Saturday, April 29, 2017

Looking at Open Doors

In the Fall, when things were bad, when Anna Cate was in the hospital and BJ couldn't return to work, and we were stressed out about the future, I thought I was doing quite well. After she got well, and BJ and I figured out our new routine, I focused on work.  I thought we were ok.

But it turns out, my dark days came much later.  In March usually a time when I focus on celebrations, I realized I had checked out and had nothing left. I tried to think about spring break, about Anna Cate's birthday, but all I had the energy to do was work, and work out. My mind hurt. I realized there isn't anyone to pick up my slack at work, and thank God BJ could be the parent I couldn't. Rather than plan a party for Anna Cate, BJ and she did everything themselves, from planning and decoration to menu planning. I did print a few invites. She had a nice birthday I think because we went to church so she got a lot of "Happy Birthdays" and we went out to sweet frogs afterwards with friends. 

I wanted to be in the mood for celebration, but I just struggled. I knew we were moving in the summer, I knew it was the right thing to do, but I just couldn't quit focusing on how sad and stressed I am. We bought a house, but I had not seen it; I did not have an official job even though I passed the English praxis test, adding to my chances of getting a job, even if I had to wait until the summer to know where.  For Spring break, we planned to go to Pennsylvania. . .I had a dream of knocking off some American History bucket list items for the girls -- Philadelphia and Gettysburg. But, the morning of Anna Cate's small  party, I got up at 5am to work out so I could enjoy an evening with the girls. But when I came home from the gym and couldn't quit crying, I had an aha moment -- I know myself: I make the best of things. I need to go home to get excited about the next step. That afternoon, after school, I called my Mom to share my  thoughts, and I cried more. So while Anna Cate's slumber party was starting, I'm sitting in my car crying.  Then, Norah brought Leana over and sat and cried with me. 

I share this to say what a low point this was, how we knew I wasn't myself. For over 10 ten years, while BJ worked 6 days a week, and I worked full time I still juggled it all. I throw this in here for my ego when others say, "how dare she just check out!" BJ and I were a team but I had two solid shifts and did Saturdays by myself, but I jut could not snap out of my funk. I looked up depression and I sort of fit the description. 

Some time during my crying-every-day phase, my dear friend Mary Helen reached out to me, and then I called her.  Among other sage words, she soothed me by saying, "I can't imagine all you've been through and you still are dealing with 13 year olds daily." Just hearing someone as strong as she is saying "it is hard" helped. I've realized if we would have experienced one of things we've had thrown at us (chronic illness diagnosis for BJ, change of financial situation, child being sick, moving, me finding a job), it would might be hard, but putting it all together just became so heavy. 

So I trudged through to Spring Break, helped organize an 8th grade field trip, presented to the School Board, created on an online portfolio and tried to get a job. BJ found a 7th grade Social Studies job I should apply for. I ran and did yoga, and we prepared to put our house on the market.

 I tried to forgive myself for being so empty -- I apologized and was honest with the girls. Anna Cate hurt her ankle and is still in a boot and was on crutches. This year has sucked the life out of me. Molly asked me if I was going to die since the life was out of me. She was kidding. Through tears, I told Anna Cate I hope she will remember the parties I did plan, and have faith I will get back to myself. 

We made it to Spring break. It started on Thursday. That weekend, I was greeted with this beautiful gift from my friend Melanie. The painting is gorgeous but it was her card that touched me, "Do not look back, you're not going that way. . .It is all good."  Friends who know and love me have gotten me through the dark days, and this was such a poignant reminder. This is I love. 

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner, and I came home to make hot tea and took my melatonin, almost ready for bed, but at 8:45 pm, my phone rang -- the area code indicated it was from the town where that 7th grade Social Studies job was, so I answered it. The principal of Dickson Middle School called me to chat and after about 5 minutes, he said, "well can I just interview you right now". . .and it was a great conversation as I was in my pajamas with my hot tea.

The next day our house went on the market and we went to DC -- our friend Cam got us tickets to see the White House (our only American History bucket list event that didn't get scratched).

And we had a lovely Easter.  I couldn't help but think about how this is our last Easter in our church, a place that Norah invited me to almost 15 years ago. 

