Wednesday, June 07, 2017

When Did Compassion Become a Four-Letter Word?

I am disgusted right now watching America teeter on the brink of becoming a place I don't recognize. There is so much selfishness on our political landscape, and it feels like it is seeping into many other areas of our lives. We have turned our gaze to our own navels and are making decisions based only on what is best for me - the rest of the nation be damned. And in truth, we've chucked civility out the window with it. Why not? If I'm only concerned about me then why should I bother respecting anyone else's views? They are likely wrong to begin with.

Well, I don't want to live in that world. I don't want to be part of a nation that calls itself "great" while refusing to see what is actually wrong. I don't want to be part of a nation that brags about itself to the peril of it's citizens. The emperor indeed has new clothes. I want a country that knows it is broken and is working to fix that. I want a nation of people who still recognize the human dignity in one another and share a common purpose in the American Dream. I want to live in a place I can be proud of again.

When did we become a country that finds it appalling to care for our disenfranchised? When did we become a society that is only out for itself? It's disturbing to me that the majority of those promoting such egotistical policy are people who claim to follow Christ. Or at the very least they are part of the citizenry for whom morality played a large part in casting their vote. And yet the selfsame voters are willing, even lobbying, for laws and executive orders that take away the very thing that has made our country great: treating our citizens with human decency. We have been called to love our neighbors and instead our country has taken up the mantra of the toddler: mine, mine, mine. This self destructive worldview needs to stopped it in it's tracks. It's not making our country or it's citizens great.

What have we become, that this nation finds it acceptable to leave so many people out in the cold? We choose to close our eyes to the circumstances that created an oppressive system and then shout, "help yourself!" at those clawing to get out; pretending that it's not our problem. We are an industrialized nation founded on the principle of compromise, a nation that rallied together to send men to the moon, a nation that has created solutions to myriad problems, and yet, we cannot find it in our hearts to protect our most vulnerable citizens, to supply life saving drugs to people who need them, and to generally insure dignity for all. Where has America gone?

Giving dignity to others does not take away your own. It's not a slice of cake; it's not finite. No, dignity is a renewable resource. It just keeps growing. In fact, dignifying others is what made Mother Theresa's work so great; it's what spurred the abolition of slavery; it's what allowed us to be a nation if immigrants; it's what provided so many Americans with a solid education. You want to make America great again? Dignify the humanity of others. Remind yourself that you have been able to survive (maybe even thrive) because of the opportunities afforded you. We are all looking for opportunities to become better humans. When you offer your compassion to your fellow citizens you make this country a better place. When you get out of your precious bubble and actually risk loving others (by giving them health care, by offering up an education for everyone, by feeding the food insecure, by mandating hate crimes legislation), you are making this country the land of the free and the home of the brave. You are fostering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is what it means to be American.

It is an embarrassing time to be American. As for me, I am going to keep fighting for the dignity of my fellow Americans. And I would encourage you to do the same. We need more, and we deserve better than this.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Culture Wars or Why I Can't Be a Christian Anymore

I don't love the phrase "the culture wars." It might be that I am a pacifist and wish to avoid conflict altogether. It may have something to do with the evangelical environment in which I was raised. But mostly, I think, it has to do with the idea of there being a right and a wrong side. As if there were actually only 2 sides to an issue. As if the same outcome would be the right outcome for all people. It seems to me that only in the arenas of religion and politics do we ever make that assumption. And it doesn't bode well for any sort of resolution.

This week I've been reading a book, Torn, which spends a good amount of time discussing how the church has promoted the idea of The Gays vs. The Christians. And it has me thinking a lot about how my experience in the church has mirrored this author's experience. I was spared the awful experience of revealing my sexual orientation to all of humanity while steeped in the world of mainstream Christianity. Because really, is there any kid who wants to reveal his/her sexuality, whatever it may be? I would have fallen over dead with embarrassment if I had needed to do so, whatever the reason.

Instead I had the misfortune of being a liberal Christian. To the outside world, this sounds like a non-starter. Who would care if a person is a liberal Christian? There are so many other things to be concerned about. But for me, this was the deal breaker. I found myself, at the ripe old age of 28, in a Christian community that found me anathema. It didn't matter that my theology was carefully considered, or that I had bathed my positions on many social issues in prayer. It didn't matter that I had taken classes at a Christian college or spent time on my own learning how to do inductive bible study. What mattered to the church, in the end, was that I was not like them. I didn't fit. I was outside the lines and I was simply wrong. Very few people cared to ask me why, or even try to understand where I was coming from. And, as it turned out, it was an impossible place to live.

