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Dear Republican Candidates for President | Those are my Dads You’re Bashing

Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan: Creative Commons

Dear Republican Candidates for President,

As you begin to consider the tone of your candidacy for president, I have one request.

Please don’t use my dads as a bargaining chip.

My family is not an issue or topic to be used to garner votes, we are flesh-and-blood human beings on the back-slide of our life-spans who just want to live out the rest of our lives in relative peace.

My dads fought long and hard against discrimination that threatened their safety and the health of our family. I rest easier today knowing that in their golden years, they can enjoy the benefits of marriage (after 36 years together), and if one of them gets sick and lands in long-term-care, they will be able to see each other in the hospital. By the grace of God — though not the law — they had long careers in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s free from discrimination. I’m thankful for these small graces.

When you consider using politics and laws as tools to turn back decades of discrimination for LGBT families, remember that you are condemning children like me in LGBT families to years of unjust suffering.

Did you know there are over 6 million kids residing in LGBT homes today? Your decisions are not neutral, they hurt kids like me who have been a part of loving LGBT families for over four decades. You say that you are “thinking of the children” but I don’t see how this is the case when you are actively campaigning against laws that will protect our parents and our families. Perhaps you could explain your logic to me?

Further, did you know that when you politic using words like “the gay agenda” or “the gay issue” or “lifestyle choice,” or worse when you call my parents an “abomination” that you are talking about my dads? Can you imagine if someone talked about your parents the way you are talking about mine? How would that make you feel?

I suppose, Republican Presidential Candidates, you also think that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so I too must be gay, or misguided, or have “issues.” I’m a pretty normal straight 44 year old, did well in school, have an incredible circle of friends, have had a great career, and I love being a part of my church.

Furthermore I’m seminary trained, I’m Christian, and I believe that God’s call to us to “love everyone” includes the LGBT community. So I’m a little baffled how you can marginalize my dads with hateful rhetoric in one breath, and then in the second believe that you are doing the work of God?

Oh, p.s. back to that little thing about my dads being an “abomination” — did you know that taken literally, the bible claims that you too are considered an abomination if you eat shellfish or wear mixed clothing. AND, that you are in danger of not inheriting the kingdom of God if you’ve ever been guilty of any of these things: impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness. It seems to me that your fits of anger against the LGBT community might be causing you the kingdom — so as a fellow believer, let me help hold you accountable and tell you right now just to STOP IT.

The political engine seems to have jumped on the anti-gay, pro-gay battle and stepped up their rhetoric to try and win the hearts and minds of voters like me. Voters who (and there are many of us) — were so disgusted by the tone of the last election that we gave up our privilege to vote (don’t worry, that won’t happen this election). Voters who believe that politicians are so out of touch with my generation and the generation to follow that our elected candidates would rather USE people and LOVE things instead of the other way around.

When did y’all stop loving the people you were elected to serve?

Sure. There is a lot of debate going on right now about LGBT families and couples, and you could easily step on that bandwagon and catapult yourself to the oval office — because let’s face it — hate can stir up a nation, hate sells news, and if you are in the news then you get attention which helps your campaign. I’m in marketing, so I get that.

But don’t you also remember that place in the bible where it says “a nation divided against itself cannot stand?”

If you split our nation down the middle, and in the name of “religious freedom” you use my family to do that, that doesn’t sound like freedom at all. It sounds more like prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry. It also leaves America shattered and ripe for a strong, unifying leader to come in and take over (think Hitler because this is the environment he stepped into — a fragmented nation).

So if you can’t muster up enough compassion to think of my dads, and you refuse to have compassion when thinking of my family, think of our nation.

Thanks,

Jenny

 

 

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Info: In case you have missed what the republican candidates have launched against LGBT families, I’ve listed them below.

