Finding Accomplishments

Posted on | June 10, 2016 | 3 Comments

“I have a girlfriend,” my six year old son told me one day. I sort of rolled my eyes, because he’s six and him having a girlfriend is ridiculous. But then he said something that made me pay attention.

“It’s okay though,” he shrugged and grinned. “She’s pretty.”

It was the “she’s pretty” that did it.

I sat him down at the table and had the first of what I’m sure will be a number of talks about boys and girls. Because, as I told him, boys and girls should always strive to be people of accomplishment. And boys and girls should also strive to date people of accomplishment: funny, smart, kind, good at sports, a good writer. Any number of things come to mind… things that are accomplished through hard work, practice, good study habits. Things that show that a person IS something.

Being “pretty” is not an accomplishment, I told my son. Because it isn’t. We either fit society’s ideal of pretty or we don’t… through no fault or accomplishment of our own. So why would I ever want my son to tell me first that a girl he likes is “pretty.” Who cares if she’s pretty? Who cares if she was blessed with an exceptional genetic code? That doesn’t tell me anything about who she is. Just the same as having someone tell me my son is handsome isn’t exactly what I want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, I think J is adorable. But who really cares? What does being adorable say about him as a person?

The thing is, I want my son to aim higher than “pretty” or “handsome”.  I want him to aim for “Kind”. For “Funny”.  I want to hear him talking about a girl he likes because she’s “smart” or “clever” or “well-read”.  I want to teach him to aim for something that shows worth, for someone who shows diligence, who reveals a love of something more than the skin they were given. All too often I catch myself saying “Oh how adorable!” when I meet a little girl or boy for the first time. All too often, I hear myself tell J that this or that person is “cute” or “looks handsome” or “has great hair.” And there’s nothing wrong with those things… but man do I wish I could go back and compliment the important things just as often.

“Wow that kid is funny!”

“Hey she’s really smart!”

“He’s an exceptional reader!”

I want to teach my son to view “pretty” is an afterthought, that a woman is more than her face and figure, that HE is more than his face and figure. I want to teach him to ignore the surface and search for what’s beneath… to embrace the talents that make us all unique.

So I’m changing the way I talk about people… especially myself. No more “I look awful.” No more “I am fat.” No more off-handed comments about anyone’s appearance. Because it starts with me, I think. It starts with me saying “Man, you were really smart at work today” instead of “You look really nice.” It starts with me complimenting another attorney’s theory of the case, not her handbag or haircut.

It starts with me. Recognizing that I am more than my face and figure. Recognizing that I am smart and kind and funny. Recognizing that I am a person of accomplishment regardless of what size I wear or how my hair frizzes up in the summer.

I looked at J carefully to be sure he was listening.

“Never have any friends, boy or girl, if all you have to say about them is that they are pretty or handsome,” I told my son. “And never have any friends, boy or girl, who don’t have anything to say about you other than that you’re handsome. Because how you look isn’t something you’ve worked for… and it’s the things you work for that make you who you REALLY are.”

I honestly don’t know if it sank in. This time.

But I know that I will continue to remind him, again and again, that “pretty” isn’t an accomplishment, until the day I first hear him describe a new friend with words that tell me more about his heart than his face.


Posted on | May 16, 2016 | 1 Comment

Last week felt like some sort of “survive and advance” week.

Just get out of bed one more time.

Just get dressed one more day.

Just get to work one more morning.

It was as though if I could just get through that one week, everything would be okay.

I pasted the pieces of my heart together, shellacked them shiny and pristine, hoping not even I would spot the cracks and crevices where some pieces were irretrievably lost in the initial collapse of hopes and dreams.  I pressed on. I did the work. I cooked and cleaned and smiled as though everything was just peachy damn keen, and I didn’t need one single thing, thankyouverymuch.

When last night rolled around, I felt pretty good. I mean, I’d survived a week and a half. The worst was over.  My heart was back together; one complete, though mended entity, and I’d made it through. Everything would come up roses, now, right?

Only… that’s not really how grief works, is it.

