A Hoohah for a long overdue #WCW

It’s been forever since I wrote a #WCW post – life’s been full.  But this weekend was my 14th Annual Hoohah – where I gather with 4 of my best friends from college for a weekend.

A hoohah? I know you may be thinking in the words of Inigo Mantoya – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Well, yes and no! NOW we know it’s a euphemism for our lady parts, but when we came up with the word for our gathering, we didn’t. Once we realized WHY other people looked at us a little funny when we talked about the hoohah, we decided – what the heck?  The term obviously still applies and so 14 years later – the Hoohah proudly continues.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my hoohah friends, the women who have enriched my adult life in innumerable ways. Have no fear – they’ll each get their own #WCW – because each woman is a powerhouse in her own right. But for today – the group dynamics  🙂 It’s been 20 years since we all met the fall of our freshman year. It feels insane to think it’s been that long, but I find myself thinking about that time a bunch right now as I have friends sending their babies off to college for the first time.

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Pink Shirts from the First Hoohah

My first memories of Carolyn and Norah was the laughter. After the chaos of moving in and saying goodbye to our parents, my new roommate and I were quietly, shyly getting to know one another, stumbling through conversation – two introverts with intense personalities does not make for a boisterous atmosphere. But next door?! Gales of laughter! Lots of movement around the room, loud chatter – basically fun was being had. Little did I know that these women would eventually become some of my dearest friends.

I don’t remember when I first met Caitlin, but one of my first memories of hanging out with her was when we discovered that we both have the odd talent of being able to speak backwards. It’s a completely useless talent, but strangely entertaining to a limited audience. Hence, our friendship. (Mine’s Lehcar Nirac Tfark in case you were wondering.)

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Pink Hats and a baby belly – another common theme at Hoohahs!

I think I met Sam through Caitlin – they were roommates. And we became fast friends, rooming together the rest of our college time. She taught me how to play guitar and introduced me to all the cool music.

The five of us lived together in different pairings all through our college careers, shared classes, pulled all-nighters, experienced young love and broken hearts, pranked each other, cried on shoulders, took road trips, pulled off surprise parties, went to each other’s plays, recitals, and competitions. I have so many memories from college with these women, but it’s really the relationship since then that feels miraculous.

I graduated a year early and got married and part of me wondered if we’d stay close or if we’d drift. But ever since the summer of 2004, we’ve made it a mission to get together and HOOHAH! We’ve been through the highs and lows together – weddings and babies along with depression and anxiety, infertility, chronic illness, travelling spouses, uprooted families, assorted personal and familial crises of all nature. Our gatherings now also generally include a list of all the ways our bodies are beginning to betray us with the added benefit of Dr. Caitlin’s observations of the wonders of the human body.

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The first (and last) time kids (who weren’t breastfeeding) were invited to the hoohah….

(Seriously – having a PhD in Physiology in the group makes for some fascinating convos.) But one of the things I love about us is that we’ve not tried to relive college life once a year. Instead, we’ve just continued “living” with each other even from afar. We talk about whatever most consumes our thoughts that year. I treasure these friends who know all my history, who will ask about that thing that was going on last year – “Is that still going on? Has there been any change? How are you doing with that?” Jumping back in with these women for a weekend every year has been one of the most life-giving things to my heart.

So, I’ll end this with the ingredients for a successful hoohah, just in case you want to do this with your circle of girlfriends. (And you totally should.)

  1. Name it – you don’t HAVE to use a silly name that may or may not be a euphemism, but I can assure you it will never lose its hilarity if you do.
  2. Chocolate – our favorite is York peppermint patties. Just make sure whatever it is, you bring a ridiculous amount of it.

