Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vegan cookies are the best medicine, and other thoughts on grief and gratitude


To this day I have only received one shipment of homemade vegan cookies.

Then that box of yummy, banana-y, chocolate-y love arrived on my doorstep. I had just experienced my third miscarriage. I was delirious. I laughed constantly, which was weird to most people. A coping mechanism, I was told. My sarcasm was at an all-time high. And I was at an all-time high, too, taking more pain pills than I needed. I had lost all motivation to exist, except for to watch the box set of Harry Potter that Brittany had lent me while eating batch after batch of the most delicious cookies Carey had sent-- with love from California.

After my first miscarriage, my small group leader, Jacki (who coincidentally was also vegan), brought over this sausage and lentil stew with freshly baked bread. "My friend recommended it, and I wanted to make sure I brought you something that would make you feel a little warmer." It was February. I wasn't a seasoned miscarriage veteran at this point. I broke down sobbing in the kitchen, my bare feet on the cold tiles.

Today is the Remembrance Day / Wave of Light-- a day to remember the babies we've lost to miscarriage or stillbirth. I have three that I will remember today, along with many other babies that my friends have lost over the years.

But I will also remember those friendships that came from these losses. I will remember after my second loss my college professor and mentor, Anabel, brought me spaghetti and a heart-shaped dish and sat on the floor next to my bed for hours. It was the first time I had smiled-- really smiled-- since losing Micah. We talked about travel and family and languages, and it reminded me that outside of this overwhelming, life-altering event, I was a whole person with interests and joys and dreams, and for a moment I didn't feel minimized by my loss.

I will remember when Stephanie brought me Chick-fil-a and her favorite book of comics that she thought would make me smile. And she didn't judge me, even though I was clearly drinking too much and sleeping too little.

I remember Meghan, who baked peanut butter blossoms and sat in bed with me and just listened-- really listened-- to my sorrows and my fears and didn't turn her face away from my messy, ugly grief. 

I'll remember Julie, who saved all her baby stuff for me instead of selling it in a yard sale, because she really believed that I would need it eventually. In lieu of the divorce, I gave her my blessing to sell it to someone else who needed it, but the fact that she held onto hope for me for so long meant everything, especially on the days when I had no hope at all.

I remember my yoga-teacher-turned-friend, Sarah, who let me cry and cry and cry on my mat in her yoga class as she taught me to reconnect with the body that betrayed my children.

I remember my parents taking turns coming over, helping with chores, cooking meals, and making me shower, even if it was just to get back in bed. The depression was so heavy at times.

I could go on and on and on and on. It wasn't about what these people so graciously gave to me or did for me, but I really learned who would be there in the hard places. I really learned who my friends are and I saw God in those moments when I felt really alone.

My babies gave me that.
So today, I remember.
I light my candle.
And I give thanks.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Equality in the Sweet Carolinas


I have a dream that one day the Land of the Free will recognize the rights of every citizen. I hope to see this dream realized in my lifetime. This week in the Carolinas has given me reason to believe that progress is coming, but it's slow and shifty and unsure. I hope it will be worth the wait.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Girl under the Pew


I was raised under a steeple with the light from my church's stained glass windows spreading their colors across my skin. As the congregation's god-daughter, I spent much of my time at potlucks and revivals. I memorized verses and doctrine. I was told I should be a Republican (because that's what Jesus would want.) I attended-- and even participated in-- an anti-abortion protest before I knew where babies came from. My first memories of creating any kind of art happened underneath those pews. I'd draw in the blank spaces on church bulletins with broken crayons, my favorite doll next to me.

I was commanded to remain pure until marriage, as not to become "damaged goods" for the man I would one day call my husband. I was told that shot glasses were called "medicine glasses" because they held just enough water to wash down two aspirin! Every advent, every camp meeting, every dinner party, every Easter gathering. I was there.

I was raised to be madly in love with-- and also terribly afraid of-- God. I was told I was a dirty, no good sinner over and over and over. I was told to "come as I was" but also that I would never be enough. How lucky I was that God would love me even though I'm a piece of crap!! But in order for him to love me, I had to acknowledge my nothingness.

So many mixed signals. So many scary nights. So much worrying about my eternal damnation and how hot the fires of hell would feel on my skin should I deviate from the righteous path.

Years later, I'm still a recovering Pentecostal-- a recovering Christian.

