Monthly Archives: June 2021

Does Anybody Have a Map?

My fourteen-year-old daughter Sophie has broadway dreams. I’m biased, but of course I think she’s very talented (see for yourself). When she was nine I took her to see Wicked at our local performing arts center and that was it. She is, as I write this, at theater camp. She’s all in and I love watching her do what she loves. I was a theater kid myself in high school, so it’s something fun we can share, and thanks to her interests I’ve been listening to different broadway show soundtracks, even when I’ve not had the opportunity to see the show.

A socially distanced visit with family during lockdown

About a week ago, I hit play on the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack, as Sophie is working on the song “Requiem” in voice lessons and I wanted to hear the rest of the songs. When I heard the first track, “Anybody have a map?” my heart kinda stopped for a hot second. Sung by two struggling moms trying to parent two differently troubled sons, its lyrics pierced me.

Does anybody have a map? Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell but this is me just pretending to know…So where’s the map? I need a clue ’cause the scary truth is I’m flying blind and I’m making this up as I go.

I really needed this song in this past fifteen or so months. WHERE WAS THIS SONG? Even though I’ve just found it, it’s one hundred percent my pandemic parenting theme song. I’ve said it a hundred times since March 2020…aside from dealing with a child with significant developmental delays, pandemic parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I had no idea what I was doing. The whole time, I was stumbling along, relying on instinct and intuition and prayer, analyzing and assessing risks and hoping I was making the right decisions.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (well, at our start, March 2020) my kids were sixteen, thirteen and nine. Now they are seventeen, fourteen and ten. My youngest didn’t suffer too much disappointment due to me being The Mom That Always Said No, but my other two did. I mean they’re teenagers! It killed me to see their carefree lives disappear. I did everything I could to let them participate in safe activities, but…they kept getting invited to activities that I didn’t think were safe enough. Which made me feel fairly gaslit. No shade to those doing the inviting, we all have to do the risk assessment for our own families. But generally, I’d have to say no, face my kids’ disappointment, and hope I was making the right choice.

It sucked.

From the outset of this public health emergency, we agreed as a family to take it seriously and follow public health directives as long as they didn’t conflict with any directives God had already set out in the Bible. Obviously, here in Ohio, no health orders were in conflict with scripture. For both my older two kids and me, seeing those orders openly flouted by those who claim Christ was confusing and disorienting. My teens are both (up to this point, whew) pretty staunch rule followers. It’s not that they don’t question rules, but they know that like I’ve said, if God doesn’t object, they should obey. For my daughter in particular, anger was a struggle when it came to the rule breakers. I don’t mind righteous anger, it has a place, and I told her that. But helping her process all that in a healthy way was extraordinarily hard, especially when two people close to our family died from COVID.

I sure wish I’d had a map. I felt awfully lost at times.

Now both of my big kids are vaxxed to the max and back to living their best lives. It is a relief I can’t describe, to see them back to being normal teens. What our kids have lost is truly significant, I’m not downplaying it. I shed many tears over the pandemic parenting decisions I had to make and over seeing them disappointed. Time will tell how well Bobby and I did, I guess. But to be honest, protecting my husband was always the goal, because the loss my kids would have if they didn’t have their father is one million times worse than missing out on a year of parties and get togethers. And on that front, as we stand together today, a healthy family of five, I have no regrets.

I followed my parental instincts, and prayed a lot. God gave me those instincts, he gave me access to Him through prayer, He gave me the Holy Spirit. I know what’s right for us isn’t right for everyone and yet, it confuses me that so many other Christian parents came to completely opposite parenting pandemic parenting conclusions. My husband’s asthma and lack of paid sick time were a primary motivator, sure, but it is difficult to imagine myself throwing caution to the wind in the past year, regardless.

I am thankful to have made it to a less difficult part of this pandemic. My children have given me grace when I have asked for it. I will bear the trauma of this pandemic for a long time, I’m sure. Yet my family has our health, so we have everything.

That map would have been clutch though.

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I Turned Left on Red

My family lives in an old house on a busy street. It is the “main drag” of our neighborhood and for a couple of months now, the city has been putting in a new water main. Massive construction has resulted in two separate two-week spans of time when we could not get in and out of our own driveway during the day. One of these spans is currently ongoing. Thus, I’ve been forced to park 500 steps away at the local high school, and enter and exit my neighborhood from there, which is most of the time the complete opposite way I typically enter and exit our neighborhood.

It’s disorienting.