And a gorgeous brunch at our friends' Dorinda & Geoff's. I hate that I don't have any pictures of brunch, but as we were leaving, I shared with my dear friend Dorinda, from Centerville, a little bit about my fears and going home hoping to secure a job. After she said, "what can I do to help you?" she grabbed my hand and said, "Look a rainbow." After we came home Molly and I enjoyed looking at that same rainbow. I look at this picture and notice the dead tree in the forefront with the rainbow in the background. A metaphor

 Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. -Lord Byron

The next day we signed a contract on our house, BJ drove to Tennessee, I ran, and while I practiced yoga the girls visited with MumMum. Then, we enjoyed a lovely visit on her porch. She told me, again, she has always seen us moving to be near my parents.  On Tuesday, the girls and I flew to Nashville.  While in the airport, I got a call from another school for an interview. 

In short, I met with a few principals and received more than one offer, but when I went to Dickson and met with the team where there is a  7th grade Social Studies position, it just felt right.  I fell in love with the house -- a house my sister in law Becki found because she was delivering Girl Scout cookies!  It couldn't be more perfect for us --  small house, in town, close to family, across the street from the park and city pool, next to a barn with a  big back yard, big enough for BJ to have some goats and chickens. He keeps promising me that urban homesteading is a thing, and it is cool. This is the view from the park across the street.

This is the house and back yard.
And a view of the barn next door. 

We enjoyed time with family.
I took the kids to see their new schools, the elementary and middle school where I went. We got such a great feeling about these schools. I gained peace of mind. 

 The day before we left Centerville, my friend Courtney texted me this quote: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  I realized that is exactly what this Spring break did for me -- it allowed me to look at the door that is opening. For that, I'm grateful. I'm sure I'll continue to shed a lot of tears as I look at the doors we are closing, but I'm so thankful my mind is excited about the door that is opening -- a chance to raise my children and face this journey with BJ near our family in a wonderful small town with reminders of God's natural beauty to soothe our soul.

That beautiful handmade gift from my friend Melanie was in response to a "pay it forward" challenge. So if you are reading my blog, and want to play to receive a random happy gift from me before the end of 2017, be one of the first five to make a comment.

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. 

-George A. Moore

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Recently, we celebrated two of the most important gals in my life who both happened to be named Molly.

Mom turned 70 and Molly Mae turned 7.

For Mom's birthday, the Bates family gathered in East Tennessee in the beautiful mountains.

The guys went fishing, Becki took the kids to the amazing aquarium in Chattanooga and I got in some quality time in the mountains running.  . .and sometimes walking. We enjoyed time together before coming back to Fredericksburg to celebrate Molly.

Nana and BJ enjoyed taking cupcakes to her class, and we all went to the nail salon to "do our nails."
 Nana got to see the girls in their weekly horseback riding lessons (thanks to Daddy Doug).
 And Nana went with Molly to breakfast to celebrate her buddy, Ms Bobby....who was on the Maine trip  when they realized they had their same birthday.
And Mum Mum brought them together.  Oh when I look at this picture, I have so much love for this special relationship.
On Sunday, Molly had her experience. We try to swap up every other year from "an experience" and a party, and this year it was high tea at a fancy hotel. I let Molly bring one friend, and she chose her friend, Darby, who lives up the street. Molly and Anna Cate play a lot with Darby and her older sister Katie.  Nana wanted Anna Cate to go, so I thought we should invite Katie too, so it turned into quite the afternoon.
(Yep that is Anna Cate on crutches. . .she is now on a scooter since something has happened to her ankle (the orthopedic doctor said either a bad sprain or hairline fracture).
We met my dear friend Dorinda, who is the one gave us the idea of tea at the Willard.

Molly was happy for a lot of reasons, including her fancy new dress from Norah.

And she got to bring a friend, who got to bring her sister since Nana wanted Anna Cate to come, too.

The girls were perfect little ladies.

It was a special day, one where I'm so thankful to have daughters, girlfriends and a Mother to celebrate flowers and frills.

