Someone asked me recently, “Since when did you become so passionate about the LGBT community?” Ever since I decided to open my mouth and speak my mind.
In college my husband was a theater major. Now there are a lot of stereotypes about the LGBT community that are completely false, but the one about an amazing number of actors and dancers are LGBT I must say is fairly true…. We were surrounded by some pretty open minded people and the community was overwhelmingly accepting. I never had to defend anyone in college for their sexuality.
Right after college we were both working in theater and again… we were surrounded by our LGBT friends and there was never a moment I had to defend them.
It wasn’t until my working career that I ever experience discrimination. I was in an elevator and another group of coworkers were spouting off about others on staff that are lesbians. These coworkers were educators- my thought was how could one say such things… how could someone make fun of them, treat them as less or act as if they were any different? I must have been in my own little naive world or maybe my “gaydar” is broken…. or maybe I simply never gave a crap long enough to try to decipher people like that.
A few weeks later, in the same elevator, one of my coworkers informed me that their roommate was pregnant. At that moment… I realized her “roommate” was not really a roommate… Again naivety at its best. I decided from that moment instead of like the previous conversation I had in the same elevator.. that I would in fact take the high road. I decided in that moment to become knowledgable about the LGBT community and embrace instead of berate them.
My friendship with my elevator mate grew into a wonderful friendship and my relationship with her led me in many different directions. It led me on a closer walk with God. It led me to wonderful friendships and bonds. It took me on a parenting journey teaching my children diversity and acceptance for all. It brought me closer to my husband, because we realized we are far more similar in our ideals than we had ever realized. It caused me to stand my ground against those that didn’t agree with my friendship, church, marriage, and parenting. It caused distance from those that didn’t agree with me and ultimately I am the better for it. I am healthier because I stood my ground instead of keeping my mouth shut while the doors were shut in elevators.
Maybe that was my first step in ‘growing in gumption’. I walked out of that elevator a changed person. I walked out an ally.
Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16
The sermon at church this weekend was about not allowing yourself to be snuffed out by anyone else and letting your light shine brightly. Not to cover your goodness under a bowl… a bushel or hide away the things that make you whole.
I’ve been on an amazing journey this year. It has been a spiritual journey. A journey to regain my health, body and mind. This blog is simply my therapy and my talking point… soap box- it is my mind therapy. My health has been overseen by new eyes… new nurses and doctors with a new perspective. My body has run more miles than it knew it would ever be capable of… ever. Although, none of these things are “good enough” for me yet- I’m a work in progress.
While listening to the sermon on Sunday, I thought about when this flame was blown out for me. I can pinpoint the exact moment the flame was covered up completely. I was told by a person that my personality was overbearing. I was too loud- rude- abrasive and I simply was not to speak in their presence. This person , whom I had a lot of respect for, having somewhat of a leadership role in my life I complied- gumption gone. I was snuffed out right then. I reevaluated all of my relationships and friendships. I thought over everything I had ever said. I sought validation from every angle and every relationship. Maybe I needed to in my life journey… had I been too much or over stepped my bounds? Or I was simply too much, but I don’t think so entirely.
So I went on about my life teaching and having my children. Still no strong flame…. struggling to relight. Teaching helped me feel lifted but only in those moments where I was directly in front of the children. I was alone in my classroom- my own space my own closet to safely hold my flame without fear. Only in that space did I feel like I had something going, but even that was like getting a small fire lit and then it dwindles out to nothing again. I love being a mother, but there have been times where my fire felt so dim. What I realized over time was that I couldn’t light all my cardboard at once, but that I had to build back up my kindling that surrounded my campfire to make myself really ignite at a steady pace and remain long lasting.
My flame was snuffed by this person over a decade ago. My coals have grown cold and it has been a challenge to reignite. In my rebuilding, I hope to stay strong and not lose focus. I was in a controlled situation where I had no right to speak especially no right to have opinions- thoughts- beliefs. I was hit by a silencer that struck my confidence and my self worth. I may come off as quiet to some of you now… reserved… an introvert of sorts. I didn’t used to be this way. It is quite possible that I needed a little taming. I may just find that right balance I needed and completely put my light out to shine.
My blogs may be too abrasive, too honest, too blunt and too open, but I spent the last decade only speaking my mind in a closet. I’m not trying to shove my little light in anyone’s face. I am simply coming out of darkness and relighting a flame that was put out long ago. Don’t worry while I’m rebuilding up my kindling. Don’t stress over my poetic digressions.
This video was circling around my facebook over the last 24 hours. It’s pretty moving regardless your journey or your closet.
I just plowed through the 2013 season of Orange is the New Black. As I watched the last few episodes, I was disturbed when the character Tiffany said that she was ready to murder someone and just needed to back it up with scripture to make it the right thing to do. She found it in Luke 19- once she turned around the scripture to her liking. ** Spoiler alert ** The backstory to Tiffany is that she murdered someone who made fun of her for having multiple abortions.
A little taste of the Orange is the New Black Tiffany
I was talking to an agnostic person several years ago and they said to me, “You call yourself a Christian? I mean I believe in a higher power, but I just cannot support Christianity. I would never be a “good enough” Christian. There is always someone hanging around saying you are not as good a Christian as someone else and you are set up for constant failure the way the Bible is written. It has been translated so much… who knows what it was really saying. Christians as a whole are so cruel to each other. So don’t doubt me that I believe there is a God and I pray and meditate… I just don’t follow the Bible so closely that I exhaust myself. I do believe in good and evil. I do believe that there is a certain way to treat others with love and compassion… I consider myself a genuinely good person, but this self-righteous crap keeps me from ever walking into the doors of a so-called Christian church. I can’t believe how incredibly cruel they are to one another and I refuse to be part of that type of institution and constant criticism.” This was the first logical explanation for being agnostic I have ever encountered and I never once questioned someone again who said they were spiritual but not exactly religious. Yes I do consider myself a Christian, but I refuse to surround myself with Tiffany like folks. I wonder how many people have lost their way in their relationship with God because of the self-righteous behavior. I wonder if Christians had truly treated each other with more hospitality and grace much like Jesus loved us, the impact that that would make on our community as a whole.
