Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kitchen Table Conversations: Why They Matter

I have so many memories around our family's kitchen table.  I can picture the weekly staples that we grew up eating, my mother's immense dislike of our singing while seated at the table, and the time spent talking as a family.

There was no television in the background and no cellphones to distract and disrupt.  We simply had each other.

My father's anecdotal stories of growing up were shared.  (Over and over, I might add.)  Our days at our various schools were rehashed and relived.  Mom would cook, and everyone else would handle the clean up.  Dessert would always come later, usually ice cream or cookies, while watching our nightly shows.

It was a time that was a part of our family DNA.  A sacred place that began with the setting of the table and the prayer before eating.  

The menu stayed consistent, as did the presence of my mom and dad.  They were engaged and interested the stories their daughters shared.  My parents were unknowingly helping me form my beliefs and worldview, all while sharing a meal of tuna casserole and green beans.

As I look back now, I can see it was a holy time.

Race wasn't talked about much around our kitchen table, but when it was, my parents were always affirming and positive.  Growing up in small town that is 98% caucasian, we had little experience with other cultures and races.  We didn't have a lot of interaction, but that didn't mean we had to be ignorant.

When my sister's best friend, Tim, started joining us around the dinner table in high school, it was simply a matter of moving a chair over and adding a plate. The fact that he was Asian was a non-issue.  What threw my parents for a loop was that he ate more than the entire family put together.

When he became my brother-in-law a few years later, our entire family celebrated.  Our family DNA had changed and we all agreed we were better for it.

The dynamic shifted considerably when we ate at the dining room table.  We would open up our home to extended family, usually only once or twice a year on major holidays, and gather together for a meal.  Stories would be shared and inevitably, a racial slur would be uttered. A rabbit trail of disparaging remarks would soon follow. At even a very young age, I bristled at the words and language that I was hearing.  Because of the example my parents set at our dinner table, nothing about the interaction sounded redeeming or kind to my ears.  And though my mom and dad never joined into those conversations, they also didn't shut them down.

As the years went on and the stories continued, I would learn to just leave the table and busy myself in the kitchen, my mother joining me in solidarity. But still, none of us ever said anything.  It was our home, but they were ruling the table.

I don't have a great recollection of all of my childhood anymore, but those dining room conversations have never left me.  I have felt the weight of being party to exchanges that tore down entire racial groups. As a family, my parents and I look back now and know it should have been handled differently.

No excuses.  No "that's just how we were raised," and "we didn't know any better," platitudes.  Our silence was wrong and we own that now.  My lack of response to those conversations is still a difficult pill for me to swallow at times, as I look in the present faces of my three loves. But I cannot change my past decisions, so I focus now on my current responses.  There will not be a hesitation if the situation ever arises again, that my mama heart knows for sure.

These days, our family is divided across two states and three homes, and meals together are far and few between.  When we do have the privilege of eating together, there are chairs and booster seats pulled up holding beautiful faces who don't look quite like one another.  Korean, Irish, English, Congolese, and African American.  Our family DNA has expanded with wide-spread arms and open hearts.

Each one of those faces sweetly remind us that our dinner table must remain a sacred space. Undefiled and intentional.

The conversations held around the kitchen tables across our country every night are setting the stage for the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and world-changers.

Research has shown that by age twelve, most children have formed a complete set of stereotypes about ethnic, racial, and religious groups in our society.  Those first twelve years are the formative ones, where our children are looking to us for guidance, for direction, and for answers.  It's the sliver of life when they are content at home and eager to sit at the table with us.

What we bring to the kitchen table, as their parent, matters immensely.

A healthy meal is important, but what comes out of our mouth will leave a legacy much greater than what we put in their bellies.

When we speak of race and culture to our children, let it be edifying and redeeming to their ears.  Let our stories told at the table be full honest recollection and objective truth.  May our children understand that different is not weird, it is unique.

If the only words about other races and cultures that leave our mouth reek of negativity and bitterness, then our children will carry that taste with them.

Let us not provide them with the opportunity to blame their behavior or their words on their upbringing.

Our children will not always eat every meal at our dinner table. They will sit at a cafeteria table with their peers every day, year after year.  They will visit the dining rooms of friends and other family members.

Who do we want them to be at those tables?

What will be the words that they speak across those tables?

Most likely, they will be our words.  Straight from our lips.

Our dinner table is still sacred. Whether it's time together over fish sticks or filet mignon, these moments with our children matter.   Let's not miss them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Goodbye, Old Friend

People have been telling me for a while that I should end my relationship with you.

They've insisted that you're bad for me.  You look innocent from the outside, they say, but you've got a way of causing pain when I'm around you too much.

I didn't believe them for so long.  How could YOU harm me?  I stood up for you, defended your honor.

But then the fall happened.

And then this started.

Inflammation. Joint pain. Swelling.

It was the cankles that made me finally draw the line.

I had to see for myself if the accusations were true.

So with much sadness, I said goodbye to my old friend, gluten.

So long, chewy, warm flavorful breads.

Farewell, cupcakes and other delightful gluten-filled goodies.  I shall miss you. 

Friends have tried to console me.  They've introduced to me to Kale.  Told me that hanging around with Kale would make me feel better.  Encouraged me to starting making smoothies and inviting Kale to join. 

First impressions weren't good. 

Kale smells gross, y'all.   

