Sorry, Not Sorry

We were on vacation, lounging about as appropriate. The teen had fallen back asleep on our bed where he had retreated to get some alone-time from the parentals. Guy and I were reading quietly side-by-side in the living room with the patio door open to allow the breeze to circulate, and wind through the quivering aspen leaves sounded like water flowing in a stream. Lovely. Relaxing.

Into this quiet scene I suddenly snorted laughter. Something in my book caught me uproariously funny and my outburst caught me by surprise. Though Guy didn’t react at all, under my breath I whispered, “Sorry.”

And then I looked up, startled again by my reaction. I said, “No, I’m not. I am not sorry for laughing out loud. I will not apologize for finding my book funny or laughing in response. What a ridiculous apology! I’m not sorry.”

Bless this patient man accustomed to my off-topic outpourings, he laughed with me. He agreed, definitely no need to apologize for laughing.

What the heck? I.apologized.for.laughing!

Why was it such an instinctual response to apologize for making a sound and interrupting the silence? It’s not like we were in a library where, after long years of practice, instinct would have kicked in to stifle the laugh in the first place.

I suspect it has to do with the notion that women should apologize for interrupting, for speaking up, taking up space, sheesh, for existing. You’ve noticed it, right? Women apologize for everything. We are constantly saying, “I’m sorry.”

Jen Hatmaker explains: “I didn’t recognize the small box reserved for me until I showed up expecting to fill the whole room…. This culture is rabid to tell women how much oxygen they can use, space they can take, tables they can join, opinions they are allowed. Code words abound to signal when a woman has stepped too far: hysterical, bitchy, bossy, aggressive. (The man versions of these words are: energetic, strong, decisive, assertive, because ‘bossy men’ are just called ‘leaders.’) Women have always struggled for a credible place at the table” (from her new book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire).

Of course, apologies become necessary when we’ve thoughtlessly intruded on someone’s feelings, on their rights or bodies or property. We should apologize when we shoot off a hurtful knee-jerk reaction rather than a thoughtful response. Most of us need to reign ourselves in from time to time and when we don’t we should absolutely offer an intentional apology.

But today I am committing to myself again: I’m done with meaningless apologies. I am not going to apologize for having an opinion. For speaking up. For living in my body. For being who I am, with my thoughts and big feelings and dreams, for taking up space, for putting myself out there. I am not going to apologize for laughing, even if it interrupts your quiet time.

Who’s with me?

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Family Traditions: Breakfast of Champions

Have you ever surprised yourself with a family tradition you didn’t recognize as such until you discovered yourself in the middle of it for the bazillionth time?

Last weekend we got away for a few days in Tahoe. We like to stay in places that have a kitchen so we can prepare at least a few meals, and often the kitchen fills up with foods we wouldn’t typically stock at home: sugar cereals? Chocolate bars? Ice cream? Go for it!

Since most of our getaways are within driving distance we also travel with a small cooler, perfect for beach outings or picnics and also to transport food home at the trip’s end. But not ice cream. That has to be consumed before we leave. (Don’t even try suggesting we throw it out. Tossing perfectly good ice cream? Sacrilege!)

So, ice cream for breakfast on our last morning has become a thing. A family tradition, apparently. I laughed as I scooped the rest of the ice cream into a bowl for Q16, topped it with a few remaining sliced strawberries and a handful of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Breakfast of champions right there!

But the smile on the kid’s face…the one he wouldn’t let me photograph, sassy teen that he has become…priceless. A big bowl of ice cream for breakfast on a memory-making trip makes for a memory in itself.

I didn’t intend to create a family tradition, but I love it. I hope it’s something my kids will do with their kids someday as they reminisce about some of our family trips when they were kids.

How about you? Have you happened upon any unintentional family traditions this summer? For that matter, have you celebrated summer with any intentional traditions? Maybe more than most, this summer demands celebration.

If you’re curious to see more trip pictures, follow me on Instagram.