I woke up at 4am this morning with an ache that started somewhere around the empty of my uterus and spread up and outward to my head and heart. I sat up in bed, feeling that everything was inexplicably wrong in every single possible way, and maybe this past week I was so proud to have survived, was really just… numbness.

Maybe now the real hurting begins. Now… after the flowers have died and the condolences have stopped pouring in. Now, after everyone else has moved on with their lives and I’m still here, empty-armed and teary-eyed.

Maybe I’ve done all this wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed through last week. Maybe I should have let myself curl up in the smallest of balls and cry the loudest of tears. Maybe then the pressure in my chest would be less, the tightness at the back of my throat easier to bear.

Or maybe this is just the way it works… two steps forward, one step back… until there’s a moment when I won’t see an expectant mother and feel the tell-tale crack and ache of my pasted-together heart, shattering all over again.



One Week Later

Posted on | May 11, 2016 | 2 Comments

It’s been one week.

One extended ache of a week since I casually walked to the restroom, the sway of my hips proudly announcing “expecting.”

It’s been one brief and endless week since I was able to rest a hand against my abdomen, smiling that secret, all-knowing smile of a woman in love with someone she’s never even met.

It’s been one agonizing week since a slash of red blurred and crossed my vision, blinding me with a series of question marks and broken dreams.

My stomach is a little flatter today, softer against the press of my palm; there’s no more hardened rise of life to greet my hand or eye. Yet in what seems to be a total betrayal of self, my clothes are still snug, pressing against the weight of my sorrow and leaving tiny indentations of memory pressed in places that used to house the flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.

It’s only been one week.

One long and heart-breakingly slow week.

One week to think about the moments that might have been, the life we might have lived. The child, to have and to hold, that is no more.

But today, around the time I was checking into the hospital last week to wipe clean the slate of dreams that had smeared and ran the length of my cheeks, I will wait at the door of another hospital room.

I will knock.

I will tentatively push open the door.

I will smile at the dearest of friends through a curtain of my tears.

And I will clutch to my heart a tiny girl, brought tenderly into this world in the wee hours of yesterday morning. And though she is not flesh of my flesh, she is blood of my blood… a child of my tribe, a daughter of my village. And, yes, I will weep, of that I am sure. I will weep softly over the aching emptiness in my self and over the sweet newness of this child. But deep down, I will know… I DO know… that life continues.

Life moves on.

Life… simply moves.

And though today, one week later, life may move me to tears with the reminder of what might have been once… it will also move me to remember what can still be again.

Today, one week later, life will keep moving me forward… onward to the place and time when I will not simultaneously break and rebuild through the sighs and coos of a newborn.




Posted on | May 6, 2016 | 3 Comments

I’ve done a lot of thinking about why miscarriage is such a secret shame… why women don’t talk about it, why we don’t WANT to talk about it.

I’ve thought a lot about why it is we feel ashamed by our bodies, ashamed by our inabilities, ashamed by something that is often totally and completely outside of our control.

And it comes down to this… I think it’s time the English speaking medical community re-names this horrific accident that rips  women and men into pieces and leaves them shattered. Because “miscarry”? That doesn’t seem right to me.

See “mis-“, means “Wrongly” , “badly”, or “Unsuitably.”

And “carry” means “to have something with or inside you” or “to move something while holding or supporting it.”

If you put those two together, what we’re really saying to English-speaking women is “You carried this wrong.” “This was your fault.” “You were an unsuitable home for your child.”

Is it any wonder that no one wants to talk about it? Is there even a question as to why an English-speaking woman, ANY English-speaking woman, would immediately feel as though SHE did this. SHE caused this to happen. SHE carried her child wrong.

Can’t we rename this? Maybe “misformed”,”misattached”, “misgravidity” or maybe just “mispregnant”? Because semantics matter, you know. And when I hear the word “miscarriage”, what I hear is “your body screwed this up.”

And trust me, we women already feel like it’s all our fault, anyway.

Maybe it’s just another way our society, like to place the blame, and the shame, on the woman. Maybe it’s just another way the English language likes to beat up on the “weaker” sex. Because in French, it’s “fausse couche” or “false confinement.” In Spanish it’s “aborto espontaneo” or “spontaneous end to pregnancy”. It’s only in English that we place the blame on the woman… miscarried. Carried it wrong. Carried it badly.

