Monthly Mentionables {July/Aug 2017} + 10 Things I Learned While Renovating Our New Home

If you want to test your marriage, parenting, and general lust for life, try moving with three children, age four and under. I suppose it wouldn’t have been so challenging if we hadn’t attempted to paint all the kitchen cabinets and the entire interior of the house before moving in …

But my word for this year is “fire,” so I will leave you to apply all the metaphors to this current situation. Just not the cozy, sit-by-the-fire ones, please.

But in the midst of our normal, daily life stressors, I can’t not mention that this was the month of Charlottesville, the solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, plus flooding in many other countries around the world. Each event left me stunned and speechless. As a writer, I struggle because I feel the pressure of speaking into the noise even when I know I may not be heard. The weight of responsibility weighs on me. But that’s a topic for another post …

Today, I’ll keep it light and share what I’ve learned this month via books, podcasts, articles and writing.

Because of the busyness of our recent move, the book reading has been minimal. But with the many hours of painting and nursing a baby, I’ve squeezed in podcasts and much blog/article-reading. Please comment here or on social media. As an extrovert, I love knowing I’m not writing into the void and as a mother to small children with little time to reach out, I appreciate feeling like this blog is more of a conversation than an online journal I am publishing for every stranger to read. Don’t be a stranger;-)

So here we go. Here are the books (okay, book), podcasts, articles and very little writing I’ve been into this month, plus ten things I learned this summer while renovating our new home:

Adopted, by Kelley Nikondeha

I have a serious problem. As a writer, I have some amazing opportunities to pre-read books and be a part of book launches. I find I CANNOT SAY NO to these. It’s a problem. But I am so glad I went against my own better judgement and agreed to read this book written by a long-time contributor to SheLoves. Adopted is a slowly-read-and-savor kind of book. It is an underline-every-line kind of book. The author was not only adopted, but also adopted two children from Burundi (and married a man from Burundi), so she speaks out of her experience as she shares about belonging to the family of God. Kelley is an outstanding writer and I loved the way she weaves words and images from Africa throughout the book. If you are looking for an early morning companion to your daily Bible reading and coffee drinking, be sure and pick up this book. It will change the way you view your place at God’s table.

Podcasts

Pass the Mic

Bonus: The Fierce Urgency of Now: Christian Complicity with Racism and the Imperative for Immediate Action. This is fabulous. Please listen if you have a chance this month.

 

Pray-As-You-Go

I’m experimenting with listening to this during the first part of my runs in the mornings. I’ve shared it before, but it includes a spiritual song, then a reading of a short Bible passage and a few questions for reflection. They have British accents, so it makes it feel even more spiritual somehow;-)

 

The Simple Show

Episode 88: No & Yes. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately as I begin the school year calendar. What will I say no to and make room for the things I want to say yes to? This episode gave me a lot to think about.

 

Slices of Life. This one was new to me this month. I love the depth these women go to as they discuss daily life.

Episode 39: Making Time for Your Kids

Episode 53: The Benefits of Margin in Your Day

 

Sorta Awesome

Episode 110 Sorry/Not Sorry. This is a long one, but if you don’t have time to get together with girl friends yourself and need a good belly-laugh, this is a perfect way to spend your minutes folding laundry, cooking dinner or commuting to work.

 

TED Talks Daily. These are all fabulous. If I were teaching right now, they are talks I would assign as homework so we could discuss them in class. Here are some I listened to this month:

How to Design a Library that Makes Kids Want to Read, by Michael Bierut (I feel like this isn’t the right title for this–listen through all the way to the end!)

Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy, by Adam Alter

How Cohousing can make us happier (and live longer), by Grace Kim

When Black Women Walk, Things Change, byT. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison

12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing, by Anne Lamott

 

Recipes:

Authentic Italian Meatballs at food.com

Garlic Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken + Potatoes (one pan) at Café Delites (Be sure to add feta cheese to this one)

Shrimp Boil at Tasting Table. (Use less salt!)

Vanilla Cupcakes from Life, Love and Sugar. The cake part wasn’t anything new, but the frosting was better than any I’ve ever made before! I’m excited to try out some new recipes from here.

Casper, WY. The night before the eclipse. The sun was already showing off.

Interesting Articles from the Web:

Be a Foster Parent or Be the Village, by Katie Finklea at Loving Well, Living Well

The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul, by Philip Yancey at Washington Post

I Moved My Kids Out of America. It Was the Best Parenting Decision I Ever Made, by Wendy DeChambeau for The Week 

Oldest Kids in Class Do Better, Even Through College, by John Ydstie for NPR

Teach Me How to Age Well, by Leah Abraham at SheLoves Magazine

The ‘Wait Until 8th’ Pledge–Let Kids be Kids a Little Longer, by Linda Sharkey, at Westport Moms Blog

White Supremacy (Overt and Covert), a great visual for understanding race

Why Free Play is Disappearing in Our Culture, for Today’s Mama

10 Truths and Realities of Transracial Adoption, by at Loving Well, Living Well

12 Best Practices for Finding Time, Energy and Inspiration to Write + A Prayer for Writers, by Sarah Bessey

100 Books by Christian Authors of Color, by Deidra Riggs at her blog

 

FOR FUN:

This Shiplap is Killing Me: 8 Things I Hate about HGTV

John Piper’s Best Tweets

 

In Case You Missed it on Scraping Raisins:

Why I’m Not Apologizing for My Kids and Doing Hospitality Anyway

Why We’re Not Doing Preschool this Year and Are Doing a ‘Gap Year’ Instead

#WhiteChurchQuiet and How the White Church Can Get It Right

Why I Write (because don’t we sometimes need to remember?)

