Author: courtneykoctar

On Taking A Knee

After more than a hundred NFL players chose to either take a knee or stay in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner several weeks ago, people didn’t hesitate to share their feelings.

Dustin and I were taking about how one of the purposes of taking a knee was to generate a conversation about race, police brutality, white supremacy, etc., but the original point is often missed because of the national anthem and American patriotism.

Instead of having those conversations, we either yell at people on Facebook or we cocoon ourselves with people who agree with and think like us. As an alternative, we asked a few friends and family members to help us with that conversation. We may not agree, but the main rules were no name-calling and keep it clean.

As our friends thoughts roll in we’ll be sharing them here. If you missed the first post you can check it out here. Next up is our friend Megan. Honored to have her share her thoughts with you.

I have never considered myself particularly patriotic. My early memories about our country are more about disappointment in laws, policies, and wars than any real pride in being from a great place. When Texas passed a law in my sophomore year of high school that required we recite the US and Texas pledge every morning, I rolled my eyes and stood silently. I found overt displays of patriotism distasteful, and for a long time, I thought that meant I didn’t actually care very much about being American.

What I’ve found in the last year is that while I haven’t felt connected to the symbols of America that are touted as emblematic of our country and its values (e.g., the flag, the anthem, the pledge), I do have very emotional ties to physical acts of protecting and promoting equity for those who remain disadvantaged. Walking with thousands in the Women’s March in Kentucky. Listening to Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (my senators who have been at the forefront of protecting Obamacare) speak at a healthcare rally at the Connecticut capital. Gathering with my small suburban community to hold a vigil for victims of white supremacy in the wake of Charlottesville. These are the moments where I’ve looked around and felt explicitly connected with the democratic ideals of this country—when I’ve actually felt patriotic.



L – The Women’s March in Lexington, KY, January 2017 (photo by Megan Faver Hartline); R – A vigil for victims of white supremacy in Wethersfield, CT, August 2017 (photo by Kaci White).

Part of why protesting matters to me now is how much more tenuous democracy and freedom feel. Even though there were many reasons to protest before the election—particularly, police violence and rampant inequity for people of color—I felt like we were making strides in the right direction, which made it seem okay for me to support activism from afar without fully participating in it. In the wake of a what felt like a drastic backtracking to me (though many people of color have pointed out that the election and actions of the Trump presidency are not really a reversal, as they are clearly aligned with this country’s centuries-long history of white supremacy), I see now how necessary it is for me to be involved in protest and activism as a means of ensuring progress toward the vision of America I hope for.

So you can imagine how I feel about the fact that Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job and that the NFL is considering requiring all players to stand for the anthem.

As Kaepernick himself and many, many others have already said, NFL players are not kneeling to disrespect the flag or the troops or America in general. They are protesting the violent treatment of black and brown people at the hands of the justice systems in this country. Black and brown people are three times more likely to be killed by police and more likely to be unarmed when killed by police. In 2017, 931 people have been killed by police. Only six officers have been charged with a crime, which is about 1%, and historically, half of those charged will ever serve jail time. (Statistics from Pod Save the People and Mapping Police Violence). Again and again, they do not receive justice. That is why NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem.

I’ve heard that this doesn’t seem like an effective protest or that there is a better place or way to make their voices heard. But protests don’t happen to make you comfortable. They happen to raise questions and start conversations and incite action. For me, the election and especially the racial breakdown of who voted for Trump (63% of white men and 52% of white women) helped me realize that I needed to be more uncomfortable to fully realize the daily oppressions other Americans were facing. For others, maybe the NFL protests will be what eventually spurs them to action. But we probably won’t know for some time. Even though civil rights protestors are now viewed as national heroes, their actions were not popular in their time. In a 1966 poll, many Americans said they thought the Freedom Riders’ sit-ins or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech were ineffective and inappropriate protests, but they were wrong. And as the work of Civil Rights activists started continues today, it remains unclear how history will view today’s protests.

In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin writes, “I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” What I’ve learned in the last year is that loving America and feeling patriotic are not limited to how we feel about our country’s symbols. Fully reckoning with the contemporary challenges of justice for so many people in our country is an important part of loving this place too.  

Kneeling during the national anthem is one in a long line of political acts that seeks to ensure greater equality, freedom, and liberty for people in our country. I understand that not everyone connects to patriotism in the same ways, but I would ask all of us to consider when we might be putting things above people. If we care more about flags and songs than the lives of people of color, then who exactly gets to be part of the land of the free?  

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Prisoners of Hope

Dustin and I just finished off an entire week at the beach sans our tribe of four year olds. Glory, Glory Hallelujah. It was a gift of a week. Honestly. Who can afford to go on vacation these days? *raises hand* Not us. From child care to the place where we stayed to our plane tickets. A straight up gift. Almost like a wink from God: GO.

The sweet, precious soul who owns where we stayed said to me before we left, “I hope you fall more in love with Jesus this week.” To which I said, “Oh thank you, Judy.” When in my head I was like: except I don’t need to fall more in love with Jesus. I love him plenty. I need sleep and for tiny people to stop touching me and breathing room and a hot second to just meet my own freaking needs. But now I could sob at that prayer prayed over us because I had no idea I needed to do just that.

