Sending them off

E56FC36F-984A-47C3-9F12-62D263047181Every day we make sure they eat breakfast, put on clean clothes, get all their school stuff together, wear a coat (maybe), and then we send them off, sometimes by bus, sometimes in our cars, sometimes they drive themselves, and we hope and pray they return to us in one piece, with no extra bumps or bruises, no unnecessary heartaches, minimal disappointments, and a whole lot of joy. And thank God, for most of us, that’s exactly what happens day in and day out.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, my perspective has changed and my fear level has been higher when sending them off. The idea of a terror attack or a school shooting has entered our collective reality and every day I send them off knowing that these fears are not my own mommy paranoia rearing its head, but actual possibilities, however small.

Today I had breakfast with my youngest. She is pretty great. Every morning she wakes me up to have breakfast with her; not to make her breakfast, which I sometimes do, but to sit with her and eat together. Today while we ate we talked about the kids from Florida who are rising up and demanding action. She said, “Yes, people will listen to kids (aside: how thankful am I that her life experiences have led her to that conclusion?!)”.  We both think this time things might be different, that something might get done to create real change. I told her when I was a kid we didn’t worry about school shootings. (I do have vague memories of a kid bringing a rifle to the high school on the other side of town once, but he was older than me and that didn’t really hit my world, I just heard about it.) She thought that it must’ve been a lot more relaxing not to have to think about things like lockdown drills. I asked her about the drills,  what they do, what the drills are like, and it was like I was asking her about what she was eating. Her answers were so nonchalant because lockdown drills are just a normal part of life for a school child in 2018. She said when they have a drill they have to shut the blinds and then all the kids hide in one corner of the room out of view of the doors and windows so that no one can see them to shoot at them.

That’s right, my child at breakfast today, told me what she and her classmates do to avoid getting shot at school. What the hell is wrong with this country? Why is this an acceptable reality?

After breakfast, I drove her to school. We stopped for a hot cocoa/coffee at the gas station. We drove to school and she hopped out of the car. I watched her closely, with her shiny braces smile and light brown ponytail. She said “I love you,” and headed off and I watched. I said a little prayer that God would protect her today, as always. And I watched. I couldn’t help but think of the moms and dads in Parkland who dropped off their children a week ago, with I love yous and prayers and plans for the afternoon, never to see their babies again. I watched as she headed in, ponytail bouncing behind her and tried to take a snapshot in my mind of my bouncy, cheerful girl, heading into school where her friends and adventures await, where she has to do the occasional, but very normal lockdown drill. I wanted to remember her just like that, just in case. And then she was gone, into the doors and out of my view and my reach.

My baby came home to me this afternoon. She burst in through the front door excited to tell me a story about school, rushing around so we could head to dance, practicing her steps as she figured out what to bring for snack tonight. And I was thankful to have her back with me to tell me more stories, unlike all the moms and dads who unknowingly said goodbye for the last time one morning when they sent their treasures to school in Parkland, in Sandy Hook, in Columbine, in America where kids are supposed to be safe. I thought of the unbearable silence in so many American homes where lives have been ended by gun violence, all the dreams unrealized, all the stories left untold.

I don’t know the answer, but I know we all deserve better. And I know that enough is enough. Enough is enough. This cannot go on. We cannot sacrifice another child on the altar of the second amendment. We must find a way to a new and better normal.

Advertisements

Heartbroken and Helpless

If you know me at all, you know that I am a get-out-there-and-fix-it kind of person. No problem is without a solution. You just have to have the chutzpah and courage to go out and find it. But tonight, I feel gagged. I feel without hope for the country in which I live. I am so, so sad about another mass shooting, this time in a school in Florida. I look at the victims, particularly the children, and think, those could be my kids. They look just like my kids or their friends; young, fresh, full of life, of dreams and hopes. And they were stopped, they were deprived of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, by a boy with a gun. Not just any gun either. An AR-15 style assault weapon.

The man who currently occupies the Oval Office spoke today and didn’t even say the word gun. He talked about mental illness, but he did not talk about guns. This sickens me. And this is where the helplessness comes in. Every day we send our children out into the world, knowing there is the possibility of this horrible danger, and yet we as a society do nothing. Our leaders do nothing. So, as a parent, it becomes this decision, do I keep sending my children into harm’s way or not? Because there are no other options. I call my congresspeople daily to beg them to do something. But at this point I know they won’t. And every day, I send my kids off and I tell them, “If something happens, remember to run and keep running. It’s harder to hit a moving target.” Why should any sane parent have to think that way? Why should danger feel that real in the normal world? Those sound like the words of someone suffering from paranoid delusions, but they aren’t. Those are the words of this parent, and I am sure many others, living out life in America in 2018.

