About alb32

things I love: my husband, little Louder, teaching, Micah 6:8, coffee, cozy socks, words, good beer, MPLS, good books, beards, Canada, questions, Cadbury Creme Eggs, life.

#me too: my classroom

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately as I think about the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movement. Though I’ve chosen to remain pretty quiet on this for my own personal reasons, I do feel it time to speak up as an educator, to share a just a bit of the “me too” moments that I’ve learned about in my classroom.

 

  • To the senior male student during my student-teaching semester who told me to “get on my knees and beg for it” and continued to harass me both publicly and privately, time’s up. To my younger self, I am sorry that I brushed it away, embarrassed and concerned that it was my fault for bringing this type of attention to myself. I should have known this was not your fault and told my coordinating teacher sooner.
  • To the older male student who cornered and groped a younger female student while at school, right under our very noses, only to be told to me in confidence years later, time’s up. To this student, I am sorry that I did not know, that I didn’t see the signs, and that in a place you should have felt safe, you were not. I wish I could have protected you.
  • To the adult male professional whose inappropriately lingering eyes, physical proximity, and comments towards my female student (a minor) on a school tour made not only her uncomfortable, but other students around, time’s up. To this student, I am so sorry that I was silent, that I didn’t stop the tour right then and there, that I didn’t tell you how wrong this was, that I didn’t tell you the follow-up steps I took, so that you would know you were not alone and that you had my full support in taking action.
  • To the male student who continued to get in my space and tell me his thoughts on my body, my physical appearance and my smell, only to be dismissed by my administrator as my own overreaction and that he was simply seeking attention, time’s up. To my younger self, I am sorry that you did not have the support from your administrator, that you were told it was no big deal, and that you were alone.
  • To the adult male who attempted rape on my middle school student in her own home, only for her to remain silent for over two months about it, only to later write it in a journal entry to me after she could not contain the secret anymore, time’s up. To this student, I am sorry that you learned to early in life that you were not safe, that you felt shame, that you did not want to hurt your family, and that you were not protected in your own home. I am sorry that when I called CPS, they told me they would do all that they could but that these cases happen all the time and that unfortunately, because it was an unsuccessful attempt, that it might not ever be investigated. I am sorry that your parents had no idea and I am sorry for the hurt they felt, knowing they could not protect their thirteen year old daughter from a stranger in their apartment building.
  • To the adult male who sexually assaulted his younger sibling, from the time she was four on, with parents who looked the other way and did not believe her when she told them, time’s up. To this student, I think of you often. I wonder if my multiple calls to CPS created safety for you. I am sorry that your own mother did not believe you and continued to allow you to be in the presence of your brother. I am sorry for the hurt you experienced and that I had no words when we cried together. I hope you believe me that you did nothing to deserve this, that you aren’t ruined, and that there is hope for your future, sweet girl.

These are a few of the “me toos” I’ve encountered in my nine years of teaching and I would be foolish to think that these were all of them; sadly, I know there are probably many more “me toos” that have not been shared, that have not been acknowledged, that have not been stopped.

I cannot say I have any profound conclusions as a result of my time reflecting. I can say that I am angry at myself for the times I should have done more, I am frustrated with myself that I cannot seem to stop these things from happening, and I am both sad and terrified for the unknown realities that my students still face today.

As much as I want students to know they can always come to me and that I will do everything I can to make them safe, more than anything, I long for the day when there won’t be any “me toos” to share, no “times up” to be had. I long for the day when my students can be safe, when sexual harassment and assault will not be silenced, normalized, or justified, and I long for the day when “me too” can truly be a thing of the past.

To these students and to my former self, I am sorry. I promise I will do better to speak out, to provide safety and shelter, and to work to make this world a better one for each and every one of you.

