Sunday, August 30, 2015

LuLu Love

Something amazing happened last week.

One of the dearest people in my life had a baby girl. Jennifer Herther gave birth to Leona Louise Herther, affectionately dubbed Lulu, last week Tuesday. I met Lulu on Thursday, immediately fell in love with the kid, and sat wide-eyed at Jen for the valiant feat she accomplished.

I suppose that things like this happen every day. People have babies all the time. But this one was somehow more real to me than all the others.

You see, I knew Jen as a Dennison. Jennifer Dennison. I knew her as my kindred spirit roommate in Pilsen, the older sister I never had. My running buddy, my fellow social-justice-activist, my wardrobe sharer, and my froyo sidekick. When we lived together I would pick Jen's brain in all sorts of things, from theology to dating advice to health care to please-can-you-help-me-understand-what-an-HMO-is-and-call-up-your-doctor-friends-for-advice-thanks. I still like to pick her brain on her latest nutritional advice and home-buying perspectives and maybe one day she'll be dishing on all the ways to raise kids organically. She's the one that knocked a few ounces of sense into me when I was dating the wrong guy(s) and yet never judged me or looked down on me in the process.

Jen represents a big part of my life: those two all-important years spent in Chicago. Living in the city shaped who I am in so many ways. They were my first years paying the rent. My Teach for America years. My oops-I've-gone-on-seven-first-dates-and-they-all-flopped-years. Jen was there for it all: the good, the bad, and the hilarious (because when you come home from a long day of teaching in CPS all you can do is laugh). Jen is the friend who met me and showed me that I was good enough, flaws and all. What more can you ask for, than someone who finds out about your real, messy self, and then happily accepts you anyway?

Le bebe.
So all of that, and much more, is who Jen is to me. I see myself in her. I look up to her. And for the first time, someone who was so present in the life of adulthood Anna has taken this step into motherhood. It was an overwhelming feeling to meet Jen's kid for the first time. (I cried immediately. Obvi.) 

It's a weird thing, to be a girl in your twenties. First they ask you who you're dating or why you're not dating. Then they ask you when you'll be married. Either it's not moving fast enough, or (in my case) you're getting engaged too soon. Then they ask you if baby fever has set in and when that deadline is pending. To be honest, I have never felt "baby fever." I have felt immediate love for my niece and nephew, total heartbreak at stories of loss, and pure joy for all of the other babies in the lives of my friends and family. I don't know if so-called baby fever will ever hit me (I don't think you have to be ill to choose to have a family one day!) and that's okay. I'm thankful for the timeline God's set before me, and for now I am enjoying it so much that I don't mind seeing other people at different points on theirs. 

So no, seeing Lulu for the first time wasn't a pang in my heart for my own. I felt something different instead. As Jen detailed for me the story of Lulu's birthday (with hilarious interjections from her husband Andrew, as per usual) I just sat there in awe. She approached her delivery day with such grace, so much composure, and incredible poise. The best thing about the story was that it wasn't by any means a perfect or easy experience for her. As I sat and listened to her graciously explain all the medical mumbo jumbo to my ignorant self ("Wait, what does five centimeters mean? Is that bad? Oh wait, that's good! Okay, keep going!"), I felt a new respect for this friend of mine. She laughed her way through explaining the chaos and out-of-body experience of bringing a baby into this world. I sat in total and complete awe at what she's been through, at how she fiercely loves her family, and at how God so perfectly chose her to be Leona Louise's mom. Like so many other times, her experiences reminded me that if she can do hard things, so can I. She inspires me to be brave, to embrace everything meant for me in this scary and beautiful world. 

My kindred free spirit is a mom. And I couldn't imagine anything better. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summertime Sadness

It's my ritual at the beginning of every school year to wistfully look at pictures from the summer. It's okay, I love my job, I love my kids, but saying goodbye to summer is so, so hard. Plus Brian's been playing Lana Del Ray on vinyl so I got that Summertime, Summertime Sadness up in here. I babysat all day long during the summer, so it wasn't quite the total sleep-in-until-noon laziness that one might expect a teacher on summer break to exhibit, but it had its amazing moments nonetheless.

There are a few days of summer that I'd really, really love to relive. Here are just three of them.


This was the only photo snapped on a day trip to New Buffalo, Michigan. Reese, Danny, Brian and I headed up there (thank the Lord for summer schedules and free Thursdays!) and spent all day in the sun and water. The Warren Dunes have officially become my favorite beach within a few hours of our place. We spent all afternoon bodysurfing (or attempting to do so) and laying out. This is also where I started the last book in my big literary adventure with my friend Harry Potter, with my number one Harry enthusiast friend and encourager, Reese. When I think of a carefree summer, I think of this day. 


