these days…

This has been the first summer that we have lived in our little nearly-lake side cottage. We piled our boxes and possessions in during the sticky post-summer remnants of last fall. In these summer months I have walked the tightrope stance of being annoyed that early mornings were so bright, and wishing I could bring myself to wake up earlier. Isn’t that funny? There I am, sleeping away (and I’ve never been a great sleeper anyway,) when the beautiful sunrise comes peaking in and I grumpily shade my eyes only to later wish something (anything) could help me wake up earlier. How often are we guilty of begging for an answer, when the solution is right before our eyes?

Well, 4 a.m. yesterday and 4:30 a.m. today have me (reluctantly) up and facing the day. Yesterday it occurred to me that a few weeks ago, the sun would have been right on my tale, but this day it seems, doesn’t have its rising scheduled until pretty much 6 a.m.

The days are getting shorter…

And truthfully, I am sad about this.

The longer summer evenings have, for the first time that I remember, caused their own set of issues. My husband’s hours, for work, had him heading to bed long before it had even considered setting, and so I would struggle. While I should retire, as well, it was full sun outside. The result was, almost always, me up past 1 a.m. because this night owl knows how to self sabotage, apparently… (I hear you saying well no wonder you were struggling with the 4:30 rising sun! I know, I know…)

Complications aside, I love a long evening. I love the breezes as they chase away the heat of a day, as the sun sets late. All too soon it will be pitch black at four in the afternoon and the sun won’t be rising until hours after our early work day has began.

I am sad because shorter days mean that we are on the downslope of this year. This year who, for its first half felt unfairly brutal and stripping, and then suddenly I’m left whiplashed and wondering where it has gone.

As we age, this passing of time happens at lightening speed. It may also be fair to point out that my crotchety regards to early sunrises and late sunsets can also apply (a bit) to older age as well. I could remark about how I can’t win, but the common denominator here in all of these ill-fated trains of thought is simply me.

Last night I had a video call with my sister, who was buying school supplies. I felt a mix if things. I had noticed their appearance, in our local Target, last week. I had avoided them, an act pretty unlike me, as I love school supplies. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to embrace the impending change of season, not quite willing to surrender my grasp on summer.

But still, these days are getting shorter.

Last night, around the time of the video call, my husband and I were at an outdoor blues concert. It was amazing and lovely, peacefully and summery, when all at once two things occurred…

One, I looked up at a girl’s t-shirt which read class of 2024. I scoffed and made some low-breathed remark like yeah right, she looks a little tall to be a kindergartener. Here we are, on the literal cusp of 2020, and I sat clothed in full denial because how? (seriously though, how is this even possible? And is asking this a sign of old age?)

Two, halfway through the show, as the sun was beginning its descent, people started packing up their chairs and picnic remains. The slowly fading sun had escorted in the bugs, ready to have their evening feast on all of us.

The days are getting shorter.

Also, next Monday’s show will be seven days worse…

Do you love the late summer sunsets or prefer the cooler, early evenings of Autumn?

When willing…

On Fridays Kate, over at Five Minute Friday, hosts a fun writing prompt and link up. Over the summer I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t been great about joining in, but I’m back to day. (ready and… Willing! ha!)

Basically, we free write for five minutes, using the prompt… And here, I go-

Last night my husband and I were driving home when we nearly hit a dog. Reluctantly, at my insistence, my husband pulled the car over and I jumped out. The beautiful, and obviously very brave, German Shepherd came straight to me. He was so sweet, and also traveling with an adorable Pit Bull friend. They were both so loving, and one had a limp. They’d come running from the parking lot of an animal hospital, so my first thought was that this was all somehow connected.

There were people to call, weren’t there?

Hours later, as it turns out, there were not.

Thanks to a trusting stranger, we met in the dead of night, we followed a (cold) digital trail and eventually found the owner. Success! (despite a frustrated and tired husband, who easily could have just gone home without stopping, and was pretty determined that these sweet boys living their best lives, in our back seat, would not be sleeping over.)

This morning, my husband was putting gas in his car on the way to work, (something we were going to do last night, just before I decided to play Snow White, and rescue all of the animals) when a woman frantically approached him begging for money, for gas, because she was stranded. We seldom carry cash, so he decided instead to put $10 worth of fuel, in her car. Once their interaction was done, he witnessed her hit up several other people for cigarettes and cash, before he drove off to work, feeling like a fool.

