It’s Gonna Be May..

I’m all about the song titles I guess. I really meant to post this last night, but I couldn’t finish it. It felt overwhelming and too much. And so, well, I put it off.


I’ve been bombarded by the title phrase above, and the associated GIFs and Memes. It is indeed about to be May: with that comes a lot of emotions.

May is filled with flowers and cards and commercials and pictures and gifts: Mother’s Day. This is year two. The first Mother’s Day was way too quick. But the mention of the holiday still takes my breath away. It stifles my conversations and makes my eyes fill with tears. I don’t like talking about it because I don’t like having to say “my mother is gone, has passed, is no longer with us”. None of those phrases really capture what is. Because she is still her, just not the same way. Her physical presence may have passed but her spirit is still alive and well. She is always and will always be with us.

I sense that Mother’s Day may always put a lump in my throat. It will always beriberi with emotion, at least until I have kids of my own (which is not in the near future). And then it will just be full of a different emotion. I’ll think about giving her flowers every year because it was tradition, it was our special thing. And I don’t think I ever have her anything else. I’ll think about cooking for her or taking her to lunch after church. It’s the little things. The things that make me pause, and smile. The things that sometimes make a tear run down my face. Wonderful memories through the emotions. These memories are still deeply imprinted on my heart. And I’m thankful for each and everyone.

Je t’aime, maman. Tu es mon joli papillon, toujours.

Carousel of Progress

I habitually listen to NPR when I am driving in the car (or when I am riding with my dad in his car). It stems, I’m sure, from all of the years he would listen to NPR on the radio when my sisters and I were growing up. Because the car always had one of three things playing: NPR, CSNY’s So Far album cassette, or Steppenwolf. I love many of the shows on NPR, and because I don’t watch news on TV, it’s where I get most of my news.

They are undergoing one of their semi-annual pledge drives this week. There have been stories and quotes of why people choose to listen and why they choose to be members. Many of those have included comments about NPR as an unbiased news source (meaning they don’t lean politically liberal or conservative). This has made me think a lot about whether I believe that to be true.

Before really having reason to consider it, I would claim NPR to be a liberal news source. Sure, I think they have a good record of having representations from both sides of the aisle, so to speak. But my perception has always been to categorize it as liberal media. But maybe that isn’t actually the case. Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is denoted them as progressive instead of liberal. In some ways that was a mind-blowing revelation for me. Arguably progressive and liberal are two very different things. You can be moderate and progressive. You can be conservative and progressive. So, liberal and progressive really aren’t interchangeable adjectives as some people may claim them to be.


Then I started thinking about and applying this to my own beliefs and who I am. For a long time I’ve categorized myself as liberal, and at some points (especially during college) have claimed that to an extreme. But has that ever really been a fair assessment of me?

At this point in my life, whether because I’m older or because my own experiences have changed me, I’d consider myself a moderate. I don’t think the world is as black and white as I once did in terms of my beliefs and the people who hold office and represent myself and my voting “peers”. The world is more complex than merely siding along party lines. It’s more complex than believing with a narrow path of absolutes.

So I happily claim myself as a Progressive. We have to have change in order to move forward, even when it’s difficult. We have to be willing to be in conversation with one another in order to understand the other perspective and how we can best serve one another. I can be progressive and that doesn’t mean my views won’t change over time. I can be progressive and believe whatever I do about human rights, women’s rights, gun rights, educational rights, etc.

Being progressive is only a piece of the puzzle. But I wholeheartedly believe it makes me a more approachable human being, a human being who listens to learn and understand, a human being who recognizes the easy answer or the obvious answer is not always the best answer. I am human, I have faults–we all do. But we need to do better.


I started this blog post with a completely different title. Originally it was titled “Black or White,” referencing Michael Jackson’s song. But as I got to the last paragraph there was a completely different song going through my head:

There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow is jut a day away.

Man has a dream, and that’s the start. He follows his dream with mind and heart. And when his dream’s become a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me.

So there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow’s just a day away.

Disney’s Carousel of Progress, originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, is the home of this song. Currently, this “ride” is housed at Magic Kingdom at WDW. One of my dad’s favorite rides, it was a staple for our family trips to the park. It’s not the flashiest ride, but there is a great deal of nostalgia about it. And I think it exemplifies that progress keeps us moving, keeps us learning, keeps us working together.

PG-18

The phone rang. I knew the number, I knew what the conversation would be about. And instead of instantly sending it to voicemail I merely silenced it this time. And then a switch flipped in my brain and I said, “what the hell, I’ll answer it”. And I did. “Hello, this is ___________ from Ohio Wesleyan, how are you this evening?” And so it began.

