And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Have you seen this video?

First of all I would like all my Asian friends to start doing this.  Please.

I used to work at international school in Nairobi, I had a conversation with a mom once that made me cringe.  She was of Asian heritage, and that school was so international that I'd gotten used to a more open discussion about race and ethnicity.
"So where are you from?"  I asked, expecting Korea or China.
"Seattle," was the response.  Right, I'm that guy.  Awesome.

The thing that singes the most about this video is the idea that if you're not white you must be from somewhere else.  If you're white you have the right to claim your ethnicity as an American.  While those who are non-white must be from somewhere else.  Except that the actress pointed out in the video that unless you are Native American, you are from somewhere else.
My husband's mom is Australian, and his father's side of the family has only been in America for a few generations, because he is white no one assumes otherwise.  He likes to tell people that he is Australian African American (his dad, yes he is white, was born in Kenya).

One of my childhood friends is half Chinese.  Once in high school her mother came to school and gave a little talk about their heritage and shared some food and stories.  I remember it being almost a revelation, she was my friend.  Not my Chinese friend.  My friend.  All of her, a whole person, no labels.  Why would pictures of her Grandparents be any more interesting than pictures of my Grandparents?

We need to get to a place where we see people as people.  Our heritage is important to us, who we are and where we are from can define us, even if we choose to reject it, that rejection can define just as much.  I have had a lot of wonderful conversations with people about their heritage, most of the time if you recognize where they are from and have some experience of that culture people are excited and happy to share.  I have known a lot of Koreans that were thrilled when you recognized their ethnicity, sometimes I think they were just glad you didn't think they were Chinese.

Here's the thing though, it's when you know them as a person.  Not as an Asian.  Or an Australian.  But as a person, that's when barriers come down
And every time you treat someone as 'Asian' you rob them of their humanity.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


            “I think we’ve moved these dishes more than we’ve eaten off of them,” I said, as I wrapped our ‘china’ in newspaper and stacked it carefully into boxes.  Scott nodded in his characteristic wide eyed expression of agreement.  I’d been basking in the glow of a new intimacy in our marriage.  A deeper furrow, plowed with shared experiences and growing honesty.  We started our familiar dance of packing our belongings.  We’d had the foresight to save the boxes and newspaper from our last move.  As I dug through a mound of crumpled paper I examined the edges to see what publications we were using,
            “Mountain Mail!”       
            “Denver Post!”
            “Hey, this one is from Santa Barbara!” I would announce proudly.
            “July 15-21, 2005,” I called out.  I don’t know if this makes us thrifty or green.  Maybe a bit of both.  Occasionally my eyes would catch an article and I would marvel at the changes in the world since.  A piece in the local paper about a couple gone to Africa in the Peace Corps; a few months later they returned home after the area became insecure.  Another story about Obama bidding for his second term and the preparations being made in Denver to receive the Democratic National Convention.  Stories of promise that all had come to an end, for good or otherwise, depending on your opinion.  I thought about the fact that I had not put my hand on an actual newspaper the whole time that we have lived in Massachusetts.  I wondered how soon print media would fade, giving way to the internet with it’s immaturity and immediacy.
As my fingers blackened with old ink I thought about this move.  It was not bittersweet as most were.  Bitter with the loss of a place that we had made our own.  Sweet with the hope and promise of a new home and all the brightness that would bring.  This was a new kind of move, one I’d never done before.  Packing up our things and placing them in a building that we had bought.  A home that we would call our own.  A move that would go deeper into a place.  Not farther from it to a new place that we might call our own if we liked it enough. 
            Scott’s promotion at work to director of the WILD semester makes our lives here more permanent.  It’s his dream job.  I haven’t lived here with one eye cocked on the future, wondering how long we would last until we found a place that suited us better.  Then God provided a job and brought us to the East Coast, a surprise that I’m still a bit in denial about.  I like it here, I like the house that we are buying.  I like Gloucester.  All things that are surprising to me.
            Mostly this tastes of the sawdust of stress.  Owning our own home still doesn’t feel real.  People keep asking me if it feels real, it won’t until we spend our first night there in the house.  An event which I will have to wait two months to experience, while that house is being scraped, hammered, and nailed into something better.  We start the disheveled process of transition, packing up this and that.  What can we live without?  What do we need?  How uncomfortable do I want to make myself in the next few days and weeks? 