Reading: June 2020

In May I finally got around to reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The song the Oompa-Loompas sing in response to TV-obsessed Mike Teavee shrinking when he is the first human “sent by television” caught my attention:

How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster [TV] was invented?
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY…USED…TO…READ!

The Oompa-Loompas sing on, describing every manor of book…fine fantastic tales of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales. Read, read, read!

I’d describe quarantine life as a mix of family, productivity, and downtime that includes plenty of time for both TV and books. We’ve been binging Top Chef and I’m watching Big Little Lies Season 2 for the second time (I can’t get enough of the Monterey Coast, beachy views I ought to experience first-hand on our annual family vacation) and catching up on movies, more screen time than normal for sure, but that still leaves more time for reading than normal. It’s a balance.

Here are my thoughts on this month’s round up. Book titles link to Amazon for more info + easy purchasing. Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Please comment and share with me a book you’ve enjoyed recently!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is quite a feat: long, smart, quiet, thoughtful, witty, content and restless, endearing… And while it would be good at any time, it also offers timely insights for quarantine since the main character has been “exiled” to life inside a Moscow luxury hotel.

“…imagining what might happen if one’s circumstances were different was the only sure route to madness.”

“Having acknowledged that a man must master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them, the Count thought it worth considering how one was most likely to achieve this aim when one had been sentenced to a life of confinement.”

“For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.”

“…our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity–a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of a bold new life that we had been meant to lead all along.”

The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel had so much going for it, but needed to be about 100 pages shorter with another solid editorial pass and perhaps a different structure. It meandered too slowly and too far afield. Moyes has a gift for developing strong and (mostly) likeable characters which is what kept me reading. Except in this case, Suzanna was not likeable. I’m convinced she was supposed to read as pained and complicated, but as she came across like a petulant child, it made it hard to relate with her. Cleaning up the overall story line would have helped readers understand and like Suzanna which would have helped the book as a whole.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting look at Black and white relationships with self, friends, lovers, and employers, all packed into an entertaining novel that hits close to home in current relevance. Two white adults who share a complicated history take sides regarding a young Black woman after she has a difficult encounter with a store security guard while babysitting a white toddler. Takeaway: the only opinion that matters to your life is your own; no one else gets a definitive say unless you allow it.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance, and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice. I can’t think of a case that more urgently dramatizes the need for reform than what has happened to Anthony Ray Hinton.” –Bryan Stevenson

Read. This. Book. What a tragedy that Hinton spent 30 years on Death Row for crimes he didn’t commit. Judicial and prison reform are necessary in the US right now.

The 22 pages of names in small type at the end of the book, names of people currently sitting on Death Row, are heartbreaking.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Too long. At times, it felt interminable. I almost gave up several times before I hit ch12, when suddenly the dialogue, humor, and story all picked up. And then it flagged again. However, the ending felt satisfying, and when I went back to reread page 1, it all tied together with exactly the message you’d expect from Liz.

“The war had invested me with an understanding that life is both dangerous and fleeting, and thus there is no point in denying yourself pleasure or adventure while you are here…
“Anyway, at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time.
“After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”

“The world ain’t straight. You grow up thinking things are a certain way. You think there are rules. You think there’s a way that things have to be. You try to live straight. But the world doesn’t care about your rules, or what you believe. The world ain’t straight, Vivian. Never will be. Our rules, they don’t mean a thing. The world just happens to you sometimes, is what I think. And people just gotta keep moving through it, best they can.”

Beach Read by Emily Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much fun, even if its characters seldom trod on the titular beach. After a heavy few months, I needed a lark of a book and this sang the tune. Definitely one to stick in your beach tote!

From the author’s discussion guide: “Sometimes we lose the ability to create simply because we’re tired. We need to rest and recover. But other times, we can’t move forward because there are hard questions we have to ask first. Hurdles in our path we first have to jump or walls that need breaking down–interrogations demanding to be made.
“And when we’re brave enough to do so, we can make something beautiful. Something we didn’t know we were capable of before we began.”

