My children are listening...

So this morning my 9-year-old was laughing about a sign she had seen which made fun of Trump by calling him names. I started to tell her how mommy prefers we disagree with people on their policies and how we should engage in critical dialogue about their plans and actions, but I prefer we not actually call people names. To which she replied, "but Trump started it." I sighed. And I was disheartened a bit.

And so all the way to school this morning, I half heartedly talked to both girls about how people can disagree with us on things and that doesn't make them bad. But as I said, it was a half hearted attempt. Because as my daughter had said, Trump started it. And I feared that with all the hateful rhetoric now being so up front in american politics, I might be fighting a losing battle by asking my daughters to use respectful dialogue. And again, I was disheartened. 

Then after I dropped them off at school, I checked my email. My nearly 13-year-old daughter had sent me an email last night. Strange. I'm not usually on her social media list. In fact, I've promised to never comment publicly on her Instagram... but anyway, I opened the email to find she had sent me a poem she wrote with her friend. And that brings me to this moment. When I'm going to share the poem now with you all. Because she has been listening. And I could not be more proud of the message she has heard. And she has reminded me that despite all the negativity around them, kids will hear positive messages. So we have to keep saying them...and I am hopeful once again for our future... 

Humpty Trumpty

Humpty Trumpty’s mother turned on Fox News
Humpty Trumpty’s mother loved Donald’s views
The idea of a border wall sounded so great
It would keep her and her son Humpty safe

Humpty Trumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Trumpty had a great fall [into Mexico]
All of Mexico’s horses
And all of Mexico’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Mexico’s leader assembled the humps
Gluing him together with quite a few bumps
They chucked him back over
Trump’s border wall
He was back in America
Humpty and all

So even though Humpty was full of hate
Mexico still found it in them to make him great [again]
So this is where many people hit quite a slump
You should be kind and respectful to everyone
Even Donald Trump [even though he’s a nutjob]

— By Dukie Momo & Jojo Pickles

Our Rearranged Family

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile. I just don't know how to start. I know what I want to say in the middle, and even the thoughts I want to finish up with, but I have no words to start the story... so I leave the post unwritten. And when I run into casual friends out and about and they ask me how Jason is, or how his business is going, I say fine. I don't say, "he's fine, but we've been separated for nearly a year actually." Because that seems like a weird place to start the story. Especially in the middle of a grocery store.  But he is fine. And so am I. And so are our girls. I guess I want to start there. Telling you we are all fine. 

And some of you might be confused. You might be thinking, but wait, I've seen you together this past year. Or I've seen pictures of you at holidays and special occasions. Or if you were at Salsarita's yesterday, you might be thinking you saw us having lunch together. You would be right on all counts. We do still hang out together. We did not separate in anger. We separated out of need to do what is best for our relationship. We decided we function better apart. And it was not a quick decision or an easy process. But we are ok. Really. And so are our girls. In fact, even the day we told them about the separation, they were ok. Our 9-year-old asked, "so does this mean I'm going to have 2 bedrooms?" We said eventually, yes. She replied, "Great. Because I have a lot of toys, and I could use a place to move some of them." 

Now I'm not saying everyone took the news so well. When one of our extended family members heard, she cried. And I felt horrible that we were breaking up our family. And then my soon to be ex-husband said perhaps the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me, "We are not breaking up the family. We are just rearranging the family." Still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that moment. And I cling to its truth. We are not a broken family, we are a rearranged family. This might just seem like semantics. But words matter. And I don't want my children to feel like they are from a "broken" home. 

We have raised our girls to respect differences and accept people and families as they are. They know families look different. And they know that love is what makes a family. And I know from personal experience growing up with step family members I love dearly and parents who showed me a healthy way for divorced parents to act with one another, that it is possible for kids to not be traumatized by divorce. And for families to function well after a divorce.

 And yet when I tell people about our separation, I still sometimes feel shame. Like I've done something wrong. And so sometimes I don't say anything. Sometimes I hide for fear of the pity or judgement I imagine others to be passing on our broken family. But it's time to stop hiding. And time to stop feeling shame. I'm not saying divorce is the best choice for everyone, or even for anyone. I'm just saying it is not a choice to be ashamed of either. Because we are not broken. We still love one another. We still work together to raise our children. We will always be a family- one I am quite proud of actually. A rearranged family. 

