Category Archives: Family

Bygones 

There was a time, fifteen or twenty years ago, when I took an average of 2000 photos a year. That might not be so impressive now, in the era of unlimited digital storage, but this was when we had to buy film, carry a camera, get it developed, and hope that the shot came out right. It was expensive, especially since I was paying for it with a minimum wage job while in high school and college. 

Since then, I have moved A LOT. Over and over, I’ve packed up albums and books and boxes of prints and taken them with me. All those boxes get heavy after a while, especially when those pictures don’t mean what they used to. 

They are a record of my life, and in that, they have value. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to only keep the happy, or the current. But at what point do I stop carrying those photos with me? 

What do you do with photographs of family members who have chosen to no longer consider you family? Or of former best friends who betrayed that trust? Or of religious celebrations and milestones along the path towards what was eventually abuse and cruelty? These people and places are part of my story. I don’t think I need to memorialize them anymore. 

So, little by little, I toss them out. When I have a brave moment, I sift through them and, if I feel only loss, bitterness, or sorrow when I look at it, I put it in the garbage pile. I choose which parts of my story to carry with me to the next place. 

Today has been one of those days. As part of a larger effort to take charge of some projects I’m always meaning to do, I sorted another album today. I have another stack of photos to toss. It’s always a terribly complicated feeling. I’m sorrowful for the way things ended, for the hurt caused. 

This time, though, I’m also sorry for them because they missed out. Life is pretty good now, and they chose to step away, not knowing who I have become. They never saw me so thoroughly happy. They will never meet my fiance. They don’t get to be a part of the adventures ahead. 

That sounds a little arrogant, I guess, but at least it’s honest. Maybe a different person would be more comfortable keeping so many old pictures. Maybe some day, I will regret it. What is more likely, I’m pretty sure, is that I would continue to carry them around, to wince when I see them mixed in with happier memories, that some day, I will find myself having to explain who the stranger is. 
Today, I made more room for more photographs. Photos of my upcoming wedding, honeymoon, anniversaries, parties, graduations, Christmases, and cats. There is a lot to look forward to. Even if it requires taking a few painful moments to let old memories go. 

The trash pile

The Day the Crayons Quit

With Pokey at his graduation

A month ago, my eldest nephew graduated from high school. Yesterday was his graduation party, and I bought him a book, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. I picked it up at Target one day and I was stunned by the (potentially accidental) metaphor it is for the kind of people we meet and the way we feel sometimes. 
This is the letter I wrote him, taped to the inside of the book: 

My dear boy, You are just about the age I was when you were born. I could not have imagined what life would bring between our graduations. From the joyful to the devastating, from the funny to the mundane, life never stops being a surprise, and it should be no other way. 

At every moment, I have loved the person you are. From the chubby baby you were, to the toothless flag football player, to the shaggy haired boy, to the honorable man you are today, you have never ceased to make me proud. 

Because I am older, I am supposed to impart some kind of wisdom. Because you are so young,  you must try to listen. I’ll begin with what is not said often enough: the most true things in life are most often found in children’s books. Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and so many others will speak truth and humor to your soul if you let them. 

It’s true that the things you will learn in the next few years will prepare you for life, but I do not mean academics. What you learn about yourself and others will last longer than any Intro to Chinese History class will. The book I’ve chosen for you, The Day the Crayons Quit, is about the people you will meet. You will meet people who: 

Like red, are overworked 

Like purple, are a little picky and neurotic

Like beige, feel ignored

Like gray, are weary

Like white, feel empty and unimportant 

Like black, are more than what they first appear to be

Like green, are mellow and easygoing 

Like yellow, is a drama queen 

Like orange, wants to feel special

Like blue, is at the end of their rope

Like pink, feels overlooked

Like peach, has been left out in the cold

And like Duncan, who just wants everyone to get along. 

My dear boy, with all you are, try to handle each person as best you can. Learn to be the best kind of friend to all kinds of people. Notice who is around you and strive to make their lives better. 

