June 24, 2015

when "not racist" is not enough

Today in the state of Alabama confederate flags were removed from government property at the order of the governor.  And then the Internet went berserk. 

“I am not racist, BUT…”
I read this phrase over and over and over. 
BUT this is my heritage! You can’t take history away!”
BUT you can’t strip away my rights!”
BUT this is the SOUTH!”


You began posting mini history lessons about the origin of the flag and that it was never intended to be a symbol of racism and it wasn’t created for evil, and I hear you. 

“I’m not racist,” you say.  And I believe you.

But “not racist” isn’t enough.  Jesus never called us to be “not racist”, you guys.  He called us to be LOVE.  And Love is so much more.

Love is patient and kind;
Love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth…
Love never ends.”
(1 Corinthians 13 from The Message Translation)

“Not racist” nods at the wrongs that were done but puts emphasis on "harmless" tradition.  “Not racist” demands personal rights and freedoms remain at all costs.  "Not racist" insists that things stay the same.

But Love. Love chooses to sacrifice those entitlements to protect others. “Not racist” is mostly concerned with self, but Love says, “You matter more than me.”  Love says, “PEOPLE matter more than a flag, or a tradition or ANY OTHER FACTOR added to the equation.  And if giving up my right to fly a flag will remind you of that Love…. It’s worth it. YOU are worth it.”


So, to my friends and peers and neighbors and family and the litany of others raging on social forums because of this “loss”… I ask you this.  Is “not-racist” enough for you? We were never called to be just enough.  We were called for so much more. 

We can change the world, you guys.  But we have to start with Love.

April 21, 2015

on eating. and then not.

I decided to become anorexic while riding the bus one morning in the spring of sixth grade.  I hadn’t heard that word before and wasn’t sure what the requirements were, but all of the glamorous eighth grade girls sitting in the back were talking about becoming it, too. They said they needed to get bikini-ready.  Maybe I could convince my mom to let me wear a bikini if I was “ready”. Every day I’d look back at those girls in awe, longing to be like them.

No one looked at me in awe during my sixth grade year.  Or my seventh or eighth for that matter. I was a lanky kid with a disproportionate body. I had freckles (But not the cute kind), a tangled mass of frizzy hair, and a huge gap in my really huge teeth. (But not the intriguing kind models have. More the, “oh somebody get that girl some orthodontia!” kind.)

I was determined to get a new look. Even though I didn’t really understand the concept of dieting, the glitterati had leaked a secret and I WANTED IN! No one was allowed to sit in the back except the beautiful people of the eighth grade, so I settled a few rows up straining to hear the rules.  I overheard, “never eat lunch” and “drink a lot of…” and a few other chopped up phrases I couldn’t make out. 

“Never eat lunch” was all I had to go with. That was my plan and I began with great gusto.

Unfortunately for my “new look”, it was tater-tot-Thursday in the lunchroom so I fell off the wagon less than five hours after I began. And I never thought about a diet again for the next ten years.

_________________________

A friend asked me earlier this week, “What was it like when you had an eating disorder?” And so I’ve been thinking really hard about how to answer that. 

I don’t really like the word disorder.  I like to say I had some eating "confusion".  It’s not as if I went to bed healthy and woke up sick.  It would have been super helpful if a runny nose or unbearable toe pain had accompanied my condition.  I might have thought to call someone about it.  But it wasn’t like that at all.  It was quiet and slow.  So much so that I wasn’t sure anything was wrong… until it was.

I confused the fact that food kept me alive with the idea that food was my enemy. I forgot that eating was an every day thing. And three times? It felt like overkill. 

I ate to make myself feel better and I starved to make myself feel nothing and I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there. But I knew I didn't want to leave.
It was terrifying and intoxicating.

I was confused when people would say, “You are too thin! You should eat!” and I thought perhaps people were playing a trick on me. Clearly this was a plot to make me fat. I could see myself in the mirror- couldn’t they??

“I am really worried about you.” My friends talked in serious, hushed tones, and Matt always had sad eyes when he looked at me. Before long, everyone was trying to help but no one was helpful. 

