Decking New Halls


I am finishing my coffee before my TO DO list for the day begins and I start prepping for my first holiday season in our new home. I have the food to cook for my little family tomorrow as we tamp down our Thanksgiving celebrations. But now comes the tidying, the cleaning, the preparing, and, after tomorrow, the decorating. I still do not have all the Christmas decorations that I could desire but I know that such stockpiles take time, as I am rebuilding them from scratch since the move.

It feels odd to be preparing to dress up a new house for the first time in twelve years. In our old little cottage–which, by the way, we signed the final sale paperwork for last night (big feels!)–I knew where all my decorations went. I knew how I liked things set up and where things had to go in my living room configuration. Nothing was huge or elaborate, but they were there, a constant reminder of stability. Our tree with its silver, blue, and white ornaments, spattered with sentimental ones, glowed in the living room, crowed with its silver star that Ben and Elizabeth put on together every year. It must be the absolute last thing on the tree. I had the same wreath with its silver and white ribbons and flowers for fourteen years. It had had multiple birds’ nests built into it in early springs and then cleaned out once the babies and parents had vacated. The little potted pre-lit tree (that had been our family Christmas tree while we had a cat and small baby) sat faithfully on the front porch, decorated with flowers, leaves, Easter eggs, etc., throughout the differing seasons by myself and my daughter. The silver stockings hung on their snowflake hangers from the dvd shelf, under the compilation frame of family photos and frame by fir branches with silver poinsettas. The nativity scene that my Erin brought back for me from Malawi was set up on the bookshelf, the camel I found at Levi Coffin Days (an almost-perfect match) tucked in amongst the wise men to complete the set.

This year, I will need to figure out just how things will fit in this new house with its new rooms and spaces. I know where the tree is going, and we have a “glowy star” this year, per my daughter’s request and choosing. I haven’t bought any stockings or hangers for the mantlepiece yet (I have a real actual mantlepiece, you guys!), though truly the only one whose stocking gets stuffed any more is my daughter. She has her new one for her door already picked out. Harry Potter, of course.

So this will be a year of starting new in more ways than one. I am trying not to think about not having “enough” to decorate my house this year. What I really want is for my home to be warm, welcoming, and soothing because this will be a holiday season that is already missing some very important people. So I want my home to be a place of uplifting, hygge, and comfort for those hard moments. I want that Christmas-y feeling. Not to avoid the hard moments necessarily but to help them perhaps be not quite so heavy.

I’m trying, dear ones, I really am. But Target is calling my name…

I Remember November


I am missing a lot this November. I don’t just mean our normal holiday plans being curtailed because of the pandemic. I missing my November school routine. I am in a new position and school this year, as you know, and I find myself missing the routines and traditions of my previous community.

Right around now, my students and I would have been finishing our drama reading of A Christmas Carol. We would have talked about empathy, kindness, self-isolation, social duty, being a part of the world instead of closing ourselves off from it. We would have put our discussions and my admonitions into action by collecting food for local families to give them a hearty Thanksgiving meal when they might not have the means to do so for themselves, students sitting in our very period having sometimes been the recipients of that generosity. It made an impact for my teenage heroes to know that their schoolmates, classmates, a person sitting next to them could either benefit or go without as a direct result of their action or inaction. It was their chance to be Scrooge, either his old self or the new.

Then, next week, right before Thanksgiving, we would all dress up, pack our lunches, and pile on the buses to head into downtown Indianapolis to watch this story brought to magical life on the stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre. It was the official start of the holiday season for many in our school, that trip to the theatre. I got to take my students, many of whom would not have been able to afford it otherwise, to one of the most beautiful theatres in the state to view professional and young actors alike bring to life characters into whom my own students had breathed over the past few weeks as we read the play aloud.

I miss that this year. I miss tearing up as I broke down Marley’s monologue for students, his regret, his remorse, his wish he had done more but was now powerless to do anything at all. I miss hearing the sniffles scattered throughout my classroom upon Tiny Tim’s death and his family’s grief. I miss clapping my hands on my hips with my best Cockney accent and bantering with the student playing Old Joe as one of the washerwomen pawning Scrooge’s belongings after his grim future death.

