Friday, October 30, 2020

On bacon and being "too much"

This isn't a picture of me, head under blanket in the backseat, trying to shut out the world. But it might as well be. Today is supposed to be my day off and I had great plans to isolate myself in the corner of a coffee shop with a mask and a laptop. Instead, I’m on my bed with a space heater and comfy pants after just crying to my husband in the kitchen over the fact that we needed bacon

HELLO HORMONES! Hello backlogged pandemic feelings. Hello carrying a heavy load for a bit too long. Hello random, unpredictable episodes of overwhelm. 

The exact formula that led to my tears over pork products is a series of events that will probably never again be repeated, but the theme behind them in consistent:

Some days are fine, other days are not. 

As I ride the waves of this pandemic and all that it has meant for my personal life, my home life and my relationships, I’m struck by the fact that there are good days and there are bad days. And just because I experience one version today does not negate what I experienced yesterday nor what I will experience sometime tomorrow. I might be “OK,” “not OK,” and all of the above within the same span of the same 24 hours. 

The very palpable reality of this pandemic is that little is dependable in our world right now. So much can change overnight and this is a bit of a recipe for crazy-making. 

I liked homeschooling my kids two weeks ago. This week, it felt like hell. Both experiences are fair and valid and by no means do they cancel each other out. I’M ALLOWED TO CHANGE MY MIND. And if next week I find homeschooling to be the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done, then so be it! No one is holding me to any rules about my feelings outside of my own personal subset of Kelsie’s Laws. I can experience one thing today that tomorrow might feel as foreign as a coin accidentally swallowed into the belly of a child. My feelings may be inconsistent but they don’t make ME inconsistent. 

I’m learning that sometimes I hesitate to speak up because I don’t want to be viewed as All. Freaking. Over. The. Place. I wish I were a more even-keeled person with steady levels of emotion. But the only thing consistent about my emotions is that I have a whole lot of them. I am sensitive and feel everything so deeply and often this leads to a fear of being too much. I have been known to spend a lot of energy filing down edges that could be perceived as sharp in an attempt to hone myself into a more palatable size medium, a middle-of-the-road, non-controversial individual. I want to be viewed as stable, trustworthy, dependable, never pegged as overly-emotional, and, heaven forbid, too much.  

Like a chameleon in hiding, I fight to keep any colorful vibrancy at bay, exchanging deep passion for an outward go-with-the-flow attitude. I quiet and silence and shut myself down to neutralize any spice. I try not to ruffle feathers, share strong opinions or make waves. 

And toward what end? 

I do it so people will like me, for acceptance. Because of the deep-rooted fear of being labeled as “too much.” It’s the bane of the people-pleaser’s existence, is it not? While a degree of sanding and smoothing of rough edges is healthy for all of us in the name of personal growth, Jesus is nudging me toward confidence in the way that He has wired me, EVEN IF IT MEANS SOME DAYS ARE FILLED WITH EMOTION IN THE KITCHEN OVER BACON. 

Recently I came across the following prayer by Laura Jean Truman:


Keep my anger from becoming meanness.

Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.

Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking. Keep my anger turned toward justice, not cruelty.

Remind me that all of this, every bit of it, is for love.

Keep me fiercely kind.


The phrase that really got me is in bold above. “Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking.” 

My fellow sensitive types will get it, all you who wrestle with muting your emotions. You are soft and easily-impacted for a reason. God made you this way. Don’t numb and dull those precious emotions. They keep you human and real and alive and relatable. They are nothing to be ashamed of. Your ability to engage with pain in your unique way creates space for others to feel heard and carried in their pain.  

As much as I would love to trade in for a more even-keeled version of myself, I am reminded today that that the same inner wiring that leaves me crying in overwhelm over how we will obtain breakfast meat on the harder days, is also the part that keeps me soft and empathetic to the pain of those in the world around me. The two are not mutually exclusive.

