All The Things I Can Finally Say

Don’t read anything into the baby’s sex here…these were the most gender neutral baby shoes we could find.

This post was written on February 8, 2013, and now I can finally share it with you, now that I’ve made my big announcement.

Nobody ever tells you how being pregnant is like having an alien being inside your body, sucking up your entire life force and turning you unrecognizable to even yourself. Luckily for me, I’ve been following mommy blogs long enough to have an inkling of what’s in store. I also know that, as far as pregnancy symptoms go, though I’ve had just about every one in the book, I’ve been quite lucky in that mine have all been incredibly mild – aside from the fatigue. It’s no exaggeration when I say I’ve been sleeping, on average, 10-12 hours a day, if you count all the naps, and don’t count all the times I’ve had to get up to pee.

It’s so refreshing to be able to share the news with you all now, so I can tell you all about the time I was craving donuts so bad I made a special trip out to get some, and when I got back, Toby was disappointed that I only brought him one, and I was like, “Dude, I brought you a donut. I’m so thoughtful.”

Or how I attempted my regular yoga class once and nearly passed out, so I started going to the gentle yoga classes, but these were less yoga and more like various ways of lying about the floor for an hour and a half. (Toby’s reaction: “And you PAY for that??”)

I can also tell you about the time I decided to get more iron in my diet by eating duck, so I went out and got wonton soup with roast duck, but there was shrimp in the wontons, and I was totally not having the shrimp, so I ate the wonton wrappers around the shrimp, and left the offending sea creatures in my bowl. I’m sure the wait staff just LOVED me. Best customer ever.

And I can tell you about how I once felt all smug and superior living in Thailand, where the typical car seat is a mama’s lap on the back of a motorcycle, so I thought we had a much clearer sense of what constitutes “necessity.” Turns out, I can smack that smug and superior smile right off my face because I’m totally having a ton of stuff shipped out from the U.S. (where there are godsends like Target and Babies R Us) partly because of reasons like “holy shit, stuff is cheap in the US” and “wow that’s way better quality,” but also because “OMG that is so cute.” The zoo creatures!! They slay me. Aden + Anais, I want to buy ALL YOUR STUFF.

And I can tell you how it used to be that I was cold all the time and I would snuggle up to Toby in the night, while he was sweating underneath a thin sheet. When we lived in California, I was the worst because my feet were always freezing and I’d put them right up on his thighs or belly to warm them up, while he’d gasp like a dying fish. Now, he snuggles up to me in the night, and I’m like, “OMG, go away, it’s so hot I can’t breathe.”

I also haven’t really wanted chocolate, preferring fruity snacks instead. (WHO AM I?)

Ahh, it’s nice to get that off my chest.

In other news, in the early weeks, I told Toby the baby was technically called a blastocyst, so he promptly took to dubbing our child “Blasto.” After the 8th week, when the baby officially became a fetus, he started calling the babe Cletus. As in, Cletus the Fetus. We’re going to be AWESOME parents.

For the month of March, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating the turn from winter toward spring with the theme: Rejuvenate! Come join us: Rejuvenate your heart, rejuvenate your soul – pick up your pen, your camera, and your spirit!

Find all the ways you can blow some fresh air into life and link it up with us at Bigger Picture Blogs!

Live. Love. Capture. Encourage.

When You Don’t Need Caffeine for a Little Pick Me Up

Note: On Monday, I’ll be bringing back Scenes From My Weekend! If you want to join in, snap some glimpses of your weekend, and link it up with us at Bigger Picture Blogs!

I’ve been caffeine-free for about a month and a half now (okay, 46 days, but who’s counting?), and while I haven’t been so addicted to coffee that I need it to survive, it does make the surviving seem all that much more worthwhile.

Especially cappuccinos. Mmmm….cappuccinos….

I digress.

Most days, I trudge along just fine without it. Some days, I treat myself to a sniff of the aroma wafting out of my husband’s cup and then I’m fine.

