Sunday, September 3, 2017

On Our Wedding Day

Hey Babe,

You're well aware that I'm a wordsmith and given the contemplative nature of our wedding ceremony I had a couple of things I wanted to make sure I got to say.

The more I have thought about marriage and being married over the years the more I have realized marriage is among the most ordinary of things. Any trip to the grocery store with mild observation skills will lead to the conclusion that more people are married than not. Being unmarried after a certain age is more of a shock than being married. It's almost a presumed state. And does being married seem to have added value to the lives of those who have chosen it? Has it fundamentally changed how they are in this world for the better? Often times not. It is a neutral state of being: married. Normal, ordinary, and yet, if you ask anyone who knew me before you did, my love, you’ll hear that I was never getting married again. I had no desire to be normal among the masses. Furthermore, being a wife was not a status I wanted, it had been more prison for me than it had freedom and flourishing. I found the word married, the words wife and husband to hold such negativity that I couldn’t imagine ever wanting them to be attached to me again.

I can not tell you how much you have changed that for me. I was not expecting you babe. Nowhere in my consciousness was there any hope that someone like you existed for me. I have never met a man, or a person who was more fiercely committed to me being me. I have never been around anyone who rejected outright any facades I tried to give him, someone who was so committed to having, knowing, and being with the real Shannon. You push me hard in the direction of whole hearted living, the direction of my dreams, and I am in awe every time you do. You show up for me, the real me, when I’m a crying mess on the bathroom floor, and when I’m walking across a stage to receive another theology degree. You show up for my kids, you show up period. So yes, Dan Hall, I want to be your wife. And I believe that our marriage will be far from ordinary, this will not be a neutral state of being for us………
In you I have found the love of my life, and my closest, truest friend.

Monday, June 19, 2017

To the Fathers

To those who’ve lost their father and grieve today, I am with you.

To those who were never fathered, I am with you.

To those whose children lack a worthy father, I am with you.

To those trying step-father, I am with you.

To the fathers who’ve been rejected by their children, I am with you.

To the mothers who’ve been both mother and father, I am with you.

To the fathers who’ve buried their babies, I am with you.

To the fathers who do this parenting thing alone, I am with you.

To grandfathers who long to know their grandchildren and are denied that privilege, I am with you.

To the women preparing to walk down an aisle alone, I am with you.

To the adopted fathers who are on that beautiful hard path, I am with you.

To the children who were terribly abused by their fathers, I am with you.

To those fathers whose children have chosen a path filled with their own destruction, I have been there.

To the fathers battling addiction so they can be present to father, I am with you.

To the fathers consumed with thoughts of how they’ve screwed this fatherhood thing up, I am with you.

To the mothers who’ve never been fathered and don’t know how to let someone father their children, I am with you.

To the fathers-yet-to-be who long for children, I am with you.

To the exhausted, over-extended, struggling fathers, I am with you.

To the confused and broken fathers, I am with you.

To the fathers filled with joy, I am with you.

~ God

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Road Ahead

Another year has passed and though the page has turned the road I am on is still the same. 

The Road Ahead
~ by Thomas Merton

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following 
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never doing anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by he right road
     though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day ~ What we really want, not to be invisible.

A few years back I wrote a post saying I didn't want anything for Mother's Day. You can read it here. While everything I said there is still true I have reached some new conclusions about this holiday and all holidays

I have spent the bulk of my adulthood attempting to minimize my expectations. If I expect nothing then I can not be hurt when nothing happens. The problem with this way of being is that it is disingenuous. While I wish I expected nothing on holidays that is not the truth of what my heart wants. Often times what I have said to those I love is 

"Don't do anything, it's just another day, it's no big deal." 

When the nothing I asked for invariably happens, I end up withdrawing to my room trying to steel myself against the tears. Not wanting to hurt my family's feelings with my pain when all they did was exactly what I told them to. I have honed this pattern to a scientifically predictable timetable.

My other way of being around holidays goes something like ~ specifically tell everyone I love exactly what I want to happen. Wait for it to not happen with an impending sort of dread. Engage in the aforementioned silent, isolating pattern.