You see, I was so confused that I didn’t think I needed help. What I needed was to stay in control.  I thought I was happy and headed towards healthy. (After I lost a few more pounds…) I forgot that my size didn’t make me worthy.

 The other day I came across a quote I love.  Albert Camus says,

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

That. That is a picture of how I began to heal. 

All of the people in front looked back at me offering milkshakes and disappointment and judgment.  I was afraid they were right about me.  And so I was angry with them.

And those who were behind me? They’d fallen back, deciding I wouldn’t change.  In their minds, I could get better if I wanted. That scared me too.

But there were a handful of friends, steady and constant. They didn’t tell me what to do; they didn’t give up on me.  And finally, when confusion gave way to reality, I felt safe enough to whisper a “help”. They heard me and came rushing in.

You guys, if this is you, you aren’t alone.  You’re just a little confused.  When you are ready (You already are. Trust me.) Look to your left and your right.  See who is there.  These are your people.  It doesn't matter if you are confused about eating or marriage or faith or even fashion. (Because, priorities!) Be brave and let them love you into wholeness. Into who you were created to be.

My entourage stayed the course in the difficult months ahead.  Day after day they loved me and did all the wonderful things. They were terribly clingy with their overly healthy selves and I hoped they’d find someone new to help, but THEY WOULD NOT BE MOVED. 

They reminded me that Jesus thinks I’m worthy, and that is enough. They did this one million times a day in case I forgot again.


I still get confused sometimes.  But my people are always right there, keeping an eye on me.  I am telling you, one misstep and THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN!  I can’t get rid of them.  It’s better this way, though.  For me, I need friends beside me to help me remember the truth.

April 5, 2015

hunt or be hunted

You guys know how much I love Jesus, so obviously when our neighborhood hosted an Easter egg hunt last weekend, I had a religious obligation to take Mills.

It's important to note that I have a great appreciation for healthy competition.  When I know a prize is at stake, I am OVERCOME by a primal urge to win.  I’ve triggered such chaos in a Dirty Santa party (or two) that friendships have ended. (all because I stole a stupid travel kit and licked the toothbrush inside to secure my win). Once, I made a girl cry during a game of Catch Phrase with our church group.  But, everyone knows you don’t mix religion and game night.  And also, she was the worst Catch Phraser in the history of ever.  She wasn’t even trying. So, that one wasn’t really my fault. 

Saturday morning my neighbor texted to ask if we were going to the Easter egg hunt at the park.  Immediately my heart rate elevated because I DIDN’T KNOW the hunt was that morning.  I hadn’t had a chance to mentally prepare or come up with a game plan. I’d yet to do the first practice run or egg finding drill with Mills. 

It was one of the first beautiful days of spring and Matt thought we would walk to the park and enjoy the sunshine.  I thought this was a terrible idea because Mills would clearly lag behind and slow us down.  (have you tried walking with a toddler lately?)  He did not appreciate that observation or my proposal to take the car (because SPEED! And PARKING!), so I shoved Mills in a stroller instructing him to keep his feet from dragging the ground.  I instructed Matt to refrain from commentary about Mills being a foot too tall for the stroller.

With T-minus 60 minutes to go, we rolled down the driveway.  Matt seemed to be struggling with math as he repeatedly reminded me that we were only a five minute walk away and advised me to calm down. Agitated, I explained the need to factor in time for inclement weather, foot traffic and other various possible delays.  I hadn’t even hit a brisk mall-walking pace before Matt suggested I was running.  I suggested that he keep up. 
 
We were almost to the park and hadn’t seen any of the competition.  Feeling nervous, I Googled the hunt to double-check the time.  Much to my horror, a flier appeared stating the hunt was taking place AT THE PARK ACROSS TOWN.

Bedlam.

It’s a little fuzzy at this point, but I remember running back towards the house in a panic, screaming at my family to hurry up so we could “GET THERE AND HAVE SOME FREAKING FUN!!!”

I’ll spare you the details of the car ride over except to mention Matt’s threats to take my phone away if I didn’t stop checking the time and yelling at traffic. And also setting a terrible example for our son.  Meanwhile, I was facing the back seat chanting, “Get those eggs! Get those eggs! Push! Shove! HIT! Just, GET THOSE EGGS!" in hopes of raising Mills’ adrenaline so he would be game-time ready. 

