This Week, It Hurts

Most of the time, it doesn’t hurt.

It’s been four years, and the life we have here now is good.  Like, we are right where we are supposed to be, and knowing that and feeling that is so reassuring.

But this week, four years after we drove away, leaving still hurts.

This week, texting my best buddy from Chicago just doesn’t feel like enough.

This week, after the Cubs’ World Series win, I think about taking Hazel to her first ball game at Wrigley Field.

This week, wearing my I ❤ Chicago shirt, I noticed that I’ve washed it so many times that the heart has worn partially off, so it looks like a broken heart.

This week, as I made pizza for my kids to eat, I could almost smell the pizza place on our block where Kullervo and I ate so many dinners.  But I can’t quite remember it anymore.

Don’t get me wrong–Chicago wasn’t perfect. Finding a parking spot on (or near) our street was sometimes impossible and digging out of the snow in the winter was an enormous effort.

I became a stay at home mom in Chicago, and the transition from working to being home was really difficult.  Figuring out how to make friends when I didn’t have the daily convenience of adult conversation across the desk from me was like moving across the country partway through my freshman year of high school.  All the awkward.  All the insecurity.  And no idea how to start over.  Figuring out how to be at home with my kids and actually feel like I’d accomplished anything and also not resent my children was also difficult.


Living the dream in Chicago

But I made friends.  It was actually the first time in my life that I had adult friends who were not my coworkers—they were my friends because they wanted to be, not because they were stuck looking at my face all day.  We also learned how to be neighbors—what that could look like.  My kids would play outside in the afternoon, and eventually all the kids on the block would join.  It was the magical age before we were beholden to sports and activities every day, so our only constraints in the afternoons were dinner and bedtime.  And my neighbors were awesome.  There was so much laughter, so much annoyance, so much living life together while our kids grew up.  I was sure that we would all grow old and move to an old folks’ community where we’d sit out on our porches in the evening, drinking and complaining about our good-fer-nothin’ children who don’t come visit.

And then, in what seemed like it should be the middle of all the magic of living in Chicago, it ended.  Kullervo got a job offer in Baltimore.  We packed the house.  We said goodbye.  We drove away.  Kullervo drove our moving truck; I drove the minivan with the kids.  I am fairly certain I cried the entire drive.  We left on November 3; we arrived at our apartment November 5.


The door to our Baltimore apartment.

Oliver started school, but I had to push him onto the school bus every day; Hazel stayed home and fell into a deep depression (which is super sad on four year old Hazel).  I wasn’t much help for her—I was too busy being sad all the time myself.  We cried together.  We watched a lot of My Little Pony, and when I would turn it off, she would just sit on a chair and stare at the blank television.  I tried to unpack into our apartment, but I didn’t have the strength to tough it out.  We had no drawers in our tiny kitchen, which only showed how awful this new place was going to be, forever.

At the time, the only saving grace for Hazel and me were the deer.  Our apartment complex faced into the woods, and we had huge windows to look out and see all kinds of nature.  It was beautiful.  She was certain that they were actually reindeer, and not just any old reindeer, but Santa’s reindeer.


The view from our apartment…

I couldn’t eat—my go-to unhealthy coping mechanism.  I joined a gym and made tentative steps towards familiarity and friendship.  We found a gymnastics place for Hazel to take a class.  We looked at every house on the market in our price range and out of it and fired multiple real estate agents for either insulting us or not getting us, until we found a woman who guided us to our neighborhood because we were looking to recreate that neighborhoody feel we were missing so much.  We bought a house, and then found out that we were pregnant (so maybe the three-bedroom was too small… too late.)


Moving into our new home

Nowadays, I know that we are right where we need to be, and my life here has become so full—of good times, good memories, good people.  This is home, and I don’t want to leave—I cannot imagine starting over all over again, again.  We have a new magical existence we get to live in, and I would not change it or go back.

But this week… this week, I’m missing Chicago fiercely, and being here in Baltimore hurts like I left yesterday.