But once in a while, the NEED is there. It hits and it’s all-consuming and bound to drive you mad.

Yesterday, it hit when I was picking up some groceries at the store. It was a mthrfginggdHOT day (93*F in tropical Thailand – and also burning season so thank the smoke for trapping in the heat – kind of hot day), where even the A/C in the grocery store was not cooling me down, and I contemplated crawling into the ice cream freezer…and there was a woman, walking by, acting all innocent as she sipped her sweet ice cold coffee in front of me.

I wanted to bop her over the head and steal her drink. But, being the lady I am, I refrained, packed my bags in the car, and went home and sobbed to my husband.

Said husband is a godsend. Because what did he do? In a city where decaf isn’t sold because nobody drinks it and thus it is not cost-effective to produce, he went to the one store that actually does sell decaf beans and bought me a bag.

With these magical beans I cleaned out our grinder, poured in just enough beans for a single dose in our Aeropress, and then I let the freezer do its trick.

And there, on that hot, hot day, I had my first iced coffee in months. Granted, decaf isn’t 100% caffeine-free…but it’s caffeine-free enough that I can enjoy it once in a while without concern. And some days, you just really need that cup of joe – and are ever so grateful for a beloved husband who makes that wish come true.

My day ended in bliss.

Now that is love.

For the month of February, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating LOVE! Share a loved or loving moment with us – it can be anything: a poem, a memory, an ode or yearning, so long as it comes from the heart!

Bigger Picture Moments
Live. Love. Capture. Encourage.

Link it up at Bigger Picture Blogs!

Raising Men in the Aftermath of Feminism

Photo by Kristi Phillips

It’s no secret now that, while women are still fighting for equal pay and the face of power remains decidedly male, the gender gap in schools didn’t close, it flipped directions. Girls and women at all levels of education, from elementary to collegiate, are outstripping boys – so much so that some colleges are even giving a little extra boost for the guys (yes, you heard that right, affirmative action for white males). Nicholas Kristof provides a nice summary of the problem here and Businessweek has another good one here, but even a cursory poke around Google will bring you a slew of articles from across the Western nations documenting this counter-intuitive trend.

Meanwhile, when we look around at male role models in popular culture, what do we see? Primarily, a glorification of one of two things: underperformance (a la Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, etc.), or androgyny (types like Michael Cera, “metrosexuality,” dare I even mention Ryan Gosling?). We have to look to Mad Men to find masculinity of the type we used to revere – except they’re all philanderers and misogynists, so that ideal is certainly tarnished.

Toss in rising divorce rates plus a “gotcha!” culture of news media (if I may borrow that phrase) focused on catching politicians and celebrities with their pants down, so to speak (for good or ill), and we have a recipe for stripping society of role models to look towards. I’m being a little blase and overgeneralizing an incredibly complex issue here, but the truth is men these days are often confused about what role they should play and are taught to be ashamed of manliness rather than to uphold its virtues.

We’ve focused so much attention on girl power and what it means to raise a confident, empowered woman, that we’ve forgotten the need to guide our boys too. But we’re doing our girls no favors, when they grow up to be strong, smart, independent women only to find there are no men they can respect to stand strong beside them. Building women up does not require tearing down our boys.

A fellow blogger touched on a growing double-standard in her post, “I never thought he would feel that being a boy was a limitation.” Her children are young, so her concern focuses on erasing gender lines with the toys her kids play with and the cartoons they watch.

But it’s about so much more than that.

It’s about so much more than whether girls can play with monster trucks or whether boys can enjoy watching My Little Pony. As my friend, Brook put it, “we want ALL children to be confident, compassionate and courageous.” Courage is not just for the men, just as compassion is just not for the women.

BUT I don’t think androgyny is the answer either. We do both our children and our society a disservice when we tell them it’s wrong for men to be manly and wrong for women to be feminine. (By the way, we haven’t just hurt our boys either – teaching girls to act like men when it comes to sex has created a host of problems, including, but not limited to: undermining their own sense of value, repressed needs, and increased difficulty in finding and maintaining relationships.) Moreover, we’re simply lying to ourselves when we pretend that there aren’t at least some biological differences between the genders.

