Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Honesty: The Best Policy

I believe we all have a story to tell. And we'll keep telling it over and over until we get it out. We tell it with the clothes we wear and the words we speak. We tell it through our actions. We tell it in the people we spend time with and the choices we make. Other people's words and actions and choices sometimes write chapters, but ultimately they're our stories.

I didn't tell a true story for the first half of my life and have spent the second half trying to rectify that. Sometimes my honesty is off-putting. Some people don't like what I have to say, even though it's true. I've learned over the years through painful lessons where and who are safe places to share my story.

Two of my favorite quotes are:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” --Anne Lamott

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” --Carl Jung

Those have become more than just words I pin on a board or share on social media. They have become my mantras.

But here's a lesson I'm still learning: Sometimes it's hard to tell your story without telling someone else's. That's been especially trying. Although a lot of who I am is through work on myself, some of who I am...well, I became through my reactions to other people's choices. 

Who do you become when someone doesn't love you the way you want them to? 
How will you go on when someone you love dies? 
Who are you when someone abuses you...physically, mentally, emotionally?
How do you react when someone you love makes choices you feel are wrong?
What if those choices kill them?

Ultimately, we are only responsible for ourselves. Our choices. Our reactions. Our stories.

When Chloe went to college, a friend asked me, "How can you stand it? What do you do?" I said, "Pray that I gave her the right tools." 

Isn't that our job as parents? To give our children the right tools to make their own choices and write their own stories--hopefully good ones. It's not our job to shove them into boxes they spend years trying to break out of. It's not our role to tell our children who they should be; it's our role to help them become the best version of who they already are.

Over the past few years, I've spent lots of time trying to shed the lies of who other people told me I was...trying to silence that inner shrew who's always ready with a criticism or insult...trying, as Danielle LaPorte encourages, to remember who I was before the world told me who I should be. 

It's hard. My earliest memories are of not being good enough. 

A few weeks ago I found out some information that knocked me off-kilter. It affected some beliefs I held dear and made me question if I knew anything for sure. 

Here are a few things I know for sure: No matter what choices other people make, I can choose honesty, kindness, compassion, and love. If it's not genuine, I don't want any part of it. When I make a mistake, I can't always change it, but I can always apologize and try to do better. Secrets, lies, and gossip destroy relationships and people. 

I am going to strive to accept others unconditionally despite our differences--even political ones. I'm going to keep consciously trying to live authentically and tell my story honestly and wholeheartedly. I encourage you to do the same. The people who aren't meant to help us up will see their way out. 

Now...Please. Go. Vote.

xoxo

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Please Back Away Slowly

In recent years, consent has been widely discussed. What constitutes consent. What doesn't constitute consent. I've discussed with my son--in eye-gougingly (it's a word now, dammit) uncomfortable conversations--that consent is pretty much a completely sober, "Why yes, thank you, I would very much enjoy engaging in sexual activity with you," which is immediately negated if the person changes his/her mind. It's clearly illustrated in this British video about ... tea.

Thinking about it, reading about it, trying to come up with a way to talk to my teen-aged son about it sent my mind wandering into other areas where you can give and then withdraw consent. For instance, you meet someone and get along very well out of the gate. After a bit, you realize you don't have as much in common as you'd initially thought. In fact, you don't enjoy hanging out with this person much anymore and don't think that this relationship has a future. How do you withdraw consent, tactfully and without hurt feelings, from a friendship?

I imagine those of you who date or have dated are better--or at least more experienced--than I am at this. I have been dating the same guy for 26 years so, I rarely practiced, "It's not you, it's me."  How do you make the "I'm just not that into you" point without completely cold-shouldering someone?

Although I've had only one significant love relationship, I've had lots of friendships. I still have a lot. Some have transformed. Some have fallen to natural growing apart and life circumstances. And others to ... nonsense. While I am no expert, I can see more quickly now whether or not a friendship will work out.

A longtime friend and I joke about how we used to fall madly in love with people and jump into friendships with both feet. We'd throw caution to the wind, blindly surrendering our hearts and our time. Yeah, I don't do that shit anymore. I am far too protective of my time and energy and especially my heart.

While, I aspire to be warm, compassionate, and friendly, I don't cozy up as readily. I love to listen to people's stories, but this makes people feel disproportionately close to me. Since they shared a lot about themselves with me, they think we're good friends. However, I rarely reciprocate, so I seldom feel as close to others. Sometimes I share personal things. And I feel very close to some people. But since I tell all my secrets here, I am not so inclined to unburden myself to actual flesh and blood humans.

