Advent 2015

I was walking down the street and thinking that it doesn’t much feel like Advent.  But then the shooting happened at that center in California.  So many shootings.  So much death that comes after the cover up of a cop murdering yet another precious Black man in Chicago. 

There it is.  I feel the spirit of Advent.  I feel the urgent need that we have to be redeemed.  I want to fall on me knees and shout ‘Kyrie eleison’ and wail and weep in sackcloth.  How many will die before things change? Who is next?  I am furious and grief stricken and frozen.  We need swift political and cultural change.  We need to be saved from the powers that be and ourselves.  More lives will be lost.  There will be more mass shootings and more cops and people in power will use their power to take the lives of the Black and Brown and the Others among us.

We need someone that will come to us swiftly and overturn systems.  We need the government to be upon the shoulders of someone who will do better.

And then I am reminded of the Advent story in its entirety.  I remember the one who came to save us.

Without fail there are moments in my week where I am so exhausted I am just slap happy and giggling with fatigue.  Children are bickering and I haven’t folded all of the laundry or started dinner for their parents and I cannot hand out pretzels and slice apples fast enough to sustain all of us in our hour of need, or I am video calling a parent as their child is in the throws of a very scary seizure.  I text my friend to stay sane and we exchange stories from our days that revolve around the needs of children.  We are so tired and weary that all we can do is laugh to keep ourselves from weeping.

I see now in this world how much we need political change.  I remember learning about how the Jewish people hoped and waited and prayed for a political leader.  They needed a new King to bring a new Kingdom of peace and justice. 

In the face of real and urgent need, the solution that was sent to the earth was a Brown teenage girl with a baby and a baby-daddy situation that was less than ideal.

People needed saving and all they got was this baby.

I feel like laughing to keep from weeping.

Us: “God, help.”

God: “Here.  Have this baby.”

I imagine myself weeping in sackcloth, pleading my case before God, like Job and Jacob and all the God-wrestlers before me. 

And a Brown girl stumbles before me and places a baby in my arms. 

I laugh hysterically from slap-happy exhaustion. 

Me: “You’re kidding, right?”

Are you kidding us?  Are you kidding me, God?  We need more than this baby if anything is going to happen.  Since when are political and social movements of change launched on the back of infants?

Insert furious weeping and hopelessness.

We asked that our children be spared.  We asked for police to be held accountable.  We asked for honest political leaders.  We asked for justice.  I asked for my marriage to be redeemed and brought back to life.

Children are dead at the hands of trigger happy and racist cops.  Cover ups and corruption are rampant.  Mass shootings are normal now.  I have the memories of a miscarriage.  Divorce papers are on the way.

You did not send enough.  You did not send what we expected or asked for. 

But here we are.  A very forward midwife has yanked down our shirts and placed a very naked new-born baby on our chests.  This is what we get. And it is so absurd.  The answer to our desperate pleas for help is so very insane that I am driven to believe and hope in you because of how ridiculous this solution is. 

You are a God that turns the world and things and us on our heads and you send a babe into a desperate war zone.  You send us the most unlikely of things in the most unlikely of ways and call us to be a people that wait and hope and hope and wait. 

Suddenly I feel the spirit of Advent move by me in a whisper.  I laugh.  Isn’t that always how you work?  You move among us in the ways that we least expect.  You aren’t in the fire or the gusts of wind. 

You are a whisper.  A baby. 

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Considering being made for whiteness

My college roomie has always seemingly been able to pluck the most abstract and disordered thoughts from my strung out and anxious mind, put words to them, organize the words into cohesive and organized statements, and ground me.  I would be remiss to admit that this post was created because of a post from her blog.  She was able to say a thing that I don’t think I ever could have given words to.  It moved me so much because I have carried these complicated feelings with me forever, but I had no idea how to begin sorting through them.  I have been stewing and chewing on my own thoughts since I read her entry.  Here is what I have so far:

I used to think I was made for white people, too.  I still often get stuck in that same old pattern.  Habits are hard to break.

I make white people comfortable.  I am outgoing and as my neighbor Keysha once told me when I was 7 years old, I ‘talk like a white person.’ 

I was raised mostly by a widowed white mother and her parents.  For some reason that remains a family secret I did not have much access to my father’s side of the family.  They did not reach out to me, a small child, and my mother did not reach out to them after my father died.  I was raised by a white woman who knew the white world.  She did not know that she would have to prepare me to navigate the world as a non-white person.  Because I am white.  Right?  I am technically.  But by nature I am kind of not ever white, because I just cannot be.  But yes- look where I come from.  But not at all, never, no.  But also- yes.  But- this is where things get hairy.

My dad never really got the idea across that we needed to be prepared to face the world as people of color when he was alive. And I think my mom thought it would be easier for us.  I assume that she thinks we live in a post racial society and that we are fine.  Well- I am not fine. 

I called my sister, in the middle of a full blown identity crisis when I was in college, and she told me calmly, “take some black studies classes.  you will be fine.”  It felt like she was saying, “take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.”  I took my classes, I made it my major.  It was her major, too.  Africana/African/Black studies courses were how we were able to survive our 20s as biracial women with white mothers.

My classmates were mostly white in my youth.  I found myself in gifted and honors classes in a white suburb.  I studied the violin and classical vocal performance from white teachers and role models and my peers in those disciplines happened to be white.  I was surrounded by white people.  I was comfortable with white people.  White people are my family and they were my friends.  I was everyone’s minority friend.  I just didn’t have the pool of people available to see people and make friends that looked like me.  I became so good at being friends with white people.  I think this is when I started to really feel like I was made for white people.  I diminished myself in so many ways in order to be comfortable for them, in order to be digestible to them.  This is a survival skill.  The things I put up with from some of my social circle in high school are things that nightmares are made of.  I would never put up with that shit now.     

There were a few of us ethnically ambiguous folks that ran in my social circles, and we secretly joked about race and had a familiarity that was comforting.  But that was a secret.  Our non-whiteness was a secret.  Our skin and hair and freckles and family photos betrayed us, but our voices were white.  We were fluent in whiteness. 

I did not know that when I walked on stage, people noticed my waist length curls. People always touch my hair.   My hair was so long and is so curly.  I wore my floor length choral dress and my long, almost black, curls clipped back elegantly out of my face, and I would walk across the stage to sing my solo in latin.  No one knew what to expect from this Mexican-looking girl.  But I sang, and I proved myself worthy with my voice.    They loved to adore the minority girl.  Look at me! Being so good and so ethnic!  But they listened to me.  I was breaking down barriers, right? 

