Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey (A Book Review)

In April of 2014, I was introduced to the writing of Sarah Bessey through her book Jesus Feminist. I was intrigued, like most people I suppose by its title, but I was skeptical. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often disappointed in books and music hyped by the Christian community. Many times, I feel like people are using Jesus to market watered-down, mediocre art. Oh, was I supposed to sugarcoat things? I’m not good at that.
After reading Jesus Feminist, I had so much respect for Sarah because she said things out loud that aren’t popular in certain Christian circles (and took some serious flak from people who apparently aren't aware that other people can read what they write on the internet). At the time, I was part of a thriving congregation in Olympia, WA, where many of the "issues" she addressed weren’t really issues anymore. I’d moved away from some of the damaging teachings from my past that encouraged gender-based discrimination within the church into a family of believers that saw the image of God in me with no regard to my genitalia. 
I walked away from Jesus Feminist with three thoughts: 1) thank goodness I no longer live in bondage to some of the theology that she challenges, 2) thank goodness someone is saying these things because I know so many people who need to hear them, and 3) this girl better write more books.
Fast forward a year, and there were rumors of another book. I found out through being on Sarah Bessey’s email list that she was looking for a “launch team” to help her spread the word. The benefit is that I got the advanced reader’s copy a few months before the book release.


I've been advertising all over town in my launch team shirt.
Plenty of interesting conversations around these words.
Our family had moved to a new town and decided to attend the church closest to our home, the church connected to the school our kids attended. This made sense and fit in with our new-ish take on “church shopping” (what can be a terrible experience for military families), which was that we weren’t going to shop at all. We would be a part of our neighborhood church, and unless they were handling snakes or straight up hateful, we would as Tim Gunn says “make it work.” Not to hit the punchline too soon, but word of wisdom: there is probably a happy medium somewhere between “go to the closest church” and “shop for the ‘perfect’ church.”
We are not people who need a perfect church because perfection and humanity are not friends. As long as there are humans involved—well, there’s a possibility things won’t be perfect. I should say this—the people at our church are pretty lovely. We love our Sunday school class, which is full of other parents who have become our friends as we’ve studied the Bible and ways to be better parents together. The church leadership is always friendly. Interacting with the congregation at potlucks and service projects has been delightful. We actually never have and probably never will have a problem with the people.

The problems came when we started seeing “dealbreakers” that weren’t as extreme as handling snakes and hating people. Our kids were really upset when they learned this particular denomination has a closed communion table, one that was not open to them. We started looking around and realizing that there weren’t many women serving at the decision-making level, which is how we learned that this denomination does not ordain female pastors. It had been about ten years since I was part of a worship community that held these sorts of beliefs, so I wasn’t even sure how to approach the subject. I still don’t know what to do with this information. And honestly, I’ve been so settled on this issue theologically for so long that I’m kind of baffled as to why I would even need to have this conversation. So, here we are—surrounded by people we really like and/or love at a church where we want to engage, but what now? Do I have more deal breakers than I thought?
In a few words, I would say, I’m feeling:
In Sarah’s new book, which releases November 3rd, she talks about that tension we feel as our faith changes. She asks hard questions and doesn’t necessarily give all the answers. I read the book in one sitting (with a short nighttime nap of six hours in the middle) and felt like I was having tea with a friend to talk about my doubts and fears, about the things that make me angry, about the things I need to let go. Aside from having tiny personal epiphanies and revelations along the way, I also enjoyed (as I always do) reading someone else’s story. Sarah weaves her personal narrative seamlessly with her thoughtful theology.

I am so honored to be part of the team of midwives (and a couple midhusbands) helping to birth this baby because I know I have friends interested in reading Out of Sorts. Like right this second. The bad news is you’ll have to pre-order because it releases next Tuesday. The good news is that you can read the first four chapters FOR FREE by clicking here!
I would love to hear some feedback from all my friends—how does this book challenge the parts of your faith that feel settled? How does it affirm the parts that are evolving? I know that I’m not the only one out there feeling tension as I navigate what faith means for me and my family because I have conversations about it ALL THE TIME. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has considered faith at all. Well, except those of you who have it all figured out already.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Musings: Short and Not Really Sweet

Let me just cut to the chase. I hate everything right now.

