Saturday, June 29, 2013

And then Jesus

At times I think if I can close my eyes quickly enough; I will miss it: the reel-to-reel replay in my mind.

I never do.

The full feature tumbles through my brain. Colored bits of a lie, an argument. Hazy grays and soundless pictures so that I shake my head to scramble them. And all over again I'm angry, embarrassed, shamed. 

Forgetting is hard, even though our souls bathe clean. Each of us sure that mine is different. Too much, too big, too bad for anyone to fix. And so we inch forward, heavy, like Atlas and his world.

It came one night, and e-mail from my dad. The refrain, simple. "And Jesus....and then Jesus" Nothing so great that those three words can't make them right, nothing too real, too ugly.

I was lost AND THEN JESUS found me. I was hungry AND THEN JESUS fed me. I was a wretch AND THEN JESUS saved me.

And then Jesus..........

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We're mad at Paula Deen

“We’re mad at the Clearmans.”

First thing said as my great Aunt Dottany opened the door to my grandmother’s house. It was the 1950s and the drive from Tampa, Florida, to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, longer than now.

No hugs. No kisses. Just that the Foster girls were mad at their cousins. My great aunt’s response? “Yes, we are.”

Allegiances run deep.

And so I am mad at Paula Deen. Mad at her excuses. Mad at peers on Facebook that say her comments “aren’t really that bad,” “she grew up in the South,” “even black people use that word.”

I recognize that I am not black. I am a middle class, nearly middle-aged white woman. I grew up in a suburb in a coastal southern town. My first boyfriend had blue eyes and blonde hair and listened to Megadeath. My family were regulars at the large Baptist church on the beach.

Every day I am reminded that I am not a woman of color.

And every day I am reminded that my heart is.

It walks forever outside of my body is the beautiful creation that is my daughter, born of me and a black father. In the eyes of the law, she is black; in the eyes of the world, she is “something.” It is a question that has been posed more than a thousand times since she was born. “Is she Mexican? Hispanic?” “Her dad must have a great tan!” “She’s mixed, isn’t she?” This last one is usually whispered.

I taught her early. Always be proud and respond honestly. “I’m half black and half white.” Or “I’m mixed race.” There is no shame in any of her heritage. When she was younger, she had a move she did with her answer, “I’m mixed like a smoothie!” *hip shake* *shoulder shake*

But having to explain to her, at 4 years old, why she was the only one in an entire class not invited to a birthday party.

Having to explain that “n@gger” doesn’t mean ugly or black. Watching her 5 year old face when Barack Obama became president. “He is mixed like me!”

Listening to my former boss use the phrase “blue gum” in 2011 and not understand why I was outraged.

Having a family member tell me that “It is [my] own fault” that we experience racism because I decided to have a baby with a black man.

Those are why I’m mad at Paula Deen. I don’t know her, likely I never will. And I don’t know if what remorse she has displayed is genuine. But I do know, she didn’t readily admit (to any public knowledge) to this series of utter shameful moments when she cashed her Food network checks. And I have to wonder without being found out, would she ever have had a mea culpa?

To those who have said we’ve all made mistakes, yes we have!
But did she need think of all those people she was hurting by having a plantation wedding? Using racial slurs? A “sambo” burger?

To those who said she grew up in the Deep South in an era where “the N word” was used frequently. So did my grandmother. She used the word until the day my daughter was born. She told me once that loving my child suddenly made it very real to her, that every time she heard the word after that she thought of my baby’s face and how 70, 60, 50 years ago my child would have been treated. She forbade others from using it in her presence. She was nearly 80 and in Mississippi. Her change was genuine.

But I’m angrier at all of us! Why aren’t we all outraged, incensed? Why is it still acceptable to use racial slurs? Why is it acceptable to glorify the Civil War-era? Why don’t people see how these things can be offensive?

And why should I be told that I’m “sensitive because [baby girl] is mixed?”
I’m sensitive because it is wrong. It hits home because I have a mixed race child, because I see it almost daily. It is my prayer that one day I won’t.

But until then we’re mad at Paula Deen.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Like Lot's Wife

I wonder her name,
if Lot called it out as he felt
her start to pull away.
Or did he just let her turn,
Another reminder he could be rid of?

Quiet voices tell me to leave it all at
The Cross.
Just lay it there, at the feet of Jesus.
They never know
how to keep from picking it back up.
Until the path to His feet is tear-stained and threadbare
and you wish He would just let you forget.

It is the price of forgiveness.
Having to remember.
Just as the price of faith is
having no neon sign.

