162 Days Ago

Tonight I will fall asleep as a life-long resident of Indiana. (If I ever actually get to sleep, that is.)

Tomorrow I will fall asleep as a brand-new resident of Massachusetts. (If I’m actually able to fall asleep, that is.)

My emotions are all over the board, and, for once in my life, I don’t even have a good theory about how to organize them or sort them out. For the past six weeks, I’ve gone with a “pretend they aren’t there” sort of coping strategy. I’ve thrown myself into finding housing, packing boxes, planning travel, scheduling utilities to be turned off/on, switching bank accounts, getting my daughter registered for her new school, trying to celebrate the holidays, and (mostly unsuccessfully) doing my best to squeeze in every possible moment that I can with loved ones. I’ve taken my little (read: HUGE) box of emotions and shoved them in the trunk between the TRIO blocks and Barbies.

Now, I wonder when that box will open. Will I open it willingly? Will it burst open when the emotions can no longer be contained? And what will I find when the lid comes off? 

At this point, I feel excitement more than anything. I have always, always wanted to experience living in a big city and tomorrow that wish will come true. My family and I will be living in Boston. That still feels completely unreal to me.

But every time I give myself a little room, the sadness creeps around the corner. What will I do when I really need a hug from my dad or to hold hands with my mom? How will it feel when my brother needs a hand, and I can’t be there to lend it? Or when my sister needs a girls’ night out, and I can’t be there to tag along? And let’s not even talk about my beautiful niece. She changes a little every day, and I’ve seen her at least twice a week for her entire life. Will I really be able to go three entire months without pressing my lips to her chubby wittle cheeks?

And I ache a little for my kids. How will it affect them to live a thousand miles away from Poppa and Nonna? From Pop and Gigi? Will they have to experience their first Grandparents’ Day without any grandparents in attendance? Is it selfish of me to pray that our new school district doesn’t observe Grandparents’ Day?

And, seriously, who will encourage Burke’s obsession with farts and butts and burps and other gross boy stuff? It annoys me to no end, but I’m so thankful he has playful grandfathers who aid and abet his mischievous side. Oh, God, please protect him. Mold him and shape him into the compassionate, charismatic young man you’ve created him to be.

Will Ruby make friends easily? Will she over-compensate for her insecurity by being really bossy? Will she be intimidated by her anxiety and become a wall-flower? Oh, God, please protect her. Mold her and shape her into the strong, sharp young woman you’ve created her to be. 

More than anything, I want our family to follow the path God has laid for us, and I feel, unequivocally, that this is the next step along that path. I can’t even list all of the incredible open doors and miraculous timing that brought this opportunity to our doorstep.

And that’s why these curiosities only creep around the corner…why they don’t dominate my thoughts and direct my emotions. Because I know who planned this move long before I did. I know who set this course long before I realized where it was headed. And he has never, not ever, left me hanging.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up as a wide-eyed explorer…ready to take on this new adventure and live every moment to its fullest.

Bring it on, 2014, I am SO ready for you!

——

I wrote that 162 days ago…just hours before trading in my one-way ticket for a plane ride East. Reflection coming soon.

(in)Community

I’ve talked about my desire for this space to become a safe community where hard issues are discussed, where sensitive issues are given air time, where real relationships are formed, and where world views are expanded.

I genuinely believe that authentic relationships can be cultivated online. I know couples who have met online and gone on to have fantastically healthy relationships and marriages. I know friends who have met online who continue to be each others’ #1 support, despite the thousand miles between them. I know families that are separated by land and sea who manage to stay close thanks to the internet.

At the very, very least, I believe that online community is far, far better than no community. And there are times in life when online community may be the only option.

I’m a mom who works from home while caring for three kids aged 7, 5, and 11 months. These days, it’s really hard to get out of the house to create community. I cannot meet all of my responsibilities and simultaneously host or participate in daily community building activities (play dates, book clubs, mom groups, etc…). But I greatly desire the opportunity to interact with others on a regular basis and even find a few people who might just understand what it’s like to participate in a conference call at 11:00 and endure an episode of Power Rangers at noon.

That’s where the (in)courage Community Groups come in. These online groups of women are created to provide an opportunity for women who are in need of community to find a space where they can be encouraged, find support, and invest in others . There are groups that are geared to all sorts of women in all sorts of situations.

This season, I’ll be co-leading a group for moms who are working from home. I’m excited to be partnered with Becky, from Time-Out with Becky. We’ve named our group Ampersand, and you can register for the group by visiting our group page. If you’d like to join an (in)courager Group but feel like Ampersand isn’t your cup of tea, I highly encourage you to browse through the full list of offerings! There are over 70 groups, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of these women over the past couple of weeks as we’ve prepared for this time. I think you’ll be greatly encouraged by your participation.

So, go ahead, pop over to the (in)courage Community Groups section and dive in!

Let’s Talk

“Ruby, what do you think about people who have a different skin color?”

I asked her totally out of the blue. We were driving home from an afternoon of running errands. And it was just on my mind, so I asked.

“Well, I don’t really know. It depends.”

“Hmm. Could you explain that?”