Recently Brad overheard me on the phone with a friend he doesn't know and said, "You tell her you love her?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

He kind of shrugged and shook his head in the way he does when I tell him about dreams and spirit animals. The way that says, "I don't always get you, but I love you."

This time, though, his words felt judge-y, and I felt defensive. It's just an eight-count in the ongoing dance of, "I don't work for you, please don't boss me," and, "I'm not your child, please don't parent me," that results from spending many of our days apart playing roles other than loving partners.

I reminded him that while he's working in other states, I sometimes cultivate new friendships. With women. He doesn't really get my need for a tribe, but he doesn't need to. He knows that he wouldn't want to deal with the repercussions of me without my tribe. I wouldn't either. We don't always need to understand each other, but in order to be happy, we must practice radical acceptance.

Now, I've wandered off course, shockingly.

Over the past year, I've started backing away slowly when I realize that a relationship is not for me. My best friend advises, "Just don't engage." She does this masterfully. I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me; as a nurturer, my natural inclination is TO engage. However, when I have stepped back and observed from a safe distance, it's always been for my highest good.

I wonder ... Have you dealt with this? How would you remove yourself from a toxic friendship? What do you do when a friendship isn't going the way you'd thought? Has a friend walked away from you and you don't know why? How many friendships have you lost over the election? Just kidding. Mostly. I mean you can tell me if you want.

 xoxo

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Touch Me. ***WARNING*** This post contains graphic language.

I read a post recently on my brother's page regarding a controversial issue. Not shocking because my brother loves and encourages debate. He often plays the devil's advocate. What surprised me, however, is that people shared very diverse views in a respectful manner. No one insulted, attacked, or to my knowledge defriended anyone. It was remarkable.

Although I strive to be open to differing views and opinions, some really get to me, and I've hit the block button more than once after a remark cut too deeply.

I'll probably do it again too because I remain a work in progress. But, I've actually engaged in a few political conversations recently and didn't even feel my blood pressure rising. That's growth...or perhaps apathy, but I am going with the former.

I have seen more people defriend and get defriended over the course of this election, and it really is sad. A long-time friend of mine wrote a great blog about her personal experience with it. I listened to a TedTalk (which I highly recommend; it's about 10 minutes and totally worth it) about not being so tied to our beliefs that if we learned they were wrong we would go down with that ship rather than letting revelatory information enlighten and lift us to new heights.

When we attended church, lots of people gave us recommendations for businesses and so forth based solely on this fact: They're Christians. I have known lots of Christians. Some good. Some not so good. It always baffled me. Christians are followers of Christ; right? So if Christ hung out with thieves, murderers, prostitutes--people who were way different than Him--then why do His followers want to surround themselves with other like (or closed-) minded people? And how can you ever learn anything new if all you do is reinforce the same beliefs?

A key component to making this world a better place is empathy. Another is the ability to listen to differing points of view without feeling defensive. We don't need to agree, respect or even tolerate another's point of view--especially if it's ignorant and hate-fueled--but what if we could share and hear opposing views without feeling angry and wanting to prove our own point? Then, what if we could leap off that springboard and actually try to understand another person's experience in the world?

All of this nonsense about "locker room talk" really makes me wish men could truly understand what women experience. How it feels to have people ogle you, make unsolicited comments about what they want to do to you, and call you names. How it feels to have a person "accidentally" brush up against your body or put their disgusting hands on you. How vulnerable you feel when someone grabs your ass or genitals in a public place and threatens you if you reject them. Men can say that they've had similar experiences. Here's the difference: If a man rejects a woman, he probably doesn't fear that she is going to rape him.

I've lost count of how many times I responded unfavorably to a whistle or inappropriate comment or God forbid someone touching me only to hear, "Fuck you, bitch." Sometimes in front of my kids. Once my toddler son asked why a man whistled at me at a light. As, I tried to explain it to him, the man yelled, "CUNT!" because I didn't respond favorably to his unsolicited attention. "Mommy, what's a cunt?" It's not just me. Every woman I know can tell similar stories. Including my daughter.

To blow that off as locker room talk is to encourage rape culture.

I grew up with five brothers; I'm well-versed in locker room talk. It's not okay. It's not an excuse. It's disgusting. I've heard women say, "Oh that's just boys being boys." I find that deplorable. I even know women who take this sort of behavior as a compliment. I don't even have words for that.

In the meantime, I'm going to try--just try--to be the change by staying open-minded and loving all of you despite our differing opinions. I hope that you'll respect mine as well. Who knows, maybe we'll even learn something from each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Last week, a teacher walked into my 10-year-old daughter’s math class, handed her math teacher a stack of envelopes and told the kids, “If you get a letter, that means you have to come see me for extra practice.” Lily got a letter. When I took the letter from her folder, she burst into tears.

