Thursday, December 11, 2014

Give a little Grace

I have been reading lately about healing and focusing on deep hurts that cause angry, defensive reactions. Because, I'm really ashamed to admit, I have a bad temper and sometimes have really disproportionate angry reactions to silly things.

For example, I burned my finger on a glue gun while making a banner. I curbed my initial reaction to scream obscenities. However, inside me this huge angry reaction was brewing that had to go somewhere. I picked up the end of the kitchen table and let it slam down. When the table slammed down, the anger released, but the plate that was holding the glue gun broke, and my tiny girlfriend started to cry.

Cue the guilt and shame tape that goes like this, "You're an asshole. You can't control your temper. You don't deserve to have these sweet little kids; you're a lunatic. Way to go. You're just like your dad."

And in about 25 seconds, I had gone from pain to rage to feeling about an inch tall.

I apologized to Lily and explained to her that I had reacted inappropriately to pain with anger, and I was sorry for scaring (and probably scarring) her. We talked about some times that our reactions didn't exactly match our feelings or the particular situation and then finished making our craft without further incident.

For the rest of the night, shame gripped me pretty tightly. I had to delve into my reaction and the motivation behind it. Once I did that and realized that my reaction was something that had been ingrained in me from childhood--when you get upset about something let your rage out on an inanimate object--I was able to deal with it and remind myself that having a bad reaction didn't make me a bad person.

Guilt and shame always go together for me--the dynamic duo of damnation--so I was enlightened to read Brene Brown's definition in The Gifts of Imperfection. She explains that guilt says "You did something bad," and shame says, "You are bad." I still think they're a terrifying team, but now I see them more clearly.

Brown goes on to say that we can steal the power away from this team if we talk about the stuff that makes us feel this way and bring it to light. Just make sure that you share with someone you really trust.

She gives a list of people you don't want to choose, such as:
  • Anyone who makes you feel worse about yourself. They will look at you with shock and judgment and say things like, ""
  • One-uppers. You know them. They respond to everything with, "Oh that's nothing, let me tell you about the time..."
  • Those with low self-esteem who will use this as an opportunity to feel superior--think, drowning victims who push others down to get themselves to the surface. "Oh, I never have inappropriate reactions in front of my kids, but that's just me."
  • Condescending jerks. Pretty much the same as above with a heightened air of superiority.
***Please note that sometimes jerks look and sound and act like friends until you share something like this with them***

So, my week has been a lot of, "Yikes, where did that come from? Why does it bother me when people do a.b.c.d?" and more. This isn't a huge change. I'm always analyzing and overthinking and trying to do better, but sometimes it's not in the actual moment. I'm steadily trying to live the Four Agreements, but it's a lot of trial and error.

I spent many years feeling broken and damaged because of things that happened to me, but I am realizing in this decade* that labeling myself is not only unnecessary but it is also unkind. Yes, bad things happened to me, but really great things have happened too. By reconciling that I can simultaneously grieve loss and embrace blessings, by realizing that my past doesn't define me, and by reminding myself that every moment is an opportunity to embrace and extend grace, I've cleared my path from lots of tangled roots that tripped me up.

A few weeks ago the super-wise 20-year-old guru I'm blessed to call my daughter said that she felt fortunate that her dad and I hadn't really f#$%ed her up. We keep it really real. She said she always felt loved and free to express herself. This was such an impactful statement, as I have questioned everything I did as a mother for 20 years. In fact, the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved these little people God let me hold for awhile more than I had ever known was possible.

I'm pretty convinced some days that I'm messing Peyton and Lily up in some significant way. The nasty shrew in my head tells me all the time that I am worthless and have no business raising these amazing kids. I question myself all the time. And then I shhhhhhh them, breathe and keep going. I'm not sharing this because I need reassurance, but because someone else might feel the same. Do you? Let me encourage you: If you worry this much about what kind of person or wife or parent you are, I'm pretty confident that you are already amazing.

Give yourself some grace. And give the people who make different choices grace too. Namaste.

*The jury is still out on 40 because the emotional and spiritual rewards seem to come at the expense of some crazy things like thinning hair and brain fog and achy joints.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Just Don't be a Jerk

It's the most wonderful time of the year. We are fresh off a month of giving thanks and the kids and I are headed for our annual pilgrimage to Camp Mowana to Make Room for Jesus. So, I'm gonna need to get this off my chest real quick.

I'm going to blame my sister-in-law--who posted this article and got me all stirred up--for my angst. It's been simmering for a long time ready to boil over though ... so ... I have to let it out. And by the way, that list doesn't mention the standard mom uniform: Uggs, Miss Me jeans, NorthFace and designer purse. Come on now; is that just Cortland?

What people wear isn't my business or concern though. And lots of my friends wear that uniform. I love you girls; you're fabulous!

Here's what bothers me: drop off and pick up. This might be a universal issue, as certainly entitlement and lack of empathy are symptoms of the global selfishness epidemic, but I can only address the Lakeview schools.

Recently, I have adopted the mindset of talking to my problems rather than about them, and it is in that spirit that I have compiled a list of tips re: drop-off and pick up protocol. Since there is no suggestion box, here you go:

1. The speed limit in front of the school is 20. Even when you're running late. If your kid is tardy, it isn't the end of the world. By the way, it's still 20 when you pull out of the parking lot. You don't get to run someone else's kid over just because yours is safely in the building, which leads me to #2.

2. Slow down in the parking lot. There are people everywhere. If you run someone over, that will be far worse than being late for work. Everyone has bad mornings sometimes, but reckless disregard for other people is unacceptable. Slow down. Pay attention. If you are going to just idle there by the entrance while your big kid walks in, at least look before you pull away. Lots of people are actually walking their little kids to the door. Don't run them over, you jerk.

3. Park in a parking spot. Just one. 40 other people also need to park to pick up their children so be mindful. Driving a giant SUV does not give you the right to park wherever you want. Park in an actual space--they are indicated by lines. You and your children are not handicapped and do not deserve special privileges. Thank God for your healthy working legs and then use them to walk to your car. Jerk.

4. That line of people? They're all waiting to pick their kids up too. So don't walk past them all and then yank on the door handle. It's not gonna open, bro. Did you think we were all just standing here because we like the cold? That's right; go to the back of the line. Yes, we are all laughing at you. Jerk.

5. When the door opens and you push through to make sure your kid is the first one into class, remember that there are 20+ little kids coming right behind yours. Don't let the door slam in their faces. That's terrible. And guess what: Their parents think that they're the most important kid in the world too. Also, if someone holds the door for you? Thank them and then hold the door for the next person. Don't just leave that guy standing there holding the door for everyone. That's not cool. He was trying to be nice. He has to go to work too. Next time he might let it slam on your kid. All because you were a jerk!

6. We're all busily heading somewhere, but it literally takes 35 seconds for the buses to exit the parking lot. I timed it. Just be patient. Trust me: They will be out of the parking lot before you can tweet about how annoyed you are or how the jerk in front of you held up people exiting the parking lot to let the stupid buses go. I let the buses out. I see you flipping me off. It's okay. I like your purse. Even if you think I'm a jerk.