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was fun, entertaining, and it tried to be meaningful and maybe that’s what dragged it down a star. It’s fine, but I’m not raving about it.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished reading this short yet dense book and I am scratching my head. It’s on the list of potential required books for my son’s upcoming junior year in high school English class. My son is 16yo, one year older than Coates’ son to whom the book is written as a letter. This is one heckuva letter for a teenager.

My biggest takeaway is that, even though we’re only a few years apart in age and we both grew up in America, Coates and I grew up in different worlds. Some passages, I had to let go of trying to understand and just let the feeling of otherness wash over me. I looked up lightly dropped references and even Google couldn’t help me – I knew I was supposed to recognize the references, or at least Google should have, but I think that was the point: I didn’t know the references because we come from different realities.

I took so many notes as there’s a lot to digest…

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A perfect summer read – light and thoughtful with a few twists.

Her descriptions of body positivity are spot on, like we expect from her but even better. And her grappling with society’s dependence on social media makes sense at this moment in time.

Above all, find your people – your real, loving and true people – and hold them close.


View all my reviews

Cover image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Mid-Year Goal Check-In

Think back to New Year’s Eve 2019. We had no idea what this year held in store… Of course, we never know the future, but December 31, 2019 feels almost like another lifetime, doesn’t it?

Still, did you set any intentions for the year? I made a Not-20 for 2020 List, and thought I’d revisit it now that we are a solid six months into this strangest of years:

  1. Wake up on New Year’s Day in clean sheets – Nope, the cat peed on them while she hid from our house full of revelers.
  2. See Hamilton (tickets purchased for January 9!) – Done! And I can’t wait for the Disney+ original cast movie coming out July 3.
  3. Drink 4 Hydroflasks of water/day – Switched it out to 3 Nalgenes/day bc my Nalgene holds more water and it’s easier to remember: one before lunch, another before dinner, another before bed; and I’ve only missed a few days all year, my best habit yet.
  4. Greet my family every single time with a smile and full attention – This one’s hard, not measurable, and so still a work in progress.
  5. Eat dinner at the table – Nope. Even in a pandemic, our family has trouble eating together. We’re aiming for a few nights a week.
  6. Go to bed early and bring a book – Yes! See #12 – I finished Book #40 today.
  7. Exercise with the dogs on average 20 miles/week – Before the pandemic, I was regularly exceeding this goal; then the wonkiness set in and my routine fell out the window. I got back on track, only to injure myself. I’ll get back to it. Most weeks it’s an easy target and I may have to raise it before year’s end.
  8. Blog 2x/week – Done!
  9. Declutter one area for 20 minutes once a week – Hah! This is the goal that makes me joke that I am at fault for the pandemic. Even 20 minutes of decluttering is more than I want to do ever, so I put it off until shelter-in-place tossed so much time my way I couldn’t avoid it. After weeks of closet cleaning (which you wouldn’t notice if you came over, which you can’t), I fell off the wagon again. Once I’m back on my feet, I’ll get back to it.
  10. Practice Sabbath weekly – The pandemic gave this pastor’s family an unexpected gift of having him home on Sundays. We have regularly enjoyed long hikes and brunches/lunches together that we just don’t get the rest of the year.
  11. Read/engage with a different version of the Bible – I wrote a whole blog series using The Jesus Storybook Bible during Lent. Fun for me, and became especially life-giving once the pandemic hit. *Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.
  12. Read 4 books/monthGoodreads tells me I’m 14 books ahead of schedule, which means I’ll hit my 55 book goal by the end of summer. Obviously, I’m nailing this one. Another twist in response to these odd days: I’ve added a goal to regularly read books by BIPOC.
  13. One social occasion and/or family fun day per month – We did great in January through early-March – a zoo day, family dinners with friends, I had a beach getaway with college girlfriends, we attended the symphony and the high school musical; then pandemic… On Easter we had a family brunch while we watched church from home, then hike, then puzzle afternoon and dinner together. In May we made Q16’s birthday a family day. Not sure how the rest of the year will play out, but we’ll keep trying.
  14. Finish my current writing project and do three more – Almost done with the “current” project that got back-burnered, completed a Lenten blog series, and will have to see about another one for the year.
  15. Use the gift cards – Part of our SIP commitment to support our community and make life a little easier on ourselves has been to order take-out from local restaurants more often than we did previously. Yay for local, small businesses making delicious food!
  16. Make 5th weekends special: March 27-29, May 29-31, Aug 28-30, Nov 27-29 – All the days are running together, and I have no idea what we did on March and May 5th weekends. Maybe August and November will be intentionally special.
  17. Say Yes and/or No when appropriate and not out of obligation or guilt – A good goal, but another not measurable.