 

And Elsewhere on the Interwebs:

Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer (for SheLoves)

Small, Sticky Hands Lead Me to Jesus (for Redbud Post)

Selling Out by Settling Down? (for Mudroom Blog)

And this is for the Emily P. Freeman Crowd–10 Things I Learned this Summer while Renovating Our New Home

  1. Painting Kitchen Cabinets: Don’t use Annie Sloan Chalk paint on your kitchen cabinets unless you want to do three coats of paint, plus three coats of polyurethane PER SIDE–that’s 12 flips, people. I did use it on the kitchen island, though, because I wanted to use the dark wax and loved the turquoise color, called Florence.
  2. Shower Mildew: check this out before re-grouting your shower. Totally works.
  3. DIY Kitchen Island: My dad and I built our kitchen island basically using this site. I love it so far!
  4. IKEA and I are not enemies anymore. I love the drawer organizer, kids’ easel and paper, kids’ plasticware, comforter and plants.
  5. Downsides to the Open Floor Plan: noise and it is impossible to hide the clutter.
  6. Painting Kitchen Counters: haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on using Giani–let me know if you’ve ever done this and have tips!
  7. Painting All Interior Walls: taping takes so long that I eventually just got really good at cutting-in.
  8. Stock Up on Trader Joe’s Frozen Dinners–the Indian ones and naan are actually really good! People should do meal trains for moves like they do for new moms. A couple friends brought us meals and literally saved my sanity that day!
  9. Keep Little Ones Busy: let them play with paint brushes and rollers outside and “paint” the sidewalk with water.
  10. Popcorn Ceilings: don’t attempt to remove them yourself. It is completely worth the cost to pay someone to do it.

Before and After pics still to come!

What all were you up these past couple months? I’d love to hear!

 

*Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and Leigh Kramer

**Includes Amazon Affiliate links

 

 

 

 

Monthly Mentionables {May 2017}

I’m starting to accept that my children (not my friends or even my husband most of the time) are my companions and fellow adventurers. These little people are always, always with me. Fortunately, they don’t seem to mind their mom wildly weaving our minivan through canyons to unknown destinations in the mountains; or exploring the neighborhoods of Denver when two out of three of the kids fall asleep on our way to the zoo.

One of the benefits of having three children is that I am forced to relax. I can’t be Super Mom and that has to be okay. This means my children climb huge rocks while I nurse on a bench. The baby rarely gets to nap in his crib and has already eaten more junk food in two months than my first born had the entire first three years of his life. I frequently rewash laundry that has sat more than 24 hours and never have a clean house. I let my two-year-old daughter pick flowers pretty much anywhere she pleases, my four-year-old son dress himself in mismatched outfits, and allow my husband to haphazardly “style” my daughter’s hair. *Sigh*

But we are living. And I’m learning to breathe to the rhythm of slow and simple.

Here are some books, articles, podcasts and writing pursuits I poured into the chinks of my days this month to hydrate my brain and assure myself i’m still a thinking person. What about you? What have you been into?

Books:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

This was a fabulous book, even though I found it very male-centric and focused more on people in the corporate world than in the creative world. That said, it was definitely applicable to anyone with a pulse in their body pushing them to live their best life. It was a quick read and challenged me to say no more often and prioritize how I spend my time (which is always a good thing).

The Contemplative Writer, by Ed Cyzewski

This was also a very quick read, but helped me reorient my writing through utilizing spiritual practices. I look forward to using them when my brain starts working again in about five years.

I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

I read this with my book club last month and I so wanted to love it. It was definitely a worthy read, but I got bogged down in the first third of the book by the detailed history of the politics of Pakistan. But I’m glad I persisted because it was fascinating to learn more about the culture of Pakistan and certainly puts my privileged life into perspective.

When We Were on Fire, by Addie Zierman

I think I read this book in less than 48 hours. If Amy Peterson’s memoir about her two years overseas was part II of my life story, Addie’s book would have been my part I. I could so relate to her reflection on (and critique of) the Christian evangelical culture she had grown up in. Reading her memoir was like finding a kindred spirit at just the right time.

Podcasts:

10-Minute Writer’s Workshop–I loved ALL of them (I binge-listened this month!)

Chasing JusticeAmena Brown Owen, Justin Dillon, and Sandra Van Opstal (I just started this one and it is quickly becoming an obsession.)

On Being with Krista TippettRichard Rohr–Living in Deep Time, Patrisse Cullors/Robert Ross–The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter

Pass the MicThe Great Woke Debate

Pray-As-You-Go Podcast (This is still the podcast I listen to while I get breakfast ready for my kiddos.)