7. Finally, let me reiterate: If someone is looking at their phone, it is probably because they don't want to talk to anyone. It's not rocket science. Leave them alone. Surely there is another dad somewhere...

Some days I leave the school feeling very sad for humanity, wondering if anyone is capable of empathy and compassion anymore. Fortunately, I quickly realize that for every person who lets the door slam on someone else's kid, there are 5 who hold the door. For every person who parks where there isn't a space, there are 5 who walk farther in the rain rather than inconvenience others. For every person who nearly runs you over to get out 3 seconds quicker, there are 2 or 3 who wave you on ahead of them.

It's kind of like life, right? There are people who are just out for themselves, but there are others (hopefully more) who are concerned with humanity as a whole. I can't change anyone, but I can be kind and thoughtful, and I can raise people who hold doors, say thank you, park in parking spots and think about others and not just themselves. I can try not to be a jerk or raise jerks.

Thanks for listening, friends. I feel way better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Full Speed Ahead

I just wanted to take a minute to thank you, my friends, for reading, commenting and sharing your reactions to what I write. I'm really vulnerable and transparent in this little space, and you always make me feel less alone in my struggles. That's such a good feeling. Your kindness is an amazing blessing; thank you.

Since last week, I've been paying closer attention to my interactions with people and the vibe I give off. Men and women. Brad told me recently, "Sometimes you change the rules, and you don't always let people know." That is a very true statement. God bless my man who can lovingly point things out in me that I am unable to see. It took him about 23 years to master this without making me feel defensive (or for me to realize that he was actually being loving and not critical or condescending.)

Anyway, back to changing the rules. I do. All the time. Quick example: I decide that I no longer want to go to the gym because there's a creepy guy there who stalks me--I'm kidding, a little--but I don't tell my gym friend. I just start saying no. All the time. She thinks I'm mad at her, which is completely untrue, but I didn't communicate the rule change.

Another example: I nearly always decline "going out" invitations. But when a bunch of my friends go out and post awesome pictures on Facebook, I would sometimes feel hurt. In the past, I said no, so if I decide now that I'd like to be included, I need to advise my friends of the rule change, instead of whining about being left out.

Evidently feeling left out is a huge trigger for me because on a few occasions, my extended family have done things and not invited me, and I have felt extremely hurt. Granted, I'm a hermit who declines about 97% of invitations, so very few people would ever consider that my feelings would be hurt by not being invited somewhere. Additionally, I am positive that none of my family would intentionally exclude me to be hurtful. Still...trigger.

Once a friend told me when she hears people talking about doing something fun if she wants to do it, she simply invites herself. She's absolutely delightful, so of course everyone would want her to come along, but that was kind of a revelation for me. Oh, hey, just say you want to go. Huh.

Sometimes I get so upset over slights that have mostly occurred in my head that I cut people completely off from my heart so that they are incapable of hurting me again. They generally have no idea why or what they've done. I'm working on the whole "setting healthy boundaries" thing. It's going swimmingly.

Despite the aforementioned neuroses, I am really, really close to a few people. These people know all my secrets. I'm actually very proud of that because up until a year or so ago, I desperately kept those secrets to myself, fearing that the baggage I carried around would alienate even the most loyal person.

But outside of my inner circle, and some wonderful friends whom I adore but try not to drag into my cyclone of crazy, I am better at one-sided relationships. I used to joke that I had enough friends and wasn't auditioning new ones, but it wasn't really a joke. I like to listen to people's stories without having to share anything about myself. This usually works fine since lots of people would rather talk than listen. But I've also pushed people away because after sharing personal things with them, I felt they couldn't be trusted with the information. I often advise girlfriends: People who gossip to you will gossip about you. But, it's always difficult to listen to your own advice.

And as I continue to learn: I can't change anyone else's behavior, but I can control my behavior as well as my reactions and perceptions. I have had to rethink (or overthink) how I present myself to people. It's natural to feel close to someone whom you feel gets you, and I get lots of people. I think God gave me that gift in order to show people kindness and compassion. However, there are people who will misuse and take advantage of gifts.

I really need to exercise discernment more consistently. For me, discernment usually comes in two ways. One: A sick feeling in my stomach that says, "This person is not genuine and does not want you to achieve your highest good." Two: My husband saying, "Babe, you might wanna put the brakes on a little bit with this one."

So it continues, revisiting the Boundaries book that has been collecting dust on my shelf, learning how to be kind and compassionate without becoming enmeshed, and finally back to The Four Agreements, which today sound like this in my head:
  • Be impeccable with your word--don't say mean things about people. Ever.
  • Don't take anything personally--no one thought you would even want to be invited.
  • Don't make assumptions--you have to tell people when you change the rules. No one else lives in your head, lucky for them.
  • Always do your best--don't beat yourself up; just keep trying harder.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Look Really Pretty When You Smile.

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of men. In my only professional photograph, taken at age two, I'm smiling, but my eyes are and swollen. My mom attributes this to the photographer's maleness. I remember feeling afraid of men. Not my dad--well, a little bit--or my brothers, but strange men. Santa Clauses in the mall, photographers, and so on.

My super intense awareness saved me many times, once from a gymnastics coach who tried to convince me to go to the store with him so he could buy me a stuffed animal. For real. I was 9. He was a textbook predator.

I never completely got over that fear. Dr. K, someday when I make it for my appointment, you can undoubtedly help. Feel free to put in my growing file :)

As I got older, I wasn't so much afraid of men as ... uncomfortable. In fact, there are few men in my life with whom I'm really comfortable. I can count them on one hand and a few fingers. The aforementioned physician is an enigma being a virtual stranger and a man with whom I'm comfortable.

Recently articles and videos have shed light on veiled harassment, men telling women to smile, or whistling, cat-calling and more. My dad was a horrible harasser, but he would say he meant it as a compliment, and I genuinely believe his harassment was without malice. I also really loved him so this might be an excuse. He did embarrass me many times by flirting with my friends, waitresses and cashiers.

While I've always been hyper-aware of this behavior, my discomfort doesn't rest on a whistle, wink, sideward glance or whatever. I rarely make eye contact with men (other than the aforementioned ones, my magnificent 7) because I feel like it is an invitation; my eyes give a lot away. This sounds unkind, but I doubt people would judge me if they know what it feels like to walk away from a conversation feeling as if they've been licked all over. You might never have expressed it in such vulgar terms, but I'm willing to bet lots of women know that feeling.

Like the scene from pretty woman where George Costanza tries to rape Julia Roberts. That's an extreme example, but it's the feeling. The weird, uncomfortable, having someone look at you as if you're a meal. The I-wish-I-had-another-button-or-maybe-a-taser feeling.

It is this feeling that makes me despise a few run-of-the-mill tasks: Taking my car for any sort of maintenance, going to a car dealership, taking aluminum cans to the scrap yard; basically anything involving close contact with men who are outside of my circle of comfort.

