The Bench

Last Saturday I was just feeling the need to get out for a bit, the weather was beautiful, and I just wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t home, a common feeling for many of us in the last year. So, we decided to take a little drive to Sutter Creek, saunter through the cute little shops, have a bit of lunch and head for home. We arrived, put our name on a list at a restaurant where they told us they would call us when our table was ready and off, we went masks in place to wander through the little shops of Sutter Creek.

          We made our way up to the vintage garden store I love at the top of the street. Having found some old pieces of wood we talked over some ideas for their use and tried to find the prices but the owner and had just left and the woman managing the store didn’t know how much the pieces were, so we left our name and number and moved onto to a new store across the street.

The store was so charming, as I moved into the large room where the woman who owned the shop was standing behind the checkout counter that’s when I saw it an all-wood beautiful hall tree in my color of teal. It had all the elements I had been searching for and the price was unbelievably reasonable. It was beautiful. I had been playing with the idea of trading out the bench and other pieces I used to create an entry way in our little rental house, some of these pieces have been in the last 7 places we lived. The white bench and other pieces were washed out in this rental with walls the color of chewed gum. But thinking about this kind of change and making this kind of change is a big deal for someone like me. I keep the same furniture and accessories for 25 or 30 years. And now the possibility was staring me in the face. We touched it, asked questions about how it was made and just kept looking at it. Then Tim’s phone buzzed, and it was time to go eat, I asked the woman who owned the shop how late would she be open, and she said until 6:00 pm and we thanked her for her time.

We took our seat at the table and looked at the menus and listened to the loud talking all around us, we were in Amador county and this restaurant had in door dining with the tables distanced so there was no one close to us even so it was still pretty loud, I think people may have forgotten how to act in restaurants, you are not at home where you can just yell into the kitchen or other rooms to get people’s attention. We ordered our food and started talking about the hall tree and my little white bench. Through tears I talked about the possibility of getting rid of the bench and said that is not something I can just take to goodwill or put up for sale on whatever site I could make some money. This bench has history, our family history and all the notches and marks are connected to so many events, moves and moments in our lives.

          I bought the bench for the rental house we lived in on Stoughton Way in Sacramento in the mid 90’s. We had a pony wall in the kitchen that opened into the Den and I wanted the kids to have some place to stand and talk to me when I was cooking. 6-year-old Taylor and I had many philosophical life conversations while he stood on the bench and I cooked dinner.  One of my favorites was when he asked me how he would know when and who to marry. I planted all the right seeds for thought and then he asked me if he could live with us after he got married and I laughed and said that when he was grown up and married, he would want to live in his own house and then he asked if he could live next door and I said of course, and the irony is he now lives across the Country. But I can still see his cute face looking so serious and talking to me about all these serious things…standing on the bench…my little while bench.

The bench I found at Pier 1 on clearance and even on clearance I agonized over the price. But felt so victorious when I finally brought it home.  The bench that has held back packs of various sizes, and a collection of purses and most recently diaper bags, shoes, and other paraphernalia belonging to the 4 Grands. It has been the piece of furniture that greeted us as we returned from somewhere and the place, we put things as we were preparing to leave, and it bears the marks of holding all those things.

Mychal and Allison have just moved into their own apartment with the girls after having lived with Allison’s parents for more than 2 years and I thought maybe they would like the bench for their cute little balcony. So, I sent a quick text to both, and Mychal responded with “OH” I think he thought I would never give that up but then I sent a question mark and he answered right away “Yes!” they wanted it and not long after Allison responded with a resounding yes also. As we were texting back and forth Mychal called the bench an heirloom and I made sure Allison knew I had bought it at Pier 1 and wasn’t sure if that qualified as an heirloom or not but Myke said once it gets passed from one generation to the next it is an heirloom.

I loved that they wanted it and It made moving forward with the new piece even more doable. I was still a bit teary and indecisive when the biggest sandwich ever was served to Tim and that made me laugh and I was taking pictures and he was trying to figure out how to eat it. We walked back to the shop and looked again at the new piece and I just couldn’t leave it there. Funny how once I knew the bench had a home, it removed the excuses to not move forward.

We brought it home and moved the bench into the guest room and put the new hall tree in its place and realized that the basket that held blankets and was also about 25 years old didn’t work with the new piece. And the all-white hat rack that I have had for at least 15 years wasn’t going to work either. One change often requires more change doesn’t it?

Now decisions about these treasured pieces had to be made.