Over my shoulder I see it.
The Sodom of my making.
Beneath the shadow of His outstretched hands.
Knowing he will make it whole,
if I can leave it long enough.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Downsizing seemed like a good idea. Until I was knee deep in baby girl's clothes, our books, papers. Oh my.

I lost everything. Once. Katrina.   How did so much stuff materialize so quickly? (My dad references George; Carlin's "Stuff" routine here.) And why does it matter so much? Last summer, I joined other bloggers during the summer of 7. Getting rid of stuff was fun then. A challenge. A competition?

But now. Moving in a few days. And about half the room. It is these occasional times I wish my ulcer would allow some wine. It doesn't.

So we sold. 4 chairs, 2 stools, statues, odds, ends. We gave away. I quit counting at 78 pieces of clothes and 13 pairs of shoes. We threw away. (Judge me here for not recycling or up-cycling.) And still moved more stiff than our new digs could hold.

And with our new 3 room place (Yep. Ours. Hers. Living/Dining/Kitchen) I was determined not too overcrowd.

So truckloads went to the Palmer Home thrift. And more to the trash. (Again. Judge me for my lack of green-ness. I was overwhelmed!)

And our rooms turned from cramped to cozy.

Around me I see the vase a friend brought back from India almost 15 years ago and the cake stand that I love. She sent it for a wedding gift. It holds our fruit.

Elizabeth is there. Husband and my  good friend. It was she who stood in when a parent was needed and mine were states away. The vintage Fiesta ware displayed on shelves built by a cousin.

The table that survived. Placed in the corner where Husband said it would look best. He was right.

The brown mug that Cathy and Vicki gave him. We smile every time.

There is the shelf that fell while Dad and Husband put them up. Two good men. Falling in love with one helped me begin to appreciate the other.

The brown pottery bird. The one Mom gave me the day I ran away from home. Old enough to know better, stubborn enough to still go. I brought it with me a month later when I returned. The first time I saw the prodigal son play out live, in person, in love.

This is the home we're building. Small enough so as to not be wasted. Big enough to hold all that is dear.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A letter to my husband

"Baby, will you go with me to get a tattoo?" Him, "Can I wear my suit?"

Our first date was to a swanky steak house at a local casino. He was handsome, dressed well. But what I noticed was how proud he was to be seen with me: opened every door, held my hand, stood when I left (and returned to) the table. He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

I still believe him.

Our political votes usually cancel each other's out (To his credit he has only mentioned this once. When doing our taxes.) He is more personable in 1:1 situations; I'm better on a stage. He is college baseball, and I'm professional wrestling. I'm fiction and quiet retreat; he is a study of presidents. I'm a great project starter; he is a great finisher.

My letter to him.

Dear L_____,

You told me once that you always hoped you would find a woman, marry, and have a family some day. Told me that when you moved to the Coast your were optimistic that it might begin there.

You were cute the first day we met--your suit and your spiky preacher hair. You were ambitious and smart and about to enter a work force with 150 hormonal women. God help you.

When you would stop by my office late in the day, offering to help (even though you always said you were "not a nurse") but staying to visit. I wanted to marry you that instant in the Yukon, when we were waiting for Lisa to get her oil changed and you did a perfect rendition of Steve Harvey as Sister Odell. You even sang the songs. And again on the trip to New Orleans when I heard your real voice. How it comforts me still when you sing to me some nights.

I know I have told you but I don't think you can ever understand what you did for me. I saw the woman I knew I could be reflected in your eyes. Feeling all those times like Gomer, broken, exposed, a sinner to the world. But you were faithful, a Hosea, to whom God called you to marry. You were proud of me. Everything the world viewed as questionable you saw as strength and determination.

Strong men are not afraid of strong women. Strong women can fall apart in the arms of their strong men, only to arise refreshed and stronger still. Thank you for praying over our baby, as I lay willing with all I had to keep him alive inside of me and grieving that loss in your own way beside me. For letting me be mad at you because the small north Mississippi town we moved to had nothing I wanted and for not saying a thing when I figured out it had all I needed with you and baby girl in it. For being dressed in cheer dad attire before you married me, taking pictures, being at awards day, and playing hours upon hours in the pool.

The moments I love most are lying in the bed watching stand-up on you tube (You know you thought Katt Williams was funny.) and seeing you explain things to baby girl. In those moments everything else fades away.

Someone once asked me if I was madly in love with my husband. Of course I said yes. But then he asked if you knew. And today I don't want the answer to be I hope so.

