Thursday, July 25, 2013

The 5 Pictures You've Posted on Instagram

I'm an expert at taking below-average quality pictures.  Thanks to Instagram, I can post them for all the world to enjoy and make them marginally better by adding a sepia-toned filter.

I've done extensive research (not really) and put together the top five Instagram photos you're likely to see on everyone's profile.

Take a peek and decide if you can really call yourself a true Instagrammer.

1. The Vacation + Appendage Photo

It's important to take a picture of your beautiful vacation destination to remind all your Instagram minions how pitiful their lives are at that moment.  In the picture, be sure to include a foot in the sand or a hand holding a frosty beverage. It's a guarantee to make all your friends jealous as they scroll through Instagram while sitting in their cubicle on a lunch break.

2.  The Cute Kid

Every Instagrammer should have a picture of an adorable toddler in their portfolio.  It's the money shot, sure to garner numerous likes from your followers.  They're your own child, your niece, your next door neighbor or some random kid you've babysat once.  The ridiculous cuteness of said child forces you to post a picture of them. All of your Instagram followers love you for it.  At least that's what you assume.

3.  The Throwback

#Tbt.  If you're a legit Instagrammer, you know what this hashtag means. Instagram's Throwback Thursday offers an open invitation to anyone with no sense of shame or self-respect to upload embarrassing nuggets from the past. As a prime example, see the above pixelated photo from the early 80's, complete with high-waisted shorts, feathered hair, and tube socks.

4. Coffee Cup + Computer/Book + Deep Thoughts

The cozy coffee picture.  This indicates you're a deep and introspective thinker who sips lattes, reads the latest books on theology and the economy and simultaneously blogs about justice and world peace. (Real talk, y'all.  I haven't had time to get through an entire book in, well, forever.  Unless you count Brown Bear, Brown Bear, in which case I have finished that book 4,230 times in the past month.)

5. The Hand-Crafted Masterpiece

Homemade and handmade is all the rage. Obviously, after going to all that trouble and spending all those hours to hand-make some dang thing off Pinterest, you are going to Instagram the heck out of it.  And your followers BETTER like it and comment.

And Pinterest, quit telling me how much money I'm going to save when I make it myself.  You're a big, fat liar.

The above photo is of my homemade cupcakes for J-man's first birthday last November.  I actually did a test run of them to make sure they were okay before the final batch.  It was rather ironic, considering J-man devoured his and then puked the entire cupcake right back up.  I decided to not put THAT picture on Instagram.  You're welcome, world.

What did I miss?  Any others we need to add to the list?  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kids Aren't Colorblind

"What color is he?" she asked?

I was changing J-man at a friend's house.  Her four year old daughter, eyes full of questions and wonder kept looking back and forth between J-man and I.

"What color do you think he is?" I responded.  It was the first time I had a child ask about our differences and I was half excited for an opportunity to talk about it and the other half terrified that I would say something completely confusing or just plain dumb.

"Um," she looked him over again.  "I think he's brown."

I nodded in agreement.  "I think you're right.  What color are you?"

"Peach," she replied.

"What color am I?" I asked.

"Pink," she said and then paused.  I could see she wanted to say something else.

"You are pink and he is brown."

"That's right," I replied.  "And I am his mommy and I love him very much."

"Okay!" she said.

And that was it.

I exhaled and smiled to myself, as I turned to finish changing my handsome boy, the color of caramel, with my freckled, pink arms.

Oh, that all conversations on race would be that simple and sweet.

The reality is that at some point, the questions asked aren't always so innocent, the intent behind them to divide, rather than invite.

When does the ugliness creep in? When do children begin to see differences as wrong rather than as unique?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the sacred space of our Kitchen Table.  The intentional conversations we have with our children matter tremendously. Whether it is over dinner or sitting in the carpool line, we have the biggest voice into our child's life.  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.

When it comes to conversations on race and culture with our children, it's often difficult to know what to say, when to initiate conversations, and how to answer the questions that they ask.

