Thursday, December 31, 2020

Reflections on the Last Day of 2020

 A friend reached out after she received our Christmas photo card. “The moment I opened the mailbox and saw your annual Christmas card, I was ecstatic! However, I wouldn’t be a true friend if I didn’t tell you honestly how quickly it turned into a bittersweet disappointment when I realized the colorful animated story of your year wasn’t included…Truly praying next year that joy of writing you have returns. I love you and thank you for never forgetting about my little household.”

I had no idea that the short messages I craft to fit on the shipping label I affix to the back of my Christmas cards had this effect. I was touched and texted back, “I missed writing it, but since I’m working from home, I don’t have access to the printer I use to make my labels and I thought, our year is like everyone else’s: hunkered down to survive this thing. Sorry for the disappointment. I love you…How about I write the one I would have written and send it to you?”

My friend then suggested: “I think you should send it on the last day of the year to all your closest friends!”

Here’s the message I might have sent if I could have found a shipping label big enough!

I have cocooned myself in the safety of my home grateful for our new companion, Ivy Valentine, a Blue Tick Coonhound mix rescued exactly one month before the world shut down.

Cadence and I took the first real vacation together we’ve had since she was three and visited friends in Charleston, South Carolina, as the virus was shutting down life as we know it. We flew down, spent a glorious few days seeing the sights, standing at the shore with the Atlantic Ocean not far off. We listened to the news, and decided to cancel our flight home, rent a car, and drive back to Missouri. The trek through mountains, radio games we created, and the sense of adventure and empowerment in uncertain times will be highlights of an already amazing trip.

When I chose to not prepare a year-end message, I assumed I had nothing new or different to say, but with more reflection, I know that’s not true. I have come alive and blossomed from my time at home. I have had time to heal from long-term stresses of my office job. I have saved money by not eating out and not filling up my gas tank weekly. My nervous system has been on high alert for nine years and this time of quarantine offered it the chance to cool down and repair. I know that what I describe is not true for most people, and I share my experience with tenderness. I can only share the story that is mine, and hold space for others for whom this time at home has been devastating.

The days, weeks, and months after my divorce felt like pandemic-level isolation, but I didn’t know that then. I had no idea that those lonely days were preparing me to thrive alone now when isolation remains a key to health and safety.

I opened my home to our friend committed to her doctoral program despite the challenges the pandemic caused for higher education, and we sheltered in place together. I can’t tell you what a joy it was to listen to her teach her first undergraduate class from my dining room or kitchen. We brainstormed time management strategies and how she could give feedback to her students’ papers without taking up all her time. We laughed about the times when Ivy made appearances in her Zoom calls.

My confidence in the kitchen grew even more as I strived to have healthy meals ready at the end of the day, so that our friend could keep studying. She introduced me to the magic of sweet potatoes and a dumpling at Trader Joe’s I can never pronounce. (Is it Goya, A?)

I have also watched my daughter grow more independent. She’s baked and perfected her scrambled eggs. She’s brought home stories from school about standing up for friends who were being bullied. She and I also spoke about our love for The Little Bit Foundation to a local Rotary Club. I also watched her become a more skilled player on the softball field.

I set low expectations for the progress I could make in my backyard this summer, and then soon found myself part of a Zoom Garden Club that met with other colleagues. This weekly meeting was a lifeline and my garden pursuits flourished. We hosted a socially distant garden tour and my Fairy Garden Mother and another colleague gifted me with their time and humanpower to help me cut down some invasive trees on my hill.

A weekly Zoom call with college friends created a comforting rhythm and some routine in otherwise shapeless weeks. My siblings gifted me with a Zoom workshop with a favorite author who helped me transform the way I think about and will pursue my writing goals in the coming year.

I have been heartbroken watching how so many in our culture “got tired” of the requirements of getting through a global pandemic and how those actions have added to the stress of loved ones who are on the frontlines of battling the coronavirus. But I also believe that we find what we’re looking for, so I’ve kept my eyes open and seen kindnesses extended in my brief excursions to the grocery store and in stories shared online.

An anemia diagnosis took me out of my comfort zone and into the chair at an infusion center for daily, then weekly, and now monthly Vitamin B12 shots. My stamina is returning, and I am grateful for the compassionate care of the nursing staff I witness as they treat patients who enter for their next round of chemo. These trips have been humbling and great for gaining and keeping perspective.