Thank you for being an hour early to our wedding, for singing Holy Ground to me softly as we stood in front of all those people, for letting me stay true to me when we joined as one. Thank you for choosing me, for putting me first before any other (save God), for making me the only Queen Bee in your world, and for going on this journey every day. It is the only way I want to travel, with you by my side.

I love you.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Before I look at my daughter and see an old woman

"The hardest thing was when I looked at my daughters, and they were old women."

My grandmother never had to look at me when we talked; I was usually buried in a book or magazine. She was old enough that she no longer crocheted or did needle-work, her version of distractions, so she would just sit.

"If they were old women, then so was I. Older even. But I never thought of myself as old until they were."

She had to be nearing eighty then, both of her daughters shy of sixty. My own baby girl, an arm baby, and me young in my twenties.

Lying beside me today, sick in this last week of school. I feel her next to me. She lacks only about 2 inches looking me in the eye. Long gone are Dora and Elmo. Even Jesse and Shake it Up are passing us by. She prefers reruns: Cosby, Fresh Prince, Full House, Everybody Hates Chris.

She can use the microwave, wash dishes, fold clothes, clean a bathroom, hold an intelligent conversation with adults, read, multiply, divide, straighten her hair, sign herself in at the doctor's office, underline the predicate, circle the preposition, post photos to Instagram, and facetime with her Pops.

As much as she knows, these are the things I hope she learns from me:

1. You are not defined by your breasts, your behind, or your beauty.

We stopped by the Dollar Store on the way home; she was on the next aisle over, looking at press-on nails. I rounded the corner saw the boys, two of them, maybe 12 or 13. One elbowed the other, motioned toward my daughter. I sailed beside them, turned, channeled my tattoos like a superman suit, hidden beneath my dress slacks and blouse, and gave them my "I will cut you and they won't find the bodies" face, and they skulked off, mission to talk to the "hot" tween girl thwarted. And I decided, @ that moment, to change careers. Tattoo shop, Mossy Oak employee, mechanic. Anything where I could wear tougher clothes and carry some type of weapon. (I relayed this story to my usually calm and level-headed husband. He is buying a gun and calling his cousin to get a pit-bull.)

I grew up when cute, petite, tiny girls were it. Tiffany, Alyssa Milano, Debbie Gibson, Whitney Houston. How I would have loved a Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Adele...anyone at all with breasts and a butt. All the 80s and 90s taught me was that thin girls become famous and date Corey Haim, us early-developers get a life of faking sick to avoid jogging in PE and having the boy behind you in Mississippi history try to feel you up all year when you pass papers back.

But now I see it differently. In an age of twerking videos, Kim Kardashian thick bodies and curves, when my baby girl's baby chubbiness is transforming and boys look at her, I worry what her curse will be.

I want her to know she is more than that beautiful face that has stopped strangers for nearly 11 years. She is more than junk in the trunk (her friend's phrase) and dance moves. And though these components that make-up her appearance will be with her, and likely be others' first impressions, they are not her at all. They are, rather, how she looks. And those are not the same.

I also want her to know that it is so, so good to know she is pretty, to feel pretty, and to be confident. She is not conceited if she likes her hair or her complexion. When someone says she is beautiful, I want her to say, "thank you" and mean it. To never be afraid to accept a compliment or deflect it with some inane counterargument, "You think so? I thought my hair looked bad."

2. You are also more than your brains and talent.

I was smart; it was my thing. I wasn't particularly athletic beyond middle school; I wasn't the outgoing fun type. I was good grades and know-it-alls. And I believed my hype. (Again, please let me take this opportunity to apologize to those who knew me before I was thirty-five.)

How I am proud of her As and awards. I am proud of her cheer ability, reading level, and critical thinking. But I hope she learns she is more than smart, quick-witted, and athletic.
And just like beauty, it is great to be proud of these talents, Better to know they do not define the whole of you.

3. That I will always tell her the truth, even when it is hard.

I was one of those parents who didn't want to do the whole Santa Claus thing.  It felt like I would be lying to my child for years, and I absolutely wasn't going to do it. Until I caved. (We will call it peer pressure, but that is only because I would hate to call out my parents online.) So we Santa'd it for a few years, until we just didn't anymore. I don't think baby girl considers me dishonest, but may that be my only lie.

When you are an unmarried mom of a different raced child, you answer hard questions early.

"Why was I the only one in my class who didn't get invited?"

"Are you bad because you're not married and have a baby?"

It is the older questions that have truly been harder because she has formed opinions and has seen discrepancies and doesn't just believe everything I say because I'm her momma.

"If L___ (stepdad) ever told you to leave me, would you?"

