I blinked and February was over.
Except, exactly in the middle, it delivered our family another bout of the stomach flu, so, for a time, February felt like it might last an eternity.
Months have a funny way of feeling both long and short all at the same time, don’t they?
Thankfully, February afforded me enough time to read a few books and think about a few things as well as make a super important decision to start watching The West Wing again from the beginning.
But that’s neither here nor there. What’s here is where my brain has been this past month:
What I Read
I read two books this month, and feel particularly good about this statistic given that I doubled my actual goal (sometimes it pays to set a low bar, you know?).
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
When I was teaching ninth grade, I used to read young adult fiction almost exclusively, so I had good recommendations for my students (except mostly because I love it too). It had been awhile since I read fiction that was just purely fun, and since love is a theme of February, I figured this was a good place to start.
It delivered on fun and silly, and while I did enjoy it, it didn’t quite pull through with the glowing recommendation as say a John Green or Rainbow Rowell book would.
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
I picked a book in honor of Valentine’s Day to start the month and quickly remembered that February is, far more importantly, Black History Month. I picked this book off a display shelf at the library and was not disappointed.
The premise alone is fascinating: Two kids, both named Wes Moore, were born blocks apart and within a year of each other in Baltimore. Both were fatherless and led difficult childhoods navigating their neighborhood streets. One Wes Moore became a Rhodes Scholar and decorated veteran. The other is currently serving life in prison as a convicted murderer.
The author (the first Wes Moore from above) tells both stories with equal attention to detail as he sets out to answer his own question: How did these two similar lives end up so wildly different?
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s told so thoughtfully and the perspective it offers is important. I’ve been thinking a lot about its implications since.
Last month I wrote about an article I had read that resonated with my feelings of being in the middle of so many political conversations happening right now. Many would probably view my feelings about a couple of hot-button issues as contradictory, and yet, here I am, asking incessant questions and wanting to look at issues from a lot of different angles.
Brené Brown’s words in this piece are specific to her thoughts on gun control, but you wouldn’t even have to agree with her exact stance to support her push for better critical thinking. I appreciate her reminder that it’s okay to sometimes live in the middle of an issue and refuse to take a “You’re either with us, or you’re against us” approach. I especially like what she says here:
The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but still, it requires courage. Getting curious and asking questions happens outside our ideological bunkers. It feels easier and safer to pick a side. The argument is set up in a way that there’s only one real option. If we stay quiet we’re automatically demonized as “the other.”
The only true option is to refuse to accept the terms of the argument by challenging the framing of the debate. But make no mistake; this is opting for the wilderness. Why? Because the argument is set up to silence dissent and draw lines in the sand that squelch debate, discussion, and questions—the very processes that we know leads to effective problem solving.
What I Wrote
I’m still plugging away putting chapters of my life into a larger compilation than single blog posts, and I’m happy to say that I just wrote about a season in my life during which I was afraid of pirates.
This is a true story.
When I was about seven, I used to lay on the bottom of my bunk bed and press my fingers between the blinds juuuust to make sure that a ragtag group of eye-patch wearing men weren’t circling their ships around our cul-de-sac.
Mom and dad, you might be learning about this for the first time. Everything is fine. I seem to have turned out alright. I watched Pirates of the Caribbean without any emotional trauma and am currently helping Lily work through her pirate unit at preschool without any problems.
Anyway, other than that, I did write something for the Mighty Moms Club about why reading to our kids is so important; I still love to put my teaching hat on from time to time.
What I Thought About
As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to dwell upon wasted time. I often wonder if I’m planning enough activities for my kids and can name far too many instances in which one of the girls will ask me to put my phone away. The wasted time in a day is always easy to spot.
But lately, I’ve been trying to key in on the unwasted time. To sink a little more deeply into those moments in which there is no better alternative.
Of course I know that I don’t need to be actively engaging all of my kids every moment of every day (I’d need more arms and probably another body altogether), but I’ve been trying to acknowledge those moments of undivided attention and purposeful interaction (sometimes it’s as simple as reading a book with a kid on my lap and my phone in the other room) for what they’re worth: Time well spent.
Privilege and Responsibility
Since finishing The Other Wes Moore a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my response to the story should be. What impact should the stories of these two lives have on my own?
Tavis Smiley’s words in the Call to Action at the end of the book have given me a lot to ponder:
Fundamentally, this story is about two boys, each of whom was going through his own personal journey and searching for help. One of them received it; the other didn’t. And now the world stands witness to the results. Small interactions and effortless acts of kindness can mean the difference between failure and success, pain and pleasure–or becoming the people we loathe or love to become. We are more powerful than we realize, and I urge you to internalize the meanings of this remarkable story and unleash your own power.
And now the world stands witness to the results. My life of privilege doesn’t mean I am off the hook when it comes to potential impact for people around me. Love and compassion transcend specific experiences, after all, and I know I have a responsibility to make a difference somehow.
Obviously, this train of thought should be its own essay, but the short end of the story is that I’ve been thinking about who is sitting around my table (both figuratively and metaphorically). Am I surrounded only by people who look like me, live like me, and believe the same things I do, or am I welcoming people into my life who might offer me different perspectives, lenses, and opinions with which to view the world?
My goal and hope is the latter.
February in Rear View
And that’s it. February 2018 is gone and never to return again.
Spring is on the cusp and I feel it. February gave us a few days of upper sixty degree weather, and, let me tell you, we did not waste them. We breathed that warm air deeply into our lungs and turned our faces toward the sun.
But we’re ready for you March, and I’m crossing my fingers you deliver Spring with abandon (and a few more episodes of The West Wing for good measure).