The basket there was no salvaging it had to be replaced. It probably should have been replaced long ago because getting the blankets in and out of it required a bit of a wrestling match. I found a new black wire basket at Target that was perfect, a really different style for me yet somehow totally me, now.

 But the white hat rack just needed to be reimagined with a coat of flat matte black paint which transformed the piece, there was dimension and character in the old hat rack that hadn’t been there in white. This is the dance of change something brand new requires the removal of some things but just the reimagining of others.

This is the dynamic of change whether it is change that is sought, forced or just the natural next step, it brings with it the push and pull of loving what has been but wanting to move forward with what could be. A single change is often multifaceted in the ripple effect it creates but like my entryway once all the changes have been made the new is often even more than we had hoped it would be.

          I was on spring break last year when we got the announcement that we would not be returning to school after break, and this was the beginning of all the changes to come because of the pandemic and like dominoes one thing affected the other. Some things had to be discarded completely (like big stadium events) and other things had to be reimagined (like schools) but all around with each wave of challenge that 2020 brought change was the constant and the norm not the unusual. Cultural upheaval, political upheaval, workplace fluidity, personal loss, challenge and change too. And now in 2021 as the vaccines roll out and the numbers of those getting COVID drops, and more and more people survive we are going to face a wave of a change again.

          We will say we are returning to what was, back to normal and back to the life we miss but are we? Can we ever return to who we were before 2020? Can return to that life and that sensibility ever again? We are not just moving on, how could we? We have learned things and seen things and experienced things we never anticipated and that has changed us. In some ways for the better or not I guess that is up to us.

          I don’t want to return to who I was before 2020 because I learned to lean into my faith and relationship with the God in new ways and I learned the level of resiliency I have. How creative I became and the courage that it took to stay grounded to what I know is true. The self-control it took to not engage in ridiculous online rhetoric but to walk, pray and think about what was going on around me. To speak life to those around me and to know that like so many other things in my life God was with me and that He would carry me to the other side and that I would arrive just as He planned in the way he crafted just for me.

Tim spent the last couple of days putting a clear coat onto the white bench so it could sit on the kids little balcony and I helped him load it into my car I thought about how cute it is and what was I thinking letting it go…it is the humanity in us to look back and feel for a moment longing for what has been, change is still hard even when it is wanted…but then I walked into the house and looked at the new entry way that works better for this house, for our needs now and felt joy. The little white bench will have a new place and be used in the way my kids and grand girls decide and I have a new entryway much better suited to this house.

          It is the valuing what has been and moving forward into what will be that makes the most sense. I think it is important to do that with this last year from March 2020 to March 2021. Value what this time has taught us, the work it did in us be ready for the adjustments of the next phase of moving life forward. Not exactly back to what it was because that is gone forever but valuing what mattered from before and bringing it into moving forward while accepting what was can never be again but what will be new and with new comes possibility.

Small Platforms

I was standing in the back of my classroom (so I could see the screens) scrolling social media on my muted phone while my students completed a timed activity when I saw the announcement: Rascal Flats planning their farewell tour. What? One of our favorite groups whose music we had traveled by on so many trips was ending their time together. A last tour to say goodbye and thank their legion of fans for their loyalty. I can still remember when Tim showed me the band on his phone covering a Foreplay/Longtime/Free Ride medley. I was sad as I forwarded the news to Tim. As sometimes happens when the end of an era comes, and you are in your late 50 somethings I began to ponder what comes next? What will they do now that they made their wildest dreams come true and they are still young enough to dream another dream or have a second act?

What would that be like to have accomplished every achievement possible and now have enough money to do whatever you want, nothing to prove, leap knowing you had a huge net to catch you if you failed. Jay Demarcus is going home to his Christian roots to start his own Christian record label.

It started that reflective process in me, you know the one about your life and where you are and how do you feel about that and is there time for something more. It took me back to that place of longing, that secret thing you keep hidden and don’t ever talk about because it doesn’t really seem possible anymore. And quite frankly you’re not even sure you’re willing to make the sacrifices for it even if it was. I always wanted to preach/teach to women at a national level. And twice in my life I was in places that might have had enough of a platform that it maybe could happen, but life has its curves and changes eventually I found myself in a place where there was no platform at all. I put that dream away and focused on survival and doing what is at hand. I know all the motivational speakers teach You-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be and it is never too late but that is simply not true some things do have an expiration date. So, I rolled in that space for a bit because once it starts you have to ride the wave of what-ifs and if-onlys until life’s distractions and responsibilities demand you live in the present.  

