It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Late November

We just got back from our annual Thanksgiving-ish beach trip, which is always one of my favorite weeks of the year.

This fall, I had worked ahead so I didn’t have to take any work along and the trip could be a true time of rest. I decided to prioritize listening to my body and get as much rest as it told me to.  It turns out that my body is very tired.  One night, I went to bed one night at 7:45 pm and slept until the girls woke up at 5.

When I’m at the beach for the week, lazily reading books and taking walks and pushing my kids on swings, it’s hard to remember what tires me out at home and why I never sit down before 8 pm.  Then I come home and remember–oh, we have friends and family members that want to speak with us, clothes that need to be washed instead of stuffed back into a suitcase, a house that actually needs to be maintained, clients who need responses to questions so we can afford to live, children who need more nutrition than french fries and mac and cheese provide, and long-term goals we need to advance towards.

Oh yeah, that.  All of it good. All of it a blessing.

But it’s also a blessing to walk the beach, drink a glass of red wine at 4 pm, throw everyone in the car without brushing anybody’s hair, and drive to a restaurant with “Crabby” in its title, before coming home and going to bed early without doing a single dish. Amen?

1123160818(Zoe was feeling the vacation too…I walked into her bedroom in the condo one morning and found that she had quietly drawn this sweet picture of the four of us smiling on vacation!)

Other fall updates: 

Sabbath – As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m making a concentrated effort to take a weekly Sabbath again.  Getting started “resting” will always be hard for me, but I noticed over the course of the fall that I become more comfortable with Sabbath and begin enjoying it sooner in the day each weekend that I practiced it.  Here are some things I/we have done with our Sabbaths:

  1. Ripping out hideous bushes in the front of our house and replacing them with cool plants  (gardening is not part of our usual work week, so this totally felt Sabbath-y)!
  2. Decorating our house for Halloween.
  3. Visiting a “pickers” market and indulging in my love of antiquing/vintage furniture (I bought a new light fixture for the kitchen…when I finally get an electrician out here to hang it, I’ll report back)!
  4. Having a friend over to teach me more hairstyles for Zoe’s hair.
  5. Planning and hosting our block party.
  6. Having lunch and visiting a garden center with my mother-in-law.
  7. Working out while I left everyone else at home.  🙂
  8. Meeting a friend for coffee.
  9. Reading a book! I’ve been averaging 1 per week.  My best reads this fall were Present Over Perfect and Hungry Heart.  I typically don’t critique other people’s art in writing because I like to encourage the expression of the human spirit, but life is short, so I’ll tell you to save yourself a weekend and avoid Commonwealth. 
  10. Visiting parks with the girls.
  11. Serving as the purchasing coordinator and childcare support for a very important back yard project: A SWING SET!!! Thanks to my awesome and talented dad for planning and building an amazing swing set for our girls! (Unpictured due to privacy concerns…but here is a picture of Zoe swinging elsewhere!)1121161652a

Work – Work-wise, the fall season has been exactly what I hoped for: I was able to explore new clients and new types of work, and gather information about what my ideal client mix looks like.  I’m not on “holiday cruise control” yet, but I’m getting there. My students are one assignment and one exam away from the finish line of our fall course.  I’m done with one grant writing contract for the year; the other two extend through part of 2017, along with a new client (a local children’s museum). This fall, also I helped a new nonprofit get set up, did some copyediting (having a critical personality is annoying but lucrative), and fell in love with helping high school seniors write college admissions essays (if only this was a year-round need…the intersection of empowering adolescents, helping them understand their stories and tell them well, and persuasive writing is totally my sweet spot)!!

Keeping these balls in the air is thrilling, but also stressful, and I realized at some point about two months ago that I am often moving too fast to celebrate my successes.  I am honestly more excited sometimes about checking something off of my to-do list than I am about the thing that I did MEANING something.  That’s weird, and seems like a ticket for the Burnout Express.  So, I have been training myself to pause and celebrate the successes.  Here are two: the last two months, I won $44,000 in separate grants for a grant writing client, and one of “my” high school seniors has been offered over $28,000 in scholarships so far! Par-tayyy!