I took voice lessons at a very fancy music school.  I got a scholarship there.  I am pretty sure I got it because I was the only student of color at the school.  I think they thought I was an inner city youth.  Look at them: do-gooders!  My mom drove me one and half hours out there every other week for 2 hours of lessons.  When recital time came, my voice teacher had me go first because she knew none of her other students had the nerves or the chops to do it.  She told me that.  And then I sang, and the owner of school, an elderly white man, was so proud to have me at the school.  Young, talented, and colored!  

I was there for white people.  I made them feel good about themselves.  I was breaking down walls with my presence.  I was doing work for all the other brown kids like myself, wasn’t I?  I was an ambassador?  I was opening doors for others?  Maybe I did do that- at least that is what I tell myself.

Something happened to me a few years ago when I was in the midst of a very serious Bible study at a well-known liberal church.  The church is mostly upper class white folks.  I could walk to the church, and I enjoyed the rigorous curriculum.  Everyone there registered voters, volunteered, donated to NPR, loved Obama, the theater and social justice.  They loved farmer’s markets, and supported living wages, but they also were rooted in whiteness, cemented in whiteness.  They loved that I could play with the big boys when it came to religious talk.  My Christology isn’t very high, but I use phrases like “High Christology” and white people really like that.  I was one of the only people that came there with a strong foundation of Biblical  knowledge (Holla!), and a past where I had grappled with trying to live Biblical principles in the world.  I was also a token minority person for their church. 

I almost ripped my hair out of my scalp so many times there.  We read a book by an African author, one of my favorite books, and a thesis of the book was, “our culture is more complex than stereotypes.”  A well-meaning white person would say at the potluck dinner discussion, “my favorite part of the book was this insert stereotype-the-author-was-specifically-trying-to-battle aspect of the culture.”  I stood up to the person who said it and said, “No.  That is the exact opposite of the entire point of this book.  No.  No.  No.”  And suddenly I broke out of my place of being complicit to whiteness.  I pressed on and read portions of the book back to him to prove my point.  Others took his defense.  I became the angry minority.  I fought hard.  I mean- these are educated people, they have to be hearing what I am saying.  They didn’t.  I left that night feeling exhausted, unseen, and angry.  I did not obey the rules of whiteness, so I was seen as crazy and overreactive and ridiculous.  They did not see that it was a big deal.  They did not see that the whiteness that they clung to and defended within this book about a culture being torn apart had ramifications for me and for all of us now. 

I either submit to whiteness and I accept my place in being made for it, or I fall on the outside, banished from some of my community.      

The moment I realized I was a friendly token minority person to befriend, I felt used.  White people like to have me around because I am their free one-way ticket out of racism town.  When I am on their docket, they no longer have to be responsible.  White people love me.  They adore me.  They love how liberal I am.  They tell me that they listen to NPR, too!  They even donate!  They voted for Obama, too!  They listen to my stories and they want to see all my scars and wounds from racism, not knowing that they are giving me new bruises and scrapes with their voyeurism. 

I tried to stay in that study for as long as I could.  I wanted to be a voice, that voice that they would listen to.  But I was outnumbered.  I felt the push back every 0nce in awhile, and only one or two people would notice and they would take some of the attack upon themselves (bless them) to try to give credibility to my words.  But that was just a bad situation to be in.  Someone should not have to vouch for me.  Someone white should not have to vouch for me, in order to make my words true and worth hearing.  I was made for whiteness, but I started to break the rules of whiteness.  I left the group.

I cannot describe how heartbreaking it is to realize that I have been befriended by a white person in order to be their token.  I do not doubt that they like who they think I am.  My voice, speaking and singing, makes me palatable to them.  That is until they get to really know me.  Get me going on privilege, history, our currency, feminism, and they look betrayed.  They yell at me!  How dare I not be their model minority friend who makes them comfortable and is complacent with their racist jokes.  How dare I question their dedication to social justice.

Sometimes the realization doesn’t happen until very far into the relationship.  And that makes it even worse.  The moment I realize what is going on, I can hear an audible crack in my soul.  I walk across all the shards of glass and I weep.  I feel stupid.  I feel used.  I can’t believe I did it again.  I promise myself to never let myself be in that situation again.  My skin gets even thicker.  My walls go up higher.  My game face gets harder.

A few weeks ago I was walking down the street, and a woman yelled out at me from across the street, “Go back home, spic,” she spat, “Take your family home.”  And then she trailed off with other, lesser, obscenities.  At first I thought she said something else or was talking to someone else.  I think I wanted to hear something else from her.  I really wanted her to have shouted something crazy and yet still friendly or neutral.  It shook me when I realized what had happened.  I try to keep myself safe from that kind of thing based on the social life I have created for myself.  I make friends with people that are “other” and with people that do not fit.  I like it with them.  We are family.  We are the same.  They know what it is like to be made for whiteness, and then to fail at whiteness, even if their minority status is based on gender or sexual orientation or class.  But I can only keep myself so safe.

I feel that I was made for whiteness.  And no matter how carefully I cultivate my social life, I cannot escape that I am at the mercy of of whiteness.  It surrounds me.  I am a child of it.  It engulfs me. 

Jesus lived for the love of people

 

Jesus died for our sins.  He died for the sins of mankind.  

These phrases are familiar to me.  I was raised with them.  I am sure I parroted these words when I was as young as 4 years old.

I hate them now.

I want to flip this phrase.  I want to reorient the main focus of those ideas.  Those phrases are not helping us out.

Jesus lived for love.  Instead of him dying for sins, what if we said he lived for love.  It’s the same thing, right?  It is the same thing, except it totally is not; and I sure do love my paradoxes.  I do not know why we are so obsessed with sin and death.  I thought the whole point of Jesus was that those two things became moot.  

The exceptional thing about Jesus was the overwhelming love, right?

Jesus lived for love.  He came to love all people.  

What if we all said that instead?

I was recently speaking to an old friend about my thoughts on a specific interpretation of one of the ten commandments.  I was raised with a very shallow, and theologically appalling, understanding of the commandment.  I was raised that to say, “Oh my god!” was taking the Lord’s name in vain.  After doing some in depth study, I found that scholars over the centuries interpret this commandment in a different way.  One breaks this commandment by representing God in a way that is completely contrary to God’s character.  English is such a thin language.  It seems like the original Hebrew meant something like, “You better not slap God’s name on or put his reputation at risk for things things that God does not stand for.”  That interpretation is terrifying- as it should be.  It has a weight and depth that I respect.  It also is a really good example of what I hate about traditional Christianity.  

I loathe flimsy rules, based on terrible theology, that hinder us.  

My friend took a familiar stance and reminded me that both interpretations could be true and we all have to be careful not to sin.  