I have a new favorite book, A Gentleman in Moscow, and have already read it twice in one year. I’ll close with this passage by author Amor Towles, who gave me language for how to think about loss and love—two things that have in so many ways shaped this longest, hardest of years, 2020:

“As these thoughts passed through the Count’s mind, was he concerned that Mishka still pined for Katerina? Was he concerned that his old friend was morbidly retracing the footsteps of a lapsed romance?

Concerned? Mishka would pine for Katerina the rest of his life! Never again would he walk Nevsky Prospekt, however they chose to rename it without feeling an unbearable sense of loss. And that is just how it should be. That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love.” page 184

I am grateful for many things—this year and always—but especially the friendships that call me to be my best and ask me to offer my talents—no matter the conditions.

May 2021 be gentler to us all and may we keep finding ways to show up for each other no matter the difficulties presented, is my prayer.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How I am Parenting my Teen




It started when I sat on the bleachers alone watching my daughter learn the game of softball. She had introduced herself to new teammates with her first and middle initials. Her dad, my new ex, stood near the dugout on the coaching staff. There were still a lot of adjustments to make in our new lives.

These little girls couldn’t hit the coach-pitched balls. They sometimes threw the ball, but almost never caught one. On the rare occasions when a ball made it to the outfield, the players had no idea what to do now.

It was painful to watch. It was hard for me to stay focused on the field. I was easily distracted by the side conversations of other spectators or the antics of younger siblings biding their time. I brought my security blanket--a book. Maybe I could read a paragraph between innings.



I was a reluctant sports mom. I knew this was good for her, but I’d worked all day, and just wanted to go home and curl up with a book. Why wasn’t I raising a bookworm? I had book recommendations out the wazoo. I didn’t know a thing about softball. I clapped when the other parents clapped. Sometimes I clapped for the other team by mistake. I was self-conscious about all I didn’t know and didn’t want to embarrass my girl, so I rarely cheered aloud cautious not to say the wrong thing.

As the season progressed, the standing around at bases continued, and very little action took place. Thoughts of impatience and boredom would begin to swirl. Then one day, a new idea formed. I could consider these too-long games as a form of meditation. Each time I felt a deep sigh of annoyance or loneliness or confusion, I could close my mouth and breathe through my nose, and exhale slowly. Release the tension of the moment. Release the boredom and the impulse to look at my phone.

The strategy worked. It short circuited the irritation and brought me back to the moment. More often, I was looking in the right places when my daughter waved from the dugout or made it to first base.

In those days, I couldn’t imagine the joy of watching her one day hit into the outfield, make the outfield scramble for the ball, and for her to make it to second base.

Now I am parenting a teen and the issue isn’t too little action on the field. Now I’m trying to parent a girl in constant motion. The mouth is always speaking. The brain is always planning the next activity. There are daily requests or suggestions for how she could spend another 20 of my dollars.

I felt the familiar deep sighs of aggravation return. The same desire to curl up with a book. Eventually, the same mantra came to mind: you could make parenting her a form of meditation. When I feel tempted to react to her teen nonsense, I close my mouth and breathe. This tactic spares us both an unnecessary escalation of emotion, prevents words being uttered that most assuredly will not help.

Parenting as a form of meditation keeps me in the present and prevents me from wishing she was immediately 18. I don’t want to huff and puff through her adolescence, and I want her to keep talking to me. We need those lines of communication to remain open, smooth, unkinked by my impatience or dismissiveness.

Just like on the bleachers when I couldn’t imagine what a “real” softball game would one day look like, I can’t envision the ways my teen will move us through the next five years. I want to be ready. I want my eyes focused in the right direction. I want my girl to see that I am watching, caring, trusting and encouraging her forward. I want to be thoughtful when I choose to speak. I want to say the right words at the right time.

Meditating my way through gives us the best chance at getting us both to her adulthood in one piece. 



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Rules of Civility - a book experience


Last Saturday, I woke up with day two of a nasty migraine. The day before I’d worked through it, but barely sitting up in bed. I felt nauseous most of the day. It was awful. I took the prescription again on Saturday and knew that my job was to be still and wait out the storm in my head.

I picked up my latest library pick, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and quickly was transported to New Year’s Eve, New York, 1937. I’ve spent the week trying to figure out how to write about this book, and this morning it came to me: I am not a book reviewer. What I am interested in telling you is my experience of the books I read. My blog, my rules, yes?