“Well, I mean, most of the time I don’t really think anything. But I do feel bad, because it’s usually the first thing I notice…like whether someone has the same color of skin as me or if it’s different.”

“Oh! Well that’s totally okay, honey. Scientific studies have shown that our brains naturally see those differences right away. There is nothing wrong with noticing that someone is different from you. If you tried to pretend there was no difference, that would be kinda silly.”

“Yeah! Because it’s totes obvious that Jason’s skin is different than mine.”

“Did you just say, ‘Totes’?”

“Yeah…”

“Please don’t ever say that again. Moving on…”

“Yeah, well, it’s really obvious that my skin isn’t the same as Jason’s or Abby’s. But, like, Thea and I are exactly the same. I mean, like, our hair and eyes and faces are even the same.”

“That’s sorta true. You guys could be sisters.”

“Yeah, so when it’s my friends, I notice that they look different than me or the same as me, but I don’t really think anything about it. I care a lot more whether they’re kind to me or nice to me at recess.”

“Well, that makes sense. And I think that’s really great.”

“But there are times when I feel a little scared.”

“When is that?”

“Well, when someone looks sorta tough. You know what I mean? When they’re a lot bigger than me and they have tough-looking clothes on. I feel a little scared, like maybe they’re going to be mad at me because of all the bad stuff that people with white skin did before me. And I don’t wanna get slammed against a wall or anything. You know? Because they don’t know me. They don’t know that I really don’t care about their skin. They might just think that I’m like those bad people from before. Or they might be mad because I don’t have to deal with all that. You know?”

Y’all.

Y’all.

Out of the mouths of babes.

She’s seven, and she’s got a hefty dose of white-guilt coursing through her veins. It automatically puts her on edge around people with different shades of skin. And mostly, society has told her to just be quiet about it. Otherwise, things might get a little “aw-kward”, as my son would say.

So I’m bucking the trend that society prefers. I’m asking her to talk about it. I’m opening up space for her to tell me her thoughts and feelings. And we’re fumbling around and figuring it out together.

I’m talking with her.  But I want more. I want you to talk with her.

letstalk1

Yes, you.

She needs to know that other white people have some of the same thoughts and feelings. She needs to know how you’ve worked through them in your life.

She needs to know that black people aren’t mad at her, even if they’re mad at her ancestors or society in general. She needs to know what you do think about her and how you think she can help. She needs to sit down with a “tough-looking” black man and see that, even if he is big and strong and wearing a hoodie, it doesn’t mean he intends to harm her.

She needs to know that brown people are facing their own equality struggle today. She needs to hear that, when you walk into an upper-end yoga studio with your two white friends, the hostess tells your friends where the class is meeting, then turns to you and asks if you’re hoping to use public restroom. But she also needs to hear that you don’t blame her for that and that you want to be her friend, even when other people with the same color of skin as her can be really stupid sometimes.

She needs to know that yellow people get pigeon-holed and stereo-typed…that your property manager wouldn’t answer you questions about your bedbugs because he “couldn’t understand your accent”, even though you speak perfect English. But your bedbug situation was quickly addressed as soon as your white friend got involved. She needs to know that, even though this is irritating and hurtful, you don’t blame her for it. And that you’d really like to be her friend.

Mostly, she needs to know that you and she are more alike than you are different. And she needs you to join with her to create a community that’s based on those likenesses but still appreciates and respects the differences. She needs you to help her learn how to fight for racial equality and to strive for racial reconciliation.

letstalk2

And when I say she, I mean me.

So I’m starting by inviting you to this space. Will you consider writing a guest post for this blog? Will you share some of your experience, some of your thoughts, some of your stories, some of your own questions and insecurities? Because I believe that’s the first step. Putting aside our differences to really hear one another.

(And parents…would you consider sharing this series with your children? A friend recently shared an article with me which included the following statement: “It’s possible that by third grade, when parents usually recognize it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.” Even if you’re already past that point in your child’s development, it’s not too late. We need to talk about these things. And we need to do it sooner rather than later.)

I’m working on putting together a list of resources to help us navigate these waters. But I really think speaking with one another is the best place to start. So…the invitation is open: Let’s Talk!

If you’d consider contributing to this series, I’d be honored to share your words in this space. Just let me know in the comments, and I’ll get ahold of you to coordinate your submission.

—–

This post is the sixth in a series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” You can see the full list of posts here. Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.

Speaking Up

Yesterday we went to the zoo with some new friends of ours. Burke, my five year old son, was intent on playing at the playground, and his friend, Lucy, was totally cool with that plan. They climbed up ladders, ran across bridges, came down the slides, and enjoyed the swings.  After a bit, the mommas told them it was time for lunch.

So we headed out of the playground and started walking toward the cafe. I grabbed Burke’s hand, and Lucy grabbed her Momma’s. Then, she reached out to grab Burke’s. In an unnatural move, he pulled his hand back. She reached again, and he pulled back again.

“Burke, Lucy wants to hold your hand, buddy.”

“But I don’t want to,” he replied, “her skin is brown.”

Y’all.

Y’all.