In the end, it just became too hard to fight against it. I was exhausted from battling the constant wind against me; if I wasn't leaning hard into it, pressing forward, it was beating me from the side, leaving me drained and worn. I just couldn't shield myself anymore. And maybe that's what the good Christians around me were hoping for, that I would cave in and see things from their side. But in truth, I was beaten down into a severe depression and wanted nothing more to do with my abusers; it was too much and I left. And the sorrow of leaving almost broke me. I loved my community and my God. I had visions of being in leadership and raising my family there. I was a true believer.

It took years of talk-therapy, prescription medication, and support from my closest friends to get me to a place where I could recognize that I do still believe in the grace and mercy of Jesus. But I never want to be called a Christian again. I can't bring myself to be associated with the very people who turned their backs on me, told me I was wrong for just being me. And it wasn't until I read this book, about a man who had the same experience because he is gay, that my experience was crystalized for me.

I don't know if this is a typically Midwestern story, or if it has more to do with Christianity as a whole, but it has shaped my life more than anything else. I wished for a long time that I could be the sort of person who sees life as black and white. (I see every shade of gray instead.) I wished for a long time that I could have a simple faith and just be like the rest of the church. (But I am too much of an empath; I see so many sides, and that just raises more questions.) Today, I have stopped wishing, and I have realized that I like who I am. I actually enjoy being me. But I have not been able to experience that same joy in the church. I don't know if I will ever be able to. I certainly don't want to raise my children there because they are free thinkers too, and I cannot in good conscience subject them to the same fate.

Perhaps one day I will see things differently, but I don't expect to. I know I will not subject myself to being part of a faith community that cannot love me as a whole person: gay, straight, rich, poor, male, female, liberal, conservative, creative, analytic, transparent, private, married, single, black or white. I believe God made me the person I am with the strengths I possess. I honor that by freely being me. And I believe that about others too. I expect to find all sorts of people welcomed into my community.

Ironically, the church taught me that I would only find true community and friendship within it's own walls; but you know what? I have found some incredible friends who are not there. And they love me and support me without needing me to hold to a certain doctrine. For that I will be forever grateful. And I will continue to keep forging my own community, because I have no other choice. I need my people, and I need to serve others. So we find one another along the way and support one another as best we can. I still believe that people are mostly good. But I am wary of those professing loudly their faith.

(By the way, I'm sure you have a great church, where you find fulfillment, love and community. Many of my friends do and I am truly happy for them. But please do not invite me to attend yours. I am bone tired of visiting churches only to realize that they will welcome me as long as I change. Perhaps one day I will announce that I am ready to try again. But today is not that day. Thanks.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Just Keep Breathing

Four years ago we discovered our middle child had a life-threatening allergy. We discovered this the way most parents do: you feed your tiny, defenseless child a food that may or may not be dangerous to them and wait to see if there is a severe reaction.

We had a suspicion that he was allergic to peanuts after being on an airplane where they were served. Our baby started to break out in all manner of weird hives. Hives were not unusual for him, except that these new hives didn't look like the hives he would get from new clothes, or immunizations, or fever, or disposable diapers, or anything else we had experienced. So we suspected. And then we spent a harrowing day in the ER while our child continued to blow up and look like a prize fighter. They told us they could not confirm a diagnosis, but that they too suspected a nut allergy and we should see a specialist.

So we went to a pediatric allergist. That day our sweet 2-year-old was put through a torture test of pricks and intense itching to confirm for us that yes, our child was allergic to nuts of all kinds, and peanuts, and that we would now be trained in how to use an EpiPen incase he stopped breathing. BREATHING. It's universally acknowledged that breathing is an essential part of staying alive. It's a horribly frightening thing to realize that your kid could find himself unable to breathe just by eating (another universally acknowledged way to stay alive.) Suddenly the world seems like a much more dangerous place.

