steady

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steady me still
my bones
i will
make you feel
take you where
you can heal and
all the waiting we have done
the leaving we counted on
like the sun
the grief we carried for everyone
will come undone
rest at our feet
and like the shore
and sea we’ll meet
every good thing
we always knew
was waiting for us
i love you (i love you i love you)

Happy 23rd, everyone. It’s a beautiful day to be in Love.

-A

sweet 16

(edited to add: i know it’s the 24th now…we have a million kids and there aren’t enough hours in the day.)

today is the 16th 23rd since last march when the door opened and everything flipped upside down (or was it right side up?). it feels impossible that it was so many months ago because i remember it like it was yesterday, but also 16 months sounds impossibly short because i can barely remember a day i didn’t wake up completely in awe of her (there’s really nothing i love more than waking up next to her except maybe going to sleep with her) and this life we get to live.

i have all the words and all the feelings about all the things, but it’s monday and i’m tired and hungry, so here’s a picture and some links to previous 23rd posts:

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the 6th

the 11th

the 11th, part 2

the 12th

the 12th, part 2

xoxo, k

let’s get real, shall we?

we’ve talked a lot about the leaving here in this little space, and i kind of hate it because this story is so much more than that. it is bigger than the people who are choosing to not be a part of it, and i want to start focusing on that. but first…

first i want to be really real about the kind of hurt we’ve experienced. some people have chosen to make quiet exits, and some have chosen to go loudly. either way, a common thread is that they want to absolve themselves of any guilt or wrongdoing. like they think we’re going to say, “no problem. we understand. no hard feelings…it was fun while it lasted.” i don’t know…maybe it’s a character flaw on my part that i can’t say that and just let it go that easily, but this heartbreak is like nothing i’ve ever experienced and i don’t think it’s reasonable for me to make this ok for anyone else. we all get to make our own choices, and there are people who chose to leave; i don’t understand it, but i can respect their right to choose.

what i can’t understand or respect is this:

people who love jesus and still can’t won’t even try. family members (FAMILY!) who want to sit in church on sunday mornings, raise their hands in worship, hang crosses and bible verses in their house and still refuse to even try. this happened today and my heart hurts so much.

if you can’t even try, don’t want to even meet this new family…well, that’s a choice you are free to make. but make it and walk away. own your decision. take responsibility for the hurt you are causing. acknowledge the heartbreak. it’s been a year and a half of roller coaster emotions with this particular person…at first she wanted to try, then she didn’t, then she stopped communicating, then she tried, and now this.

i can’t get behind a jesus who would advocate treating people this way, and i don’t understand this choice. i think about our kids as adults…about what it would take for me to say, “i can’t…it’s too hard.” and i literally can’t think of one single thing, cannot imagine ever saying, “you are my daughter, but i cannot be involved with your new family because it’s too hard.”

i’m so thankful that this is not the focus of our story…that we have more important things to focus on and that we are finding people who love us unconditionally. but i do think it needs to be acknowledged: seen and heard for what it is. i loved this woman like a mother, and it has been heartbreaking to not get to share this journey with her…all the love and the healing, the joy and the absolute magic. i hate that she isn’t getting to see how her granddaughters have blossomed, how happy they are, how free and accepted they feel.

the pain is real. and so is the healing. and in their own ways, both bring beauty to this crazy life. i’m grateful for all of it…and for all of you.

xoxo, k

 

parvo and a little white box

this definitely starts out as a story about dog poop. (sorry.) it gets better though. (promise.)

last week, our puppy got very sick. she almost died, and we are going to be paying her vet bills for a very long time. what started with a pile of vomit outside quickly escalated to the worst mess i’ve ever had to clean up…from her kennel she somehow managed to get poop all over the bottom shelf of our bookcase (in addition to the carpet, floor, and wall). i put her outside so i could clean it up, naively believing she had just eaten something she shouldn’t have. it became clear when i went outside to bathe her check on her that we were not headed anywhere good (or clean)…that without medical intervention she would certainly die. so i left the bookcase contents, removed and sanitized from the bottom shelf, scattered around the living room and took our girl to the vet (because look at that face).

