september scent…

Our first apartment was this great little space, loaded with character and charm. Though we have lived in many different homes over the past twenty seven years, that first place may have been the greatest, at least where uniqueness was considered…

We had moved in, in May.

The carved wood french style front doors sat a top a flight of metal steps, (the apartment was directly above a chiropractic office,) in the small downtown of a city. The history of the building was that a beloved Ob-Gyn and his wife had created the apartment on the second floor of this beautiful, old house, to be their residence. The main floor he had converted into his offices, and the once-carriage-house building in the back was renovated into their birthing center. By the time we came on the scene, however, many years had passed and each unit was rented out individually. Even so, it was a regular occurrence to encounter someone saying “oh, you live in old doc’s place! I had my kids there!”

None of that is remotely relevant to this post, but sometimes a fun rabbit trail of backstory is in order. Today, on this very average first-day-of-autumn, steaming cup of tea in hand, this moment seemed the perfect match for such a thing.

I was working the graveyard shift in those days, at a local food production plant, while my husband worked days at a glass factory. We were young, pretty naive and absolutely broke, but life felt rich despite what our bank account showed.

I had an elderly hispanic lady who lived a few houses down from our apartment, that worked with me. Fun little side note: When I first met her, I hated her. In all fairness, I didn’t like her because she was so mean to me. She didn’t have great english, and when she had been assigned to train me for my very physically demanding (no joke. I’ve never worked so hard, in my life) job, she was awful to me. I was 19 at the time, and honestly just wanted to do my job, and live my life, and also for everyone to love me and find me capable…

It had been a few days after we moved in, as we took a walk one evening, that I saw her sitting on her porch. She glared at me, probably thinking she was cursed that I was her new neighbor. This continued a few times, and then one night at work she gave me a small bag of vegetables from her garden. After some time passed, she approached me and asked if she could ride to and from work with me. She didn’t know how to drive, and it would make it a lot easier if her husband didn’t have to stay up late to take her to work, get up early to pick her up and work a demanding job in the middle. Though I still wasn’t her biggest fan, I was more than willing to help her out. By the time September approached, our long drive out to the Plant was one of the highlights of my day. I loved her, and have missed her since our days together. I can’t imagine how absolutely hard her life was. THAT JOB was hard, and I was young. I also can’t imagine how scary it would be to train younger, more able bodied people, when you desperately needed the job. I wish I had realized these things then, but how could I? I was a baby…

Anyway, it was one September morning after work, as my steel-toed boots clanged up those metal stairs, that the Scent of September met my nose. How I had lived nearly two decades and never experienced anything like it, I’m not sure. Suddenly, bone-tired and weary, I stood traveling through Septembers past. Apple picking in Gem County orchards… laughing with friends… camping in the mountains and bundling up tighter because the weather was cooling quick… angels in leaf piles… horse back rides through a sea of color changing trees… countless mugs of steaming ciders, cocoas and tees… hay rides with boys I liked… bon fires, sleep overs, first dates… walks home from school… bailing hay…

the flood just kept coming.

I suddenly smelled fresh apple crisp, and then the taste of fresh bread with my grandmother’s apple butter. My nose recalled the way that one boy smelled sweet, like honey, and musky like the color of amber, remembering my heart’s pitter patter at the way his smile stirred my soul.

There, on that step, one random September morning, I relived a million similarly ordinary September moments as if they had just happened.

No other calendar day has prompted such a magical montage moment like that, but somehow every year there will be an autumn day to tickle my nostalgic senses. I call it the Scent of September, because I don’t know what else to call it really. Creative, I know…

It always surprises me, catching me off guard.

It also reminds me that this life is beautiful, and magical, and that these moments, though fleeting, live on…

Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…

naming mistakes…

Monica Gellar’s parents aren’t known for esteeming her life choices. In one episode, when Monica is beginning to (finally) feel like her mom may have some faith in her, after all, when her mom reminds her that they expect failure from her.

She charmingly refers to it as pulling a Monica.

It basically means: screwing up.