Sometimes stepping up is hard, and ALWAYS stepping up will require sacrifice. Whether it’s money, time or a missed opportunity, something will be lost in exchange for the effort. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they were deserving. (the dogs were! The dogs were so sweet and I wanted to keep them forever, but I wanted to keep my husband more!) What matters is that we were willing to do it at all…

What we add to her story…

When I was in seventh grade I was attending a very small, private Christian school. Prior to that school year, I had been deeply immersed in the small town New Mexico, low income school district. If you’ve never been exposed to that life then allow me to share just one memory (of hundreds) that I have which perfectly depicts the reality:

When I was in the sixth grade, in 1987, one early November day I was sitting in study hall (which met in the library) and there were two eighth graders as the table behind me. Because I was not the slightest bit interested in the Titanic book I was reading, I sat mesmerized by their conversation. The two girls were deep in talk, trying to calculate exactly how they could each utilize their welfare money for one of them to buy a Teddy Ruxpin for her child, and the other to buy Teddy’s friend, for hers. This made absolute sense to them because their children were together all of the time so they’d both benefit, and their babies would have the best Christmas.

Eighth Grade… I too have had to worry and plot, calculate and make miracles happen to insure their were beloved gifts under the Christmas tree, but I was a grown adult. These are not problems babies should have. There was no real scandal when young girls became mothers, which was far more common than not. So, when I went from that normal, to my new small town Idaho, I didn’t exactly grasp the very conservative nature of country Christian school. While the kids chatted about this amazing movie called Princess Bride, I was kind of like “Oh, I’ve never seen that but which Nightmare on Elm Street did you like best, because I loved when the humor got better in the Third.”

Prior to that Idaho semester, a special presentation at school had come in the forms of guest speakers, veterans, assemblies and spotlights for D.A.R.E. When everyone at my new school was so excited about no (technical) school, one afternoon, because a speaker was coming- I naively expected a smaller version of the same.

The images the woman brought, of aborted babies having been vacuumed from their mommy’s tummies wasn’t what I imagined. While I was very familiar with teenage pregnancy, I had never heard the word Abortion. The offensive images were just the tip of the grotesque presentation that our school of K-12th graders sat through. If the goal had been to shock, they had achieved success. As the presentation came to a close, the woman passed out little plastic babies to everyone. The babies were so tiny, they fit in the palm of the youngest of student’s hand. Accompanying each little plastic baby was a pamphlet depicting a baby talking to Jesus about what his life would be like when he was born. He asked will my eyes be blue like my mommy’s or brown like my dad’s? He talked about loving the sound of his mommy’s voice and not being able to be in her arms and smell her close. The baby asked why his mommy cried so often. did she not love him? The baby then, towards the end of the pamphlet, talks about the terrifying tube trying to get him, and how it hurts… and then he’s dead.

When (well meaning) people protest abortion, they often have this same imagery on their signs. Obviously these depictions came from somewhere real. (not the dumb pamphlet, which is just evil) In the name of “saving the lives of innocent babies”, we are inundated the senses of our own babies with horrors they should not be imagining.

That mortified twelve year old girl grew up to be a woman who endured seven horrible and bloody miscarriages before having a brief waltz with uterine cancer resulting in a total hysterectomy twelve years later. Every single pregnancy had a voice narrating, in my head, of my little (desperately wanted and already so loved) baby talking to Jesus. Every horrifying miscarriage had that narration describing the pain that sweet baby felt. In this scenario, who became the failure? Who became the one to blame? Me. Me. My first miscarriage, at 11 weeks, had me attempting to “catch” the fetus with a ladle and digging through large clots with the nurse so we could know that the fourteen day nightmare was nearly over. When I’d showed up, at 17 and terrified, in the emergency room, two weeks earlier, the doctor had told me that I was having a “spontaneous abortion”. I kept trying to explain that I did not WANT an abortion, I wanted my baby. With every ultra sound (detecting no heartbeat) I had that baby’s voice telling me that “they” were trying to kill my baby.

