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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Variations on Being Called Home

So, something has happened – something sparkling and silver as a sunrise breaking through cloud cover.

I fell in love with a house — a quiet, steady house, lovely and understated, with a soul for nurturing and a heart that yearns for forever. 

She’s an all-brick ranch, huddled into the hillside of an established, tree-lined neighborhood amidst a hodgepodge of other beautiful homes — gabled colonials, brick saltboxes, sanguine split levels, mid-century moderns. Our grand dame sits close to the base of the hill, a welcoming matriarch eager to pour smiles and love into our family.  

We stumbled upon her unexpectedly. Well, stumbled isn’t quite the word. God dropped us in front of her. He tossed us into her path, our promised land after wandering in the wilderness of my darkest year. We weren’t looking for her, but she found us still.

Whenever traffic is congested at the primary school during drop off, we often cut up the hill on Maple to sidestep the quagmire. As we climbed our way a couple weeks back, we spied a freshly planted FOR SALE sign in the front of this sweet-tempered beauty and were instantly smitten. We booked an appointment for that afternoon and had made an offer by that very night.

She’s a prize more precious than rubies and pearls, this beauty of ours. Comfort and joy made manifest. Light pours through her windows in thick, honeyed ribbons. Sweetness fills her spaces with echoes of the past and dreams of the future. Her flagstone front porch whispers “Come sit in my shade for a spell… or forever more.” And, indeed, she sings to us of a lifetime. Of a lifetime raising our boys to the beat of her heart; of holiday visits with my grown daughters and their families; of summertime vegetable plots and crisp autumn cookouts. 

We fell into her lap with an ease impossible outside of destiny. An impossible catch, but somehow caught. We didn’t do it; God did. He brought us to her and she opened her arms and all the moving pieces slipped into place like only the hand of the Divine can craft. She’s been easy like Sunday morning from the get go. And Heaven knows, I needed some easy.

It’s no secret its been a tough year for me. Dad passed away in November and his death has left me reeling. My siblings and I have been managing his estate. It has been a tender and painful process, sifting through all the bits and pieces (large and small) that were so much a part of his life and ours. Trying to decide what to sell and what to keep has torn at our hearts. Knowing others would be handling the tools he loved and tended, living inside the walls that sheltered him, driving the tractor and truck he so deeply prized… it has all been so very hard. 

There were days it felt so impossible and so – for lack of a better word – vulgar. People pawing over Dad’s things and us allowing it… like we were parceling off the life of our father to the highest bidder. 

Mike and I learned that this Maple Street home housed a similar story. Two daughters have been handling their parents’ estate, a recent double loss, participating in so many of the hard necessaries that we’ve been enduring. When we heard their story, we felt kindred spirits with both the heirs and the home that housed their most precious memories. We were drawn to their parallel tales of grief and beauty, and to the house and her sheltering, nurturing soul.

We knew for certain this was where our destiny lay.

She is indeed a grand dame, with strong bones and a good heart. Her grace and faithfulness has been well-documented in the lives of the family that has come before us. And today she’ll be ours. Today, she’ll begin bearing witness to our own family’s story.

I look forward to recording them with her.

two-fingers-on-the-second-hand years old

Tate and Parker are “two-fingers-on-the-second-hand years old!”

Seven. They turned seven on Saturday.

It didn’t feel like that big a deal until I realized I’m almost 55. With seven year-olds.

And it still didn’t feel like that big a deal until after I spent the weekend at a water park. Two days. At a water park. With twin seven year-olds. At almost 55. Surrounded by 20- and 30-something-year-old parents. And did I mention the water park.

And it STILL didn’t feel like that big a deal, even though I was there with my own 30-something daughters while we all ran after their seven-year-old brothers along with my three grandchildren — two of whom are younger than their uncles by 18 months and 3 years, respectively. At a water park: wave pool, lazy river (hardly!),speed-racing slides, hurl-you-ass-backward slides. At 55. (Almost.) Whew.

You know when it felt like a big deal? When Parker told me proudly that he’s now “two fingers on the second hand years-old.” Now THAT’S a big deal. That feels huge. I’m not really sure why.

Where has the time gone?

Wasn’t it just yesterday they scrambled their way out of my belly six weeks early, looking all the world like the most photogenic naked mole rats on the planet, rocking skull caps and feeding tubes? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was a sleep-deprived milk machine, twins hanging off my body, growing faster than mushrooms from middle-of-the-night, near-constant feedings?

