Becca Wilhite Blog

December 4, 2017

Seriously? We’re still talking about this? (Hint: Yes.)

Filed under: body image,gratitude,rambles — becca @ 6:44 am

One of the plights of middle agedness among lo, these many plights, is this thing about the aging body. I am well and strong and very healthy, but according to every published measure and my health insurance, I weigh some pounds too many. I feel like I’ve talked about this way too much over the past decade, but it’s a THING, and things are on my mind.

Now that I’m in the middle of my 40s, I find myself trying to balance the desires of my emotional health (let’s just call it what it is: butterfat in the form of actual butter, or ice cream, or pretty much anything made with cream) with the desires of physical health. And what I’m seeing in my life, in my searching, in the published world around me, is that health = thinness. Seventy million people are currently fighting against this exact equation, but you know what? It’s still an equal sign over there.

So I think about it, and I exercise in ways that don’t inconvenience me too much, and I make food plans, and I seek ways to increase my strength, because really? I want to be strong. Not like deadlift my own weight or anything, just the kind of strong that means I can play and overcome and thrive. And I really want to be firm — at least not soggy. So. Yoga. At least 10,000 steps a day. Online cardio twice a week (that means do the workout, recover enough to walk down the stairs without wincing, do it again). Drink all the water. And then? When the family has ice cream for dessert? Have some. Be part of the celebration of deliciousness.

And glory in the fact that I’ve made it this far, healthy and strong.

December 1, 2017

December

Filed under: anxiety,gratitude — becca @ 2:02 pm

It’s here. I’ve been waiting for WEEKS for this. November was not my favorite thing. There’s not a giant reason that it’s so, but it’s so. And there’s not a specific Wonderfulness I’m looking forward to this month, although I love Christmas and its attendant break from school. Mostly today I love December because it’s not November.

June 26, 2017

Naaman and Me

Filed under: gratitude,help,metaphors,motivation — becca @ 7:47 am

Yesterday in church, a discussion about Naaman caused me to rethink my thoughts about my relationship with God. (I thought I’d just put that right out there at the front, in case you’re here looking for food. There’s no food here today.)

So. Naaman. He’s a great general and a good guy and a leper. One of his servants tells him he can be healed if he goes to see Elisha the prophet. He goes. And Elisha sends a servant to the door, who tells Naaman to have a bath in the river. Naaman is ticked, and his brave and loving servants ask him, “If you’d been told to do something huge, wouldn’t you do it?” (My quotes, not the Bible’s.)

In my congregation, we often talk about this story this way: when the answers are simple (like, go pray more and read more and serve more and do the work you’ve already been asked to do), we revolt, wishing for something that feels somehow More. Bigger. Important-er.

When I hear this story, I say, “Yeah, Naaman. I get you.” And for me, it’s got nothing to do with doing something big.

It has everything to do with who came to the door.

When I pray and beg and plead and gnash my teeth about something that I’m pretty sure God wants me to have anyway, I don’t want to be told to do something bigger or harder. No thank you. The point of my prayer is generally that I’m already doing something harder. No. Not bigger. I just want it to be personal.

I want Him to come to the door Himself. I want to feel heard.

Read the scriptures, I hear. And I respond. Yes. I’m doing that. And I’ve done it. So, so many times. I KNOW these books. It’s a simple thing. But here’s the un-simple part: When I actually do it right, read it with my heart open, I learn to speak God’s language. And when I speak to Him in His language, He answers me in MY language. When that happens, even when the answer is to go ahead and do one of those simple things, I feel more heard. And capable of carrying on. In the times that happens, it’s Enough.

So if I ask for help and my answer is pray more or serve more or go dunk in the river seven times, it’s my job to discover the Voice behind the answer. To find the connection that makes it personal. So I’ll be able, willing, capable of saying, “Okay. I can do that.”

That’s when the miracles happen.

August 4, 2016

Unanswerable

Filed under: gratitude,history — becca @ 7:05 am

Dear Friend,

Letters are the only way I can talk to you now. For six months I’ve tried to write about you, about what you have meant to me all the years of my life since I was seven. I’ve tried to write about your illness. Your cancer was such a bully. I don’t know how to say what it meant to watch you fight it like a warrior. How I felt like a coward for keeping my distance, even though I know that this kind of fight (especially for you) needs a little space. I’ve tried to write about your gifts, your character, your talents. I know you hate it when I talk like this, but I don’t even know where to start. You are one of the only people I ever knew who was universally liked. Who was good at everything. Who balanced so well.

I wrote you a letter the night I came home from your viewing, and it was a jumble of nonsense. I couldn’t say – even through my fingers – any of the things that I meant. I certainly couldn’t say them to your kids that night. Or your husband, who stood for hours, tender and loving and strong, hearing the awkward condolences of literally hundreds of well-intentioned but human people. Raw grief is so messy, and when we offer it up, it has to transfer heart to heart. The words-to-ears grief never translates quite right. That night I could only think that you didn’t look like you because you weren’t smiling with your teeth. That’s how I always see you in my heart – those perfect teeth showing when you laugh.