Sin.

Christians sure do love to talk about our sin.  We have to be careful to be aware of all the ways we sin.

But don’t we always know?

Don’t our short comings always eat at us?

I don’t think any of us need to be reminded of our sins.  I think we need to be reminded that we have inexplicable value and can tap into an unending source of grace and belonging.  But that isn’t a message you hear from Christians too often- or often enough to overcome being drown by sin.

That makes me weep.  

This small verbal interaction reminded me of when I worked in a drop-in clinic for homeless men.  I would fill small foot spas with disinfectant and eucalyptus essential oils.  I used cold water from the sink and boiling hot water from huge coffee makers to create the perfect temperature for soaking tired feet.  It was never natural for me to grill the men that visited the foot clinic on their personal faith life.  We did keep medical charts on them.  We liked to know where they slept, if they were homeless, or if they were diabetic.  We handed out hygiene kits when we had them.  Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and underwear were the most requested items.  We gave out vitamins if we had any.

I would pat the the foot rest on my manicurist bench that I perched on.  It was covered with fresh towels and my gloved hands were ready to start the foot care ceremony.  I trimmed nails, filed down calluses, and tended to blisters.  I liberally applied antifungal creams and powders to tender feet.  Sometimes their shoes were in such terrible shape, I would ask one of our friends at the center to go find a pair that had been donated.  I learned that it was common for homeless people to keep their shoes on 24/7 to keep them from getting stolen.

I had a captive audience while I was providing foot care.  I was giving the gift of first aid and touch and tenderness.  I could have pummeled my guest with questions.  I could have prodded them about their faith.  I could have grilled them about their life and failures and told them they were sinners.  

But I was not cut out for that.  I never was.  

I was an open book.  They knew I was working at the clinic and I always told them about myself and my faith and about how I wanted to learn to love my neighbor like Jesus said to do.  I never claimed to know how to do it, but I told them I wanted to live a life with that agenda.  We played music for them.  We sang them songs/made them listen to us sing songs.  We chatted about foods that can be hard to eat when you don’t have that many teeth in your mouth.  I was humbled to learn so much from these kind men who visited us every week or so.  

I had so many wonderful interactions with the guys- they wanted to know more about my life and faith.  They were always so honest about their religious upbringings.  They all knew of God.  They all knew of Jesus.  They knew the Bible better than I did.  No one needed me to preach.  No one needed a lesson or my proselytizing.  But that was what so many of my friends from home thought I should be doing.  That is what they thought we should always be doing.  They had to win souls for Christ.  They had to convince the world that it needed Jesus.  They had to show the world its sin and then show them that Jesus was the answer to that sin.  They had to warn everyone- it was their duty as disciples.  

Disagreeing with this approach has lost me more than one friend.  I have never cared to live my faith out in this way.  I did when I was younger and I didn’t know better.  I grew out of that really quickly.  

One man at the clinic always stood out to me.  I have mentioned him before, I am certain.  He spoke of going to church as a young boy.  He remembered, sweetly, all the churches on every other street corner in Oakland.  He knew all the stories and the verses.  He knew that Jesus died for his sins.  But he spoke to me with a heavy sadness.  He said to me, “If you knew what I have done in my life, you would not love me.  You would never forgive me.”  His eyes were full of shame.  I continued to touch his feet and he stunned me to silence.  Every bone in my body knew he was right.  I had no idea what he might have done in his life, but I figured that if I knew the atrocious things he had done, I probably wouldn’t want to touch his feet or be gentle and kind to him.

At the end of every pedicure, we always offered to pray for the men.  No one ever declined.  We would ask for specific prayer requests and if the men didn’t have any, we just prayed for general things.  For this man I prayed that he would feel the love of God and that he would believe that he was loved, worth loving, and worth forgiving.  I prayed that he would be able to understand these things in his lifetime.  That night, at home, I prayed for myself.  I prayed that I would someday be able to love people like him- people that did awful things.  

It struck me that this man did not need anyone to tell him he was a sinner.  No one needed to remind him to be mindful of his sin.  He was fully aware that he was a fuck up and that he was fucked up.  He carried his shame everywhere.  He already bore his own cross.  I am certain he would have climbed up on it himself.  He was heavy with regret.  He would not return to the church.  He already knew what the church would say to him, “Sinner, most unclean, you have fallen short of the glory of God.”  And he would say, “I know.”

He needed to be reminded that he had value in spite of his actions and his choices.  He needed to be told that Jesus came and lived for all people and for love.  

It is a simple emphasis change.  And in that moment I knew that I could not live a life where I helped people put their lives under a microscope to find every speck of damning sin.  That is not my job, and if it was- I wouldn’t take it.  

I wonder if saying that Jesus died for our sins is dancing dangerously closely to taking his name in vain.  Is it slapping Jesus’ name on something he doesn’t stand for?  He didn’t stand for death.  Jesus was opposed to death.  He opposed it with his very being.  He overcame it.  He brought more abundant life.  He stood for love.  I don’t really give a shit about the semantics of it all.  But there are a lot of people who do.  

I just wonder.  

And I hope that on this Easter, someone out there feels overwhelmed by the idea that Jesus came to love them in spite of themselves.  And that on Easter, Jesus didn’t die for our sins.  On Easter Jesus lived for love.  On Easter Jesus lived for people.  

Alleluia.

 

But what if I occupy the space between?

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”     – Charles Bukowski

But what about if I occupy the space between? I do and I don’t believe in God.  I want to and I don’t want to.  I am drawn to and confused by the divine all at once.

I cannot forsake the legacy of faith that I inherited, but I have made that faith my own, and now it is unrecognizable.  I hate street preachers and people that hand out tracts, but I could also live in the wilderness, barefoot, and talk about Jesus all day with locked hair, eating locusts and honey.

I feel like there is no space for a person who aches for justice and loves the prophets.  There is no space for me as I love mystics and meditation.  I wish that I had enough time in this life to learn Hebrew so that I could read the holy texts for myself.  I could also study in Tibet under Buddhist monks, shave my head, and wear saffron robes.  It feels right to stop what I am doing, abruptly set up my mat, and face Mecca to answer this global call to prayer.  I worship the moon and the tides and protons and neutrons and quarks.  I believe in science and evolution and germ theory and I believe that Ezekiel saw the wheel and that Jesus’ spit and mud were a healing salve.  I believe in the holiness of blood as I watch a child born.  I honor my visceral instinct to worship mothers and their sacred wombs.  It makes me want to have a glass of wine and remember how this holy blood was also the life giving force that was shed for me.  I feel God when I read about deoxyribonucleic acid copying and editing itself and when I think about how mitochondria were once living things outside of our cells.  I feel fire in my bones when I sing counterpoint.