I have a love/hate relationship with my alma mater. Okay, really it’s love-80/hate-20 relationship. I met some of my best friends there, learned a lot about who I am, and cultivated my outlook on life. I have wonderful (memorable) stories, and memorable (not so wonderful) stories. But OWU holds more than just my college days, it holds a part of my career start. My first full time gig, even though I knew it was temporary. And those memories and lessons are priceless in their own way.

But back to this phone call. I knew it would be about money. I can identify the call source by the phone number. The first 6 digits denote an OWU number. The last four numbers show the specific office. -2024. That’s the call center. I used to work the call center as a student, on the Admissions/Recruiting side. But, as I am not currently a prospective student (nor am I supporting a prospective student) I knew it would be the annual giving side.

I have an agreement with myself that I won’t give to my alma mater. Nothing against the institution, I have made it a point that until I pay off my student loans (really, it’s paying off the cost of attending The ‘Wu) I won’t give financially to them. I’ve given back to the community in other ways: helped with Admissions events in Indy, called families of prospective students, sent supplies to my sorority for recruitment. But money won’t happen until my student loans are at zero.


That was until this college sophomore started talking to me. He was a quick speaker, so I didn’t catch his name. But I can tell you they trained him well. He connected with me on our interest in religion and passion for Youth Ministry. “This won’t work,” I thought. “He won’t rope me in”. And then he had the nerve to say, “I’m actually in a religion class right now, I wonder if you ever had this professor…” I doubt it. There can’t be many of the same professors. “It’s a class on Ethics with..” <beat> “…Dr. Twesigye.” Dammit. How did this kid know that would seal the deal?


Dr. Emmanuel Twesigye is one of the most unique (that’s putting it lightly) professors I have ever had. Short in stature, big in social and moral compass. Forced to flee Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin, he is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met, though you may just write him off as a crazed evangelist from first glance.

What I learned in his classes had little to do with reference material or scholarly works. But it had everything to do with digging deeper, questioning, debating, and looking at different points of view. Sometimes, there were cultural barriers in the way he taught. Often times he made me laugh without meaning to be funny. But he made me think in ways that were counter to my everyday thought processes. And that is something that is priceless.


Some of my favorite Twesigye memories include the following:

“Why do you think Babe thought about commuting suicide?” Definitely not something I had ever thought about when watching Babe. But now it’s something I’ll never forget.

“Oh, you are drinking Passion Tea! Does it give you passion.” I have never seen Sam Chesser and Greylyn Hydinger laugh as hard as I did in this moment.

“Oh, PG-18..” well, you see there is PG-13 and NC-17 but…well never mind.

His love for Tillich will always be the source of my connection to Tillich.

When we impersonated our Religion Professors for the Religion Department t-shirts I knew there was only one person I could be. I make a pretty good white, female Twesigye. I have the shirt to prove it.


Long story short, I told that sophomore student to send me a link so I could make a donation online. I am breaking my rule, but Twesigye is worth it.

“Take a look at yourself and then make a…change”

Sometimes we need change in our lives–for any myriad of reasons–some for good reasons, some for sad reasons, some because we are bored. I have found myself in the season of change recently. I’m trying to take better care of myself: regular hair cuts, working out several times a week, drinking more water, being more intentional about my relationships. It can be difficult, especially at this time of year because it’s my “busy” time at work.

I’m learning more and more that I need to allow myself time for me, for relaxation, for growth, and for being the best that I can be.

I recognize I’m not perfect. Sometimes I beat myself up for it though. I don’t like failure, even though it helps me grow. I, admittedly, don’t like being wrong–but I’m getting better at admitting when I am wrong. And I really don’t like disappointing other people, but I am learning to let that go and not let it consume me to the point of forfeiting myself.

The last month or so has provided clarity to some situations, and direction for dreams and goals that I have. Those things are still developing–and could be for a while, that’s a part of growth. It’s scary and exciting, but I think all change has tinges of both. We take risks. We try new things. And we rely on God, knowing he is with us through it all. And ultimately we can’t run away from what He calls us to do.

So I’ll keep searching, discerning, and working toward making me my best self. Another year older, more perspective, and lots of revelations. It feels good to make me my priority, even though a small piece of me will always feel guilty about it.

Invisible

I’ve been incommunicado for a little more than a week. I haven’t had access to email or text (for the most part) and the only way I’ve really had contact with the outside world has been through social media (mostly to check in on family).

It’s been strange, but really it has been absolute bliss. There aren’t a lot of times or places in today’s world that we can disconnect and leave our screen time, instant update, technology addictions behind. And honestly, disconnecting and disengaging from work is typically my hardest part of vacation. Because I feel that I need to be available. I don’t want to upset anyone. And leaving things (important and pressing or not) undone for 5-9 days is stressful for me.

