pizza

Sacrifice is not a sustainable practice. But God’s endless creativity and mercy will keep sustaining the world. –Debbie Blue

It’s so much. Gaza. Murdered AIDS workers. Grief for loved ones in struggling, abusive, and too early death-do-us-part marriages. Children fighting to break through the cocoon to adulthood. Health. So many things that I might think I need to fix. Meanwhile, I eat pizza (dairy AND gluten AND processed meat…three of the seven deadly nutritional sins, for sure) and sleep in and bane exercise UH-gain.

I used to belong to a religion that told me I could have all the answers. If I wasn’t working to implement these answers…which definitely didn’t include pizza and sleeping in (“Jesus rose from the dead. And YOU…you can’t even get out of bed–Keith Green), I was personally responsible for not “moving The Kingdom forward” and God was displeased. I served the God of evangelicalism. “Your life is a testimony and everyone’s watching.” and the American g.o.d., “Stay beautiful. Smiley, Church-going and connected. Sacrifice for your husband (sex and a life of homemaking), children (homeschooling), and ME…the god of guilt, obligation, and duty. That means working at VBS, feeding the masses whenever required, and bringing your young children and family to church Every. Single. Week. “We” (g.o.d.) are paying attention. You are an exhausted mother of three? Well, g.o.d. forbid you wouldn’t be the Madonna, the Sex Queen, and the Sunday School Teacher extraordinaire.

It was all a lie. And SO much pressure.

Guess what happened? I loved a gay friend. I slept at 11am from exhaustion in the middle of homeschooling and could not justify it.  I ached for another man. I QUIT homeschooling. And I ate pizza. And ice cream. And drank wine. I (whispered) began to worship with (that church that BELIEVES in the gays…um, what does that even mean?) Episcopalians. My life did not make sense to those who were watching. And since it didn’t make sense, they stopped watching. I had to stop caring. That they weren’t watching.

Here’s where I am today. I’ve gained weight. I struggle to go to church. I no longer ache for another man, but wonder about the death do us part in the new medical world. I reject the purity culture idols and want my children to know freedom and learn from experience. I still love my friend, who happens to be gay, but I ask, “Why does it matter?”. If I do make it to church, it’s not the same place my teens have chosen to attend. I have rejected the pressure…most days. And I’m on many pieces of pizza later as I write. But, thanks be to God, I also accept the power of a consistent yoga practice. Because Nameste is Godly. The divine in me bows to the divine in you. I choose to see God’s imprint in everyone.

Here’s my plan in the meantime. After spending my 20s trying to “do church right” and my 30s trying to “do family right”, I am spending my 40s trying to “do me well.” This is what I can give. This is what I can’t. I choose to stay faithful to my husband and children, but not condemn those that can’t. I will stop fighting to be perfect. I will not IMAGINE that I am g.o.d’s voice to the world. And I Will. Eat. Pizza…Lots.

save the tatas

This is a ConformityFree message and story for anyone who wonders and struggles with violence done in the name of prevention within Western Medicine.

When I left off at Part I of my story, the biopsy had been ordered and scheduled. I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t worried? Didn’t I want to get fit in that afternoon, the nurse asked? No. I have a life! Things to do! People to see. I made my appointment for the following week and thought so little about it, I had to contact a friend and tell her, “Oh, yeah. Sorry! I can’t get together today after all. I have a biopsy scheduled.”

Here’s the truth. I had more personnel attend to me for my breast biopsy than I did for any of my three births. There were two nurses and one doctor throughout the procedure. I’m pretty sure one was there just to hold my hand.

So for those of you who have not experienced this privilege of Western medicine, a needle biopsy requires a numbing of the pectoral muscle and the insertion of an instrument that clicks twice, once to insert into the tissue and once to extract some. That I was prepared for. And yeah, there’s blood.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was two-fold. Since my first biopsy in ’06, they now “mark” the place of the biopsy forever and ever amen with a piece of titanium so that any future mammogram will show where my biopsies have taken place. This is where it got a little dicey. For whatever reason, the doctor couldn’t get it to stick. So he dug, he moved, he fished, he jiggled, breaking blood vessels right and left to mark me with titanium. Five days later, the bruising is severe enough that I wonder if that is all the marking I will ever need.

I also didn’t remember from the first time around that they take a second “simple” mammogram immediately following the biopsy for their records. So once the doctor had marked me, my tissues got squeezed in a vice grip again and now you know more about my internal bleeding and baseball-batted-breast than you ever wanted to know.

I made conversation with the nurses while the doctor did his thing. “Y’know. I worry way more about ovarian cancer than breast cancer.”

“Oh yeah,” they agreed. “It’s so awful. Ovarian and pancreatic. If you get diagnosed with one of those these days, you’re a goner.”

Great. So, insurance, can I get a yearly ultrasound on my ovaries instead?