Lost your baby.

Lost your pregnancy.

No, it wasn’t taken from you, you silly English women. This? This was YOUR fault.

The Faces of Pain

Posted on | May 5, 2016 | 3 Comments

I woke up around 2:00 am this morning.

Everything hurt and I couldn’t get the image out of my mind of that ridiculous chart hanging on the wall at the hospital. I lay awake for four hours before I got up to cry over a long-awaited cup of coffee, wondering how to circle the way I felt, wondering how I could characterize the feeling of curling in a ball beside your sleeping husband and weeping onto his shoulder until, even in his sleep he pulls you to him for comfort. I wondered how I would respond if someone asked me, on a scale of ten, what is your pain like? What does it feel like to rest your hand on a still swollen belly and know it is empty? What does it do to your heart to know that the plans you made for first Christmases and first birthdays are all gone in one brief instant of physical agony.


The whole time I was waiting in the hospital I just stared at that chart… because, how can you estimate the pain of loss? How can anyone point to any number or a face and say “This. This is the face I make when I learn I’ve lost someone I care about.” How do I quantify what it means to hear nothing where there should be a heartbeat?

The cramping was worse this morning than last night and I took one of the Ibuprofen they gave me, still refusing to numb any of this with something stronger. It feels dishonest, I guess, to minimize the pain of losing something so precious. It’s the same reason I find myself here, un-showered, and wondering if I’ll feel able to stand and wash away the remnants of the child that never was.

I don’t know.

I don’t know when I’ll not feel guilty for smiling, for sharing a laugh with my son, for showering away the weight of some of these emotions that just. won’t. abate. I don’t know when I’ll stop feeling guilty, as though it were something I did wrong that caused all of this.

And still I think of that chart. And I wonder if because my body is healing, it means I’m no longer a 10 on their faces of pain.

Broken (Warning: Trigger)

Posted on | May 4, 2016 | 11 Comments

It was a busy morning… like all mornings are when you’re juggling getting ready for work with pregnancy, fixing breakfast, and mothering a six year old. There were the normal fights over what to wear (both mine and his) and the battle of “just try one bite or no (insert some sort of bonus)” between Banks and J.

It was, by all accounts, just a normal morning.

There was a twinge of sadness in the air, mine, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just felt… off. As a result, I was a bit more subdued, a little less exuberant about heading out the door and getting J to school.

We had pulled out of the driveway and started down the street when all of a sudden, the silence of the car was broken by a sweet, tender voice.

“Oooooh. Oooooooooooooh. Oooooh. Ooooooooooooooh…”

I smiled a little and looked back in my rearview mirror. There was J, buckled in and clutching his lunchbox.

“I had a dream so big and loud, I jumped so high I touched the clouds…Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-a-ohhhh”

He was singing. He was singing about how it was going to be the best day of his life. His li-i-i-i-i-i-ife.

And something in his high tenor struck me and suddenly my tears began to fall uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop. I cried all the way to his school and after I dropped him off, I called Banks and cried some more. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen. It was J’s first field trip for school so we thought maybe, just maybe that was all it was. Maybe I was sad because my little boy was growing up. Maybe it was just the pregnancy hormones that made me feel like somehow I was never going to see my child again… like something awful was going to happen and it wouldn’t, ever, be the best day of our lives.

But Banks eventually calmed me down.

I went to work. I did a few lawyerly things.

And it wasn’t until 9:00am that the bleeding began.

By 9:30 I was in my OB’s office. I waited an eternity filled with smiling pregnant women and exhausted mothers with the tiniest of infants in carriers beside them.

Finally they called my name and I shuffled, eyes downcast as though I had shamed myself before these women… as though I’d done something wrong that had left me on the other side of their happy. I couldn’t make eye contact. I couldn’t smile at the babies who cooed and smacked in my direction.

The ultrasound nurse was kind but she kept the screen tilted away from me. I heard the click and pull of each measurement, each silent picture of what was happening inside me. Still no one spoke. The doctor came in and in a moment his voice pounded out into the silence:

“Measure it again,” he said.