“Why are you crying, sweetheart? What’s wrong?” I asked. She said, “I’m dumb.”

The letter indicated that she was eligible for Title 1 math--which, I'll be perfectly honest, I had no idea what that even meant and had to google it. I assured her she wasn't dumb, even if she did need extra help in math and then started typing...cause that's what I do.

Even before this letter arrived, I had already had it with middle school in just a few short weeks.

It started with "gifted" children. 

Evidently parents use this identification to feel superior. Then their kids use it to feel superior. I guess it is widely known these kids get special treatment because they will get the test scores needed to label our school system “excellent with distinction.” I should know this; my older kids went all the way through Lakeview's "gifted" program, which is/was in fact excellent with distinction. But I didn't.

At Lakeview Middle School, we put said fourth graders inside the building, and the average or below average or whatever you want to call the other kids are relegated to trailers outside. 

I've been told by several students, "Oh yeah, everyone knows the smart kids are inside and the dumb kids are outside."

Are you fucking kidding me?

A few weeks ago, I read about a 13-year-old girl who took her own life rather than return to a school where she had been bullied. 

Schools install systems to prevent our kids from being killed by intruders--my dear friend actually invented one. 

They institute zero-tolerance policies against bullying. 

Then the exact people who are supposed to protect our children walk in and hand out letters that say, “YOU. NEED. HELP.” Or "You. Are. Dumb," as it said to my child. 


So, I emailed the teacher. I emailed the principal. And, I just wrote an email to the superintendent.  

No one contacted me to tell me Lily was "struggling" in math. She brought home A's and B's last year and scored "accelerated" on the spring standardized tests. Lily said she asked one question in class, and she herself did not feel she was "struggling." If a child needs extra help, I would think the parents would be the first point of contact. 

We have declined this extra help. Lily has confirmed that her dad, the electrical engineer, is really good at helping her with her math homework even via facetime.

All that aside? She still doesn't want to go to school. And really...middle school is hard enough without this added nonsense.

I waited for awhile to post this because I've been soooooo angry, but nothing is changing, and no one is responding, and my kid still doesn't want to go to school. So please, parents, teachers, friends, I implore you to share your opinions with me. Do other kids feel like this? I know a few who do. How can I encourage this kid who's told every day in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that she is less-than? Why is it okay to do this? And what can we do to change it?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why You Gotta Be Like That?

My daughter told me about this great podcast called You've Got Issues with Anna David. The host and guests talk about trivial things that irritate them and then break those little things down to get to the deeper issues behind them. And that is like my absolute favorite thing to do.

So, today, while driving to the airport with my husband, I decide it would be a fantastic idea to listen to the episode in which they discuss obnoxious drivers because this is one of his biggest petty issues. And of course one that I'm always trying to delve deeper into. "Why do you think it bothers you so much when that driver does that? How is it affecting you?" It always comes down to arrogance and a sense of entitlement, but we haven't cracked why those are such triggers. I'm still working on it. 

I also love to point out to him when he does the very things that enrage him if another driver does. Why yes, I am a complete asshole about 75% of the time. He loves me anyway. 

So, we listened to the podcast, laughed, agreed with a lot of what they said, and then I dropped him off and headed home. Let me preface the second half by saying, I rarely get irritated by other drivers' actions. I get irritated by all kinds of stupid petty things but usually driving isn't one. 

Except this one super-petty thing...

Here's the scenario: You're driving along and the person in front of you is going a tad slower than you'd prefer, so you move into the left lane to pass them. They speed up. Okay, cool. So you speed up a little more. They speed up a little more. And the race is on.

Depending on how enlightened I am on a particular day, I react differently to this. Sometimes, I simply get back behind the car. No big deal. I just wanted to go faster and now we're going faster. That is what happened today, by the way, cause I was very zen. 

However, the other day on the 82 bypass between Elm Road and 46--which is now 65 MPH, fyi, for those of you who didn't know--some douche decided that he was going to speed up as I tried to pass him. Whatever, dude, it doesn't call your masculinity in to question if you get passed by a woman. I think nothing of it. In fact, if you'd been going 70, I never would have wanted to pass you. But you were going 60. SIXTY. 

But now you wanna go 70. Cool. Imma go 75. Really? Your little car goes 75? Awesome.  It's on now mofo. I had to accelerate to an unreasonable speed to pass this car, and as I passed him, he flipped me off...and then exited at East Market. Seriously?? SO...his sole purpose in these shenanigans was to keep me from passing him. What. The. Fuck?

