futility

i could share my feelings about the injustice of the grand jury decision not to indict darrell wilson, but others have already done that.

i could detail the facts about mike brown’s killing, but others have already done that. and anyway, aren’t we all consuming a version of the facts from a news source we trust, and thus having our opinion shaped by it?

i could explain what was wrong with the grand jury in this case, but justice antonin scalia has already done that.

i could ask why the prosecutor in this case acted more like the defense, but others have already done that.

i could complain about the shoddy investigation and inconsistent evidence, but others have already done that.

i could shout for a federal investigation, but others are already doing that.

i could try to tell other white people about what it’s like to be black in our society, but others have already done that. and besides, i’m not black.

i could rant about the reasons why white people have such a hard time understanding the black perspective on fergusen, but others have already done that.

i could attempt to explain the pervasiveness and relevance of white privilege, but others have already done that. and really, if you don’t believe in white privilege it’s not like i’m going to change your mind. and if you do believe in white privilege, then you already have a basic understanding of it.

i could share why i believe that race issues, and how much we care about them, are inextricably tied to our understanding of the gospel, but others have already done that.

i could ask why it’s so hard for followers of jesus to believe and empathize with the oppressed, but others have already done that.

i could manufacture an opinion on fault and innocence, but i wasn’t there.

i could speak as the mother of a black son, or as the mother of a dead son, because both are relevant, but what would i say?

i could tell you what it was like to stand with hundreds of protesters at the justice rally in portland yesterday, but i could never convey the power of the simmering frustration and righteous anger that undulated through the crowd; how joel and aida and i were energized and confirmed by it, and how my little black son was overwhelmed by it, clinging to my shoulders and eventually starting to wail, and so we had to leave that place. that place, where the signs said “black lives matter,” because the little black life that we are responsible for was scared.

i could tell you how frustrating it was to have an idea for a picture, a picture that would speak a thousand words, and to try to get that picture with a squirmy toddler and a wailing infant and a proxy photographer because i need to help bring change, darnit! but i should probably just show you the picture instead.

i could spend hours writing each of these things, but what would it change?

just one more voice.

just one more drop in the bucket.

just one more person, trying to convince the system that racism still exists, that listening to oppressed voices is essential,
and that black lives matter.

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livin’ the rainbow life

after sky died and was born, i crocheted a rainbow baby blanket. for a long time after i finished it lay folded in a box, because i had no use for a baby blanket. the rainbow represented hope, represented belief in the future, represented my unborn rainbow children.

these days, the blanket again lies folded in a box. my rainbow children are getting older, and a newborn sized crochet blanket is of less use to them.

a rainbow is the product of a magical alchemy of sky tears and sun rays and a perfect angle. it is precious because it is ephemeral and untamed. it is elusive; holding the rainbow is the stuff of fantasy. a rainbow is wild. a rainbow is fleeting.

but what happens after you catch a rainbow? or two?

no longer elusive, but clinging. no longer fleeting, but ever present. the rainbows in my arms are solid and muscular and loud, their alchemy immediate and often smelly.

rainbows with head colds.
IMG_0881 rainbows with bad days.IMG_0884
rainbows that poop and scream and don’t sleep.

on many days the brilliant colors mush and fade into a muddy brown, the color of old food and dirty diapers and dirt and cups of coffee. the hours stretch and morph into forevers, and the clock creeps as i pack more parenting into 5 minute segments than i would have thought possible. days are both too long and not long enough, but never exactly the right length. the nights are busy, full of nursing and pacing and rocking and not-resting. joel has even taken to using his pedometer app during the nights, a techie’s attempt to validate that third cup of coffee the next morning.

the days have no beginning and no end; life is no longer cyclical, but an endless stretch of intense neediness.

i wrote a blog post about living with rainbows long before i had one. it said, among other things, this:

some say a baby isn’t all that. a baby is long nights no sex weird smells sore nipples and sacrifice but it’s worth it in the end.

i say no. a baby is a rainbow.

they say you don’t know what it’s like. they say wait until you’re a mother and you’ll see. they say you’ll be tired, you’ll want a break. they say you have no idea.

i say watch me. watch me make my rainbow. watch me conquer the choking clouds of fear to live at peace with my rainbow. watch me bring forth my rainbow in pain and joy. and watch me thank God and hope and heaven every morning for my rainbow, made more precious by the tears of pain in which it is conceived. i may have no idea what it is like to live with a baby, but i know what is like to die with a baby. and one whose motherhood has died with her baby may not know the trials of living with a baby … but i know without a doubt that i will embrace the rain with my rainbow.

some days i get really angry at the childless woman who wrote that. losing a baby is hard, but having babies is hard too – a more complicated kind of hard. she had no idea.

but other days … choking with fear, tears of exhaustion in my eyes, arms too weary to shield myself from the rain … i accept her mandate.

because rainbow babies, like rainbows themselves, are impermanent. i feel this acutely as we prepare to recognize aida’s 1st birthday, ash’s 2nd birthday, and sky’s 3rd birthday. this is a season of many reminders, celebrations, and commemorations for our rainbow family: the births of all of our children, sky’s death, ash’s adoption … all take place within the space of a few short weeks, along with thanksgiving and christmas. ashal and aida’s seemingly endless babyhood is suddenly punctuated with little exclamation points, reminders to notice the beautiful colors and beautiful moments of today. already, my little rainbows are beginning to fly away from me with toddling wings. they will no longer be rainbow babies; they will be rainbow toddlers. it is a different sort of impermanence than that of my sky baby; it stretches deceptively into the horizon. and yet, little by little, the horizon moves closer as they fly away.