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    yeah. sugar plays a role at the hoohah
  3. Matching attire – The first hoohah we had shirts. Bright Pink Shirts. With the words “First Annual Hoohah” emblazoned across the chest. And yes, of course we walked all around DC in them. No, we didn’t realize the double meaning at that time. Yes, I felt slightly ridiculous walking around in it BY MYSELF when I had to duck out of the hoohah to say goodbye to my deploying husband. Now we have pink hats! And we wear them, sometimes in public.
  4. Delicious food – this one has become even more important as we have spawn who have ridiculous food restrictions or who just won’t touch food that isn’t beige or who can’t be trusted to remain civilized in a restaurant for more than 5 minutes. We pick yummy, local favorites and eat family style.
  5. Nicknames and just general goofiness – life is full of #$*%$(@.
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    Bring back the silly – then, maybe don’t give the pictures to the blogger?

    Allow yourselves a weekend of nicknames, inside jokes, and not caring if you look foolish. There’s something incredibly empowering about just being yourself with your buddies and allowing that experience to buoy you for weeks afterward.

  6. Keep it simple – usually we just go stay at one of our homes. The husband and kids get to be there too, but usually stay far away from the hoohah zone once the yorks start flowing. We’ve done one where we rented a beach house and we’re looking to do a bigger one when we all hit a milestone birthday – but I think a big reason we’ve been able to keep up the tradition is that we’ve tried to keep it simple (and cheap).

Carolyn, Norah, Caitlin, and Sam – Can’t believe how lucky I am that you’re in my life. I crush at you.

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Some thoughts on the beginnings of our love story.

The first time I met him, I didn’t know I had met him. My friend had conspired with him to introducing me to two guys that night – one was “Ramon” a tall guy with a crazy mop of brown hair.  I was confused by his abrupt departure from the room after our introduction.  About 10 minutes (if that) after I met “Ramon”, I met Tom – a tall guy with close-cropped brown hair and brilliant blue eyes.  I didn’t notice the rest of the night that “Ramon” never made another appearance. It was MONTHS later that I figured out (or my friends told me) that Tom and Ramon were the same person.  (Apparently Tom couldn’t wait to shed the Ramon persona – our mutual interest sparked early!)

We were 14 when this meeting occurred. 23 years later and we’re celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary this weekend. Our love story has been full of these kinds of moments – the silly, the awkward, the friend-conspired, the only-one-of-us-in-on-it kind of moment.

Now that we have a 14-year-old in the house, it feels unreal that the seeds of our romance started so young. Whenever friends have wanted to know our origin story, I’ve always joked with them that they probably don’t want their teenagers in the room to hear the story.  But I feel differently now with my own daughter.  It’s ok for me that she knows her dad and I started dating really early and stayed together.

I think if that were the end of what we communicated to her, there could be some confusion, and even pressure to follow the same path, but I hope that sharing the fullness of the story helps all of our kids see that the road to love and fulfilling relationship is not a formula you can replicate.  I don’t believe in soul mates or fate or destiny. I do believe in faith, commitment, and perseverance. There were plenty of voices in my life telling me I could do better, or that there were more fish in the sea, or questioning if I wanted to settle down so early.

Now I look back on some of those conversations and think to myself – had they ever talked to a teenager before?!? Did they really think those kinds of comments or questions would change anything?? I’m thankful that the people closest to us – our parents and closest friends – just kind of rode the wave with us, seeing where it would take us without a lot of commentary.  I think that a simple infatuation works itself out pretty quickly without much interference from others outside the relationship.

That message of “I could do better” though? How hurtful. It still stings. I do not live under the delusion that either one of us is perfect, but that concept of “doing better” is just so icky.  So, I’ll just end this by talking about how I think I COULDN’T have done better, how he’s the BEST fish in the sea for me, and how I’m so glad I got started on life with him as soon as was absolutely possible.

Tom’s faithfulness and integrity have always been evident. When he makes a commitment to something or someone, he keeps it. He shows up even when it’s inconvenient. He does the right thing when no one is watching and gives credit to others whenever possible.

