Losing Perspective

I tried to see the world from someone else’s perspective, to walk a mile in their shoes and maybe understand things a bit better. But …

Why in the world would they wear these ridiculous shoes? And where are they walking to anyway? Why are they going so fast? Don’t they care about the scenery? For that matter, why are they so slow? Where is their drive and intensity? Who’s watching their children while they’re on this stroll? Do they even have children? Why so many? Why so few? Are they just okay that someone else raises their kids while they walk? Isn’t there anything better they could be doing with their time? Is this why they went to college? They did go, right? Don’t they know that they need higher intensity than walking? If they walk they may fall and then who’s supposed to come pick them up?

Well, there. I did it. Hopefully they’ve learned a thing or two. Perhaps I’ll just stick with my own shoes. They’re comfortable.

shoes

Myopic Musing

I read somewhere that it can be difficult for prisoners leaving prison to focus on things in the distance. Eyes become accustomed to seeing only as far as the prison walls allow. I don’t know if this is true or not about our eyes (and probably not for all prisons – don’t some have chain-linked fences?) but it makes sense. We focus on our daily agendas because kids have to eat, houses need to not be eligible for Hoarders, and work isn’t going to work itself. It’s so easy to let things beyond the day-to-day become fuzzy and out of focus. We develop a kind of life near-sightedness and don’t see the amazing.

When I was in high school, my family road tripped throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. We logged day after scenic day in our Volkswagen Vanagon. My brother, sister, and I were all reading good books. As we logged in both miles and pages read, every so often my mom would turn toward the back of the van and yell, “Everyone put your book down and look OUTSIDE the windows!” And we would look. And outside the windows would be rolling hills with sheep grazing or an ancient ruin or Stonehenge or a picturesque village or a castle. And for just a moment it was disorienting because we were suddenly reminded to be in awe of where we were.

It was almost like we’d forgotten what an incredible adventure we were on.

Soul Searching

(Our President asked for a little soul-searching. Here I go …)

I know with absolute certainty that I live a powerfully privileged life – largely in part because I was born white, straight, and to middle-class, educated parents in America. My privileged reality is that I’ve never had to choose if I’m going to pay for medicine or food.  I’ve never had to teach my son to fear an armed police man. I’ve never feared being shot by the people sworn to protect me. I’ve never considered that my daughters won’t be educated. I’ve never had to hide who I love or been made to feel broken or less because of how I was born. This is privilege. I did nothing to earn it.

And sometimes, in a moment of awareness, I’m swept away with conflicting emotions. I feel heartbroken about the way our world is … I feel guilty that I was born into a position of privilege … I feel lucky.

Lucky.

What a shameful way to feel about the hardships of people I care for deeply.

So I sit and stew in my guilt and shame until my mind finds a way to reason it away.  I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not even remotely racist or homophobic. It’s ridiculous to feel guilty about how the world works.

But is it?

I don’t know if I do or don’t deserve to feel guilt. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it just matters that I do feel guilty. Sometimes, good or bad, we just need to feel. And perhaps those are the moments when God speaks through our emotions. My guilt makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel like something isn’t right, like something is very, very wrong.

And it is, right?

All I know is that, for those of us feeling guilt and working so hard to feel differently,  it’s time to look inside the guilt. We spend so much time preparing our children for this broken world. Maybe it’s time to spend some energy fixing their world. 

Clothes Pins, Family, and Forty Years

About a year (ish) ago I bought a bag of clothes pins. The plan was to use them for closing bags of things in the pantry and for some never-realized craft for the kids. The clothes pins were plentiful for a while and I happily closed our bags of stuff with ease.

And then they began to disappear.

It happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice at first; they just started to become more and more difficult to find until, finally, they were all gone. Occasionally when I’d go to close bags of things I’d mention the disappearance to Keith or the dog or myself. But I never really fully investigated their vanishing – there are plenty of other mysteries that took precedence in my mind – like why Keith can only read every other item on a shopping list, or why my entire family always wants to talk to me when I reach the last twenty pages of a book.

Today, however, I happened to mention the clothes pin disappearance to Molly:

“Molly, I wish I knew where all those clothes pins went.”

“They’re in the princess piñata.”

(We happen to have a princess piñata that’s been hanging out on the floor of our pantry for the past couple of years. Don’t ask – I’m sure there’s a story there but I can’t remember it.)

Lo and behold, the piñata is filled with clothes pins.

Matter-of-fact Molly just shrugged and told me, “That’s where I keep them.”

Of course it is.

So, I was actually kind of excited a bit later when I had the need to close a bag ‘o something. I went straight for the piñata. But, once again, the clothes pins were all gone. I knew who to go to this time.

“Molly! Where are all the clothes pins?”

“I made a person with them.”

“Oh! Can I have one for this bag of rice?”

“No, Mom. I need all of my clothes pins.”

“YOUR clothes pins? I thought they were mine.”

“No, Mom – they were in my piñata.”Image

This is my life.

I live in a world where a four-year old is in charge of pantry management and piñatas are mainstays in the kitchen. It’s a magical place of stale cereal, spilled rice, and the need to be prepared for impromptu fiestas.

And, to give credit where credit is due, it’s all my parent’s fault.

Because forty years ago today they got married and started something chaotic, enduring, messy, loud, ever-changing, solid, and beautiful. Forty years ago they created my family. And they taught my siblings and me what a family looks like, a lesson that I think we’ve all taken to heart and used when creating our own families. So, my pantry problems (and dare I say my missing socks?) are their fault because they showed us that family is …

A place where pantry organization takes backseat to childhood

A place where humor wins and laughter heals

A place where tempers run hot and forgiveness flows freely

A place where ukulele, or guitar, or banjo, or harmonica music is the background to all family gatherings

A place where children are seen and heard and cherished

A place where dogs are loved (and the occasional cat is tolerated)

A place where the stories of our past are the folklore my children are raised with

A place where our differences are part of our strength

A place where creativity is embraced and love is quilted and strummed and sang and composed and danced

A place that has never been less than home – no matter where it’s located or how far apart we are from each other.