"A man blew up the race in Boston? Why do you think he did that?"

"Who will take care of me if you die?"

And on the way home from our hair appointment Friday night, "Are Eric and Dave married? Like you and L______  are married? And who had their kids?"

And so I do what I've always done, take a breath, and start slowly. It has been my goal to answer honestly, trying hard to give facts and information without going overboard into detail or making everything political, right or wrong. "I think they love each other like L_____ and me. They have been together and lived in the same house together for a long time. But the law in this state says that they can't be married, legally, like L____ and me because they are both men. (I resist here. Oh, do I resist! There is an impassioned speech about interracial marriage being illegal within the last 40 years. But she didn't ask.) Dave was married to a woman before he met Eric. Dave and that woman had two girls, but they got divorced. Now she and Eric and Dave all help take care of them together."  Her response, "Cool. What are we having for supper?"

4. That women are just as good as men and can do anything they set their mind too.

I was a pre-school feminist. It is a true story around my home that my mother was called into the Temple Baptist Pre-School office because I was making a fuss over the Letter People. Though I was only 5, I knew there weren't nearly as many girl Letter People as there were boys. And that was not fair. (As an adult I remember the girls [the 5 vowels] were also kind of miserable: Ms. A-choo, Ms. Obstinate....)

This story is second-only to the one of me arguing my mother to exhaustion about whether I could tee-tee standing up. She tried and tried to tell me that girls could not do this. And finally, one day relented, and I soaked my legs and the tiny NFL stool I was standing on.

So began my love affair with Gloria Steinem, Gertrude Stein....any woman who I thought gave it to the MAN. (Yes, I wore t-shirts that read, "People call me a feminist when I do anything that distinguishes me from a doormat.") I protested National Honor Society when they barred a pregnant high-school female from joining but not her baby's daddy!!, was a card-carrying NOW member, and lived at home and went to college paid for by my parents. It is much easier to be a radical when someone else is paying the bills!

And though my parents were conservative and traditional (& suffered through my zealousness over women's lib), they never once told me that I couldn't do something because I was a girl. Play football with the neighborhood boys: check; wear Chuck Taylor's: check; be a lawyer/doctor/astronaut: check.

And I hope that is what baby girl feels. The world is hers, all of it. And any part she wants is OK for a woman.

5. That letting a man love and help you doesn't make you weak.

I owned my own house, my own car, had a career, a 401k, and had successfully replaced the plastic flange thing in the toilet tank. I didn't need the bearded man in the suit with the spiky preacher hair. It didn't matter that he was funny or smart or could do Steve Harvey as Sister Odell without missing a beat. I didn't need him.

But I did. I knew it always, from the first moment he shook my hand across a crowded table at lunch. I needed him in my life.

May she see that I am still me, still strong and capable, even though he opens my car door or send me flowers. That sharing a house with the people you love is more important than whose name is on the title. That he is still a man sitting outside the dressing room holding my purse and neither of us is smarter or better than the other. We are just smarter and better because we are together.

And with this may she see the importance of the right man. No, I would never leave her for anyone. But he would never ask me to.

It is tempting at times to hold her close, too tight so that I can control the world she knows. But at what risk? Would she be better off afraid rather than cautious? Naive rather than educated? Sheltered rather than realistic?

I hope that she learns all she can from all of us that came before. These lessons and the most important ones I learned from my parents: that I will always be here, even if she falls. Hard. And that a praying parent is the best kind to have.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From post-abortive women: How the pro-life movement can really help

