The cream almost empty, but the jiggling of the carton proves enough for morning coffee.
The broken shoelace, but if removed from one eyelet, enough to tie for a run before buying new.
The market flowers lovely, but the wild ones by the side of the road fill my pitcher.
The tiny hole in the toiletry bag, with a quick whipstitch is made whole again.
Made whole again.
This of mine I give to you.
It opens the space for more.
There is enough for both.
The blanket cannot stretch over the whole bed.
But if you come closer, it can easily cover us both.
And there is enough.
Five years old, sitting on the kitchen table, like every morning.
My mom, curling my hair. The sun shining in the back window. The smell of hairspray and coffee.
“Why does she live far away?”
“Because they bus her to your school, honey.”
“You mean she rides the bus to school?”
“Yes, but from a different part of the city.”
“I think it’s because schools in other parts of town might not be as good, honey.”
I didn’t know when we played ‘house’ in first grade that she was from another part of town. I knew I couldn’t walk to her house to play after school and on the weekends. And that she was black.
Mostly, I felt she was just like me.
“…schools on the other side of town might not be as good…”
In South Bend, Ind., a city that boasts of being ”the first Northern school district to enter into a voluntary desegregation plan,” school officials say their plan will desegregate the schools ”now and theoretically forever.”
The South Bend plan is not without its critics. White parents have sued, saying the plan is too sweeping, and black civil rights activists have sued, saying it places an unfair burden on minority students.
“Twenty seven years after the United States Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in schools, communities are still caught in confusion and dissension over how best to end it.”
I don’t know how it ends.
Another thirty-five years later.
My girls on their bike ride on our country road. I let them go by themselves to get a taste of some of the freedom I had at their age.
The young man who lives down the road from us, driving his truck at fifty miles per hour.
This is the time I worry about my girls’ safety.
Mothers who have to worry every time her child leaves the house.
The color of his skin.
Too many stories of others.
Thirty five years later.
Sixty five years later.
Two hundred years later.
When will it end?
Mothers in arms.
I stand with you.
Your child is my child.
I worry when he leaves, too.
I cannot say I know how you feel.
But I will no longer let my silence be misunderstood as indifference.
I stand with you. I stand with love. And I will not be quiet.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
*Quote – Elie Wiesel
So, it’s not a far stretch to say there are points in my life when I would have been okay with him moving thousands of miles away.
I guess it probably started when we were about three and five. Coming home with stones in my pants, fat upper lips, and chains off of bicycles, I was pretty used to the normal 1980’s treatment of younger sisters by big brothers.
By middle school, our relationship transitioned into mostly just avoiding each other, although I would take any interaction I could get. Sometimes I think I would even egg him on to get in a fight with me, just so I could have a sliver of his attention, even if it was painful. So when I would be upstairs in my room, and I would hear him call, “Sej!! Seja! Can you come down here?”, I would drop what I was doing to see what he wanted. And then of course, him, laying on the sofa, watching TV, looking at me and saying, “…the remote is over there. Can you throw it to me?” And me launching the remote directly at his face.
That kind of summed up high school.
As we grew into college, our relationship started to shift, realizing the parts we’d played in each other’s lives up to that point. The kind of person that isn’t always present, but you know they are there when you need them, and they are the person you call for advice or to just sound something out.
So when David called telling me he’d met this girl, and she was pretty awesome, I knew something was different than the times before. And a few years later, they were married. And I gained a sister and a pretty amazing friend.
And then eventually nephews and a niece.
It’s easy to say my brother is one of my best friends and my strongest ally.
Like the time, when our entire family plus some friends, went to Mexico for spring break together. A guy started hitting on me. A guy with no shirt. And a huge tattoo. Dave stayed close by, talking with his friends, keeping his eye on me. I then saw his buddy Jake whisper something to him, then I clearly heard David yell, “Because my sister isn’t going out with a dude with a giant tattoo on his back that says ‘T-Bone.” That kind of brother.
So now, I feel differently. I don’t really want him moving thousands of miles away.
But tomorrow they are. Tomorrow, my brother and his beautiful wife and family are moving to London for three years.
My excitement for them and this experience they are about to have is what comforts me right now.
And mostly, my pride. I am so proud of this man, who has worked so hard, to go from an entry-level sales representative position to an executive within the same company, and now being transferred across the Atlantic to have the same impact there that he had here.
