On Getting It Wrong

I can’t seem to write anymore. Each day, I wake up thinking that today will be the day I document what is going on in the world. And, each day, I wake up to a new world that chokes the words from my heart. I am speechless and my writing is rusty. But, the Black Lives Matter movement has impacted me so profoundly that I’m willing to risk sounding ignorant in order to unburden some of this grief.

I know white privilege is real. So, I can’t pretend to understand the pain of Black Americans who have suffered unspeakable acts of racism. I also know that my voice is a privilege and I should use it to speak what is true. If I am a Christian and Christ is the way, the truth, and the light, then I must try to follow His way, share the truth, and spread the light.

The truth is… I have experienced prejudice in my life. I understand the hot, burning shame of being different when you want so desperately to fit in. I grew up (and still practice) an unpopular religion in the heart of the Bible belt. I was told many, many times by my “friends” that I would burn in hell, that I needed to be saved, that I wasn’t a Christian, that my dad had multiple wives, that other kids couldn’t play with me or have me over because of my religion. But, religion is something you can conceal so long as you don’t have to wear something that outwardly identifies you, like a hijab or yarmulke. So, I considered myself lucky and learned how to hide for as long as possible. I learned to minimize my beliefs so I didn’t make others uncomfortable. (“It’s not that I can’t drink sweet tea, it’s just that I don’t like it.” Try saying that in the South.) I learned to laugh in harmony with the crowd when others were targeted — never too loudly, never too quietly — so that no one would notice that I, too, was different. I learned how to blend in. It was never right, never something I was proud of, but I did it to avoid the shame of being different. But, even with this little bit of empathy, I cannot and will never know what it’s like to be a person of color in America and know that no matter what you do, no matter how you try, no matter what you accomplish you will always be reduced to a skin color and nothing more. I hate that. I really do. IT IS NOT FAIR.

I also hate that I have also been prejudiced. I hate that I have passed crowds of young, Black men and felt afraid. I hate that I have heard cars roar down my street blaring the deep bass of rap music and made an assumption about what the driver looks like or how he behaves. (When I also roll the windows down and blare my music on a pretty day.) I hate that I sometimes have to check my thoughts, check my beliefs, check my spirit when a news story pops up about a local crime. I hate that I have done something generous for a person of color and privately, smugly thought “look at me being so kind and clearly not racist,” as if I get a special scouting badge for treating a human like another human. (When I have also been in need of and a recipient of mercy and grace.) It is shameful to me because I never want to make someone feel how I felt at times growing up – judged, misunderstood, condemned, stereotyped, awkward, exposed, terribly, terribly bad. It is shameful to me because racism is the antithesis of what I believe about people and how they should be treated.

Does it make it better that I’m less prejudiced than my parents, who are less prejudiced than their parents, who were probably less prejudiced than their parents and so on? Probably not, no. Probably not because it must, it can’t feel any different to the victims. At least, the shame always felt the same to me whether the person said “you’re going to hell” or the person said “I only want you to be saved because I love you so much.” Both statements meant the same thing. I was wrong. I needed fixing.

I also hate all the things I’ve seen on social media denying that racism exists. It has enraged me — sent me on a blocking, unfollowing, unfriending spree. I have lost respect for people I’ve known my whole life. If you’ve grown up in America — particularly if you’ve grown up in the South — you have SEEN racism. And, if you haven’t, then you are working extra hard to not see it. And, my question is — why? Why not admit it? Why not try to unearth the ugly, rotten parts of ourselves and extract them once and for all? Why do some people feel no responsibility at all and I can’t sleep for all the times I get it wrong – all the times I KNOW I got it wrong?

I’m still getting it wrong. God help me, I got it wrong today. I was walking my dog this morning. If I’m honest, I always walk my dog in a state of fear. There are many days I talk myself out of walking because I’m certain that I’ll be robbed, kidnapped, raped, hit by a car, attacked by another dog, lose control of the leash in traffic, trip and fall into traffic, have a heart attack in the street, etc…. This is not logical. This is what medicated anxiety looks like. But, today, I walked my dog anyhow.

Towards the end of our walk, I saw a home up ahead with two, young Black men in the front yard holding the leash of a pit bull. They hadn’t seen me yet and I thought seriously about turning on another street and taking the long way home. I thought it was possible, maybe even likely, that the pit bull could attack us. I envisioned what I would do if the pit bull came after us. I thought how I might scream, how I might want to murder their dog if it risked the life of my dog, how it might make me unable to walk ever again. I thought how I might be injured, how my dog might be injured. I thought all those things in a split second and thought it would be wise to turn down another road.