In the recent weeks, I have had to distance myself from a real life Tiffany. One who spouted hateful things about my contact with my church and allowing my children to attend a wedding, which according to Tiffany was not an acceptable occasion, I was responsible for the doom of my children’s souls. I was so incredibly offended by Tiffany and I understood more in that moment people that are driven from Christianity. If I were not so settled with my faith and my church I would be tempted to blame Christianity for this, but it’s not the case. It’s just Tiffany.
The impact I hope to have on my children in my choices are this… 1. No matter the persons past, color, education, sexuality or wealth they deserve grace and respect. 2. God is there for everyone in prayer and we were all created to serve him. Never ever tell someone anyone they cannot be a Christian… in fact God knew of their coming. 3. Yes read the Bible and do your best to be a good person, but not every bit of scripture should be taken literally in today’s terms – I would have to expect my daughter to not speak in church and obey her husband. My son would be expected to see his future wife as his obedient subservient companion… whilst we have taught him to respect women. We’d have to change a lot of this blended cloth too. I’m not sure how my son would feel about not having pepperoni or bacon anymore. 4. Forgiveness is important and without forgiveness no one learns and grows… they only grow apart. 5. They have already learned love, family and marriage from the life we have created in our home, but they have witnessed love dissipate and marriages fail already. I can’t save them from that, but I can teach them to show love and respect for those that are from broken families — not pity- compassion 6. Everyone sins and no one is free from it… in fact expect it and respond appropriately. No one is perfect. If you expect everyone to be perfect sinners and do not show compassion for them… don’t expect compassion when you sin because you do and you will.
A friend of mine has a relative that is incarcerated for abusing a child sexually. The friend visits the inmate in prison much like the visitors in Orange is the New Black. It is out of love, grace and compassion that they visit and show forgiveness. The friend said to me that they are blood and it is extremely important that they treat the incarcerated as forgiven. The inmate has repented, even turned themselves in and doing their time here on earth. This is God’s grace…. this is ultimately what it is all about. This friend of mine is a good Christian and I respect them so much for this and may God continue to bless them all. This is opposite of Tiffany in that they are faithful people and act with love and grace instead of self-righteousness. I pray that I may be like this friend in my faith.
One real life Tiffany that I know would instead never speak to this family member again and back it with scripture. Particularly with 1 Corinthians – in the letters from Paul saying to not associate with these people- remove the wicked from among yourselves. Are we guilty by association? Some people would say that is the case- trust me- don’t think those words have not been said to me. As the alabaster jar was given to Jesus with weeping tears, the sinning woman was shown grace and compassion from Jesus. Might we all show more hospitality to all sinners not just the ones we approve of and allow them to anoint our lives with oil. As with Tiffany from Orange is the New Black- just because you twist things around scripture to fit what you’re doing… doesn’t make it right. Is this Christian behavior? Is this what being a Christian means to ostracize and treat people as less and not worthy of God’s love? What makes Tiffany so mighty to say that they are a better Christian. In fact, I actually have chosen to distance my children from such Tiffany’s because this is exactly what I don’t want them to learn. They could possibly otherwise push my children farther from God as it did so many of my Christian friends who do not attend a church or for my agnostic friends who simply cannot be part of this behavior. This is what I’m teaching my children … to love.. to forgive.. to see others as sinners as well as themselves… to judge lest they be judged. I hardly feel as though their souls are ruined for this lesson.
My son, Alden, lied to me yesterday. We had overbooked ourselves and the kids and I missed out on church while my husband went. Alden threatened his sister while playing in his room and she came and tattled on him. That wasn’t the problem… the problem was that he denied it and lied to me. I knew he was not telling me the truth. I told him that I did not believe him and that he was to go to his room and pray. I told him he should think about it and pray for forgiveness because he knew he had broken “big God rules”. He had lied to his mother. After a few minutes, I went to check on him. He was quiet when I entered his room. He said to me with tears in his eyes, “Mom, I don’t know how to pray that.” He’s seven and I thought although a struggle it was worthy of a lesson in knowing that it is hard to pray on your own. So I told him that we would pray together so I said the prayer for him and when I opened my eyes and raised my head I realized he was looking at me in awe. He wasn’t streaming tears, but his eyes were still filled and for this brief moment I know I’m doing the right things with my children. I know that I am … no matter what Tiffany says.
