faith, life lessons, Losing Dad, politics, religion, Uncategorized

The Pastor’s Kid

When I was growing up, I thought the worst thing a person could be was a pastor’s kid. For me, being a pastor’s kid meant going to church every Sunday and being there most of the day. It meant going there on other days too. Lots of other days. It meant moving to different towns and schools and always having just enough, but having to go without some things like annual trips to Disney or having huge birthday parties or an exorbitant amount of gifts at Christmas. It meant teachers would remind me that I should be better, do better, act better, because of who my dad was. It meant always feeling like an outsider among friends. It meant denying my faith over and over in an attempt to fit in. Trying to be someone I wasn’t never won me any friends, but when I was young I thought that all of my problems stemmed from my father’s occupation. So, distancing myself from that seemed like the only way to survive. But we are all adults now and if there is anything we should know by now, it is that being who we really are is the easiest way to live and thrive.

Tonight my daughter was restless and asked me to sing to her to help her sleep. I laid beside her in the bed and sang eleven songs. ELEVEN! It was an entire concert in the dark for my only fan. It was a concert of hymns. Each time I looked over and saw she was still wide-eyed, I thought about how lucky I am that I grew up in a pastor’s home. I probably know a hundred hymns and camp songs and I can sing them nonstop for my daughter until her spirited brain finally rests.

As an adult, these moments happen often. I now realize just how lucky I am to be a pastor’s kid. I can still smell the dozens of burning candles on Christmas Eve and the wood pews that filled the sanctuary. I remember rainy days when we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful with all of the doors to the small country church wide open while the rain poured down outside adding its own harmony to the song. That smell and that song remind me that there is something greater than all of us. I can still taste the varied, and sometimes odd, flavors of the church potluck dinner. That rainbow colored plate of food made with a dash of competition and pound of love was more a part of who I am than any foodie dish I eat now.

Being a pastor’s kid means that I have seen the top of the bell tower and the back of the organ pipes. I’ve rung the church bells at improper times and I’ve paid the price for doing so. I’ve laid down under the back pew and rolled down under all the pews until I slammed into the altar rail. I’ve had the church giggles hundreds of times. You know the ones when you or your friend says something wildly inappropriate during church and in trying to hide your laughter, you actually break into an uncontrollable laughter that has to squirt out of your eyes because you can’t stop? It probably happened that time you peed your pants in church. It’s a common side effect of church giggles.

Being a pastor’s kid meant driving across the country, through Canada, and up to Alaska when I was five and making the return trip when I was nine. Our parents told us how magnificent creation was and then they showed it to us. When you see the Badlands, The Grand Tetons, Wild Horse, Glacier National Park, the Yukon, and the miraculous Denali before you even hit 4th grade, it is hard not to believe in God or some higher power. Religion or not, there is a spiritual element to seeing these places.311149_10150294264747005_289428017_n

Being my dad’s kid meant living in a small house in the woods of Alaska that ran out of water. It meant a family of five practically living on top of each other and riding to the mountain spring together to fill jugs of water so we could eat and bathe in the dead of winter. It meant our parents waking us up in the middle of the night so we could stand out in our wooded  driveway in moon boots and nightgowns to hear the crackling of the rainbow colored aurora borealis that seemed so close we could almost touch it. It meant running across snow and ice in our swimsuits to jump into the hot springs when it was 20 below zero outside.

As a young child, I remember visiting hospitals with my dad; waiting in the hallway and listening to him pray with people who were sick and lonely. I remember praying for the mean kids in school because my parents said they were the ones who needed it the most even if I didn’t like them. I remember saying thanks and saying thanks again and always being taught to be grateful for what I had. I remember visiting shut-ins with my mom when she worked with meals-on-wheels. I remember welcoming people from every race, ethnicity, and economic status into our home. I remember my parents treating everyone the same. From the suicidal teenager to the prestigious Bishop from Nigeria, our doors were open and there was always a place to stay and food on the table.