Recently, I was harassed picking up my daughter from school. One divorced dad decided of all the people standing in line looking at their phones to avoid small talk, he would make small talk with me. As the days wore on, he began seeking me out, commenting on my gym card on my key ring and even asking me when I went, what I did there and so forth. My keys were in my left hand which also bears my WEDDING RING, which he did not mention. Ugh.

Once, I was pursued by a "lonely widower" in Walmart who followed me around the store for about a half hour striking up conversations despite my repeatedly walking away from him. He continued to follow me until I finally said, "You are making me very uncomfortable. I'm walking away, and I'm going to call security if you follow me." Lest there be any doubt.

Not long ago in church, I saved a seat with my purse, and a creepy dude sat there. In church. Calling him creepy might be a sin, but Jesus knows that I tried to be kind. I sat next to him. He leaned up against me and elbowed me when my pastor/brother-in-law made a joke. Said pastor/brother-in-law is really funny (also in my Magnificent 7), so there were lots of jokes and subsequent elbowing and leaning in and, ughhhhh, it was weird. My husband was sitting right behind me perfectly calm as this guy was trying to get to first base. Go figure. "I was right there, babe. You didn't have anything to worry about." But he was annoyed a week later when some creepy guy stared at me.

I'm not picking on men; well, I am picking on men who harass women in church or Walmart or elementary schools or ANYWHERE. My magnificent 7 would not accost anyone in Walmart. I doubt they make women uncomfortable. They are husbands and fathers and probably would not approach a strange woman in a store or parking lot because it could be creepy. And they've heard enough from their wives about creepy men.

Now, I have stopped going to the gym; I'm going to blame it on school-pick-up guy, but that might be a convenient excuse. I schedule any and all stuff that involves a repair man coming into my house to occur only when Brad Bell is here (except for WiFi repairs, but those repair guys are very nice and not creepy--good for you, Time Warner). I still go to Walmart, but I avoid eye contact with just about everyone. And when I pick Lily up from school, I wait til the last minute so I don't have to wait in line and subject myself to any creepiness.

I've got a lot more creepy guy stories; what about you? Have you ever felt uncomfortable, objectified, or like you've been licked all over? Tell me about it, sister.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't Go Off Half-Cocked

For the first year that my sweet oldest child was away at school, I woke frequently in the middle of the night in a full blown panic. Is she okay? Where is she? What if something happened to her? Why didn't she text me? And so on until my breath came in quick gasps, and my heart was ready to pound out of my chest. This only happened a few times before I realized I had a choice: Trust God or lose my mind. I relinquished control, and now when I wake in the night, instead of worrying, I pray.

A few months ago, after reading Seven Sacred Pauses, I felt drawn to the idea of praying at specific times during the day and night and began trying to practice in a more organized way. Unfortunately, the more I tried to make it a part of my schedule, the more it evaded my control. Again with control.


Frequently, an idea comes to me, and I run full speed ahead and sometimes into a wall. Looking back I realize that God is still there, the idea is still there, and the only one who moved was me...ninety miles an hour into a wall. My dad used to say, "Now don't go off half-cocked," which I never understood. I just googled it. It means "to go into action too early or without thinking." Yes, that applies. Thanks, Dad :/

By trying to schedule praying into my day, I realized that I consistently pray at regular times of the day. In other words, when I stopped to think about it, I realized I was already doing the task I was trying to implement. This led to considering all the books I read, all the studying and journaling and introspection. Then, last week in meditation, I heard very clearly, "You know enough." Since I don't often hear guidance quite that clearly, it struck me. I knew immediately what it meant: Stop using self-improvement as an excuse to avoid moving forward.

Mark Batterson observes that most people "...are educated way beyond the level of their obedience. We don't need to KNOW MORE. We need to DO MORE with what we know." Kind of leaps off Maya Angelou's, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Many of us already know our purpose, but we put it off waiting to be better equipped or holding out for a big opportunity instead of just doing the little things. Much of our life is lived in the meantime as we wait for our big break.

For me this means: Send a text or make a phone call (I. Hate. Making. Phone. Calls.) Write something ... anything. Send an encouraging Facebook message. Apologize. Forget perfectionist tendencies and handwrite a letter. Occasionally it means patiently listen to my tiny chatterbox when I want to tell her to hurry because we're going to be late. I'm called to express mercy and compassion, not just in big ways but in every way.

So a whole lot of quotes and clich├ęs and dead dad wisdom later, I think my point is: Don't get so caught up in finding your purpose that you miss it altogether. You might one day write the great American novel, but today you can send an email to a lonely friend. Perhaps you will run a marathon next year; today you can run around the block. Someday you might be the voice of your generation, but in this moment you can speak kindly to the cashier at Walmart.

It's okay to run ninety miles an hour in the direction of your dreams; just keep your eyes open so you don't miss all the opportunities along the way. It's great to want to save the world, but today it might be enough just to ignore the voices that say you can't ... even if those voices are only in your own head.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You're so...DELETE.

Every once in awhile, someone sends me a handwritten card. Out of the blue, my sweet Chloe will send a beautiful, touching, or sometimes silly card but inside are her words, handwritten, which seem ever-so-much-more personal than a text or email or facebook post. A few other friends also do this, and I treasure these little keepsakes. Yes, I love the ability to communicate instantly, but there is something about those cards ... like there is a little piece of the sender's heart in there.

Spurred by my own affinity for receiving them and my constant pursuit to find unique and different ways to encourage and love people, I bought some beautiful note cards and decided to handwrite notes to a few people in the hopes that they would feel as touched as I always do to receive one.

Here's what I didn't bargain for: I have become dependent on delete. When you are handwriting a letter, especially on an expensive note card, you're committed once you put that ink on the paper. Ughh...I tried saying sentences over in my head before writing them. Still, upon re-reading, I felt, "Oh no ... that sounds stupid. Did you misspell that word? Honestly? That looks like an m but it's really an r. Does that make sense? Is this legible? Jeeze, are you illiterate?"

I may have mentioned before that my inner voice is a nasty shrew.

I am by nature an editor, not a writer. I'm way more comfortable fiddling around with words that are already on the page than actually putting them there. I really like to edit and proofread. It makes me giddy to make writing sound clearer and more concise. It's like polishing silver. I like that as well. I'm an odd duck.

Anyway, when I do write, it's usually a lot of nonsense--kind of like having a conversation with me. If we have spoken in person, you may have considered me snobby or not very bright or even pondered if English was my native language. True. I promise I'm not snobby; I'm not a mensa member either, and I'm certainly not bilingual. I'm way more comfortable listening than talking. And since my tongue is usually tied, I'm going to spend the rest of my day--or week, depending on how significant the perceived flub--analyzing what I said and how stupid it sounded and perhaps if it was even offensive. Oh no, I hope not, but maybe?

My head is a dark and exhausting place to reside sometimes.

Anyway, my saving grace with typing is edit, delete, cut, paste, read, reread, does this make sense, reword that; it's already not all ready already. I usually spend twice as much time editing as I do writing, and even then sometimes something will slip through the cracks, and my brother will put me on blast.