So now, I kind of feel like that five-year-old again, realizing what I felt even then, wanting his attention, was pride. Because I knew that even though he beat me to a pulp at times, like all big brothers do, he would never let anyone else. And his heart, bigger than his little-sister teasing, was always on my side.
We plan to go visit early next year, and we are so excited for that trip. But until then, our excitement is for them, for this adventure, for this experience of a lifetime.
We love you, David, Callie, Caden, Brody, and Hadley. Go show London what you’re made of.
I love so much, so many things about this country. (Cue Lee Greenwood:)).
I looked out the window while at work today. Bees and butterflies – they were everywhere – pollinating the flowers and vegetables in my garden. I love having fresh vegetables and fruit and am so grateful we have them. I know bees are starting to be around less and less and I would really like to see them stay, so I am voting pro-vegetables-being-around-for-my-grandkids this election.
I love my children. Being the sisters that they are, they disagree at times (okay, a lot). They argue, they slam doors, they work it out. But they don’t make fun of each other and they don’t name-call. They know once names are thrown, the line has been crossed, and it’s bad for everyone. In turn, they don’t bully or meanly tease friends. They’ve learned this because this is what Joe and I and other adults they look up to have taught them, and more importantly, shown them. So this election season, I am voting for kindness.
I love diversity. I love others and I love learning about people who are different from me. We are lucky to live in a melting pot of ethnicities, faiths, and skin colors. This country was founded so that people from all walks of life could come here in the pursuit of liberty. The idea that someone cannot come to this country because of their beliefs is called discrimination – not something I love. So this election, I am voting pro-diversity and inclusion.
I love the feeling of being safe. I love the idea that my children and family are safe. I will forever be grateful to the men and women who have died to make this country safe. I want this feeling for everyone. I have some friends right now who are not feeling safe because of their faith, because of the idea they one day may have to register their name in this country because of it. I remember hearing about that once before. It was in 1939 in Nazi Germany. And again in 1941 in France. Those people did not feel safe and for good reason. So this election cycle, I am voting for safety for all Americans.
I love the rights women have in this country. I am grateful that I can do all of the things my male counterparts can do. Currently, I am especially grateful that I can vote, something I couldn’t have done less than one hundred years ago. I love that my daughters have strong, capable women to look up to and a father who is teaching them skills that used to be reserved just for men. I love that in this country, they are in control of the choices regarding their bodies, without someone punishing them for it. So this fall, I am voting for womens’ rights.
I love Jesus. I love the way he treated everyone around him, including prostitutes, lepers, the poor, and sinners. He invited them in, dined with them, loved them. And even though I will never be on the same level as him, I want to live a life as much like him as I can. A life of empathy, a life of inclusion, and a life of love. A life of not turning people away because of pre-conceived ideas about who they are. And I want my children to do the same. So this fall, I am voting pro-Jesus.
I love working together. I think it is absolutely amazing when two people who disagree can sit down with each other and listen – really listen – to the others’ opinions and feelings and facts, and come to an understanding. It gives me goosebumps when leaders from all over the world can work together to make the planet a better place for all of us. So this fall, I am voting for the leader who will communicate with others.
Most of all, I am voting for hope. I will not let fear win my vote. I will let all of that love I shouted all over the page above fill my heart – and throw it all over the place on election day.
I hope you do the same.
So running a business isn’t easy.
In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I mean, second to raising kids. But now that my littles aren’t so little anymore and can do some things around the house for themselves, like make themselves lunch (consisting of fruit snacks and butter knives dipped in Nutella), running a business is close to the top.
It is the hardest I’ve ever worked.
When you are working a corporate job, and it’s your dream to turn your hobby or side hustle into your full-time gig, you (meaning me) don’t think about the late nights, the phone buzzing in the middle of the night, the messages of packages getting lost in the mail.
And you definitely don’t think about the nights when everyone in your family is asleep, (because it’s 2:30 in the morning and everyone should damn well be asleep), but you’re still in your shop working, getting the orders made that need to ship the next day.
No, you’re thinking about the flexibility of your schedule, the potential to get more than a one percent raise each year, the time you get to decide how to spend.
And it’s true, there is that.
But there are the 2:30 in the morning’s that you are still at work and even doing that, you don’t know if you are going to catch up, going to get done what you need to get done.
