasons, but the biggest of which is that I still don’t know how to feel. Like any kind of grief, I run the gamut depending on the day. I’m sad. I’m angry with you. How in the hell couldn’t you have known to see a doctor before it was too late? I’m in denial. There are still days that I think, “Man, I should text Scot to tell him…” and then I remember. Needless to say, I’m a ways from acceptance. It will come, I know it will, but not until I sit with some of the grief and actually let myself feel it. I was talking with a friend today and was telling her that I still had stuff to work through with your death. She said, “It’s really easy to go around something hard, it’s much harder to go through it.” I’ve managed, over the last 15 months to go around you being gone. It’s time I start to navigate my way through it.

When you died, I was in the thick of going through my own grief over the loss of my marriage and the new life, new job, new schedule, and new responsibilities that came along with that huge life change. I realized when I was talking this morning about you that there was really no way for me to fully let myself grieve your death because I was already so caught up in all of my own stuff.  Sounds selfish, but maybe it was a delightful coping mechanism in disguise. It happened often in the months after your death: I would be sad about something that I knew you’d like. I’d laugh about something that I knew would make you laugh. I’d see some ridiculous political story, or something about Betsy DeVoss or the Department of Education that I knew would make steam come out of your ears. And, there were the tears I couldn’t stop from coming when we ran into Stella on what happened to be your birthday. There is nothing about that event that strikes me as coincidence, by the way…nice work.  It was easy for me to have those moments and then to move along. I went around the grief. I’m still circling around it in many ways. Maybe that’s how I will learn to eventually get through it.

Some part of losing you so suddenly brought me immediately back to losing my cousin Karleton on September 11th. There was no warning, no closure, just as sure as he was there, the next moment, he was gone. You were gone on a Sunday morning. The week before that, we’d texted about how we’d not seen each other, and how it was about time for a night out, which surely meant debauchery was about to occur. I had my girls that Friday night and didn’t get to go out, but you and Ted did. On Saturday, you decided to lay low, I’m only assuming what happened on Friday was typical of a boys night out. You had dinner with Steve instead, and I’m so very glad he got that time with you. On Sunday, you were gone. I’ve had some regrets in my life, but none sting quite like knowing I could have had a little bit more time. We’d likely have done something ridiculous and perhaps even illegal, but it would have been time together.

Here’s some things I think you should know:

The Royals suck. Like, not just sort of bad, they are completely shitting the bed. Still, we went to a game this week and I looked for you in the Pepsi Porch anyway. I still couldn’t tell you anything about the Chiefs. Shocking, I know.

Jason Isbell put out a hell of an album last summer. I know you never got to hear it, but I think about you almost every time I listen to it. It’s the kind of writing you wish came from you, and it’s the kind of music I know you’d have loved. I’ve also found a love for Lori McKenna and for Travis Meadows, both of whom have written some of the most gut wrenchingly lovely music you’ve ever heard.

Man, our government is FUCKED. That’s about all I have to say about it. You’d be a hot mess over it. They want to combine the Department of Education and the LABOR department. I know. Also just today, Judge Kennedy announced his retirement from the SCOTUS. Some days I think maybe you are luckier to be missing this dumpster fire.

Your daughter is so beautiful. I’m sure you know. When we saw her – at Stumpy’s of all places – she was lovely and kind and sat and talked with my girls. Another regret I’ve had is dropping the ball there. It has always been my intention to keep an eye on her, and I’ve sucked at that, royally. I think I can change that, and I think part of trekking THROUGH this stuff means finding ways to connect with your Stel.