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Momma Advice

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To state the incredibly obvious, there are plenty of changes that take place throughout pregnancy. Some expected: clothes not quite fitting the same, baby bump growing slowly but surely, aches and pains that I haven’t experienced before, and I will spare you some of the other changes taking place. Some unexpected: reactions to ultrasounds, the unreal level of exhaustion, the rollercoaster of emotions, and once again, I will spare you some of the other, unexpected changes taking place.
Perhaps the most unexpected and most challenging change I am experiencing is what I will call “momma advice”; what I mean specifically by this is unsolicited, unrequested, passionate and opinionated advice sent my way, advice I have not asked for.
To be fair, I knew, to some extent, that this was coming my way. Having an older sister with three kiddos and other friends journey through the momma walk, I knew there would be times when people would give me advice that I did not agree with nor ask for. I suppose I didn’t grasp how early on and how regularly this advice would be sent my way, even from people I hold near and dear to my heart. I did not understand how this advice would come from seemingly nowhere and it would begin VERY early in my pregnancy. I wasn’t prepared that this would even come from close friends, not just strangers.
Without even bringing it up in conversation (and even in the very first weeks of pregnancy), I have received feedback (without requesting it) on what I will and will not consume throughout my pregnancy, about my childcare decisions, and even about my decision to go back to work (which, side note, even assumes that it is an option for everyone to stay home or not… news flash, nope, not always a choice for everyone). A few months into pregnancy, once again, without bringing it up or even asking for this advice, I have received strong opinions on sleep training (from very different viewpoints), my birth plan hopes, thoughts on the flu shot, my choice to use a midwife instead of a doctor, our strong desire for baby to not have any screen time, even what I should do with my child’s hair (oh my goodness, don’t even get me started on this one). Even a seemingly innocent post about something pregnancy related has spiraled into advice, guilt, and shame.
First, I am fairly confident that these opinions come from a place of love. I believe people have the best of intentions when they share how they did things. I believe people have our best interests at heart and truly want to be helpful. But, I also wonder if these unsolicited opinions come from a place of insecurity. If I am learning anything on this motherhood journey, it is that momma guilt is a real thing and shaming takes place regularly. I am learning that a lot of momma decisions have turned political and has created different camps that we are not interested in budging on. I am learning that there seems to be an “us vs. them” mentality… and I wonder if the momma advice is an attempt to validate our stance and our decisions, perhaps to make us feel less alone. It saddens me that rather than coming together and supporting each other through this really beautiful/brutal/brutiful (thanks Glennon Doyle) time of life, we seem to just grow more isolated and divided.
I am sure that I will struggle with momma guilt in the future; to be honest, I have struggled already with some of this guilt as a result of advice or questioning I have received that, quite honestly, makes me feel belittled and stupid for the hopes I have for baby.
And, I am not quite sure what the solution is; I don’t know how to stop the advice from coming as I am not even asking for it in the first place. I don’t know how to create healthy communication with these people that is helpful and not harmful.
But if anything, please know this, those of you tempted to give unsolicited advice: know that I have thoughtfully and carefully sought out advice from specific people that I trust and can be open and vulnerable with, and have reached out with my questions. Know that if I want your advice, I will ask you for it. Know that I, too, want what is best for little Louder, even if it is different than what you might do. Know that I will never EVER do anything that would put little Louder in danger and I am being thorough in my decision-making process. Know that just because I might do things differently than you, I respect your choices and your freedom to make decisions that are best for you and baby; I ask that you also respect and protect my freedom to do the same. Know that sometimes, it can really hurt my feelings when you feel the need to tell me your opinion about things, as if I cannot make this decision on my own. Know that sometimes your responses and reactions to my thoughts about your advice or the decisions my family has chosen make me feel stupid and inadequate. Know that sometimes, well, to be honest, most times, your advice is not freeing and empowering but rather disempowering and deflating.
I’ve got three more months to go with this pregnancy and I am sure the advice won’t stop; the husband and I have been brainstorming ways to respond that is respectful but, essentially, cuts off the advice unless solicited. I know that the advice won’t stop once little Louder is here but know that I’m doing the best I can and if we could stop the “momma advice”, that would sure help this “momma to be” out.

