January 14, 2021

I'm Going to Get Some Things Wrong

Subtitle: Probably Including This

On May 7, 2020 I posted the following on my Instagram

Please excuse the presumption, but I believe that a lot of you are here because I am not intimidating or different or edgy. I’m the friendly, funny, pudgy white girl who’s baking pies, for Pete’s sake! And I want to use my position as your friendly neighborhood Catholic mom to say something:

We need to look inside ourselves and see the ways that we are racist. I have had to do this over and over and shamefully over again in the last few years so that I can identify and root out the ways that *I* am racist. I have had to think through and hand over to Jesus the deep-seated assumptions and biases I have about people from other cultures and races. Every time I find them my heart breaks from disappointment. I hate that such ugliness is inside of me. But the only way that I can get it out is to address it. It is my responsibility as a human, a Christian, a Catholic, and an American to do this. It is my responsibility as a mom. It is my responsibility as someone who calls herself pro-life. .


I am holding a picture of Ahmaud Arbery. In February he was out for his daily run when two white men saw him and assumed he was a criminal. Those men got their guns, got in their truck, chased Arbery down, and shot him. They shot a 25-year-old man who was jogging because he was black and to them that meant that he was a criminal. Those two men were not arrested or charged. In Georgia. In 2020. (They were arrested several hours after this was posted.) I did not hear about this story in February. I did not hear about it earlier in the week when a video of his murder was released. I heard about it today and I wanted to make sure you heard about it, too, because I knew you would care. Because Ahmaud deserves justice. Because black lives matter. Because this is a pro-life issue. Because black men are made in the image and likeness of God. Because racism is still alive and well in the United States today.

And I know sometimes it’s hard to hear these things from people who are always angry or soapboxing or pointing fingers. But maybe you will hear it from me, the folksy lady with cookies. And maybe together we can do and be better, for Ahmaud’s sake.

You can see the picture and original posting here, if you’re interested, but I’d rather you stay here so we can talk about something.

That post lost me a lot of followers, and that was okay. A lot of the people who left weren’t wanting to engage. A few would go on to post conspiracy theories and, ultimately, support an attempted coup at the Capitol. Some accused me of virtue signaling and they left, too. But I’ll tell you what – I was scared to post that picture. I was scared of looking a fool. I was scared of saying something in public because I knew I would also likely fail in public. I was scared of the screenshots and text messages and private threads about me. I was scared of angry DMs.

But I was scared to *not* post that picture. I was scared of the complacency I would continue in if I didn’t have some kind of community and accountability. I was scared that five, ten, fifty years down the line my children and grandchildren would stand as my judges, demanding why I didn’t do better. I was haunted by memories of visiting a friend in Germany, and the way her grandmother – who baked us a chocolate cake from scratch and washed my clothes and wrung them out to dry – would not talk about her youth. My husband goes to work each day, interacting with hundreds between his co-workers and students, most of whom are white, straight, and middle class but many of whom are BIPOC and / or LBGTQ. But I stay home and mostly interact with my children and I knew I needed something more, and I very sincerely thought I wasn’t alone in that.

I was scared that if I didn’t really focus on the human being, the beloved child of God Ahmaud Arbery and the unjust loss of his life that I would be a part of the problem. Because – Oh my God! – I was part of the problem!

And I did find a group of women who were happy to welcome me on this journey, but I also quickly saw that they were hurt and tired and they were not there to hold my hand or make my journey comfortable. I do not in any way think that they are wrong to feel the way they do and I’m not trying to ambiguously shame anyone. I want to make that very, very clear. I believe that systemic racism is real. I believe that white privilege is real. I believe that if the people at the January 6th coup would have been Black and Brown they would be dead. I believe the USA needs to do better and be better when it comes to issues of race.

I learned a lot from these women, some pretty painfully, but after awhile I saw that I would need to watch and listen from a distance. Who, how, and where I am does not line up with what many of the BIWOC need right now and their justifiable feelings often left me feeling worn down and unwanted. While I wasn’t afraid of their hurt, I also knew that I could not keep absorbing their emotions and do some really hard work on my own part. It just wasn’t working because I need(ed) to remember the Circle of Support.

However, along the way I still felt very strongly that these words were still true:

…I know sometimes it’s hard to hear these things from people who are always angry or soapboxing or pointing fingers. But maybe you will hear it from me, the folksy lady with cookies. And maybe together we can do and be better…

I came to see that there were possibly three camps. First, those who left right away because I wrote the sentence, “Black lives matter.” Second, those I seem to continually disappoint and frustrate with white women tears and playbooks and landmines I keep stepping on and blowing up in their faces. I also came to see that these two camps were never going to be happy with me. Nothing I do will ever be enough and that’s okay. I’m not their savior and they are not mine. We have a Savior: Jesus Christ.

I don’t need to try to walk with them or get them to like me. And that conclusion was so freeing. It allowed me to continue to give myself the space to do what I could, when I could. It gave me the freedom to have a few awkward conversations and to find peace with lost partnership opportunities. It opened up the headspace so I could research local, black or brown -owned businesses and support them. It meant that I could actually do the work in real life of changing my default instead of just talking about it online. (I mean, I was doing the work for well before Ahmaud’s death, and I’m glad I spoke out online, but it was time for me to just get to work again, you know?)