“Because it is cold, they told me to leave my socks on. I wore flip-flops, so a nurse brought me an extra pair she had. Clean. She was going to the gym later, she told me. I handed her my panties when I slid them off. She told me she keeps them in her pocket, so she can help me slide them back on as soon as it is over, that I’ll need them. Quick. I started to cry when I put my feet in the stirrups. That nurse stood beside me and rubbed my head. ‘Take a deep breath and let medicine help you.’”
Over 1.2 million females in the United States have abortions each year. (,  Both the pro-life and pro-choice sites give close to he same numbers.) Gosnell has brought to light a very real and very ugly corner of the truths behind the abortion debate. Do I think his acts I've read about are tragic? Yes. Horrible? Yes. Do I think the church should line the sidewalks outside the clinics? No, not at all.
I have probably talked to over a 100, informally, usually, hundreds more behind the security of blogs and Facebook. In the Deep South when people find out you’re pro-choice, they’ll tell you their stories. Some are friends; some are family. Sometimes I get a number from a mutual friend. Most never ask why I’m pro-choice (My belief is that a government that bans abortion is dangerously close to one that can mandate them. Also, making abortions illegal won’t stop them, at all.); most never know that I am pro-choice, not necessarily pro-abortion. And I no longer tell the ones I’ve just met that I am a Christian, up front. They wouldn’t tell me, then, or else they would always say, “I know it is a sin,” and lock their stories up tighter.
Their stories, usually tear-streaked and deep inside.  It is a weight, even if they remain confident in their decision, because they can’t ever just talk about it.  They aren’t seeking absolution, just to say it out loud, to have it validated, that it happened and they are here, for better or worse, on the other side.  
Each is different.
I know a quiet, Godly woman. She teaches pre-schoolers each Sunday morning, brings casseroles to those who have just had surgery, homeschools her three, and loves Jesus with all of her heart. “I would rather stand up from the pulpit and admit to having an affair before I ever let anyone at church know I had an abortion.”
There is the lady and her three kids, living with her aunt. The aunt told her if she brought home another baby she couldn’t live there anymore.
My friend who laid her head on my lap and cried because she was flying her 13 year-old out for a late-term abortion. “How come I didn’t know? She’s only 13. She can still be something.”
The one, with the eye swelled shut and thumbprints on her neck brought to the door by a man.  A man who stood outside and waited the entire four and a half hours.  
None of these women wanted an abortion; they each felt that it was either their best or only option at the time.
I never really had to ask. It would always come out in pieces, usually prefaced with “Those Christians don’t really want to help me…” or “If they cared as much about my born baby as this unborn one…” "Someone should tell them how they could really help..." And so they have
From post-abortive women, how the pro-life movement can really help:
1.       Invite people into your life and into your church family. AND THEN be pleasant to everyone when they come to church. Encourage them to be active and involved; invite them to Sunday school or small groups, or out for a picnic lunch. If they are poor, dirty, racially/ethnically/culturally different, a single mother/father, pierced, tattooed, new in town, or just “not like you,” embrace them with open arms. “Sh@t. She doesn’t even speak to me at the school or in my line at Winn Dixie. Didn’t even recognize me. Just yelling “Baby killer.” Why would I want to go to church with her?”

2.       Have real solutions. People do not have an abortion because they don’t want/can’t take care of a baby for one day, week, or month. An afternoon of protesting doesn’t help these women in the long-run, nor does telling them “someone will adopt the baby.” Develop a community network with other churches and organizations that will offer free formula and diapers for at least one full-year. Partner with day-cares; offer free or reduced costs for these moms. Provide the moms jobs, job-training, housing. No one group can do it all, but a network with real options would go a long way. Will some people take advantage of it? Yes. Just like some people take advantage of food banks, Welfare, and smoke breaks at work.

3.       Please, please stop holding up signs that read, “Abortion is murder,” with larger-than-life-sized pictures of aborted babies/fetuses. Every woman, without fail, that I know that had an abortion felt like she was killing a living thing. You are not going to surprise her with this knowledge. Or even guilt her into not going through with it. Many states require an ultrasound before an abortive procedure, where the technician, by law, must tell you the specifications of what he/she finds. Length, width, approximate weight, age. These women hear this beforehand. They know.  One woman once told me, “Put down the damn signs. I know you think I’m going to Hell. Right then, so did I. I wish they had just had a big grand-daddy rocking chair and let me crawl in their lap, and cry. The nurse who watched while I killed my baby looked like she loved me more than those Christians,”

4.       Make the church a safe, place for women who have had abortions. Every True Love Waits rally I ever sat through (5 years at 3 different churches) had the same don’t-have-sex-you-might-get-pregnant-and-make-a-bad-choice-abortion speaker. The same young woman. In a city of greater than 70,000 only one young lady would admit to an abortion. Close your eyes. Think of your church family. If you can name two women who have had abortions and share that information publically, you are probably in the minority. There are some very vocal post-abortive women who have made it a ministry, but very few church members readily admit to it. Love these women; allow them to grieve, to be comforted, to not be shamed. In your church, at the very least there is likely one woman who has had an abortion. Love her. That is all you are commanded to do.

5.       Teach sex education and pregnancy prevention to youth (yes, even churched youth). Christian youth, churched youth are having sex every day. Yes, even the ones in your youth group. Not to be vulgar, but probably at some church-sanctioned function or retreat. Promote abstinence, but be honest. “The Bible teaches us sex inside marriage is the best, but if you insist on having sex before you are married, use condoms. Here are some.”