I was raised by a pastor who put love first and didn’t focus on hell-fire or political issues. He (and my mother) taught us that our faith meant giving, caring for, loving, and thanking. It meant welcoming others and being empathetic and learning about those who were different from us. Our faith meant seeing injustice and fighting against it. Our faith meant removing hatred from our vernacular. Following Jesus wasn’t about getting into heaven or avoiding hell, it was about loving everyone. 
I will be 40 soon and I honestly have been struggling with whatever my faith is now. Religion in general has angered me and the people who claim to be doing things in God’s name seem to be missing the whole point.  I belong to a church family, but I find it hard to participate or show up because of the pain I see coming from “the church” as a whole. The complete lack of empathy and love seems to come from a dark place that I am not familiar with. Still, when I am coming to the end of my day and trying to settle my daughter, nothing works better than singing Be Thou My Vision, or His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I still cry when I sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing because I can hear my dad’s voice in the words. Those old hymns slow my breath and my blood pressure and remind me of the faith I once knew and help me believe it is still possible.

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Bad Ass, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run, Uncategorized

back to life. back to reality

Five years ago, I would have been ashamed to post this photo. While 4 miles is no easy task, the time it took me to complete them tonight was about twice what it used to take me to run four miles. Tonight I had to run, jog, and walk to get there. Also, due  to toddler difficulties, I had to do it on a treadmill. Again. After 10pm. Five years ago, I ran at least 5 miles 4 times a week and 10 or more on weekend days and biked the 22 mile greenbelt around Harrisburg at least once a week. But this isn’t a story about a runner who is trying to win a race or be the fastest or show people how good I am at running. This is a story about someone coming back to life. It took me three years to slowly fade away and it will take time to come back.

After I had my daughter, I got back to running, lost more than all the baby weight, and felt absolutely amazing about life. Then, for reasons that made sense at the time, I decided to move to Philadelphia. In many ways, things have gone well for me here. I bought my first house, I found a job I love and fall in love with more as it grows and changes, I connected to a church community and a parenting community, and I began building a village for my daughter. But some of the reasons for moving here turned out to be empty promises and were emotionally difficult to deal with. In the last two years, I have almost completely stopped running, my diet has been completely out of whack, and I have let depression win on more days than I’d like to admit. I turned down social invitations choosing to stay home and secluded instead. My body and my overall health has suffered as a result. Some friendships have suffered as well. I focused so much on who I used to be that I forgot to become her again-in a new improved state. And worse, I forgot to enjoy who I was at the present, double chins and all.

About a week ago, I realized that my daughter would be four in a month. Four. She is starting to recognize my behaviors and even imitates them sometimes. She recognizes when I am sad and she asks me about it. I want her to see the best me that I can be(hokey I know, but it’s true). I don’t want her to start imitating the me who sits in front of another episode of Scandal while eating a block of cheese and drinking a bottle of wine. She deserves to know the me I was 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant the day after I ran a half-marathon in Nashville. The excited, giggly me who did not give a fuck what anyone thought of me. The me who did my thing, painted horrible paintings, but loved them, the me who laughed obnoxiously out loud multiple times a day, and the me who ran everyday because it was the one thing that made me feel my dad’s presence. I want her to see the me who at 35 found out I was pregnant and was going to become a solo parent and just said to myself, “OK Bek, let’s do this!”

On Mother’s Day I was still up at 11pm taking care of a messy kitchen and a sink full of dishes. I caught myself smiling. I realized just how wonderful things really were. I was standing there in MY kitchen, in MY house, washing dishes from my incredible daughter. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for everything in my life. When I was running that half-marathon 5 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be standing in a kitchen I owned washing dishes from a kid I had. The excuses I have used to avoid life have only clouded my view of the wonderful life I have been gifted.

