Care To Meet Me On The Bridge?

We are a complicated people. Sometimes, in order to feel in control when things are out of control, when we long to feel belonging, to feel safe, we seek out those we can relate to. Those we agree with.

And sometimes, when we encounter the ones with whom we don't agree, we instinctively view them as a threat. If we can place those “others” into a category of "different", we might feel safe again. Supported. Understood. That is a natural desire.

But maybe there's a way to remain open to the nuances of human beings, to the complexity of these unprecedented and extremely challenging times. Maybe there's a better way to bridge the seemingly growing divide and converse with people all over the opinion-experience-spectrum.

First, I think we can all agree that this pandemic is awful. In different ways for different reasons, it is just awful. Globally, we are in this rocky, nausea-inducing, leaking, awful boat. Together. Even though we're experiencing different swells and storms, we are still stuck in the damn boat. (Did I say how awful it is? IT IS!)

Second, the political atmosphere in the US is stressful. Whether you align right or left or a blend of the two (transparency here - this is where I find myself most of the time), if you check Facebook or Twitter or the awful news, it feels like there's no tolerating the other side. The name-calling and bullying is so so mean and so so common. I think the more we ingest this kind of media, we fall victim to believing this is the way we're supposed to act. I want to challenge that. 

Third, I find that many people perpetuate division of thought, of culture, of conviction because (back to the beginning) we want to feel like we belong to something. But do you ever feel like the thing (party, policy, cause) you're aligning yourself to doesn't fully represent all of your experiences and beliefs? If no, you don't need to read on. You might just get annoyed. 

But if you find yourself in the middle on some things, maybe you have opinions that cross the aisle, things can get complicated. Where can we have those conversations? Or should I say, is there a place for our voices to be heard and not dismissed because we're not fully supportive of one side? 

I think there is. And I think it's our job to bravely and kindly protect it. But first, we must acknowledge that life and issues and people are complex. And then we need to be prepared to have some hard conversations, because what we're attempting keeps us from the shelter and consensus of an absolute view.

Here are some things I've learned talking to friends and family who lately find themselves in the middle on all sorts of issues. They are meant to spark reflection and challenge our personal biases. We all have 'em, and they can make us nasty. But we're going to stay nice and open, right? Here goes.

We can willingly wear a mask and desperately want things to go back to normal. We can follow the science and acknowledge that we're living in a science experiment, each of us witnessing the scientific method in real-time. (If you don't remember that from middle and high school, Google it. Or ask a teenager.) We can be frustrated with politicians and medical experts whose opinions differ and change, and we can also follow health orders, which might also differ and change. We can be hopeful about treatments that have shown success and are being researched, and also be skeptical of agenda-driven messages on YouTube.   
 
We can want our kids to go back to school and also stay positive about distance learning. We can assert that better learning and overall well-being happens on campus, and also fiercely desire for teachers and school personnel and kids to be safe. We can admit the data is still being gathered and get excited about studies that show promise. We can adapt our opinions when new data is presented. (This is not easy...try it. Ouch. But it gets easier with practice. Trust me.)
 
We can affirm Black Lives Matter and also support the commitment of police to protect and serve. We can believe that not all BLM advocates are violent looters and not all cops are racist killers. We can see the immediate need for police reform and also the great need for law and order. We can cheer and mourn the toppling of a statue. 

We can love our country and disapprove of some of the people running it. We can be patriots even if we don't agree with the President. We can value personal freedoms and care for our world during a pandemic. We can seek out ways to correct inequities within our systems and also preserve the foundational values of equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

We can call for an end to human trafficking and pedophilia, and question the legitimacy of pizzagate and Hollywood pedo-rings. We can be interested in and weary of conspiracy theories. We can (and should) seek out information and be aware that lies can be very convincing. We can support legitimate causes with goals to end human trafficking and pedophile rings, and still be a fan of Forrest Gump. 

We can responsibly and respectfully engage in social media with regard to current events. (Do they still  debate current events in school? That was my favorite part of social studies. People need to learn or re-learn those skills, I think.) 