Recently I’ve started to think about a conversation we’d had a few summers ago. We were sitting on Katie’s porch and you were doing that annoying thing where you pick a point and you stick to it even far after you’ve offended or pissed everyone off.  It’s the quality I never really understood but always admired in you. Anyway, you were talking about something that had to do with administrators versus teachers, and we all thought you had totally begun to drink the kool-aid.  Later, I realized that you were still trying to figure out your new role, and that maybe you were really just trying to get our reaction and navigate the transition from classroom teacher to coach to administrator. I’ll never know, of course, but recently I’ve been thinking about how hard that transition has been for me. I’ve also been thinking about how to carefully navigate the waters so that there is supervision and also mentoring happening without creating an us versus them hierarchy. It’s so tricky. I wish you were here to guide me through some of that, and that we could have that same conversation again knowing what I know now. I think I would be far less defensive and I would listen more before reacting. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.

I'm sorry for not showing up today, at least in person. I guess it’s safe to say we were both there in spirit. I sure do miss you, dummy.




Monday, May 14, 2018

Thirteen



I’m not sure how you got to be thirteen already. It feels like just yesterday that you were chasing Dalton around the house with a sock in your mouth, or planning your honeymoon (after you married your friend Davis) in “Dithney World”. Some days it feels like there is no way in the world that you are a teenager. Other days you are SO MUCH a teenager. Recently, I’ve been reading about rites of passage, particularly around becoming a “woman”. Part of me rolls my eyes at this – you know your mama enough to know why, but part of me really wanted to mark this momentous birthday in a different, more special way for you. 


In the Jewish faith, when a young woman turns 13, she has a “Bat Mitzvah” to mark the occasion. Traditionally, it means that she is now a full-fledged member of the Jewish faith community, and she often has done some sort of community service before the actual celebration. It’s a tradition I find fascinating, and when I began thinking about YOU turning 13, it made me think about how we would mark the occasion beyond the usual birthday party. I’ve asked my dear friends to write a letter to you, that you will receive later this week. My charge to them was simply this: “I would love for Lucy to have your words of wisdom about growing up. What was important. What wasn't. Any piece of advice you would give a girl turning 13. I think each of you has an important perspective, and you are ALL women I know she looks up to.” 


I hope that these letters will be something you can hold onto, and that you can turn to when you’re feeling all the things a 13 year old feels. I want you to know that you have so many strong women in your life who love you, and who have been there.  Being a teenager is hard stuff. It was hard 30 years ago, but I can only imagine what it must also be like to be constantly bombarded with stuff on social media, with technology, and with messages from “out there” about what a woman should be. You know me, again, enough to know I say, “fuck that” to what a woman “should be”, but it took me a VERY long time to get there. Here is what I’d like you to know about becoming a teenager.


Dear Lucy, 


Here we go…the ride of your life is really just beginning. You said to me the other day that you’ve not really even begun living yet, and I say this is the year that begins to change. Up until now, you’ve been under our wings. That won’t change, but you’ll begin to test the waters of independence more and more frequently, and here are some things I want you to know about this time in your life:

  •  Pick your friends wisely. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have women in my life now (in my 40s!) who have been there with me all along. I picked the right people, and part of that was learning over the years that the best friends are the ones who won’t ask you to change who you are. The best friends are the ones you can call or text at all hours of the day or night and they’ll not only respond, they’ll make you feel better, not worse, about whatever is weighing on you. Good friends don’t encourage you to do stupid stuff, and if they DO? They can take “no” for an answer when you’re uncomfortable about whatever that might be. Good friends make you feel good about yourself.
  • I just read that, and I would say that those are the things you should want in a partner. Boy, girl, whomever you end up hanging out with, pick someone who makes you feel good about yourself. No one who truly cares about you would ask you to change the amazing person you already are. No one who truly cares about you will ask you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. And trust your old mama, if it doesn’t feel right in your gut? It probably isn’t. I don’t want to dwell on this too much, I can already feel you rolling your eyes, but I hope you’ll think about that when you meet people you want to spend time with.
  • Spend time reflecting about your day, or about stuff that has happened to you, but not TOO much time. There’s a fine line between thinking and overthinking. You have the genes for overthinking, and I would just like you to know that I wish I could get back at least a fraction of the time that I have spent worrying, or thinking about what could have been. Worrying about stuff is natural. It can also be a giant time suck. Thinking about what could have been won’t change what has already happened in your life. Being a reflective person means you’re thinking about all the ways you can be better in the future. I wish I would have figured that out sooner.
  • Beauty isn’t about the way you look. I mean, society in general would have you think that, but being beautiful is so much more than what is on the outside. Being beautiful isn’t about being a certain size, and it’s not about the length of your hair. The most beautiful people I’ve met are the ones who are comfortable in their skin. They know who they are and they know what they stand for – or what they do NOT stand for. The most beautiful people I know are that way on the inside. They are humble and they’re kind, and they radiate those things so others want to be close to them. The most beautiful people are funny, but not just funny because they can make you laugh – but because they can also laugh at themselves. You’ll spend a lot of time in your life looking into a mirror and trying to make yourself fit some ridiculous image of what society tells you is “beautiful”.  I just hope you keep in mind that those things on the outside are fleeting. The beauty we carry inside, that radiates out to others? That stuff lasts forever.
  •  I hope you continue to stand up for what’s right. I hope you continue to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I hope you don’t shrink when you see things that bother or upset you.  I hope you continue to share those things with me and with your dad so that we can support you.  I recall times in my life when I didn’t tell someone to quit telling an offensive joke. Or, I didn’t tell someone that it wasn’t ok to use certain words around me.  I was afraid to assert myself, and looking back, I wish I could change that stuff. It’s uncomfortable,  sometimes, to stand up for what’s right.  Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” That is one of my very favorite quotes. It’s something I try to live by, and I hope you understand why.
  • Knowing who you are is way more important than knowing what you want to be when you get older.  People will have you stress over your school work. They’ll tell you that you can’t possibly go to college without doing X, Y, or Z. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. Knowing who you are – what you stand up for, what makes you happy, what you are good at doing – is way more important than how much money you’ll make at some stupid job you’ll have to have to put a roof over your head someday. Teenagers spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to make themselves look good on paper so that a college will accept them. You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up.  You have two wildly different examples in your dad and me: he has known since he was 5 years old that he wanted to be an artist. He’s worked at the same place for 25 years. It came very naturally to him, and that has been a great experience for him.  I, on the other hand, still don’t quite know what I want to be when I grow up.  Caring for people (babies, children, teachers…) has always come quite naturally to me, but I am always learning new things, and maybe someday I will change my career path entirely. My point is that neither your dad’s way nor mine is better than the other.  My advice? Try lots of things. Learn everything you can about stuff that interests you. When you know, you’ll know. Until then, you don’t HAVE to have it all figured out.
  •  I love that you talk to me. Even when it’s 10pm and you have to go to bed, and you’ve decided that is the best time to tell me everything that happened during your day, and I might seem frustrated? I really do love that. I hope you continue to talk to me, and I hope you know that you can tell me anything. Anything. At. All. I will not judge you. I will not tell your secrets. You and I are mother and daughter, and while I may have had a shitty example of how that is supposed to look, I know that the most important part of that relationship is about listening to each other and communicating. Even when that just means we are telling each other when we aren’t happy with the other. I know that you’ll have times at 13, and at 14, and 15…where you will want nothing to do with me. And that’s ok. I just want you to know that you always can talk to me. Always.
  • I’m so proud to be your mama. Part of having a strained relationship with my own mom is that I haven’t always had an example of what a good mother daughter relationship should look like. I’m trying to right the ship.  I’m trying every single day to do things differently for you than they were done for me.  I need you to know that is a work in progress, and some days are way better than others.  But always, always, always, always I am so happy that you’re mine, and I don’t know if I could love you more if I tried.  Welcome to thirteen, sweet girl. This is just the beginning.

