I Love You But…

I love you but…

I love you anyway…
I love you even though you…
I love you in spite of…

This, for a long time, was my support network of love. A lot of my people anyway.

They didn’t mean me any harm. They really did love me. At least, in the way that they are able to love. But, they made it a point to constantly point out what I had done wrong, what kind of person that made me, and how I should feel lucky that they would still love me after all that.

My transgressions have varied, from having children out of wedlock numerous times to having a small intimate wedding for 25 people instead of a big all-inclusive family wedding for over 300. For no longer labeling myself as a Christian. For being a single mother living in poverty. For posting about politics too much and daring to correct anyone. And through all of this, there was always the inevitable pointing out how it was all was my own fault.

For a long time, the vast majority of my people made it very clear that I was only lovable if…

That I was still okay, but clearly I was lucky they had chosen to stick around. And of course, that I could learn from them.

And they were careful not to give me too much praise or credit, because I was damaged, after all. And because of this, it was very unlikely that I may be right about anything because of how badly I had screwed up my life.

But they loved me anyway and I should be thankful for that.

And for a long time, I believed all that. I bought into it because it was what I was taught and what I had learned. It was built into who I was.

 
Ultimately, I decided that the whole “good enough” thing is bullshit. And that what other people think of me is their business.

 
But that I get to make my own definition.

 

And I stopped going out of my way for people who only love me if..

For people who make qualifiers on who I get to be and what makes me good enough.

I didn’t throw anyone out of my life or even block them.

It would be a clearer description to say that I merely let them go. A process I have been learning and relearning my whole life.

I would be lying to you if I said that parts of this process weren’t absolutely heartbreaking.

But what I have gained is people who love me no matter what.

I realized that there are people who will truly be there for me, instead of just saying they will. People who will show up no matter how busy they get. They will go out of their way to make sure that I know I matter. They will care when they don’t have to and love me at my best and my worst.

They love me no matter what.

People who love me so much that they give me the benefit of the doubt rather than automatically assuming I am wrong, or cruel, or damaged.

People who are there for the good days and the bad days and the worst days and the everything in-between days. The people who always remember to invite you and never stop making you feel welcome.

And the thing is, when I stopped taking up so much time trying to please and be what everyone thought I should be, I made a lot of space in my life for figuring out who I am. And when your main group of people do a mass exodus on you, it gives you lots of time to find out who you are.

And as the people dropped from my life, as I was no longer apologizing to them for who I was, I made space for the people who don’t feel I should apologize for being myself. And found that they actually just love me for me. As simple as that.

I could’ve stayed where I was my whole life. It was safe and familiar, even if I had to hide myself in order to be good enough. I had to tone myself down to be acceptable. I could’ve kept being lucky that they still loved me.

But I define my worth, and when I decided that I was enough as I am, the people who love me as such appeared. Truly, just like that.

I have a much larger circle of friends now. My network of people who love me and are here for me has multiplied tremendously. But only after I decided that I was good enough to be loved no matter what.

How about you? Would your people still love you no matter what? Or do you have to pretend and be quiet for them to love you?

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What Side Were You On?

 

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History will ask us what we said and did in these times. I assure you of that.  They will demand to know what part we played.

Your children and your children’s children, they will ask you, if we each make it that far. They will ask what you were thinking. And what you did. They will ask us you what side you were on.

And so many will have to answer, “I was eating my McDonalds, even though it was ruled unfit for human consumption. Because it’s fast and it’s cheap and I have important things to do. Plus, I never missed a professional football game and that took up a lot of my time…”

Others will say that they could not speak, because the simple words of, “You are using that word wrong,” and posting proof of it is enough to get them banished from their family.

The state of unrest in our America ripples through every single citizen, like it or not.

So many others will claim that they merely wanted to Make Facebook Fun Again, so they were so busy blocking and deleting and de-friending that they skewed the way the whole world looked around them, until they created a space where they only saw what they already knew and believed in.

And yet, ironically, our ancestors will not have to wonder what side we were on. They will not have to ponder what our lives were like. We have laid them out in detail all by ourselves, from corner to corner across the World Wide Web, like road maps to our destruction or our salvation. That part is still up for grabs.

Either way, we are writing own stories as we go along. Choosing what parts get the sunshine and which parts are kept hidden. Choosing “sides” or remaining “neutral.” Ignoring the whole damn mess or getting our hands dirty and helping to clean up the mess.

It could be easy to stick labels on everything, like name tags, and pretend it’s so simple.

But these dividing lines are not about Republican or Democrat.

They are not whether you are Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or atheist.

They are not about whether you are black or white or one of the multitudes of varieties of ethnic origins within the human race.

The dividing lines have nothing to do with where we all fit on the LGBT spectrum.

