For six weeks this summer a group of us on Wednesday night, at the invitation of our mutual friend, Ana, zoomed together and discussed, So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. Our last night together, one member, Jess, told us her greatest takeaway, “After reading this book I’ve come to one conclusion,” enter a pause like a seasoned actor, “I’m racist.” After a collective hesitation, (or was it a gasp?), all of us half-raised our hands or nodded as if trying on this confession for the first time. Upon hearing the appreciation of our fearless leader, Ana, who proclaimed, “My job is finished.” We tried it on with more vigor and acceptance using our voices, “Yes! I’m a racist” think popcorn prayer style, until if felt just right. I’m grateful for Jess and her confession because her vulnerability helped me accept my own brokenness and here in this place, I found great relief replacing a unconscious guilt that I hadn’t been fully aware of nor did I want since my fellow Black friends and influencers let me know guilt does nothing to change a system that’s begun with genocide and slavery.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t find relief that I’m a racist. In fact, I’m deeply burdened by this reality and hope I won’t lose friends over my brokenness. But what’s become the most figural in this confession is that I do indeed need the Holy Spirit, along with friends, revealing to me all the ways this is true. My confession has paradoxically lightened my personal burden of sin at the same time it’s created a need for redeeming what I’ve been a part of breaking. Here’s how our psyche is created, when I don’t take responsibility for a problem, I will find thousands of ways to make it someone else’s or blame those most impacted by it.
The thing is, it’s humanly impossible for me, for us, not to be racist according to our neurobiology. (This declaration does not give us permission to do nothing about it.) We are all created with a mechanism in our brains that determines a me versus them simplification and as a result, we as a nation and more specifically, our collective mainstream, White Christian theology has created a great divide of believer and non-believer. If science can’t convince you – division is part of Jesus’ and Paul’s message – “No Jew or Gentile” – Jesus claimed the power and status found in the Kingdom of God in direct opposition of human ideas of power and status. We are asked to do likewise – eliminate our “us-ness” with self-awareness which can then turn into confession followed up with a dependency on the Holy Spirit. I think Father Boyle right-sizes the way to look at healing. He says, “You don’t go to the margins to bring the marginalized into the fold. Rather you go to the margins (those suffering under oppression) to join them…and stand in awe over what the poor [suffering/traumatized, etc.] have had to bear rather than criticizing them over how they are carrying it.” Here’s what I’ve found, when I put my own racism front and center, I lose tone policing. I lose judgment over how the protests should or shouldn’t be done or how rightful rage should or shouldn’t be expressed. I lose the temptation to make someone else or a community all bad and myself — all good (or in the right).
As John Lewis so observantly stated, “We all live in the same house.” The house of God is supposed to be one that is a light in darkness, a love that has no bounds, a transformation that can only come from a relational God yet this is not what the American church looks like. There has been a long history of looking after it’s own interests, hating certain people groups, discounting other religions, and putting their own suffering above others (like the hostility toward Christianity which has been a direct result of it’s failure to protect equality for all). Yet in scripture, Jesus didn’t humanize and protect people AFTER they believed in his gospel. Jesus humanized and protected regardless of their belief in Him. In fact in the last day of his life, as He lay tortured and beaten, He proclaimed in Luke’s gospel, “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
I’m learning. If I could redo a conversation a couple months ago it would say, “You’re right,” when my Black neighbor said, “Well the good of these protests is that maybe you can be more aware of what’s going on.” Instead, I tried to reassure him I’ve been trying to do things like writing letters to local officials.
In part, I’m publicly declaring my own racism because I found acceptance from both Black and Brown friends alike who have given me forgiveness while they’ve shown me their wounds that I played a part in afflicting. I’m grateful that in their own way, they have made those proclamations, “Father forgive her for she doesn’t know what she’s doing” and continued their friendship with me, knowing my racism will never be healed, the consequences can only be lessened.
So I end with how I began – I’m a racist and I’m so sorry. I want to do better (I realize my lack of better has cost lives, not only physical, but also immaterial where Black and Brown trauma has robbed someone of a thriving and full existence). I genuinely want you to thrive and not be burdened by racism. May my confession give permission to others, just like Jess’s confession did for me, to own your racism so that you can heal a very broken nation that was founded on genocide, slavery and equality for White Male property owners. More importantly, may your confession bring with it a spiritual healing both individually and collectively. I have a vision that someday our National Day of Prayer will offer equality for all religions because at Jesus’ table, he welcomed everyone, especially the oppressed and marginalized.