Mike Huckabee:

  1. In the wide-ranging AP questionnaire in 1992, Huckabee said, “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk.” [USA Today, 12/8/2007]
  2. Huckabee Compared LGBT Marriage Equality to Incest, Polygamy, and Drug Use and Said LGBT Couples Should Not Be Allowed To Adopt Because “Children Aren’t Puppies.” [Associated Press, 4/13/10, AUDIO]

Ben Carson:

  1. Carson infamously said that prisons are proof that people “choose” to be gay [CNN], and he has previously compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia, bestiality, and murder. [Baltimore Sun, March 29, 2013]

Ted Cruz:

  1. Cruz said same-sex marriage had produced rabid zealotry in Democratic ranks. This ideology, he argued, was excluding people of faith. “There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers…Today’s Democratic Party has become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty.” [The Hill, 4/25/2015]

Rand Paul:

  1. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul remarked on President Obama’s decision to publicly support same-sex marriage by saying, “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer…Now that doesn’t mean we need to be harsh and mean and hate people…But that doesn’t mean that we have to go ahead and give up our traditions.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/12, VIDEO]

Marco Rubio:

  1. In 2013, Senator Rubio voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that the Miami Herald reported “would make it illegal under federal law for employers to discriminate against their employees based on the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These same basic workplace protections are already afforded to individuals on the basis of race, creed, national origin, gender, and disability status.” [S. 815 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, Vote #232 64-23, 11/7/2013; Miami Herald, 11/20/2013]

Give Kids a Voice in the Conversation | Marriage Equality

Photo courtesy of Guillaume Paumier: Creative Commons

I have always believed that children of LGBT parents have an important voice that can change the conversation surrounding LGBT families in our society.

The first time I stumbled upon this part of my story, I was sitting with my friend Paige at Uncle Julio’s pizza place on Capitol Hill. It was a brisk winter evening in 1993 and we were in our early twenties. As we munched on our pizza and discussed life in the city with my dads, I remember leaning forward in my chair and making a comment that continues to resonate in my soul:

“Paige, I truly believe that the children of gay families hold an important voice that the church and society need to hear. I believe that I can be a voice that can stir up compassion in the heart of every person who is prejudiced against gay people. My voice can be the compassionate connection that they need to be able to see my dads as human, not as evil, and as people, not as an issue.” (1)

Fast forward twenty-two years and my voice has been included in an amicus brief presented to the Supreme Court of the United States to advocate on behalf of marriage equality.

As a part of a combined effort between Family Equality Council, One Million Kids, and COLAGE, the brief is entitled the “Voices of Children,” and has been filed largely because of the gross omission of children’s voices in the marriage equality debate:

The voices of children raised by same-sex parents – those who live every day within the family structure at the heart of these lawsuits – are too often unheard in the debates about same-sex couples and marriage. Their stories are too often missing from discussions of “traditional” families or “family values,” and their personal experiences too often discounted as irrelevant. Although those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples frequently make assumptions about the quality of the children’s family lives, the children themselves are rarely asked to explain what they actually experience. (2)

In the brief I talked about the difference a simple piece of paper designating my dads as “married” had on my heart:

“You don’t think that a simple piece of paper designating your parents as ‘married’ can have a tangible difference on the bond you have with them — but it does. I watched decades of marginalization of my family fall away in the moment that the judge pronounced them as husband and husband.” – Jenny Rain, 44 (3)

When I learned that my voice had been included in the amicus brief, it was as if my life had come full circle. In that moment, I knew that my voice could play a small part in changing the conversation in our nation, as can every voice of every child of LGBT parents in our nation.

Children of LGBT families, know that on Tuesday, April 28th as we rally at the Supreme Court, our choir of voices has been HEARD and INCLUDED as a part of changing the conversation in our nation!

Download the entire brief here.

 

Follow One Million Kids on April 28, 2015 for LIVE updates from the Supreme Court! Find us here:

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Real time updates on Periscope!

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(1) Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy: Growing up with two dads in an Evangelical World. Jenny Rain (not yet published).

(2) Voices of Children Amicus Brief, Family Equality Council

(3) Amicus Brief Filed on Four Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Cases Presents Voices of Children, March 6, Bradley Jacobs, Family Equality Council.

On Coming Out as [More Than]* an Ally

Photo courtesy Creative Commons by Stephen Chapple

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing — Edmund Burke

To be an ally* and not use my voice means I am only a witness.

Both allies and witnesses are needed to change the cultural arc of our times. People witnessed the foundational shifts MLK brought to our country with race relations. It undoubtedly impacted every person who witnessed it. Yet without allies advocating for the cause of justice and full inclusion for every African American in this country, the tide of prejudice would have remained staunchly entrenched in the fibre of our country for decades longer.

