Ode to King, Woe to me.

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today I’m having a hard time. Maybe it’s because I woke up to three wet beds, a kid with a fever, and one who couldn’t make a good choice for the life of himself. Or, maybe it’s because the one with the fever caused a reshuffling in my creative mom plan to celebrate MLK and to teach my kids about diversity and instead has kept us at home, indoors. Maybe it’s because I’m tired from a long weekend and it’s day 4 of solo-parenting, and because we’ve already had some pretty epic adventures this weekend.

But maybe it’s also because I have a hard time celebrating this day of “equality” when I still see so much inequality, hate, racism, ignorance, all around me. Maybe it’s because I feel like the “celebration” of this day, by a lot of us, is more of a pat on the back, a “look how far we’ve come”, “we are so glad that’s not an issue any more” kind of a thing. Maybe it’s because words, without action to go with them, frustrate the heck out of me.

Not too long ago I had a conversation with my 7-year-old daughter along these lines, which I think put some words to this frustration I feel. She was learning in school about Martin Luther King Jr. and about the civil rights movement. She learned about some of the great laws that were passed for equality in voting, in public places, in schools, etc. She was dumfounded by the fact that laws even needed to be made in order for people to have equal rights, but she was glad that they were in place, and that equality was mandated. But there have been a few things in her little life so far that have allowed her to see that despite the laws, everyone is still not treated equally, and this caused her great heart ache (and still does!). To her, the law is a good starting point (like MLK himself said, “(the) law can keep (a man) from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important”), but what she longs for is love*. And this is the important work that is still before us, the great divide between equality on paper and true equality.

So, YES, to good law for equality and for the protection and value of all people (we still have some work to do here, too!). But please, good brothers and sisters, let’s not just stop there. And let’s not just rest on the work of government and legislation and think we have arrived (or that we will through that avenue). We, the people, have our own guilt in this, and our own part that we play.

Which has me thinking: maybe the best way to celebrate Mr. King’s work is not to talk about how great he was and how far we’ve come, but to take a look at our own selves in the mirror. Where are we extending love and crossing boundaries of race? Where are we speaking out for those around us whose voice is diminished or silenced all together? Are we oblivious to the fact that there are people around us who are experiencing that reality still today? I can tell you it happens. I’ll tell you stories of my black friends in Newport Beach who are nervous to drive at night because they get pulled over by the cops for “suspicious” activity. I’ll tell you stories of my Hispanic friends, who are ostracized on their campuses and in places of local business that most of us can step into and receive quality attentive service, no problem. It happens. And unfortunately, our silence and blindness perpetuates it. Inaction and silence is compliance with oppression and so we had better figure out, friends, how to get ourselves involved in a fight that is still very real and very close to home.

So, here’s to a day of critical thinking and hard-question-asking, not just a day to celebrate our arrival at somewhere that we still are a long ways off from. Progress, yes**. Arrival, no. And now, this plea from Mr. King himself: “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.” #mayitbeso

 

*This 7-year-old daughter of mine, in her desire to show her love for her black brother and sister, and her desire to see a different world for them to grow up in (no joke!) has requested to have a “Black Lives Matter shirt.” She will be the whitest, blondest kid to wear one, I think. And it’s going to make some people wonder about what she really knows or cares about all of this, but it’s her authentic expression, and I’m proud to support it.

**Lest you think I am not deeply appreciative of the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the progress we have made, please be assured, the weight of his work and the distance we have come is not lost on me. Thank you Mr. King, and those who have worked (and do work) tirelessly for freedom and justice for all people. Forgive me for the ways I have made that your work, and not mine.

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from outside my closet door: what progress looks like

Today I did my second closet purge since being home from Uganda. When we got home I went through seemingly every room in the house, getting rid of things we didn’t need or didn’t use regularly. Then I moved on to the garage and did the same. It felt good, but over the last few months, I realized that there was yet another level of simplification that needed to happen. This round of purging meant parting with things I actually “like,” and things that I may have recently worn, just because they are excess and because others can make better use of them than I can. This process of simplification is teaching me two things:

1) More choices (in this case, more clothing options) do not mean more freedom. Some choice is good. Too much choice creates stress and clutter (internally and externally), and, with 4 small children under one roof, I don’t need more of that!