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Potty training – We finished Z’s potty training in the spring and figured we were done for the year, but Riley initiated her own potty training about 7 weeks ago.  If I have accomplished nothing else this year, I have taught two people bladder control.

Identity crisis – After 12 years of starting my morning with a mug of black coffee, I switched to green tea in September. Who am I?!  (Answer: less caffeinated.  Also, less prone to a midday crash and GI issues that had crept up.)  I debated sharing this because I have a coffee-loving image to uphold, but this is what qualifies as “news” these days.  Consider yourself informed (and invited for your post-lunch latte, which is still a thing, because I need to recognize myself in the mirror/make it through the day).

Halloween – In a wildly unpredictable costume choice, Zoe was Elsa for Halloween.  She was also very eager to get trick-or-treating, so this family photo was the best we could do of the four of us:

dsc08416(Not pregnant – just phoning in a costume).

Christmas tree – has been chosen.

1125161117aNothing says “Christmas cheer” like Crocs, a Minnie Mouse Halloween costume, and a thin layer of sweat from the 80 degree weather.

Also, check out Zoe’s cornrows.  I have to say, I’m becoming a bit proud of my black hairstyling skills (when Zoe will sit still enough for me to use them).  Here’s a more basic two-strand twist:

IMG_5132.JPGTo other mamas attempting to learn styles: I would highly recommend the book Better than Good Hair,  and finding a friend who works for a nonprofit organization designed to help black girls celebrate their culture.  The latter may be a little more difficult to find, but amazingly, God has gifted me with such a friend! I am so grateful.  I actually have another hair story to tell you, but this post is getting too long, so I’ll share it another time.

Off to decorate the tree…

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My First-Ever Political Post

Over the last year and a half, I’ve had many spirited and friendly conversations with friends and neighbors about politics, but writing my views out has always felt too pointed.  In a conversation, you can tell if you’re stepping on someone’s feelings and can quickly change the subject or address the miscommunication.  In a blog post, you can’t.

I haven’t want to hurt anyone in my family or church community by sharing my political views. I haven’t wanted anyone to feel that I don’t respect their intellect, judgment, or life experiences.  I haven’t wanted to engage in a point-by-point argument with anyone, because I enjoy simply swapping experiences and learning from one another, and don’t enjoy participating in conversations designed solely to “convert” someone to their or my point of view.  I respect others’ rights to their own beliefs and conclusions.

And so I have been silent on this space.  Actually, to be accurate, I wrote several blog posts that I didn’t post, because I value my relationships.

Behind the scenes, I read Zoe and Riley books about the political process.  I took Zoe with me when I voted a few weeks ago, so I could tell my daughter someday that she was with me when I voted for the first woman president.  Because surely he wouldn’t win.  

This morning, I had to explain to my daughter that he won.

“But Donald Trump’s not nice,” she said.  “Why is he the President?”

I don’t have an answer for you, baby.  I don’t, I thought.   

“Tell him not to be the President,” she said.  I told her that we couldn’t do that—he had won the vote.

“He’s bad!” she said.  No, I said.  I think that he’s a sad and confused man who makes some wrong choices.  And now that he’s our president, we can pray that he makes good choices.  

All morning, people have been texting me, wanting my take on what’s unfolding.  I’m not sure why, except that many people feel hurt and confused, and maybe as a pastor’s wife they expect me to be able to distribute nuggets of wisdom and comfort.  Wisdom? Comfort? It’s hard for me to feel these things about our earthly home right now.  But I do feel a responsibility, maybe, finally, to share my perspectives and a few things I’ve learned during this election season.

Here goes.

-This fall, I did not put a sign up in my yard.  However, I did plan and host our neighborhood’s first-ever block party. Twenty-six people ranging from the age of 9 months to 90 attended.  Everyone stayed past the stated end time, sitting in mismatched chairs on my lawn, chatting and laughing.  And then no one on the whole block put up a political sign.  We built bridges instead of a wall.  I am proud of my street.  I want to look for more ways to do that, and I hope others in our country take on this charge as well.