All photos taken in southern Utah at a photography workshop with Stephen Matera, (@stephen_matera) whose photography work continues to bless me and provide a momentary respite from my urban living.
What did you do in 2019 that you had never done before?
I had the privilege to tour Capital Records, which is something I won at a silent auction. It was a real treat as they aren’t open to the public so it was a priceless experience. What made it even more special is two of my nieces of the band, Let Flo Go, were with us. Who knows maybe one day they will be recording there.
We also went to the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade for the first time, compliments of Aunt Michelle. It was an early morning but what a fabulous experience!
I physically hadn’t ever done tubing behind a boat. There definitely is some skill involved when your driver is trying to dump you. haha. Loved it.
Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions. As I stated last yer, I’ve been setting monthly goals and visions, which are connected to some larger vision. I’m held accountable by my business group, Thrive, so I can stay on target. I’ve definitely discovered accountability is the best way for me to live my life as intentionally as I desire. I usually have a word for the year or season – last year was meditate, contemplate (which is a bit more active), be present and Routines, which transformed into the idea of ease. This year I’ve transitioned to ENGAGE. I’ll have more reflections on this at a later time.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
Did anyone close to you die?
Two dear friends died from different cancers — my friend, Gina Mammano Vander Kam, who was a dear soul who epitomized loving others and engaging the world as a soul who cares very little about the material world. The world was a better place with Gina in it. She truly noticed the unnoticeable and brought them her light until they were strong enough to shine their own. Honestly, I’ve had so many thoughts about her since her death but simply haven’t been able to put them into words. When she moved to my home state of Washington, she and her husband, Rick, visited me and my family on the other side of the mountains. She wrote a poem for me when my son died.
He lives, in the gorgeous memory of floating the eternal sea of your womb, the sweet pulse of heart and amniotic bathing him in a world of blanketed wonder; oh, how he loved being inside this place you created- this temple of sacred community carved out of soul and sabbath; a waiting room of love and maternal commitment before entering
the holy of Holies.
with tears and all of my love, dear friend, Gina
My other friend who died was, Liz Hill. She was someone I grew up with, along with her husband. We occasionally saw when we were both in our hometown together – which was about once a decade but we’d get bits and pieces of each other’s lives through her in-laws and Mom who kept in touch with my mom. She was also someone who made the earth a better place. Her memorial service brought many of our hometown people together in a place far from home. She know she is deeply missed by her family.
What countries or new places did you visit?
I visited a couple new places this year — Truckee and Mammoth, California. Both fed my soul with great clean mountain air and lots of nature to be enjoyed.
And, I finally got to stop outside of Las Vegas to see this art installation – Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains.
What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
Finishing!!! I really, really want to finish editing my book – which I’m 1/3 done with these final edits before sending it to an agent to see if I can get it published or making the decision to self-publish. I also want to finish navigating two offices and sharing space – I will move into my own space sometime this year. Also, I have a mail/paper problem. I want to finish having this problem. haha. I used to have an email problem but I’ve found a routine that works so now I’m going to tackle this endless paper problem.
What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 4th – celebrating the fourth with my college roommate and maid of honor type friend, Shannon, and her family at her Mom and Larrie’s cabin in Oregon – a place they’ve so graciously hosted us a number of times…the last visit we’d spent 10 minutes wondering if my son, who was hiding under the couch and three at the time, had drowned – to say those were the worst 10 minutes of my life would be an understatement. So, it was absolutely magical to revisit this place once again with everyone up to speed with swimming skills and to see the picture wall that is a trip down memory lane way before husband or kids.
December 18th – Donald Trump’s Impeachment…the why? I’m interested in political process so I listened every morning and afternoon to as much as I could of the interviewing procedure.
December 23rd – the day I officially took over, along with my three brothers, managing my family’s business property. The why needs to remain private but I will say – it’s been amazing to collaborate with my brothers now as adults.
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I finished writing the first complete draft of my book!! Now it’s the editing phase – the hard work of layering as well as trying to get every sentence just right. Word count still needs to come down about 25,000 words.
Also, I cleaned out my closet! Gave away three bags of shoes and about five bags of clothes! It had been a while – about five years to be exact. And since August I have a clean floor and shelf. Yay – my “make sure the closet stays clean” routines are working.
What was your biggest failure?