I know that I cannot go inside the walls of the church, the church that I dearly love and miss, and belt its hymns at the top of my lungs.  I can speak the language and get by.  I know all the right words to use and I nod my head politely.  Eventually I betray myself.  I can see that I am a heretic.  I take my Torah up with me and leave.  Yet I know I am not welcome in academia with my eucharist either.  They eventually see that my gut reaction is lay my hands on everyone.  I leave the Ivory tower, leading a small parade of the prophets behind me like ducklings.

I have grown comfortable with ambiguity and inhabiting the in between spaces because I have to.  But it is lonely here.  I am lonely here.

I have grown comfortable with my faith.  But my faith and my body and my mind require community.  And I don’t know where to find my people.  I would love to belong somewhere.

Dirty Birth

Advent is long gone, but it is my favorite time of year.  It is the only time that I feel like I can blend in with the heard.  We are all waiting and hoping for light in a time of cold and darkness.  I was raised anti-catholic, and to fear Mary.  To give Mary any attention was to worship a false god.  Now I understand that fear of Mary has more to do with the patriarchy than an actual fear that we will deify her.

As I thought of advent this year, I meditated on Mary.  I wondered about her.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  So I wrote down my thoughts.

Dirty Birth

She was so tired.  The traveling was a chore and a burden and not as exciting as she wished it was.  Her back ached so much.  She did not ride the donkey very much.  Getting on it was too cumbersome with her distended belly.  Her legs and thighs ached because of its heavy gait.  The donkey was old anyway and it was their only donkey.  So she walked.  Her back had a deep ache and the ache was getting deeper and deeper.  
*

On all fours she rocked back and forth on her hands and knees.  The woman that the property owner had brought to help her, a midwife, wanted her to try to get up and squat with a birth stool, but the squatting hurt too much. Even with the midwife offering her own body as support- Miryam refused.  She was just fine on her knees.  The contractions were too close together for her to move between them anyway.  As each one came and crashed against her body, she breathed as deeply as she could and involuntarily swayed her hips.  Her body was simultaneously grasping for relief and working hard to move a baby out.  The midwife rubbed Miryam’s back and a young girl, no more than 9 years old, stood rigidly against the wooden wall, eyes wide.  The child was ready with the birthing stool, a pile of sun dried rags, oil, and a wool blanket that was clean enough.  It was all they had had time to bring.  The midwife had her bag and barked orders at the sleepy girl to assist her.

The laboring mother groaned loudly and tears streamed down her face.  Her back and bottom burned from the contractions and she wished her mother and cousin were there to be her midwives.  She did not cry from the physical pain.  She cried because the young wide-eyed girl reminded her of her former self.  It was only a few years ago that she was 9 and old women barked orders at her.  So many things had happened in the span of a few years.  She was not ready to be a mother and a wife no matter how wonderful the child could be.  Miryam was not sure, but she had been laboring since before sunset, and it was going to be morning soon.  She did not feel favored during these hours.  In this hour she was utterly alone and unseen.

She wept and dropped her head to the rough blanket they had given her on the dirt floor.  Her blanket was less than clean, but she did not care or notice.  It was dark in the stall and she was glad they could not see her cry.  She labored quietly, mind the groans and deep sighs.  She did not want to worry Yossef.  He was within earshot.  Or maybe he wouldn’t worry if she screamed and if she died.  If she were to die in labor, he would be free of her as his obligation.  He could start again.  He was a generous man.  He had kept his promises to her even when her belly swelled with child after she had been gone for months- living with her cousin.  People talked.  He stood by her and his promise.  She shook her head as if to shake the thoughts out.  If she survived this birth, she needed to prove herself strong and brave.

Miryam would not scream yet.  She swallowed the cries with the next contraction.  She had torn her dress off an hour ago and thankfully the midwife was unalarmed to see a naked laboring mother, bottom up, sweaty, and mooing.  The dress was filthy from the walk and smelled.  It was better that it was off.

The pain was unbearable.  Miryam wanted to rewind her life 40 weeks and say no to her blessing.  She wanted to crawl out of her skin and be back in the arms of her mother.  If she had the strength, she would have run away from the filthy stall.  She hadn’t forseen her life looking like this.  This was not how kings were born.

Miryam didn’t know what she believed anymore.

“You are getting close,” the midwife said and firmly pressed on Miryam’s lower back.  She poured warmed oil on her fingers and massaged the laboring mother.  Miryam was so relieved to have the midwife touch her.  She felt momentarily less alone and the pressure on her back was a distraction.  No one had touched her in so long.  Yossef was- well- he was afraid of her.  He was distant.  She felt utterly alone.  Sometimes there were bouts of relief and she felt reassured that he trusted her.  She was glad to be his betrothed.  He had saved her from the disgrace of being alone and pregnant.  But he kept his distance and expected her to be the model wife.  She was humble, diligent, and obedient.

She let out a cry and the midwife knew she was transitioning.

“I can see the head!”  The midwife shouted and used her fingers to make sure it was the top of the head she was feeling.  She motioned for the young girl to come to her.  Every birth was a new opportunity to learn.  The midwife would not tell her helper until later that she was glad to not feel an infant’s face, bottom, or feet.  The midwife was pleased that the soft spot of the infant’s head had a strong pulse.  Delivering dead babies was something she did often, but it never got easier.  Early in the labor, when the contractions were getting closer together, Miryam had nonsensically repeated that everything would be fine and that she was favored, but she also had a slight fever at that point.  The midwife didn’t mind a delirious laboring mother- she also didn’t mind if she did have a mother that was favored.  Uneventful births were happy births.

Miryam continued to rock and her head was on the ground now.  She grasped the blanket tightly and pushed with every contraction.  The pushing helped bring small moments of relief.  But she was so very tired.  She had been having contractions as they walked into town.  She was able to walk through most of them.  As they got closer and closer to town, she had to stop walking for the duration of each contraction.  Yossef was clueless and frightened.  Miryam was clueless and frightened.  She boldly threw her arms around  him for the longer ones, which took them both by surprise.

She yelled out as she pushed.  She could not hear herself and she did not hear the commotion about her.  The young girl brought the rags and knelt down behind Miryam.  Newly born babies were slippery and the rags would help her catch the infant.  The young girl would catch the babe, the midwife would continue to rub the warm oil to sooth the burning that came with crowning.  All the women were knelt there together, taking up space on the modest blanket that was covering a filthy floor.

Miryam’s back slouched and the midwife knew the young woman was exhausted.

