belonging, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, loss, parenting, shame, Uncategorized

shame and belonging

Lately I have been feeling so unsettled. I walk around my house and it doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel like it fits. It feels like I am in someone else’s house. I used to come home and feel so good here, but I lost that feeling a couple of months ago and I haven’t been able to get it back. Every room feels off somehow. I look at my body and I feel like it is not mine. I feel like I am in the wrong skin. I don’t recognize the medical issues I am dealing with as my own. It’s as if they belong to someone else entirely. I drive or walk around my city and I feel like a visitor. I feel like I don’t belong here. I’m grasping at things from my past thinking if I could get them back, make different decisions, or get another chance to replay the last year of my life, but do it differently, I would feel ok again. We can’t do that though, can we? We can’t undo our decisions and we rarely get second chances. The last six months play over and over in my head  like Groundhog Day on repeat. As torturous as that seems, I have never been one who can leave a puzzle unfinished. So, if the puzzle is my life, I will replay every conversation and moment in hopes that I will find the solution or the missing piece.

Belonging is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. I moved to different towns and states several times in my childhood and beyond. I always felt like the outsider looking in. I would find things I liked in each house, friends I connected with, and value in each experience. Still, I never quite felt like I truly belonged or that I was truly home. That was always something I thought would come sometime in the future or was simply something that existed somewhere else.

The thing that is different now is that for the first time in a long time I love who I am and all I have been through and done to get to this very uncomfortable place. Until recently, I was ashamed of being a single mother. This meant being ashamed of who I was from the moment I woke up in the morning and looked into my daughter’s smiling eyes. The shame began at sunrise and continued through the two or more glasses of wine I used to drink every night. I was ashamed that my house was small, cluttered, and filled completely with secondhand mismatched furniture because that is all I could afford and that my car was old and beat up. I was ashamed every time I picked up the phone and asked for another loan from my mom to cover another cost so I could stay afloat. I was ashamed that at 41, I had a job that paid me less than the average undergrad makes right out of college, even though the work of that job made me happy and gave me the time I need to be a mom. I was ashamed that I had reached midlife without ever having a healthy or successful relationship with a man.

The thing about shame is that it imprisons you. You cannot move forward and you cannot open yourself up to other people or experiences. It causes you to live in the deceptive state of never being good enough for anyone or anything. It is not being embarrassed about something you did. It is literally thinking that407268_10150449280357005_1610035080_n who you are is wrong. Once shame takes over your life, it becomes your belonging. You can never fully belong to anything or anyone else, because you belong only to your shame. There is a twisted comfort in all of it as it becomes your self imposed identity. You never give yourself fully in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, because you already have one foot out the door ready to run in the other direction.

With the help of a professional, I recently did work on this shame to overcome it. I don’t feel the way I did before. I now recognize that I am managing a house on my own, raising a child on my own, directing a whole department at my job, all while training for a half marathon. None of these are easy tasks and there is no shame in them. Have I made poor decisions in relationships and in finances, and other areas of my life? Yes! We all have. We have all, at least once, royally fucked up. That is what it means to be human and that is where the real growth happens. It does not in any way make us less than anyone else nor does it make us any less worthy of receiving love.

So, in this place of discomfort and this feeling of unease, there is an excitement. Perhaps it is this post-shame world where I truly belong. It feels wrong and strange and it feels like I am an observer in someone else’s world. The pull to go back to where things were comfortable is strong, but there is no growth there. The push to be present and take it all in is scary and the unknown makes my skin crawl, but that is the place we often find ourselves before something truly great begins.

True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable and learn how to be present with people — without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.– Brené Brown

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dating, life lessons, Uncategorized

dating advice

I don’t have a lot of experience with dating. At 41 I have been in 4 relationships: Two were short, one was long, and one was a summer fling that resulted in a child and months of failed co-parenting before it was over. All four were men who I knew as friends for months or years before simply changing our status from friend to relationship virtually overnight. I moved to my high school town in tenth grade. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone else. Even though I was welcomed and people were very sweet there, I still felt like an outsider. While I had crushes, I never dated or pursued anyone seriously.