Tom is fun. He does not hesitate to get on the floor with his kids and tickle them until they say, “Please Stop!” He’ll initiate a dance party in the living room (although, honestly, I think he just likes the excuse to test the sound of the speakers at any opportunity). He takes every opportunity to laugh at the absurdity of our life, and tries hard to push away the serious nature of his day job when he walks in the door at the end of the day. He loves to do fun things with his family – hiking, swimming, going fast on the jet skis, biking, playing games – you name it, he loves having fun with his people.

He is generous with his time and affections.  He’s always available to help a neighbor or family member. He plays with his nephews and nieces with the same enthusiasm as his own kids. When we were being foster parents, he didn’t hold back his love from the two little ones in our care. He resisted the urge to be stand-offish, to hold back in a desire to self-preserve in anticipation of their departure from our home. He’s not afraid to show his affection and love for his kids out in public. My favorite memory of this that happened recently was at Lydia’s softball tournament on Father’s Day. We were up on a hill in the shade watching the game. Lydia made an incredible play and Tom just whooped and shouted – “That’s my Lydia!!!” at the top of his lungs. I love him for that.

Tom is intelligent and thoughtful. We talk about deep and heavy things often – it’s what we introverts love to do! Even when he holds a strong opinion that’s different than mine, he listens to what I have to say. We refine each other’s opinions and beliefs. He uses his intelligence to help others solve problems instead of retreating from those without his same knowledge.

He is a great friend! He values my friendships with my girl friends – buying our favorite treats for our annual getaway. He pays attention to the things his friends and I enjoy and remembers them when it’s time to give a gift or when they’re having a bad day.

He geeks out about many of the same things I do (and indulges my inner geek even when it doesn’t overlap with his.) He’s not quite as in to Star Trek as I am, but his love for Dr. Pepper, Star Wars, Princess Bride, and Tchaikovsky to name a few, more than make up for it.

I could go on all day really.  17 years in to this marriage and I know for sure I’ve got a keeper.  Every year and every new adventure reveals more about his character. The more I get to know him, the more I love him.

Happy Anniversary babe – thanks for taking off that wig 23 years ago and introducing me to the real you.

Summer’s coming – keep those kids busy!

So, I guess since it’s almost the end of May (WHA?? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN ALREADY?), we should maybe start thinking about summer. Whenever I think about summertime and the new routine of kids being home and how it’s all going to shake out, I think of my friend, Kristen Mason. You guys are going to LOVE her if you don’t already.

I met Kristen back in the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) days pre-Bethany and Michael, when Becca was 3 or 4 and Lydia was 2ish. She was the leader of our group of Table Leaders, and was a huge encouragement to me as a mom of tiny people that life would continue at some point and my brain cells would (maybe) return. Her kids were just a couple of years older, but you could tell she wasn’t living in that perpetual state of sleep-deprivation that is evident on the faces of moms of babies and toddlers. She also didn’t have anyone in diapers, which felt to me like a Mecca I would never see.

Anyway, it was so great to be around someone who had survived toddlerhood, but who still remembered it, AND who had great tips for how we too could survive and then transition our kiddos into the next stages. I watched her continue to step out of her comfort zones and expand her crafting business, begin speaking at area MOPS meetings (If you’re anywhere in Northern Virginia and you attend a MOPS group, you’ve probably heard her speak), and eventually launch a website focused on parenting, learning, and purposeful living. She has been a personal inspiration – someone who’s had dreams and has chased after them well.

The reason I bring her up as we approach summer is because of her FABULOUS site called Busy Kids, Happy Mom. She has so much great stuff there; you really must check it out. One of my favorite things is her program of “Summer Points“. It’s basically a way to make (and keep!) a doable plan for your summer. You set up certain tasks/chores/accomplishments for your kids (or you) to achieve over the summer and assign them a point value. When the family/kid get to certain point values, there are rewards.