So we educated ourselves. I spent months learning about nut allergies and teaching the people around my child how to look for such poisons in our foods. I remember seeing a Mr. Peanut commercial around that time and thinking, how are they allowed to sell that stuff on TV?! I was incredulous. The day we cleaned out the pantry of all nut products our oldest kid cried, as much for our loss of food selections as for his brother's potential consequences. It took us a long time to become habitual in managing this allergy for a toddler. Jack was not allowed to eat any food brought into the house by concerned friends. No one was allowed to prepare food for him who didn't understand the danger of cross contamination. No cookie exchanges during the holidays. We inspected every item that came in the house for Halloween or Easter or Valentines Day. Pitch-ins at social events became a huge inconvenience; either we packed him a separate meal and still had to watch him like a hawk, or just didn't go. A preschool that was nut-free became our top priority. Suddenly I realized how much food was a central part of gatherings. We couldn't even go the the playground without a well meaning adult offering our kid a snack. It was life altering.

But today, we don't feel the consequences of his allergy in the same way. Four years later, it's just part of our lives, the way managing diabetes becomes part of your life. It's old hat and just the way we roll. Which gives me hope, because this week, that same adorable child was struggling to breathe, again.

This time it wasn't due to foods, but just a function of his lungs. Our precious boy has asthma. We've run into this before, in much smaller ways: the cold air in winter making him short of breath while playing outside, running around the yard in summer when the allergy count is high, but never anything as wicked as this. This time, he was struggling to breathe, and could not catch his breath. His entire body was working to take in just enough air. Off to the ER we went. And thank heaven we did. He was in need of some major intervention. After a full night and day, lived in the every-two-hour increments of breathing treatments, he was back to normal, breathing like the rest of us. Something I take for granted every day.

It's terrible to watch your child struggling to simply exist. Especially with nothing at hand to help. I am so grateful we now have the tools to help our kid when he is in distress. The doctors and nurses and therapists who helped us negotiate this were incredibly kind. I am grateful to them and their willingness to keep telling this exhausted mom what we can do to make things better again. I felt confident leaving the hospital that we would not need to be back soon. And Jack is the same happy-go-lucky kid he has always been.

So now we are working to find our way through this diagnosis too, until it becomes just the way we live. And we will. Because that's our choice. We will forget what it was like before the asthma diagnosis and this will just become our new normal. Just like we have forgotten the ways peanut butter was a large part of our life. We will do this because we are fighters, and our kid is a miracle.

We will choose to find a way to just keep breathing.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Sci-Fi Surprise

Until recently, I hadn't seen myself as a sci-fi girl. Growing up I liked Star Wars and I would watch Star Trek late at night while babysitting - pickings were slim back then, all we had was network television. But this never really struck me as being a "sci-fi geek." I realize now that I may have been deluding myself. Even though I wasn't a fan of Buck Rodgers, and Fantasy Island was too intense sometimes for this 9 year old, I had completely bought into the genre long ago. I loved the idea of what might be, what was possible and what we should all be wary of.

As I have gotten older I have realized that I am a sci-fi geek, and a big one. It's time to own it. The first time I fully embraced this side of myself was with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. That show was incredible! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching it (you can find it on Amazon and iTunes). It's so worth it. It explored many themes with an amazing cast. Somehow the unbelievable was made believable. And then, all of a sudden, we were wondering which characters were machines? Which ones were human? How would you know? Which of course is so relevant to our current human discussions about what makes you an alien, how would I know, and just exactly why would it matter?

To me, this is one of the greatest things about science fiction: it explores what it means to be human. In all my favorites (and there are many: Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, any Marvel movie or series), the genre asks this constant question. Sometimes it asks it in a campy superhero way, and sometimes, as with Battlestar, it's much more complex and cerebral. And I generally love that exploration. I didn't want to commit that geekiness earlier in my life. For heaven's sake it's hard enough to be a girl, let alone a sci-fi geeky girl! I wanted it to be about entertainment. But let's get real. The thing that makes grown men and women dress up at comic con is this intense connection to a story that explores what it means to be human -- and somewhere in that story, that fan-girl saw herself. She recognized the person that was being questioned or resisting evil. And she saw herself. Of course I want to be Princess Leia, and The Doctor's Companion, and President Roslin. Why wouldn't I want to see the world through that lens? A lens at once complicated and simple; seeing both the complexity of humanity and the simple solution of finding love, compassion or truth. That's what sci-fi does. As far as I am concerned, we need much more of that.

