It’s beginning…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go. Most towns, come this part of the year, begin to morph into something straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. When I was growing up I swear that I remember our town tree being decorating with tin pie pans, and yet believing it was the most gigantic and magical tree in the world. I’ll admit, my memory may be off, re: the pie tins, but it is true that the holiday season really does evoke this sense of magic and wonder in children.

And then, for most of us, that fades away. We chastise ourselves internally, that Christmas is for kids. That it is better with kids. That it is childish. Do you know why, as life-jaded adults, Christmas is better when kids are around? Because we try to absorb the joy and wonder they still hold. And it doesn’t make us any happier, and so a lot of times we get sad.

Guess what? Christmas is for EVERYONE. This season is full of wonderment and magic because the very heart of this season is generosity.

It is the giving of compassion to others.

It is the wrapping of treasures, to give.

It is the baking and creating of special things to share with others.

It is the time most people think about others outside of themselves. Charities receive the most attention…

It is when we open ourselves up to receiving, which is cathartic and honestly pretty difficult to do.

THIS is why the season is magical. When we are children, our only job is to simply witness it all. We see illustrations of this play out in cartoons, storybooks and holiday specials. Living life by the light of a twinkling tree, we are able to capture the magic that is not only unwrapping a mystery adorned in festive paper, but also watching the eyes of loved ones as they open their own gifts. The magic never disappears, honestly it just gets buried beneath the weight of adulthood. The bills, the expenses, the stresses…

The lack of, instead of what is all around. (that’s a line in one of my favorite Christmas movies: Christmas really is all around. Bonus points if you can name that film- although, as Drew Carey used to say- “the points don’t matter.”)

It is beginning to look a lot like a magical time, and already I am hearing so many people FREAKING out. Tinsel triggered stress is a real thing.

While I can’t personally limit your stress, I CAN actually help a little bit. If you don’t subscribe to my email list, then you likely missed a few important announcements. I have three things that might reduce a little bit of your stress load, as we enter into this holiday season. Well, two technical things and then a little thought provoking advice to back up the two things…

1.) I have once again created a holiday gift guide of my favorite things! I do this every year, I know. This guide has helped many of you buy some great gifts, and prompted you to reach out and ask for my help for additional treasures. THIS year, in addition to my guide, I have put together an actual SHOP on Amazon, FILLED with something for literally every age or interest, on your list!

2.) Working alongside very capable and passionate women, I have created the Personal ShopHER directory. This is a growing directory of small, women owned, online businesses. This directory is ever growing so I encourage you to keep checking it out! (And currently the Beauty Counter link is gifting a free gift with every purchase, but ONLY through November 25th.)

3.) Shopping in these ways really captures the holiday giving season. Whether it is the Amazon storefront or the women in the Personal ShopHER, each purchase directly benefits a woman who is simply doing her best to build and create a business for herself and her family. Can we say that every time we check out at the big-box store? No, we can’t. As we go into 2020, I know that I am growing increasingly more aware of ethical spending and how frugality seldom leads to the best decision. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but there it is. With solely frugal decisions, everyone loses. When we train ourselves to consider how a purchase might put good into the world, we create something altogether different. Jen Hatmaker used an analogy and I’ll borrow it now:

Say I need a white t-shirt. I could get one for $7, from a big box store, or I could buy a similar one for $67 from a smaller company. Most would choose the $7 one, right? But what if we had the opportunity to trace that shirt back to its origin? (that company back to its origin.) One company likely exploits women and children, basically enslaving them to do back breaking/taxing labor for nominal pay insuring that they produce as MANY of those cheap white t-shirts as possible. These can be the people creating the fabric, the people in the fields, the people sewing…(Important uncomfortable fact: Do you know how many women working in these fields are raped on a regular basis? Here is one example. Google it- there are many. This is an issue even within migrant workers and US agriculture.) In addition, there is the carbon-footprint of the transportation. OR you can have the small company with grassroots origin, who goes out of their way to insure that their products are not only made by adults who are paid fairly, looked out for and not exploited. This then means that children don’t have to work for pennies, and can do things like go to school and play with their friends. They painstakingly brainstorm ways to get the best quality of materiel in the most ethical way. Ethical spending isn’t about getting the LOWEST price, but about getting the BEST price.

Being good stewards of our money means KNOWING where our money is going, it was never meant as a justification for bargain/exploitation. It might be checking out Facebook Marketplace or a local used furniture store, over Walmart, when you need a desk. Maybe a quality built desk from a local carpenter will cost ten times what that particle board desk-in-a-box might, so you have to save your money. Those dollars spent mean so much more than what you give at checkout… We can be charity minded, but we can also simply begin (start small) to think about what we spend, and why. Buying from local and/or small business really does help us to meet our shopping needs while also giving back. Everyone wins.