College was fun and I hung out with a few guys, had my first real kiss(along with a few other good make out sessions), but I was never serious about anyone there either. After college, I barely had interest in dating. I wanted to travel and meet people from different cultures and continents. I willingly went into a Guatemalan prison and was surrounded by violent tattoo covered gang members, but the idea of getting married and having kids was terrifying to me. There was no hope chest or scrapbook filled with wedding ideas stashed away in my closet. I was happy living with a wide variety of roommates in an even wider variety of apartments and houses. Each living environment and trip to IMG_3491another country or state was an adventure in itself. When you are hanging out the roof of a Land Rover flying through an animal reserve in Kenya in pursuit of the perfect photo of a giraffe or hippo, it doesn’t occur to you that you are a 28 year old childless virgin. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I wasn’t settled down and that I lived in an apartment with a bunch of other people and  mismatched furniture.

My first three relationships happened in my 30’s. They were all fun, but complete failures. I spent the entire decade thinking that somewhere along the way, everyone was given a guidebook to dating and relationships, but I somehow missed it. I mean, it was possible. I moved a lot when I was growing up. Going from school to school means you sometimes never have certain subjects. I somehow managed to graduate without calculus or physics, so maybe I missed the course on dating too. My friends seemed to know what they were doing and my siblings definitely got it.  So, while I am a confident person when it comes to education and career, I have never felt comfortable with my abilities when relating to the opposite sex.

So, with my most recent relationship, like many single women I know, I decided to use google as a sage experienced girlfriend who could give me advice and guide me in the right way. I soon found out that there is an entire industry dedicated to guiding people through the dating world. There are hundreds of gurus out there who wanted to help me navigate the world of my new relationship. Just like some beauty products tailor to insecurities about our looks, dating experts tailor to, and make millions of dollars from those who have insecurities about dating. The majority of their clients are women because surely we can’t possibly know what to do on our own, right?  I am one of them. I even paid for some of this advice. So, if you are considering paying that $39.95 or more to get advice, let me save you some money and let you learn from my experience.

The following list is advice I got from these experts. I put my commentary in italics:

  1. Don’t text too much and don’t ever text or call first. Always wait for him. What is this? 1950?
  2. If you feel like texting him or calling him, text him or call him. Be confident! But you just said not to call or text him. I’m so confused.
  3. Be available but don’t be too available. Can you just tell me where the line is? I’ll do my best not to cross it.
  4. If he doesn’t text you x number of times a day, he is not interested anymore. Well, that’s just stupid. Most of the guys I know are my age. We didn’t even have texting capabilities till we were almost 30. This is still new for us. I’d be more excited if he passed me a note in class anyway.
  5. Be vulnerable with him, but don’t share too much about yourself or your problems. God forbid I am a real person with real problems.
  6. Be a strong woman, but ask him to do stuff for you so he can feel still feel like a man. Honestly, if I have to ask him to do stuff for me just so he can “feel like a man,” he’s probably not man enough for me in the first place.
  7. Be there for him when he needs you, but don’t sacrifice anything about your own life for him like your time, money, etc. Wait, how can I be there for him then? Don’t all good relationships require some level of sacrifice on both sides?
  8. Men are like toddlers, so take away their toy once in a while so they will beg for it again. He will lose interest if he’s not constantly chasing you. What am I, 15? Why would I want a man who is like a toddler anyway? Gross.
  9. Don’t plan anything. Make him decide what you are doing and where you are going. I like planning things. Call me crazy, but it seems like it would be more fun to plan and decide  things together anyway?
  10. Be yourself. I just spent $40 for you to tell me to be anything but myself. Make up your mind.

This is only a taste of what I read or heard. There is one “guru” who does nothing but tell you exactly what to text a guy and another who does nothing but tell you exactly how to kiss a man and claims that kiss will make him yours forever! I am a single mom in my 40’s. The man I was dating was a divorced dad in his late 30’s. Someone I have known for 25 years. The advice given to a 21 year old girl dating a guy she met on tinder is the same as the advice sold to me. All of the advice assumes every man is the same and will react the same. If some of these experts helped you, great! I am glad you and your situation fit the mold so they could help you find happiness. As for me, I say bullshit on all of it.

I am not someone who is bound and determined to get married and settle down. I’m just a girl who wants what I have wanted since I was a kid: to find someone who has my back, makes me laugh, and calls me on my shit. I want someone who is honest and kind. I want someone who sometimes makes me forget that everyone else exists when I am with him.