6.       Stop believing these women don’t love their unborn children or grieve their loss. Most women I know named their babies, remember each year what would have been the due date, and many wish they had another choice at the time. They grieve and hurt and second-guess, even the tough-as-nails broad who sneers at you when she comes out of the clinic will find this day in heart and mind for many years to come.  Can you find women who use abortion as birth control? Yes. Can you find women who say it is just a fetus? Yes. Can you find women who say that life doesn’t begin until birth? Yes. But not every Baptist is a Westboro Baptist, either.

7.       Stop believing that abortion is more of a sin than lying, cheating on taxes, lust in your heart, adultery. Many pro-lifers frequently act like they are attempting to save those would-be abortion choosers from the jaws of Hell.

Every time you pray for a woman who is considering abortion, ask God to bring your most recent sin to mind and ask him to reveal which sin He considers to be worse.
Sobering, isn’t it.

I believe that Jesus calls us to different things. Many active, staunch pro-lifers I know are God-fearing and feel led to lead pro-life ministries. Do it. But ask Jesus why he didn’t hold a sign at the well that read, “Adultery is evil.”
He just talked to the lady, loved her, and changed her life.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

God and Flashing Neon Signs

Lying there, my head on his chest, I am reminded of Anne Lamott's Rosie. How the mom's feet were alone at the foot of the bed, though her bed was not empty.

This is my favorite place to be, when it is dark. Quiet.

Though indecision cloaks the air.

We both have reached the same conclusion-about where it is God is leading. Just we are never there together. He is solid one day, and I am resistant. The next we reverse.

"How I wished God had a flashing neon sign."

A common utterance since my adolescent days. Then. Then I would know for sure just what it was He wanted from us. From me.

"I think I know, but then something new happens, and I can't be sure. I wish I had some concrete sign."

"The Israelites had one. They still screwed it up." My husband’s voice, the delicate pragmatism, cautious because though he is right, I am a better arguer.

I remember from Bible School days, Moses leading by fire at night and a cloud during the day. A flashing sign, looming before him.

Still the people doubted, made a golden calf to worship-a tangible God. Ignored the majesty that was smoke and fire.

I wonder if Moses did too, his heart tentative, asking the Lord if He was really, really sure this was the way to go. Did he question the burning bush; explain away his white hair after coming down the mountain?

And what if my flashing neon signs are all around? Explained away as coincidence, luck, misfortune?

Maybe the voice-the nudging, nagging thought is His flashing sign. It is just us, me, who wonders if He is really, really sure of the direction. If it were there in print and lights, would I still wonder if it was what He wanted?

Wondering if it not the flashing neon signs I am missing, but the faith to believe them.

Monday, April 15, 2013



It was all I could mutter when a nurse down the hall brought her phone. The live stream showed the recent aftermath of the Boston explosion.

"Jesus, help us."

I cannot pretend to know their fear, their pain.

My father and I were having this conversation recently-the one that is being played across Twitter, Facebook, and in living rooms.

What is the world coming to? When did our world get so bad? What has happened?

Today, I wanted to skip the allergy shots and homework, bunker down in our first floor apartment and wait.

But the shot needed gotten, the dog was still at the vet. We were almost out of milk.

My dad pointed out that every generation imagines itself the worst, the hardest-working, living in the most dangerous world there is.

We have 9/11, Sandy Hook, and now Boston.
The 90s had Oklahoma City, Columbine.
The 80s had the Iranian Hostage Crisis, attempted assassination of Reagan. Apartheid
The 70s had Vietnam, Agent Orange, SDS bombings.
The 60s had the Civil Rights Movements, the killings of Civil rights activists near Philadelphia, bombings including one that took 4 beautiful Birmingham girls in the House of the Lord.
The 50s had the Cold War, bomb shelters, imminent threats of Nuclear War.
The 40s had Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Auschwitz.
And so it went on, each generation with its on fears, threats, and dangers.

"We didn't have to worry when we were kids." Quoted by people from 25 to 60.

Thought @ 35, I remember somehow knowing Adam Walsh's head was found severed from his body, harmed by scary people somewhere in broad daylight. He had been in K-Mart.

News reports from when I was in the first grade, a white van abducting children. My brother at 10, taking a knife to school.

My mother remembers her high school classmate murdering his stepmother, 50 years ago in a quiet Mississippi town.

Recent society can recall Jonestown, anthrax-tainted mail, Son of Sam, Oklahoma City, the assassinations of Robert and John Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

A generation or two removed recall the bombs of Berlin and Paris, suicides as the stock market plunged, bread lines, rations.

Graves hold the fears and stories of those who came before: Jesse James, the Titanic, the assignation of Frans Ferdinand, the Civil War, Jim Crow.