“You told me you would be fine and you are doing exceptionally well.  Maybe you are favored.”    Miryam’s head nodded slightly even as she rested it upon the scratchy blanket.  The stall they were in glowed dimly with the light of two meager lanterns.  Dawn was coming, but it was still very dark.  None of the women felt the chill in the air because they were working tremendously hard to birth a baby.

“Now on this next one, take the biggest breath and push with everything you have and you can be done.  Prove to me you are favored,”  The midwife was both scolding her and encouraging her.  Miryam mustered all the strength she had left and lifted her head up off the blanket.  She inhaled and the midwife could see her back and ribs expand with air.

“That’s a good girl.  Now push!”

And as the midwife yelled at her to push Miryam groaned loudly until her body heaved with sobs.  The young girl caught the baby.  The midwife relaxed back on her heels.  Miryam collapsed forward on her side and before she knew it the 9 year old girl had already placed the baby on her sweaty chest.  Her hair was tangled and dirty and matted.  The baby cried out with life in her arms and she swept her hair away from her face to get a look at her child.  The midwife tied a string around the umbilical cord and wrapped the pair in the larger blanket.  They helped Miryam to sit up and nurse the baby.

Her contractions continued and they would continue until she delivered the after birth.  Miryam felt them and she was aware of the discomfort but it did not matter to her.  Her body hummed and glowed with the warmth of her healthy baby.  Her betrothed was not there, and she was unclean, so he would not come too close.  She would be tended to by her family if she was at home.  But for now, she was all alone and in place that was not her home, in a room that was barely fit for animals.  She wept softly, overcome, but she did not feel sorry for herself.

Maybe she was favored after all.

 

 

Everything is like birth. And everything is like death.

*I wrote this in April but it was way too much to process at the time.  I am a safe distance from these things now, so I can share.  
 
 
My grampa’s one year deathaversary was just last week.  I spoke to my grandmother on the phone and we were able to enter into that sacred space of being candid and vulnerable and imperfect.  She has not slept well this last year without her partner and friend of over 60 years.  I told her I could not believe it had already been a year.  It feels like he just died.  My father died almost 17 years ago and it feels like he just died yesterday.  So much time has passed and the wounds are fresh and tender.  
 
Me: Gramma, does it feel like he [grampa] just died?
Gram: Sometimes yes and no.  Sometimes it feels like he has been gone for too long.  And sometimes it feels he was just here.
Me: Yeah.
 
Yeah.  That is exactly how it feels sometimes.  I remember holding his soft cool hand by his bedside as he lay there dying.  I sang him hymns.  He struggled to breathe.  I compulsively checked his radial pulse.  His heart just would not quit.  His face was gaunt.  He did not speak.  We waited and watched.  We waited for his death.  It took him a very long time to let go and to die.  It feels like it just happened yesterday.  Every pain and smell and sound is so near.  
 
Last week I was able to see my best friend give birth.  I was there when her first baby was born.  Six years ago her daughter was born in a hospital.  She had an epidural and I held one of her legs and her husband held the other.  She breathed and pushed and her daughter was born.  Today her daughter is leggy with golden pink hair and a coy smile.  I held that kid once as a swaddled burrito, her belly button scab came off on my shirt and I thought I broke her.  The 6 year old (that she has magically become) and I have a mad crazy bond.  She will always be my first kid, my first baby that I desperately love.  It is strange that she talks to me in full sentences.  It is strange that she knows stuff.  And she knows so much stuff.  It feels like she was just born yesterday.  

Last week I saw her sibling born, at home- a natural tub birth.  It was much different from watching my friend labor the first time.  I still held a leg, though.  The labor was long.  There was breathing and prayer and encouragement.  There was hand holding and grasping.  There was waiting.  There was listening and checking for the baby’s heart beat; it was so loud and strong- that little beat.  The labor was 16 hours.  For her 6th child, that was a long labor.  But then she pushed, and her son shot through the water in the tub and bobbed to the surface.  
 

 

The stark similarities between my grandfather’s death and my friend’s birthing are not lost to me.  The events were so similar, but they were so different.     



  

Safety Not Guaranteed

For as long as I can remember God has been my center.  I knew this even as a small child.  Now, as an alleged grown person, I wonder what that means.  I was raised with a simple faith.  I do not think my family meant to give me such a flimsy faith, but they could only give me what they had.  I was told to put a Bible under my pillow to protect me from bad dreams (it has never worked and I still suffer from bad dreams).  I was taught that you pray.  I somehow absorbed that if we pray we can get everything that we need.  This is simply not true.
 
I have to tell you that every single time I realize that there is no safety net as I walk this high wire, it is as if my body is being slammed onto a brick wall at a high speed.  It just sucks that there is no protection for us.  So I have always struggled with prayer and to figure out who this God is that I am drawn to, whom I beg to stay by my side.  
 
Dear God, please be with me.  
 
I always thought that my safe passage in this world was guaranteed because I was in the God club; I was saved.  Isn’t that what saved means?  As a girl I had many prayers: that we could live in a house, that the scars on my knees would go away, and that my dad wouldn’t have cancer anymore.  My dad died of cancer.  I never lived in a house with my dad.  My knees are still banged up.  

God, I am so tired.  I need strength.
 
So with my heart and guts wrenched out, why is it that I still find myself praying to this God?  
 
God, you have thousands upon thousands of angels.  Can you send one in please.  I know you can.  
 
So what the shit is prayer for anyway?  I met a girl in college who I grew to love.  I knew that I could not live without her.  But I was so afraid of her dying.  She was so sick.  I wanted to pray for her healing.  I wanted to ask God to let me keep her.  I knew prayer did not work like that.  I prayed anyway.  My prayers were always frantic and beggy.  They still are.  I wept and sobbed.  I carry with me so many stories of unanswered prayers: stillborn babies, orphaned children, uncured illnesses, burned down and flooded homes, small wounds that led to amputation because there wasn’t enough money to see a real doctor, a starving mother with twins who only has enough milk to nurse one baby.  I hold these tragedies in my heart, and carry them with me wherever I go.  My natural inclination is still to pray.  
 
Please, God.  Please help.  Send help soon. 
 
[cricket chirping noises]
 
There isn’t anything else to do but pray.  That is why I still do it.  I get so mad sometimes that God brought me into this world.  I did not agree to the terms of this life.  Yet here I am- alive.  This life on this earth is so very, very, painful.  I have lost things I cannot live without.  I will continue to lose people I cannot live without.  We are subjected to great suffering here.  
 
God, I am so tired.  
 