Truth’s TableWhy the Church Matters

 

Articles:

11 Things White People Need to Realize about Race, by Jessica Samakow for Huffington Post (an older article, but still so relevant!)

Being Black, a Woman, and an Evangelical, by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson for Missio Alliance

Having a Yardsale Confessions of a Yard Sale Fanatic, at yardsalequeen.com (We had a garage sale this month and this was super helpful!)

SheLeads: An Awakenings Syllabus to #AmplifyWomen, by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson for Missio Alliance (A response from a woman of color to the CT article that set the Christian blogosphere on fire last month, plus a fabulous list of books and articles to read.)

Thirteen Lessons on Motherhood: One for Every Year I’ve Been a Mom, by Tina Osterhouse at her blog (I needed to read all of these!)

Why a Racially Insensitive Photo of Southern Baptist Seminary Professors Matters, by Jemar Tisby at The Washington Post

In Case You Missed it at Scraping Raisins:

Are You Done Having Children? (find out if we’re done …)

Motherhood as Spiritual Practice? {A Review of Long Days of Small Things}

Love Like a Fool {A Review of Redeeming Ruth}

 

Find Me Elsewhere on the Web at:

SheLoves: In Solidarity with the Butt Wipers

The Times Record: In the Fire and here, too

Velvet Ashes: A Letter to the One Returning Home

***

I feel I’m standing at the edge of summer and there is so much freedom and so much possibility. And so little sleep and so many tantrums … pray for me. Don’t let the pretty pictures fool you.  😉 (See above posts about motherhood for a more detailed view of life as i see it right now …)

Drop me a comment about what you have been into or connect with me on social media! I’m always looking for good recommendations!

xo

Leslie

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer (What I’m Into) and Emily P. Freeman (What I Learned this Spring)

Monthly Mentionables {April 2017}

I took a four month break from doing these updates. At first, I didn’t miss it, but then I realized having a record of what I’m reading, writing and listening to keeps me accountable. I read less than usual when I don’t have to report back to the internet world how exactly I spend my time. So here we are again.

Here’s a mash-up of some books, podcasts and articles I enjoyed over the past few months, as well as some insignificant personal news for your reading pleasure.

What have you been into?

Books

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens–Read this with my book club for December/January.

Dangerous Territory, by Amy Peterson–You can read my review of this here.

Divided by Faith, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith–You can read some quotes from this book here.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford–Read last month with my book club. We all really enjoyed it. It was fascinating to read about the Japanese internment and how Asians were treated during WW II in the U.S.

The Living Cross: Exploring God’s Gift of Forgiveness and New Life, by Amy Boucher Pye–Enjoyed reading this for Lent this year.

Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as Spiritual Discipline, by Catherine McNeil–Review coming soon! Loved it.

Prophetic Lament, by Soong Chan-Rah–You can read some quotes I loved from the book here.

Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, by Meadow Rue Merrill–Review coming soon! Powerful, poetic and heart-wrenching.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg–This is now one of my favorite books on writing. Highly recommend.

 

Personal News

Spring is here! (Sort of …)

 

We had several inches of snow this past weekend, but it all melted as of Monday. But I managed to snag some lilacs before they were covered in snow. We are loving being able to go to parks, “hike” and go on walks again without having to bundle up.

My Husband Kisses Other Women

I should use that for a blog title one day as click bait. It’s actually true, though it’s within the context of being a stage actor. My husband completed his first show since we got married seven years ago. Six weeks of rehearsals, four, sometimes five, nights a week and an entire month of weekend shows after that. It was stretching, but also magical to see him use his gifts on the stage. We’re in negotiations about how frequently this should be a part of our life. I’ll let you know.

Snack Dinner

Brilliant. My friend posted her dinner on Instagram recently and inspired me. I’ve never seen the kids run to dinner so fast at the announcement that “Snack dinner is ready!”

Four Eyes

After 38 years of perfect vision, I need glasses. I’m already annoying my husband with all the metaphors involving nearsightedness, vision and blindness. Stay tuned. This is not a picture of my new pair, but I’m planning on buying at Warby Parker. Seems like a great deal–they’ll send you five frames for free to try on and you can mail them back. Looks like I can get some glasses for under $100!

Elk!

Reason #317 I know I am no longer in Chicago: three elk blocked the path on my run last week!

Chubby Chinese Babies

I managed to track down the most diverse part of northern Colorado located within three courtyards of international student housing at the university near us. I have been volunteering every Friday morning at their international women’s club. I’ve met women from about fifteen different countries and there are usually about five babies with their mamas there to sit on the couch nursing with me. I’ve gotten to speak Chinese again, learn how to cook different foods and fill the mysterious hole in my soul that can’t get enough of cultures other than my own.

Podcasts

(New to Podcasts? Check out this article to get started!)

The Calling–I enjoy most of these, so you can basically start anywhere! Richard Clark has a wide variety of guests, and I always appreciate hearing about people’s personal take on the concept of calling.

The Longest Shortest Time–How to Not (Accidentally) Raise a Racist–This is an outstanding podcast to educate your children about race. The show notes include additional resources.