What I like about the Summer Points is that she has so many great ideas for helping the summer not just get to the “I’m bored” phase super quickly. She’s trained as a teacher, so she has great resources and idea on how to keep up summer learning. We’ve used summer points to encourage learning a new skill – like using the stove for cooking a meal. For that kind of thing, I highly recommend her Life Skills lists. These have been so helpful to me when figuring out what kids of jobs the kids can do around the house.  There are also great suggestions on there for when your kids developmentally can do certain things. Definitely check it out here – Life Skills List.

Through her inspiration, over past summers, my girls have planned the menu for dinners and dessert and then cooked/baked them, memorized scripture, read different genres of books, learned to mow the lawn, learned to ride their bikes, improve swim times, and more. We’ve “earned” family overnights in a hotel, trips to the movies or baseball games, family game nights, and downtown adventures.

I hope you check out Kristen’s resources – they really will inspire you and give you practical tools (that actually work!) to survive your summer and come out the other side having experienced some great things as a family.

My mom, part 2 – The Reverend

Last week ended up being too full to get this part 2 post wrapped up and sent out, but I didn’t forget about it! If you missed Part 1, check it out here – it’s a few snapshots of my relationship with my mom and is a great setup for today’s post.

I’ve been a pastor’s kid my whole life. Someone once asked me if it was strange that it was my dad up on the platform preaching, and my response was, “No, because it’s always been that way. It feels more strange when it’s NOT him.” When I moved away from home and those conversations came up about who we were and where we came from, I almost always answered that my parents were pastors. Many would exclaim, oh really?! They’re BOTH pastors?! And I would correct them and say, “well, technically, my dad is the pastor, but they’re both so integral to the running of the church that I see them as a unit, pastoring the church.”

IMG_8396This past week, my mom made it official – she is now an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God. In addition to her decades of real-life ministry experience, she took classes at night and over weekends to fulfill the requirements: classes on theology, biblical history, and leadership. She did this in addition to her full-time job and her role as worship leader at our church, all while still showing up as a wife, mother, and grandmother. My dad gave her the pulpit several Sundays to give her time to practice preaching and teaching and finding her own voice. Watching her pursue this goal and watching my dad support her in it has been life-giving to me as their daughter in innumerable ways.

I may write something a little later that fleshes out my thoughts in a more general manner regarding credentials and ordination of women and what it all means. There are interesting conversations happening around this subject, and I may dive in sometime.

But today – it’s really about my mom and my daughters. I’ve heard it said that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” It occurred to me last Monday that my daughters are seeing a woman step up into roles of leadership and pastoral authority and to them, it feels obvious. It is the next step. They won’t think it’s odd to hear their grandmother preach – they’re growing up with it. We adults all felt the gravity of the moment. There were tears through the smiles. In these days, in this society, with our history, my mom’s ordination MEANS something.

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Family row at the service – forgive the lighting

I tried to explain a little bit of the significance to my daughters but truly it was foreign to them that some would (and will continue to…) find this step offensive. They really didn’t get it – and for that I’m thankful. While I do want them to understand the history that we stand on, I’m grateful that this moment was one of simple celebration for them.

It was such a pleasure going to the ordination service. There were about 30 other people getting ordained that night and watching the diversity of age, gender, and race walk up to the podium was very meaningful. There were at least two married couples who had gone through the process together and were being ordained together. It is our network’s 100th year anniversary this year, so the service was extra special and drew national leaders to the stage. These new leaders were charged with some excellent (and challenging!) remarks by our General Superintendent Dr. George Wood. IMG_8390

As a participant in the service, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for the future of at least our small corner of the church world. There is so much pain and brokenness going on in the church. Last week’s service didn’t change that and won’t heal the wounds overnight. But I couldn’t help but begin to see a rising tide of sound, strong leaders taking their place.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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Proud granddaughters. My little one wouldn’t stop hugging her! #allthefeelings

 

A two-part #WCW: My mom

The next two week’s #WCW will be dedicated to my mom. We’re coming up on Mother’s Day and she has a big professional milestone around the corner so I wanted to give some extra space for that!