Ah! This day was so wonderful. This is the day that one of my favorite people on earth, Melanie Rae Lawrence herself, was asked to marry the handsome and wonderful guy of her dreams. She of course said that yes she would. I can. not. wait. for their wedding in May. She deserves every bit of happiness and warm fuzzies that she gets. 

Oh hayyyy Tayyyy! Okay she told me that I could call her Tay Tay. She did. I'm not kidding. We're friends now. She gave me relationship advice, friendship wisdom, and generally blew us all away. Couldn't have asked for better compadres for this adventure. I know there are a lot of haters out there as always (and best believe they gonna hate, hate, hate), but I could not have been more impressed with her live performance. Taylor, we'll be seeing you again in 2017. Just keep bringing it back to Chicago, friend. You can count on Karley, Mel, and me to be cheering for that throwback performance of You're Not Sorry, Fifteen, and Fearless that the little 11 old fans won't be old enough to know. 

Ahhh. Three fantastic days. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Year Four

'Twas the night before year four,
and all through the apartment,
nerves were running high,
excitement in every department.

Okay that's the best I could do with this fried brain of mine :)

Tomorrow is the FIRST DAY of school! Again! I thought this whole beginning-of-year thing would get easier as I get more practice, but no. With Brian and I both starting tomorrow, the Whartnaby household is just a leeeeeeettle up tight at the moment :) Along with the stress, though, always comes excitement and I just am so thankful for a chance to meet my kids and get to know who we all are as a class.


One big change, of course, is my move this year to Timothy Christian School. It's just a few miles from our place, so I'll no longer be weathering the tolls and long stretches in the car every day. I said goodbye to my kids at Calvin with lots of tears (on my part) on our last day in June (but you need to understand...they were the best class ever though!), and yet here I find myself in a place where God provides for me, where God allows me to occupy a space that uses my gifts and passions. He keeps allowing me to find joy and challenge in my work, something I don't take for granted. I am a fortunate girl. Here are a few pictures of my classroom; it's all set for tomorrow!









Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

Friends, can I share something with you? Something very near and dear to my heart? On my drive home today I finished up listening to this podcast and it just completely undid me.

It addresses one of our big issues: the problem of what we are all going to do (or not do) about that achievement gap in America's schools. Children of color are disproportionately losing out on a quality education in America. At grossly high rates. The title of the podcast, The Problem We All Live With, is appropriately borrowed from Norman Rockwell's painting of Ruby Bridges, bravely walking to her first grade classroom despite the hate, slurs, and violence in her way.


Here's my thing about this topic, really quickly, before you write this whole social-justice-nerd's case completely off.  Ira Glass (bless him), together with a guest reporter, tells the story of this age old problem. During the podcast, they play a recording of a town meeting in 2013, hosted by a school board, that is addressing one (predominantly white) community's outrage against students from a nearby poor, black district being allowed into their school. At one point, a white parent takes the microphone and uses her time addressing the school board to say something like: "THIS ISN'T ABOUT RACE. THIS IS ABOUT VALUING EDUCATION." And there's my thing.

Have you noticed that? Have you noticed that the mantra THIS ISN'T ABOUT RACE always happens to come from a white person? I've heard this time and time again in my own life, in my own circles. Hey, before I knew better, I would say that! But now I know better, so I can't leave it at that. I hear the response over and over: "Oh, stop making this all about race. It's just perpetuating the problem if you talk about it. Let's get past it for once and stop pulling that card."And just like that, centuries of hurt are brushed aside as if they don't exist.

You know what I hear when I hear someone tell me that a public education equality issue has nothing to do with race? I have a vivid flashback to a certain movie called Mean Girls (you may have heard of it). Regina George, the ultimate queen bee, the recipient of all her high school's social privilege, stands up in the middle of a crowded auditorium of her fellow female classmates and says, "Can I just say that we don't have a clique problem at this school? And some of us shouldn't have to take this workshop, because some of us are just victims in this situation." And everyone in attendance rolled their eyes at her ignorance. She didn't see the issue. Why should she? She had only benefitted from those messed up social systems. My hope is that we can expect better from ourselves. My hope is that we can listen our way out of ignorance.

I don't want to be that person who says "Not me! Not my issue! Not my problem!" Let's not be blinded by privilege. I know I was for a long time. It was only when I set my pride aside, stopped getting defensive, and started listening that I could start to get a grasp on what is going on in this country of ours, particularly in our schools. After I listened, my eyes were opened to the truth that so many of our brothers and sisters live out every day.

Will you give it a chance? Take about 45 minutes in the next week or so and try it out. The link is below.

Let's not settle for not knowing. Let's not live in ignorance. Let's know better.