Pass the Mic–This is my go-to podcast for talk about race issues from a Christian perspective. Jemar Tisby and Tyler Burns are the hosts and I think I learn a new vocabulary word from Jemar during every show. Very thoughtful, intelligent and God-centric race conversations.

Pray As You Go–I am lucky if I read a few verses in my Bible these days, but this app is helping me connect with God in the midst of the chaos. I often listen while getting the kids’ breakfast ready. Each podcast is less than 15 minutes and includes a song, Scripture passage (read twice) and some questions for meditation.

The Global Church Project–Freeing Church from Western Cultural Captivity (Soong Chan Rah)–As someone who studied the intersection of theology and culture for my masters degree, I have loved this podcast featuring diverse voices speaking into church issues.

Shalom in the City–My Sista’s Keeper (the first of a monthly conversation on race and unity). I appreciate these women having the courage to risk their personal comfort to talk about issues of race, white privilege and racism from a Christian perspective. Very insightful so far.

Sorta Awesome–Spiritual Crisis (the thing that rattled our faith)–Sorta Awesome is one of my all-time favorite podcasts, but this particular one hit many nerves with me (in good ways). I appreciate their honesty, openness and hopefulness in this particular podcast.

Truth’s Table–Glaringly devoid of the female perspective, Raan Network righted the wrong by beginning this new podcast featuring three extremely intelligent women discussing race issues. It has been fabulous so far.

Articles

(I read many articles over the past several months, but these were the most memorable and seemed to spark the best conversations on social media.)

 

Latasha Morrison: The Church is the ‘Only Place Equipped to Do Racial Reconciliation Well,” by Morgan Lee for Christianity Today

SuperBabies Don’t Cry, by Heather Kirn Lanier for Vela Magazine

When I Became a Mother, Feminism Let me Down, by Samantha Johnson for Huffington Post

Why I Send My Child to Public School, by D.L. Mayfield for Think Christian

White People: I Don’t Want You to Understand Me Better, I Want You to Understand Yourselves, by Ijeoma Oluo for Medium

Who’s in Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?, by Tish Harrison Warren for Christianity Today

4 Problematic Statements White People Make about Race–And What to Say Instead, by Ali Owens for Huffington Post

59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out–And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why, by Sam Eaton for FaithLit

In Case You Missed It on Scraping Raisins:

I wrote every day for 31 days during the month of March. Every Day. For a MONTH. I’d love for you to check out my series called “31 Days of #WOKE.”  You can also listen to an interview with me on this podcast, if that’s more your thing.

Find me elsewhere on the web:

For (In)Courage:

I Tried to Run Away from Love

For Mudroom Blog:

Loving After Trump

For SheLoves:

When the Answer is Not Now

My #Woke Journey

When You and Your Husband Have Different Callings

When Writing Feels Like a Waste of Time

 

I’d love to hear what you’ve been into, so please leave me a comment. Sign up for email updates so you won’t miss a post!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

Does Talking about Race Perpetuate Disunity?

Some evangelicals question the need to talk about race. Didn’t Christ erase our dividing lines? Aren’t we all one in Christ? Doesn’t Jesus want us to live in freedom, and not in (white) guilt and shame?

Yes, Jesus came to bring freedom to all who know Him. But when society does not treat people of color as equals, the church must speak up.

Sometimes we need to acknowledge brokenness before we can begin to move toward unity. We need to name it. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We sit, we listen, and yes, sometimes we speak.

It’s time for white evangelicals to enter the race conversation as advocates, friends and allies. Ignoring the race question is like pretending the mountain doesn’t exist because it is shrouded in fog.

Since completing a one-month series on race during the month of March, many people have asked me how I felt about it and how it was received. Honestly, it was one of the least satisfying projects I have ever completed. Writing daily about race opened doors that only led to other rooms with more doors. Talking about race is never a finished conversation, always just a beginning. A person is never fully “woke.”

Most of the feedback I received was from people of color giving me a thumbs-up for having the guts to even enter the conversation. They were surprised I would venture into volatile territory since most white people who engage in this conversation have stakes in it—they’ve adopted a child of color, married a person of color or live in a very diverse area. I’m a white woman living in a white bubble. If I wanted to, I could go on with my life without a thought to race. Except I can’t.

A few friends pushed back on my series, asking, “Isn’t discussing race just divisive?”

Though some may argue that pointing out inequalities is unproductive and even unchristian, I believe silence perpetuates abuse. Last week there were several hashtags causing waves on Twitter. #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear and #WhatWoCWritersHear revealed ways women in general and women of color specifically feel undervalued, overlooked and diminished as writers. In speaking truth, we blast the darkness with brilliant light. As we bring ugly, buried sin into the open, it loses its power. It’s time to talk about the scary aspects of our society and our humanity.

Though it’s uncomfortable, naming our pain unleashes the power it has over us. We cannot move forward in relationship when we carry unspoken offenses. There is no sisterhood or brotherhood without trust. 

Here’s the truth:

“One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.” –Just Mercy, (p. 15)

One in THREE black male babies are expected to go to jail or prison.