 

These dividing lines are about good versus evil.

They are about the top of the 1% who currently holds all the wealth and all the power, and the rest of us.

They are about right versus wrong.

These dividing lines are as old and as simple as our human existence.

Some among us are attempting to make things seem complicated. And to divide us, because they know (better than we do) that our strength lies in our numbers.

But this is not complicated. We can look at what makes us different or we can look for what makes us the similar. It is as simple as that.

These are the morals and truths that we were taught by our mothers and fathers. By our kindergarten teachers in classrooms all across this county. By our favorite aunties and our grandfathers and our cool older cousins.

Play nice.

Take turns.

Hands to yourself.

 Share.

Be respectful.

No name calling.

 Use your words.

We are always learning.

And most important, we love one another.

It is the words written in Red and the premise of the holy book of every major world religion.

Love one another.

But not everybody is ready.  One must set down the division to see the similarities. And love lies within the similarities. It cannot thrive or even exist among division. But that is something we can only see for ourselves.

I want to be clear that this is not about what label you put on yourself or what box you check inside your own voting booth.

This is about our America. And the fact that our democracy is being purposefully and systematically dismantled piece by piece. This is about real and actual danger.

And if you do not know this or believe this, then you are simply not paying enough attention. Or not listening to the whole story.

So I’m not going to stop talking about the important stuff that is going on around us. No matter who storms out of my life.

I’m not going to be quiet because it bothers some of you. Because that would be irresponsible.

 

And I assure you, unless you are a member of the true 1%, this will affect you and your family for generations.

 

Did you ever wonder where you would stand if a battle rose between good and evil? Now is your chance to find out.

Check Your Jesus

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I do not label myself as a Christian, despite being raised in a very actively Christian family and home and schools. But I do, every day, try to live the message of Jesus. The words written in red. I have always loved the words written in red.

Christians, by definition,  walk the walk of Christ. They stand up for what’s right (because he died on the cross for them, according to their very own Christian justification). Christians use their voice, because Jesus never said Be Kind or Be Quiet. He stood on the mound and he preached truth. And love. Jesus was a love guy.

Saying the words, “I am a Christian,” does not make you a Christian.

Not any more than dressing up like a lion on Halloween makes you a lion.

Jesus was willing to die a terrible death to save everyone. He walked the walk AND talked the talk. And all the while, he never talked shit about the fat people and the prostitutes, and he never told the poor and the weary and the needy and the women and the minorities to shut up and sit down. He told us to stand up for those who need it. He told us to call out the bullies and come together. He told us to love one another. He did not turn away or ignore, or waver. He used his voice. And he was brave.

It’s all in the Bible. Jesus’s words are written in red. If you are a Christian, you know these words. These words are burned into the heart of those who truly embody Christ.

So I’m going to ask you all what you think Jesus would do today? Not the Jesus that your “news” seems to know so intimately. Not the Jesus that gets used as a bat to hit with, or a promise to get your way. I’m referring to the Jesus you were taught as a child. The one who taught us to love one another. The guy with the words written in red.

What would HE say today?

Because I think He’d be the guy standing up and shouting from the hilltops for everyone to hear : “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And I am confident in this because you can find those words, written in red.

In what could be described as irony, most of the Christians that I know are very attached to the idea of a white Jesus. But given the fact that His birth and story take place in the middle east, it’s logical to assume that Jesus was actually of middle-eastern descent.

Which means, should Jesus come back (aka Christ’s “second coming,”) it wouldn’t be a stretch that He would return as say, a little Syrian boy. But we can’t let Him in, under the pretense that we are protecting, like Jesus.

So, on that note, what side are YOU on? Are you the one who was cheering to let Jesus in at the gate? Or were you the one who sat quiet in your house eating another bag of Taco Bell and donuts and tuning out with mindless television? Because “politics” is just too depressing. Jesus is watching, either way. Or so I’m told.

I believe that Jesus would look at America right now, with it’s mega-churches and mega-homeless vets and say, “I call bullshit. None of you are reading my words. Few of you remind me of me. Stop using my name for your hate. Check your Jesus!”

When it comes to hate, Jesus is never the reason.

And so I ask…

What walk are you walking today? I don’t mean calling yourself a Christian and I don’t mean going to church. I mean, what are you doing in your daily life that reminds you of Jesus? When, and how, do you remind yourself of Jesus? Because it is only then that you are acting with a Christian heart.

My 3rd Parent and My 5th Child

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Two years ago today we moved into our lovely old house. It was built in 1896, so this place is celebrating its 120th birthday this year, as we celebrate 2 years of calling it home. I refer to this place as “mine,” but more accurately we are the caretakers here. There have been others before us and there will be more after. This house sees generations of humans, where I get one human lifetime.