That doesn’t mean everyone has to follow a gendered ideal, though – we all suffer when we try to force anyone into a box, no matter what that box is. I’m not harping on anyone who naturally falls towards the middle of the gender spectrum. Gender and sexuality are both complex and we should honor that complexity. What I AM saying, though, is this: We don’t celebrate humanity by wishing (or socializing) away all our differences. We celebrate humanity by encouraging authenticity, harnessing the power of each individual’s strengths, and treating ourselves and each other with respect.

There are two blogs I follow despite the fact that I am neither male nor am I mother to a son. I follow them because I find the articles provide a fascinating discussion of what masculinity means in a post-feminist world: how men can still strive to be the best they can be, present themselves with distinction, be assertive, demonstrate honor and valor – and that masculinity does not have to imply male chauvinism. The first is The Art of Manliness, which grew so quickly and displayed such gratitude from its readers that it showed just how lost men feel in this age, how desperate they are for some guidance on how to be men. The other is 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son. Both hark back to the past for examples of great men, tempered with the greater understanding and self-awareness we have gained in the past decades. It’s a shame how far we have to look back to find great examples.

So whether your boy melts his G.I. Joes in violent combat or plays quietly with a Carebear, teach him to read because great communicators make for great leaders. Whether he prefers World of Warcraft or Sims, teach him to help with chores around the house, because a sense of responsibility breeds great husbands and fathers. Whether his interests lie in the sciences or the arts, teach him to show others respect and appreciation because courage means putting others before ourselves and strength should always be on the side of justice. Whether his hobby is fly-fishing or baking, encourage it because any added skill makes for a more well-rounded human being. Teach him how to change his oil, sew a button, safely discharge a firearm, and iron his shirts…because one day he might need to know all those things.

And roughhouse with him too, because we don’t learn everything there is to learn from “playing nicely” alone.


They Say…

…the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. This is definitely a true story where my husband is concerned (and I’m endlessly grateful to my mom for teaching me the finer arts of taste & cuisine). Today, he brought me roses, and I won him over with these:

Lemon cookies with a citrus glaze, light and tangy like the best romances. I know a lot of people who take almost a smugly superior pride in being not into Valentine’s Day, but I’m one of those romantic saps who still appreciates a gentleman and likes to be treated to something special from time to time.

It’s not about going to the fanciest restaurant or being doused in gifts. After over a decade of being together, Toby & I don’t need ostentatious. But I do think it’s important to show our love and appreciation for each other, have a little fun together, and do something nice to make each other happy – all year long, including Valentine’s Day. Because why not?

So tonight, we’ll take a little night safari and enjoy dinner out. We’ll tell each other about our day and maybe curl up in front of the TV briefly before bed. We’ll laugh and tickle and tease, and it will be perfect because it will be exactly just us. It will be perfect because, no matter how far or long we travel, we know this:

As my husband once said, home, for him, is wherever I am. And my home is wherever he is too.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

* Recipe for these cookies can be found here. (I made mine with lemons, rather than oranges.)

For the month of February, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating LOVE! Share a loved or loving moment with us – it can be anything: a poem, a memory, an ode or yearning, so long as it comes from the heart!

Bigger Picture Moments
Live. Love. Capture. Encourage.

This week we’re linking up at Brook’s!

Missing My Womens

Before I came to Thailand, I had spent about 10 years studying and working at a university in a town three hours’ drive from my family. Three hours isn’t so bad; it was just enough space that I could pop down for a visit every couple of months or so, or if I was REALLY in need of family time, I could (and did) drive down on a whim. It was also enough space that I felt what it was to not be near your family.

Of course, moving to Thailand makes that three hours distance laughable. And these are the choices and trade-offs we made: we traded in closeness to those we loved for adventure, freedom, economic security, and life challenges and the lessons they bring with them. (Sadly, one thing I’ve learned is that the best Thai food is still my mother’s.)