The book Divided by Faith, a highly-researched book on evangelical’s views on race, concludes that the white perspective often dismisses institutional and systemic racism. Most white evangelicals do not acknowledge that we currently live in a racialized society. The authors push back (with documentation for each sentence):

They claim this perspective misses “that whites can move to most any neighborhood, eat at most any restaurant, walk down most any street, or shop at most any store without having to worry or find out that they are not wanted, whereas African Americans often cannot. This perspective misses that white Americans can be almost certain that when stopped by the police, it has nothing to do with race, whereas African Americans cannot. This perspective misses that whites are assumed to be middle class unless proven otherwise, are not expected to speak for their race, can remain ignorant of other cultures without penalty, and do not have to ask every time something goes wrong if it is due to race, whereas African Americans cannot. This perspective misses that white Americans are far more likely than black Americans to get a solid education, avoid being a victim of a crime, and have family and friends with money to help when extra cash is needed for college, a car, or a house.” –Divided by Faith (p. 90)

God’s love sets us all on equal ground. But when American society does not, God’s love should be the fuel that sets his children on fire for justice.

I cannot speak for any one race—my own or anyone else’s. But I’ve been listening. And this is what I hear.

I hear my black sister say society calls her less beautiful, more intimidating and less intelligent than a white woman.

I hear my black brother say he feels unsafe.

I hear parents of adopted children of color say they need to have complicated conversations at an early age.

I hear my mixed race friends asked, “What are you?”

I hear white people say they don’t see color.

I hear the church say we have different cultures, worship and preaching styles, so we shouldn’t attempt to integrate on Sunday mornings.

I hear my black sister experience microaggressions as she is told, “You are so articulate.”

I hear white parents say they value equal education (until they consider sending their child to a failing school).

I hear white evangelicals say we are already equal in Christ, so we don’t need to belabor the race issue.

As of the 2010 census, the United States is 72 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic (included with other races), 13 percent African American, 5 percent Asian and 3 percent other races (U.S. Census Bureau). Race is and will continue to be a conversation as the U.S. becomes increasingly more diverse. Squeezing our eyes shut will not make this problem go away.

Followers of Jesus should be on the forefront of the race conversation. We should advocate for equal treatment, housing, justice, education and rights for our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ. When others are silent, we should speak out. But we also must follow, listen and learn.

Solidarity demands a posture of humility.

Yes, we are called to love God and rest in who we are in Christ as representatives of the Imago Dei. But we are also called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And perhaps loving our neighbor means entering some uncomfortable conversations and spaces for the sake of love. It’s time to admit that just because we can’t see the mountain, it is there, looming behind our white fog.

***

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation?

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

***

I was recently interviewed on Anita Lustrea’s podcast, Faith Conversations, about the series “31 Days of #WOKE” and how that series came to be. Check it out here. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please leave a comment below (or if you are being accused of being a “BOT,” you can send me a comment via Facebook or my contact form–that seems to be working!)

Related Post: Wake Up, White Church

**This post includes Amazon affiliate links

Day 29: Transcript of ‘The Race Talk’ with my Kids {31 Days of #WOKE}

I had this conversation yesterday with my 4 1/2 year old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter. They had never read this book before and were excited to read it together. Here is the truncated transcript of the video of us reading the book together:

 

[Look at the cover of the book Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.]

Me: “This book cover has lots of different kinds of kids on it. How do they look different? What are they doing?”

Son: “Silly things!”

Me: “Like what?”

Son: I don’t know. She’s all dirty and laughing. And she is …. no one knows. He’s playing pirates.”

Me: Do any of these kids look like you guys?

Daughter: That’s E and that’s me!

Me: The pirate and the girl with the baseball cap? Do any of them look like you guys?

D: That one looks like me.

S: That one looks like me. Cause it has white skin. That means it’s me.

Me: But is your skin “white”? This is white, right? This cover [pointing at white duvet cover]. Is your skin the color of this?

S: But what is my color? [lifting up his shirt] Yeah, what is this color? [pointing at stomach]

Me: This is “peach”…is what we call our skin color. But we sometimes call our color “white.” And then what do people call this color? [point at African American kid in book]

S: Black.

Me: But is she really black? Is her skin black?

S: BROWN!

Me: So actually even your skin is even a tiny little bit brown. Do you know why we have different color skin? Because God made us different. We all have something in our skin called melanin. Can you say melanin?

S: Melanin.

Me: And that’s what makes our skin different colors. So if you’re white you don’t have a lot of melanin. But if you’re what we call black, then you have a lot of melanin.

S: What IS melanin?

Me: It’s just like a special thing that’s in our skin that makes our skin different colors. So some people are what we call “white,” which is what we are.

S: Do I have that…that…word? Do I have…

Me: Melanin? Yep, we all do.

S: [High-pitched voice] I have melanin?

Me: Actually, when you go out in the sun, it brings out the melanin, so we can be even darker. In sun sometimes our skin turns even a little browner. So in the summer our skin is more brown.

Me: So do you have any friends that are black? Do you know any kids that are brown colored?

S: One.

Me: Who is it?

S: C–

Me: Yep. So C– has more melanin in his skin.

S: I have more melanin.

Me: You have less melanin.

S: What does “less” mean?

Me: Not as much.

S: I have SO MUCH!

[I laugh.]

Me: Let’s read a book.

[Begin reading the book together, asking questions and talking about the pictures.]