Where is the hope? What is the hope? Before you say, “We have to have faith,” I want to say, faith in what? Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). We must also do something. We live in a sick, sick country, many of the citizens of which have been deluded into thinking that sensible gun laws equate to the removal of their right to bear arms, who have become convinced that fewer guns won’t mean fewer gun deaths even though good research tells us otherwise, and who are unmoved in any real way to actually protect our children because their guns are more important. The head guy in the White House told the children of America that they should know they are surrounded by people who will do anything to protect them. That is a lie. Our leaders won’t do anything, haven’t done anything, to protect them from gun violence. We are all just lucky we haven’t been hit yet. Our children are not safe and we are extremely limited in what we can do to protect them without the policies in place which will do so.

I called my Congresspeople today, I wrote to my children’s principal, I made some posts on social media, but it all feels hopeless, like trying to save a sinking ship by using a plastic cup to get the water out. We need brave leaders who will take real action because we are all currently at the mercy of the NRA and of the next crazy guy with a gun.

 

The machine

I’ve gotten past much of the hurt caused by my former church. It’s been a few years now…five to be exact. We have healed a lot. But what irks me these days is that the individual who was the pastor of said church created this evangelical machine, then he blew up his life, had to leave the pastorate, eventually left the state, and yet the machine remains here in Minnesota and continues gobbling up people, wrecking their faith, and spitting them back out. As a regular occurrence, we encounter former church members who come to us to share stories of how they “got out”, to apologize for having judged us harshly when we left, or to share the struggles they are now fighting for their faith. It’s a sad, sad story and, in my opinion, the person most responsible fled and left all these folks and this awful machine in his wake. My challenge now is not in how to love God again – I have thankfully figured that one out- but in how to forgive the people I believe are responsible for damaging so many lives. I’m definitely not there yet.

The Ends of Eras

 

My kids, in some combination of children, have played softball or baseball since the 2009 season.  The oldest, now a junior in high school, started the trend, randomly declaring in fourth grade that she wanted to play softball. The others followed suit and started playing in the years following. We were lucky to find baseball and softball leagues that played in the same field complex. So, our son would play “up the hill” at the baseball fields and the girls would play “down the hill” at the softball fields. For the last few years, we had four kids playing bat and ball sports every spring into summer.  It was glorious chaos!

The schedule we maintained was incredible. It was a solid three months of games or practices almost every night of the week. We’d buy a giant piece of foam-backed posterboard and make a color-coded schedule to keep in the living room. Each child would have a color with all their practices and games written in their color. The family would gather at the fields, some days with all the kids in uniforms because some days they’d all have games. We’d scrounge in our bags and in the car for change with which to buy concessions and fill our pockets with Double Bubble to get us through the day. Sometimes we’d work the concession stand or scoreboard. Nights were filled with bright lights and families in lawn chairs and as the kids got older the nights got later and more competitive, but never more competitive than they were fun.

Now, suddenly, the era has ended. Our son aged out of little league last year and is not interested in playing anymore. Our oldest is too busy with choir and working her first job. Our other two daughters are dancing competitively and can’t manage the schedule and so it is over, almost without warning. I sit here wondering, if I’d have known last year that it would be our last year, would I have done anything differently? I don’t think so.  Because it was a favorite season, I always squeezed the marrow out of the experience, savoring every moment of it. Maybe I would’ve taken a few more pictures of all of them in their uniforms. But no, I’m mostly sad, not because of regret, but because I loved it so much and now it is over. I think if you have to be sad, that’s the best kind of sadness to have.

This is the first of many eras that will be ending in the next few years. When they were little and eras ended it wasn’t so painful because there were new and promising stages of childhood on the horizon. Now though, I think the eras that end hurt a little more because they will shortly start aging out of childhood. (The oldest will graduate high school next year with the rest following like dominoes every other year). Each era that ends now feels like one step closer to the end of this amazing journey of parenting children. So, I’m feeling the end of softball and baseball this year a little more than I have felt the end of other periods we have experienced.

