Thursday, April 28, 2016

Breaking the Chains

With minimal help, lots of research, and a ton of creativity, they pulled it off. 

For weeks, the teens worked in their medium - spoken word, photography, art, music, dance, video, theater, and so much more. They gathered on a Friday evening to show what they had put together. It was the most emotional rehearsal I'd ever witnessed. Once again on Saturday, they took the stage to perform, this time in front of an audience of parents, drug addicts, and strangers. 

Each year, Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT, responds to a social issue with art. This year's Arts Response was Drug Addiction: Breaking the Chains. Stories of heartache and hope were shared through various artforms. Personal stories of lives affected by addiction left some in the audience sobbing. Other displays took one's breath away. 

These teens didn't merely learn about the dangers of drug addiction sitting through a lecture by parent or teacher, they did the work themselves, delving into the world of addiction enough to be forever changed by what they discovered. During the talk-back session that followed, teens revealed the ease at which any of them could procure drugs or alcohol in that moment. They expressed the horror they felt when learning of clothing companies glorifying drug use and mental illness through fashion. They talked powerfully about their own experiences with friends and family members who are, or were, or died as drug addicts.

What I'll remember most about that night, though, isn't the performances, the artwork, or the work the amazing young adults put into this. Or making pasta for twenty something people two nights in a row. What I will remember is the teen who ran out of the theater and the two who ran out right after him to make sure he was ok. Who sat with him and said, "I don't know what to say or do to help you right now, so I'm going to sit here with you as long as you need me to. Just let me know what you need." 

What I'll remember is what Epoch has taught these children through Arts Response and other programs, and through the way they treat every single person who walks through the door. The kindness, compassion, and acceptance modeled for and encouraged in all who enter Epoch Arts shines through the actions of these youth. It is this that I will carry with me from that night, because it is this that these young people carry out with them every time they journey into the world, thanks to the beautiful people who volunteer their time and talent to make Epoch the beacon of safety and love that it is. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Give and Take

Some days the phone rings and you get to say yes, do what you can, be a shoulder to cry on, make more dinner, hold a baby, or sit with little ones as they fall asleep. You get to say words you know don't mean as much as you wish they could and do your best to be the best friend you can given the situation. 

Some days, you get to deliver a meal or help clean up or just sit and listen. You get to put together a little gift or pay a bill or do some heavy lifting. You get to pick up children or groceries or medications or all of the above. 

Some days, you get to watch your children step up to an unexpected challenge, clean up, make room, and share. And sometimes one of those children, who has issues with happenings that are out of the ordinary, has some troubles, but that's ok, too. He's doing the best that he can, just like the rest of us.

Some days, you take more than you give; you feel like a burden; you know you are asking too much. You feel you are counting too much on others and should be able to stand on your own two feet. Life seems to be against you or you feel more broken than you ever have before. Worries become your biggest burden. 

But other days you get to pay it forward - to balance the scales. There may be days or months or years in between the taking days and the giving days, but that's ok. The needing gives others the opportunity to give and to provide and to feel wonderful to be able to do so. 

We wish all days could be unicorns and rainbows, but when the storm comes we get to be blessed to be a blessing or blessed to receive a blessing. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Freedom to Pee

All I want is for my children to be able to go to the bathroom with people of their same gender. Is that too much to ask?

When my boys were a bit younger ... the ages where they feel the need to go to the men's room, but Mama is still a bit uncomfortable having them do so... they walked into the men's room at Costco. I waited outside, always a little nervous about my children going into a restroom on their own. A man walked by me and into the restroom. He swiftly exited, checked the sign, and re-entered. He was back out as quickly as the first time. I looked at him and said, "they're boys - they just have long hair." The reply, "are you sure?" nearly had me on the floor with laughter, but I held myself together. "Yes. They were standing at urinals, weren't they?" Beet red, the man walked into the restroom for the third time. 

Some people want to force women to use men's restrooms and men to use women's bathrooms. They want to deny others access to restrooms that match their genders and won't consider a single-occupant bathroom option for those not comfortable using a restroom with multiple stalls. To me, that's just wrong.