I was asked by our retiring LEA Union Rep to consider stepping into her shoes next year because I care about teachers and stand with them as a department head. I talked to my principal about the possibility and what did he think? He said, “I was the one who encouraged Martha to ask you.” I thought that was funny and after talking it over with Tim I agreed to serve in that capacity. It is an important and meaningful way to fill that “I want a little something more” it’s not sexy or cool and it isn’t the kind of platform that nets you followers, but it is valuable. I went to my first meeting about contract negations and made my first suggestion to the group that would update their process, they followed my suggestion and the outcome was impactful. That was satisfying and I was content to have made a difference.

I was in the middle of prepping my sermon for our church, we are in a series on Ordinary People Extra Ordinary God and I was assigned Abigail whose interaction with David during a pivotal moment his life is one of my favorite stories and the current relevancy of it makes it always fun to teach. It is a smaller platform but a very satisfying one to teach to the whole body (men and women) on a Sunday morning a handful of times a year on a preaching team with my husband. Our church is about 250 people and it is a lovely place to share my experience and insight from a biblical standpoint with them. When the media team posts the sermon on the church website, my Son reposts it on mine as a podcast. And sometimes I post a link on social media…sometimes I forget. On a small platform that is more than enough until the if-onlys and what-might-have-been thoughts wake you in the dark part of the night. It’s easy to dismiss small platforms, to compare the few responses to what you have shared with the world to the “Viral” responses of others or the influencers who have astronomical numbers of followers. Or to wonder if your limited efforts are even worth the time to share it at all.

And then God steps in and shows you that there are no small platforms in His design that He uses all of our efforts, all of our gifts to make changes and add to the lives of others. Because as only God can do, He takes the smallest offering and does the mightiest of things. The most extraordinary things. As I stepped off the stage after speaking on Abagail a member of the body was waiting to talk to me. His words were simple “That was for me today, I am in a situation so similar and I got the exact direction I needed, thank-you.” Not a small thing to this life.

The next Saturday as I sat drinking my coffee and watching the grand girls play on my living room floor I got a messenger notification from someone who had friended me which I had accepted the night before even though I didn’t recognized the name. Sometimes people read something I wrote or listen to a podcast and then friend me, so I accepted. I opened the note and read that the woman who contacted me was in our first youth group in the 80’s in a small foursquare church in Concord CA, she shared a story of how we had impacted her life then and that now she was a pastor’s wife in a church in FL. She went on to explain she had been studying to speak at a Mother/Daughter Brunch and looking for resources online found my sermon on “The Guardrail of Gratitude” and had used some of the concepts for her presentation and then finally made the connection that I was the same Kim Clements from Concord. She shared the connection with the ladies that morning and thanked me for our impact in her life. I was flabbergasted at how she had even found that sermon. How is that even possible? Surprised once again how small the world really can be.  I looked up their church and it looks like it is a thriving growing body. I still have the message on my phone because I am still processing the wonder of it.

The very next Sunday I was sitting in my normal pew waiting for church to start when my pastor stopped to share something with me. He gave me very little detail wanting to respect the privacy of the parishioners who had shared their story with him but wanted me to know that there had been in the morning services on the day I taught about Abigail parishioners that were facing weighty choices that could result in serious repercussions and when the service was finished they decided to seek help instead of continuing on their current path. What was even more impactful was he cited a particular section of the sermon that had caught their attention, I was astonished by that revelation because that particular section had started rolling around in my heart on the Friday before so I got up on Saturday and reedited what I had prepared. It was a part of the final edit and I was second guessing it even as I walked onto the platform on Sunday morning but taught it anyway.  I was weak in the knees just thinking about what if I had missed it? Not responded to that nudge and change of focus.

There are no small platforms with God, only man. Scripture reminds us over and over that He cares for the one. He comes for the one. To partner with God for the one is the biggest platform of all and perhaps the only platform that matters.

Nine Noble or Divine?

“What’s nine? Mom” It took a minute for the question to register because I was sitting on the floor surrounded by my kids and the grands watching the Raiders lose and eating Round Table Pizza lots of my favorites altogether at once. A rare day in our lives now and I was just breathing in every second. But I knew exactly what he was asking me. Meghan Joy had arrived safe and sound and now our little clan was 9.

