A Peek inside the Invisible Knapsack 25 Years Later

It’s been 25 years since Peggy McIntosh penned her famous piece on white privilege.  To commemorate I thought I would go over her list of invisible privileges to see if we could take any of them out of the backpack.  You know, since we’re post-racial and all.   To my dismay, though, I discovered that not only could I not  remove any of the privileges in the name of progress and all-hail-to-our-first-black-president but I actually need to ADD some privileges to the pack.


Here are 15 more privileges I would add to her already thorough and extensive list.

  1. I can expect the “Sponsored Posts” in my Facebook feed to feature my own skin color most, if not all, of the time.
  2. I can browse Netflix, HuluPlus & AmazonPrime and be certain that my “suggestions” will include people of my race.*
  3. When the fellow parents at my son’s preschool are aloof and unfriendly, I don’t wonder if it’s because of my race.
  4. I can be with my mixed-race nephews and everyone will assume I adopted them whereas when my friends of color go out with their mixed-race kids most people, at best, assume they are the nanny.
  5. I can assume that if my race is going to be portrayed on screen or on stage, people of my race will play those parts.
  6. I can visit potential schools for my children and find my own race well-represented among the faculty.
  7. I can go to a yoga class assured of finding other attendees who are white.
  8. I don’t ever worry about whether I’m being white enough.
  9. I don’t ever worry about whether I’m being too white.
  10. I have never had someone question my immigration status.
  11. I am not afraid of being arrested when I get pulled over.
  12.  I can wear a hoodie without being thought a “thug” or a danger to my community.
  13. I can crash my car and walk up to any house I choose to ask for help and not worry that I will be shot in the face.
  14. I can play my music as loud as I want while stopped at a gas station and not worry about being shot by man who doesn’t like my music.
  15. I can be approached by police and not wonder if one of them will end up choking me to death.

McIntosh went on to say, and her question is the same for us today,

What will we do with such knowledge?  Will [we] use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems?


*Thanks goes to Dr. Brian Bantum for alerting me to this one last year.  I, of course, had never noticed.

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Weekend Worthy

Worth your time from around the web this week…

Children Playing Around the World
Beautiful images.  Put me in the mood to travel.  And I don’t even like traveling all that much!

Doctors in China bowing to an 11-year-old Organ Donor
This image gripped me – more so, even, than the story itself.  His mama in the background and the deep respect of the doctors.  Isn’t it breathtaking?

Goodbye to Cloth Diapering & Ideal Motherhood
This resonated with me.  So many of the things I thought I would do as a parent, I didn’t do.  And vice versa.  Was painful at times!

 My Son has been Suspended Five Times.  He’s 3.
At first this didn’t seem all that remarkable to me.  Maybe the school just has a strict suspension policy?  But when compared to her son’s white schoolmates?  Puh-lease.   Read it to the end. JJ2_edit

Why Evangelicals Should Care About the Mikado Controversy
I found myself slipping into stage 4 of Awareness when the Mikado controversy started rolling into my feeds a few weeks ago.  This helped wake me up.

Iggy Azalea’s Post Racial Mess: America’s Oldest Race Tale, Remixed
Honestly, I barely know who Iggy Azalea is.  But I’ve been reading about her more and more lately and this was an interesting read for me.Iggy Azalea




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i DID it!

Well, folks, it happened.  I swam.  I biked.  I ran.  And I lived to tell the tale.

I came in 387th place.  Try not to be jealous, ok?

We got back from Denver around 7pm the night before the race.  When we left Seattle 5 days earlier, the city had been in the middle of a heatwave.  Sun-maggedon.    Seattle-ites going crazy.   Pulling out every fan in the house, grownups flopping around in kiddie pools, crazy.   So I was shocked when I woke up before dawn last Sunday to find it raining.  What the what?!

It was a just a light sprinkle, though.  No biggie to us racing-type folks. We can roll with it.

My friends and fellow racers, Shane and Hannah met me at Jack’s house near Seward Park and we all walked over together.


My wave started at 7:35am.  I, of course, had been ready to roll for a solid 45 minutes before my start-time.  I like to be prepared.  Which meant, though, that I had to peel off my wetsuit AND my super-official triathlon leotard thingy inside of the porta-potty twice during that 45 minute wait.  Nerves, people.  It couldn’t be helped.

My friend, La Verne, was at the starting line for the swimmers, snapping pictures. Jack had taken off 30 minutes earlier so she had seen him off and then waited for me.  I had no idea she would be there and I was so happy to see her.   One of my people!   Thank goodness I wasn’t completely alone with all these ridiculous triathletes, acting like we’re all excited and happy to be standing in Lake Washington at 7 in the morning.

The water was still pretty warm from the aforementioned heat wave so things were off to a good start.  I noticed, though, as I swam along that people don’t have a CLUE where they are in the water, myself included.  So not only do you have to look up regularly to make sure that you are staying on course, but folks be bumping into you right and left!   When a woman ran into me, or I her, we’d pop our heads out and say a quick “sorry” before getting back to business.  The guys, though?  They just plow ahead like you aren’t even there.