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a couple of hours later, with an assurance that our vet’s office would kindly cap our bill at $1,000 we had a diagnosis…parvo. we also had a terrible mess from the car ride there, that no matter how many times we scrubbed it or what “guaranteed to work” cleaner we used did nothing to mask the “our dog was terribly sick in this car” odor. to say that we were exhausted from the day is laughable. what i wanted to do was climb into bed and sleep for days…

but there was a pile of things strewn about the living room that, now cleaned and sanitized, needed to be put away: a box of slides from my mom’s childhood, a photo album full of treasures from the 90s, ashes from a childhood pet (i know, i know), a few knick knacks…and a plain white box. i stacked everything back in its spot, but i couldn’t put that white box back without opening it first, a trip down memory lane that i probably hadn’t taken in at least a decade, and one that always leaves me with more questions.

the box is full of all the things my grandparents decided to save from my mom’s funeral and the days and weeks that followed…the death certificate (12/22/91, 10:47am, cause of death: cerebral edema secondary to fulminant hepatic failure), a copy of the eulogy (delivered the day after christmas), a guest book full of signatures (mostly of people who loved my grandparents and me…very few who actually knew or loved the woman whose funeral they were attending), a few sympathy cards (one from my first grade teacher, one from her ex-boyfriend, another from my aunt), the pictures we displayed at the service (full of smiles), and two letters from the man she was dating when she died.

i’ve probably read those letters a hundred times, mostly in my early 20’s when the plain white box was given to me, definitely before i had children of my own. his words were so familiar, but reading them this time felt different…like i was noticing parts i hadn’t before. he talked about her mood, her health, how much he cared for her, how sorry he was, that his heart would never be the same…he would never love anybody the way he loved her. god i hope that’s true…that she really did get to be loved like that, even if it was in the midst of addiction and homelessness and a sickness she was incapable of surviving.

and then, he said this:

“anytime she was feeling bad or down she would always talk about getting it all over.”

and in that moment, i don’t know…it was like breathing deep and holding my breath all at the same time, getting pulled under the waves while breaking through the surface. in that instant, reading those words, i was her and she was me, connected by words written almost thirty years ago by a man i never met.

getting it all over…i wish i could say i’d never had that thought, that things have never been that bad or hopeless or lonely. but when i’m really honest with myself, yes. i’ve thought the same thing, in exactly the same words…getting it all over.

on the days when my kids are being bullied because of choices i made about who to love,

when another day passes without a phone call or email or text message from family members who have decided that my family is expendable and unworthy,

when someone i once confided in and called friend turns her back and pretends not to see me,

on days when all those things stack up and the weight of it feels suffocating and impossible, overshadowing all of the goodness and sweetness and healing and magic,

on those days, i have thought the very same thing she did…i’m ready to get it all over.

and i’m so glad that those thoughts don’t win. i’m so grateful for a wife and a therapist who pull me back from the edge, for new friends, for a group of literally the strongest women i’ve ever met who somehow love me in spite of myself, for our kids who have had to be more resilient and stronger than kids their age (or adults for that matter) should have to be, and for a community that will gather this weekend to celebrate love…to remember the people who fought so that we can love whoever we want, regardless of the personal fallout we might experience.

even on the worst days, on the days when getting it all over seems like a solution, i am so proud to have chosen love and happiness and health and safety and warmth and magic. i’m proud of all of us who choose truth. and this weekend we will celebrate with our kids, our friends, our city. i wish there was another person celebrating with us…that she would have chosen differently. i wish she would have fought harder for the good stuff, that she could have known her granddaughters and celebrated the magic this weekend with us.

life is hard, y’all. hate and holding grudges and judgement and abandonment is not only hard, it’s terrible and it’s destructive. i’m choosing love and hope and magic…choosing to stick around for the amazing days and the shitty ones. and if you need a friend or a cup of coffee or a shoulder to cry on, i’m your girl…because getting it all over is not an option. you belong here, and we belong to each other.

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(and all of that because of parvo…funny how things work, huh?)

honest

If I’m honest with myself about my sexuality, I would say that I had a crush on my high school best friend, I don’t think anyone we knew didn’t know. I’d say that since I can remember I’ve been attracted to all kinds of people. And that I was always more scared of being judged than I was ashamed, that it took me nearly 36 years to separate those two things. 