Feels like yesterday. As in, I’m still feeling the exhaustion 7 years later. I’m feeling every minute of it. And the water park added to my exhaustion. But it also added to my joy. Because despite the tiredness delivered daily, the twins delivered seven years ago this weekend deliver joy to me in abundance. Daily. Nightly. Yearly. Eternally.

I love seeing them laugh and explore the world around them. I love seeing them grow their way into individuality. They’ve evolved from wrinkly rodents to fiercely independent fellas full of piss and passion. Parker loves Italian sports cars, Trevor Lawrence, and jotting notes in small spiral notepads at bedtime. Tate loves mermaids, Billie Eilish tunes, and every Magic Treehouse plotline ever written.

Despite their vast differences, they have shared passions too. Like their endless supplies of poop jokes, their newfound love of water parks, their long-standing love for their big sisters and their Daddy.

And me. I am blessed with their sweet love too. And their shitty punch lines. Thank God they don’t use THAT word — yet. Though Mike assures me that will arrive in good time too. Just like they arrived — all in good time.

In God’s time.

He knew what he was doing when He blessed me with twin boys at 48. He has faith that I have what it takes, even if my nearly 55-year-old body doesn’t think I do. Even when the energy and patience is siphoned down to the very dregs, He always makes sure more is delivered by way of hugs and snuggles and smiles and joy. He refills the cisterns of my soul with their love so I can handle it all.

All the water parks and sleepless nights.

All the never-ending potty humor.

All the homework and horseplay.

The skinned knees and sibling rivalry.

The fidgeting and farting.

The saltiness and sass (both mermaid AND smart mouth varieties).

With all the things.

Times two. (Pretty sure its way more than doubled. Pretty sure its all the things SQUARED.)

Still, their snuggles and joy are squared too. And that sustains me. Their love (and God’s faithfulness) keeps me keeping up with them. Me and my almost fifty-five-year-old mother’s body and them and their just-turned seven-year-old boy ones — we can do this hard thing.

We can do all the hard things.

Carpe Diem and the Soggy Bits

I woke up this morning at 4:14. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep. I’m beyond exhausted. I feel like the soggy bits at the bottom of a garbage disposal… all churned up and left to be washed away. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there tossing and turning, trying to quiet my mind. My mushy, damp, mushroom filled mind. 

It wallows in darkness all the time now. After all, this is the year of living with mortality. From the five hundred thousand and counting deaths due to Covid, to the traumatic cardiac event that cost my father his life, to the long-suffering, slow loss of  my aunt, it has been a tough year. 

I was going try to fight through the wakefulness this morning. Try to lie there, mind churning, stirring and slicing my thoughts, leaving me anxious and exasperated. But then I remembered the article I read this week… about how we need quiet time, Me Time. Time with no interruptions, no pressing obligations (well, they’re there… but nothing can really be done about them at 4 AM), and how those simple solitary hours can be some of the most important, and most difficult, to find. Especially for a 54 year- old grieving daughter and niece, who is also the mother of twin soon-to-be-seven year old sons, as well as adult daughters, who still pull at the strings of my heart and the thoughts in my mind, no matter how grown they get. Plus, I’m the wife of a coach getting geared up for spring ball, and the teacher of 160-plus students. In a pandemic year. All of this. In a pandemic year. 

Let me say, this year has shown me why teachers retire after 30 years. I get how if you start your career straight out of college, a dew-skinned, wide-eyed, tenderfoot, that by the time you hit 52, you’re spent. You’ve developed thick skin, side-eyes, and calloused heart. (Let it be known I work hard every single day not to let my heart grow hard. My conscience is a pumice stone, grinding away the calcium deposits and thick skin. But also let it be known that tenderness makes my job way harder. It leaves me wide open to wounds and weeping.) 

But alas for me, I was never a 22 year old teacher. I am a product of a nontraditional trajectory: back to school at 32, graduated at 34, 20 years a teacher, and way beyond spent. Emotionally and mentally. 

And I know it’s not all teaching that’s done it to me — because my nontraditional trajectory didn’t stop at my late-blooming career path. I also decided to have a second set of children, twin boys no less, at 48. Boys who didn’t sleep for sixteen months – which may be partly why (nearly seven years later) I still can’t seem to catch up… and why waking this morning at the ass crack of day’s beginnings was so incredibly insulting.