So disorienting that, the other day, I sat at the intersection pictured above which I’ve driven through thousands of times in the 20 years I’ve lived here, and I TURNED LEFT ON RED. I most usually go right there, and when I saw the arrows turn green for the right, I hit the gas….even though I was in the left lane.

Immediately realizing my mistake but too late to correct it, I screamed like a banshee the whole way through the intersection. Praise God, there was no one coming. We were safe (I had my ten and fourteen year olds with me). There was no police officer there, either, to give me a ticket I definitely would have deserved. I have no excuse. I was just…disoriented. My brain said “the green arrow is for you!” My muscle memory said I was in the lane I was used to being in. They were both wrong.

When recounting this major oopsie for my husband later, it hit me: the last fifteen months have been as spiritually and politically disorienting as having my street torn up and access to my home restricted has been physically disorienting.

This past year I’ve been told that what I clearly knew was wrong was actually right, that truth is flexible, that good character is nice but not essential, that those with our best interests in mind actually just want to hurt and oppress us, that liberty is more important than loving your neighbor, that protecting your loved ones is actually living in fear, and that rights are above rules (especially that golden one).

Dis. Orient. Ing.

I turned left on red in real life. It was an accident. The irony is that many in my community think I have turned LEFT toward blue and away from red in the political sense. But that is not at all true, however any turns I’ve made in that sphere have been very much on purpose. What is true is that I’m trying to engage politics (as my friends at the AND Campaign would say) not as a progressive, not as a conservative, but as a Christian. I’m an independent.

What I have learned as an independent is that it’s a shame that some things that I don’t think SHOULD be political most definitely ARE: abortion, caring for the poor, racism, and somehow now – public health.

Disorienting.

The Great Disorientation of 2020 has not been without lessons. The biggest is that I need to keep my eyes in God’s Word. It is the compass that, along with the Holy Spirit, will keep my discernment sharp, and the path to truth more clear, even when the world seems to be tilting on its axis. After a study of Galatians by my boo thang Beth Moore with my other boo thang my sister-in-law, also named Beth, let’s just say I was properly re-oriented…and a little skeptical that a lot of my fellow Christians probably don’t actually read the Bible that much.

I hope I’m wrong there! But in any case, I highly recommend it.

And of course, I also recommend following all traffic laws.

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My neck, my back, my anxiety attack

I haven’t written something for a personal blog in years. And oh, how I’ve missed it. There are many reasons for this: the chief one is that for about four years I had a job that required me to write two to three original articles a day. Yes, a day. That sucked out all my creativity and I had nothing left for myself.

New shirt, who dis?

However, I left that job about two years ago and I still haven’t found my writing voice, despite some lite freelancing that should, in theory, have left a lot of room for creativity.

The truth is, once I could write again, I muzzled myself. There were people I didn’t want to know all my business, and those people had a habit of religiously reading every word I ever wrote. Also, in the years since I last blogged (did you know I was once, with my cousin Emily, a mediocre successful mom blogger? Read it all at my old blog. My kids were cute and did crazy things! Now they’re beautiful and don’t want me to write about them on the internet. Read this one if you’re gonna go over there, it’s my fave.) I got OLD. Truly I’m only 43, but wooooow have my 40s changed me. I am now the proud owner of a chronic back issue and generalized anxiety disorder. Because anxiety is fun, I also have some specific triggers that are really, really, NOT GENERALIZED that will send me into a spiral real darn quick. I am happily medicated for the generalized stuff but currently on the hunt for a therapist (why is it so hard?) for the specific stuff. I struggle to keep my triggers from controlling me, and some days I want to be a full-blown agoraphobic because most of the triggers are outside the confines of my home. (Not all. Text me back immediately, husband or child, or I am sure beyond an un-reasonable doubt that you are dead in a ditch.)

Ahem. Maybe this has gotten off track. All that to say, anxiety is straight up exhausting and it has interfered with my ability to write. It takes a lot of effort for me to skirt my way around it as I focus on parenting my three children every day and doing what they need me to do for them. (For context, if you are just now discovering me, they are 17-year-old Joshua, 14-year-old Sophie and 10-year-old Jonah. My husband of 21 years is the long-suffering and amazing Bobby.) After all that effort there hasn’t been a lot left over, because…

…in 2020 we had a pandemic from hell and an election from hell, y’all. I may not have blogged for awhile, but I was very open about my feelings about both on the old Facebook. In my gross naiveté, I was legit floored when members of my Christian community disagreed with me about the pandemic’s seriousness, legitimacy, and about following the public health rules set forth for us. I still do not get it. I took a lot of crap about it, but my family was committed to being as careful as possible to protect others and chiefly, my husband who has asthma and no paid sick time and is our primary provider. I am not a pessimist, but I have never, ever, ever thought “this couldn’t happen to me.” I’ve always been aware of the mortality of my loved ones. Perhaps this is because my mom’s dad dropped dead of a heart attack at age 44 with no warning, (before I was born), or that the same happened to my very healthy 3rd grade best friend’s dad when he was 42, or that my beloved cousins’ mom died of cancer at age 36 when I was a child.