This one guy near me swam the whole way (1/2 mile) doing a modified breast stroke.  He was actually annoyingly surprisingly fast.  But for whatever reason, we just kept knocking into each other.  And twice, I literally ended up on his back.  It was… awkward.  But he didn’t even look at me.  He just powered on, intense and completely determined, while he dog-paddled along.  Maybe I should have just stayed on his back.


Coming out of the water. I had no idea they would have photographers everywhere. Makes a gal feel LEGIT.

On the flight home from Denver, I drew myself a diagram of my “transition” towel.  I envisioned this nice big towel spread out with my helmet, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc, all laid out just so.  But yeah, there are about a bajillion other bikes in the same area so you’ve basically got enough space for a small backpack and that’s it.  So much for my lovely diagram.   I just piled all of my things on top of each other and hoped for the best.  And my towel?  I used it to cover up my pile to protect it from the rain.

The 12 mile ride went well.  The only problem for me was the temperature.  I was FREEZING in that stupid leotard.  I was told that as soon as I started riding, the “tri suit” would dry and would actually keep me from getting too hot.   I hadn’t even considered that it might be raining on race day.   It had stopped drizzling by the time I started riding but it was windy and I was pretty miserable.   The best part was riding through the I-90 tunnel.  So warm in there!  Who knew?


Jason and the boys were waiting for me right around this bend.  It was so fun to see them!    The boys looked like they had both been bawling their eyes out just moments before but… whatever!   I couldn’t speak so I just waved heartily as I rode by and they cheered me through the second transition.

I grabbed my jacket (thank the stars) and Gryffin’s good luck hat and I was off.   My goal for the race was to finish without stopping.  I wasn’t trying to clock a PR (that’s sports-talk for “personal record”) or make it on the podium (obviously) so I just focused on being present and enjoying the race.   It worked for the most part.  I enjoyed riding on that guy’s back the swim and besides being cold, the ride felt like I was just out cruising Seattle on a Sunday morning (albeit in a leotard) but the run was hard for me.   Oi.  I knew it would be.  It’s my weakest of the three.  But I tried to enjoy the view and keep my legs moving.




I look happy, don’t I?   That was my “oh thank the sweet Lord that’s the finish line” look.

All in all, I didn’t feel too shabby.  Even while I was doing it, though, I felt sort of… out of body.  I couldn’t really wrap my mind around the fact that was doing a triathlon.  It seemed surreal.  The feeling of accomplishment was pretty great, though.  And I’ve been back in the gym twice this week already.  I’m hoping to keep up the habit of working out and I certainly don’t want to start back at square one.

When we got home after the race, all I could think about was EATING, a HOT SHOWER and MY BED.   My victory lap.   The sweet, lovely rest of a true athlete.  As I sat at the kitchen table, though, eating my celebratory croissants and sipping my latte, Jason said, “welp, I’m off to my frisbee game!  See y’all in a few hours.”


So the hardest part of the day was actually watching our over-tired, travel-weary, they had been bawling all morning boys AFTER running a race.  Next to that, the triathlon was a piece of cake!

Other triathlon-related posts…
Siren Song of the Slothful
Triathlon Update
Panic Mode

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Women Shrinking

Poetry has been slowly growing on me over the past decade.   I used to think that poetry just wasn’t my thing but I’ve discovered some poets of late that I really enjoy.  Christian Wyman, Wendall Berry and Pablo Neruda.  Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Patrick Kavanaugh, e.e. cummings, and several others.  In particular, though, I find that I especially resonate with the spoken word.    If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s poetry spoken out loud and the performance of it is part of the piece.

I saw this spoken word piece last year and it came to mind during a conversation I had with a friend after I wrote Low Visibility Ahead.  I had several conversations following that post that illuminated the vast and various ways that women can feel invisible.  Food (and our “relationship with it”) is definitely one of them.



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Feeling Your Skin

I went for a jog last month in the middle of the afternoon.  Normally I run early in the morning and I only see a handful of folks.  Dog-walkers, early birds leaving for work, maybe a fellow runner or two.  So jogging in the afternoon was a whole new experience for me.  As I made my way down the street and through our neighborhood, I saw all sorts of people out and about.  People planting flowers, mowing their lawns, chatting with friends, playing basketball, running to the playground, running through sprinklers, you name it.   And it was the first time in my life, I think, that I have genuinely felt my skin.  I didn’t see a single other white person while I was out on my run that day and I was surprised to find that I was keenly aware of it.

Of course I’ve been aware of my whiteness before.  But I can probably count the times on one hand and never in such an organic way that didn’t spring from some effort on my part to take notice.  It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling, per se.  We live in a diverse neighborhood and it’s common for me to see women in full or partial hijab, turbans, saris, and every conceivable color of skin while I’m out walking or running or playing with my kids.  But it’s very  rare that I wouldn’t see at least one other white person.   And I felt aware of my skin and my body in a noticeable way.