So much grace is needed in this crazy time, bacon tears and all.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Catch Me Singing

I don’t know who else needs to hear the words of this song today but it popped up on my Pandora station as I was running this morning. It was the title that peaked my interest first.

Catch Me Singing.

I felt it immediately in my gut. I awoke feeling low and discouraged, not personally for once, but as if I was carrying the weight of the pain and heaviness of all those suffering around me. Some days lately it feels too much to bear. I can only do what little I can do. I can’t fix the problems in this world. I can’t eradicate COVID-19. I can’t make the people I love agree on politics. I can’t lift the weight of depression. I can’t take away the anxiety and overwhelm. 

But every song that flooded my ears on my run challenged me to praise God. “Catch Me Singing” was the tune that serenaded me as I rounded the corner approaching my house. I began to weep as I took a seat on my porch to absorb the message. Gardening lyrics get me every time but these words feel particularly poignant in the days that we find ourselves in. When springtime comes, will I be caught singing? Regardless of who is chosen to lead our country for the next four years, will I be caught singing? Even if my life never returns to “normal,” will I sing? Will I trust him in the famine? And bless Him in the feast? He’s been God for a long time and He always finishes what He starts.

I hope these words land on just whomever needs to hear them today. 

Catch Me Singing

by Sean Curran

You always finish what You start

You always finish what You start

What You have grown into a garden

You planted in the dark

You always finish what You start

Good things just take a little time

Good things just take a little time

Your hands are working in the soil

And bringing me to life

Good things just take a little time

I will trust You in the famine

I will bless You in the feast

When I'm standing in Your victory

When I’m on my knees

I will praise You with the rising

And the setting sun

You're gonna catch me singing

When the springtime comes

This story has an empty grave

This story has an empty grave

Jesus the process is a mystery

But Your promise never fades

This story has an empty grave

We will be walking through the fire

And dancing on the waves

This story has an empty grave

You've been God for a long time

You’re the final word

You're the finish line

Everything's going to be alright

You've been God for a long time

Friday, September 25, 2020

Famous last words

Pop quiz time!

Kelsie is enjoying homeschooling because __________ .

  1. She didn’t get enough connection with her kids over the summer.

  2. She felt aimless and purposeless all summer and it gives her a job.

  3. The structure of it is amazing.

  4. She is getting to know her kids better. 

  5. All of the above.

Okay, let’s test your Kelsie knowledge. If you guessed answer “e,” you are 100% correct and win the prize of knowing me well (or maybe having talked to me most recently).

Sorry if that was a spoiler alert. Now you know the jist of the rest of this post: I AM FREAKING ENJOYING HOMESCHOOLING!!! ???? !!!! 

These are words I thought would never be spoken. 

When Graham and I had preschool-aged kids, we discussed at length what our schooling selection would be for our offspring. Graham, a nearly exclusively private-schooled man, knew intimately, the benefits and drawbacks of said education style. I, on the other hand, could recite the positives and negatives of homeschooling, and so, as any sane couple might, we opted to go with the third option (that neither one of us fully experienced) that was public school.

As I kids grew older and I became wiser (and definitely more stubborn!), I can be quoted as having said, “I could never, ever homeschool my kids. I’m just not wired for it. We would butt heads and I would hate it. We need time apart from each other.” After unleashing these strong words, I added a small addendum in the tiniest of fonts, “...that is, I could never homeschool, unless me kids really, really needed me to.”

Fast forward half a decade, insert COVID-19, quarantine isolation from family and friends, strained relationships, and a whole lot of famous-last-word laughs, and here I am homeschooling and liking it. Most of the time. The times are strange, y'all. 

I realize I kind of went dead silent on the blog. Constant humanity surrounding one can do that, I suppose. For those who need an update and/or for whom the introduction to this post has not sufficiently clarified, as of August 31st of this year, I became a Homeschooling Mom! We officially withdrew the younger two (Isla continues with remote school - her choice) from our district and enrolled them in a program called Connections Academy in Washington State that is essentially public school homeschool. All the curriculum is pre-arranged and is shipped to our door (for free, I might add), and “all” I have to do is teach it. The program prearranges daily lessons for each kid, but we have the freedom to move them around and stack them to fit our schedule if we want a lighter day or a day off. 