I don’t have a lot of experience. In fact, there are high school students who have more experience than I do. I don’t know a lot about dating, especially in today’s world. What I do know, however, is that I had a guy who made me feel like I was home. When I started to get scared I would lose that feeling, I listened to a lot of crappy advice and changed into someone I didn’t even recognize. Instead of making me feel better, the advice just made me feel more paranoid and insecure. I don’t know if my relationship would have panned out differently if I had just followed my gut and I probably never will.  

So, here is what I’ve learned: Be yourself. Don’t get so deep in the dating advice wormhole that you start acting like someone you aren’t. We are all awkward and have baggage, and we all have insecurities when it comes to dating and relationships. When those come up, don’t search for answers online or elsewhere. Talk to the person you are in the relationship with and be honest about it. If they are the right person for you, they will embrace those parts of you that make you unique. There is no one in the world like you and there is no one in the world like your partner or person you are dating. In the end, you are the only two people who will know what works best for your situation.  A real relationship isn’t built on who plans what or what texts are exchanged. A real relationship is built on laughter, sacrifice, trust, honesty, and a genuine respect and support for one another. The other stuff will all fall into place when the time is right. If I am naive for believing that, then let me be naive.

“The truth is none of us are easy to date, deal with, or please all the time. We all have our vices, attitudes, and way of doing things that make us who we are. You won’t like everything about somebody, it’s impossible. This is life, and it isn’t about finding the perfect person, it isn’t about living some fairy tale. It’s about finding someone you’re willing to work for, and who is willing to work for you.” -Rob Hill, Sr.

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death, faith, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Losing Dad, loss, parenting, religion, Uncategorized

dear dad.

I wrote this letter today, on the eve of the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m sharing it because it made me feel better and maybe it will help other people who have lost someone close.

Dear Dad,

It’s been seven years since we said goodbye to you. Seven years since we sat around your bed and told you it was ok to go and that we would be ok. I remember that day in the car after your doctor’s appointment a couple months before you passed  when you told me you were ready to go, but you were worried that we weren’t ready. You were probably right. I can only speak for myself, but I think we have all been managing as best we can, just with an ache in our chest that won’t seem to go away. I’d give absolutely anything to get you back or to just chat for a few hours. Even though we knew you were leaving us, there were so many things I forgot to say. There were so many questions I forgot to ask.

I’ve struggled with that question of why good people like you have to die so early when some really crappy people get to live so long. It’s a hard question and it’s left me with a pretty cynical and unfair perspective of the world. It’s left me with a lot of anger towards God. Maybe those people are still around because they need more time to figure out howsleeping to get things right. Who knows? You told me once that God is ok with us being mad at him because it means we are still engaged with him in some way(that probably isn’t verbatim, but that’s how I understood what you said). God and I haven’t been right since you left, but I’m still trying.

I heard Anne Lamott speak a couple years ago and she said when cancer takes someone from you, it’s like an atomic bomb goes off in your life. She couldn’t be more right. For me, it meant running a lot, then hours of yoga, then so much alcohol that I started to think it was ok to put vodka in my coffee in the morning. I would say I should have stuck to the running and yoga, but the drinking led me to get pregnant unexpectedly and though that was pretty scary at first, becoming a mother has forced me to grow in ways I never thought possible. I became a mother at 35. Talk about an atomic bomb! The nurses actually said I was of “advanced maternal age” and whispered it every time they said it like I had leprosy or something.

I named my daughter, your granddaughter, Isabella Grace. I read that the Hebrew meaning of the name is “God is perfection.” It’s such a perfect name for her. I chose her middle name because as she was growing inside me, I felt like she was God’s grace for everything I had ever done wrong in my life. We have frustrating moments from time to time, but no matter what, we tell each other “I love you” at least a dozen times a day. She tells me I am beautiful every morning and I think I’ve actually become more beautiful inside and out because of her. She brings out the very best of me.

We moved to Philadelphia and are living in the city now. She does really well with city living, but she loves the country and our visits to Central PA. You can tell it’s in her blood. She loves horses and animals in general. She especially likes to pretend she is one. This makes her come across as a little weird sometimes, but I absolutely love that about her. She doesn’t have a father in her life which is hard for me sometimes since I had such a good one, but she is surrounded by so many people who love her that she doesn’t seem to mind. She is an incredible artist and likes puns, so I know you would really like spending time with her. Sometimes she smiles or laughs and I feel like I’m looking right at you. Today was an emotionally rough day for me and I went to pick her up from her art school. I walked into the room and she was laughing and dancing to music and just fully enjoying every ounce of life without a care. Then, she saw me and ran across the room and gave me a huge hug. That made me think of you too. I wish you could meet her. I think you two would really like each other. I tell her stories about you all the time.