At such a time as this…

I remember there was a time when blogging demanded more hours from a week, and for many of us- hours from a day. Though there are still those faithful webjournal crafters out there, clickety-clacking about their daily ins and outs, blogging simply isn’t what it used to be…

We’re a product of the drive-thru generation, so I guess it makes sense that something like blogging would evolve in such a similar fashion. These days most would rather scroll endlessly on Facebook (no thanks!) or double tap the hours away on Instagram rather than tediously following blogs that have to be read. Both FB & insta offer a variety of microblogging, but for every fifteen “likes” a post gets, it is doubtful that more than one person actually read the words. It’s kind of weird, isn’t it? Especially those of us first generation bloggers. But then again, as a first gen, I seem to have a pretty difficult time posting on my blog with any regularity at all. (my micro-blogging game on instagram is strong though, so at least there is that. To the three of you who actually read those daily jottings, I thank you.)

In what has been the strangest year I have lived thus far, (strangest, longest, deepest cutting, most surreal, etc…) I have felt the need to process it all in a written way, less. Is it maturity? Possibly. Truthfully it could be a little bit of detachment as well. We tell children that they can be anything they want to be, when they grow up, but as an adult reflecting on such a kernel of wisdom can convey different things all together. Motherhood, for example… Physically, I could not actually succeed in conceiving, carrying and birthing a living and healthy baby. Did that actually make me less worthy as a woman? Honestly, it may have. We tell ourselves it didn’t, but I guess it really comes down to which lens we look through. Did it make me less worthy as a wife? Absolutely it did. Beyond the technical terms of motherhood, I have loved children who were not my own. I bought in to the lines we are fed about children just needing love. I loved, I lost, and as pieces of me drifted off in hot winds of heartache, time and again, I chose to love knowing that it would continue to lead to loss… Did that make me a mother? No. No it did not.

I had one hell of a time pretending though, and even believing for a time.

This year has been a lot like that, the fine tuning of perceptions and cross referencing them against forty years of beliefs, then challenging what is real, what was fed/programmed and what has changed. The things that I am: a woman, a survivor, an empath, a believer, a loyal friend, an artist, a writer, a creative, a compassionate individual who loves deeply, forgettable, easy to leave.. The things that I am not: a daughter, a mother, a successful (by the world’s standards) writer…

I have begun to see that I spent my entire life pursuing the first two, and dreaming of the third, to such a point that I missed so much within the things that truly make me. I agonized over biological parents who did not want me, fragmenting more and more as people came in and out of my life, those who found it so easy to walk away. Somehow, with the bleeding hospital moments of my first miscarriage, I transferred every ounce of that life-ache into achieving motherhood. If the will I had harnessed could have actually kept me pregnant, I would have had ten litters of babies, but it didn’t. It did nothing but accelerate my need to become a mother. In case any of this sounds familiar, let me just say one thing: No matter how much you love a child, and no matter how much you fight to love them in the ways that you were not loved, you cannot will such things to be their truth. It doesn’t matter how much we love someone, if they neither believe nor are able to accept that love, it is pretty powerless. I loved with the force of a million mighty horses, I advocated, I remained faithful to that decision, even when it cost me more deeply than anything I had known before. My son once told me that I was like a mom to him, and it stung. Though I’ve heard him say “my mom” about me, he’s never called me anything but my given name. For so long both things reflected failure, and screamed to echo that life lie that I could never really be enough. Finally I am seeing, I was like a mom to him. He actually hadn’t known the experience of a “real” mom in any healthy capacity, and maybe in ways I was the closest he’d gotten. It is a sad truth, and in my heart he will forever be my son because I choose it- because I will it, but in truth his perception is more reality based than mine. Maybe I am like a mom, to him. And that’s ok… Our society loves to quip affirming quotes and then deem them fact. Things like “there is nothing more powerful than a mother’s love”, and though the sentiment is pretty lovely, it feels super shitty to those of us whose mothers simply didn’t love them. Sweet words, and if you’re own motherhood elements find such things relatable than I am genuinely happy for you. I am. But those things are not one-size-fits-all and when we are expecting adoptive moms, foster moms and children of those situations to identify within them too, we just end up with a lot of people feeling like they just can’t fit in.

I guess my point is- for so long I wanted to be a mom. Just like I had longed to be a daughter, longed to be chosen, valued, and loved. They are all very different desires stemming from the same wound within. Sometimes, in moments, I have been bits and pieces of each of those things, but they were never full journeys I would travel. I chose to love children, without condition, and I succeeded. I chose to see value in these amazingly resilient and worthy individuals even when they were neither willing to truly see it in themselves, or believe I did. There are many who will attest to the fact that no one ever loved, fought harder for them them or believed in them more than I did, but the end result is still the same.

This year I have buried an uncle was like a dad to me, when I was small. I have stood among strangers with whom I share blood, to lay to rest my father. I have been drowning in a nightmare situation with my birth mother, that it feels like will never end. This year two of the three reasons I ever even wore the hat of motherhood decided I wasn’t worthy of that role. The wearing down, which led to that point, had thinned my heart to such a threadbare state that it almost didn’t even matter anymore. In the end I saw that it had never mattered what I had or hadn’t done for them, behind the scenes or with them in my embrace, their journeys were theirs and they are not my own.

