Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Jessica Worthley

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

JessicaWEndoToday, I’d like you to meet Jessica Worthley.  Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!


Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

My name is Jessica and I’m 28 years old. I was born and raised in a small town (<1500 people) in Iowa. I have been married to my husband Josh for just over two years and we recently welcomed our first child, Sebastian, in January! We live in a slightly larger town (<6200 people) within a half hour from where I grew up. I worked in the finance industry for eight years but am now enjoying my job as a stay at home mom.

When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

My endometriosis went undiagnosed/misdiagnosed for many years. It wasn’t until I started charting with Creighton in 2013 that my then fiance mentioned my symptoms to my practitioner. She advised me to chart my PMS symptoms to better determine if it was in a normal range or not. At our next follow up she saw the 14+ days of symptoms and referred me to our local NaPro Medical Consultant. I worked with him for a couple of months but nothing seemed to help for a long period of time. It was then that he mentioned it sounded like I could have endometriosis and referred me to the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha. The referral was accepted and in July of 2014 I had a diagnostic laparoscopy. They found a ton of damage and decided that a second surgery would be needed. In August of 2014 they went in with the help of the DaVinci robot to remove all the areas.

Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

When I was a teenager I remember having terrible periods. There were times I would lay on the ground in the fetal position crying because the ibuprofen/Tylenol/Midol was not alleviating the cramps. I would ask my mom if we could have the doctors remove my ovaries so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain each month. After all, I could adopt if I wanted kids later on in life. I would constantly soak through pads in a short amount of time. When I was in junior high we went on a field trip to an amusement park. I brought supplies but apparently not enough as I ended up in my last pad and I soaked through it. A classmate asked what I sat in as I had a red patch on my jeans. She saw my embarrassed look and gave me her coat to wrap around my waist for the rest of the day to prevent others from pointing it out. In high school, I would get extremely light headed and the nurse would always comment how pale looking I was and would tell me to go home for the day. It got to the point where I ended up staying home every month for the first one or two days of my cycle. After high school, it started to affect my job. I would have to call in sick on some cycles still and then I started to have pains in my abdomen mid cycle. It was at this point that I started a multi month journey of doctors visits that eventually led to a colonoscopy and a misdiagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome when the colonoscopy didn’t find anything wrong.

What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

The first treatment I was prescribed while in college was the birth control pill. Though because of a genetic mutation that increases my chance of blood clots I also had to start taking a baby aspirin to counter the increase associated with the pill. I was on this for a couple of months when I realized it wasn’t helping and in fact was making me feel worse. I figured this was just normal for me and decided to stop the pill and deal with it. Fast forward five years and my practitioner saying it wasn’t normal, my medical consultant started me on HCG injections post peak as I had low progesterone levels. It seemed to help a little but I was still experiencing painful cramps though the amount of days had decreased with the HCG. he then put me on a tranexamic acid for my heavy cycles. I was on this for a couple months but I was getting debilitating cramps at work as I was passing half dollar size clots. It was at this point he referred me to have the surgeries.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

 

Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

My faith has impacted what treatments I would accept. When I was put on the pill, I knew it was OK since I wasn’t sexually active and it was for medical purposes and not contraconception purposes. However, when the first pill was not successful I would have been more prone to take the doctors suggestion and get the IUD placed had it not been for my faith. I knew eventually I would get married and wouldn’t want to be using birth control so, I didn’t want to choose a more permanent option like the IUD.

Have you found your Catholic faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Had you asked me this year’s ago, I would have said hindrance since many doctors like to say birth control is your only option. However, now I see that my Catholic faith actually helped. If it wasn’t for my faith I would have settled with a treatment plan that just masked my symptoms and didn’t actually treat the underlying problems. If it wasn’t for my faith, I would have not felt the need to learn NFP which ultimately led me to my NaPro journey.

Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

I would recommend she see a NaPro doctor over a regular doctor as the techniques they use in surgery are far superior at removing the endometriosis as well as reducing the chances of it coming back in the same areas. They also listen to you and will keep trying to find the underlying cause and not just write a prescription to get you out of their office.


 

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story with us. I especially like how you said, “If it wasn’t for my faith I would have settled with a treatment plan that just masked my symptoms and didn’t actually treat the underlying problems.” I’ve found it to be true in my own life, and I’ve seen how true it seems to be across the board.

Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Silver Pyanov

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

SilverPyanovToday, I’d like you to meet Silver Pyanov.  Not only is Silver a fellow endomazing lady, her first name is so awesome that Echo & the Bunnymen wrote one of my favorite songs about her.  Not really, but that’s still a beautiful name.  She’s also an editor and contributor at BellyBelly and a doula and childbirth educator.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!


 

Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

I’m a wife and mother with four rambunctious boys.  I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for almost ten years. Our faith and ministry have always been important to us.

After having my oldest I fell into the birth world, and just supporting women in general. I started as a volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center and over the years turned my love of supporting women into a career. I’ve been able to continue ministering to women as a volunteer in several ways while also supporting my family as a postpartum doula and writer.

When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

I began having symptoms in Jr high and with each cycle my symptoms became worse. By 9th grade I began missing school monthly due to vomiting from pain every 10-20 minutes for 12-24 hours each cycle.

Unfortunately an ill informed doctor did an ultrasound and said all was normal so I assumed I didn’t have endometriosis. After having my oldest son I developed chronic pelvic pain. We assumed it was due to pregnancy and birth (despite having a completely unmedicated, problem-free vaginal birth). After a couple years of physical therapy, steroid injections, another baby and then a miscarriage, my pelvic specialist said I had to have endometriosis. She said they treated me for every other possible cause of pelvic pain, added in my miscarriage and difficulty conceiving following that loss and she was certain.

I was referred to a reproductive endocrinologist and had a diagnostic laparoscopy. He removed unidentifiable scar tissue from my intestines and burned a few endometriosis adhesions.

Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

I definitely entered womanhood hating my body and not understanding the pain. I thought I was a whimp. Vicodin and antinausea medication and I was still too sick to function during my period. I worried I’d never be able to handle childbirth. Just to give an idea of how bad endometriosis cramps can be, I’ve had four unmedicated, out of hospital births that were less painful than my menstrual cramps. I was pleasantly surprised in my first labor though there was pain, when I had myt first real contraction I thought, “I can TOTALLY do this! I’ve done this for years.”

My overall health has suffered mostly due to fatigue. Breastfeeding suppressed my cycles and no one could understand how I had TONS of energy as a sleep deprived mother of a three month. Then months later cycles returned and I had days I could barely function due to the fatigue. My constant use of NSAIDs in high school also caused an esophageal ulcer. If I get heartburn I can still feel the exact spot, though it’s been pretty much healed. I can’t know for sure, but I do believe it’s played a role in my two miscarriages.

It has without a doubt impacted my marriage. I’m incredibly fortunate to be married to a very patient, loving and genuinely Christ-like man, but he’s still human. We’ve had months in our marriage where I was unable to keep up with the home, errands, cooking, etc and so it’s fallen on him. We’ve also had stretches where intercourse just wasn’t physically possible. No matter how solid your marriage, it’s a definite struggle.

Even socializing in general, there are times I’m just too tired to hang out.

What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

The first thing I was told was to try NSAIDs. It provided little relief and after a couple years I had severe GERD and would vomit blood. Then it was vicodin and anti nausea meds. They didn’t offer relief where I could function. They essentially knocked me out. I ended up sleeping 20 hours straight one cycle.

By 17, the same doctors that told me it was normal pain, also said they could no longer offer pain medication and my only option was the pill. I was hesitant, but took it. It helped a lot, but it doesn’t actually treat endometriosis. By its very function it’s an endocrine disruptor. So while it temporarily relieves symptoms it doesn’t solve the issue and can potentially cause more hormonal or fertility issues in the future.

After the birth of my oldest I developed chronic pelvic pain. After all of my births I had incredibly heavy postpartum bleeding and horrific cramping. My last, the cramps were worse than labor itself and lasted days. I was treated with steroid injections and pelvic physical therapy. Both worked extremely well, but were more maintenance solutions helping you to cope rather than healing.

I had a traditional laparoscopy and that helped a lot. My chronic pelvic pain is now intermittent and bearable. But, I’ve also been pregnant or breastfeeding since the procedure and both suppress endometriosis symptoms. To be honest, breastfeeding has been my absolute best “treatment.” Interestingly, I’ve only had fertility issues upon weaning while I conceived easily and without miscarriage while nursing frequently.

I’m set to start more NaPro treatment, hcg or progesterone first and then if needed another laparoscopy. I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to seeing how it helps.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Definitely. I have a lot of hesitation using hormonal contraception, especially progesterone only as it can act as an abortifacient. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, I just know it makes me uncomfortable so I haven’t used it since I’ve been married.