On one of my favorite tv shows, a man owns an estate and a castle. He refers to his home as his 3rd parent and his 4th child. When I first heard that, something ran through me that left goosebumps. I completely understood the weight of that.

This big old house that I call mine is my 3rd parent and my 5th child…

In the way that it keeps me warm and dry, a safe haven of love and acceptance in a scary world. 24/7, always here for me. I never even think to doubt it.

In the way that it has constant needs and demands, always requiring my hands on it to fill cracks and sweep out corners and give attention. Such constant cries for my attention and affection.

In the way that it takes my time and my love, and seems to breathe it all right back into the people who step inside.  This home feels more like a person than a place.

Maybe it is the 120 years of history and stories and families that have lived here. Or maybe it’s because we believe this house chose us. But either way, it IS a part of our family. This may not make sense to you, but then I’m guessing you haven’t been here.

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I spent a lot of my adult life with a lot of responsibilities and not a lot of money. I had a couple decent places to live but mostly pretty crappy ones. I rented what I could afford, and often had very little heat or money or food and life was really hard. I dreamed for many years of a warm old house with extra bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms and room for all of us to gather or be alone at times. And two years ago, that wish came true.

If I could create any home, any place on earth to tuck away and be safe and sound from the storms of life, it would be here. With its flowery wallpaper inside and it’s vines growing up the walls outside. I feel lucky every day to be here, even when I’m scrubbing hundreds of windows. But especially today, as we celebrate 2 years caring for this parent/child house of ours. This dream come true.

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*** I sometimes write about how much I love my life and I worry that people think things are all “perfect” and I totally “have it together.” No one should be under the impression that I do not bitch about my big old house from time to time. ‘Cause I do. Nor should you be confused that I have a perfect life, as I do not. My toddler refused to leave his high chair all morning so I let him to watch 5 episodes of Barbie Dreamhouse because it kept him reigned in and allowed me to write to you kind folks…

 

Who My Son is Supposed To Be

 

My son Lincoln loves Frozen. Not so much the movie anymore, now that everyone in the house has it memorized. But he loves to play with his purple Frozen bucket in the sand box. And his pink and blue Frozen pajamas are such a hit that it’s a holy battle to get him to take them off. So when we went shopping for new shoes last weekend, he picked out fuchsia Frozen Crocs with Anna and Olaf on them. He looked around the whole store at all of the shoes, but these were the shoes that he clutched to his chest and carried proudly to the checkout.

 

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Lincoln loves dinosaurs and dragons, and he likes trucks. But he gets lost for an hour playing in the doll house that we found on Varagesale. It’s not unusual to find he’s carrying the set of babies that came with it around in his chubby little hands.

He gets excited about the real construction equipment that is working on the next block, but he could mostly take or leave the trucks at home. He does like to play with Optimus Prime on occasion, but I think that might be more about getting his big brothers undies in a bundle.

I spent a lot of my life doing “should be” things, for myself and my kids. Girls “should be” dressed a certain way. I “should be” a certain way. Boys “should” only play with certain toys.

Some of the norms we teach in our society are necessary, like manners, and hygiene. But some of the things we teach are not that important. Like what color our shoes are, or how we like to spend our spare (or play) time. They are small stuff but sometimes we talk about them until we convince everyone they are actually big stuff.

I’ve learned that some of the things I was brought up to believe (though taught to me with the best of intentions) do not fit me. I was not given the whole story, only the parts that our society and my particular family thought best for me. This is true for all of us.

We don’t have to take on all of the “supposed to be’s” in life. We don’t even have to pick them up. We are beings that get to choose. It is what makes us human. That, and the fact that we are all alike, but different.

Lincoln is just Lincoln, with his own set of unique fingerprints and his own multitudes of personality. A small human being with his own likes and dislikes. And fuchsia shoes.

I have no idea who he’ll “turn out” to be. But I’m going to do all I can to let him figure it out.

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The Mom at Chuck E Cheese

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We went to Chuck E Cheese for a birthday party yesterday. This sort of breaks one of my big rules in life – going to Chuck E Cheese at all – but we were invited to a cousin’s birthday party and it seems like a good idea to have the boys grow up with family. I grew up this way, and Steve did, but as we’ve gotten older, our families have scattered and we often “do our own thing,” like so many families these days. We’re all so busy, right?

I used to call Chuck E Cheese the worst place on earth. But I’m older now and I have new definitions of the worst place on earth. Watching my mom die in a sad old nursing home and spending any time at Children’s hospital pretty much made me realize that Chuck E Cheese is a breeze. So, we went.