Coming to this decision was not easy but spring made one thing clear in our household: remote school via Zoom calls does not work for a certain individual with whom we’ve been given the privilege of raising. Constant screen use was problematic, distracting, and resulted in undesirable behaviors. For the other young client, it seemed developmentally inappropriate to “do school” remotely, and, when he asked for me to homeschool him all on his own, it felt like a done deal. We realize it is an extreme privilege and luxury that I am home full time right now and able to do this. And let’s be real, if Graham hadn’t agreed to step in and take the Friday schooling shift so I could have a break, I don’t know that I would have been on board. But here we are. 

Please hear me though, our schooling experience has been far from rainbows and butterflies. I have yelled. I have walked out on my students. If you’ve driven by our house on any given day, you’ve likely seen a kid running laps around the house for unsatisfactory behavior. We’ve had lots of tears and most days are excruciatingly frustrating in some way or another. One kid (whose self esteem we were already tending to) failed their first math test and was gifted a literal “F” letter grade flashing on the screen...way to build that confidence, Connections! 

I would go as far as to say the first week of school was mild hell. No one knew what they were doing. We didn’t have all the textbooks (but we didn’t yet know that) so nothing seemed to be matching up. What was touted as being “only 30%” on screens was averaging about 90% on screens (refer back to missing textbook issue above) and we thought we’d made a horribly poor decision because one of the main reasons we chose this option was to be on screens less while at the same time not having to organize our own curriculum. 


In the midst of the extreme challenges, here we are and I am giddy to realize we made the right choice for us. And things are going really well, if you choose to operate under a broader definition of that word. I realize that I often don’t write as much when things are going well. Hardship tends to fuel my typing fingers, I guess. So it felt important that I document right now, in 2020, the things that are going RIGHT for once. 

I knew we’d made the best choice for us when our district sent an email late last week stating they are beginning to work toward implementing a hybrid form of in-person school for certain parties IF the number of COVID-19 cases stays down. I had anticipated an email such as this would send me into a happy dance of elation, but instead, I felt really heavy of heart and borderline sad. 

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!” I thought. And then “Omigosh no! I think it’s happened! I am actually LIKING what we are doing.”

I am still stunned that I feel this way. Let’s get back to the pop quiz that I kicked us off with. Summer was hard. There was so much togetherness yet very little connection with the kids at the same time. I felt so busy supervising, feeding, doling out snacks yet SO BORED. They were frequently occupied playing outside at home (a good thing!) but I felt like I lost a little piece of them that I was longing to reclaim as I brought them back under my wing. I think they would say they lived their best life but their mama did not. While they were much more independent than any season ever before, I was indefinitely “on duty” and rarely able to completely disengage and take a full break. It was challenging to deep dive into any projects or creative ventures because the inevitable interruption was only moments away. It felt like I was living on the surface and couldn’t put down roots.

I knew I wasn’t exactly happy during the Summer of Quarantine, but it wasn’t clear just how purposeless I felt until a new purpose was introduced to me: the role of educating my kids. While I am the first to preach the respectable, essential and important job of parenting, there’s no denying that, with the title of “Teacher,” comes a heap of universal respect that unfortunately is not present when one’s title is “Mother.” I had no idea how much I needed to be needed by someone until, well, I was. And reintroducing wake times and break times and start times and STRUCTURE to our days certainly hasn't been hurting anybody either. Suddenly I went from feeling aimless and bored yet haggard and tired to having a full-time job where the margins only allow for the occasional sweeping under the kitchen table, if even that. The days are taxing and they fly by, but at the same time, are incredibly rewarding.