To be an ally means to advocate and join your voice WITH those being marginalized or refused full integration and inclusion in an organization, an event, or a society.

Marginalized individuals are marginalized precisely because they have been denied rights, freedom, full inclusion and their voices have been TAKEN AWAY. Their voices, their very identity has been discredited and oppressed.

Without allies from the group that has participated in the marginalization, the tide of cultural practice will never change. 

So today is my coming out day in full support of LGBT rights, inclusion, and participation in every segment of society and especially in our churches. My silence is not helping and I may even be harming LGBT individuals. I no longer want to participate in the further marginalization of sexual minorities.

So today is my line in the sand. I can no longer support:
– Restricted inclusion in organizations based on sexual identity, expression, preference, orientation, or gender identity or expression
– Devastatingly harmful conversion therapy, counseling, or religious counseling approaches that believe that being LGBTQ can be “changed”
– Dehumanizing practices, language, and structures that keep the marginalization of sexual minorities in place

It may cost me something to be an ally. 

I’m ok with that. It has cost other people so much more. Their cost has become my freedom. Jesus went to the cross because of his love for the marginalized and oppressed as well as those who were doing the oppression. He did this because people are inherently worth the cost it sometimes takes to love them.

One of the stirring revelations for me during my week at the GCN was the depth of sacrifice LGBT individuals have experienced to hold on to their faith. As John Pavlovitz so aptly says, “Their faith has really COST them something.” LGBT individuals have often been shunned by BOTH sides, yet they chose to still love a church who has rejected them.

When, as a white, American, heterosexual, college educated, middle class woman have I EVER been asked to sacrifice like that for my faith? When have I ever been persecuted, rejected, or abandoned for a faith that I have been forced to hang on to only by tips of wounded fingers or broken fingernails? When have I ever been maligned for being an abomination or cast-aside for something that I did not chose and could not pray away? When have ANY of us experienced this?

Yet a faith that is real comes at a cost. 

I can no longer simply be a witness to what is happening around me with the LGBT community — even if it costs me something — I’m choosing to be an ally.

THEY are worth it. YOU are worth it. My prayer is that I can offer a voice to the conversation and be a part of the healing that needs to occur around this. I do not want to speak for you, but WITH you, shoulder to shoulder…

*Important Update: I posted this in 2015 while serving in a non-affirming environment. In 2017 I attended a seminar where I realized that because I grew up with 2 dads in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and had a dad who came out at a young age, my position as “ally” was too distant for what I had actually experienced in my life. This was anything but a “distant” experience for me. To call myself only an ally was to erase the very intimate experience that I have had with discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization because I have an LGBT family. There is currently no “category” for children of LGBT parents other than “ally” but I would presuppose we are much more intimately connected to the struggle. For purposes of this article, I use the label “ally” – but I now consider myself so much more. 

Being a Voice for Church Communicators

This year, I was asked to become a Board Member for Center for Church Communications (CFCC).

CFCC are the innovators behind the fun Church Marketing Sucks blogpodcast, the instigators of the revolution in Church Communications that we have seen in the last decade, and the leaders of the #CertLab (one of THE best training classes I’ve been to for church communicators). Since I’m only in year two of my tenure as a Church Communications Director, to be asked to participate in the board has been an incredible honor.

My job is to serve CFCC as the voice of church communicators who are in their first five years of service.

What do I think about church communications at NCC? Take a look at the article posted today at CMS and see!

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3 Simple Ways To Make Transitions Easier | Guest Post

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons by myfriso

I love sharing my blog space with people I respect and admire. Makeda is one of those people. I talked about her here because she was the mentor who has helped me navigate this past year.

Makeda is an expert in helping people move through transitions. I asked her to share a little wisdom with us on what she recommends. Her post is below…

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3 Simple Ways To Make Transitions Easier

We are in the time of year when lots of transitions are happening. We have just transitioned from one year to another. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere you have just transitioned from Spring to Summer. And we in the Northern Hemisphere have just experienced the transition of the Winter Solstice, the time of year when the period of darkness is longest.

Though technically it will get lighter as the days progress through January, it will be awhile before we can truly feel like we are experiencing more light than dark.

