Shame Bomber

My biggest enemy is shame. Shame is the root of probably 97% of my problems. Addiction, anger, marriage issues, eating/weight issues, parenting struggles: shame. They are all shame -based. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint where it all started, but as most emotional damage goes- I’m sure it was somewhere in early childhood.

Figuring out where it came from is helpful, but I’m really more interested in moving forward. Moving forward for me looks like tackling this big bastard and limiting it’s hold on my life.

Yesterday I went to see my therapist (who I have already blogged about because he is awesome) and we were talking about a few things that have happened recently that all had roots in shame. We discussed my reaction when I feel shame and the cycle that comes after that (which is just more and more shame).

But for your benefit, here is how shame plays out in my life: I feel shame because of imperfection. (Because perfection has been my response to try to rid myself of shame. “If I am perfect, I will not feel ashamed”.) Anyway, whether I am imperfect or someone in my life is imperfect- shame comes. Then with shame, comes a bad reaction to the person or persons involved. We’ll keep it close here and talk about my immediate family:

So Vaughn screws up. I want him to be perfect like me (ha.ha.), so I freak out over a small incident. Small incident becomes big incident, big incident becomes rage, rage makes me feel ashamed. Or this: imperfection on my part, imperfection makes me feel shame, shame makes me lash out, lashing out hurts people’s feelings, hurting people’s feelings makes me feel shame. Now, after this nasty cycle, I turn ALL THAT SHIT inwards hate myself and then hate everyone else because none of us is perfect. Shame wins (<—–NOT my next tattoo).

Chris said I’m like a Suicide Shame Bomber. I feel shame, rage on everyone, blow it all up-we all die. I can’t stop picturing it: my whole family sitting in the living room quietly and me running in with a vest full of dynamite. I open the vest ,scream a war cry and blow us all up with shame. (BTW: do yourself a favor and don’t google images for suicide bomber to try to find an appropriate picture for this post.)

The beauty of all of this shame shit is that just like the addiction cycle, I am free to stop it at anytime. Whether it is at phase 1 (“I feel shame”) or right after the bomb explodes. I can stop the whole thing and turn it around.

The new root is grace. Grace when I feel shame. Grace when I blow up. Grace when one of my kids screws up. I can show myself grace. I can show my family grace. I can show the clerk at Wal Mart grace. I am NEVER going to be perfect. Never. And neither are my kids. And neither is Andy. It seems silly to even write that out, because of course. But it’s not silly to me.

My standard has been perfection and that perfection is actually shame. So today…today I’m forgiving myself. I’m forgiving Eloise for not refilling the water dish. I’m forgiving the dog for crapping downstairs. Today I’m aware. I woke up late because I went to bed with a headache. Usually- shame would be my alarm clock and the whole entire day would go in the crapper. Today- grace. I got up to the tune of grace. Instead of flying around the house like a witch on her broom, I said, “Kids. We might be late and that is my fault. I’m sorry. I am not going to yell at you this morning, but I need you to do what I say quickly so we can try to not be late.” Teamwork. Grace.

My new mantra is this: Reasonable Best. I am going to do my reasonable best everyday. Reasonable best. Not perfect, not throw it all away because I can’t achieve perfection: reasonable best. For example, I am trying to change my eating habits and yesterday with my headache, I ate well all day, but needed a Coke: reasonable best. My reasonable best yesterday was one Coke. It wasn’t one coke and a tub of ice cream, though one day, that may be my reasonable best. Not perfection- reasonable best.

Love wins. Forgiveness wins. Grace wins.

XO,

CELINA - signature

 

A Letter to My Children

 

Recently our country has erupted with news stories, staggering across the bottom of our tv screens, and finding their way into our news feeds, police brutality, another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman, Black Lives Matter rallies, violence against police. And my children have begun asking questions.

My eight year-old son Demetrius keeps asking me “ Mama, are they going to start segregation again?”

I have avoided his question for a long time. And I think the reason I’ve avoided it is because if I want to be honest, I have to answer him, “It never actually ended bud.”

 

And how do I begin to explain that dark history? How do I begin to explain that what they’ve taught him in school is not the whole story, or even an accurate portrayal of part of the story?

 

I feel super inadequate as a white woman, trying to communicate to my Black and American Indian son that the history of our country is full of darkness and oppression for his people.

 

Yet my avoiding his question, my unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and inadequate is problematic in this goal I’ve set to be a stone catcher. It speaks volumes of my privilege. So I am starting today, while sitting on the airport floor in Chicago, after binge listening to my hero Bryan Stevenson, I am feeling like I have to begin somewhere. So here is my letter to you Demetrius, and to all of my children:

 

D-D,
You know how we’ve been talking about what is going on in America, about why police have been shooting black people who didn’t have guns? You know how I’ve talked to you about how you need to act around police? You know how sometimes I yell at you when you loose your cool, and I start crying and I usually say something like, “Demetrius! If you act like that out there, you will get shot! You have got to learn NOW how to be respectful, because you don’t have the luxuries that Tre has.” And you always scream back at me, “That’s not fair!”