There is a chance I jumped out of the car before we had come to a complete stop.  “KEEP UP!” I howled over my shoulder and began jogging towards the field. 

The set-up was tricky.  The grass was sectioned off into four different squares surrounded by caution tape.  Each square was labeled with a different age group and had one million eggs smashed inside.

Although the competition wasn’t particularly impressive, the crowd was thick and the odds were stacked against us. I pushed my way to the front of the “zero to three” zone and anxiously looked for the guys.  Matt was just strolling along (SLOWER THAN A SLUG) and I screamed, “HURRY! THEY ARE STARTING IN LESS THAN SIXTY SECONDS.”  This didn’t go over well.  Also, my timing was a little off.

While Matt pretended not to know me and introduced Mills to kids all around (=the FRAY!) I came up with several strategies.  My cheeks were on fire and I could hear my heart beat throbbing in my ears as a teenager held up a megaphone to make some announcements.  He said, “The sparkly eggs have prizes, please make sure your child doesn’t get more than one.”  Frantically, I began to point Mills in the direction of the closest sparkly egg and explain the importance of getting that one first.  Allegedly I was “yelling” and “making other families uncomfortable” at this point. Mills began to whine and ask me to hold him.  I was not “scaring him” as SOMEONE implied. Clearly he, too, has the primal competitive drive but doesn’t quite know how to channel it. 

The next few minutes are a blur. I heard the whistle and flung myself towards the grass.  Out of my periphery I noticed I seemed to be the only person out of diapers heading towards the glittering prize.  I slowed to check again and, as it turns out, all of the other parents were still outside the perimeter! I swiveled back scanning the crowd for Matt and Mills. In that instant, all the other parents swarmed the field.  I (gently) shoved a few kids out of my path trying to get a visual on the prize.  A GRANDMA was scooping it up in her hot little hand.  I angled towards my back up option only to see a fat baby shoving it in her slobbery mouth.  A quick scan of the space confirmed that all the other eggs were long gone, prize or not.  Just like that, it was over.  

Angry and defeated, I wandered around looking for the guys.  I found them happily sitting in the grass celebrating a measly few finds.

“What happened back there?? You totally dropped the ball!” I looked to Matt for some answers.

“I mean, I didn’t know other parents were going to help. I think you should relax a little, Amanda.  The prizes aren't even a big deal. This is just so the kids can have some fun!”

“Relax? FUN?? This is ridiculous! There was nothing fun about being obliterated back there and walking away empty handed. I HATE EASTER EGG HUNTS!” I stomped off towards our car while Matt kept his distance and again pretended not to know me. He told me I should "take a nap and get control of myself" before the afternoon.  

My behavior there has come under investigation and I’ve been placed on probation for any upcoming games (or social gatherings) until further review. Matt said if I don't learn how to handle my crazy, there will be consequences.

The take away here? 
1)Take my own car next time.
2)Easter Egg hunts are from the DEVIL!








April 1, 2015

your other mother

Jody Landers said, "A child born to another woman calls me Mom.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me.”  I think of her every day, your other mother.  But on these days, the big ones, it consumes me. Three years ago today, on this very moment, I held you in my arms. Finally. 

Last night we were with her. The two of us sat side by side and watched our sons, both of whom she carried. It felt messy and tangly, but mostly it felt like home. Even in the midst of it, I knew this was a moment I'd remember always. 

I asked her (like I always do) “Are you sad? Do you wish things were different?” 

And she sighed and smiled at me (like she always does) and said, “I’m not sad.  I’ve never been sad.  I’m so content.”  

But when I began to try and say thank you, this time she stopped me.  “Don’t thank me anymore,” her eyes were looking far beyond me, beyond the moment.  “That is the best decision I’ve ever made.”


Oh, my darling boy... May you always know how loved you are. And that, to me, she is the strongest, most beautiful woman I know. 

March 23, 2015

what's for dinner?