I’m always aware of my body as a woman.  Sucking in my stomach.  Monthly menstrual cramps.  Trying to find a straightjacket sports bra.  Crossing to the other side of the street because I’m alone and there’s a man up ahead whose look is lingering.  Crossing my legs in a meeting.  Pulling my shirt down to cover my backside when a guy gets on the treadmill next to mine.  Clutching my keys between each finger when walking alone at night or moving briskly down the middle of the street rather than on the sidewalk where it’s supposed to be safer so as not to invite harassment or catcalling or assault.  Yes, I’m aware of my female body.

But I’m not aware of my skin.  I don’t have to be.   I’m white so I’m fortunate enough to be around people who look like me in nearly every place and every space I choose to occupy.


So what about those who can’t say the same?  Folks like my friend from college, who is always aware of her skin and constantly on the lookout to see if her kids will be the only ones who aren’t white at Sunday School or VBS or on the playground.   Think about that.  If I took my boys to a preschool where the rest of the class was entirely female, it would give me pause.   Or if they were the only preschoolers in a group of 3rd graders in an art class, I would worry about them.  Anytime you think your kid is the ONLY one in any particular setting, you fret and you worry and you wonder about your choices.  Imagine feeling that for your kids on a daily basis.

Or how about my friend from church who can remember feeling different and standing out because of her skin all the way back in preschool.  That’s a LONG time to feel like you don’t fit in.  She’s aware of her skin on some level nearly all of the time.   Whether it’s being the only non-white person in a group, grappling with something like Seattle’s recent production of Mikado which parodies Asian culture with an all-white cast, or facing ignorant microaggressions on a weekly, if not daily, basis, she always feels her skin in a way that I don’t.

So what’s a white person to do?  Why should we care?  From a Christian perspective, at least, we should care because we are commissioned to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, right?   Romans 12:15.  It’s a classic.    But how can we hope to do either if we have no earthly clue what a non-white-person’s day-to-day life experience is like?   We know that the church is supposed to be living into and pressing toward the vision God gives us of shalom, of the world as God intended it to be, in Revelation 7:9.  But we cannot do that if we don’t at least try to understand the experience of those who do not look like us, eat like us, live like us.

And that begs the question of how.  How might we go about this?   How might we understand something that is so far beyond our own daily experience?   I think we can practice solidarity with people who are not like us by sitting in the knowledge that we have had a different experience and thus an easier road.  We can sit in the discomfort of that knowledge without trying to alleviate it.   And we can find those places where we feel our skin, even in small ways, and choose to occupy those spaces whenever possible.

For me, that means belonging to the YMCA rather than, say, Gold’s Gym.   Our local Y is perhaps the closest thing I have ever seen to a fulfillment of that vision of shalom from Revelation 7:9.   I have interacted with people from nearly every walk of life at the Y and I feel my skin there in a way that I never felt it at 24 Hour Fitness.    It means choosing to live in a neighborhood that is predominantly non-white.   And it means sticking around even when things feel uncomfortable and some of your neighbors are moving away for “safer” places.   It means choosing to take my boys to playgrounds where they will be the only white kids so they have a chance to feel their skin, too.  It means attending a church that is striving to be a place of authentic diversity.

Will I ever “get it?”  No.  I won’t ever know what it’s like to be a person of color.  And I certainly don’t have it all figured out.  But it’s vital that we continue to engage in the difficult work of solidarity.   It’s vital that we hear the stories and the experiences of people who have to walk a different road.  It’s vital that we keep pressing into those spaces where we feel even just a tad bit uncomfortable.  Because it’s the only way we can ever hope to genuinely weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  It’s the only way we can ever hope to catch a glimpse of the world as God intended it to be.  And in light of current world events, I’d sure like to catch a glimpse, wouldn’t you?

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Low Visibility Ahead

I attended a lecture last month here in Seattle that was open to the community.  My husband was unable to attend so I brought along a friend instead and we walked in chatting away about the usual stuff.  Our weekend, our kids, potential job interviews, stuff like that.   We were still ensconced in our conversation when we took our seats so it was a few minutes before we realized that we were, quite possibly, the oldest people in the audience.

We glanced at each other quizzically.  Did we miss the memo?   Was this a lecture for college students?  Early 20-somethings, maybe? Before I had time to fret over it, though, a young woman sat down next to me and promptly introduced herself.   She was 22 if she was a day and we chatted amiably for a few minutes until her friends arrived and we all turned our attention to the front of the room.

At the midway point, during a break, she turned back to me and asked,

“So… how did you, like, hear about this?”

I told her that I had seen a notice about the lecture on Facebook and thought it sounded interesting.

“Oh…  (nodding) that’s coooool.  Good for you.”  

Good for me?  I was confused and she must have seen the question in my eyes because she followed up with,

“I mean, that’s cool, you know.  That you, like, got out of the house and stuff.    That you go to stuff like this.  That’s really cool.”

Um, thanks? I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t.  I just nodded slowly and turned back to face the front of the room.  She meant well but her words ate at me for days.  I couldn’t quite identify why they bothered me so much.  I rolled them around in my head and replayed them for a week and a half before I figured it out.  Her words bothered me, not so much for their condescension, but because they poked at a feeling that has been festering in me for a few years.