Aside from Isabella, my other big news is that I am finally working full time at a theatre. I’ve been there just over four years. It’s not always easy and the pay isn’t impressive, but I love the work. I think you might be able to relate. 🙂

The trees are changing here and it’s so beautiful. I remember that day just before you left when we drove through Cumberland County to see all the beautiful colors on the trees. I remember the brisk fall air and the feeling like life would go on and things would be ok. I hope the trees change where you are and that you are able to hike and fish and read all day. We sure do miss you here.

Love,

Rebekah

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Bad Ass, faith, life lessons, Uncategorized

Mangia.

Tonight I was struggling. So much is going on in my life so fast and I was trying to process everything in a somewhat coherent way. I scrolled through my phone and called a few people, but I only got voicemails. We moved to this city four years ago and have built up an incredible village of people who support us through good and bad, but tonight I needed someone different. The stuff I am dealing with is deeper. I’m aching at my core and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I am so lost about who to call and talk to about this. Then I remembered a time before when my panic attacks led to blackouts and life seemed like more than I could handle. I remembered who got me through heart monitors and death, unplanned pregnancy and big break-ups. It was that family I had created once, the family who called me Wilky.

At one point in my life, I started each evening walking into a dark and empty restaurant. The only sounds I heard were coming from the kitchen where fresh herbs and vegetables were being prepared with extra precision and care and fresh burrata and mozzarella were carefully crafted while spanish music played in the background. It was food preparation that took hours and was truly an art form. Each bite of food in this restaurant created a memory. It was to be savoured and enjoyed like an Italian Opera. It was not mass produced or created elsewhere. No. This food, these masterpieces, can only be found in a still small dining room in the heart of Pennsylvania.

That time of setting up before guests arrive was my sanctuary. My coworkers and I would prepare fresh whipped cream, dressings from scratch, and a fresh batch of sangria filled with crisp apples and juicy oranges. Silverware would be checked and double checked to be sure it was perfectly placed on the crisp white table cloths. Marinated olives would be stirred and hot Focaccia would be pulled from the ovens and placed on the cooling racks, filling the room with the smell of sea salt and rosemary. Candles were lit and small jars would be filled with dark green Italian olive oil. Every night brought new and exciting guests and experiences, but the set up was always the same. Like the routine of a liturgical church service, it was a holy process for me.

A shift in this restaurant often meant constant moving on my feet for 7 or 10 hours, but I never noticed, even when I was nearly 8 months pregnant. Our job there was to create an atmosphere where guests could come and forget everything else in their life. Or perhaps it was to celebrate the good in their life or share the sorrow. It was not a place to get a quick bite. It was a place to come and stay awhile and drink good wine, specially crafted cocktails, and the most incredibly prepared seafood, game, and exotic vegetables. It was a place where we took the time to learn about our guests’ lives enough to become the guests at their weddings and parties. It was a place where the desserts were so delectable, guests were talking about them for days and asking us to make them again. It was a place where professional upscale guests would be caught licking the bowls of their nero pasta because dammit, it is just that good! Guests left feeling like they had just visited family in another land.

I flourished in this environment. There is joy that comes in serving others and guiding them through an experience like nothing they have had before. There is joy that comes in creating a cocktail that perfectly fits their description and helps them forget any troubles they had in just one sip. There is joy that comes in working as a team to bring this experience to several hundred people on the busiest nights of the year, sometimes in masks and costumes. There is joy that comes in memorizing a menu in Italian or Spanish or knowing how to describe the difference between 20 different dry red Italian wines. There is joy that comes from serving the food of the most talented and creative chef many of us will ever experience in our lifetime.

The real joy, however, came at the end of our shift. Most nights, we would say goodnight to the last guest, clean the dining room, and then sit at the bar and have our own glass of wine. We shared stories of the night and stories of our lives. No topic was off the table and advice was always given with love and understanding. This was the life giving part of our day. This was our confession booth, therapy couch, and late night phone call to a friend all wrapped into one. These people, this family of mine, got me. I belonged there. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt like I truly and completely belonged with them. We fought sometimes. We judged each other sometimes. We disagreed often. In the end though, we pumped up the music, moved the tables out of the way, and danced it out. No matter what happened between us, we were always able to end an evening with dancing and laughter: pure joy. There was nothing a little Aretha Franklin couldn’t fix.