I love you,


Mama

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Eleven

Tomorrow Zoe turns eleven, and every time I write something for the girls’ birthdays, I say how I can’t believe it’s been this many years. I suppose I will be saying that until we are old ladies, Zoe and me. I hope I get to be an old lady. I hope we get to be old ladies together. Maybe not in the “I’m gonna live with my daughter” sense, but just so I can have as much time as I can with Zoe and with her sister. I truly love being with my girls – they are so funny and so smart, and they are good, kind and just people. They make me proud to be their mama every single day.

This year has been a good one for Zoe – like, one of the first REALLY good years she’s had in a while. She’s a happy kid for the most part, and much of the anger and the anxiety she has dealt with in the past seems to have calmed. I won’t say it’s gone away, because I’m not that delusional, but it just seems different now that she’s a little older. Zoe is still as feisty as ever. She’s strong willed, and she is sometimes SO frustrating.  I’m certain I get even more frustrated with her because I see so much of myself in Zoe. I try so hard not to silence her noise, and not to squash her will. One day I hope it will serve her well to be as stubborn and assertive as she is now. Once in a while I will be arguing with Zoe (which is honestly ridiculous in the first place) and I will realize that nothing I say is going to sway her or make her change her mind. I can tell her that a canary is yellow. I can be holding that damn yellow bird in my hand and she will look right at me and tell me it’s pink. And then she will come up with 743 different reasons that she is right. It’s exhausting. And it’s also amazing. It simultaneously makes me want to jump out of a window and hug her. 

Zoe loves to bake. She would spend hours in the kitchen if I let her, working on cookies, muffins, and other treats. And she’s GOOD at it. It’s funny to me because I’m anything but a baker. Baking is so measured (no pun intended) and precise. I like to throw in a little of this, and a little of that. Zoe follows a recipe. She does this for the ridiculous amount of slime she makes as well. The bane of my existence this year was Zoe’s slime-making and I’d rather not write any more about that. She got a trumpet for Christmas, and while she hasn’t begun taking lessons just yet, she is insistent to pull the trumpet out when friends are over to play for them. It’s…well. It’s very LOUD. It occurs to me as I write this that Zoe doesn't really care that she can't play that damned trumpet, she just loves showing it off because she thinks it's cool. Zoe still loves Alice Cooper, but this year she’s surprised me by learning so many of the words to the songs that I play in the house. I guess I don’t realize how much music I play, or how often, until she begins to belt out the lyrics to a Lori McKenna song, or an old Waylon tune. I love when she does this. Recently we saw Pink, and she knew EVERY single word that lady was singing. Zoe is a listener. 

Tonight after dinner, I asked Zoe about the last year. I asked her what was the best part about being 10, and she said, “My family got cooler.” When I asked her what she meant, she said, “Well. We have Liz and Gregg now, and they’re cool. Daddy is cool, and you’re cooler with your longer hair and you laugh a lot. I’m not sure about Lucy, though.” Zoe makes me laugh every single day. I’ve spent a lot of nights over the last few years staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night wondering how I’m messing up my girls. How did our divorce affect them, and what will they take away from it? It’s always been my hope that in the end, the important thing will be that they know just how many people love them. Tonight I realized that Zoe understands that, too. 

Later in our conversation tonight, she thought about my question a little bit longer and then she said, “Hey mom? The worst part about being 10 is that my retainer smells bad all of the time.”  And I supposed if that is the worst thing to happen this year, my sweet baby Zoe is doing just fine.   


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dos AƱos

This last week marked my two-year anniversary at my job. Some days it feels like I’m still the new kid there. Other days, it feels like I’ve been there forever and ever. I have been thinking recently about all of the things I didn’t know two years ago that I know now. Some of the things I’ve learned are because I work where I work, and the families with whom I work. Some of what I’ve learned is because of how much life has changed for me in these last few years. 