And, then I thought how those young men might feel if they looked up to see me — a white woman with a spaniel — turning around to avoid them. And, thought that they might think I was racist, that it might hurt them, that it might confirm what they already think of white women (the “Karens” of the world), that it might, in some small way, move the needle of race relations — at least in my corner of the world, my neighborhood – a little further in the wrong direction. I promise you, I did not know what to do.

In the absence of knowing, I stuck to my original decision and kept walking. I passed those men and their dog and waved and tried to smile. It was fake. I was scared. They could probably tell I was scared. Their dog barked ferociously and strained at the leash. But, they remained in control and we kept walking. The rest of the way home, I felt guilty and foolish and not at all sure if I’d done the right thing or if it mattered at all. Not everyone lives their lives in their heads and questions, analyzes, dissects every decision. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe it was just a big deal to me.

Maybe writing isn’t a big deal either. I don’t have anything profound to say. I don’t have any solutions. If anything, I’m only just confessing that I’m often wrong, that I’m not sure what to do, that I’m so sorry, that I earnestly, wholeheartedly want to get it right. I want America to get it right. And, I pray God will help us.

Oh, and one more thing… I hope you know that Black lives matter to me.

Being Mortal

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The trend for my reading this year seems to be this: heavy.

Recently, I checked out Being Mortal from the library. It’s been on my TBR for awhile, it was checked in, I was looking for something non-fiction and I’ve heard it compared to When Breath Becomes Air, which is one of my favs… so, it seemed like a no-brainer.

I didn’t expect light reading, but I didn’t know that this book would ROCK me.

First of all, it is NOT like When Breath Becomes Air. I mean, I guess it is in the sense that they’re both written by doctors and address death, but they’re totally different books. If you go in expecting WBBA, you’ll be disappointed.

Instead of being a firsthand account of someone dying, Being Mortal addresses death from a somewhat removed standpoint. It discusses how we handle and treat terminal or aging patients. It examines the pros and cons of assisted living and nursing homes. It gives personal accounts of dying patients, including the author’s own father. And, it does everything in a factual, logical way.

Being Mortal is a confrontation on mortality.

It says: here is your body. It will die. Here’s what you need to be ready for. Here’s how to give yourself the best possible life and the best possible death.

The thing that really broke me about this book is the timing…

My mom’s been sick for over a year now. At times, I have more hope than others that she’ll get better. Since her first doctor’s visit, I’ve wished and hoped and prayed that this is all temporary… some trial she’ll endure for a bit and then be released from. Even now, I **still** want that more than anything.

However, while reading this book, she was readmitted to the hospital for another biopsy, which, as per the trend, became more complicated and distressing than expected.

Before reading Being Mortal, I saw my mom’s health journey as a linear path to more and more medical treatments, medicine and interventions until… well, until she was healed. This surgery was just another important step towards normal.

It was a hard thing to accept, but this booked helped me see that my expectations might not be realistic.

I now feel more willing to have the hard conversations and face the realities as they come. Sure, I wish things were better. I wish something would “cure” her. But, now I see that the next medical step may not be the best choice. There will always be one more thing we can do, one more medication, one more test. But, what if that’s not what she wants? What if she decides to be done?

More than anything, I want my mom to be happy. I want her to be comfortable. I want her to feel at peace with her choices. I want her normal to be my normal. I want to respect her and honor her and do whatever I can to make her life easier.

And, when my day comes… because it will… I want the same thing – peace, comfort, love and security. I want to be with my family. I want to be in my home. I want to be surrounded by the people and things I love. I want to leave this world better than I found it and be remembered for the good that I did.

It feels morbid to discuss… morbid to even think about… but, literally – we’re all dying. All of us. And, how we die matters. I think this book helped me accept that more than any other experience in my life.

I’m grateful for reading just the right books at just the right times, even when they’re really, really heartbreakingly difficult.

Mothers & Fathers

Without meaning to, I read a book about mothers and a book about fathers back to back.