We recently lost a family member and his name went by as I scrolled through my phone. That tightness in my chest made me long to hear his voice and talk to him about what I am going through right now. He would know exactly what to say. He always did. I can’t talk to him. I can’t sit at that bar with those people and talk to them tonight or dance out the pain that life brings, so instead I decided to listen to Nina Simone while I drank too much wine and reminisced about a group of people who I love and miss dearly.  

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, parenting, Uncategorized

snow day.

My morning began with my daughter dancing on top of me at 7am to Jazmine Sullivan while wearing a princess dress. I looked out the window and honestly couldn’t understand why the school district decided to cancel today. There were some flurries, but the roads were just wet. One of the downsides to working from home is that a “snow day” just means you have to spend the day trying to get your work done while your 4-year old runs around the house like a crazy person and uses you as her personal jungle gym. Every time this happens, I end up getting irritated with my daughter and the two of us end up in a screaming battle.

From about 8-11, I tried my hardest to get as much work done as possible while the television entertained my daughter. I had her help me assemble gift bags for teachers to occupy her, but by lunch time, she was getting pretty restless. We ate lunch and I continued to try to get work done. She was literally climbing the walls by 2pm and I was wondering if day drinking was kosher in this situation. By this time, the storm was dumping snow on us at a rapid rate and it was clear that this was a justified snow day and I would have to shovel at some point. I closed my laptop, dressed us both in multiple layers, and said, “let’s go play in the snow!” Bella’s eyes glowed with excitement and we headed outside with toys, salt, and a shovel.

She  immediately started running up and down the sidewalk in the snow, eating snow off our neighbor’s motorcycle, and catching snow on her tongue. I began shoveling the heavy wet snow and commiserating with my neighbor. She looked over at Bella who was laughing and chasing snowflakes with her mouth. She looked at me and said, “You know, I can’t remember the last time I caught a snowflake on my tongue.” She put down her FullSizeRender (7)shovel, looked up at the sky, and opened her mouth. A snowflake landed on her tongue and she closed her eyes, smiled, and savored it like it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. I stopped shoveling. I looked at my beautiful daughter running down our beautiful snow covered street. All I could hear was her laughter. I looked up to the sky and opened my mouth to catch a snowflake. A big fat wet snowflake hit my tongue and another went right in my eye, temporarily blinding me. I let out a teenage giggle and stood there, in the moment, and took in the taste, sound, and chilly air.

While my mind told me to go back inside and do more work, my heart decided that there was more fun to be had in the backyard. Bella and I finished up the shoveling, salted the sidewalk, and ran through the house to our little backyard oasis. We ate more snowflakes, built a very sad looking snowman, and laughed about the possibility that there might be yellow snow on our new snow friend’s back. Our dog barked in agreement(guilty little canine). Once the snow got so heavy that we could barely see each other, we decided to go back inside.

Inside, we assembled four puzzles, danced around the living room, played with our cat, and ate pizza and oranges. At dinner, Bella looked up at me and said, “I just love you so much.” And that was it. That is when I knew for sure that I made the right decisions today. Snow days have almost always been stressful. I always choose work over Bella and end up only getting annoyed with her. Today a switch went off in me that changed that. I put us first. I decided to live in the moment and to take in the blessing that a day together can be.

At bedtime I read her a couple books and sang the three songs we sing every night. She sat up and said, “Mommy, you left your phone downstairs!” I smiled and replied, “You know what? I don’t even care.”

Happy Snow Day! May we all have many more days like this to come.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, Uncategorized

Slaughter Beach

This morning was a normal lazy Sunday. My daughter and I woke up, went downstairs, and made breakfast. As we ate it, we stared at the disaster that is our house. Toys on every square foot of the floor, a pile of dirty clothes and about four piles of clean ones that were folded but not put away. The dust in the house spread across the light coming in the window and my daughter pointed at it and said, “Look, Mommy! Those sparkles are dancing around in the sun rays.”

