shooting arrows

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth."
(Psalm 127:4)

These arrows - one for each child - were sketched by my artist friend Melissa and adapted by my tattoo artist D-May. One thing I've always loved about the comparison of children to arrows is that we are meant to be raising them to shoot out into the world, not just coddle them close. I don't know where they'll each land, if they land at all, but I'm so full of hope when I see the amazing people they already are.

Speaking of hope, I ran into a mom friend at the elementary school this morning. She hadn't seen me in a while, and - with the piercings and haircut and tattoos and darker lipstick - she almost didn't recognize me. "I love all of it," she said, "but what is this?" I gave an answer that was partly true, but I've been thinking about it more. I didn't tell the full story, the one of hope and of shooting into the world myself.

Here's what I would say if she asked again: "This is me. I've stopped trying to fit where I was never meant to fit." 

I'm not angry or bitter about the places or views that I've outgrown (or, more likely, that I've finally admitted were never my size and shape in the first place), and I'm thankful some dear friends find rest and joy and hope in the spaces where I never did. You're probably trying to read into this and guess what I'm talking about... politics? church? theology? my family? The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes (though the family piece has nothing to do with my now family. That change has been a matter of revoking permission for abusive behavior from many members of my family of origin. This is not about Lee and the kids, never about Lee and the kids. I have never felt like I fit anywhere as well as I do with my loves). 

The reality is that my outside self is starting to match my inside self. Just like I reclaimed Christmas, I'm reclaiming myself. For those of you who've known me for a while, I know some of these changes may feel disorienting to you. I recognize that, but I'm not sorry for it. I'm still the Shannon you know and love; I'm just not holding back or trying to please everyone else but me and my God. 

Now that I think about it, this past year or so has been a launching of my own arrow. I'm not sure I've landed yet, and I'm okay with that. Maybe we aren't really meant to land, as we never complete the process of growing and changing and developing and learning and becoming all who we were created to be.

I know this, though: For the first time in my entire life, I love me. I've always shown care to others while hating myself in secret. Some of that self-loathing was the internalizing of others' harmful words into my own inner voice, some of it came from living in a culture that regularly devalues women, and some of it came from my own sense of never feeling like I was enough

Maybe you feel that way too. Maybe it's time to stop holding back your arrow and instead fly in faith into the unknown of all that God has in store for you when you're no longer worshiping the idol of who you think you're supposed to be.

Maybe this is your day to fly.

be loved, beloved, and be love

Hate seems really loud in the world lately, doesn't it?

I want to give up some days. I want to say enough already. I want to curl up and close my eyes to it all.

I need to turn my face toward the light, toward the sun, toward the love. 

my prayer:

that all might be loved,

rest in the truth that we are each beloved,

and in turn be compelled to be love

so that all might be loved

and keep the cycle going...

It's one way I sum up For God so loved... and we love because he first loved us and do everything in love and but the greatest of these is love

In short, I'm naive and hopeful and full of just enough faith to believe love can truly change the world.

(And I'm not saying this in response to anything political lately, nor are the pictures below a reaction to that noise. I do find the timing to be, well, timely, but I have had this planned and scheduled for a while.)

Be loved,



and then go and be love

For me, believing I am loved and beloved is a daily challenge, so there's another twist in this. Those black words? They're in my husband's handwriting. God first showed me how loved and beloved I am through this imperfectly perfect man who has loved me well for 16 years. 

And, yes, it hurt, and it's swollen. But it's less pain than any of my piercings, honestly. To me, body art is a beautiful form of art, and any good art has a price. Some people are willing and able to pay up, and others aren't, and that's totally fine. For me, this price was genuinely worth paying.

(And some of you know that I was considering dermal piercings to mark Taiwan, Uganda, and USA on the map, signifying where our kids were born, but I've nixed that idea because I love love love the look without that.)

Last year when I got my enough tattoo, I chose to make it small so that I could hide it under a band-aid at times. That was what suited me then. But now I'm much more comfortable in my skin, with my art, in myself, no matter what others might think of this decision or others. I know who God has made me to be, and my purpose is so much more than to please those in the cheap seats or all the critics.