The latter I finished as I was sitting at our kitchen table at lunchtime, eating my grocery store sushi, absolutely engrossed in the last few paragraphs of this amazing story. The ending was so good – yet, so heart wrenching – that I felt compelled to read a passage aloud to my poor husband, who wasn’t in the least offended that I was absorbed in a book during his brief lunch break.

“There are things in this world that no human being should be able to endure. We should die of heartbreak, but we do not. Instead, we are forced to survive, to bear witness.” – Noah Hawley, The Good Father

Gaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Doesn’t that just KILL you? So true, so succinct, so poignant.

Needless to say, I enjoyed The Good Father. It’s awful and made me feel ill at times, but it’s amazing.

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It started off like a Dateline episode for me. There’s this catastrophic event and a team of people, led by a zealous father, are trying to put it together. Well, I’ll just tell you since it’s on the book jacket… The father is trying to prove that his son is innocent of murdering a United States Senator campaigning for President. So, very Dateline-mystery-ish plot.

But, beyond the mystery, there was just this really beautiful tale about relationships and choices and regret and how humans can be awful and wonderful, whole and broken all at once.

I didn’t want it to end the way it ended. At times, it felt like a slow motion car crash… I could see it coming, but boy, I refused to accept it right up until impact. But, even so, I got it. I understood why it needed to be that way.

Just before reading this story, I read The Mothers by Brit Bennett.

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This one has similar themes, actually. There’s a catastrophic event (two, actually) that impacts everyone in unexpected, devastating ways. This one is also about relationships, choices, consequences and the sometimes moral duality of human nature.

I should have loved it… yet, it wasn’t for me.

I don’t know what it was. I read it till the end. I admired the writing. I understood the characters. I didn’t judge their choices. It’s just that… I didn’t really love anyone enough to get emotionally invested. I wanted to! I really, really wanted to! But, it just didn’t happen. I closed that book feeling like I’d read something important, but knowing it probably wouldn’t stick with me long term.

On the other hand, the “mothers,” which are the church mothers that act as a sort of Greek Chorus throughout the novel… I LOVED them! Honestly, I could’ve had more of them and less of the main characters!

It always fascinates me, what one person loves and another person hates. It always makes me curious when I surprise myself by loving something I thought I’d hate or hating something I thought I’d love. People are curious, aren’t they?

To wrap it up: one book – meh, one book – ammmaazzinngg. Both worth reading.

So My Mom’s a Reader Now

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Most of my earliest childhood memories involve books.

I can remember my dad reading to me (especially this book) in our worn out recliner every night.

I remember my sisters reading to me in bed.

I remember my mom buying me books and singing to me and doing all the wonderful things moms do… But, honestly, not a lot of reading from her.

My mom’s always been more of a creator than a consumer.

Sure, she’ll read her scriptures. She’ll flip through a Woman’s World magazine that she picked up in the grocery store aisle, scanning for recipes or diet tips (my mom LOVES a diet tip!). Oh, and there was that one time she got hooked on a church book series about pioneers and read all nine books faster than anything we’d ever seen.

But, overall, she likes to do things and make things.

On a quiet evening, we’d most likely find her painting or doing needlework or sewing or cooking… never just sitting around and watching TV or reading.

I’ve just always grown up with this belief that my mom is not a reader. (And, I’ve always secretly envied mother/daughter duos who swap books and stories.)

Well, that’s all suddenly changed.

Last year, my mom was diagnosed with an unspecified lung disease. Basically, the arteries in her lungs collect clots that restrict air flow and drastically reduce her oxygen levels. She’s on medication and stays on a constant flow of oxygen. We’re all praying she’ll completely recover and get back to her old self. But, in the meantime, her lifestyle has drastically changed.

Around the time that my mom got sick, my mother-in-law, who is a reader, began funneling books through me to my mom in a show of goodwill.

I dutifully passed them on, but I was fairly certain they’d be returned unread. No way was my mom reading all those books! And, now that she was sick, she’d be even more stir crazy. Sitting and reading would be torturous for her!

Well, the first stack of books came back. Not only had they been read, but my mom wanted to talk about them.

Then the next stack came back.

And then the next.

And, so it’s gone for the past several months.

My mom is a book addict. I am her dealer. My mother-in-law is her supplier.

It’s really the strangest thing.

She was over at my house last weekend and we were talking about books (because, at this point, we’ve read some in common) and I just had this weird sensation come over me that I was actually having quite the fulfilling, bookish conversation with my mom!