I have a funny habit for a writer who wants readers to read not one, but all of the books she one day publishes. Sometimes when I love the first book I read of an author’s, I’m nervous to read another. Such was the case with choosing Rules of Civility. Last December, I read A Gentleman in Moscow, Towles’ second book. Ten months later, I’m still thinking about it, missing the characters and the scenes he so adeptly created.

In my effort to live lightly, my bookshelves are sparse. They do not adequately exhibit the role books play in my life. I am a local library devotee, and I’m determined to get most of my books from there. Generally I can LOVE a book and not feel the need to OWN it. A Gentleman in Moscow is in a different category. I feel the need to have it on my shelf, to pick up on a whim and read snippets whenever I feel like it. I haven’t bought it yet, but I know I will one of these days.

All of this rambling to say, choosing to open Rules of Civility felt risky. I consider his second book a masterpiece. Was it possible that he could write two?

I devoured Rules of Civility in two days. I am drawn to the healing power of fiction, and this book did the trick. There were twists and turns, well-drawn characters, great dialogue, and the language—Amor Towles enveloped me in his command of English. I opened my journal and copied down phrases and passages because they were so good, so descriptive. Reading his work is a master class.

I had moments where I thought, my novel reads like a See Dick run book for children. In my head my prose sounds like Amor’s, but I can’t execute like he does. Yet. But mostly, his writing inspires me to keep chipping away. My novel isn’t supposed to sound like his. It’s supposed to sound like mine. It does and it will. Here are a few more words to describe his work: exquisite, elegant, textured, effortless. Those are attributes I am working my way toward in my own prose.

The other reason I’m taken with this writer is because the book jacket says he has a day job. He does something completely different during his working hours. Investments or some such. His work and writing dispel the fantasy that you have to have a lot of time to devote to writing. That may be the biggest takeaway from pandemic life: time is not the issue. I have plenty of it, and I still don’t get things done until I commit to doing them. Just like in 2015. I devoted my early mornings to writing, and I amassed more than 80,000 words.

This is what I find so fascinating about books. These are all the thoughts I had while reading a book about the upper echelons of New York society in the 1930s, friendship, and how accidents change our lives in countless, unforeseen ways. These thoughts have nothing to do with the story, and yet the story was the scaffolding on which I climbed around reorienting myself with my goals and aspirations. And if you decided to pick up this book, (which I highly recommend you do) who knows what its elements would draw out for you?

If you check out Rules of Civility, let me know what you think.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Stuff Keeps Breaking

The latest thing in my house to break is the light fixture above the mirror in the half-bath off the kitchen. A few months ago, I looked up and the opaque flower thing that encases the bulb had slipped down and was hanging precariously on the bulb itself. I removed the burned out bulb, and set the glass piece in a cabinet in my laundry room. Two bulbs still worked. I’ll show it to my dad next time he’s in town, I thought at the time.

One recent morning before school my teen, who applies her mascara at that mirror, flipped the switch and whined. “Mom, something’s wrong with the light. You need to fix it.”

What I am finding strange about this pandemic era we’re living in is that while it seems I’ve got nothing but time, I still find it hard to get things done. The teen faced the dark for several mornings before I remembered I needed to do something about it. 

I pulled up the white Target step stool I’d purchased during our toilet training days that remained in the half-bath. I started to change the bulbs. The first one came out and a new one went in without incident. The third one posed a challenge. Somehow the bulb would not twist out of the socket. I leaned in underneath the bulb to try to get a sense of what was going on. I looked back at the only one still functioning. Minutes later I was able to free the bulb from its encasing. Now there are two bulbs missing. The teen can resume make up application, and nothing made of glass threatens to fall on our heads. 

I wish I could complete the repair, but in the past five years of solo homeownership, I have come to accept my limitations. I need help, and we’re living through a pandemic. More than ever, I’ve got to be choosy about the things I ask for help, and a light fixture doesn’t fit the bill. 

I forgot about these limitations this week as I unboxed the contents of the teen’s new IKEA platform bed. I forgot that four years ago, it took three college-educated adults (one with a graduate degree) to assemble my bed, and mine didn’t have any drawers!

For four days, I worked at my lap top in my assembled bed, and then commuted out my door at the end of the day, took a left turn in the hallway and walked into my daughter’s bedroom where the latest lesson lay before me in about three hundred pieces.  There on the floor, I spent no fewer than two hours a night, replaying a YouTube video of how to assemble the bed, sighing copiously, cursing under my breath, and fighting waves of despair and loneliness. The teen’s own sighs and sass about the bed not being done “YET?” did not help.