And so is yours.

So, friends, go and 

be loved,


and be love.


Senator Burr, sir, please bid good day to Betsy DeVos

Senator Burr, sir, my name is Shannon Dingle, and you represent me. I live in Raleigh, NC. You represent my husband and six children, who you'll see pictured throughout this post. You also represent the hundreds of other North Carolina residents who voiced their opinion on your recent (and now deleted) Facebook post expressing support for Betsy DeVos's nomination to the position of Secretary of Education.

I'm a former public school teacher. Before I stood before my first class of students, I knew plenty regarding the significant debate about growth vs. proficiency. (Actually, I gave a speech to my high school's National Honor Society about the issues there, after our school was given a low grade by the state despite serving many students who arrived with below-grade proficiency in all subjects.) I've only seen that conversation grow louder since then. This is Education 101. Or maybe it's better described as a prerequisite for a 101 class. But Betsy DeVos clearly didn't know even the Cliff's Notes version of that central issue, based on her confusion during the nomination hearing. This shows she wasn't even willing to listen to or read a basic briefing on the issues related to the position she's seeking.

I have a Master's in Education, specializing in autism and learninig disabilities. Even before I took a single class, though, I knew about the federal law IDEA that guarantees a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities. It's a cornerstone piece of legislation. My students were able to be in public schools because of this necessary law. Betsy DeVos didn't know what IDEA was, didn't know it was a federal law, and admitted herself that she didn't understand basic questions about it during her hearing. 

I'm the mother to six children in NC public schools. I keep hearing - from several folks in DC, including President Trump and Mrs. DeVos - that public schools don't work, that they're irreparably broken. Could you sit across from the fine teachers and administrators in our state and criticize their work to their faces? Because that's what you're saying when you buy into this rhetoric. I'm the product of public schools in Florida and North Carolina, and my husband is the product of the same in New Jersey, Ohio, and North Carolina. You'll be receiving a letter from my 10-year-old daughter in 4th grade soon, because she wants you to know how excellent her public school experiences have been in your state. Maybe we should send a copy to Mrs. DeVos as well.      

Two of our children have disabilities, one receives ESL services, and another is served via the gifted and talented program. When leaders like Mrs. DeVos talk about school funding, they begin at the premise that every state and district has an average price per pupil spending. This is true, and the figure is used to compare student costs across different contexts. In reality, though, these averages are just that: averages. Some kids cost less to education while others cost more, sometimes significantly more. For example:

  • Two of our children receive no extra services at school; their cost of education is much lower than average.
  • Meanwhile, one of our children is served through gifted and talented programming and another through ESL and intervention programs. Those students require - per federal law - educational specialists in each area, which requires additional funds from the district for their education. That cost is distributed across all the students served by that program in their school, but it still increases their actual price per student expenditure.
  • And then we get to our daughter in a Title 1 preschool where she receives special education services. Beyond the Title 1 funding, she gets speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy at school, each 1-2 times a week. On top of that, her support needs require a one-on-one aide to allow her to access the education she deserves, per federal law. In other words, her actual price per pupil cost includes Title 1 funding, parts of the salaries for three different therapists, and the entire salary for a teacher's assistant whose job is to be her aide. Obviously, this means her education costs significantly more than her siblings or most other students in the school or district.

During her truncated hearing in which questions were limited, Betsy DeVos shared that she had no experience as a public school student, parent, or educator. None of her answers or body of work before now have shown that she understands the funding structures for traditional public schools. 

Vouchers are harmful for vulnerable students. Most voucher proponents, like DeVos, act as if the cost per pupil spending in our district applies to all of my children equally, as if we can say the price per pupil in our district is exactly what it costs to educate Jocelyn, Patience, Philip, Robbie, Patricia, and Zoe Dingle. That's clearly not true, given what I shared above.