I didn’t expect to feel so shaky when I sat up to have to walk down the hall to the vice-grip machine.

I didn’t expect to feel so sore and not be able to hug my husband chest-to-chest for a couple of days.

Two days later, I got the call. “Congratulations! There’s nothing there! Go out and celebrate!”

But instead I cried about how mad and hurt I felt by the whole experience.

I cried for my friend who suffered terribly under the medical costs her breast cancer brought, knowing none of the research money helped her or her family.

I cried for the time the dentist told me my little one had to have eight teeth extracted and I didn’t ask enough questions and just let them.

I cried because despite all the times I’ve been to the doctors since puberty to try and treat my anxiety and depression and ultimately fibromyalgia and chronic insomnia, they’ve had no answers but more drugs.

I cried for a woman, a mother of 3, who fought brain cancer for 7 years undergoing all the violent chemo and radiation and surgeries, but still lost her battle last month at 41 years old.

I know a woman who tells her OB-GYN that her GP is taking care of her mammograms and the GP that her OB-GYN is taking care of it and though she’s over 70, she hasn’t had one in 11 years.

I don’t know the answers. But I have decided that when it comes to prevention…I have got to be a better advocate. For myself, my family, and those who suffer financially or in their bodies and souls with these more violent ways we try to cure all. the. things.

practice youishness

So much of my life-long religion has taught me how and why I need to deny myself. But since turning 40, I’ve become more open to practicing You-ish-ness as part of my spiritual discipline instead. It’s provided me healing, greater compassion for others, and freedom from serving the little g.o.d. of guilt, obligation, and duty.

Want to know more? I’m featured on The Story Unfolding blog today writing about why You need to know You. Read it to find one of the things Oprah and Jesus Culture have in common that hasn’t helped us and what I believe can transform us instead.

Continue reading here.

*You-ish-ness was first termed at a recent Story Sessions retreat I attended by my friend, Jamie Bonilla.

Next up this Thursday: I’m Over It–Part II of the Biopsy Story

save the tatas

If I was a less distinguished person, I would start this post off with a picture of my left breast. Unadorned.

That is, except for the rainbow of red and black and blue that looks like someone took a baseball bat to me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my corner of the Internet, spending time deciding what I really care about, what I want to share with you. And trust me. Stay with me. My left breast applies.

I want to write about what I truly care about that involves being free from conformity. My journey. Your journey. Freedom.

And that includes freedom from the Breast Cancer Frenzy.

I know, I know. We all have friends who have had to go through the grueling experience of finding and treating breast cancer. It is not my intention to negate that breast cancer is a real threat. That early detection saves lives. That maybe Angelina Jolie did the right thing.

BUT. I have a story to tell.

And I am angry.

I did what was right. I showed up for my yearly physical after several years of avoidance. I fasted another day and let them take my blood. Those results came back and my cholesterol was slightly over 200. Isn’t 200 supposed to be the limit? I can’t keep track. No phone call.

Blood work and a mammogram are the routine for women in America. Some say every year, some say every other. Who can keep track anymore? I diligently signed up and made sure in my full life to make it a point to go. After all, I have friends who go every year in their birthday month. (Please tell me there’s a better way to celebrate my birthday month).

Now. When I showed up at our local Women’s Imaging Center, I was somewhat impressed. It’s obvious to me where some of the research money they try to rally while you check out at Safeway has gone. The staff is numerous and gracious. The art work is beautifully pink. The refreshments are plentiful, including a mini-fridge in the waiting room. And the vice grip I stuck my breasts in definitely cost a fortune.

Here is where I want to say that I think the solution to boob-fascination in our culture is that all young people need to intern at a Women’s Imaging Center. Those technicians “man”-handled me well. They see every shape and size and nipple hair all the day long.

And they kept asking me. “You haven’t had a mammogram since ’06?” 

No, ma’am, I have not.

Because back then you found a benign fibrous lump. And I went through the entire procedure back then…mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, waiting, results. Yes, I’m 45. But this is a pain in the boob and I hate it but I’m here anyway and I’ll bet you find another one.

Yep. They sure did. I got the call. “We need to take a look at something we found in your left breast.” Well, that’s the other one. Maybe this is different. Ultrasound appointment made. Dr. F has also seen every shape and size and nipple hair. “It’s very small. I’m 97% sure it is nothing. But you never know. Good to be sure.”

I suppose. Nothing in me was concerned. I just wanted to be a good girl and do what I should do.

And everyone treated me so kindly, reassuringly, gently.

BECAUSE AMERICAN WOMEN ARE SCARED.

To be continued…

Love Alone is Worth the Fight. I fought hard for love in June.

