fearlessly authentic

Jason Collins is the first NBA player to announce that he is gay.  Jason received a call from President Obama praising his efforts as a role model. It is a little unsettling to realize that in 2013 one’s sexual orientation is still news, but as a former high school teacher, I celebrate Jason’s willingness to be the first in his profession to blaze this trail.

I worked with a handful of openly gay/lesbian teens when I taught English.  They were fearless souls, all of them.  Being fifteen and open is a tremendous act of courage.  I knew many straight teens who spent countless hours concerned with the impression they were leaving on others.  It is hard to be authentic in an environment where the right pair of shoes matters so dearly.  To be fully out of the closet in high school is like walking around with your heart outside your rib cage; one is left so achingly vulnerable without armor.

I worked with one student, Chris, who was particularly stunning in his courage.

Chris spent the beginning of his life as a little girl.  He went to grade school with most of his classmates and was known by a different name during those years.  By the time middle school rolled around, Chris had made some serious decisions in his life.  The most notable being that he did not actually consider himself a girl.

As his peers looked on, Chris slowly peeled away his feminine exterior.  By the time he landed in high school, he had a crew cut.  He had bound down his breasts, camouflaged his female curves with massively baggy clothes, pierced one ear, and  changed his name.

He was a bright, quiet kid.  He did his work; he faded into the background.  Chris wasn’t on the receiving end of constant outward violence.  He didn’t get beat up daily, or to my knowledge, threatened.  Chris was quite simply ignored.  Kids thought he was weird; they talked about him behind his back; they referred to him by his old female name; they disrespected him with their cold-shoulder treatment and feelings of superiority.

I often wonder what happened to Chris.  He would be in his mid-twenties now.  I hope he lives in a great community; I hope he is involved in a career he loves.  Most of all, I hope the world has stopped ignoring him.  I hope everyday he is seen and heard.  And someday soon I hope one’s sexual orientation is no longer news.  It shouldn’t warrant a phone call from the president because it shouldn’t matter to any of us.



best game of all time

I have two daughters.  Meg is seventeen, and Ella is four.  Despite the thirteen years between them, they are, in some ways, peas in a pod.  They both love Mexican food; they both love tormenting their brother; they both love watching reruns of Scooby Doo (sometimes I think these shows are too scary for Ella, but she always reminds me that the monsters aren’t real; they are people in masks). Still, Meg being a sophisticated teen doesn’t always indulge Ella when it comes to fun and games.

Yesterday I walked in to the toy room to see the two of them playing together.

“Hi, Mommy,” Ella said.

“Hi, Baby.  Whatcha doin’?”

“We are playing the best childhood game of all time,” Meg replied.

“Yeah,” Ella said.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground.”

“Hmmm,” I replied.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground is a very good game.”

“Yes,” Meg said as she tapped the pink balloon in Ella’s direction.  “It won best game of all time by a slim margin, narrowly beating out the second best game of all time.”

“And what is the second best game of all time?” I asked.

Meg popped the balloon in the air and looked at me like she could not believe I even needed to ask this question.  In a tone full of superiority and the wisdom of ages, my seventeen-year-old replied, “The Ground is Lava!”


I woke up sick this morning.  I have a cough, a bit of a fever.  My head hurts, and my shoulders ache.  I get dizzy when I stand up, and I want to call my mom.

I want to call my mom and tell her I don’t feel well.  I want to describe every ache and pain.  I want to tell her that Cole is learning to drive, and Ella threw a fit in the middle of swim lessons.  I want to tell her that Meg is taking the SATs in a few weeks and that her team lost their last soccer game.

I want to call my mom and tell her that it’s raining.  I want to tell her I bought her a Mother’s Day present.  Ella taught herself how to whistle and my dishwasher is on the fritz.

I want to call my mom and tell her I have a dentist appointment next week and our dog got his spring hair cut.  I want to tell her my car needs an oil change and Cole pulled his grade up in science.  I want to tell her that Tim fixed the truck tire; he’s swamped at work; I have a new tomato soup recipe.

I want to call my mom, but I can’t.

Some mornings loss throws herself in front of you and trips you up.  Some mornings loss is that itch you can’t scratch, that connection you simply can’t make.  Some mornings you just want to call your mom, and when you realize you can’t, you are left crying in front of your computer wondering how you will turn your morning around.

operation 16

I am in the middle of my fifth annual scholarship drive.  In an effort to spread the word, I am posting the specifics here today.


On August 15, 2002, Scott Hanan and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  As gifts to each other, we created lists, “Things I Want to do Before I Die.”  Scott’s list of 72 goals was sprinkled with the obvious—be 100% debt  free , drive a car on a super speedway, learn to fly fish.  There were also a few that surprised me—take three college-level history courses for fun, read the Federalist Papers.  There are items on the list he accomplished—build part of an addition to our house.  And unfortunately, many he did not, including number 16—Put someone, other than our kids, through college.