I was group texting with Clair and Lolly this morning when one of them asked for some new dinner ideas for the week.  Apparently, they forgot I was on the text.  I don’t cook.  And, when I say this to people, they are always, “Oh my gosh, me neither!” and I temporarily don’t feel so alone.  But then I’m at their house on a random Tuesday and they are “just whipping up” some seared ahi tuna with a beautiful remoulade served alongside caramelized shallots and candied beets. 

Liars.

Do you know how you can tell if someone cooks?  They recklessly use phrases like, “just pop in some (blah blah)” and “oh, just toss it over (whatever)” and “I just throw together whatever I have on hand.” They say this as if perhaps an infant could crawl up on the counter and cook if only they had the fine-motor skills.  Also, most of what they “whip up” includes foreign-to-me ingredients like roasted kale and pine nuts.  What does that even MEAN? Many times, friends have tried to convince me that cooking is SOO simple.  That I probably already have everything I need in my fridge/pantry.  You know what that means?  My family would be eating three bread and butter pickles over expired hummus paired with last week’s pizza sautéed in vanilla coffee creamer.  Canned fruit cocktail for dessert.  Beverage choices are whole milk, juice boxes or half and half.

My mom didn’t cook either, so maybe it’s genetic like blue eyes or heart disease.  When we got married, I was determined to learn and begin life as the domestic goddess I knew I had hidden inside.  I was a wife.  Wives cook. 

For a wedding gift, someone gave us the expensive crock pot we registered for along with a book called “135 Fail Proof Amazing Slow Cooker Recipes.”  Some of the recipes allowed you to cook the main dish AND a side all in the same fancy pot! (bonus: our high-end crock pot came with a tiny matching one, so I could even make desserts!!)   Each night when Matt came home to some new, beautiful, steaming feast, I hardly ate I was so impressed with myself.  I noticed his appetite seemed to be dwindling as the weeks went on.  Maybe he was secretly on a diet because he was planning to surprise me with a tropical getaway?  Finally one night after I plated my newest creation, he just sighed and gulped down some murky homemade tea.  (I couldn’t quite figure our Deluxe Mr. Coffee Instant Iced Tea Maker. Also a wedding gift.) 

Assuming it was a rhetorical question I asked, “Does everything taste alright?”  His cheeks got red.  Little beads of sweat appeared.  That’s what a hot, home cooked meal will do to a guy.

“Well, I just. I don’t know. It’s fine. No, it’s GOOD! I can’t believe how well you cook!  But. Is there a certain ingredient you've been using in every recipe?”

“No. We had cream cheese chicken alfredo Monday and bacon ranch ribs yesterday.  Obviously not.”

“But what about the barbecue sauce?” You know how I always mention Matt’s shifty nervous-y eyes when things are about to potentially go wrong?  That. 

“BARBEQUE SAUCE?” I was incredulous but not sure why yet.

“No. It’s not that. I love barbecue sauce.  But why are you using it every day?”

I wasn’t.  

So, like a mature WIFE (because I was a grown-up-married-person now), I dramatically threw my monogrammed (another wedding gift) onto our “every day” China and ran to our bedroom slamming the door behind me.

After waiting about four minutes, Matt tapped on our door.  “It’s FINE!” I wailed, my head under our new Pottery Barn pillow shams.  “I KNEW you hated it.  I KNEW I COULDN’T COOK!” 

He sat down on the bed beside me.  “Babe, no.  I’ve figured it out. It’s just the crock-pot.  Really! There is something wrong with it.  Every single thing you cook tastes like the exact same sour barbecue sauce. (boy, does he have a way with words!)  So it isn’t you, it's the crock pot that's terrible.”

You guys… this man is a saint! And also, a liar.


I pitched my beautiful, chrome, 4-automatic-settings crock-pot in the apartment dumpster on my way to work the next day. And I never looked back.

But, I am a MOM now.  Mills licked the chocolate off of a protein bar for breakfast this morning. So, while Clair and Lolly swapped delicious sophisticated-sounding recipes, I furiously took notes.  It's never too late to learn, right?

March 19, 2015

so you adopted because you couldn't get pregnant?