            So I pack and live in that place called trust and hope.  That mess of transition with all it’s tasks, and none of it’s time allowing you to feel what you’re doing. Until you are done.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Old Yeller

            “Hey, honey, I’m proud of you for coming over here and staying near the car and not running around,” I say to Emma as I take her hand and guide her near the car.  I was done with my Friday morning Bible Study and we were leaving.  One of the ladies had just brought up that the parking lot was usually full of running children and had gotten unsafe.  I wanted to reaffirm to my daughter that staying near the car was the safest place to be.
            “Mommy, I’m proud of you for not yelling at me,” she said.
            “Uh, okay, thank you,” so what do I do with that?
            I guess that I was in denial a bit about the fact that I do yell at Emma.  I like to think that I’m just stern.  Apparently that’s not how it comes across. 
            But wait, she felt comfortable with me enough to tell me that she was proud of me for my behavior.  She feels safe enough with me to let me know that she doesn’t like it when I yell at her.  No one likes getting yelled at, no one.  So why do I do it?
            I’ve seen this article circulating around Facebook.  I cried when I read it.  I cried a lot.  Especially when she talked about her children fearing her.  When I read that part to my husband he said,
            ‘But shouldn’t they fear you?  Like we fear God?’  I see his point.  We should have some kind of, ‘I mean it or else’ rapport with our children.  I think so many of us have grown so afraid of harming our children that fear to discipline them.  We’ve grown almost apologetic as parents, fearing what tales they will tell their therapist.  I think it’s taken the teeth out of some of our relationships, parents have now lost the power to speak into their children’s lives, telling them truth when they need to hear it.  Instead we go to tertiary relationships and paid therapists to seek truth, rather than the people who raised us. 
            I know that in my mind I have this vision of 'perfect motherhood,' a madonna of grace.  Head tilted in gentleness, no harsh word ever falling from loving lips.  If we were good mother's that is what we would be.  We would always smell like vanilla and have chocolate chip cookies always available for our children's consumption.  (Oh, and our house is always spotless, but livable.)  That vision was smashed early on for me, when I established breastfeeding.  I had bought the smiling madonna pictures of nursing mothers, what I didn't know is that nursing hurts, and it's hard, and those little guys might not know how to do it, and you have to teach them, and you don't even know how to do it yourself.
            There, I said it.
            The other day Emma had absolutely destroyed her room during her rest time.  I had just read a study about trying to love your child with God’s love and not your own.  Having heard the ruckus I went in to her room prepared to not yell, knowing I would find some kind of mayhem.  So I didn’t, I just spoke sternly and turned on my heel and walked out in frustration.  She followed wailing, when I turned back around to see her red and rent face I could have killed myself.  It might have been better if I’d just yelled at her.  I hugged her and we cleaned it up together. 
            What power we yield over these little ones.  What power that we have to use so carefully.  Or else they really will end up on a therapists couch instead of on the phone with us.  I don’t like to yell, it’s not very effective.  Just like when my husband and I yell during a fight, we shut down, we don’t hear what the other person is saying.  All you hear is the big nasty anger.  Children need to know that their actions have the capacity to make people angry, or they will continue to behave in an angering way throughout their life.  Unfortunately so much of the stuff that they do is angering.  Like whining, breaking things, shrieking for attention....  The balance is to communicate that the behavior is bad and unacceptable, not that they themselves are bad and unacceptable.  The choice to pull down the curtains in their room is not okay, not that they are not okay.  As a parent recognizing that pulling down the curtains probably means she is bored or needs attention, like a dog left chained in your backyard that dug up your roses.
            I would like to yell less, because I don’t think it works well.  I don’t think she hears me.  I don’t like myself when I do it.  I will try more to tell her my expectations of her behavior rather than landing at angry when she just does what comes naturally.  I will try to count in between each command to give her time to react.  I will try…I will try….I will try….
            Some days I know I will be able to take a breath and not yell, other days I will crack and shout.  