The boys ate pizza and cake and watched the little show they put on with the big furry robots, which Lincoln loved at a distance and hated close up. Incidentally, this reassured me that he is smart. Then the boys ran wild with the games and the coins and the tickets, having fun with all of the noise and the chaos and being allowed to act accordingly. Hence why I hate it. Because I’m a control freak, you know? Plus, I’m also a germaphobe and there are a million kids there eating and playing all at once with their snotty little noses and I’m pretty sure we could start the Bubonic plague again out of one of those places without trying hard at all.

On this note, I used the bathroom there, which also kind of breaks my rule but it was necessary. A young mother came into the bathroom as I was washing my hands. She was holding a big chubby baby of maybe 6 months old. The mom kind of peeked around as if there might be somewhere to put the baby and then went looking for a stall. I realized she was just going to do her thing with her baby in her arms.

Go ahead, freak out about the gross factor here but let me tell you that every mom has had this moment. Where you just have to pee or whatever and the baby is with you so you make the most of it. I almost didn’t ask her if she needed my help, but then I did, because I’ve been practicing using my instinct and not my crazy questioning mind.

So I said “Do you want help?” over the sound of the hand dryer. But she didn’t speak English. She cocked her head and raised one hand as if to say she didn’t understand, and kind of like why was I talking to her when she had to use the bathroom.

So I said, “Help?” and I held my arms out to her in a gesture to take the baby. And her face fell in relief and she rushed over and handed me her most prized possession. Her most prized person and her most precious anything. The one she made from her body but needed two minutes away from to take care of herself. She handed me her baby and I took her.

Big, dark, dark brown eyes and big dark lashes and the sweetest little head full of dark hair. So very different than my light-skinned, fair-haired babies, yet she had the same lazy, chubby baby body of my 3rd baby. And that amazing baby smell that every baby on the planet has. She warmed my heart from the second she hit my hands.

I thought briefly that she might cry when her mom left her sight but she didn’t. She let me hold her and looked at me like I was new but not scary. I said, “Well hello, little friend,” and she looked at me for a few moments and then laid her little head on my shoulder. I leaned my cheek into her dark hair and I was so thankful. Just bursting from top to bottom with thankful. Because this baby felt safe with me. And thankful for being a mama and knowing how to make a baby feel safe. And thankful I could help this mom, who didn’t know me but knew that I was offering help and not more problems. Just… Thankful.

It was a little moment. A blink. A fraction of the day and speck of sand in the grand scheme of my life. But it meant something to me. To know that there is trust out there. To know that there are mothers willing to take each other’s hands for help. To know that we have a connection that goes deeper than language or words. Some magic that speaks merely between the beats of a mother’s heart.

Looking for Light

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Every morning, now that the seasons are changing and the morning brings a crisp bite to the air, Lincoln and I head out looking for light.

We start out with Brice on his bike, half a block ahead of us, soaring down the hills from our house towards his school. I do all I can to not scream at him to be careful. But he is. I’ve taught him and he’s careful. He stops at driveways and long before an intersection. He goes as fast as he can and then slams on the brake and fishtails. He looks back to take in the black mark he created on the sidewalk and then looks at me with a huge smile. He gives me a thumbs up and I give one back. Lincoln waves.

We drop off Brice at school and we visit with a mom or two each morning. It’s a lovely way to start the day. Brice takes off with his friends and then heads into school in a single file line when the bell rings, so Lincoln and I head off, me on foot and him in the jogger.

We used to have a plan, a route I’d take based on the day and how much time I had to walk. We’d head up towards Tahoe Park and walk through the grass, chasing up geese and looking out at the ski ramp before it was brought on land for the winter. We’d head down Haskell past where my cousin Frank and his wife Suzanne used to live, and then over the dam and wind our way through downtown. Some days we headed along the lake through the green manicured lawns of the subdivisions along the water, then up the secret sidewalk and come back home on our own street. It depended on the day, but usually I had it mapped with a clear route.

But these cold mornings leave me wanting to head back home to sit on a warm radiator, so instead, we walk wherever the sunlight hits. At the end of each block, at whatever intersection we find ourselves, we head toward the light. It warms our faces, and hopefully Lincoln’s head and hands, since he throws hats and mittens like baseballs. Instead he holds my hand as I lean over the jogger, and I try to keep them warm.

We wind through town mostly, past tiny little ranches and huge old Victorians and everything in between, the sun on our faces. We walk just as long and just as far probably, but we wander in a zig-zag in search of light and the warmth it provides.

I wouldn’t have done this, had it not been for the chill in the air. I’m a planner, you could say, and I like things in order. I’d have stayed on task and created a specific route.

But what if this is better? To have a goal in mind but not be really picky about the exact path that gets me there?

I’m planning only a block or an hour or a day ahead, because that is where the sun is shining right now. I’ll walk in the shade if we have to, because sometimes that’s all there is. But if I can, I’m choosing the warmest path, the one where the light is shining.