Many of my readers have read my previous blog on what type of church I attend and I must say it was a Tiffany that created that desire within me to find an open and accepting church. We were sitting around a Thanksgiving feast when Tiffany went on to say that they just love their new pastor. They were previously uncertain about his coming and now felt totally confident about his presence and his guidance. His first sermon was the Sunday before this feast and it was very fresh and new to Tiffany. Tiffany went on to say that his first sermon was the best they had heard in a long time and how spot on it was. Now Tiffany was certain this was the right pastor for them. I was thinking it was something amazingly powerful and inspiring the weekend before Thanksgiving. Being intrigued I asked what this amazing sermon was on… Tiffany’s response was unnerving and ruined my meal or maybe my faith in humanity or maybe perception of Christianity. Tiffany said the pastor read scripture and described how all homosexuals regardless of repentance would all surely burn in hell. It went on and on for several minutes. Oh how lovely…. Happy Thanksgiving? From then on I refused to attend church with Tiffany and instead I sought out a church that spoke of no one in such light… I refuse to subject myself to hate. Did this pastor quote Rahab during this story of sexual immorality… if it is not so clear that with repentance and faith she was forgiven for her prostitution? I sought a church instead that would teach me to grow in grace. I wasn’t expecting to end up where I did, but when I found my church I felt love and am loved by many. No one spouts off about abominations or sits around judging others with their hate. Instead I am moved by their compassion… their love… their forgiveness… I could not and would not allow my children to be taught to hate. My children don’t really care to understand the concept of our family being any different from anyone else that attends or the make up of couples because they simply care as much as me- they don’t spend any time trying to discuss it… there is simply nothing to discuss. They don’t talk about sexuality in children’s church… it’s the same as children’s church as when I was a child. What I do know is that they are surrounded by many people of all walks of life and have been taught so many things by feeling the love that simply pours from the doors of the building. My children love Sundays… absolutely love them. They beg to go to church and have been caught in their disappointment realizing it is Saturday and not Sunday. I walk out of church on Sundays enlightened by the peace of the scripture and the blessing of the presence of those who surround us.
It is scary to me in my faith journey to think that this conversation about Tiffany’s new pastor drove me away from God and Christianity for a few years. I understood more clearly what my agnostic friend was talking about. I allowed someone that is Christian to back their hate with scripture keeping me from being connected. I realize that real life Tiffany’s will continue to exist, but I can only hope that churches like mine continue to show that Christianity is not about being self-righteous. There are churches that teach to embrace the incarcerated- the homosexuals- the poor- thieves- or well… anyone really. Certainly, it is easier to sit back idle and go unnoticed as a Christian, but it doesn’t make me any closer to my faith detaching myself from Christianity for the fault of my supposed imperfections. It takes strength to be an ally and a Christian, but let them cast their stones at me for loving my neighbors and treating them with grace…. Trying to change me by involving my children by writing their souls on the stones was a low attempt and hurt to the core of my being, but it doesn’t mean my children are damaged goods. It just means that Tiffany is not part of the lessons I want to teach my children about Christianity at this age for fear that they will be led away from God being squeezed so tight they lose sight of the spirit.
I heard a date the other night and I know my face flinched as a cloud of dark memories surrounded me. I tried to pretend that it didn’t to everyone around me. I left it unexplained as I often do. There are only 365 days in a year and only one date makes my skin crawl.
Like a dark looming cloud this date approaches me. This last year I tried to skim by the day, but I knew it was coming in the calmness of the storm that defined so many dark moments for me for the ten years that this cloud had followed me previously.
In the fall of 2000, I was a sophomore at Radford University. I was taking full-time classes and living in Bolling Hall on the second floor. My roommate April and I had picked the room, because it had two large windows that faced the quad that was lined with large magnolia trees. To make ends meet I had applied for a work study at Dalton the closest dining hall. I wore these ridiculous polo style shirts in multiple shades of pastel on different days. Everyones favorite combination was the pink day and a green hat. My friends still joke that I looked like a strawberry. I worked the food line slopping food on serving trays and take out bins.
::slop:: ::slop:: ::slop::
It was a job… a greasy, filthy job, and one that I should have hated but I loved in retrospect. This was a different kind of work study. This job you worked side by side the local blue collar types that were not students. Just your average single moms and the chef that ran the kitchen had a serious power trip. There were cooks and line ladies… I was a line lady and this was where I met one of my dearest friends, Sally. She was tall with long brown hair and a big vibrant smile. We spent hours and hours standing slopping food together. We had a blast popping those trays from the warmer station, that looked like big stainless steel refrigerators, and slamming them into the warming stations. Stirring the contents up with spoons larger than three quarters of my arm. We told all kinds of stories during the slow times leaning up against those large warmers. There were countless hours of gabbing about our nieces and nephews while wiping down the lines and joking about how we were at risk for the recent meningitis outbreak. We chatted about our career hopes and our interest in the deaf community. Also discussing my future husband and her single life. One of the local line ladies, whose name escapes me now, kept telling Sally that Phil, a cook in the back, was “checking her out”. We would giggle like school girls when he would bring us a fresh tray of slop. Eventually, the two of them fell madly in love. I wish I had photographs of these moments, but instead I have warm silly memories of being young and carefree.
steam burns and laughter
It’s funny the things your memory gives you. Sally’s hands were strong and unique. Hands you would want a caretaker to have. Like a nurse with strong and gentle hands she worked diligently with a fun attitude. We worked most of that year together and she was always easy going and she and Phil were so in love. At one point, I remember her coming in with a glum look on her face. I wasn’t sure how to take it… this was very uncharacteristic of her. Her parents had gone on a horseback riding trip to Ireland. Her mother, Patricia, had been in a terrible accident. She took phone calls in the kitchen that night. Over the next few months, Sally was not the same. Her mother was transferred back to the United States and continued her rehabilitation here after surgery to her brain. Slowly, Sally left that semester without any explanation to me, but I knew she was caring for her grandfather and later her mother. I had no number and no e-mail. Nothing, but Phil’s updates. I kept in touch with the line ladies too over time. The following year I was offered a position in work study as an assistant to the Dean of the College Health and Human Services. I spent the summer in silence from Sally.