I liked and loved both of the men I was married to. Fought hard for healing and peace that was never won but the failures of those marriages don’t rest on the shoulders of my attraction to women. I don’t say that to convince anyone, it’s just a fact I’m sharing here along with this- both of my husbands were aware. My second husband in all of our fighting and trying, in all of his mental health issues and abuse, still cared enough to give me the freedom to explore my desire and curiosity about women. I’m sure that’s a hard pill for most people to swallow but it was something that we talked about openly and some of my closest friends knew about. If I cared enough to escape judgment for it now, I’d keep on lying and hiding and say that I cheated and the dissolution of our relationship was all my fault. But alas…

He knew the first woman I slept with. We talked about it, the three of us. A lot. We talked about boundaries and honoring and consent and and and… I wasn’t prepared at all to fall for the entire female gender the way that I did that night. It ruined me a little, how it was everything and nothing I’d imagined, to be with a woman. But I went back to him, in love with him, not wanting to leave, grateful to be with someone who loved me enough to let me live a life that sort of embraced parts of me that I never had. 

(Gosh I think most people reading this will have no understanding and I don’t have a way to help you understand really except to say that this is so deeply my truth and I need to share it for those who might need to know they’re not alone or crazy or wrong at their core.) 

That marriage was hanging by a thread due to years of abuse and backwards religion, Kara walked in the door on the 23rd and my heart finally felt wild and free enough to let go of trying to fix him and just love… something I’d never really done. I am a fixer and a doer, a big sister and a mama bear and it still feels foreign to not be always trying to fix things with her but. 

She is home, every good thing I’ve never let myself want. 

I do and don’t understand the need for people to label others or themselves even. I don’t have one for myself and I don’t need you to. I fell in love with a human who happens to be a woman. I used to argue, fight so hard for others to be able to love anyone they wanted to love. My social media was full of discussions, arguments and references. Me trying to justify other’s rights to be in same sex relationships, or trans or, just fucking be themselves. I can’t anymore. The other side of that argument is so unreasonable and exhausting and insane. I don’t even have a passive voice about it anymore. 

The same reasons some would say make this wrong are what makes it right. Wrapped up in her arms, I have everything, everything. A mother, a daughter, a sister, best friend, lover like I have never ever known. I have an ocean of stillness and peace, the wildest freedom… She lets me fail and try again, protect her fiercely, hold her face mesmerized and watch every ounce of grace we have sink right in. She’s a mystery and so transparent. Fights just as hard as me and hands me twice the grace I deserve every morning. She is not a man and so many people think I chose her because of that. Think that her not being that makes our love less than, a sin. God when I tell you how deep down I know this to be exactly what the God I know wants for me… I will not argue that with you. And if you believe this to be wrong, I’m not writing this for you. 

I’m writing this for the other women out there, who’ve never let themselves be free enough to see this as an option. The girls and boys who’ve felt love in their hearts big enough to love anyone, who’ve been told they just needed healing, or Jesus. Listen to me, Jesus loves me and you this I know. And He didn’t make you wrong. He knitted you and me in our mothers wombs with arms wide enough to hold anyone and a deep capacity for healing. If you feel ashamed, or scared of judgement, you’re not alone. It’s not okay, but you are not alone. 

I won’t pretend it’s okay that 95% of our friends and family have abandoned us in this, calling it “too much” and choosing to quietly (or loudly) walk away, that our support system collapsed under the weight of judgement and fear. It’s left us and our children reeling, but more resolved than ever to fight for freedom in love. 

I won’t pretend to understand why so many in the Church can’t see the wholeness in this. We are getting every ounce of safety and unconditional acceptance and holding and healing we ever needed… when we lay down, and wake up, and make love and so many moments in between I ask her- “Do you feel good? Do you feel safe? Do you feel loved?” I ask her out loud with my mouth, and I listen when she answers. I ask her with my eyes and with my hands. All the time. Because nobody asked either of us those things before. And they should have. We are (all) worthy of those questions. 

