No Excuse for Relative Pronouns

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I read a post the other day about the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill.

A mom in the comments said she stood in support of the bill because her young girls shouldn’t have to see THAT. And after she took a solid challenge from other readers, she signed off by saying that we are really screwing our kids up and IT is sad.

THAT and IT.

They jump off the page at me. Old habit. All English teachers know what I’m saying here. In the beginning of my career I would write little notes to my students in the margins, encouraging them to be more precise. By the end, I just circled the words, and drew a big question mark. On a poster board in the back of the room was a key to my corrections:

? = WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU SAYING???

When I read her comment, I thought What the heck is she saying? What is THAT and what is IT?

I played it out in my head:

A transgendered woman comes into the women’s room to pee. Regardless of how long she lived as a he, someone taught her that it’s not polite to pee in the sink. So off to a stall she goes.

How does my daughter even know what is happening behind those closed doors?

Or a transgendered man comes into the men’s room. The urinals are not an option—I actually know this from personal experience, it’s a physical impossibility—so off to the stall he goes.

My son would assume one thing: serious business. And he would get out there as soon as possible to avoid the smell.

All good so far.

What WOULD cause an uproar is the reverse of that. There’s a McDonald’s in Redding where the bathrooms are reversed. Usually the women’s room is on the right. THE RIGHT. Annie had to pee and the door needed a token and no, I didn’t look at the sign.

The guy at the urinal sure did shriek like a woman when I rolled in there with my preschooler. Safe to say that he didn’t want to see me any more than I wanted to be there.

In my world, it will be a few more years before my little people notice things that may be seem different to them. I stand firmly by my “Need to Know” style of parenting. I’ll find the words then.

Because I have never once thought how I would explain transgendered to my kids.

There it is.

Maybe this mom who commented was her older self, with kids who are asking questions that need answers. Maybe she’s watching her babies take giant steps towards adulthood and suddenly all  those hard words she was going to find on a far-away tomorrow have to be in her head today.

So she’s freaking out and using relative pronouns.

Sister girl, I can relate to THAT.

But I don’t want to live in a relative pronoun world. And I need to stop punting to my older self because I’m tired now and my older self, the one with teenagers, will be tired and old.

So I’m going to remember that we are people who believe where we stand on the important things in life is not as important as how we stand. We stand in love.

Then I’m going to call my girlfriends and invite them for coffee but really it will be a brainstorming session called “What to tell our kids when”. Together we will buck up and find the hard words because fear is no excuse to use relative pronouns.

But also.

For the love of God, can we build children with hardier hearts? Children who aren’t so fragile that they will need twenty years of therapy at the sight of a woman peeing standing up? Or whose faith in all that is good and holy will not fall to pieces in the face of a man who appears to have boobs? That’s a house of cards built on shifting sands and I am not interested in that.

I want mighty warriors.

If I’m doing my job well, they will see things different from their idea of right and wrong and say “Huh.” Then go about their holy and sacred business of standing in love.

 

 

Put the “Be Jesus” Back

Lenten reading can be hard on your soul.

It challenges and convicts. It parks your heart in the shadow of the Cross and makes you look up.

I have never been good at looking up. I don’t want to see. I tell myself it is enough to know.

Everything I read tells me that I’m wrong. My suffering has not been enough, although it has taught me so much about life and myself and fear and pain. It’s only the first step.

To truly walk where Jesus did, our suffering has to be used for someone else.

Which means I have to see. I have to look up from the foot of the cross and see.

I don’t want to read the Facebook post from my cousin’s friend who lost her six year old to cancer two years ago. On the second anniversary of her daughter’s death, she’s asking me to stand with her against pediatric cancer. I don’t want to see, because I have a sweet girl who was six two years ago. I don’t want to know that children we know get sick from cancer and die.

I want to look away and go about my business.

I don’t want to read the story about the woman in my state who tried to kill her newborn and toddler. I have to see that she is vilified in the media and the comments underneath the articles. I have to read until I see what my heart is already telling me, that she was sick, like I was sick. I don’t want to remember how that time felt to me. I don’t want to admit that she is me and I might have been her if we hadn’t made the right call, finally.

I want to look away and go about my business.

I don’t want to see pictures of drowned toddlers on the beaches in Greece, or news reports of the danger and squalor of refugee camps. I don’t want to know about the migrant camps in my own city. I don’t want to consider that in this day and age, families suffer while others turn them away. I’ll write a check or make a donation, but that’s as much as I feel I can handle. It’s a swamp of hopelessness.

I want to look away and go about my business.