I have always shaped and referred to our family as a team because I believe kids need to know that they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves, that who they are represents who we are as a family. Each individual contributes to the whole or detracts from it. So when they were teenagers I started referring to us as the Fantastic Four. Not as a point of pride but as a point of responsibility, that together we can make a difference in the world in the way we conduct ourselves and in living out our faith in a concrete way.
So first the Fantastic Four…then the Fab Five when Mychal found his Allison…the Spectacular Six when Taylor found his Niana…The Magnificent 7 when our first grand Judah Gabriel was born…the Great Eight when Olivia Jo made her rather dramatic arrival. And now Mychal was asking me what 9 was? I answered I hadn’t really decided because I hadn’t found one I liked yet I had considered Nifty but that word felt a little to old fashioned to me. And so everyone started throwing out ideas that either rhymed or were alliterative and we finally came to noble or divine but we didn’t pick one because with a beautiful new born and 2 very busy toddlers in the house it is easy to get distracted.

But I have been thinking about it since that day and reliving many of the moments since our little Meghan was born and our time together and trying to choose one that represents Meghan and our family now.

The moment I walked into the hospital room and saw Allison holding Meghan in her arms I realized that I had been kind of holding my breath. I had been praying throughout the day that the C section delivery would go smoothly and that the baby would be healthy with no complications because I just didn’t think our family could face that again. One NICU baby is all any family can handle. But once you have been there you just can’t exhale until you know for sure that you are not going there again. I think I was still in exhale mode when Mychal asked me if I wanted to hold her and on the day she was born I held Meghan Joy in my arms…Divine.

A few minutes later Olivia Jo arrived with Allison’s parents and we all watched as she saw her little sister for the first time. We got a picture of the 4 of them and after a bit were off to feed Mychal before taking Olivia home with us for a couple days. We had dinner in a darling little Mexican restaurant downtown and talked about the day’s events and the gratitude we felt that everything was perfect with our little Meghan while Olivia charmed everyone around her. Then we loaded her up and took her to our house for her first ever sleep over at Mimi and Pops house…Divine.

A few short days later after working 5 hours in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, Taylor and his family got on a plane and flew to California so we could all be together for Thanksgiving and to meet Meghan Joy.
5 hours on a plane with a very active 18 month old on a holiday.
This is love, this is family. On Friday Mychal and his family of 4 made the trek to our home for our Thanksgiving Feast. Allison only 7 days out from a C section and pumping every 2 or 3 hours, they brought everything they needed so they could stay the whole day so we could have this very precious time together…Noble.

We were altogether, leaning in and taking turns holding Meghan and playing with Judah and Olivia. I had done as much ahead of time as I could so I wouldn’t miss anything and I wanted to take the load off of all of these young parents because I remember those days of sleeplessness and toddlers who never sit still and how hard it is to travel with little ones. So I set the table, cooked and got everything ready. And even though I knew it would be fast and furious to all sit around the table with  2 toddlers, I still wanted that moment and that is about what we had because a few minutes in Meghan woke up and wanted to be fed. I had finished eating so I told Allison I would take her so she could eat and enjoy her meal. I did most of the cleanup and played with the toddlers too. This was my gift of love to them because I wanted to serve my family and honor all the efforts they had made so we could be together. Later in the evening I was in the kitchen alone and Taylor walked in and hugged me tight and said “I saw you Mom, I saw you taking care of everyone, all the work you did to make today so special. I saw you Mom. It was a great Thanksgiving day and I want you to know I saw all you did for us.” As Mychal was leaving later in the evening, he stood in the garage with me and hugged me tight and said “It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, Mom! Really a great day!” and he was off to get his family home. Those 2 moments, those words from my Sons to me…Divine.

It can be challenging to come together after being apart for so long, after life changes the dynamics of a family. Children added, life circumstances that look different and changing approaches to faith, politics and social awareness and I was proud of my family for not letting any of that rule the day. There was a minor dust up over pro-apple-juice vs anti-apple-juice but no blood was drawn or heat ignited and the principle players were soft and respectful in their opinions and then returned to their corners. This is the stance families should take when it comes to time together on the holidays and other special family days. Focus on the common ground and the history you share. Reserve difficult conversations and dealing with serious matters that are challenging for times that have been primarily arranged to do just that. Those things can be done at appointed times when everyone is ready to go to those painful places and are ready to do the work needed to heal, move forward or make hard choices.
Special days are for sharing the beauty of who we are together.
Judah and Olivia gave us a good example of this when sitting in the high chair Judah shared his pumpkin pie with Olivia (who had already had some pie) as she stood in front him. The picture of Judah spoon feeding Olivia will be with me always. It was a great moment and I hope the beginning of a fun friendship and deep bond between cousins…Noble.