Year 2017 in Review

2017 was the year of big, big changes:

  1. Decision to move from MPLS to Grand Rapids
  2. The husband was offered a job at a brewery in Michigan three weeks later
  3. Telling friends about our move, preparing for move, etc.
  4. Completing our MPLS Bucket List
  5. The husband moved 6 weeks before I did
  6. I was offered a job at a high school in Michigan in May
  7. I finished up my school year and joined him
  8. One year of marriage under the belt
  9. Summer together – camping, trips home to Canada, new adventures, etc
  10. We found out we were having a baby the last day of July!
  11. Two weeks later, I started my new job
  12. We bought a home in November
  13. We got to see our little baby via ultrasound and life will be changing even more in the coming year

It was a full year and quite frankly, it was exhausting. It was filled with so many good, wonderful things… but it was also filled with hard goodbyes, changes, and starting over. We’ve been thankful for how things have gone so smoothly, all things considered. Though we know 2018 will bring its own adventures with our new little one, I sure am ready for life to slow down just a bit.

 

 

 

Because of all of the changes, my reading struggled this year. Baby growing didn’t help as pregnancy sure drained any of my reading energy for the last few months of the year, but, I still read some great books and am starting to get back into my reading groove again.

Books Read:

The Hate U Give: This was a powerful and timely story that challenged me and my own implicit biases and assumptions; it follows the journey of a young teenage girl of color who happens to be in the car when her cousin is shot by a police officer and her life after this tragic event. It is powerful, troubling, and a must-read.

The Storyteller: Picoult does it again; she writes a beautifully tragic story that you cannot put down. Her writing makes the black and white issues a whole lot more grey and she challenges her reader to truly think through complex moral issues. This was a book I could NOT put down.

Homegoing: A powerful story that follows the journey of two sisters from Ghana and the experience their descendants have through slavery, through resettlement, etc. It is not an easy read but it is an important read. It is one of the books that definitely shifted my perspective this year.

My Grandmother Told Me To Tell You She’s Sorry: Have the Kleenex handy. Anything Frederik Backman touches turns to gold; he has not let me down with any of his books so far and this was a beautifully imaginative, thoughtfully intentional story. It is especially powerful if the reader has experienced the loss of a grandparent or significant person in their life recently. It was beautiful and worth every tear.

The Bookshop on the Corner: This was my cozy book of the year; it felt like the perfect book to read on a cold autumn day, with a cup of tea in hand, wrapped under a warm blanket. This is an ode to any book lover and it is one I like to gift to my reader friends.

The Alice Network: For those that know me well, you know that I love any and all WWII stories. The Alice Network tapped into a part of the war that I hadn’t read much about before – female spies and their role in the Resistance. It was fascinating and I could not put it down.

I don’t enjoy wedding planning; there, I said it.

Let’s have a heart-to-heart, a chat, some real-talk.

I want to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready for it?

I don’t enjoy wedding planning.

Shock. Gasp. Horror.  I know, I know. I am supposed to love this. I am supposed to find choosing all of these fun little details exhilarating and exciting. I am supposed to spend hours and hours looking on Pinterest to find all of the cute DIY projects we could create together. I am supposed to delight in this whole process because you only get to do this once/it’s your special day/it’s all about you/etc. etc.

But I really don’t and I think that’s okay. I am learning there is a lot of pressure in the wedding industry; there are so many decisions about the most insignificant details and we make these insignificant things far too significant.  There is a lot of pressure to be this bright and bubbly bride-to-be who is so excited about choosing decorations and the perfect shoes etc etc…

Well, that’s just not me. People have been reminding me that “this is the day I’ve been dreaming of my whole life”… “since you were a little girl”… and are cautioning me from not working towards that dream. Friends, I have never had a set dream of what this day will look like. I haven’t had a dream dress or dream flowers or dream venue (well, I’ll be honest… for a long time, it was my dream that Leonardo DiCaprio would be the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle but that ship has sailed). And even if I did, just because I had that dream, that doesn’t mean I “deserve” that dream (though let’s be honest, Leo didn’t deserve me) or “need” to make that dream a reality. I am learning that there are a lot of expectations from OTHERS about what my dream day could or should be, rather than what my dream day could be.

I think we’ve bought into this lie that we need to have this elaborate, unrealistic day where nothing will go wrong and everything is thought-out and just-so and perfect and anything less than that is selling ourselves short. I just simply don’t agree. In fact, let me tell you what my dream day includes? The man I love and the people I love all together, celebrating, laughing, crying, dancing, partying the night away. That is my dream. Everything else is fleeting.