But there are days I miss that closeness – that ease of being able to call and not worry about the time difference; the simplicity of being able to just drive over, raid the fridge, and catch up on the family gossip over a bag of chips; and the stories of the non-main-events, the ones that kind of tell you more about what’s really going on with your loved ones than the main-event stories do.

In particular, I miss the women: mothers (in-laws included), sister, cousins that might as well be sisters, nieces, aunts. I miss their stories, banter, and wisdom. Shared memories and experience.

I wish I could shop with them, cook with them, eat with them.

Take my nieces skating…

…see their burgeoning sisterhood through alternating urges to hold on tight or egg each other on.

I missed seeing my cousin become an American citizen. Wish I could have watched him pledge his allegiance to the flag.

But we adjust.

Instead of phone calls and impromptu visits, we have Facebook and Skype. We can see their faces and still hear their laughs from time to time. And we’ve been so lucky to have such a constant stream of visitors that we haven’t had much chance to feel lonely or alone. We know that even when we don’t hear their voices, their thoughts keep us close: that when we cheer, they’re cheering along beside us. When we celebrate, they’re having a party over there too.

And that’s okay. Because love is deeper than distance. And we are very loved.

For the month of February, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating LOVE! Share a loved or loving moment with us – it can be anything: a poem, a memory, an ode or yearning, so long as it comes from the heart!

Bigger Picture Moments
Live. Love. Capture. Encourage. 

This week we’re linking up on the Bigger Picture Blog’s website!

Education, In Essence

Every year that I spend working at The SOLD Project brings me new lessons and deeper understanding about what education means and the purpose it serves. For those of you who aren’t aware, my life role as an educator began at UC Santa Barbara, teaching undergraduates while I completed my doctorate. It was rewarding, and challenging – with the deepest challenge being how to engage kids in material that would make them better American citizens, while half of them were only in college because their parents had insisted upon it and they had no clue what other life purpose they should have.

Perhaps paradoxically, my favorite class to teach was also one of the most difficult (and the one almost everyone else tries to avoid getting assigned to) – Research Methods – but I loved it because nowhere else was there as stark a connection between effort and reward, both for me and for my students. The class brought humility to the students for whom the whole school schtick was far too easy, and then there were moments when I felt I was physically pushing my timid ones to overcome their fears. Life lessons served with a side of statistical analysis. My hours spent teaching that class (and consoling the lost) were longer than any other – but then so were the letters of gratitude slipped in my end-of-quarter evaluations.

At university, educators commonly bemoan students’ inability to craft complete sentences despite 12 years of primary and secondary schooling, and the major value we consistently work towards is cultivating children’s critical thinking and skills in analysis. Supposedly, primary and secondary schools attempt to teach this as well. If so, we on the college end feel we see little fruit of those efforts. Students trained on endless state and national testing continue to come to college wanting to be told what to think. By college age, you should be curious and seek information on your own steam. So our job as educators becomes teaching kids how to think – which means kids must relearn the capacity to ask questions, natural to them at the age of 4, a chore at 19. And we do the best we can, and if we can’t change the lives of our undergrads, we hope at least we might do better with our own children.

This is the background I had before starting my work with at-risk, disadvantaged children in rural Thailand. I had plenty of high-minded ideas about how I could come in and challenge these children to think critically, to analyze, and to help bring them up to speed to compete on a global stage.

It’s kind of laughable, really, the gap between my highfalutin’ ideas and the reality. The first year was a lesson in humility for me, a constant stepping back and back and back to realize that the “basics” with these kids was even more basic than what I had ever known in my middle class, born to highly educated parents, upbringing. I couldn’t teach them to write or analyze poetry if they didn’t even dare to put words to a page, or utter a question (because in some classrooms here, asking a teacher a question implies the teacher isn’t teaching properly – a major loss of face). I had kids who were too afraid to color for fear of coloring incorrectly. They copied each other incessantly, too afraid to do anything on their own. If they did anything wrong, then at least their friends were wrong with them and there was safety in numbers.