I miss talking to my students about love, compassion, gratitude, generosity, starting over, doing better, having courage, and being kind.

“But you can still do that!” voices around me cry.

Ostensibly that may be true, but, right now, in the world and schedules in which we live, it feels as though there is no time. No time to stray down these paths of social-emotional encouragement, wellness, and growth. No time–regardless of what we have been told to the contrary–to set aside the academics and teach my students was is true and good and most important in the world. While intentions may be good in telling us that academics can be set aside, that sure is not the way it feels to me as a teacher. The impetus and imperative to produce grades and results feel as heavy and insistent as ever.

I am trying to tie these important values and character practices in to what we are discussing now in my new classroom, when we connect our readings back to our first quarters’ themes of Values and Justice, courage, integrity, and equity. I am trying. I promise you, I am trying.

But it’s hard. The soil of many souls feels frozen, walled off, and protected in these difficult times. We are facing more illness, more death, and even more separation as the times of coming together draw nearer and nearer. It’s hard.

I miss November.

Come Rest Yourself


It’s been an exhausting year, hasn’t it, capped off by an even more exhausting week? We are not at the end yet but I can definitely attest to having let out a huge breath earlier this afternoon. Then I promptly dozed off in the overstuffed chair in which I sat, the background noise of conversation on the tv finally lulling me off.

Rest, though my goal for this year, has been extremely hard to come by. I thought I had struck a better balance with it during the winter and then again during the stay-at-home orders, but, ever since then, life has felt more frenetic, frantic, and fraught than ever. And the year isn’t over yet.

Thankfully, though, the election is. Yes, I know that there are processes and protocols left to complete, but, for now, it feels as though we can sit for a moment, place our swords and shield and bows one the ground beside us, and breathe.

I have set up the blanket fort (bigger on the inside, of course) and filled it with soothing, comforting things. Come rest yourself, dear ones. There is still work to be done but, for now, put your armor down and rest.

The Netflix Category We All Desperately Need


A few weeks ago, The Great British Baking Show returned to Netflix, and I sat down to figuratively devour new episodes and just bask in the “nice-ness” of it. If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may have run across my post For the Love of Sweet (Baked) Community where I detailed my love for GBBS and the impetus for that love, which is the sweet community they have built and maintain on GBBS. People being genuinely kind and encouraging and helpful to each other, never mind the fact that they are in competition, that just fills my softie Hufflepuff heart.

As I began to watch this new season of GBBS, I found myself crying and babbling soggily to my husband about how much I had missed this, how much I needed this, something this sweet and good and kind in a world that feels as though it’s constantly falling apart. It felt like the sweetest of steadying hugs in a time that is consistently leaving me wobbly.

“This is what the world needs!” I exclaimed, “Netflix should have a category JUST for shows like this!”

“Write it,” he replied matter-of-factly, Write up the listicle then. What shows would you put in that category? Write it.”

And while I am sure it has been done already, perhaps even many times, I think I shall.

Netflix, you are hereby on notice! I expect to see a category of this type populated with the loveliest of shows before this hellish year is over.

**Shows with Relatively Low Stakes Where People Make Beautiful/Delicious Things and are Genuinely Nice to Each Other.**

The Great British Baking Show – people making delicious baked goods; challenging their skills; encouraging and helping each other.

The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass – Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry: baking together for everyday and holidays, cute quips and delightful conversation; genuine friendship shining through.

Lords and Ladles – world class chefs and friends Derry Clarke, Catherine Fulvio, and Paul Flynn: sharing duties, learning about food and its relationship to history and different families, historical research and context to make a meal memorable.

Making It – hosted by real-life and on-screen friends Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec): DIYers come together to make gorgeous, imaginative homemade projects, helping and encouraging each other along the way with their creations, as well as being encouraged and cheered on by their genuinely kind and enthusiastic hosts.