            She felt comfortable enough with me to tell me that she was proud of me for not yelling at her.  She feels safe with me.  Hopefully she has felt all those kisses more than she has heard those misplaced words spoken in anger.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Late Night Confessions

          Here's a true confession about blogging:  I just like writing.  All of the stuff that seems to come with blogging, like buttons, bloggy hops, linky parties, all of this stuff I just don't seem to understand.  If you didn't understand any of the terms that I just wrote you're not alone, because I don't either.

          I started blogging when we moved to Kenya to keep in touch with family back home.  I've always had a taste for writing, always liked it.  I used to save papers for the night before they were do and then bang them out under pressure, I kept telling myself that I would stop...but I kept getting A's.  So I just kept doing it.  (Lest you think I am bragging I am going to take this moment to confess that I had to go to summer school for every year that I took math in high school, I can write, but I can't do math.)  During a visit home from our sojourn in Kenya my brother pointed his finger at me, and said,
          "You're good at this, you could make money off this," my brother is often right about things.  (Brett did you read that, it's in writing, I just admitted it.  And I love you.)  After that conversation I monetized my blog (which means that if you click on the ads on the ads to your right I make money, so click away, please.)  and looked into this whole 'bloggy' thing.  In three years I have made one hundred dollars.  Awesome, I know, if I calculate how that divides up into an hourly wage....well, let's just say it's a good thing I failed math.  So, whilst this has not proved to be the most lucrative of endeavors, I enjoy it.  I just like writing.  I get these little thoughts in my head that I cannot get rid of and I am compelled to spit them out, for your enjoyment.
           I did go through a bit of a blog identity crisis, those that make money seemed to be themed.  Home decor, cooking, exercise advice, etc.  Not just, 'this is what Lara thought about when her daughter barfed on her on a United flight.'  Should I go in any one direction?  I decided not.  Because that is not who I am.  I do decorate my home (we just bought a house, so more of those crafty things will be coming).  I do cook.  I exercise.  But other people can tell you about those things, but they can't tell you what universal truth I experienced while being barfed on, only I know that.

           I've been nominated for three Leibster awards.  From the best that I can gather a Leibster award is when another blogger likes your blog and nominates you for this award.  You have to have less than a hundred followers to qualify for this award.  If you look to your right, you will see that I qualify.  I am a mere babe in the world of blogging.  You then put a link in your blog to their blog and answer about ten questions about yourself that the other blogger asks of you.  It's a clever networking tool.  I understand the value of networking.  I like networking.  And it is immensely flattering to have someone you don't know, out of the blue, tell you that they like your blog.  In the words of Sally Field,
         "You like me, you really like me!"
         So here I sit late at night, on a night when my mind wouldn't let me sleep, finishing off the dregs of a bottle of Shiraz, ticking off a task on my mental to do list.  I won't answer the questions that these ladies put forth, because you don't need me to go through 30 bullet pointed questions about my quirkiness, but I will direct you to their blogs.  Seeing into another's lives and thoughts makes us all feel a little more real, and little less alone, and isn't that what we're all about here in this bloggy world?

1.  Mommy's Heart ; heart wrenching, stories about being a mom without your mother.
2.  Up She Rises ; I actually do know Grete.  We went to college together.  I love her insights and her honesty, I only wish she would post more.
3.  Tinas Tidbits ; Tina writes quick honest shares about real life.

Thanks ladies, I raise this glass to you!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Every Last One of Us

Read this first
Thanks for that last post, I could've written it.  I wanted to scream reading your words because it so damn frustrating.  I can't get my poop together to write, paint or sculpt, and I can do all three rather well.  I can even sell it when I can do it and find time to market myself.
But here's the thing; we're all like that. Every single last one of us.

Laundry?  NOBODY likes folding laundry, I can get it clean but it sits in a slovenly pile in my living room for days until we give up and fold it.  (Then I always question how we can have so much clothing...)  Like a mocking Jabba the Hut
Cleaning?  I have been stepping on Cheerios for the last three days, each time I look down and say,
"But I just vacuumed this!"  I still haven't vacuumed.
Organization?  I have a pile of clothes that I keep walking by that needs to go in my maternity clothes box.  I have walked by it for two weeks.  I have promised said clothes to a pregnant friend.  You would think that promise would spur me on.  It hasn't.
Writing? I have two unfinished books that I have pecking away at for two years.
Painting?  Last year I completed two paintings.  Two in one year.  I think that's a new low.
Sculpting? I have two unfinished sculptures sitting in our storage.  I haven't set foot in a studio space in about four years.
Amazing educational activities for my children?  Let's not even start.....