2) Less choice does not inhibit my creativity. I used to think more choices meant more options for creativity, but, I’ve found that too much choice stifles my creativity whereas less choice enables me to better see color, texture, layers, etc., and how they can work together.

I continue to be surprised by how affected I am by our time in Uganda- the simplicity of life I experienced there, and the redefining of what I actually “need” that took place in me as a result. I’m learning that, when I eliminate areas of excess, I don’t actually lose anything, but that new freedom is found. I’m also learning that simplicity is a discipline and a gift. It is progressive- always in process and never complete. It’s a journey I’m so glad to be on.

things i can’t stand: excess and clutter

I have always been a little “type-A,” but since being home I’ve noticed that two things stress me out in a way that they hadn’t before: excess and clutter.

I thought we lived simply- that there wasn’t that large of a margin of excess in what we use and what we have. I also thought that I kept things clutter free for the most part (except for maybe a few drawers of controlled chaos), but since our return from Uganda I’ve been feeling differently.

A few, case-and-point illustrations: First, I began to notice that loading the dishwasher was stressful for me. I’ve always loved loading the dishwasher because it is a chance for me to order and organize chaos (something I love to do on many levels). It also feels like a game to me (where I get to figure out how to fit in the most items in the most efficient way), so needless to say the feeling of stress caught me off guard. After a little assessment, I realized it was the process I go through to load it that bothered me- particularly, the sound of the running water in the sink that ran pointlessly while I loaded. I’d rinse a dish, let the water run, load, go back for the next dish, repeat. It never occurred to me before how much water I wasted just in that process alone, but since water has become something that is precious to me and that was scarce in Uganda, the sound of it being wasted bothered me on an internal level before I could even notice it and do something about it. I’ve now changed my routine so that the water doesn’t run pointlessly and I only use what I need to rinse off the dirty dish (also important because we find ourselves presently in a drought).

Also on my list of new unexpected stressors was getting dressed. When we were in Uganda I had 6 shirts, 6 bottoms (shorts, skirts and jeans combined), 6 pairs of underwear to choose from on any given day (if they were clean, that is)… and here, well, let’s just say I have more. My closet is very small to be sure, but it’s packed with things I wear only on occasion and even a few things I “might” want to wear some time in the future. Having some choice and having enough is freeing, but having excess is stressful.  My small closet felt cluttered just because there were too many options. I missed the ease of getting dressed in Uganda. So, I have started to purge the things I do not need. I haven’t had time to go through the whole closet, or all the drawers in the house, but I am working my way through. Sometimes when I’m getting dressed and I see things I shouldn’t hold on to, I take them out right then and there- eliminating clutter as I see it and not waiting until I have a chunk of time to do it. That’s my strategy right now.

I’m really trying to pay attention to the new convictions I have as we re-acclimate into our life of comfort and ease. I don’t want to thoughtlessly resume old patterns that don’t work with the way I want to operate in the world. I’m realizing that the things I loved about the way we lived in Uganda can be reality here, too.

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“And this is the great paradox of Africa: the beauty and the messiness all co-existing together.” -Shelley Homeyer

Maybe that’s why I found it refreshing. It coexists. There’s no concealing of one or the other and one is not diminished by the other’s presence. Both exist in abundance. Where I live we avoid the messy (certainly the appearance of it) and we struggle to embrace both because we are afraid that the messy and painful will take away from the beauty and goodness. I’m learning that the ability to look both square in the eye and live fully-present among them is possible and actually very freeing.

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our final days: from adoption process to internal process

These last few days in Uganda are weighty for sure. It’s a different kind of weight than we have experienced so far. This is not a weight of a cumbersome and paralyzing adoption process, this weight comes from so many different emotions to take in and pay attention to now that the burden of the adoption process has been lifted and I can actually begin to internally process all that has gone on these last 9 weeks. It’s the weight of another season and chapter (and adventure) closing, and my desire not to just let it pass quickly by.

