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God Bless America (where we can stand -or kneel – for what we believe in)

Last week during a high school football game in our school district, a student knelt during the national anthem. As a result, someone made incredibly hateful, bigoted comments about him on social media. This has been on my mind and heart since I heard about it and while I know there are plenty of voices already vying for air time on this topic, I feel compelled to show my support. It is terrifying to put yourself out there in a public way when your opinion is controversial. To the boy who knelt: I applaud your courage and am going to make myself uncomfortable in an effort to follow your example.

To the person who made the comments: Congratulations. You successfully validated this boy’s actions and drew attention to the very problem he tried to highlight.

I am in awe of the guts and sacrifice it must take to serve in the military. I respect and deeply appreciate the sacrifices military members and their families make. That said, the national anthem isn’t all about service members; it’s about showing our love for our country. I am desperately grateful to call the United States of America my home, but I don’t think all is right with this country.

Kneeling is hardly the equivalent of flipping the bird. In fact, I consider it a gesture similar to removing one’s hat and saying, “with all due respect.” And folks have every right to do that. The fact is that this country is not a hospitable place for many people. THOUSANDS of hate crimes are committed every year, and that’s just what is reported (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015-hate-crime-statistics-released).  People are verbally assaulted every day, too, perpetuating fear and anger and more crime. In a country where we recall items that cause injury to a handful of people and hear about them on the news for days, how can we continue to ignore something that hurts so many? There is absolutely a problem. And we can’t begin to address it until it is acknowledged. Kneeling is a way for people to acknowledge that they have had a different experience here. It’s not all victory and opportunity. We can debate all we want about whether they chose a proper way to bring attention to this problem, but what WOULD be the proper way? It is peaceful, visible and legal.

Those of us who feel strongly need to show our love and support. And if you feel that kneeling is unacceptably disrespectful – have a real conversation with someone who feels differently. You might not change each others minds, but respectful discussion on both sides of an issue is just one of the valuable perks of being an American. We should celebrate that freedom.

Again, to the boy I mentioned, I am so sorry you were on the receiving end of that nastiness. Please know that many people support you.

God bless.

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Making Memories: Is there a recipe?

This morning my daughter and I made sugar cookies. Later, I mentioned it to my dear friend and she remarked encouragingly that I had “made a great memory” for her. I’d been reflecting on memories already so her comment sent me to my computer.

I hear parents say all the time that they want to create great memories for their children, or some variation of that sentiment. It makes sense. We all want to give our kids rich experiences and we want them to remember good times. For a lot of people, that’s just an expression, but I think some folks can get pretty caught up in this idea that they have to go out of their way to plan experiences for kids and perhaps even feel guilty if they haven’t done “enough.” I’m not justifying bad parenting. I also know there are many other reasons to give children varied, great experiences and I’m not addressing those. I’m talking to the parents who are feeling lousy because they can’t afford that trip to Disney, didn’t sign the kids up for some activity or don’t quite have the energy for a five-course breakfast on Christmas morning. Take heart; we have little control over memories, anyway.

As the idea for this post marinated, I tried to come up with the things that made the biggest impression on me from childhood. It was interesting to see what surfaced. Of course I remember some things that my parents planned or traditions we observed. But memories are strange things. They’re dreamlike, only not quite. They seem to float around in my mind and yet can be so weighty. I have a hard time coming up with other adjectives to describe them, even after an embarrassingly long time with the thesaurus. Why do we remember some things and not others? We can’t choose the things that will loom large in our kids’ memories or how they’ll remember them.

I remember looking out of the car window on a dark, quiet moment one Christmas Eve at glowing luminarias.

I remember sitting on our back patio on a hot, sunny day with my much older siblings while they listened to U2 and Midnight Oil.

I remember shooting rubber bands across the street with my friends in a brutal war against the neighborhood boys.

I remember walks with my Dad, discovering rocks and having quiet talks and special just-me-and-mom breakfasts with hot chocolate and whipped cream.

These and scores of other small memories and a few big ones collectively help me frame my past. Often, they are not so much about any particular experience, but about the feeling that experience evoked: Profound, grown up, part of something, loved.