Why am I still here?  Because I can hear God calling me to stay.  It feels like I am treading water in the cold open ocean and the sharks can smell blood.  Every now and then, I feel warmth, I get a deep breath, someone lets me rest my head on their shoulders and swims for me.  The girl I met in college is healed.
 
God, thank you.  Just- thank you.  Help me hold on to this relief.
 
Before I feel rested I am back to treading water again with salt water up my nose, chapped lips, and a sore body.
 
Ugh, God.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
 
I still hesitate to pray.  It is hard to ask when the answer seems to so often be a still and silent- no.  I just cannot resist prayer.  Even when I am filled with doubt, my mind does it anyway.  I ask for the easiest way out of things, and the only thing God gives me is God.  I am not promised safe passage through this world.  I will continue to have my heart wrenched out of my chest.  God will continue to be there by my side like a faint whisper.  

 

Responsibility: Why You Should Give a Shit

Responsibility. Moral, Legal, or Mental Accountability.

Accountability. An Obligation or Willingness to Accept Responsibility.

I don’t like semantics. Or rather- I like to say that I don’t like semantics. I think what gets under my skin is when groups of folks let words and meanings bog them down or distract them from all the really valuable and important things they could be talking about or (heaven forbid) doing with their time. I recently heard about this guy at a Bible study I used to attend. One day at Bible study he brought up the word responsibility and he wanted to explore what the word meant. I was not an eye witness to this, but I heard he made a big ass of himself and it turns out that he is kind of a selfish douche. Oh and he happens to be a pastor. He is an example of my least favorite person: he is in a position of religious power, he gets caught up in what words mean instead of doing shit, and he is selfish and doing it wrong and making me look bad as a person who likes Jesus and some Jesusy-type things.

I once got into an epic battle with my brother about responsibility. It was epic because it had to do with things that I take very personally and that shit got heated.

We were fighting because I was telling a story about some kids that are very important to me, that I met during a time that changed my life, and my behavior in the story was impacted by my belief system. Needless to say I was locked and loaded for anyone who was gonna say shit to me about responsibility. My brother, always the instigator, could not just let me tell the story. He had to pick at it and put in his two cents.

I used to work this job that had your standard 9-5 hours. I would walk to work and walk home everyday. Almost everyday my roommates and I would see our 2 year old neighbor outside playing by himself when we left the house. When we returned home in the evening, he was still outside by himself, but his diaper would be saggy and full.

Yes, it was heart breaking.

So whoever saw him first (out of all my roommates) would usually play with him for awhile, invite him over to our place to play inside, grab a snack, and get a diaper change. The sort of people I roll with give a shit about things like this.

Did any of us have kids? Nope.
Did my roommate go out of her way to pick up some diapers in his size? Yes.
Did we all take it upon ourselves to care for this kid? Yes.

Why did we do this? Because it is the decent, human, solid thing to do. It was and is the right thing to do.

My brother did not agree that it was anyone’s responsibility to care for this neighbor kid.

And I rained down upon him a storm of rage and wrath about empathy and mercy. I yelled and cried. I am a much better arguer now, but at the time this conversation was emotionally charged for me. I loved that kid. If I had had the resources or the opportunity, I would have adopted him (and I would have had to fight my roommates for him- because they all would have done the same). But I was also disappointed because my brother did not understand why it is important that we care about a lonesome 2 year old.

The fight started because my brother put a sweatshirt on his dog- she was shivering with cold and I happened to mention that lots of dogs get treated better than children (not to say that we should not treat dogs well, I am just saying that all the things need to be treated well).

I yelled and cried because I am sad that I have to explain why it is important to care for small, vulnerable, children that you see with your own eyeballs. I sobbed and hiccuped because I could not put in to words how important this is for all of us to do. I cry because this is a true and sad part of life: there is great need in the world and there are folks that just don’t give a shit about it.

Here is the part in the post where I get all religious and stuff- so feel free to stop reading if you want. I was raised by some folks who love Jesus. Jesus says that we should care because he cares. One story about him is that he is giving this sermon to these people on a hillside. They come to him because they heard rumors that he has done miraculous stuff and that he has talked back to the big wigs of their religion (think Joel Osteen and Billy Graham and all those crazy Focus on the Family people). Jesus made all those guys look bad on the regular by quoting the Bible back to them. He was a BAMF, for sure. I mean- he made them look so bad that they plotted to kill him. It was serious.

Jesus is talking to all these folks on the hillside and Jesus’ inner circle was like, “You gotta send these people home because they have been here for so long and they are tired and hungry and a long way from home.” Jesus was like, “If they are hungry, why don’t you feed them?” And the disciples were like, “That would cost more than a year’s salary. We can’t do that.” And Jesus was like, “You guys don’t get it. I will handle this.” And Jesus fed all the people because he cared. He felt responsible for them. The gospels should be called, “The Books of the New Testament Wherein Jesus Gives a Shit about People- Especially Society’s Cast-Offs.”

That was me paraphrasing a small portion of the Gospel of Mark. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to quote me on it, too. You’re welcome.

So when I talk about Jesus, this is who I am talking about. I am talking about this guy that spat in the face of a religion that was for show. He fed and clothed and helped whoever came his way and asked for help (people that were so weird and gross most people would not even acknowledge they existed), and he even helped a few people that did not ask. He cared about folks. He says in the Gospel of Matthew, “When you give a shit about society’s most vulnerable and oppressed and ignored members, you give a shit about me. If you don’t care about them, then you don’t care about me.” (also paraphrased by me).

I don’t speak this way about the Bible or Jesus to shirk the holiness of it all. This is real to me. This is the way I see the world. I have been living this way for so long that it does not make sense to me when people do not feel responsible for 2 year olds that are all alone.

My brother is ultimately right. I know this and it kills me (it does not kill me necause he is right and I am wrong, but that I know that most people don’t consider themselves responsible for other humans). It is not his responsibility to care for anyone. This life is so hard and resources are so scarce that you should just work to get yours and hoard your resources and call it a day.

But I really want to believe in Jesus. And he may not be real. I am totally ok with that. Yes- I just said that I am fine with the idea that Jesus could be a made up character in some very entertaining literature. My friend says that the Gospels (all the stories of Jesus’ life) could be written by squirrels for all she cares. It is the simple fact that the stories of Jesus tell us to be responsible for others. And when we do this thing, when we are responsible for one anther and we care for one another, magical things happen. Love multiplies when we take responsibility for each other. We create the world that we want to live in when we take responsibility for each other. We become better people when we take responsibility for others. We also help show people that they have value when we take responsibility for them. Paradoxically when we care for other people, those people will return that love in a greater way (happens every time and it is very shocking, trust me).

