02 March 2017

Ready to be back to normal

So far, 2017 has been quite the struggle as I have been sick to some degree since around January 10th. Jonathan, too, has been battling colds, runny noses and coughs. This past week has hit me the hardest, and I haven't been able to care for him. If it weren't for my mom and my mother-in-law, I really am not sure how things would have played out. Michael was out of town until Wednesday morning, and while that is good in that he didn't also get sick, it makes the time alone at home with Jonathan harder when sick. Today I am struggling with what so many of the contestants on a show I enjoy, The Biggest Loser, do: letting someone else take care of the ones you love so that you can get back to 100%. I have hardly been able to sleep, and the coughing has rubbed my throat and mouth raw, making the process of recovery painful. I know many people out there are dealing with much more pain and illnesses more serious, but after 6 weeks of not feeling myself, 4 days out of 5 not being able to teach, and not being able to care for my son (who is also sick and miserable), I am ready to start moving forward to more positive moments.

16 February 2017

Tomorrow, 30. Today, a little reminiscing on 20.

I turn 30 years old tomorrow. What a weird thing, to change decades. Most of us only do this, what, 8, maybe 9 times in our lives. So I feel it is a good thing to take the opportunity to reflect on the last decade.

This time 10 years ago, I was in France. I was actually in London for the weekend of my actual birthday that year, since a friend I'd met at Whitworth was studying abroad there the same year I was in Lille. Katie showed me around town and we had a great time...and lots of beverages, I guess! One of the perks of studying abroad the year I did was that the legal drinking age in Europe is generally 18 years old, if not 16. But turning 20 was still a special thing. Here is a photo of myself and my roommates, Heather and Claire-lise, when we went out to moules-frites before I went away for the weekend:

Here are some of the photos showing just a few of the drinks Katie and I shared while I visited her in London...

While in London, I also managed to meet up with a woman who I'd met years before in Austria, Danuta. Of course, we had a drink, too!

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, though it is a bit sad to leave my 20's behind. I look forward to what the next decade has in store!

07 February 2017

JDB update! (15 and a half months)

Since leaving Facebook, I have been told by many that they miss seeing posts of Jonathan and updates about him (it seems it was why most people were still "friends" with me! 😂). I am still not interested in reactivating my account at this time, so I've decided to make an effort to post more, shorter blogs with photos and information about how he's growing and what he's up to.

The past few weeks, he has been learning many new things. In just the past few days, he's said "minion" and "tractor" for the first time, and seems to be on the brink of many other new words. (Up to now, "mama/maman/mum", "dada/papa/baba" and "ha=hot" have been his main words.) It's amazing to watch his little wheels turn as he processes language and begins to make those connections. Since I only speak in French to him, we are very curious to see how the two languages emerge.

Jonathan LOVES being outside! He is a diligent little worker with his daddy, usually walking around with a screwdriver or tiny hammer with which he periodically pounds the grass or gravel. He also enjoys the snow, although the wet stuff we had yesterday and the fact that I'd left all of his boots at Grandma's didn't make for a very long playtime, and he quickly was over it. Here are a couple photos and a video from his recent times outside.

He also loves music! He has a small guitar that perhaps in a few years he can actually play like you are "supposed" to. For now, he has become a very good strummer while the guitar sits flat in our living room. He loves to listen and watch Michael play his guitar. This week, Jonathan has also started "playing" piano "by himself". He does seem to have a pretty good grasp on how it's supposed to look, and he loves to adjust the settings on my keyboard. This week, he even figured out how the volume works and enjoys turning it all the way down and all the way up as he tests that it is still working as he thinks it does! Here's a video to prove it.

Jonathan continues to laugh and smile often (and make us do the same), which is a mercy, as he has entered the whiny toddler stage recently! Despite this, I would still say that the best way to describe him would be extremely curious and joy-filled. I will do my best to continue to post updates regularly.

02 February 2017

When hate has hit home, how do we respond?

I have not written a blog entry for a long time, as my mind and heart have been constantly troubled and baffled by the events of past months. Two weeks ago, I left Facebook due to the influx of negative and unproductive posting coming from both “sides” that seem ever at odds over every real and important issue plaguing our country and government in the wake of an election that wreaked havoc on decency and respect – from both candidates. This post is not, however, to discuss or share my thoughts on President Trump and why he is or is not going to do “good” for this country. After all, 4 years lie ahead before that declaration can be truly made. I deeply hope and have been praying that the type of decisions his rhetoric throughout the campaign and immediately following his elections seemed to point to are tempered by time, thought, the other individuals now working with him (or against him, depending on their stance, but all supposedly "for country"), and last, but not least, the people who are using their voices and their presence to show which issues matter to them. But these issues are not what I want this post to focus on.

Today I am writing because a colleague and friend has been the direct target of hate speech and threats. Two weeks ago tomorrow, peaceful protests were held in response to the presence of an extremist, openly racist and homophobe speaker on the campus where I work. The president of the university stated that this individual was allowed to come (despite rampant threats from both sides, and a history of violence following or directly related to his speeches) due to the fact that our campus allows free speech. At the time, I thought it was logical, and perhaps it should stand as such. What is unfortunate is that this individual’s speeches, given under the guise of “free speech”, have almost without exception incited some form of hate speech or violence on specific individuals whose personal information and identity was stalked and shared through social media or by being physically followed. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. The kind of disrespect and violence associated with the individual who is indirectly responsible for the harm threatened to my colleague has no business in a country apparently trying to get back to a place of bipartisan dialogue that at least attempts to hear out the other side before stating their point of view. 