So, how about you? Any goals, intentions, resolutions that you’re willing to share how you tweaked, met, ditched, or exceeded?

Weakness Isn’t Failure

Check out my new accessory: crutches.

Related: my world keeps shrinking.

First it was shelter-in-place. All the places I could go before the pandemic whittled away to home plus walkability. And my ongoing joy before and during SIP has been walking around our beautiful small town. Time with my husband, with my dogs, with myself, sweating through thoughts and feelings until I could just be in the moment, enjoying the sunshine, the flowers, the birds and blue sky.

Even at home, I had no idea how much pleasure I took from relocating every so often: from the bedroom recliner to the living room lounger to the front porch Adirondack or the back deck bistro table, the simple act of changing my seat helped me to reset and refocus.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in the recliner and I realized how I missed the views from those different chairs as my day-long view narrowed to my bedroom.

I injured myself walking too hard, too fast, too far, too often. And even when I knew I was injured, when I began limping, I didn’t stop. I discontinued my daily walks, but I stayed upright and in motion: cooking, lugging full baskets of laundry, etc. Instead of getting better, I got worse until yesterday when I discovered that I could barely hobble and that attempting to hobble had become excruciating.

I should have stopped. I should have limited myself to stretching, icing, resting. I have regularly considered myself a champ at rest–oh, how I love a good nap!–so why did I find it so hard to give my injury the restful time it needed to heal?

Injury can be hard to admit. Injury = weakness. It feels like failure.

Maybe it would be different if I had done something spectacular, if I had slid off a mountainside or launched headlong over bike handles. Maybe if I had been training for a marathon. But that’s never been my style. Nope, my style is to do something common, uncommonly bad. My big-time fail involved insufficient stretching for walking around my neighborhood. That sounds so lame, yet here I am, temporarily lame.

On top of the pain I feel needy and frustrated; I have definitely shed some tears. But like the attitude shift necessary to adapt to the limited world of this pandemic pause, I have decided to look for the gift in the challenge.

The gift? Time! Not walking means I have more time in each day. Of course, I’d prefer not to be injured and to be pounding the pavement, but since I can’t be on my feet, I can write from any seat in the house.

Yesterday I opened a writing file I haven’t seen since before the 2019 holidays. I could have had a crappy first draft before 2020 began, but I put it away and let the tides of life carry me.

It feels good to be back at it, to have a project that depends on me to give it life. That maybe, someday, it will become something bigger than me and offer encouragement, hope, love to others. That’s the dream.

We all face challenges of one sort or another, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Sometimes the challenge is yours to journey alone. Or maybe you have a difficult work situation, or a significant relational issue. It’s tough to stop, to admit the injury and give it the time and attention it requires to heal. We don’t like to fail. But truly, weakness isn’t the failure. Not heeding the warning of pain, not attending to the weakness, not dealing with it swiftly and appropriately, that’s the failure.

How about you? What challenges are you facing, and what can you do to discover the gift inside?

Juneteenth 2020

Several years ago my husband and I had the amazing opportunity to travel in Norway. My mother’s family is Norwegian and I had been twice before, once as a small child when we visited my aunt’s family and again as an adult accompanying my beloved grandmother, Mor-Mor (mother’s mother), on her last trip to visit her sister.

The first leg of our journey took place aboard the Hurtigruten, the working mail boat that travels the west coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Not a cruise as you might think of it, though we took excursions into some beautiful old cities and enjoyed spectacular views of landscapes that renewed my respect for these strong and hardy people.