Transitions can feel an awful lot like the Winter Solstice.

Transitions are hard. Transitions in times of darkness can feel even harder because it can be so hard to see the light while faced with so much darkness. The change is necessary, we know this but moving through it is no less difficult for its necessity and sometimes the necessity makes it even harder.

If you are navigating a change of some sort, I want to share with you three things you can do to help make getting through this time a little easier.

1. Let Go of Other People’s Expectations

Everyone is going to have an opinion about how you should behave. Everyone will want to give his or her two cents about what you should or shouldn’t do. While you are navigating a season of change, it is critical that you hear your heart clearly so you can move through the change with integrity. Too often, other people’s voices are so loud it is impossible to know what is real and what is imaginary.

You have to let go of worrying what other people might think, feel or say about you. Not everyone is going to agree with your decision but they don’t have to agree, they only have to accept it. If they can’t accept it then you may have to make the difficult decision to change the role they play in your life.

If other people’s expectations are allowed to drive your decisions during this season, you will move through this time more slowly or worse, you may find yourself getting stuck. You have to do what feels most right for you and hold onto that regardless of what anyone else things about it.

2. Know What’s Yours to Carry

There will be loss and gain during this season. You will have to let go of some things, including some familiar things, in order to step into your new space. Cultivating a new normal is part of this process and in doing so you will have to question the assumptions and beliefs you now carry.

Ask yourself if that truth belongs to you or did you inherent it from someone else? If it’s yours then carry it but if, in fact, it came from someone else then releasing it will be the necessary thing for you to do.

Beliefs and mindsets can feel like they belong to us but if we can get into the habit of questioning the stories we tell ourselves, we may discover that what we owned as a truth is not actually true for us. Don’t be afraid to question what you think to be true. You may freedom in the questioning.

3. Get Support

No person is an island. We are meant to do life in community with others, not in isolation. Trying to move through a life transition, big or small, without support is a recipe for disaster. You are inviting more heartache and sorrow if you try to do this alone.

Surround yourself with people who can be FOR you during this time. Be open to the possibility that your support system may not come from the people or places you would expect. Transitions can create new connections so stay open to that possibility too.

Most of all, reach out for help. Get really clear about what you need and then ask for that help. Try to avoid deciding what people can or cannot do for you and simply ask them for what you need. Listen to your intuition for guidance on who to ask and then reach out to them.

I don’t know what transition might look like for you right now. But whatever that is I want you to know that you will come out the other side of this. It might be dark right now but it won’t stay dark. The sun always comes up in the morning, even if the clouds don’t part the light still penetrates the darkness and I know the light will find it’s way to you.

Hold tight to that assurance and you’ll make it.

From my heart to yours,

Makeda Pennycooke

 

keeds Makeda is a Women’s Leadership Mentor and Coach. After spending too many years letting other people’s opinions decide how I should live and lead, I am now committed to empowering women leaders to redefine leadership on their own terms. In my spare time, you might find me curled up with a book in my favorite recliner; wandering around in pursuit of beauty behind the lens of my camera; or attempting to further my budding relationship with yoga. I believe chocolate makes everything better and life should be filled with the moments that make your heart sing. I love the ocean, sun-kissed days, and a steaming hot cup of tea (always tea, never coffee). I can be found sharing tips and inspiration for women leaders at www.makedapennycooke.com

 

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If you or someone you know is interested in being coached by Makeda, I highly recommend it! Contact her at her website to learn more!

One Word 2015 | With

Photo courtesy of Creative commons by Stux

With.

This is my One Word for 2015. It started bubbling up in my heart in late fall and I’ve been noodling on it ever since.

It’s such an odd word and could have so many connotations.

With other people.
With myself.
With God.
With a desire, a feeling, a thought.
With my creativity.
With my words.
With my fears.

WITH implies being in the middle of something and fully engaged.

I like that because I have an all-too-common habit of being physically present but emotionally unavailable. This year I want to change that bad habit of checking out, or checking into the not-yet-available-future as an escape from present moments, or of missing a moment that could change me if I am willing to stay WITH it.

In light of the trajectory that I have started down in trying to build bridges between evangelical Christianity and the LGBT community, it is my hope that being “With” communities that have historically remained embattled will enable me to be a redemptive light and a revelatory mirror that can help both sides enter into safe and encouraging conversations.