I had this night four days ago.
Working in my shop, stressed out, hating the work that I loved because it was overtaking everything else. I had one huge custom order that needed to ship – the customer kept asking when it would ship without much elaboration – which I read as “I need this order as soon as you can possibly make it.” And this customer, she’s an important customer. She spends a lot of money with me and I wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything to ruin this relationship. But I didn’t see a way out – I was the one responsible for this order, and there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get it done in time.
I had arms folded on my workbench with my forehead resting on them. At 2:30 in the morning.
So, I did what I thought would be disastrous, but I did it anyway.
I wrote the customer an email.
A totally vulnerable, put-it-all-out-on -the-table email.
I told her, I am so sorry, but I cannot ship your order in time. In fact, it may not ship until next week. You see, I have lost all balance in my life. Work is outweighing everything else by about ten to one and your order hit me at a point where I pretty much have nothing left. I am so sorry. I hope you understand.
Then I pressed “Send”.
I went to bed, prepared for the reply message that would be waiting for me in my inbox.
Except no reply was there when I woke up.
Which of course gave way to worry and anxiety.
She’s had it, this customer. She’s finding someone else to source from.
I did my best to let it go and enjoy the day with my girls, even though I pretty much laid on the couch because that was all I could muster that day.
Then my phone ding’d.
It was her.
My heart began to race a little, prepared for the bad news.
I wasn’t prepared for what I read, though, when I opened the message:
“SEJA! YESSSSS! Of course love! I totally GET IT! Summer is CRAZY!!! my 3 kids are home and I babysit 3 other FULL TIME! I think i have told you but I have a small in-home daycare!”
That was her message. She went on to say that she is so crazy, working and balancing her love of jewelry, trying to turn it into her full-time gig, but running an in-home daycare until she can make jewelry full-time.
A message so full of grace and love and understanding was what greeted me, instead of everything my crazy imagination dreamt up.
I had so many emotions after reading this message.
It renewed my spirit of being a business owner, who bootstrapped it from the ground-up. And the love I had for this woman, who was still in the midst of her own boot-strapping, multiplied by about a thousand.
It renewed my love for my work, creating this business that works alongside others who are also building their dreams and trying to live a life while they do it.
And lastly, I felt ridiculous that I was such a stressed-out mess about something I had created entirely in my mind. If I was just open with this customer from the start, showing that I am human, that I can’t do it all, and set some limits at the same time, I would have prevented this whole mess to begin with.
So, here I am, embracing myself while typing with a (big) glass of wine, letting my vulnerable self be out in the open. And now I know better. And when you know better, you do better, which can maybe lead to your best.
And from now on, my best leaves the shop by 5pm.
The coops were dry, and the girls have learned that the waterers don’t fill themselves.
The rain beginning to fall, the work continuing until it’s finished.
Filling the five gallon bucket so the chickens have plenty of water for some time, it can be a challenge for an 11-year-old body to carry it back to the coop.
As she makes her way back to the thirsty hens (plus one rooster), I offer to help.
“I’ve got it, Mom.”
As the fence approaches and the challenge of lifting the heavy container becomes present, she knows it will not be easy. But how to do it? I see her, looking at the hens, then looking at the water container. And then again once more. I watch from behind the sliding glass door, hindering my reaction to open and offer to help once more.
Then I see her. Watch her figure it out. She may not be able to lift the water over the fence, but she can push the fence down.
And the once, “It’s too heavy”, is now the, “I’ve got this, Mom.” And the water is where it needs to be. And the chickens come to drink.
It is nice to have the eggs, and in the future, the meat. But the benefits of keeping chickens right now are far outweighing what they provide nutritionally.
Not only is she getting stronger, but we hear less of, “I can’t”.
Less of, “I’m not strong enough.”
Less of, “I don’t know how.”
More of figuring it out.
More of, “I’ve got it, Mom.”
It’s one of the reasons we moved out here – to raise our girls in a world of learning – so that they would know how to take care of themselves, how to take care of others, to have the confidence that they can.
The girls didn’t always take responsibility for these chores, but they’ve grown, and can help more on our land now. And more importantly, they know they are capable of more than before.
And I rest well, knowing that when they come to a problem, a situation that maybe they had unsure footing, they will have the confidence to face it, to figure it out, and know that they’ve got it.