I’m starting to feel invisible.

I started to notice it around the time that I had kids.  Pregnancy can be a bit of a tease, I think.  A fake-out.  People notice you when you’re pregnant.  Someone who wouldn’t even consider  striking up a conversation with you under any other circumstance is suddenly shooting the breeze with you about all things baby.  Folks give you their seat on the bus, fetch you water when you look a little peaked, and they smile at you and your adorable baby-bump even when you’re looking pretty haggard. So it can feel like a mighty quick turn-around from being the one that everyone sees to being the one that nobody notices at all.

The first time I remember experiencing that nagging feeling was at Pike Place Market in 2009.  Jason and I took Gryffin, then 8-months-old, to the annual cheese festival and we stood among the throngs of people sampling cheese and bread and artisanal olive oils.   I had Gryffin wrapped up on my chest and I shuffled in and out of the crowd next to Jason, as we slowly worked our way to the front of each booth.   Nobody took any notice of me in one way or another and eventually my back and feet began to protest so Jason took over the baby-wearing duties.  Almost instantly people took notice!

Oh!  Look at you and your sweet baby!

What an adorable daddy you are!

Oh, make way for THIS guy!  He’s got a little bundle in there!

Now that’s a real man right there!

At the time we laughed about it and used it to our advantage.  People let us cut in line and offered Jason extra samples.  Score!  But it also made me feel sort of small.   The second Jason wrapped that kid up on his chest he was getting fist-bumps and  Awwwws  from the folks at the market. A man with a baby is sexy.  Desirable.  A man with kids gets all sorts of kudos and high fives and a whole host of wow, well done, man.   But a woman doing the exact same things?  Nobody even notices her.

I’m not talking about being physically seen per-se.  I’m certainly not hoping for more cat calls or street harassment.  No, thanks.  I’m talking about more of a gradual fading out altogether.  It’s hard to pinpoint precisely.  It feels like I’m talking, say, but that my voice is getting quieter and quieter and nobody notices.  Like I’m standing outside a glass door looking in on a party I wasn’t invited to attend.

I’m not entirely sure why I feel like this or what lies at the root. At first I thought it was just part of getting older; that everyone must feel this way at my age.   Or that maybe it was yet another inevitable component of becoming a parent.  Jason doesn’t feel invisible, though.  He doesn’t feel like he’s on the outside looking in. I’m feeling a longing, a yearning, that he’s not feeling.  So it’s not simply age or parental status.  And even just a few casual conversations with some of my girlfriends tells me that I’m not the only one feeling this way.  It seems to be due, at least on some level, to being a woman.

I once heard a male writer say that he wants to be invisible when he writes; that he wants his stories and his writing to so carry the reader away that they aren’t aware of him at all.   It seemed like a such a noble sentiment at the time and I wanted to share it.  But I don’t.  Not really.  I write, at least in part, because I want to be seen.  I write because I want to be part of the conversation.  I write because I want my voice to be heard.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Rudy and it’s a scene from the beginning of the film that always stands out for me.  Rudy Ruettiger has been dreaming about playing football for Notre Dame since he was a little boy.  But he’s a mediocre player, his family is wholly unsupportive, and his grades are lousy so he settles for life at the local steel mill.   During the lunch break at the mill one day, four years after graduating high school, his best friend, Pete, surprises him by remembering that it’s his birthday and he gives Rudy a gift.   A Notre Dame jacket.   Rudy looks at it with such reverence and awe and then he slowly slips it on.  He looks up at Pete wistfully and says, “Do you think it looks good on me?”  And Pete says, Rudy.  You were BORN to wear that jacket.”

Pete saw Rudy.  He’s the only one who really saw him.  And Rudy came alive under his friend’s gaze.   I remember coming home for winter break my freshman year of college.  I had just spent 12 long weeks meeting all new people, navigating life away from my parents and classes and studying, trying to figure out who might be my friends and who I wanted to be and I was exhausted.   Before heading home, I had bought a new pair of shoes.  It was a bold move for me.  I had always declared that they weren’t my style and you wouldn’t catch me wearing a pair of THOSE.  But I had come around to them and it felt like a big deal when I bought them.  But nobody at school knew me or what a big deal it was for me; what a stretch it had been for me to buy them.  I wore them home and I remember walking into the kitchen.  My mom and a friend of mine from high school were waiting for me.  My friend took one look at my feet and said,

Nance!  You HATE those shoes!  What is happening??!!

My mom was equally shocked and made a big fuss over my change of heart.  After all that time away, it felt so good in that moment to be known; to finally be able to let my guard down and rest in someone knowing me.

When I feel that nagging sense of decreasing visibility, when I’m overcome with the feeling that nobody sees me anymore, I’m going to home in on the places where I feel most known.  I’m going to home in on my husband and my kids because I know they see me.  They see me and they know me and among those three, I matter.  I can rest there.