Have you found your faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Well I’m not Catholic, I’m nondenominational Christian, but I can align with Catholicism when it comes to certain areas of contraception. I don’t feel right using the Pill, though I wish I did because the temporary relief is appealing.

Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

Find a doctor that actually understands endometriosis. There’s SO much misinformation surrounding it, even among medical professionals. It’s also probably a safe bet to stick with a NaPro provider, as the basis of NaPro seems to have a better understanding of endo than most other schools of thought.

Also, understand that endometriosis can be treated, and quite well, but for many women it is something you’ll have to chronically treat and be aware of. Be kind to yourself and know that NONE of your symptoms, physical or emotional, are in your head. You have a real medical condition and you deserve treatment.


Thank you, Silver, for sharing your experience, courage and honesty with us.  Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Barb S.

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Barb S., aka Franciscan Mom.  Barb also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Barb’s NFP Week Interview:

Barb aka Franciscan Mom talks about being Catholic and subfertile as part of NFP Awareness Week.I’m Barb from Franciscanmom.com and Cook and Count. I’m editorial consultant at Catholicmom.com, a musician at my parish, a Secular Franciscan and a school-library volunteer…

It’s actually NFP (and all those years of carefully-recorded information about my own body’s patterns and in-depth knowledge of what was “normal for me”) that came to my rescue in getting the fourth GYN in as many years to finally listen to me and send me to yet another doctor for treatment, which wound up being a DaVinci (robotic) hysterectomy and the discovery during surgery that I had endometriosis. Suddenly everything made sense, and I felt vindicated in my decision to walk away from Doctor #3, who told me that what was happening to me was “normal, even if it is the sucky end of normal” (how’s that for a lovely exam-room manner?) Apparently the endometriosis invasion was extensive; one of my Fallopian tubes was attached to my intestines by scar tissue….

For the rest of Barb’s story, please visit the original interview at this link.  

Thank you, Barb, for sharing your story with us not once but twice.  Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like you to meet Brittany Schmidt, who also blogs over at Sapphire Blue Soul.  Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Brittany Schmidt

EMC: Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

Brittany: Hello, my name is Brittany Schmidt and I am a 23-year-old living in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. I am a devout Catholic dedicated to seeking holiness and learning about my incredible Catholic faith that astounds me every moment of every day. My husband and I have been married for almost two years and I feel so blessed to have such a supportive best friend and companion by my side. I am currently working towards my Doctorate in Chiropractic, I have two years left of school and I cannot wait to graduate and be a physician that is dedicated to optimal health and natural wellness.

EMC: Sounds like a good thing! When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

Brittany: Shortly after starting my doctorate in the Fall of 2014 I began to have a persistent pain in my lower right side, I also noticed my monthly cycles became heavier and more painful. I sought help and advice from an OB-GYN who did nothing, I am still very angry about this. The pain continued and got increasingly worse until one day in May (2015) while I was at school I experienced an intense and sudden pain. I went to the ER where they told me I had an ovarian cyst rupture and that I had another one growing and should follow up with my OB-GYN. I decided to go see a different OB-GYN who was wonderful and finally listened to me. She suspected endometriosis. We set a date for laparoscopic surgery at the end of July 2015; on that date she removed an ovarian cyst the size of a tennis ball and confirmed it was an endometrioma and that I did in fact have endometriosis.

EMC: A tennis ball! Yikes! Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

Brittany: Endometriosis has impacted my life in many ways. I’ve always considered myself strong and able to overcome any sort of pain or illness and I never expected to experience such a debilitating condition. Endometriosis has interrupted my hobbies such as running and exercising, endometriosis has brought on many painful periods that have caused me to miss days at school or social outings, endometriosis has sent me to the ER several times because the pain hasn’t been manageable, endometriosis has caused me to have two surgeries in the past 6 months, endometriosis has made sex with my husband almost unbearable, and endometriosis has had a major impact on my emotional capacity.

I don’t look sick and I feel like I am battling something terrible. When I realize I will have this disease forever and that I will have a future of recurring surgeries, endless pain, and possible infertility I feel my heart shatter. I’ve never been so devastated over something in my entire life and it has affected my relationships because I don’t think anyone can truly understand what I am going through. No one feels my pain, no one knows my fear of not being able to conceive, and no one knows how much it hurts both physically and emotionally to be intimate with my husband. I don’t like talking to others much about it because not only are they incapable of understanding my feelings but I am afraid they will tire of having the same conversation over and over again and lose sympathy for me. Because that’s what endometriosis is, it’s the same conversation over and over again, a conversation consisting of abnormal cell growth, pain, recurrence after surgery, infertility, and the emotional heartbreak that comes with having an invisible illness.