As if being seventeen and unexpectedly pregnant wasn’t scary enough, the glaring truth was that I was far more educated about the wickedness of abortion and what aborted babies looked like, than anything else…

My second miscarriage had me 9 weeks along, and this time, as a whoosh rushed from my scalp to my toes, I rushed to the bathroom to find what would be my little baby, sitting in my underwear. I learned this was my baby, because I took it in a yogurt cup, to my doctor. It didn’t look anything like that little plastic baby I’d held so tightly in my hand, all of those years before.

As a woman, do I want anyone having an abortion? NO. I obviously want no women to end up in situations where they even have to weigh the options. Do you know what else I want? No need for foster care because only loving, healthy and responsible people have children. I want realistic and attainable adoption, so that those of us who can’t have a child can adopt babies when their birth parents just aren’t ready. I am just me though, a 43 year old, barren woman, who does NOT live in a world free of drug addicted babies, sexually abused children and an overwhelmed system filled with abandoned kids…

I doubt there is a little girl out there, dreaming about her future, and so excited for the day she has her first abortion… It just isn’t like that. It is a hard, overwhelming and terrifying place that many women have stood in, and will continue to stand in. To the woman who wants to show up, in protest, outside of the clinic: ok… You say you’re there in love? Great. so Love her. Listen to her. Truly LISTEN. If she’s willing, HELP her. Truly throw as much passion into loving this girl, if she allows it, as you have in protesting her right to choose. And… Should you love her and she chooses differently than you want her to- the answer is the same: Love her.

Hurling shame at hurting people has NEVER led to a victory. This instills further trauma.

In America, our system is overwhelmed with over 443,000 hurting foster children. So many of these kids are children of trauma, which will greatly affect the entirety of their lives. If you feel so passionate about life and children, love the women in the impossible and broken spaces, and actively pursue ways to help these  children. If we look around, it is so easy to see all of the hate and judgement that push people into lonely and dark spaces of shame. What if, as cliche as it may seem, we change the narrative and simply live a Pro-LOVE movement?

On the Collective Podcast this week, we’re talking about abortion. We are talking about the difficult choices, what courage looks like, and how (though we may being coming from a place of love) we sometimes make things worse when we shame women into horrible spaces. We all have our stories, and every single one of us has things we bury deep inside. More than likely you know and love someone who has had an abortion…

 

What did you believe?

What were the beliefs you shaped, as you celebrated birthdays inching closer and closer to forty? Are you still on that journey, dreading those four decades of candles? Does that dread stem from reasons you possibly don’t really understand?

Growing up in America, I experienced the message of 40’s wickedness coming at me from many angles. Media, film, print, and the women I knew who crossed that threshold before me. At some point, around 32, I began to hear women whispering revolt to these society driven ideas, sharing about how their lives began at 40, or were simply better at 40. I allowed a fragment of hope, but also, I noticed these thoughts came after the dreaded age, and perhaps this was spoken within the context of “those lies we tell ourselves”.

My truth is that this past March I turned 43.

Three years ago, when I turned 40, I had- HANDS DOWN- the very worst birthday imaginable. (for anyone keeping score, it’s true- I’m prone to “bad” birthdays) This years celebratory event reminded me that life’s circumstances, as well as the actions of other people, aren’t really the things which should be defining our lives. The past few years have absolutely been among the most hurtful and challenging that I have known. That the fact though, life happens… Yours, mine, bad seasons, beautiful seasons and a whole gaggle of mediocre in-betweens. I’ve been frank, but the question remains: Is life better in my 40s?

It is.

Obviously there is no magical age which stops all of the out-of-our-control elements. It isn’t that I’m “living my best life” now, but it is true that I AM DIFFERENT. I care more, (and more intentionally) about the important things. I don’t care about the toxicity, the drama or the elements that simply aren’t worth my energy any longer…

Stemming from a brief social media exchange about this very topic, I invited my new friend Ritu to be a guest on The Collective Podcast. You guys, this lady is PURE light- and not because, now that she’s 40, she has it all figured out… She’s just lovely, and her life of experience (good and bad, just exactly like the rest of us!) has led her to this beautiful point in life. She’s working on a novel, that I personally can’t wait for, but her poetry book Poetic RITUals is available now! Come listen to Episode 40, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe!

Are you heading to 40, and worried? Are you past that point, and different?