For those of you who have only known me for a short time, I’ll point you to this sad post about my ongoing back issues. Suffice it to say my back is way out of whack again—a combination of resuming my regular work schedule since the kids went back to school (which involves sitting in a position that exacerbates the pain) and sleeping in strange beds for back to back conferences.

I’m doing all the things—massage, chiropractor, heat, cold, stretching, yoga, pain medication, head pulling (like I lie on a bed, and my mom tries to yank my head off)—in fact, the routine I’m in right now is ridiculous and consumes my day. 

I was proactive this summer and scheduled an MRI. It took three weeks for them to get me in for the appointment, after which I was to wait until someone called me for a follow up. I waited…and waited…and waited…and waited…(do that for like 28 more days) and finally called to schedule the follow up despite having never been called by the doctor’s office. SPECIAL.

So, I finally got an appointment…FOR OCTOBER 30TH. Yep, that’s the soonest they could get me in with the doctor who ordered the MRI. To be fair, they offered to schedule me with a different provider on the 16th, but this ain’t my first rodeo, and I know that adding another human to this process is not going to help. (Plus, I’ll be out of town that day anyway.)

So. I’m in pain all the time, and I just have to live with it for another month at the very least. And by live with it, I mean devote hours a day to trying to not be in pain.

Let’s talk about something better, yes? Because I don’t actually hate everything right now. In fact, here are a few things I love.

Someone in my friends list posted this, and YES YES YES!
I am still in purge mode and see no real end in sight.

Two: I failed at my mission to finish all the unfinished books I was reading and only have a couple going at once. This is my current stack:

See that one at the top? Mosquitoland by David Arnold. GO OUT RIGHT NOW AND BUY IT AND READ IT IMMEDIATELY. I’m not joking. This is a matter of utmost importance. I’m only 1/3 done with it, but it’s my favorite book I’ve read this year. 

Three: Ben came home from school today and told me that some girls were being mean on the playground to a kindergartener—making fun of her because she doesn’t know all her letters and numbers. He told me he told them to stop because she’s in kindergarten, and she’s not even supposed to know all that stuff yet. I hugged him and told him I was so proud of him for standing up for that little girl. I told him that I know it’s hard sometimes to be the only one to speak up. He said, “I wasn’t the only one. After I said it, Jacob and Catch stood with me and said the same thing.” 

This all comes on the heels of a conversation/confrontation I overheard on field day last week when a boy from Will’s class was calling another kid gay derogatorily. When the kid started yelling, “I’m not gay!” Will immediately stepped in and said, “STOP! He’s not gay, and even if he was, that’s not an insult. You shouldn’t make fun of people who are gay.”

So, basically, I thought I loved my children as much as humanly possible, but I was wrong. Apparently, I am doing something right if they both feel confident in sticking up for the kids who are getting bullied (which makes me feel a little better about shouting at them to bring me stuff like Gilbert Grape’s mom while I’m laid up in bed with a bad back).

Happy Monday, friends!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Musings: All the Feelings

This last week was a mixed bag of pleasure and pain. Last week, I told you how I’d been celebrating my birthday for about a month, working to complete 35 acts of kindness in honor of the 35 years I’ve been dancing across this planet. My village showed up BIG TIME when I asked them to join me in supporting Somebody’s Mama’s current project. I spent all morning writing thank you cards to people who helped me raise $496! Believe me when I say that every single dollar of that feels like a tiny miracle.

What I wanted most for a present this year was to go to the SCBWI Midsouth conference in Franklin, TN. It came highly recommended by my writing partner, Katie, who road tripped down to TN with me. Without going into too much detail about what these conferences are like—my intention when I go is three-fold: learn about craft, network with other writers, and receive feedback about what I need to do to write the best books.
My writing partner, Katie, and our new friend, David. Everyone needs to
run to the store (or pull up your Kindle app) and buy/read David's book Mosquitoland.
I don't have the words for this book right now. It's just some kind of
special genius. Aaaaaaaad David is like...Santa Claus nice. 
I came away from the conference feeling happy and sad. I've been told repeatedly that the book I’m currently querying is a story that needs to be told. The problem is that the people I’m talking to are skeptical that it can be sold. I get it. I really do. It’s just disappointing. I don’t think they’re wrong. I wrote a book told from the perspective of American kids and Ghanaian kids, and for the umpteenth time, I was told by an editor this isn’t accessible enough to the reader.