So, handwriting is like jumping without a safety net. I've become so dependent on all Word's great tools to optimize my writing and only reveal it at its best that it's a bit unnerving sending anything out unpolished. (I wasn't showing off using its and it's there, but you're welcome if that particular grammatical conundrum has been vexing your mind.) This is also why I'm tiptoeing into the water with great trepidation trusting my raw writing only to people I am pretty confident aren't going to smash my heart with the hammer I've just given them.

All of this brought me back to something my young friend, who happens to be an amazing speaker and championship encourager, said last week at church, "When negative things come into your head, simply say, 'Delete.'" We don't have to own negative self-chatter or criticism from others any more than we need to let an extra letter or a rogue apostrophe go. Just ... Delete it.

Try it. It's more fun than polishing silver. I'll give you an example from my own inner shrew:

"You didn't even make it to the gym today. You're lazy and worthless" Delete
"You should have gotten more accomplished today. You're irresponsible." Delete
"You didn't even manage to do yoga. You're never going to be in better shape." Delete
"You should wash your hair..." DELETE!!! Sometimes, that b#$%h really hits below the belt.

While I have been using the delete button to make writing sound better for a long time, I'm just learning how to use it to make myself feel better about negativity from outside and from within. Now that I know this tool is at my disposal though I plan to wield it like my trusty red pen.

What nonsensical negative chatter do you need to delete?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Books, Blogs, Bibles, and Bullies

I try hard to be real. I share my past, my struggles, my flaws, my shortcomings ... some people think I share too much, but it is how I process experiences. Regardless of what I'm going through, I seek out books, articles, blogs by people who have been through a similar event.

For example, when my brother committed suicide, I read every book I could find about suicide. If you're interested, The Suicide Index and History of a Suicide were amazing. I found understanding and comfort reading about how others dealt with these experiences. Additionally, reading, unlike talking, allowed me to process it in my own time, in my own space. I could walk away if I wanted and carry the words around when necessary.

Speaking of carrying words around, last week, my sister-in-law sent me a blog that I have read and reread about 42 times. This line: " counselor tells me to try not to give people my heart and the hammer to smash it with all at the same time..." has been rolling around in my head all week. My dad used to say, "If you walk around with your feelings hanging out, someone is going to step on them." And in the wisdom of Proverbs 4, one of the lines we hear most is about guarding your heart. For me, it all points to this: Too often, in my efforts to be real and transparent, I give people ammunition.

One of my spiritual gifts is mercy, and I believe that part of my purpose in life is to listen--empathically and without judgment. People share stories with me. Deep, personal, often intimate stories. Mostly, I feel blessed to offer them a place to vent and unload. Sometimes, the level of personal information divulged is awkward and uncomfortable, but I seek to make the person feel heard and valued. Occasionally, I feel burdened and want to be left alone, but listening is what I do.

So...back to that article, my dad, and the Bible. Sometimes, I feel a false or inflated sense of camaraderie with people and divulge personal information of my own. You might think, "You say all kinds of reallllllly personal things here; what's the difference?" You're right. I try to share relevant relatable information so others can find validation and support. But sometimes, I can be even more vulnerable and transparent interpersonally. Historically it hasn't worked out very favorably.

Let's be real. In a moment of feeling it's a safe place to share or having had one too many glasses of chardonnay, you confess to a friend that you are feeling really insecure about your recent weight gain. A week or so later, at lunch with the same friend, you order cheesecake for dessert, and she comments with one eye-brow cocked heavenward, "Ohhhh, you're having dessert?" Whether or not she means anything by it, your feelings are hurt. You gave her your heart and the hammer, and she used them. Ouch.

I'll be even more real, since I can finally laugh about this. When my kids were little everyone used to say how much they looked like Brad. When Chloe was a baby, one person said, "It doesn't even look like YOU had anything to do with her." It hurt my feelings, and I shared that with a few people. One of my closest friends kindly pointed out, "Yeah, your kids really don't look anything like you." Heart. Hammer. Boom. 

Side note: Not all my friends suck. My dear sweet girlfriend made Peyton a t-shirt with my baby picture on it so it was very, very clear just where he got his curls.

The point of this is not that my friends suck or your friends suck. Sometimes we give people ammunition. When they use it? It is because of something that is flawed or broken or lacking in them, and it says nothing about us. I'm gonna just write that again. It is because of something that is flawed or broken or lacking in THEM. Not us.

Have you ever secretly celebrated a friend's misfortune--even a little? Ever felt a twinge of jealousy when something terrific happened for someone else when things weren't going so well for you? I have. More times than I care to admit. When I was trying to get pregnant, I almost had to go into isolation because it made me so sad every time I saw or heard about another pregnant woman. That had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.

Recently, I have been dealt a couple low blows, and my initial reaction was to feel hurt and ask myself what could trigger such meanness. Fortunately, I remembered that it isn't my job to figure out what is going on in other people; that's why God directed me off the counseling path. However, it is my job to be kind, to be loving, to forgive and to show mercy and empathy.

If someone has hurt you with their words, actions, or inactions, you don't have to own that. It isn't about you. When people use our vulnerability as a weapon to hurt us, they are bullies. And bullies are often frightened, hurting, and making a lot of noise and commotion to distract people away from their own vulnerabilities.

Whew. Namaste.

Monday, September 15, 2014

While We're on the Subject...

So there's been a lot of talk about domestic violence, what should happen to Ray Rice,  #whyistayed #whyileft, what Janay did or did not do to provoke him, and on and on. I do not believe it is ever okay for a man to hit a woman, or vice versa for that matter. But...let's talk about what happens before. Let's discuss what might happen in your life that could lead to a place where your man knocks you out in an elevator and drags you like a bag of trash into the hallway.

I was abused until I was 17. Punched, slapped and kicked. Called fat, stupid, worthless and a whore. By the time I was 18, I already believed I somehow deserved whatever bad things happened to me. I already felt worthless.

So before we crucify the NFL, let's consider the underlying problems. The real issue at hand is not limited to the NFL's handling of Mr. Rice or whether Janay should have left her husband. Let's consider: Are we instilling in our daughters a healthy self-image? Are we teaching them to love and accept themselves and others? Are we teaching our sons to be respectful of women and people in general? Are we teaching them that it is great to follow their dreams but not to crush others' in the process? 

OR are we showing our kids that it is okay to push somebody around to get what they want? Are we giving them a sense of entitlement? Are we letting them believe they deserve whatever they want and can go to whatever lengths necessary to get that? Are we teaching them that it's okay to take what you want even if it means hurting someone else? What the hell are we doing??

Yes, let's address how the NFL handles Ray Rice. Yes, let's talk about how society addresses domestic violence. BUT, let's take a long hard look at how we raise our sons, how we talk to our daughters, how we treat our spouses. Let's think about how we talk to our neighbors, our bosses, the homeless guy we pass on the way to work, and the cashier at Dunkin' Donuts.

When I was 16, my body was everything I idealize now, and I would give my right arm to have it back. At 16, I hated it and thought I was fat. I wish I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self, "You are good and beautiful and you deserve to be loved and cherished not pushed around and insulted and hit." 