We went in April because of the dramatic price break for off-peak travel. Most of the other passengers had come from Europe, many of them gregariously happy Germans.

Repeatedly, both on board and off, we heard devastating stories of the Nazis having bombed this cathedral, that city. I watched the German travelers for reactions and never noticed a cringe. Towards the end of the trip, I mustered the courage to gently ask them about it: How is it that you don’t seem bothered by the damage done by your country?

Education, they replied. Our history books tell the truth. We’ve worked hard to come to terms with what happened so that it will never happen again.

Oh.

Rather than being offended, they were glad I asked. In fact, they took the opportunity to school me: they knew how little truth our U.S. history books contain, how our leaders and educational system have glossed over so many atrocities committed by our country.

I wasn’t taught about Juneteenth, that it took close to two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves in Texas to be freed. I was taught that slavery was cruel but that it ended, and almost nothing about the lingering cruelty. What I was taught about the Civil Rights Era came almost entirely without context. Why were separate bathrooms and drinking fountains such an issue? For that matter, I live in California where generations of kids have been taught a romantic vision of the California Missions and not the truth of coerced religious conversion and forced labor of indigenous people.

I’m grateful to be learning the truth, hard as it is.

President Obama posted on Twitter today: Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.

Change is possible… Yes, please.

I recently spent some time on the Poetry Foundation website reading works by BIPOC, including this one that seems appropriate for today:

Lift Every Voice and Sing
By James Weldon Johnson

A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children.
Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.
The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

To hear John Legend sing the Black National Anthem, click here.
For more on Juneteenth, click here.

Cover image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Pandemic Pause: Month 3

Tuesday marked three months since shelter-in-place (SIP) began in NorCal. We’re in Week 13. Other than exercise, out the door on my own two feet, I’ve left the house four times; three times I stayed in my car; I haven’t interacted with more than a few people at a time.

I recognize how incredibly fortunate I am. My superstar husband, whose “acts of service” love language has seldom been more apparent, has done all our shopping and errand-running. While my job got “postponed” I have a (tiny) side gig that helps (a tiny bit). We’re also spending less, with little need for gas, new clothes or make up, entertainment, etc.

I wish it weren’t so, but wearing a mask gives me a panic attack. I need to freely breathe fresh air and, though my mother-in-law has sewed us an assortment of masks from beautiful materials, I’d rather stay home than wear a mask for any length of time. (For what it’s worth, I don’t love snorkeling, either.)

Three months is a long time to stay home; Pandemic Fatigue has set in everywhere. Then again, there are those who never took it seriously or who kinda-sorta went through enough of the motions to at least resemble those who played by all the rules. Anyway, reopening has begun and people have ventured forth.

Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air. He points out that, worldwide, we’re all confused as to how to live in this pandemic time.

He warns that so far, only 5-7% of the U.S. population has been infected. “All the pain, suffering, death and economic disruption have occurred with 5 to 7%. But this virus is not going to slow down transmission overall. It may come and go, but it will keep transmitting until we get at least 60 or 70% of the population infected and hopefully develop immunity — or if we get a vaccine, that can get us there too. And so I want to be really clear: None of us are suggesting this is going to stop and go away…”

One commenter did the math: “So given 7% of the population of 328 million has been infected and 119K have died that makes the mortality rate 0.5% over all. Given 70% of America’s population would need to be infected before we get herd immunity I calculate that would be over 1 million dead.” While 0.5% sounds negligible, 1 million dead does not.

Last weekend a neighbor posted this:

I followed the link to a CDC graph of CA cases. Yikes!

Tell me again why we’re reopening?

Another graph specific to our county shows that right now our small town is actually one of the safest places in CA to live in regards to the pandemic. And yet, as the county rushes to reopen, cases have begun to rise. And as people begin to travel and return to shops and restaurants, it may get worse. A county spike of 114% in the last month is nothing to sneeze at. Goodness gracious, please don’t sneeze!