You’ve been appearing in my dreams for the last few weeks. You show up unannounced and sit on the couch or help me chop onions in the kitchen or take a seat in the car. You brighten the dream world like you did the real one. You slip in naturally. You fit. You laugh and show all your teeth. I wake up in a combination of sadness and joy, and that’s what life is made of.

I want to tell your story, because it’s the way for me to tell my story. You are etched into my history and onto my heart. I want to tell about “meeting half way” on our bikes, but I (almost) never left as quickly as you did, and you (almost) always had to ride the long half. I want to tell about you playing violin and me singing with you or (once) accompanying you on the piano – and how even when we were small, I knew you had a great gift. I want to tell about baking and decorating dozens of bright colored cakes. I don’t do that anymore. But we spent days and days and days over the years practicing and eating and laughing.

I want to tell how you were my touchstone through my growing and grown years. How you ground me to my past and believe in my possibilities. How you gasped with joy when I drove the long way home from the publisher so I could bring you the first copy of my book. Twice. How you’re the one I called in the middle of the night when my mom died. How you called me in those months you were home sick to ask for reading recommendations. I’m so glad you got to meet Scout and Atticus and read “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “The Book Thief” before you were finished here. How even though you loved to learn, the whole reading-fiction-for-pleasure wasn’t so much your thing until you decided it should be and then you asked me. I felt like I was sitting with you and we were sharing the open-mouth dazzle of Zora’s prose. And sobbing together at that second-last chapter of Book Thief. Oh, Rudy.

And I had no idea that you were living your last month. When we went for that three-hour breakfast with M and M over Christmas break, I’m not going to lie – you looked tired. But you felt so good. Remember? You said that you were a little afraid they’d make you go back to work soon. And on the way home, I said a long prayer. And I asked God to not make you go back to work.

And then.

And then.

It happened. I got a text. It said that probably I should get over there. And I came in my sweats and I sat in your bed with you and I listened to you and I whispered answers to your questions and I still hoped that it wasn’t the last time. And we told each other things we already knew. Good, important, best things. You offered to carry a message to my mom. And we cried tears and we held hands like we never used to do because your boundaries came right down. I saw your soul and you saw mine and we were together in a minute of eternity.

And I still can’t imagine writing about you in any way that does you justice. You were the best of us. You are the best of us.

I miss you, friend.

Love, Becca

June 8, 2016

It’s Summer, Don’t You Know.

Filed under: gratitude,recommendation,school — becca @ 8:58 am

School has ended for the year. (*Whew*)

It was a great year. Moments were long. Months were short. At the end of every year, I have a tradition (all three years of my professional teaching life – I’m such a hack) of giving a “What Every Boy Needs To Know about Being a Man” speech.

As an English teacher, I have the privilege of teaching about Feminist Literary Theory. Every kid who comes through my classes can tell you that means looking at gender in stories, poetry, plays, and novels and asking “What does the gender of the character have to do with the outcome? With the attitudes of others? With the tone?” Therefore, every kid who heard my “What Every Boy Needs to Know about Being a Man” speech knew that Boy and Man are non-gender-specific. It’s just a great title (which I stole from Secondhand Lions).

Here is the short version of the speech:

Wilhite’s “What Every Boy Needs to Know about Being a Man” Speech, Version 2016

  1. You will not regret the actions that are prompted by kindness.
  2. We teach people how to treat us.
  3. The proper response to a compliment is eye contact and “thank you.”
  4. Everyone is going through something.
  5. Your stories matter.
  6. You have unlimited capacity for excellence.

Those who wanted to took home the preceding notes of the short version. The long version explained the short version. Such as, #1 — you may very well regret the consequences of all kinds of things, but the action? The kindness-based Thing you did? You shouldn’t have reason to regret the Thing.

And #2 — when you smile or growl, respond, react, or stand up for yourself, you’re teaching others how to behave toward you. I’m not always comfortable with that. Some people that I know treat me without any semblance of respect. But I recognize that I allow that to happen.  There’s a lot of power in that understanding.

#3 went on for a while (surprise!), talking about how eye contact is a magnet for connection, and how when we “nahhh” at a compliment, we’re really saying, “you’re wrong,” and nobody every really wants to hear that.

#4 is mysterious and surprising to a whole lot of high school students, but once their eyes are open to the possibility that it’s true, they get a bit more empathetic.

5 is big in my creative writing classes, but also in my English classes — and for everyone. Tell your story. Speak your words.

The last one is a thing I’ve been working on a lot — developing and nurturing growth mindsets. It’s cool. And hard. But I can do things that are hard. (See? I’m already doing it.) Something I say at school (kind of a lot) is “I believe you can succeed in whatever you’re willing to work really hard for.” It’s interesting that some kids “succeed” in school without trying very hard, while others stretch and work and push to be moderate students. I want to redefine success for these “others” — to celebrate the B that came after serious revision and thought and fingers-to-keyboard time.

——

One of my students asked permission to post my list (made cute by her skills) on Pinterest. I smiled and said of course. I didn’t mention that I will never, ever see it there. I’m afraid of Pinterest. It has a tendency to allow me to feel bad about myself. So I stay away. Instead, I surround myself with happy-making things like delicious foods and good books and nice people and the sun and long walks up tall mountains.