But it is often the unexpected moments that you prayed would happen but cannot be orchestrated because authenticity and genuine interaction is what gives them life. On Sunday afternoon after the game was over the guys and I took the toddlers out for a walk, Olivia in her stroller and Judah walking in between, on, and around his Dad and Uncle. I was out ahead of them and so I don’t know how the conversation started but when I caught snippets of it I smiled to myself. So I stayed out in front  to give them privacy but close enough to overhear a bit too, it’s what Moms do.

It is hard when your adult children are in different life spaces, especially when the older brother is living with his in-laws, has lost a job and just had a second child very close to the first and the little brother owns his own home, and was promoted 3 times in the last year. How will that feel when they are together? I had been praying about that and honestly worrying about it too.
And all of a sudden they were walking and talking about it. Mychal being vulnerable and sharing about the job loss and Taylor being supportive and encouraging. They were sharing this burden together, letting love and relationship lead the way. Never underestimate the power of a quiet walk. Kindness, support and vulnerable truthfulness deepening the conversation and life bond.
Together they were overcoming this life space…Noble and a little Divine too.

I still haven’t decided which word works best for us especially when you look up the definitions it can be a bit intimidating.
Noble besides meaning of royal birth also means having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.
Divine beside the obvious reference to Deity  also means excellent or delightful. All I know is our time together was delightful and excellent because we chose to be our best selves and we chose peace instead of right. We chose to preserve this time as sacred and we chose to care for each other

. Like all families we have had our growing pains, our moments when we were less than our best. When making room for the new was harder than anticipated and understanding was limited because emotions were not. But those moments are private and not to be shared outside the family because part of forgiving and moving forward is not exposing those moments to public criticism. Love covers and protects.

What I appreciated so much about our time together this Thanksgiving was the effort by each individual to contribute their best self and to offer empathy and compassion to each other.
We were our best selves and that is both Noble and Divine.


Somewhere between middle-age-white-men and #me too

There was a paradigm shift in our home this week, a choice we have never made before but may become the new norm because my husband is a middle-aged white man.

It started with a text from Tim letting me know he had been asked to coach the girls high school basketball team because they no longer had a coach. Usually, I just ask the details and then we have a quick conversation about how it will affect our lives. And then we say yes…always yes.
Small Christian schools often need their teachers to help with extracurricular activities and Tim has coached many times in the past including middle school girls’ volleyball with the help of a Mom to assist. I sent him a text back and told him this time I wanted to discuss it at home. What I really wanted was time to think about this decision.

We finally had a minute and instead of discussing it I just said “No, I don’t want you coaching girls of any age anymore, not because I don’t trust you because I do completely. I don’t trust the world we live in any longer. All it would take is for a girl who is not getting enough playing time or some other slight to make an accusation and our whole life could be turned upside down.” I started to defend my statement, but he just looked at me and said “That’s enough, Kim your no is enough for me. I have always trusted your instincts and made whatever adjustments you felt like I should and that has always served me well and that is enough.” My husband has taught, coached and pastored adolescent girls, counseled, pastored single adult women and pastored women of all ages in his ministerial career. The girls in our youth group used to say that when Tim hugged them “it was like hugging their Dad, not creepy like when some other older men hugged them.” Women in our churches have often told me they admired the way Tim conducts himself around them and how often he brings me into the room even when I cannot physically be there.

But I am in a season of life that I do not want to take any chances with this life we have built after the trauma of having our lives destroyed by people who lied about us and smeared our good name. We are both teaching, both on the preaching team at our church and we are beginning to have the time and resources to invest in our grandbabies. I am not willing to put any of that risk any more.

Now before you burn me at the stake and begin to say I am defending someone I shouldn’t, let me be clear I am not defending anyone but merely pondering all the aspects of what is happening in our culture in a very real and personal way.
Although I did not respond to the #metoo movement on social media or any media for that matter it wasn’t because I didn’t agree with or applaud it. Because I did and do. It felt in the beginning like it was a reckoning a much needed and timely reckoning. Organic, authentic and freeing for many women. Finally, consequence, meaningful consequence for those that so deserved it. The kind of real consequence that matters where the money hits the road. Even beloved icons were not safe, and even though I grieved that loss the evidence was too much to ignore.