But then I read this, in Richard Rohr’s Hope Against Darkness:

“When we’re not sure what is certain…we’re going to be anxious. We want to get rid of that anxiety as quickly as we can. Yet to be a good leader of anything today—to be a good pastor, a good bishop, or, I’m sure, a good father or mother—you have to be able to contain, to hold patiently a certain degree of anxiety.

(…)That’s probably why the Bible says so often ‘Do not be afraid.’”

This is me. I am not good—terrible, actually—at holding anxiety.  I do want to get rid of it as quickly as I can. I work hard to not invite it into my heart in the first place. My leadership skills are horribly limited by my anxieties. So I have convinced myself that I am safer occupying my space, and my space only. I busy myself with controlling the heck out of what I can control: my home, my family, my personal relationship with my church and my God.

Rohr says that “expelling what you can’t embrace gives you an identity, but it’s a negative identity. It’s not life energy, it’s death energy. Formulating what you are against gives you a very quick, clear and clean sense of yourself. Thus, most people fall for it. People more easily define themselves by what they are against, by who they hate, by who else is wrong, instead of by what they believe in and by whom they love.”

I’m convicted. In giving my anxieties primary place in my life—whether managing them, medicating them, avoiding them, expelling them—I have chosen not to see. If I don’t see, how can I help? Walk beside? Love?

Have I literally scared the “Be Jesus” out of myself?

There’s a reason this is in front of me now. I have no idea what it might be, but I’ll hold on patiently and wait for it. And while I do, I’ll work at replacing my fear with my faith.

Look up and see.

Hold the anxiety.

Be not afraid.

Put the “Be Jesus” back where it belongs.

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This popped up on Toby Mac’s Facebook feed as I was typing this post. Thanks to Mr. Hybels and Mr. Mac for the reminder!

 

Comfort Food – Lasagna

Every once in a while, I do something quite genius.  And this summer,  I had a genius moment.  I decided to cook lasagna, the same recipe I’ve used for years from Emeril Lagasse, which calls for ⅓ lb. ground beef, ⅓ lb. ground pork, and ⅓ lb. ground veal.  The store I shopped at only sold ground veal in 1 lb. packages.  So, in my moment of genius, I decided to buy a pound of each and make, here it is, 3 batches of sauce:  one to use then, two to freeze for later.  Right?!

This Friday, when I had occasion to make a lovely, homemade meal for a special someone, I decided that since I already had the sauce made, I’d just throw together the cheese filling and boom baby, a home-cooked meal in half the time.   And guess what… it worked!

This lasagna is time consuming, but truly delicious.  Heavy on the garlic, heavy on the cheese, heavy on the meat, heavy on the comfort.

I’d like to recommend that you throw 3 pots on the stove one afternoon and make 3 recipes of the sauce, then you can feel genius later, too.  When you cook up your sauce (or thaw out the one you made before), the kitchen will smell divine.

sauce

Then you can begin to prepare your cheese mixture.  I recommend using a food processor for all the grating.  It’s a huge time saver.  And note:  this time I used extra sharp provolone and it was ah-maze-ing.

cheese

Next comes the assembly.  Another note:  when you live in a 1920s house with no counter space, your assembly station looks like this.  Tiny but darling, right?

kitchen

All assembled and ready for the oven…

assembled

In 45 minutes to an hour, you get this.  And as a bonus, we used our Christmas dishes!

finished lasagna

Emeril’s Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Provolone cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. chiffonade of fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe tomato sauce – recipe to follow
  • ½ lb. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 package dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 egg

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Provolone, Mozzarella, Romano, egg, milk, basil, and garlic.  Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.  To assemble, spread 2 ½ cups of the meat sauce on the bottom of a deep dish lasagna pan.  Sprinkle ¼ of the grated cheese over the sauce.  Cover the cheese with ¼ of the dried noodles.  Spread ¼ of the cheese filling evenly over the noodles.  Repeat the above process with the remaining ingredients, toping the lasagna with the remaining sauce.  Place in oven and bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Slice and serve.

Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ⅓ lb. ground beef
  • ⅓ lb. ground veal
  • ⅓ lb. ground pork
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the oil.  In a mixing bowl, combine the meat.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well.  When the oil is hot, add the meat and brown for 4 to 6 minutes.  Add onions, celery, and carrots.

Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft.  Add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Whisk the tomato paste with the stock and add to the tomatoes.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 2 hours.  Stir occasionally and add more liquid if needed.  During the last 30 minutes of cooking, season again with salt and pepper, and stir in the cheese.  Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Yield:  about 1 ½ to 2 quarts

 

 

 

 

Men

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Last Sunday, my dear, sweet, wonderful husband was putting up the Christmas lights outside.

Gabriel was helping him, which at the moment meant entertaining Annie who decided that she also wanted to “help”.

They had the wiggle car scooter out and were riding it down our sidewalk, which has a bit of an incline.