That 2 year old boy, his name is Calvin, has value. Sometimes the people in his life forgot about that. I made it my responsibility to make sure he was cared for, as did my roommates. We did not do it because we had to. We did not do it to avoid the guilt we would feel if we left him there. We did it because Jesus has completely changed the way we look at the world and we could not stop ourselves from caring for this boy.

A long time ago I decided to start trying to live my life like the stories of Jesus (the ones that may or may not have been written by squirrels). I drank the kool aid, if you will. I told the sky that I would give a shit. I haven’t turned back since. It has impacted my life in the strangest ways. One day, as I was walking home from work, Calvin broke out into a run when he saw me down the street. He had his arms open wide and he ran to me. I scooped him up and we were glad to see each other. As I was carrying him home he puckered up his lips and came at me. What flashed before me was the knowledge that 2 year olds are microbial incubators and his nose already had snot crust on it. But in that same split second I did not turn my head away from him- I puckered up my lips. Toddler kiss.

YOLO.

He then rested his head on my shoulder and I carried him to our place to play.

I said to Jesus, “Why don’t you care for Calvin?” And he said, “Why don’t you?” I don’t regret taking responsibility for Calvin for the small moment that he made a cameo in my life story.

He moved away a few months later with his family, and I hope that whatever people saw him next took up the torch and felt responsible for him, too. Because if they did, he might just make it. And I think that is why Jesus wants us to take responsibility for each other; so that we can all make it.

 

Figuring out Grace

So this happened to me-someone asked, “What is grace?  Tell me what grace means.”

I did not want to tell her, because I was afraid that my definition might be too narrow, too western, or too Christian, or not Christian enough, or maybe too blasphemous (as if blaspheming was a thing I tried not to do), or that it would just not live up to what I feel when I experience grace.

I tried to wriggle my way out of talking about it, but the ball was passed back to me.  I cannot remember all that I said, but I tried to limit my usage of Christianese (few are fluent), and I tried to make it applicable in non-religious contexts.

Since then I have been trying to think of what my definition of grace is.  Writing always helps me to sort through my thoughts, so I will just start writing and see what happens.

The grace issue came up because I have been tossing around ideas of karma and manifestation in my head.  Karma says that what goes around comes around (eventually).  It says that we reap what we sow.  It says: you do good, you get good, and if you do bad, you get bad.  Manifestation is very similar to karma (in my brain).  It sometimes goes by the name “The Secret” and this woman I went to college with bought me the DVD because she thought I was too negative.  Well, the DVD was dumb and I watched half of it and then promptly returned it to her (with a thank you note- I was raised with some manners).  The Secret says that you can dream up things and think up things and you can attract them to yourself with good energy.

I do not believe in any of that noise.  Do not be offended by my soap box rantings, but life is too ambiguous for that to make sense.  As I like to say, “the rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous,” as in- sometimes shit happens to good people and sometimes nothing happens to bad people.  And does this ever suck.  I do not believe in karma or manifestation or the secret or laws of attraction because I believe in grace.

My faith might be shattered and fractured into pieces the size of electrons and neutrons or fucking quarks (I just threw science in to my religious speak, because it is all the same to me), but I still believe in grace.  I believe in grace because I need it.  I believe in grace the same way I believe in the sun and gravity and oxygen.  They keep the world working  and they prevent us from dying terrible deaths.  Grace does the same thing in my universe.

I believe in grace.

So what am I talking about when I talk about grace?

Grace is getting good when all I’ve done is put out bad; getting goodness that I could never earn or work hard enough to achieve.  Grace is an unreasonably generous gift.  Grace gives me more room to breathe, it does not make sense, but I greedily take it up because I need it.

Grace is when the Coast Guard shows up after I have been treading water.  My ship sank because I did not know how to use a boat or care for it.  I ran my boat in to a bunch of shit because I did not know how to drive it- so it sank.  And I did not make preparations for a disaster or an emergency.  I have been treading water for some time now and I can hardly breathe and I have choked on so much water.  I want to give up and let myself sink.  I wonder if inhaling water will be a relief to my tired and sore body.  I am in this position because I failed.  And then they come with a rescue boat and they wrap me in warm blankets and they feed me a hot meal and they give me warm things to drink.  But I call the captain nasty names, and I kick a few people in the shins, and I scratch and bite folks who try to feed me.  And then, as if that weren’t too much already, they treat me with kindness and love and dignity.

That is grace.  I believe that this thing exists.  I believe that this thing exists because it has happened to me.

Obviously, it is easy to get on board with this grace idea when I think about myself.  Of course I want grace: sign me up, please and thank you.  But it is harder to accept when I remember that there are some people who I don’t think should get grace.

Grace doesn’t fucking work like that, dammit.  And therein lies grace.

 I don’t make the rules, thank god, because I am a cruel shit when I want to be.  And if I did make the rules, I don’t think grace could exist.  The very nature of grace is disturbing and alarming.  The people who I don’t think should get it, can get it and that is what grace is- getting goodness that you never could have earned.

Boom goes the dynamite.

 I don’t want to convince anyone that grace exists, I am just trying to define the thing.  It is elusive and ever present.  We are given grace, but we want more of it.  See- that is another thing about grace- sometimes it is with me and I just do not care to admit that it is there.  This happens because I want more of it, or because I want it my way.  I want McDonald’s grace (or at least I think I want McD’s grace).  I think this is an aspect of grace as well; those of us who can admit we need it, want it cheaply, and quickly, and our way (see: Dietrich Bonhoeffer), but if that is how it worked it would then suddenly cease being grace.

My least favorite thing about grace (I am rolling my eyes at myself even as I type this) is that it is usually not delivered in the package we want.  I usually want grandiose sweeps of relief (large sums of money, the cancer suddenly disappears, world peace); I usually want the Coast Guard to arrive.  Sometimes they do arrive.  But sometimes grace is when a friend gets in the water with you and they let you hang on to them because they are wearing a life coat.  With that life coat they can swim for a bit and you can just rest for a moment.  Grace might be that they have a cup of fresh water for you because the salty ocean has you parched.  Grace could be that they have a flare gun and they are gonna wait with you until there is a rescue.  Those things are good and those things are grace.

I wish that grace would have taken all the suffering away when my grampa died (his suffering and our suffering).  I wish that grace had that jurisdiction, but it simply does not.  Grace is that he knew I was there at his bedside.  Grace is that I could hold his hand and that he could squeeze it.  Grace is that I could sing to him before he died.  Grace is that my friends were so generous to me as my heart shattered.

Did it hurt?  Yes.

Was it awful?  Yes.

Did God do anything to stop the natural cycles of life and death? No.

Did that make me mad?  Yes.