distance and loneliness
In August of 2001, I was taking European Geography that semester. I was psyched about it. I walked to the building for my first class and there was a little brick circle out front that was filled with flowers. As luck would have it Sally was sitting on the brick circle out front waving at me. We gave each other a big hug and she explained to me that she finished up her courses early and had somethings waved from the previous semester because of her family emergency. She had spent a good amount of time caring for her mother. Who had still been in a mostly vegetative state. The doctors had said she would never talk, walk or much of anything again. Sally looked more settled than the person I remember seeing before she had left the semester before. She and Phil were doing great. In the weeks that passed she and I would meet out front and walk and talk since by luck her class was next to mine. In the weeks that followed school became very chaotic. This same class that I was going into is the same class that I watched the second plane go into the second tower on September 11, 2001. My memories of this time are blurry. One thing I distinctly remember was standing out on that circle and her interrupting me to take a cell phone call. I knew it was important as she sat pulling it out of her pocket sitting at that same brick circle. She instantly shot up… smiling and crying all at the same time. Then she moved to nervous giggling and pacing. She hung up the phone and hugged me. It was her mother. Her mother had picked up the phone, called and spoke with her all on her own. What great strides Patricia had made….
In the spring of 2002 we had a class called Teaching Writing together. We traveled to Blacksburg HS and taught a creative writing unit together. We did a lesson on writing poetry with your senses and they ate candy blindfolded and then wrote about different kinds. It was fun. I didn’t have a car so Sally and I road together in her car to go observing and teaching. These half hour trips to another town just filled with endless conversation and lots of laughing. It was a fun year.. she and I. We didn’t do much outside of school related things. I would go to her place and work on lessons or writing. The next summer we lost track a little bit, but by August we were both middle school teaching majors and all of our classes were together. There were seventeen of us in our cohort and two professors. This time riding together was just normal and routine. We’d been friends for two years and were very close in conversation. Although, she went on and on about how she detested Hillary Clinton and I rather like her. Other than Sally’s republican talk and my democratic perspectives our conversations flowed like water and if they didn’t we were still having a blast. Music was always a topic of conversation. This was one of her favorites.
My boyfriend at the time and I had decided to get married and were ready to have the serious talks with our families. Phil and Sally had decided they were moving in that direction too, but it was very important to Sally that she marry a Catholic man. In her strength and her fathers they brought Phil to their faith and he moved towards a conversion to the Catholicism with Sally’s father as Phil’s mentor. Sally’s father a lawyer was a devote Catholic. Sally said once that her dad had mentioned with all of the struggles that Patricia had gone through that if he lost her he would just move forward with becoming a priest. It was very important to her to have Phil move forward and was just awestruck by her father’s dedication to the man with which she was so in love. Sally and I were seeing each other every day driving to class and work at Blacksburg Middle. Life was busy, but John and I had decided we were going to take this whole marriage thing to another level and we were prepared to organize our wedding for right after graduation. Sally and I talked about how I was going to tell my parents and worried how that was going to go and my parents were stopping by on the way to West Virginia so I took the opportunity to tell them. They were very excited…. I couldn’t wait to fill Sally in on all the conversation…
my parents… her parents
Sally stopped by afterwards to see my new mice. What possessed me to own pet mice I have no idea, but they had had babies and Sally just had to come see. I remember the baby mice sitting in Sally’s large and gentle hands. We were talking wedding plans and she just gently held the mice smiling. Sally’s connection with animals was amazing especially with horses. Her apartment bedroom was filled with ribbons and awards from her riding events. We talked about many things related to the animals, weddings, family, faith, and teaching too.
The next hurdle for us was to tell John’s parents we were getting married. I was nervous, more nervous, about this one. Our families were so different and yet we were so in love. I was leaving for the weekend after my Friday afternoon class. Sally had a big weekend too. It was her mother’s birthday weekend and they were traveling to Fredericksburg. This was a big weekend for their family and she wasn’t about to miss it. See Patricia had made bigger strides than calling Sally on the phone. As a surprise for her family Patricia went to the party to show her friends and relatives she had regained the ability to walk. Sally was so excited as she walked out the door of the class with her hair down and sunglasses on her head as usual. She said, “Good Luck!” and I said, “You too. Have fun. Travel Carefully.” She turned and said while flashing a big smile, “You too!”
sunglasses, smiles, and salutations
Telling his parents went as smoothly as one could anticipate. I was so excited a date was in place and things were coming together. He had his father, his best man, lined up while my sisters and his sister were ready to stand with us. We were ready to pick colors and bridesmaid gowns. We were filled with excitement. I was elated and excited the whole way back home to the apartment. I had to observe in Blacksburg the next day and I was ready to go now that all my plans were in place with my life. I got up that morning and couldn’t wait for Sally to get there to take me the 30 minutes into town. I waited and waited and waited…. she didn’t show. She would never just not show. No call nothing. So I called her cell and got the voicemail… I begged John to drive me to Blacksburg. I was upset I was late, but I wasn’t mad at her. I was worried to pieces. Before I left, I put a note on the front door worried she was just on her way. I left her a voicemail urging her to call me and let me know she was alright.
John rushed me to the school and I felt awful. Showing up late… setting my things down in a hurry when I reached the classroom. The teacher I worked with, Sharon, looked at me oddly and I told her I was frantically worried about my friend. She assured me that it would be fine although it was out of character for my friend. Oddly, the door opened and a lady from the office, looking solemn and displeased, told Sharon that all student teachers were to gather their belongings and come to the conference room. I grabbed my things knowing that there was a cloud. My knees were shaking and I asked the office lady what was wrong and she said she wasn’t sure. I knew right then and should have stopped, but I walked into the storm. When I arrived to the room it was almost empty except the two professors were there. I just looked them in the eyes and said “This is about Sally. Tell me this is not about Sally.” I fell back into a chair as she responded… Yes. They weren’t expecting my meltdown. I should have been alone or the last one to arrive, but they were not anticipating this closeness between Sally and I as they had only known us for a few short weeks. Instead the other fifteen cohort members followed in behind me. I could not hold myself up and I could not cope. They went on to tell us that Sally, Patricia and Sally’s father were traveling home after her big birthday party on Sunday when a drunk driver drove over into their lane plunging into the passenger side. Patricia and Sally died instantly and her father had managed to survive with some scrapes and an injured arm.