Of course there is the debate about what SIP was meant to do. Even though the CDC graph shows a dramatic spike from March through June, that may be considered a flattening of the curve from what had been predicted. The spike might have been gargantuan, Jack and the Beanstalk tall versus The Hulk. The Hulk is still larger than life, but not Giant in the Sky ginormous.

We needed time for hospitals and medical personnel to prepare, and for medical equipment to become available. So our case numbers are low enough that they could potentially handle a full load of very sick people. Okay.

Some argue that SIP was never meant to drop the infection rate to 0. But why would we not do everything we can if we have it in our power to at least keep the infection rate from climbing? Even if that means not doing things we’d like to.

CDC guidelines specify that reopening should only happen after a downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases over fourteen days, which hasn’t happened yet. In fact, according to Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician, visiting professor of public health at George Washington University, and former Baltimore city health commissioner, “Nothing about the virus has actually changed.”

But…the economy. Our country runs on money. We need money to feed and house our families. Committed to supporting small local businesses, our family seldom ate out before yet we’ve gotten take-out every other week in the last three months. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be eating in a restaurant filled with people and servers milling between tables, even out of doors. And I don’t need anything at TJ Maxx.

But…mental health. New-to-me anxiety soared as SIP began, so I followed all the guidelines to a T and made meticulous shopping lists and got kitchen-creative to manage our needs while limiting Guy’s grocery runs. That helped my mental health, while others in my household struggled differently. We had good conversations and did our best to be gentle with ourselves. No matter who you are, this pandemic pause has taken a toll.

As reopening continues, Managed Risk will be key. I continually ask, “Is it necessary?” Is it necessary to meet in person if we can talk on the phone? Is it necessary to eat out if we can eat at home? Is it necessary to go to the gym if I can go for a run?

For me, the answer tends to be a big, fat NO. Meanwhile, my 16yo son went out last night. Three teenagers in a car together, all wearing masks, drove down the freeway to a fast food place. They got take-out and ate as they drove home. A fairly small risk that certainly helped his mental health.

Sometimes as I have observed loved ones and neighbors differently negotiating SIP, I have felt ashamed, like Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling!” Maybe I’m just annoying. Maybe I’m not equipped to correctly interpret the scientific data. Then again, maybe I’m not wrong, and maybe I’m reading the info correctly. Caution doesn’t make me a coward.

For now, I’ll continue to stay home.

Cover image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

Racism and Radical Compassion

How’s everyone doing?

It’s been a rough few weeks. It’s been a rough few months. Aw, seriously, let’s just call it – what the heck with 2020? For all the jokes about this being a year of clear vision, we’ve never more clearly seen the mess we’re in.

I suspect that the pandemic oddly prepared us to be able to rightly see the wrongness of racism, individually and systemically. I’m not sure how or why, but it seems like in this already strange time our country has responded with renewed vigor to something that has been happening in our midst forever.

Personally, I’ve been feeling sad and overwhelmed. I’m listening, through social media and interviews and reading, to the stories of BIPOC. And it’s hard not just because the stories range from ridiculous to outrageous but also because – and this feels incredibly selfish and vulnerable to admit – it’s not about me. I feel like I don’t have a right to feel all the feelings. I’m late to the show and I want to cry but that centers me and my job in this is to center others.

It’s a lot.

Just over a week ago our small NorCal town held a peaceful gathering mostly led by high school students. I didn’t go (pandemic) but I talked to a friend who went. She said it gave her hope that real change is in the pipeline, new diversity committees for teens and adults and new curriculum offerings in the schools. And the teenagers who are willing to speak about the way they’ve been treated and all those willing to listen to their stories.

Hope. Yes. Amen!

Less than 24 hours later, a video surfaced of three high school students spewing racist garbage. Obviously drunk, in a car with a dad who responds with next to nothing, the girls laugh as they say the most egregious things as if it’s one giant joke.

My stomach flipped. How dare they? And what about that dad – why didn’t he pull over the car and set them straight? At least take the phone and delete the video?

