Re-Identifying the Beauty of Intensity

Over at SheLoves Magazine this month, we’re thinking about typical trigger words and how they’ve impacted our lives and faith. I’m incredibly thankful that I have few words that have been harmful to my formation. But I’m thinking about certain words and phrases that have shaped who I am and how I can reimagine them as gifts. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

My first steps into the world of social justice and activism happened in second grade, when I really began noticing and paying attention to things like environmental impact of goods and capitalist economies, thanks to Scholastic News articles about the safety of dolphins in tuna farming and the closure of my favorite grocery store chain. I was a kid with big feelings, especially when it came to issues of injustice. Most of my early activism looked like protesting the inequities between the methods my parents used in raising my brother and me (at least, from my perspective) and it wasn’t until I was old enough to read justice-centered novels that my activism took on a global perspective.

I was often told that I was intense—my feelings were intense and the way I responded to new information was described as intense. Even at a young age, I felt that this wasn’t something to be proud of. Intense people were dictators and women who chose careers above family. Intense people got things done, but at what price?

I’m in the midst of raising my own passionate, articulate, and politically aware daughter.At six years old, she also has big feelings and the vocabulary to describe all the injustices around her. Like me, her view of injustice ranges from the amount of time I spend reading to her sister to why adults would yell at a child like Ruby Bridges. I see a lot of my own story when I look at how she interacts with the world, which is both amazing and heartbreaking.

One word I intentionally choose not use to describe her is intense. Sometimes I’ll ask her to modulate her voice because the way she is speaking to her sister is too intense, but I try never to use the word in replacement of who she is as a person. I tell her she is thoughtful and passionate and that I love how she cares for the world around her. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the conversation!

What about you? What word are you reframing in your journey?

Allowing What Is Already In You To Swell Up

The other day my Facebook memories reminded me that it had been a year since I took the girls to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. The photo is of us bundled up, huddled together in the freezing cold. Elle is leaning over a cup of hot cocoa, too cold to hold it herself.

The caption reads, “We did it! It was cold, there were tears. But I brought a thermos of hot cocoa and we marched with our community. We talked about the work Martin Luther King Jr did and the work that still needs to be done. On the drive home, after we warmed up a bit, I asked if they’d do it again. Elle said no, she’d rather go to a park. But Bea gave an enthusiastic green light, check, yes! I’m remembering that raising activists takes time and that hot cocoa makes the coldest moments bearable.”

The memory was well timed because just a couple days earlier, Bea had asked when the Martin Luther King Jr Day Parade was happening again – she cannot wait to create a tradition. (I haven’t heard the same questions from Elle. Maybe she’s sticking to her park plan…) It doesn’t take much for Bea to create an annual event – she loves planning and traditions but it still made me glad that this is one she looked back on with fondness and hope for reprisal.

As we’ve settled back into our routine and I’ve had a little more space in my days to reflect, I’ve been thinking that it’s been two months since I returned from the RubyWoo Pilgrimage. That first month was filled with thoughts and ideas and hopeful next steps, even if those were a ways away. But now, with more time and more routine between me and that journey I started to feel a little discouraged. What have I done in those two months? It doesn’t feel like much.

I’m reminded of a paragraph from one of my favorite childhood books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It’s at the end of the story after a great mystery has been solved. Mrs. Frankweiler says,

I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.

E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough to create young activists. Shouldn’t we be going to more marches, reading more books, digging deeper into the injustices around us? Yes… and, we need to let these experiences swell up and touch our lives. I love knowing that Bea still holds the memory of her first march dear – that she wants to continue this tradition. Who knows? Maybe we’ll expand to more. Maybe this will spark an interest in justice down the road.

For now, I’m remembering to give life time. To choose the activities that make sense for our family in this moment on the journey and to trust the process. I want to be careful as I raise my girls – that they will want to continue this new narrative as they grow older, without burning out at a young age.

I want to remember this for myself, too. That I’ve been given a whole lot of new information in these past two months. I’ve continued to read books, to dig deeper, and to question more. But I also need to let things sift and settle, to create time and space to allow all I’ve learned to swell and grow.

On Monday, we’ll likely join the march again as we start to set down roots and traditions in activism. And like last year, my biggest goal will be to stay warm and have fun. There will be plenty of time for deep conversations and grappling with reasons it’s so important to show up and march. For now, we’re gathering information and letting it grow.

What are some ways you are leaning into facts and ideas you’ve accumulated? How are you holding space for them to swell?