I also think it's a little easier to see some of our own, real-life, questions when they are put in a different framework. Doctor Who is great at this. Is it ok to punish one segment of a society for the benefit of another? What will the consequences of our actions be years and years into the future? Sometimes seeing it play out in another world helps to clarify one's position here on Earth. I actually think Star Wars has some commentary in a similar way, especially about women and our expectations and stereotypes around them. I love seeing so many strong female role models in the Star Wars world! Why? Because even with the Women's Movement of the 70s, we are woefully behind in giving women their equal place in society. We are still fighting, and I love to see mighty females we can emulate.

So there you have it; I'm a self described sci-fi geek, cerebral and nerdy and all in. It's helpful at a time like this to have another world to sneak off to. It's a way to find compassion and humanity when many of the humans around me are expressing something completely different. You may not feel it so strongly, but I assure you, I do. Every time another black life is taken, every time another trans person dies, every time another woman has to fend off an attacker, every time a jewish center is threatened, a little bit of my hope in humanity is snatched away. And presently, that risk is higher than it has been in a long time. Make no mistake. The resident in the White House has opened this door. Your votes can close it. Think about that next election cycle when you are weighing the cost of your health plan in the balance with the cost of being human. For me, there is no contest. We have to protect the rights of those who are most threatened.

Help me sci-fi fans, you're my only hope.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Feminism and the Four-Year-Old

I didn't set out to be a feminist. I mean, as a kid, I was so shy it pained me to be called on in class. Calling attention to myself, even inadvertently, was to be avoided at all costs. Fit in, sit down and be part of the group; that was my motto. (It will be hard for some of you to believe this, but you can check it out with my family. They will tell you it's 100% true.)

But sometimes what seems like the best laid plans are just a stop gap measure until you find your voice, know yourself and feel good in your own skin. I feel lucky that I found that in me by the time I was in my 30s. It started in college, and I was realizing that I had been hiding for a while; but it wasn't until I was a mom and had faced down some life shit that I really embraced who I was. (Can we make that our new hashtag? #lifeshit) And hallelujah for finding my true self!  It was so hard trying to be someone else. I am glad I found me while I still had time to take her out and enjoy life.

But, finally being aware of who I am includes (very often) realizing that I am not like all the other ________________ (fill in the blank). I am constantly feeling the abrasion of not quite fitting into the molds around me. And I have realized that I am much more a feminist than I would ever have guessed. I'm not ashamed of it, I think it speaks to my need to see all the people. Men and women. Recently I found myself uncomfortable with this innocent scenario that played out at preschool:

Mom with toddler boy: Hold the door and let them go in honey; Ladies first!
Me with my daughter: . . . . . thanks . . . . (sigh). . . .

It felt gross, not for the first time, but especially because I had my daughter (my fiercely independent daughter) with me. And I did NOT want that to be the message of her world. It very clearly sounded like, "you know women are the weaker sex, so we do all we can to help them out. They need to be treated especially delicately. They just can't do all the things this big hard world expects of them, so be sure you help them whenever you can. That's a sweet lad."

Now I am sure that wasn't what that mother was thinking. At all. I am sure she was teaching her son a lesson about politeness and respect. Which I would have been completely on board with if she had just left the whole "ladies first" business right out of it. Hold the door for me because you wish to be polite, or because my hands are full. Pull out my chair for me because you respect me or love me. But DO NOT hold the door for me because I am a woman. I am capable of doing that myself. As are most women, and most men. Please, please, please, do not tell your child that their world view should include women as the weaker sex. Because that just promotes the idea that we deserve lower pay than men, do less work than men because we are not capable of doing the same work as men. I don't know a single woman who would actually claim those words, but be not deceived. When you point to the fact that I am a woman and then treat me as weak, your message is loud and clear.

When that mom said "ladies first" it made me feel the same way it did when my grandmother told me my black friend was "articulate." Holy lord. Please, oh please, do not start that backhanded double talk with me. Those phrases belong in the same drawer. Let's label it "covert discrimination." There is no need to prop me up. I have legs to stand on and the will to do it. And don't you dare try to shackle my strong, vibrant, curious daughter with those words. No, no, no. And don't shackle your son with that world view either. We have come much to far to let that happen. It does no one any favors.