That’s all it took to make me decide to get back to it. I promised myself that I would run, jog, or walk at least 2 miles a day for two weeks. At the end of that two weeks, I will make a new promise. On Sunday morning, I will be running my first race since that one in Nashville in September 2012. It is a 5K and I am already a little scared. The thing is, I am also excited. Bella will be with me in the jogging stroller the whole time. And soon, she will be running beside me. And even if I am the last one across the finish line, I will still celebrate and be grateful that I am able to complete 3 miles and do so with my daughter right in front of me cheering me on.

I leave you with an excerpt from Jen Sincero(an incredible author who I highly recommend) that I have been focusing on this week.

“You can’t see the silver lining through victim goggles.”

“Have faith that you and the Universe have created everything for your growth and be grateful for it. No matter what. Get practiced at making gratitude your go-to. Notice the 8 trillion things around you at all times that you can be grateful for, and feel into the grateful expectation for all the things coming your way. The good, the bad, the ugly, The salsa stain you just got on your new white shirt, become a gratitude machine for all of it.”

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Uncategorized

shame.

In the last week, I have been filling out registration forms for preschools. My daughter’s school unexpectedly closed and I have been scrambling to find her a new school. Doing this requires filling out parent information and sending in copies of her birth certificate; the birth certificate that reads, “Father: Information not recorded.” This is what a birth certificate says when a baby is born in a hospital and the father is not present and later does not claim the child when the state sends him paperwork to do so. It took six months for me to receive my daughter’s birth certificate while we waited for this process to happen. I feel shame seeing this again. A birth certificate should be a happy thing, but somehow this one makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong.

Typically, I feel like I am like any other parent for the most part. Like any parent, I work hard, try to do the best for my daughter, and have good days and bad. In school or play groups, I am usually the only solo parent, but I only think about it if I see a list of parents and students and my daughter is the only one with one parent on the list.  Aside from these tiny moments, I feel like the joys and hardships I feel and experience are the same for most parents.  But when a school application is in front of me and the whole page titled “secondary parent” is blank, I tend to be overcome with shame. It is not sadness or loss or a desire for pity. It is this deep seated belief that I have somehow wronged the world and wronged my daughter. It is a belief that there is something wrong with me and that has always been wrong with me to make me so irregular. I am somehow unable to have a normal relationship or a normal job or simply live a normal life. And, now I have brought an innocent child into this strange abnormality.

Growing up I was the third child. Somehow I was raised in the same house as my siblings, but always did things and lived my life differently. I didn’t have a relationship in high school, I went to three very different colleges to finish my undergrad degree, I moved around and traveled and basically could not sit still in life. I always admired my siblings. They seemed to have traditional college experiences and lives and got married and had children and stayed at jobs for normal amounts of time. If our lives were puzzles, theirs always seemed to be complete and mine always felt like it was forever missing pieces. There was always some messiness about my life. This carried out of my home into my friend circles as well. I always felt like my life was somehow different and weird and not “normal.” When I found out I was going to raise a child alone, I remember thinking, “God, can’t I even do parenthood normally?!” Instead of just accepting this as being who I am, or even celebrating it, I have always felt shame about it.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, became pregnant when she was 35 with the child of an old friend, who upon discovering she was pregnant, became angry,  walked away, and made it very clear he would not be in the child’s life. Her story is so parallel to my own, that literally dozens of people have suggested I read her book, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. The book is beautiful for any parent to read. I laughed and cried and was overjoyed to hear an experience so much like my own. In it, she addresses shame in the most perfect way,

“I have these secret pangs of shame about being single, like I wasn’t good enough to get a husband. Rita reminded me of something I’d told her once, about the five rules of the world as arrived at by this Catholic priest named Tom Weston. The first rule, he says, is that you must not have anything wrong with you or anything different. The second one is that if you do have something wrong with you, you must get over it as soon as possible. The third rule is that if you can’t get over it, you must pretend that you have. The fourth rule is that if you can’t even pretend that you have, you shouldn’t show up. You should stay home, because it’s hard for everyone else to have you around. And the fifth rule is that if you are going to insist on showing up, you should at least have the decency to feel ashamed.
So Rita and I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.”