Learning Leads to Action

I’ve been thinking a lot about activism and how I want to model being active in our community, in politics, and in our world to the girls. At first, I was intimidated by SheLoves’ theme, “I keep showing up” because so often, I don’t show up. It’s easier to hide behind ideas than it is to bundle up and get outside. I hope today’s thoughts about showing up encourage you to put your learning into action. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the discussion!

annie-rim-learning-leads-to-action-3After weeks of temperate weather, we woke up the morning of Martin Luther King, Jr day to snow and temperatures well below freezing. I debated canceling our plans to attend the march. It seemed like a lot of effort to bundle up my two girls, find parking, stand in the cold, and march for four miles. Would they really remember this moment? Shouldn’t I wait until they are older, when they would appreciate all the effort that went into an outing like this?

As I scrambled eggs, I looked over to see my fleece pajama-clad girls reading sweetly by the fire. I grabbed my phone, intending to text our friends and say that we were opting for a cozy snow day. Instead, I listened to a Vox from another friend who said, “Just bring a thermos of hot chocolate!”

I finished making breakfast, we bundled up in layers, I made a big thermos of extra chocolaty hot cocoa, and we headed out on the icy roads to City Park. We found parking just a block away. There were tears, mittens got wet and the hot cocoa was spilled and refilled. We ran into friends from church. We walked for a few blocks before my friend and I were faced with a mutiny of five cold children, five years old and under.

After we carried our wailing children back to our cars, switched out wet socks for dry, and headed to a nearby McDonald’s Play place, my friend and I talked about the need for collective memory. I took a picture of me and the girls in a brief moment of smiles. I want them to remember that we did this and it was good.

On the drive home, I asked if they’d do it again. My two-year-old said no, she’d rather go to a park. But my five-year-old said yes! Green light checks! Read the rest over at SheLoves and join in the conversation!

How do you put your learning into action? Would you label yourself an activist?

The Power of Claiming a Label

When I was teaching, every year Mrs. Nichols would visit our school. We would gather on the uncomfortable pull-out bleachers in the gym and try to keep our students from I like myself!I like myself!I like myself!fidgeting too much. Mrs. Nichols was an energetic woman and would throw candy to kids who were sitting still and listening. Her job was to get the students excited about our yearly fundraiser of selling cheap wrapping paper in order to fill in funding gaps. (Lesson? Always vote to increase school funding.)

Before she would start the real assembly, Mrs. Nichols would have us all stand up, do a little dance, and repeat, I like myself! I like myself! I like myself!

This little dance and mantra made me highly uncomfortable. At 8-years-old, most of my students did like themselves. Why would they need this cheesy reminder? It wasn’t until I was complaining about Mrs. Nichols to Frank that I learned this was a common motivational speaking trick. The whole fake it till you make it or name it and claim it mentality.

As teachers, we practiced this in the classroom. When I started teaching, the trend was to call our students writers and artists and mathematicians and historians whenever we were teaching that particular subject. Sometimes it felt natural. When we were in the midst of writer’s workshop and working toward publishing our stories or an anthology of poetry, I found myself calling my students authors and poets.

Other times it felt completely fake. I had trouble calling my kids mathematicians as they struggled to remember the difference between quarter-past the hour and a quarter of a dollar. Learners sounded more natural at that point than mathematician.

The other day, Bea told me that she was going to be a leader during the day and an artist in the evening. I asked her what she would do as a leader and she responded, Oh, you know. Leadership things.

Maybe naming it and claiming it with kids feels unnatural because they already do it so well. My students set the bar high. If their dreams become reality, I’ll have taught future Broncos quarterbacks, millionaires, and movie stars. And maybe those dreams will come true. But most likely not, which is totally fine.

I struggle with claiming my dreams. I still flounder when talking about writing or the places I volunteer. I second guess my dreams and interests and label them as hobbies or just something I do during nap time.

There’s power in labels, certainly. We just celebrated Mother’s Day and I know for a lot of women, this is a label filled with conflicting emotions. In these intense years, it’s a label I feel like I have earned and one that is continually defining me. It’s a label that I’m learning means so much more than simply giving birth to two girls.

I’m learning to balance labeling things I know to be true, things I hope to be true, and the reality of what is true. I’m learning that, when I am confident with certain labels about myself, I am modeling confidence for my girls.

So, as Bea strives to be a leader, I’m encouraging her leadership skills now by calling her a leader. I don’t use the label flippantly, but I am on the lookout for those times when she is exhibiting those powerful skills. And I’m learning that the more I name her talents, the more confident she is in claiming them.

What are your views on naming and claiming labels? What are some labels that come naturally for you? Are there others you’re wishing to claim more confidently?

Raising Friends

When we first found out we were having two girls, I immediately thought, They’ll be friends!! Even though my brother and I are close and Frank and his sisters are, too, there seems to be something about a same-sex sibling relationship. I’ve always envied people who had sisters – who had a built-in best friend growing up and into adulthood.

