Some Days Are Stupid

I used to like the Law of Attraction. It was all very nice and tidy. Like attracts like; positive attitudes equal positive output; believing in goodness means goodness will follow.

I believe something a little bit different now.

In fact, inspirational, “just think positively” memes make me a little stabby. No doubt well-intended, they’re patronizing and cheap words that sprinkle salt onto very real wounds. They also deny a whole range of valid human emotions and experiences, the very existence of which helps make us who we are.

Some days just suck. That’s a fact. Some weeks suck. Hell, some years suck. Sometimes we’re mad, or sad, or irritated. Sometimes we’re upset and discouraged. Sometimes we’re straight up pissed off and hate the world and everything in it.

Some days are stupid, and it’s okay.

Denying the bad days with a bandaid of positivity is dismissive, minimizing, and ignoring of the fact that we were created with a wide range of emotions and experiences and that they’re okay too. It’s okay to feel things!

What’s not okay is trying to placate someone with trite words of bullshit and sunshine instead of doing the actual work of being a friend. Being a friend is sometimes messy. Sometimes it means plopping down in the muck and the mire, and holding a hand that’s steeped in hard times. Sometimes it means hearing the complaints, wiping the tears, and not making a damn move to try and “fix” it. Sometimes it means knowing that your role is simply to meet them where they are, with no goal and no agenda other than to BE THERE.

Being positive is lovely.

Being positive all the time is unrealistic, unhealthy, and unhelpful. People are allowed to feel things. People need to feel things. Denying our feelings, or anyone else’s feelings, in the name of being positive does no one any favors. Being kind and reassuring is one thing. Telling someone to just think positively (ie: just try harder) is condescending and hurtful. It essentially erases their very real, very valid feelings of pain or frustration, and makes a situation which very well may be out of their control suddenly their fault. (IF ONLY THEY’D TRY HARDER)

I’m not talking about people who are always negative either. That’s a different matter, and a different blog post altogether. I’m talking about the whole human experience. I’m talking about most of us. Those of us who are alternatively happy and sad and excited and discouraged. Those who are positive on the good days, and hold on tight through the bad days. We need each other. We need hands to hold and shoulders to cry on and space to sit in. We need the freedom to BE, and to feel, and to express ourselves however we need in the moment.

What we do not need is a trite, insincere, Hallmark-card, hearts-and-flowers package of canned positivity telling us not to feel what we’re feeling.

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My Body Doesn’t Exist to Make You Comfortable

The other day, I was doing an exercise DVD. I prefer to get my exercise by walking or hiking outside, but that’s ill-advised when it’s 114 degrees out. So anyway, I’d dusted off this old HiiT workout I had, and started noticing something that bugged me. Our fearless leader in spandex kept talking about “zapping” problem areas. Let’s get rid of that muffin top, the saddle bags, the fat in front for your arm pits. It suddenly occurred to me to wonder, “Wait. Who am I zapping them for?” I’ll get back to that.

I’ve gained weight recently. A lot of it in fact. Mostly a side effect of a medication (Important note: you never know why someone’s gained or lost weight), I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still getting comfortable in my new skin.

I wasn’t always overweight. At various times in my adult life I’ve been underweight, an “ideal weight”, and carrying a few extra pounds. Here’s a fun fact: people can be just as cruel to those who are underweight as they are to those who are overweight. Because for some god-forsaken reason, people at large think they get to have an opinion on what our bodies look like. Spoiler alert: they don’t.

It’s summertime, so my news feed is inundated with ads for this program or that workout, this potion or that diet. Get the six-pack! Get bikini ready! Get sexy arms! Get a lifted butt! It’s like we collectively can’t handle fat, can’t handle variations in the ideal body type. Whoever decides what’s ideal, anyway?

We’re told things like, “no pain, no gain,” or “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” (What kind of a messed up message is this?) We’re told to work out more and diet harder so our clothes fit nicer, so we feel sexier, so we look better. Why does skinnier = better? Why are we so afraid of variations in body size? People are meant to be different sizes.