It has been suggested that I try rewriting the book completely from the American perspective. It has also been suggested that I change the main character from Ghana into a boy. Here’s the thing—I’m someone who is so willing to take direction and make edits that make the story better, but I believe wholeheartedly that neither of those things would make the story better. Not only that, but both of those things would be a disservice to the reader.  When I set out to write this book my goal was to show both perspectives. I need an American boy to show the familiar. I need the African girl to give voice to a perspective that is not often considered in American children’s literature. Juxtaposing those two voices provides contrast and invites the reader to consider a perspective not his own.

The idea that an American middle grader can’t handle switching narrators is just untrue. There are tons of books—contemporary books—that are doing this: the Origami Yoda series, Wonder, The Candymakers, just to name a few. I think saying that an American boy reading my book would put it down because the voice changes to a girl is insulting to our kids. (Also, hello? Have you met Katniss Everdeen? Or India Opal Buloni from Because of Winn-Dixie? Boys are reading those books because they’re good books.)

Okay…so that turned into more of a ranty vent than I intended. I’ll say this—I have received such positive feedback about the content and style of my writing that I haven’t lost hope. I just need to find the right agent to take a risk with me and publish something that doesn’t fit the formula. Madeline L’Engle failed at publishing A Wrinkle in Time 400 times before someone said yes, so I have 395 tries to go.

On the flip side, I was inspired to begin a new story based on some of the comments I received in my critiques, and if I get to the end of those 395 tries with my book that just can’t sell, I’ll try querying this one instead.

So, let’s move on.

On the way home from TN on Sunday, Scott called to tell me that his Grandad Currie had passed away earlier that morning. He was in his nineties, still moving around pretty well for his age. In fact, I received a card signed “Love, Grandad Currie” on my birthday just a few days before he passed. 

His wife, Scott’s grandmother, died a couple of years ago, and we last visited him in Bartlesville at Christmas. We set the timer on my phone to take a picture of all of us and emailed it to Walgreen’s in town so we could give it to him framed as a present. The things I will remember best about him are his love of Jamocha shakes from Arby’s, his stories about the Navy, and the fact that as long as he could hear you, he laughed the loudest at your jokes. 

Orin and Marge Currie, a petroleum engineer and a teacher, leave behind an incredible legacy in their family. I am so lucky to have known them and been welcomed into their home with open arms for the past fifteen years. They will be missed in body, but their spirits are with us, in us, in everything we do.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Musings: It's My Birthday(-week-month)

My 35th birthday is in three days. THIRTY FIVE. I don’t know why this seems like such a bigger deal than thirty. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the highest point of the hill before toppling down into my late thirties? That’s what it feels like. In the last few weeks, I’ve felt a sort of out-of-body slow motion thing happening—lots of reflecting and introspecting—and I wake up most days feeling like this can’t be real life. I need to say this out loud—I love my life, exactly as it is right now. The last year has been about connecting with my family, downsizing, and pursuing passions. It’s the kind of fulfillment that money could never buy—it’s peace.

I’ve seen this line floating around social media lately in multiple forms, and it has really stuck with me—to raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.

Like whoa, right? It’s exactly what I believe. As we’re looking another promotion in the eye for Scott (thanks, Air Force!), we are so excited to see how that affects our ability to give. We have everything we need and more. Why not give the rest away?

On August 17th, I set out to celebrate the month leading up to my birthday with purposeful acts of kindness; my goal: 35. I got this idea from my friend, Dena, whom I ran into one night when she was out for one of her friend’s birthdays. They were on a mission to complete 35 acts of kindness together. This year, my birthday week is hectic (as I am sans husband and starting up all the beginning of school year activities with the kids), so I gave myself a little grace and started a month early. 