And it also allowed me to really focus on that possible third group: women like me who want to do better and be better but don’t know how to do that. Women who need the grace to take time, to think things through, to wrestle with decades of not knowing what we don’t even know. Women who don’t want to feel like a villain, but also want to recognize any culpability and sins. Women who sometimes need to be silent, not because they are apathetic or scared, but because they *need* to. Because our traumas, limitations, and hardships are real, too. I think this is a good thing and I feel grateful to be in this position.

So when I say, “No one is happy, nothing is good enough, love the one your with,” it doesn’t mean that I have given up, but that I have realized the role God has called me to work in the vineyard. The laborers are few and I need to be where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do. I will be known by my fruits and the measure with which I measure will be measured out for me. (Matthew 7: 16, 2)

Maybe this all sounds like self-indulgent twaddle, and probably a good portion of it is, but I felt like a foundation needed to be built for what I’m going to say next.

I haven’t had a lot of bandwidth recently, between being sick with covid and distance learning and other, private matters. Whatever extra bandwidth I had has been used up on taking in and processing everything that’s going on in our nation. Reading about the Constitution, trying to understand the difference between the 25th Amendment and impeachment, raving to my husband about why true Republicans (fiscal and moral conservatives who believe in smaller government) are not loudly and clearly distancing themselves from the alt right terrorists, rioters, racists, and Holocaust deniers who stormed the Capitol Building to stage a coup to keep Trump in power. (I mean: whaaaaaaat?!!!)

I digress.

My lack of bandwidth meant I didn’t want to speak out or post online. I knew I couldn’t think through any kind of hard conversation where I was the hostess. So when a friend, a POC, did post, I ignored the rules of the Circle of Support and challenged something she said. I took advantage of the situation and I shouldn’t have done that. I apologize for that. I apologize for whatever scandal that may have caused. I apologize for whatever salt I may have poured on those wounds.

I apologize. Full stop.

August 29, 2019

I Don't Want to Be a Sports Mom and I'm Against Children Growing Up

 I have entered a new season of motherhood. I think this would probably be hard for every mom – no matter how much you love seeing your kids become great people. I’m finding it especially difficult to navigate, though, because having crossed the threshold with one foot, I still have the other foot firmly planted in the old season of motherhood.

If you want me to cut to the chase: HELP. SOS. What do I do? Please?!

If you don’t mind me talking through it: I have had a baby or toddler in the house for the last eleven years. I know how to parent babies and small children. Bottles and naps and snuggles – love it! Cute little two year old running (you know what I mean!), running to the bathroom for the potty-training 3 year old, snacks and books and more snuggles – love it! Elementary school kids with easy homework, sight words, incredible amounts of sweetness with a bit of stinker buttness – love it!

And I love how my 11 year old daughter and almost 10 year old son are becoming – not just big kids! – but young adults. Twice this week Ben has lit the charcoal grill and made dinner (brats one night, burgers and corn on the cob tonight). L regularly bakes and creates awesome desserts. Ben mows the lawn and takes out the garbage. L does the laundry. And they are funny and kind and figuring out who and how they are, if you know what it means. And it feels like such a privilege to not only watch it but to be an active part of it happening.

But part of having this big family, with a 6th grader and a 4 month old and six more kids in between, is that at times we feel like less of a family. This maybe just means I need to adapt my image of what our family looks like and does, but how many deaths do I have to die?!

For our family to have dinner together we have to sit down, without Travis, at 4:30. He pops in and sits down to table shortly after 5 and by 5:15 he and Ben are gone for JFL. L takes off a bit later for cross country and things will only get more complicated as more and more children are old enough for sports and other extra curriculars. Family dinners will probably be like this for the next 18 years.

Now, I will admit that part of my problem is how much I don’t really like sports and the way they dominate families’ calendars. And the way that parents and coaches sometimes talk to the kids – ugh! And I hate how much money it all costs. But sports mean a lot of my (coach of a) husband and he insists that our kids will play sports if they want. I can see the good that comes from them. Ben and L both have benefited and become better people from being involved. Yet I still want to chop the Thunder Oak which is Kids’ Sports (CSYSK reference) because even with very limited involvement (one sport per kid per season and all will be school sports except for JFL) we are crazy busy.

I will admit, thought, that a lot of this is blame shifting. It is, perhaps, easier to blame sports than life. Because really, my kids are getting older and it breaks my heart a bit that I can’t have them all in my home, in my yard, at my table, in my arms. So life is happening, and I’m trying to cling to my kids as best I can for as long as I can.

But I still hate how sports can dominate. Seriously.

So if you have ideas or tips for me, please share them. And if you just want to commiserate, go for it.

May 16, 2019

Baby Stephen


Introducing: Stephen Paul
Born Easter Tuesday, April 23rd at 2:59pm
7lbs 15.2oz 20.5″ long

When we learned that we were pregnant for the ninth time Travis and I were happy. We laughed with joy. We texted friends. We hugged and laughed and said, "EIGHT kids!" We were so excited to meet our newest little one. 