Next week, my mom will be ordained as a minister in the Assemblies of God. She’s been working towards this step for several years and I couldn’t be prouder. I’m taking my big girls at least to the ordination service and next week’s #WCW will be much more about that side of things.  This week will be mainly about the mothering side – childhood memories and the ongoing relationship of an adult relationship with my mom, and next week I’ll brag on her other “outside the home” accomplishments. What follows are some snapshots – a few memories that try (and will fail) to capture a lifetime of moments.

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no bedhead pictures – but this smile is the one I think of while singing that song…

Childhood:  I’m sleeping and my mom pops in the bedroom and starts singing in a loud whisper voice – “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory” – then her voice increases to a regular tone and she almost shouts the last phrase – “RISE AND SHINE AND [clap] give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!”  We didn’t use alarms – my mom preferred to greet we non-morning-loving people with overly cheerful and peppy songs! It makes me giggle remembering shuffling out to the breakfast table with eyes barely open with the soundtrack of my mom’s voice in the background.

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Senior Prom – the only teenager picture I could find of me and my mom…

Teenager: It was the weekend of my 16th birthday and my mom had driven me several hours away to a softball tournament.  In the middle of one of the games, my teammates stood up and started singing Happy Birthday to me and then my mom told me it was time to leave. I had no idea what was going on – I left in the middle of the game!! She told me she had already cleared it with the coach and that she just needed me to trust her.  We head out in to the parking lot and she throws me the keys to drive home. I’m in shock, as I’m still in the learning phase and wasn’t sure she quite trusted me. In the next 2 minutes, I gave her cause NOT to trust me driving, when I turned too much pulling out of the spot and slammed in to the car next to us. Yes, my first ‘accident’ was pulling out of a parking spot. I’m pretty sure my mom shrieked, but then just calmly came around to my side and switched places with me, leaving a note on the car that we hit to call us for any damages, and drove home. Fairly quickly her annoyed attitude shifted to excitement and she tried to draw me out of my ashamed sheepishness. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had invited several of my friends to the symphony playing at Constitution Hall downtown and we were going to be getting home just in time for me to shower and change into something nice. She was dropping all these little hints about what I should do when I got home – and I was so confused because none of them were related to my driving disaster! I actually still don’t even know what happened with that, because once we got home it was all party time. She graciously allowed me my moment and didn’t allow it to squelch the day’s fun.

 

Adulting – I had just had my first baby. We’d been home for a few days and my mom was about to leave to go back home. My husband came home, a bit shell-shocked, to tell me that his chain of command had decided that instead of remaining behind as the commander of the rear detachment, as had been the plan leading up to my delivery, he was now going to be deployed with the rest of his company to the Middle East for an indefinite number of months.  I remember vividly seeing my mom on the couch, hearing this devastating news, and then literally crawling into her lap. I for sure didn’t fit there any more, but it was the only place I could figure out to go. I just bawled there for a bit and she let me cry it out. Then, we started figuring out how we would handle it. It would be ok, we decided. We could do this. THANKFULLY, the powers that be came to their senses and changed their minds. We didn’t have to figure it out. But I’ll never forget that moment of crawling back in to my mom’s lap like a little kid and her letting me, and then helping me get back up on my feet.

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Mom and Becca admiring a fish I caught. Several months post-breakdown

These are such short moments in a lifetime of fun, surprising, and calming ones. Love you mom!

Local Business #WCW – Play, Work, or Dash

It’s been awhile since I highlighted an outstanding woman in my circle for #WCW.  I’ve got one for you today PLUS a teaser about some new things coming down the pipeline for me.

If you don’t already know this about me, I have four children with a large age gap between numbers 3 and 4. Just when I was beginning to think about starting back up a career again after being home (for the most part) with the kids for 12 years, I found out I was pregnant with baby number 4. One of the things that I remember my husband saying to me during those early weeks (okay months) of reeling with the news was that we didn’t have to do things the same way this time. He was supportive of me continuing the journey of what I’d already started – figuring out what I want to do when I grow up, pursuing opportunities, etc.