I too have had my #metoo moments. There have been a handful in my life, but I will only share two because they serve the purpose of illustrating the thoughts I have been pondering.

The first happened when I was in High School and the details are kinda fuzzy regarding who was there and where we were exactly, but the event itself is crystal clear. We were playing hide-n-seek in couples. My partner was a cute boy and I thought it would be fun to hide with him somewhere in the dark. We found a cozy place in some bushes and I was sitting on the ground in front of him. We were talking, laughing and waiting to be found when all of the sudden I felt his arms come around me and he planted his hands right on my breasts!
Not just a touch but fully covering them with each hand. NO one in my life had ever touched me in that way or there, ever. I pushed him back with all my strength and he fell backwards and away from me. I stood up and asked him what he thought he was doing; his response was classic “I just thought I would give it a shot?!” Coy smile and all. I am pretty sure I kicked him, and I took off. I left and never saw him again. I don’t even remember his name, nor can I recall what he looks like but when my mind goes back to that moment I can literally still feel his hands on me. Violation does that it imprints itself on you.

Did I tell anyone? NO, I did not! Why? Because I knew the question that would follow, what were you doing hiding in the bushes with a boy anyway? Was I really wanting to play Hide-seek? No, I wanted to kiss a cute boy in the dark away from prying eyes, but I did not sign up for the violation that occurred. I had however willingly put myself in the moment, so I understand the confusion and embarrassment that comes from the thought of telling anyone about what happened and if the violation were worse the self-doubt and self-recrimination that could keep you silent until maybe in the right moment you would be willing to speak out.
This is the first time I have ever told (written) this story.

The 2nd #metoo moment in my life happened when I was 20 and working at Taco Bell during the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years at Bethany College. Because I was 20 I worked the night shift and there was a male assistant manager that had a little crush on me.
I was professionally pleasant, but I did not encourage him at all because he was a lot older, not a Christian and I had no interest. One night after weeks of working together when he walked past me on the way to his office he slapped me on the butt and let his hand linger while he did it. I immediately turned and told him that was not OK, and he better never touch me like that again and just who did he think he was? He apologized and walked into the office, a girl I went to High School with was working the same shift as me that night and observed what happened.
At the end of the week I came into get my schedule for the next work week and he was the only manager on duty, so he read me the schedule. The next day I was scheduled to work I arrived 2 hours late thinking I was on time. He had told me the wrong times on purpose. The female store manager could tell by my demeanor that I didn’t know I was late. She called me into her office and asked me if I was Ok? So, I told her everything that had happened and that the assistance manager had given me the hours and I showed her what I had written down. She listened and took in every word and asked some other relevant questions.
The girl I had worked with that night was also working that day and on her own told the store manager what she had witnessed. The assistant manager was fired immediately. The validation of being heard and believed is powerful and healing. If I had been working for a male store manager or didn’t have a witness, could my job have been in jeopardy?
A job I desperately needed because I was putting myself through college.

I understand not telling because you wonder if maybe you invited the violation, I understand not telling because you are afraid of the ramifications. I understand that the more horrific the violation, the bigger the fear of revelation and consequence can be.

I think that maybe like many people I have understanding and concern on both fronts. As someone who has experienced violation and as a woman married to an amazing middle-age-white-man and the mother of 2 sons who will someday be just that. I like many others ponder the validity of the timing of accusations and the paralyzing fear that can finally be unlocked in a moment of freedom and safety. I have no idea what the solution is, but I do know that we need to value authentic testimony and a woman’s personal truth, but we should also be thoroughly fair in our investigation of the accused.

Maybe reading The Crucible would be wise for us all, the lessons of an older man, John Procter taking an advantage and having an affair with a young impressionable girl, Abagail Williams and the witch hunt that follows is a tale for today. This story has connections to the actual Salem Witch trials where young girls lied about the conduct of people in the community and those people were convicted and lost their lives. The testimony of young girls that had to be believed because of their age and assumed innocence.

We need to proceed with caution and wisdom because victims need to be heard and respected. A victim has the right to vindication, justice and to be able to heal from the trauma they have experienced. We need #metoo to send a warning note to men that they do not get to violate a woman in any way they want and expect to avoid consequence.
Let the reckoning continue, we need it.