So if you see me in the grocery store and ask about Jason, I will tell you he is fine. Because he is. We all are. I wish you all the kind of love and support and happiness I've found in my rearranged family. 

Confession of an older sister

I have a sister who is 3 years younger than I am. I know this because as an adult she has been a tremendous source of love and support for me. Truth be told though, my memories of her as a child are sketchy. Almost non-existent in a weird selective amnesia way. And as I watch my own younger daughter trying desperately to get the attention and approval of her older sister these days, I sometimes shake my head in shame... 

One day a few years back, my sister said something about my 16th birthday party. I was like, "oh, were you there?" She assured me she was... but perhaps the worst thing I have no memory of is the day she entered puberty. She says she was home alone with me the day she got her first period. My loving response? Allegedly I told her to walk to her friend's house for help (and to get supplies!) because I was about to be picked up for a date... This sounds like it could be true to me....I mean, if I had a date, right?!? And when she told me this story as an adult, I asked her if I knew it was her first time having a period, she responded with a pretty emphatic, "OH, YOU KNEW!" 

So I'd like to say sorry to her now for that abuse. And for all the other slights I don't even remember making. And I'd like to tell her that I see and remember her now. I see the wonderful woman she grew up to be. I see her strength and her compassion. And I'd like to take some of the credit for those things, I mean clearly my ignoring her led to her learning to be strong. And I imagine gave her a sense of compassion for others mistreated and marginalized... Wait. No.... 

There is research to show that the biggest predictor of personality is birth order. This gives me some comfort. I can't be the only older sister in history to have overlooked my younger sibling... So on behalf of older sisters everywhere, I'd like to apologize. It's not that we didn't like you little ones. We never thought about you enough to not like you. It was nothing personal. And hopefully you will give us the chance to be real friends as adults. To see you as you are, and appreciate all you offer the world and our family. Like my sister has.

Thank you Kristy for coming down to take care of me recently after my surgery. Thank you for always being there when I need you. And when you need me, I will never again pawn you off on a friend so that I can go on a date... 

The Gift of Authenticity

A friend told me recently she has never been happy in her whole life. And while that might sound heartbreaking, it was honestly one of the most beautiful, hopeful interactions I've had in a long while. 

We were not in a bar commiserating as old friends. In fact, we're barely more than acquaintances. And yet we found ourselves in the middle of a crowded lobby talking authentically about our real selves. The beautiful part. And she was sharing not out of despondency or to complain; she was sharing about taking control of her future by owning her past story. The hopeful part. 

It's all too rare in life to have genuine, life affirming interactions with good friends. Not because we don't care about one another, but because life is moving fast. And we're all busy trying to be so many things to so many people in so many settings. So experiencing moments when all pretense is gone, and core emotional truths are open and vulnerable is a gift. And so to have one with a casual friend on a random day in the middle of a crowded room was an especially unexpected gift. One that I will now treasure. And one that reminds me to be open and hopeful for more of these interactions- not guarded and cynical of sharing my true self for fear of being real. 

I am an ally because...

I heard an inspiring talk today by Brett Jones author of Pride: The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy SEAL. Brett instructed as all to take the high road in moving equality issues forward. He was open, authentic and giving in his sharing of his story. When his eyes filled with tears as he recounted his parents kicking him out of the house as a teen for being gay, we felt his pain. And it would have hardly been surprising to hear an angry, bitter response to that and to his outing while in the Navy. But that was not his tone. Instead, he modeled compassion and integrity. He called for all of us to be our best selves in response to injustice. He reminded us progress is made by good people making tough decisions and taking difficult action. 

I didn't actually just hear the talk; I helped to organize it. Because I am proud to say that I am an ally working toward equality in my sweet home Alabama. Because the LGBTQ cause is my cause. It is my cause not because I share a sexual orientation, but because I share a human orientation. Their story is my story. It is one of vulnerability and longing for acceptance. It is one of trying to find yourself and learning to be comfortable with who you are. It is often a story about friendship and acceptance. It is also sometimes a story about loneliness and isolation. And it is all too often a painful story to tell.

And so I write this to thank Brett for his willingness to so publicly share his story. And to say to anyone who might not yet feel comfortable telling theirs, we are here to listen if you ever need to tell it. And to anyone who might think this is not their story, not their cause, I encourage you to listen again. To hear the truths and vulnerabilities common to us all. To our human orientation.