Believe it or not, my lack of a six-pack does not affect you. Nor does it mean I’m unhealthy, nor does it mean I don’t try hard enough.

In the past, I have starved myself – STARVED myself – into a size two. According to the world, I was “healthy”. But I’d never been more unhealthy. I’d never hated my body more. And make no mistake, for me to lose weight now, at a size 12, it requires the same thing: starvation. Starvation and obsessive exercise. For the time being at least, this is the size my body wants to be. Whether society says it’s okay or not, this is me.

But there has to be something in the middle right? Something between starving yourself, and leading a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle? YES! Yes, there is. One can remain active without feeling the need for the six pack, one can eat a variety of nutrient dense foods without feeling the need to berate themselves for eating a bowl of ice cream. One can feel good about themselves without feeling the need to force themselves into a size 2.

I see a very odd phenomenon within diet and fitness groups when it comes to food. The all-out obsession with the points and the calories and the fat. People patting themselves on the back for resisting the cookie or the donut or the piece of pizza. I can’t help but wonder what the end game is. Do they think they’ll get extra points at the end of their life for turning down that piece of birthday cake? Orthorexia is real (look it up).

You may call it weak, but I call it living a happy life. If I want a cookie, I’ll eat a damn cookie. Cookies are not “bad.” Hate and war are bad. A cookie is just a cookie.

I think we’ve collectively lost sight of what we’re doing here. Collectively lost sight of the fact that bodies (healthy bodies, at that!) come in all shapes and sizes, and that it’s not our place to comment on them, ever. That eating and exercising are personal, and that decisions about such can only be made by the owner of said body. That the way someone carries herself or dresses herself is up to her, not up to society at large. That if we find fault in someone else’s body, that is an US problem, not a them problem.

We have to stop with the assumptions and the snap judgments. We have to stop with the mindset of having to “fix” everyone.

An overweight person can still run a marathon. An overweight person can still climb to the top of that mountain. An overweight person can still be strong and sexy and beautiful, and shame on us for creating a culture where that very fact is accepted as false.

Let’s change the narrative. Let’s focus on beauty at all sizes. Let’s focus on eating foods and including movement that makes us feel good. Let’s focus on health for health’s sake, not for fitting into a certain size or achieving a certain aesthetic.

Let’s remember that we are not our bodies. We are souls. Our bodies just give those souls somewhere to hang out. And that’s a beautiful thing, whether you’re a size 2 or a size 20.

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No More Wee-Wees and Hoo-Hoos

When I was pregnant with my second (18 at the time of this writing), I had a routine 5 month ultrasound, and we decided that we wanted to find out the gender. Our oldest, 3 at the time, was bouncing around the room, chanting to nobody in particular, “Do you see a penis or a vagina? Penis or vagina?” The tech looked us over with derision, sort of snorted and said, “Wow, you must be really big on penises and vaginas in your house.” I smiled politely (I’m pretty sure) but inside I was irritated. We were about to find out the gender of our baby. I’m pretty sure everyone in the room was wondering about penises and vaginas. And what was wrong with a 3 year old voicing his curiosity anyway?

I wonder if she, like so many adults, was uncomfortable with a small child using, well…. using the correct terms for body parts.

I was on a Facebook group recently, where a grown woman referred to her vulva as a “front butt.” My first thought was, “WHO SAYS THAT?” The answer, not-surprisingly, is: a lot of people. Along with wee wee and pee pee and hoo hoo and vajayjay. Of course there’s the ubiquitous “down there”, or simply one’s “area” or “parts.” And in recent news, my 11 year old just informed me that some people say, “the fold.” (Who knew?)

You wouldn’t think it would be controversial. After all, no one uses a euphemism for “elbow.” But people get weird when it comes to private parts, and I’m here to tell you, for the sake of your kids:

Get over it and use the right words. For so many reasons.