But, HOW??? For real? Well, when Michael was a few months old, I learned about a new place in our area, called Play, Work, or Dash that was offering a unique solution to moms like me.

The founder of PWD is Nicole Dash; she and her little community over there at PWD are my #WCW for today.  This spot is so wonderful and has been an incredible asset to my life these past several months. Here’s the basic concept – it’s a co-working space with childcare.  There’s a cute office suite over in Tysons – you walk in, drop your kids (ages 9 months up to 8 years old) in the lovely playroom that is staffed with great childcare workers, and head out in to the lounge area to do some work, or upstairs to the shared office space. Upstairs is a kitchen with snacks and coffee, multiple workstations with outlets, a printer, and miscellaneous office supplies. There’s also a conference room that you can book for meetings or just reserve to have even more quiet space to work.

If all of that wasn’t enough to radically open up the possibilities of pursuing my career options, Nicole also began offering workshops to her members. Each one of these that I have been able to attend have been very worthwhile. I’ve gained skills that helped me in some of my volunteer roles, my paid jobs, and also just overall with managing my life.

I’m so grateful to Nicole and to the other women entrepreneurs I’ve met at PWD for having the courage to pursue their dreams. It’s been such an inspiring thing to learn about all these people in my area pursuing very interesting careers in various industries.  I love the little community you’re building at Play, Work, or Dash – the sense of camaraderie and “me too” of young moms trying to do life around the chaos of toddlers and preschool, the environment of empowerment without competition.

That saying of a rising tide lifting all boats rings very true at Play, Work, or Dash – I see women being able to go ahead and take on that new client, get back to doing what they love, or start a new thing.

As for me – I am starting a new thing. I’ll talk more about it another day. There is lots of background as to why, how, and when I’m starting this new thing. But one very large reason I went ahead and took the plunge is because of the air I breathe at Play, Work, or Dash – parent-honoring, business-savvy, child-loving air.

Thank you Nicole!

 

Dismantling White Supremacy – One book at a time

Over the past couple of years, my heart has been tuning in more and more to the issue of race and our country’s particular struggle to reconcile with our past and with one another.

It’s not a topic that I’ve only recently been interested in; I was very affected by the Rodney King beating in the 90s and wrote a paper on racial hostility in middle school. But, for the most part, my attitude has been one of despair, frustration, helplessness, and ignorance.

Through multiple venues, I’ve been encouraged to not stay in that place, but to step out into getting myself educated and speaking out when appropriate. I’ve learned that the systems of White Supremacy are alive and well inside all of us – it’s just basically the air we breathe. At first, it seemed like I was doing literally nothing by just reading different authors and exposing myself to different voices, but I’m beginning to see a real change in my attitudes through this simple act of educating myself. I still have a long way to go, but I just wanted to go ahead and put this out there in case there are others who are feeling helpless and don’t know where to start. I’m going to list some of the things I’ve read or listened to that have broadened my understanding of the issues and that have encouraged me in the path ahead. I’d love to hear what’s helped you if you’re on this journey as well!

I’ve grouped these by kid/teen appropriate and adult appropriate. The further along the journey I go, I realize it’s important to expose our kids to these stories too since our public education system glosses over so much/doesn’t have the time to dive deep.

Children’s books:

  • Echo – by Pam Munoz Ryan; historical fiction (it takes place between 1930’s Germany and 1940’s USA with a bit of a flash forward at the end to a few decades later.) mixed with mystical elements. It’s character driven and is an expertly crafted story. I loved every bit of it and would read it again. I highly recommend the audio version; music plays a key role in the story and in the audio version all the pieces mentioned in the text are played. My daughters both read this and loved it.
  • The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Anything by this author is great. He writes attention grabbing fiction without being sensational or graphic. This book takes place during the Great Depression and chronicles the life of a young girl and her family in the Detroit area.
  • Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Similar era to The Mighty Miss Malone with a few crossover characters. Another enjoyable read!
  • The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson. This author has a few gorgeous picture books that you should definitely pick up. This one focuses on two girls who live close to each other but are prohibited by their parents to play with one another because of their differently colored skin. It’s beautifully written and illustrated with the perfect amount of tension for the youngest readers to grasp.