On the fourth night, our house guest took a break from her PhD, and offered a hand. Quickly, she confirmed that this was a complicated build made trickier by the poorly labeled instructions and imprecise fittings of the materials. We divided up the tasks. At one point I asked, “Which do you think is harder your PhD or this bed?” She laughed, and we kept at it.

Her presence was a balm and just the boost I needed to make it to the finish line. Together, we were able to prepare the bed for sleeping. The drawers remain unassembled, but in time, I’ll get those done too.

This season of life, thrown up against the scary backdrop of a global pandemic, is teaching me to do what I can and to be okay with unfinished business. At an earlier trip to IKEA, I found an affordable replacement light fixture to put in the place of the current chandelier in my dining room. We have moved the dining room table out of the room, and so there’s a real danger of banging our heads on the chandelier if we’re moving mindlessly through the room. I called my dad for some verbal coaching about how to replace it, but over the conversation, I decided this job is above my paygrade, and I am content to keep the dog bed under the light to help spare our heads the next bump.

Until it’s safe to welcome more people into my home, I’m going to be okay with projects I can’t complete on my own. I’m going to keep chipping away at the things I can, and not write a false narrative about what it means that I can’t do it alone, and need help. I’m not weak or dumb. I’m one person who is patient, values the long game, and wants to do things right the first time. If that means waiting until my handy parents or sister or friends can help me, so be it. I am learning how resilient and resourceful I am, and we usually don’t learn things like that about ourselves when the going is good. 

Stuff keeps breaking. I accept the things I cannot fix. I have the courage to fix what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Serenity.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Communion at the Labyrinth


My heart races with anticipation every time I drive to my favorite labyrinth. I keep the radio off. This time Ivy is with me. I have to scroll through my Instagram photos later to remember the last time I was at the labyrinth (turns out one year and fifteen days ago). I’ve been thinking about spending some time at the labyrinth, but it takes a few more weeks before I hit the road. 



I’ve remembered to bring a broom. The labyrinth is situated under two massive oak trees that shed their acorns like a game of darts. I prefer walking the circuit barefoot, so giving it a brushing over to clear the path makes for a smoother walk. Often I forget the broom, and so I have to watch my footsteps to avoid the sharp poke of acorns or their broken shells. The avoidance of obstacles on the path can make for a different kind of walk. Meaningful with a different sort of symbolism, but I prefer to remember the broom.

Walking a labyrinth’s intended purpose is a practice at being mindful, so I examine thoughts like they’re between slides under a microscope. With each first with Ivy, I wonder how she’ll react to the encounter. I clicked the leash to her collar and guided her down the path. I let go and watched what she’d do. Delighted that she declared a spot on the labyrinth and promptly sat taking in the new surroundings, I was transported back to church when my daughter was a baby and toddler.

Pandemic loneliness has nothing on those Sunday mornings. I was an exhausted working mom with a toddler who didn’t sleep through the night. When I couldn’t contain her boisterous baby noise, she and I sat in the nursery alone together. What is the point of this? I’d fume. I needed the community. A few quiet uninterrupted moments where I could think about my personhood and connection with the divine without that toddling sweetness balancing at my knee. I felt angry and invisible. On particularly hard mornings, I repacked her diaper bag, scooped up my baby, and silently labeled this Sunday a failure. I walked away from the communion I desperately needed in a burst of frustration. 

I hadn’t yet got the hang of sitting quietly in the discomfort. That would come later, like at that same girl’s softball games, when few players could hit the ball and the outfield were ill-prepared for the random ball that made it to them. My mindfulness practice expanded during those early games.

I also bring my love of weeding to the labyrinth. I don’t know how many people visit. I’ve never encountered anyone that didn’t come with me in my car, so each time I visit, it feels like my personal labyrinth. Since it is not, I feel a pull to do something to honor its availability to me whenever I want.

This morning the soil released the weeds with little struggle. I made my way around the circuit in no time. Ivy stayed put. I brushed the loose dirt from my hands, picked up the broom and started sweeping from the center toward the edges.

A new slide in the microscope came into focus. I thought of the various people I’ve brought to this very labyrinth. A writing friend. A first date after the divorce. My cousins and their boys. Each walk into the circle is different. I am drawn to the consistency of the place and the difference in mood, weather, and company to bring varied contemplations. I thought about other labyrinths I’ve visited and the people who accompanied me—some more willing than others.