I was going to do whatever it took to keep my family safe, including my parents in their 70s (my dad is immunocompromised.)

And then, COVID proved me right: none of us are immune. My mother’s dear friend died of it on November 30, 2020 and my beloved father-in-law’s wife on December 9. I hate to say this, but it’s true: my father-in-law’s wife was the ultimate cautionary tale. She didn’t believe it was real, she didn’t change her behavior to avoid it, she is exactly the person with health issues who could not survive it, and she didn’t.

You would think people would not come at me when I posted pro-public-health stuff after this, but NOPE.

Through all this, I will say that it was hard for me to have my kids in in-person school all year and yet I am very thankful that they were able to be in all year. For various reasons, that is really all I can say about that…but it was a challenge that affected both me and my older two children. We are working through it.

Man, I’m all over the place again. Okay. Back on track.

The pandemic changed me, A LOT. I will never be the same, and in some ways that is good, and in some ways that is sad. But the other thing that changed me (speaking of jadedness) is the militant support of my Christian community for the 45th President of the United States, whose name I can’t bear to type. I never voted for him (and I do request that that fact goes in my obituary when I go. I consider it essential.) OOOH GIRL people did NOT like it when they found out I wasn’t who they thought I was and I lit up my Facebook with posts and articles in opposition to him. I got unfriended a lot, I also unfriended anyone who called me a baby-killer. That’s where I draw the line. Yes, I’m pro-life from womb to tomb, no, I won’t vote for an evil person who says he is too. No Supreme Court appointment is worth it.

And then on Memorial Day, we watched a big, strong, Black man get murdered by a police officer. And it was a long, slow, torturous death, in which the man’s strength could not help him, from which the pleading bystanders could not help him, and he left this world in the most public, cruel, and evil fashion. His name was George Floyd, and his death literally lit the nation on fire. And yes, I do think the murder was much, much, much worse than the riots.

I’d been quietly pursuing learning about racial justice since about 2015. God changed my white heart and white thinking through several books, from hearing Black people speak at conferences at churches, listening to their podcasts, LISTENING! Listening is key, my friends. I still have a lot to learn but after George Floyd’s death, I stopped learning quietly or silently. A lot of people in my life didn’t and don’t like it. {Too bad.}

Then the insurrection of January 6, 2021 came. And I knew it would. He TOLD US it was going to happen, why was no one believed the madman when he showed his true colors? So I waited on my couch, sick to my stomach, too scared to turn on the TV, for it to unfold. And it did. I kept tabs on my phone when it did. And I raged.

And then I lost about 15 Facebook friends the week after.

BYEEEEE.

I got active on Twitter because it’s a safer space for me. And because I was told, so many times in both direct and indirect ways to SHUT UP, I resolved to continue speaking out.

YES, for the unborn. But ALSO YES for my Black American brothers and sisters, who my Christian die-hard Republican community seems to just want to accuse of causing trouble, and whose systemic oppression in this nation they just want to straight up deny. For the poor and marginalized, which the die-hard Christian Republican community doesn’t seem to want to help through legislation or with tax dollars, or by getting their hands dirty (again, a generalization you guys, but I know so many people in real life who won’t leave their suburb.)

All this to say, I have changed. I am hurt, I am confused, I am jaded. I am older and wiser and sadder, too. But I am also more determined. And one thing that has never changed is my unwavering belief in the person, holiness, work, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Christians may have hurt me, but Christ never has. So all that I say and do, I do with Him and for Him—and all He does through me, He does in spite of me. He makes my weakness my strength. I may mess up, but I am never mal-intentioned. All my outspokenness is filtered through a pursuit of His teachings, of what I’m learning in scripture. A lot of my Christian community has a hard time believing that. But see, I refuse to fight against the culture. I am too busy fighting for my neighbor.

So here I am, writing again. Opening myself up. Not shutting up. Wanting to learn and process what I’m learning. I hope you’ll walk this journey with me, and share what you’re learning, too.

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