The realization blew my mind. So the second year of my teaching focused on building the kids’ self-esteem and confidence, to teach them not to fear trying and to teach them that they could produce something of worth and value.

When a volunteer came and started them on entirely new projects and they jumped right in, I began to hope that our efforts were working. When I saw a previously shy 13-year-old jump up on stage in front of 200 people and lead a dance troupe front and center stage, and a quiet 15-year-old belt out two solos in English in front of said crowd, I began to believe the foundation had been set.

But I don’t have forever with these kids. I’m not starting at scratch with 5-year-olds. I have some 5 and 6-year-olds, some preteens, some teenagers. We dream big for them, but realistically speaking, not all of them will go to college. Probably only a small handful will obtain higher than a high school diploma, though we hope to continue to keep our kids in school through the end of high school. Likely, very few will hold desk jobs, and even fewer will obtain upper-management positions. What can I impart to them that will be useful in their world?

If you spend enough time in rural or distressed areas, you begin to hear stories about people: how so-and-so got into this scrape or that, how that person’s neighbor went to jail for this crazy thing that was only sort-of his fault, and how the other person’s sister got taken advantage of by that guy everyone knows is a crook, etc., etc., etc. You probably know somebody like this too: someone who, no matter what they try to do, always ends up in some crazy situation or another and needs to be bailed out and everyone’s afraid of that one time things go too far and you can’t help them anymore. It’s not really about rural or urban, poor or wealthy, schooled or not…there are people like this in all walks of life, though you see them more often in less-advantaged areas.

And you wonder: how does this stuff always manage to happen to them? Why do they trust people no one else would go near with a 10-foot pole? How do they find these scrapes to get into?

The reason, I believe, is and isn’t education. Education, done well, leaves people not only more knowledgable, but also more capable of assessing situations and other people. It’s never taught directly, but these skills are a by-product of careful study and experience. Also, the more highly educated you are, I believe, the more you begin to appreciate your self-worth and value, and are thus less likely to trust where your instincts tell you something is off. Education isn’t totally the answer though because, when you’re facing a class of 30 or more students, it’s a blunt instrument. Children are individuals, not sponges. They come with their own histories and proclivities and the same information is not going to affect them all equally.

But, in essence, this is what I believe education is all about. Sure, you learn what year the WWII began, the makeup of mitochondria, algebraic functions, and how to communicate more effectively through proper spelling and grammar. But what I think education’s key underlying goal is – or what I think it should be – is to help kids learn how to function independently in the real world, in whatever capacity they find themselves, whether as sales clerks or high court judges. Knowledge and information is critical, of course, but so is critical thinking, exercising good judgment, and learning how to ask the important questions.

Which brings me right back to needing to teach these kids how to think critically – but I need a shortcut because I don’t have years with them, I have only moments. So this year, my challenge is to take the foundation of self-confidence that we’ve begun with these kids and turn that into a sense of self-worth and value. My belief (and hope) is that if the kids begin to believe in their own worth, they will be more self-protective and less likely to follow trouble. If we can cultivate their sense of value as individuals and human beings and that protective instinct, then maybe we can talk more cogently to them about how to determine who’s worthy of trust, how and why to avoid situations that feel wrong to you even when your friends or family are telling you it’s right, and what healthy, loving relationships look like and how to cultivate them, so you don’t end up in the arms of abuse.