The tragedy the human heart can inflict is rivaled only by the resilience of the human soul.

May Jesus carry those affected by the tragedy of today.

May he make the rest of us brave so that we will carry own in this world because He has work for us to do. And how selfish of us to wish His return before every soul can hear of Him.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On being tattooed and Christian

I dye my hair, more than one color.

I have enough tattoos that they are measured in hours, not number.

I still have somewhat of a potty mouth, though I am recovering.

I want Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the USA.

And I don't think the government should get to decide what happens in a uterus or a bedroom.

I am a Christian. I love Jesus, and He alone has saved me.

Sometimes all these pieces don't add up to what I think a Christian woman should look like. Sometime they don't add up to what society thinks a Christian woman should look like. Frequently, they don't add up to what the church thinks a Christian woman should look like.

I am drawn to women who identify their beliefs via uniform. Crushed when I discovered all nuns did not have to wear habits. I will gaze, longingly even, at the Mennonite women in our community (so much so that my husband has kicked me under the table), dying to know the difference between the black and white head coverings. Wanted to join in on the conversations of Pentecostal women I see at restaurants. To me, these women wear the uniform of a Christian.

I struggled to make those garments mine, struggled with what I thought I should be. I have covered tattoos, avoided political discussions, wanted to bake and preserve. I even tried to stay at home once.

Because I assumed that is what Jesus would want a Christian woman to look like.

I married a good man. He is God-fearing, love your wife as the Lord loves the church, Sunday school attending, Republican, music minister's kid who by all accounts should have married the quiet girl who sings in the choir.

Once I asked him, "Are you sorry you married a crazy lady?"

His only response, "I am sorry I didn't marry her sooner."

He chose me.

All of me: the single mother, the tattooed flesh, the overuse of the word a@#, the doubter.

So did Jesus. Jesus chose to make me, the way I am. He knew before I was thought of the bad choices I would make, the suffering I would both cause and endure and he still made me.

 (I wish I could take credit for the following revelation, but I can't; I read it in a blog comment somewhere. Thank you to whoever wrote it. Yes, God knows exactly how we are going to screw up before we do it. Remember when David asked God if he could build the temple. God told David that his son would build it. His son. God and David had this conversation before Bathsheba, before the death of David's first child, before Solomon. God KNEW exactly what was in store for David. He didn't just use David's mistakes for the glory of God.)

Knowing all these things, God still made my flesh, loved me, commanded me (just as He commanded every other believer) to love Him most, love others, and make disciples.

And because I believe in Him, I am a Christian.

May I focus on people seeing this by my actions and not worrying about my uniform.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


My husband is convinced that I will name any future children Olivia, Stabler, and Fin. He is probably right.

I watch Dance Moms with varying expressions of incredulities, disbelief and shame. I have watched more than one Honey Boo Boo, IN A ROW. There is (unfortunately) little shame in my guilty pleasure. But I cringe when I see advertisements for Cheer Perfection; I turn the channel before it comes on and think happy thoughts if I happen to hear recaps from someone else.

I was a cheer mom. The WORST kind--the loud, always-right, takes-it-way-too-seriously, has a talented kid who I embarrassed--cheer mom.

We fell into cheer; baby girl was about to start kindergarten and taking a tumbling class at a local gym. She wanted to sign up for a cheer clinic, and the instructor let her, though she was not yet 6. The rest is history.

She is super talented, can do handsprings and tucks and jumps.

But super talented isn't always enough when you're a cheer mom. I compared. I fussed. I complained. I pushed. And in the end, none of us loved cheer.

Life happened. I married and moved hours away; baby girl had to sit out since we moved midseason. Midseason turned into sitting out a full season and rec classes. The husband and I shared carpool duties to dance and tumbling. Carpool only, never darkening the door of the gym.

I was cured.

UNTIL. Until she told me she missed it. Missed the routines, the workouts, the competitions. And we delved back in, looking for a gym for next season.

We stumbled upon one in a neighboring town; the coach wanted her to come for a workout and get a feel for the group.

I felt a little like someone in recovery, walking into a bar again. I asked my husband to pray without ceasing while we were gone, and I asked my daughter if I could watch her while she worked out.

"Will you be nice?"

I didn't have the heart to ask if she meant to her or everyone else, but I nodded and added, "If I will make you uncomfortable, I will wait in the car." 

I was pardoned and took a seat in the lobby. She shook hands with the coach and started to stretch. As they progressed to tumbling, she moved from the line and came to stand beside me.

"I'm scared."