What is reality, though, is that vulnerable students lose educational services when funding is diverted to private schools, the majority of which are religious in nature. These schools aren't required to accept several of my children. Funds used to educate my children and other children in need of exceptional services leave the school while my children aren't able to go elsewhere. The education of the children demonstrating highest need suffers in this set-up. Mrs. DeVos's definition of school choice means only some students get a choice while others don't. All of her educational efforts have been toward for-profit privatization rather than student-serving public service.

(What about charter schools? Well, it's worth noting that the DeVoses only shifted to charter schools after they invested $5.8 million in a failed attempt to implement a state-wide voucher system in Michigan, which concerns me about allowing her to have any control over federal education funds. After that failure, then the charter attempts led by Mrs. DeVos in Detroit were even worse. The only other district to intensely invest in charter schools - New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina - has largely excelled, so I'm not saying that charters are always bad, even on a large scale. I've observed both success and failure in them. In the interests of full disclosure, I served as a special education consultant in the planning stages for New Orleans's charter program. Choosing a leader from that program or another program with similar successes wouldn't have raised eyebrows for me, because students are being served well, for the most part, there. But it makes no sense whatsoever to choose such a failed voucher and charter school leader as Mrs. DeVos to implement plans for either at the federal level.)   


My husband and I attended public universities in North Carolina. Lee graduated with a BS in civil engineering from NC State in 2004. I graduated with a BA in Communication Studies at UNC in 2003 and a MAEd in Special Education from ECU in 2009. We both benefited greatly from our college and graduate school educations in the public system in our state. Hearing Mrs. DeVos share her lack of experience with public post-secondary schooling concerned me during the hearings.

I have student debt. I was an out of state student at Carolina. As I'm sure you know, the costs are much higher in that situation. I chose to graduate in three years from UNC because tuition increases were making it financially difficult, but I still left with student loans. I am down to about $5000 in loans and will be paying that off soon. Most graduates in our state carry much high loan amounts than I do. When questioned during confirmation hearings, Mrs. DeVos admitted she had no experience with student debt, even among close friends. I don't see how she can impact needed changes there with so few qualifications and so little experience. 


I am the survivor of rape and sexual assault. Like a substantial minority of women, I know what it's like to have my body claimed by another in tragic ways. I know what it's like to have someone painfully enter my body without my permission. I know what it's like to bleed and bruise and cry and have nightmares because body parts that should be sacred were violated in criminal and cruel ways. If you've been following the news over the past several years, you know that sexual assaults on college campuses are a serious problem. Many universities have failed in their handling of such crimes. When Mrs. DeVos declined to say if she would enforce Title IX provisions regarding campus sexual assaults, I wanted to throw up. I don't ever want other women to experience what I did, but if they do, I want every support to be in place to help them afterward.   

I've personally experienced gun violence. No, not from a grizzly bear, like Mrs. DeVos suggested. I won't go into specifics, but I remember that terror. I know that guns in the hands of good guys aren't always used for good purposes. Furthermore, even here in my county, armed safety officers in our schools can make schools less safe. And I know as a teacher I was already bearing more tasks and responsibilities than I signed on for, so being in a workplace with guns or carrying one myself? No, thank you. (Also, I was sexually harassed and threatened by an administrator in my first school, so arming any of them would have made me quit, even though I loved teaching and our school was already understaffed.) Betsy DeVos's answer to the question about guns in schools was ignorant at best; in the past four years, we've had 210 documented attacks by those with guns in schools and zero by grizzly bears. Furthermore, wildlife experts say bear spray is a better safeguard against such hypothetical and improbable attacks than guns would be. 

I could share more concerns, but I think this should be more than enough to give you pause. I'd like to remind you that you represent the families of the 1.46 million public school students in North Carolina, including 169,000 (12.6%) served special education and 97,000+ (6.5%) served by ESL. I'd also like to remind you that federal funding for teachers in the form of grants and loan forgiveness is important, which should interest you because any bit helps in a state that ranks 41st in teacher pay like North Carolina does. You represent those teachers too. You also represent the 55% of college graduates in our state who have student loan debt. 