Hollywood Game Night – hosted by Jane Lynch: a fun, silly 45 minutes with celebrities and their fans having ridiculous fun, snacks, and laughs, just like friends, at a raucous game night that would be the embarrassment of ever progeny (because you know how we adults can get).

The Voice – well-known vocal artists encouraging and coaching talented, brilliant new ones who, undoubtedly, leave the show better than they arrived; lots of cheering on, ego boosts, encouragement in growth, and emotional uplifts from both coaches and fellow team members.

Sarah and Duck – While this is not a “creative” show, per say, it is definitely one of my absolute favorite feel-good shows. Created by the BBC, little Sarah and her best friend Duck, accompanied by a caring Narrator, traipse through a beautiful animated world of diverse characters, problems to be solved, and simple, wonderful moments to be enjoyed. It is the ultimate quiet time show with soothing music and the sweetest scenarios.

This is just a handful of the shows that, over the past seven years, have made me incredibly happy and that can always bring a smile to my face. They have been blanket-forts of solace and comfort in the midst of the crazy of life, something that we all deeply and dearly need right now, as much as or even more than ever before.

So…what do you say, Netflix? Hook some happiness junkies up?

Not Black Enough for Magic


There are days when I look in the mirror and I am troubled by what I see, or, rather, by what I feel at what I see. My skin is the color of Cadbury’s milk chocolate where the sun hits it regularly; the skin hidden under my clothing is more caramel, though it looks like cafe au lait next to my arm. My daughter, when she was little, would pretend that I was chocolate and she was going to gobble me up. It has hit home for me, though–harder in recent years–that I have never felt “black enough”.

When I was little, I was teased by kids at school for my celebrity crushes: boys like Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”) and Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys). I was told that I wished I were white, the idea voiced for me as though it were a pronouncement handed down from the mount. I was thin as a rail growing up; I didn’t have a body built for curves until almost 30 years later. I have been relaxing my hair since I was twelve and have worn it this way for now twice as long as I had it natural. I like it, but, sometimes, I can keenly feel the lack of my “blackness” because I don’t proudly wear my hair natural and free or intricately, traditionally, or boldly styled. In my first classroom as a full-time teacher, I had several black students who were, as I overheard, quite excited to have a black teacher. The disappointment and even confusion on their face when I opened my mouth and started speaking, was starkly visible to me even though they may not have realized it. I can only hope it didn’t stick.

When “Black Panther” first came out, I scrolled through the joyous pictures of people attending screenings and premiers in all their traditional African finery. It was amazing and beautiful and triumphant. But, somewhere in the midst of it all, I beheld their glory and felt the worm in my heart that whispered, “This is not for me. I have no place here.”

I am a brown-skinned, American-born, full-blooded Caribbean woman from a melting-pot island where I never felt black enough for many of the people around me. Now I live in a place that demands the necessary acknowledgement that black lives matter. (Spoiler alert: we do!) But, again, that worm in the apple in there:

“None of this is for me, or maybe I am not for it. I’m not black enough for this to be for me.”

My curves don’t shine like midnight or my skin glow like dawn. My hair doesn’t surround me in a crown of ombre curls or fall like watered black silk over my shoulders. I haven’t had to power through discrimination and prejudice in my higher education or workplace world (at least not consciously or overtly) in order to be successful. I have lived the most privileged of lives of color, for which I am immensely grateful. In other words, however, I haven’t had to fight for every inch like so many have been forced to do.

There are days when I half-wish that I had no color to feel less than, days that I just don’t feel black enough for any of this black girl magic to belong to me.

But then my daughter says, upon hearing the book Brown Boy Joy read on Netflix’s Bookmarks series, “I wish there was a brown girl joy.”

And so I put my queen-mom heels on and trot out Black Girl Magic Sprinkles (Chaunetta Anderson and Trinity L. Anderson), Honeysmoke (Monique Fields), and Sulwe (Lupita Nyong’o) for my little mixed beauty. My little girl who calls her summery skin “tan”. My little girl who needs to know that all the magic is hers, all the dreams are hers for the taking. She wants to build robots and go to Mars. I want her to build the robots and rockets that will go and then accompany them to Mars.