Molly at 7.  Ahhh. It is the passing of an age where I feel like we have a little girl, but in these years that separate me from the day she came into this world, I somehow see her as my little girl more clearly. 
She is sensitive and strong, and as we have journeyed through some tough months as a family, we have called her "our rock." Her honesty and emotion make being in her presence either pure bliss or excruciatingly raw. Her humor and wit is met with coarse honesty, fear, anger, love and joy. She feels deeply and draws me in with her pure and deep approach to life.  I enjoy her humor and admire her honesty. She is in touch with her feelings even thought at times, she can't control them.
I pray I honor her with my presence and emotions as fully as she absorbs life. The way she loves and expresses emotion with full gusto draws me in closer to her and to life, and reminds more what it is to be human.   It might not be a coincidence that in this season where my life has been so shaken I've been grounded by watching her embrace life with authenticity.  
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my friend Erin when Molly was 3, where I shared with her that Molly was an enigma to me. At 7, I feel like I understand Molly more deeply. Maybe, the feelings I have for and about her are not a mystery since they cut to the very core of myself. I don't know if it is motherhood in general, or if it is our likeness in particular that touches me so deeply in this journey with Molly. 
In celebrating my mother and my daughter, I am reminded of the precious connections of life and these beautiful souls who share their hearts.  Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to connect and love, how to celebrate those we love.  Molly Mae, thank you for the reminding me anew of how important it is to fully embrace life with purity. Thank you for making me laugh, love, feel and think. The ways you embrace life with your heart inspire me. 
"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in a heart." 
- Khalil Gibran

Monday, January 30, 2017


A.J. Muste was a clergyman who stood with candles out in front of the White House every night in silent vigil during the Vietnam War. One night, he was outside in the rain by himself, and a reporter passing by stopped to talk to Muste. "You know," the reporter said to Muste, "Your standing here, alone in the rain with a candle, is not going to change the world." 
    "Oh no," Muste replied, "I don't do this to change the world, I do this so the world won't change me." What a beautiful sentiment on what our intentions should be. 

I have been thinking a lot about intentions lately.  Where I go to hot yoga ( in the winters, there is this little bowl with words on slips of paper, inviting us to draw an intention before our practice. During class, the instructor asks us to focus our breath or our moves on an intention. Because I'm a Gemini and like things in pairs, I often draw two and try to figure out how they fit together, thinking on ways I can use it in my life, and order my thoughts around the serenity of words like flow, love, beauty, awakening, simplicity, fire, flexible, energy, hope, gratitude, etc. 

Last Wednesday evening, the words drawn and focused upon were wisdom and passion.  I ruminated about this in light of my feelings in this political and social climate. I am so frustrated that both sides lack intellectual commitment to consistent principles -- I have thought about wanting to share my thoughts about issues.  I want to pick at both sides for their hypocracies. I want to quote historians on the philosophies of statesmanship and rules of law; I want to address feminist for excluding those of us who are pro-life. I am frustrated with a lack of intelligent wrestling with hard issues. I want to people to take heed in the words of Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living." 

But in yoga, I realized I need to breath in wisdom, and breathe out passion.  It is not my job to share my thoughts always, but to share my passion. I need to seek wisdom, and pray for others to do so as well; I value wisdom but what I need to give is passion. Maybe it isn't up to me to think I have wisdom to give -- just to seek wisdom and share passion. Inhale wisdom, exhale passion. The two-intention thing really serves me well. 

On Saturday, like most families across the country, our day was filled with leisurely activities.  I went to hot yoga and then the girls had basketball games through UPWARD, a Christian program teaching our kids about basketball and Christ. Their memory verse this week was. . .well I'll just have Molly share it. 
mollymemoryverse from Sarah King on Vimeo.

At Anna Cate's game, BJ told me about what was happening at JFK Airport because of an Executive Order in efforts to vet immigrants from countries seen as threats. BJ is the news junkie, and I didn't really pay attention to the details of the EO on Friday, but I was personally interested in the story about two Iraqis detained at JFK,  one an interpreter who served US troops. I distinctly remember knowing my brother had a good relationship with his interpreter, and I texted him and he reminded me that  he has a painting in his home that was a gift from his interpreter the day he left Iraq. BJ got some more information from a friend of his from high school who is a legal immigration attorney, and we were stunned by the details. We are moderates; we do not think these solutions are easy, but my turn away people who have risked their lives for our interests in Iraq is sickening, to turn away people with green cards is no respect for rule of law. In addition to it being thoughtless and reckless in its implementation, it is bad PR for America. 