From The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, this was May 1974:

Now, a senior in high school, not a day went by that I didn’t hear someone yelling “N*!” [abbreviated because it’s not my word to share] in my direction. It didn’t matter if I was just walking down the road or standing at my locker or even if I was playing baseball and helping the team win. I was about to graduate, and what I’d learned most in four years besides biology and arithmetic was just how much people can hate you because of the color of your skin. People can want to hurt you for no good reason other than you look different or talk different or live different. Oh, I got an education by going to the white school, just not the kind of education the politicians and lawmakers had planned on. (19)

Not enough has changed. Has anything changed?

Cue all the online chatter in every local forum, ranging from wanting to lynch the girls (deliberate reference) to excusing them with a “kids will be kids”… Cue the conversations with my own kids, who know or know of these girls, who tell me their own stories as young white men growing up in a predominantly white entitled community and, as adolescents, need to argue with Mom because it’s kind of their job to argue all sides of everything.

I hate that hate seems so normal to their experience, that they hear racial slurs and don’t actually hear them. It’s startling to see white male privilege so clearly in my own sons. I know I’ve taught them better, and yet they also breathe toxic air. I can’t rid society of all its pollution, but I can do my best to purify the air in my own home. In my own heart.

A few days later, we went for a long hike and along the way crossed paths with neighbors, one in tears being consoled by others. Her daughter was in the video. She cried like someone had died, grieving for her daughter.

The video was taken years ago. An anonymous someone shared it to publicly shame girls who have literally shed every skin cell since that night. That doesn’t at all excuse what they said, and it’s a super scary lesson in the permanence of anything posted online, and consequences will make a heavy load. And a mama’s tears revealed more of the story.

Oh, I get the anger toward these girls, the disgust at what they said. I suspect there’s also fear around the edges, and guilt because these girls are our girls, growing up in our community, and they surely must have known better and still did wrong.

Sadness weighs heavy on our town like the coastal fog that seeps over our hills and settles in our valley. Sadness for the victims and the perpetrators of racism. We all need to know and do better.

A few weeks ago I posted about guilt versus shame. Guilt: I did bad. Shame: I am bad. Related, but different. Guilt can be confessed, but shame hides in the dark. Compassion is necessary to shine light and love and make change.

I was struck by this quote from Alice Walker included in Radical Compassion by Tara Brach:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered.
All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length.
The tribal ceremony often lasts several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

Obviously this would be easier done in a tribal culture with set rituals than in a small, individually-minded town. Not that it would be easy; likely it’s never easy; forgiveness is usually effort-full.

Obviously, we’re not ready for anything like this. And yes, my fingers shake as I recognize that I am a white woman suggesting radical compassion for white girls and maybe that’s out of line. Can compassion ever be out of line, though? If grace had to be earned, even the best among us would be doomed.

It seems to me that change will best happen in compassionate dialogue. When we look one another in the eyes and listen well. When we take shame out of the equation and spread compassion.

At least, I hope change will happen through compassionate dialogue. I imagine these girls set in a circle of community, loved ones and acquaintances, all willing to speak compassion their way. Not because they deserve it but in truth because they blew it big time and still they are human beings, living and hopefully learning and in need of love. How far would that go to redeem their guilt and alleviate their shame? How would they then, having received compassion, be better able to extend compassion?

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Reading: May 2020 pt2

I’ve been planning another reading post for weeks, but I couldn’t anticipate how an upside-down world would spin off its axis yet again. In light of George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests, I’ve been pondering, praying, quiet, recognizing just how much I don’t know and that, while my voice is important and silence isn’t an option, my words are not the words we should be listening to.

Example: last week we watched The Lovebirds with Issa Rae and Kamail Nanjiani. Through comedic circumstances, they witness a murder. But they don’t go to the police.

I would call 911. I would expect the police to show up and listen carefully and respond effectively. I wondered out loud, “Why don’t they just go to the police?”

And then she says it, something like: “Police don’t believe people who look like us.”