Mistakes and struggles Monica may have known were seen as dismissive and typical, by her family. These were the antics they expected of her…

Ever the faithful friend and advocate, one of Monica’s best friends Phoebe declares that from this moment on, “pulling a Monica” would mean successful and good things.

I LOVE seedless red grapes! In fact, one of my favorite meals is a bowl of these gems of antioxidant goodness paired with cubed chunks of cheese. So good!

Additionally, red grapes are my favorite side dish, a preferred late night snack and far more tasty than any packaged chocolate bar.

One evening I was having a “working dinner.” My husband was away, on a business trip and I had a looming press deadline. My rumbling stomach had led me to grab this delectable go-to grape & cheese dinner and retreat to my office.

There I sat, alternatingly plopping grapes and cheese into my mouth as I typed away. I was so in the zone that it took a couple of chews to realize my mouth was harboring a slimy, possibly fuzzy and altogether revoltingly mushy grape.

I’m not going to lie- I totally threw up.

A few times…

I couldn’t eat anything else, that evening, and possibly well into the next day. Whenever I would remember that heinous atrocity, my stomach would send out tremors to shake throughout my entire body.

For awhile, the sight of grapes made me cringe, but eventually my love of them one out and I’m proud to say that I am once again a grape eater, though I am much more thorough about checking and washing them…

One bad grape did not ruin them for me. While I will likely never forget the horror of that one, it was only one.

One.

Instead, I learned to alter my own behavior regarding the fresh fruit I eat.

~

At some point, for some odd reason (possibly, maybe tied to the show Will & Grace?) the basic, middle aged, difficult, American-white-woman became known as a “Karen.” It probably began as some social media moment of ranted-sarcasm that caused viral laughter, thus a trend was born.

Was one terrible woman actually named Karen deserving of her vile behavior become a pop culture mockery? Perhaps.

I’ve encountered many, many women who would fit into this label, especially when working retail. This sort of delightful peach goes back much farther than the birth of the Karen meme.

They are so frustrating, I KNOW. To be honest though, I’ve never encountered one named Karen.

Not one.

Last week our 63 year old neighbor saw us walking our golden retriever Elenor. She adores Elenor and was so excited, as she began crossing the street towards us. And then, instantly she was face first, on the ground, in the middle of the road. This woman, who cared more about making sure her friends were safe, not sad, not hungry or going without anything during the pandemic. This kind woman who lives alone and has devoted her life to taking in senior rescue dogs that have come from horrific neglect and abuses. She nurtures them, loves them and insures the rest of their days are spent somewhere safe where bowls are full, beds are plush and loving kindness is plenty. When they pass on, she grieves them because they were her heart, and then she opens her door again.

This beautiful heart gets up from her grieving losses, from her face-first street falls, and she smiles and showers love on Elenor anyway. She leaves special gifts on our doorstep and puts such a light into our quiet neighborhood.

This beautiful soul of a neighbor is Karen.

~

Through a chain of events, about a year ago, I was lucky enough to be connected with a lovely Canadian woman as she was enduring the death of her mother.

Her soul, cavernous and longing for the woman who gave her life, poured her own raw grief out into poetic and aching words filled with so much love. Love for the woman she’d lost, but also love for those of us hurting, who read her words. Such genuine transparence etched itself into the grieving hearts of these readers.

Into me…

This woman, who I am now so incredibly lucky to call friend, has taught me so much about grace, love, authenticity, faith and a hundred-thousand-trillion other vital things.

While my own name is merely a weather condition, envied by none, this beautiful soul’s name means PURE, and this is one hundred percent accurate because she absolutely is.

Karen means PURE.

In my 44 years, on this earth, I have known many Karens, and every single one of them have left marks of humanity and heart on the people lucky enough to know them.

Perhaps you don’t know Karens like the ones I’ve known… Think of the kindest and most worthy woman you’ve known. Perhaps a grandmother, or the sweet neighbor who always baked your favorite cookies and taught you to watercolor. Whoever this spirit is- give her a moment of space and honor in your mind… There is so much power and peace when we take a moment to reflect, honoring women who have shaped us in good ways, isn’t there?