At this time of morning, most of the labyrinth is covered in shade. Some bright spots are dappled by the sunshine that breaks through the tree’s canopies. A slight breeze blows across my bare arms and legs. I stop to inspect my progress and check on Ivy. I feel a building warmth as I find a rhythm to the brush strokes across what will soon be a sacred path. 

This morning on online church the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be offered in my faith tradition. When we’re not separated by pandemic distancing requirements, two ministers ‘prepare the emblems’ before communion is served. This phrase becomes my mantra as I continue sweeping the acorns and leaves off of the cement surface. I feel grateful for a free morning to spend as long as I feel compelled to dwell in this shady, pastoral spot yards from the speed and activity of the interstate. 

As I sweep, I hear cicadas performing an orchestral piece that weaves in and out of the low hum of the highway traffic. Prepare the emblems. Prepare the emblems. I hear myself repeat this phrase. An image of the communion table slides under the microscope. I see this labyrinth in a new light. My weeding and sweeping are a form of preparation. They stand as symbols pointing toward the sacred activity that I will soon engage in. Hmm. I haven’t been so thoughtful about that short ritual before communion is served before. I don’t know when I’ll be able to share in this sacrament in physical proximity with my church family, but I know that I’ll think of this moment preparing the labyrinth for my walk when I sit in the sanctuary again.


The broom comes close to Ivy’s front paws and swishes past her tail. I sweep around her until she moves out of the way. I finish sweeping, step out of my flip flops, take a deep breath and begin walking. What I notice on this trip to the center is how light I feel. Four and five years ago, I regularly felt a sense of anxiety as I followed the path, making the necessary turns toward the destination in the center. Walking labyrinths as a regular practice helps me chart my growth. 

I am lighter today because I take care of my emotional and spiritual health in more routine ways than I did before. I have grown comfortable with the present and what is occurring. Even when it is scary or uncomfortable. I have learned that worrying about a troubling situation does not improve it. In my most mindful moments, I no longer force my will on situations I cannot control. That has freed me up. Lightened the load.

For many years, this walk has been the closest I could come to meditation. Today I notice as I walk that I’m beginning to write this essay but with no angst about remembering what comes to mind or not having something to jot down notes. I understand that those thoughts will resurface when I come to the lap top and like clouds passing in seated meditation, I let essay structure and phrasing come and go. I arrive in the center and sit down. 

Ivy moves toward me. She lays on her back and presses her front paws into my torso and my arms. I document this trip to the center with some photos and then I settle into a quiet meditation. I pet Ivy. If I stop, she moves as if to say, Hey, Mom, don’t stop petting me. Her furry weight is a comfort against my thigh. 



I marvel at how grateful I am that she’s mine, and I have her companionship during the pandemic. I run my hand rhythmically across her coat like I had a few minutes earlier with the broom across the surface of the labyrinth. Moments pass. I feel the breeze again and find comfort in the chorus of cicadas. It dawns on me that I have sat quietly without an internal, running monologue for a space of time. I prop my chin on my bent knees in front of me, pet my dog, and enjoy the wordlessness for a little longer.


I sit up straight and realize I have a walk back out of the labyrinth. It’s funny to me that I temporarily forgot this. I take it as a good sign that I was really present for those few moments. I breathe deeply, walk around Ivy, and make my way out. I remain mostly wordless, and definitely in no way anxious. I retrace my way feeling the cool cement beneath my feet and thinking of only the steps a few feet ahead of me. 

When I see the opening of the labyrinth, which signals the walk is over, I feel a twinge of disappointment. It’s a good feeling for something nourishing to end and to be left wanting more.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Dispatch from home - thoughts about staying put and retirement


When my dad became critically ill six months before his retirement, my ideas about my own twilight years abruptly shifted. I was glad my parents had done a lot of the international travel they had wanted before he got sick. But what if they’d stored up their wish list for after he retired? What if he’d succumbed to Guillain-Barre syndrome? Those few treacherous days of his weeks-long hospitalization convinced me to live life differently.

A year after my dad recovered, I flew to London with my daughter to visit my college roommate and her family. Since then a divorce and smaller budget has grounded me, but I’ve continued to take a “not-put-off-things” approach to life. No season lasts forever. I know my budget will allow travel again one of these days, and while I’m sticking close to home, I’ve crossed off yoga teacher training from the list and am transforming my backyard landscaping little by little.