You'll be up for election again in 2022. If you choose not to represent me and my family, I'll campaign in every way I can for whoever runs against you. If no one else steps up, I will run against you, because all families - especially those who are most vulnerable - need to have a voice in DC. So far this term, it seems like you're speaking for your big donor DeVos instead of your constituents. (Given that she has donated more than $40,000 to you over the past four years, if you can't vote against her, please recuse yourself because of the conflict of interest this creates for you.)

Please, Senator Burr, sir, do the right thing and oppose the nomination of DeVos as Secretary of Education. Some of my children and I would love to meet with you in person, either here in North Carolina or there in DC, to share these concerns and our heart with you directly. I apologize that I can't offer thousands of dollars, but I think my voice and your conscience is worth a lot more than her donations.

I would leave my contact information here for you to follow up, but just check with your office for that. I call almost every day, and I will continue to do so in hopes that you'll begin representing constituents like me.

what two girls can do when no one tells them that they can't

I have six amazing children, but today I'm going to tell you a needed story about just two of them. I say "needed" because the news is hard right now. It's easy to live in a rage-y place right now, especially if you share my political bent and views about how Christians should be responding to it all. 

We all need to see the good news too.

We all need to be reminded of what our aspirations of a better world can look like.

We all need to know that our fights are worth fighting because sometimes beauty emerges out of the struggle.

Jocelyn in 9. Zoe is 5. Both are badasses, and both would be horrified that I just used a "bad word" to describe them. (Meanwhile, one of their brothers would be asking why I am calling them bad donkeys. Thank you, literal understandings via autism!) They're rockstars. They're amazing. They are creative and determined and bold and beautiful. 

When Jocelyn was little and our only child, I realized the best word to describe her is "very." No matter what she is or does, this child lives on the extremes. (She's a lot like her mama in that way.)

Before Zoe joined our family, we'd get messages from time to time from the director of the adoption program there in Taiwan. In most, she'd write something like, "the nannies want to make sure you know that she is very strong-willed." I said good. In our house, I don't know if we'd know what to do with any other kind of kid. 

Now Jocelyn's "very" comes out in some radiant ways. She loves to read, and by that I mean everything and anything and all the time. She's learning to play piano, and she's practically obsessed with practicing. And she has learned about her siblings' disabilities and medical conditions, and she often tries to figure out how she can help them, if she can.

Now Zoe's "strong will" comes out in some defiantly gorgeous ways. She has defied almost every negative expectation we had been told about her. She won't talk? No one told her that, and she's become a chatterbox. She won't be able to keep up cognitively with her peers? Her peers are working to keep up with her, actually. She might not be able to express emotions or interact with others? Um, that's laughable to anyone who knows her now. She will be "horribly devastating" to our family, as one specialist said prior to the adoption? NOPE. She is defiant in all the ways that we could have ever hoped, defying any less-than expectation that so many unknowingly harbor toward kids with disabilities. 

All the fourth graders at their school participate in the Invention Convention. They come up with ideas of something they can make to solve a problem. They make it. And then they make poster boards to show it off, and parents and teachers weave their way through the library to ooh and ahh over their work. 

Today is the Invention Convention. Today these two girls are coming together to show something amazing. To prepare for the project, Jocelyn and Zoe talked about things that Zoe couldn't do like her classmates. Neither of them were comfortable with those limitations. Both of them saw the hopeful word "yet." Not Zoe can't do that. Zoe can't do that yet.

They came up with turning pages of a board book independently and getting her binder out of her bag and into the bin like all of her classmates. Then they got to work. They tried different things. Ultimately, a Harris Teeter bad rigged to the side of her chair, a cord tied to the top ring of her binder, and bump-on stickers at the corner of board book pages worked to turn "can't do that yet" to "I can do it! I can do it! Look!" (That last statement are the exact words of Zoe.)

But I don't think words can suffice here. Take a look at the beautiful brave of two girls who dared to dream beyond present limitations. 

This, my friends, if what two girls can do when no one tells them that they can't.

(Please forgive any typos here. I'm off to the Invention Convention, so I don't have time for silly things like proofreading today.)

I want to know better, so I can love better.