I want my girl to work and strive and do her best and achieve all the amazing dreams she has. I am doing my best to teach her openness and love, that hard work is nothing to be feared, and that there is always something to be learned, ways in which we can be better. As Princess Shuri (the officially most brilliant mind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) admonished her kingly brother T’Challa, “How many times do I have to teach you? Just because something works, that does not mean it cannot be improved.”

I want my daughter to tap into her magic every day, to feel it in every way! I will nurture and defend her black girl magic and her right to it until my dying breath.

I may not feel black enough for my own magic, but I damn sure have enough for my daughter and any other black, brown, or mixed kiddo who may walk through my door. I will fight tooth and nail for their magic even though and while I may be iffy about my own. It’s complicated and called being human, I guess.

The Struggle With Moving Staircases


One of the many amazing things that Harry Potter discovers upon his first night at Hogwarts is that the staircases move! Yes, indeed, the staircases throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry move seemingly of their own accord (a trait which appears to have been built into the very walls of that castle). This is stated to be quite disconcerting, not to mention disruptive to important plans, such as getting to class on time. How on earth is one supposed to climb a staircase that is moving?

That is where I am in this moment, Dear Readers: trying to climb a staircase that is constantly moving and thus changing my direction and destination. I do not doubt that your current state of life is much the same. Change is always weird for me but, right now, for this mom and teacher, the shift is downright unsteadying. It is unsettling when a dear one can ask me, “How is school planning going?” twice in the same hour and the answer can be different from one end of the hour to the other, because something somewhere has changed in that short space of time. Something that upsets the whole balance of everything I have hitherto planned or worked on. But this is the new reality of our world, isn’t it? A world of moving staircases, split-second changes, and necessary flexibility, adaptation, and improvisation. As a teacher, my experience with change is constant and never-ending; however, that does not in any way make it an easy thing. Nor, do I realize, is it easy for anyone else, and, I know, Dear Reader, that nothing is easy for you right now either.

You are navigating your own moving staircases of whether or not to send your child back to in-person classes or figuring out childcare or giving heartfelt reassurances if the decision has been taken out of your hands by circumstance. Believe me, I get you. I feel you, Dear Reader. All the staircases are moving on us, and we are being forced to hold on and figure out our way from our new starting point. But it will be okay.

No, it’s definitely not okay right now, I agree. We are not okay right now, absolutely. But it will be okay. We keep heroing on, you and me and everyone else out there. We hold on and hold fast as the staircase moves and then forge a way forward when it stops. The path may be halting, may be very stop-and-start for a while, but we will make it. We will get through it together. Again, while we are not in the same boat or even the same particular storm in some cases, we are still in the same ocean. We are still in this together, no matter how different our circumstances or our struggles. We can still reach out and find someone who hears us, feels us, and understands us and our struggles. We have each other. We are together, no matter how separate we may be.

I am not okay right now. I am unsteady; I am nervous; I am unsure as to what to do next, as the path changes almost daily. But I will keep moving forward. You may not be okay right now, Dear Reader, and that is totally valid. You are not alone in this. But it will be okay. We will be okay. Just as Harry had Ron and Hermione right there with him on the moving staircases of his life, so too will we keep moving forward, Dear Readers. Together.

When All You Want to Do is Run Away to Narnia…


12 July 2020

I have a Spare Oom in my new house. For those of you unfamiliar, Spare Oom is Mr. Tumnus’s mispronunciation of “spare room”, where Lucy Pevensie found the wardrobe that would take her and her siblings to the wondrous Narnia.