But Poke, don’t forget that you will often feel like these crayons as well. You will feel mellow, overworked, and all the rest, sometimes in the same day. Feeling this way is ok, but you must never let them push you to quit. Use each of these things to push you to continue to grow, to become a full, complete person. 

The days ahead are an adventure only you can live. It is one of my greatest joys to get to be a part of this adventure. 

Congratulations on your graduation, and with excitement for all that is to come, welcome to your next chapter! 

I love you, Aunt Cindy 

With Pokey, at his graduation party

Two Truths and A Lie

My mother wore a hoodie over her nightgown and a blanket around her waist as she shuffled her gym shoe- clad feet through the doors of the ER and plopped gracelessly into the chair next to the admitting nurse’s desk. I got in line behind the two girls who stood in front of me, chatting like it was study hall. We waited for a minute until the clerk got back to her desk – a very long minute as I stood there, watching my mother shiver and bounce in her seat.

“Who’s next?” The clerk asked.

“We were here first. I have a toothache,” said the girl on the right.

“O- are you? – are you all together?” The nurse gestured her hand towards all of us, eyeing my mother.

“No,” I said. As uncomfortable as a toothache can be, my mother needed help more quickly.

“What is she having trouble with?” She asked me.

“She’s diabetic and her blood sugar is tanking. She’s freezing and is having trouble breathing.” I said.

“I have a headache, too,” piped the girl with the toothache.

Are you kidding me? Please tell me you’re kidding. Are you seriously trying to insinuate that your toothache is more pressing than my mother’s present condition? If you are going to try to make my mother wait for treatment, let me talk to you outside. I’ll bust out your damned tooth, and it won’t hurt for too much longer…. I am not very kind when someone messes with my family.

The nurse motioned for me to come over by my mother and she ignored the girls at the counter. She took her blood sugar, got her name and birthday, and got her another nurse to get her right back into the room. The girls went back to chatting like nothing was wrong.

Once we were in the room, I messaged my bff, told her where I was, and about the girl with the toothache.

“Clearly she doesn’t understand how the ER works,” she said.*

Tonight ended up being another example in a very long list of examples this week of people who don’t seem to understand how a society should work. People who oppose gun regulations that would save lives because they feel it impinges on their personal rights. People who are in a stable financial situation who oppose liveable wages for others because it would make them feel less successful. A clerk who refuses to do her job because the legal, equal right to marry supposedly threatens her individual right to exercise her faith…. A young woman who begrudges the few minutes spent waiting while a retired grandmother is rushed into the hospital room first.

People have always been selfish, rotten, and egocentric. That’s certainly nothing new; this week just seem to be a spectacular display of that truth. People are so very concerned with themselves that they can’t see what is happening outside of their own heads.

It’s quite hard, in this moment, to remember the other, equally true statement: people are good, kind, and selfless. Friends of mine who prayed for my mom, the nurse who patiently rubbed my mom’s foot when it cramped up on her, the cashier who was sincere in his well wishes for her night.

People are rotten.
People are good.
Both of these are equally true.

I like to think that I am better at being good than being rotten. Sometimes, my good actions happen directly in opposition to my own heart and brain. I could be mad and mean and ornery at someone on the inside, but on the outside, I force myself to be kind and gracious. The actions feel like a lie. It’s not like it’s all the time or anything. But after days like this, weeks like these, I confess that I feel just as selfish and mean as others seem to be acting. I tell myself that not acting it out is better, that it is at least a step in a better direction. Is it? I’m not so sure. My faith tells me that it’s my heart that matters, and I’m not sure I understand my heart very much today.

Is it enough that my desire to show love, despite my own feelings, wins out (usually)? Or am I cutting myself too much slack?

*My mother is OK, by the way. It was a stress-induced drop in her blood sugar, which is now back where it should be and she is home, sleeping.