People of color, I know that while I have black and Asian children, I'm still white. Please, feel free to call me out or correct me if I'm ever speaking from white privilege instead of learned knowledge.

Those of you with disabilities and/or mental illness, I live with physical damage and ongoing issues from rheumatoid arthritis as well as PTSD, and I parent children with a range of diagnoses, and I taught special education for several years and then trained special educators for a while, and I have a MAEd in Special Education, but that doesn't mean I'll always get it right. Please, feel free to chime in whenever I say something about disability or mental illness that doesn't match up to your lived experiences.

Immigrants, I am parenting four children who traveled here on orphan visas, and I taught mostly children of immigrants in my first two years as a teacher, but I haven't lived that life. Please, speak up if I'm getting anything wrong about your realities.

Those who are struggling financially and unable to meet all your needs, I am sorry that so many in our country have accepted the lies that you are lazy or criminal or not worthy of love and belonging and help. As my kids received reduced lunch benefits until recently, I know a little of your experience, but our lives have still been more privileged than most. If I ever speak out of turn or post anything that's condescending toward you, let me know. Please.

Native Americans, I've been mostly silent about my privilege here, even as my kin arrived shortly after the Pilgrims. My ancestors contributed to your ancestors' decimation. And until #NoDAPL, I didn't say or do or care much. I will do better. And if I don't, please call me on it.

Those in the LGBTQ+ community, I probably know the least about you, to be honest. I have neighbors and friends among you, but I'm in the stage of mostly listening and not speaking much yet, so I can learn. If my silence becomes hurtful or my speaking - once I do - shows my straight and cisgender privilege, I want to know. I want to learn. I want to love better where so many straight cisgender Christians haven't.

Women, I'm one of you. I'm with you. Rape and abuse survivors, you too. But I know my one voice doesn't represent us all. All of our stories create a beautiful book, and we need each other. So if my story and yours don't match, that doesn't make either of ours invalid. Your voice is valuable here.

Muslims, I am a woman of faith too, but when someone professing the same faith as I do commits a murder or other crime, I'm not blamed for it. I don't know what it's like to be treated like I am. I will speak out for your fair treatment and honor, because our humanity isn't based in who we worship. If I ever represent you poorly, remind me that I aspire to be better than that.

Jews, my privilege is showing here, because I honestly didn't realize until recently than anti-Semitism was still a thing. You are loved. And I am paying attention now. Please engage with me if I show that I'm remaining clueless instead of learning.

Those who fit into multiple of the groups listed above, I understand the concept of intersectionality, but I don't always get it in a personal way. Please let me know when I'm wrong. (And specifically, black women, if I start to sound like the sort of white feminist who acts like you don't exist or like Susan B. Anthony stood for all women when she didn't stand for you, put me in my place, please.)

And if you're among a marginalized group I failed to include here, send me an email or comment below. I'd be happy to revise this to include you.

And, finally, Christians, I am one of you. Please be mindful that Christ spent most of his time with those who were marginalized wherever he was. (And no matter who rants to you about a supposed war of Christmas, please admit that we're not the marginalized ones here in the US in most places.) Consider the groups listed above when you read "love your neighbor as yourself" (in Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39, or Romans 13) or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (aka the Golden Rule, found in Matthew 7:12) or "let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). Compassion is central to our faith. Please live that out with me. Let's all be more like Jesus, together, and spur each other on to do all things for the glory of God and the good of all those he created.

We are all human. We are all welcome here. We are all masterpieces. We are all valued and valuable and worthy, and our differences enhance the beauty of our communities. I need you. We need each other.

And we'll all mess up from time to time. (Or maybe a lot of the time.) We all need grace, but sometimes we need correction as well. Please offer both to me.

All, thanks for being here and for joining me in this work of loving and living well. You are loved. I'm thankful for you.

And those of you who are as privileged or more than I am, thank you for getting this far in a post that isn't really for you. My words might make you uncomfortable at times, but that's where the growth opportunity is. Thank you for being here and for listening and for asking questions and for weighing in with kindness and humility.

And, you know, for putting up with me when I go on a binge of political posts.