I can’t tell you how much I love this.

But, let me try…

I.love.this.

I also love this lady who is my mother. She reminds me all the time that life is meant to be lived and that you’re never too old or too sick or too anything to reinvent yourself.

Today Will Be Different

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I like Maria Semple.

Like, I really, really, really like Maria Semple.

Here’s the reason why.

I feel like Maria Semple gets it. And, then she says it. Yet, she says it in a way that’s fresh, but not too fussy (see Elizabeth Strout… but toooooooootaallllyyyy different content).

I felt that when I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette last year. 

Yes, it was a funny sorta book. But, beneath the funny was this absolutely human story about what it’s like to be a fairly good, but utterly complex, flawed woman.

Today Will Be Different explored similar themes but with a whole new cast of characters.

You have a creative, complicated narrator (Eleanor), who is trying to cope (not altogether successfully) with her past, while trying to figure out (not altogether successfully) what to do with her future. She holds these incredibly honest internal conversations with herself – one part of her urging, pleading, plodding towards something better, the other part acting purely out of emotion and instinct.

You also have an odd child, who remains lovable in his quirkiness. And, might also be gay. Or transgender. Or just original. (But, it’s not really important either way.)

You have a husband that plays a subtle role, but is beloved and well-meaning, nonetheless. And, holy plot twist, Batman! <—- Not really a spoiler alert.

And, then you just go through one crazy day with Eleanor, plus some flashbacks, plus a short graphic memoir-esque set of illustrations (not kidding, but it’s cool).

It’s funny, yes. But, it’s also suspenseful in a careful sort of way. You never quite know what’s coming because life is messy and it sometimes happens like that.

Though the course of her life and… frankly… the events of her day are – at times – unrealistic, they’re also somehow completely honest and heartbreaking, without actually meaning to be. (See: The kid that cracks a joke about something terrible in his life, oblivious to the audience’s uncomfortable pause of pity.)

I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But, this whole recipe… it works! For me, it TOTALLY works!

I don’t know if Maria Semple is for everyone. Maybe she’s not meant to be. Maybe none of us are meant to be.

Either way, can we just celebrate how awesome it is that there are publishers willing to put something this original out there and writers brave enough to create it?

** Slow clap for Maria Semple **

Versions of Us

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So, I read this book a few weeks ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

It explores three different versions of how two characters – Eva and Jim – interact in each other’s lives,  based on the small choices of a seemingly inconsequential meeting.

In version one, they meet, fall in love and get married. Life ensues.

In version two, they meet, fall in love, but Eva soon finds that she is pregnant (out of wedlock! scandalous!) from her previous relationship. She breaks it off with Jim and marries baby daddy. They both live with unrequited love.

In version three, their initial meeting is completely forgettable. She marries her boyfriend (see version two), he partners with someone else and life ensues. But… they periodically bump into each other as time goes by and feel a strange connection.

Initially, the book was a bit complicated to read. I kept having to refer back to what version I was on. It felt a little messy to me, always skipping around. But, eventually, I stopped trying to meticulously track everything and just read each chapter as it was. After a few paragraphs, it became obvious which version I was on and what was happening in that particular timeline.

The writing was solid, the characters were flawed, but lovely and the sheer bounty of life – in each version – was enthralling. At the end of each story, I sobbed… so, like, for a good three chapters… ceaseless sobbing. Then I had to immediately review the book and read all the other reviews and commentary on it.

What I loved about this book is that it “scratched” that what-if question I toy with all the time. I, myself, have often marveled at how interconnected life can be — how one small decision can change the course of everything forever. It’s easy to fall down the “what if this was different” rabbit hole.

I especially love how it ended – all three times. What I took away from it is that some people are just destined to be part of your story and that, ultimately, everything turns out okay in the end. Not perfect, but okay.

Read this if you’re not afraid of complicated story lines and buckets of tear-shedding.

Quirky Works for Me

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So, sometimes I read a book and I like it, but heck if I know why. This is one of those books. I *think* I found it on Pinterest? I wanna say a must-read list for dog lovers? I am the type of person that loves a good dog-centric book. No shame in admitting it. Some people like romance, others just want a puppy or two. (Except, sometimes I feel like authors get a little sloppy and figure… hey… you’re a dog lover and here are cute dogs that you’ll like… so, let’s forget about any sort of plot, pacing or characterization.)