 

And you’re right!

It’s not fair.

 

And yet it is still true.

 

D-D, you keep asking me if they are going to start segregation again. But I want to tell you something. Something that th
ey haven’t told you in school, something that makes people uncomfortable. D-D, segregation hasn’t really gone away. We can call it different things now, it looks different than water fountains and schools. And yet it doesn’t at all. Because black people still don’t get the same water (Flint, Michigan) or the same access to education (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal ). And although we don’t have signs that hang outside of restaurants any more, we still have restaurants where you wouldn’t be served, just based on the color of your skin.

It’s awful. Really really awful.

 

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Here’s what I haven’t told you:

 

  1. There is a politics of fear and anger in America. Our leaders have fought to keep us afraid and angry for a long time. And when people are afraid and angry they will tolerate injustice, abuse, and cruelty. I don’t want you to be afraid and angry. I as your mom want to make sure you are a man full of hope. Because where there is hope, there is no longer a place for fear and anger. And then truth can reign. It is important that you, even as a little boy, begin to understand that identifying the ‘bad guy’ isn’t as clear as the news, our president, or your teacher makes it out to be. If we become afraid of a group of people, we will begin to make decisions that don’t represent our God.
  2. All people are equal. They aren’t treated equally though. And that is not what God wants. In my opinion, the worst part of slavery was that white people acted as if they were different than, better than, and superior to, black people. And we aren’t. And unfortunately that hasn’t much changed. The slaves were freed, but white people in America have continued to treat Black people as if they are inferior. It looks different than indentured servitude these days, usually, but it isn’t.
  3. Terrorism isn’t new. Terrorism has been occurring in the United States since the very beginning, it began with white people committing acts of terror on your American Indian ancestors. Terrorism didn’t strike in America for the first time on 9-11. Terrorism has been woven into the history that blankets our land. And without us being honest about what we, as white people have done, our country can never heal. The lynchings of black men, women, and children were acts of terror that infiltrated our country since the end of the Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1950s. Muslim’s aren’t the first terrorists on this dirt. We are.

 

Buddy, I know that when we talk about these things you cry. I don’t ever want you to loose that. I want you to forever feel how awful this is. I want you to forever feel the weight of injustice. I pray that your dad and I can encourage you to not run away from what feels hard. I pray that we will teach you through our own broken paths, that you, D-D Luke, were made to do hard and holy things. Please be brave brave brave.

 

I love you to the moon Bub.

AMANDA - signature

 

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(This letter was spurred after listening to a talk given by Bryan Stevenson at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.)

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Morning Moms

I have been parenting toddlers for what seems like a decade… oh wait, it has been. And now we’ve also added teenagers to our repertoire. So after parenting toddlers to teens for a few months now I have had a major revelation. Mornings with kids SUCK. I remember rolling over to my husband at 5:30 am after hearing multiple babies and toddlers awakening under our roof, and I would groggily say “Why does God hate us more than anyone else? What have we done?”

We would try to remember to “enjoy it” because “it will go by fast”. But it didn’t go by fast. There were some mornings that were more blissful than not, but mostly it was just a comedy of errors in which I was braless and trying not to cuss, while attempting to keep multiple small children quiet, so that they wouldn’t awaken the other multitudes. I would cook, what felt like 15 rounds of oatmeal and eggs and smoothies and Kix, some how waffles and omelets, and even Cinnamon Toast Crunch made appearances as well. And eventually I would conclude that everyone had awoken and everyone was sufficiently nourished-  we could now shift into something that should have felt like a productive day…

But this “twilight zone” of waking up with small children and trying to feed everyone and not accidentally kill anyone or say any words that you didn’t want them using in preschool- it seemed to last hours each morning.

We would consistently remind ourselves that this stage would not last. At some point our children will sleep in, though the morning and we won’t even have to make breakfast! Ever! We would smile and become giddy at the mere thought of it.

That was then.

This is now.

When I wake up, on the rare occasion that an alarm is jolting me awake, and meander out to the living room/kitchen/dining room area of my home this is what I see.

ImageThese children who sucked a decades worth of mornings from me have “made themselves breakfast”. The thing I’d always hoped for. And all I see is empty things. Empty syrup. empty boxes, empty juice carafes and empty milk cartons. Doors are missing and there are ALWAYS a lot of blankets. Everywhere.