Maybe I’m back to my highfalutin’ ideas again. This may or may not work (and next year, I’ll most likely be right back at the drawing board again), but I’ll keeping trying because their lives are valuable. Each life is a miracle and has value. If they believe that, then maybe they’ll do an okay job of protecting their own.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Melissa’s!
Tuesday, February 5, 8:00 p.m. CST: Fiction {Host: Jade}
Wednesday, February 13, 8:00 p.m. CST: Memoir {Host: Hyacynth}



We were sitting on the couch, snagging a quiet moment for cuddling in between catching up on emails and logging in more hours of work. I shared an interesting biological factoid I’d read about genetics,

and he said, “What about your mom’s mom? Or your mom’s mom’s mom? Smom. Smom. Smom. It’s like Calvin & Hobbes, when Hobbes gets hung up on the word smock. Smock, smock, smock. SMOM. It’s such a weird word.”

me: “It’s not actually a word.”

him: “SMOM.”

and we cracked up. I don’t think either of us could have said what was so funny, but that moment right there, sitting on the couch, laughing with each other over Smoms…

…was one of the highlights of my week. Love is good.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up HERE!
Tuesday, February 5, 8:00 p.m. CST: Fiction: Fantasy {Host: Jade}
Wednesday, February 13, 8:00 p.m. CST: Memoir {Host: Hyacynth}

We Could Be Heroes

Change, inevitable and relentless, even when you think you’re standing still. A butterfly flutters her wings and geologic plates shift across the Earth. You don’t want to get off; just, “Can we pause? I need a breath for a minute,” you want to say.

We could steal time
Just for one day 

Great and amazing, challenging things call from the horizon. You whisper back to them, “Yes.” But just this moment, you want to soak in gratitude for the great and amazing things you have now, that will never be just this way again.

I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away

It’s beautiful, now. What will come is more than you dreamed. You soak in the infinite lightness of being, because soon you will be called back to Earth, and that’s okay. Because, today, there is possibility.

We could be heroes
Just for one day.


In other news: Tomorrow, my parents leave for the States and I leave for a two-week stint in Chiang Rai, while Toby will later head out for a motorbike trip to Laos. Let the adventures begin! And also, BABY KOALA:

That is all.


Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Hyacynth’s!


Tuesday, February 5, 8:00 p.m. CST: Fiction: Fantasy {Host: Jade}
Wednesday, February 13, 8:00 p.m. CST: Memoir {Host: Hyacynth}

In A Word

My brand spanking new journal for the year.

It’s a popular trend these days to try to sum up all our goals and intentions for the year in one word. Considering my list of resolutions and hopes for the year filled up two journal pages, finding that one word is probably going to be a challenge for me. There is one word that immediately popped into my head – ROUTINE – but I think I should abandon that one as a hopeless longing rather than a resolution since I’m about to break it in just a week when I will move to Chiang Rai for two weeks, go to the Golden Triangle (the meeting point between Thailand, Burma, and Laos) and participate in a filming project for SOLD, stay extra long and teach there, and join in some belated New Year’s festivities that will keep me occupied while my husband goes on a long motorbike trip through Laos and my parents decamp for the States.

Things are never dull around here, and it just goes to show what an ass I am that I actually do say that with a bit of chagrin.

So ROUTINE will not be my word because the craziness of my schedule is something I’m not in control of, and thus any resolution attempting to control such forces is doomed to quick, pitiless, miserable failure.

What I can control, however, is what I do with my time, and as I look over my list of heart-wishes for the year, a different word emerges:


To seek it, to give it – because the best gifts are the ones you share (unless it involves marzipan, in which case, hoard that shit). My focus this year is on finding and spreading inspiration wherever I can.

Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worth of your heart and your soul.

- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

What’s your journey?

What’s your word?


This week at Bigger Picture Blogs, we’re living life with intention by committing to ONE WORD to guide our year ahead. Do you have a word? If so, share it with us! We’re linking up at Alita’s!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.

And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!


Soldiering On

I am reposting something I wrote earlier this week because it was my Bigger Picture Moment…but I don’t want to just leave it at that as we head into Christmas, so if you’ve already read this, please stick around for what I have to add just at the end.

If we were really meeting for coffee today, you’d find me curled up in a hammock, wearing yoga pants and a comfy sweater, cupping my coffee to me. If we did speak, it would be quietly.