On the other hand, one might say why can't both sides just shut up and deal with it. Well, because in situations like this, where one party is clearly already at a disadvantage because they are a minority by race, sex, or literal number, both sides are not equal from the start at all. "Shut up and deal with it" should imply that both sides are at an equal ad- or disadvantage, have shared their views on whatever topic is in question, and continue to disagree with no clear exit. In this case, sure, shut up and agree to disagree. But my colleague's case is in no way this latter type of scenario. He was stalked in person and online and made to feel as though he couldn't come to teach his own class without worrying for his safety. This isn't free speech in action, but hate speech and just plain hate.  

My friend is one of the most vibrant, caring, and promising colleagues that I have the pleasure of knowing. He is an exceptional teacher, and has taught multiple foreign language courses and literature classes. He tirelessly seeks to provide safe spaces for productive discussions about major issues, political and social. His laugh is infectious, and he loves deeply. I have an unending admiration for his work ethic and the fact that he never seems to know enough about a given subject – sometimes his tenaciousness is even a bit outlandish, but that is what makes him himself. I have never, ever, known him to shy away from being himself, and he ever encourages those around him to do the same while respecting the rich variety of beliefs and realities with which we are all surrounded in this wild era in history. He and I wouldn't agree on everything, but he is someone I would debate hot issues with, because I know he would have checked his facts and be seeking the "best good" in that discussion. The kind of atmosphere he seeks to create wherever he goes is one that I think we can all learn from and our country desperately needs. 

Speak out and reach out. Be kind. Find something positive to focus on, even if just for a few minutes a day. The hate is either exhausting or like a drug - the former gets old and we more easily let go of it, while the latter is addictive and poisonous. Let us choose fatigue of hate so that it can give way to love. Because LOVE WINS EVERY TIME. And if others are to hear and believe this, it starts with us. Michael Jackson was right: it's the man in the mirror that we need to start with, and it needs to happen today!

04 May 2016

Two things to hold

It's a rainy, grey day and I look a mess. No time to put on anything but mascara and my hair is already coming out of the pins I used to try to keep it out of my face. A new neighbor cat thought today was a good day to start claiming our front stoop, and so he peed on one of the two new bags of cloth diapers that had just been delivered. In the short drive to drop off Jonathan to his grandma's, I saw no less than 10 drivers do totally ridiculous and dangerous things. And the bus I'm now on sounds like it's middle is about rusted off its hinges, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

All of this is of course to establish that my mood has often better. It is also, however, to preface an explanation of one of the things I believe that as humans - and even more so, as Christians - we will and should grapple with most of the days of our lives: How do we see all of the frustration, pain and evil that should be evident to us each day and still remain hopeful - even joyful? 

I personally believe that we should strive to "hold" both things (in our minds or awareness: choose not to ignore one to the deficit of the other) as much of the time as possible. Not because we should dwell on the yucky stuff in the world, but because it should be the motivating factor - the fire under our asses, so-to-speak - behind a hope that we CAN make the world a better place, and a subsequent adjustment to our actions. 

My work forces me to think and read constantly about animal ethics. If you read more than a few pages in any book that addresses the topic, you will come across some degree of discussion about the horrors of factory farming and/or animal experimentation. (Unless it is a 100% philosophical work, in which case these issues are not always a constant focus.) I don't want to get into those topics here, but only use the fact that I am often thinking about them to bring up the way that this holding, this balancing of the awareness of evil and our attempting to at least not aggravate it, it reaches every aspect of our lives down to the food you choose to put in your (and your children and pets') mouth.

Knowing that God made this world and that at any moment could choose to eradicate all evil, or just everything and everyone, the whole deal, is what I am trying to cling to as I constantly push back on a feeling of help- and hopelessness when I have a day like today, see how so many people act based only on anger and emotions (=mot considering others' contexts, only thinking of how X action affects me in an inconvenient way), or just simply think about the fact that I have a 200-250 page dissertation to write! He COULD fix it, if He wanted to. He's GOD. So why waste any length of time wallowing? Does it stop the cat marking his territory, or the idiot who absolutely cannot drive just 10 mph over, and also won't suffer through the hardship of establishing his lane and getting over more than 50 feet before his exit? Nope. All I can do is clean up the pee and focus on driving safely. We can't do life for other people or animals. Our society is so focused on do-it-yourself and finding the right solution to your problems, that we've completely lost the plot on the fact that some things are not perfect, and that that is just fine. We should strive to be kind, to respect and love each other, and to think critically about where the things we eat, wear and use might have come from. 

These thoughts are a bit jumbled, but I urge you today to stop worrying about why things or people suck so badly - most of the time it accomplishes absolutely nothing! Let's try to make the world better, let's hold on to hope without losing sight of the reason we need to.