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!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Making humans who make presentations

Okay all you teachers out there, I think I might be starting to get it. There is something pretty cool about creating an assignment, watching the kids embrace it (and fight it) and then implement it and pull it off. For me there's a little bit of, "Wow, I made this assignment up. And it kind of worked out. Look what they did!" And then, since I also happen to be the mother of my students, there's this other piece that screams, "ALSO, I made these kids! And they're so amazing!" It's a merging of creativity and pride on a whole new plane.

Jack in particular really impressed me. I had given him a sheet of questions to answer and that's the paper he was referring to when he did his presentation. It didn't even occur to me beforehand that he would need to rephrase the questions as statements in order for it to make sense and so his little brain was working overtime doing that on the fly. I was so proud!

Because a new form of online learning rolls out this week in our district, last week I wanted to wrap up any pending projects that I'd given the kids during the 2 weeks of Mom's-100%-In-Charge School. I'm sure legitimate homeschoolers are a lot more organized and set due dates when they assign projects, but I'm obviously making up everything on the fly which is extremely good for my perfectionist-everything-needs-to-be-just-so personality (or so I'm told). So on Friday morning, I decided that the planet science presentation I'd assigned each kids was due....THAT DAY. Daddy was home and so it seemed fitting that we make it a family thing.

One kid in particular was less than thrilled. You see, she's a lot like me. She needs structure and boundaries and guidelines and a vague "teach me some facts you find about Neptune in a Powerpoint presentation" is just a bit too loose for her liking. We'd already had this conversation when I first gave the assignment, after which I provided her with the following guidelines:

I guess I thought I was pretty clear about what I wanted. But leave it to your child to suddenly make you feel like you are the World's Most Incompetent Communicator. Also apparently she lost the above document.

"Tell me WHAT you want me to teach you!
I don't know what kind of facts I'm supposed to include!
My teacher always tells me what to cover!
How many slides long is it supposed to be?
Are there supposed to be pictures?

It took a couple hours to pull ourselves together and it was a stretching exercise but eventually I was able to convince her that whatever she had at 3 PM that afternoon was good enough. There were going to be no grades! There weren't any rules! Every answer was going to be the right answer! What a dream...but only for some types of less-perfectionist learners. (Weird! - It's like she's related to me or something). Honestly, I would hate me if I had been her but we pushed through and she came up with an awesome finished product and we are both perhaps better humans for it.

So all that to say, I see some of the draws of teaching. It's kind of a cool experience to see a learning venture all the way through. That said, today is now Monday and I am beyond exhausted and have literally ZERO IDEA HOW I WILL MAKE IT THROUGH THIS WEEK.

But I did get a round of antibiotics from my doctor today for this everlasting illness so hopefully more energy is around the corner? One can only hope.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The 50 hour day

I realize this photo makes it look like we all sit around on our respective devices all morning doing our work together. Please don't be misled. This pose lasted a solid 23 seconds before Pandora wouldn't work on Emma's computer (and she wanted music to serenade her math work) and Isla could hear the instrumental piano leaking from my headphones, which was breaking her concentration, so she moved to another. This is essentially her M.O. anyways...wherever her siblings are, she is in a different room. But the picture was cute and we all need some cute right about now so I snapped it. 

Graham might have tasked the kids with writing their current Teacher in Resident notes of appreciation last night after I lost my shizzle at the end of a super rotten day. I like the mental picture of me shugling with Jack. I'm pretty sure it's snuggling but I think shugling sounds more fun.

This week is slogging along. Our new reality of being home bound is really sinking in. I find strange comfort in the fact that the whole world is in this together. Often my struggles have felt so unique and individualized so shifting everyone's baseline normal helps me, oddly enough, feel like I'm being "seen" in the midst of the chaos. And if there's one fundamental thing I've learned that I need, it's to be seen and understood by others.

I've been trying to get us outside every day moving our bodies. I need it. The kids need it (though they definitely don't know it). My one guaranteed way to get them out the door is to retrieve our free kids lunches at our neighborhood middle school. In addition to providing lunch, they are also providing breakfast for the following day. I'm so grateful for one less decision I have to make each day (what to feed them) and hopefully it will also help our grocery budget which is off the handle this month with all the rumors of total lockdown. Usually I make the kids walk but yesterday as a special "treat," I let them ride their bikes. 