We can read articles before sharing, check source bias and our personal biases. We can avoid bullying in the comments section and stand up against it. We can present ourselves as decent and compassionate humans instead of always being right. 

You guys, cancel culture is all over the internet. It's all over the news, doesn't matter what side you align with. And the current tone might make you think that the people who don't agree with you, especially when we think they behave badly, aren't even worthy of simple decency. (Be honest. Have you ever felt that way? Did social media have any influence?) But cancelling out the WHOLE PERSON because there's something you don't like - an opinion, a mistake, a flaw - is very, very dangerous. It might make you feel vindicated for the cruel post you liked/shared. It might make you feel safe, even superior, or right. 

But it ignores one very important fact from the equation: we are each human beings, created by a loving God, blessed with this one life to impact the world and people around us. Positively. (And if you don't believe in a God, the sentence still works.)

So, what kind of world do you want to be a part of creating? What can we do about the divide? Here are some things I've learned lately that help me navigate these trying issues:

REFLECT. What behaviors and attitudes are you sharing with those around you? Are you proud? Are you harsh? Are you having challenging conversations? Are you willing to make a phone call and explain why something bothered you before losing a friend? Are you choosing kindness? Showing grace? Are you cancelling people that you've known and loved? (This is hard work. If you try this exercise and immediately hear your inner self say "Well, she started it..." there's more work to do. Call me. We can do the hard work together.) 

What are your family, community, social circle talking about these days? More importantly, how are they talking? Nasty memes? Name-calling? Us vs. them-ing? It feels good to find common disgust for the "others" doesn't it? To be attracted to those who confirm your own viewpoint. But do you want to pay the price for that? Are you willing to drive people away with righteousness? Because they hold an opinion that  differs from yours? Do you know who you might lose? (And honestly, sometimes it's healthy to let people go. But maybe the relationship is worth a call. Can you give them a chance to learn and understand your point of view? UGH...More hard conversations!) 

THINK CRITICALLY. There's a lot going on friends. And social media and mainstream media are following the algorithms. Because when you click, when you share, when you watch, THEY MAKE MONEY. The madder the headlines make you, the more money they make. The more you share, especially misinformation, they make money. (Did you know that if a news outlet lies but you clicked on the article, they don't lose the revenue even when they recant a few days later? Read that again.) So, if you don't want to be used in this way, there are plenty of places to find facts and not opinion. And I promise you, CNN and FOX news are not it.

Reuters, Associated Press, BBC and NPR News (not opinion), are the least politically biased and most reliably sourced news outlets. If you try them out, you will immediately realize how different real news is. You might also be annoyed at the extent to which you've been manipulated by those you previously trusted.

I will warn you though, you won't find people slinging insults if you're looking for that. In fact, you will probably find out that things that had you incensed, things that had you polishing your pitchforks, were not entirely true. 

The exaggeration and misinformation, even straight-out lies, happen in all the biased news outlets, on both sides. RIGHT and LEFT, friends. But not as much in the middle. You won't find as many flashy and controversial headlines in non-biased news. Soooo...what you end up sharing on your feed will actually turn out to be more responsible and respectful. You will be perpetuating real news. (There is still such a thing as that. It's just not as popular.) 

Back to my point...almost done. Thanks for sticking with me.

BE KIND. The election will be over in November. Covid-19 will continue to evolve. The call for social justice and police reform will be negotiated between lawmakers and communities. And we will remain, sharing the space of this great country with people and ideas that are diverse and nonetheless worthy. 

If we do these things: reflect, think critically, and be kind, we can care for each other and respect each other, even when we see things differently. Perhaps we can even seek out someone who has a different point of view with the aim to truly understand, not to persuade. When we do that, we cross the bridge from painful divisiveness to beautiful relationships. 

And if you want to chat, I promise, I'm a safe space. You won’t find mud-slinging here. You won’t find condemnation here. You won’t find hatred here. What you will find is an openness to accept and appreciate our differences. What you will find is respect and humanity and love.
 