I now know a limited amount of Spanish and how to use it and even when. I’ve learned to talk with people who don’t speak English at all. I’ve been told to shut up…by a 2 year old. I’ve had to think over and over again what it must be like to not know the home language of the place where you’re living. I’ve had to think over and over again about how not knowing that language puts people at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to navigating already confusing social services and when finding resources for their families.
Two years ago when I heard “DV” used in a sentence, I had to pause and make that face like, “Oh, of course. I know exactly what you mean.” I wish I didn’t know as well now what that means, but I do. Daily, I hear of women and children living in domestic violence situations. Women who feel like they can’t leave for a thousand different reasons, and mothers, young and old, who are desperately just trying to figure out what is the right thing to do for their children. Imagine if you will, being in a relationship where you are experiencing violence toward you, or your children, or both. And then, add the extra layers of poverty, or of not being a legal citizen of this country. What decisions can you make? How can you change things, or get help, or LEAVE?  
I know now what it means for families to have to navigate the completely fucked up system of services for children and families in this country. If you think for one second that the children are the ones being put first in these systems? Think again. If they’re lucky, there are good people working for them and supporting them, but that does not seem to be the norm in my experience. These systems tout themselves as “interdisciplinary”, meaning that lots of people and programs work together to support families. Or? Lots of different people with lots of differing opinions have lots of differing ways of “supporting” families and passing information along. I can’t say more about this, but what I know as an early childhood educator is that all children need consistency.  These babies need consistency the MOST, and these systems hardly seem to be consistent. 
At home, I can get a mouse out of the trap all by myself. I can unclog a toilet, I can re-caulk the bathtub, and I can fix the cable modem when it fails. I can figure out how to refinance my home, how to find someone to replace a failing HVAC system, and once in a while, I even eat some veggies. I see things every single day at work that make me come home and hug my kids a little harder. Sure, some months I have to shuffle bills around, and pay one thing before I might pay another. There is never money left at the end of the pay period. Ever. But the girls and I have a roof over our heads. I love this sweet little house and the home we’ve made in it. We have food on our plates. We have people who love us and who support us, and who hold our hands through all the things that suck in this life.
I have failed at a lot of things in my life, but these two years have taught me to look at those experiences a little differently. I spent a long time in my life being fooled into thinking that things were making me happy.  This life of mine now is about experiences, and about fitting lots of experiences into the little time I have here. It’s about saying yes more. It’s about owning my failure, and thinking about how to be a better human moving forward. It’s about kindness. It’s about finding something to be thankful for in every single day. It's stupid hard work, and I've found that I'm not very good at owning my stuff. It's about reflection and about being intentional, and all those ridiculous, cliche words in the memes I hate. I don’t believe for even a second that I would have this kind of perspective had I not started my job.  Some days I leave work and I want to cry. Some days I really DO cry. But I’m truly glad I’m there. If I’ve learned anything it’s that I can’t predict the future. This is certainly not at all where I thought I would be at 42 and I’m not at all sure where I’ll be in another 2 years. But I’m happy, and I’m learning something new every single day. And for now, that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

me, too.