And I know it’s not all parenting primary-school twin boys that’s exhausted me.  Because the pandemic has saddled me with all sorts of extra weight too… the five-to-ten pounds worth of stress eating because, hell, carpe diem, for tomorrow we may… well, you know. I mean, after all, 500,000 have, plus my father and aunt. And then there’s the return of teenaged acne from the fabric masks I wear faithfully, and the lack of smiles from my students (maybe just because I can’t see them under their own faithfully-worn masks or maybe because they aren’t smiling either). And the continual waves of students leaving for quarantine and returning from quarantine. And my asynchronous classroom adaptations so hopefully they don’t feel as lost and forlorn as I do. But they do…

And I know it’s not all pandemic. Because I’m also executor to my father’s estate. Which means I haven’t had time to truly mourn because I’m dealing with the load and stress and anxiety of dealing with finances and legal matters that are completely alien to my being. It’s like handing a toddler a buzzing chainsaw and telling her to clean out the underbrush. It’s too heavy. There’s way too much room for error. There’ so much I could do wrong. Chop down the ancient oak or the beautiful dogwoods, get tangled up in poison ivy, raze my legs right out from under me.

I need supervision every step of the way. And thank heavens I’ve had it. I have a family of experts in various arenas and they’ve all lent a hand. Me, all I’m good at is the grunt work. The clearing of the debris. I guess that’s why I have the chainsaw, after all. But, have mercy!

So here I am, typing away my innermost thoughts on my computer (at now, 6 AM), the warm glow of a lamp next to me, warm coffee in my favorite mug,and nothing to keep me company but the quiet hum of the boys’ white noise machines and the keyboard recording my inner-most thoughts. 

And not gonna lie, it’s kinda nice. (Not saying nice enough to attempt on a daily basis because, by GOD, I’m running on dregs.) But still, kinda nice. Like the distinct pleasure of low tide. There are tiny, sparkling bits of peace unearthed or deposited there in the newborn damp.

I guess there are gems to be found in the soggy bits once the churning has paused after all. 

So, right now, I’m actively searching for them. I’m using these newborn, wet moments of my day to write my memoir, to chase my future. To birth yet another nontraditional career inside the trajectory of my nontraditional life. 

I’m believing in myself. For at least a hot minute — before the sun comes up and the boys wake up and the day’s demands start rising again… leaving me fighting for life. Not just my life, but all life. My boys’, husbands’, girls’, students’, society’s. 

It makes for an exhausted life. But a worthy one. So carpe diem it is.

Death’s Door and Other Existential Thoughts

Death steals everything but our stories.

Jim Harrison

I heard that line on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and it stuck with me. It’s the final line of a poem called “Larson’s Holstein Bull,” about a young girl gored in a pasture. It really speaks to me — as in, it speaks lies to me.

Because unless we record our stories, Death steals those too.

In the last three months I’ve lost two loved ones — and countless stories. Their stories. And my own.

I’ve had massive writer’s block. I try to dive in. I try to ride the smallest wave of an idea. It fizzles and fails. I fizzle and fail.

And then there’s all the stories of theirs that I’ve lost.

My father’s stories, wrapped up in gullible goodness and bland bouillabaisse. He told fishy tales. Suspect ones, full of adult idealism and fairy tale naivete. If he were a character in a comic, neon bubbles would circle his words — citrus and magenta shades for his grandiose schemes and shooting star aspirations. Don Quixote tilting at windmills — so chivalrous and sometimes so sad. Folks took advantage of his inert, innate goodness. Neighbors took advantage. I wish I could remember the details. I’d hold them accountable for their sins. But I tuned him out, so I’m holding myself accountable.

And then there’s my aunt’s stories. Stories of her ER escapades; the trauma bay dramas. The bludgeonings, bullet wounds, foreign object removals. Those foreign object ones were my favorite of hers, and she had so many. The fellow arriving in an ambulance still sitting in his driver’s seat, impaled by tomato stakes. The fellow arriving with the ice pick through his brain, talking, animated; until he wasn’t. The naked sunbather wheeled in on a trifold vinyl lawn chair, his testicles entangled and swollen amongst a twisted nest of spaghetti tubing. I wish I could remember the specific details of those stories, her blue lilac eyes, so animated as she recounted them; until they weren’t. Until dementia dulled them. Her eyes and her stories. And the details were gone.