Our youngest will finish her last year of elementary school in June and another giant phase of our life will be over. Time just keeps speeding by and it’s all I can do to try to take it all in before they are all grown. The beginning stages, when they were little and it was difficult, seemed to last forever, but now that things are grooving and life is filled with so many of these beautiful moments and much easier times it seems to be slipping away and I can’t make it stop or slow down. All I can do is live it, chasing them, chasing time, and not waste a moment except to catch my breath.

 

 

 

 

 

Ph.D.

So, it’s been a while because so much has been happening. I started back to school this fall. I decided to go all the way and get a Ph.D. because if you don’t just do it, you won’t do it. I didn’t want the Ph.D. to be one of those things I wished I’d tried but never got around to. So, I’m giving it a whirl. Thus far, I’m enjoying it. I’m also trying to get back into shape. My year in a desk job resulted in a fifteen pound gain. Yikes! Sitting on your butt all day is not a good situation to be in when approaching 40. Yes, that’s right, I’m clinging to my thirties by my fingernails. I’d like to lose 40 by 40 but that won’t happen, so I’ll settle for 15 to get back to where I was. Those are my uninspired updates! Cheers and happy holiday season!

Oh how I love Not-Winter!

We are currently experiencing a new season in Minnesota. I call it Not-Winter. It isn’t late enough or warm enough to be spring, and yet the grass is showing; the temps have come up; the sounds of dripping water can be heard near and far; hope is in the air!

You must understand that winters in Minnesota are generally brutal. BRUTAL. Even this year, it started snowing in early November. Usually, at this point in the season, we are buried under at least a foot of snowpack and any ventures outdoors require hats and gloves and scarves and as little exposed skin as possible. Not this year! I haven’t worn a hat in at least a week and gloves even longer.

Now, I am not deceived. I know it isn’t really over. I know my beautiful, hopeful, spring-indicating dirt will be covered again by snow, but this extended break has made this winter so much more bearable.

It’s Not-Winter! And it might be my favorite Minnesota season ever!

IMG_1777
Not-Winter, 2015

Take time to listen to the tales…

cowboy hatI’m an East Coast girl. I’m always on the go and always somewhat in a hurry. Even when I am not actually in a hurry, I have this looming feeling that I SHOULD be in a hurry. Get the information and go; do the task and move on; Go Go GO!

You can imagine that sitting still and listening is not always a strength of mine. When I am in the mood to get to know someone, I can sit with them for hours, but if I am in GO mode, I often feel like a tightly wound spring that needs to release and move onto the next thing.

This fact became especially apparent to me the other day. I was scheduled to have coffee with an older gentleman about a project we are working on together. When we planned the meeting he told me, “Let’s meet at 4 p.m. I’ll be wearing a cowboy hat, so you can recognize me; either straw or felt, depending on the weather.” I probably should have known at that moment that this meeting might be different from what I was planning. I thought we would meet, get a hot beverage, I’d get some answers to the questions on my list, and get home.

I arrived at the coffee shop before him, got my drink (a chai latte), and prepared my notebook and pen. When he arrived, I realized he was definitely not in GO mode and that, yes, he definitely must have envisioned the afternoon going a bit differently than I. He moseyed in, wandered to our table, and immediately started discussing the options the coffee bar had added to the menu recently. Then he told me a story (the first of many) about his experiences back east when he lived in Massachusetts.  Eventually, I managed to direct the conversation to the project we will be working on together. But nearly every question I asked was answered in a roundabout way with a story or two that were indirectly (or not at all) related to the topic we were discussing.

I found myself getting warm and frustrated. The time was ticking away and there were (what felt like) a million other things I could or needed to be doing rather than spending all this time on his stories. However, as I sat there, watching his mouth move yet hearing little because my own thoughts were swirling around in my head, I realized he just wanted an audience for his stories.  He meant no ill, but only to share a few of the treasures he has collected on his life journey.

Our lives are that; a collection of memories and stories. Good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, our stories make up who we are and as we age, I imagine we have fewer and fewer people with whom to share these pieces of ourselves.

So, sitting there, I took a deep breath and started to try to listen because I realized that someday I will be older and I feel pretty certain I will want the same thing; someone who will just take a few minutes so that I can share a part of me. Don’t get me wrong…it was still difficult. The competing GO mode was still there, but I became aware of the fact that sometimes I need to shut that off. I need to work on giving people a little more of myself by taking time to just sit and listen to their tales.

The bloggings of an accidental Minnesota girl