Bits and Pieces

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who found herself floating between worlds. Without any control over it, she wandered between homes, between patchwork families who all meant so much to her. These families lived all over the Midwest, and inevitably, when she was with one, as happy as she was, and as loved as she was, she missed the others. As she grew, so did the scope of her families. Fellow choir singers, college buddies, seminary partners, and assorted strays wandered in and sat down for a while. Life has a way of continuing to move onward, shifting shape as soon as she figured part of it out. As the shape of life changed, so did her heart.

Most people seem to experience this evolution as growth; hearts get bigger when there are more people to love. For this meandering fool, it is precisely the opposite.

E. E. Cummings famously wrote “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).” It’s a lovely poem, but the truer truth, for me, would be the inverse: “you carry my heart (you carry it in your heart).” Over time, I have come to realize that my heart does not primarily beat within my own chest. Instead, it has been willingly parcelled out into the care of people who love a piece of it. My heart beats within the hearts of so many others. If I were solely responsible for the care of my own heart, I would no doubt break it irreparably before sundown.

This means that my heart often beats in places far away from me. My life, my soul, my broken little brain all long for the times that I am reunited with these bits and pieces. I know no other way to describe how it is that to encounter some people is to also reconnect with a bit of myself.

For a few years now, one piece has been tucked away in Istanbul, safely held by my cousin, Vince. We were not particularly close growing up, and still, now, we don’t communicate like we should, but nonetheless, there is a bond. I worry for him like I do very few people. He is a mix of a tender spirit, an intense resilience, and quiet intelligence that I admire. He is the one who holds the title for Best Hug of my Lifetime, given on the Easter when I first saw him after his first tour in Iraq. With him, my anxious self is comforted and doesn’t fear vulnerability. It seems like our own experiences, though very different, seem to give us a slightly different understanding of both fragility and strength.

Tonight, I got to see him for the first time in several years. We did some catching up and then moved on to theology, able to discuss our churches and faiths like I seldom get to do. I wish we had had more time. He invited me to visit him in Istanbul, and now, I’m trying to figure out how to make that happen.

I am always bewildered whenever anyone seems willing to care for a piece of my heart, but I’m grateful that they do. It’s a relief to know that he holds onto a bit of it. When he said, as he was leaving, to make sure I talk to him if things get hard, I could have cried. I know without a doubt that he meant it. I know that, should (when) things darken, he will listen and remind me that all is not in peril because he carries a bit of my heart(he carries it in his heart).

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Special Request

I’ve written about my greatgrandmother, Nanny, before. She is my biggest hero, the one soulmate of everyone in my family, the one lynch pin in the universe.

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Nanny and me at her 107 birthday party

She is 107 1/2. In some ways, she is eternal. Her age is impressive, but steady: she has always been simply “very old” to me. I know she is aging. There are at least seven times a day that I am reminded that time is limited. One of my deepest fears is that she will be gone before I have done anything to make her proud. I mean, after the outstanding life she has led, how does this fool get to claim her?

Today, my mother told me that Nanny has asked me to write her life story.

selah.

Me.

I cannot help but accept the offer, but holy buckets I am terrified, humbled, honored, and otherwise inadequate. I recently told a friend that I had occasionally thought about writing some kind of book, but that I wouldn’t know where to start. I am not at all the kind of person who is bursting with stories to tell.

Except for her stories. She is a wonderful storyteller, and I have memorized her greatest hits, and have told them myself. I know there are thousands more I haven’t heard. To hear those stories, the ones she hasn’t told anyone, leaves me speechless.

I’m going to do it. In a million lifetimes, I couldn’t say no.

But oh my God, I’m not sure if I’m worthy of it.

Oprah, Miranda, My Sisters, and Me

It pains me to say it because I think it’s the height of narcissism to stick your face and name on anything and everything, but I have quite a weak spot for the Oprah Chai at Starbucks. Not the latte. Just the tea. What Oprah has to do with my late afternoon coffee alternative is beyond me, but nonetheless, I could drink it by the gallon. I don’t even miss my coffee when I drink it.