Knowing the difference that my friends have made in the last year by remaining “With” me as I walked through my second divorce has helped challenge me to find ways to be more present “with” each of them. Seeing how remaining present “with” my pain helps me to process through it gives me courage as I seek continued healing this year.

“With” is a powerful, present reality that I can bring into my life. 

When I look back on the last 5 years of participating in the #OneWord communities (OneWord365, MyOneWord, and this year GetOneWord), the discipline of choosing a single theme, and dedicating myself to filtering life through that theme has been life changing. These words have been prayerfully chosen, though their revelation is usually instant and happens around the dying leaves of each fall or incoming winter.

2010: Newness & Kindness
2011: Wonder (Enter “Faithfulness“)
2012: Risk
2013: Joy
2014: Balance (Didn’t blog much last year apparently!)
2015: With

Some years I’ve been more focused than others on committing to and seeing my word. Other years I have dreaded the word (enter Risk and Joy). In the end, seeing God’s faithfulness through the theme’ing of my years with One Word has kept me committed to the process.

What is your OneWord for 2015? 

When we leave you…

Photo Creative Commons by Epicantus

When we leave you, church, it is not because we have stopped believing in God.

We have just stopped believing in your ability to facilitate positive life change. We have been hurt by your negligence of our hearts, be it unintentional or intended. We have felt lost in the “busy-ness” of programs, processes, and protocols. We can’t find our way in the buildings that just keep getting bigger. When we hurt, we can’t find anyone to talk to that will walk the long roads with us to healing.

Church, it feels like you have stopped showing us the way to the heart of God and we are desperate to find Him again.

We know in our hearts that God is the answer to all that is wrong in the world, we just don’t know how to reconcile that belief with how church is doing day-to-day ministry. We long to see the church rise up and make a difference in our neighborhoods, our cities… but first we long to see the church make a difference in our personal lives.

Our doubts don’t need a bandaid, they need the church to be present. Our anger doesn’t need to be snuffed out, it needs an ear so we can process through it. Our confusion doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs the church’s acceptance.

We long for you to SEE us as we struggle… there are many of us around you.

We need you to see us in our pain. We desire for you to sit with us in our mess. We can’t change what our lives have become. We may not know how to ask for help, to define what is wrong, or to understand how we got here when all we wanted to do was follow God. Our hearts yearn for you to take the initiative to help.

Do you see us church? 

 

 

NOTE: This post is dedicated to the dozens of people just this year alone that I have walked this path with, cried with, prayed for, and been present with. It is also dedicated to the 150,000 individuals who walk away from church every.single.week. 

Are We Really Creating Space?

Photo Creative Commons by terimakasih0

“Creating Space” is becoming a new buzzword.

It’s a great concept because the true meaning of “creating space” allows for another person to fully BE who they are while they are in our presence.

One of my good friends did a great job of creating space for me a year ago when I needed to process stepping out of my marriage. She stepped into my mess, accepted me exactly for who I was, and pushed out the boundaries of my anxiety so that I could process what next steps needed to happen. I discovered how to self-accept because she modeled acceptance for me.

She was not judgmental, she was observant. She picked up notes that my heart strings were playing that I couldn’t hear. She walked WITH me, through my mess, and did not tell me what I needed to BE or how I needed to ACT to navigate my journey.

I want to see the church create this kind of space for others.

The kind of space that starts with radical acceptance and then says, “We love you for EXACTLY who you are. We don’t want or expect you to change. You have full access to the community that we offer as a church.”

Not the kind of space that segments eligibility for community-affiliation into buckets based on a person’s race, sexual orientation, gender, or marital status.

We are FULLY accepted in the beloved but then we proceed to mete out acceptance of others based on a code of religious rules that have been in flux since the middle ages.

Let’s risk accepting. Let’s get our hands messy. Let’s step into conversations with our minds made up that we will remain open and humble. Let’s fully step into the conversation and stop hiding behind rules, process, or “the way it’s always been done.” As we do this, I believe we can create the kind of radical space that reflects the diversity of what God has already created in heaven.