My bedroom console continues to be a mess…ugh! The piles magically appear overnight. I swear there is an elf delivering them every time I go to sleep. A visual is necessary but embarrassing. But there’s hope – I never thought my closet would get thoroughly cleaned.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
I discovered I had lead poisoning (don’t know where I got it) along with a couple other metals – mercury, aluminum to name two. I went to chelation once and twice a week for about six months and feel much, much better. I also seem to have resolved the chronic pain in my hip. It comes back occasionally but it’s been about five years of constant pain so I’m grateful that is no longer the situation.
What’s the best thing you bought?
Experiences – I finished my year long intensive program in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder where I flew every season from July 2018 to May 2019. I also finished a three series training that focused on moving trauma out of the body through touch. The healing I’ve received in my own body have been game changers. So grateful.
Where did most of your money go?
I still live in LA – obvious answer, mortgage.
What did you get really excited about?
My daughter, Eden, and I started a video series to raise adolescent mental health awareness. It’s been an absolute joy to spend time with her in this capacity. We are still working to get our stride but it’s been a win for me to play with the content and plan together. You can find us on Instagram @drkimberandeden or we post them on YouTube.com on the Del Valle Relational Institute channel.
What song will always remind you of 2019?
My Attic by Pink. I continue to uncover all the ways I’m guarded and keep myself from really being known – all in the name of relational safety.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
—happier or sadder?
Happier – My community of friends is amazing. How could I not be happier with them in my life?
— thinner or fatter?
Slightly thinner but still need to work on my blood sugar metabolism. I’m so grateful for the health progress I made. I feel so much better than I have in years – gained bone mass, lost fat, gained muscle and have much better liver readings. However, not much progress has been made around insulin stubbornness so hoping to start taking glucose levels and taking after dinner walks will help.
— richer or poorer?
Richer. I do what I love and am grateful to get paid for it.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Played more games and have more dinners with friends. Working one night a week as well as parenting a teenager and tween has taken a toll on the amount of dinner guests sitting at our table since our weekdays so are busy and we get home late. But I’m hoping to do more hosting in 2020.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Gathering information -though most of it has been very good. In 2020 I’m cutting back on trainings (after January (wink wink) when I’m attending a four day workshop with a dear friend)
How did you spend Christmas?
I spent Christmas in my hometown with my family, parents and brother’s families and my uncle Rhys. We were all there!!! It was amazing with good food, games, and lots of love. All the siblings had some lively conversations about politics and climate change but in the end we were all speaking with each other – silently wondering how the others could be so idiotic…until of course a good game of pinnacle started and then all was forgotten but counting trump, not the Presidential kind.
What was your favorite TV program?
We loved watching The Watchmen. This is not a show for everyone. It’s gritty but oh so very, very good. We had the tremendous privilege to watch some of the episodes with our friend, Jeff Jensen, who is a huge Watchman nerd and writer/influencer on the show. We’re just glad it made him some money and are looking forward his birthday gifts to each and every one of us who turn 50 this year – which I don’t have permission to say if that includes him or not.
What were your favorite books of the year?
My favorite non-fiction book was King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. I was blown away by this historical record of the events in the Congo. It’s one of many books about abuses of power and privilege that I’ve intentionally read this year. Reading these types of books has surprisingly resulted in more personal compassion about slights I receive due to my privilege and celebrations of people who hold positions of influence and don’t try to “be more white/more silent/blend in, etc.” The country girl in me has often longed for a slower paced, less urban (shall I dare confess a more homogenous) community and for the first time ever, I’m deeply grateful and long for the diversity surrounding me, integrating into my life, and influencing the type of person I’m becoming. Books can indeed be powerful and character shaping. I also fell in love with Build Yourself a Boat, a book of poetry by Camonghne Felix. Wow. Just Wow. My top fiction book is an oldie – Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. The honesty and rawness in the writing moved me. Oh how I wish that I could write a favorite book was Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes, who I love and adore and know the world is a better place with her in it. BUT I’m going to have to say that next year because I’m only a third through and it would be cheating to say it is my favorite without finishing that last page. What I can say is – I’m so proud of her for this brave and vulnerable piece of work. (If you’re reading this Nikki — I’m that lame friend who pre-ordered your book and then its been collecting dust until Christmas vacation and my only excuse is I have read significantly less these last two months trying to edit my darn manuscript.)
What was your favorite music from this year?
Every year this question brings momentary depression because I’m simply not hip and indie. Instead, what’s on my playlist is pretty mainstream EXCEPT for my amazingly talented nieces @letflogo! Favorites from them — Polka dots and Stripes and Boogie Man. So I had Lewis Capaldi’s album along with James Arthur’s on repeat. I absolutely loved Ed Sheeran’s Collaboration Album – it was probably my favorite album. I saw some very fun concerts — Pink where we were sitting near her daughters and husband, Celine Dion, Hootie and the Blowfish, Lauren Daigle, Mumford and Sons, O.A.R. and American Authors to name a few.