It has become a habit to pick one up when I am driving to my sister’s, which is a little more than an hour away. I generally let it steep for a few minutes, and by the time I get to the highway, I pull over and take the bags out, let it cool off for another few minutes and drink it once I get off the highway. It’s a routine I find comforting.

I picked one up on Saturday afternoon and as I pulled out of the drive, I turned up the CD. It was Miranda Lambert, who is WAY country, but it fit my mood on a sunny afternoon. For an hour or so, it was just me, my tea, and my music.

I love driving. It can be great therapy. I let my mind wander wherever it wants to go and it often ends up in and out off prayer. A lot of questions. A lot of uncertainty gets acknowledged while I drive.

So this weekend, it was more prayer. More “what the hell is going on here, and could you please fill me in?” Not really any kind of answer. At least not right away.

When I got to my sister’s, our plans changed and we ended up going to dinner. It had been a long time since it had been just the three of us. We laughed more that night that we have on a long time. We ordered dessert and ended up with new inside jokes. I was really tired when I drove home, but dang was I happy.

I thought, for the millionth time in the last six months, that this is part of why I am home. The things I lost in November are still missed, but they won’t ever come close to Saturday night, or getting to hug the kids every week. Would I trade that for my own bathroom? Nah.

On the drive home, and again today, I was reminded that what I’m learning is how to live again. I’m learning patience, a virtue I do not naturally possess. Waiting, joy, and a whole bunch of other things are lessons I am trying to accept. They are quite hard for this girl who has never lived anything but an anxious existence. I’m learning to roll with the universe a little.

I’m really glad I don’t have to do it alone.

Wish I May…

When I drove home half an hour ago, there was no star to wish upon, despite the clear sky. No stars were visible because the sun was nearly to the horizon, making the sky bright enough that the night stars were hidden but I couldn’t quite see the sun yet, either. I drove home somewhat hurriedly because I was hoping to see my dad before he left for work. My dad is a pretty big guy at 6’9″ (2.05m), so I still feel like a kid when I hug him.

I needed a “dad hug” today. I left for work at 2:30 yesterday afternoon after a solidly miserable workout at the gym that left me feeling every muscle in my hips and thighs. I wasn’t able to take any kind of break all night, so I was looking forward to going home and putting my feet up after I got off at 11. Through a series of totally crappy circumstances, I didn’t get off at 11. I ended up having to work a surprise double shift. Third shift is a lot more cleaning and a lot more solitude than other shifts, and by the end, I was awake but completely worn out.

Fourteen and a half hours on my feet with the exception of two bathroom breaks left my already sore legs almost numb. In fact, I realized while driving home that I couldn’t really feel my feet as well as I usually do. They just hurt. As did my knees. And my finger, where I cut it on a cappuccino machine, and my pinky, where I pinched it in a heavy metal hinge and gave myself a very painful, deep bruise- I’m twice as clumsy when I’m tired.

Driving home, I knew that if I managed to catch him, I would feel better. Less stressed. I could say to someone “I’m tired and sore and it sucks that I had to work 14+ hours with zero break,” and in true Dad fashion, he’d hug me back and agree that it sucks, then send me to bed.

I didn’t make it home before he was gone for work. The house was dark and there was nothing but a dirty cereal bowl next to an empty Wheaties box. I wish I’d made it home in time. Since I’m just now about to try to sleep, I may sleep though his midday break and be gone at work again before he is home from work, so may not see him at all today. That kinda blows.

I really wish I’d made it home a little earlier.

Bloom Baby

When she was born, my niece, Sarah, was itty bitty. She is a twin, and they were so early that she was this teeny little pink baby who was far too little for her pink clothes. Maybe that’s why I called her Sarahberry; she was such a little bit of shocking pink that stood out from her older and twin brothers.

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One of my very favorites. Just look at her eyes.