I implore you, continue to be polite. Hold the door for someone because they are human and deserve to be treated respectfully. Pull out the chair of your loved one, because you want them to feel special. But I beg of you, do not tie these actions to gender. We all deserve more than that, don't we?

Friday, March 03, 2017

You Don't Look Sick

I have a chronic illness. It doesn't always show up the way other illnesses do, although some days it does. And sometimes it's hard to remember that I even have this condition, because it can feel like it has just disappeared. Sometimes I can go weeks, even months and forget all about it. And sometimes it's impossible to forget because it's constantly present, reminding me that it's mine; the symptoms can last for days. It's my own little mystery.

My illness is called General Anxiety Disorder. It's a mental illness. And that totally complicates things because saying "mental illness" to someone can be a deal breaker. There's still a lot of stigma out there surrounding mental illness. Somehow it's different than saying, MS or lupus or Crohn's. All of those diseases could have been the subject of the paragraph above. And having those sorts of chronic illnesses elicits a different sort of response. But once you say "mental illness" it's like there is a shift in the room, and the person you are speaking to leans back, just a bit. At least that's how it feels to me when I say it out loud. I am suddenly afraid that my credibility with that person just went out the window. And the truth is, at least a little bit of it probably did.

Anxiety can be a bitch because I don't look sick. I might not be showing symptoms that other people can see or recognize (at least the people who don't know me well), because I have mastered the art of Assuming The Role until I can get out of the room and into my car or back to my safe space. But the thing is, some days I honestly feel velcro-ed to the sofa, finding it difficult to peel myself off for any reason. It takes a monumental effort to just breathe in and breathe out. Then again, on some days I think I might explode from the feeling inside me - the feeling like a fluttering bird is stuck in my chest, banging to get out, but with no door to open to free it. It's hard to concentrate when something like that is happening. Some days I can't get my brain to stop cycling through the list, the monstrous overwhelming list, of things I have yet to do that may never get done, that seems impossible to triage because everything damn thing is so important. And incredibly, I still have to be the parent on those days. Those are the days that I pray I don't do too much damage to my kids. It's hard to explain to little ones that I am just not feeling like myself and I am so sorry for the yelling (or forgetting, or ignoring). The intersection of self care and child care is not easy to navigate.

I mention this because ever since November and the presidential election I have been feeling that anxiety creeping back into my chest. It doesn't always happen all at once, but when it does start to show up, I can recognize the feelings. And I have been monitoring myself for the past 4 months noticing the warning signs. It's definitely the political climate and the chaos that has ensued that has brought this back on. The need to become involved, and actually being involved, with the democratic process has helped stave it off. But it's definitely back now. And I would stake good money that I am not alone. The sort of upheaval that this election and it's subsequent government has caused is exactly the sort of trigger that most of us need to start the ball rolling on anxiety and depression. It's a hard time to navigate mental illness.

I had a recent conversation with a friend who couldn't quite understand why the election hit me so hard. I know it's not the same for all of us. Some of my friends are fine with the outcome. And some are just as scared as I am. For me, I see all the protections I counted on for my community and my kids eroding. I see a government hell-bent on becoming a Theocracy or Fascist State, neither of which make me feel safe. Being me is a whole lot riskier than it used to be. I live in a state without a hate crimes law, so the rolling back of transgender rights has real and scary consequences here. And I live in a state where our former governor (now the Vice President) made it clear that I am a second class citizen. He signed a law that made it ok to discriminate against me. So when I say that I don't feel safe, please recognize that as a real and honest fear, based in the reality of where I live. Where will it stop? We have already given up so many of our human rights. I have no reason to believe that it won't go further. Well meaning people have encouraged the climate we are now in, and furthered it, taking away my protections. Why would I trust it to be any different 6 months, or 4 years from now? Imagine for a moment what that might do to a person who is already at risk for anxiety. And now imagine that my prescription for medications that help me cope is at risk too, because the ACA is on the chopping block. It feels very unsafe right now.