Here are a few points that can challenge and encourage us as we all fumble through this incredibly difficult role called parenthood:

1.  Questions are good.  The timing just may stink. 
    • Your three year-old asking why the lady in your same aisle had purple hair at the top of their voice in Target last week. 
    • Your kindergartener asking their friend why they have a white mommy and a black daddy  while standing in front of said mommy and daddy. 
    • Your first grader asking an Asian classmate how those white people could be her parents since they don't look anything like her. 
Those are experiences where the first inclination as parents may be to find any means necessary to silence our child.  Duct tape or bribing with gummy bears if they would just keep their mouth closed for ONE minute come to mind.... Yet, these are defining moments for our children.

Developmentally, they are at a point where differences are being noticed.  By age two, children can recognize and explore physical traits.  Between ages three and four, kids will start to notice skin color, hair texture, and eye shape and therefore want to ask questions to learn more.  They are classifying, noting similarities and differences, and are curious about the world around them. 

The early elementary school years are some of the most critical times for our children in matters of race and ethnicity.  They are learning the world is a much bigger place, and in addition, they are learning to rank the things around them.  Most children have learned the concept of fair and unfair by age six.  They are making groups of friends and learning what it means to feel left out of games and playground activities.  

When questions about race and ethnicity are posed by our children, they needed to be answered.   When we silence those questions, we are telling them our children that different is wrong and it is inappropriate to discuss.  When we respond in anger to their questions, we tell them that as their parents, we are not a safe place to land with their questions.  

Addressing our children's questions lets them know we hear them and that what concerns them concerns us.  We have the ability to clear up inaccuracies in their statements immediately.  Discussing questions make our children more comfortable with the differences they see.

2.  Kids aren't colorblind.  Children notice differences and they are quick to point them out.  As parents, we can celebrate the differences, in culture and race, or we can dismiss them and tell our children that everyone is the same.  

While the "everyone is the same," mantra sounds like a really clean, safe answer, the reality is that everyone is NOT the same.  We want our children to know the similarities that connect us as humans, but focusing only on the way we are alike can be detrimental.  When we simply talk with our children about how others are "just like us,"we are teaching them the potentially dangerous message that ONLY those who act, speak, or look like us are acceptable.

As parents we need to talk about how families are different and celebrate the uniqueness of each example.  When our children know that we are a safe place for their questions to land, we have the privilege and the opportunity to set the foundation of a healthy perspective on the world around us. 

3.  Our past experiences should not determine our children's future relationships. Before we can speak into the lives of our children, we have to look into our own history to decide what to carry into the next generation. Often, our past is what is hampering us from talking honestly with our children about race.

When we decide to bring children into our world, whether biologically or through adoption, we take on the responsibility of investing into their little hearts and minds.  As parents, we owe it to them to leave our stereotypes and personal experiences behind.  Our children deserve the opportunity to experience the world with unblemished eyes and minds.

4. They are listening.  While you may have to say your child's name fifteen times before they respond about picking up their toys, those same little ears are at full attention in your conversations with other adults.

At holiday dinners, swim meets and soccer games, and in the grocery store, our children are watching us interact with others.  What we say and do not say is setting the foundation for their future relationships with others.

If someone is saying disparaging things about another person in front of us and we say nothing, that speaks volumes to our children.  They are following not only what we do but what we say and do not say.  We set the example for courage and justice in our children.  Modeling compassion and justice for them needs to be paramount over our own insecurities and unwillingness to "rock the boat," during inappropriate conversations with other adults.

5. We don't always need to have the perfect answer.  There will be times when our children ask questions that may throw completely us for a loop.  We may not have a clue how to handle it.  In those moments, not having an answer is okay.  Letting our kids know that we have heard them and that we need to think about their question for a little bit is completely acceptable, as long as we DO answer them.  

In the meantime, the best way to understand our child's intention is to dig deeper about their question.  When we understand the heart behind their curiosity, we are able to help them find meaningful answers to their questions. 

As parents, we need to give ourselves boatloads of grace.  Perfect answers won't always be given. Conversations with our toddler in the aisle of Target won't always run smoothly.

Our children will learn not only from the content of the conversations but also the fact that they are occurring at all.