Upon the encouragement of my seasoned-at-homeschooling sister-in-law, I stashed a small notebook in the drawer of our homeschooling desk where I record “payday” moments in our homeschooling experience. Since the compensation I am being offered is no better than in my prior role (merely the knowledge that I am doing something worthwhile), I am trying to record interactions, cute things the kids say, or “win” moments that act as my “pay” for doing this job. It’s a great lens for me to look at the day through. By default, my Type 1 Enneagram personality has me constantly seeing the world based on how it can be improved. But this view helps me see what is good and cherished about right now. 

Another thing I am enjoying immensely is the intricate challenge of “figuring my kids out.” One of them couldn’t be less like me and the learning curve is steep, trying to make sense of their brain processes. It’s super exciting to try to "crack the code" with new strategies and motivation tactics. If you would have asked me 3 ½ weeks ago whether hoverboards and trapeze bars belonged in the classroom, I would have said a BIG FAT NO. But time, 20 school days to be exact, has taught me that what I think makes a good learning environment doesn’t ring true for everyone. When my kid can recite back to me word for word what I just read while swinging on a trapeze, but can’t do so when seated at the desk, it causes one to become flexible prrrrretty quickly.  

So for the many of you who have asked the question of the month, "How is homeschooling going?", I present you my long-winded answer. And whatever you do, please do not forget the precursor that led to this blessed enjoyment: A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Would I have enjoyed this role without the 6 months of isolation that preceded it? We shall never know. So I'm just gonna celebrate that, at this moment, I am enjoying my crazy hard new job.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

GUEST POST: A note on Racism

To my White Brothers and Sisters,

My name is Katrina Charbonnier and I am a bi-racial woman trying to navigate recent events. While I understand the hesitation to speak publicly and say the “wrong thing”, I know the choice to ignore racism is a privilege. I also acknowledge that those of you who know me may have had no idea I am even Black, and that can also be a privilege. Being bi-racial in this cultural environment lets me understand intimately more than one racial perspective. I am not so Black that I worry my sons are a potential threat to the police. I am also not so white that I don’t know what it’s like to be called the N-words while grocery shopping with my children. Initially, this cohabitation of experiences left me feeling timid and isolated. But in the silence of some of my communities I am learning to see my bi-racial background as a bridge between two worlds. So, I want to share with you some practical, helpful ways you can respond in love to People of Color in your community.
Firstly, if you are white and have not verbally checked in with your friends and acquaintances who are affected by racism, you need to do that. An Instagram post is not enough. You must DO something. You need to acknowledge the pain racism has caused them. Validate their feelings and if appropriate, make yourself available as a listening ear should they need to verbally process. Then, with a humble and teachable heart, you can share what steps or resources you are pursing to no longer perpetuate the problem. Please, please do not ASK them what you should do. Do not make People of Color responsible for your education. Do not expect us to explain to you how to fix a problem white people created. And resist feeling defensive. The goal is not to shift racial oppression from blacks to whites. The goal is acknowledgement, alliance, justice, and change.
Once you have oriented your heart to a humble desire to SEE the problem, you can help fix it. Educate yourself. Chances are that your entire education regarding race, like mine, was centered around the narrative white men told. That racism was a thing of the past, thanks in part to great white men and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That narrative is untrue. Racism is alive, well and devouring human beings today. Obviously. The death of Mr. Floyd was not an isolated incident. The nation is not having an overreaction to the events of this week. People are not just bored because of Covid-19. This outcry is old. And this reaction was a long time coming. Learn why. Read books by black authors, listen to sermons by black pastors, follow news commentaries from Black anchors, listen to your Black friends and acquaintances. And if you do not have any, ask yourself why. Support Black businesses and restaurants in your area. (You can find these with a simple google search).
You can also participate in a peaceful protest. My family and I marched in a protest this last weekend. In the sea of thousands of members of my community coming out to support People of Color, I felt seen and supported. These people did not simply make a social media post. They put their phones down and showed up to DO something. Do not be deterred by your whiteness dear friends. Perhaps the most powerful thing I witnessed during our march was an old white woman standing on the corner of the road handing hundreds of waters to the protesters as they passed by. To find peaceful protests near you check Twitter, the “events” page on Facebook, post on NextDoor and other local apps, or google “local advocacy groups”.
Finally, challenge your peers. Hold one another accountable. A friend of mine posted on social media, “My favorite sandwich shop is open and finally everything is right in the world”. While I can appreciate the relief she felt to have life begin to get back to normal, we must consider the “normal” we are getting back to. I PRIVATELY messaged her to let her know her comment was tone deaf, and hurtful. I gently explained to her that the fact that her sandwich was all she needed to be at peace at a time like this was essentially her waving her privilege around, albeit unintentionally. I braced myself for insta-conflict, but she replied thanking me for showing her how she was contributing to the problem. I have found in all this, the majority of people want change. They are just chained by their habits, ignorance, and the undercurrents of suppression that flow through American culture. However, people want to do good. Help your friends and acquaintances to do that. Of course, that also means you should humbly accept correction should you find yourself facing it.
There is more, my friends, there is so much more you can do. And trust me when I say I am striving to do all these things alongside you. I am not standing on my pedestal yelling down to you, but rather standing beside you holding out my hand. I want you to stand with me. Please take time to consider the following resources as you contemplate what it means to be my ally. And I will include my contact information if you would like to reach me directly.