On Saturday night, we drank some wine and BJ explained to the girls why he was upset, why you can not judge people and treat people this way. He was FIRED UP!!! He felt like the language in the EO was anti-Muslim, and said, "we are going to Dulles tomorrow."
 So he got some cardboard from a Costco trip (another all-American Saturday event) and said, "Find me a quote. Let's use Thomas Jefferson since we in Virginia are so proud of religious freedom."
 "I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others." So we decided that rather than go to church, we would go stand up and show our girls about a piece of Democracy -- peaceful protest. They wanted to make signs too, and looked up quotes for themselves and found these:

 We went to the international arrivals section, and the whole experience was calm and positive. It felt more like a rally, than a protest.  I was proud to be from a family of lawyers -- there were so many attorneys there donating their time, just trying to help.

 One lady started talking to me, and when I asked about herself, she said she was from Maryland and just sitting watching the news and said, "I'm going to go see if I can help; I'm a lawyer." They were happy to talk to the girls. Some openly admitted, "I'm not an immigration expert -- I just thought maybe I could help."

This was BJ's idea, and as a family, we just wanted to be a part of history and be a face of love and acceptance, to show our children that words matter, and that action behind their chosen quotes are meaningful.  By welcoming people, respecting the rule of law, and just showing up, perhaps we change hearts.  I will never forget the look on the children's faces as they saw the love in the protestor's claps. Wide eyed. The adults looked grateful, and I tell myself their experience will help us fight anti-American sentiment.

  One lady from Falls Church, Virginia,  who shared with us she has lived abroad,  asked the girls about their school and if they had children in classes who are from other places. Both Anna Cate and Molly named a bunch of children off by name and where they are from.  The lady responded in such kindness when she said, "you are lucky; you know not to be afraid; many people in other parts of our country aren't exposed to different types of people."

So, perchance,  we aren't so wise; we are just lucky to be exposed to diversity. The doctor who healed Anna Cate this Fall is an immigrant; BJ's brilliant movement disorder specialist is from another country. Some of my most intelligent and kind students are immigrants from the countries on this ban list. (Some of my hardest working students are from the other side of the wall people want built -- but that is another issue). And over a decade ago, a man from Iraq contributed to the safety of my beloved brother, and someone like him was detained in New York.  In support of them and the families at Dulles,  I became interested. So maybe I'm not that wise on my own volition -- maybe I consider myself a seeker of wisdom because I have have been blessed by experience.  Like that memory verse Molly and Anna Cate learned, God's gift to me, I hope, is to use words to serve others.

sarahonthenews from Sarah King on Vimeo.
So when I was interviewed on a local news station (clip above), it was edited out that I told the story about my brother's interpreter and we were inspired to skip church to come to stand up for what we think is right. As our family was leaving the airport after I spoke to the reporter, a man got my attention and said, "tell your brother thank you for his service!" Then he shared he was an Iraqi interpreter as well and speaks four languages. He came to see if he could help; he told us of the US soldiers he served with, about how he is Muslim but his family members are Christian and Jews.  He proudly showed me his passport and his US citizenship.

He asked me if my brother was ok, and the girls happily told them about Aunt Becki, Kitty and Talulah. . .all who came into our life after Douglas' returned from Iraq. 
So we left feeling proud to participate in the freedoms we have as Americans,  to see community service in action, and feeling inspired. 

We got the chance to be a face of a welcoming smile to a foreigner. 

Did we change the world or impact anything huge? Nah, but I hope we influenced the hearts and minds of those we encountered.  I know our experience impacted the hearts and minds of Anna Cate and Molly. So just like my yoga practice, we had two intentions. 

 Like that story of AJ Muste, a Dutch-born American who came here via Ellis island, holding the candle, I'm proud of these daughters of mine, holding up words. Words that might or might not change the world, but more importantly, words that will keep the world from changing them.