August 14, 2017

Still Standing

It seems I’m always late, always a half-click behind, and I hurriedly keyed in the code to pick up my then 3 year-old from childcare. Her teacher greets me and says There was a little bit of problem today.

I gulp hard: it seems my little girl came to the rescue of a classmate who was being teased, and evidently, she was pretty upset but the teacher calmed her down.

I could get on board with that type of problem. 

We talked about it on the way home. Her tiny voice strained as she choked back tears Mom, they just kept calling her [her classmate] a baby…and, made me SO mad I just started screaming STOP, LEAVE HER ALONE!

To this day I can’t remember teaching her to do specifically that – to step in for kids who are being bullied. But in that moment, I just thanked God for sending her to us with that kind of heart and prayed she’d always carry that softness for others within her.

Over ten some-odd years later, she has.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The chaos, horror and hatred of Charlottesville is a thick sticky blanket of shadowy darkness that's still lingering over me.
I’ve been trying to dissect what I’ve known for some time now: that hate and racism still pulsate throughout systems, media, songs – and people. I know this, and yet seeing it march down a street torches blazing, distorting faces with its ugly pride, send a chill down my spine.
I was tempted to break from the coverage when my now teen daughter walked in the room, but I left it on. She was appropriately disgusted and then nonchalantly said Oh yeah, that reminds me… and proceeded to tell me about how she and her uncle had vile words hurled at them earlier in the week.

Gravity pulled on my shoulders and a new level of exhaustion set in. I knew this day would come, had talked to her about it long before, but…dammit. Just dammit.
She was no worse for the wear and shrugged it off. Maybe our previous talks had worked a little too well.

Even as I kept my mama bear instinct at bay, I couldn't help but think If people knew this kind of stuff actually happens to people they know who walk a path different from theirs, they’d be outraged. Certainly, if they knew my daughter -- this sweet, funny and kind kid -- they’d want to stick up for her.
Like she stood up for her classmate all those years ago.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hours later, a 32-year-old woman who was a counter protester was killed in a terrorist attack spurred by the day’s rally.
My stomach twisted at the thought of that woman’s mother and the nightmare she was going through at that moment.

Was she remembering seeing the spark of her kid being a fighter for other kids? Was she thinking of her own nervousness when her daughter told her that she was headed to Charlottesville to stand up for what’s right?
We tell our kids to do the right thing, but I don’t know if we consider what the cost might be. I definitely didn’t all those years ago when I was thanking God for my daughter’s heart and asking Him to preserve it.
And I don’t know where we go from here, but maybe a start would be standing up for each other.

Not just for the sweet, funny and kind people we know, but also for the people we don't know who are exhausted daily simply from living because others who don't like their skin, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation make their life hard.
Chances are, those same people would stand up for us.


April 25, 2017

It's a Really Short Season

The powder blue rental bikes are soldiers lined up in formation under a clear, spring sky waiting for twenty-something singles, newlyweds, families with kids who have long ago ditched training wheels, empty-nesters, and those with broken marriages, broken homes and broken dreams.

They wait to be used for a slowed down exploration of the life that, up until now, had been under the grips of a long, dormant, cold season. They seem to understand that the cycle of sun, warmth and rain has brought to fruition blooming and reawakening.

For a minute, I think I hear them say:
Push one pedal, push another and feel your knees do what they were created to do with each revolution. No one is behind you honking and in a hurry to pass on to the next thing. Go ahead, squeeze the brakes. Stop. Now look – and actually see – what you’ve been missing while driving.
This season is shorter than you think.
For many years, my car was being wife, mother, clocking in, clocking out and trying to create a reasonably perfect marriage, childhood for our daughter and household for our family.

I was whizzing by genuine memories when I was en route to perfect, manufactured memories. Driving with windows up, I never felt harsh weather, but I didn’t feel warm spring breezes or breathe in the signature smells of April showers.

I had almost stopped exploring -- much less even looking -- because I believed there was no new ground to be covered. Each day had its destinations, time of arrival and time of departure. Good conversations, belly laughs and just being were infrequent detours.

Days fused into weeks, weeks into months and months into years.

Seasons passed.

I was changing my daughter’s diapers one day and having “the talk” about periods and puberty the next. One week my husband and I were planning an impromptu vacation detour and the next week we were talking retirement options.

One minute, I realized I’d have to begin having annual mammograms in ten years. I blinked and in the next minute, I was in a doctor’s office waiting…wondering if everything was normal. The nurse told me I’d either get a phone call if something was “off” or, a postcard if there were no abnormalities.

I had never wanted to receive a postcard as much as I did that day.

In the in between time of waiting, I thought about missed seasons and the incidental moments of goofy-ness that seemed like roadblocks. The heart-to-heart girlfriend conversations cut short because of the itinerary’s pull. There were more missed opportunities for exploring than I could – or wanted to – recount.

And then just like that, the postcard arrived.

April 12, 2017

About The Bananas...Kind of

It started with the bananas. It always does.

They had been receptive to bananas for a while, my daughter and husband. Me too, if I was being honest. But our romance with the bananas began to fade as did the fruit's once creamy yellow skin.