Did I get what I wanted?  No.

Did I get grace?  Yes.

I have been on the receiving end of grace more times than I can count- thank god.  There are so many people in my life who love me and, no matter how awful I am, they just keep on loving me and doing nice things for me.  I don’t know what is wrong with them- to tell you the truth.  But I need them.  And I am thankful for them.

They are my grace.

PS: blah, blah, blah, God is grace, blah, blah, etc.  You get my drift and I don’t need to bore you.  If you are interested, I think God gives this grace.  And when I say God,  I am referring to the one of Isaac and Jake and Israel.  Yada, yada, yada.  Look it up if you want.  Holla at me in the comments for some verses on grace, if you want.

"Raising a Girl is too hard," says almost everyone.

What I write on here is dictated largely by my daily experiences.  This week I noticed something really interesting.  I was talking to two completely different social groups of twenty-somethings and somehow the same topic came up- having kids.  This is not an unusual thing for our age group.  We are watching friends and peers have kids.  We are excited/confused/terrified/anticipating doing this ourselves.  We chat about it at work or while eating meats cooked over fire.  It’s all very natural stuff to chat about.

At work this conversation spontaneously came up- I am not sure how (now that I am trying to remember, my mind is blank).  I think we were talking about siblings and birth order, and someone commented on how they hope they don’t have daughters because they are terrified of dealing with them.  That comment was followed by a chorus of “Oh yeahs” and “I only want boys”  or “girls are trouble.”

*Full disclosure- In the past I have only wanted boys, too.  My reason for this is totally different than those voiced in the 2 conversations I participated in this week.  I will get to my history in that arena later.  All you really need to know now is that I do not want only boys anymore.

 I was shocked that everyone in the ethnically diverse room- 8 people, 6 women and 1 man- all agreed that they wanted only boys (I am the 8th person, just in case you were using your fingers to count).  I am no statistician (despite acing college stats TWICE), but the odds are not looking good that all 7 of these folks will have male-only-offspring.  It makes me sad that when they find out they are having a girl, they will be disappointed, even if it is only a little disappointing.  I am sure they would feign happiness.  I am sure that if some of them had boys, they would then want girls.  I hate that girls would only be desired as an afterthought, though.  That is a disgusting shame.

I spoke up about this.

I said, “I want to raise strong women who love themselves.  And I want to raise strong men who love themselves and respect women.”  This response elicited a pretty solid chorus of head nods.  But their faces betrayed that they really didn’t want to be bothered.  Raising women who love themselves in this world is a tall order.  Yo.

Then yesterday, I was in a different social setting (informal backyard party), with a pretty homogeneous racial make-up.  Again the issue of having kids came up, and people expressed that they only wanted boys.  I think I was so surprised that I heard this same information again that I neglected to contribute to the conversation.  It is actually kind of shocking that I didn’t say anything.  I was too busy thinking about how I needed to write all of this down.

I think the thing that broke my heart the most about both of these conversations, was that the majority of people who did not want to raise daughters were women.  I won’t lie to you about this; I felt betrayed.  I wanted to say, “Come on guys, it’s not so bad.  Just be the mother you always wanted to have. Bam.  Get it done.”

I have a hard relationship with my mother.  So I never wanted kids, no matter their gender, because I did not want my future progeny to feel about me the way I have felt about my mother.  I have thought some pretty not-nice things about my mom.  Since I am a woman and my mother is a woman, I have some intense fears about repeating bad things and making the same mistakes she did.  It terrifies me, especially when I catch myself sounding like my mother.

 But here is the thing- I was not raised by a feminist.  I was not raised by a woman who is even my own race.  So I was/am ashamed of a what makes me ME.  I already have a cardboard children’s book on my bookshelf that is full of different colors of children that uses really fun adjectives to describe how all the colors are good and beautiful.  I want to be able to share that with my kids.  I want my kids to feel at home in their skin, no matter what color their skin happens to be.  I want them to feel like their hair is just perfect, no matter if they have little wispy frizz curls or beach waves.  I want my daughter to respect her own body and not look at menstruation as some dirty burden.  I want my boys to respect what women’s bodies can do (which is anything boy’s bodies can do) and not what they look like.  I will do this because I really wish that I was given that foundation.

I wasn’t proud of my Black history until I studied it myself in college (after being encouraged by my sister when I had the most epic identity crisis).  I wasn’t cool with my period until I read some great feminist literature and found the right products for my body (menstrual cups- it might be the product for you).

When I started my new job a few weeks ago, I went to the Target and bought myself a little make-up bag looking thing and filled it with all of the things I would need in case I got caught with my period at my work place (my cycle is just starting to regulate so I always need to be prepared, and I appreciate that you didn’t need to know that).  It has hand sanitizer, a mini bottle of advil, pads, tampons, liners.  I use a menstrual cup, but I don’t always remember to toss it in my bag.  I also know other people may come to my home and I like to have supplies for them just in case.  So I have my kit and I keep it in my bag (my co-workers think it is awesome and I am more than just a little jazzed that all the ladies come to me when they need supplies).  I said to myself, “boy, I wish my mom had made me one of these to keep in my backpack when I was in middle school.”  It would have made me feel so secure knowing I didn’t have to worry about getting my period at school.  And the make-up bag keeps everything nice and tidy and you don’t have stray tampons opening up in your bag and ibuprofen isn’t spilling out everywhere.  And if you carry a make-up bag to the bathroom, everyone just thinks you are gonna put on some lip gloss in there.  Note to self: make these kits for my daughters.

I am still terrified of being a horrible mother.  But I want to raise secure young people who love themselves and respect themselves.  I don’t want my kids to oversexualize their bodies or the bodies of others because they are not affirmed in their won sexuality or unacknowledged as sexual beings.  I also do not want them to be underprepared or uneducated about sex (am I the only person who never got the talk?).  I think if you raise kids to respect their bodies, they will respect everyone else’s bodies.  And if they are raised to love themselves, they will be loving towards others.  If they are raised to appreciate how they are unique and that being different is not bad, then they will see that people different from them are not terrifying.

I want to raise daughters because I want to raise good people.  And I really think you should raise some girls, too.  Odds are- you are gonna have to.  So better change your mind about it now.  I don’t think we can positively progress as a society, expect equal pay for women, get better maternity/paternity leave,  and respect for our bodies (Republicans: get out of my uterus.  I already told you I have a menstrual cup in my vag.  There is not enough room in there for the both of you.  Now git on home to your yacht or whatever) until baby girls are valued and wanted.  If you do not want to raise a girl, care for one, raise one to be a good citizen, then you can’t really be surprised when half our government doesn’t give a shit about them either.