And I knew.

I knew what they weren’t saying a moment before they said it. Just no heartbeat. No growth for two weeks. The baby was gone.

The baby is gone.

They gave me a room to cry in then walked me out the back door into the cold lobby. With no pregnant women to watch me pass, I let the tears fall.  I went home, alone, to wait for Banks to arrive… to wait for the hospital to call to schedule the procedure that would take away what was left of the life I never had a chance to know.

They called around 1 and we went back to the doctor, ushered into a room with a giant wire torso of a pregnant woman hanging from the wall. Around her belly a gaping red sash hung like the beginnings of my nightmare.

There were papers to sign and date and initial and then we were sent to the hospital for a backless green gown and white knee high stockings.

“Are you pregnant,” the woman asked at the check in, and the tears began again as I whispered out “Not anymore.”

And then they took me back to my room to wait the few hours before and until it would all be over. I thought it would just be me and Banks. I thought we would stare at each other and cry.

But we were not alone from the moment the first nurse came into the room.

My hours there were suddenly full of women with hugs and stories of loss that they whispered and braided around me until I was encapsulated by their strength. My nurse suffered through two losses. My anesthesiologist assistant, five. They held my hands and squeezed and nodded and just… Knew. They knew the way only women can.  They caught and dried my tears before they fell. They brought me into their arms and rocked me gently into the sleep I needed to carry on with the task ahead of me.

In a moment I was asleep.

And then, a tiny lifetime later, I was awake.

But our baby is gone.

And for all of their strength and compassion, I am still broken.





Posted on | April 25, 2016 | 7 Comments

I always wanted more than one child. I wanted two or three or a dozen… anything other than just one. And when I got divorced after J was born, I thought that dream was gone.

Then I met Banks and we fell in love and, wonders never cease, he wanted kids, too. A few years down the road we got married and still wanted kids so we thought we’d give it the old college try. I was stoked. I always wanted a house full of kids.

And then four months in to our marriage, suddenly everything changed.

I remember it vividly. I was run down from work and life and juggling all the things. And as I thought about the idea of another child, a terrifying jolt of fear shot through me.

What on earth was I thinking? Why did I want more kids? Wouldn’t J feel replaced? Wouldn’t he think that maybe he wasn’t a part of this new family that Banks and I were creating? Would it be weird for him that his last name was different? Would he feel like an outsider in his own home? WHAT WAS I THINKING? I started to feel as though maybe Banks and I needed to have a long talk about the reality of having another child. It wasn’t just J I was worried about. I was getting old… I was already fighting a losing battle against weight gain. I’d given up running for a herniated disc. I just wasn’t exactly at a point in my life where I felt like I could handle a baby.

The sleepless nights.

The painful tug and sting of nursing.

The endless green and yellow runny diapers.

No. No, I wasn’t sure I’d thought this through. I have a kid who is pretty great. He doesn’t crap his pants anymore. He gets himself dressed in the mornings. His school is… FREE.

I’d made up my mind. I was going to talk to Banks about it. We just needed more time. We just needed to really think about how this would affect the dynamics of our family… our little family of three that was working pretty darn well, thank you very much. I was already so worn down and exhausted… how could I think I would be able to handle a BABY.

I’d talk to him that night, I decided. Or maybe in the morning.

Because I was just really tired and didn’t feel all that well.

It was probably just a cold, you know, something I picked up from J or work.

I just needed a quick nap and an early bedtime and I’d feel better and we could talk about how I might be just a little too old and too anxious to have another baby.

The next morning I called in sick to work. I just couldn’t get out of bed.

“It’s the flu, I know it,” I told myself. And hauled it over to the Minute Clinic for testing.

Not the flu. Not a virus. Not at all what I suspected. Suddenly all my anxiety made sense. Suddenly all the fear and terror at bringing a new life into our family made blinding, perfect, plus sign sense.

We’re having a baby.

Ready or not.