I have been so weary. This year has been hard. I’ve harbored so much anger and resentment in my heart toward members of my family. I’ve doubted whether God is really good. I’ve wrestled and questioned why God would ask us to do something and then let it suck so hard for so freaking long. I’ve doubted whether we heard right. I’ve doubted whether God is really for us. I’ve been so, so angry at Him.I’ve been lonely in this place.

I wasn’t really trying to read Zechariah until another book I was reading mentioned it. I flipped over in my Bible and devoured the entire book scribbling and underlining and starring until those pages looked a hot mess. In chapter 9 Zechariah calls God’s people (Israel) “prisoners of hope.” Prisoners of hope. I am completely undone by that phrase.

A prisoner is defined as a person captured and confined, to be held captive. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation, a feeling of trust.

Prisoner of hope.

Expectancy is my captor. Hope is my game. He is coming, yes, but He is also here now. Eyes on Me. To live with a great expectancy that you will see Jesus here. Right now. In every season and in every circumstance. Even when it feels dry and desperate and overwhelming and sad. Eyes on Me. To believe fully that He will enter in and redeem and restore and make things new right before your very eyes. To simply assume that God will meet you here- he will turn ashes into something beautiful and mend the broken hearted and comfort the ones who mourn. He will meet you in those ugly, broken places and rise up something beautiful. To live with such expectancy that you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. A prisoner of hope.

Will trauma always threaten to steal our joy? Will grief ever really turn to laughter? Will that one kid ever learn English? Will that other kid ever learn to look people in the eyes? Will deep, dark unanswerable questions alway lurk among us? What if we can’t pay that therapy bill that one kid needs? What if we never grow to love each other? Will he ever fully trust me or will he always push me away? Will you really mend the broken hearts in my home? What if I’m the wrong person for this job?

A prisoner of hope. To stake a claim, to proclaim, that I will see Jesus here.


I was nervous to come home and see our kids. I knew some would be excited to come home and I wasn’t so sure about another. The one whose heart is still broken. The one whose grief has me walking on egg shells most days. The one who hasn’t learned to trust me. The one who I struggle to feel love for. The one who isn’t sure he loves me. The one who used to spit on me and run away from me and bite me and scream at me and rage at me for hours. The one who grabs hold of any opportunity to go with someone else other than me. That was the one I was nervous about it.

I saw him through the window of the door, walked up and knocked. He grinned a grin I have never seen before, ran to the door and unlocked it. And then he stood there smiling and clapping his hands saying, “Mommy!”

He was excited to see me. ME. Never in a million years.

He is coming, yes, but He is most definitely here now.

Let’s Go

This weekend was a tad bit overwhelming for me. The events in Charlottesville, while not surprising, were extremely horrifying. The pictures looked like something out of a history book. The abhorrent words that were slewed out of people’s actual mouths. The silence from Christians. The defending. The bullshit response from 45. It was just a lot to take in.

We live in a city much like Charlottesville, VA. We live in the south. People are, how do I say this, extremely proud of where they live. Their heritage is something worthy to flaunt. I get it. It feels similar in some ways to Texas Pride which if you have never encountered Texas Pride, Lordhavemercy. When my husband tells people he grew up in Texas nine times out of nine people say, “I didn’t know people left Texas.” Texas people are PROUD to be Texans.

Now I’m not a history buff and I really don’t want to, like, get in an argument about The Civil War because to be straight honest I could not hang in that conversation. But from what I’ve heard… The north and the south fought a war over slavery and “states rights.” Which from what I’ve read was about the states ability to decide for themselves whether it was legal to own slaves. So they fought. The south lost and over time slavery was abolished. But the south lost. A war over slavery. That much I know for sure.

I know we live in a society where it’s okay to be a loser and everyone who participates gets a trophy non-sense but the south lost a war and we’re down here, I don’t know, celebrating that? Fine, memorializing that? Okay, God, recognizing that? Super weird and basically stupid. Whatever word you choose.

Not a day goes by where I don’t pass a truck waving the confederate flag. Not a day goes by where I don’t see cars with confederate flag stickers stuck to them. There are houses that proudly wave the confederate flag from outside their home. We have a confederate memorial in our town square that I drive by several times a week.

Every single time we pass that statue one of us says out loud to each other, “They would not approve of our family.” Because the truth is they probably would not. The truth is whenever I see people proudly waving that flag in whatever form I think, “I don’t know if you’d like my kids. I don’t know if you’d like my family. I don’t know if you are a safe person for my kids to be around.” They might be the kindest people on the planet earth. They really might love our family and our kids. They might just be waving it around because they deeply believe it represents just being proud of being southern. But based upon history and what history says that flag represents, I’m just not totally sure. And that is just the truth of how I feel as a mom of three black children, thank you for understanding.

And so here we are again…. as a nation, as churches, as Christians, as families, as individuals… facing the racism that still lives on in America. And this time it didn’t involve a police officer but instead the KKK.

I’ve had enough people say this weekend overwhelmed them. I’ve already told you it overwhelmed me too. I’ve heard enough people say that they just don’t know what to say or how to say it. I have already told you I basically failed history and have no idea how to talk about The Civil War. I heard enough people say they just couldn’t take it anymore so they just turned it all off. I fell prey to reading one too many comment sections on Facebook posts this weekend that sent me spiraling into anger at basically everyone on planet earth. I went on an angry run yesterday where I just pounded the pavement and said all the words to God. I am really sore today.