I can't. I can't change the fact that no one taught me that. I can't change the fact that no one protected me. BUT, I can teach my daughters and my son how to be good people. I can teach them that they are enough just because God created them, and it doesn't matter what brand of clothes or shoes or book bag they have. It doesn't matter who they sit with at lunch, and maybe sit with that person over there who is by himself. And it doesn't matter who they date or who thinks they're pretty or how tall they are or how much they weigh because they are created exactly how they are supposed to be. They are loved simply because they exist. And that their classmates, teachers, parents, and friends also deserve kindness and compassion and respect. Because they are also enough.

We need to stop blaming a society that idolizes football players and start being a society that treats our fellow humans with kindness and respect. Firing Roger Goodell isn't going to stop men from hitting their wives. Kicking Ray Rice out of the NFL isn't going to end violence against women--although stiffer penalties for domestic violence would certainly be a step in the right direction. We need to start taking responsibility for the people we are and the people we are raising. 

If you're not happy with the direction this world is headed then do something different. Be radically compassionate. Instead of holding up a protest sign, hold a door for someone. Instead of writing a critical letter to the editor, write a letter to your child's teacher telling her how valued she is. Instead of raising a hand in anger, open your arms in love. Instead of complaining about how messed up things are, fix something. And if you can't fix anything? Then for heaven's sake just don't make it any worse.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Now that you mention it...

Today we moved our 20-year-old daughter into a new dorm room. This is the fourth move since she left for college two years ago. She's never come back for any extended period of time since that first move, and she'll probably never live with us again. I still cry every time I have to say good bye to her, which this year has included goodbyes to Brazil and Taiwan in addition to Pittsburgh. You'd think I'd be getting used to it. Me too. I'm not.

On a detour through a familiar neighborhood on our way out of town, we got to visit briefly with two of the most darling women ever to grace the universe. As the lovely mom and I commiserated the whole kids growing up business, she pointed to my 7-year-old and said, "You're so lucky to have this little one." I know. Thank you. Right? Wow.

I've thought a lot of stuff since getting pregnant unexpectedly 8 1/2 years ago such as: There goes grad school. There goes my body. I'm too old for this. My poor boobs. This baby is gonna kill me. My big kids hate me. How can I be a good mom to all of them? But I never really thought until Chloe went to college that I was really lucky to get this little bonus baby.

From the time she was born, my oldest daughter has been my constant companion, soul mate and best friend. She filled a Chloe-shaped space in my heart, and I felt as if I was made to be her mom. When Peyton joined, answering my prayers and completing our perfectly symmetrical little family, I felt lucky. I have never been so in love with two people. So six years later, when it became apparent that our family wasn't quite complete, I felt different levels of resistant, afraid, angry, and resentful ... but I didn't feel lucky.

However, in her nearly 8 years, this little chick has challenged me in ways I can't even begin to explain. She has taught me more about myself than the library of self-help books I've read. She can be jarringly direct and achingly compassionate. She strolled out of my womb and wrapped her dad right around her tiny finger. She carries his heart around in a Hello Kitty purse. It's impressive, really, because he is not that guy.

She can be bossy and whiny and smart-mouthed. And she can be cuddly and dreamy and precious. She's a little bit like my clone, and I'm a better person for getting to watch and learn from a mini version of myself. She's growing into a pretty cool person, and it's interesting to watch her free from the pressure of signing her up for every sport and making sure she's involved in a million activities.

I'm grateful for another round of prom dresses. I'm grateful for more shoe shopping and hair appointments and manicures and pedicures and even more stupid Ugg boots. I'm lucky to have more opportunities to say the right thing to ease the pain of a broken heart and remind her that other people's opinions of her are meaningless. I'm lucky that I can remind her that pain builds strength and character. I'm lucky that she has the most amazing role models in her sister and brother. I'm lucky that I get another opportunity to raise a strong, empowered woman who will make a difference in the world.

So thank you for the reminder, my friend. I am so lucky.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Virtual Blog Tour (a post in which I don't whine or cry or overthink)

Here's a change of pace, friends. My friend, sage and yoga guru, Molly Field invited me to participate in a blog tour. You know Molly, from Grass Oil, as I'm always inviting you to read her amazing pieces that I promise will change your life as they have mine every. single. time. She's writing a yoga series right now that is so right on, and one of my faves was 30 days of Carl Jung (my favorite late psychotherapist). Anyway, she is a super-talented writer, great mom, way-zen and bendy yoga instructor--like the total self-actualized package, and I'm so humbled to share a bit of virtual space with her.

So this blog tour: Basically, I'm going to answer a few questions and invite you to visit a few other blogs and experience a whole lot of awesome writing and meet some super-cool women. Ready? Here we go...

1. What am I working on?

This is a difficult question. Since my recent work doesn't generate an income, I've been struggling through bouts of worthlessness of late. I recently confessed to my husband about a shopping spree that in the the past wouldn't have been worth mentioning since I was earning my keep around here, but that's a post in itself. So...I am working on getting angry less, being kind, loving, and patient more, and applying the Four Agreements. I am writing this blog, a book, doing a bit of bi-weekly editing, and occasionally writing some ad copy and press releases. The book actually has some stuff I haven't written about here, shockingly, and is also why I haven't been writing as much here.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My book is a memoir, as are most of the books I read lately. I would say that my work differs from others in the way every face is unique. In the way every fingerprint is distinct, so also is each story. Even if each of my siblings wrote a memoir, none would be the same because we experienced and processed our childhoods in vastly different ways. I love people's stories and think they're all important and valuable. Whether you tell your story to the cashier at Wal-Mart or type it out in a 50,000 word document that may or may not ever be read by anyone other than the people you trust enough to say, "Hey, would you..." it's important to tell your story. So my work differs because it's my work. Your work is special and important and remarkable because it's your work.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I write to process things. I write in a notebook in my purse, in the notes app on my phone, on post-it's or even sometimes my hand. Whatever I can find. Writing is how I communicate. If I fight with my husband, I write to him. We have been writing daily letters back and forth for about 2 years now...hundreds of thousands of words worth of feelings, experiences, love, anger, and indifference. (Someday, when we're gone, and our children read those documents...oh my. We'll leave you money for therapy.) I write because it helps me get out of my head, and also because it allows me to invite people in. When people comment on my blog or email me or text me that something I wrote about helped them or made them feel better or whatever, it helps me. I have a hard time letting people know me in my day-to-day life, so feeling known and understood through my writing is extremely comforting.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Sometimes like I'm "moved by the spirit" and have to stop whatever I'm doing and write something down. It could be a line, it might be a paragraph, or it has even been known to end up as a 1000-word diatribe. It is a strong feeling of: Stop whatever you're doing and write this down. Now. When my dad died, I woke up at 3 a.m. and wrote his eulogy while sobbing at the kitchen table. Other times, I've had to run dripping wet from the shower to write something or yell from the bathroom, "CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE BRING ME MY COMPUTER!" It's always bedlam in the Bell house, kids.