I’ll home in on the story of Zacchaeus in the book of Luke.  If you aren’t familiar with it, Zacchaeus lived in Jericho and he heard that Jesus was coming to town.  He was the chief tax collector in town and probably about  as popular as an IRS auditor but he wanted to see Jesus.  He wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  The crowd, though, was so immense and Zacchaeus so short that he couldn’t see a thing.  So he climbed a tree, hoping to catch a glimpse.  And Jesus surprised everyone by seeing him up in the tree, calling out to him by name and asking if he could have dinner with him.  That’s the rough equivalent of having Obama or Oprah or Beyonce seeing you  in a huge crowd, calling out your name and asking if you want to go grab a bite.  The story of Zacchaeus reminds me that above all else, God sees me.

I’ll home in on the spaces I share with my closest friends, who know and are known by me.   I’ll home in on my church that celebrates the voices and the leadership of women.   And I’ll try to broaden my perspective.  I’ll expand my view and look outward.  I’ll look for the people around me whose voices aren’t being heard; for people who long to be seen, for people who feel like they, too, are invisible sometimes.

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Panic Mode

Ok, team.  It is officially time to FREAK OUT.   This triathlon gig is less than a month away.  As in, I’ve got, like, 3 weeks left to train for this thing and I’m in full-blown panic mode.  Whose idea WAS this, anyway?  When I started my training regiment back in April, I imagined that by the time July rolled around, I’d be confident.   Calm.  Ready to roll.    And secretly?  I also thought I’d be kind of ripped by now.  You know, more taut and sinewy and stuff?  But alas, here I sit in my writing chair feeling the same as always only now with that smug satisfaction you get when you’ve already done your workout for the day.

I’m doing the work, people.  I’m following the training plan.  Sticking with the program.  I’m even drinking water and what not, trying to stay hydrated.  You know, optimizing my performance.  But I thought that by this point I’d be absolutely flying full steam ahead.   And I also thought that maybe, just maybe, I might be kind of awesome.  That I would surprise everybody with my mad skills and super speed.  But working out is hard, y’all.  I guess it takes more than 3 months to get yourself into amazing shape.  And possibly a tad less ice cream.  Whatever it is, I’m struggling.  Reality has brought me back to just hoping that I can finish the race without stopping.  Awesomeness will, unfortunately, have to wait.

I think swimming might be my favorite of the three disciplines.  I can finish the 1/2 mile swim now without stopping and I like how you can’t do anything else when you are swimming.  There’s nothing to look at, you can’t listen to music or podcasts, you can’t even check the time.  You just keep swimming and count your laps.  It’s like being in a sensory deprivation tank.  Or something like that.

I asked Jason to take a look at my form a few weeks ago, though, when we were at the community pool in Lynnwood with the boys and when I looked up at him after my lap, he was chuckling.   He said that I was bringing my head SO far out of the water when I brought it up for a breath that I was turning my whole body and weaving to and fro wildly in my lane.  He had all sorts of advice and ideas that were all fine and good but in the end, a girl just needs to BREATHE.  The breathing is still the hardest part for me and I gotta get a good gulp of air.   I’ll have to deal with my form later, I guess.  I haven’t hit my head on the wall in weeks, though, so I thinking that’s a good sign.

I went on a 20-mile bike ride out to the Redhook Brewery with several folks from our community group last Saturday.    I was the only woman on the ride and I was majorly intimidated but Jason promised he wouldn’t leave me in the dust.  Once I got over my jitters, I had to admit it was pretty fun riding in a group.  We were very Tour de France, the 7 of us.   Except that Jack was wearing a short-sleeve button down shirt and cargo shorts.  He mocked me with his outfit.  He looked like he was off to a luau while I was huffing and puffing on the longest ride of my entire life.


We totally looked like this.

And Jason, riding behind me at one point, exclaimed happily, “Isn’t this so great, Pal?  Don’t these bikes just make it so  easy?  I mean, we’re hardly doing anything here.  I’m not even breathing hard!!”    Ummmmm, yeah.  Speak for yourself, Pal.   I’ll show you who’s doing all the work.  But I couldn’t  say that, of course, because I was breathing.so.hard.

Again, there, the breathing.  When does that get easier?  My poor lungs.   My body isn’t actually all that sore anymore.  But I just can.not breathe.  Jason assures me that I’m still improving, that I haven’t plateaued, but it’s just so painfully slow.  I’m so painfully slow.   I finally completed a 3-mile run last week.  It took me 35 minutes.  Sigh.  At one point on a hill, I saw my shadow and I’m serious, y’all, it looked that I was standing still  I was going so slow.  Hills are brutal.

And speaking of running, I must look absolutely ghastly while I’m at it.  Last week I passed a neighbor on the sidewalk and I attempted a smile but I was feeling pretty ragged.  He just looked at me, his eyes sorta wide, and said, “Girl… you gon’ need to bring it DOWN a notch.  I don’t know what you’re about but take it easy, aight?”  To which I just gave one of those hysterical half-laughing, half-crying sounds.

Also, I stink when I work out.  Literally stink.  I used to think that my lack of sweating and stinking during a workout was my superpower.   I didn’t need to shower afterwards.  How cool is that?  I could practically wear my street clothes and then just continue on with my day.  Turns out, though, that that was only the case because I wasn’t actually working out.   Now I have to plan and organize my day around my workout because I need to shower afterwards.  It’s so inconvenient.