Shame is not something others can make you feel. Your friends and family can possibly cause you to feel guilty about something you have done, but I believe shame is self-inflicted. It is something we believe about ourselves. It is not the feeling that we have done something wrong but that we ARE something wrong. It is debilitating and, quite frankly, a lie. If we truly believe that we are made in the Creator’s image, then shame should never even come into play. Each one of us has this piece of the higher being within us and that should be greater than any inadequacies we feel.
My struggle with shame is my own. It is one of the biggest ways I have wronged myself and those around me. Being a solo parent or having a gypsy spirit or not being able to function in a relationship may be a little different, but it is not wrong. IMG_3491As a parent, I don’t want my daughter to ever feel this shame. As weird as she is, or unconventional, or totally “normal,” I want her to just love herself and be proud of the amazing little being that she is. This desire for her makes me more aware of the fact that I need to “get over it, show up for my life, and not be ashamed.” I truly believe when any of us can be ourselves, embrace our quirks and differences, and celebrate those things that make each one of us unique, we will be able to free ourselves of shame and genuinely live our lives.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run

Love thyself.

When I was pregnant, I took extra special care of my body. I quit smoking, quit drinking, cut way back on caffeine, walked regularly, drank tons of water, ate mostly organic, covered my skin in coconut and almond oil daily to avoid getting stretch marks, slept as much as possible, and listened to a lot of empowering and happy music. After Bella was born, I nursed for 22 months. I got back into running, ate even more organic and stayed away from processed foods. I only occasionally drank and when I did, it was minimal. I slept when I could and tried to keep a positive attitude despite some challenges that came with getting used to taking care of another human being. I lost all of my pregnancy weight plus some and felt amazing.

Today I visited a friend’s pool at a high end apartment complex. The majority of people at the pool, even moms, looked incredible, fit, and happy. I looked down at my body and saw a year and a half of weight gain from eating crap, drinking way too much, and not even attempting to run again. I looked at my hairy legs and my messy hair and realized I hadn’t even showered in two days. It was clear my skin hasn’t seen a drop of lotion in a long time, let alone be covered from head to toe in oil. I also can’t remember the last time I did yoga or just sat quietly to read a book or listen to Bach’s Cello Suite.

Why is it that so many mothers do this to ourselves? We take amazing care of ourselves while pregnant and nursing because we want to ensure a healthy baby. Then, as the child begins coloring our walls and peeing on our rugs, many of us begin to give up to some degree. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard fellow moms joke about how long it has been since they have been on a date, taken a shower, gone out with their spouses, or eaten something other than goldfish and macaroni. This morning my beautiful 3-year old daughter reminded me that the massive treadmill in our living room is there for me to use. She is clearly aware of the fact that I haven’t been on it in a while and thinks that it’s probably time. It suddenly occurred to me that this precious baby still needs me to take care of myself in order for me to take the best care of her as well. Just because sh13920434_10153856682582005_6364152617981029699_oe’s not in my body anymore doesn’t mean that body no longer needs some attention.

I often use the excuse that I just don’t have the time. I work full time and am a solo parent. Like just about every other parent, I am busy. However, in the last two years, I somehow found the time to watch the entire series of about 20 shows, drink at least 100 boxes of wine, and eat enough cheese to fill the Packers’ stadium. I clearly have the time. So, today I came home, did a massive clean of my house, showered, shaved my legs and pits, sat down with a cup of tea, turned on Bach, and began typing. One of the things I also used to do was write. I wrote all the time and it was fun and therapeutic. I have not been in a good emotional place in the last couple of years and if I was being completely honest, I would admit that they have been the hardest and darkest years to date. Writing is my art form. It is how I have always best expressed myself and how I have worked through the good and bad in life. Since I stopped writing, I felt less connected and less like myself.
So, here I am writing again. As I work towards getting back to healthy and figuring out how to find my abs between boxed wine and a block of cheese, I’m going to dust off the book I never finished and share my new adventure here with anyone who is interested. My goal for now is to drink less, run more, meditate and practice yoga, eat more things that don’t come in boxes, cans, or bags, and write, write, write. 