At the same time let’s not destroy a good man’s reputation simply based on his age, skin color and because he holds a place of authority or power. If a man’s conducted has been historically appropriate, can we not allow for some grace while he is being investigated. Can we withhold judgement in the court of public opinion until a definitive outcome is reached?

I have a grandson and a granddaughter, I want a calm, safe, rational world for both. I don’t want either of them violated because of someone’s selfish sick desires. And I would like to have a world where we can discuss these issues in a way that brings truth where it is needed and understanding where it is needed without sensationalism or brutalization.

These are the quiet thoughts I have been thinking about this week while trying to maneuver the world I live in…


For my grands…

The Garage

The Garage

It was early, and I was on my way to work when I noticed the neighbor down the streets open garage door, it was full from floor to ceiling and all the way across I felt overwhelmed and tired just looking at it and wondered who will eventually have to go through all of that someday. It reminded me of the row of boxes I wanted to clean out in my own garage and all the sorting that had gone on in the loss of my Mom and both of Tim’s parents. I thought about the choices we make as we age and who eventually will have to deal with results of those choices. I had cleaned through all the closets in my house during Christmas Break but now driving to work I couldn’t help but think through the losses we have faced and all there is to learn from it.

Tim’s parents waited so long to make the retirement decision that when the circumstances regarding their health forced the issue it created a lot of stress and pressure on Tim’s brother Rod mainly, but all the sons were affected. Tim spent a weekend helping to pack and load the truck (at the end of the school year) and Rod and Joshua had to unload it in Chico, set up the new apartment and just a few months later Rod had to pack that apartment up and put its contents in storage at the passing of their Father and take on the placement of their Mother in a care facility which required more moving and packing and then finally he needed to make funeral arrangements in a matter of weeks for their Mother who passed as is often the case when someone looses a life long spouse. 60 years in my In-laws case. My BIL looked so tired at the funeral like he was at the end of a very long race. He is a very gracious and kind person, so he would never complain but he had been through an emotional marathon.

I was grateful my Dad finally made the decision to retire to take care of my Mom and that they could stay in their home until my Mom’s death. I am grateful that my Dad has removed my Mom’s things as he was ready and let us know when he was ready for us to go through the items that we might want. It did not need to be done in a pressurized situation but could be fit into my sister’s and I busy lives. We got to sit in my sister’s home and go through all my Mom’s costume jewelry sharing the moment deciding who should get what and savoring the process. When he was ready for her vast collection of dishes to be dispersed that also was done as we could fit it in and not in the rush of having to move out of a place by a certain time. All of these things were swirling around in my head after I saw that garage full of stuff. I thought I do not want to leave piles of things for my kids to have to clean out while they might be sad because one of us had passed. You can’t avoid some sorting and cleaning out at the end of life, but you can make it easier. Tim and I live in a rental now but somewhere down the road we have another move to face and this last one almost killed us, so sorting and purging now seemed to make more sense.

Tim and I have the same spring break this year and we had already decided to go down and bust Olivia Jo out of day care for 3 days during the 2nd week so I knew we had the time we would need to clean out the garage during the first week. I broached the idea with Tim and told him I would make room in the budget for new tubs (the ones we had were disintegrating) and whatever else we would need to make the items that we use more accessible. Tim was not excited about the sorting, but he was excited about building a little storage area, so the tubs would not be stacked on top of each other. He is always happy to set up the saw, pull out the hammer and nails to do man things and sorry if that is offensively sexist but, in my home, we have boy things and girl things and we are ok with that.

Last Saturday I started with our kids stuff the scrap books and other keepsakes ruthlessly deciding what  should be kept and what really needed to go. It is the decision making that really tires you out, what to keep and what to remove.
I found my own process after awhile of sorting. And really your adult children do not want all the things you think they might especially if they are boys. I kept things that told our story but not every little piece. Things I could pull out to show the grand kids and things they might want to play with someday. We kept a box full of hot wheel cars for Judah and I kept a box of crazy 80’s bridesmaid dresses that Olivia can dress up in, so we can play Tea Party someday.

This process has stages both emotional and physical and you will face all of them. The joy of finding pictures you didn’t even know you had and it feels like a treasure to find them. The laughter at seeing items you cannot figure out why you ever bought in the first place and all the warm family memories when sifting through baby clothes, toys and anything connected to the life you’ve built. You also face the moments of feeling overwhelmed by it all, the job is too big and how can you make so many decisions about what to keep and what to throw away or donate. Most couples consist of a saver and throw-everything-out person so there will be battles to be fought (mostly through laughter and some humorous disparaging remarks) won or lost. And invariably the desire to just throw it all out and forget the whole idea! I had one last box to sort through and transfer to a new tub if I was going to continue my process but I was dangerously close to just throwing it out after already completing 15 tubs.