For one thing, using the correct words teaches them that there is nothing to be ashamed about, that they can openly come to us with questions or problems, and that there isn’t anything inherently wrong or dirty or bad about any of their body parts. A four year old should be able to confidently, and without shame, tell his parents that his penis hurts.

It’s also important when talking with doctors and other medical professionals, so that they can voice where they have a problem, pain or concern. And if they’re ever touched inappropriately, they’ll have the correct terms to be able to describe what happened. Some studies even say that it makes them less likely to be touched inappropriately in the first place, since abusers are more likely to shy away from kids who are confident and knowledgeable about their bodies.

It makes it easier and more comfortable – for both parties – when we talk to our kids about body changes during puberty.

It makes it easier and more comfortable – for both parties – when we talk about sex.

It makes it easier and more comfortable – for both parties – when we talk about appropriate and inappropriate touch.

It makes it easier and more comfortable – for both parties – when we talk about body image and self-love.

While context is an important thing (ie: It’s okay to talk about your vagina; it’s not okay to CALL someone a vagina), the words themselves are not bad, dirty or wrong. They’re body parts. And the sooner we can get comfortable with them, the sooner our kids will be comfortable with them.

So teach your kids: Penis. Testicles. Vulva. Vagina. Labia. Clitoris. (Teach them what’s what, too!)

Please teach them the real words. If for no other reason, so they don’t turn into adults so afraid of proper terminology that they shame a 3 old for his excitement over finding out if he was going to have a brother or a sister.

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“Your Phone is Your Own Property”, and other screen time rules I give my kids

This article, titled “‘Your phone is not your property’ and other screen time rules I give my kids” is currently being shared far and wide. Unsurprisingly to anyone who reads my work, my perspective is a little bit different. While this mom is clearly a hard and fast rule kind of person, I tend not to see things in such black and white terms. Cell phone use, like just about everything else, is filled with shades of grey, and we do our kids no favors if we set such a hard line that they don’t even get the chance to learn how to navigate it.

Here are my responses to her rules, along with why they’re different.

Dinners are generally cell-phone free. I say “generally” because there’s no actual rule about it, although the 11 year old IS a fan of announcing “Family time!” if someone answers a text. There are six of us, so while we don’t typically have many phones at the table, there’s usually one or two. And nine times out of ten, I’m happy someone has one. It makes it so much easier to quickly Google that obscure thing we happened to be wondering about in one of our infamously random dinner time conversations. For the most part, we spend dinner eating and chatting together anyway. No rules necessary.

Be creative and flexible when trying to get work done.  Phones, like so many other things, can provide distractions. If it’s a problem for you, schedule in phone breaks! For example, set a timer and work for 20 minutes, then take a break for 5. I am working through my final few classes for my Psychology Bachelors, and I’m telling you…. having the option to “phone a friend” or play a quick game sometimes has been invaluable to me when writing papers or working on otherwise tedious assignments. I don’t keep my phone nearby ALL the time (I know my own limits), but it is extremely helpful when I’m in need of a break.

Plan for play time, and lots of it!  Regular downtime is so important, and shouldn’t have to wait for the weekends, especially when you’re a kid! Kids should be playing... whether that means outside in the creek, up in a tree house, or yes, on a console or computer playing a video game. Strict rules about when or where or for how long kids can play video games only makes them crave it more. When the limit is lifted, and an equilibrium is found, it becomes but one of a million options.

Figure out how your phone affects you at night.  Everyone is different, so blanket rules about cell phone usage never helps anyone. Some people do better if they shut their phone off a couple hours before sleep. Others sleep better if they play a few rounds of Sodoku right before bed. (That exact thing was actually suggested by a doctor, to a friend of mine with anxiety and insomnia. It helped.) Sometimes some of the best conversations I have with friends are late at night, when life is quiet and guards are down. Sometimes I need to knock off early, and I stick my phone on the charger by 9:00. If something isn’t working for you, we’ll work on a solution together.