Well, no matter how soft or slow or stinky I am, I’m rejoicing that I can even think about doing something like this after 5 years of daily back pain; after giving up hope that I would ever be active again. It’s good to branch out and try something new even if it’s hard and blah blah, right?  That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.  Ready or not, this triathlon is happening.  I’m putting on that leotard in T-25 days, people.  Wish me luck!

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City of Angels

In which I tell you about our trip to Los Angeles.  We flew down two weeks ago to attend my grandmother’s memorial service and we tacked a few extra days on to the trip to hang out at the beach,  explore some of So Cal, and maybe even venture as far as Disneyland.   After hearing about some amazing hotel deals that our friends had scored on Priceline, we were tempted to give it a go ourselves.  Maybe we could stay in some crazy fancy hotel for cheap?  We read up on how to work the Priceline magic and whaddyaknow, it worked!  We scored a 5 star hotel in West Hollywood.

We were feeling pumped.  But when we mentioned to some friends where we’d be staying, they laughed in our faces.  “You’re staying THERE????  Oh my gosh, that place is INSANE.  Super  fancy.”

Psshhhh.  Come on.  How fancy-pants could it be?   I mean, really.

QUITE.  The answer is quite fancy, as it turns out.   I was ready, though.  I got the boys haircuts before we left, bought them both a new pair of Converse all-stars and only packed their un-stained t-shirts.   I picked out our coolest duds for the flight so we could arrive looking hip.to.zip.  Things might go south by the end of the week but by golly, we were going to arrive IN STYLE.

I forgot to calculate one crucial thing, however.  We couldn’t check-in to our hotel until 4pm.  We landed at 12:30.  With several hours to kill, we decided to head to nearby Venice Beach.


I was still feeling optimistic at this point. We could still arrive looking good after going to the beach, right?


The cool hair gel was long gone but we could still pull it off.


But then I looked away for TWO seconds and this happened.


Which I quickly remedied to THIS.


Jason decided to go for a swim after deck changing on the beach withOUT a towel. I’ll let you imagine that for a minute… or better yet, don’t.


And by the end, this was happening.

Sand EVERYWHERE.  The boys were covered in sand.  Jason was covered in sand.  And they were all soaked because we hadn’t brought any beach towels.   Excellent.  We drove for over an hour & a half in traffic before settling on a (terrible) restaurant for dinner and we finally rolled into the hotel lobby a half hour past the boys’ typical bedtime.   When the valet took the keys to our car, he handed us a receipt that informed us it would be $37 per NIGHT to park the car.

Naturally Jason started hyperventilating.  He then took one look at the fancy bell hops and whispered frantically, “Grab ALL the bags.”   I heard the desperation in his voice and I knew he was not to be crossed at this point.  I threw on the backpack, my purse, grabbed our snacks, the boys’s stupid  new shoes that take FOREVER to put on, Gryffin’s stuffed frog and one rolling suitcase.  Jason had the second backpack, the second rolling suitcase, his shoes and we walked in with two (three, really, let’s be honest) bathing suit-clad, sand-covered, barefoot boys and me, the sherpa.  All my best-laid plans! I wanted to roll in there looking swag, y’all.  So sleek, so pulled together.

When we walked up to the front desk, the guy gave us a shocked once over, took just  a split second too long to regain his composure before quickly saying, “Hello!  Welcome!  You must be our Priceline guests this evening.”

Nice.  Real nice.

But… yeah.  I mean, we looked like this.   Isaiah wasn’t even wearing underwear at this point.


This was in the elevator that came complete with a full-length mirror and a video playing on the wall behind us. Heaven forbid we get bored on our 13-second ride.

Jason vowed ALL THE WAY to the 9th floor that tomorrow night, come hell or high water, we’d find street parking.   But even he had to admit that our room looked pretty posh.  Hardwood floors, kind-sized bed for us, a huge couch for the boys to share, some incredible views and even a lovely piece of… lace?   Just for fun, apparently.


Gryffin dancing with the lace.


The view from one of our floor to ceiling windows


And…from the other floor to ceiling window


There were some interesting decorative choices. Like this… GINORMOUS orange-lighted mirror situation that was installed in the center of the room.


And this hand on the coffee table.


Isaiah slept with the hand the first night.

While the room was nice, the whole hotel was just… a bit much for us.  We didn’t see a single other child there during our 4 night stay, the pool area was WAY too fancy for canon balls, goggles and floaties, and the other guests were straight up intimidating.  EVERY morning in the lobby, we saw different versions of the same guy.  Super tan, 20-something with plaid shorts that seemed just a skosh too tight, colorful polo shirt and Sperry topsiders.  Basically, the whole hotel was full of bros.  Bros and the Rusts, apparently.    Oh, and on occasion, a woman dressed like this.


But let’s forget about the hotel for a couple minutes and talk instead about the TRAFFIC.   You know that scene in the Princess Bride where Count Rugen has Wesley hooked up to the machine with the suction cups?   And after using the machine on Wesley for the first time, he explains what the suction cups do.  He says in that creepy calm voice,  “Instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life.  I’ve just sucked one year of your life away.”