Scott and Cole 2005partial list from 2002


Scott died in 2005 and over the past eight years I have come back to the list.  For all the goals and dreams, number sixteen has always tugged at my heart with the most force, perhaps because it is something that Scott’s spirit can still accomplish—with just a little help.  Every bit counts and I would appreciate your donation.

The Scott Hanan Memorial Scholarship Fund

Checks should be made out to:  Auburn Community Scholarship Fund

please write “Scott Hanan Memorial Scholarship” on the memo line and mail to:

Judy Lutton

Auburn Community Scholarship Coordinator

Auburn High School

800 Fourth St NE

Auburn, WA  98002

For your reference, the Non-profit 501(c)3 Tax ID # is 916001640.  Don’t forget to have your company match your donation!!

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would like to help with this effort.

On June 30th, 2005, my life took a drastic turn.  I believe the lesson to be learned is to balance missing Scott without missing life.  Help Scott check number 16 off his list, and in doing so, help a student take a drastic turn, a turn toward the future.


Scott and Cole 2005


When I was five, I asked my dad how we knew that Jesus was born on December twenty-fifth.  He said, “We don’t know for sure, but it is a day that people have agreed upon to celebrate.”

I thought a lot about this, and that night I started saying happy birthday Jesus at the end of my evening prayers.  At five, I was concerned that perhaps Jesus was born on May fifth, or July twenty-third.  What if the actual day went by and no one acknowledged it?  I decided I would wish Jesus a happy birthday every single night for a full year, that way I would be sure not to miss it.  A year passed, and I kept wishing Jesus happy birthday.  It became a habit, a ritual that lasted thirty-one years.

The night of June 30, 2005, I found out my husband had died in a motorcycle accident.  That night, I stopped praying.

I realize that makes me sound petulant and melodramatic.  Grief, with its soup of anger and fear, forced me to reevaluate and create a new relationship with God.  It was a slow process.  Eventually I acknowledged three things.  One, God has a plan for me and my children.  Two, Scott’s energy was and always will be a force in our lives; his spirit is safe, and I believe, blissfully happy.  Three, I had an opportunity to rebuild and create.  This opportunity was a remarkable gift, unmistakable proof of God’s pure grace.

It is coming up on the eight-year anniversary of Scott’s death.  I still don’t pray.  I’m not bragging about this.  I realize this is, perhaps, not ideal, but I don’t ask God to keep my children safe.  I don’t ask God to guide me toward joy or peace.  I don’t ask God to take care of people who are hurting.  I believe He will do his job and carry out his intentions without me pointing out the people who need help.  My goal is to remind myself daily to have faith in his plan; complete faith that when things make the least sense to me, they somehow make the most sense to God.

In the wake of the bombings in Boston, I am staying focused on three things I believe to be true.  One, God is up to something.  He is working in the lives of the victims as well as the perpetrator(s).  Two, the darkest moments are disguised opportunities to rebuild and create, proof of God’s pure grace.  Three, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Lingzi Lu are safe and blissfully happy.

I apologize for my inappropriate husband

My four-year-old daughter has a set of toys she plays with in the bathtub, which includes Naked Barbie.  Over the past several months, I have often found Naked Barbie in very compromising positions, and when this happens, I always blame my husband.  I am convinced that Tim is manipulating Naked Barbie into promiscuous poses in an attempt to scandalize me, but no matter how often I accuse him, he always vehemently denies it.

Today when I got in the shower I found Naked Barbie canoodling with My Pretty Pony.  I immediately phoned my husband and when he answered his cell I said, “There is NO WAY My Pretty Pony simply fell in that position.”

Tim laughed and laughed and laughed.  “It was me!” he admitted.  “It was totally me.”

I apologize to Naked Barbie and My Pretty Pony on behalf of my entire family.

I apologize to Naked Barbie and My Pretty Pony on behalf of my entire family.

golf (with a twist)

Tiger Woods has been in the spotlight lately as he competes for his position as greatest golfer of all time.

I don’t really get the appeal of golf.  I understand the desire to play a few rounds on the weekend, hang out with friends, and possibly improve your game.  I don’t understand why anyone would watch golf on television.

Many sports have a vein of similarity.  For example, in soccer one attempts to get the ball in the net while his opponent tries to trip him.  In basketball, one attempts to get the ball in the net while his opponent tries to embarrass him with impressive maneuvering (and occasionally trip him).  In  water polo one attempts to get the ball in the net while his opponent tries to drown him.  In lacrosse one attempts to get the ball in the net while his opponent tries to elbow him in the throat.

In golf, one attempts to get the ball in the hole while his opponent silently waits on the sideline.  How is this entertaining to watch?  What would be entertaining is if Tiger Woods attempted to sink a putt while his ex-wife came flying at him with a golf club in her hand.