Now, imagine the heroin’s name is an insult.

For being pure, raw, tender and honest women who love, and do it well, their very identity is a joke.

Everytime we call some awful, mean white woman a “karen”, we tarnish the names of women who are nothing like her. Women who are anything but basic. Everytime we use their name, we HURT them. We HURT their children and the people who love them. Doesn’t it kind of seem like that might be uglier behavior than the ridiculous way the “Karen” in question behaved? Who is the jerk now? We are.

When I was younger, if we were venting about the mean customer at the counter, we simply referred to her as a bitch. Feminism has shown us that if we want men to respect us and stop minimizing women into little labels of cruelty, then we need to set the example and not do things like calling other women derogatory names either.

Derogatory names, like bitch.

I’ve got to say though, if we are incapable of not labelling women like this something that conveys exactly how terrible they are, in that one word, then isn’t the vulgarity a kinder option? Isn’t it kinder to say the words “I had a customer today who was such a bitch, and here’s what she did…” rather than victimizing innocent women, their legacies and reputations because of one difficult woman’s selfishness.

Maybe it’s just me though… One day I hope there’s a world where we don’t need to exploit the behavior of someone for laughs and likes and sensationalism. One day I hope people resort to kindness and don’t inspire that reaction. This isn’t the world we live in, and so I simply have to ask if we can get some perspective when it comes to the actual Karens of the world…

The actual blondes, who aren’t ditzy.

The Black women who are beautiful and brilliant and inspiring.

The single moms who work hard and are not lazy or easy.

Can we just decide today, right now, to intentionally see people and stop this lazy minimization? Can we agree that one bad piece of fruit is incapable of destroying the whole orchard?

Breathing…

I entered into my relationship with 2020, filled with hope. While I have felt the steady decline personally, each year since 2015, I resolved that THIS YEAR would be the difference.

It has been different.

It has made a difference.

While the things I had vowed to see done this year were not exactly petty/shallow:

  • finish my book.
  • complete my book proposal.
  • begin the publishing path journey.
  • do more yoga.
  • spend more time adventuring.
  • save more money.
  • focus on intentional quality time with my people.

They weren’t on par with the sci-fi movie we’re all about to live, either.

These weren’t bad goals, but they weren’t really flexible ones either. (except the yoga one, but that’s a bad joke.)

Today is the very middle of this very, very, very hard year. While so many of us have lost big, this year, I find my soul hesitant to say that it has been a “bad year”.

Sure- CRAP has happened. Finances are almost non-existent for many of us, and businesses/ventures we’d worked so hard to build- are simply gone. So much loss and devastation has happened, but for the first time in my adult life I am watching a world question what our part can be to insure that these losses are not in vain. That we, as a collective, can grow from them.

We were all forced into this global Pause, and for one unexpected moment we could not help but see that the earth could instantly begin to heal…

What about us?

Could we?

Within this Great Pause, we were pushed to take stock- stock of our resources, relationships and our reasons. For the briefest of seconds, we all stood terrified, on the same page reading the same words. We all tried to grasp the palms of one another as we simultaneously inhaled, and exhaled, and questioned if this was it.

The “big bad” is far from over, but once it became a symbol of old news and new normal, a majority of us went back to life as usual. We chose to forget the things we feared, which also meant we had to let go of the goodness of together.

Then one night, an angry man kneeled on the neck of another man, murdering him.

This tragedy happened before humanity had put enough distance between them and the season of Pause. Our human hearts were still a little exposed, a little raw and ready for something real to happen.

And the people rose up.

A dying man cried out for his mama, and told the world he could not breathe, and human beings of all colors came face to face with the reality that we have been choosing to barely breathe for the majority of our lives…

Fresh air is there, for the taking.

We saw this, in the Pause.

The Oxygen of together restores life. It does.

The bitter people call this idea divisive. They realize, but don’t admit, that change is scary and they are “happy enough” barely breathing. In the Pause they breathed so hard that their lungs ached, and while that felt cathartic in the moment, the moment was fleeting and the pain seemed overwhelming and scary.

Barely breathing sounds like silence.