If I am honest about myself, my sexuality is both much bigger and much smaller than I ever thought. And loving her has everything and nothing to do with it at all. Loving her is like breathing air, impossible not to do. And yet it is absolutely a choice. We both gave up nearly everything for this. Chose each other and our family at the unexpected loss of almost every other relationship. And I would do it again forever without skipping a beat. Not because of sexual attraction (but Jesus I do think she is an actual goddess, you guys), I’d do it again forever because we feel good and safe and loved and that… That is all the reason we ever needed. (And I think we always knew that even though the world told us otherwise forever.) 

So… Happy PRIDE everyone, from one lover to another. Call me what you want, crazy even, crazy for sure actually. I don’t care. Rainbows and unicorns forever I love her. 

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-A

first the pain

yesterday was not the day that i had imagined. there was no breakfast in bed, no flowers, no invitation to take the day off or rest or relax. in fact, two of our kids didn’t even acknowledge mother’s day at all. of course there were sweet cards and thoughtful gifts, lunch out and a trip to lush. i guess what i’m trying to say is that it was a day of really mixed emotions.

it started with a trip to church for youth sunday (two of the kiddos participated, they did such a great job, and i may have cried) and ended with a screaming match and throwing potted plants at the side of the house.

family is hard, y’all. so hard. and what i don’t want to do is rehash the details of yesterday or of the months of trying, failing, trying harder, and failing harder that led to last night because it would be pretty self-serving and petty.

but i do want to acknowledge that this life thing is strange and wonderful and hard and messy. my family is small…my mom died when i was 11 after years of battling both drug and alcohol addiction. her parents raised me, and they had custody of me long before her death. she had a sister, my aunt, and i have one cousin. that’s it. family dinners and holidays were small and we always fit everybody around the dining room table with lots of extra room. they’ve all struggled with the events of the last year…divorcing michael, marrying amber (a woman!), the kids, all the things. it’s a hard line to navigate, and i made mistakes along the way; pushed when i should have pulled, stepped back when i should have stepped up. i don’t really know all of the mistakes i made (although i’m pretty sure that somebody has a catalogued list, probably filed alphabetically and in chronological order).

we’ve talked about the loss in this space before…the people who left us because they disagreed with either the way we did things or that we had even fallen in love in the first place. until last night, i’d managed to not count my mom’s family among that loss. they struggled for sure, but they also tried. and then, last night, at the mother’s day dinner that i wasn’t invited to (the dinner that i asked about that morning and was assured that, “i don’t know what the plans are for mother’s day…”) they finally said all the things that they hadn’t been saying…we all did. and i can’t think of a time i’ve felt more heartbroken and rejected or less sure of the possibility of repairing a relationship…

expendable.

that’s the best word to describe how i feel this morning. it still seems completely surreal, like maybe it didn’t really happen at all. maybe nobody said the things we all said and maybe there’s a way back. maybe the heartache is temporary. maybe i’m not expendable. maybe the phone will ring. maybe…

in the midst of the heartache, though, there is already healing and grace. (and gosh, if that’s not the best evidence for jesus loving us, then i don’t know what is.) there is the truth that we can do better for our family, teach our kids what unconditional love really looks like and keep them from the vicious cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing. we can nurture their true selves, love them no matter what, help them find their own way. we can show them that they are worthy, that family matters, kindness matters, their choices and words and actions matter. this family, their family, will always love them and accept them, always be a soft place to land and never exclude them or whoever they decide to love. no matter what.

this heartbreak doesn’t have to be the end.

“first the pain, then the rising.” -glennon doyle

(also, not sure i’d be functional without my wife who spent her mother’s day wiping away tears and keeping me marginally sane. there aren’t words for how much i love her or how thankful i am for our life. it’s messy for sure, but still magical even on the worst days.)

xoxo, k

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and don’t worry…that smile will be back.

look

please always
look at me 
the way you did last night
like nothing else matters,
and everything falls away
just us – 
you with those eyes
and me
not quite sure 
how this abundant grace and goodness
was always out there
for the taking
and now
(somehow)
belongs to us.

tears without warning,
tiny reminders
that this isn’t a dream.