With humble thanks,
Katrina Charbonnier

Katrina lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her husband
of 9 years and she is mama to two beautiful boys.
In the rare moment when they aren't taking every ounce
 of her energy, you'll find her squeezing in her studies
to pursue her dream to be a midwife.  You can find her
on Instagram as @mrscharb.
A Powerful Sermon Series on the Gospel and Race by Pastor Steve Patton
What I’m reading: His Testimonies, My Heritage
NETFLIX: 13th (Documentary about Systemic Racism by Ava DuVernay)

Friday, April 17, 2020

I miss me

I miss me.

Perhaps that has always been the hardest part of motherhood for me. The feeling ebbs and flows, depending on the season we are in. It’s stronger in the newborn and infant years, worse when I’m on a long stretch of solo parenting, greater when I’m not in a good place with my own mental health and level of self care. I can now add to the list that the feeling is also strong when I’m faced with a worldwide pandemic.

I miss me.

Some days are better than others. On some days, I feel more energetic and confident under all the hats I’m wearing - teacher, wife, mom, supporter to a medical professional, acquirer of food in a war-time-like environment where store shelves often lay barren. Life is beyond strange right now for all of us.

I miss me.

I miss doing the things that fill my cup. I miss being alone. I miss having the kids GO to school.

I miss me.

I miss feeling like I’m good at something. I KNOW deep down that I’m doing an okay enough job with teaching my kids. In fact, I would even venture to say I’m doing a GOOD job. But my kids aren’t generous with their positive feedback. Mostly they fight me tooth and nail on everything. It’s hard to feel good about the job you are doing when your students make your every request seem like torture.

I miss me.

I miss feeling like I have time for something. I can’t even identify what that thing is specifically right now. Just something. Anything from start to finish. Uninterrupted. Yesterday it was gardening. I wanted to plant a few seeds, toss some fertilizer on my berries, edge the lawn. It was a beautiful day. It really didn’t feel like too much to ask. But it was. It almost always is. One kid wanted me to find and print sheet music for the Star Wars theme song because she has a budding interest in piano. Then she wanted me to spend special one-on-one time teaching it to her. Another kid was having one of her roughest pandemic days to date. Numerous emotional meltdowns. Everything was wrong. She was trailing me around for half the day, her high needs seeping from her every pore. The youngest was out shooting hoops in the culdesac when suddenly a crowd of neighborhood kids joined him. They were unable to maintain a proper “social distance” so I had to call him inside and help set him up with a new activity to keep him occupied. After the third interruption in 5 minutes time, I threw all my gardening tools in a bucket and gave up in surrender. There are some days (most days) when the requests are just too frequent.