That is what LA traffic did to us.  It sucked our life away.  Every time we got in the car, it felt like part of my SOUL died.  City of Angels?  Please.   City of soul-sucking hours upon hours upon hours in the car.   Admittedly this was entirely our fault because instead of staying at a Best Western by the beach, we decided to stay at the hotel of extreme hip-ness up in Hollywood and so we were forced to drive our sorry selves back and forth and back again in the mind-numbing, life-stealing parking lot that is Los Angeles.

Despite all of this, we still managed to have a pretty nice time, all things considered.  The boys were incredibly cheerful all week, we were able to spend a day and a half with all of my cousins and their kids, plus my aunts and uncles, we had an incredible memorial service for my grandmother, and we managed to squeeze in as much beach time as humanly possible given our schedule.  Here’s a look at the rest of the trip in pictures…


We saw some CRAZY breakdancing in Venice Beach. Plus a couple old dudes walking around in tighty whiteys?


I only took pictures of the break dancers, though.  Serious skills!


At Tongva Park in Santa Monica




After AN HOUR in the car to drive 14 miles, we pulled off at a park in Beverly Hills to stretch our legs




A picture of my grandmother during the slide show at the memorial service


My uncle Bryant giving a portion of the eulogy.


A HUGE highlight for both me and Jason was getting to meet this man. Dr. John Perkins was a close friend of my grandmother’s and he flew in from across the country so that he could be part of the service. Jason and I have read his books and the two of us actually met at the Harambee Center, a non-profit that Dr. Perkins started in Pasadena alongside… my grandmother! It was a delight and a joy to get to chat with him after the service and hear more about his unlikely friendship with my grandma.


My dad and Isaiah getting some hang out time over dinner after the service.


Due to the aforementioned traffic situation, we opted out of Disneyland (relax, the boys don’t even know what Disneyland IS), and headed back to the beach and the Santa Monica pier.


Jason went on EVERY ride with the boys.


The boys didn’t have a clue that they were missing out on the happiest place on earth.


Isaiah was a HUGE fan of the roller coaster. Gryffin? Not so much. He was in tears when they got off but Isaiah and Jason went a second time.


Back at LAX. We were definitely ready to go home by this point.


The pilot let Isaiah touch about a BAZILLION buttons in the cockpit. I wasn’t entirely sure I felt safe on the plane afterwards.

We were so relieved to get back home.  We feel pretty foolish about our ridiculous hotel choice and have vowed that it’s Motel 6 from here on out.  Not to mention that Jason is still bitter he wasn’t able to find any street parking.   Ah well.  C’est la vie.  I didn’t break any toes, nobody was sprayed with pepper spray and noone got sick.  We’ll take it.


The boys on the ornamental swing in the hotel lobby.

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Father’s Day

We were supposed to be camping this weekend.  Well, we WERE camping, actually.  But… we got rained out.  We arrived just in time to set up camp and eat dinner before the deluge began.   We ate s’mores in the trunk of our car while the rain fell, undeterred.  This is the PNW after all.  A little rain never hurt anyone!   When it didn’t let up, we made a mad dash for our tent and settled in early for the evening.  No big deal.  But it POURED all night and all the next day.  After eating breakfast in the car, we drove over to the ranger station and asked about the forecast for the rest of weekend.  Rain and more rain.


After much debate, we finally decided to pack up and head for home.  We ended up spending the day at the Children’s Museum in Everett and then at the a-mazing Lynnwood Rec Center Pool in the afternoon.  Water slides and hot tubs washed away our sorrows and we got home last night in time for dinner.   Altogether not a bad time at all.  And hey, LOADS better than our first trip last year, though I’ll admit our bar isn’t set very high after that.

Now I’m sipping my latte sitting in my favorite chair and thinking all was not lost.  I’m looking through old pictures and thinking about Father’s Day tomorrow.  Here are some of my favorite shots of Jason with the boys.  I’ve learned so many new things about J as I’ve watched him transition with ease into this thing called fatherhood.  He’s been a natural since day 1.  He’s part wild, part tender, part silly, part story-teller, part dreamer.  He’s an advocate, a teacher, a theologian, a counselor, a cheerleader.   Mostly, though, he’s just Papa.  Fully present with these 2 fellas day in and day out.   What joy is theirs to have such a one to celebrate tomorrow.  Cheers to you, my love.


Football hold!


Isaiah’s first trip to the SSCC arboretum

Front Camera

Boys day out


New Year’s Day, 2011

Schnell-La-Palooza 060

Lincoln Park


Vacay in Portland, 2011

Back Camera

Mission Lake, 2011


G’s first-ever ice cream cone


Lincoln Park, 2012


Tired horsey, tired riders


J & G studying the advent calendar, 2012


Gryffin’s 5th birthday


Halloween, 2013 — those are REAL deer antlers on J’s head


There’s a lot of dangling in Jason’s parenting




And nakedness.


Eating breakfast in the car yesterday morning. See the rain on J’s glasses?