So many stories tuned out. The soundtracks of their lives, the background noise of ours. And now they’re gone… and I can’t remember.

Remembrance. It’s a motif in Hamlet that pairs with the theme of “What Happens After We Die.” Legacy. The Ghost, Hamlet’s father, begs him: Remember me. Hamlet begs Horatio, his most loyal confidante, to tell his story: Report me and my cause aright.

And that’s what I need to do too. I need to tell their stories. Report them and their cause aright. And mine too. Before it’s too late. Before it’s all lost forever, behind death’s door.

Because that Harrison poem’s FIRST line is a doozy too:

Death waits inside us for a door to open.

Damn. What a line. What a truth.

That Harrison poem speaks lies AND truths. Which is why it really, really speaks to me. Right now. At this moment. This moment where death’s doors have shut so recently on those I love so dearly. And because none of us is getting out of here alive. There is a door waiting, a doorknob made of flesh just waiting for the twist.

Morbid, I know. But then, Life is morbid. And what happens after we die is why Shakespeare wrote in the first place. And Spenser. And Keats. And any author, really. (Me too. That’s why I write too.) To tell our stories, and to be remembered.

But I have let my loved ones down. I should have listened more. I wish I’d listened more.

But I’m telling my story. Stories. All of them. And I’ll keep at it till I get them right, writer’s block be damned. It seems the devil really is in the details… but get behind me, Satan. I’m ready to dance.

Because the rest, as Shakespeare says, is silence.

And here’s that poem in its entirety, for those of you who want lies and truths to rattle you as well…

“Larson’s Holstein Bull,” by Jim Harrison

Death waits inside us for a door to open.
Death is patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn’t read or write. She wasn’t a virgin.
She was “simpleminded,” we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She’s lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories. 

my heart is a nesting doll and she’s at its core

She’d come to Oak Ridge to welcome me. Me… the rebel teen and recent cult outcast. She smelled of cigarettes and metallic fizz. (No doubt there was a 2 liter bottle of Tab between her knees.) We were sitting on my grandmother’s concrete stoop, a kitten named Pony between us. The sun warmed our shoulders as she poured her heart into mine.

This woman smelling of tobacco and Tab soda was my Aunt Ann, and this was the most time I’d ever spent with her. How had I lived so long without truly knowing her?

She was a wizard of warmth and wisdom. It rose from her being in whispers, soothing and soft and slowly sifting into you, until you also felt wise and warm just from being near her.

We talked for hours that early May day, pink primroses nodding their heads as whipped cream clouds floated overhead, and my love for her and the entire Peters clan settled like seeds in my soul.

I’d always been a part of them, but now I was deep in the midst of them. Transplanted, grafted to their stalk by coming to live with their matriarch — our matriarch — my grandmother. And I was all in.

It was the best, most glorious thing that ever happened to me. I think that’s why my core aches so when I lose one.

When my grandmother died, a sore rose on my chest, directly above where my heart sits. It wept and ached, a simmering wound that lasted for months. Eventually, it faded, but the pruning scar still shimmers silver in the right light.

And then when my father died — before we knew he’d passed — my heart bled into a backache that bloomed the night it happened and didn’t subside until we found him the next day.

And now Ann. My precious, beloved, my dearest Aunt Ann.

Yesterday morning out of nowhere, while baking up banana bread for my boys, that familiar bruised heartache unfolded itself beneath my left shoulder and I knew it was the day. The day I would lose her.

And it was. And my body suffered with hers until she breathed her labored last. The ache in my shoulder subsided, but the ache in my heart will go on forever.

My grafting was so complete on that early May day in the twilight of my 16th year, that I am destined to feel every growing pain, from new blossom to withered vine, on our family’s tree. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My heart is a nesting doll. There is an ee cummings poem that holds special import in my life and speaks to the love I have for this family I’ve been so firmly grafted to.

i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

When Life Gives you the Bird x 3

We found a dead bird under my father’s mattress. It’s the second dead bird since he’s been gone.

The first was the week following his death. It lay in swirls of peach blush and red feathers, sprawled on the outdoor sectional’s cream cushions like a puffy Renaissance nude — an Audubon Society pinup — anticipating a quick nap. Only the nap was prolonged due to a picture window kamikaze mishap.