What was your favorite film of the year?
My favorite film of the year was Home Alone – snuggled with my eleven year old son who never snuggles with me anymore and my husband. The mutual laughter we shared made it my hands down favorite.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday passed quietly this year as I believe I worked. However, my husband asked a number of people close to me to name qualities about me and made them into bookmarks. Then – for my own celebration, I flew to Albuquerque early (I was going to Santa Fe anyway to my writing intensive…) and saw Lauren Daigle and Ahi in concert. I was supposed to get there several hours before the concert, have a VIP experience since my tickets were 1/3 of the cost as LA tickets and check in to my hotel. None of it happened as my plane was delayed – so I jumped on another plane to Phoenix that looked more promising than the direct LA flight and made it – carry on luggage and all to my concert. I’d left my checked luggage with my original flight since they couldn’t transfer it so I retrieved it at the airport after the concert. What I remember most was the support of a number of friends as I tried not to spiral into disappointment and stress about arriving to even see the concert AND asking them if they would accept me even though I would need to walk in front of a whole lot of people with my two coats, luggage and purse. I’m sure in my younger years I would have been too embarrassed to go with my “baggage” so I would have checked in to my hotel first. But I LOVED the first act who had already started when I arrived coming straight from the airport so I was grateful for growth and less care about what others think about me.
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting out of LA in the fall. It was so so hot this fall and I love the changing of the leaves and the crisp air, I sometimes feel seasonally “deflated” in LA during the supposedly colder months. A way I help myself live here is try to go on a work trip somewhere cold — New York, Santa Fe to name a few of my past trips. It helps me navigate the lack of seasons in LA.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
More of the same…comfort and color is usually my way.
What kept you sane?
My friends and community. Seriously. They are my emotional pillars.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
My thoughts are tiny compared to the wonders of the universe. What important things can I possibly know apart from what I can observe and hear? How large my world has become as I’ve talked less and listened more.
What new habit are you developing to decrease your environmental footprint?
Single use plastics — we are trying to eliminate using them. So far we’ve eliminated straws and utensils. Now we want to do better at bringing to go containers with us. This Christmas we all brought empty water bottles so we could fill them in the airport.
I hope your year has begun beautifully! Please forgive my grammar/spelling errors as this time around sleep is more important than rereading and since my week is packed with two more dinners of 15-20 people with one completed two days ago. I’m practicing “good enough.”
What did you do in 2018 that you had never done before? For a birthday gift to myself, I went canyoneering in Utah as part of a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer Steve Matera and Get In The Wild, both experiences I’d never done before. It was an amazing adventure and fed my love of the southwest, a place I used to backpack every year before our children arrived.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions last year. Instead, I kept my focus on my goals that I create every September with my business group, Thrive. Here we focus on both habits/ daily practices and goals. I have felt really good about the progress I’ve made and I’ve found this structure is much more effective for me than New Year’s Resolutions.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Dennis’ fabulous assistant, Esther, gave birth to a baby boy and our cousin, Emily, gave birth to a lovely baby girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
January 6th, my dear friend, Danielle Montiel died from breast cancer. See here https://countrygirlinla.com/?p=1087 for more details. She is dearly missed by all who knew her.
5. What countries or new places did you visit?
Italy!!! Oh my goodness, what a fabulous trip this summer. We visited Florence, Rome, Siena, and a small town in the Italian Alps. I fell in love with food, wine, art, festivals, the people, the beauty, and well everything. I love this country. I can’t wait to return.
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
I need to prioritize physical activity. I have an occupation that is primarily sedentary. As a result, lots of tight IT bands, hips, etc. I need to be more intentional about stretching in between my clients and even taking a walk in the afternoon – not for exercise sake but for movement’s sake. I’d like to do more of this so I can keep away the hip pain that appears when I’ve sat too long.
7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Being with Danielle as she passed away on January 6th will remain etched in my memory. It’s a great privilege to be with someone and many of their loved ones as they leave this world. Shared grief feels like your whole being is surrounded by a community movement communicating one thing and one thing only – “You are not alone.”