It looks like shallow obsessions, for distraction’s sake.

It looks like consumerism- starvation for that next thing, because we’re internally convinced that will be the very thing that will make the ache to inhale subside.

The people who killed the Man who could not breathe, had titles to serve and protect. Can we not all see that this tragedy effects every single one of us? Because of them, (and other fear and anger driven officers) many have turned on all of the men and women also sworn to serve and protect.

This is not a Blue issue, this is a BREATH issue.

Those killers, they didn’t want to breathe either.

Killers do not always wear a uniform. When they do, they hurt their brethren too, because it distracts and divides the people. This world is filled with good people, and bad people. The bad people wear all types of clothing.

Sometimes good people are white, but generations of evil white action has made our light skin hard to trust.

Sometimes the angry, hate-filled “bad guy” is the one beating his wife and children, and the police save them and take him away.

Sometimes, as we’ve seen, the bad guy wears the uniform.

This isn’t a blue issue, this is an abuse of power issue.

It is a refusal to truly see, issue.

The people who stay silent and protect them, the ones who stay silent for fear of rocking the boat- the ones who stay quiet because they are “happy enough” in their ignorance- those people have been holding their breath beneath the water for so long that they can no longer even imagine using muscles to kick to the surface and gasp for air…

But what happens to them then?

They drown.

Have you tried reasoning with a hateful racist? You can’t.

You can not change the mind of a dead man.

In the Pause I learned that I need to breathe.

I NEED to fill my lungs with people and kindness, with unity, art and collaboration. I need to hold hands with everyone who is different than me.

I NEED to breathe in the wisdom and stories of others, and damn it, I NEED to see how my refusal to do so, for so long, contributed to the problem.

Last year one of the most important people in the world, to me, decided I was only worth her silence. She stopped talking to me, stopped regarding me, and in the journey of that decision, the oppression of her silence killed our relationship. I will always love her, but her silence killed a part of my heart that had spent nearly two decades connected to hers.

I am not angry at her. I hold only prayers for a beautiful life and a healing gratitude at the time we had together.

Silence is disregard.

Disregard is apathy.

Life cannot be sustained apathetically.

Silence is death. Often a slow, drowning death, and we may be so hell-bent on our refusal to inhale that we fail to see the Grim Reaper coming straight for us.

I can be silent no more.

I am breathing, filling these lungs.

There is no sort of. You either inhale, or you don’t.

You love, or you don’t.

You listen and learn, or you lose. You may not feel it today, or tomorrow, but it’s coming.

The Pause paved the way for changes like we’ve never seen. People rose up and protested for brunches and haircuts, and this bold action led to the opening of an unready nation…

Just you watch what happens when even more people finally begin to take real breaths, and rise up for LIFE. Black Lives Matter. We aren’t saying Only Black Lives Matter, but instead crying out that we take notice- injustice is killing and we all need to stand up and help.

Today, July 1st, I am inhaling the grace, wisdom and strength of the brave Black women I am befriending, the ones I am listening to, the conversations I am having and the ugly truths I am facing, regarding my own privilege and fragility.

I am admitting that this is not a journey I am fit to lead, and so I will listen and learn until forever. Letting go, further, of what does not serve this path towards an equal world, where differences will be celebrated and color radiates, in all shades, like the sun.

As my filled lungs exhale, they will practice the whys… with a voice that grows less shaky every single day, I will say-

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbery

Tony McDade

Breonna Taylor

David McAttee

Elijah McClain

With this I will inhale again, breathing deep the awareness of an ill-designed system, and do what I can before exhaling…

Say their names.

And I will never breathe them all because there are just so many, but in remembering I can be moved forward. We all can. These horrors of a structured design meant to keep us afraid and on top, must not go on.

Months ago we sat frozen in fear as the entire planet seemed short of the very machines the hospitals needed to breathe for the sick people who could not breathe on their own.

Inhale

With a knee to the neck, George Floyd had his breath stolen, and the world rose up, giving breath to movement.

It is time for us to come together and breathe again. Black. Blue. Brown. White.

Exhale