It’s easy when we’re overwhelmed to turn everything off and stick our heads in the ground, and there is definitely a time and place to shut it all down, but I deeply believe this is not the time or the place. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed to think, “This is too big! I can’t do anything! I can’t fix this!” And then instead of doing something, one thing, we do nothing. It’s easy when we get overwhelmed at the evil in the world to fall prey to fear. And fear is paralyzing.

So let’s just not do that this time, eh? We can do this. We can rise up. I believe we can. But it starts with us, white people. It really, really does. We have to do the work. Everybody likes to talk about reconciliation as if it’s easy but very few of us want to actually do the work of reconciliation because, news flash, it is hard and not fun and not sexy and messy and on going and you can’t slap a filter on it and post about it on Instagram. But we have to do it. We have to. No one else can do this for us. Let’s not just stop at denouncing racism because that should be the easiest thing to denounce basically ever. But rather let’s actually DO THE WORK of reconciliation.

It’s starts with you and it starts with me. Inside our homes. Around our dinner tables. Sitting on our kitchen floors (I have a spot on a stool in our kitchen where if Dustin finds me there he knows we are about to discuss racism and he just sits right down on the kitchen floor and we hash it out for sometimes hours, I am not kidding you). It starts right here. So basic.

Dismantling racism sounds so very big, and it is, but it also isn’t. Start where you are. We didn’t start by meeting with our Mayor and our Chief of Police to discuss racism in our city. LOL no. We started by buying one book, reading it and then talking about it. And then guess what? We just kept doing that. For years. And then we got a little bit brave and started talking about racism with our families. And I was so nervous. I didn’t know how to talk about it well or what exactly to say. And so we stumbled through years of awkward conversations where I ended up getting loud and angry and then having to come back around and say, “Listen sorry I’m still trying to figure out how to talk about this. Let’s keep going.” We have to start by dismantling racism in our own hearts and in our own homes before we go anywhere else. Confess, repent, wrestle, tell the truth, forgive. And then continue doing that. I am raising black children and I still have racial biases that I have to check daily. Dustin and I still have really hard conversations about race. We are still bringing it up at dinner tables and making people squirm and it really never gets any easier we’ve just gotten more confident. Talk about in your friend groups and with your co workers.

So, if you find yourself white and overwhelmed by the events of this weekend let’s talk about where to go from here.

Diversify Your Bookshelf

Here is a list of some of our favorites. I have given this list out before a billion times. This list is not exhaustive and if you asked someone else they may suggest another book. Cool buy that one. But seriously just buy one, read it and talk about it with someone. If you don’t have anyone to talk about it with that may be something you need to evaluate yourself but you may call me to talk about it and I do not enjoy talking on the phone. I screen my own husband’s calls. Again, this is just a place to start. JUST START SOMEWHERE. The first book I ever bought was “How To Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston and I was afraid to read it in public because I didn’t know what people would think. THAT IS OKAY. Buy the book anyway.

Just Mercy, Brian Stevenson

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing The Way The Church Views Racism- Drew G. I. Hart 

We Are Called To Rise- Laura McBride 

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, Toure

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

The Beast Side- D. Watkins

How To Black- Baratunde Thurston

The Autobiography of Malcom X

Between The World And Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates

Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Same Kind Of Different As Me- Ron Hall & Denver Moore

Negroland- Margo Jefferson

The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”- Beverly Daniel Tatum

Black Like Me- John Howard Griffin

Hillbilly Elegy- J.D. Vancy

Diversify Your Kids Bookshelf.

When God Made You- Matthew Paul Turner

Last Stop On Market Street- Matt De La Pena

Whoever You Are- Mem Fox

Peace is an Offering- Annette Le Box

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon- Patty Lovell

The Skin You Live In- Michael J Tyler

Ten Little Finger And Ten Little Toes- Mem Fox

He’s Got The Whole Word In His Hands- Kadir Nelson

The Peace Book- Todd Parr

The Family Book- Todd Parr

Same, Same But Different- Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw

What I Like About Me!

It’s Okay To Be Different- Todd Parr

Diversify What Your Listening To And Watching 

13th, it’s on Netflix I know you have Netflix

http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2016/3/29/episode-34-black-and-white-racism-in-america

Sho Baraka’s album The Narrative

Diversify Who You Follow on Social Media

Huffpost Black Voices

Equal Justice Initiative 

Reformed African American Network 

Southern Poverty Law Center 

Sojourners 
This is just a start. The lists are endless. There will forever be books to read and stories to listen to. There will always be the work of having hard conversations and holding each other accountable. We will never just arrive I don’t think. Let’s do the work and let’s do it well. In the name of Jesus. In the name of love. In the name of our brothers and sisters. Let’s go.

On Funerals And A New Year

My grandmother passed away a couple of days ago. We had her funeral yesterday. There was something oddly beautiful about starting the new year off with a funeral. I can think of no better way to start 2017 (and my thirties, what?) than by reflecting on the life she lived and the legacy she leaves behind. 

For the last several weeks the idea of enjoying my people better has been on my heart as something I want to do more this year. Just simply enjoy them. It’s sounds so easy but it’s proven hard for me to do on a daily basis in this season of life. And so it was almost like a little wink from above when I was asked to say something at the funeral yesterday and that be theme of my grandmother’s life. She enjoyed others well. 

So I thought I’d just share what I said yesterday mainly for myself but also in case anyone else needs a reminder or encouragement or permission to enjoy your people, your season, your current life. 

Happy New Year, friends. May we enjoy each other well this year. 