I wish there wasn't that little part of me that wanted to say 'Suck it up and just go out there.' But there is. It is ingrained, deep. The professional woman. The single parent. The survivor. We don't admit to fear.

Then there is the mom. A role that is evolving, that I am learning still, even if I'm not always comfortable.

The mom spoke, "It is OK to be scared. You haven't cheered for a while. Just take a breath and do whatever pass you want."

She leaned on me for a while, her body only two inches shorter than mine, her strong legs against my seated torso, her elbow on my shoulder.

And I think of all those nights, sharing a bed, her infant body resting in the curve of my hip. As a toddler, tiny toes pressed into my back. Lying closer wrapping her limbs around me as she grew. Never close enough for her. Her breath light on my face as she slept.

When I married, she picked out a new bedroom set, moved down the hall to her own bed. How I worried that she would be afraid without me. She straightened her pink zebra blanket and never looked back.

"Mama gets scared sometimes too."

And she left, joined the line, and looked at the coach when it was her turn.

I was amazed to watch her in the air. I had not seen her tumble in over a year. Flips with no hands, high into the air. Light on her feet as she landed.

And she looked at me. She was waiting to see where I would have her improve, what she could have done differently, better.

She got a thumbs up.

She shrugged, smiled, and got in line again.
This was my second chance. My second chance to watch my baby girl do something she loves. My second chance to encourage and support. My second chance to be involved.

Thankful today that I serve the God of second chances. Not only cheer mom, do-overs, but renewed every morning. Thankful that my God has given me more than a second chance.

The coach asked baby girl join the senior squad for the last competitions of this season.

She was thrilled.

I was nauseous.

But we both went forward.

I am still a work in progress, but enjoying watching her excel.

I let her coach, coach.

And I am her mom. A CHEER MOM, with a second chance.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

They shoot fat women, don't they: an ode to Suzanne Sugarbaker

Baby girl was nearing 12 weeks old: her thick black hair crooked on her head, like a preacher's toupee. She is cool in her onesie; Mississippi temperatures well above 75 in April.

Dr. L_____ walked in, no knock on the door, "Miss K_____, you're fat and you're going to raise fat children."

I pulled baby girl tighter to my chest, stood and said, "Then, I guess it is safe to assume your children are a@#holes."

And I left.

I always thought I was heavy, was told I was; though the few pictures salvaged from Katrina show a different story. I was always tall for my age, lacked toothpick or willowy limbs, with a round face and soft middle. Late elementary school would have me filled out, nearly 5'7", curvy, developed early, cutting short my neighborhood football career.

The boys in my class had eyes only for the other girls: short and tiny, with perms and bangs. It was my older brother's football teammate who first told me I was pretty; though with no one's echoes it fell on deaf ears.

After over a decade in scrubs, it is time for business dress. Today, I tried to shop for work clothes. Our small, college town has limited choices, but JC Penney's is good for black pants. I browsed the small store having been there as recently as a few weeks ago, but could not find the plus size section. The store clerk told me, "THEY took out our Women's section."

And just like that, the fat women were gone.

My body has been my enemy as long as I can remember. The large breasts and rounded behind gave way to thick curves and ultimately soft flesh filling out all the available space.

No amount of exercise would give me long legs and thin arms, not my body's natural shape.

And so I opted to not try at all, just eat what I enjoy, and focus on anything but my body.

My husband thinks I'm beautiful. I remember after a double-date, a friend telling me that she wished her boyfriend was proud of her in public the way my husband was of me. But despite his desire, I never liked my body.

I didn't want to raise baby girl with those same feelings. As a toddler, we would stand together in the mirror and both exclaim how beautiful we were. Though everyone has always told her how beautiful she was, even now as she is growing up, I remind her of all her strengths; her beauty included.

But today at Penney's, there I was with no department to represent me. Nothing above a size 14 in the whole store. And for a fleeting moment, I was once again mad at my body.

Then I was pissed at Penney's. How dare they scrub the store of a large percentage of the population? Who are they to decide plus size women don't need a place to shop? And though there are no other stores within 30 minute of me, I won't be darkening the door of JC Penney's again!

So today, I'm going to forgive my body and the woman who made it fat. It has, after all, survived relatively unscathed for over 35 years. It made, grew, and birthed the most beautiful baby girl I could have imagined. It lets me get up and work every day. Don't get me wrong, I am trying to treat it better (no soda, no fast food, organic and whole foods), but I am not waiting for thinner to be proud of my body and what it does.

So to JC Penney's and Dr. L______, yeah I'm fat but I'm beautiful, too.