and i think you know,
that your heart feels it
just as much as mine
because there are never any words
oceans of love and understanding
full of silent thank yous
with every breath
and doubtless knowing
(the kind that settles in your soul)
that this
is what we were created for
and everything else
just her perfect preparation
for the moment 
that door opened
and everything made sense

i almost wish everybody else
could see
the way you look at me
when it’s just us,
let them glimpse the magic
of loving and being loved
so perfectly,
more than i thought i deserved
worth every hard day
and broken relationship…

i’d do it all over again
for one more look.

xoxo, k

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solidarity

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So often when I’m talking about This with her I want to tack on “but he was terrible and I was suffocating and literally afraid for my life at times”. I want to defend leaving him, let him shoulder some of the blame. Because I know that outwardly it looks like I left a great man for a woman and I’m the terrible one. It’s been a rough year coming to grips with the fact that that’s what most people think.

I can’t change any of that now, but I do think it’s important to talk more about why women stay, and leave. I don’t have it all worked out yet but gosh it was brutal trying so hard and feeling like a failure. Trying to be a progressive, empowered woman and feeling like I had to cover him all the time while he railed against me and my kids. It was a mess mostly, that’s why I wanted to celebrate and talk about all the good times so publicly- I hoped they would last or be enough to hold us together… but they didn’t and he got worse and it got scarier and then I felt less safe to talk about it because I think, well, some people got tired of hearing about how scary he was and seeing me not do enough to protect myself or my kids, not leaving before I did.

(And yes I know plenty of people are mad about the how of my leaving. But God have you seen all the healing? I wouldn’t change a thing about it now.)

It’s been about a year since I left him. A year or so of coming out of what I originally thought was a hard and sort of mutually failing marriage, trying to keep it all kosher for the kids and the friends and losing more than half of them anyway. A year of realizing there was maybe more manipulation or abuse or, god forbid we use the actual word “fault”, on his part than I wanted to admit. A year of working out that whole damn thing where you have for so many reasons tried to paint him as a really nice guy hoping you could keep some friends around or you wouldn’t look like an idiot for marrying him, but the truth is he was mean and scary and hurtful and unwilling to change, and that’s kind of a lot to admit to yourself much less the whole world.

It is for sure excruciating for someone like me who sort of finds her identity in being open and smart and protective, super pro-women and forward thinking- to realize I’ve been making my husband look like a hero forever and now everyone thinks I’m the worst for divorcing him. I don’t know what all I’d change about that, a lot I suppose, the way I projected him and us on social media for starters, but damn I was really happy in those moments and hoping against hope that would be enough.

I just… I know plenty of other women who’ve been through or are going through this. So I guess I want to say I see you and I get it. A lot of people won’t, and that can be just as heartbreaking as the marriage falling apart. There is so much grieving to do in all of this and none of it is easy. And my god it’s hard not to be ashamed that you weren’t smarter or stronger or more independent, or more vulnerable and honest with yourself and the world. And now it seems like you’ve dug yourself a hole and if you start walking the truth, at least externally, it looks like either you were lying then or you’re lying now and either way you’re selfish as hell. But babe, you were doing your best to keep your family afloat. To keep your marriage. You hoped against hope for a long time I know. And it’s just not fucking fair.

It’s a sad song but I think maybe some women need to hear it- to know they’re not the villain or failures, to hear me too in all kinds of ways, to see a few more hands reaching out, if only via the internet. Because divorce is lonely no matter what but when your friends start bailing out of confusion or disapproval it’s damn near impossible to stay afloat much less gather the strength you need to start over.

Listen, everyone out there who’s coming out of the fog of a terrible relationship- You’re amazing for surviving even when it wasn’t abusive it was just fucking neglectful and exhausting. You’re amazing for holding it all together. You’re amazing for falling apart now when you can and navigating self care and helping your kids through. And soon maybe you’ll help other women who are just now realizing what they’ve been through. Who were maybe fed a steady diet of a different kind of patriarchy from churches who said we had to protect and cover our husbands and lay down our sense of self in all kinds of passive aggressive ways. It’s not sacrificial love, what they’re selling or saying we have to give, it’s just mislabeled patriarchy and authoritarianism. You’ve gotta fit in their boxes or get out and that’s not unconditional love, it’s not the way of Jesus.