I think it’s such serendipitous timing that my parent’s fortieth anniversary is the same day as our Molly’s last day as a four-year-old. It’s such a cool connection to me. Forty years ago when they stood at that altar there’s no way they could have known what they were creating.

And today I spent the day soaking up my littlest girl’s littleness. I inhaled her twirling and singing and knock-knock jokes and clothes pin people because tomorrow she turns five and that feels like a big deal to me.

And, really, it’s all their fault.Image

Magic Sneakers

It’s two years post tornado and one year after I promised myself I was done writing about the tornado. But I’m fickle and I promise not to write about it again! (Unless I do …)

A while back I registered the kids for the Joplin Memorial Fun Run. Molly is four, so I envisioned that Emily (8) and David (10) would run out ahead and Keith and I would walk/slow run with the Mollster. Ha.

I hadn’t told Molly those plans.

She’s trained for the run for weeks. This mostly involved sprinting the loop in my home from kitchen, to family room, to living room, and back – again and again and again. A couple days before the run we bought her new sneakers. They instantly became magic sneakers. You remember the type – the ones that made you run faster than ever before.

She was ready.

And it wasn’t a walk with her parents that she was ready for. That girl ran the whole mile with a huge smile on her little face. It was awesome. (But far from leisurely.)

The race wasn’t just about running though. It was a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the tornado two years ago. There was a sign hanging at the beginning of the race and it had the name of each of those 161.  When my exuberant racers arrived, Molly saw the sign and, assuming it was a list of the racers, asked, “Mommy, where’s my name!? Am I on there?”  If she hadn’t been so excited about racing she may have wondered why it took me a moment before answering her.

“No, baby girl, those are the people who died in the tornado and we’re running today to remember them.”

And then my mind swirled with the rest of the answer …

BUT …

Had the rotation been slightly different …

Had the walls twisted a bit more …

Had the ceiling been blown away over that closet …

Then the names on that list could have included my Molly and Emily and Keith. So close; they were so close.

In the past two years we’ve made the decision not to live in the land of “what if’s” because that can be life freezing and maybe even disrespectful to the people who did lose someone they love.  But the sign with the names (and the t-shirts that read “Running in memory of my Granny”) spoke of those whose loved ones couldn’t get into a safe place, whose ceilings collapsed and whose walls fell.  And I grieve with them for their loss with awareness that the happy ending to my tornado story could make their grief more powerful.

Because their loved ones were so close too – so close to safety, to shelter, to survival.

None of us will forget the storm that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011. My family and I may have decided that the storm doesn’t define us but we would be kidding ourselves to say it hasn’t changed us.

Because when I remember, it reverberates once again through my soul – life is precious, time is fleeting, and the people we love are so vulnerable and so fragile.

When faced with the memory of that day, we will do what we’re left here to do.

We will savor.

We will strap on our magic sneakers and run.

God bless the people whose story ended differently. Hopefully they have found some peace.

Image

And I’m afraid of no one

Today Keith and I went to parent/teacher conferences at Molly’s pre-school. We basked in that particular parental glow that comes when your kid’s teacher tells you how well they’re doing – shapes, colors, letters, beginning reading skills – we’re all over it.

It was a good conference. There was a lot of laughing and love shared in the room about this little person named Molly. With a mind like a sponge, she is learning more and more each day.

There were some things we didn’t discuss.

We didn’t discuss if it was right for her, as a girl, to receive an education.

We didn’t discuss if attending school would make her a target.

Where we live we discuss homeschooling, public school, private school, standardized tests, grades, college prep, etc. I engage in these conversations frequently.

But I have never been in a position to have to defend my daughters’ right to learn. I have never had to put my life on the line for their education.

So, today, as I leave Molly’s conference, I can’t stop thinking about Malala Yousufzai and her father. I am simultaneously in awe of their bravery while heartbroken over a world that required such bravery.

I can only hope that if I’d been born an ocean away, I would have had such courage.

In an interview with CNN from 2011, Malala said:

“I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to the market. I have the right to speak up.”

It’s sadly easy to sit in my safe life and take these rights for granted.

There will always be tyranny and oppression in our world. There will also always be people like Malala. She is just one person … one girl … one child. Yet the ripples of her bravery and intelligence are felt across our globe. I can’t help but think about all the other people, like Malala, risking their lives for rights that I take for granted.

I can only hope for a sliver of her courage. If she can stare down the Taliban, I can speak up for the injustices I see in my safe corner of the world.

After all, in Malala’s words, “I shall raise my voice … If I didn’t do it, who would?”

Your voice is not raised alone Malala. 

I’m at Teachers & Twits Today!

I’ve been blogging for a while now and I’m consistently inconsistent. My plan is to start blogging more regularly; I find it helps me maintain my sanity. However, one thing I’ve been doing consistently ever since I found Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog Teachers & Twits is reading it. She is fantastic – makes me laugh, cry, and think. I tend to read her posts while drying my hair in the morning. And while I love Renée, she has been solely responsible for some pretty bad hair days.

So, it is with no small amounts of blogging awe (nerdy giddiness?) that I’m linking to her blog because today I’M HER GUEST BLOGGER!!! Me, she of the inconsistent posts and bad hair.

Please click on her picture below (I know, I know … she’s beautiful and smart) and comment at her place. Her place! Because that’s where I am!! (Have I mentioned that Renée has some of the best discussions in blogland in her comment section?)