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?” – Mr. Tumnus, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

In our new home, Spare Oom is “my” room. It is supposed to be my office/guest room, though I have had a hard time verbally claiming it as my own. I have done so metaphorically with the bookshelves and their arrangement, but I have found myself, in other ways, tailoring it more to my mother’s tastes and aesthetic, as she will likely be the most consistent overnight guest we will have (should this pandemic ever abate and borders reopen). So I often catch myself referring to it as “Grandma’s/Marmee’s room” rather than my own. I am trying to train myself into the more middle-of-the-road name of Spare Oom, to which I have become attached because I have decorated it with the Narnia-themed art that one of my best friends, Courtney Pritchard, has created for me over the years.

Spare Oom is supposed to be somewhere I can get away to hide when I need to, supposed to be something that I have not had over the past few years: a space of my own. This particular day is the first time I am using it as such, seated in a corner with my faithful stuffed pupper friend Deborah by my side, and wishing that I escape through my own closet, just for a little while. Today, I am hiding from my little girl and what feels like her constant state of being upset with me. What made her angry today? The suggestion that I might need to go to the store and therefore take her with me because Ben is helping a friend move some plants.

I am the Breaker of Hearts. The Dampener of Dreams. The Ruiner of Lives. The Forcefeeding Warden. The Tower-Banishing Queen. The Woman Who Doesn’t Know ANYTHING.

“Mom” is an unenviable position to be in right now. At least it is for me. I am the person saying”no”. I am the one reminding her of washing hands, turning off lights, and putting things away. I am the person refusing to let her have chocolate right before bed. I am the person dragging her along on errands and chores while Ben is at work and thus ruining her day…or her life, whichever is worse. Nope. “Mom” is not the most fun position to be in right now. 

2020 has been a year of massive change, both obviously and surprisingly. From school closures to quarantine and isolation to distance learning to, finally, our then finding a new home, packing up, and moving an hour and a half away all in the space of a month. There has been change after change not only for us but also for our girl, I know. And change is hard. I am doing my best to help her process through it, which proves challenging at times when I have barely had time to process myself (as I am learning even right now). Still, it’s hard to feel constantly at odds with her. I am trying to pay attention to and temper my words, actions, and body language with her (as I know my big feelings bleed through at times, too). I want, above all things, to remind and reassure my little girl that she is safe with me. Often, though, the moment where I do constantly feel the bond between us is at bedtime, when, after prayers, a story, and a mug of warm milk, she wants me to sing to her and stay close until she falls asleep. It’s a sweet moment that I so very often wish I weren’t so tired during but am still thankful for.

While mothering is difficult (so very difficult!) right now, I know that giving up is not an option. Things are still very hard, the world is still unsteady, and the idea of normal activities (such as going back to school) is still scary. And if I am scared, then she might be as well. If my girl will have no other stability, no other rock in this environment, I am determined that she will have me. Even if I do need to disappear into Spare Oom for my own sanity from time to time.

Hold fast, dear friends. There are days when the hard will be insurmountable, and all we can do is hole up, hold fast, and try again tomorrow. That is okay. That is allowed. And you are still loved, rooted for, and believed in. Rest when you need to. Spare Oom is waiting.

Deborah the Faithful

The Times, They Are a Changin’


Hello, Dear Readers!

Please, do forgive my absence, but my little family has been in the midst of absolute upheaval, chaos, and undone-ment. That’s right: we were moving house! My husband Ben has been given a wonderful opportunity for full-time ministry so that means the Snyderhaus has up and moved. After a month of packing and prepping and sorting through our old house of 12 years (a task that reduced me to overwhelmed tears more than once), we are now officially ensconced in our new home, which is far beyond anything I ever envisioned. We have spent the last two nights here, the rest of our furniture arrived yesterday, and, this morning, my daughter and I sat at the table in our DINING ROOM and ate breakfast together. Then she went upstairs to her bedroom to play and my husband settled at the dining room to do some work, while I enjoyed my first cup of tea on the couch in my new house, with the blinds open on our NEW PATIO DOORS to look out on our deck and backyard.