Sunday September 22, 2002
My mind racing… her voicemail message.. the note.. all the things I couldn’t wait to hear about their trip… all the things I wanted to tell her about my weekend… my friend. not. my. friend. The last time she spoke to me… the travel carefully’s the look over her shoulder the sunglasses the smile. Patricia… this is so unfair… so unfair.
Monday September 23, 2002
I had never experienced pain like this… A loss this close….A friend so dear. No matter our conversations or what we talked about or what came of it then I had lost a special person in my life. I was falling apart right there with the cohort and my professors in that conference room. Simply falling apart… To grieve in such a manner in retrospect is almost embarrassing to realize how many people saw me so raw and in the moment of despair. Nothing had hurt so badly as that moment right there.
One of the cohort members walked me outside for air and loaned me her phone. I called John… all I could say was “Sally’s gone… she’s gone.” He didn’t understand, but he came to get me. We talked in the conference room and the group eventually dispersed and then came back together at Kelly’s house. Kelly was in the cohort and also quite close with Sally, but she was much wiser and experienced in grief than me and held it together. Our professors had agreed we would head back to teaching the next day and although we had all lived through September 11th and the “return quickly to routine” process… there was no way we could. Especially me… it wasn’t going to happen.
My friends were quick to move into action. Sally’s note was taken off the door and ripped into pieces and hidden. They were all there or around ready to take care of me. I remember grieving so badly I couldn’t stand in the shower or walk the distance of the short hall without holding onto a door frame. I had so many family members and friends come to see me and call me. Those first few weeks were the most raw. We attended the visitation, the funeral, and held a memorial service for her. We raised money in her honor and had a display put up at a nearby horseback riding facility with her name on it and bought her a brick on the memorial path at the university. Mostly, I just missed her… the years of conversation… the laughter… the smiles.. raw is the best way to describe it. In the coming months, my professor urged me to seek counseling or a local church. I just wanted my friends and family. My professor said I lacked faith and she was right, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I worked and worked to get through student teaching and pushed myself hard. I planned the wedding and worked as a student teacher full-time. The professor and I were what felt like head to head. She gave me good reviews but she pushed me hard. I have been bitter about that relationship for some time… I think she simply didn’t know how to handle me.
I graduated the following May. We were set to marry in July. So right before graduation… I decided to get a dog. I needed a companion for the upcoming journey I was headed on. It sounds silly, but I wanted a male yellow lab. It was what I had hoped for, but I went from shelter to shelter looking for this new companion. None of the animals we came across were the right fit. We went to a place nearby to look at a dog not meeting the description, but we went anyways. I wasn’t impressed with the dog and found myself very disappointed. The fence rattled and shook behind me with a loud bark. I turned to see a very happy male yellow lab mix standing on his hind legs onto the fence. A one year old guy named Luke. Instantly, he had my heart.
If you know me, you know that Luke is a staple in my life even now, but many don’t know why. As this dark cloud still hovered over me I cried raindrops into Luke’s coat. He was my therapy. The best I had had yet. In the months that followed from May to our wedding in July, Luke was beside me all the way… I walked him daily, cuddled with him on sofa, and took him almost everywhere. I would just sob and hold him as I finally was able to work through my grief. I was so damaged by my experience and exhausted that I could not teach. I didn’t even know if I wanted to teach anymore. I had lost a lot of strength. Looking back it was a lot of surviver’s guilt mentality.
I graduated. She didn’t. I was in love. She was in love. I was getting married. Phil was alone. Her father was alone. She wanted to teach and I had lost the desire to do it. Patricia had worked so hard to walk and lost everything so quickly. My thoughts overwhelmed me.
By December, with Luke’s help, I was ready to try teaching so I started with substituting. By April, I had a job contract for the following year and the rest of my sulking is in the history books. Luke had managed to pull me out of my depths of despair and I gained confidence and strength. I’m not sure what happened to Phil, but Sally’s dad did just as she said he would and is now a priest in North Carolina. I have been unable to contact him or any of her other family… ever. I just could not do it and still remain unable to own my grief and feel as though I had any inclination as to the pain they must have felt. My professors and I have not spoken since my graduation. I have been unable to get beyond some of my bitterness with that situation.
Sally is not gone from my mind. I’m certain that when I meet someone named Sally I have a tinge the falls over my face and it takes some time for me to call those persons by name. When I first saw my new principal, Stephanie, at my new job I didn’t see her… I saw Sally… I have to gulp and swallow that down even as I type it… Her vibrant smile and the dark hair. My cousins’ wife- her hands look just like Sally’s. My friend Jenna’s equestrian awards in her guest room reminds me of Sally’s bedroom. When I hear September 22nd… it’s raw emotion… full rawness and I remember myself in that conference room falling apart completely. In the shower unable to stand and countless other memories.
I used to think it was strange when someone remembered a date when someone had passed away. Oh how naive I was… I know that cloud is visible mid conversation when her name is said or the date. Sometimes I can’t even explain why she came into my mind.
For the next 6 months I will be writing once a week on a topic given by my readers. This topic was provided by a friend who is trying to decide whether or not to leave their job that they are just “over” that provides some income and time to spend with the kids and go after something they are passionate about and take a risk in doing so.