Civil Discourse

Posted on | April 6, 2016 | 5 Comments

A few weeks ago, I opened my email to a message from a local church leader, inviting me to come visit with him about my beliefs on some of the bills that have been introduced lately across our country, dealing with (among other things) LGBT marriage. His email was in response to a fired off email I sent him earlier in the week asking that I be removed from his “marketing” list due to an email I received telling me to support one of those bills.  I thought it was very brave of him to invite me to talk, so I accepted. Because really that’s what is missing in our society right now… polite conversation that doesn’t resort to name calling, about the things we disagree on.

It was with great trepidation that I shook his hand and sat down across from him to talk. See, I have pretty strong beliefs when it comes to What Would Jesus Do, and what it means to be a Christian. I believe whole-heartedly in the ideas that Jesus preached about love and patience and embracing people from all walks of life. So I was worried about sitting down with someone who was a church leader and who seemed to feel so very differently. But I guess I thought that maybe through talking to each other, I would see that we don’t feel so very differently. I thought there would be a common ground we could find where we’d smile and say “Well, yes… THAT we can agree on.”

I wish I could say I came away from that meeting feeling like we found a common ground and that his and my “versions” of Christianity were simply parallel lines that could maybe swerve a bit somewhere down the line and find their way back together.

But I can’t.

Instead, I left that meeting feeling sad and heartbroken about the future of the religion I hold so dear.

I have always believed that when Jesus said “Feed my sheep,” he meant feed and care for them all. He didn’t mean lift and separate them into acceptable sheep and unacceptable sheep.  I believe that when Paul wrote to the Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus,” he actually meant that in God’s eyes we are all the same. As in, indistinguishable.

But in that large and sprawling mega-Church, I was told that Christianity is, “by its nature intended to be exclusive.” I was told that Jesus selected only 12 disciples because he meant for Christianity to be limited in scope. At least that’s what I understood this particular leader to be saying.

When I left after our 1.5 hour meeting, I was depressed. I sat in my car in their wide and expansive parking lot, and I cried into my steering wheel, because I can’t imagine my Jesus turning anyone away from the path to righteousness. I can’t imagine my Jesus saying “I’m sorry, you don’t fit my image of Christian, so I’m going to have to ask you to sit in the back.” I can’t imagine my Jesus embracing a church that says “All are welcome to worship… but you have to fit in this neat box right here if you want to actually be an accepted MEMBER of this congregation.”

Though I had hoped to find a common ground, I left the meeting reminded that my Christianity and his can never see eye to eye. Because my Jesus, my Christianity, is not exclusive by nature. It is wide armed and smiling and ready to forgive again, and again, and again… even if you are exactly like me and you screw up over, and over, and over.

Because we’re not perfect, and I don’t believe that Jesus charged us to go out and find a particular brand of perfect-ish people to embrace into the church… I believe that Jesus charged us to feed all His sheep with the love and compassion of His church.  And that doesn’t mean just allowing them to worship in the next pew. Because what sort of message does it send, really, if you tell someone “No, no… you can worship here with us. But you can’t be a part of our membership.”

Doesn’t it say “you’re not as good as me?”

Doesn’t it say “I think I’m better than you?”

Do either of those things sound like something Jesus would say?

So to the church leader who met with me, I will reiterate what I said as I was leaving. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Thank you for the civil discussion we engaged in.

But I extend a hearty “No, thank you” to your request that I come and worship with you, because honestly?

I like my Jesus a lot better than the one you teach.

An Act of Contrition

Posted on | March 24, 2016 | 2 Comments

“Oh my God, I am heartfully sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because I have offended Thee my God, Who is all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”

I’ve always liked the Act of Contrition prayer, even though I’m not Catholic. I like it because it embraces the weakness of man, the humility required when we face God, and the resolution we must make to always do our best to live in the light and example of the one we pray to.

Even if you aren’t Catholic, even if you aren’t Christian, I think the idea that there’s a way to apologize… in a global sense… for being wrong or doing wrong or even thinking wrong is a nice idea. It’s the warm fuzzy in a world of “oops;” that idea that somehow by saying we’re sorry we can start to make amends. That by apologizing we can show the truest intent of our hearts.

This morning, my heart cries out for healing and for understanding and for some form or sort of absolution from the sins of myself and the sins of my country.