The mess might consist of entire loaf of bread, with each piece having one bite taken out of it. Or Kix being found in every drawer and crevice of my home. If I am lucky it was “just eggs” and there are only a few that didn’t make the pan.

Image-1In case you’re wondering. This isn’t better than being woken up. It isn’t really worse either. It just is.

Now, the teenagers do not wake up for breakfast. When given the opportunity to sleep in, they do. This is wonderful. But this is also a predicament. I have never once seen them eat breakfast. Before a big test, before a day at the gym, before a dance competition, never. They just quietly get ready and stumble out the door. And I wonder, “Did they get any nourishment? Will they survive?”

The moral of the story is this: The morning time routine with kids doesn’t ever get easier. It just changes. So those moms out there spending HOURS with small children before the sun has even made an appearance. The moms who have served three meals, to the same child,  before 8 am. This to shall pass. But what’s coming is just a new crazy town. You might not be in your pajamas for a few hours before day break. But it is still just as crazy. Being  a mom in the morning is just plain hard.

 

 

Just Mercy

This year a lot has changed in our lives. And I knew going into this year that because of these amazing changes I would HAVE to grow. If I stayed where I was at on a personal level, I could not do the things God was asking of me. And with growth comes growing pains.

As a part of this process I decided that I would take up reading again. I love to read, but had lost that over the ten years of little kids ruling my brain and sleep patterns. So I made an easy goal, I want to read 12 books this year. So far I am ahead of schedule. But one of the first books I read this year was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  (This link is the first chapter and where you can purchase the book!)

I don’t plan on writing about each of the books I read, but this book is life changing.

Just Mercy is a non-fiction book. I really love fiction books. And I am reading those too. But I am trying to add to my list of books, non-fiction books. This was a non-fiction book that I couldn’t put down.

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Just Mercy is written by one of my heroes Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. He and his organization are responsible for helping to overturn some of the most cruel and unusual things that have happened as a result of our justice system in America. “Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.” In my social-worker point of view, he is doing an amazing job of changing systems at a macro level, while also helping people at a micro-level and has won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.

He is a hero.

I have blogged before about the article he wrote in The Smithsonian Magazine, I read during Christmas break 2012 in my in-laws kitchen. This article started me down a path of discovery, both of self and of history. This is the first time I heard the idea of being a stone catcher. This idea has become a central focus for me, helping to guide our family and our decisions. In the book he tells the whole story of meeting this elderly black woman, and her version of being a stone catcher. This idea is pivotal for me living out my faith.

He quotes to me from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says of the woman who committed adultery: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He tells me an elderly black woman once called him a “stone catcher.”

“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he says. “But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith….But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.

In chapter 12 of this book, entitled “Mother, Mother” Bryan tells a few stories of some of the women he has represented. I couldn’t read this chapter. I stopped after angry tears so thick began spilling onto the pages, and I couldn’t make out the words any longer. But then I realized even skipping over this chapter was an exercise in privilege. I literally can’t fathom living these stories, so heavy and unjust, so I just skipped it…  That isn’t what a stone catcher would do. So I forced myself to read the chapter. It took many many tries. And left me feeling angry and saddened for days. But ignoring this, sweeping it away, or pretending it doesn’t exist is not an option for me any longer.

This book is life changing. It isn’t “a good read” or “enjoyable”, it’s none of those. It is gut-wrenching and sobering, and eye-opening, and essential, it is the definition of an interrupter to those of us living lives of privlige. Especially if you believe yourself to be a person of faith. Because fighting for the vulnerable is what we’re called to do. And that fight begins, for many of us, by opening our eyes to what the vulnerable are experiencing, in our back-yards.

Personally, I believe that God has put me here- on this earth, and on this little place of the world wide web- to fight for vulnerable children. Children who have been used and abused by adults and systems. And a part of that fight is understanding our justice system, because the trauma that these vulnerable children experience, often puts them in direct contact with our justice system. And until we can right the way we deal with children who have experienced trauma, we can not call ourselves just, fair, or free. And ultimately for me, I cannot call myself a disciple of Christ without helping to fight for the traumatized and vulnerable in my midst. I do this every day as a mom, I do this every day as a social worker, but there is more I can do. There is more we can do.

Read this book.

I am woman.

I got a job.

I haven’t had a “real” job in 10+ years.

In my final interview, they asked me about my experience “managing people”. I laughed. And responded, “Unfortunately I doubt you want to hear about my experience managing five children under five, and a household. So I guess I have “no” experience.”

My first day I called in sick, Charli had a double ear infection and David was out of town.

When I took Charli to her first day of preschool last week I bawled the whole way to work. I called Celina and cried. I called Ingrid and cried. Charli was excited. I was just sad. I was sad that my baby was ready for school, and I was sad that I put her in because I wanted to work. But I do. I want to work.