Older Kids and/or Teen Books:

  • Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson; A powerful, but painful, book. I haven’t had my olders read it yet, partly because it was so painful to me to read. This is my own fragility and they’ll be able to handle it – just saying you might want to pre-read for your tween or younger, especially if they’re sensitive.  Juxtaposing slavery with the freedom and liberty propaganda of the American Revolutionary era is a tough pill to swallow.  It’s written from a child’s perspective with easy to understand language and very little “dialect” that is inaccessible. I wanted the ending to have a more definitive positive outlook, but that is just my preference.  There is at least one more book in the series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as this one.
  • One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia; A story about three girls and their (fairly incompetent to put it nicely) mother during the era of the Black Panthers. It’s not a story I’m familiar with at all so it all felt fresh and new to me. The hardest thing for me to read was the treatment of the girls by their mother (which is the main thing pushing it to the older kids/teen side of the list). But (without spoiling too much) the ending was better than expected and left me wanting more of these characters. I loved them all.
  • A House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros; “Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.” (from the Goodreads description)

Adult Books:

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson; a challenging and sometimes heartbreaking read about our justice system and the ways it has been a tool for injustice way more often than it should. This one was really tough to read and I had to back off of doing any more reading in this genre for a while so I could process everything.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi – a novel that (for me, anyway) illustrated in extremely effective fashion what the term institutional racism really is and how it affects life today for everyone. That term is never used in the book, but the characters experience it throughout. The structure of the book can throw you off a bit and keeping track of all the characters was sometimes difficult, but it was a book I had a hard time putting down.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, written as a letter to his son, this book is a highly personal account of one person’s path through the smog of racialized thinking that is America. It was tough to read much of this account – he does not shy away from sharing his anger at many events that have happened recently in our country. I usually throw up walls at that kind of language and had to try and just hear it as someone’s story and not someone being angry literally at me.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss; the book follows the father of Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo. His father was the son of a white French aristocrat and a black slave woman, born in Saint-Domingue (current day Haiti). It was a fascinating book. There was so much in it that I did not know about the French Revolution, the American Revolution and just how much whitewashing goes on in history and media. There were at least hundreds, if not thousands, of black soldiers fighting in the French Revolution, but that has never been represented anywhere that I can remember. I also had no idea that Napoleon’s rise to power was such a disaster for civil rights in France and its colonies.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini; this one is just an excellent story that will keep you up at night. I loved that I got to understand Afghanistan outside the usual narrative of terrorism and war.

Good Faith, by Gabe Lyons and Dave Kinnaman; this is not a book specifically about race or racial reconciliation – it is about how the church can do a better job at interacting with the culture. They dedicated a chapter though to the church’s high rate of segregation and the divisions along racial lines in church and political thought as well. It was a helpful and informative read.

Other Resources/ Influencers I’m Following:

Be The Bridge Facebook Page; a non-profit dedicated to Inspire & Equip ambassadors of racial reconciliation; to Build a community of people who share a common goal of creating healthy dialogue about race.

LaTasha Morrison – Founder of Be The Bridge, an incredible leader who is leading great conversations about how to bring racial reconciliation to our churches and to our country.

Truths Table – a podcast by three black women that is just – wow.

Lecrae – a hip hop artist who is using his platform to challenge evangelicals in their thinking regarding race.

This is not an exhaustive list, just some that have helped me thus far.  I still have lots of books and movies on my list that I hope to get to soon.  I’d love to get more recommendations too; so share your favorites with me! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and encourage you to choose compassion:

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”