Here's the thing though, we're all there.  Not one of us is perfect.  We are all failing at the expectations that we set up for ourselves or the expectations that we think we need to achieve.  Whether it's something we think we perceive in a friend's life ('Wow, her house is always clean.'  She probably just cleaned it before you got there.).  Some idiocy we saw on Pinterest.  Or something that we've done to ourselves.  It's there.

So what's the answer.  I am not going to pretend that I'm perfect and have solved this conundrum.  I haven't.  None of us have.  That's why so many of us write blogs, whatever the reason, I think we're all saying, 'Do you struggle with this too?'

I still want to change, I still want to get things done.  I try to do little things to change my habits.  I do something small and then pat myself on the back.  I wrote this blog.  Pat.  I swept and mopped the kitchen floor.  Pat.  I worked on a painting last night.  Pat.  I took my kids to the park.  pat.

Now, this afternoon's conundrum?  Do I wash my kids or my kitchen?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Walk a Mile

            I sat hunched on the carpet in my daughter’s bedroom floor, the berber making little dents in the back of my thigh as I worked.
            “No parent would’ve created this toy,” I hissed under my breath.  The ‘toy’ in question was a Strawberry Shortcake puzzle book.  A puzzle book doesn’t sound all that awful, you say.  Why would that anger you?  Sounds lovely, in fact, a marriage of book and puzzle, two extremely wholesome toys.  The problem is that if a child is actually left alone with the puzzle book all the puzzles seem to get upended out onto the floor, leaving you a very large pile of unmatched pieces. 
            I soon figured out that all the pieces for one puzzle were one color on the back, causing me to perform the counterintuitive task of flipping the pieces over onto their front so I could match them using their backsides.  Emma danced into the room while I was performing this laborious task,
            ‘I should make her do this,’ I think.  Then I think of the process of breathing down her wee little neck while I watch her three year old dexterity attempt to flip pieces about, mismatch them, and sit on my hands allowing her to have a ‘learning experience,’ and decide that I will persevere in assembling these all myself.  I look up at her sweet innocent face,
            “Emma if you dump all these pieces out again, I will take this away from you,” I say, looking directly into her round unsuspecting blue eyes.
            “I won’t,” she shakes her head, eyes growing even rounder.   I finish a puzzle and flip the page, as it’s turning upside down all the pieces fall out.  A slow dawn of realization spreads across my understanding,
            ‘I just threatened to punish my kid for something that was probably a complete accident….’ I push down the guilt and decide that maybe I will just make the toy disappear silently in the night rather than commit a witnessed act of toy homicide.  No harm done, no one has to know what happened and nobody has to clean this up again. 
            ‘No parent would have made this,’ the thought rode the Ferris wheel in my head again.  How could you understand that a simple toy like this would cause a simple mountain of irritation for a parent until you’ve been a parent and had to clean up countless messes like this.  When you’ve left the child alone for ‘naptime’ and found the room ripped asunder in ways that you could not have conceived of day after day.  Messes that could have only been wrought by the hands of a bored three year old.  The nanny’s will write me and give wise suggestions, but I tell you that you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent until you’ve been a parent.  There is no way to walk a mile in these shoes until you have them on your feet.  There’s no way to explain that until you have a child, and then you realize how smug and judgmental you were.
            I have a friend who lost her sister unexpectedly.  I have no idea what that feels like, I have never had a sister and I have never lost someone close to me unexpectedly.  When it happened I didn’t know what to say to her.  So I told her.  And then I told her I was sorry and I was sure it hurt terribly, and I guessed that eventually it wouldn’t consume her. 
            Why can’t we do that more often?  Just admit that we don’t know what it feels like to be someone else?  Why don’t accept that we can’t know?  And that just maybe, just maybe, we won’t do it better than that person.  When we see a mom with a screaming toddler just don’t say, ‘I won’t let my kid do that.’  Or, ‘I wouldn’t react that way.’  Or, ‘I know what that feels like.’  Maybe it’s time to say, ‘I don’t know and I’m sorry.’  Or, ‘I have no idea what that person is going through.’ 
            And maybe it’s time to stop producing puzzle books.