Rain or shine, we are getting out there. The days feels 50 hours long and so yesterday I made us all go on a neighborhood bike loop in the afternoon as well. We have the time so, why not? The forecast has been for rain all week but we have been blessed with pockets of sun and we are monopolizing on them. The kids also told me about this yoga storyteller called Cosmic Kids that posts exercise videos on YouTube (apparently this is what they do in PE at school when they have a sub). Yesterday they/we did Frozen yoga and this morning it was Pokeman. It wasn't on their school list today but Jack actually ASKED for it and it bought me 26 minutes to finish getting ready and mop the floor so I went with it like a boss. 

Graham's Aunt Nancy has gone above and beyond and has been teaching our kids (and some of the other second cousins) both art and writing lessons via Zoom. 

She taught the first class with my kids in person (when our district was the first to close) and then she took it online which has worked remarkably well. She even porch-delivered some of the art supplies the kids needed. I'm learning a lot second hand from the kids. Perhaps I should just sit in and do the lesson along with them. 

The first session they learn about different color techniques using Prismacolor pencils which are waxier and allow for more blending and shading. In their next session, they learning about how to use different types of lines in their art and they were tasked with creating 5 unique building designs in a non-Coronavirus futuristic world. Today, they began a writing lesson using their buildings as a launching point. 

Our district is putting the finishing touches on a Remote Learning version 2.0 that will begin next week. The state of WA issued an order that learning needs to continue in some capacity during this shutdown. It doesn't sound like it will be nearly as interactive as the first version was but at least they will be in contact with their teachers again and will receive some teacher-led direction. This teacher was doing her best but it's really hard to "quickly come up with a curriculum" for three different grade levels on the fly. I had about a million link options which was much more overwhelming than helpful.

I will close with the above photo that I found immensely reassuring when I read it. My eight-year-old thinks I'm "helpable" so I guess there's hope for me yet. 😂

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

An exercise in challenging perfectionism (i.e. doing a craft project!)


I decided I'm no longer going to state what day of homeschooling we are on because, if we're being technical, I'm actually beginning my 4th week of having kids at home so my count was inaccurate anyway. Plus we took this past Friday "off" from sit-down school and went to see the daffodils in the Skagit Valley. So the perfectionist in me wonders which days "count" and which days don't and then things get messy and I start to reveal less glamorous parts of my like-to-categorize-everything personality. And so let's get crazy and live in the gray and NOT EVEN COUNT DAYS because does keeping track of time even matter anymore?

This week are FEELING IT. I hardly slept last night. And one thing I AM still counting is the number of days I've been sick. Today is day 15 and I've kept up a fairly positive attitude but that always starts to waver a bit after 2 full weeks of feeling like crap. We're trying to get the train back on track and remember the many, many things we have to be grateful for but some minutes are harder than others. Especially when I'm seated next to a kid who literally moans with pain(?), boredom(?) every time a new math problem pops up on her computer screen.

Last night, the governor gave the official "Stay Home" order for the state of Washington. We were already mostly home so it doesn't change much other than that we will no longer be allowing the kids to interact in-person with anyone outside I home because they are simply unable to successfully keep a 6-foot social distance buffer. They were horrified by this news and are quick to tell you, "This virus is ruining everything!" 

I keep thinking we will do more "fun" school like sewing, art projects, cooking, gardening (and we are, to some extent), but it's amazing how quickly the day gets absorbed by the very short list of academics I'm asking of the kids (an online math program from school, journaling for the girls and a brief picture/1-2 sentence writing assignment for Jack), and with the sunshine last week, they have been chomping at the bit to get outside and play. Because of the governor's order, we decided to start our morning today by making mailboxes to put on the front porch so the neighbor kids can still communicate with each other via letters. The kids both loved it and also struggled when things didn't go *just* as they had planned. I have no idea what that feels like! Ha.