I won’t list everything I/we have done, but I will tell you about a couple of things that our family loves to do. First is the supertip. This started a couple of years ago when the boys and I were eating at Buffalo Wild Wings in Olympia, WA. Our waitress was 8+ months pregnant, and my mama heart beat for her. We left a 100% tip and snuck out as quickly as possible. It has become a bit of a trend. We don’t eat out a lot or this would break our bank, but let me tell you—there is nothing better than hearing my kids say, “Mom, can we supertip?” First, it feels good to brighten someone’s day obviously, but I also love that my kids are gaining an appreciation for the service other people provide us. It’s a privilege to walk into a restaurant, sit down, and have someone bring food to us. We do not take that for granted.

Secondly, with the help of our church, we made up some baggies with snacks, chapstick, tissues, bandages, and water to hand out to people standing with signs. There’s a particularly busy intersection I frequent where almost every day at least one person is standing on the corner. If I’ve got a baggie in the car (I try to always have a few), I park in a nearby parking lot and walk across traffic to give them one. So far, this month, I’ve given baggies to Nick, Carl, and John. Every time, I ask their names and then ask if they’ve had lunch. If they say no (which is almost always the case), I give them enough to get something at the Wendy’s nearby. In each of these three cases, they immediately picked up their things and walked to get lunch. I’ve heard all that has been said about people experiencing homelessness—that we shouldn’t give them money, that they’ll just spend it on drugs and alcohol, that the best thing we can do is leave the work up to the professionals. Well, nobody is the boss of me, and when I actually talk to and touch these people, I’m acutely aware of how they feel the rest of the world views them. I will continue to support the missions and food pantries that serve this population with donations and volunteer hours, but I will also not sit by while human beings feel hated, judged, or invisible.

Over the last (almost) month, we’ve plugged expired parking meters, bought “just because” gifts for teachers and friends, left “coffee cash” in library books with notes saying “Your next treat is on us!”, sent care packages to friends recovering from surgery, and handed down clothes. We’ve donated to causes benefiting classroom teachers, a lovely young girl who is killing it at life despite some significant challenges, women in transitional housing, kids in Ethiopia, cancer patients, refugees, Make-a-Wish kids, and a program to train healthcare workers in Uganda. Basically, if someone asked, we gave—not a lot, but enough to say to the people asking—“We care about you, and we care about what you care about!”

I honestly cannot think of a better way to celebrate being on earth for 35 years—I hope you all understand that this doesn’t come from a place of piety. Not even at all. I am overwhelmed by the love and generosity that permeate my life and my being. OVERWHELMED. It’s from that place of abundance that I’m inspired to share. 

You know what the weirdest part about all of this is? The day after I started this, I got an email from the school saying we’d won a drawing at back to school night for $25 off our band fees. 

Two days later, I was walking to school with the boys, and I glanced down. Tucked between the sidewalk and the grass was a piece of paper that looked like a dollar bill. I picked it up and thought it must be a promotional flyer because NO ONE FINDS $100 LYING ON THE GROUND. But I did. I did. (My dad took this super awkward picture of me as proof. I thought only the money was in the frame.)

Four days later, we got a letter in the mail that there had been some sort of medical billing mix up when Scott injured his shoulder skiing in Breckenridge (15 years ago!!!), and we were owed $594. It’s completely legit. When does this kind of stuff happen? Seriously?

Aside from that, I’ve received random cards in the mail with encouraging words and a couple of unexpected gifts from friends.

I still have four days and 10 acts of kindness to go. We can take care of those no problem. You know what would make me the happiest girl in the world? If you would join me. 

Will you do something between now and September 17th in honor of my birthday? What I want more than anything else in the world right now is for more love and kindness to be purposely given.

If we’re friends, you know that I’m fighting sex trafficking in Sonagacchi, the largest red light district in Kolkata, India right now. I would love it if you considered donating $35 to this project. Am I shamelessly plugging right now? You better believe it. It’s my birthday, so I get a pass. If you’d like to give $5 because you’ve only known me for five years, that’s cool, too. Or if you want to give $1,000 because you are worth 1000 points of awesome, we will accept that as well. (We have $5,535.14 to go to see this project to its completion—our family gave $140…$35 for each family member.) If you want to give, you can CLICK HERE and put your amount in the box for “Current Project—Tamar Project India.” As always, your donation is tax-deductible.