This book wasn’t that way.

It wasn’t sloppy, but it wasn’t mind-blowing either. It didn’t make me cry, didn’t make laugh… but, it was quirky. And, I think I’ve figured out that quirky works for me. I genuinely liked the main character Jonathan. I really liked the dogs. (It bugged me a bit that the cover dog looks like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and not a cocker spaniel like in the book, but meh…)

I rooted for Jonathan and I was satisfied with the ending, even if it was both far-fetched and predictable.

Sometimes, you just need a book that’s the equivalent of potato salad.

Tasty, predictable, likable potato salad.

When Things Are Too Much

I’m someone who is deeply affected by circumstance.

I wish that wasn’t the case and I’m working on it. But, for now, it’s true.

Generally, when I surround myself with happy things, I’m happy. When I let negativity creep in, I’m sad.

I don’t believe that life can be lived constantly in a positive place. Bad things will happen. Life will spin out of control. Anxiety will grab you by the throat. Fear will stifle your dreams. I believe this is just part of the human existence. To deny it could be spiritually fatal.

Though they say life is about learning how to dance in the rain, I tend to believe life is about recognizing you’re in the middle of a freakin’ storm and figuring out how to get the heck outta there.

So, when things get too much for me, I like to read. In particular, I like to read happy things.

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Mitford is a happy place. The people aren’t perfect, but they’re trying. The main character, Father Tim, is a regular guy who makes regular mistakes and has regular triumphs.

Spoiler alert: The climax of the entire book is when the poor rector has his dog stolen (and eventually returned) by some thugs. So, not too heavy a plot in the grand scheme of things.

Mitford was my “chaser” book when I read Columbine.

But, I stayed there awhile.

Life has been too much lately. Too much uncertainty. Too much stress. Too much discontent.

Spending some time in Mitford was the restorative escape I needed until I could get to an emotional higher ground.

I’m glad to know places like that still exist, even if only between the pages of a good book.

Give Away, Oh Give Away

For Christmas, my hubby gifted me an Etsy gift card. Wow, what an awesome gift! Except, it took me forever to spend it because I wanted everything and, therefore, couldn’t decide on anything. 

Finally, I bought a few small, meaningful items, like this one:

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This bracelet, stamped with a line from one of my favorite books – The Giving Tree, called to me.

I once taught a lesson about this book to a group of youth. While there are many analogies you can draw from it, I focused on how happy the tree was to serve the boy.

There is happiness in service, I taught them.

While I completely believe this to be true, I also have to be honest and say that I often feel like a Giving Tree for my kids. Oh, and… well… I’m not always happy about it.

In the mornings, it’s a rush to get my oldest dressed, fed, organized and ready for school on time.

Meanwhile, my two little ones that stay at home with me are incessant, little need-machines. They need and need and need. Meals. Milk by the gallons. {OMG, we go through SO much milk!} Snacks. More snacks. Entertainment. Discipline. Attention. Guidance. Affection. Social interaction. Help getting dressed. Help tying shoes. More help tying shoes. Help brushing teeth. Help using the bathroom. Help finding a Lego. Help putting on those rubbery Polly Pocket clothes. {Do you know how hard that is??}

And, it never ends! Their needs never fully get satisfied because in five more minutes, they’ll need something else or there will be another mess to clean up or another argument to sort out.

When my oldest comes home from school, it’s the same, but different story. She needs reassurance that she handled a tricky situation well. She needs a listening ear. She needs an ally. She needs snacks. Drinks. Stuff for a project. Help with homework. Understanding. Patience. Problem-solving. That one favorite pair of pants washed, dried and ironed for the next day.

And so it goes until they pass out in their beds.

Some days, I feel I’m getting lopped away, limb by limb, just to be the mom they need.

And, I find it very hard to feel happy about it.

Most days, I feel depleted and resentful and annoyed and overwhelmed and so, so, so tired.

Why can’t I feel as happy as that dang fictional tree?

Here’s what I think…

The tree gave what she had, even if it wasn’t exactly what the boy wanted. I’m guilty of trying to give my kids exactly what they want instead of just giving what I can. I want to solve their problems. I want to buffer negative consequences or feelings. I want them to be happy.all.the.time. So, sometimes I give what I emotionally don’t have. Or, I spread myself too thin. Or, I go too far in trying to please them because I don’t want to listen to them whine about eating another peanut butter sandwich when what they really wanted was grilled cheese. I have to learn how to be happy with what I’ve done, even if they feel disappointed. It’s okay for them to not be completely contented every minute of the day. Really.