When I was about 13 years old, I got my first bra. I didn’t really need it, but I was highly self-conscious, and also, I desperately wanted to be older and bigger than I was. The first day I wore it to school, no less than 4 boys pulled at the back strap of it, snapping it against my spine. It was hilarious to them. I went home that afternoon and I cried. When I finally started actually needing a bra, the boys I went to school with made it clear they’d noticed. Because they talked about my chest. In detail. To my face…as if that was the most natural, appropriate thing ever. I was maybe 15. The insides of my yearbooks from 7th to 12th grades are a great resource if you ever want to know the things that boys actually think about girls. At that age, they’re still too stupid to hide it, and it’s written all over the insides of those books. I won’t even let my girls look at the inscriptions when they open my yearbooks because some of them are just horrible. I truly didn’t know back then that it wasn’t really ok to speak to girls this way. I just assumed this was normal stuff.
When I was a sophomore, I skipped a class at school and got caught hanging out in the swimming pool area of the school by a security guard. It was quiet and I foolishly thought I wouldn’t be found as I hid out there. After he found me, he followed me into the girl’s bathroom and berated me.  Let me say that again. He followed me into the bathroom. No one else was in there. He assumed I hadn’t been alone and of course because I’m a girl, he assumed I’d been performing sex acts on whomever I was with. Because that’s what 15 year old girls just DO, don’t you know? He kept saying, “Your knees are dirty!” I wasn’t quite 16 yet, and I had never even seen a real penis at this point in my life. And yet, this grown man was standing in front of me, yelling at me, suggesting I’d been on my knees with a boy.
At 17, I was head over heels for a boy who actually told me that I was pretty much only good for one thing. And still? I let him take my virginity. At 19, I was called a whore by my boyfriend. More than once. I had been with ONE person before I met him. And, while I couldn’t say the same thing of him (he’d had plenty of other girlfriends) that made me a whore. One day, his own father made a lewd comment about my body in front of both of us. They both laughed and stared at me. I sat in uncomfortable silence not knowing how to stand up for myself in front of them. I didn’t know it wasn’t really ok to say things like that to girls. Not because I was raised by people who didn’t show me respect, or tell me right from wrong, but because it was so normal for me to hear these kinds of things, I just assumed that it was fine, or that somehow I must have deserved it.
I’ve been groped. I’ve been grabbed. I’ve been whistled at and cat called. I’ve been asked for my phone number on the street by strangers and then was yelled at and called a bitch when I refused and walked away. I’ve been called “baby”, “sexy”, “slut”. By complete strangers. When I worked in the bar business I heard this stuff constantly. Once, I was pulled over around 2am by two male police officers on my way home from work. They made me get out of the car to speak to them, which seemed odd to me. I knew they were actually looking for the boy I was dating at the time (another story for another time) and there was no need for them to ask me to exit my car.  That was, until one began making comments about my body and about my outfit. I was 22, and I was alone, and I was completely terrified. But I also knew that they thought they had something to hold over me, so I stayed quiet. Eventually, they let me go without as much as a warning, but by this time, I was starting to figure out that this would not have happened if I was a man.
This week’s rash of “Me, too” posts on Facebook has me thinking about how much this behavior toward women has been normalized in our society.  It’s made me dredge up these memories and more. The thing is, when I wrote the “Me, too” post on my own Facebook page, I could only think, “This seems really stupid for me to even write, haven’t we ALL been sexually harassed or assaulted in some form?” You guys. This is who we are. This is our normal. This it the culture in which I’m raising two daughters. And it is FUCKED UP. I actually feel lucky that I don’t have a rape story to tell. I feel lucky that I don’t have other, more horrible things I am unwilling to share. There are times I’ve actually caught myself saying or thinking, “I’m pretty lucky. All those situations I put myself in, I should have been ______.” Because my brain has been conditioned over the years to think that somehow, when a woman is assaulted, she must have deserved it. Things might have gone differently if only I’d not put myself in that situation. Think about that for a moment, please. That statement makes me cry.
So, Harvey Weinstein has brought women out of the woodwork who are willing to say that this kind of stuff has happened to them. It happens DAILY. And, yes, there is strength in those numbers. This is good, to call attention to the horrible behavior of some. And yet, how many times have you caught yourself saying, “I know, not ALL men are like that.” And how often this week have you read Facebook posts from men telling about how they are teaching their boys to do better? You know what? That’s because you SHOULD be teaching them to do better. It shouldn’t take a scandal like Weinstein’s to make you qualify how to treat a woman kindly and with the same respect YOU want for your sons.
We begin even before birth to put gender roles and expectations onto our children. We buy toys for our boys that we would never buy our girls, and vice versa (thankfully, this is one area I feel we got right in my own house), but in general this is STILL an issue in 2017. We raise our little girls to think that when a boy makes fun of her, he must really like her. Think about that. When a girl is teased at school, there are STILL people excusing this behavior, saying that the offender must really like her. These are the things we teach our girls and then we wonder why they won’t stand up for themselves? We wonder why they hide when terrible things have happened to them at the hands of the same boys who “must really like them”? This stuff has to change. We have to do better.
I am exhausted by this. I’m exhausted reading the myriad of posts by the amazing women in my life recounting and detailing the sexual harassment or assault that happened to them. It makes me physically ill to tell you that I can’t think of one single friend of mine who hasn’t experienced some form of sexual trauma. Not one. What’s worse is that I don’t know how to fix this for my girls. I don’t know how to protect them from something that I know is going to happen to them. And it’s not IF it’s going to happen, but when. We must do better. We must keep talking to our girls. We must keep encouraging them to stand up and to report the first signs of this kind of behavior. When a boy in your 7th grade class calls you a bitch? Report it. When that same kid corners you and berates you for reporting it? Report it again. Clearly no one told that kid how to behave, but I’m teaching my girls that NO ONE gets to hurt you and get away with it. The time of “boys will be boys” is over. When you know better, you do better. And we must do better.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