While we were filled with wide-eyed excitement for the new little life growing inside of me, at times his pregnancy wasn’t easy. He moved around so much that it was often hard to find his heartbeat with a doppler – sending me into regular panics. Then, towards the end, my gestational diabetes numbers could not be controlled and I was carrying a “severe” amount of extra amniotic fluid, both of which led to worries of pre-term labor leading to umbilical cord prolapse and / or uterine rupture.

But I loved feeling him move inside me and watching him kick and punch. Tee would put his hand on my belly and say, “Baby kicking?” and MJ would shout with gleeful surprise when she watched my belly rise and bump. Resa sighed about how long it was taking for “that newborn baby to be born” and all the kids fought over if the baby was a boy or girl. It was the best.

The full eight months were spent discussing names. The boy name didn’t come until the very end, while the girl name came more quickly. After a short time dabbling with Alice Elizabeth we settled on Elizabeth Victoria. Elizabeth would be to honor my confirmation saint, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, and Victoria would be in honor of Our Lady of Victory.

An incredible amount of boy names were rejected over the months. Henry, John, and George were all discussed but in the end we chose Stephen for the deacon and first martyr of the Church. Paul was chosen to honor his godfather, who has the same middle name, and St. Paul, patron saint of run on sentences. (That’s my title for him.) However, we didn’t settle on the name until after I was prepped for the c-section (but before they took me to the OR).

Stephen’s due date was May 13th, the Feast of our Lady of Fatima. But with my growing list of complications the due date was moved up again and again. Finally, the c-section was scheduled for 37 weeks and 1 day, on Easter Tuesday, the Feast of St. George.

This was my third, scheduled c-section. Travis and I knew the plan and while I hate getting spinals I don’t mind the rest so much. In the past I’ve chatted with the nurses and doctors, even cracking a joke or two while the surgery is underway. I wasn’t looking forward to a third c-section, but I wasn’t as afraid as I had been in the past and felt rather confident that once the spinal was done everything would be fine.

Plus, I was so eager to meet my baby. I had been waiting for 35 weeks to have Travis look at our newborn child and tell me the gender. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby for the first time there in the OR. Travis and I smiled every time we talked about it.

The c-section, however, did not go well. The spinal didn’t take like it had with my previous c-sections and as the nurses and anesthesiologist did their poke test I insisted that once they got above my belly button I felt more than just pressure. Everyone insisted that I felt only pressure, no pain, and they decided to go ahead and begin the surgery.

Meanwhile, Travis was waiting to be escorted to the OR and growing increasingly worried as more and more time went by. When a nurse finally arrived she told him that I was unconscious and intubated and he would not be allowed to see me. Fearing the worst, he demanded to see me, at which point another nurse arrived. She brought him back to the OR where I was awake but worried and already cut open.

I felt nothing during the incision but as they began pulling and tugging I felt pain and yelled out. I knew it was different than what I’d experienced before but everyone continued to insist, “It’s just pressure.” The anesthesiologist then said that I was too anxious and he was going to give me medicine.

Travis told me that the medicine made me loopy and sluggish. I don’t remember anything that happened once the medicine was given so Travis had to describe things to me.

When our baby was born, Travis told me his name. I didn’t smile. I didn’t say anything.

Our son wasn’t breathing well and Travis was nervous, but I didn’t notice and couldn’t care. The doctor gave him oxygen and Travis was able to cut the umbilical cord but I don’t remember any of it.

The next thing I do remember is waking up on the operating table with Travis, my baby, and all but a few nurses gone. I asked where my husband was. I asked about my baby – girl? boy? healthy? where are they? I tried to stop my quivering chin, not wanting to cry in front of the nurses and I wondered if I was beginning to cry because the drugs were making me crazy or if something bad really had happened.

In the recovery room Travis came to me and told me about our son and his birth. And when I cried Travis told me I had every right to cry because I had something very real to mourn.

Eventually I was taken to the nursery and allowed to hold him. So sweet, so snuggly, just perfect.

For the next five days Stephen had breathing issues and we had to keep a careful eye on his glucose and bilirubin levels. He loved skin-to-skin and we sat together often, me resting and healing and him resting and healing, and both of us needing one another to improve.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we came home from the hospital. In the two weeks since we’ve struggled with nursing and weight loss but supplementing is helping and he’s finally getting bigger.

Stephen’s an incredibly sweet baby. He’s so handsome and snuggly and I find such comfort in holding him. We sit and watch the birds and squirrels in the morning and Parks and Rec in the afternoon and The Crown late at night. I stare at him and hold his hands and stroke his cheek. And while he does sleep well in his crib (3 hour stretches with a few 4 hour ones over the last few weeks!) his favorite place to sleep seems to be nestled on my chest.

His birth is not what I hoped for, but he’s here and he’s healthy and we love him so much. I think the sweetness of his snuggles are meant to make up for all the worries and tears and really I shouldn’t complain because, in the end, we have a beautiful family and God has been very generous.

Travis and I still look at each other and say, “EIGHT kids!” and we wouldn’t have it any other way.