checking in {2.23}

Welcome to the One Word party! The door’s wide open. Join here.

There’s definitely a bit of fun with a word like Ask.

Like, what qualifies as a British sponge? (You know what I’ve been watching.) Two answers, GBBS fans probably know: A true sponge being light and fluffy, made with eggs; no fat. But sponge also covers [the American] cake, in general — just as ‘pudding’ is ‘dessert’ (and should not be further confused with a savory pudding). And a biscuit is a cookie. (Not a base for strawberry shortcake.)

And, how does silk screening work, actually? I mean, I get the concept. But when I saw the Charley and Edie Harper exhibit (there ’til March 5!), I stood in front of the work absolutely wowed. (These are not the cute totes and tees I’m used to seeing that are, sure, screen printed…) So I was thrilled to learn a beginner’s silkscreen class will be offered locally this summer. Now I can experience the answer — which is how I learn best.

Then there’s the fun question Lincoln asked me: Will you knit me a sweater? Um. YES. He hasn’t asked for one since 3rd grade. (He keeps that one in his nightstand drawer.) Now I get to ask him: Which pattern? I’ve tagged a dozen top-down ‘man sweaters’ in Ravelry. And what color? First it was espresso; now, light blue.

There’s big stuff, too, with this little word.

Like that Rumi question from last month. And my February prompt: Don’t just do my word, checking off those easy, fun things above. But what does it mean to be my word? (Be curious vs. make assumptions, for example.) (Parenting teens is a great opportunity to always be practicing that one!)

This month, though. This month was…something.

Who will you be, in this moment? What will you do?

You know I’ve been doing some work with Braver Angels, having curious conversations with people on the ‘other side of the aisle.’ It excites me; I love finding common ground with people I’m not expected to. It gives me hope for a better version of our world — albeit one microstep at a time.

I’ve acknowledged the easy thing about that: everyone there shares some common values. Like, starting from a place of mutual respect. Showing up with a [relatively] open mind. And the commitment to practice better listening.

In Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger, she speaks to how hard it is — and critical — to remain curious about another’s story even when they don’t show up with respect or curiosity themselves. (She doesn’t say she can always do this — but she does tell you it’s critical.)

I did a lousy job with that this month…and I had to ask myself some big questions about it. Here’s what happened:

We were in a social setting recently where someone made a shocking, horrible, racist comment (then repeated it), a step away from the n-word. Laughter ensued. Troy was not at the table to hear it. Lincoln was; he looked straight at me. Stunned, I stood and said, I have to get out of here. And I did. In short order, I went back inside to get Elsa. I brought her outdoors, asked what she’d heard, then asked how she understood it to be wrong. Elsa is 11 years old; her three closest friends have black or brown skin; she knew exactly what was said, she knew exactly why it was wrong, and why we wouldn’t pretend we just hadn’t heard it.

I went back inside for my keys, then I can’t say, for sure, all that happened. I’ve never yelled at anyone before. I’ve spoken up — yes. But never yelled. (Except at home, when I’ve had good reason!) This was…this was like being outside of my body. I yelled at the person who’d said it, when she attempted to gloss it over: Everything’s fine…I didn’t mean it… I told her, loud and clear, that what she said was racist, that she doesn’t get to just ‘take it back,’ and what do the kids in this room think of it? Others yelled back — to lighten uptake a joke. If anyone disagreed with the men yelling at us, I wouldn’t know. They stayed silent.

I’ve never been part of a conflict like that. Those in the room may say I started that one. And in a way, I did. But I wouldn’t say I caused it.

In the aftermath, I had to ask myself some questions.

Do I regret it? No. I’ve been in this ugly position, in 2014, when I didn’t speak up. I was dead silent. That, I regretted. I’m certain that speaking up was the right thing to do because I haven’t lost any sleep over it this time.

How are my kids? I asked them. Immediately. As soon as we all got in the car. They were as shocked as we were. Shocked and disturbed and disappointed. We had one good conversation. It probably won’t be the last.

Could I have done better? Of course! (Don’t ask me how…but, yes. Absolutely.) My choices were fight, flight, or freeze — and, for once, I didn’t freeze. So it’s a step.

Is it over? I know this can’t be (shouldn’t be) swept under a rug. I know it requires constructive conversation (versus Why did you say that?! How could you think that was funny?!) If it’s going to happen, it’ll take time. Willingness. Vulnerability. Courage. Mutual curiosity. (Hard, that one…) When it comes to those things, I only have control over me. So, I guess the answer to that is I really don’t know.

In the last couple days, as this link-up loomed, I struggled. Why? Because this whole scenario is ugly. I can’t believe I’d be in a room where something like that would be said. But here we are.


Saturday morning I picked up a folder and this tiny slip of paper fell out. A quote of Sister Joan’s I’d printed, trimmed, and tucked away a few months ago:

Maybe I’m outgrowing the me who’s always been one to freeze.

Thanks for being here today. Thanks for coming along on this practice…to the high places…low…and everywhere in between.

I look forward to hearing where your word took you this month! Here’s that link again. xo

7 thoughts on “checking in {2.23}

Add yours

  1. Three cheers for you. For yelling , and not backing down. Evil happens when good people do nothing. Everyone in that room who heard the comment and your reaction can’t seriously be happy they thought it was OK. You have to call these things out. Well done you.


  2. I am proud of you for yelling, Carolyn. Even as someone who actively avoids conflict, I can recognize that sometimes it’s necessary. As long as we do nothing, the racism will continue. Also? I hope you notice how your kids reacted and felt proud of your parenting because of it.


  3. I love your asks this month! Such necessary delights when paired with your bravery against willful stupidity (the speaker and those who validated her)! You let your righteous anger shine… and got into some very good trouble! I am applauding your actions, your deeper dive with your children, and how you have processed all of this. My guess is that there was at least one person who was so happy that you spoke out and you might inspire them to do so the next time they are in a similar situation.



  4. oh wow, Carolyn, what a powerful story. I so appreciate how honest you are in this space. and on a fun note – can’t wait to see what you knit for Linc!!


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