Because those are things worth sharing. Care to meet me on the bridge?

Peace and love to you.
Jenn

Photo cred: Joel Vodell on Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

TRUTH

 


That is all. #keepingitmessy #wewishwecouldpodcast #mobilerecordingstudioisntsocialdistancing #rulefollowers #onefifthofushassurvivedcodidalready #dontwannatemptfate #wehatecovid #quarantineisgoodforwriting #silverlining #butstillfcovid19


Holly and Jenn

The Six Sisters


Characters. Sometimes they just show up on the scene and you have to step aside and watch them dance.

We had no idea Emily had so many half-sisters. She met them recently. We did too.

  1. Jilaya is the youngest. She wishes she was a vampire. She's working on it. Don't sit too close or she may try to bite you.
  2. Lilyth says she can manipulate the weather. If you doubt her, even in your thoughts, some sort of storm is sure to descend. That's her proof.
  3. Casdeya. She's a poison master. Watch out if you see her mixing anything.
  4. Mara is the teller of dark stories, the cause of nightmares. Beware.
  5. Her twin, Nimu, is the prettiest one. If you wrong her, she will steal your lover.
  6. Jezebeth. She can twist the truth like no other. She's passed every lie-detector test she's ever taken. 
Can't wait for you to meet them...


Holly and Jenn

Navigating Murky Waters

Back in 2014, there was a measles outbreak in Orange County. The Covic-19 pandemic in 2020 takes me back. Back then, the sentiment was...Break out the masks, lock away your children and batten down the hatches! In other words...PANIC! Does that sound familiar?

As a self-professed, well-intentioned mama bear, I understand the urge to seek out and share information. We would be negligent to keep the facts to ourselves, right? But sometimes, along with the information exchange came some pretty harsh finger-pointing and shaming, particularly at those who see things differently than us. I completely understand the urge to find the truest version of the truth, the belief that more information will protect us, but condemnation isn't productive people. It separates us from that which connects us in the first place: our common parental motivation to do what's best.

Part of living in a close-knit community and espousing the "it-takes-a-village" approach to raising children, brings with it a deep and unavoidable caring about others: other parents burdened by the weight of the world, children who seek and need some normalcy, and community members who are suffering. But the worry is no excuse for being unkind.

As the months of the current pandemic ensued, we have witnessed some beautiful examples of loving each other, but we have also seen the nastiest of humanity emerge. And, just like in 2014, I think this is why:

Parents have strong emotions about things like contagious inflictions like measles, Covid-19, even lice and the stomach flu, because we're hard-wired to protect. For some, that extends to guarding against the terribly tragic effects of shut-downs too. The fear and concern come from the heart...the caring, feeling heart. 

But what I've learned over twenty years of parenting is this: throughout life, parents need other parents. When we're vulnerable and scared, we need each other for strength and perspective. When we're hurting and divided, we need each other's grace and humanity. And as we navigate all the different, "do-what's-best" waters, let's remember one thing: we are in the same, floating-on-choppy-seas boat, and often the best option is to grab an oar and paddle. Together, let's keep us all afloat. 

With love and grace. 

Jenn

#keepingitmessy #covidedition

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn

Critique Group...If You Don't Have One, Go Get One

 


Our critique group is the BEST part of quarantine! We used to meet twice a month when we met in person. Now we meet every week! And we are so happy about it! (In case the !! didn't convey that enough.)

Whether you've completed your work in progress or are just taking off, the right critique group can make a world of difference in your craft. Find one through local writing workshops, Google, even Twitter. The web is a great resource. 

And when you find the right one, make sure you're just as invested in giving feedback as you are in seeking it out. Generosity is essential in the writerly world.

Stay the course, friends. And happy writing.

Jenn and Holly

Holly and Jenn

Clarity Amidst Uncertainty


Quarantine is hard. The COVID-19 coronavirus is scary. Life looks so different for so many of us. We are all trying to navigate a strange, new reality: no school, no get-togethers, no working out of the house, no casual dinners out, no quick trips to the mall, the list goes on.