Me: So this girl looks a little different, too. What does she look like? [point to Asian girl in picture]

S: She looks like what?

Me: Well, you know how mommy has some Chinese friends? And we speak Chinese together?

S: Yeah.

Me: So this girl looks Chinese, which means she’s “Asian.” So their skin is a little bit white, but it’s also a little bit brown.

D: Read it!

[Continue reading and talking about the pictures and words in the book. I ask what the kids were doing in the pictures and make connections to our lives.]

Me: They all have different kinds of hair, don’t they? So everyone has different kinds of hair, too. It’s all beautiful.

[Continue reading]

Me: [Point at another picture of a black child in the book.] Sometimes, also, when people have brown skin, we call them “African American.”

S: I found an African American! And another African American!

Me: Uh huh. “African American” is what we sometimes call people.

D: And MORE African American. [pointing]

S: Noo. She’s not African American.

[Continue reading, talking and answering many many questions.]

Me: [Reading end of book] “Because they make the world…”

S: Different Colors!

Me: Different Colors. And different colors is better than one color, isn’t it?

[They ask MORE questions about the pictures–unrelated to race.]

Me: [Finish reading.] “Beautiful!” Don’t you think they make the world beautiful? Just like you guys.

Reflection:

I felt like this conversation went really well. My son already knew the terminology “white” and “black,” though I’m not sure where he got it from (possibly from the hours of podcasts I listen to on this topic …). But it was refreshing to talk about how to describe people in a non-threatening, matter-of-fact way. From now on, I’ll try to be more intentional about talking about race as we read books together.

Have you had a conversation like this with your kids? Do you have any other recommendations for me? I’m sure it’s the first of many talks, so there is always room for improvement!

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

 

Day 27: A Lesson Plan for Talking to my Preschooler about Race for the First Time {31 Days of #WOKE}

“Kids do see color – and when parents ignore it, the lesson children learn is that diversity is something too scary to talk about.” –Kristen Howerton on Rage Against the Minivan Blog

Why is it important for white parents to talk to their kids about race?

People of color have these kinds of conversations with their children early and frequently, while white people often avoid discussing race with their children altogether. Many of us were taught not to talk about race in favor of being “colorblind.” But it turns out that colorblindness does more harm than good. Instead of raising tolerant children willing to build relationships across color lines, our silence forces our children to draw their own conclusions.

Several articles mentioned that just as you would not just wait for your teenager to learn about sex from the internet or friends, you should not wait for your children learn about race from an untrusted source. As parents, we are the first line of defense in fighting prejudice and racial bias in the next generation–through our children.

The more we talk about race with our kids, the easier it will get. Kids are not naturally awkward; we parents are the ones who need to overcome our fear and anxiety. Here’s my first attempt. I wrote a lesson plan. Because I’m a nerd. (And also a former teacher.)

A Lesson Plan for Talking to my Preschooler about Race for the First Time

(Age 3-5)

Objective: To equip my 4 ½ year old son and 2 ½ year old daughter with the vocabulary to talk about skin color in a positive way.

Materials:

Dolls of various skin tones

Books: Any book including characters of various races will do (don’t choose a book specifically about race—the purpose of this lesson is to normalize race, not talk about racism—that will be for a future lesson). Dr. Vittrup recommends using All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Got Our Skin Color, by Katie Kissinger.

Optional: Skin-colored crayons

Activity 1: Books

Before reading, ask my kids questions about the appearances of the people in the pictures on the front of the book.

“What is the same about you and them? What is different? Do you know any people that look like this?”

Teach the word “melanin”: (“any of various black, dark brown, reddish-brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (as skin or hair”)

“Every person’s skin has different amounts of melanin in it, which makes their skin a different color.”

“God made every person on earth and called them ‘good,’ so every color of skin is beautiful.”

“What color is your skin?”

“Our skin is peach or very very light brown, but sometimes people call it ‘white.’ That just means you have less melanin in your skin.”

“Sometimes people call those with more melanin in their skin ‘black.” Everyone is really just different shades of brown.”

Read the book together, asking them to describe the characters throughout, using the descriptive words we talked about.

Activity 2: Dolls

Pull out the dolls and look at them together.

“What color is your doll’s skin? Do they have a lot of melanin or a little?

 

Application: Use the skin-tone-colored crayons to draw pictures of themselves and their friends or color in a coloring book. Talk about race throughout the week as we encounter different characters in books.

***

My kids are away for the weekend with my parents, but I’m hoping to have this conversation with them in the next couple days. I’ll let you know how it goes …

Additional resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race:

This post from the site Raising Race Conscious Children has tons of examples of scripts to explain difficult topics to kids of a variety of ages.

And this post from the same site has a great list of strategies to use in talking to our kids about race.

How Children Learn Who’s In and Who’s Out by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson for Redbud Post

Day 11: Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race from Scraping Raisins

How to Not (Accidentally) Raise a Racist on The Longest Shortest Time Podcast interview with Dr. Brigitte Vittrup. The show notes for this podcast have a ton of great ideas for books and videos to watch to help educate yourself and your children on race.