state of the union


I’ve been stewing all day about how to put my feelings into words. I can tell you that it’s not going to be pretty, but tonight I needed to sit and try to get some of this out of my head. More often than not recently, it seems like I’m talking to my children about some new ridiculousness that has happened in our country around race and inequality. Part of me wonders how in the actual fuck we got to this place, and the other part of me knows that just because there was a time we elected a black president doesn’t really mean that we ever really got to a different place. That is ever so clear today as I TWICE had to talk with the girls about racism, bigotry, and how I expect that they will call out this kind of inequity and ridiculous behavior as they come across it. Notice I didn’t say “if” they come across it. That ship has clearly sailed on.
Just last night I heard a story from friends who were at a charity fundraising event in THIS very city, where the woman speaking and encouraging people to spend their money actually said that they would take any kind of payment for items that evening, “but not Puerto Rican money.”  Um, so FIRST OF ALL, Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. Their currency IS our currency.  Even my 12 year old knew that. Secondly? The woman who actually uttered those words was once a pretty big part of that daughter’s life. Guess what? This is the exact kind of nastiness that doesn’t fly in my house. We are honest, and we are open, and I will tell these stories to my girls because it’s hateful and needs to be called out. I had several friends find her comment so disgusting and offensive that they actually left the event.  The worst part? This woman calls herself a Christian. She and I have long had political differences, but I’ve always taken her at her word that our differences are what make this country great, and we can still discuss them and respect each other. Not anymore. Making this country great has a new meaning these days, and good Christian values apparently only apply to white folk. I’m so bothered by this that I can’t even write anymore about it other than to tell you that I feel if people are giving their money to a charity, they should know it’s run by someone who thinks it’s ok to joke about a country full of citizens who don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes, and who are in dire need of our aid right now.  What would Jesus do? Oh, that’s right. HE was brown, too…
I’m tired of people saying and doing horrible things without being held accountable. Kids setting up red solo cups in the shape of a swastika? Disgusting.  A school’s administration choosing not to make examples out of those same girls involved in this heinous behavior? Gross. Adults making racist comments in public at a charity event? Shameful. People making terrible comments on social media from behind a computer screen? Shameful AND cowardly. I don’t consider myself a Christian. I was raised in the church and have plenty of reasons that I’m not a part of it now. But, the great thing is, I don’t have to be part of a church to be a kind and good human being. If you call yourself a Christian, at best you’d better behave like someone who has thought about what it means to love your neighbor. 
In my home, I’m teaching my children to call out racism and hatred. I’m teaching them that it’s NEVER ok to spread hate in any way, and that they should be the ones to stand up when they see discrimination happening toward or by their friends. We talk about privilege in this house, not because I think my children will fully understand what their privilege means until they get older and see more of the world, but because it’s the absolute right thing to do. Because I hope that one day these conversations we are having now will mean that they are the ones who stand up when others around them make jokes about the Holocaust. Or, they’ll be the ones to stop and say how fucked up it is when a grown adult makes racist remarks about people of color.
I am exhausted. Honestly some days I feel like a broken record and it makes me beyond sad to continue having these conversations, but still we have them. Last summer I took the girls to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. We walked through that powerful place and talked at length about what they were seeing. My girls sat at the Woolworth lunch counter. They stood next to the burned out bus that the Freedom Fighters rode in. They stood in the very place where Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life. They asked why I was crying when we got to that place in the museum, and I couldn’t even speak to them other than to say that there is a reason we stand up to hatred. There is a reason we continue to be kind people even when others aren’t. We might not understand the power of it, or the importance of it at the time, but people died standing up for these things. Isn’t that enough?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lucy at 12.