There are other complications. Mother's Day in a blended household is a tricky widget. I am not the bio parent of any of my partner's children. He is not a biological parent to any of mine. And while it would be awesome if the celebration of Mother's Day originated with the children, usually either Dad head's it up or it doesn't happen. Generally bio dads feel some need to honor their wives or partners for all they do for their actual children on Mother's Day. But if you don't do much for your partner's actual children that motivation can fall flat. 

All of this got me to thinking. In my home and many others I am (mom is) the champion holiday planner and celebrator. I make (or she makes) whatever dinner and dessert each individual wants for their day. Mom plans Christmases and vacations. Mom makes sure everyone has something individually geared toward them, or wrapped for them. And it occurred to me by never requiring any of my family members to do that for me I am setting a terrible precedent. I am teaching them that while they are all special, worthy of celebration and important, conversely I am just a mom. I'm prone to grinding out the work for others but "pay me no mind" on my day. So I sat my kids down today. I told them that Mother's Day was tomorrow and reminded them my birthday is in two weeks. I gave them a list of various things I would like and reminded them that there are plenty of adults available to help them accomplish whatever they would like to do for me, all they need to do was ask. Maybe nothing will happen but it won't be because I gave them a free pass. 

List of things this mom actually wants for Mother's Day:

~ To sleep in ~ for real, everyone to be so quiet that I can sleep.
~ Coffee in bed, made for me, brought to me
~ A homemade breakfast. 
~  No one to fight all day long no raised voices. Quite possibly the biggest gift
~ A bright pink peony to plant in my front yard
~ The dishes done all day
~ Quiet, a new book and the time to read it
~ Hair products from my favorite salon
~ Someone to till up the rest of my garden beds

I have learned that I do my partner and my children no favors by playing up my invisibility. Mothers are invisible enough. If I want my children to celebrate their wives or themselves when they grow older I need to sufficiently motivate them to do that for me now. It's not selfish. It's wise. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Warning Signs in Abusive Relationships

I have not written extensively on my domestically violent marriage. But one of the things I wish I had known then is what some warning signs were for abusive relationships. Here is one way things with a potentially abusive partner can go in a developing relationship. If early on when dating they tell you a story that is similar to any of the following, immediately leave and terminate the relationship. 

Versions of Stories told by Abusers:

Well this one girl thought I was stalking her, but I really wasn't. I just worked near her place. She was the crazy one. She got a Protection from Abuse Order and everything. God, she was so dramatic. 

I had to quit this gym because this chick was married and her husband was really scary. He always thought I was hitting on his wife. The gym owner asked me to leave even though I hadn't done anything wrong. 

My ex girlfriend/wife accused me of rape. Let me tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself. I want to be totally transparent with you.

My ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse says I have a really bad temper. I'm just so grateful to be with someone like you who "gets" me. 

I had to create a new Facebook profile so that I could keep tabs on my ex. He blocked my original one. He accepted my new friend request and didn't even know it was me.

I have some felony charges relating to sex with minors but it was just a plea deal. I'm not guilty of a crime or anything. I had to take the deal. I didn't do anything wrong everything. It was a consensual relationship. 

When someone tells a story like the ones above, they are testing your tolerance. By accepting their version of the story, you are unknowingly signing yourself up to be on the receiving end of those same behaviors. What they glean from your acceptance of their story is that you'll be likely to tolerate violent/abusive/stalking behavior when it's done to you. Furthermore, if you accept their version and go on in the conversation to malign the other individual you have shown them that you'll likely blame yourself if they abuse or mistreat you. You've just blamed their previous victim. 

Often the beginning signs of Intimate Partner Violence or Domestic Violence are difficult to distinguish. Stories of abuse are commonly told in the beginning of a relationship with a potential abuser. They are evaluating the likelihood of being successful in their abusive relational pattern with you. If you respond to those stories with shock and tell them that their behavior was not ok; they will likely lose interest and move on to a more accepting victim. 

If you find yourself in need of help please reach out. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-779-7233. Reach out if you need help. The author is available for questions if you have them. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Everyday is Women's Day Because Women are People

It's 8:43 am. I am a woman and this is what I have done so far today.