When I think about Memaw I think most about how she was kind, classy, graceful, warm and caring. I also think of deviled eggs and regular Cheerios with tons and tons of sugar sprinkled on top. I think about how she was joyful and genuinely fun to be around. She loved being around family and friends and I think people truly loved being around her too. 

My sister Caitlyn who couldn’t be here today said, “When I think of Memaw, I think of someone with a whole lot of class. Regardless of where we were going or what we were doing, she was always dressed to the nines and her lipstick ready to be reapplied. Whether we were going to lunch at the Picnic, or swimming at the country club, she always looked her best. Because of the level of elegance and grace I witnessed from her, I try to embody the way she held herself around people. While Logan and I are saddened that she will not get to meet her great-granddaughter, we know that she will be looking down on her from above.” 

I was thinking about some of my favorite Memaw memories and hearing some of my sisters and cousins favorite memories, and I think if I could sum them all up it would be that she enjoyed us. And as a kid isn’t that the best thing? To simply be enjoyed as we are. It sounds so simple, but now that I have kids of my own and I see in their eyes the desire to simply be enjoyed I think that’s the greatest gift she could have ever given us. She humored us and did things we wanted to do and laughed with us. She showed us love in little ways that have lasted forever. 

Whether it was paying us actual money to give her horrible back massages or letting us drive her car around the parking lot or going swimming with us but heaven forbid we get her freshly permed hair wet or letting us put on her lipstick or taking us on special shopping trips and lunch outings. She enjoyed us. She loved spending time with us. And we knew it. 

I even had the privilege of watching her enjoy my children, her great grandchildren. I can so clearly picture her rolling cars back and forth with our oldest son Wyatt, and I can hear him laugh when he would look at her and she would make funny faces.  

To be enjoyed. What a gift. To be the one who enjoyed others, what a legacy. And if I can be remembered that way I will know I did something right.

Memaw, you were loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Party hard in Heaven. 💜

Because Laughing Is Better Than Crying:Part 4

Because when you have three 3 year olds you have to find the humor in parenting. Or else you’ll cry about parenting. 

When my kids start thinking their too cool. 

When the kid who annoys the bajeezus out of everyone gets what they had coming. 

When I’ve told one of my many three year olds to stop doing something or they’ll get hurt. And then they do it and get hurt. Hi, told you so. Bye. 

Mom what color is Fin McMissile? I don’t know, bud. What color is he? I don’t know. Hmm is he blue? No. Orange? No. Purple? No…. *10 minutes later*… Yellow? No. He’s grey, mom. 

I locked myself in the bathroom the other day mainly because I just wanted to pee alone once and also I needed a hot a minute. All three of my children stood at the door banging and screaming like: 

When someone asks me if they’re all three. 

Hey guys it’s time to go. What did you say, mom? It’s time to go. Huh? It is time to go. What? 

That time someone asked me if I was going to keep them all. 

When people ask me if we’re going to have any more kids. 

When my kids refuse to eat a meal and then ask for a snack. 

When I watch a child do something wrong and then they deny it. 

When your kids say thank you unprompted. 

When you fall over a kid because someone is always at your feet. 

On Having Three Three Year Olds

Let me preface this post with a little something something. If you are not into sarcasm or laughter at the expense of your current family’s life status just skip this one. Don’t talk to me about *choosing joy.* I love my life. I love my people. And both of those are currently ludicrous. I can choose joy and sarcasm. WATCH ME. xoxo

Hi, welcome. So we have three 3 year olds. No, they aren’t triplets. But they’re all three and they all look alike. So, yes they’re basically triplets. All three were adopted internationally. We have been a family of five stateside for three whole weeks. It is a kind of insane that I did not know existed. And yes, my hands are full. They are so full. My heart is full too and whatever BUT MY HANDS ARE ACTUALLY SO FULL. 

I’m not sure how normal people transition up in number of kids but we basically went from this: 

To this overnight: 

Let’s get something out of the way first. No one tells you about the three year old. I heard all about the terrible twos but three. My God, laughs in the actual face of “the terrible twos.” And yes, that is in quotation marks because contrary to popular belief it’s not really a thing. Like, try again. Whoever invented that phrase should be fired. If you think two is terrible (and I thought it was really really hard) BRACE YOURSELF, SISTER. And so when we were like, three 3 year olds? Sounds crazy for sure but at least we’d be done with the two’s…. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. 

People want to know all the time “so what’s it really like?” And Dustin and I often times just stare back at people like this: 

Like, hi, you want to know what now? Can you ask the question differently? I don’t understand. *scratches head* 

Having three three year olds is like managing a three year old fight club. 

RULE: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB. 

2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB. 

3rd RULE: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the fight is over. 

4th RULE: Only two guys to a fight.

5th RULE: One fight at a time. 

6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes. 

7th RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to. 

8th RULE: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.

Like, this is me by 7 am:


I made the mistake of saying out loud that we take toys away and put our kids in time out, and people were all whyyyyyyy??? And I was just like…

Nope. I do not have time to explain my life to you. BYE NEXT. 

Let’s not forget that two of ours don’t speak any English. I drive by horses and one of ours shouts “MOMMY! ELEPHANT!” One time they pointed at George Washington and thought it was their grandmother. I have one who points at their belly button and says “elbow.” They jibber jabber away all day long to my unfortunate inability to understand what they’re saying. So we basically sit around all day looking at each other like this: 

Like, yeah, no I didn’t catch that. Can you say it a different way? No? Okay. 