That's when it's good. When it's bad, I avoid my computer and read and beat myself up about how I should be writing and read some more and compare myself to all these fabulous writers and criticize  myself for how much I suck...and then I read this amazing piece my daughter wrote and cry and start again. I don't write because I want to; I write because I need to.

This has been really fun for me, not sure how it was for you, but I promise the best is yet to come. I get to share two of my favorite bloggers' work with you. 
You all probably know Chloe Christina, my globe-trotting, Coca-Cola drinking, running, yogi princess daughter. If you haven't read this tiny bundle of wisdom's blog, To the Moon and Back, then take a moment and head there. You'll be glad you did! I've always said she had an old soul, but her writing is light years beyond her 20 physical years on this planet. If I wasn't fortunate enough to be her mom, I would stalk her on social media. I mean I all ready do, but it's okay because I'm her mom.

And finally, please meet Sara. She blogs at Magical Musings and Typewritten Pursuits where she regularly shares beyond-her-years sentiments that will make you smile, think, evaluate and expand your Goodreads to-read list. She's a super-talented writer and an all-around wonderful girl that I've had the pleasure of knowing since she was just a wee lass.

Thanks, Molly, for inviting me on your blog tour, and thanks, my friends, for reading :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why Do You Let that S%#T Bother You?

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time," Maya Angelou

A friend of mine recently posted that quote, and it reminded me how important that sentiment is in my life. I mean how important trying to remember that sentiment should be in my life. See, I have this bad habit. This really bad habit. Sometimes instead of loving people for who they are, I love an idealized version of who I think they could become. I love their higher self, and I pour my hope and faith into believing they will achieve that.

Here's the issue with that: Sometimes people don't want to achieve my idealized version of themselves. Sometimes individuals don't even share my vision that they can be better people. Sometimes...people are perfectly happy being oblivious and unaware of the dreams and potential I am believing for them. Coming to this realization (that people don't care to reach the awareness and enlightenment I want for them) is always more painful for me than for them.

My daughter does this too, and several of my closest (and like-minded) friends do as well. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only only one. It makes me feel better to say, "These smart, beautiful, amazing women do the same stupid stuff I do."

My husband does not. He is actually outstanding at accepting people for exactly who they are. (Unless that person is arrogant or a bad driver, then you're gonna see the west side in that boy.) For years, when I would share my feelings with him he would say in the most helpful way, "I don't know why you let that shit bother you." Well, I don't either. It isn't conscious, or I would most assuredly choose NOT to let said shit bother me.

A few years ago, he stopped doing that--PRAISE THE LORD--and started encouraging me at least to see, if not accept, people as they are. As I tried harder to do this, I realized: When people disappoint me, it is rarely because their behavior isn't congruent with who they are; it is nearly always because their behavior isn't congruent with who I want them to be. Applying this premise in your life may not save you years of therapy, but it will probably spare you some hurt feelings.

Except ... I don't always remember to apply it. That's the problem. Sometimes my heart is already hurt before I analyze the situation, recognize my expectations and let people own their behavior. In the not too distant past, I would ruminate for wayyyy toooo lonnggggg harboring resentment and bitterness, nursing hurt feelings and disappointment, but now I realize that any amount of time spent on that is too much.

I recently re-read The Four Agreements, and I'm seriously considering getting them tattooed somewhere where I can see them every moment of every day. Have you read it? You should read it.

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

Logically, the one I struggle with the most is, "Don't take anything personally." Ugghhhhh. It goes right along with my constant prayer, "Less of me; more of you." I always get in God's way.

So, today, I am going to be me, and I'm going to let you be you. Whoever that is. Even if I think you aren't living up to your potential. Even if I think you could be a better you if only you would stop being so insecure, or quit gossiping, or show a little humility (that was for you Brad Bell). Today (well, for the next few minutes until I get derailed) I am going to focus more on the log in my own eye and less on the speck in yours.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm Sorry If I _______

I spend a great deal of time thinking about why we are who we are. Some of us question everything we say, agonize over something that could have been misinterpreted, and worry that our words might have unintentionally offended or hurt someone. Others bumble through life completely oblivious that their words or behavior might make someone feel bad. And still others, when alerted that they hurt or offended someone scoff that the person was too sensitive, claim their words or actions were misinterpreted, or worse turn the situation around and blame the victim.

Some people pride themselves on speaking their mind, having no filter. That's fine, live and let live. I believe that meme* that says how people treat others says more about who they are than who I am. I strive to speak kindly to everyone, but often that is easier outside of my home than inside.

Once, a friend at church said, "How do you always have it so together?" I love her. She is a gem. But, I love her too much to let her believe that I have anything together. So I told her ten minutes earlier I was screaming and swearing and threatening my children's lives if they didn't get their teeth brushed as my husband calmly tried to hustle everyone out the door. He has it pretty well together, thank goodness.

But even if he didn't, he wouldn't spend hours analyzing his behavior. He rolls through life without the burden of analyzing what people say to him or what he says to them. He does not give a second thought about who said what to whom or what so-and-so might have meant when she said such-and-such. Lots of people can do this. I don't think it's a male-female thing because I know super-aware men and completely oblivious women.

So what is it that makes some of us able to let stuff go while others are compelled to ruminate? While I haven't found an answer, extensive research (and tons of overthinking) has lead me to the following principles that I try to follow:

  1. Surround yourself with genuine people. Then you don't have to worry about passive-aggressiveness and ulterior motives. I promise you I never wonder what any of my friends meant by what they said because they meant exactly what they said.
  2. Think before you speak. If you have to preface something with, "I don't mean this to be offensive," it's probably offensive, so just don't say it. I practice this with my mom all the time: She says, "I don't mean for you to take this the wrong way," and I say, "If you are concerned about my taking it wrong, you probably shouldn't say it." She always says it anyway.
  3. Apologize freely. Not in a submissive or "giving away your power" way, but in an honest-to-goodness you mean something to me and it hurts me that I inadvertently hurt you. I mostly apologize to my kids and my husband as they bear the brunt of my bad behavior. But now, instead of wondering if I've offended someone, if I think I did, I apologize.
  4. Stand up for yourself. You don't have to be confrontational to tell someone that their words or actions upset you. I'm not a super-huge Dr. Phil fan, but this line of his always sticks with me: We teach people how to treat us. Sometimes we need to remind them what is and isn't okay.
  5. Don't offer unsolicited advice and opinions. They are rarely helpful and nearly always taken the wrong way; refer to #2. (I'm already thinking that you might be thinking this list is unsolicited advice. Touche. This is just what I do though, I'm not telling you what to do.)
I still overthink a lot of what I say and do, but I don't read as much into others' behaviors. This frees up an enormous amount of time and energy to criticize myself. Kidding. Mostly. What works for you?

* I wanted to insert an image, but I couldn't find a grammatically correct one. I can't support that.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day Revisited

For the past few weeks, our life has been filled with changes. I'm a big fan of change. I don't like monotony. My family will tell you I never make the same dinner twice. Sometimes that's good, but other times, Brad and Peyton exchange glances that say, "I wish she would have written that one down." Oh well.