And then last weekend, the second one. Also red, no blush this time, all sleek and secret under my father’s upstairs master bed mattress. We unearthed it while diving for dumpster deposits in preparation for an estate sale. The mattresses had to go. No one wants to sleep on a dead man’s mattress. Especially a decades-old one. The mattress, that is, but so too, was the man.

And then a third bird — a robin this time — flew headlong into our screened door on Sunday and knocked itself senseless. It hung out for a while on our porch, ruffled and pouring shat like a cement mixer, before finding the wherewithal to fly away.

I’m a big believer in signs. And birds… they’re symbolic. And things in threes — they’re like the Holy Grail of signs and should never be ignored. But what do they mean?

Well, birds are symbolic of souls. Of souls ready to fly. They can be souls bound for glory or souls bound for freedom. Sometimes those things are one and the same. Sometimes they’re not. Here’s hoping they’re not — at least not in terms of that third bird.

Pretty sure the first two are representative of my father’s soul — a soul flown to glory. Especially considering when and where each was found. A bird in a house symbolizes a trapped soul. And when that bird doesn’t make it, it symbolizes death. So, too, does a bird hitting a window.

So here we are… three birds: two dead, one dazed and confused and shitting on my back porch. In a year already swollen and battered by anxiety, I can’t help but worry.

But that third bird… that robin (the species itself a harbinger of spring and new life)… I want to believe that bird symbolizes freedom. Freedom from this pandemic. Freedom from the ungodly stress and hit after hit this year has delivered to me and mine: my kids, husband, extended family, students, school.

This week has been particularly awful. We’ve had upheaval after upheaval. Our boys have croupy colds. My daughter’s boys have croupy colds. My other daughter endured a traumatic patient loss. And then there’s my husband’s and my work week (and it’s only Wednesday).

We have students sitting social distanced in hallways watching class from computer screens, and students sitting quarantined at home watching class from computer screens, and students sitting in class watching class from behind masks. And none are eager to participate. It’s all just too overwhelming.

And then there’s us. The teachers. We have teachers teaching their own students — in a myriad of ways — and teachers teaching other teachers’ students — for a myriad of reasons. We have teachers getting their temperatures taken twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers taking anti-anxiety meds twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers getting sick because of exposure risk, and teachers taking early retirement because of exposure risk. It’s all just too overwhelming.

And then there’s my father’s estate. I’m executor. And road blocks and delays are waiting at every turn. None of it’s been easy. Then multiply the “not easy” times a thousand because I am not a financially-inclined, legally-minded sort of individual. Not in the least. So it all keeps me forever off balance. And honest-to-God exhausted.

And any way you look at it, we are all, all of us, taking punches right and left, and the universe just keeps swinging.

It all feels so overwhelming and so honest-to-God impossible.

So here I sit, dazed and confused in a pile of shit not of my making, as the blows rain down upon me, and I pray there is another way. That there are indeed, better days coming.

That robin on my back porch regrouping while the wind whipped around it — I really need it to symbolize me. All of us. My family. My students. My school. My community. My country. All of us struggling under the whiplash of all the screen doors slamming us sideways right now — but still fighting our way toward freedom. Toward rebirth.

Bruised, battered, and split stem to stern, though we may be, I need to know we can rise above the monumental, excremental existence we’ve been living for far too long now and learn to soar. Again.

Amen.

So I blog…

My full-time jobs keep me up to my eyeballs in busyness. Motherhood, teaching, wifedom. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for writing. But writing keeps me true to me. To the spark that makes me, me.

I am a writer. I was born a writer. It’s just taking me a long time to get there. I have a book I’ve been working on for a couple of decades now. But Life kinda took hold of my writing hands and put an Expo marker in them and a whole bunch of students in front of me.

And then Life kinda took hold of my writing hands… and took one ring off them, filled them full with adventures and struggles — and eventually a new ring and three new male hands to hold — all producing lots and lots of real world fodder in front of me.

But just not a lot of time to write about it. And definitely not a lot of time to devote to that book.

So I blog. It keeps me plugged into my creativity and my passion for words. It helps me record my progress as a teacher, a twin mom, a veteran mom, a citizen of this great and currently tumultuous country, and a human.