Eat these bananas soon! announced my husband as if someone in the house must surely still love them. These bananas are going bad! Someone needs to eat them before they do! As if he wasn’t a ‘someone' who could eat them.

I lied and said it was my full intention to make banana bread out of what now looked like October leaves. They were beyond dead; and I trashed them with a wince, thinking of how my mother loathed waste.

A giggle barged into my wince as I thought of a dear friend who often said he was so old, he didn’t even buy green bananas.

The thing they don’t tell you about October leaves-bananas is that they attract fruit flies. And after you toss the bananas, the fruit flies stay…I don’t know why, maybe they’re hoping to resurrect the romance so carelessly tossed away.

This sent me to my local hardware store in search of a fruit fly catcher thingee.

Hardware stores aren’t my favorite place to be to begin with. There are thousands of aisles loaded floor to ceiling with eight million different nails, all set aglow by eerie orange fluorescent lights that buzz in time to muzak while the scent of nondescript timber wafts over my being.

At least that’s how it felt. Maybe that’s why I was so easily distracted by the daffodil bulbs on the aisle endcaps.

How long had I been threatening to plant daffodils? Three? Five? Seven years? Didn’t matter. All I knew is that every year I’d find myself in the backyard with muddied knees and then day-after strained hamstrings from planting annuals for hours when I should’ve planted perennials. Like daffodils.

At ten bucks a bag, they were worth it. I bought them, planted them and dared any neighborhood squirrel to even think about digging them up. I figured they’d shoot up in April or May and from that time forth, I couldn’t wait to wait out the long Wisconsin winter and see my handiwork.

I’m so old I don’t even buy green bananas I suddenly heard my friend say.

Now I’m not old, but as my waste-loathing mother would say: tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Just ask Charlie Murphy, Prince Glen Frey, Tray Walker, Chyna, Phife Dawg and…on second thought, don’t ask.

Green bananas aren't a smart buy after all.

Soon enough, the temps warmed and coaxed green sprouts into bursting forth through thawing soil. It was spring in Wisconsin, which meant the warm weather turned to freezing in a day’s time. I beseeched my husband to save my soon-to-be-babies by covering them until the weather would be kind to them. He did.

A few days ago, I felt the time was right and carefully rolled back their covering.

They were surviving and flourishing. I was here to see it; and, I was grateful in a way I hadn’t been in a long while.

But it all started with the bananas. It always does.

April 1, 2017

Here's to Mud in Our Eyes

File this one under Understanding Stuff a Week After it Happens.

At first glance, last Sunday’s sermon about the story of Jesus healing a blind man in an unconventional way (as if there’s a conventional way to restore sight) was about a miracle...and mud.

But I think there’s more to this miraculous story that speaks to everyone, regardless of belief in the story or faith, or no faith at all.

If you’re unfamiliar, here it is:
Blind Guy is poor, looked down upon by everyone. The Bible doesn’t even say his name – he’s just BLIND GUY. Anyway, Blind Guy is disenfranchised because somehow, someway society back then believed his blindness was probably deserved for something his parents did or something he did. (Some things never change: how are the poor, refugee, immigrant and ‘other’ viewed today?)
Enough editorializing. I’ll go on.
Anyway, Blind Guy is so desperate and without dignity, he’ll ask anyone for help – including Jesus, Who in turn spits on the ground, mixes up a mud pie, and puts it on the guy’s eyes. Nice. Blind Guy is okay with mud IN HIS EYES.
Then Jesus tells the guy to go wash off Eye Mud Pie in a specific pond. Really? Somehow, Blind Guy stumbles his way to the pond, washes Eye Mud Pie off, and viola, he can see.
I can see, y'all!

Back to last Sunday.

While pastor was talking about the symbolism of Jesus using mud, I was sitting there wholly identifying with Blind Guy and thinking holycrap (no pun intended): would I have been okay with that? Like, from hearing Someone spitting, to Eye Mud Pie ON MY FACE and being told to walk with said Eye Mud Pie through the village, past everyone who thinks I’m ‘less-than’ whilst they make fun of me, to finding a specific pond when all I wanted was sight?

No thank you, Sir. I'll happily stay in the dark, please.
And I couldn’t shake the thought of it all week. If Blind Guy had said No, I’m not about all that; he would’ve been in the dark till his dying day.

That's when it dawned on me: the healing was on Jesus -- ALL Jesus; but the Eye Mud Pie path to healing? That was on Blind Guy and his willingness to walk that muddy, embarrassing path.

Then, I preached my own sermon to myself. How often have I said a loud NOPE and put the brakes on in potentially crazy situations when those potentially crazy situations were (unbeknownst to me) temporary and might’ve been the way out and into clarity? Yikes.

Even in the current political climate, no matter on what side of the fence you sit, you gotta admit that this is a crazy, unbelievable time. What if the way out of it is to actually go through it? Nudge each other and reassure each other, yes. Tell each other that No, we aren’t crazy – we heard the same word salad, and we’ll call out future word salads along the way.

But maybe, just maybe this muddy, embarrassing path might be the path that gets us all out of the darkness and into the light again.

So, cheers everybody. Let's all raise a glass to mud in our eyes. I have a feeling we're gonna need it.