I miss me.

I guess what I probably miss most is having lengthy chunks of time to remember who I am and to do the things I love. I get an hour here and there to squeeze in a run or read a couple chapters in a book but, as an introvert, “recharging” in tiny snippets is no longer working. It’s like we’ve all reverted to the newborn phase of parenting again - there are no guarantees whether this nap, this craft you set up to entertain the kids, is going to buy you three minutes or three hours. So instead of starting something, you start nothing and waste away the minutes scrolling through your phone, trying to fill the void. And then when the minutes suddenly turn into an hour, you silently berate yourself for not seizing the opportunity to do whatever it was you wanted to do. But you didn’t know. You never can predict.

I miss me.

I miss the version of me who doesn’t yell so much. Yesterday, after full-blown yelling at the kids for the third time, I had the wherewithal to recognize what was operating, and I narrated it aloud to the kids in live time. “Kids,” I told them. “I’m yelling a lot today which means that I’ve reached my limit and I need some quiet time. For the next hour, I need you to leave me alone.” I ran outside to the patio with a novel and pretended to be invisible. Aside from one kid who joined me outside but whisper-promised that she “would be quiet”, they actually obliged my request. This moment on this particular day felt like a win, but still I wish we didn’t have to get to the yelling point to get this mama what she needs.

I miss me.

I miss having even an inkling of energy at the end of the day to anything other than to eat a bowl of ice cream and drink a glass or 2 of wine in celebration of another day checked off the calendar. I’m often soooo tapped out at the end of another long day with the kids that I don’t even feel like spending time with my husband or jumping on a Zoom call with some of the friends I love dearly. I miss my friends. And yet sometimes I guess I miss myself more and that internal cry to go into my shell in hibernation wins out.

I miss me.

I’m learning about myself that it takes me a good long while to settle in to change. When things are hard and my feathers are ruffled, I’m slow to adapt. I spend a long time flailing before I’m able to don my lifejacket and feel safe enough to stop fighting the current and just let it carry me in the new direction. I exert massive amounts of energy trying to get everything back to the way it was before and in doing so, I often completely miss or overlook unexpected moments of joy because it “wasn’t a part of my carefully orchestrated plan.” I miss enjoying things and a lot of that is my own darn fault.

I miss me.

But things look different now. Maybe this means that I, too, like the world around me, am going to have to change. I don’t like the sound of that. I’m still here grieving my “Dream Year.” This was “supposed” to be my first year with all the kids in school full time. This was “supposed” to be the year I had loads of alone time to remember who I am. This was supposed to be the year I work on writing a book. This was supposed to be the year I revived and breathed life into the parts of “Kelsie” that didn’t revolve entirely around my children. Ha. Boy is the joke on me right about now!

I miss me.

Some days are certainly harder than others. I’m learning to accept the good and the bad. It’s a bit like riding a roller coaster blind-folded - you just never know if today is going to involve a lot of smooth coasting or a steep uphill climb. I know all you parents out there can relate. I hope that we can make space for every part of this crazy ride we are all on - the grief, the good, the hard, the terrifying.

When my husband gave me this chunk of time today to write (can I get a hallelujah!?), I was hoping to compose a post about putting down roots and “growing where we are planted,” but honestly, I woke up this morning kind of wanting to spit on that message. That’s my typical M.O. by the time I reach about Thursday or Friday in a long week of quarantine, I guess you could say. I’ll get back there at some point. I promise I will. Because I know there is a really good message for all of us in there. But some days are harder and that’s okay. There is space for both.

In the meantime, I’ll draw your attention back to the passage of Scripture at the beginning of this post. It’s been really speaking to me and inspiring me to dig deep and keep going during these days that feel oh so mundane and repetitive and exhausting: “Do not grow weary in doing good for in due time you will reap your reward if you do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

Carry on, Weary Ones!