I don’t know what the conclusion is here or that there is one yet… just that I want us to start talking more about what it’s like to leave when you’ve tried so hard and everyone including you wanted it to work and there was love and it just seems like none of it was enough… I know that churches have got to stop victim blaming and start listening to women, offer as much grace to the women who leave as they do to the husbands who hurt them. And I know that unconditional acceptance and love should be the foundation of the church and they’re not in so many cases. I know that we can all do better, be more honest and vulnerable, willing to share and less judgmental and scared of change.

I know I’m hearing way too many stories of women scared to speak up just out of fear of what their friends or community or church will say. I know that divorce is hard but it’s nowhere near as hard as a home full of neglect, silence, fury and abuse.

And I know that there is Love out there for you, as free as the sea, safer and wilder and more full of beauty and wonder than you can imagine, I promise. And it is so worth it to let yourself find it. Speak up when you can, get out if you need to. Take care of you and yours. Let yourself grieve, heal and soak up all the joy you can wherever you can find it. Reach out and keep reaching out, let go of who you need to let go of. You deserve all the good things you know deep down you deserve. Ok? Ok.

Solidarity and love and love and love.

-A
 

all the pieces

all the pieces,
scattered and tattered along the way…
a little confidence here,
some assertiveness there,
genuine smiles replaced by a forced grins,
easy laughter a thing of the past…

and almost nobody noticed.

was i a world class actress?
did they know and it was just too hard?

the brokenness became comfortable,
limping through each day,
longing for the solitude and loneliness of night
when sleep came in fits
and with its own set of terror,
but was at least a break from pretending,
a time to reconcile the brokenness and loneliness,
to recharge, rehearse
the smiles, the laughter, the show
that came every morning
no matter how much i begged (prayed)
for a change.

and then, in a flash
(isn’t that always the way?)
the change came
when she opened the door.

every day since that day
has held more healing
than i even knew i needed.
the broken places are whole,
pieces of myself i wrote off as
casualties of life,
woven back into the fabric of *this* life,
more beautiful than they were before
pain replaced with the most abundant joy

wholeness from the brokenness

xoxo, k

i don’t know

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i can’t believe
my hand fits perfect on her face

she shakes to sleep most nights
body too full of memories
to drift off easy

and i can’t believe the
God of the universe
meant this unrest for His daughter
for Her daughter

i can’t believe He died on a cross
God and king and servant of us all
Mother of us all
the hands that set the stars in the sky
nailed to a tree of their own design

i can’t even believe my body birthed
babies and i have held them in my arms
bathed fresh in my own blood

i don’t know what i believe
all the time anymore
it’s not all worked out and that
used to terrify me

not having it all worked out
is deadly when you grow up
in a haze of trauma

my wife though
shaky nights and all
steadies me
she teaches me
the safety in i don’t know
she utters it all the time
words like honey
slow and steady
full of grace

i don’t know
she says
and nothing fractures
nothing breaks
no one laughs
or uses it to harm us

i don’t know
this unknowable God
creator of earth and sky
nails in his hands
weeping for me
hundreds of years before
i was born
bathed in blood
just the same as everyone
wrapped in cloth at his death
same as his birth

He is Jesus
God and King
Servant of us all
Setter of stars
Maker of the universe
Mother to me
Father too i suppose

i don’t know
and that is more than okay
my life doesn’t depend on me
having it all figured out
and neither does yours

and yet so many people
have nailed this love
to the cross of knowing
believing it is wrong
casting us like stones
at their own glass houses

i don’t know
how anyone could say
they don’t see
the healing in this
the resurrection power of the cross
in our lives
look how our heads bow
when we hold each other
isn’t that a prayer

still her face fits
in my hand and we stand
at the edge of these oceans
our feet washed in the tide
believing with everything in us
we are Loved
by the one who made time
and sent a baby to rescue us
die and save us all from death
tell me what is believable
or knowable about that

maybe we can rest in that
maybe she can rest in that
sweet love of mine one day
or night drift off to dream
not a shake in her bones
a cradle of grace made of
i don’t knows
holding us both
and we can breathe deep knowing
the God who made us perfectly
Rose for us and the mystery
of that all is enough
to wonder in all our days

-A

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