Blogging is also how I sort through my thoughts — on my past, my present, and my future. It helps me filter and find my way through so many things. To dig deep and sift and sort. I find my kernels of truths. My truths. Sometimes others share them. Sometimes not.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still share. Sharing connects us. Sharing smiles, sharing hugs (some day again soon, I pray!), sharing feelings, sharing stories.

I love sharing stories the most. I love hearing about the events, the small and large, that unspool inside the lives of my friends and family. And I love telling mine.

But I’m shy. And I’m awkward. And feel like I’m hogging the stage when nobody really wants me up there. So I tend not to talk much, especially in crowds.

So I share my stories in my blog. Where folks can choose to read them… or not.

And I share my stories so I can feel like I’m doing what I was born to do, which is write.

So while my I spin crazily through the joys of family and teaching and life, and while I spin crazily through the dark and tangled mysteries of life — I blog.

This is my sixth year of doing so. I’m proud of that. I’ve kept myself disciplined. I’ve paid attention to the details, the tiny whorls and ridges of my life and her events. And I’ve written about them.

And maybe some people feel like its weird, or self-absorbed, or uncalled for, or they roll their eyes or run their mouths about it. That’s their prerogative. It may sting a bit, no lie. But I’m still going to do it. Because the one good thing about blogging is nobody else has to pay it any mind. And honestly, if I’m going to become the butt of jokes, I prefer they not.

But I’m still going to put myself out there.

Because it keeps my spark lit. The spark I was born with. Each of us has one — a spark and passion, a gift created just for us. Whether its playing the piano, throwing a football, painting landscapes, counseling hearts, tending vegetables, decorating interiors, stitching needlepoint… there’s so many tiny gifts we can hone and nurture to keep us healthy and happy.

But some of us lose them along the way. I am determined not to lose mine. I am determined to keep its flame burning, even if what I produce is tiny and seemingly inconsequential. It’s not so to me.

And so, I write. I blog. I put words to screen. I do it diligently. Baby steps. Especially now, while my heart is struggling to find lightness again. While I’m too much in darkness to do much work on my big work. The work I am determined to unearth in the end.

So I blog.

I Escaped a Cult Once, Can our Country do the Same?

The happenings in the world have sent me toppling backwards — years backwards — into the fear and frustrations and seemingly inescapable situation of my past. Of the cult I grew up in and the people who were taken prisoner by its promises and leadership.

I know what a cult can do. I know the appeal of a leader who focuses on your innermost desires and vows to put an end to your most paralyzing fears. I know what that kind of leader can do.

I know how his testimonies speak to good people with legitimate concerns. I know how his scripture touting soothes, how his pulpit pounding activates, how his charisma intoxicates.

How his promises to carry you, save you, deliver you from evil are so very welcome in our dark world. How the traits he embodies (or at least professes) — strength, charisma, Godliness — are just what you’ve been looking for to bring you — to bring everyone — into the promised land.

But he’s no Moses.

Nor is he the chosen one to lead anyone out of darkness — despite the genuine hopes behind those who support him.

But be wary of the “Hope” this man holds aloft with his dazzling promises.

I’ve lived among false promises such as he proports. I’ve watched my family — and countless others — fall under the weight of sincere hope, falsely met.

I was speaking recently with a friend of mine who shares my past and also overcame it — and is as equally worried (and furious) about what she sees unfolding as I.

In her own words, “The exploitation of a good heart is the vilest of crimes.”

And I agree.

I’ve seen far too many good hearts (then and now) used as ammunition; I’ve seen too much real hope twisted to poison. I’ve seen too many rational heads uprooted, unhinged, and made ready to destroy others — and themselves. United with him, it becomes “Us vs Them,” and the fallout is deadly. Families torn apart. Friendships. Self worth. So many lives destroyed.

And the motivations I see now are the same as the motivations of the good hearts who found themselves entangled in my childhood cult: To align more closely with God’s commandments and Christ’s teachings and traditional family values. At least that’s what so many of those who follow Trump are seeking. Despite the fact that his promises resemble nothing of Christ’s promises. Nothing of true Christianity.

White nationalism is not Christian. Prejudice and pride is not Christian. Political power over moral duty is not Christian.

Christ asked that we protect the weak, include the marginalized, serve the downtrodden. We are supposed to be good stewards of this earth, not blatantly ignore — or participate — in its destruction.