When the Foundation Shakes

Photo Creative Commons by Villalonga

This season continues to be a season of foundation shaking.

Theology. Praxis. Relationships. Vocation. Nothing has been left untouched.

I’ve started to climb out of the black hole punched into my existential foundation in early fall.

I’m now asking questions, researching, and refining my teleological bent. I am exploring areas of my heart, life, and story that I’ve kept hidden or buried for decades. It’s amazing when you begin to voice parts of your identity that have remained buried, how this very “speaking-into-being” can radically shake the known foundations you have lived upon for 44 years.

The faith part of my story has always been there. I am a huge supporter of what I believe the church can do to facilitate freedom in an individual’s life.

The part of my story that I have buried while navigating my faith environment is the fact that I am the child of gay parents. As this is a pivotal part of my story, I have a choice and a role that I can play in advocacy with the LGBT community.

What these two divergent stories look like pieced together is not something I have discovered yet. I’m still on the journey. The stories are currently rubbing together like two tectonic plates attempting to make space for each other. Where each will land, and which story (if either) will become primary, I’m not yet sure. I desperately want to separate them again like they were before — to keep the LGBT part of my story safely ensconced apart from the church so my story can’t (and I can’t) be hurt again.

But I believe in the heart of the church too much to go backwards.

What I do know, is that as I reveal this part of my story to those in my direct faith community, I have been met with support (rather than condemnation or answers), and my questioning has been welcomed. It is inherently frustrating for strategy-loving-me not to have answers for my “what if’s” – but simultaneously comforting to know those around me are willing to engage in the conversation even if there are no obvious solutions.

It’s uncomfortable to ask these questions that I have long buried. It’s uncomfortable to try and fit FAITH and LGBT Advocacy together in a sentence. It’s uncomfortable not to know what is next. It’s uncomfortable to think that I may make mistakes, or hurt feelings, or stir the waters as I ask difficult questions.

It is UNCOMFORTABLE to step out of the boat, then look back at those sitting in the boat realizing that I’ve made it rock as I’ve risked taking a step. 

My discomfort makes me want to scream “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make the boat rock! I just needed to ask some questions.” I want to steady the boat again and forget that I just took a step out onto the water. I want to make the boat calm for everyone again so they know they are safe. I want to let those in the boat know that my questioning is never meant to hurt anyone, or cause them discomfort.

But the most uncomfortable thing of all is to think that I could live the rest of my life and bury this part of my story and not ever step into the fullness of who God has created me to be. Every time I bring more of who I am, more of my full story to the table and share it with others, I feel more free, and I feel more ME.

And at the end of the day, I have to believe that what God has said to me again and again is true…

<<Whatever happens daughter, I Am WITH you>>

 

 

When the Holidays Suck

Photo Creative Commons: fincayra0204

It starts right before Thanksgiving and feels like the slow creep of cement hands grabbing at the back of my heels. No matter how fast I run into holiday activity, the rough and hardened grip finds my ankles and slows me down. It pulls at my knees and constricts my belly. It wraps around my heart, traipses up to my shoulders with long-lanky hooks to weigh me down. My face becomes obliterated in its darkness, my eyes turn leaky, and I have to remind myself to breathe.

There are some years when the holiday season sucks the life out of me.  

This is threatening to be one of those holidays. Understandably so because it is the first holiday season of single-hood in six long years. This is a year of a new-normal for me.

But still.

I tried to put my Christmas tree up this weekend… the tree that was at the ex’s house because I didn’t have enough space in my tiny apartment to store it… but it made me tired, so I stared at my tree in the corner willing the twinkle lights to twinkle. They never did.

I attempted to watch the Macy’s parade this weekend… but I couldn’t get through all of the “He went to Jared!” engagement ring ads. I turned off the TV and stared at the blank screen instead.

I focused on filling the formerly-occupied-space-on-the-couch-next-to-me with dates or friends or pugs, thinking that will dull the ache, but it just served to emphasize what is missing.

Nothing.is.working.

So I grit my teeth, put my head down, and push through the holidays with a grunt rather than a cheer. I acknowledge that the anniversary dates of last year are apparently still coming and I resolve to face them as they come. I resign myself to the life-I-didn’t-think-I’d-be-leading at 44 years of age and hope for a better holiday season next year.