Happy birthday to me, friends. What a gift it is to know you and a gift to be alive!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Musings: My Friends Hate Me

I have this running joke every year at the beginning of September on Facebook. I act like I'm about to make some huge political statement, and then I basically just rant about how I hate pumpkin. So far, people still think it's funny, so I'm going to keep doing this. As my friend, Lars, says, "Funny once, funny every time."

Anyway, this year I was greeted with an onslaught of pro-pumpkin propaganda and otherwise funny memes, and since I used all my words for the week in my effusive post about Will yesterday, I present to you all the pumpkin funnies sent my way since I posted my anti-pumpkin rant.

Special thanks to Jim for creating my very own meme.
Carlin said she was going to pick some of these up for me on her trip to Target.

Oh, wait. That's just a picture of Lenny Kravitz staring longingly out a window. Kelsey sent me this which is why she's my favorite friend this week.

And then of course, there was this article on People with an extensive list of all the pumpkin-flavored things on the market right now. GAG ME WITH A SPOON.

I'll be over here with my pecan brownies, friends. Enjoy your nastiness far away from me.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

To Will, on Your 10th Birthday

I wanted to write you a letter because I love through words. In reflecting on your first ten years, I found myself laughing and crying about all that you’ve taught me, and I want to use some of those experiences to give you advice about the next decade of your life.

You see that look on your face? That look says, “Hey, Mom! Did you want me to take a nap? Yeah, I’m probably not going to do that.” As an infant, I could take you anywhere—the grocery store, art museums, restaurants, weddings, funerals—anywhere, and I never worried that you would throw a tantrum or cause a problem. The downside to this was that you were so happy observing your world that YOU NEVER SLEPT. I could have used you as a brownie timer because your naps were 23 minutes exactly. Every time. And at night? I guess you just wanted to hang out with me because I was so cool. Eventually (around 2 1/2), you figured out the sleep thing and never looked back. What hasn’t changed is the way you observe your world. One of the things I love about you most is how you don’t miss a thing—you’re engaged and aware, and you floor me on a regular basis with your commentary on how the world works. Stay engaged. Keep watching carefully and paying attention. Your world is a big, beautiful place, and it’s just going to keep getting bigger and more beautiful. 

You started cruising on furniture when you were eight months old. You would crawl over, pull yourself up, and hold on to the edge of the couch…or the windowsill…or the wall. Whatever you could hold onto. And you did this for SEVEN MONTHS. No matter what we did, you refused to take those first steps away from safety. And then one day, in the middle of a Christmas party, you stood up from my lap and walked across the room like you’d been doing it your whole life. We had no way of knowing, but the way you learned to walk is a lot like the way you do most things—you’re cautious and thoughtful and deliberate. When you make decisions, you’re confident because you’ve given yourself enough time to make sure it’s exactly what you want to do. I love this about you, and I hope it’s the way you continue to be as you get older.

So you know that Dad and I love dressing up for Halloween, and we are committed to dressing up with you as long as you let us. There was a time when we were the ones who picked the costumes, and this was the year we couldn’t help but make you Draco Malfoy. You ran around casting spells and saying “Harry Potter” in a snide British accent because even though you didn’t know about Harry or the wizarding world yet, you knew how to have fun. Since then, you’ve fallen in love with superheroes and cars and video games and book series, and your level of knowledge/obsession/nerdery with these fandoms is proof that you still know how to have fun. I love watching you discover new book characters and movies and TV shows. I love the way you can quote your favorite movies and how you want me to read the books you’re reading. I can promise you this—if you’ve got something you love, some kind of entertainment that brings you immense joy—you will always have me to nerd out with. Always.

I had a little over three years with you before Ben came along. You were infamous in the hospital the day you came to hang out with him as Batman. You loved him immediately and tried to share Skittles with him. You sat for hours on the floor reading board books to him in his bouncy seat or driving Hot Wheels around him while he had tummy time on his blanket. You were a perfect helper, never jealous, and mesmerized by this little built in friend who trailed after you wherever you went. He was equally mesmerized by you—emulating your every move, hanging on your every word, always ready for whatever game or alternate reality you’d created. Not much has changed now that you are older. Do you know the gift you have in Ben as your brother? Do you know how much he loves and looks up to you? As your mom, there are few things that bring me greater joy than the fact that the two of you are best friends. You are a dynamic duo, one that has the power to save the world. I love you individually, but together—you guys are magical.