Can you tell I am a touch excited? I (and, by extension, my anxiety) am actually allowing myself to be so, now that the major push is done. I have also found a new job and that alone is miraculous, never mind the gobsmacking circumstances that surround it. We still have the old house to finish cleaning out and cleaning up to get it ready to list, and I am ever so thankful for the resources and family/friends that are helping with that task. God has deeply provided and is truly wonderful! I pray that He will bless this house and all that come into and go out from it. May they leave better than they arrived.

Now, that is not to say that this first month won’t be challenging. It will. It absolutely will. I will be transtioning from one position to another, Ben will have just begun his new pastorship and all its responsibilities, and Elizabeth will be acclimating to life in a new city, neighborhood, and house. But I believe that God is good, that this is what He has planned for us, and that He will, as I have prayed so many times and continue to, be our meal and oil and provide what is needed. What we want can wait for a little while. God has provided what we need thus far, and so I believe He will not let us down now.

Again, thank you for your patience, Dear Ones. I appreciate your encouragement, your support, and the Love that shines from you. You are what this world needs. Let us continue to show up, show Love, and do what is needed.

Hero on, Dear Ones!

I PROTEST!


Never fail. I protest this racism against brown and black and native bodies. I protest this brutality that takes life. That harms minds and souls. That makes widows, widowers, and orphans. I protest this injustice. I may not be able to do much but you will hear me.

I PROTEST!

Last night, I read Henry’s Freedom Box to my mixed-race daughter, the true story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom after his wife and children had been sold away. I stopped and explained to her as we read, and I saw her little face crumple a few times. She even hid under her blanket when Henry’s wife and children were taken from the marketplace.

When the story was done, she asked questions, including this one: “What if there was a villain with every power in the world, even some that haven’t been created yet, and they tried to take me away like that? What would you do?” I told her that I would fight. That WE would fight, in every way we could, because we will ALWAYS stand for what is right. Whether we do it by marching, speaking, writing, feeding, kneeling, helping, it doesn’t matter so long as we stand for what is right and against what is wrong.

I PROTEST!

I told her what happened to George Floyd, what has happened to so many, and what is happening in the world right now as a result. That, together, we are saying, “This. Must. Stop.”

I PROTEST!

Choosing Again


My head ached and my stomach roiled as I looked over the papers the other night: the lease for what we had been dearly hoping would become our new home. This was the next step in a new chapter for our little family, and I felt as though all my sense and surety had fled and failed me. All my certainty seemed to wobble underneath me, all that I was sure of before lost in a haze of “I don’t know,” and “Is this right?”

During a recent bedtime, our daughter told us that she believed God had told her that the house (over whose lease I was now laboring) was perfect for us. Honestly, we all thought so and had prayed and hoped deeply that our application might be approved. Then it was and now there I sat, suddenly questioning the last two weeks of my life and every decision made therein. It has been twelve years since we rented a home; was this lease fair? Where would the extra money come from for all this if something went wrong? What if no schools accepted my job applications? Was this indeed the next right thing, the right choice for our family? Now, we do believe that our little girl did indeed hear God’s voice in her heart, that she did hear Him answer her silent question of a new home.  Yet, here I was: feeling sick to my stomach with uncertainty.

Needing a minute to clear my head, I sat down with a box of encouragement cards that a friend had given me, and this is the one I pulled out of the stack:

I had made an old choice, and I had chosen wrongly. I had chosen an old frenemy: fear. It has stood between me and the new many times before, and I have missed much through its uncertainty. And, though I believe in this next chapter for our family, I had chosen fear again and it had made itself uncomfortable in my belly.

I need to choose again.

I want to choose again.

I will choose again.

This time, I choose love.

When I say that, I do not necessarily mean that I am choosing love for others, though that is always a good (and a God) thing. What I mean by choosing love is that I am choosing God’s love for me. His love which means He has a plan for me, a plan for my good and to prosper my future. I do not want to choose fear and let it paralyze me again. I want to choose and believe in God’s love for me, no matter how nervous I may feel about the big changes coming our way. I want to continually choose God’s love for me and have faith that He will open the necessary doors and that all will work out. 

One thing is for absolutely certain: God has never failed me yet. I choose to believe that He will not start now.