Lastly, the tree didn’t preoccupy herself with how her gifts would limit her. If she didn’t have branches, she didn’t stew about never again  waving them in the wind.

Sometimes, I interpret my kids’ needs as something that won’t get met for me.

I hear a crash in the kitchen and think great, guess I’m not getting a shower today. One of them throws up and I think well, I can forget sleeping tonight. One of them is misbehaving at church and I think I suppose everyone knows I’m a terrible mother now.

If I live in the moment like the Giving Tree, give what I have and focus on the giving and not on what’s not personally being met for me, then I believe I can figure out how to be happy (ier).

I want this bracelet to be that reminder. I can be happy. I will be happy.

Confronting Columbine

So, this year I’m doing the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge and was compelled to read “a book in a genre you usually avoid.”

I wanted to go ahead and knock this category out, knowing that it might fall off the list as my enthusiasm waxed and waned throughout the year. (Plus, who wants to read a book they probably won’t like at Christmas? Best get that out of the way now, I say.)

And, so, I went outside my comfort zone and checked out Columbine by David Cullen from the library.

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In order to get through this book, I had to employ my “chaser” method. I’d read a few chapters and, once I felt sufficiently disturbed, I’d read At Home in Mitford. And, at night, fuhgettaboutit. I couldn’t read Columbine at all. (Thank you, Father Tim, for getting me through!)

Despite my desperate desire to abandon this book, I persevered to the bitter end.

Why?

Well, I’m not entirely sure.

I suppose I’m the sort of person who hates to give up on books – even ones that distress me. I’m also the sort of person who doesn’t like giving up on a challenge – even ones that distress me.

But,  I also felt like I was learning… even if I didn’t particularly like what I was learning, it was knowledge nonetheless. And, maybe someday, it would be knowledge I would need to know.

( Aside: To me, knowledge is kinda like that practical item that you stock up on when you find it on sale at the store. It’s not particularly exciting to buy your weight in toilet paper, but I’d rather get it while it’s cheap than have to learn its value the hard & costly & possibly embarrassing way!)

So, what did I learn…

Well, a lot.

But, maybe most importantly I learned how difficult it is for our society, myself included, to acknowledge the reality of evil. We justify things until its reduced down to something we can cognitively accept. We over-analyze things until we can almost sympathize with anyone and anything. Perhaps this is a good thing most of the time. Empathy. Compassion. Introspection. Hope. Forgiveness. These are not bad things! But, sometimes, it’s a huge mistake to underestimate what humans are capable of doing.

For so long, I believed that Columbine was wrought at the hands of two victims, oppressed by systematic bullying, who snapped in a moment of madness. That idea was false. I probably believed that they were both afflicted by mental illness… depression or schizophrenia… or who knows… something biologically beyond their control that collided with a furious anger and erupted in a gruesome way. That idea was also false… to a degree.

Columbine occurred because there is evil in the world. It may be scary to confront that, but shutting our eyes and sticking our fingers in our ears doesn’t make it go away.

Certainly, there were several factors that contributed to this truly horrific massacre and many we can never, ever understand. But, I believe that the bottom line is that Columbine happened because two very angry, sadistic individuals in an act of absolute hatred chose to view human life as disposable.

I believe they each had their own unique issues that propelled them to that fateful day. And, I believe that their plan wasn’t thwarted, despite the many clues they left and the dozens of opportunities friends, peers, coworkers, teachers, administrators, parents, police officers and more had to intervene, simply because no one wants to believe this level of violence and malice exists in this world. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to think about that either.

This book made me deal with those uncomfortable realities.

I don’t believe this level of malevolence is common. I don’t believe the world is a bad place, filled with bad people. But, ignoring the outliers just because they don’t fit with what we want to believe about the world has proven to be catastrophic.

Some things can’t be prevented. It’s scary to accept that. We can’t control everything. We can’t stop everything. Despite all the education, awareness, lawmaking, prevention in the world, this can happen. This did happen.

But, that won’t stop me from praying that it won’t.

My heart aches for the victims of Columbine. For the parents. For the parents of the murderers. For the community. And, for anyone who’s had to directly face this sort of evil.