So be kind out there, walking around this world. Nearly one in five Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness every year. That's a lot of struggling people. There are the mines you already know about (politics and religion) and the ones you don't (anxiety and depression). And maybe you will find it in your heart not to lean back when someone is brave enough to share their mental health struggles with you. Maybe, just maybe you can lean in, just a little. It would mean so much.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Motherhood: A Collision Course

You could scroll through this blog and discover what I am about to confess right here and now: I don't love motherhood. Please do not misunderstand me. I love my kids with a fierce, fierce love. I will protect them at the expense of my own self. I love my husband more that I can express. I love knowing that my people are become good and decent human beings. My family is a bunch of rock-stars. Get to know us. I am 100% sure you will agree.

But motherhood, that job is not my cup of tea. In fact, almost on a daily basis, I want to GIVE. IT. BACK. And I have had jobs that were hard. I worked at piloting an alternative middle school program - we made that from scratch and took all the kids no one else wanted, and I will tell you that was exhausting. I worked at a charter middle school in one of the poorest cities in the nation, working from 7am - 5pm (that was the required time on the job), keeping middle school students focused, safe, and off the streets. That was exhausting too. But none of that even holds a candle to how intense motherhood is for me. It will make you bloody and bone-tired and then ask you for more. It will take you right up to the cliff and kick you over. It is like standing in the middle of Times Square naked and hungry staring down a bear. Motherhood brings it. All the time. It's embarrassing and risky and exhausting.

I used to say (a lot) that I wish someone would have told me about all this before I decided to have kids. Perhaps other girls were paying better attention. Perhaps I just have an intense bunch of kids. Perhaps other women do a better job of sucking it up than I do. Perhaps this is just my own reality, and not that of any other mom. I really don't know. And in a way, it doesn't really matter to me. But I think it's incredibly important that I don't sugarcoat any of my experience as a mom for my kids. It's the hardest job I may never love. And it's the hardest job they may never love. And I want them to know that it kicked my ass on the regular, but that these kids are so important to me, I got up and did it again. Day after day. They are that important. 

This is my truth: You will feel under appreciated and beaten up by motherhood. And everything will go wrong, right after the help who was there yesterday (your husband, the grandparents, the babysitter) has gone. And the shit never hits the fan from 9am to 5pm Monday - Friday when the pediatrician and plumber have office hours. And speaking of off-hours, everything will feel personal at 3 am: puking, crying babies, fire alarms that won't stop. All of it. Totally personal. And no matter how prepared you are for all the contingencies, shit will find you. Sometimes you will have to do whatever you can to stop the bleeding (even if you have to use a tampon in your kid's nose). And the poop issues are prolific. Yours, the dog's, the kids', the over abundance and the lack thereof. Motherhood is definitely all about the poop. And you won't get "caught up" on your sleep for another 6 years, so just stop expecting that. And odds are good that showering regularly is no longer an option. You will not hear me saying to enjoy every moment, because sister, there are moments that absolutely need to be forgotten in the abyss of time never to be thought of again.


Here's what I want to say next: and it will all be worth it. But I hesitate to say that. I am not all the way through it. I have not come to see my kids as adult children with all the emotional and physical distance and time to prove that out. I am hopeful that it will be true. I am operating under that assumption. And the one kid that is close to leaving for college (Lord Jesus is that right?) gives me the sense that it is true. But I can’t give you that hope yet. All I can do is say that I believe making people into decent human beings is incredibly hard work, but what else can we do? We need all the decent and good humans the world can hold. So I persist in trying to make mine into that sort of human. And in the process I am pretty sure that I am also becoming a better human. I am being taught all sorts of lessons about human dignity and grace and mercy and love. And that my friends, is worthwhile.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Hard Anniversary

Warning: This post is about pregnancy loss. If you need to pass this one up, I completely understand. I'll catch you the next time.

Seven years ago we lost a baby.

It's best to just be blunt about it. This sort of thing isn't usually talked about or shared much because it's difficult and ugly and raw. But it happens to so many women. You actually know someone who has had a miscarriage (a horrible word) even if they have never told you about it. At least one in four women lose a baby. Think about that for a moment, one in four. That's your mom, your wife and two female friends. It's a very common occurrence. And it's not just a female experience either. When you and your partner enter into a pregnancy together, the partner feels the loss as well. Now that's not to infer that the experience is the same, but the grief, that's universal. Loss is never easy to take.