-I felt that in this election, it was more important to vote against something, than to vote for something.  It was also the first presidential election where I actually felt fear about the candidate I was not voting for, instead of thinking “I have idealogical differences from this person, but still respect him.”  I hope that our next presidential election offers more inspiring choices.

-I was surprised when men were so shocked and appalled by the sexual assault-related content in this election season.  As men denounced Trump’s actions and statements, all I could think was, where has this outrage been for my whole life? How are they surprised by his language and attitude, when dealing with this type of language and attitude has been part of my experience and the experience of every woman I know? The vast majority of the men in my life have been outstanding men who treat women with respect, but the way that Trump acted—and the fact that he was a presidential candidate—did not shock me.  My lack of shock was horrifying to David.  His horror was surprising to me.  To me, it was locker room talk—not locker room talk I CONDONE or PRAISE, but talk that was, very sadly, in line with my experiences as a woman.  It is sad to me that I was not more surprised.  We have to do better.  But sadly, I don’t feel that the outcome of this election will contribute to an advance in the way that women are treated.

-I want to thank Democrats for the fact that my daughters will never know a world in which someone who looks like them cannot be a serious contender for the role of president of the United States.  I do not share every belief your party espouses, but I am grateful that you champion underrepresented voices.

-I want to thank John McCain, Mitt Romney, and other Republican leaders who denounced Trump for taking a leadership stance within their party.  I feel badly about the situation that you—and other Republicans of similar conscience—found yourself in.  I hope you examine your role in creating this situation, and your responsibility in fixing it if you continue to attach yourself to this party.

-I have always considered myself a moderate, and have not registered or affiliated myself with a party. Although I tend to lean Democrat, I evaluate the candidates and vote for people on both sides of the aisle.  However, moving forward, I plan to register with the Democratic Party.  While I will continue to evaluate each candidate, there is no way that the greater Republican Party as it stands right now can represent my vision for America.  Numbers inform decision-making in politics, especially when you live in a swing state, and I want to make it clear that this +1 is going to a different set of ideals in hopes that this sends a message.

Plus, since our short-sighted state has closed primaries, I can now help select the candidates moving forward.  I do not think that that my newly-labeled party is perfect by any means, so as I attach myself to it, I will look for ways to use my voice to improve it. I don’t think a two-party system is perfect, either, but I feel like maybe I need to start trying to work within an imperfect system instead of trying to make a statement about its imperfections and having little voice.  We’ll see what happens.

-I want to thank Hillary Clinton for taking this job interview seriously.  You were not a perfect candidate by any means (although none of us are perfect anyway), but your debate skills and clear passion for policy have inspired me and reminded me that I can keep growing and learning for my entire lifespan, if I make the choice to stay engaged.  Thank you for supporting a peaceful transition of power.  I hope you get some time to relax now. Also, I would suggest that you avoid using e-mail moving forward.  It doesn’t seem to go well for you.

So.

When I woke up this morning at 4:20 am (for the fourth morning in a row…Daylight Savings Time, can you be outlawed in the first 100 days of a Trump presidency?? I could actually get behind THAT), someone close to me asked, “what do we do now???”

Here’s what I did: I read news, until I decided—enough.  I made breakfast for my kids.  I gave them hugs.  We had a dance party.  I did some laundry.  I went to Jazzercise.  I talked to someone who was upset by the election and let her cry for a few minutes.  I bought an expensive latte to remind myself that fear of economic changes does not control me.  I took my kids to the park.  I smiled at strangers at the park.  I reminded myself that we still live in a free country.  I reminded myself that this tiny place I live on this tiny planet in this big galaxy is just a temporary home—that God is still on the throne.  I decided to pray for our president-elect, as I have been doing throughout this election season already.  I texted with friends, listening to their feelings, trying to offer support.

I’m not thrilled by this new beginning.  But I also recognize that disengaging isn’t the answer.  So here’s my engagement.  Here’s my voice.

And here’s what I take hope in: the president is not America.  WE are America.  We work to make it what it is.  And ultimately, each of us has another, far more true identity than our nationality—and that is our identity as a child of God. I pray that we all begin to see, embrace, and work from that commonality, for when I see God in you and live like the God who is in me, this country and this world will become a better place.