(PS – I noticed after writing this that I never said the murderers names. I don’t know why that’s hard for me, even in my private discussions of the book with friends and family. Maybe it’s like a Voldemort phenomenon. Or, maybe it’s just that I’m too appalled to give them any credit. I’m not sure. But, there it is.)

Thanks, Jules

I tried the whole hipster no capitalization thing. I don’t think it worked. Hurrah to 2017, where I will be capitalizing properly from here on out.

On the second day of January, I finished my first book of the year.

my-life-in-franch

I’m not interested in cooking, really. It’s a drudgery to me and my kids never eat anything I make and it hurts my feelings and I end up angrily scraping my hard work into the trash and shutting the kitchen cabinet doors much too loudly. Yet, for some unknown reason, I was really excited to read Julia Child’s My Life in France.

Let me be honest. It took me a bit longer than usual to finish this book, considering it got interrupted in the middle by a book gifted to me for Christmas that was much more riveting (soooooorrrryyyy Julia!). And, I will admit that I skipped over some of the long, intricate, French-riddled descriptions because they made my eyes glaze over. Nevertheless, this book still got four stars from me simply because of one thing.

Julia.

Oh man, I loved Julia. She was smart and funny and possessed a keen sense of humor.

What Julia didn’t mention (or didn’t mention often) told more about her than what she did actually write.

The 6-foot-something American was incredibly resilient. She barely touched on the war she survived, made nothing of a marriage that came much later in life than was the social norm, didn’t get lost in the frustration of lost job opportunities and multitudes of injustices, offered maybe two sentences on the disappointment of infertility and just.went.on.with.it. What’s even more, she wasn’t even a chef until deep into her thirties.

Julia had a thirst for learning that defied limitations. Her life came in Acts, each more exciting than the other. There was no complacency, no giving up, no throwing hands into the air.

For this reason, I’m happy this ended up being the first book I read in a new year.

Just like Julia, I would like to just get on with it, already. I’d like to say yes to learning, say yes to new experiences and create a life of happy progression.

Thanks, Jules (I feel like I would have called you Jules). You’ve inspired me to set some lofty goals and look forward to a future of my own creation.

where to go

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i love to read.

i read and i read and i read and i never tire of it.

i ask myself all the time why books are so important. why i can’t fall asleep without reading. sit in a tub without reading. wait for 5 minutes anywhere without reading. why i’ve always got a book tucked in my purse and a running list of library deadlines, fines, requests.

and what i have come up with is this:

there is a feeling i get when i read that cannot be duplicated. it doesn’t come from medicine. it doesn’t come from social interaction. it doesn’t come from television or music.

it is that feeling i’m hungry for. the escapism of it. the examination of life and people. the feeling that i’m learning something, even if it’s only how to be soothed when i need relief.

reading is a solitary experience, yes. but, it’s also a connection. you see the world differently and you begin to accept that the world might even see you differently.

recently, i read: my name is lucy barton by elizabeth strout

it was on my to-read request list for awhile and then it arrived at the library. i wasn’t quite sure what it was about – only that it had high reviews and that i loved the burgess boys (also by strout).

i read this book a few days after spending a week with my mom in the hospital. i was feeling so many things, but not quite sure what they were. honestly, i was too emotionally spent to even really try. i just knew i wanted to escape to whatever book was up next on my queue.

and my name is lucy barton couldn’t have been more perfect.

it is about a mother, sitting with her daughter in a hospital bed, examining, in glimpses, an old life that is painful, but meaningful.

the writing is beautiful.

but, more than anything, this book said the words i didn’t know i felt.

it said that love is imperfect. that families, even at their worst, are important. it said that relationships are complicated and feelings are unpredictable. it said that life is hard, but also wonderful – sometimes at the same time. it said that there is something between mothers and daughters that matters – really, really matters. it said that sometimes we need to go back before we can go forward.

i sobbed through much of this book.

it was the cathartic release i needed.

and this is reading for me – a release, a need.

when my oldest daughter was very little, i was obsessed with engendering in her a love of books. we would bring stacks and stacks of books home from the library, ripping our library totes with the strain of their weight. i would read and read to her until my voice grew hoarse. even after she could read herself, i’d read to her. i didn’t know why it felt so urgent.

but, now i do.

i was trying to tell her, trying to show her where she could go if she needed something.

here. here is where you go.