Ink for 15

According to the lists I found on the Internet, on the 15th wedding anniversary the gift should either be watches or crystal.  I have a works-well-enough-for-me watch and no desire to own any crystal.  Like, ever.  So Kullervo and I decided that we would forgo tradition and go for ink instead.  While he has a handful of tattoos, this would be my first, so I wanted to make sure it was just right.

Our next decision involved figuring out what the tattoo should be.  What would represent us–fifteen years of us–with all of our inside jokes and arguments and values?  On a long road trip home from Tennessee, we made a list.  We wrote down all the things that we could think of that described Kullervo, and me, and us, looking for something to jump out at us.

Nothing did.  Or, rather, nothing did in such a way as to really capture who we are in a form that would translate to skin.

Driving down the Interstate, we grew quiet.  The radio was playing, the kids were reading, and we were lost in our own thoughts.

Some time later, Kullervo said that he might have an idea.  At the same moment, I thought that maybe I did as well.

He wanted me to listen to something, and cued up a YouTube video for me to listen to.

While we waited through the ad at the beginning, I butted in, “What about a mason jar?”

His video came through, and we listened to this together.

This is a part of a series called “For the Life of the World” and is really a fantastic video series.  And in this chapter about love, hipster Adam and hipster Eve say yes to each other.  To sacrifice and to pouring themselves out into the world, into children, into messiness and brokenness.  They say yes to each other.

As it happens, when Kullervo and I got married in the Mormon temple, we didn’t say ‘I do’… we said ‘yes.’

And right then, we both knew that our tattoo had to say yes.

But what about the mason jar?  Why that?

We only drink out of mason jars.  Water, chocolate milk (don’t judge), beer, wine… we serve it in a mason jar.

And if you know us, you might know that we have intentionally structured our life in such a way as to follow Jesus Christ as best as we can.  And one of the ways that we really try to radically live that out is through hospitality.  What’s radical about hospitality?  After all, it sounds like the same kind of radical that geometry homework is.  Or being told that your talent is that you’re a compassionate person.  It sort of sounds boring.

But here’s the thing.  You can come to our house.  It will be messy, it will be chaotic, but you are welcome here.    At midnight, you can show up at our door without notice, and we will bring you in and feed you and love you and not resent it even one bit.  More on that here:

Not only that, but a few years ago, we started canning our extra food and making our own jam.  We grow some food, we preserve it, and when we pop open a jar of tomatoes to toss into our spaghetti sauce, we wash the glass and it joins the other glasses.  And when we have too many glasses, we realize it’s time to start canning again.  There is something really neat about the ebb and flow of having, and then pouring what we have out for the sustenance of our family, and then taking what’s left and pouring into it for the short term needs of hydration.  Our mason jars are work horses.

For us, the mason jar represents following Jesus and living into the gifts He provides and the ways we can use those gifts to provide for others.  It represents our marriage because we intentionally live into that, with all of the messiness and sacrifice that it brings.

So, sitting in the car that day, we realized we’d both just had the right idea.  And we realized that a mason jar, which usually has the brand name written on the side, could say Yes instead.  All of a sudden, we had our tattoo.

*Note:  I asked Kullervo what to say when people ask what the tattoos mean, because this is sort of a long-winded explanation.  His response?

“Just say that it’s some hipster shit.”


Dinner at a hipster restaurant post-tattoo.

A Whale of a Bad Time

It was Sunday.  We were on our way to Kullervo’s biannual family reunion (read: incredibly fun vacay with an incredibly fun group of people), and stopped in Knoxville, TN to see our old stomping grounds.  We had planned a day of restaurants and places to bring the kids, and stopped first thing in the morning at the University’s Latter Day Saint Institute building (college ministry for the Mormons) where we’d first met.


This is where Kullervo was sitting when I first saw him. I knew right away that I wanted to marry that boy… I just had to convince him!