A responsible mom would have taken one look at all of this and dedicated the rest of the day to fixing it. Instead, I looked at my daughter and said, “What do you want to do today?” Her eyes grew wide and she looked up at me as if she had been waiting months for me to ask that. “I want to go play at the beach with all the pretty stones and I want to take Dane with us. He needs to go to the beach.” I looked at our poor old dog whose ears had perked up at the mention of his name. He is nearing 12, has terrible arthritis that has destroyed his hips, he is recovering from lyme disease, and he is blind. She’s right. He does need to go to the beach. Despite the fact that it is early November, it was actually a pretty warm day and kind of perfect for the beach. So, we packed up a lunch, a bucket, a towel, and puppy supplies and headed out on the road.

When we got to the beach, we walked pretty far from our car and set up a little private space on the sand. After laying everything out and getting comfy, my daughter told me that she urgently needed to pee. So, we packed everything back up, hiked back to the car by the bathhouse and regrouped. 30 minutes later, we headed back to our space and set everything up again. Bella started to play with her horses making them castles and corrals out of sand and I went right for my phone. After about 5 minutes on my phone, I put it down and looked out at my old dog and tiny daughter playing at the edge of the water. He was barking at the waves and she was laughing at him and telling him what the ocean was. The sun peaked out from the clouds and the only other sound we could hear was the lapping of the waves on the sand. The closest person to us was so far away they were only a speck and the only boats were all the way out on the horizon. I took a deep breath and just took it all in. I decided to be present for a moment and it took effort for me to do it.

I looked at my old dog and remembered the day I brought him home as a puppy and about all of the different houses and people we have lived in and with together. I remembered him putting his head on my belly as I had my first contractions. I felt that feeling of safety he gives me. He has protected me for almost 12 years and I will lose him soon. He barely gets out of the house or plays anymore, but today, he was like a pup again. He played with Bella and slept on the beach.

I looked at Bella and smiled as I thought about the fact that this amazing little person came from inside me. It’s so crazy!! I still don’t totally understand it. This little funny stubborn girl who thinks she is a horse, talks about horses, plays with horses, and wants to read horse books, started as a tiny little bean inside me. That smile that lights up a whole room is part of me. And that feeling I get when I get her something she wants, like a day at the beach, is like nothing I have ever felt before.

I looked at Slaughter Beach. This hidden place we found one day by chance. It is covered in multicolored rocks in every size that have been smoothed out by the ocean. Pieces of sea glass hide in the sand acting as great treasures to be found by little hands. Coral juts above the surface of the water collecting tiny creatures that are eaten up by the bouncing sandpipers in search for a snack. The beach is far enough in the bay that the waves are small and friendly to children and old dogs. The people are few and far between. Most are scavenging the beach for sea glass and stones or simply looking for a quiet place to relax. Everyone takes the time to stop and talk to each other as they pass. It’s as if we all share a secret because we know about this beach, so we are already old friends.  Dogs are welcome and often seen. What an incredible place. 

 

Once I forced myself to take this moment and focus on the present, I realized just how lucky I am and I was filled with gratefulness. It was a connection to the universe, a grounding, a sense of worth. I decided that except for taking photos, my phone would stay in my pocket. I chased and was chased by Bella down the beach, I went on a treasure hunt with her and helped her fill our bucket with sea glass, shells, crab parts, and various colored rocks. I splashed in the waves with her, shared a picnic lunch, and soaked up what may be the last warm sunny day of the season.

Like any day, we had our troubles throughout the day, but it was otherwise a perfect day

FullSizeRender (6)together. We came home to our filthy house and I realized that a responsible mom might clean the house on a day like today, but going to the beach, letting go a little, and just appreciating time with my daughter is just as responsible. My guess is that my daughter will remember our days at Slaughter Beach, but our messy, dirty house will probably soon be forgotten.

 

 

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faith, life lessons, Losing Dad, politics, religion, Uncategorized

The Pastor’s Kid

When I was growing up, I thought the worst thing a person could be was a pastor’s kid. For me, being a pastor’s kid meant going to church every Sunday and being there most of the day. It meant going there on other days too. Lots of other days. It meant moving to different towns and schools and always having just enough, but having to go without some things like annual trips to Disney or having huge birthday parties or an exorbitant amount of gifts at Christmas. It meant teachers would remind me that I should be better, do better, act better, because of who my dad was. It meant always feeling like an outsider among friends. It meant denying my faith over and over in an attempt to fit in. Trying to be someone I wasn’t never won me any friends, but when I was young I thought that all of my problems stemmed from my father’s occupation. So, distancing myself from that seemed like the only way to survive. But we are all adults now and if there is anything we should know by now, it is that being who we really are is the easiest way to live and thrive.