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Fun! I created a lot of space for fun and creating memories this year. Some of it was intentional – attending concerts (U2, Fall Out Boy, Lorde, Halsey to name some), theater shows (Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, School of Rock, Beautiful), sporting events (Angels, Ducks) or events (Pageant of the Masters). Other fun was spontaneous as we practiced the Sabbath as a family and often created space for times of enjoyment with one another or friends.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Hum. I continue to struggle with creating space for my writing. I tend to fill my time with office visits, workshops and other items that are more direct service to people. I hope to better value my writing this year. I’ve taken the steps to do so by applying and now attending a writing intensive which meets every three months in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder. So hopefully I won’t be writing the same thing next year.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes – same situation caused both. My right shoulder is vulnerable to injury. I healed it last year after an 18 month struggle. However, my canyoneering trip re-injured it after our longest outing – primarily due to transitioning through slot canyons so narrow that I had to carry my backpack out in front or back of me since I couldn’t fit through with it on my back. After that trip, I somehow got bacteria that three days later started traveling up my arm. This landed me in the ER without a wait (meaning highest risk patient). Luckily some strong antibiotics knocked it out.
11. What’s the best thing you bought?
We bought a Tesla!! This is our second electric car, our third alternative fuel car. We love the auto drive in LA traffic!
12. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage. We live in the Los Angeles area need I say anything else.
13. What did you get really excited about?
Crew! This year was our first season of competition and it was so exciting. This is such a “guts” sport. Fabulous to watch and who doesn’t like spending a day by the water.
14. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts) by Shane & Shane. This song really reflects the activity of my heart with so many tragedies, political divide, inequality, death, conflict and loss at my church, I’ve needed to sit with God’s presence with us, with me in this world full of brokenness.
15. Compared to this time last year, are you: —happier or sadder?
better at holding both – sadness and happiness.
— thinner or fatter?
the same but I’ve made some wonderful discoveries with my health – eating gluten and dairy free has helped clear out the “brain fog” I often experienced every day. I thought it was due to my thyroid, which hasn’t properly worked since 2003 but once I cut out gluten it left.
— richer or poorer?
Richer. Business was good and we have a good savings plan, especially since I was paying off my student loan for decades and couldn’t save much.
16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Hiking and camping. We didn’t do much hiking but did manage to get in our yearly camping trip even though it was poorly attended by other families. This year we had a wonderful campsite at Union Valley Reservoir. Magical. We had the entire area to ourselves likely due to the fires in Northern California but our air quality was great.
17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Dealing with paper – I hate opening mail unless it’s a letter or magazine. :-). And our family has a lot of moving parts, which makes coordinating, paper shuffling, etc. challenging for this busy business owner and mother.
18. How did you spend Christmas?
We had a great time with Dennis’ family playing games, eating amazing food (the gravy was incredible), decorating cookies, and then we drove up to one of our family’s favorite spots, Sedona, where we spent several days and even got snow!
19. What was your favorite TV program?
Netflix’s show Patriot Act by Hasan Minhaj. I’m in love with his person. If you don’t like swearing, don’t watch. However, if you aren’t offended Hasan won’t disappoint. He discusses important and relevant issues for our country using his comedic style to inform his audience. I confess, I just love observing his mind.
20. What were your favorite books of the year?
It’s so tough to pick my favorite books as there are so many I fall in love with. However, here are my picks for this year, the first two being older books I didn’t read until this year. Favorite Non-Fiction was the 2017 award winning book, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. See his website for information – http://evictedbook.com. Favorite Fiction was 2016 book, Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. This book is set around World War II and weaves the lives of three different women together. It’s riveting. My favorite spiritual book was Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. I love how this author weaves in humor with his academic knowledge of the life of Paul. Definitely has influenced my understanding of Paul’s epistles. My favorite personal growth book was Why Won’t You Apologize by Harriet Lerner. I enjoy her ability to make simple – deeper psychological concepts as well as her vulnerability in her writing. I wonder what would happen if every high school student had to read this – would we be a kinder and more connected country?
21. What was your favorite music from this year?
I really wish I could like cool, layered music but I’m really just not that hip and probably to a musician like “unsophisticated junk.” However, here it goes with my mainstream taste.
I couldn’t get enough of James Arthur’s music even though his album is two years old. I loved his new singles and am waiting impatiently for him to drop another album and tour. I think with his voice he could sing me the phone book and I’d be mesmerized. Another album favorite was Fall Out Boy’s Mania. However, I found their concert in Anaheim dissatisfying. As a concert lover, they seemed awkward on stage and at times it appeared as if they were going through the motions. Disappointing. I loved Thirty Seconds to Mars new album and hope I can finally see them in concert in 2019.