In our home I want to focus on positivity; to give my girls a peaceful and happy space in which to make their own memories (hmm… might need to work on my irritability). I hope that their collective memories will point to a childhood that felt secure and full of love. It’s still one of our family goals to get out and do fun things more often but experience tells me that I can’t control what they’ll remember, so I’m not going to waste time fretting over it. I figure the best way to make good memories is to live in the moment.

 

 

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Un-making up for Lost Time

Hair

Honesty is important to me. I try to be as honest as possible with other people and with myself (which is trickier). Like so many of my fellow-females (wait, is that an oxymoron?), I started using makeup as a young teenager. I used it to “hide” my acne (hahahaha!). (Also, I’m really feeling the parentheses today.) I continued to use it into my early adulthood, wasting money and precious time to make myself look different. I’ve never been a spend-hours-on-your-face-and-hair type. I always liked a natural look and I had fun with makeup, but that stuff can be insidious. Marketing makes a big impression on young people. Marketing, culture, and eventually habit brought me to a place where I didn’t feel comfortable without makeup and indeed I felt that it improved my appearance. Over the last ten years, I’ve used less and less and often go entirely without it. I feel GREAT about that. My hair has started to gray, too. I refuse to dye it. This isn’t a judgmental, finger-wagging kind of post; it’s just that this all feels incredibly liberating and so, for all you ladies who are on the fence, I want to share a few of my feelings about going the natural route:

  1. It’s honest. This is the face I was given. It has melasma and sometimes acne, despite that I’m in my thirties. It has a few wrinkles. I can’t say that I look at those things and feel a rush of love and joy, but I’m learning to appreciate them because they’re real. I do still try to address them in healthy and natural ways, but in the meantime, they are what they are.
  2. This is the big one: I have daughters. I want to be real and unaffected for my girls in the hope that they will incorporate that honesty in all kinds of ways. My mother certainly did that for me. I know they will probably go through a makeup-crazy stage. As a mother, though, it kills me that they could spend years doing something that they think will make them feel better about themselves but which actually could be a detriment to their self-confidence when they present their real, beautiful faces to the world. I want them to love themselves, cliche as that might sound. At the same time, most of us need to get outside of ourselves a bit. Narcissism is not cool. When you make a decision not to make yourself up, you have to hold your head high and decide that it’s really none of your business what anyone else thinks about the way you look.  Everyone knows the pat adages about “inner-beauty” but I pray that my children will understand in a real way that physical beauty should not be confused with personal worth; not for themselves and not for anyone else. Also, we people can be layered and dishonest and you can’t always take us at face-value (I can’t resist the urge to point out my super-witty puns, here) and I NEVER want them to have to worry about that with me.
  3. It feels healthier. I try to use simple and natural products, as many of you probably do. I don’t like putting things on my face or body that have a list of unpronounceable ingredients as long as my arm.
  4. It suits my minimalist (lazy) leanings. I like to keep things simple. Just makes me happier.
  5. One last consideration for anyone considering ditching their makeup routine: it will probably improve your skin and/or hair health, which means you get all the benefits of makeup and hair crap without actually buying or using any of that stuff! It’s a mad world ;).

And here I am – makeup free. Not gonna lie, though – this is flattering light!

Sarah 9.2017

 

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On Rare Moments Alone

Alone

Like so many parents, I seldom have time alone.  I love my kiddos, even like them, but I’m an introvert and the relentless noise of childhood and the availability my children require of me can take their toll. My fantastic husband knows me well and encourages me to get out of the house by myself when I can. Still, quality time – even if it’s just with oneself  – takes a certain energy. Often, I wind up at some store or another despite the fact that I hate shopping. I know that a walk around the lake, time to read or pray or write, even exercise would be much more refreshing but I just can’t quite bring myself to do those things when I’m already burned out. But, I digress.

Even when they aren’t spa-like and zen, I need those moments when I’m not physically responsible for another person. Surprisingly, I often find these times most directly impact me physically. The feeling I have when I can walk at normal speed, when my hands aren’t ushering and guiding little backs and my head is not inclined toward a baby on my hip… it’s wonderful. I know that those experiences are gifts, too; that they are precious and short-lived. But I have such an unexpected sense of self when I can square my shoulders and enjoy unrestricted movement; although, I suspect it will be a long time before I can be alone without the occasional, sudden rush of fear and adrenaline as I wonder for a split-second where my child is.