We got out of the car to take a few pictures and tell the kids the story of how we’d met.  We decided to walk the couple of blocks to see my old dorm,


Clement Hall… my first home in Tennessee!

and then we walked a few blocks the other way to show the kids the building we’d lived in when we first got married.  


Laurel Apartments – no longer married student housing, and totally lacking in the complex smells associated with the multitude of international students who used to live there.

We were close to the church we planned on attending that morning, so we just walked over.  

After a lovely church service filled with hipster beards and bow ties and a well-written sermon about the Church being made up of regular people and what that means for us, the church-goer, we walked back to the car to continue our adventures around Knoxville.

But when we got close to the van, something was wrong.  I saw a lot of broken glass on the ground, and I was fairly sure I didn’t remember it being there when we parked.20160703_123914

While we were at church, someone threw a rock at the car, shattered the window, and stole my purse (along with about $250-300, an iPod touch, my wallet with my credit cards, bank card, passport card, the spare key to my van, all of the chargers for all of our devices, and some sentimental stuff (as well as other stuff I haven’t remembered yet, I’m sure).

They left the rock.


There was shattered glass everywhere.  Everywhere.  The kids’ stuffed animals.  The car seats.  The Moon Pie that I had started but not finished on the drive the day before.  The steering wheel, the seats, the floors, the cup holders.  The bags of library books were covered in glass.


We realized that they ONLY grabbed my purse.  They did not take the Kindle or the iPad, or the musical instruments.  Our laptops were in the car (but hidden).  It was not as bad as it could have been.


Kullervo called the police.  I called the credit card companies and canceled all the cards (and managed to do so before they were used!).  I called the insurance company to find out how to proceed.  They told me that they could send a glass person out on Tuesday.  It was Sunday.  I asked what we should do in the meantime, and they said they could not advise me on that.  I asked what I should do about paying the deductible.  They said I’d have to pay it to the glass company.  I told them that I’d canceled all of my credit cards, and my purse was stolen, so I actually had no money.  They said they could not advise me on that.  Kullervo pointed out that their customer service was bad, but a problem for a different day.

He called some friends in town, who dropped everything, made us a bunch of sandwiches and brought us lunch, fruit, and water.  They also brought us moral support and an ear for our outrage.  I picked enough glass off of the driver’s seat to drive to vacuum as much glass as I could out of the rest of the car.  And I cried.

Kullervo’s brother was also on the way to the reunion, and he stopped by and gave us a credit card to use while we’re away from home.   We made jokes about Calvinism and God’s grace.  He took the rest of our valuables in his car, since ours was obviously no longer secure.

Kullervo and I prayed and thanked God that we hadn’t gotten hurt.  That we were in a place where the kids could be safe while we dealt with the mess.  That friends were close who could bring us sandwiches and water.  That Kullervo’s brother was close by with resources to share.  That the weather was relatively pleasant and it wasn’t raining.

And we went to Walmart and bought a shower curtain to cover up the hole.  And duck tape to hold it in place.  And, because I wanted something cheery to brighten up a sucky situation, I bought whale duck tape.


I’m keeping the rock, and I’ve named it Forgiveness Rock.  And I’m praying for the people who did this, because they are hurting too.  They are suffering too, because if you can get to a place of moral ambiguity, it means you’ve been hurt and you’ve been damaged, and somebody did that to you.  And I hope that they can take the money and the iPod and find help.  And I hope they find the prayer card that my daughter wrote in church one Sunday telling  God that she knows that He loves her and she wants to follow Him, and I hope it sparks something in them.  I’ll never know the end of their story, but I hope it results in change for the better.

White Privilege

I want to talk, poorly at best, about white privilege.  I am white.  I experience this privilege.  And I generally experience it in such a way that I don’t see it.

But, don’t you see?  That’s the thing.  THAT is what white privilege is.

Kullervo and I were talking the other day about a recent case where a 13 year old black boy was shot in Baltimore by the police.  He was running around with a toy gun.  Kullervo remembered being a teenager at a science fiction convention, and all the teens playing some intricate indoor/outdoor game that involved chasing each other and shooting toy guns.  Kullervo’s brother was drawn down on by the police.  He wasn’t shot.  He wasn’t hurt.  They told him to quit playing, and everyone went on their way.