I didn’t really intend to pick three costume-ish pictures in a row, but it makes sense that that would happen as your preschool years were about three things: imagination, imagination, and imagination. I never knew if I was going to wake up with the Hulk or a train conductor or a dragon. Some weeks, you refused to answer to the name “Will” and preferred to be called “Buzz Lightyear” or “Bruce Banner.” Your ability to stay in character was unrivaled and inspired us to introduce you to theater. I hope you’ll explore the world of acting more as you get older because Will—you are really, really good at it.

This is one of my favorite memories of you from the last ten years. We were living in Charleston, and one night, we had a freakish snowfall. You had been in bed for hours, and I was up reading in the living room. I got up to get more tea and realized there was snow actually accumulating in the yard. Knowing full well that it would be gone quickly in the morning, I woke you up at 11:00 at night, threw on the warmest clothes we had, and took you out in the backyard to make snow angels. We made a snowman and had Tang snow cones and threw snowballs, and you didn’t get back to bed until one in the morning. It was spontaneous and nonsensical. I love how serious you are about life, but I want you to remember that’s it’s okay to do things that don’t make sense sometimes—run outside when it’s raining, eat ice cream for dinner, wake up on Saturday morning and start driving. Some of your best memories will come from the days you don’t plan.

The world will tell you that the way to get ahead, the way to keep up, the way to find success will be to do more more more, to stay busy busy busy, but let me clear about this: busy does not mean happy. Busy does not mean successful. Busy does not mean better. One of the biggest lessons you have taught me is to slow down and relax. You have an innate sense of capacity—those are just big words that mean you know when enough is enough. You crave days at home and quiet reading and alone time. I do, too—it is what you always say: #genesfrommom. In this picture, you’re fishing, something other kids your age then wouldn’t have wanted to do because it’s a lot of sitting around. (This summer, you reminded me it’s called “fishing” not catching for a reason.) You taught me that rest is restoration. And I hope you always strike the right balance when it comes to busyness and rest.

I have had the privilege of homeschooling you for two years of your formal education so far, and it was the greatest lesson in how plan B can be the best plan sometimes. I love watching you learn. I love seeing lightbulbs go off in your head. I love seeing you find creative solutions. I love hearing you ask questions. You aren’t just a student—you’re a lover of learning (I’d say #genesfrommom here again, but I think it’s equal parts #genesfromdad). Whether it’s a new math skill or a new novel, you jump in head first, devouring information like a life source—and let me tell you, it is. Your life will be infinitely more satisfying if you stay open. I’ll be 35 in a couple of weeks, and I’m still learning every single day things I didn’t know before—about myself, about the people I love, and about my world. NEVER. STOP. LEARNING.

When you were in 1st grade, you received a character award at school for being responsible. I know it drives you crazy when we say you are like an eighty year old man, but you need to know we say it because you are wise and responsible beyond your years. We opened a bank account for you when you were seven. SEVEN! Because you understood the value of money and had goals. You take life seriously. Be proud of that. Those of us who have witnessed you growing up are amazed at how steady and dependable and solid you are. We can count on you, which makes you a great brother, a great son, and a great friend.

I took this picture on your ninth birthday when we had hot chocolate at IHOP (your pick on a day I said we would do anything you wanted). After that, you spent a little birthday money at GameStop, we had a meal at Longhorn (where the manager gave you free dessert because she was so impressed you ate an 11 oz. ribeye by yourself), and then we went home to watch movies and play video games together. I love that you are happy with simple things. Hot chocolate at IHOP. A good steak. Family time. Here’s a secret, Will, maybe the only thing you need to know to love your life: you don’t need much more than those things to be happy.

We snapped this shot half an hour before your first piano performance. Remember when you started piano, and you weren’t even sure you wanted to try it? Doesn’t that seem crazy now that you are so good at it? Proof positive of the power of trying something new. Can I tell you something, and you promise not to make fun of me? I cry sometimes when I hear you practicing. Your motivation and dedication makes me so proud. The fact that you take care of things like homework and making snacks when you’re hungry and practicing the piano makes me forget sometimes that you’re a kid. You are just so grown up, and while I miss the yesterday you, I am even more excited to see the tomorrow you. Because, Will, I don’t know how it’s possible, but you just keep getting more and more awesome every day.