But I'm trying, really I am.  Hours have been spent googling as many fruit/veggie smoothies as I can find and shoving handfuls of Kale in the blender while holding my nose. 

Some of them actually taste pretty good.  Some taste like I'm eating weeds straight from my lawn. 

This was a good one.  You can find the recipe here

I've even created this board on Pinterest dedicated to gluten-free recipes.  That shows I'm serious about this, right?  

A little over a week ago I went off my anti-inflammatory medicines, started taking some natural supplements, and decided to change my diet to gluten-free.  

Results have been positive in just the past week, so I am pressing on and resisting the urge to shove baguettes and chocolate chip cookies into my mouth while hiding in the pantry. 

Before- left foot and ankle swelling

After- still swollen, but a  little cankle-less this week

I'm committed to forming new friendships with more veggies and fruits, including the smelly Kale, but gluten-filled foods, I will never forget you.  

Maybe one day we'll meet again on better terms.  But not until the cankles are gone.    

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bet Your Dog Can't Do This

Our notoriously neurotic Bandit was at it again yesterday. 

You'll notice a few things in the video. 

  • Our yard looks like a war zone.  (Thanks for the incessant digging, Bandit.) 
  • My sweet mother-in-law, who shot the video, was very concerned for Bandit's well-being during his jumping antics. 
  • My husband, on the other hand, was thinking it was the best thing he'd seen in a really long time. 

We love our dog, but he is CUH-razy.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Three Men

To the three fathers in my life whom I am privileged to call family. . .

The one who came first.

My father, kind-hearted and gentle, who has taught by example how to live humbly and follow Christ.  No matter the crazy injuries he's had over the years, like falling off a three-story roof or blowing out his knee playing basketball with my husband (at the age of 69), he has always chosen to have a positive outlook for the future.  He's the Chewer of bubble gum, Instructor of softball, Teller of endless stories, Lover of any foods sweet, Painter of houses, and Father in every aspect of the word.

Happy Father's Day to the first man in my life, the one who set bar the high. You have left an amazing legacy in the lives of your children and their families.

The one who gave me my future. 

My father-in-law, a big ol' teddy bear wrapped up in a no-nonsense exterior.  A mountain-mover with a heart of gold, he will go to whatever length to help his family.  Though he warned me that he wasn't really a "baby" kind of guy, he has snuggled and hugged our boys every opportunity he has had with them. He's the Driver of corvettes, Mender of wounds, Lover of dogs, Watcher of (really loud) Fox News, Giver to those in need, and Father and Paw-Paw to his family.

Happy Father's Day to the man who molded and shaped the love of my life. Thank you for the way you fiercely love our family.

The one who was worth the wait.

My Brian, in so many ways, a blend of both of our fathers.  Passionate, hard-working, fearless, gentle, and kind.  He fights daily to get to know his boys, whether it's learning how to play a video game to connect more or squeezing into a ice-cold baby pool to spend time with the two littles.  He's the Changer of diapers, Teacher of lawn care basics, Setter of curfews, Thrower of any kind of ball, Tickler of baby bellies, Giver of praise and encouragement, and Father to the fatherless.  I may be partial, but I sure do think that he's a pretty amazing dad.

Happy Father's Day to the man who has been my friend, my partner, my advocate, my love, and now the father of our three boys.  Love you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm Back! And Why It's Been Radio Silent Around Here...

It's been all kinds of quiet around here lately and much of that is due to the fact that I just don't feel good.

And we aren't sure why.

It all started about four weeks ago when I had a falling out with this guy.

And by falling out, I mean I stepped on him.  And fell.

It wasn't a bad fall, and in fact, I was holding onto the wall most of the way down.

From his high chair, J-man shouted "uh-oh," and actually used the phrase correctly for once.  (It's usually yelled when he purposely throws something across the room.)

I laughed, got up, and went about my business.

My ankle that took the brunt of the fall was swollen and my wrist that I had landed on was tender, but that was to be expected.  Soft tissue takes forever to heal.

A week later, my other ankle was hurting and my other wrist had some weird inflammation. The doctor thought it was related to the fall, so home I went with some anti-inflammatory meds.

But I know my body, and something wasn't right.  This pain was new and weird.

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten up each morning with different joints aching and new inflammation spots.

Much like the rest of my life, it doesn't seem to be very predictable.

Bloodwork has been taken and it's come back a little wonky.... my primary doctor is sending me off to the big city to see a specialist.

If left alone with my thoughts, I could wrote the Worst Case Scenario book for my life pretty quickly.

But, let's be real, I'm not left alone in any sense of the word most of my day.  J-man follows his 19 month-old call of duty and makes sure that I am always assisted no matter what I'm doing or where I am in the house...if you know what I mean.

I'm thankful it's not debilitating pain, and I can still function on a fairly normal basis.  But I have two babies to hold, snuggle, and chase after on a daily.

Ain't nobody got time for this.

So that's where I've been.

Wish I could have said Hawaii instead.

I'm sharing this in hopes that maybe my symptoms might sound familiar to some of you out in bloggy world?

I'm in my mid-30's and for this just to spring up has been a surprise.  And not in a "hey, you've won a million dollars!" kind of way. . .

Not expecting (or necessarily wanting) a diagnosis from anyone, but would love to hear from you if you've been dealing with these symptoms too.  Want to head to my specialist with as much knowledge as I can.

Hoping to be back to writing regularly again soon.  Have missed y'all!!!