Dear Lucy,


I’ve run the gamut of emotions this week. From, “how could she be 12?!” to, “where did the time go?!” and all of those typical things that happen at birthdays. I think my emotional state has been complicated, too, by your friends leaving for France today. I know you’ve been emotional about that, too.  Just last night you said, in the same breath, “I’m so glad I’m not going to France, but all my friends are leaving me!” It’s tricky, really, and I want you to know that it’s weighing on me as well. We knew fairly early on that an overseas trip for you in 6th grade probably wouldn’t happen. Your struggles with worries and anxiety started early, and over the years your dad and I talked about whether or not you’d be able to make a trip like this. Recently, I heard you telling your cousins that your friends were leaving on this trip, and you said, “Oh, I have anxiety. There’s NO WAY I could take a trip to France.” 

I want to acknowledge how cool it is that you know yourself enough to say something like that. You know your limits, and you’re not afraid to tell people about that stuff. That makes you pretty amazing, I think. I also think that you need to give yourself credit for something else you said last night to me. You told me that if you were the same person at the beginning of 6th grade as you are now, you’d have fought harder to go on this trip. I agree. You have grown in so many ways this year, and I’m glad you can see that, too. No longer do you have bouts of panic attacks. No longer do big changes affect you in the same ways. You’ve learned over the years to name the stuff that makes you worried, or nervous, and that is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. That’s not to say you’re done with anxiety or worrying about stuff. Hardly. Hello, you have my DNA running through your body.  It’s just to say that this is the year you figured out how to use those tools you’ve worked so hard on to learn. I’m proud of you for that.

For me, today has been bittersweet. Looking at photos of the kids you’ve been in school with for the last seven years carrying luggage, and boarding airplanes has been hard for me. One of the things we knew when we were lucky enough to get a spot in your school was that this day would eventually be here. We knew early on, a 2 week trip to France might be the right choice for you, but I never thought it would be so hard for me. I think the hardest part is this: I have one chance to make certain choices for you in your life. I have one chance to do this mothering thing the “right” way. No one tells you how hard it will be to make these kinds of huge decisions, and there will be plenty of them. No one tells you that you need to be willing to sit with your crying child at 10pm the night before this big trip, and rock her while she says how sad it makes her that she’s not going.  No one tells you how hard it will be to hear other parent’s opinions of the choices you’ve puzzled over for years, and to not second guess all of those hard decisions you’ve weighed so heavily. 

“You’re NOT sending her?” 

“She’s going to have to grow up someday!”

“She’ll be FINE.”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not ready to put you on a plane by yourself on a flight to Paris. I’m not ready to have you spend two weeks with a family I’ll likely never meet. Maybe I don’t think you’re quite ready to handle money, and schedules, and being away for that long. Maybe that makes me a shitty mom. Maybe that makes me overprotective and weird. But also? Maybe it means that your dad and I know who you were, and now you know who you ARE. Maybe it means that someday soon you’ll be ready for something like this. I don’t know. But, I do know this. At 12 you know yourself better than some people will know themselves in a lifetime. I am so proud to be your mama.