And my husband looked at them riding down the sidewalk and thought to himself “I’ll bet I can jump over them as they go by.”

It did not occur to him to warn Gabe.

So when all 6’5” of daddy came running at him, Gabe did what any sane child would do: he stopped cold.

Causing Daddy to hook a foot on his shoulder and land awkwardly on his knee. The “trick” knee, the one that has a tendency to “go out” every now and then. That one.

He didn’t tell me for an hour. He said because he knew my reaction was predictable.

Whatever that means.

We’ll know how badly his 43-year-old-but-I-still-think-I’m-20-year-old-knee is after an MRI on Tuesday.

 

The Pieces of My Heart

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Yesterday our pastor, Father Mike, came to talk to the adult formation class. He was supposed to have a list of questions to answer, but he left it at home. So instead, he asked “Does anyone have anything they want to ask?”

One of the dads said “Sure” and opened up the can of gay marriage.

At which point, most people screwed themselves down into their seats. I know I did. When religious folk start talking about gay marriage, I listen fearfully, waiting for them to say the thing that means I have to get up and walk out, the thing that breaks tiny pieces off my heart.

Those pieces have names, children I have known and taught. Most of their faces blend down into one specific child, bullied into cutting precisely spaced lines up both his arms.

Three of those pieces belong to good friends, married almost as long as Shea and me, and their sweet son, who they had to fight to get baptized in a Catholic church. They are good moms, with a strong devotion to Mary, like most Catholic moms. They try to go to Mass every week, but sometimes the tension is too much.

Two pieces belong to distant cousins, together for almost fifteen years.

And two to the couple who have lived next door to my parents for over twenty.

Four to the family down the street, with their sweet and wonderful daughters.

One to a dear friend who is a fierce defender of our faith and also gay and drinks far too much to reconcile those two truths in his life.

So when people of God rail angrily against the dangers and threats of gay marriage, I want to hold these pieces of my heart up and say “But what about them? They are beloved children of God too. And we are hurting them in God’s name. We are turning them away. How can this be right?”

But it wasn’t like that yesterday. No fire and brimstone. No black and white. And best of all, no anger.

Father Mike explained the church’s position clearly, and the biblical basis for definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. He delineated between legal marriage and sacramental marriage. He revisited the church’s position on the sanctity of life and the way we are called to treat all people with love and kindness.

But then he said the thing that I have been waiting for a priest to say. I don’t remember his exact words but here’s the gist:

“This is a tough issue. And we have to struggle with it. It’s not enough to simply say one thing or the other. We have to engage it and pray over it and look to the Word of God.

Because we have these people in our lives who are good and we love them. So we have to understand that it’s messy.”

It’s messy.

Shea and I stand apart from our church on homosexuality. We struggled with it. We prayed. We saw the people that God walked through our lives and we know that love does not come from evil. We contemplated leaving the church. We walked out of Mass when priests preached hellfire and brimstone and sanctioned bullying. We wrote letters to the bishop to complain.

We decided to stay.

We decided to choose love.

Love for our friends and family and their relationships. We witness and support their commitments, and share the struggles of marriage and parenting.

Love for anyone searching for who they are. I always tried to be a safe and soft place for my students to land when they were wrestling with life. Now we try to be safe and soft as a family.

Love for the goodness of the church, for our faith and traditions.

Love for the humility of Pope Francis and Father Mike who remind us that it’s messy.

I asked Father Mike yesterday if my friends would be welcome to sit in his church, as a family. To raise their son as a Catholic.

And he said yes. Because of the sanctity of life. Because we shouldn’t keep anyone from a relationship with God. Because Jesus called us to love.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I think Father Mike has the right idea.

 

Come As You Are

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I’ve been trying to write this post about the Drummer Boy and folks who don’t go to church because they think they aren’t good enough.

It wasn’t working. I was trying too hard to say the right words.

So here are the true words instead.

My favorite Christmas song is “The Little Drummer Boy”. I like it because it’s a song for the outcasts. The message is “Forget what they say, come as you are, all are welcome, all are loved.”

In today’s church bureaucracy, twisted up around rules and platforms, the come as you are message sometimes gets squashed. It’s easy to believe, from the outside, that only the right people go to church.

Of course, this is a lie. I’m regularly inside a church, which should be enough to convince you that “perfect” and “church” are not hand-holding friends. My church is full of sinners. I know this because we make a confession of sins every single week. And get this: even the priest says it. Boom.

Still, folks hesitate at the doors. They stay behind while others head out for midnight Mass, joking behind their glass of wine about being “retired”.

Or they shake off the invitation to come along with a whispered “I couldn’t because of, you know….” The divorce. The addiction. The lifestyle. The third husband.