Even if I don’t exactly feel like a new woman when I come home from these field trips, it is good to remember who I am apart from my kids. I feel vaguely guilty saying that, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I feel a little like I shouldn’t have an identity apart from them. I do, though. Of course, they are a huge part of who I am and I believe that mothering has deepened and stretched me but it isn’t all of me. I want to teach my girls to embrace who they are and use their unique personalities for good, so remembering my own doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

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My Grandma’s Fake Pearls

PearlsI am blessed to have quite a few items in my home from loved ones. The items themselves, of course, are not so important, but the memories and feelings that they invoke are very dear to me. Most of these things are in view every day and to be honest, I forget to cherish them, to remember what they represent.

There is one item, however, that never fails to reach me. I love the long strand of fake pearls from my grandma, who has been gone a few years, now. I love their soft sheen and smooth weight. I love the sound they make. I don’t know how long she owned them or how often she wore them, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t something that I would usually wear, so putting them on is always intentional. The unfamiliar feeling of the pearls wrapped around my wrist or hanging from my neck brings me back to them again and again, reminding me of Grandma.

My daughter wore her “pearls” today to “get married” (she is six 🙂 ) and wanted me to match. So I am wearing Grandma’s pearls and feel the need to thank her for reminding me to be intentional – to notice the special in everything. My spirit has been dulled to the beauty in my every day for some time and I know that there is choice in that. I even forget to relish the big things – inexplicably choosing to allow my mood to snuff out my positivity. So today I choose to take my time and focus on the luxury of coffee in a beautiful mug instead of on my irritability as I take cold sips between kid fussing and feeding. I’ll stop to feel the simple joy in the act of scrawling something on a piece of paper – even if it’s just a grocery list (if you love writing, you’ll understand) and all those other conveniences which make me truly spoiled. Mostly, though, I will take joy in my kids and husband, for them and for me.

All my love, Grandma.

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No-Niche Moms

I manage to stumble across multiple mom blogs each week, without even looking for them (thanks, Facebook). Some of them are better than others, but to me it seems that almost all cater to a stereotypical mom – whether she stays at home or works. There are ideas for that mom who has it all together and is rocking the mom thing for her perfectly-photographed brood. There are posts urging the mom who is struggling to hang in there – reassuring her that things will be different soon – and a handful of other themes. I can appreciate some of these posts, but I never feel like I’m the intended audience, exactly, and I think many moms can relate.

Part of the reason for this is the blog medium. Writers tend to romanticize things because they want to make them appealing, sweet, witty, whatever. This is paradoxically engaging and alienating. And readers happily take those cues. More than that, we take reading between the lines way too far. Maybe you read the simple words “play room” and conjured a sun-soaked, white space with a few tasteful toys and hip art on the walls (I know you’re filling in the blanks right now!). And perhaps that’s accurate. But, more likely, “play room” means the messiest room in the house in desperate need of new carpet. Even if it is a serendipitous place, in my experience real life never feels like a  glossy magazine spread. We might be able to set the stage and there can be value in that but the sought-after bliss is either fleeting or entirely absent because that just isn’t the stuff of true and deep satisfaction.

Here’s some of my real: I don’t have a niche. I stay at home. I keep up with the chores. I love my husband and children more than I can say. I read to my kids and take them outside to play and make pretty decent dinners (but not often enough). I love being in my yard. I also look at my phone too often, sometimes wish those same kids would bugger off and waste lots of time thinking about how I should probably meal plan (so much time that I miss my window of opportunity to actually go to the grocery store). My little house looks messy a lot despite my efforts to keep it neat. I long for a little romance. I pray and thank God often for this gorgeous life but my spirituality is a bit hard to find these days. Some days it’s tough to get out of bed. I know my problems are first-world. Forgive my self-indulgence, but I’m trying to be as honest as possible.

I am blessed to have lovely and wonderful friends, but none of them who live close stay at home right now. I’m the kind of home body who needs motivation or accountability to get out the door and some meaningful conversation to keep things interesting. I know that life won’t mold to a fantasy so I am not desperately seeking an ideal; I’m just trying to find satisfaction in the everyday. And I do find it in bits and pieces. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, but this season happens to be hard for me, too. Being at home makes many things easier but it takes a different kind of discipline than working. I’ve done it both ways and respect the challenges for each path.