Trump’s platform is the reverse of Christ’s message. But the lambs have laid down with the wolf by the millions.

Half our country has fallen victim to a leader whose ability to bend and break wills is mind-blowing in its potency. And the fallout has already begun.

And, sadly, I’ve seen it all before.

But this time, it’s not the hearts and lives and futures of a (relatively speaking) small congregation in Texas at stake. It is the vast population of these United States. And it is not only our freedom that is threatened, it is the very soul of decency.

Yes, the happenings of this past week — and throughout the past four years — have sent me toppling backwards into a time and place in my life where my freedom was nonexistent, my future bleak and seemingly out of my control, my frustrations at those who couldn’t see the truth, overwhelming.

But this isn’t my past. It is my present. And I am terrified about what my future might hold.

I was able to escape a cult like this one once before. It took courage, unmitigated strength, and a willful refusal (every single day) to listen to the sugar-coated lies of those who would eagerly lead me astray. I had to guard myself at every angle, lest they slip the Kool Aid into my mouth, lest they place the blinders over my eyes.

I pray our country can now do the same.

But, y’all… I’m really, really scared.

2020 Won: now to find myself again

The holidays felt so very different this year. Not like the holidays at all.

Like so many, I lost a loved one in 2020. My father. And I nearly lost an aunt, an aunt who is still not out of the woods. And while neither were victims of Covid19, we’re still theoretically victims: my dad’s siblings couldn’t come to his funeral, my aunt’s wife and family are isolated from her, and I didn’t see my daughters at Christmas.

Nor did I see my husband on New Year’s Eve — or for the dawn of this rainy new year. He’s quarantined in the basement and has been for a week now. No kiss for me from him on New Year’s Eve — for the first time since the calendar turned from 07 to 08.

Christmas just didn’t feel like Christmas — even with the Christmas star. Even with the conjoined energy of shimmering planets sending out hope for the first time in 800 years. And boy, this year has felt like eight hundred. And we desperately need to see — and feel — more beacons of light in this darkness.

And we had one — one we were going to not just see on the horizon, but actually be a part of. Our high school football team — in this most-hazardous and unprecedented of years, achieved the near-impossible: they made it to the state championship.

My husband coaches on this team. The season was longer, more exhaustive (and exhausting), and anxiety-riddled than any other. And our team made it all the way to the pinnacle. The coaches, players and families dedicated more time and energy, and made more sacrifices this year than in any other. But while the team made it to the ship, we didn’t.

We were separated from that, too. By Covid19. So my husband and I watched on television, separated from each other and from the rest of our team.

And to add insult to injury, the other team won. Big time.

And now its New Year’s Day. 2021. And I saw a meme about how when you say it out loud, it’s “2020 won.”

And that’s pretty much how I feel.

Defeated and depressed and about as far from who I am as I’ve ever been.

Isolated. From my loved ones and myself.

Divided by walls. Walls I’ve put up to insulate my heart against more hurt. And walls I’m relying on to insulate my body from a virus. I feel like I’m living in a steel bunker and trying to ride out the storm. Alone.

Well, not quite alone. I have twin six-year-old boys with me. Two six-year-old, stir-crazy boys doing their best to stir their mama up. To push my buttons and release a raging inferno of wrath. And the one thing that’s saving them is I don’t have much spark left.

Rachel Platt may sing it only takes one match, but my match is nearly snuffed out. It’s barely flickering. It’s spitting and hissing under the weight of all the darkness. Darkness that descended in March, but got really, really oppressive on November 17th and hasn’t let up yet.

And in just three days time, I have to emerge from this bunker and back into the perils of my parallel universe… the one with more people surrounding me, but where I feel equally alone. And much more vulnerable.

Next week, I will go back into a classroom, where I will hunker down with over 160 rotating currents of students. Eight times a day, students will flow in and out of the halls and classrooms, bringing and leaving tide pools of contagion that teachers hopefully can contain and curtail with Clorox wipes and seating charts.

But the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks made it abundantly clear that those weapons were not nearly enough.

And right now, I don’t know that I am enough — that I have enough. Enough of what it takes to face more obstacles, difficulties, and darkness.

2020 won. I hope 2021 is a bit kinder and gentler, and I pray it will give me some time to get up, dust off, and find myself again.

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