The only girl with three brothers, it’s no surprise that she ended up seamlessly floating between princess and tomboy. She played T-ball like her brothers but wore sparkles when she wasn’t in uniform. She discovered she liked soccer a lot more than baseball, so she eventually dropped the one for the other and she has stuck with it. Life with brothers is good training for the battle field that is soccer, and while she is still little, she is tenacious.

One summer afternoon, my younger sister, Noonie, and I took the kids to the neighborhood park. It was one of those afternoons that only happen in cereal commercials, where the weather is perfect, the kids behave, and every playful football spirals. At some point, Noonie made Sarah a clover crown. When we were in the kitchen, I took her picture with a bit of fear.

“Oh, baby girl, stay like this as long as you can. Don’t ever stop being the little girl with dirt on her knees and flowers in her hair.”

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Flower girl

I was afraid of what would be inevitable: the heartache and struggles that we all face as we grow up. I took the picture as proof to myself, and someday to her, that life was once as simple as summer tans and clover crowns.

Sarahberry is thirteen now, in so many ways. I often find myself saying that teens are the age group I understand the least. She’s proving me wrong, and I don’t mind it at all. Of course familiarity helps, but she really isn’t all that hard to understand: she likes soccer, “old people food,” learning how to cook and do crafts, bugging her brothers, and reading. She has never met an animal she doesn’t like and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She is bright and beautiful, happy and generous. She never seems afraid to be herself.

A few weeks ago, she came to stay for a few days over spring break and we hung out. She doesn’t seem to think or care that I’m not cool, and we watched nerdy TV, went to see Cinderella, and walked around the mall where we looked at prom dresses.

She is not likely to get any taller than her present five feet, has fewer curves than I did at 13, and her bubbly self makes her seem even younger, so she has seemed like a bit of a late bloomer to me. We pointed out dresses we thought were pretty, which were garish, and which ones our fathers would hang us for wearing. To my delighted relief, she was quick to say that she had no interest in wearing “the slutty stuff.”

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At Pa's birthday dinner

We talked about everything, from her teachers to boys to what kind of veterinarian she wanted to be. We walked through racks of clothing and all I could think is You’re growing up too fast! Stop it!

It’s a horrible, wretched bit of wonderful misery to both love seeing her learn and experience new things while also wanting to hit pause and just enjoy this. Someday, she won’t be thirteen and all I will have is photographs and memories of this incredible girl. There won’t be choir concerts or games, and while there will be new things to enjoy, I so love the kid she is right now.

“I get my toes stepped on a lot because I’m a defender.”

A few weeks ago, Sarahberry tore her ACL at soccer, so she had surgery last Friday. On Tuesday, I went to keep her company and give her mom a chance to get out of the house. We watched Adam Sandler and she laughed like it was the funniest thing she’s seen. Later that night, I offered to paint her nails for her, but I have to say, her toenails were a challenge: tiny, oddly shaped, and sort of deep-set into her toes, and I ended up doing a pretty sloppy job. She told me that it was OK, though, because everyone has a hard time with painting them. Because of getting stepped on all the time on the field, her toes take quite a beating.

She was being literal, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. We are called to defend those who need it, and in doing so, we get stepped on. Sarah has a defender’s heart. She can’t help but love the wounded animal, give to the friend who has less, or help the old person who needs it. Her tenacity comes in handy here, because she doesn’t back down or give up easily. She is still young enough to not have had her toes stepped on too many times in the process, and as I kept painting her nails, I wanted to beg her: Do not stop defending. No matter how many times your toes are stepped on, or how much it hurts to keep walking. Keep your heart just like it is.

In a lot of ways, my Sarahberry is still, thankfully, the girl with clover in her hair. She is still usually covered in some combination of dirt and glitter. What I think I understand better now is that my darling Sarahberry is not becoming a new person but she is continuing to become her own person. What a beautiful and appropriate word “blooming” is for her. In every stage, she has been beautiful and captivating, and she will continue to be. I get to be one of the lucky ones who gets to be a part of that. I don’t know how I won that lottery, but dang, I’m glad I did.