Figure out how your phone affects you in the morning.  Just as with nighttime usage, morning cellphone usage varies from person to person. Some people might find it too much of a distraction to get ready on time, while others may be able to work it into their morning seamlessly. Whichever camp you fall into, life sometimes interferes, and mistakes sometimes happen. We won’t be mad if you’re late because of your phone, or any other reason. We will talk with you about strategies for next time.

Your phone is YOUR property.  The popular party line says that kids don’t own their phones. Their parents bought them and pay the bill, and therefore, they belong to the parents, not the kids. In the kindest way I can think to put this: That is some misguided and unfair BS. My kids’ phones (just like their clothes, their computers, and their other belongings) belong to them.

Is there conversation about internet usage and social media safety? Yes.

Is there ongoing communication about what sort of apps they’re using, games they’re playing, and friends they’re talking to? Yes.

Do I have their passwords and go through their phone and read their texts? NO! To do so would be to violate their privacy. And yes, children are deserving of privacy, too.

The one caveat? Safety, for yourself or others. If there is an actual threat of harm in some way, I would intervene in whatever means necessary, as would any caring parent. This is NOT the same thing as casually strolling through your daily history just because I’m the parent and I say so.

Our kids are living in a different world than the one we grew up in. And I’m thankful for that! What a cool thing to be able to walk around with fully connected, working computers in your pocket. Is it a responsibility? Of course. But the best thing I can do as a parent is work with my kids as they navigate that responsibility, not against them.

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Bipolar II – A Day in the Life

It’s really beautiful, the view from the top. So beautiful I want to cry. I’m flying. I’m invincible. I’m full of grand ideas and grand plans and grand words. So very many words. The world is my proverbial oyster, and dammit I’m going to hold onto that slippery little sucker with all of my might. And I do. I do hold onto it.

Until I don’t. Until something weird starts to creep in. It’s unpleasant and frenetic and exhausting, like a million neurons are firing at once. I can’t get comfortable in my own skin. I can’t sleep, because it’s more important that I research opening up my gym. Or coffee shop. Or buying the church that’s for sale on the corner.

I can’t sleep because my skin is crawling. Because my heart is pounding. Because I’m drowning in my own thoughts, and feelings, and words. Because there’s just not. enough. time. I’m scared and I’m exhilarated, all at the same time. I text a friend at 2:00 in the morning and then get my feelings hurt when she doesn’t respond.

And then my feelings are hurt all the time. My feelings are hurt by what you said, by what you didn’t say, by what I thought you meant. My feelings are hurt by my own active imagination and it is EXHAUSTING. It strangles me. I see what’s happening, I see it like I’m looking at a stranger, but I’m powerless to stop it. I don’t blame anyone for deciding they can’t be my friend, for deciding they hate me. I hate myself.

I’m not flying anymore. I’m sinking. Sinking and sinking and sinking. I could claw my way up, but the walls are slippery. The darkness is enticing. It swallows me whole. There’s no more color, there’s no more joy. There is blackness. Like a cloud that I carry with me everywhere I go. I go through the motions, but I’m not there. I’m ensconced in the ugly safety of my cloud. I’m oblivious to everything that isn’t darkness. I’m crying but I’m not SAD, and I’m offended by anyone who uses the word. I’m nothing. I’m a shell.

I have to force myself to shower, to leave the house, to see people. My God, people. I convince myself that I’ll never connect with another person as long as I live. Who’d want to connect with someone so broken? So dark and so lifeless? Who’d want to connect with someone who isn’t even connected to herself?

I’ve forgotten the view from the top. I’ve forgotten how beautiful it is.

And then, for a blissful and limited period of time I’m “normal.” My life is normal, my relationships are normal, my feelings are normal.

Until one day, without warning, I’m flying again.

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Embracing The “And”

The other day, I posted an article about video games, and the amount of learning that comes from them. (The article is here.) The comments were fairly predictable, ranging from “Right on!” to “No way. That’s ridiculous.” to “Glad it works for your kids; it’d never work for mine.” The ones that most interested me though were the ones that said something along the lines of, “Kids need to play outside/get fresh air/read books/use their imaginations/etc”

I used to think that way. In fact, I used to have black and white thinking about a lot of things. And then I discovered how very, very much I was missing out on because of it. The world is not black and white. The world is not either/or. It’s a million shades of grey and a million shades of technicolor.