If my brother-in-law were black, he might be dead.  Or gravely injured.

THAT is white privilege.

Do police lives matter?  Yes!  Of course!  We need our police officers.  Some of my dearest friends are police.  Some of the most formative people in my life growing up were police officers who took me in and treated me like a daughter.

Don’t all lives matter though?  Yes!  Of course!

But, don’t you see?  That’s the point of #blacklivesmatter.  Right now, we treat minorities as if their lives don’t matter.  Or at least not as much as other people’s lives.

I went to the grocery store with all four of my (white) kids the other day.  It has rained for days on end here; they all have all this pent up energy.  Plus, some of the kids, when mixed together with public places, rile each other up in such a way as to be absolutely nuts-driving.  So, they were acting a bit like wild children in the grocery store.  And I was tired and didn’t have the energy to tell them AGAIN to behave.  So I tolerated much more misbehavior than I would have otherwise.

And I left the store wondering if even that is white privilege.  If a relatively young mom of four African-American children took them to the grocery store and the eight year old was playing reckless hide and seek with the four- and two- year olds and the ten year old was asking (nagging) about buying scrapple and the mom was frazzled with the busyness of the store and the lateness of the hour and all the other things that had to get done with the day… what would have been different?  The judgmental looks (which were relatively low for me)—would they have had an added layer to them?

When my kids want to go outside and play unsupervised, I don’t have to worry that anybody will see them and assume they are up to no good

When someone posts about a free bag of Legos on our neighborhood forum at 1pm on a Tuesday, I can send my oldest son out to go run over and scoop them up before someone else does (and I can’t leave because the little one is sleeping), and I don’t have to worry that walking home during a school day with a bag of stuff will make someone suspect him of a crime and call the police.  Because he’s white.

The thing about white privilege is that I don’t even really know what it looks like.  If you’re black, you know that the standards are different, even though they shouldn’t be.  If you’re white, you don’t have to see any standards at all, because they aren’t applied against you.

And if I’m entirely off base here, please call me on it!


They look sweet and innocent…

Regarding Santa

Growing up in a non-religious household, it never occurred to me that people could possibly have a problem with Santa Clause.  It seemed that the only reason one might have a problem with Santa was if they didn’t celebrate Christmas, and therefore were jealous.  It wasn’t until I became a practicing Christian that I realized that it can actually be an incredibly divisive issue among Christians.

My thoughts: If you want to enjoy Santa, do it.  If you don’t, don’t.  Teach other kids to respect other families’ beliefs, customs, and practices.  As for me and my house?  Santa visits every year.

Here’s the thing.

We absolutely follow the tradition of Santa Claus.  We don’t use it as a manipulation tool to get our kids to behave (there is no ‘naughty or nice’ and no threats of coal in the stockings for misbehavior… misbehavior gets punished in December in the same way as the rest of the year).

Our kids know that Santa Claus – Saint Nicholas – was a passionate Christian known for secret gift giving (and for punching heretics, which my kids love to tell naysayers when other kids tell them Santa isn’t real).  I’m not lying to my kids when we tell them that there is secret gift-giving going on. We let them believe in the magic and the beauty that is someone giving absolutely selflessly, and we tie that in to Jesus giving Himself absolutely selflessly, and how we are to follow that model.  Jesus also said that we should do our good works in secret–our praying and our fasting… and I can only imagine that it is acceptable for that to extend to our giving as well.

Santa is also a part of our cultural traditions, and as we very clearly tie the meaning of Christmas–the miracle of God entering His Creation, and how that changed everything, absolutely and forevermore–the stories and legends and myths that go along with it are no more dangerous than letting my kids read about Greek myths or Roman gods, which we do with regularity.  Christmas is about Jesus, and we can use Santa Clause to honor Jesus and celebrate His birth into the world He created.

