Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! (Or, you know, spirit of life and of love, known by many names…)

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. I can’t believe what I woke up to this morning. I thought this woman was my friend! Why would she do this to me. I mean, really! Publishing a post to WorshipWeb’s Facebook Page that makes me feel such horrible shame!

Because, you know, submitting a piece for a book and then agreeing to it being published. That’s a good way to hide something. Right?

Yeah. No.

I wrote this piece and submitted it to what has now been published as “To Wake to Rise” from Skinner House. In this piece I tell the story about working in a Unitarian Universalist church with no BA/MA/MS/MDiv/MEd where we might not worship God but we sure do seem to worship advanced education. I was never outwardly shamed, and in fact, the minister I served with was wildly adamant that a degree had nothing at all to do with my worth as a professional religious educator. But still. It was ever present and limited my career in a huge way, not having any letters after my name.

So, I knew people might read this piece. But still, having people, today, this morning, in my daily world, having them KNOW that I didn’t have a degree is a kick in the gut of shame and horror.

I’d love to tell you that shame is just a door to a new awakening and a sense of worth and dignity. But it’s not. It feels like a hangover on top of a panic attack.

OK, OK, the truth is I really do love that WorshipWeb curator, even if she has to go and TELL everyone. And I love the weird life that brought me to this place. And I love the people who are telling their own stories on the WorshipWeb Facebook page that shared my post. Big love.

My story is not over, but there is more. I left that church mentioned in the piece five whole years ago. And while I didn’t talk about it much, the first thing I did after I left was to go and finish that damn degree. My grad ceremony was three days before my oldest son’s college graduation (as well as my middle son’s high school ceremony). Which is neither here nor there.

Except it is. It totally is. 20776442_10155092057369125_6815078458146598201_o.jpg

To Clarify

Last month I wrote a piece about traveling back to the state I come from. I wrote about my experience of hearing the stories from my precious nieces about some of the painful things that have happened to them. Not my stories. Not mine to tell. But mine to hold because I love them.

I wrote about how it reminded me about why we left. I wrote about my regret that over time I wish I would have stopped some of my white relatives with a gentle word when they said something that, in my view, was biased.

After the piece had been out in the little world for a few days I got a phone call from a family member who was upset. They thought I was talking about sitting around a table with them and hearing them be racist. I wasn’t. The stories that made my heart ache were from my family folks who are people of color. Not white folks. The experiences they shared happened because they are not white.

I pulled the piece down, though. Some things aren’t worth a fight. And I apologized. I explained. I shared the words and their context again.

But maybe,  maybe, other folks read it too. And maybe they thought that I was talking about my white family. So I want to be clear. I was not referring to any person at all on my side of the family. I can’t share the stories I heard. They are not mine to share.

Maybe this is still not enough. For that I’m sorry. I wrote about my experience. I wrote about my feelings. But I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.  I’ll share the original words below so there is no confusion about what I’m taking back.

May the healing balm of time help us all move forward.

July 12th

My husband’s family is pretty diverse. His late mom and his dad are both descended from Eastern European folks, but through adoption, marriage/relationships and the children of those folks it’s a pretty mixed group. Somehow sitting around a table after a funeral opens doors for real conversations. My heart is still aching for the stories I heard.

Minnesota nice, the pretense that we are all good people and it’s important to be nice, becomes the cover for some horrible actions. These are not my stories to tell. I wish they were. I wish they’d happened to me and not to these people I love. But, of course, I’m white. They don’t happen to me.

I mourn for missed opportunities to counter things said by some of my white family. I mourn for the missed moments when people might deeply understand one another. I mourn for the time lost fighting this racism we should have destroyed by now. I mourn for lives compressed by bias that is hammered into the walls and stirred into the water.

Tired and tired and tired and tired and tired.

You know the kind of exhausted where you feel like the earth is moving beneath your feet? Even just a kind word or beautiful thing can make you cry?

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No?

I do. That’s me. Today. Right now. I am so wrung out and wrenched empty of every ounce of life or energy or joy I have ever in my life possessed that I think I’m going to split in two. Or take a nap at the back of this exhibit hall booth that I live in now.

The work. It’s not easy. But I love seeing the faces that belong to the names I move around on a screen all the time. And a chance to feed them chocolate or invite them to sit in a comfortable chair for a moment of respite during a very, very busy and fraught time? Well, that’s about as good as it gets.

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Amen, baby. Amen.

Thunderstorm on the Prairie

Sweet Sixteen.pngWhere I grew up, just past the place where the glaciers scraped the Midwest prairies flat, you can sometimes see a storm coming all day long. A look out the window shows the clouds forming, and you can probably still get the wash out hung out on the line with plenty of time for it to dry.