You don’t have to choose between playing video games and playing outside. They are not mutually exclusive.

At the time of this writing, my kids range in age from 11 to 22. They all love their video games, and are welcome to play them as often as they’d like. They also love music, and being outdoors, and swimming, and hanging out with friends, and reading, and researching. None is more valuable than the other. They are options, all there for the taking. Just a couple of days ago, the two middle boys had friends over, and the group played board games and card games and hung out and chatted for nearly 11 hours straight.

You can love video games AND love spending time with your friends.

You can eat the salad AND eat the chocolate chip cookies.

You can hike the mountain AND snuggle down on the couch.

You can watch the movie AND read the book.

You can be honest AND kind.

You can be angry AND forgiving.

I think we get stuck in these black and white ruts and don’t realize that more often than not, there are options. There are “ands”. And yes, absolutely, sometimes there’s not a choice. Sometimes life throws us curve balls. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t love. That much is true. But what a gift we give ourselves and our kids when we find the “ands!” One of the reasons I chose to homeschool (and particularly unschool) was precisely because I wanted my kids to have as many choices as I could give them. I wanted to make their worlds larger. It makes me sad to see homeschooled children whose lives have been made smaller, not the other way around.

I want my kids to do what makes them happy in the moment. I want them to know that they can play the video game and read the book and hang out with their friends and play the instrument and go outside and sit and think and ponder and putter just….. BE.

And likewise, I can go to school, and take care of the house, and write, and plan a conference, AND be an engaged, present mother. And when I feel one slipping? It’s time to readjust, that’s all. I’ll admit it, it’s easy for me to jump straight into the black and white thinking of, “That’s it, I’ve failed at everything, I might as well stop trying.” That’s often my first thought if I’m being honest. But someone once told me that our first thought – especially if it’s a negative one – is usually wrong. And in this case it’s true. I have choices. I have “ands.” I can adjust. I can decide. And if that means making big and/or scary changes? That’s okay too.

There are choices. There are ands.

I’m not afraid of my kids playing video games any more than I’m afraid of them reading a book. If they play games all day one day? Cool. If they read all day one day? Cool. I don’t worry, because my kids don’t have the baggage that I’ve had to overcome. They don’t have the all-or-nothing thinking that makes us desperately, obsessively (and unhealthily) cling to one choice over another.

They know there are ands. And they use them.

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When I Won’t Agree To Disagree

“Let’s just agree to disagree.”

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? A neat, tidy, and respectful way to end an argument or debate. You have your beliefs, I have mine, and we’ll just set them aside as neither right nor wrong. We’ll both go on, happily secure in the knowledge that our opinions are equally valid and okay.

It seems foolproof. It does. And in many, many cases it is the kindest solution to disagreement.

But I’m not always going to agree to disagree. I’m not always going to “respect your opinion.”

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think hitting children is okay. I will continue to speak out about children’s rights, and their right (like all people) to bodily autonomy, and to decide who puts their hands on them, and when, and how, and for what reason.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think it’s okay to make jokes about, disparage, or treat anyone differently because of their race, their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation. I won’t agree to disagree with you if your position is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise unkind. I will continue to speak out about fair and equal treatment to all.

I won’t agree to disagree with you about religion, unless your religion (or lack thereof) teaches you to love, to include, to show compassion for all. I will continue to speak out about a Jesus that walked in love for all people, but especially for those who are marginalized by the rest of society.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think that mental illness is all in your head, or something that can be cured with “positive thoughts.” I will continue to speak out about awareness, education, and breaking the stigma for those with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental health conditions.

Agreeing to disagree has its place, to be sure. Cannot stand my favorite band? Cool. Hate my favorite movie? Okay. Like nuts in brownies, pineapple on pizza, or caraway seeds in your bagel? Your choice to make.