Happy double digits birthday, firstborn. If you don’t mind, I’ll steal a quote from you—“when I say I love you, I mean it. Like I really, really mean it, not like something people just say sometimes because it’s something to say, but like real love.”



P. S. I tried to make a four-minute video of your life and realized with a quickness that condensing ten years into four minutes was impossible, so I made this ridiculous 17-minute video. It's all for you. Well, and for the grandmas because they like that sort of thing, too. Enjoy!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Musings: Solving All the Problems


1. In a few weeks, I’m attending the Place Conference put on by The Mentoring Project in OKC. (There are still some tickets available, but the price goes up on September 1st, so get one now if you’re interested. The line-up of speakers is PHENOMENAL—plus you’ll get to hang out with me!) 

I have heard some of these speakers before and am familiar with several others on the list, but there was one I had never heard of. The organizers sent out a link to this 10-minute video of David M. Bailey speaking about the role of the Church and non-profits in racial reconciliation. Much of the conversation I’ve seen on the subject via social media quickly devolves into squabbling, and it’s just not productive. I really like the way he frames the conversation. Take a listen (and I CANNOT WAIT TO HEAR HIM SPEAK! Go buy your ticket now, OKC friends!)

2. I’ve had three separate conversations with moms over the last couple weeks about how tough mornings are as they are getting back into the swing of things for the new school year. I say this all the time, and I’ll say it a million more times: children need sleep. We’re pretty crazy about guarding our kids’ bedtimes during the week—it’s why we don’t over schedule night activities and why I volunteer to run things, so everyone else has to be on my schedule…wink wink (more on that below). In my mothering experience, I’ve learned there are really only three things kids need when they are falling apart: food, sleep, or attention. I have yet to face a parenting dilemma that hasn’t been solved with one or more of those things. 

A teacher friend of mine posted this from an elementary school, and it is spot on for my kids. Our mornings are genuinely pretty drama-free (as long as I don’t make Ben wear new shorts) WHEN MY KIDS HAVE HAD ENOUGH SLEEP. Now, I’m not telling you what to do. All kids are different, and if you’ve got a precious petal who only needs four hours of sleep and is still a tiny Mother Teresa, then stick with what you’re doing. But if the spawn of Satan crawls out from under the covers at your house, take a looky-loo and consider making adjustments.

For three years, Will has been a cub scout, and Ben has been tagging along. It has from the beginning been an activity that Scott was in charge of for reasons including but not limited to: his status as an Eagle scout, my extreme hatred of sleeping in sleeping bags, the general dorkiness male bonding.

This year, Ben enters the world of scouting as a scout for the first time, and when we signed up last week, there wasn’t a Tiger leader. Several men shuffled their feet and mumbled about how they would help, but no one really wanted to commit to leading. So I voluntold Scott that he’s the Tiger leader and promised to be his trusty sidekick. I did this for a couple of reasons. 

First, I look for ways to connect with Ben out of second child guilt (#realtalk), and secondly, I know it will come as a surprise, but sometimes an organization that is run primarily by old man volunteers who love making coffee over fire on purpose and wearing slightly too short shorts is not always all that organized*. We’ve been lucky to have female den leaders for Will who have kept the dens running smoothly, and I really want the same experience for Ben. Scott will do the scout stuff. I will keep us organized with calendars and contact info and lesson plans and general “classroom management” techniques. Because secretly, this is totally my wheelhouse. But don’t tell the scouts because I don’t want to be recruited for anything else. *I acknowledge the sexist nature of these comments, but I do not take them back.

Oh, also, we were worried that the den was going to be small, and then 13 kids showed up. Everyone has warned me that we should split the den because it’s going to be too hard. Will’s den leader said, “Your kids are well-behaved but not everyone else’s are.” I answered, “There’s a reason my kids are well-behaved.” MAMA J HAS GOT THIS. (Please feel free to mock me three months from now if I have to eat my words.)