I have friends who are transgender and would no more want them to be required to use facilities that don't match up with their gender than I would want my daughters to be forced to use the men's room or my sons to use the women's room.

Seeing so many arguments about the imagined dangers of allowing transgender people into gender-appropriate restrooms saddens me. Every single one is based on fear. 

But sexual predators will pretend to be transgender and take advantage of the opportunity to use the opposite gender bathroom, right? If someone is set on committing a sex crime, they'll figure out how to do it, regardless of who is allowed into which restroom. Allowing transgender people to use gender-appropriate facilities won't provide any more opportunity than not allowing them to do so.

Should we have separate restrooms for people born with both male and female genitalia? Should we ban parents from bringing their opposite-gendered children into the restroom with them, forcing them to leave their child standing outside the restroom door unattended and at risk? What about colleges with co-ed bathrooms? Should those be banned as well?

I'm not sure how people using the gender-appropriate restroom became such a topic of debate. I now fear for my long-haired children with penises, as this whole debate could now put them at risk of getting harassed in a public restroom. I fear for my children with vaginas, should they once again choose the short haircuts that so often got them mistaken for boys, that they might get kicked out of a women's room as happened to a woman on the news recently. 

Why can't we all just pee without worrying which genitalia are attached to the people who are peeing? Do you have enough interaction with bathroom patrons to really figure out which body parts they do and do not have? Honestly, we should be more worried about the health risks those who don't wash their hands after using the restroom pose than the imagined risks of "inappropriate" genitalia in a bathroom.

Which restroom should the people in the photos in this post use?

Hint: there are five photos of boys and five containing girls. None are transgender (unless one of them tells me differently).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So Much

Sometimes life is filled with so much that some things fall to the wayside.

I was so busy, I crashed. And then I had more, and more, and more ahead of me. 

Friday the girls and I were off at 5:30AM to set up for the LLL Healthcare Provider Seminar Silent Auction. After a day of learning, and wrapping up the auction, I enjoyed a poolside conversation with a friend while our girls splashed in the hotel's saltwater pool. After a nearly sleepless night during which a certain eight year old punched me in the face several times, disturbing my already disastrous sleep, it was time to set up and run another silent auction. Leaving at noon, we rushed to Epoch Arts for Mainstage rehearsal and then we were on to my parents' house for a big surprise.

Did I mention my in-laws arrived at our house on Friday evening while the girls and I were staying at the hotel? 

Upon entering Gramma and Papa's house, Haley was surprised by balloons, decorations, and Gram and Grammy from PA, and others wishing her a Happy Birthday. Seeing as her birthday isn't until June, it was a tremendous surprise. 

Sunday found us at church as usual, followed by good food, games, and a relaxing sort of day. Monday's snow kept us close to home, doing some thrift and other shopping and getting a beta fish for Alia. Sundaes and home movies were the afternoon's entertainment, along with the traditional card playing. 

Tuesday saw Gram and Grammy off to their home in PA. After TNSS and choir, I was happy to be home, as I was still exhausted from the busy long weekend. 

Then the phone rang.

I dashed out the door to pick up two lovely girls, who were up well past their bedtime. Safely back at my house, I put them to bed in the airbed just vacated by my in-laws. A text shortly after 3AM brought the good news of the birth of their baby brother - all 10lbs 4oz of him! I could barely wait to tell the girls.

Wednesday morning found me rushing to church to retrieve something for a friend and then having coffee with another friend. Upon arriving home, head pounding from a migraine, I took a 20 minute nap. Refreshed, I loaded our two guests into my van and we were off to meet baby brother. To say they were extremely excited would be an understatement. I was blessed to witness these two precious sisters meet their brother for the first time, and to see the joy on their parents' faces as they watched their daughters' delight. My friend Emily is truly an amazing Mama!

So much happened in the past couple weeks that writing fell to the wayside. So many blessings filled every day, that I fell into bed blissfully exhausted each night. So much has filled my thoughts and my heart to overflowing, but putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard just hasn't happened. How wonderful when there is so much life to live!