There is this mommy vs. mommy war out there, the working moms and the stay at home moms. I don’t get it. At all. Being a  mom is so hard. And so messy. Being a mom is like being a super-human. And I am always so amazed by the strength we all have, the way we do it. I cannot imagine homeschooling my children, and I love so many homeschooling moms, they amaze me. I cannot imagine cooking dinner every night, or having a cleaning schedule and vacuuming every day. I am amazed by these moms. I love women who are nurses and work nights, and then go home and mom all day. I love women who are executives and CEO’s, who run schools, and corporations, and make lunches and take kids to practice, and kiss boo boos.

This is me laboring with Charli in the tub, and four women watching and willing me through for 24 hours these women watched and willed, helped and labored with me.

Guys, we are amazing! We do this. All of us. And more importantly, it takes all of us. Celina has helped me so much these first two weeks of working, and so has my boss (and friend) Jill. I am just amazed at how amazing the women in my life are. When I was preparing to have a natural childbirth I read stories about women who had given birth naturally (here is my birth story with Charli). And was reminded that women for thousands of years have been doing this, that our bodies were made for childbirth, and one of the most beautiful parts of my birth experience was being surrounded by so many strong women who willed me through it. I remember laboring and imagining women all over the world laboring at the same time with me. How we were all in this together, I remember feeling this sense of togetherness and strength from women I’d never met. And as I reflect back on my first two weeks of work that is exactly how I feel. I feel this sense of pulled strength and awareness of women all over the world who do this. I feel such a gratefulness for women in my life who have offered to help me as I figure this out. I feel like I’ve been laboring, and there have been these amazing women surrounding me, and willing me to get through, they’ve been silently watching and praying, they’ve been counting breaths with me and checking my vitals, they’ve been talking me through it, and calming me down when I panic.

I am just overwhelmed by how strong we all are. We are amazing.  And I need all of you. And our kids need all of us.

Back to School, Back to School, to show mom I’m not a fool…

In our neighborhood, today is the first day back to school! For those of you on the east coast, this seems like a debacle, I know.

Teachers are angels if you ask me. I can not keep it together through the sumer with just five kids. And I am not trying to teach them anything (except how to clean up their own d*&%$ messes). I think teachers should make millions, and some should make more. I am eternally grateful for amazing teachers. We love our little school, and the family feel of it.

I am the mom who writes a note to the teacher as soon as I find out who she is! I always want to give them a little insight into my kiddos. Here are (slightly altered) excerpts of my notes this year, enjoy.

Dear Tre’s teacher:

11013263_10153096827077081_3783916387844373303_nI am sorry.

He is not the ideal student for a public school setting. He will hate sitting there all day, and will create chaos and fun to get out of it . But he will also be super kind, super funny, and tell great stories.

He is sensitive and intelligent. And cannot focus for more than 15 seconds: Unless he is interested in what you’re talking about. If WWII history, weaponry, and strategic warfare are apart of third grade curriculum, you’re in luck. He is also very interested in the human body. He wants to be an inventor and surgeon, and a marine.

He knows a lot about chickens and pretends to know a lot about everything else.

You can fight him all year, or you can learn to work with his crazy, it’s up to you. Try to enjoy!

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Dear Demetrius’ Teacher:

20610_10153096827057081_2495487273198696751_nThis boy will be your biggest asset or your hardest kiddo. You get to decide. If he feels loved and safe, he will do anything and everything he can to help you, and succeed in your classroom.

He may not be the smartest kid in here, but there will not be another student who tries harder. His work ethic and no-fail attitude will get him wherever he chooses to go.

He acts tough, but is the most sensitive child I have ever known. He wants to be liked by everyone and wants people to know that he cares about them too.

He has experienced more loss and trauma in his short life than most adults I know, therefore he carries himself like an adult, he is mature and wise. But remember he is still a little boy who makes mistakes.

And whatever you do- don’t take away his recess. We will all be in trouble if you do that.

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Dear Laila’s Teacher:

11866425_10153096826997081_1346590263942210941_nI mean, look at her, she’s perfect. I don’t even need to write you a note. Except to say that sometimes she won’t tell you if she doesn’t understand, or if she needs help. She needs to know that you think what she has to say is important. Once she knows that you want to hear from her, you will.

She is sweet and kind, and will do whatever she can for a friend. Her two bestest friends are in class with her this year. I am not sure if it will be blissful or a little dramatic. But if it is (dramatic), please help them through it. I want my daughter to know that women are strong and supportive, and that friends are for life. Help them see each other’s strengths and that there is time and space for all people.

Lastly, she told me she will never wear a dress again. So this is the first and last day you’ll see her in this over sized thing. Enjoy the cuteness while it lasts.

Love,

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