"Give Love" Annabel's sign read for the march we attended last week. Those are glitter-covered bunny ears on her sign, for no other reason than glitter covered bunny ears belong wherever you can find a place for them, right? Why not. This photo was taken about twenty minutes after that sweet thing projectile vomited all over the van and everyone in it (welcome to America and our family, sweet exchange student, Lou!), just as we were about to find a parking spot at city hall before the speeches began. The poor thing gets carsick sometimes, not terribly often, but sometimes. Perfectly healthy and fine one moment, telling a story as she always is (though she did say her neck hurt, and that's all the warning we had), and perfectly fine and healthy the moment after. But with passion (as all things Ani are done), she was ill for a very messy and chaotic 30 seconds. I hustled to the nearest store - handing the eldest kid in the car some money and directing him to get everyone out of the car and get them a snack, while I proceeded to rapid fire clean the van, dress her with the bits and pieces of clothing I could scrounge from the car, while she talked the entire time about how funny the whole situation was. Funny, sure. A gross mess, yes!
We're doing a lot of different mess-making these days, with missteps and fumbling along the way on the path of learning and growing. Surely in literal ways as I think we always do - making messes and learning by trial and error and not being afraid of making mistakes is fundamental to what I want my children (and myself) to feel when we explore our creativity. Mistakes are how we get to the good stuff. It's how we grow. But there are also messes in the larger context as we - the adults steering this family ship - figure out what our role is in the wider world and how to proceed with that in changing times, in a way different from a year ago. How much information do we share with our littles, while still protecting their innocence and keeping them free from burdens too big for them to carry? These white, privileged children who must grow up, I believe, to pay attention. But when? Perhaps that one protest with agitated counter protesters aggressively in the crowd and in my teens' face....yes, perhaps bringing everyone to that particular one was a misstep. We learn. We find new and different ways to make a difference, no matter our age. We keep seeking ways to balance it all and hope that most of all, we're modeling the kind of adult responsibility and presence we hope for them to carry. That, too, is full of missteps that I know so many of you, and my friends, are facing as well - as we juggle the reality of running a small business with speaking your truth in these days of "unfollow" and hostility (read I Am More Than My Pretty Pictures by Lisa Congdon). As we, with an audience, speak out and make mistakes in our words, in very public ways. These are messy things. Or as I waffle with keeping this space open, inclusive, loving, safe and kind for all, whether we agree about things or not - while also acknowledging and speaking about the very reality that our world is not inclusive, loving, safe and kind for all...and that I think it's our job to do something about that. All while I most deeply believe that we must work hard to simultaneously focus on the joy of everyday living, and the beauty in small moments. All of that. It's messy to figure out.
Oh, but then I go back to Ani. Give Love. She was certain those were her protest words from the very beginning and she stuck by them, holding her sign up high and hanging it in her bedroom upon returning home. Yes, yes, yes. There is always that over everything else. Let us open our mouths, let us explore our creativity, let us live out loud. When the mistakes and the messes happen, let's learn and grow. And always, give love.