But I’ve learned a few things this week.

  1. The work will wait. When you come back it will either be there waiting for you to accomplish or someone else will have taken care of it.
  2. Time away, disconnected, is good for you. And extremely important. Otherwise you aren’t recharging fully and won’t get the most out of your time off. Your work gives you time off in order for you to be refreshed–it’s vital to them for you to not burn out or be overly tired. Take advantage of it. It will make you a better employee.
  3. I don’t need technology/email/social media as much as I think I do. But if it’s in front of me, I will use it. So I think I am going to start some sort of monthly tech detox for myself.
  4. Photos are amazing. They drive our culture, help us tell stories, fuel our passions, and help us remember. But they aren’t the end all be all. Remember to take time to enjoy tour surroundings, and don’t live all of your experiences from a view finder.
  5. It’s always good to budget more money for trips and vacations than you think you will need. But when you have money left over put it away as a jump start for your next adventure.

These lessons have been good for me. The time away has been good for me. Taking naps everyday and being outside in the sun every day has been good for me. I may not be ready to reenter the land of snow, but I sure am ready to get back to snuggle our cats, see my kids, and get back to the gym and other routines.

Things Remembered

My mom and I shared a special bond, each of my sisters and I had our own special bonds with her. But in the time she was in hospice our relationship changed in ways I’ll never fully be able to articulate to anyone. It was precious time, difficult time but still very dear to my heart. Our conversations varied, her moods varied, and my ability to just enjoy the time varied.

But one afternoon as we were having a serious conversation she asked me what I would remember about her when she was no longer here on earth. I came up with a few things, but before I came back the next time I had a list of about 20 that I typed up and printed out for her. I have this list saved on my computer, I also have a copy of it in my wallet, and my dad has the copy I gave to my mom. By no means was the list exhaustive, but it was comprised of the items that immediately came to mind when asked.

I’ve found over the last year that many things could be added to the list:

  • New books by favorite authors
  • Sewing projects
  • Carrie Newcomer events
  • Silly moments
  • Butterflies
  • Math problems

The list could go on and on. It’s hard to get through those moments I see her, or feel her, or something makes her come to mind. It’s hard but I am thankful for those glimpses. Sometimes when faced with remembering, it feels like waves are crashing against me harder and harder until I go under. Sometimes the remembering just makes me feel adrift at sea, as if I’m weightless without direction–caught in the mist. And sometimes I can feel the warmth and joy of the memories as if they have just happened, fresh and new.

I’ve learned that all of those rememberings are important. They are a part of my grieving, and a part of rediscovering myself, because this experience has changed me. That’s not good or bad, it just is. Every event in our lives gives us a new layer of ourselves because we are molded by the situations and people that surround and interact with us. I am thankful for change, and growth, and the opportunity to see things differently.

A few short days and the anniversary will be here. And I am bound and determined to make it a day of sweet memories: not those wrapped up in a bow, but those that are examples of her strength, her beauty, her stubbornness, her intelligence, her grace, her tenacity, her kindness, her diligence. Those are the memories I choose for this anniversary. The memories that aren’t sugar coated but are the best examples for who she was and how she raised me.

I miss you, mama, everyday. But thank you for making me strong. Thank you for making me stubborn. Thank you for teaching me to not silence myself when I need help, have questions, or disagree. Thank you for continuing to remind me of the importance of love and compassion. Thank you for being my inspiration, now and always.

Where’s the Calm

My life this next week or so feels like it is coming on too quickly. The 18th will mark one year since my mom passed. And every part of me is rejecting that notion. They say (don’t ask me who they is) that there is a calm before the storm. But I don’t think there’s the same occurrence in the storms of our life.

Part of me worries that I’m not thinking of her as often as I should be. That she’d be upset or sad by the fact that she’s not omnipresent in my mind. That she is having major FOMO right now. But then Shelly and I watch a tv show or movie and there is a character whose mom is sick or dying or already gone. And we sit there in shock. Let me tell you, there are lots of tv shows and movies like this. You don’t realize it until its something your body can’t help but respond to.

It sure feels like there is already a storm raging inside of me. And I know it will only get more intense as the week moves on. But I am hopeful: hopeful that I am making her proud, hopeful that she is happy, hopeful that this will just be a part of my growth on the journey.

And then I feel her presence and know I don’t have to hope, because all of those things are true.

Cyclical

I’ve been writing this blog in my head since my last post.  Writing and rewriting and editing and scrapping everything because it didn’t feel right.  Not the right time, not the right place, not what I needed right now.

Grief does two things to me I have found:  it pushes me inward and closes me off from the world around me–it causes me to focus on me and my tight knit circle who I love and trust.  But it also does somewhat of the opposite because it also makes me super needy–I covet communication with my closest friends–I covet their support and words and love and embrace.  I reach out often, probably way too much.  I become that girl.  And sometimes I fear it makes me too clingy and overbearing.