Best concert this year was predictable -U2. It’s a spiritual experience to be with this band. I’ve seen them four times and leave a better human being each time. Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour though was probably the most entertaining. She knows how to bring it and with guest performances from Troy Sivan and Selena Gomez – over the top.
22. What was your favorite film of the year?
Avengers: Infinity Wars was my favorite film of the year. The ending. Gutsy. I loved it. Again, I idealize those who watch independent films but I simply don’t create space to go to the movies that often. When I do, it’s usually for the special effects that only come from the big screen. Films I really wanted to see but didn’t – “Wont you be my neighbor,” “Free Solo” and “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” One of my favorites from year’s past was Hidden Figures. I might be able to watch that every year and not get enough of it.
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I worked on my birthday and Dennis made me a great dinner. I also got a fabulous massage from Laura, my favorite. I really celebrated in April when I took my birthday adventure trip to Utah for canyoneering and photography. I was and am 48 years old.
24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having cancer wiped off the face of the earth. My friend Danielle died on January 6th. My friend, Gina is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer as is my childhood friend, Liz, fighting her own version with a recurrence of breast cancer. They are blessings to this earth. It makes me so mad that they are suffering with these diseases.
25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
Comfortable, yet colorful with sometimes the unexpected (think leopard print with stripes). I love jewelry so usually accessorize with a local artist’s piece (you will find no commercial jewelry on me – vintage or local artists is what I wear). I usually will choose comfort over fashion unless I know I’m going to be sitting and hence not maneuvering with uncomfortable clothing or shoes (the later being more of the issue with my narrow feet).
26. What kept you sane?
My sanity may be debatable but if we are assuming I’m sane then it’s likely due to practicing the Sabbath. Committing to take a day off a week is paradoxically energizing and makes me more productive and present for the rest of the week. My kids love it, especially because they don’t need to do dishes. Even though I will move on to another spiritual practice, we will continue to integrate the Sabbath into our lives. I think my family would protest if I took away our weekly practice as they’ve all come to look forward to it.
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
The present moment is the greatest gift. Too often I think, “I can do that later” but the reality is that I don’t really know I can do it later. So each time I workout, I see someone, or have time to connect -I try to take advantage and remember that I simply don’t know if I’ll ever be recreate the moment again. As well, I learned that my mindset can really impact my experience of the present moment. So, I’m trying to recognize how I’m thinking in order to either change it or cultivate it depending on my emotional state. In other words, “what mood is my mental life creating and if I don’t like it, what is needed to shift it?”
28. What new habit did you develop to decrease your environmental footprint?
We purchased stainless steel straws and decreased our use of plastic straws. I stored them in my car, which made them handy while eating out or grabbing a smoothie. We are still trying to remember to say, “No straws” when we eat out because it’s inconsistent as to whether you automatically get a glass with a straw, which of course is disappointing to those of us who are eliminating the one time use of plastic items.
Eden’s response for considering next year’s habit -“don’t we do everything there is to do?” As parents, either we’re doing lots of things right or we’re missing the boat on this one.
Happy New Year, Everyone. May I be around next year to reflect once again on my year.
June is a difficult month to navigate. It’s a month of great sorrow and rich joy. It’s a time of remembering the people who’ve died over the years this month — my grandpa, Beth, a significant mentor, my dear friend, Amy, who died last June 19th, and my son, Baby Long Beach, who died nine years ago, a stillborn.
In contrast, it’s also a month of celebrating many anniversaries — my brother, Bryce and his wife, Shannon, my brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Sara, Auntie Chris and Uncle Don made 50 years this year!, and my own wedding, 18 years ago to my best friend and confidante, Dennis.
Added to this month was the grief of saying good-bye as my dear, dear friend and maid of honor packed her house to move back to her hometown of Sacramento. I’m not sure I even know how to process that one. Luckily, I have two more weeks with her at the end of July when she returns from vacation.
It’s like this, June requires an emotional flexibility I’m not sure I possess. On some level, I’d rather pull the covers over my head or put my head in the sand or walk straight through it without passing Go, without allowing anything to stop my forward progress until July 1st arrives. However, to do so, to escape, would remove me from touching good. Escaping doesn’t just eliminate the hard or negative feelings, it also removes the good and the joyful. When we escape, we don’t have the luxury of choosing what we’re escaping from. Instead, we numb it all.