But sometimes, if it’s a hot day with lots of humidity and lots of sun, you can see the clouds go from fluffy little dabs of cotton floating along to roiling black with lightning zinging between top and bottom, sometimes you can even watch them drop a funnel.

I wish depression did the day long thing; let you know it was coming, gave you time to order your life, get the laundry done, before it hits.

But it doesn’t. It just blows up like rolling thunderstorm on a steamy Minnesota afternoon; shutting things down like a tornado warning.

Here’s the thing though, it also clears the air like a storm. Clean rain, clear thoughts. Hope that there won’t be another storm, for a while anyway now that all that nasty air has been purged.

This weekend was one of those clear times. Busy. Happy errands, happy family gathered. No storms on the horizon. What feels like clear air. And a little time to build the shelter, safe harbor of family, in preparation for the next storm.

Take Care, Now.

I have an EVENT coming up in my work life. An EVENT with travel and multiple meetings and a huge exhibit hall. That plus ALL THE THINGS that go with it is starting to feel like an elephant sat down on my chest to do her nails.

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Heavy.

So today I made a list of things I can do to take care of myself during the elephant time.

  1. Be gentle inside. No hate.
  2. Notice beautiful things.
  3. Listen to inspiring women.
  4. Wear beautiful clothes.
  5. Eat delicious food.
  6. Drink delicious drinks.
  7. Rest.
  8. Go see the ocean.
  9. Breathe all the way to the belly.
  10. Be patient.
  11. Talk to the dog.
  12. Nap.

Soon it will be July and it will all be over.

The Bumpy Ride and the Last of the Lasts

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So many friends are walking through the litany of the lasts.

The last game.

The last final.

The last concert.

The last time you’ll send your child off to high school. The last time you are the mother of a high school student.

And finally, the graduation.

I feel the wrench, the tug, the feeling of tearing apart all that the family has built. The scaffolding around milestones and markers splintering as it smashes apart.

I want to say “I know, I know, I felt it, too.” And I did. I felt called to be a mother the way some feel called to climb mountains or heal broken bodies. It was all I wanted, who I was and all I knew myself to be, or at least that was how it felt.

The thought of that child stepping out to make their way, which of course has been the path they were on from the first breath, first step, first word, first everything, feels like stepping off a cliff. You’re happy for them, exhilarated with the knowledge that obstacles have been beaten down or maybe sidestepped. Troubles navigated. This is what you wanted; a child who was ready for the next thing, whatever that might be.

But oh God, it’s so hard.

My youngest son comes home from his first  year away this week. I have survived this three times over. For me it was different each time; different people, different scenarios they headed off to, different levels of leaving; some thousands of miles away, some closer, some staunchly proclaiming they were not coming home often, some wishing they could just stay but knowing they had to go.

We not only survived. We thrived. We seek time together now, I think, not because they feel obligated but because it feeds us all to be together, whether it’s weekly video chat or the few times a year we can all be physically in the same space. The inside jokes come out, the family roles are tried on, adjusted, discarded, or embraced. We notice that we are connected in bigger ways than any of us, even me, ever expected.

May all those who are reaching a toe over the cliff of the last of the lasts and the first of the firsts know to hang on. Be patient. Stay connected even if that means on the terms set by your offspring for now.

Hold them with great respect, they have worked so hard to grow up and while there is more growing up to do (for all of us, in truth) celebrate this one for now. Go see fireworks and drive-in movies together this summer. Spring for a week at a beach house, or a camping extravaganza. Hold them close and then LET GO. It’s going to be a lovely ride, worth every bump along the way.

Muddy Dust on the Windshield

18485327_10154832302689125_5606031839612231471_n.jpgI drove to San Diego yesterday, roughly a three hour round trip during a quiet weekday. The sky was clear blue and the sweeping turns with nothing but ocean in view made me smile, right there, alone in my car.

The podcasts I chose for the drive were about resilience and connection: two things that aren’t always easy for me. Coming home I was struck, maybe loosened by the wise words of sages or the beauty of this earth. It was as clear as the dirt on the windshield, the spray of the ocean muddying the dust of the hills: this–the connection of earth, sky, planet, people, animals, ocean– is everything.

There is not you and me. No I and thou. There is not a right and a left or a right and a wrong. There is just us. All of us. ALL of us.

We are here, together, for better or for worse. I cannot separate my air from yours, clean water from dirty, it all flows downstream eventually, mingles with what I have breathed in and you have breathed out.

We are one.

I pray for you and me, for our earth and our leaders; both great and wretched. Because there are not winners and losers; we are all them. We are all those people. We are one.

It’s almost too simple. We are one. May we remember this as we fight for justice and equality and clean air and clean water and for people to be awakened to what is right and good instead of what will bring the most money and power. May we remember. May we remember.

We are one.