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life lessons

Biography < Destiny

Today I was listening to an interview on British radio. They were interviewing a black woman from South Africa and talking to her about apartheid and growing up in a society that told her she was less than human. A society that reinforced all her doubts and insecurities about herself. She talked about how she had to pull herself out of a negative mindset by realizing that her biography did not determine her destiny.

Immediately I thought about my students in Kenya. Many of them went days without food, showed up to class wearing torn clothing with only rubber sandals on their feet. However, they showed up eager to learn and with aspirations of becoming doctors, lawyers, politicians and even becoming the president of Kenya. They lived in a society that didn’t care for them and didn’t acknowledge them. Still, they create beauty, dream big and work diligently on their goals. I truly believe they will succeed at whatever it is they set out to do.

When I thought about myself, however, I realized that I have been living as if my past, my biography, who I was 20 years ago, determines who I am today and what I will become. This idea is self-defeating and a problem in our society. We think, “I was awkward and weird in Middle School and so that is all I will ever be,” “My parents are overweight, so I am overweight,” “I didn’t do well in chemistry, so I am stupid,” “I am the youngest, so everyone will always see me as just a kid,” etc. I remember a family member once telling me that I could never have a flat stomach because my dad’s side of the family all have soft bellies. This is something I believed for a long time until I was old enough to realize that it was a ludicrous idea and, if I worked hard at it, I could get a flat stomach just like everyone else.

I told a friend the other day that I fail at relationships. I said I was never in a relationship in high school and college so I never learned how to make them work. I told her I always felt clueless in my current relationship and constantly felt like I was screwing things up. The fact is, this was not true. I have had friends and maintained them for more then 20 years. I have friends all over the world that I talk to on a regular basis. Just because I didn’t date all through high school and college like I assumed everyone else did, doesn’t mean I don’t know how relationships work.

Just because I don’t have athletes in my immediate family, it doesn’t mean I am not an athlete myself. I have completed 2 full marathons and 2 half marathons and I still catch myself apologizing to people and saying I’m not a “real” runner. The fact is that I am a runner. I run two or three times a week. I will no longer let who I was in high school determine who I am today. The last thing I want is to get to my 40’s and still be able to relate to the person I was when I was 18. That girl was nutty, sloppy, uncertain of herself, and knew so little about the world.

At 34, I know who I am. I know what I want. I want to be a writer. I want to be a runner. I want to be a yogi. I want to be in a happy, loving relationship. I want to see the world with someone who wants to see it with me. I have spent way too much time telling myself I couldn’t have these things and didn’t deserve them because of the person I was yesterday and 10 years ago. Today, I stop. Today I am a writer, a runner, a yogi, and know I will have a loving relationship and see the world. Today I stop looking backwards and only see what is before me.

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Losing Dad

Purple Sneakers

When I was in second or third grade, my dad bought me a pair of purple sneakers. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. It was just a regular day and he saw a pair of purple sneakers and thought I would love them. He knew I loved purple and assumed that I would love these sneakers. It was one of the coolest things he ever gave me. It was from the heart, random, and told me that he was thinking of me when I wasn’t even around.purple sneakers

Unfortunately, I was a stupid kid who was too embarrassed to wear the sneakers because in that time and place, unless your sneaks were white or black, you were weird. I was so concerned with what kids would say about the shoes that I cried after he gave them to me because I didn’t want to wear them. In my heart, I wanted to rock those shoes, but I always cared too much about what other people thought about me. I think, in all, I wore the shoes about 3 or four times in situations where I thought I was “safe.”

I’ve been thinking about those sneakers a lot lately. I loved them, but I think I hurt my dad’s feelings when I didn’t wear them that much. As an adult, I get that now. I am pretty good at giving gifts, but every once in a while, someone looks at you and looks at your gift and forces a “thank you.” I just don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to be more thankful and I want to wear purple sneakers proudly no matter what anyone else thinks about them.

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