Or they are angry at the church for some (probably very good) reason.

I think that most of the time, what’s holding them back is the brick and mortar institution of church. Which can be daunting, judgmental and sometimes—yes, we have to admit it—destructive. Any church that drives people out instead of in is destructive to God’s will.

I get it. I have packed my bags and headed for the door in my faith life more than once.

But then someone always says to me “It’s not about the church. It’s about Jesus.”

And this stops me because I cannot imagine my life without Jesus. I have to come to Jesus, like that Drummer Boy, with nothing but my weaknesses, imperfections and sins, and find love. Without that soul shelter, I cannot continue to wife, mother, friend, function in this world.

Can I get an Amen from the choir?

Right. So here’s the thing—We have to tell the people in our life who hesitate outside the door that we go to church because we’re human and frail and sometimes we suck. We’re not good because we go. If we’re good, it’s because of the love that we find there.

And if you are one of those people, already dreading the Christmas Eve guilt trip and also secretly wishing you could swallow your pride and just go, remember this: There is nothing, nothing, nothing in your life that would make the Baby turn you away. Just come as you are. Bring what you have. Let the love heal you.

Merry Christmas from our families to yours.

We wish you health, peace and of course many, many graces!

90 Days and Counting!

My friend Paula is pregnant for the first time. Paula and I have been friends for 20 years. We played volleyball together in high school, then taught and lived together for ten years until I married Shea.
This Spring, her husband Jimmy, who is a National Park Service Ranger, got transferred far away. They moved in her first trimester. New place, new home, no job for Paula. The baby was a surprise in the fact that she thought that ship had sailed, and she worried about being able to get a teaching job with a November due date.
When I talked to her in May, she didn’t sound great. She was lonely, stressed about the job search and trying to process all these tremendous life changes. Who can blame her? So the Committee decided someone needed to go see her.
Because that’s how we do.
It was a toss up for Lisa and me: we both wanted to see Paula pregnant, and we both wanted to meet sweet baby girl when she gets here. In the end, I came now, and she will go later. We pinkie-promised to take lots of pictures.
And off I went to see my pregnant friend.
In Maui.
Did I forget to mention they moved to Maui?
Maui is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Paula and I went to Maui in the summer of 2002 to reward ourselves for making the jump to public school. We had a blast. When I met Shea a year later, and found out he grew up on Maui, it felt like a sign from God that he was for me.
But this trip was not about Maui. If Paula and Jimmy had moved to South Dakota, I’d still be going to visit her, even though I have no real desire to see South Dakota. She’s my friend and she’s having a baby! So the Maui part is neither here nor there, beyond the fact that we got a beachfront condo for the weekend.
The point was to get things ready. There’s no Babies R Us on Maui. Or Target. There’s a Walmart, but Paula feels the same way I do about Walmart, so that’s out. And Paula and Jimmy are super low-key folks. A lot of people don’t even know she’s pregnant. If she was closer, she might have let us throw a baby shower. Maybe. Probably not. She is just not a big fuss kind of gal.
But a baby requires equipment. And equipment requires shopping, which is not Paula’s favorite thing. And help wading through the crap that the baby industry tells new mamas that they need.
Like a wipes warmer. I could have just set $30 on fire for the good that thing did anyone.
The first thing we did was throw a wi-fi baby shower. I came armed with love and gifts cards, and we bought a mattress, swing, bath and the two cutest towels you ever did see.
Then we rolled through the baby section and reloaded her registry, which shocked her into silence when it reminded her that she has 90 days to go! I am happy to report that while there is plenty of pink out there for baby girls, there’s also a ton of fun blue, green and melon. And car mirrors have come a long way. The one she picked has flashing lights, plays music and even comes with a remote control so mom can reset while driving.
Paula is feeling better and looks great. She got a teaching job where she is facing down the challenges of being a haole. She and Jimmy are super excited to meet their baby. And you heard it here first: Jimmy doesn’t stand a chance when Miss Thing gets here. He loves himself some Paula, and when Mini-Paula shows up, he’s going over the edge. No doubt.
In other news, Paula took me to see Oprah’s Maui estate, which is right down the road from them. It looked kinda nice:
This is the main house on the Winfrey compound. There were at least five smaller (and by smaller, I mean normal) houses too. #itsgoodtobeoprah

This is the main house on the Winfrey compound. There were at least five smaller (and by smaller, I mean normal) houses too. #itsgoodtobeoprah

And Maui? Maui’s doing all right. Not that I noticed:
These flowers smell heavenly.

These flowers smell heavenly.

The view from our beach.

The view from our beach.

 

Towards Kihei.

Towards Kihei.

 

Honu!

Honu!