The topic provided was – “DISCERNING the difference between the Universe nudging you (or shoving) in a direction vs. wishful thinking to go in said direction vs. the anti-Universe tempting you with things to move you in the wrong direction.”
My answer is…
Stop. Take time to think. Pray.
When I was teaching typically there was once a day that I would look at the window of the door to see someone else watching me teach and just smile. The first time this happened I went to the door and asked if everything was okay and they replied, “Yes. Everything is fine just keep teaching. I’m enjoying watching you.” As the time went on, it was all kinds of people, administrators, co-teachers, librarians, parents, all kinds of folks just walking by… One person said to me “You know… I had no idea you had so much energy and charisma until I saw you with the children. Now I understand why you have so few discipline problems, your scores are good and the kids love you.” I poured everything into it and became a leader on my second year teaching and had an observer or student teacher from Virginia Tech every year that followed. My annual observations were great and I was not only scoring high on test scores, but also rapport with students, leadership skills and lesson planning were all high. Some people thought this passion was for history and honestly no… my passion is in teaching. I could be teaching anything and find a way to embrace it and teach it.
In my personal life, I was pregnant the same year I became a leader and by December of my 2nd year of teaching I could not walk due to my pregnancy. My husband and I worked opposite shifts. We had juggled so much and managed to do so much in a short amount of time. Being a mother was always very important to me. I was very much in love with my son, but still had so much passion for my students. Two years later we struggled to get pregnant with our second child. I stepped down from my leadership at work to try to take out stress and worked on my fertility issues with the doctors. One person even said to me… “Well you know how to do it April.. you have a son. What could be so hard about having a baby?” I was told when I was 17 it would be hard to have children when the time came. Our son was a miraculous gift and blessing without much of a struggle. After months of fertility medicines and lots of stress, in November of 2008, we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. With the problems that I have I have an increased chance of losing babies and with Maggie we had a few scares of that, but she made it and we were truly blessed. Then we had the big scare with the babysitters the following fall after Maggie was born. My focus had gone away from teaching and more on being a Mom.
Being a mom was more important than teaching and having something so serious happen with the babysitter was a definite shove from the universe for me to make my decision to leave teaching. When I resigned from teaching I questioned and questioned everything. What if Crystal backed out and quit her job? What if John had to have another surgery? What if we had gotten the money wrong? What if something major happened to the house? What if our cars broke down? What if the insurance was too expensive? What if? What if? What if?
Stop. Take time to think. Pray.
When I was home everything ran smoothly and someone said to me, “What are your hobbies now that you just stay home with the kids?” No offense to all the stay at home moms out there, but I don’t “just” stay at home. Staying at home poses challenges like not having enough money to do fun things and needing to go places because you and your kids need it. I don’t discredit those moms at all, but if you think my kids get that kind of attention you are poorly not aware of the situation here at this house. I run a business- have a business license as well as my teaching license. I have a tax id and pay business property taxes on all of those strollers, beds and toys. Additionally, I pay independently for health insurance and have no covered holidays, sick days or retirement. I also have business insurance that we pay as well. I watch my kids yes, but also 5 others… yes that’s 7 kids a day. Currently, a 5 month old to a 7 year old. My doors to my home open at 7am and close at 6. During the school year, I have kids dropped off right at 7 and picked up right at 6. That is an 11 hour day and I work five days a week. This doesn’t include laundry, dishes, cooking or carpet cleaning that I do during my work and off hours. Once you count how much I make and how much we save from paying out daycare expenses I make just as much as I did when I was teaching. So for those who think I stepped down and took a cut in pay… surprise surprise my friend. It’s a job… a real one. I made it work. I took a risk but I made it work.
So after I patted down my ruffled feathers on the “just stay at home” comment I answered the hobbies question with right now I don’t have any to really speak of at the moment. I had put the kids first doing this daycare and put myself on the back burner. I have always put these things on back burners. Putting your passion and goals on the back burner is not setting an example for the kids anymore than overworking is and never being home for them… You must take care of yourself. That first fall after teaching I made curtains, Maggie’s Halloween costume, 8 pumpkin pies entirely from scratch, countless loaves of bread and batches of cookies. It felt so good to bake and sew. To have time to do things I loved doing. I gave half of my baked goods away. I painted some signs and frames. These were hobbies I had had for some time, but didn’t humor while I taught. Teaching engulfed all other passions and everything else I was doing and I allowed it to take that away from me. My husband is in an improv troupe and has been for about eight years. He rehearses one night a week almost all year and has a show once a month for 9 months out of the year. My son said to me, “So Daddy goes to rehearsal and has fun with his friends. When do you go out and what do you do for fun?” Um…. I sew, I paint, I bake…. He responds with, “Oh you don’t have fun often then.” Well… no. He says, “Daddy gets to go out once a week. You should too.” Yes. You’re right kiddo. Now I started to listen. I’m blogging, running, and throwing pottery (not very well, but I show up).
I will return to the classroom, but this time I want to be a duckling. I have no desire to be a leader. I want to teach. I want my passion back, but I refuse to lose myself in the job. I am a mom/wife/teacher/business owner/animal rescuer/blogger/painter/runner/baker/somewhat-sewing and clay-mess-making fool.
It may seem as though I have digressed a lot from the topic, but not really. To my friend who posed this topic. You can not go through life asking yourself “What ifs” or “I should haves”. I don’t question leaving teaching, I was burnt out and my passions were at a head with each other. I don’t question my business. I quieted the “what ifs” by prayer and trust that God would provide what we needed. I urge you to go after your passion and set a good example for your children by going after your dreams not sitting back waiting for time and life. Get side jobs to pay the bills… use common sense and have a cushion, but truly go after your passion. That alone will help your children grow and blossom by seeing you grow and not stand idle just for them.