I am also learning that it is a pretty disgusting industry that asks a couple to spend a gross amount of money on one single day; a mortgage? a new car? tuition? On one day. Let that sink in.

Ramsey and I have made a very conscious choice to spend as little as possible on this day for a variety of reasons.  Other than not wanting to buy into this idea that it is necessary to spend exuberant amounts of money on one day and wanting to be frugal and wise with our money, morally, I feel strongly opposed to this blatant idol we’ve created – consumerism at its finest.  I am trying as best as I can to not buy into this. This means not spending thousands on a dress I will wear once and rather spending less than $200 on a worn-already dress (that I love, by the way). This means not spending loads of money on things that are not important to us, even if that disappoints others and their hopes for the day.

Now, some of you who are reading this are probably concerned about my mental health, my stress level, or perhaps worried that I am having a pre-wedding-nervous-breakdown. I promise, I am okay. I am doing just fine. I just needed to be honest.

 

A few final thoughts:

1. I wonder if the people that say they enjoy wedding planning are: crazy/in denial/not being real with others/not being real with themselves.

2. Please stop telling me to enjoy every moment of wedding planning. Maybe it’s okay that some of these details aren’t that fun. Please be okay that I am not super-excited all the time about all of these things. And please, stop sending me great Pinterest ideas. For the love of my sanity, please.

3. Please stop suggesting I splurge, spend more $, need certain things, etc. Trust that Ramsey and I have made a conscious budget and want to keep it. Please be okay with that.

4. Rid yourselves of your dreams and expectations for our special day. Trust us that we are going to make the things that matter to us a reality and that we will not “rob ourselves” of a particular experience or joy.

5. Please, I beg you, ask me about things other than the wedding. The wedding is just a small piece of my life. I am more than a bride-to-be. I am a teacher. A sister. A friend. Let me be those things as well.

6. Know that I write this not to vent. To be honest, I write this because I don’t think I am alone and maybe, if we could be more real with each other, we could ease the pressure off of each other. Maybe, another future bride will feel a little more “normal” and a little less alone when she finds she doesn’t enjoy the journey of wedding planning.

 

And now, the best part: let me tell you what I do enjoy. I enjoy dreaming of my forever with my forever love. I enjoy planning our future together. I enjoying imagining the adventures we will embark on together. I love all of these things. I am so lucky. I get to marry the man I love with all the people I love surrounding us. I get to do life with so many amazing people. I am so blessed. I am so excited for 120ish days from now when I get to say “I do”.

 

 

But friends, I don’t enjoy wedding planning and I am learning that that is okay.

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“Her Only Crime Was That She Looked Like the Enemy”

Yesterday, my class learned from Sally Sudo, a survivor of the Japanese American internment camps and I sure wish Mr. Donald Trump (along with many other politicians who have voiced such strong and terrifying sentiments towards Syrian refugees or Muslims in general) could have joined us as I think we/we all could learn quite a bit from Ms. Sudo’s story.

She had a lot to say about her experience being Japanese-American during this time when, as she put it, her only crime was that she looked like the enemy. She described her family’s experience with the hysteria and fear of the “other” of WWII. She explained the living conditions and the persecution she, and others, experienced. She told us what it meant for her and others when, finally, in 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that apologized for the wrong done to Japanese-Americans during WWII.

Have we forgotten so soon?

When asked why she thinks we should know her story today, she answered, “It is so easy to revert back to this mentality… this mentality of fear… If we don’t protect others, than we are apt to repeat the same mistakes again. It is important to know your rights and to protect the rights of others.”

In conclusion of this unit, I am having my students read the following article where Japanese-Americans who experienced the internment camps are asked to speak into what is happening with Syrian refugees. Check it out – it’s powerful stuff!

The dark memories of seven decades ago have bubbled to the surface in recent weeks for many people who were sent to Japanese internment camps.
NYTIMES.COM|BY JOHN ELIGON

significant days; the fight presses on

Two years ago today, I met Ramseyar83.1.jpg for the first time. Yesterday, the nation honored and celebrated Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the work he did for equality and justice for all. Five months today, Ramsey and I get married.