Woke up my partner, because he had a meeting to go to and I set the alarm.
Kissed him goodbye.
Made coffee. Immediately started making my to do list in my brain. One for our business, one for home/personal life.
Let dog out.
Fed dog.
Sat down, found paper and a pen, begin making list(s), trying to keep the word "reasonable" in mind.
The littlest woke up early and was a bit disoriented. Before coffee comforted littlest.
Got coffee while simultaneously planning a birthday trip for the littlest.
Researched multiple venues for trip, travel routes, store locations and cost.
Send detailed itinerary to all involved parties. It's 7:30 am.
Text three other people about said birthday to see if that can make it over for cake. Debate when/how to do cake.
Try to figure out where to buy roller skates for kid.
Text partner's kid to see if she can make it over cake.
Admire step-daughter's new hairstyle. Appropriate affirmations for teenagers are tricky.
Finish making to do list(s). Finally.
Make to do list (business and personal) for partner, debate on giving it to him.
Instruct small child to make her lunch.
Oversee lunch construction.
Wake older children.
Change laundry.
Wake older children again. Stand there waiting for them to appear awoken while holding laundry.
Back upstairs to oversee lunch/breakfast consumption.
Remind children 753 times to brush their teeth, take their pill, consume food, put their lunch in their backpacks.
Remind oldest that socks and shoes are necessary to go to school.
Comfort middle kid, he's grumpy lately and needs some extra attention.
Notice that the littlest has her shirt on backwards and point that out to her. She debates, I was right.
Instruct oldest to fix his cornstalk-like hair.
Check on the status of the dishes.
Clean off the counter so I can begin folding laundry.
Do smallest child's hair.
Check on the middle kid.
Has anyone eaten yet???
The oldest has now disappeared for 10+ minutes, find him in the bathroom trying to pull out one of his teeth. Tell him that is not the best before school activity.
Fix and style his hair, and blow it dry because he's got sensory issues and wet hair freaks him out.
Tell smallest child to clean her room.
Tell oldest child to clean his room and make his bed. (My boys don't understand these things go together).
Continue folding 2 loads of laundry.
Tell middle child to go help his brother clean their room.
Find out oldest child has been bullied into making his younger brother's bed. Correct the situation.
Apply medicine to middle child's "ouchie".
Attempt to find a different "not hot" coat for little child. Unsuccessful.
Still folding laundry.
Tell children which order they are standing in line waiting for the bus stop today. ***eye roll***
Make sure their rooms are in fact clean.
Kiss children goodbye, except for the one who's currently annoyed and won't kiss me.
Children leave. It's 8:20
Finish folding laundry.
Pour another cup of coffee that will get cold.
Set it down thinking I can get to work now.
Remember I have to put the laundry away.
Begin putting laundry in various rooms/closets.
Notice all the laundry hampers have laundry in them, empty them.
Notice 17 hair ties in various places around the house (partially my fault) pick them all up, put them away.
Turn on ceiling fans in all the bedrooms. It's stuffy in here.
Empty two trashcans. Track down missing outdoor trash can. Put new bags in cans.
Debate about cleaning the bathroom. It really needs to be done, and I really need to start work for the day!
Leave the bathroom dirty.
Make my bed.
Pick up dirty clothes in the bathroom, random slippers, put them away.
Check on dog, does she need to go out again?
Think I can finally sit down and get to work.
Remember I haven't eaten.
Sit down anyway.

I am a woman and without me this home would not run. This doesn't mean that my work is less significant because much of it is the minutiae of running a home. Nor does it mean that my partner, because he's male, isn't capable of doing everything I just did. It may come less naturally to him but that is not an advantage he has over me. Without me, our business wouldn't work either. We are equal partners in work and life.

While I think it's essential to celebrate women. I think it's even more essential to celebrate all people, especially those who are doing life with us. It is not more important to celebrate me because I am a woman than it is my partner or sons or step-son. They are not less worthy of praise because they are all white and male. The most important thing to focus on in my life isn't the celebration of the different or disadvantaged individual. The most important thing for me to focus on is the love and appreciation of each person I come across. That starts at home and in my home there are more white males than anyone else.