The pattern of I love you and I'm scared of you and I don't deserve you has replicated itself in my relationships with men. The patriarchal command of "submitting to my husband"-- while many people take this out of context-- was the reason I stayed in my abusive, unhealthy marriage as long as I did. When the fights got so severe, I was pretty sure it was my fault and began reading books about how marriage is meant to make you holy, not happy, because Jesus loves us and wants us to be like him and if that means being married to someone who harms you emotionally, so be it.

Enter God as the playground bully who hazes you and then congratulates you on your unwavering devotion having endured such a test, stage right.

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My Pentecostal roots run so deeply that in times of trouble I still have the knee-jerk reaction of whispering prayers into the void in the same way that an alcoholic unscrews the cap off a whiskey bottle. I am proud of having come from that broken, misled denomination, because it's my story, and it has shaped me. And while the girl under the pew is still a part of me, I have outgrown her.

One year at church camp, there was this skit that the youth put on about abstinence. There was a teenage girl holding a heart cut out of construction paper, and every time a new boy walked past her, she would tear him off a piece and hand it to him, until eventually she had nothing left to give her husband. "Girls, let this remind you," the pastor said, "that God wants you to remain whole for the man he has chosen for you." The boys were not addressed.

In retrospect, I can't even begin to tell you how damaging this message is for a girl to hear. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized how ingrained this "womanly shelf life" was hammered through my skull.

It taught me I was an object.

It taught me that I was finite and easily damaged.

It taught me that I could not have sex with more than one person without being considered broken and unworthy of love.

It taught me that others determined my value, and that I had no say in that at all except to keep my legs closed and pray for God to forgive me for being human and experiencing typical human emotions, like lust and loneliness and heartache.

And why did I experience those emotions? Because I was a meager young woman who needed Jesus. Jesus could fix me, if only I'd submit to Jesus in the same way I'd eventually submit to my husband! The message was crystal clear.

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To this day I struggle with my self-worth and identity outside of my faith. I feel judged and mishandled by the community that was supposed to have my best interests at heart. I feel misled by the people who were placed above me to lead and guide me through this world. I feel like I can finally openly experience this life fully, loving who I love without the fear of eternal damnation.

I feel challenged to raise my daughters and sons-- should I ever have living ones-- to treat themselves and others gently and with the utmost respect. I am still trying to learn this skill, because it's hard. It's hard to affirm others when we are still so rough with ourselves. I would want them to know that who they are is enough for this world, and that their worth is not defined by others, nor by a book, nor by their sexuality. I do not want to create another generation that grows up feeling inadequate, broken, worthless, and controlled.

They are enough.
I am enough.
You are enough.

If I were to die tomorrow, I hope that my legacy would be just that.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Currently



I haven't blogged recently... for many reasons. I can't put words to one major thing that's going on in my life, and the only other thing that's going on is roller derby. And let's be real, you don't wanna hear about roller derby. So I figured a Currently post was in order.


I've been revisiting some of my favorites from high school-- Dashboard Confessional's album, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most and New Found Glory's Sticks and Stones.


I got halfway through The Rosie Project on my way home from Atlanta last month. Since then it's been collecting some serious dust on my nightstand. But so far it's a really fun, lightweight but still thought-provoking read. A recent good internet read: Mortician for the YouTube Generation.

I finally decided to finish Weeds while I was waiting for Parenthood, Grey's Anatomy, and Scandal to return. Masterchef has been really good this season also.

Bout makeup. In roller derby, it's common for skaters to have cool and/or scary makeup on that either goes with their derby name persona or fits the theme of the bout. Recently we had a zombie themed bout (see photo above) and I went a little liquid-latex-and-fake-blood crazy. It was awesome.
Now I'm wondering what other really cool looks I could create!

This artist. And this artist. This social project. And this artist. Also roller derby. Because, well... it's my only saving grace these days.

Halloween! It's my favorite holiday of the year, and I love it. Now to make plans...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Goodbye Atlanta

I'm in Atlanta today. Stuck in the airport-- I'm exhausted and my eyelids are heavy from a two-day business trip. My feet hurt, but I am in my most comfortable flip flops and have found a seat in the terminal next to an outlet. I'm charging three devices, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be stuck on the Tarmac for a while. The weather here is temperamental, humid. 

I usually love airport days. I love to fly. I love to people watch and I love to watch the planes take off and land. Today feels different. I had a successful, up eventful trip, but home seems so far away. 

I love this life. It isn't what I imagined I'd be doing at 27, but it isn't so bad. Still I long for canvas and paint, or maybe scrubs and charts. What am I doing for this world? I'm really not sure. Atlanta is not any more beautiful than it was when I got here.