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We're so classy. So very classy.

Raise Men, Not Husbands

I don’t have children, but I’m pretty far into the stage of life when almost all my friends have kids. I love them. I adore them. I hope and pray and worry for them. My friends are often overwhelmed and bewildered by the process of raising kids, which leads to a great many of them reading and sharing articles about how to navigate the minefield of childrearing. Most of the time, I ignore it. Tonight, I one caught my eye and, quite frankly, it is a mediocre, patronizing stink-fest at best.

See, the article, 10 Tips for Raising a Son Who’ll Make a Great Husband, made me wonder. I’m single, some of my friends are still single, and we know what it’s like to try to sift through the potential list of men. I might not be raising kids directly, but I certainly have a lot of them, nephews in particular, who are influenced by my behavior. What, I wondered, are the things that will make them into the men I hope they’ll be?

Ugh. Cindy.
I should have known better. The problem lies in the title itself: the article is not aimed at raising good men, but rather aimed at raising good husbands, as defined by the dominant cultural standard of “good.” Gahhh!

The writer chooses a fairly random list of things that sound like solutions to her top pet peeves and reinforcements for the standard definition. They made me cringe:

1. Put the seat down.
A courteous gesture, yes, but one that insists that women’s needs are superior to men’s. One of my two best friends is a man, and when we go out, it’s generally me and his male friends. I’m outnumbered, and you know what? I put the seat down myself and then lift it back up when I’m done because there are more of them. Both sexes can operate a toilet seat. If women don’t want to sit in a bare toilet rim, they can take the 0.2 seconds to look and see if the seat is down.
Instead: Teach him to be courteous to people of all genders and physical needs.

2. Notice her haircut, even when he doesn’t.
I hate that the author so quickly jumps to valuing her physical appearance, and encourages him to lie in order to reinforce her ego and boost her confidence. She basically says to not feel guilty about making him go to the salon with you because it teaches him about how much effort his wife will put into her appearance. I can hear my friend Deb wretching as she reads it.
I don’t care a whole lot about my hair. Noticing that it is a few inches shorter doesn’t impress me. However, I am really impressed that someone has asked me several times what I’m reading and how the book is going, and if someone were to notice a particularly successful recipe, I would be over the moon.
Instead: Teach him to be interested in the things that encourage others.

3. Teach him to unroll his socks.
True- and then to continue the effort of doing his own dang laundry. Or, at least, doing his share of the work around the house, no matter what that arrangement might be. As a result of a bargain made long before I was born, my father did all the laundry. In fact, as a kid, I never understood why women would ever need to know how to use a washer because laundry is “men’s work.” Major points for my parents in teaching egalitarianism on this one!
Instead: Teach him to successfully do every kind of house work so that he can help in equal measure as an adult (or do it himself if he lives alone).

4. Teach him to walk with her.
I don’t have a problem with this one, other than to say that I hope it would be metaphorical as well as literal.

5. Teach him to walk by the street so that if a car swerves onto the sidewalk, he gets hit first.
What the everblooming hell are you talking about? If a car swerves onto the sidewalk, everyone is screwed, and my nephew’s legs are no less precious than anyone else’s. What this really is is reinforcing a kind of chivalry that seems cute, but is strangely nonsensical.
Instead: Teach him to use common sense while being courteous.

6. Put gas in her car, because it’s hard to do when you have kids.
Aside from the annoying assumption that kids are automatically a factor, it again comes down to the simple act of being courteous.

7. Choose battles wisely.
I am all for this one, as long as you also teach him to not be a doormat or whipping post, and to fight the ones worth fighting.