Sisterwives and weeds…

One evening last week I found myself sitting in a cluster of tables with several other women. They were all new to me, and I was not alone in that. We sat nibbling on cookies, chewing on Starbursts and getting to know each other. It was really nice. We chatted about babies, and real life stuff, our jobs, some dreams (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) and eventually the conversation gravitated to the message (from the Sunday before) that some of us had heard at church.

The story had been about faith, and had centered around Hannah’s story, in the book of 1st Samuel. (If you aren’t familiar, it’s ok. This isn’t actually a post about anything church or Christianity related, so sit tight…) Hannah wanted desperately to have a baby with her husband, but despite her prayers (spanning years) she hadn’t been able to get pregnant. Reading this, as we do with most character stories, one can get swept up in Hannah’s ache, especially if you’ve shared in that same ache in any way. Hannah’s husband had two wives, and his other wife Peninnah, does not share this problem. (of course she doesn’t, because anyone who has struggled with infertility knows- the infertile bring imaginary fertility luck to those women around them!) side note- having lived the life of miscarriage and infertility, I can only imagine how painful Peninnah’s pregnancies and childbirths were for Hannah…

The book is clear to point out that, not only was Peninnah continually giving their husband children, but she was also an absolute nightmare to Hannah. She treated her like absolute garbage. We humans love a good villain story, and so with the tale of Peninnah and Hannah, we cast Peninnah as the villian.

Which sets the foundation for the path that will lead us to my actual point: I have been thinking a lot about Peninnah. This woman from thousands of years ago has been heavy on my heart. At some point in our lives, every woman has been her own version of Hannah- desperately aching for something. What we are less likely to admit to ourselves, or talk about is the seasons of life where we’ve been our own versions of Peninnah. We LOVE to talk about how society or culture have made women catty, petty and manipulative. While these contributing factors haven’t helped, they merely magnify issues women struggle with anyway. At the root of Peininnah’s complete and utter bitchiness towards her sister wife, we have a woman. Period.

Peninnah was someone’s baby, she was a young girl playing with siblings and friends. She had a giggle unique to her, and had cried her fair share of guttural sobs over her own aching life hole. This woman had painful menstrual cramps, likely suffered headaches, seasonal allergies and took pride in the special way she did something. She probably spent many a night watching the stars, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She may have spent monotonous chores imagining her life differently. This assumed villain is merely an insecure and (at least partly) broken woman. She probably woke up in the mornings feeling like shed never be enough…

She is us. Every single one of us.

Circumstances (being a husband, culture, security and comparison) created division between these two women. When a deep sisterhood and kinship could have been a beautiful thing, that is not what happened. We each have lived that story as well. Sometimes it’s about a man, a friend, a job, an ex, a law, a religion, a life choice- we still allow reasons to divide us from other women. Rather than allow ourselves to be splayed raw, and vulnerable simply for the purpose of comforting and lifting another woman from a dark and shattered place, we stay “safe” behind our walls. This may look like ignoring her, or it may look like tearing her down even more. We fear our vulnerability being wounded so deeply, sometimes, that we wound instead.

In a podcast episode I listened to, last week, with Melinda Gates, she talked quite a bit about how- when you want to bring change to an underprivileged area, you reach out to the women. We women are capable of being beautiful, unending sources of nurture and empowerment to those around us… This is nature, it is how we are designed. When we fail to embrace this, we instead fill that drive within us with negative emotions and comparisons towards other women. Peninnah and Hannah deserved better, they needed better. While the support of their husband, and his sensitivity towards Hannah’s infertility were likely comforting- had Hannah had Peninnah there to grieve with her, every single woman reading this KNOWS that would have been significantly more impactful.

Weeds and flowers are capable of residing in the same garden, but we all know that weeds are far more aggressive and will eventually choke out the healthy growth if they are allowed to remain. We are responsible for what we allow to grow in our hearts, in our minds, and what we allow to consume our thoughts…

This is kind of a jumbled mess of thoughts, but I hope, if you’ve stuck it out this long, you’re with me. Let’s make the world of womanhood be the one these two women deserved, a world we each deserve. None of us are exempt from a deep soul ache, just as not one of us is without a smudge of bad behavior towards another woman. Imagine the incredible that lives just beyond those walls of self protection, if we’d just allow ourselves exposure to soul-connect with other women.

THIS, this is what would change the world…