Stop. Think. Pray.
I met a mom the other day that has a new empty nest. She left her business job to stay home with the kids and now they are off to college and she’s trying some new hobbies. She said to me, “The only “I should have” that I have is I wished that I had focused on me. Would the kids have thought less of me if I had not been able to afford soccer one year? They now say to me that they wished I had taken more time for myself and I wish that I had.” As much as we try to set good examples, for our children, in being at home and there for them… It is just as bad of an example to set that your needs are not as important as everyone else. It is important that we don’t put ourselves ahead of everyone, but equally important that we don’t put everyone ahead of us either.
Life is too short to be unhappy with your job and situation. So stop. Use your common sense make a plan to pay the bills and go after your passion. Pray and ask God for guidance and be thankful for your blessings.
I truly believe that if we stop, think it through, and pray that we will go the way we need to for us. Our path is unpaved, but if you stop the “what ifs” with common sense thinking and prayer you wont spend anytime saying I should have… You know the decisions you made were right at the time. Have faith that sitting on that bench in the park and taking a break from the path to just stare at the tree tops and be amazed by God’s wonders that when you get up from the bench you will go on the correct path. If you go left, right or straight doesn’t matter if you listened to God in the trees you will take the path you were supposed to for you. Don’t make rash decisions, but stop. think. pray.
For my readers who want to give topics. You may either message me on fb or leave a comment to this post on fb. If you are a wordpress follower and are requesting a topic just post it on the comments to the blog. If you want it private say so 🙂 and I wont post the comment to the blog.
The sermon this week was from Matthew 6:25-34. I love the Sermon on the Mount. Just love it, but this part talks about Jesus urging us to not fret about having enough in life- enough clothes, food, shelter etc.
Mark Loring, a writer full of soul, came to speak at church on Sunday. He was sharing his poems and reflections and providing the stories that brought some of them about in his book The Soul’s Collection: An Intimate Awakening. My favorite piece out of the entire book was part of the sermon on Sunday.
“It is with grace that I arrived
The universe knew of my coming
I shall rest in the belief that I am enough”
To feel as though you are not enough is a hard thing to cope with and we have stressed and fretted about being enough or having enough in some way or another. I assure you that I will not feel, as a Christian, as though I am ever DONE or enough. There isn’t a time where a Christian should kick off their shoes and prop up their feet in assurance that they are done… you are never done and with God it is never enough. I’m okay with that because we continue to sin… whether it be lying or coveting. Maybe you never committed adultery, murdered someone or denied God, but regardless you are a sinner. The cloth of sin covers all of us and none are free of it.
I have been a victim of being judged in the last few weeks so the writing from Mark Loring struck me and has stuck with me this week. It has been hard because when someone speaks poorly of you it is your knee jerk reaction to respond negatively of them in return. I lost self control and it is best for me to walk away from these situations and cool my jets. I wasn’t the first to throw hateful words, but the sermon on the mount has something for these folks too. Matthew 7:1-5 “
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It was said behind my back and to my face that I am not enough. I am not enough of a friend or enough of a Christian. Your knee jerk reaction is to exclaim that the person judging you is not enough as a friend or not enough Christian coming from the Christian. One Christian to another we must stop telling each other that we are not enough to God as of yet. This behavior pushes so many away from being a Christian and really we have no good place to say it. I am enough of a Christian to call myself a Christian…. I promise you without persecuting others to earn that. We already know that we are to continue to strive towards being enough in God’s eyes. More importantly, it is important to tell each other that we are enough as a person for each other. We are all under the cloth of sin, none are free from this.
If you have been treating others an not enough, be prepared for being told the same and treated the same and judged as you have judged. Pull the plank out of your eye and view ever more clearly the imperfections of yourself before you treat others as less. Could they not say the same of you as you have of them?
~If I haven’t said it or said it enough~
For my family- You are enough.
For my children- You are enough.
For my husband- You are enough.
For my friends- You are enough.
My husband and I are being blessed with a gift this week from generous persons who saw a need of ours. We don’t ask for much you see. We may ask for a ride. We may ask for someone to watch the kids for a bit. We may ask for a loan if we’re buying something like a house, but really we don’t ask for much more than a listening ear or a prayer. We’re more likely to be the person to pay your way, lend out the money or share our belongings to help you. I was telling my friend that we feel so blessed by this generous gift and words don’t really fall into place on it yet. She said, “Take the gift… good things come to good people”. I said, “I wish that were always true.” She said, “Well in this case it is.” She was telling me that I am enough…. not in such poetic words as Mark Loring, but that is what she was saying.
We don’t say it enough …to each other ….that we are enough.
When I talk of discernment with my friends I speak from the heart. Most of the time when I hear someone say, “I felt led by God to do —–” I don’t buy it. They are typically noisy faithfuls- the ones that talk so much about their faith I’m certain the holy spirit never got a word in, but I bite my lip and pray that God is moving something through them. To me I don’t hear God… it’s a feeling sometimes like in my last blog post where you just know you are doing the right thing. Sometimes the choices you make fall apart and you aren’t sure why and maybe it’s because you weren’t listening closely to God’s call. God has the reasoning for you to listen ever more closely. It’s a lesson and a message in the mix up. When you get it right that is when God winks.