8. Wipe your hair off the counter when you shave.
Finally, one we can all agree on.

9. Surprise her with dinner and flowers, for no reason, but don’t miss Mother’s Day.
Alright, dinner and flowers are great for some occasions and for some partners, but that doesn’t work for everyone. The over killed idea of “love languages” is pretty valid. I know one couple who, after decades of marriage, has learned that while she may appreciate a nice bunch of daisies, what really makes her know she’s loved is when he does the dishes or cleans the bathroom without provocation. Hello, how’s that for marital success!?
Instead: Teach him to communicate in ways that will mean the most to his partner.

10. Make sure “I love you” are the last words she hears at night.
I don’t dislike this one, but I’d expand it to say that I would hope his actions and words are successful in communicating love as an overall message. His partner would, I hope, be able to say, if nothing else “I know he loves me,” even if it’s a bad day or a rough patch. I would also hope that he is honest about how he feels in a healthy way. He may be mad, or happy, or grumpy, or whatever, and he shouldn’t have to keep that from his partner.

And so, dear parents, I beg you, as someone who is still looking, and on behalf of the nephews, cousins, and kids I love so dearly: do not focus on raising a good husband. Focus on raising a good person. One who is kind, courteous, respectful, and loving to everyone, and not just the one he’s sleeping with. Your sons deserve better than to be groomed for marriage. They deserve to be taught how to be good people.

A Surprisingly Big Voice

My family does not do quiet well. I blame my father, though it’s not quite his fault. See, he’s a very big man, standing 6’9″, so his lungs and vocal chords are bigger, which means his natural speaking voice is much louder than average. My siblings and I inherited that volume (even if I didn’t get much height), and we have natural “outdoor voices.” As if that isn’t enough, throw in a few years of choir training and I have never, ever needed a microphone. I’ve never been afraid of public speaking, either.

Yesterday, I was in a rough place. I took a long shower. I cussed. I cried. I messaged a friend who has been here before, having resigned ministry a few years ago herself. I sat on my bed with a towel on my head and did the only thing I could think of: I wrote. I wanted to write about how unfair it was, how angry I am sometimes, how justice doesn’t seem to be winning. Instead, I wrote what was harder.

I wrote some of the things I cannot utter out loud to my little brother and his wife, who are about to enter into full time ministry. He may be more than a foot taller than me, but I am still the big sister who is terrified that her little brother will experience some of the same hurts. So I wrote, thinking not only of my stories, but those of other officers. Though I want all of the cadets to have fewer troubles than I did, my deepest concern is for them. I needed to tell them, but when I need it the most, sometimes that “outdoor voice” shrinks and I have to write it instead. I feared sounding foolish, or arrogant, or jumbled. If I wrote it, I supposed, I could feel that I had said what needed to be said, even if they never saw it. It was just some words on my little blog, after all. I didn’t even tell then that I wrote it.

I just wrote it. And shared it like the rest of them. And my friend shared it. And another one did.

And then my meek little cop-out got shared again and again. Then, someone in the UK shared it and suddenly I got almost 400 hits in about an hour and a half. Considering few of my posts have come close to that EVER, that’s a lot for me. In a little over a day, nearly 1000 hits from Iowa to the Isle of Man to Egypt. It has been read by people on four continents so far. Not sure of how it ended up like that, I asked a group of friends if they had seen it somewhere. A few had, and I peeked at what had been said.

They were agreeing with me. They thought it was bold but not offensive. They liked my writing.

Suddenly, I had a big voice again, whether I meant to or not. And I was a little less afraid of it, but only slightly. I have reread that blog fifty times if I’ve read it once, half-panicked that I sound stupid in it. When I started my blog, I didn’t think it would have much consequence. Big-picture, it doesn’t, but it does have quite a bit of consequence for me. The last twenty-four hours have restored a little bit of the voice I lost when I stopped preaching. They have reminded me that the words I have can be big. That my thoughts have a little bit of substance to them.

I’m not saying that I’m going to start writing presidential speeches any time soon, but maybe –maybe- my voice doesn’t have to be so small.