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Day 25: Divided by Faith {31 Days of #WOKE}

I have a confession: I choose my Twitter friends based on the color of their skin. Admittedly, this is reverse racism of sorts, but it is the best way I have found to hear the thoughts of people who are underrepresented in my daily life.

Since the election, the collective cry resounding from my Twitter feed is that people of color feel angry and scared, but also betrayed by the white evangelical church, who overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump.

I picked up Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America at exactly the right time. Divided by Faith is a highly researched book digging into the racial divide in our country, but especially as it pertains to the evangelical church. As a culture geek, this was exactly the analysis I was looking for. The book digs into the history of race relations in the church in the United States including the responses of “the greats” like D.L. Moody and Billy Graham towards the racial inequities of their time.

In a national survey of over 2,500 Americans, only 4 percent of white Protestants named racism as an issue. In contrast, a third of African-American Protestants cited racism, with one-quarter naming it as the single most important issue for Christians to address.” (p. 87) The book confronts this discrepancy head-on.

Here are some parts of the book that stood out to me:

“Most evangelicals, even in the North, did not think it their duty to oppose segregation; it was enough to treat blacks they knew personally with courtesy and fairness.” (p. 75)

Early leaders developed four major steps to achieve racial reconciliation:

  1. “Individuals of different races must develop primary relationships with each other.”
  2. “People must recognize social structures of inequality and that all Christians must resist them together. These structures include … unequal access to quality education and housing.”
  3. “Whites, as the main creators and benefactors of the racialized society, must repent of their personal, historical and social sins.”
  4. “African Americans must be willing, when whites ask, to forgive them individually and corporately. Blacks must repent of their anger and whatever hatred they hold towards whites in the system.” (p. 54-55)

Divided by Faith emphasizes the individualism of white evangelicals, pointing out that most do not recognize structural racism. This paragraph gives a good summary of the findings of numerous surveys and interviews conducted by researchers of this book:

“Because the vast majority of white evangelicals do not directly witness individual-level prejudice (with the exception of some relatives who used the “N” word occasionally), the race problem simply cannot be as large an issue as some make it to be. Granted it was a problem in the past, and a residue may remain today because orginal sin remains, but the race problem is not severe. A number of respondents, as a result of their isolation and cultural tool kit, stated that the race problem was overblown, exaggerated by vested interests. A common theme was that the media exaggerated the race problem.” (p. 81)

“One consequence of thoroughgoing evangelical individualism is a tendency to be ahistorical, to not grasp fully how history has an influence on the present.” (p. 81)

“After hundreds of years of efforts, far from being brought closer together, white and black evangelicals, and Americans in general, are widely separated, perceiving and experiencing the world in very different ways.” (p. 88)

This letter from the book exemplifies why I am writing this series:

Letter from Christianity Today, 1971 (p. 57)

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Day 12: Just Mercy {31 Days of #WOKE}

This book changed my life. I tell everyone who will listen to read Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson.

“You won’t enjoy it,” I say. “In fact you may even hate it. But to be a responsible human being, you should read it–in a ‘everyone should watch Schindler’s List‘ kind of way.”

As of today, Just Mercy has five out of five stars on Amazon, a composite of 2,292 reviews.

Sot it’s not just me.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“Today we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are nearly six million people on probation or on parole. One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.” (p. 15 emphasis mine)

“Some states have no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults; we’ve sent a quarter million kids to adult jails and prisons to serve long prison terms, some under the age of twelve.” (p. 15 emphasis mine)

“Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” (p. 17-18)

“The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” (p. 18)

“Most incarcerated women–nearly two-thirds–are in prison for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes or property crimes. Drug laws in particular have had a huge impact on the number of women sent to prison … one of the first incarcerated women I ever met was a young mother who was serving a long prison sentence for writing checks to buy her three young children Christmas gifts without sufficient funds in her account.” (p. 236)

“In 1996, Congress passed welfare reform legislation that gratuitously included a provision that authorized states to ban people with drug convictions from public benefits and welfare. The population most affected by this misguided law is formerly incarcerated women with children, most of whom were imprisoned for drug crimes. These women and their children can no longer live in public housing, receive food stamps, or access basic services. In the last twenty years, we’ve created a new class of ‘untouchables’ in American society, made up of our most vulnerable mothers and their children.” (p. 237 emphasis mine)

***

Bryan Stevenson couched the above statistics within the narrative of one larger story–that of a man condemned to death row. But each chapter supports his story arc with many different personal stories of his clients. So don’t expect a dry read as you pick up this book, but do expect to have an emotional connection to the people you meet in its pages.

Expect to be changed.

I wrote out some questions for group discussion for my book club that you are welcome to use. You can find them here.

I also went to hear Bryan Stevenson speak in the fall. You can read my notes on his talk here.

A great companion to reading this book is the documentary currently showing on Netflix called 13th. It features Bryan Stevenson as well as many other justice warriors.

What other books on the issue of racial justice have been transformational for you?

If you read Just Mercy, I’d love to hear how you liked it in the comments section!

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

**includes Amazon affiliate links

Day 11: Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race {31 Days of #WOKE}

Resources for Talking to Kids about Race, plus 10 Picture Books Featuring People of Color

My four-year-old son recently noticed that people are different colors. We visited an African American church and I decided not to mention anything about skin color beforehand. I didn’t think he noticed. But just a few days later he brought up the fact that he has “white skin” and another boy has “black skin.”