Tonight my daughter was restless and asked me to sing to her to help her sleep. I laid beside her in the bed and sang eleven songs. ELEVEN! It was an entire concert in the dark for my only fan. It was a concert of hymns. Each time I looked over and saw she was still wide-eyed, I thought about how lucky I am that I grew up in a pastor’s home. I probably know a hundred hymns and camp songs and I can sing them nonstop for my daughter until her spirited brain finally rests.

As an adult, these moments happen often. I now realize just how lucky I am to be a pastor’s kid. I can still smell the dozens of burning candles on Christmas Eve and the wood pews that filled the sanctuary. I remember rainy days when we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful with all of the doors to the small country church wide open while the rain poured down outside adding its own harmony to the song. That smell and that song remind me that there is something greater than all of us. I can still taste the varied, and sometimes odd, flavors of the church potluck dinner. That rainbow colored plate of food made with a dash of competition and pound of love was more a part of who I am than any foodie dish I eat now.

Being a pastor’s kid means that I have seen the top of the bell tower and the back of the organ pipes. I’ve rung the church bells at improper times and I’ve paid the price for doing so. I’ve laid down under the back pew and rolled down under all the pews until I slammed into the altar rail. I’ve had the church giggles hundreds of times. You know the ones when you or your friend says something wildly inappropriate during church and in trying to hide your laughter, you actually break into an uncontrollable laughter that has to squirt out of your eyes because you can’t stop? It probably happened that time you peed your pants in church. It’s a common side effect of church giggles.

Being a pastor’s kid meant driving across the country, through Canada, and up to Alaska when I was five and making the return trip when I was nine. Our parents told us how magnificent creation was and then they showed it to us. When you see the Badlands, The Grand Tetons, Wild Horse, Glacier National Park, the Yukon, and the miraculous Denali before you even hit 4th grade, it is hard not to believe in God or some higher power. Religion or not, there is a spiritual element to seeing these places.311149_10150294264747005_289428017_n

Being my dad’s kid meant living in a small house in the woods of Alaska that ran out of water. It meant a family of five practically living on top of each other and riding to the mountain spring together to fill jugs of water so we could eat and bathe in the dead of winter. It meant our parents waking us up in the middle of the night so we could stand out in our wooded  driveway in moon boots and nightgowns to hear the crackling of the rainbow colored aurora borealis that seemed so close we could almost touch it. It meant running across snow and ice in our swimsuits to jump into the hot springs when it was 20 below zero outside.

As a young child, I remember visiting hospitals with my dad; waiting in the hallway and listening to him pray with people who were sick and lonely. I remember praying for the mean kids in school because my parents said they were the ones who needed it the most even if I didn’t like them. I remember saying thanks and saying thanks again and always being taught to be grateful for what I had. I remember visiting shut-ins with my mom when she worked with meals-on-wheels. I remember welcoming people from every race, ethnicity, and economic status into our home. I remember my parents treating everyone the same. From the suicidal teenager to the prestigious Bishop from Nigeria, our doors were open and there was always a place to stay and food on the table.

I was raised by a pastor who put love first and didn’t focus on hell-fire or political issues. He (and my mother) taught us that our faith meant giving, caring for, loving, and thanking. It meant welcoming others and being empathetic and learning about those who were different from us. Our faith meant seeing injustice and fighting against it. Our faith meant removing hatred from our vernacular. Following Jesus wasn’t about getting into heaven or avoiding hell, it was about loving everyone. 
I will be 40 soon and I honestly have been struggling with whatever my faith is now. Religion in general has angered me and the people who claim to be doing things in God’s name seem to be missing the whole point.  I belong to a church family, but I find it hard to participate or show up because of the pain I see coming from “the church” as a whole. The complete lack of empathy and love seems to come from a dark place that I am not familiar with. Still, when I am coming to the end of my day and trying to settle my daughter, nothing works better than singing Be Thou My Vision, or His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I still cry when I sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing because I can hear my dad’s voice in the words. Those old hymns slow my breath and my blood pressure and remind me of the faith I once knew and help me believe it is still possible.

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