So, I make it through June with friend gatherings of remembrances, with prayers from myself and others, with journaling, with celebrating dinners, with confessions…to God, to others, and with sharing — entering into my emotions knowing that whatever they are – hard or easy, I’m not alone. And I know that when I’m not alone, I can face whatever this life brings my way — in celebration or in pain. I’m deeply grateful for my friends. And for how deeply I feel my gratitude, I’m grateful for June. “She” reminds me every year that my life would be severely lacking without them.
The month started off with a trip to Julian with our friends, The Ekeys. Here Eden, lil e, Zinnie and Mek remind us to stay cool while hiking through alpine meadows at 80 degrees.
The next weekend was spent in Laguna Beach — rough I know! Eden found the perfect reading spot for the afternoon.We happened to be at the beach when 1,000 of Tuna Crabs migrated up from Mexico. I read in the news these wouldn’t die; they merely needed to wait until the tide came in to catch a ride once more. While visiting my parents in Washington during the last part of June, we met this adorable puppy and her 10 siblings. I honed my shooting skills. Hoping to bring me home some venison this fall. Also while in Washington, we hiked and fished one of our favorite lakes, Tiffany. We made out with our next day’s lunch, Eastern Brooke trout. Quotes Worth Chewing On:
“What deadens us most to God’s presence within, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are engaged in within ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort than being able from time to time to stop that chatter, including the chatter of spoken prayer.” Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
“Silence helps us drop beneath the superficiality of our mental constructs to that place of the heart that is deeper in its reality than anything the mind can capture or express in words. It is a place of longing and desire and reaching for that which we do not yet have. In this wordless place the whole of our person turns itself toward God and waits to be addressed by God. This kind of prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at the point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God’s spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing within us.” — Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence
“Jesus dismantled our notion of identity as solely tied to a group, social status, or role. When He commanded us to love our enemy, He invited us into serious self-reflection about how we perceive our meaning and purpose in this world. The Incarnation represents the ultimate example of crossing and collapsing boundaries. Jesus crossed over into the natural world to form a bridge between Creator and created. He calls us to do the same with those we might consider strangers or enemies, because we were once strangers ourselves. This is not just to a call to those who identify themselves as Christian activists — it is a call to all who call themselves Christ followers…..The Gospel is offensive. Not just because it calls people to a higher moral standard or challenges a secular worldview. The Gospel offends because it confronts fortified structures of power and privilege. It threatens those who receive societal benefit for belonging to a particular group and trims the cultural hedges of a domesticated suburban life. The Gospel contests national, religious, and social identity. It demands that we cross over the dividing wall of hostility to reconcile with those who might threaten our way of life and to call the stranger a “native among us.” — Robert Welsh in an untitled article written for Azusa Pacific University’s Alumni magazine adapted from Welsh, R. & Alexander, P. (2012). Exemplars of Godly Justice. Peacemaking and justice-seeking in dangerous contexts. PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 11, 67-86.
“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” — Steven Wright in The Best Joke Book (period): Hundreds of the Funniest, Silliest, Most Ridiculous Jokes Ever by William Donohue
The following three poems are from What Love Comes to: New and Selected Poems by Ruth Stone —
I must be serious, the widow thinks,
I must face reality.
This isn’t a temporary separation.
(Perhaps the widow’s must is expectation.)
Actually the widow thinks he may be
in another country in disguise –
that one day he will come back.
He was only fooling.
That was someone else that they buried.
The widow is told by a great seer
that fifty-two is a magic number.
She consults the muse.
“We must get into a higher gear,”
the muse whispers. “We must shift
out of this phase.”
“Just one more about shoes,”
the widow begs.
The muse shakes her head.
“No. We must get back to the real thing.
The blood and meat of the world.”
The muse took the widow in her arms.
“Now say it with me,” the muse said.
“Once and for all…he is forever dead.”
The human animal has turned a corner.
We no longer recognize one another.
I am the old species
but I must not weep. If I weep for myself
I am twice discarded.
“Don’t week,” says the old brain,
“listen – I have it all on video
at half the price.”