A lot of people ask me, “So, did you guys adopt because you couldn’t get pregnant?”  I think that’s the most common conclusion in terms of adoption. (at least with people who don’t have biological children.)  And while certain aspects of our adoption and infertility story do overlap, one was not a direct result of the other.  My story of infertility and Mills’ story are two very different things and it is important to me that they stay separate from one another.

We started trying to get pregnant seven years ago. (or ONE HUNDRED because it feels exactly the same)

I was so clueless and naïve that I actually CALLED my doctor’s office:

“Hi.  I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I are HAVING A BABY.”

“When did you test positive?” The nurse wasn’t the friendliest, but I had AMAZING news, so I was sure she’d come around.

“Oh, haha! We aren’t pregnant yet, but we are GOING to be.  We decided to have a baby and I took that ovulation test AND got a smiley face AND we, well, you KNOW, so….” I’m pretty sure I was giggling. Also, I talk in extreme run on sentences when I’m excited.

(total silence) And then, “Honey, what is it you are calling about?”

I felt a little sorry for her.  And confused.  Didn’t she know anything?? “BECAUSE we are going to have a baby.  (???) Don’t you want to put it on my chart? Or have me come in or something?”

And then laughter.  That woman laughed at me. “Why don’t you call me back when you get a positive pregnancy test.” (more laughing)

I was crushed.  I was angry.  And now, I look back and feel so sad for me… but I laugh too.  I did not know ONE SINGLE THING about all this.

Fast forward through four years of trying and waiting and crying and testing and SO.MANY.”NO”s. 

No, you aren’t pregnant this month. No, we don’t know what is wrong. No, insurance doesn’t cover that. Nope, still not pregnant. No, no, no no…

And the week before my 30th birthday, I was the one who said no.  Matt and I were sitting outside watching the sunset and I said, “Ok.  I’m done.  I don’t want to look back at our life and say, ‘those were the miserable years.’ So, no more.  If the children in our lives are simply those in the families around us that will be enough. I will be okay.”  And for the first time, I meant it.

It wasn’t one month later that my high school guidance counselor called and said, “Amanda, I was sitting in my front room reading my Bible and God told me to call you.” (When someone says God told them to call, you LISTEN!)  She went on to tell me that her daughter had just adopted from an agency who needed birth parents willing to adopt outside their race.  I listened and thanked her and that was all.

Here is what you need to know about adoption and me.  Throughout the years of trying I heard
Oh! You should adopt.  You know EVERYONE gets pregnant when they adopt.” And also, “God must not want you to have children.  You should adopt! It’s the right thing to do.  (To me, the "right thing to do" meant driving the speed limit, flossing, recycling?)  Again and again, this was spoken over me until I began to hate the word adoption and everything about it.  It seemed like second best.  A consolation prize.  So I made a vow.  I was sitting on Lolly’s floor crying and said these very words,

I will never buy a baby.  I WILL NEVER adopt.  God would have to literally drop a baby out of the sky and say ‘this one is yours!!’ for me to adopt.”
(I still cringe remembering those hurtful words)

You know what they say about never saying never?  Yes.  That.

I wish I could tell you the specifics about what happened next.  But there isn’t a logical explanation.  It simply seemed that God came rushing in, softened my hardened heart and changed Matt’s all at once.  We were riding in the car one day not long after my counselor called and Matt said, “Are we really going to say ‘no’ to children because they don’t come the way we thought they would?”

And after a tornado of miracles and suddenly “YES”es, (this is a whole other story), suddenly my son was in my arms.

This is what I can tell you now.  We didn’t adopt because we couldn’t get pregnant.  We couldn’t get pregnant because our first born son was to come to our family through adoption. 

Now that he is home, we know without a doubt that even before the world began, Mills was ours.  And that, God graciously allowed enough time to pass so we would open our hearts and walk into the plan that had always been.


It was always the plan. The first choice.  And because of it, I have actually come to treasure my years of infertility.  Isn’t it ironic? Infertility made me a mother. Not because  I ran out of options, but because all along it was the only option.

March 17, 2015

a letter to myself on the eve of infertility


Dear Amanda,

Tomorrow your life will change forever.  I wish I could protect you from everything you are about to experience, but in the strangest way, this will be the best thing that has ever happened to you. 
 