There is this dangerous lie the adoptive world feeds achingly searching people, this lore of that non-biological child actually being meant for you. We eat it up, because we ache for “meant to be”. We ache for belonging, and we identify within that sweet little soul, that they do too. With every swig of that deceit we swallow, however well-meaning that it is, we only hurt everyone involved a little more. While I felt that I was meant to be a mother for so painfully long, obviously I wasn’t. We have to reconcile ourselves to being honest.

“Meant to be” is only ever really that we are meant to love. To love in heart, to love in action, to be love. There are no guarantees that this will work, that it will pay off, or that we will “win” and the reason for this is that all of those results are outcomes for games, manipulations and strategies we play, they are not the end results of a love.

I love my kids. I will always love them, and in my heart they will always be my kids, because for a such a time as that, it truly felt like they were. Those were some of the most beautiful moments, held within ten years that I would never trade for anything. They weren’t perfect, because nothing real is. Of the four decades I have walked this planet, that one was the best I will ever know. The biggest part of loving them, or anyone really, is giving the other person the option to stay or to let go and walk away. Thats the part of love that we fight so hard not to have happen, but this year I’m learning that I have always been okay in a loved one’s rear view mirror.

We can’t regret the loving. Love requires us to be open and raw, and with such vulnerabilities comes hurt. We can’t really regret the losing either, because loving someone enough to respect their good bye is the most selfless thing we can give them. I am told that motherhood is the most selfless role there is, so maybe in some ways I truly was a mom, just not in any of the ways I had hoped for.

It all sounds so sad, in print, doesn’t it? Growth and realizations can be sad sometimes. Rest assured, I am not sad. A bit pensive at times, and there are moments when I can be easily distracted by the place I had always hoped the motherhood/grandmother journey would take me. Even so, many things have come into focus this year, so many things that I felt (or I believed) were so different than they truly were. On the other side of these once unfathomably feared truths, there is goodness. In my end, whenever that is, if I am asked if I used this life to actively love, I can say honestly that I did. I still do. I will until I breathe no more. This is who I am, and I am grateful for that. I am proud of that.

That being said, if the rest of 2019 wanted to chill the F*** out, I wouldn’t complain.

Middle…

Hello and Happy Friday!

Most Fridays I join the lovely little community over at Five Minute Friday, with a weekly writing prompt by Kate. This week’s word is Middle…

I hear it all of the time honestly, middle… 

You don’t know what I’m in the middle of. 

I’m sorry, Ive been in the middle of ________. 

I think the biggest thing standing against me is that I’m a middle child.

Middle child, middle of divorce, middle of a big project… We seem to, as a people, keep ourselves purposefully stuck in a middle. We allow this seemingly negative space to hold us captive to something else, even when those somethings may lead to better, even desired new spaces for us. There may be some honesty within our middles, but we also use our middle as an excuse- as a crutch…

There are many overused, yet accurate, statements such as the middle of the road, or middle class, which also- though not technically negative, are infused with just the right amount of something unpleasant that we equate them as such.

Let’s be honest- middle is safe, most of the time. (and not in a really great, rescuing us from danger sort of way) We walk the middle line, metaphorically, so that we don’t have to decide or claim ownership of a commitment completely. If we don’t actually decide, or choose, then we can’t be wrong. If we we aren’t wrong, we won’t fail. While these subconscious patterns elude us into believing we are being responsible, we are inhibiting our personal growth.

Sometimes we will veer from our safe middle ground, and we will get hurt. That’s ok. This is how we grow.

What if we tried to drive down the middle of the road? We would cause absolute disaster. The middle may sometimes be the best choice, (obviously not when driving) but the middle isn’t as safe we often want to believe.

~

Since I have you here, I wanted to share a few things SUPER quick, so that we can get on with our reading of other Middle themed posts and (Hallelujah!) our weekend!

  • There is a new season of Heartland, on UPTV and I’ve linked a teaser for you!
  • Our new episode of the Collective Podcast features an interview with writer Brie Jacobson, as she shares her story about surviving the Route 91 Music Festival shooting, in October of 2017.
  • Lastly, I did CampNanoWrimo this month and finished a 50,000 word writing challenge! So much lay ahead, regarding this precious (to me) manuscript of mine. I’m hoping to have the first draft done very soon, and move into editing. I have such a supportive readership, and so I wanted to thank YOU for that! This is as much our project, as it is mine. We’re all in this together….

October 1st, 2017…

On the Collective Podcast today, we have a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting that happened at the Route 91 festival, in 2017. She bravely shares her story and, while it may seem obvious to state, shines a spotlight on how most of us have gone back to life as usual, while the survivors from that day (and let’s be honest, many other brutal days, with other locations and other acts of violence) can never regain the normal they knew before…

Please listen to Brie share her story in episode 46…

And also, please do something beautiful in memory of these souls who lost their lives. Do not allow life to minimize them into one dimensional memories- these were living, breathing human beings, just like you and I. Look at their faces, learn about them. We need to, as a society, reacquaint ourselves with people and less with disconnected news blips.

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…