But there’s a certain point where choices are not equal, where a person has to decide what’s right and wrong, and good and bad, and worthy of taking a stand. A hill to die on as it were.

Speaking as someone who is an entirely different person than she was 25 years ago, I know my opinion can be changed about many things. But not about this. Not about anything above.

Does that mean then that I’m a closed book? That I won’t even discuss it? The opposite is true. I think it’s important to talk about. I think that’s how seeds are planted. I think that’s how people grow.

But just know, if you choose to talk to me or fight with me about any of the above …. I will never, ever agree to disagree.

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To The Frustrated Mom At The Movie Theater

We were standing in line at the movie theater. We were about to see Breakthrough, which really requires its own post because, wow. There were raised voices a few people behind us, and while I couldn’t tell what I was going on, I did very clearly hear a mom snap out the words, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to spank your heinie right here in front of everyone. I don’t care.”

Tegan looked at me with wide eyes, and we both glanced back to see the pair: a boy of about 6 looking nonplussed, and a mom looking…. well, looking very, very tired.

There was a time my little blogging fingers would have rushed home to tear out a post against spanking, and about respect, and about treating your kids how you want to be treated.

And to be sure, my stance hasn’t changed. Violence – and yes, spanking is violent – against children is wrong. Kids should be treated with respect. Kids should be treated the way we want to be treated ourselves.

But I keep thinking of that mom, and feeling a whole lot of unexpected compassion. Because the thing is, I’m tired too. And that deep-in-your-bones mom fatigue? Sometimes it comes out sideways.

I don’t know that mom. I don’t know what kind of day she’d been having. I don’t know what kind of life she’d been having. I don’t know if she has support. I don’t know if she’s grieving, or if she hasn’t slept for a month, or if she’s struggling to put food on the table. I don’t know if she’s single, I don’t know if she has a partner who hurts her. I don’t know what it was that drove her to snap with a threat to her son in the line at the movie theater. Maybe she knows no other way. Maybe she’s parenting the way she was parented, and the way her parents were parented. Maybe she lacks the tools she needs to know that there are alternatives.

So tired mom at the movie theater? I see you. I see your tired eyes, and I see your frustration. I see your love for your son. I see you doing the best you can with what you have at your disposal, and I see you struggling.

I will always advocate for the children. That will never stop. But to the mom at her wits’ end? I’m on your side too. I see you. I hope you know you are strong. I hope you know you can do this (and that you don’t have to resort to spanking). I hope you know that you have other moms in your corner, rooting for you to succeed, and I hope you know that we understand. That we’ve all been there. That we know what it’s like to be frustrated, to be exhausted, to be at the end of our proverbial parenting rope.

Parenting is hard sometimes. Sweet baby Jesus parenting is hard. But if you can hold on, then it’s beautiful.

I believe I can make it through the hard moments. And mom at the movie theater? I believe you can, too.

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What I Learned From Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday, May 4th. She was only 37 years old.

If you didn’t know of Rachel, she was one of the good ones. She was a progressive Christian author, writer and speaker who challenged the evangelical culture so vocally that the Washington Post once called her, the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She left evangelicalism herself in 2014, and started attending an Episcopalian church.

I share that little bit of history for some background, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.

Rachel was honest about her own walk with God. About her struggles, about her doubts, and about her revelations. For someone I never knew personally, she was about as real as you could get. She wrote beautifully, with grace and with humor. She wrote like she was your girl friend, sitting next to you sipping tea, and not some untouchable leader from behind an ivory pulpit.

She provided a much needed bridge for people like myself… people, particularly women, who’ve left evangelical Christianity, and didn’t know what to do next. She asked the hard questions, she challenged the big topics, and her courage? My word, if she was ever afraid she certainly didn’t let it stop her. She just kept on going.

She gracefully took on conservatives. She wrote about racism, abortion, evolution, women’s roles, LGBTQ rights, Donald Trump. She shied away from nothing. She had a heart for truth, and love, and justice, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans, but I admired the hell out of her. She had that rare gift to be able to speak with truth and passion and authority…. and still be so kind, and humble, and lovable. She was adored by everyone from evangelicals to atheists alike.