IMG_3935A friend and I were recently laughing at that ideal. She and her sister are close in age and are friends. But she said she wouldn’t consider them best friends. Another friend said that she and her sister, who are 9 years apart in age, are still quite close. I suppose it’s more of a personality thing than an age thing.

The past couple months have seemed like a turning point for Bea & Elle’s relationship. After the newborn phase, where Bea was disappointed in Elle’s lack of interaction, to the frustrated She’s messing up my stuff!!!! phase, we’re finally in (somewhat) of a playmate phase.

The two are inseparable. They’ll draw together, mother their dolls together, eat together, read together. Elle can’t wait until Bea is done with school and Bea rushes to her with a bear hug at the end of the morning.

I know we still have many years of fostering friendship with these two. But I hope that these moments are a true glimpse into the future. That, through the tween and teen years and into college and adulthood, they’ll continue to create and share food and perhaps even mother together.

What is your relationship with your sibling like? How do you foster friendship among your kids?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “Friend.”

Finding Balance is a Gift

The windows are open, at least for a couple hours on this warm January afternoon. The backyard fountain is running, reminding me of summertime when it flows nonstop. Our new deck is finished and, with the sliding door open, I’m thinking about the next season and using this space that has been too unsound for us to enjoy since moving in.

img_3388During quiet rest, Bea curled up next to me with her pile of books while I read Rising Strong. I debated sending her into the playroom, which is our usual quiet rest custom. Both of us need time apart, time to reenergize. But I’ve been thinking about kindergarten a lot lately and how these days together are quickly coming to an end. So we snuggled and read and were just together for a while.

I’ve drafted several blog posts lately but none of them seem right. Perhaps it’s because of my helpers, never far, always talking. Perhaps it’s because when I want to write something deep and profound and yet also encouraging, I’m just too tired.

Like everyone else, the news is exhausting. I wake up in the morning wondering, what next? A friend recently wished we could return to the days when Facebook was newborns and what we ate for dinner. And while part of me wishes for that too, I also recognize the privilege I have in being able to turn it off. I don’t need to check the news all that often because the news doesn’t really directly impact me.

But I also recognize this reality and am finding this balance. Of feeling grateful that our lives continue without too much impact. And of finding ways to instill important values. How do I want my daughters to remember this time? How do I want them to view their childhood? What do I want our family story to say?

So, with these windows open and the true blessing of sitting at a big work table with my daughters working next to me, I’m thankful for our life right now. For the ability to enjoy this day and these moments. And I’m also looking into ways we can spend our money to support those who are far more equipped and qualified to fight injustice. I’m emailing organizations about volunteering our time as a family.

I’m remembering that finding the balance is a gift I’ve been given. And I don’t take that lightly at all.

How are you finding ways to balance the news and balance your outlook on life? What is your best way to practice perspective?

Raising Feisty Girls

When we got our puppy, we had a beautiful vision of our life as a family of three. Hikes, dog parks, frolicking along the trail by our house. We would take her to puppy school and train her to be The Best Dog – so friendly and welcoming!!

17868_286290712937_7754337_nThe first six months of Daisy’s life were almost that. She was inquisitive, friendly, fluffy and adorable. She loved puppy school and made new friends on her thrice-daily walks.

And then something happened and she remained deeply loyal and snuggly with us. But, us only. Her pack narrowed significantly to Frank and I, my parents, and friends she saw frequently.

Her bark became deep and she became suspicious of strangers in the park. We continued with the classes and she passed all but the barking portion.

554251_10151262307262938_1703121966_nWhen I was pregnant with Bea, Daisy became even more protective, giving a preemptive growl as we walked. When Bea was born, she wasn’t as protective but definitely had a new mission. Her skepticism toward others increased with Elle’s arrival.

My initial response when Daisy barks at the doorbell is to apologize profusely. I want her to be friendly and loving toward everyone. But I’m realizing (especially after she made some salespeople uncomfortable enough to leave with a shortened pitch) that having a protective dog isn’t a bad thing. (Especially during tax season!)

If a dog is your first (or only) child, then the parenting lesson I’ve learned from Daisy is that I can offer lessons and skills to be socially acceptable. I can guide and discipline and parent to the best of my ability. But I also need to recognize Daisy’s innate nature. She is a dog and she is wired to protect her family. That’s what she was made to do.

I’ve grappled with how to raise strong, independent, inquisitive daughters. And I think we’re doing a pretty good job so far. But I’m also learning to recognize and encourage the things they love without me – the princesses and warriors and books and running. I’m learning that whatever my girls are interested in, whatever innate skills they have, my job is to encourage and cultivate and help them do it in a socially appropriate manner.

And maybe, the biggest lesson I’m learning is that we were given three feisty girls to raise. As challenging as that can be, it’s also a pretty cool adventure.

Are you a dog owner? Are your dogs your kids? How does your dog parenting style line up with your human parenting style?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “protect.”