I did the only thing I could think to do. I looked right at him and said, “So what?”

“It feels different,” he explained. “My skin is peach.”

“And mine is, too!” Lucy exclaimed, turning her hand over. Sure enough, peachy smooth skin presented itself for Burke to consider.

“See, Burke? It’s no big deal,” I said.

“Hmm…yep,” he answered and started to skip toward the cafe.

We went on to have lunch and to see the tigers, the gorillas, and one very hairy camel.

When it was time to leave, Lucy opened her arms for a hug, and I held my breath.

I held my breath and prayed that Burke wouldn’t make a scene. And he didn’t.

He grabbed Lucy in a big hug, and I exhaled.

Then, she kissed him.

“Ewww!” he screamed, running away.

Lucy’s mom and I laughed and headed to our cars.

Once again, I held my breath as I asked Burke about his reaction.

“Why did that upset you buddy? Was it because her skin is brown?”

“No!” he answered simply. “She’s a giiiirrrrllll!!!”

Ah, just the way it should be. ;)

How am I handling this? Clumsily. Very, very clumsily. I feel awkward and ill-equipped. I feel ignorant and unsure. I feel like I’m going to mess them up or make it worse.

But I’m going to try anyway. I’m starting by opening the lines of communication. I’m talking about it with my kids. I’m not shying away from their questions or reactions. I’m not shushing them as if they’ve said something wrong.

Because they haven’t.

They’re expressing their observances. Yes, Lucy’s skin is brown. Yes, it feels different. There’s nothing wrong about that, and there’s nothing wrong with Burke pointing it out.

My job is to help him figure out what to do with that information. And so I’m trying.

“Her skin is brown.”

“So what?”

—–

This post is the fifth in a series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” You can see the full list of posts here. Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.

Crush

I remember the first time he held my hand.

Seventh grade. Computer lab.

Our seats were close enough together that he could easily reach over and slide his dark brown fingers between mine without anyone noticing. It was the first time I had touched a black person.

My heart raced, and I turned my head towards him. The tears stung my eyes as I whispered, “I can’t!”

He looked back at me, confused. We’d been flirting, quite intentionally, for weeks, so it’s no wonder that my reaction bewildered him.

“I’m not allowed to date black boys,” I tried to explain. And I might as well have slapped him across the face.

I remember the first time he held my hand and the last time he looked me in the eyes.

Those two moments were separated by nine words that scarred us both.

scarred

I am terrified to enter this conversation. I am scared to be given a seat at the table.

I’ve seen how the wrong words can slice into a person’s soul, and I never want to inflict that kind of pain again.

But the conversation must begin…

I cannot allow my fear and trepidation to seduce me into the comfortable ignorance afforded to me by the color of my skin.

comfortableignorance

I am bound to say the wrong thing at times. I will need you to trust that my intention was not to wound. I will need you to correct me and inform me. More than anything, I need you. 

This conversation is really only appropriate in the company of friends…in safe spaces where hearts can be heard and trust can be shared. My hope is that this space will become a safe place for hard conversations. A place where everyone can learn more about someone else’s journey.

Tomorrow, I hope to wrap up this particular series and launch a brand new series. I want to invite you to help cultivate a community of people who are daring enough to believe that we can see radical change within our lifetime…daring enough to believe that it only takes a few willing people to start a movement.

Are you in?

—–

This post is the fourth in a series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” You can see the full list of posts here. Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.

Echo

Ruby lives in a colorful world.

If she were to create a portrait of the major players in her life right now, she’d need the entire box of Crayola’s Multi-Cultural crayons. And I like it that way.

We have made conscientious, intentional choices to plant our family in diverse communities, and we have actively sought to engage in our communities. We’ve done our best to create a home and lifestyle that welcome and include people of color. But there are certain parts of life over which we have absolutely no control. Specifically, other peoples’ spouses.

The romantic couples in Ruby’s life are overwhelmingly monochromatic. Even the mothers and fathers in her favorite television shows “match” their partners. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three interracial couples that Ruby’s ever known, and she’s only known them peripherally.

My intelligent young daughter was able to observe the fact that interracial couples are different from the norm…uncommon, even rare. But she incorrectly interpreted that different and uncommon equaled illicit and undesirable. And who could blame her? Most things that are kept hidden are, in fact, illicit or undesirable.

illicitandundesirable

As a society, we have progressed to the point where overtly racist statements are condemned and, at times, sanctioned. But that doesn’t mean that passive racist messages have been eliminated. That doesn’t mean that prejudiced viewpoints are no longer given air time.

I naively assumed that eliminating racist and prejudiced language from our home would insulate my daughter from what remained of society’s racist messages. I wanted to give her a chance to draw her own conclusions and make up her own decisions about the world.

My intention was to give her a neutral space. I accidentally created a cavernous void.

And the messages from society echoed again and again.

theecho

Silence is not the answer.

We must discuss these things with our children.

Openly, honestly.

Carefully, deliberately.

But how?

—–

This post is the third in a series titled “But I’m Not Racist!” You can see the full list of posts here. Please join me as I carefully tread this sacred ground.