All three of ours are in diapers right now. Mainly because I frequently walk into the bathroom and find a child doing something to the tune of this while on the potty: 

Like, why? Just stop it. I cannot even. We’ll stick with diapers. Thanks so much. We change something close to 100 diapers a week. So please don’t talk to me about things like the environment right now. We are single handedly killing it, I’m well aware. 

I have walked into so many rooms of my house because someone is always *missing* and been exactly like: 

Why are you eating the blinds!?

Why have ALL of the air vents been picked up out of the floor!? 

Where did you find nails and why are they in your mouth!? 

IS THAT POOP!?

How did you climb up the wall and rip down the actual decor that was hanging up!?

Why are you acting like the tv is a punching bag!?

Why do you have a knife!? 

Why is the bath running!? 

Why are you licking the walls!?

Why is there pee all over the floor!?

Why are you trying to stick something pointy in the electrical outlet!? 

This is Dustin and I during the dinner/bath/bedtime hour(s):

Jesus be near. See you on the other side. Loveyoumeanit. 

Dustin and I sit around at night like this because did we really just make it through another day alive? 

And so when someone asks me “what’s your day like?” I find myself doing this. 


Like LOL. I’m just trying to make sure all of us are alive and my house hasn’t burned to the ground at the end of the day. True story the end.

On Waking Up

Dustin texted me last week and said, “I think we’re becoming activists.” I sent him the cry laughing emoji because, LOLOL are we? 

Seven people were murdered wrongly last week. Seven. Not five.

My insides are literally itching and screaming and thundering for equality. For justice. For (white) people to wake up. For the church to WAKE UP. It feels like it’s burning inside of me. I want to scream it. I want to shake it into people. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Not because white lives don’t. Not because blue lives don’t. Not because all lives don’t. But black lives matter because it wouldn’t happen to me. Because I’m white. PERIOD. END OF DISCUSSION. 

The reality is that this country is different for people of color than it is for you and me. Period. The stories that we’re all hearing? They are real. Period. The fear that people of color have of law enforcement? That is very, very real. Period.

Jesse Williams said recently in his BET awards speech:

And for the life of me I cannot understand why we find this hard to grasp.

Black America is hurting. And the question I keep asking myself is do we even care? Do we, white America, even care? 

Because here’s the thing. I’m glad your pastor talked about racism on Sunday. I honest to God am. I’m thankful he was brave enough to say “black lives matter.” I love that there are prominent people calling us to love and kindness and prayer. I’m thankful there is a stirring among white people who previously had not been stirred. 

But here’s the other thing. If we stop there we’ve done nothing. 

My fear is that we’re over here simplifying all of this in the name of love and kindness and hugs. We need more of all of those things. So much yes. But the deal is systemic racism is real. White supremacy is real. Oppression is real. Discrimination is real. Racial biases are real. Racial prejudices are real. White privilege is real. People being killed because of their skin color is real. White people not knowing or being taught their own real history is real. 

There is a real racism problem in America and it starts with ME and it starts with YOU. 

I’ve had a handful of people ask me over the last few days what to do about all of this. And here’s the thing: I don’t really know. We don’t have this figured out. I don’t think we ever will. We wake up daily and have to check ourselves. We are constantly reading and listening and sitting at the feet of people of color learning from them. There’s not an end to all of this. But I can tell you what we’re doing to stay awake and maybe you can do the same. 

We ALL have work to do. White, Black, cops. White people it’s time to do our own work. Like actual uncomfortable work. We can’t expect anyone else to do this for us. It’s time to wake up. 

This is just a start. The lists are endless. There will forever be books to read and stories to listen to. There will always be the work of checking ourselves and holding each other accountable. We will never just arrive I don’t think. Let’s do the work and let’s do it well. In the name of Jesus. In the name of love. In the name of our Black brothers and sisters.

Diversify the people you follow on Twitter and Facebook. Here are a few we follow:

Huffpost Black Voices 

Judy Wu Dominick 

Shaun King 

Raising Race Conscious Children 

Equal justice Initiative 

Showing Up For Racial Justice 

Diversify your bookshelf. I’ve given this list out before but seriously just pick one up and read it. 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 

Who’s Afraid Of Post-Blackness by Toure

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 

The Beast Side by D. Watkins 

How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

The Autobiography of Malcom X 

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Diversify your kids bookshelf. 

The Skin You Live In- Michael J Tyler

Ten Little Finger And Ten Little Toes- Mem Fox  

He’s Got The Whole Word In His Hands- Kadir Nelson

The Peace Book- Todd Parr 

The Family Book- Todd Parr 

Same, Same But Different- Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw

What I Like About Me! 

It’s Okay To Be Different- Todd Parr

Anna Hibiscus Complete Collection- Atinuke 

A few things you can watch and listen to (these are all killer):

http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2016/3/29/episode-34-black-and-white-racism-in-america

When One Mother Defied America: The Photo That Changed the Civil Rights Movement

http://www.eji.org/presumption-of-dangerousness-behind-police-abuse-of-black-people-cbs-this-morning

http://www.vergenetwork.org/2016/07/08/racial-justice-a-conversation-with-propaganda-part-1-understanding-the-problem/ 

I want You To Know 

I am Wyatt’s mom. Yes for sure. I am also Wyatt’s second mom. He has a biological mom, a birth mom, and I am not that. I think about his biological mom a lot. But especially on Mother’s Day and his birthday. I’m sure I’ll think about her on his first day of kindergarten and on his 16th birthday and when (if) he gets married. Significant moments she will never share with him. Significant moments he will never share with her. Significant moments that only by the grace of God I get to share with him and he with me. 