it wracks the emotions to jump from birthdays to death days to separation days to togetherness days, and so in the next few weeks we will hold on to our little rainbows, still ours for now, and cry, or laugh, or simply sit in an endless moment that, all too soon, will end.

fall

(this is a very raw grief journey post, the sort that i’ll probably regret publishing in the morning. you’ve been warned.)

i loved fall.

the rainbow leaves crunching.
the sharp bite in the air, the sharp clarity of fall light.
cooling rain on the sunburnt earth.
the skies resting into a comfortable grey after exerting such an energetic blue for so long.
enough dark to let the world sleep, let each person’s light twinkle separately after the ubiquitous communal blaze of summer.

the promise of thanksgiving and christmas, of warm cinnamon-scented firelit family togetherness.

my autumn reverie was a glorious, 4 month celebration, from september through december, like a multi-course meal with each dish more decadent than the last. culminating in all the nostalgia and beauty of christmas, with my birthday the day after for dessert.

in the fall of 2011, my greatest fear was that my son would be born after christmas.

i’m not exaggerating. i really really wanted him to be born before christmas.

(actually, that’s not quite true. i nursed a secret daydream about him joyfully entering the world at sunrise on christmas morning. in my mind, the sun’s rays would slip softly through the window of the birth center just as he was born, and we would spend christmas morning celebrating him. that daydream, whimsical and ridiculous as it is, brought more moments of happy daydreaming than i care to admit.)

i just couldn’t endure the thought that he would be born after christmas. it seemed so anticlimactic, so lame. i wanted to share christmas with him, not to sit around on christmas day a million weeks pregnant, answering invasive questions about “progress.” he was to be part of the celebration, part of the season, the piece de resistance in the multi-course smorgasbord of holiday decadence.

my cheeks burn hot with shame now, as i admit that. the ugly naivety.

i hate fall.

the leaves die and let go, exposing the harsh lines of the trees.
the scales fell like leaves from my eyes, the scales that protected me from the harsh lines of reality.
darkness comes, suffocating the earth.

through the summer, gardens grow heavy with beautiful, tangible food.
that summer, my imagination grew a mirage world, shimmering with heat and light and softness and cherub.

and then the dark came.

each leaf holds a hope, a piece of my soul grown in soft rain and bright light.
they fall off of me, leaving my mind bare of dreams, bare of energy, a naked tree skeleton unprepared to weather winter’s storms.

as the land is harvested, so it is is done to me.
my resilience is harvested, and i cannot grow more until spring.

jack o’lanterns haunt the colorless night; their bright lights bring little comfort.
they mock the sun and burn the fingers of my summer dreams.
they cackle.

and how appropriate that in the midst of the season of death, we welcome the darkness with a celebration of all that is horrifying,
a celebration that messes with our sense of reality with costumes and the strange supernatural, replacing the summer’s mirage with a more sinister pretend.

in this sinister pretend-world of fall, terror haunts the in-between moments.
every in-between moment with my living children.

“don’t do that, you’ll poke your eye out.”
and suddenly, i see it.

“don’t stand in the bath.”
the terror.

“don’t run with that stick.”
dear god, no.

because the bare branches of my mind know. they know that fall brings death. fall brings darkness. fall brings suffocation. fall brings evil. fall kills children.

this is the first autumn in 4 years that isn’t bringing a child into our family, and for some reason, the part of my brain that does the thinking before i can think believes that it will take one away, because it did once already.

i’ve forgotten how to be normal this time of year.
i’ve forgotten how to love fall.

because this,
this is what trauma and grief do.

after the best thing is taken away, grief battles to take the rest away with it. trauma grief steals moments of joy and perverts them into terror. the poem of rest becomes a poem of death, because grief. always, because grief. grief took fall, and all those holidays and the multi-course meal of beauty and decadence, and holds them hostage behind walls of terror.

i miss fall.

halloween activism

i’m not a big halloween fan.

when i was growing up, church kids of the 90s frequently skipped trick-or-treating. instead, churches put on elaborate “harvest parties,” with costume contests, games, treats, prizes, and more candy per kid than i’ve ever seen a trick-or-treater haul home. let me tell you, these parties were fun! they blew trick-or-treating, with it’s repetition and exposure to weather, out of sight.

though i was probably in my teens before i realized that most kids don’t dress up as bible characters or pilgrims for halloween. but i digress.

back to not being a halloween fan, i prefer holidays whose decorations don’t give me nightmares. i prefer holidays with an emphasis on good food, not dime-sized slave-labor snickers bars. and i definitely prefer holiday traditions that don’t require me to spend inordinate amounts of time in the freezing, dark outdoors, unless i’m caroling. (hm, halloween caroling could be fun …)

so i’ve struggled with what to do for halloween now that we have kids. i’m not going to drag them around in the cold, just so we can haul in a bag of anaphylactic shock bars (for ash), or vomit bars (for aida). this year, with ash’s all day testing on halloween, i didn’t even think about it until approximately 3:30pm, at which time i realized that at the very least, the babies needed to dress up! not having costumes was temporarily a problem, until i decided to turn them into little soapboxes for my activism. (i know, i should feel guilty … next year they can be disney characters if they want.)

so, enjoy a tiny dose of post-halloween activist inspiration, courtesy of the small humans in this house.

baby bell hooks.

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beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.
~ bell hooks

and baby nicholas kristof.
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in the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. in the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. we believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.
~ nicholas kristof

happy halloween, friends!