I’ve cancelled a lot of plans recently.  It’s nothing against those people or events.  I just am discovering more and more what I need.  And I am allowing myself to hold fast to that.  I have no apologies for it.  Explanation when it involves members of my tribe, but never apologies.  That wouldn’t be true to me or what I need.  And just a word of warning–I don’t plan to apologize for doing what I need to in order to grieve.  My grief is mine, no one else’s, and I won’t be held to someone else’s expectations of what my process should look like.  I have to proceed in ways that will heal me and help me grow. So, if I am not reaching out to you: first, don’t be offended but second, please don’t try to insert yourself.  I can only handle so much–and I decide when and what that is. I am sure in your mind its a nice sentiment, but it’s not helpful at this point. I want to be as authentic and real as possible, but I do try to avoid hurting feelings along the way. However, I’m at a place where I can’t forfeit my well-being for someone else’s. I’ve been reminded a lot this week to “do me”. And in an effort to do just that I put out the disclaimer because otherwise it will lead to 1) me coming across as rude in my blatant dismissal of whatever you put forth or 2) my strained, half-hearted, insincere appreciation that is unfounded and untrue.  And those aren’t fair to anyone.  Grief hasn’t hardened me, not in this way.  It has helped me get back to the core of me.  And so, this may seem unseen or unusual–but I have to have authenticity.  Anything less creates chaos for everyone involved.

Thank you to those who have let me cling. To those who have reminded me being “self-centered” is okay. To those who have seen me at my worst and keep coming back. Thank you for listening to what I need. This next week is going to be unbearable. It’s going to shake me to my core. I know I’ll be stuck in a fog of sorts. In some ways I already have been. It won’t ever be solved. It won’t ever disappear. But I do believe it will change and evolve and teach me things along the way. It’s already taught me loads about who I need to be and what I need to go from day to day. It’s taught me about self-care and being unapologetically me. It’s taught me about who I surround myself with and how to rely on my faith when all else fails. This entire experience has seen me grow, and if for nothing else I am humbled by that.

I Find Her in the Words

One month to go. Less than really. And it doesn’t seem any more real than it did a year ago. There’s this strange time between 2/22 and 3/18 that will always leave me in a haze of wonderment.

I talked to one of my many “sisters” today. She brings much solace to my soul through her insight, mystical soul, and youngest camaraderie. Her words today soothed me, enlivened the song in my heart, and reminded me to keep watch.

No one will understand exactly what my grief is like. No one will understand perfectly my journey and purpose on this earth. But several know pieces. And I am thankful for how those pieces and those people are bound together. So when I feel sad or lost or without hope or direction I still have places to turn.

The words of others are just amplifying her words. They are bringing new insight, shedding new light, and constant reminders of her presence and being in the here and now. Today I am thankful for the thin places where I can hear her, where I can feel her, where I know she is reaching out fully of laughter and grace.

I am thankful for the memories other people share so I can continue getting to know her. So that when I am too tired to grasp on to the fragments of her there are still pages flooding in that keep her story in print.

I can remember the joy and wonder she had 30 years ago of being a mom again and welcoming you into this world. May this year and new decade be filled with many blessings and opportunities.

Blessings and opportunities. These are things I can create.

The Month of Me

I believe in birthdays. Especially BIG birthdays. I don’t just like celebrating mine, but others’ special days as well. This year, I turned 30. One of my friends warned me that I would dread my birthday as it neared and that I’d start freaking out about my “impending doom”. But I didn’t. I actually am quite excited about my 30’s. It makes me think of the 13 going on 30 movie quote “thirty and flirty and thriving”.

I’ve made a list for myself of thirty things I want to accomplish in my 30th year. Some are big. Some are small. But I am ready to start tackling them. I’m excited to push myself. I’m excited to try new things. I’m excited to experience the world differently. And it starts now.

This weekend I got to celebrate my birthday with my nearest and dearest friends. Words can’t even describe how much it has meant to me. We’ve had dinners, went to a comedy show, crafted, hosted them in our home for food and games, etc. Time spent with these people makes me so happy. They make me laugh, build me up, and prove to me that I am loved.

I am glad to have found my people. And I am glad to have a close circle. These people are my people (no Biblical pun intended). Friendships haven’t always been easy for me. Life hasn’t always been easy. But having these people along for the ride is wonderful.

Thank you to everyone who made this the best birthday yet. To those who donated to my Facebook fundraiser; thank you. To those who gave me a gift or card or bought me a meal; thank you. To those who showed up and reminded me that I have people in my corner; thank you.