On the positive side, it has taught me to be more aware of my body and my needs and limitations, I do take better care of myself both emotionally and physically since my diagnosis. Endometriosis has shown me how fragile my human flesh is and that there is a need for a healing and compassionate God, endometriosis has strengthened my faith so much and shown me the power of redemptive suffering. I am a better Christian because of my endometriosis and that is a huge gift and blessing. I also believe that all of these experiences will make me a better doctor and more compassionate to those who have chronic pain.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

EMC: What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

Brittany: It is hard to say what was effective and what was not, I may think that because I had recurrence of endometriosis after surgery all of the treatments I tried were not effective, however, what if the recurrence would have been faster or more extensive if I hadn’t been using the therapies I was? I don’t know, there is no way of knowing, but I think it’s important to keep in mind when discussing what is a valuable or effective treatment and what is not. After my first surgery in July I changed my diet by cutting out dairy, limiting gluten, switching to all organic meat, and only consuming 30 g of sugar (that included sugar from fruit). The diet was harder than I expected but I will say that I felt better while doing it, mostly because it was something I could control and I felt like I was actively contributing to preventing my illness. I also had weekly acupuncture sessions which I LOVED, it was so relaxing and the quiet time that it brought was emotionally healing. I also felt the acupuncture helped the healing of my scars and reduced my pain that continued after surgery. Again, attending weekly acupuncture sessions made me feel like there was a component of control in the midst of an uncontrollable disease. A few months after surgery my pain unfortunately returned and I had the presence of more cysts confirmed by ultrasound, I decided to yet again switch OB-GYNs and see an endometriosis specialist. The specialist explained that removal of endometrial adhesions by surgical ablation (burning or cauterizing) was not very effective and that there was a high recurrence rate. I was angry when I heard this, why did I have an ineffective surgery? Or why didn’t the OB-GYN who did my first surgery fail to tell me that there was a better surgery out there? Is it possible that she didn’t know? This is unacceptable to me. The specialist told me that he uses excision to fully resect all endometrial adhesions and that there is much less of a chance of recurrence with this type of laparoscopic surgery. I am now two weeks post-op from having excision by laser to remove more endometriosis. I am hoping that my outcome this time is much better and longer lasting than my last surgery.

EMC: I hope so, too!  Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Brittany: My faith has most definitely impacted what treatments I would accept. Since getting my diagnosis every doctor I’ve seen has recommended the birth control pill. This was really hard for me because the pill is something I have been so publicly against for so long for both ethical and medical reasons. I could not imagine taking the pill; the very idea of it nauseates me. I decided to seek guidance from our parish priest who was also apprehensive about granting permission to use the pill. He told us that the pill works in different ways and one of those ways is as an abortifacient in case there is breakthrough ovulation, of course as a devout Catholic I was not okay with this. Our priest granted us permission to use the pill only if we could detect if there was breakthrough ovulation and then abstain during that time, if we were not able to detect ovulation then we had to abstain during the course of taking the pill. What a burden, huh? Hubby and I finally decided to reject the pill, it was a decision that came with much prayer and many long conversations, but at the end of the day we were dedicated to our faith and to protecting life.

EMC: Have you found your faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Brittany: My endometriosis treatment teams have been very considerate and open to the fact that our faith comes first and that we reject birth control of any kind, however, I don’t think that they truly understand where we are coming from. I’ve never felt pressured or judged by my health care team because of my faith and subsequent choices but I do think that it has created a bit of a hindrance because they don’t know how else to treat me. The only other option I’ve been given is to conceive a child. Ironic, my options are either the birth control pill or to conceive a child, neither of these options are ideal right now so it kind of leaves me in a place where no one can really help me or offer me any sort of advice.

EMC: Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

Brittany: I would say first of all, if they are going to have surgery to make sure the surgeon is going to remove all endometrial adhesions by excision and NOT ablation. I feel like my first surgery with ablation was a waste and was very upset when it all grew back right away. Women need to know that there is a more advanced and successful surgical method of removing endometriosis and shouldn’t have to have undergo the effects and dangers of anesthesia and surgery just for it to be ineffective. I would also tell her that she is more than a diagnosis, that although endometriosis is devastating, that positive things can always come from terrible situations if they are open to it. Embrace suffering, keep moving forward, find support by joining an online support group (there are many on Facebook), and remember that we are never alone in Christ who is bigger than all things—even endometriosis.