Oh… Setting aside the obvious fact that this was a movie, isn’t getting the police involved still better than trying to solve the crime yourselves?

Maybe not. See George Floyd.

So I have renewed my commitment to listen. To learn. I began following several  Instagram accounts – @oshetamoore, @lisasharper, @austinchanning, all women because I am a woman – and I picked up a book from my shelf: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is one of my all-time favorite life-changing books. It ought to be required reading for every American over the age of 15. Stevenson is the attorney who got Hinton off death row after he had served 30 years for murders he didn’t commit. So it’s high time I read Hinton’s story in his own words. Just Mercy was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie, but the book blows the movie away.

Another book that helped me understand the complicated relationship between POC and the police: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s also a movie, one I enjoyed after reading the book.

How are you listening to POC? What books or resources do you recommend?

Now, the other books I’ve read recently…

I'd Give AnythingI’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have absolutely adored other books by this author, and this one wasn’t as good. People make mistakes, big and small, and we can forgive them and ourselves, move on and/or move forward. Life goes on. I liked it more at the end than I thought I would, but still not my fav of hers.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sweet and scintillating story of two people overcoming their self-constructed walls, once meant to ensure self-preservation, in order to fall in love. Note: graphic sex scenes (not my usual fare, but fun in context…).

Daily Rituals: How Artists WorkDaily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Skimmed because Currey didn’t include sufficient information to tell the reader what his subjects had contributed to the world. Another problem: I couldn’t discern an organizational strategy. Subjects aren’t listed in chronological or alphabetical order.

As he admits in the intro, Currey should have titled this book “Daily Routines.” The biggest take away is that there is no one size fits all, but rather, each person creates their own habits. In the book’s final entry, writer Bernard Malamud sums it up: “There’s no one way–there’s too much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place–you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time–not steal it–and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love! Of course I’ve seen both movies countless times (prefer the Gene Wilder version), but reading the book was so much fun I can’t believe it took me so long to get to it.

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAINRadical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN by Tara Brach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could remember who to thank for directing me to this life-changing book! RAIN is hard, important work, learning to Recognize my feelings, Allow them to just be (rather than stuffing or numbing them), Investigate how they feel in my body, and Nurture my inner self. Let it RAIN!

Two images in particular have been helpful: the Golden Buddha disguised under the hardened clay/mud – we’re all golden underneath our coping mechanisms; and the lone snarling dog caught in the trap by the tree – when we recognize how others hurt, it enables compassion and helps us to understand/forgive.

As a life-long Christian, I feel like I received a crash-course in prayer that the Church never provided.

View all my reviews

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Cover image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

My Five Things – Part 2

As I shared yesterday, I discovered a fun pandemic-related blog topic going around called “My Five Things.” I started playing with the idea and got a little carried away, hence two posts.

I’d love to read your five things, fun ways you are staying sane during these unusual days. If you’re a blogger, tag me. If you’re not a blogger, leave a Five Things list in the comments. Let’s play!

5 Things New to My Life Since Quarantine
Anxiety (related: Headspace – offering a free year for those unemployed due to the pandemic)
At-home yoga with the Down Dog app (purchase includes customizable workouts + HIIT, Barre, and 7-minute total body workouts)
SoundCloud, particularly 2F Big Bootie Mixes, upbeat dance mixes long enough to make my dog walks (almost) commercial free
Take-out food from local restaurants on a regular basis
I joined a writing group

5 Bands/Musicians I Listen to on Repeat
U2
Mumford & Sons
Judah & The Lion
Indigo Girls
David Crowder

5 Books I’ve Just Read
I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Daily Rituals edited with text by Mason Currey
Radical Compassion by Tara Brach (almost done)

Read all my reviews on Goodreads

5 Books in My To-Read Queue
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Beach Read by Emily Henry
(Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.)

5 things I Want to Do When the World Feels Safe Again
Take the dogs to the beach for a long walk (repeat as often as possible)
Hug friends
Gather with others – at church, a movie, a concert
Camping
Explore a new neighborhood, a new city, or a new country – or all three