Songs on Repeat Mode:
I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad
Counting on Love by Matt McAndrew
Hot Gates by Mumford and Sons
House Party by Sam Hunt
Break Up in a Small Town by Sam Hunt
Girl Crush by Little Big Town
Round and Round by 3 Doors Down
Books on My Nightstand:
The Best Joke Book (period): Hundreds of the Funniest, Silliest, Most Ridiculous Jokes Ever by William Donohue
Thirsty by Mary Oliver
An Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton
The Best American Short Stores 2013 Edited by Elizabeth Strout
I couldn’t tell you when it started but at some point in my life I needed to be liked. This need hounded and drove me toward whatever I needed to do in order to be liked by whomever I was trying to impress at the time. I remember feeling like a store where I would change the window front depending on the group I was relating to at the time. Looking back, there were things that were some real positives. For instance, I mastered relating with almost anyone and could blend in with most groups. Even today I enjoy this quality because I’m not afraid to take classes, do retreats, or try something new by myself. I also became disciplined in order to be successful, which led to being liked. This need to be liked, to some degree, probably led me to become a therapist because I sincerely loved being with all different types of people. I found that with each group or individuals I had access to parts of myself that I didn’t necessarily have without them.
What wasn’t so helpful about this need to be liked is that I attended to others’ opinion in order to judge whether something was valuable or not. I would attach to significant mentors and want to become who they wanted me to become but at the expense of listening to my soul or God’s revelation in my life. Most of the time I felt like one big false self because I would keep hidden those things within me that I didn’t think would find approval. What this practically translated into was many people knowing little bits about me rather than a small group knowing a great deal about me. I think this practice of attending to what others think has paralyzed me from starting this blog much earlier than now. Even after I wrote my first post, I felt too exposed and vulnerable to share on facebook that I had started it. I gave myself a couple of days to let what I had written sink in so that I could experience a sort of grace towards myself that allowed the post to be just as it was, not perfect but good enough.
What I think I’m slowly learning in my life is that this need to be liked has nothing to do with needing affirmation or needing to know I’m likable. Rather, I think most poignantly it is, and was, about needing to escape myself –needing to escape a relentless critical self that could recall the minutest details and shame the imperfections. There were many times I’ve not been able to avoid it. When I was in high school it was so loud I wanted to commit suicide to shut it out. I’m deeply thankful that I needed to be liked because it was likely the experience of being liked and valued that caused me never to act on these feelings. Spending all of my twenties in therapy helped me to quiet down the volume enough so that it wasn’t the driving force behind every action I made. I even learned to get out of the hamster wheel and not be blasted by self-criticism until I got back inside the wheel. Yet, it is something that will never go away. I’ve accepted that. Now I’m trying to befriend it so that I can be curious about why it’s showed itself again. I’m befriending it as well so that I don’t need to be liked by others in order to pretend to like myself. I’m befriending it even still so that I don’t have to numb myself with chocolate, romantic movies (because shame and rejection is always met with love and acceptance, in the end), or external accomplishments in order to believe that I’m good enough and worthy to be accepted.
I’m grateful for this blog and the opportunity to practice quieting the criticism and opening up to being me — imperfections and all.
Although I’ve been blogging at a different site for the past several years as a parenting intervention, I’ve decided I need a different blog where I’m not a five or ten year old. I’ve done a horrible job of containing my perfectionism as I bought this domain in August and just couldn’t find the “right way” to start. Given my procrastination, I’ve had lots of terrifying thoughts. To give a few examples, “if I don’t start out brilliantly, no one will follow me. Worse yet, my friends won’t even want to hang out.” “I’ll officially be deemed a narcissist who is selfish, ambitious, and needs friends who don’t have to deal with her.” “I will no longer be able to hide behind being a five or ten year old so my horrible writing will be EXPOSED”. “Who do I think I am that people will want to read my blog?” “That’s a stupid idea for a first blog, try again.” “You are so not funny, don’t let everyone else see that.” “You’re going to be an embarrassment.” “What will you say? You’re too stressed out to make any type of wise observations.” “You can’t even get the dishes done in a timely manner, who are you to start yet another project.”
So to the above voices, this first blog post is to put up a proverbial middle finger (my mom will not approve). It is to say, I’m becoming comfortable in my own skin and refuse to listen to that perfectionistic nonsense. Further, this post is about owning who I am and not needing parantheses, or explanations, or on and on and on. It’s about wanting to connect with others, even people who I could only meet online. It’s about being fierce and courageous. It’s about not being afraid that I’ll sound clinical, stuffy, distant, stupid, and just being even if it is any of those things. It’s about trying to be a better writer and I’ve heard blogging can do just that. It’s also about wanting to practice the discipline of observing and being present and writing about these things helps hold me accountable to being just that, present.
So welcome to my first blog post. May you stay awhile. Connect. May you put me on your reader so we can become even more acquainted in months to come. And may you share about yourself. Courageously. Fearlessly. To hell with perfectionistic voices (my mother still will not approve) and onward towards connection within ourselves and each other.