 Mothering someone else’s baby is beautiful and complicated and gives me exactly all the feels. It is all of that. Forever. And some days I wish I could reach across the oceans, give her a hug and whisper in her ear: “He’s okay and he’s loved. Oh, and you’re loved too sister.”

Hey girl, 

I want you to know that you birthed one hell of a kid. Really. You honest to God did. 

I want you to know he has a killer fake laugh right now. It’s borderline ridiculous. 

I want you to know he loves cars so very much. He never leaves the house without at least five of them. 

I want you to know he is hilarious. He is genuinely funny and I love it. 

I want you to know he’s beyond ticklish. Like, everywhere. The neck. The feet. The thigh. The hiney. The underarms. All the places.

I want you to know he loves throwing rocks into a lake by our house. 

I want you to know his tiny voice is the most precious. 

I want you to know he loves Popsicles. Like wakes up asking for one. 

I want you to know he’s learned to ride his tricycle. It’s red and he was so scared at first. 

I want you to know he loves Lightning McQueen. And Thomas The Train. And Finding Nemo. 

I want you to know that bacon is the name of his game at the moment. 

I want you to know he’s sweet. So, so sweet. And kind. 

I want you to know he loves slushies. He usually picks purple but sometimes it’s red. Or blue. 

I want you to know his eyelashes still curl all the way up to his eyelids. Sometimes he tries to pick at them and I lose it every time. 

I want you to know he’s sleeping in a big boy bed now. It has trucks all over it and he thinks he’s hot stuff sleeping in it. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

I want you to know he loves jumping on the trampoline and blowing bubbles and playing baseball and kicking the big red ball. 

I want you to know he never stops talking. Seriously never. 

I want you to know he loves to sing. He knows all the words to Adele’s Hello. It’s kind of hilarious. The kid can sing let me tell you. 

I want you to know that he tells this joke about a giraffe and it makes me laugh out loud every time. 

I want you to know he loves reading books. Same Same But Different, The Skin You Live In and Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site are popular ones right now. 

I want you to know he’s happy. This time last year I wasn’t so sure, but deep in my soul I know he’s happy now.  

I want you to know he’s growing up. He’s tall and his baby face has turned into a little kid face. He’s not as squishy anymore. (Sad face) 

I want you to know he is so loved. By a host of people. 

I want you to know he’s going to be a brother soon. And I think he’s going to rock it. 

I want you to know he is stubborn as all get out. Like I dare you to try and get him to do something he doesn’t want to. 

I want you to know his big brown eyes still have a sparkle to them. And that sparkle still makes me want to weep a little bit. 

I want you to know he’s started pouting recently and I can’t stop laughing about it. 

I want you to know you’re loved. That we still believe in a whole lot of grace. And redemption. And forgiveness. That I love being your boys mom. That I can’t wait to link arms with you one day and show you our boy. Thank you for sharing him with me. 

Happy Mother’s Day to you, sister.

xoxo, ck

How To Be A Parent 

Not too long ago I found myself back in my counselor’s office basically weeping over being a parent. I found myself paralyzed in fear over parenting Wyatt. Like, I could not do it because I was terrified of messing it up. Really of messing HIM up. And I can’t mess up a kid who already has a messed up beginning, right!? The pressure! My God! After a couple of weeks, my counselor looked at me and said: “Where is the Courtney I met all those years ago? The one who did not give a shit about what other people did or said? Where did she go?” And I was like: Dang it. You are right, sister. She got lost. I lost her! I lost her in all of the stupid crap out there that tells you how to be a parent. 

And so I spent the next few months trying to find and get that girl back. And good news! SHE’S BACK. And she don’t give two shits. (JK but not really) 

So this is for all of us who got lost in the parenting books and studies and classes and what everyone else is saying and doing. This is for all of us who found ourselves again. Because being a parent is hard enough without all the extra noise out there telling you how to be a parent to the kid only you know best. Let’s do this. 

How to be a parent in like almost 20 steps:

Do not give your baby formula under any circumstances. It causes brain damage. Breast is always, always best. Unless that isn’t an option, then formula is great. Drink up! But beware, giving your child the nutrients they need is being a good parent that can also kill your child. 

Do not ever put your child down. You should wear them at all times. This is nurturing the bond between you two and increases their felt safety. You should put your child down because this helps them learn to crawl and walk and do things on their own which will increase independence and it will be the downfall of your attachment with them. Baby wear until middle school.  

You should come up with a routine and stick with it always. But don’t do that because then you will never be able to do anything ever again and will feel like you might die. Schedules are very important for children that should be kept exactly always and never. 

Do not leave your child in a room by themselves to fall asleep. Unless you want to let them learn to self soothe which is a great coping skill that also makes children feel abandoned and like they are going to be eaten by Voldemort. 

Don’t spank. Ever. Under any circumstances. Unless you believe in discipline that produces drug addicts. Because that’s what spanking does. It makes your child more likely to do drugs. 

Do not put your child in time out. It is scientifically proven to be ineffective and damaging to your child’s brain and heart. You will actually destroy your child as a human being if you place them in time out. 