I’m trying to find where my place is
I’m looking for my own oasis
So close I can taste this
The fear that love alone erases
So I’m back to the basics
I figure it’s time I face this
Time to take my own advice
Love alone is worth the fight

June filled me, depleted me, and made me show her what I’m made of. I celebrated my children, embraced hellos and good-byes and worked. I worked. I worked so hard I lead a conference call in a McDonalds’ playgound and peed in a trashcan. I even gave over my veins and breasts to Western medicine and traveled to a state I’ve never been to before. June is my second December and I did everything I needed to in order to embrace her in her entirety.

How does a mother let go when the heart that lives outside her chest can sing? Since 7th grade I have seen him grow from a fledging to a strong tenor. June 1st was his last choir concert in our local town as a student. His journey as a choral student has provided me times of pride and joy I could not have predicted. As he heads to Southern California, my hope is he will continue to experience the gift choral music has brought him and we will see him perform again.

A week later, we watched him graduate, sitting in the football stadium of our high school with the heat pouring down on us. We celebrated with both sets of grandparents and his best (girl) friend. He graduated as one of the valedictorians and marched with his friends. My heart truly thought it might burst. So much I have wanted for my children my husband and I did not know. Connection, support, belief in oneself. We celebrated well.

patrick and friends

During all this time, and even now as I type, I have wrestled the animal of mother pride with trying to honor the lack of attention teenage sons say they want, online and off. My heart struggled under the weight of worry and wonder, while working through what I just needed. But this has been the month of mother pride. For all three of them. My daughter turned thirteen and we hosted her friends at the local pool. She made her own cupcakes for the event, having discovered a recent love for Starbucks caramel frappuccinos. Girls at 13 sometimes choose to stop being in their bodies, to play and be active. But not my girl. She struggled to pull together pool games and a party with girls who are done playing. I pray she never stops loving being in her body and playing. And that she finds her niche, her place and peers to just enjoy life as adolescence bears down on her. This summer she’s been hired as an assistant at circus camps and our local art walk, in both scenarios working with younger children than her to help them find their art and be free in their bodies.

natalie's cupcakes

And briefly, as an update, Mr. Middle is muddling just fine. He keeps us laughing and on our toes. Applying for summer jobs and having freedom with the car are not small feats. Mr. Middle reminds me to relax and know, all is well with some risk and adventure. He reminds me that life doesn’t have to be planned, just taken as it comes. Though, he will tell you, older brother must move out.

#WorkTheDream

This month, by the wisdom of my coach and friend, Bianca Broos, I am wrestling through the difference between dreams and ideas. We can have lots of ideas, but do we know our DREAM. I used to have an idea to open a bed and breakfast. I used to have an idea to raise four sons. But what is my DREAM? What is my dream that the price of racing around town to find Internet and ending up at McDonald’s provides me life? What dream caused me to get off a plane in a Dallas airport at 1am, fight for a place to sleep that had no bathroom after 7am, wake up at 9:30 instead and just say, “What the heck? I must pee here.”?

#WorkTheDream

My dream is to teach others what leads them to breakthrough.

My dream is to teach what I am learning. And I never want to stop learning. Experiencing my own breakthroughs. Right now, what I am learning, what others are craving, and what is bringing others breakthrough is the study of the Enneagram. I helped dozens of others know their dominant types this month and begin the process of knowing their places of integration, disintegration, and unique contributions to whatever community they find themselves.

enneagram cards

My dream is to be part of a creative community that knows they need me and I need them.

And so I flew to Austin, TX this month to meet with other creative women. Women I have (mostly) only known online for a year. It took me 24 hours to get there. Once I got there, I sweated like I have never sweated standing still before. And I let myself be photographed without perfection by a woman who sees beauty in the ordinary and in me (How do you like my header and footer?). Seriously, friend. You who are moving to Atlanta. I’m talking to you. I want you to meet my precious friends, Jennifer and Tony Upton.

I met an under 5-feet woman who roared to life for me.

I met a hard-working, TALENTED chef and ate and relished his food. It was a great comfort to me.

I was massaged by a woman who spoke truth over me while she hung from the ceiling and used her feet in a way no hands have ever done.

I met a kindred spirit that called me a leading lady.

I met a woman I just liked. And she gave me a book. What’s not to like about that? And she writes scripts for video games or something very cool like that.

I met a woman who shattered my stereotypes about obesity. She serves inner-city children in Savannah, GA with her husband. And I fell in love with her.

And not last, and not least, I feasted in downtown Austin with three beautiful women, including one that could easily do a stand-up routine on what it’s like to manage a Barnes and Noble.

austin feast

 

June also included the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Farmer’s Market trips. It included some transforming and beach reading (see sidebar). I also reconnected with someone after 25 years and it felt like a fire hydrant had been turned on after years of drought. I wrote around this ongoing story in my Stirrings post this month. Life! So much life. And now for July to be a bit more fallow. Like January, July is my time to move from chaos to order. To be able to take all the raw creation and refine it into something more beautiful, sustainable.

How was your June?

This (LONG) post is part of Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into series.

What I'm Into button