And sure, she had her few detractors, like anyone in the public eye, but she didn’t let it stop her. She kept going. She just kept on going, right up until her death.

I’ve been hiding lately. Someone I have to see in 3D life told me I wrote as though I thought I was better than everyone else. For some reason, that comment hurt me more than just about any other unkind comment I’ve ever received (and there’s a large pool from which to choose from). I retreated into my introvert-writer-turtle-shell, and vowed to stay there.

But Rachel wouldn’t have let it stop her. She would have had a response that was likely both witty and gracious at the same time, and she would have moved on.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my writing. Hell, 99.7% of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life in general.

But I know this.

Life is precious. Life is fleeting. Life is too damn short to be afraid to speak your truth. Rachel spoke her truth. Over and over and over again.

So until I’m ready to write for myself again, I’ll write in her honor. It just feels like the right thing to do.

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An Open Letter To Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

Jeremiah is a Top 20 contestant on this season of America Idol. He’s also a young man who, when he came out as gay, was not accepted by his pastor father and mother. What follows is in response to his most recent performance, in which he sang Landslide in their honor, and heartbreakingly told the camera that he loved them, and that he was sorry he disappointed them.

So, American Idol! I have watched every season of American Idol since it premiered. I even saw them perform live once, when my oldest was little. Like any talent-related show, some seasons were better than others. Some seasons it seemed like the judges, and then America, made all the wrong choices. I’m excited for this year though. There is a tremendous pool of talent in the top 20, and I can’t wait to see who makes it to the final five.

You, Jeremiah, are one of the most talented. You have an incredible gift that you have honed well. One of my biggest pet peeves is singers who try too hard, and over-sing the song. You don’t do that. In fact, you almost do the opposite. You let the song sing through you, and the result is real and pure and raw and beautiful. You’re not disconnected when you sing. You ARE the song… with all its heartfelt story and emotion.

From your very first audition, you talked about your family’s story. I can relate. I can. I too grew up in the church, grew up feeling as though everyone was watching me, grew up feeling like one misstep would cause great disappointment. My father wasn’t a pastor, but he was an Elder, so I hope you’ll give me a pass on that one.

Being true to yourself, and coming out as gay in that environment was incredibly brave. You should be proud of yourself for that alone. What a hard decision it must have been, knowing what you would face in response! But you did it anyway, and that took an immense amount of courage.

I can see how much you love your parents, and how much it hurts you that they cannot accept you. But their refusal to accept you the way they are? That’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.

I heard you apologize on national TV. But what do you have to apologize for? Being human? Falling in love? Being perfectly wired to be exactly who YOU are?

I would like to believe that your parents love you, and that they have a very misguided way of showing it. I’d truly like to believe that. But I don’t know them, and I don’t know if that’s the case. Here’s what I do know:

You are beautiful, talented soul who is going to go far, not just on American Idol, but in life.

You are a gift.

You are loved.

You are perfect the way you are.

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking for me to see you sing up there without their support in the audience (I did see your boyfriend though, and am so happy that you have him!) As a parent, it’s difficult for me not to feel angry at them for not accepting you. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me withdraw my love for my children. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me do anything but continue to love them… fully, wholly, and unconditionally.

And I’m so very very sorry that you don’t have that.

I truly hope that they see the damage that they are doing, and the harm that they are causing. But please know that even if they don’t, you have a whole nation of people lifting you up, rooting for you, and loving you from afar. Know that we, a diverse group of strangers, are all in, and accept you exactly the way you are.

Know that this mom in Mesa, Arizona thinks you are special, and strong and brave and talented. I know it’s not the same. I know. Because we want our parents’ support. We never stop wanting that. But I’m in your corner, and I stand beside you.

And until and unless your parents come around, I – along with thousands of other moms and dads out there – will consider you my honorary son/nephew/family, and will support you accordingly.

Love,

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