So whether you work or stay at home, if you are feeling a lot blessed but also a little overwhelmed, a little isolated, a lot tired, a little like you should be enjoying things more but you can’t quite get there – this post is simply my fist raised in solidarity. I don’t have much advice, except that if you have that just-finished-watching-a-rom-com taste in your mouth every time you read a parenting blog, remember that a few words on a screen do not and cannot fully represent a person’s life or their feelings about that life. Even when we already know that, I think the overall impression can add to our feelings of discontent. And if any of you are in a particularly sweet and wonderful season – that is awesome! I’ve been there, too and have faith that I will be again. But even if not – this struggle is a GOOD struggle and there is satisfaction here, too.

Mom on.

 

 

Spirituality · Uncategorized

What difference does it make?

Some time back, someone whom I love and respect whose spiritual views are very different from mine asked me what difference my faith made to me. I gave her an inadequate and inarticulate answer about hope. Once in a while that conversation comes to mind and irritates me. I’m not promising a magical answer here, either, but I want to address a few things that I failed to convey then.

A lot of people claim that God makes their life better without qualifying the statement. Others seem to work really hard to qualify it, pointing to his supernatural influence as the thing that got them a new job, perhaps, or a clean bill of health after an illness. I am not here to disagree with them; I’m not in their shoes. Usually, though, that’s not how I feel about my interactions with the divine.

So, how does my faith enrich my life?

  • The most important thing I can say is that it doesn’t fix my life in the short term. I can’t objectively judge what God has effected in my life because his hand is not always visible to me. So maybe he has made my life easier and better in ways I’m not aware of, but I still struggle to not let depression get the better of me, to motivate myself to do the stuff of daily living, to build relationships and show love. Bad things happen and will continue to happen. But you know that desperate feeling that life is not as it should be? That restless, almost angry stirring that says you should be feeling another way that you try really hard to suppress with worldly distractions? I still have that feeling a lot and still occasionally try to buy or exercise or plan or volunteer my way out of it. But I know that it won’t work. And this is where I find comfort: I believe that I DO know where that feeling comes from and what will ultimately fix it. I will continue to experience it here, but I don’t seek its resolution in the same unhealthy ways I might if I didn’t believe the way I do. I’m also not destroyed when I recognize the futility of those efforts because I already knew they were futile, but I believe that the thing I’m missing IS obtainable after death. Waiting still stinks, though. 🙂
  • This seems off-subject, but to relate the meaning that faith holds for me, I need to address two things about Christianity which often concern people: the biblical assertion that Christ is the only way and the related concept of Hell. I understand why these topics upset people – they absolutely ARE upsetting. My view of faith is dependent on God’s goodness and I don’t believe these apparent hang-ups are obstacles to that goodness. These views likely won’t sway people who don’t already have Christian sympathies and they aren’t unique or revolutionary, but maybe they will be another perspective for someone struggling to reconcile these facets of the religion with their faith. To be clear, though, I may be way off-base. I am not the one who defines goodness, so while I seek truth and have feelings on the matter, I’m no authority.
    • Many of my more conservative friends will passionately disagree with me, but while I believe Christ is the only way, I don’t believe that looks the same to all people. I think it entirely probable that acknowledgment and acceptance of Christ can even happen when the person doesn’t know him by that name. This is not a post-modern or universalist assertion. But I think Christ affects us all individually, quite outside of human religious constructs. I think it is presumptuous to assume that Christ couldn’t reveal himself in a completely different way to someone whose life experience and soul is different from mine. Bottom line: I don’t know, but I do trust God’s goodness.
    • Hell is one of those things that is still largely mysterious to me. I haven’t read anything in the Bible that gives me a solid grasp. What I do believe is that God created humanity and the world we live in. I believe that he cares about that creation and hates what hurts it. I trust that if my soul is so polluted that it would threaten the goodness of his creation, he won’t allow me to continue beyond this life. I also believe that separation from God would be unbearably painful.

Thank you for letting me define the fruits of my faith in a small way. Feel free to weigh in, disagree, agree, whatever floats your boat – as long as you keep it kind. Happy Tuesday!