My 11 year old son asked me years ago why there's no such thing as boy power? He sometimes lacks the courage to speak up in his own life. He wanted someone to be standing behind him chanting "Boy Power" like he sees people standing behind his little sister chanting "Girl Power." "Can't they encourage me to be me Momma?" He's been born into a world that will tell him his opinion has already been heard. He's just one more white male in the midst of the masses who already run things. He's already gotten the impression that he doesn't need to share his voice. It's already been heard. But it hasn't really.

Now, I'm the first to say that inequality between men and women irritates the shit out of me. Jokes about the wage gap do not make me laugh, they make me angry. Being disadvantaged in the job market because I was/am a single mother led my family into impoverished situations where we battled homelessness repeatedly. I have used food banks. I have been unable to get a job because I had kids but no ring on my finger. I am a feminist. But not one most feminists would recognize and call one of their own. I believe in the rights of women, I believe we should be treated equally. I believe that a bill should be passed by congress demanding equal pay between genders and I don't care that it would require more government oversight, something I'm generally opposed to.

But I do not believe that these things are held in opposition to celebrating the ones less marginalized among us. My sons need to hear that Boy Power is cool too. My partner needs his opinion to not be overlooked simply because he's the stereotypical 40 something white male, so supposedly everyone already knows what he thinks. My work is valid and should be celebrated and valued equally monetarily. So should theirs.

In our time we are so busy celebrating, revering, championing the other. That we forget to focus on the ones right in front of us. Let's not do that friends. We are one. All of us. I don't need a tee-shirt reminding me to persist and resist, I can do that every day, in my home with the people right here. Chances are if more of us celebrated the ones right in front of us, there would be less need for International ___________ Day. Because we'd already all be celebrated and loved. And from that space we can do anything.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Whole 30, Day 29. This is taking Forever.

I have spent a month eating real food. Nothing that does not come from nature, not processed, preserved or packaged. I have never gone this long without sugar, flour, butter, milk or bread singularly, let alone all together. Before January 31, 2017 I had periods of intentionality about food but none anywhere close to as disciplined as this.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned during Whole 30 are directly related to science, nutrition or the cognitive processes surrounding food. But some have nothing whatsoever to do with that.

One of the lessons I have resisted learning is: slow = good. Real food takes time. Not unlike real relationships, real career progression, real learning, real discipline, or real change. These things are not quick. I am by nature a person bent toward efficiency. Protein shakes win over chicken breasts. Dishwasher over hand washing. One of many symptoms of our McDonaldized society is we want our food to be fast.

I can’t tell you how many times this month I was irritated because I was hungry and not at home. I couldn’t just run to Starbucks, a drive through or even a grocery store and get a “meal” quickly. I could pick up a banana but it wasn’t going to satiate my hunger and I found the lack of convenience frustrating. I confess I often felt like my convenience was being thwarted for no reason at all.

The frustration with the lack of convenience and need to cook is not unlike my irritation when things fail to be convenient or quick in other areas of my life. My children have just not gotten that talking back is unacceptable. They still try it. Despite having been given the same lesson for 11, 10 or 7 years now. Their learning is taking too long. So is cooking, it just takes too long.

I want my relationships to work now. At times, I have refused to try to learn new things especially if it takes me more than 5 minutes to grasp the process. I want my body to work now. I find rehabilitation to be a slow and exasperating method of healing. Why can’t I just go running now? My response often is: “Fine, then I won’t do anything.” It’s sort of like preferring to go hungry than make one more piece of chicken or fry one more egg. I’ve done that more than a few times this month. Laziness trumps effort. Immediacy trumps slow consistent work.

But that is not how real life works and it’s not how my food should work either. Life is a series of failures/mishaps. When those failures are going in the same direction eventually the result will be success. Whether that success be relational, financial or health-related we must consistently work toward it, for long periods of time without seeing results before we get to see the “win.”

I’m not sure what March 2nd will bring me. I’m not sure if the numbers on the scale will shift. I’m not sure I can maintain this slower, authentic approach to food long term. But life on life’s terms is not fast. Perhaps I should continue taking food on food’s terms. Real. Healthy. Slow.