Excellent point, that last one, and one that is really easy to forget on those days when we’re just underwater with the pain, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Brittany, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  

Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Better yet, go visit Brittany at her blog.  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

My Racist Halloween

MyRacistHalloween (2)

Yes, I know.  I should’ve written this in October, early November at worst.  Forgive me.  I was kind of busy trying to write something else. Real life, however, did not go on hold, and so there was a Halloween.

One of the things I didn’t like about Don’t You Forget About Me was that the cast of characters was, by needs of the conflict, not exactly diverse.  In fact, one of the things I (subconsciously) wanted to show in that story was that a lack of diversity leads  to unnecessary conflict.  No, I don’t have anything but anectdotal evidence for that, but that evidence is pretty strong.  Whenever I’ve been in a group that was too homogenous, that group found stupid things to fight about at best.  At worst, that group targeted the one person who fit in with the group the least and, in the words of DYFAM’s Sister Thomas Marie, set to “Lopping off the tall poppy.”

 

In my experience, if I’m different from you, you’re going to exclude me at best, bully me at worst, and there’s really no reason to hope for anything different.DYFAMCoverFrontForFlyer

So with that kind of conflict coloring the whole background of DYFAM, I knew I wanted at least one main character in the sequel to be not of European descent.  I started out wanting that because, well, that’s just the way the world is, and art is supposed to be a reflection of reality.  I hope you’ll all get to meet her soon, but this is how I met Emanuelle Claire “Mel” Valcour, Cate Whelihan’s estranged best friend from high school.  They’re reunited in NLMDA, and part of this book’s adventure is shared with Mel’s “baby” brother, Father Jean-Christophe Valcour.

Every writing project has its own unique lessons to teach me.  Mel has been a very good teacher.  I want to portray her honestly, so I’ve read a lot of articles on what it’s like to be a black woman, because, duh, I’m not.  Still… writing her is risky, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings has kept me from developing better friendships with a wide variety of people–real and imagined, ahem.

Ahem.  Back to Halloween.

We live in the first country town right outside a more urbanized area.  Our block happens to have the area volunteer haunted house, for lack of a better term.  You know, that one family that goes all out for Halloween, fills the yard with zombies and graves and puts giant fuzzy spiders–I’m talking a 12 foot leg span here–on their roof.

 

And then, and then they have all the young adult kids’ friends come over and dress as zombies who jump out and scare the trick-or-treaters on Halloween! Yeah, they mean business across the street.  And it’s awesome.  Halloween is my third favorite holiday, but it’s a close third.  I love costumes and candy and being silly.  I love our neighbors for offering this to our community…ZombiesWantSugar

And the surrounding communities as well.  I was flabbergasted our first Halloween out here, coming from an apartment in Philly where we were lucky to get two trick-or-treaters to this neighborhood, where we go through at least seven giant value bags of candy each year.  People drive to our block from all over to trick-or-treat at The Scary House, and they’re not above stopping at our boring house, with the orange lights on the trees and the five jack o’lanterns.

But the manners.  The manners.  Or lack thereof. No “Trick-or-treat!” No, “Thank you!” Grabby hands in my two foot-tall stock pot filled with Dum Dums!  And then, the teenagers, teenagers, who had the gall to arrive in my driveway with… wait for it…

NO COSTUMES!

And the aforementioned lack of manners.  And… well, given the neighborhoods from which these ambassadors came, a lot of them had darker skin than mine.

I’m starting to realize there’s an inherent danger in growing up white after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  We’re kinda sorta raised to think that if we just act like the Dream has come true, then POOF! It has.  So, when these presumptuous teens showed up at my house with no costumes and no manners, I would…

Oh, Lord have mercy, this is shameful…

I would give them less candy.  Didn’t matter what color their skin was, mind you, but you got a full scoop of candy if you had a costume and made eye contact and said, “Trick or Treat!”  If you didn’t do any of those things, you got one piece of candy and an irritated smirk from me.

I thought I was doing the right thing.  The right colorblind thing.  Doesn’t matter what skin color you have! It doesn’t cost anybody a thing to have good manners!

Does it?