Here are a few noteworthy things about our final days that are occupying my mental space tonight:

Today was the twins’ birthday and that alone was a pretty fantastic way to end the trip. Cora loves the Happy Birthday song. She tried to sing it several times today, clapping her hands in joy, and delighting in her accomplishement of getting us to sing along every time. The crowning moment of the day came after dinner when the cupcakes came out and we sang (once more) “happy birthday” to Cora and Elias. You could see in their little eyes and faces the joy of being loved and celebrated. They felt special and in that very moment, all the stress and frustration and weariness of the last 2 years mattered no more. They are home. They are taken care of. They know it, and they love it. Something about that is just so right.

We also picked up the kids’ Visas today. More reason to celebrate. We are now officially able to leave the country WITH the kids. Our homecoming is now an actuality and is coming soon! We also ended up in the embassy waiting room with two of the other adoptive families we met while being here. The camaraderie and mutual joy was palpable. It was as if we had all fought a common battle together and though  we hardly know anything of each other, we have deep connections based on what we have survived. Not many words are needed to bring comfort when you are able to look in the eyes of someone who knows the reality you have faced/or are facing and who stands in it with you. It was a sweet way to end our in-country process for sure.

We are also starting to say goodbye to some of our new Ugandan friends which is a strange thing when you don’t know if or when your paths will cross again. I’m sure our family will return here again, and I hope there is a way to stay in touch with these people who are dear to us already. To think that some of the faces who have been present in this last season will not continue to be present is very odd, especially given that it has been such a significant and challenging season for us as a family. And to think we are going home to those who know and love us most but who have not been able to be here physically with us and who haven’t seen and experienced life here and this transition with us is also weird. I can’t think of too many other times in life where this happens.

On deck for tomorrow: traveling to the village the twins were born in to meet some family/friends, take some photos and capture some memories that the kids can have as they get older. It’s a long car ride, and it feels like a big undertaking the day before we fly home, but I know it’s one of the most important things we can do and that it will really mean a lot to Cora and Elias one day. Plus, I kind of like an adventure, and this seems like a pretty good one. I can’t wait to meet people who knew them at birth (I’m sure they will be surprised at the health and growth of the kids) and who knew their mom. I can’t wait to hear stories about the family, how their parents met, and to see the faces of their older siblings. I know this will also be really, really hard.

why terrorism works

A few days ago the US carried out some attacks to take out the senior leader of the al-Shabab terrorist group. The effort happened in Somalia but apparently it was Uganda that gave the US the needed intelligence to find the guy. Since that has happened it has come to our attention that it isn’t a great thing to be an American in Uganda, as both are on the “bad list” for terrorist groups operating in the surrounding areas. We have spent a few days “sheltering in place” by the mandate of the US Embassy here, and since a terrorist cell (with explosives a plan for an attack) was discovered in close proximity to where we are living, we have limited our activity and adventurous outings. It’s been a delicate balance- how to not live in fear, but how to be wise given the fact that we are here with four small children, and we have erred on the side of caution.

Four days into the “altered activity” I started to feel really sad. I love adventure and experiencing new cultures- immersing myself (and my family) among the life and food and people of the places we go. There’s so much to enjoy along these lines in Uganda and it has killed me to have to be behind the gate of our community so much. There’s a world out there that we are missing out on, and that’s just how they want it. Terrorism works because it instills fear in people that inhibits us from living out life as we would otherwise.

This restricted activity has also made me want to go home. I finally realized that it’s because if we can’t experience all that Uganda has to offer and if we have to just hang out at home, we might as well get the heck out of here and at least not have to worry about our safety (or do we? false illusion exposed, I think.). So much to think about.

(Interesting notes: not only did we live close to the terrorist cell that was discovered, but we also lived a few doors down from a high-powered Ugandan government official. We had convoys of soldiers with guns camped out in our complex whenever this individual was home. I’m not sure if that made us feel safer, or like more of a target! Also, at the time the warning was issued, the only two places we had left to visit to complete our process where the embassy and the airport- both places on the list of potential targets and places to avoid. Awesome.)