First thing’s first. 
Everything you think you know about getting pregnant? False. 
Your science classes, great aunts and MTV’s Teen Mom have failed you.  Lies…all lies.  I can’t tell you yet what DOES work, but I can give you a  few things that don’t. 
Take them off your list:
-“Just relax.”
-“Take a vacation!! “
-“Stop trying.  Everyone gets pregnant when they stop trying.”
-“Adopt.”
-“Lose weight/gain weight.”
-“Give up.  This is a sign that you aren’t meant to have children.” (heads up- the ones who say this one are nuts! Walk away.)
The people around you do not mean to be idiots.  Truly.  You will hear some of the worst advice imaginable in these next few years… but it’s only because no one knows what to do with you. You will hear the story of Abraham and Sarah on the regular.  You will yell and say terrible things about that particular story in the Bible.  Chances are, you won’t be 147 when you get pregnant, so try and let that one go.   Although you can’t see it now, your friends and family are hurting with you. Learn how to be gracious early on and save yourself one million tears.  And also- stop asking people what you should do.  Their ideas are terrible. Ask your doctor, talk to Matt… but step away from the masses.

The amount of weight and gray hair that comes with this process is a shock.  So, learn that you are beautiful.  It's important.

You don’t actually have a needle phobia.
The nurses don’t like wimps, so fake it til you make it. Before long they’ll know your name, and your best vein.  Your days of whining and passing out over a blood draw are long gone.  In time, you’ll be giving yourself shots in the stomach and losing half of your blood supply at every appointment without thinking twice.

Oh! You will lose your mind, yell at a nurse on the phone and file a complaint about her to “HR”.  You aren’t going to win her back over, so let that one go.  But don’t be “that girl” for long.

The nurses are YOUR PEOPLE!  Treat them well.  If they ever seem cold or unfriendly, it’s not about you.  They have an unbelievably stressful job.  Women are crazy to begin with.  Women pumped full of hormones trying to get pregnant? Psychotic.  These ladies see incredible pregnancy miracles, but they also walk families through inconceivable loss.  Just be sincere.  You’ve got a long road ahead, and some of these women will become friends for years to come.

Something about marriage
Sooner than you think, you and Matt will begin to feel like a science experiment gone wrong.  You will fight and cry and question every single thing…you will say terrible things and doubt each other and think this is one big mistake…you almost won’t make it through…but hold on to each other.  This thing can break you if you let it.  (but it doesn’t. trust me.)

Don’t hide.
Soon, most of your friends will become pregnant.  The majority of them started trying long after you.  You will watch them have their first, second and even third children as you wait.  Wait well.  Answer your phone, agree to a pedicure, or just let them come sit with you.  Infertility sucks.   Trying to do it by yourself is impossible. You have incredible people in your life. They can TAKE THIS! Learn to let them love you through the ugly. 

You are going to mess up.
Drop perfectionism quickly because you cannot IMAGINE the ways you’ll act.  You will be rude, insensitive, and distant.  You’ll miss important baby showers and christenings and birthday parties and do all the things you said you’d never do. It’s okay.  Grief is a monster and in time you’ll learn to separate your own sorrow from others’ joy. Forgive yourself, ask forgiveness and do better next time.

Hope.
Hear me say this.  You did NOT do anything wrong.  You are not being punished. God has not forgotten you.  Don’t compare your story to those around you, because you do have a story.  It reads like sci-fi horror right now, but it won’t always. 

Never give up, Amanda. Never.  You will announce that you don’t want kids after all, you will stop “trying”, but always hold a space in your heart for hope.

Pain is devastating and beautiful. And it makes people terribly uncomfortable. This thing you have is holy ground. Treat it that way.  Don’t let anyone in unless you are certain they can be trusted with your grief.  But soon you’ll see others stumbling around with your very same wound.  Take them in, share what you know… it eases the heartache.

I wish I could close this letter with, AND THEN YOU GET PREGNANT.  But you don’t. 
I don’t know what happens at the end of our story, but I know you are stronger than you’ve ever imagined.  I know that your story will help so many other women.  And I know that this is all worth it.

Amanda
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