When I heard the news, I was at The SOLD Project helping set up and prepare for our Christmas party. It was an event full of delight, as friends, students, and community came to put on a really awesome show. We had about 200 guests and everything came together without a hitch, and with plenty of laughter and festive cheer. But for me, it was like I was walking through the whole thing with cotton buds in my ears. It was muted as I began to process shock. Grief. Disbelief. Sadness.

I found myself looking into the eyes of our 5- and 6-year-olds and finding it impossible to imagine how a person could do that and pull a trigger. There’s just a wall in my head where that cannot go.

Every morning, I wake up and find my Facebook stream absolutely ablaze with everyone processing this tragedy in their own way. I know that anger is just another form of grief and fear, but it saddens me to see people attacking other people, instead of discussing the content of their ideas. It just goes to show how fresh and raw the wound is, I suppose, that we are so quick and ready to see the worst in each other and to find distaste rather than commonality.

Yesterday, I posted a tribute to the victims, a black armband of shared mourning. But as I typed those names onto that black square, I was acutely aware of all the names that I wasn’t typing. The names of the 20 school children in China who were stabbed by some crazy head that very same day. The names of the children in the Congo subjected to violence and horrors almost daily. The children in Central American countries. The children in Chiang Mai. I wondered whether our nation would have responded this strongly if Sandy Hook was a school on the south side of the Bronx and all the little children were brown, instead of blond little angels named Grace?

I don’t feel this is an appropriate time to drag race issues into the mix, and I’m really not trying to poke at people where they’re already sore. Empathy is never a bad thing and it’s impossible to feel the full scope of sadness for all the sad things in this world – a person would absolutely break. But for me, that question is there. It lurks because part of what defines tragedy is the extent to which we identify with the victims, and simply being fellow humans is rarely enough.

Last week, I confessed about all my existential questions about the point and meaning of life, and the sense of absurdity I felt in it. This week, I sense that we can pose all those kinds of questions we like, but none of them do a damn bit of good in helping us confront the fact that life must be lived, every day, one day at a time. There’s tragedy. Some days that tragedy is as huge as the murder of innocents. Some days the tragedies are as minor a freshly baked tart dropped on the floor. Most days, it’s something in between: unaffordable medical bills, a crappy or even lost job, a bitter argument with someone you love, a flu you just can’t seem to shake.

And it’s okay because there’s other stuff too. There’s the handwritten cookbook full of family secrets passed down. Presents under the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. A shy 14-year-old belting tunes all by herself, in a foreign language, out in front of a crowd of 200. Husband and wife secretly copping a feel and sharing a laugh in between job and chores. A puppy climbing in your lap, seeking warmth and comfort, when you’re trying to go to the loo. Family giving you a space at the dinner table, despite what you said to them earlier that day. A stranger anonymously fulfilling an unspoken need.

This is how we live life, day in and day out. We cry at the tart so lovingly made and so carelessly splattered to the floor. Then we scoop it up, scrape off the abused parts, and eat the rest of it anyway.

Here’s what I’d like to add as we turn now towards Christmas. It’s easy…comforting, even…to respond to such tragedy with fear, anger, and hate. It’s much harder to respond with love. But if we cling to that security blanket that we can weave so delicately with yarns of sadness, despair, and fright, and pattern with disgust, vitriol, and spite…if we hold that dear and treasure it, those who seek to incite terror and to make people pay for the hurt they feel inside will be the ones who win. If we let the Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas of the world cause us to suffer, they win. Their mission will be accomplished.

But it is love, not hatred, that helps us heal. Choosing forgiveness over sorrow is what makes us stronger as people. Mercy, not punishment, is what makes us humane.

You might be thinking, “Oh, she’s all the way in Thailand, far removed from all this. She’s not a parent of the children lost. What could she know?” Well, I’m human too, and I speak from the experience of my heart from working with kids just as innocent as the ones we lost last week, but who are subjected to all manner of abuses, the kind most of us cannot even fathom. I speak not from my strength, but from theirs. They have all the reason in the world to hate the world, yet continually, they respond to love.

This Christmas, as you hold your dear ones close to you, send love.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Hyacynth’s!
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!
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