One of the biggest changes is Brad's job. He has been working so hard, adapting to so many new challenges, being stretched reallllllllly farrrrrrrr out of his comfort zone, and homeboy does not like change. With that in mind, I'm hoping that I can make father's day not suck for him this year.

Especially since he gave me the most amazing mother's day gift--one of those I-Spy Birdhouses. You know, the one that sticks on your window so you can see the bird making a nest? I. Was. So. Excited. And he bought it while he was out of town and had it shipped so it a surprise. Usually, we walk through a store, I show him what I want, and he makes a clandestine trip to get it. 

I immediately set it up and waited expectantly for birds. For weeks. I had so many big dreams. There are orioles living in the tree next door, maybe them, or a hummingbird, shoot, I'd even be happy with a regular old robin. The other day the kids yell, "MOMMMMMAAAAAA, GUESS WHAT!!!" I run to the window only to hear, "THERE'S A WASP MAKING A NEST IN YOUR BIRDHOUSE." Really? I got you, Universe.  

So I keep thinking about how to make this father's day really awesome for him instead of staying in my bed crying all day because my dad is dead, like I've done the past few. My heart goes out to a few of my friends who just recently lost their dads. You are in my thoughts and prayers this weekend. More and more people I know have lost a parent; I guess we are kind of getting to that stage of life. On the flip side, lots of my friends are also having grandbabies, and I'm pretty excited about getting to that stage of life. I mean not yet, but soon.

Back to parents. The kids and I were having a great discussion last night. Here's some context: You know when you are at the playground, and there is always a kid with no parents in sight? The kid who keeps coming up and tugging on your arm saying, "Hey, watch me! Hey, can you push me on the swing? Hey, are you watching?" The kid that follows your kid around, and after everything she does says, "I can do that too. Watch!" Is it just me? Tell me it's not just me.

We were talking about that kid, and the kids that sit on everyone's lap, the girls that seek male attention way too early, and the boys that seek female companionship when they should be playing catch. My kids have never really been like that, and I hope it is because we filled their love tanks at home. They don't have a big extended family involved in their lives, but they have us. And we love them enough for 10 people.

Back to Father's day. I'm all over the place today, I apologize. I have heard that the best thing a dad can do for his kids is to love their mom, and my husband does that very well. And to some degree, I agree with that. However, the best thing that my dad did for me was to make me feel loved and valued. Granted, it wasn't until later in life, but better late than never. I knew no matter what other people thought of me or said about me, there was one man who thought I hung the moon, and I will miss him for the rest of my life.

And you know what? My kids know that their dad thinks they hung the moon. He makes our girls feel beautiful and special and deserving of the very best, and he connects with our son intellectually and athletically and gives him a great example of how to be a man, a husband, and a father. He is a perfect mix of playful and serious, and my LORD, he is good looking.

So this year, I vow to spend Father's day loving my baby daddy and being grateful for a season of being my own daddy's little girl.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

And this...

I have a lot of stuff rumbling around in my head, so if you're here, be warned: My mind is a crazy place. I often share too much, but in my family of origin no one talked about anything unpleasant. Everyone pretended everything was fine. You know how effed up fine is, right? Well, then people did drugs and killed themselves and manifested that bad stuff they didn't talk about in worse ways. So...I talk about stuff. Awkward, painful, personal stuff. Really, I write about it because I can barely speak a coherent sentence.

That brings me to a point I've been ruminating on for oh, um, a few days. I realize that in sharing this a lot of you may think that I need mental help. True story: I just read two books about people who are far less crazy than I am spending time in mental institutions. Given that knowledge, I'm pretty sure on any given day, I would be a perfect candidate for commitment, but I digress. The main reason I'm sharing my neurosis is that I think (or hope) others suffer this malady and don't want to tell anyone. Therefore, I'm going to tell you how crazy I am so you can feel less crazy. Ready? Here we go.

Whenever I have a conversation with someone, I spend a lot of time after analyzing (or criticizing mercilessly) everything I said. It sounds a lot like this: "Wow, that was so stupid. Why did you say that? Why did you talk so much when you should have been listening? What on earth made you tell that story? Really? Why would you divulge THAT in a five minute exchange of pleasantries? You're an idiot."

I feel as if I should keep a stack of cards in my purse for such occasions when I have to interact further than, "Hi, how are you?" with people. Then, rather than trip over my tongue and then spend the next week beating myself up over all the things I said or didn't say or should have said differently, I could hand each person a card wherein they would find my sentiments expressed in thoughtful and genuine, if unimpressive, prose.

Would that be weird? Because I really think I'm going to go with that.

My next point has very little to do with the first point, except to further solidify my kook status. I do not like to be touched when I am sad. In fact, I feel violated when people touch me when I'm sad. I don't want to be hugged, cuddled, coddled, or patted sympathetically. Normally, I'm a big fan of physical affection, so this is difficult for some people (my husband) to understand.

When I am sad, I go to a different place, by myself, wrap up in the awful yet awfully familiar feelings until I process them. But it is my place, and I don't take guests there. I will talk to you until my voice expires about my feelings when I'm ready, but please don't touch me. And if I tell you that I'm okay, just accept that; I'll tell you how I really am when I'm ready. Now this makes me think of my non-touching friends and how I try to be mindful of their personal space but still invade it sometimes because I love them so much and want to hug them. I'm sorry. And it reminds me of so many times I've tried to take my friends deeper rather than just letting them pretend they were okay. It's a fine line, and I have terrible balance. I'm sorry.

And then this: On Sunday, I got to see my daughter for about 6 hours, and then I had to say goodbye to her again. Last time for two weeks, this time for a month. Yes, these are the opportunities of a lifetime. Yes, she is so blessed. Yes, we are amazingly proud of her. Yes, yes, yes. Except what some people don't get is this: It feels just as bad to say goodbye to your grown kid as it does to drop your baby off at day care.

It doesn't get easier. Your kid doesn't stop being your kid because she grows up and goes to college. You don't wake up one day and no longer worry about what he's eating, how she is sleeping, if he is safe, if she is scared. It still rips your heart out when your 20-year-old is homesick as when your toddler cries and reaches for you. When she is sad, I ache. I don't imagine that is ever going to change.

Now that this is all out there, I would like to apologize if I said anything stupid to you, hugged you when you didn't want to be touched, revealed inappropriately personal information during an impersonal conversation or pushed you to tell me that you aren't really okay when you just wanted to pretend you're okay. I am a work in progress. For those of you who love me anyway, I am outrageously and eternally grateful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Knowledge vs. Love

Every morning, after reading a chapter or two in the Bible, I flip through and read a few sporadic verses. Sometimes those verses speak to me. Sometimes they encourage. Other times they convict. This morning's blew me away: "...But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes." (1 Corinthians 8:1-3) 

In this, Paul was talking about food sacrificed to idols and by church he means people, not the place some of us go on Sunday or for weddings and funerals. I specify the church thing because I never realized that before attending The Movement

I promise this isn't about meat, which I don't eat. Of course I've written about that, if you're interested.