And now the summer happens. Busy or lazy, full or quiet, hands on keyboards or turning pages of someone else’s books… I’m happy today.

October 12, 2015

Making the Time

Filed under: character,familyness,gratitude,writing — becca @ 6:43 am

I’ve been learning. Studying about creativity at the feet of those who make it their mission to permit the rest of us to drink at the wells of creation. It’s a seriously joyful experience. (Want to try it? Watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s remarkable TED talk, here. Listen to her “Big Magic” podcast. Immerse yourself in all that is Brene Brown.)

Here’s a thing that struck me this week. And I’m paraphrasing – so these are not original thoughts, but they are my words: That painting that astounds me went onto the canvas one brushstroke after another. The book I love was written one hour at a time. The song I can’t get out of my head was composed over a series of stolen hours.

I have hours. Maybe not more than one in a row that I can dedicate to creative pursuits, but one hour at a time, I can write a novel. And I have. And I am. The words don’t pour out of me resulting in a workable draft in a week or two (but hey, if that works for you WAY TO GO). The words trickle. They pile up slowly. But the point is, they do pile up. Day after day, when I give myself permission to sit at my tiny desk and put down three hundred or five hundred or a thousand words, the story grows.

And when I give myself that permission, I find myself unbound from guilt or regret that seems to hound me when I ignore my creative self in favor of more focus on work or cleaner bathrooms. I’m a cooking pot sitting on three stones over the fire – if I remove one of my stones (family or work or creativity) my pot will tumble into the fire, douse the flame, and ruin dinner.

I am learning balance and I really like it.

April 2, 2015

Judgment

Filed under: character,gratitude — becca @ 7:37 am

So I had occasion this week to take a group of students to be judged.

They are our school’s Sterling Scholars, a designation that implies excellence in scholastic endeavors and a focus in a particular category. These kids have spent the past six months working on educational portfolios full of 500-word essays. They’ve bought suits. They’ve practiced interviewing, and – depending on category – performance pieces. They’ve worked hard, is what I’m telling you.

Tuesday we took a (long) bus ride to the interview site and they met their judges. I couldn’t enter any of the rooms, obviously, but as I met with the kids to debrief after their interviews, I saw a definite pattern emerge: The kids felt good about the idea of the interview – they were prepared. Then, right before their time, they started to grow nervous – the chatterers grew silent, the calm ones got fidgety. They cheered/hugged/high-fived each other and sent the interviewee on his way, and when the time was over, they watched the door for the return of their friend.

Almost every kid came back from the interview and said, “That was awesome! They asked great questions. They were so nice.”

They were so nice.

The judges – educators and category professionals – were nice to my kids. For a nerve-wracking fifteen minutes, these adults made my kids feel like winners. They celebrated their successes. They nudged for further greatness. They sought reasons to be impressed.

Oh, that I would be such a judge.

When called upon to judge (and especially, when NOT called upon to judge) I hope I can remember this feeling – the gratitude I have for those men and women who gave freely of their time to encourage, to celebrate, and to congratulate. I hope I can emulate their goodness.

March 11, 2015

Open Letter to the High School Kid who Played Ball with my Boy

Filed under: character,gratitude,kids — becca @ 10:18 am

Thank you. I’m not talking to the You who was my student, or the You who is a poet. Right now I’m talking to the You my boy watches at the varsity basketball games. The You who makes effortless three-pointers. The You who smiles and congratulates other players who play well – on your team or the other. The You who calls little kids by their names, like they were your friends.

Last night you played basketball with my eleven-year-old son. You spent time with him, there at the Rec Center. You shot free throws with him. You dribbled with him. You complimented his efforts. And then you played one-on-one. You stood feet taller than him, but you didn’t laugh when he reached to block your shots – when his upraised hand didn’t even reach the top of your head. You held your arms out to “block” him, but you never got in the way of his shot. You celebrated his baskets. You kept score out loud – the score that stayed pretty close despite your vast skill difference. He won. He got to 30 before you. Do you have any idea what that meant to him? To me?

When we left and I asked him if he had fun, he grinned at me. Obviously. I asked him how much you spotted him. He didn’t know what I meant. “How many points did you start with?” I clarified.

“Oh, no, Mom. I didn’t get any free points, but I think he went easy on me.” (No kidding.)

You gave him your time. He felt important. And cool. And so, so grateful.

And I feel grateful. I thanked you when we left, but what I wanted to say is, “Way to go. Way to be a genuinely decent guy. Way to make someone’s day. Way to give a little of yourself to increase the gladness in someone else’s world.” So I’m saying it now. Thank you.

That hour you spent with my kid may not be anything you’ll ever remember, and it may not be an hour you’ll miss. But it will be a forever memory for him. And hopefully, when he’s a graduating senior and he meets a fifth grade kid who thinks he’s cool, he’ll remember what you did for him last night and pass it on. He’ll take a little of what he learned from you to increase the gladness in someone else’s world. He’ll pay it forward and he’ll think of you.

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