Always speak to your children like Mother Theresa would. Do not raise your voice ever. Raising your voice causes your child to undergo unnecessary trauma. And trauma quite literally changes the shape of your child’s brain. 

You should be aware of your parenting triggers before you become a parent. Is it crying? Whining? Being completely sleep deprived? Maybe all of the above? Again, you should know these before having children. Do not give in to your triggers. Keep your cool always. Do not get frustrated. Losing your cool will guarantee a lifetime of counseling for your child. It will also give them the same triggers you have when they have their own children. Relax!  

Always give your child 13 bajillion choices. Any more than 13 bajillion and you are encouraging entitlement. Any less than 13 bajillion and you’re just being plain neglectful.  

Do not avert your eyes from your child at any time during the day. Averting your eyes from your child causes your child to have a shorter attention span. If you do have the balls to let your eyes wander from your jewel, well done, you have just given your child ADHD. 

When your child is throwing a tantrum do not show any signs of anything on your face. Always remain neutral. If you laugh that gives them a positive reaction and they will continue to throw down. If you show frustration that gives them a negative reaction which makes their brain go into flight or fight mode. Leave them alone. Stay with them. Let them throw the tantrum and ignore them. Put them in a safe place and let them work it out. Contain them with your arms, rocking back and forth and whispering words of love in their ears. 

Your child should watch tv anywhere from no minutes a day up to 3 hours. It’s best for their brains if they see no electronic screen until 5 years of age. 1 hour of tv a day starting at age 2 is good for your child which also causes shorter attention spans, hyperactivity and makes your child’s brain smaller. 30 minutes of tv is best starting at age 1. 

When playing with your child always let them lead. Your child is in charge and should make all play related decisions. Do not ever decline an invitation to play. Unless you want them to learn how to play independently which is a developmental milestone that also causes aggression in children. 

Do not do things for your child if they are able to do it themselves. They will never be able to grow into functioning adults. Continue to do everything for your child. They need you and this is nurturing for your child’s relationship with you. If you want your child to be able to be in a healthy relationship in the future you should continue doing everything always and never for your child. 

Do not ever say No to your child. You should always say Yes. Unless you can’t for safety reasons say Yes then you should come up with a creative way to not say No. You should tell your child No sometimes. This helps them understand rules and boundaries. Do not negotiate with your child. Communicate to them who is the boss. 

Do not use sticker charts as a way to reward your child. Don’t reward your child for anything. This causes entitlement and you can expect your child to live with you forever. 

Sometimes you will need to go with your gut. You will need to make in the moment decisions with and for your child. You should always prepare for these situations even if you do not know what they will ever be. Every single moment is a teachable one that will make or break your attachment with your child. Do not mess up. Feel confident in yourself! 

Don’t ever wake your child up. Unless they are napping and you want them to sleep at night. A child should nap between 1.5-3 hours daily. There should be exactly 5 hours in between the morning wake up, nap, and bedtime. Do not make your child go to sleep. They will tell you when and if they are tired.

You should cherish every moment of parenting. Parenting your children is a grace that you should also not feel pressured to enjoy every moment because that’s ludicrous. Enjoy every single moment always and sometimes. 

Easy enough, right!? Go forth. You’ve TOTALLY got this. 

On Adoption & One Year Home

In January it was one full year since Wyatt joined our family stateside. He is such a joy. Truly. Adoption is such a blessing and something I daily am so thankful we chose. I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past few months about the first year home. How much Wyatt has grown and changed and healed. How much Dustin and I have grown and changed and in a lot of ways healed, too. 

People ask us all the time what adoption is really like and a lot of times I just don’t have a very good answer.It’s so overwhelming. It’s so awesome. It’s so hard. Your child is a stranger to you. You are a stranger to your child. There are so.many.things that go down the first year home. So I thought I’d take a minute to answer that question from the lense of surviving the first year home. Because really looking back that’s what it felt like. Survival. Until one day it didn’t.

Obviously this is our experience and not everyone you’ve ever known who has adopted. (18 month old. International. No special needs. No other kids in the home.) Please laugh with me. I snorted laughter while writing this. Sometimes laughter is just the only way.

We had read all the books. We had taken all the classes. We had talked to all the people. We had waited all the months. We were so ready. We felt so prepared. It’s so funny to look back on. Really. Because we knew nothing.

The first six months of our existence with Wyatt had us looking something like this:

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He is so cute! And he cries all the time! He never sleeps! Never! His laugh is the best! He wants to be held all time! Aw! No seriously he never wants to be put down! He won’t eat anything! Not one thing! OMG he won’t stop eating! He’s throwing up! He’s gagging! He’s choking! I feel so stressed! He hits! He’s learning to play! He’s learning to walk! This is the best! The parasite poop! It’s everywhere! All the time! He won’t stop screaming! I don’t know what he wants! He never sleeps! I feel so confused! And tired! I think he hates me! He’s so cute! He won’t stop screaming! But really he literally never wants to be put down! I want to put him down! He’s scared of everything! The tantrums! Over everything! My God! What have we done! I love him! I’m not sure I like him yet! I want to cry all the time! I want to laugh all the time! I feel so confused!

And then the outside world welcomes you home and they have no idea. Not the one. And you don’t really know either. This is exactly your first rodeo. And so everyone just circles up and tries their best. But nobody really knows what is going down on the inside of your home. No one. But you. And your walls. And the pillow you sometimes cry into and other times scream into. 