Man, I take a long time to make a point; here we go: Sometimes we get so caught up in logistics, and rules, and answers, and figuring things out that we forget just to love God and each other. I cringe hearing people spew hate and judgement in Jesus' name or under the guise of "defending the Bible." Seriously? Are we so arrogant to think God needs us to stick up for Him? I'm pretty sure the Creator of the Universe is solid. And even if He did need our help, hate certainly would not be the approach He would encourage. He might tell us to Love and Serve. In fact, He did.
The last few days I have been praying almost without ceasing because every time I think of my daughter and can't talk to her, I pray. Lord, keep her safe. Lord, guide her steps. Lord, I'm scared. But the more vulnerable I am, the nearer to Him I draw, and the nearer He feels. This season of my life is completely out of my control. Rather than fight it, I am choosing to surrender completely, and in my surrender, God reaches out to me. I imagine Him saying, "There you are. Now we can make some progress." 

Last week during OAA's, my son complained every day about the stupid things he had to learn and why did it matter and algebra sucks, and why do we need to know this, and holy crap, I forgot how rough it is to be a teenager. However, in some ways I agree with him. We spend so much time trying to impart knowledge and skills to make our kids successful in this competitive world that we neglect to teach them love, compassion, and respect for others despite the fact that the latter lessons will undoubtedly serve them better in the future. I have never used Algebra a day in my life, but I interact with people every day.

So today, I'm gonna trade in knowledge for love. Instead of trying to figure people out, I'm going to encourage them unconditionally. Today, instead of making a snarky remark, I'll speak love. Today, instead of rolling my eyes at someone's self-congratulatory Facebook post, I will see beneath the bravado to someone striving to feel validated. I might be a complete jerk tomorrow, but I'm gonna really try not to be today :)

Peace out.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Losing my mind in 4,3,2,1...

I rarely take things for granted. Kindness, goodness, blessings, and the people attached to those sentiments overwhelm me with gratitude. You know that picture circulating on social media, "What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for last night"? I'd be solid. I thank Him constantly for the wonderful miracles in my life.

As you've probably guessed, that intro is leading up to what I do take for granted. Well, it's not a what. It's a who. Ugh...I hate admitting this, but I take my husband for granted sometimes.

Usually when I realize I am doing or have done so, I apologize immediately, write him long, appreciative letters, and make him feel extra loved. And honestly, he's stereotypically guyish and not super in touch with his emotions, so he doesn't sitting around whining that he's not appreciated.

And, he asks for very little. Mostly. Last week, he started a new job and text me 37 million times as I'm the keeper of all important personal information--even his. But as far as emotional support, the scale is definitely shifted in my favor.

I'm a basket case 25-95% of the time depending on what's going on in our life. A messy house, squabbling kids, writer's block, or any variety of issues might send me spiraling into a panic. He talks me off proverbial ledges. Unless the ledges are work related, then my boss/friend talks me down--she is my work husband. Also, occasionally, he puts me on the ledge, and for those instances I am fortunate to have the most amazing girlfriends who pull me back in. I don't spend as much of my life on the edge of sanity as this implies, but there are moments...or weeks.

This is of one of those weeks. I'm very excited for our daughter who will be leaving for an adventure in Brazil on Friday. I'm also a little nervous that our daughter will be leaving for an adventure in Brazil on Friday because I won't be able to talk to her for two weeks. I have immense faith and am beyond thrilled that she will have this amazing experience, but I'm also her mama. To outsiders, a beautiful, accomplished, bright and eager 20-year-old will be boarding a plane with her professor and classmates, but in my eyes, that person is a tiny blonde baby who was sleeping on my shoulder with my hair twisted around her finger...just a minute ago.

Consequently, I'm a little anxious and when I'm anxious, my person is always next to me, holding my hand, rubbing his thumb along my thumb, twirling my hair, patting my back, and catching me (figuratively and literally on occasion). When we put this same child on the bus to kindergarten 15 years ago, he stood behind me waving and whispering into my hair, "Don't cry, baby," until this bus was down the road and our baby girl was out of sight and then caught me up in his arms laughing, "Okay, you can cry now."

When I put her on this plane, he will be in another state, so I can't fall apart. He'll listen to me cry the whole way home, but it won't be the same as depositing mascara all over the front of his shirt.

So, I'm anxious, and I would appreciate if you guys could (as my dear friend said one time,) "say a prayer or light a candle or do whatever it is you do" for us on Friday as my heart is scattered all over the world.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's like this and like that and like this and uh*

I recently read Crash the Chatterbox, by Steven Furtick**, about quieting inside (and outside) voices so that you can hear God’s voice. It was a great book and helped me to isolate and silence some pretty destructive voices. And through engaging with my inner voices, I learned another powerful lesson: Whatever purpose we are here to fulfill? We already have everything we need. 

For instance, God gave me an English teacher mother, above average spelling and grammar acumen, a pretty sordid childhood, and a voice with which people can identify because He intended for me to share my story. 

BUT, you knew there was gonna be a but, didn't you? In the process of sharing my story, here is some chatter I have heard in my head and from well-intentioned friends:
You’re writing a book?
There’s nothing really special about your story.
You’re not that good of a writer.
Who would want to read your story?
Only famous people write memoirs.
What’s it gonna be about?
Who’s gonna buy it?
Your daughter is a better writer. Maybe you should have her write your story. (She IS a way better writer, but she has her own story to tell.)
You’re not good enough. You’re not interesting enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not important enough. You’re not special enough. You’re not skinny enough. You’re not blonde enough. You’ve never been enough and you never will be enough. Those voices are so mean; good grief!

Except a funny thing happened in the midst of that though. The aforementioned book landed in my lap and told me: 

  • You are doing better than you think you are. 
  • You matter more than you think you do. 
  • It's less about you than you think it is.  
  • God says you are enough. 
  • God said He gave you everything you need. 
  • God says you can.
It told me that the voices in my head were just that: Voices. I could tell to shut the @#$% up. If someone tells my kids they can’t do something, I say, “That’s their opinion, and their opinion doesn’t matter. God made you, and God says you can.” So what if the people who should have encouraged  or complimented me or believed in me didn't. God gave me everything I need to do what He intended me to do.

Who cares if other people don’t believe my story is important? I think everyone’s story is important. We can all positively impact someone by sharing our experiences and our heart; isn’t that why we are here? To love God and to love people?

If I share my story, and one person walks away feeling less shame about her own childhood, deciding to make lemonade out of the lemons life handed her, realizing that she already possesses everything she needs to fulfill her highest purpose, then it was worth everything to reach that one person. It was worth every embarrassing story. It was worth every agonizing question I’ve ever asked and will ever answer. It was worth losing every person who will no longer make eye contact with me because they never really saw me anyway.

My sweet friends, what voices do you need to quiet today in order to hear a still small voice that speaks only love?

*Nuthin' But a G Thang (What up, Dre)

** I think Steven Furtick is an extremely gifted pastor, speaker, writer and teacher and couldn't care less about the size of his house or how many people got baptized at Elevation on any given Sunday.