You guys, I’m absolutely heart sick over the fear and hate that is swirling around us. And I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to heal and tend and minister to the broken around me because sometimes, it seems, broken doesn’t realize it is broken. So I pray for absolution from the sins around me. Because sometimes that is all I can do.

Yesterday, in North Carolina, a group of elected officials called a special session to push through a hastily written bill designed to protect discrimination of all kinds.

It’s now illegal in North Carolina to take a child into an opposite sex restroom if the building is “government controlled.”

It’s now illegal in North Carolina to file a discrimination lawsuit within the State for a company or entity who refuses service to an African American, a Veteran, an elderly person, a disabled person, or a homosexual or transsexual individual.

It is now, heart-breakingly legal and legislatively approved to openly express your hate in the once great state of North Carolina.

Do you understand what this means for so many people? Not just people you disagree with. Not just people you don’t like. This bill affects EVERYONE.

And I wonder what Jesus would say today, to the shop owner who tells a gay couple to leave. I wonder what Jesus would do when faced with the broken spirit and broken hearts that woke up this morning to learn that they no longer can depend on those around them to act with decency and humanity.

No. No, I don’t wonder at all.

I know what Jesus would do… at least I think I do. Look inside your heart and tell me what you see there.

Do you hear the heart rending sound? Do you feel the soft wetness against your cheek? Do you know the heart ache that is Heaven today?

Jesus is weeping.

And I, with my soft and heavy heart, join him.

Taking Steps

Posted on | March 3, 2016 | 2 Comments

I’ve started climbing steps at work.

It started out just in the mornings and afternoons, but when I was still barely reaching my minimum goal of steps, I amp-ed it up to every time I go to the bathroom. Since I’m also drinking 900 gallons of water a day, that means I’m hitting the stairwell on average 5 or 6 times each day.

I wouldn’t say it’s fun.

And if I’m being totally honest, it’s really difficult to feel like I’m accomplishing much of anything, when all I do is travel up and down the same steps. I guess it’s a lot like life in your upper 30s that way, static yet frenetic all at the same time. I feel like I’m constantly moving, rarely sleeping, and yet somehow it seems nothing is actually getting done. No matter how many times I start the dishwasher or the washing machine, it always needs to be started again with seemingly endless pairs of mismatched socks or food-stained plates. No matter how often I tell myself I’m going to stop and enjoy what’s happening, it… whatever IT is… is always finished before I seem to grasp it’s begun.

I sometimes wonder when my “real” life will start, even as I struggle to remember the moments of my childhood, all rosy and faded like one of those 1970s movie reels.

Adulthood is more about laundry than I thought it would be, you know? It’s more about bills and balancing check books and mopping floors and scrubbing toilets than doing all the things I thought I’d have the chance to do one day. And yes, it gets rough when you notice the ever-growing heaviness of the body, the ever-softening sharpness of the mind. It’s tough to step into the same house with the same creaks and groans and dust the same table over and over until you think maybe… just maybe… your whole entire world is made up of spray, swipe, repeat. It’s a lot like… climbing the same set of stairs, over and over and over again.

Today, I reluctantly pushed open the door to the stairwell again. I kicked off my work shoes and stretched in time to the ever increasing crackle in the bones of my body. Then I reluctantly took the first step down, knowing each step down would be replaced with another up, over and over until the tops of my legs started to shake with exhaustion.

But today, I noticed that each step up was a little easier than it had been yesterday. And then for a moment, I didn’t see stained concrete and bland walls. I looked around and saw me, just me, remembering to put “taking care of me” on my “To Do” list. And that’s a step forward. Even though it’s just climbing steps five times a day. Even though the sound of my breathing on the uphill swing makes me giggle and the pat of my feet is, well, more like an elephant march.

Today, I remembered that adult life isn’t staid or still or repetitious, even when you’re traveling familiar paths. Life isn’t really just about dishes and bills and getting older. It’s about taking the stairs. It’s about mixing things up. Yes, it’s sometimes about doing the same load of laundry twice, but sometimes? Sometimes it’s about noticing that even the same paths can reveal new and amazing surprises.  And most of the time, it’s just about embracing where you are and choosing to create your own adventure, right there in the same places you’ve always been.

One step at a time.



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