Snoqualmie selfie

And, of course, I’m thinking about this guy!  A generous and kind dad he still is and a fun-filled, patient Grandpa to boot.  








Last week at my Grandma’s memorial

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Gun Control and the Church

When I was in college I remember an assignment from my Persuasion & Propaganda class.  We had to research gun control laws and statistics, examine both sides of the issue, and then create a short film designed to convince the class of our viewpoint.  From the get go, I knew which side I would espouse.  I kinda sorta looked at the opposing arguments but it was already a done deal. My video would be anti-gun control.  Because duh.  That’s what conservative Christians do, right?   Hail to the NRA and the second amendment, patriotism and all that.

I heard about the shooting last week at SPU about as soon as it was possible for a person to find out, thanks to social media.   The details were still sketchy.  It was unclear if the shooter had been apprehended and I was transfixed on Twitter, searching and researching the SPU hashtags and trying to figure out what was going on.  I refreshed Facebook repeatedly, doggedly searching for friends and acquaintances who work or attend classes on campus.  Caenisha, Bo, Brian, Eric, Nate, Emily, Tricia, Tony, Brenda, David… and so many more.  So many folks from our family at church are connected with Seattle Pacific.  Our church skipped our usual Sunday services yesterday, opting instead for a time of lamentation and grief with our community.

In the intervening years since college, I’ve re-examined, or rather examined for the first time, my views on guns and gun control and I’m more than a little embarrassed by my video assignment all those years ago.  This past weekend I found myself pondering the topic once more.  Honestly, once the initial surprise of the shooting and the horrible news of the death of Paul Lee passed over me, I felt sort of…flat.  Dull.  Hopeless.  Did this really happen again?  What’s going on?   I feel afraid.   It’s too much.  I can’t process this much pain.

Of the 12 deadliest shootings in US history, 6 have taken place since 2007.   I’m not generally a doomsayer but surely, surely we need to do something.   And I’m genuinely baffled as to why the default Christian stance, as mine once was, is overwhelmingly in favor of lax gun laws and the protection of the 2nd amendment at all costs.

The argument I hear most often from Christians is that guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.   While there is truth in this sentiment, let’s look a little closer and see how it plays out in the US and around the world.

In 1996 a gunman killed 35 people in a mass shooting in Australia.  The government immediately set to work on gun reform laws.  They tightened licensing, banned assault weapons and shotguns, and financed both gun amnesty and buyback programs.  The result?  According to the American Law & Economics Review in 2010, firearm homicides dropped 59% in Australia from 1995-2006.  In the 18 years prior to the reform, there were 13 massacres resulting in 102 deaths and NONE since.

Japan, likewise, has very strict gun control laws.  Only 11 people were killed with guns in 2008, compared to 12,000+ in the U.S.   Even when you take into account the difference in population, that’s a HUGE disparity.    And the trend is similar in other countries with strict gun control laws.  Per 100,000 people in 2010,  the United Kingdom reported 0.25 deaths by firearm.  Germany reported 1.24 and Australia 1.06.  But the US?  The US reported 10.3 per 100,000.

In a New York Times editorial in 2012, it was reported that “experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides… the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.”

The other argument I often hear is that the American people have the right to defend themselves.  Armed citizens are more likely to be able to protect themselves from these crazed gunmen.  But according to Heather Rogers at the Independent Voter Network, 88 out of every 100 American citizens owns a gun.  That’s nearly a gun per person.  Yet the mass shootings continue at an alarming rate.  Not to mention that an article by Nicholas Gerber on gun laws reports that defensive gun use succeeds only rarely and gun owners are 4.5x more likely to be shot during an assault.

While people DO kill people, a firearm exponentially expands the breadth and depth of a person’s ability to take life.  And as we saw last week with the shooter at SPU who was stopped by a college kid with some pepper spray, it doesn’t take a gun to defend oneself.  Other things to take into consideration are the socioeconomic, cultural and psychological factors that drive up crime and homicide but first things first.

Jesus is famous for his mandate to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy” in his sermon on the mount, as told in the book of Matthew.  It was revolutionary then and remains revolutionary today.   We have also been given other visions of shalom, of the world as God intended it to be (Isaiah 2 and 32, Revelation 7 and 21, Leviticus 26 to name a few) and they are all visions of unparalleled peace and non-violence.  It’s those places and those visions that the church is supposed to be pressing into and yearning toward.   In other words, the church should be leaning in the direction of life.  And while policies and laws are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, shouldn’t the church err on the side of laws and policies that seek to protect life?   Stricter gun control laws, as evidenced in countries like Australia and Japan, appear to do just that; to err on the side of protecting life.  Imagine the impact the church could have in this conversation if we were leaning together in the direction of life, instead of scrambling around trying so hard to protect ourselves and our so-called “rights.”


Our amazing church staff showing solidarity yesterday with SPU.


For a timeline of Gun Control Laws in the U.S., see here.
For an interesting infographic regarding women and gun violence, see here.
To read an editorial by John Howard, prime minister of Australia from 1996-2007, click here.

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