For us, it happened early in our pregnancy. We were still in the first trimester. We never knew the gender of our child. We would never know the person they were to become. What quickly became true for us, was that we were not going to have a baby that year. I felt so betrayed by my body. How could it do something like this? I felt responsible, that somehow I had done something to cause this loss. I miscarried the baby; even our language suggests I was at fault. I knew that wasn't true, but without an explanation, without answers of some kind (which most of us never get) I needed to find something to blame. But that's what's insidious about the loss of a baby you have never known: there is no reason. There is no answer. There is just loss. And emptiness. And grief.

It comes up at various times for me, as grief is bound to do. Always around my birthday (my due date) and every time I watch Tangled (those lanterns!) It gets easier to deal with as time has passed, but I never fully trust my body anymore. I've had two more kids since our loss, but even that hasn't put to rest my mistrust and doubt. I suppose that's just a side effect for me that will linger.

I wanted to share this story for a couple of reasons. First, it's that time again, the time around which we discovered our child was gone. And it's my reality around this time of year, every year, to be reminded of it. Secondly, I share this because I find myself in a political position that seems contrary to this experience at first blush. I am an ardent supporter of the right for a woman to choose if she will terminate a pregnancy or choose to go full term. As much as I grieve our lost child, I need you to know that I do not take pregnancy or bringing life into the world lightly. It's a daunting and sacred task. And it is fraught with peril. So very many things can happen, not the least of which is losing the life of the mother.

To be clear, I would like there to be fewer and fewer abortions. I don't think it's a good solution for everyone, or even most women. But I also feel strongly that a woman needs to be allowed to choose what is best for herself. Because believe me, she is going to have to live with that decision for a very long time no matter what she decides. And there will be consequences no matter which path she takes. Just like my grief has stayed with me, and just like the angst of raising my kids is ever present, the decisions a woman makes durning pregnancy are far reaching.

I'll share a little more later about the day I saw the red line of abortion clearly, and I knew whether I would be able to cross it if the circumstances were raised. But for today, it's enough to remember this lost love one. For those of you who have experienced such loss, know that when I think of our loss, I send up a prayer for others who are suffering and for those who have suffered. We're in an exclusive club. I know your pain. And I support your need to grieve in whatever way you need to. And for those of you who have never experienced such grief, please realize that someone near you has. Maybe just today, on this anniversary of a lost life, we can be a little kinder to those around us. Believe me, it makes a difference.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Once Upon A Time There Was A Girl Named Amy

It's been a month since I have been home from the Women's March on Washington. I've been very busy with almost daily civic action, calling my local and federal representatives, becoming educated on issues and bills, trying to listen with intention to those whose opinions are quite different from mine. It's overwhelming at times, and it can be exhausting. There's no question about it, we have so much work to do. If our nation is to be hold the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then there is so much more to do.

Something I keep coming back to, part of the work that I believe has to be done, is the need to be honest about our stories. If I don't know what you are struggling with, or why you feel afraid, angry or disappointed, I won't understand you or your needs. And there is a distinct lack of knowing one another right now. I'm not talking about knowing which SNL sketch you find funny or which team you root for on the weekends. I'm talking about understanding what makes you afraid of immigrants; what scares you about the vanishing middle class; what keeps you from voting; what makes you want to run for the hills or hide under the covers; what keeps you up in the middle of the night. I want to know why this country feels so divided when I trust we are all trying to make this a better place. I believe in the power of information and I want to know your story too.

So, in an effort to peel back the mask on my life, I plan to share my stories here. It may happen a little at a time, or it may just flood out. I'm not sure. But the stories need to be told, and I hold on to much hope in telling them; I hope that we all have the ears to hear them. I hope that, if you have a different experience than mine, you will be able to catch a glimpse of what it looks like from my window. I don't intend to change hearts or minds, but I do hope that you have the generosity to see it. And if by some miracle, your story feels similar to mine, then I hope to remind you that you are not alone. It is true that everyone we meet is fighting a battle of some sort. You might not see it. They may never feel brave enough to tell you. But we are all fighting for something. I hope my stories will give voice to some who just may not be able to tell their own.