As I stood in the garage and looking at the final disintegrating tub, I could see it had some of my journals in it which I never keep and wondered why they were in a tub but there was also a type of keepsake box with a lid inside that tub and I thought “probably just more journals but maybe I better look anyway” so I carried into the living room. I perused through the journals to see if I could identify why I had kept them and could find nothing of significance. My prayer journals are deeply personal, raw and brutally honest I would never want anyone who knows me to read through them those are between me and God only. My Gratitude Journals those I will be leaving for my kids to read some day. I finally got to the keepsake box and opened it to find the first leather Bible my parents had given me, the very first NIV Bible I bought at Bethany College, I didn’t know there were other versions of the Bible until I stood in line at the bookstore and saw them all on the wall behind the counter. There were a few other meaningful items and then I saw it a little piece of white cloth and my heart jumped into my throat…could it be?
I pulled it out and there it was my grandmother’s handkerchief. The tears were immediate alongside unmeasurable joy.

I was very close to my Grandmother Garcia, she was my person when I was a little girl. My Mom gave me one of her handkerchiefs to carry on my wedding day, it was all white with some simple embroidery so elegant and fragile I loved it. I didn’t have my grandmother with me on my wedding day, but I carried her down the aisle with me carrying that beautiful hanky. Several years later I loaned it to Tina Cluck to carry on her wedding day as she became Tina Lowell. She had lost her Mother just a year or 2 before she married, and I wanted her to have a very special Something Borrowed to carry with her down the aisle to her  groom. Tina had been our student, our youth kid and was becoming a daughter to us and I just wanted to do anything I could to help on that day as she faced it having recently lost her Mom.

I am not sure any more the exact time frame but some time later our home was robbed and they took my jewelry box and all of its contents, most of it costume jewelry but it did include my original wedding ring which I was devastated to loose, but real panic set in when I thought I had lost forever my grandmother’s handkerchief but then I remembered Tina had it still. Sweeping relief! When she finally returned it and apologized for keeping it so long I told her I was glad she had it because I always kept it my jewelry box and it would have been lost to me forever. When I got it back I thought I had put in a drawer or somewhere like that for
safe keeping but when we were robbed about 10 years later in Phoenix and again my jewelry box and some other items in my bedroom were taken I was sure it was gone, and I couldn’t find it anywhere in my room. I had grieved and mourned the loss but now here it was! I realized that I must have take this keepsake box filled it with some very special treasures and put the hanky way at the bottom, so it could never be found apparently not even by me!

I washed it, let it dry and ironed it into a little square and put it away again some place safe. Maybe Olivia will carry it on her wedding day, passed from Josefa (Josephine) Garcia to Gloria Jean and then to Kimberly Jo and hopefully to Olivia Jo.
Pieces of each woman passed along to the next and along with it all the strength, feistiness and beauty the women in my family possess. What a gift to find this beautiful treasure hidden away in a box I almost threw away without sorting through it because I was no longer enamored with the process.
Hard things can be so wearying, but perseverance has its own reward.

It is easy to put off hard things for another day, easy to ignore the attention some difficult tasks require because it feels too hard or we are afraid of what we will find. It is easier to just stay stuck and overwhelmed rather than take that first scary step toward something better. But getting to something better always require looking at what is and determining what needs to be discarded and what needs to be embraced. Now every time I walk into the garage I feel Joy at how easy it is to access what we I need for a trip, what I need for an activity or if I just want to share something from the past with someone who is my future like Judah and Olivia.

Buster and Eddie Buster too…

I had my feet up on the dash and I was immersed in the current summer novel of choice and Tim was lost in his thoughts as he sometimes likes to be when he is driving, companionable silence in our little Honda Fit as we buzzed across highway 152 on our way to Morgan Hill. We were meeting my college roommate and her husband to see Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in Saratoga at the Paul Masson Mountain Winery (amazing venue) when you are older trips back to your younger days with friends and music of those days is always a wonderful way to end the summer. My cell phone rang breaking the quiet and I looked down to see Mychal’s name on the screen and immediately answered the phone, “Hey bud, what’s up? My phone was connected to the Bluetooth so we could both hear him and he answered  “I have a fun story to tell you…” Continue reading