Friends, I am no expert on race relations.  Quite honestly, I wrote this as a challenge to myself for the years ahead.

I grew up in a white town, surrounded by white friends.  Went to a mainly white college, attended a church full of white faces.  Taught elementary school for five years in upper income white school.  Spent another five years in high school ministry at a school that is 80% caucasian. 

In the past four years, I have moved into a diverse community where my immediate neighbors are Asian, African American, and Caucasian.  In the past two years, I have become a mom to three black boys.  My world has opened up in extraordinary ways that have often left me feeling ill-equipped for my role as a parent.  

I am fumbling through this adventure, failing miserably at times.  But I know what I want for my boys, and growing up living in a bubble is not the answer.  So, I'm pressing on, striving for them to experience a community where differences are welcomed and being unique is celebrated.  

I'd LOVE to hear from YOU on this.  How are you encouraging your children to celebrate the differences in others? How have you handled their challenging questions?  Are there any experiences you would have handled differently? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spirochetes, my Arch Enemy

I was a little hesitant to share about the fall and what I have been dealing with over the past eight weeks on the blog.  It had the potential to open up some vulnerable parts of our family that we weren't sure we should share.  But, I trusted that this blog community knows my intentions were not to have a pity-party, but to humbly ask for prayer and encouragement.  As expected, we received that and more. 

I heard from so many friends and strangers who offered thoughts and direction in the way we should pursue answers.  Though it was a little overwhelming, it was all helpful. 

One thing I heard over and over and over was to ditch gluten.  So, I bit the bullet and started a gluten-free diet about two and a half weeks ago.  

I also dropped my anti-inflammatories and started natural supplements.  Pretty soon after, I was experiencing much less swelling and inflammation.  Score! 

However, I knew that something was still up in this ol' body of mine, so I heeded the advice of my dear friend Andrea, from Babe of My Heart, who suggested seeing her naturopathic doctor in Atlanta. 

She had experienced symptoms much worse than I have been dealing with and after seeing numerous medical professionals, she finally found healing through this doctor. 

Today I was able to spend a few hours at his office. It was a time spent having weird tests done that to my rational mind seemed a leeeeeetle bit bizarre. 

But.....then I walked in to have my evaluation with the Doctor and he immediately confirmed what I have thought all along.  


What's that, you say? 

It's bacteria, otherwise known as the little devils that cause Lyme Disease.  Apparently they've been hanging out in me for a few years.  The fall was an event that brought it from dormancy to life.  Awesome.

The Doctor also found a few others things residing in me as well including; Epstein-Barr, Candida, and Herpes Zoster (ahem...not THAT kind of herpes, y'all).  

What was interesting was that he was able to tell me things I had been experiencing for years that I hadn't told him about, (like TMJ)...through his weird, bizarro testing methods. 

He finished by testing for some food allergies and lucky me! I tested positive for gluten, dairy, and soy. And by positive, I mean it's a negative thing.  

What will I do without cheese in my life???????????  The horrors.  

My toxicity level was at whopping twelve, which ideally I should be at a four or five.  Did you know that it's not good to keep your phone plugged in right next to your bed? Me neither! We're taking in toxins, people! 

I walked out of the office with information overload, a disappointment that it is indeed Lyme and I've had it for a while, and a hope for treatment and healing. Brian and I are relieved to have an answer and to find someone that would consider that I even had Lyme.  (Sadly, hard to come by in Alabama.)

I've got a detox plan and bajillion supplements to take for the next few months. He's certain we can get this thing taken care of but that it's going to take around six or more months.  I'm to expect that I'll feel worse in the next few weeks, but will start on an upswing after my detox is working.  

Overall, I'm doing okay with the news.  I got my tears out with Brian, and now we are looking forward, hopeful for some relief for me.  

Thank you for your prayers, your food deliveries, your calls and texts, and your valuable insights.  We've got a long way to go to get this behind us, but are very excited to be handling the diagnosis naturally and without strong medicines.  We are confident that God will use this for good and for His glory. 

Spirochetes, prepare for battle.  I'm coming for ya.