And so when people start saying things like, “Aren’t you SO GLAD you missed the newborn no sleeping phase? LOL.” You find yourself physically unable to not make this face: 

I’m sorry, you want to say. Have I done something to you that makes you hate me? You see we have done a lot of things since becoming parents and sleep isn’t even on any of the lists. Not one of them. 

The first five weeks Wyatt was in my care he never slept more than two consecutive hours. TWO. I flew solo with him from Uganda to TN and straight fell asleep on one of my flights with him sitting wide awake on my lap. Like, I was out cold and drooling. Still to this day I have no idea how I fell asleep or for how long I was asleep or if my child got up and walked around while I was asleep. Not one idea. Once we were home it improved. And by that I mean he was sleeping like 3 hours at a time. So, no, we were not like SO GLAD we missed the newborn no sleeping phase. Like, settle down with your LOL. 

And then you’ve been off the plane for approximately 72 hours and the good people start asking things like:

“So what’s your daily schedule like?”

“What’s Wyatt’s nap schedule?”

“You’re not making him nap? You know it’s really important for babies to nap, right?”

And your response is to look back at them like this:

llama

Again, you are physically unable to make your face look any different. I don’t know how to help you with this. Because hi, I just switched CONTINENTS WITH A BABY. Did you know that day time in America is night time in Uganda? Like seriously did you know that? So what’s our daily schedule right now? To stay awake during the day. It’s really very simple at this point. Once we have that down I’ll let you know about our sacred schedule we create for ourselves. 

And then you get a little bit brave and start trying to explain the kind of tantrums that go down in your house on an hourly basis, and people tell you to read their favorite parenting book, Bringing Up Bebe, and this is you:

UabZFW8

Like, cool. I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. The insane tantrums. Over everything. All the god forsaken day long. Like this is not an exaggeration. Not even close. One time at a friends house Wyatt threw one of this kind of tantrum. After it was over, my friend looked at me bug eyed and said, “Are they always like this? Do you get any time by yourself?” And then she poured whiskey in my coffee. It was 10 a.m. Bless. 

And then in the midst of all the other things, when your doctor calls and tells you that your child is still (STILL!) testing positive for the horrific parasite known as Giardia you do this:

Like you can’t even function properly after this call. If people only knew how you had stood over toilets and dry heaved over the smell of this poo. Or how many mornings you woke up to your child covered in this stuff. Or how many loads of laundry you do in one day because of it. Or how sad the screams are that come from your child because it’s so so painful. Or how you can’t really go anywhere because this stuff is uncontrollable and when it happens you need to take cover immediately. 

I will never forget my child having a blowout (like next level blowout) in Walgreens one day and I didn’t know it until I had flung actual parasite poop onto the checkout counter. And I didn’t even acknowledge it. Like I just paid and walked away with a screaming baby who was dripping the worst smelling crap you have ever smelled. I watched the news for days waiting to hear of a Giardia outbreak in East Nashville. 

If you have a friend who is changing the diapers of a baby with parasites go give them a hug. Seriously. It is truly something else.

And then the people want to know about things like why you don’t get a babysitter (I bet he would be fine! They say) or do the church nursery (It’s church!) or the gym child care (That would be so good for you!), and you’re like you just don’t even know my life:

It is just not that simple you want to say. 

The first time Dustin walked into church after successfully leaving Wyatt in the church nursery (hi, eight months later) I almost had to excuse myself to go cry with excitement (for him and us and our church congregation who had so kindly endured his church time antics). That experience has left me so drained I’m like- I think he would be fine SO FINE at the gym child care BUT WHAT IF HE ISN’T OH MY GOD NO I CAN’T. 

And when you’ve been home for a few months people start inviting you over for dinner or want to meet up for a meal and you’re like, You sure about that? Because this is us after a meal at OUR house:

I put something in the microwave for Wyatt the other day and he didn’t fall on the floor weeping uncontrollably and I thought- We have come SO FAR. Meal time was like an actual war zone. There were tantrums and choking and spitting food and gagging and throwing up and screaming and throwing food and 2 hours later we’re still sitting at the freaking table like: FINE. WE SURRENDER. 

And then people try to make you feel better by saying that all of this is so normal! Because their biological kid does THE SAME EXACT THINGS! No their kid doesn’t have any known history of trauma! Yes their kid has been in their loving care since exiting the womb! But take heart! Because they are facing the same.exact.challenges.(!!!) 

And you find yourself doing this on the inside:   Because, no. Like thanks but no. 

And then out of nowhere you start functioning like normal people for hours and then days and then weeks at a time. The screaming for all the hours of the day just ends. The tantrums simmer down. Meal times aren’t the worst times of the day. The parasites go away. You all of a sudden find yourself so obsessed with your child because once you can breathe you see just how awesome he really is. You sleep one full night here and there and feel like a real superhero. You all find your groove as a family and you’re exactly like: 

  
Praise The Good Lord. 

And so when people would ask, How are things going?! And I was all… Do I tell them? Can they handle the truth? LOL LOL, nah… “Things are kinda hard but they’re REALLY, REALLY GREAT!” This is what I really felt like:

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Now when people ask me what adoption is really like I say, “Ya know, the first six months I thought we were all going to die. But we didn’t. And now things are really fun and great. Still really hard at times but nothing like those first few months.”