I’ve been working from various flat surfaces in my home for the past several months as we all weather this challenging period. I am tremendously blessed to still have a job and be able to do it from the safety and comfort of my home. I am content to stay home with limited trips to the grocery, garden center, and drive-thru for ice cream.

As an introvert, I generally keep myself occupied with a stack of books,letters written to people who come to mind daily, and time spent in my yard. Most days I am content, but I must admit, every few weeks I feel a bout of boredom and restlessness strike.

Mid-pandemic, thoughts of retirement return. I read somewhere that anxiety stems from thinking about the future. Thinking about how the pandemic in the U.S. will play out and what my retirement years will look like are excellent examples of anxiety-inducing topics. Are these bouts of boredom and restlessness what retirement feels like? If so, this reconfirms my earlier thoughts about retirement: I can’t do it. I’m going to have to keep working. I don’t actually thrive with so much time on my hands. My novel remains unfinished. The tack strips that need to be ripped out of my basement floor still have to be tackled. I can’t use my pre-coronavirus excuse. I’ve had PLENTY of time.

I’m participating in a wellness challenge hosted by my employer’s human resources department. Each workday for a month, we get points for doing two of five wellness activities that are backed by science for improving outlook and well-being. Through this program, I am experiencing the benefits of daily meditation. This mindfulness practice soothes anxious thoughts by helping me observe rather than react to them. Writing this essay has been a form of meditation. As I work to type words on the screen and keep my train of thought on the tracks, I notice that I feel occupied, content, and unbothered by the passage of time. I am enjoying the music I’ve chosen to accompany me while I write and to hear the rain fall outside my window.

I watch how writing helps me move from anxious thoughts about the future to bringing me to the present where I am safe and well and blissfully occupied. I have walked away from this essay multiple times. On my walk to the laundry room, I heard more words form. I’m reminded by previous periods of uncertainty—like being 40 and divorced—that I’m up to the challenge of carving out a new chapter for myself. If I could do it then, and am coping through the isolation of pandemic living, I’ll be able to make something beautiful of my retirement when it comes.

As for my unfinished projects? They’ll get done when they get doneexactly on time.

Back when a Saturday lasted forever and retirement was a lifetime away.



Sunday, May 31, 2020

New growth in the garden


I spent much of the weekend binge watching Mad Men before it’s removed from Netflix. As protests and unrest erupt across the country, the story line of this period drama landed me in the burgeoning tensions of the mid-sixties. One episode focused on the characters’ reactions to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was striking to listen to the dialogue as the white and black characters navigated that national tragedy 50-some years ago. It is shameful how little has changed in the intervening years. So much of what is written on social media today is an echo of those struggles decades ago.

I paused the show and spent some time on social media where I felt the heaviness of retweets, videos of violent police and community interactions, and the heartbreak of black communities near and far. I noted the white friends who declared their allyship, and considered the monumental work all of us have ahead of us to make America’s racial disparities a thing of the past.  

I laced up my work boots, grabbed my garden gloves, and climbed the treacherous slope of my rocky property to get a break from too much screen time. I surveyed the Russian sage I planted last year. I was attracted to its free-spirited shape, the muted purple of a Monet painting, and its perennial attribute to spread.  

Tonight’s goal was to weed the area around my sage bushes to prevent the weeds from choking out new growth. As I tore out the wild onion and ragweed that encroached on the sage’s territory, I thought about how these plants and weeds are like the situation we’re in right now.

The sage bushes represent the best in us—our kindness, humor, compassion. The weeds are the fears, prejudices, biases, and untruths our culture has handed to us about white, brown, and black skin. 

As I plucked the weeds from the loose soil, I prayed. For the mamas of my daughters’ friends. For my elementary friend who grew up to be a police officer. For myself as I to learn how to be an effective ally for my black and brown friends. For my daughter and her friends. For how they are not color blind, but see each other’s different skin colors and hair textures and celebrate those differences.

I want to weed out the old, toxic thoughts and beliefs that were sown in me by society. As I pulled the weeds in my garden, I was reminded of the effort this requires. I thought about how it doesn't happen overnight-literally or figuratively. Just like in my yard, it is important that I don't get overwhelmed by the size of the task. What is important is that I keep showing up in little ways every day. Pull a few weeds, text a friend, read a book and talk to other white friends about what I'm learning. Over the course of a season, those individual efforts will grow into something fertile, lush, and beautiful. But only if I'm willing to do the work. In other words, my garden and I are works in progress.