On August 10, 2009, my precious daughter Maggie was born a beautiful healthy ginger baby. She was perfect and everything went perfectly during the delivery and hospital stay. At home everything was just smooth… other than projectile vomit. I had eight weeks off to regain my strength and ability to walk before I returned to the classroom. I knew it was going to be a hard year, because having someone else start my classroom off for the year was going to make it challenging. We had signed my kids up for a brand new daycare, but it suddenly closed right before I was to go back to work. Finding good daycare is extremely important and I was panicked. I called or e-mailed local friends for their sitter recommendations- everyone was full. Finally, I started responding to sitter adds.
Well we eventually found one that we liked at the right price. It was a weird set up where full time lady didn’t live there but part time lady did. They seemed reliable. The house was set up nice, the daycare area looked safe. While on our interview Maggie needed to nurse and the home owner was incredibly offended even though I was draped. I should have known right then… but I didn’t. My husband and I called ALL of the references and we talked about it and eventually went with this duo pair. We were cautiously confident about it and just rolled with it.
Things started off great. The kids were well fed, the house clean and full of activities. It seemed fun and the kids were all happy there. Then things started getting weird. The first thing was when she dropped an entire bottle of breast milk- all the mothers who ever nursed just gasped.. we all heard you. Honestly, for me it wasn’t that she spilt it, but how she acted about it. It was weird, her reaction, and there was more to that story I will never know. Then John forgot to tell the sitter he would be returning mid day once to pick up Maggie to take her to the doctor. When he arrived someone else we had never met was there taking care of Maggie. This breaks so many protocols I can’t even begin to tell you… I mean John could have been a stranger taking my child. Who knows who this person was doing this unbeknownst to us and how many times had this occurred since she didn’t let us know. So we talked to the sitter, she apologized and we moved on. Part time lady at this point just lives in the house… we never see her. Then the sitter takes them to parks and such not a problem. We leave the car seats and everything is fine. She’s now calling daily to take them somewhere to do something. Then it hits the fan. My mom runs into her at a local mall. My son- not properly restrained in the car. My daughter- where is my daughter? Again with a friend back at the house. I’M DONE!!!!!
She pleads with me over the phone and apologizes repeatedly to say she was sorry and proceeds to tell me all the other things she did while they were in her care. Apparently, it was ‘what you see isn’t nearly the half of it’. She took Maggie out to urgent care with her daughter… a tiny baby to urgent care with her sickly daughter instead of closing and left our son with??? See a lot of parents do this they walk in with the baby in the carseat carrier… I never once thought you just left them with the freedom to drive your baby legally. She says part-time lady is an alcoholic and she didn’t want them around the children. She confesses that she left my son in part-time ladies care and took my daughter, my little baby girl, into a local housing project to “visit a friend”. This was around the same time that a 2 year old had gone missing and was later found murdered from this same housing project. The list went on and on and on… and I lost my nerve… my stomach… my mind.
In my panic I called Bridget. I figured out a way to get both kids there with her sitter for at least a temporary fix. Miss Julie the fabulous sitter saved the day and it was nothing but a blessing for us. Alden eventually had to go to daycare across town. Part time alcoholic lady lost her house to my knowledge and pretty much disappeared. Full time lady left the state and was eventually audited for her business. The door was closed and I moved on with it.
All the while my husband is working… I am teaching the kids I didn’t have at the beginning of the year. I still had trouble walking. I was exhausted… mentally, physically, and emotionally. When the news came about my sitter in December and January… I really had had enough. It’s hard enough being a mom and a teacher. It’s hard being a new mom. It was hard to walk. It was just hard and I needed to perform to a certain standard with my students and my own children. John has his emergency appendectomy in March following this. I was a ticking time bomb of distress… who in the world wouldn’t be? As you can see I wasn’t listening to God in the quiet still of my prayers. Life had gotten so loud that I couldn’t hear. I decided it was time to regroup and listen. I thought and I prayed, but there was too much of a mix up for me to be doing what I needed to be doing and be on my right path. It took a while for me to realize my motherly and professional obligations were going head to head and I wasn’t about to stop being a mother.
Around the same time, my friend Crystal found out she was pregnant. She had helped me so much during my pregnancies and recovery with walking. Learning about my babysitter problems was hard on her being pregnant. Hearing this and watching me go through this struggle was so hard for her to listen to, but it wasn’t something I could really avoid or protect her from. When she had her first ultrasound I was waiting anticipating her call. When it rang after school one day, I answered with a quick- “How did it go?” She responded with, “Well, we heard the heartbeat and it was amazing and then we heard the second heartbeat.” —– This is where I flipped out interrupted her and seriously ridiculously flipped out with excitement… nervousness… completely elated. We still chuckle wishing that we had it recorded. Too bad neither one of us have a good memory anymore or I might be able to give you more detail… but mostly I just said, “You’re kidding. No really. You have to be kidding!” She wasn’t.
The message in the mix up was that I needed to step down from the job I loved and stay home with my children and Crystals. So I started my own business watching both of our kids with others to make ends meet. I promised to keep her girls until they were in preschool. When you get the message things begin to run smoothly, calmly and with ease. I addressed my emotions and wrote my resignation letter and began to move on. The twins were due in a few weeks and I was closing out the school year. You know when God closes a door he surely opens a window… well I like to tell people in this moment of discernment God closed the front door and opened the side door because in this case there was no window.
June 11, 2010 was the last day in the classroom and John had taken the day off to help me clean out my classroom. He knew this would be hard for me to leave, because I love being an educator. I was saying my emotional goodbyes and loading everything into the car from my years of professionalism. I went into my classroom one last time and finished out my time on the clock when my phone rang. I was being invited to the hospital to visit two precious little girls that were born that same morning. We turned off the lights and closed the door on my classroom and rode the short distance to the hospital. Literally closing one chapter of my life and opening the next. This is when you know you have it all right and you get to see God wink.