“Who told you that?” I asked. “Did you learn that in preschool?” When I was little, the term “black” confused me. I didn’t know anyone with black skin, just different shades of brown.

“He probably got that from your podcasts,” my mom suggested as I shared how his innocence had somehow been shattered.

I’m a bit obsessed with podcasts (if you haven’t noticed). I listen while I’m doing laundry, getting ready in the mornings and even in the shower (if the host has a loud enough voice–thank you, Megan Tietz of Sorta Awesome). And most of the ones I listen to these days are about race.

But in all my own self-education, I clearly haven’t done a good enough job of educating my four-year-old on this issue.

In addition to this and this list on race resources to educate yourself on race issues, The Global Mom Show Podcast recently broadcasted a few episodes on educating our children on this topic. I would highly recommend listening to these for ideas on talking to your kids about race:

Talking to Your Kids about Race, with Lucretia Berry

Talking to Your Mixed-Race Kids about Race, with Sonia Smith-Kang

 

Here are some other resources I’ve found, as well as ten picture books featuring people of color that are sitting in my Amazon shopping cart as I type this:

Websites:

Barefoot Books believes that “children need diverse, inclusive and inspiring books. This is what we’re all about. From the very beginning, our books have opened windows to other cultures and perspectives, while also providing children of all backgrounds and abilities with a much-needed mirror of their own experiences.”

Colours of Us is a website with tons of lists of multicultural book ideas as well as multicultural toys, games, puzzles and crafts.

Here Wee Read Blog 55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016, by Mrs. G at Here Wee Read Blog (and another great list from the same site). Follow her on Instagram for more great book ideas.

Like Me, Like You Kids  is a place to buy toys and decorative items for kids that reflect diversity. From the site: “Our hope is to curate beautiful products that allow children of color to see themselves in the art, books and toys they interact with daily. We also hope that children of all shades would grow up appreciating the gift of diversity – like me, like you.”

Raising Race Conscious Children is “a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. The goals of these conversations are to dismantle the color-blind framework and prepare young people to work toward racial justice. If we commit to collectively trying to talk about race with young children, we can lean on one another for support as we, together, envision a world where we actively challenge racism each and every day. Many of the blog’s posts are geared toward White people but a community of guest bloggers represent diverse backgrounds and the strategies discussed may be helpful for all.” This post was especially helpful to me.

Articles:

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism  by Kristen Howerton at her blog

What White Children Need to Know about Race, by Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli for the Independent School Magazine

5 Ways Parents Pass Down Prejudice and Racism, by Danielle Slaughter for Huffington Post

Raising Race Conscious Children by Joanna Goddard on A Cup of Jo Blog

Podcast:

How to Not (Accidentally) Raise a Racist

Book Lists:

12 Books Featuring Black Fathers (for all ages)

28 Black Picture books that Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball


50+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families 

 Children’s Books to Help Talk about Race with Kids  from an Alabama Public Library

18 Children’s Books with Characters of Color, by Joanna Goddard for her blog, A Cup of Jo 

10 Picture Books with Characters of Color (currently sitting in my Amazon shopping cart):

A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon

The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown

Beautiful, by Stacy McAnulty

The Bot that Scott Built, by Kim Norman

The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson

The Lord’s Prayer, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

Happy in Our Skin, by Fran Manushkin

Psalm Twenty-Three, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner

 

Now that my kids can talk (often more than I’d like them to), it’s time to start discussing race. My brothers and sisters of color have already had numerous conversations about this, so it’s time for me to begin planting seeds of love and tolerance before the weeds of prejudice can take root.

Join me?

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

**Contains Amazon Affiliate links

Book Discussion Questions for Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

This is the true tale of an African American lawyer in the south fighting for the rights of death row inmates who were unjustly incarcerated. Stevenson illuminates the racial injustices that are happening not during slavery or the Civil Rights era, but RIGHT NOW.  It proves that we are not in post-racial times, but still living in the midst of rash injustice. This is the best book I read in 2016 and should be on your list of must-read books.

Discussion Questions:

(This is a very flexible guide for a book club to use as a spring board for discussing the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. They can be skipped and discussed in any order).


1. How did you feel before you read this book?  How did you feel afterward?

2. Describe the author’s style.  Was it effective?

3. What was most shocking/sickening/saddening/surprising for you in this book?  Why?

4. What did you want to know more about?

5. Discuss some of the most memorable stories from each of the groups mentioned throughout the book: African American men, women, children, mentally ill, disabled, drug convicts.

6. What stood out to you most about Walter’s story?

7. In what ways did Mr. Stevenson himself experience prejudice?

8. What are some of our state laws about incarceration?  How can we find these out?

9. What can we do personally to make a difference?

10. How does Mr. Stevenson’s race impact your reading (and his writing) of this book?  How would it have been different if it had been written by a white man or woman?

11. Would you recommend this book to others?  Why or why not?

***


(You are welcome to use these for group discussion, as long as you attribute Leslie Verner.)

If you have read the book, I would love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments section! 

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