Want to know the crazy thing? In 2011, over 46% of Republicans in Mississippi would have supported a legal ban on our marriage because it is interracial; in 2000, Alabama finally brought to vote the ban on interracial marriage and 41% of constituents voted to keep the ban (yikes!). That’s not 100 years ago or 50 years ago; that’s far too close to today.

Though we have come a long way when it comes to equality and justice, it is important to remember we have a long way to go. Change doesn’t happen overnight and change requires thought, words, and action each and everyday.

I am thankful for all of the people in my life who work for justice, for freedom, for equality, for truth, for love.

(Also, you should read “Just Mercy” to see more about just how far we have to go to reach this “justice” and “freedom” we speak of having.)

My 2016 One Word: Stonecatcher

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It’s that time. Time to say goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016. Some of us welcome 2016 with open arms; others, have a hard time letting go of all that 2015 held for us. Time to think of who we are and who we want to be. Time to set resolutions and goals for the year ahead. For many of us, these lists can be exhaustive. I want to exercise more, eat better, spend less, travel more, etc. I am a list person; I love lists and, quite frankly, I am good at them. I am pretty skilled in getting things done and accomplishing tasks. To be fair, I am not good at exercising more, eating better, etc… but I am good at doing surface-y things fairly well. I feel good when I “accomplish” things.

A few years ago, a blog I follow asked readers to ring in the new year with one word.  Not a long list of resolutions.  Not a to-do list of goals.  Not an amount of weight to lose or cigarettes to cut out. One word. Initially, when I read the blog, I was not sure if I liked this or not.I feel accomplished when I meet goals.  However, when I look back on my new year’s resolutions in the past, I cannot say I actually successfully accomplish them all. In fact, when I don’t, I feel really discouraged. So, for the past few years, I have attempted to be more thoughtful in thinking about what my word would be.

2016 is a big year for me; with a wedding, exciting travel plans, and other changes in sight, it is a year that I can very easily focus on me and me alone. 2016 gives me plenty of opportunities to be entirely selfish. This is not what I want but I can see it being an easy trap to fall into. Connect this with one of the last books I read in 2015: “Just Mercy”. This book is disturbing and powerful, troubling and important. Bryan Stevenson challenges his reader to think about what justice and mercy really mean; he looks at this through the lens of the current (American) criminal justice system and the injustice that it breeds.

I have so many thoughts on this book that I can share at another time, but something that stood out to me was a conversation that he had with an old woman who had experienced significant injustice throughout her life:

“’All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence. Those judges throwing people away like they’re not even human, people shooting each other, hurting each other like they don’t care. I don’t know, it’s a lot of pain. I decided that I was supposed to be here [at the court] to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.’

I chuckled when she said it. During the McMillian hearings, a local minister had held a regional church meeting about the case and had asked me to come speak. There were a few people in the African American community whose support of Walter was muted, not because they thought he was guilty but because he had had an extramarital affair and wasn’t active in the church. At the church meeting, I spoke mostly about Walter’s case, but I also reminded people that when the woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus, he told the accusers who wanted to stone her to death, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ The woman’s accusers retreated, and Jesus forgave her and urged her to sin no more. But today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion. I told the congregation that we can’t simply watch that happen. I told them we have to be stonecatchers.

When I chuckled at the older woman’s invocation of the parable, she laughed, too. ‘I heard you in that courtroom today. I’ve even seen you hear a couple of times before. I know you’s a stonecatcher, too.”’

Stonecatcher.

This conversation moved me to wonder: am I a stonecatcher? how can I be a stonecatcher? Am I throwing stones or catching stones? It’s been a few days since I finished this book and this idea of being a stonecatcher has been on my mind.

Stonecatcher.

I want to be a stonecatcher. I want to show forgiveness and compassion, even when it is most difficult to do. I want to show up and catch stones for those who hurt. I want to show up for my community, for my friends and strangers alike. I want to rid myself of self-righteousness and judgment and fill myself with love and compassion. I want to be less about me and more about others.

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So, that’s my word for 2016: stonecatcher. Feel free to ask me about it and hold me accountable. I’ll need all the help I can get. To the year 2016, may we be stonecatchers. May we fight for justice, mercy, and compassion.