It's too early to tell how bad the virus will hit our community. We don't know yet if our measures to distance ourselves from all.the.things is enough to bend the curve. Only time will tell the widespread toll this pandemic will have, so we just have to wait.

Wait with hope.
Wait in prayer.
Wait with grace.
Wait in awareness.
Wait with intention.
Wait in appreciation.
Wait with patience.
Wait in sympathy.
Wait with care.
Wait in community.
Wait with love.

Never have we been asked to do so much by doing so little. And hopefully soon, we'll get to gather with our friends again, and celebrate our survival with big hugs. We will have a new perspective, and we will never forget the time when we settled down and embraced the sacred task of taking care of each other.

Until then, we wish you health, wellness, and peace during these hard and humbling days. Remember, you are not alone.

Love from quarantine,

Holly and Jenn

#keepingitmessy
Holly and Jenn

Keeping It Real


Disclaimer: I ADORE MY CHILDREN and I LOVE BEING A MOM. But sometimes I find it hard to like either of those things. Am I grateful? Always? Am I flabbergasted? Most of the time. Am I alone? Absolutely not!

Friends, Holly and I used to fill the pages of this blog with funny stories; our kids did and said the darnedest things. We used to write about practical tips, like how to rid your house of lice and what to do with all the littles during summer break. We used to share the emotional experience of mommying kids as they transitioned from one stage or age or phase to another. We used to think parenting was hard work. Good, hard, tiring work. (Giggles.) Oh, we were so naive.

Since our children are now adults and near-adults, (the world calls them teenagers but I was under the impression that parents still had some influence over that age group), we post less. And you should know, it's NOT for lack of content!

It's just, it's really hard to write a blog post about your teenager getting drunk and throwing up in your cute powder room and ruining one of the towels that no one is supposed to use and the frantic Google search for how to tell if your BABY has alcohol poisoning. It feels scary to put out there that you suspect your teenager is in an unhealthy relationship and you don't know exactly how to walk the fine line of being their safe place to share and also guiding them to find their boundaries.

It's painful to write about your emerging adult questioning the existence of God and drifting away from their faith. It hurts when the evolution of friendships results in someone being intentionally excluded, perhaps even on the verge of bullied. We don't really want to sing from the mountaintops about tickets and bad grades, tattoos and piercings, secret social media pages and friends we're not sure about, fights and drug tests, mistrust and missed curfews, YOLO-ing and knowing-it-all, anxiety and fear for the future. (The list goes on...) OH.THE.WORRY.

But, we also know that we have useful words. We have advice and suggestions. We have aching hearts and fierce prayer power. Because, in truth, so many of us have a cross (or forty-two) that we are carrying. And with each burden, often we find embarrassment, guilt, exasperation, terror, anger, sorrow, confusion, despair, and a myriad of other heavy, heavy feelings. But the answer isn't to close your curtains and only post pictures of the happy times. If we sit alone with those feelings and don't share the reality of the rocky, often heart-breaking path, guess what? It's unhealthy and isolating and leaves us unfortified.

Friends, we need each other. We need a tribe with which we can lay down our burdens. A group to whom we can text our stories of rule-breaking, disrespectful, gray-hair-inducing teenagers. Maybe Holly and I can't post "How-To-Not-Throttle-Your-Teenager" guides on the blog anymore, but please know we're here for you. Anytime you need a safe and confidential and non-judgmental space, just call. We'll brew some tea, or chill some Fireball, and hold space for the hard, hard days. Then we'll celebrate our teens' slow, eventual growth, find hope in the moments they let us see they have heard some of what we've been saying to them all these years, and one day, when they're safely to the shore of reason, we might even have a good laugh. It's time's march, and as parents, we just have to keep showing up. For them, and for each other.

In the thick of it with you, we wish you love and strength and a good night's sleep.

#keepingitmessy

Photo cred: Peter Fogden on Unsplash
Holly and Jenn