I have this weird… it’s not a belief, but it’s a wondering. I know fictional characters don’t have souls, but I wonder if they have guardian angels.  God made all the angels He wanted, so who’s to say He didn’t give the creatures of our imaginings their own guardian angels to watch over us, their parents?  Maybe it’s Mel’s guardian angel, or maybe it’s just mine, but someone did some guiding here that affected my heart in ways it so sorely needed.

First I ran across the article “What You Need to Know About 6-Foot Trick-or-Treaters.”  I immediately thought–not yet about race–just about the ages of the evasive, costumeless kids roaming our block and felt ashamed of myself for judging.

Meanwhile, researching, I read about the pressure a woman like Mel might likely feel to be a strong black woman, about what it is to be an angry black woman, heck, about what it’s like to have black hair.  Then while passing through the library, I saw an actual available copy of The Help (book, not movie) sitting on a shelf.  I read it in two days.  I saw how a culture could be built where to show what one color demands as “justice” and “manners” can come across as a weakness and vulnerability that the other color simply can’t afford to keep paying.

Murica

Reading is a safe place to learn the things I’m afraid to ask real, live humans. Reading answers questions I didn’t even know I needed to ask.  Reading the personal and private rather than the newsworthy and violent was exactly the way to break my particular heart in just the way it needed to be broken–broken out of a sense of justice that hasn’t actually been gained yet, broken out of a make-believe world where we all have the same privilege.

We haven’t earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  To act like we have would be a lie.

So Halloween 2015 came.  Costumeless kids showed up with bad manners and plunged grabby hands, many darker than mine, into my stock pot.

This time, I picked up an extra scoop of candy to add to theirs.

I see now that too many others in our neighborhood would be holding back the sweetness on those kids who didn’t perform to our privileged expectations. They likely wouldn’t have mercy on the non-white trick-or-treaters, because we’re all supposed to be the same, right? Nobody needs any extra mercy, we don’t care how much you’ve already been kicked around before you showed up in our driveways! So in went the extra scoops.

“Have a little extra.  Happy Halloween.”

And I’ll say it, the thing that made my Halloween so racist: Yes, I gave the surly black teens more candy than I gave the surly white teens.

At first.

Because once you start thinking that people who don’t look like you might need wounds salved that you can’t see, you start realizing that everyone  has wounds… that everyone needs a little extra candy sometimes.

I think I got more “thank yous” this year.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  I know I ran out of candy a bit earlier than usual, but I deserved to.  Part of being Catholic is believing in the efficacy of reparation, that when we sin, if we truly repent, we naturally want to make things better than they’ve been–than what our sins and self-righteousness made them.

I know our whole world needs to do better when it comes to having compassion on people whose lives have been tougher than ours and, as a result, encourage them to be tougher than suits our precious preferences, thankyouverymuch.  I feel like that extra candy in the shopping bags and held-out shirttails wasn’t very effective, though.  I’m also stark scared that someone is going to point out to me that my well-intentioned act of mercy was just another ignorant thing I did from a place of clueless privilege.

(Note–this post is teaching me how to spell privilege off the top of my head, without relying on spellcheck.)

I know I still have a lot to learn about being kind to everyone, that fair isn’t always merciful, and that if I’m striving to be the face of Christ in a faceless world, I’m going to hurt and I’ll need to give more and I’m going to make mistakes.  But I have to have faith that the desire to please Him does in fact please Him–because if I don’t, I’ll just hide again and shut my mouth and never click “Schedule” to have this post show up in your feed on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday (Observed).

We have not earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  We have more work to do.  We paler people have more trust to earn.  We have wounds to heal.  We have repairs to make.

And I still have more to learn from Mel.

And I guess I have more candy to buy in 2016.

An Embarrassment of Links!

It’s been a busy week here on the Don’t You Forget About Me blog tour.

In other news, I think I’m kind of under spiritual attack since the book came out.  My asthma has been flaring off and on for weeks; I’ve had a parade of sick relatives, including kids; a parade of bad behavior (primarily kids); computer problems beyond my power to address; and now this:

I’ve taken the approach to all this that whenever another discomfort, inconvenience, annoyance, or (in the case of the asthma) threat to my life or ability to sleep comes my way, it’s because someone reading the book needs some kind of intercession.  So, if that’s been you, please rest assured that I’ve been offering it up for you, whoever you are.  I do hope it’s paid off for you!  I don’t suffer as gracefully as I wish I did.