So let the bravery begin. And please, know that I am all about dignity and respect. Trolls will be blocked. You've been warned. Truth seekers and the curious will find my reality (the good and the bad), one blog post at a time. Welcome friends. Let's get to know one another.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mrs. Harrison Goes To Washington

Recently, I went to Washington D.C. and marched with 500,000 other women who are concerned for the state of our nation. Since I have been home, there has been a LOT of discussion about whether or not the march was impactful, what it means for the women who marched, for the women who didn't, and what it was all about anyway. And just like so many things in our country (in our lives), the march was complicated and multifaceted. If you weren't there, you may not have heard about all the things we were standing up for. You may still not know what the whole thing was even about. So I want to tell you what that day meant for me, and what my take aways from that experience have been. Because I have been encouraged by it in a way that surprises even me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strong supporter of the LGBT community. And so when I first heard about The Women's March, it was my desire to support my LGBT family that drove me to say yes to the invitation. As the march was forming there was a lot of discussion about what the purpose of our gathering actually was. If you weren't receiving those emails and updates, then you could be unaware that there was a large intention to have voices from all female walks of life at this event. This was not going to be the women's movement of the 70s, but an inclusive moment to make sure all female voices were heard, with all the issues pertaining to them (most of which pertain to men as well). The march was organized by a multigenerational, multicultural and intersectional panel of women. I was encouraged most by this.

And as the day of the march drew near it was clear that all of us were attending for many different reasons. We were concerned for our black and brown sisters and their families, for the the LGBT community, for the immigrants among us, for the environment we were leaving to our children, for the lack of representation in our government, for families dealing with a system of incarceration that is inherently unfair, for the lack of understanding that diversity makes us stronger, and for those who had suffered abused and sexual assault. The list of speakers reflected these concerns.

As I was walking down Independence Avenue that morning with my longtime girlfriends and women I had never met, there was a sense pride in participating in a long standing tradition in our country. We were bringing our concerns to our elected officials in a way they could no longer ignore. We had no idea how many were there, but there were going to be enough of us to matter.

Since I have been home, I continue to be asked what it was like to be in that great throng of people. And the word that keeps coming back to me is: generous. Women were helping women. When a women near us collapsed, all it took was the chant of "medic" and there were 3 women at her side. Throughout the day women who had been separated from one another were announced from the stage and reunited in short order. I held hands with white and black and immigrant women alike. We helped one another and even if we didn't agree fully with one another, we were generous with each other. It was ok that your issue wasn't my battle cry. It was ok that you were not the same as me. Because in our differences we still had a common purpose. We were all determined to make the future better for the next generation.

Making the future better means a lot of different things to different people. I may not have the same ideas as you about what that is. I didn't love, or even agree with, every speech from every speaker; but the prevailing wind at that march was generosity to others. Give me space to be the American I need to be, to push through barriers I no longer want, to seek growth and richness in my life, to leave behind a better place than this. And I will give that to you in return. I don't need you to be pro-choice or pro-life (or any other label). I need you to allow me to be me. That's the generosity that was expressed that day, all around me.

What I experienced at the march was the best side of America. For the first time in a very long time, I felt proud to be an American. I felt proud to be with other people who were welcoming and who had clearly been advocating for their causes for a long time too. It's hard to explain what it's like to be part of a minority. But one thing is universal, fighting against a system that has not been built for you is exhausting. These people knew that and came anyway. They had been fighting too, and they too were not going to give up. And what was so incredible for me, is that we felt like a majority. It felt like we were strong, and that our fight was worth it. It's hard to convey just how meaningful that is.

I don't think I will ever forget being in D.C. that day. Not only was it a shot in the arm, a moment of unity and generosity, but it was galvanizing in a way I had not dreamed. Standing there in that sea of women and allies, I knew that I was going to do more. From now on, I needed to get more involved. I am still not exactly sure what that will mean; but I have started to call my representatives to let them know how this constituent feels about the legislation and appointees before them. And I am becoming more vocal and intentional about what I support. I plan on being more involved in the democratic process. It's more than just voting. I'm ready to put my energies into organizations that are doing the work, to be part of the work. Engagement is the key.

The day of the Women's March my feet were my faith in action. But that day was also a jumping off point. That day will be a dividing line in my life. It's the day that my trajectory shifted. With some trepidation I am walking in a new direction. My purpose is clear, even if I can't see the end just yet. But I know one thing: this is what democracy looks like.