Just a Typical Night

The kids were doing this:


I was listening to Pandora’s Chicago themed station (the band, not the city), and when ‘You’re the Inspiration’ came on, I started serenading Conrad.  We got silly and started belting out Eagles and Meat Loaf songs.




You’d think that when we got to the part about watching our hearts, still beating, rising out of our bodies and flying away, our kids would react.



Grocery Shopping

It must be late August.

I went to the grocery store today—gloriously without children, allowing me to people-watch instead of children-watch.  And I know it must be late August because we live in a college town and the students are back.

Some of them were shopping with their moms.  I wish I could recreate the perfect worried-mom accent for you, but since I can’t, you’ll have to read this out loud with a slightly nasally, overly anxious tone to get the full effect.

“Oh, honey.  We should get you some Ziploc bags.  Which size do you think you’ll need?  No, I really think they’ll come in handy.  Gallon?  Or sandwich…. no, sweetie, nobody uses quart bags; let’s go with gallon.”

Some were new roommates shopping together.  I can spot them a mile away; they seem sort of disgusted by each other, but shy about it, and can’t agree on anything, so they politely argue.  My college roommate and I barely hid our disdain for each other (and by barely, I mean that her friends used to literally SIT ON ME when they came over in the middle of the night), so we really didn’t shop together.  Like, ever.  Had we had to live together a second year, I’m sure we would have just had assigned times we could be in the dorm room.  The only thing we ever did together was leave a container of yogurt out for an entire semester and occasionally joked that it was a science project.  (Really, it was just lazy.  Or stubborn.  I guess I don’t remember whose yogurt it was… which means it was probably mine.  I’m gross, y’all.)
I love watching new roommates together because it reminds me of Kullervo and I when we first got married.  Our first grocery trip was a disaster.  Butter or margarine?  The wrong answer could lead to an annulment.  He actually thought full fat mayo was better.  Hello????  I won that battle.  Later on, Friends would back me up on my decision.  “You know what?  It tastes the same and my pants fit better!”

I’m pretty sure that Kullervo and I both left the grocery store wondering if we’d rushed into this marriage thing (we did), and if we were going to make it (we have).
I stood in the grocery store today watching these people and wondering if they were going to grow into being the kinds of friends who finish each other’s sentences… or if their sole good memory would be a smelly standoff that grossed their actual friends out more than it did the other.

When I was in the produce section, I ran into the old-friends roommates.  These are people who have made peace with their butter-lovin’ friend, who have accepted that the other actually thinks Pepsi is better, and so they spend their time at the grocery store throwing food samples at each other.  Because, college.  I only got hit with one piece of cantaloupe, so I considered my artful dodging my workout for the day.  There was also the pair who were bickering in the snacks aisle.  Megan has been on a juice cleanse for three weeks (!!!), and Jenny was loading up her cart with Fudge Stripe cookies because they were her friend’s favorites.  They told me so.  I laughed and told them they were my favorite people at the grocery store today.

And then there were the not-really-cooks.  One set was a (presumably) newly-married couple, another was a set of roommates.  These were not people who cook or bake very often, so they sat in the flour aisle trying to determine if they needed dark brown sugar or light brown sugar.  IN THE WHOLE AISLE.  And the couple stood in front of the spices, cart sideways so they blocked the way, trying to find smoked paprika.  And, did she think they could just use regular paprika?  Did it really have to be smoked?  What does that even mean, anyway?

Flour wasn’t on sale, so I just turned around and avoided the whole scene.  Although the newlyweds were kept crossing my path through the whole store, and the husband kept apologizing.  I hid in the baby food/tampon/diaper section.  Newlyweds NEVER go down that aisle, and I’m always amused that those items are kept together.

It was entertaining to be able to enjoy the grocery store (which, disappointingly, was not playing Richard Marx or Chicago today, so my usual method of clearing an aisle by warbling along with the canned music wasn’t working), and to experience the variety of scenes of new college life in one place.

Thank goodness I left the kids at home.