Has this happened to you? Are you a person who won't let people pass you? Never mind, I don't want to know if you are, because it will irreparably change my view of you. But seriously, what is going on here? I don't get it. I just don't understand. I don't care if people pass me. It doesn't make me feel inadequate. I never make any judgments about the people I pass. I simply want to go faster. I'm not trying to infringe on your personal space or emasculate you, I just want to go faster than you're currently going. I didn't even think you were an asshole for one second until you started this bullshit. 

Phewwwwwwww......exhaling all that nonsense out and...

Okay, I'm done. It can't always be rainbows and butterflies (heyyyy, Adam) here, I gotta vent occasionally. Thanks for indulging me. What petty issues drive you nuts? I wanna talk about them!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Uninvited

I had the good fortune to preview Lysa TerKeurst's new book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Lysa's writing goes straight to my heart. She's real. Transparent. She writes about losing her temper, yelling at her kids, fighting with her husband, drowning her sorrows in chips and queso and learning to say no. If you have heard her speak, you know she delivers all this wisdom in the most delightful sweet-as-pie-Southern-belle voice. I. Love. Her.

Her books Unglued, Made to Crave and The Best Yes address issues I regularly pretend to deal with and offer sound advice as well as the perfect amount of, "Me too, sister," to keep readers engaged.

When I heard about this latest book, I couldn't wait to hear what she had to say. I've written a time or two or 12 about my issues with feeling left out.

I'm not sure where it comes from. Being the youngest child and not getting to go along on adventures with my older siblings? Maybe. Being home-schooled and not having many friends? Possibly. Honestly, it doesn't even matter anymore where that feeling comes from. What matters is that I don't like feeling that way and don't want to anymore.

Here's the thing: In the past, if someone left me out, or I perceived that I was being left out, I immediately erected a big wall between my heart and the offending person. Not exactly an emotionally mature or responsible way of dealing with situations. Especially when the slight was more in my head than the other person's actions.

I'm still pretty gun-shy and keep my circle super-tight, but I've been trying. (#4 Always do your best.) And I realized the other day that sometimes in my haste to protect my own heart, I've been guilty of committing this detestable offense against others. Worse, I can't claim it was unintentional because it was totally my intention to keep people I perceived as disingenuous as far outside my circle as possible. I didn't engage with them. I didn't entertain them. I certainly didn't invite them. I left them out.

There's a face...more than a face...a posture that all three of my kids assume on occasion. I tried unsuccessfully to capture it. If you meld the three of them into one: Chloe's sassy face, and P's scowly face, and Lil's slumping body and disgusted face, then you kind of have an idea. Imagine they're melting, disgustedly, but somewhat at their own hand.
Sass. For. Days.
The untrained eye might not detect his scowl. Look closely.

She's melting. Literally.
In this moment of realization, that's how I felt. Kind of like melting into a puddle of self-loathing. Mind you, there are some colorful expressions I'd use to describe my demeanor upon hitting this moment of clarity head on, but Imma keep my language PG, when I talk about LT and her books.

Now, since I've also been practicing making positive changes rather than ruminating over my shortcomings, I simply decided to do better going forward. Stop taking things personally (#2), own my own behavior, step outside my tight little circle and be vulnerable. Let people in even when they chose to shut me out. Remember that the best antidote to meanness is kindness...even when the last thing you feel like being is kind. Be. Kind. Anyways. That's a good mantra.
So, back to Lysa's book--which will surely leap off the presses and onto the NY Times Bestsellers list--and feeling less than, left out, and lonely. Well, if you have ever felt like that, you'll definitely want to check it out. And please tell me: Do you ever feel left out? How do you deal with those feelings?




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How's that taste?

For 8 years, I have not eaten meat after reading about the cruel practices of factory farming. Over the course of these years, people have told me, "I won't watch those movies about how animals are treated or I'd never be able to enjoy a hamburger again."

To state the obvious: That's kind of the point.

I've told people that I would eat deer that my brother, the hunter, killed and been told "hunting is cruel." Really? And what about veal? Google it. Let that shit settle in.

For years, I've smiled and nodded while people made excuses for contributing to the torture and murder of animals. That's their deal if they can claim to be animal lovers and still eat them.

Unfortunately, over the years, people have expressed the same desire to avoid acknowledging discrimination and racism.

A few days ago, an acquaintance expressed on Facebook that black people wouldn't get killed if they just listened to the cops.

My knee-jerk reaction was to scream. To explode. To block her. And to cry.

None of those things would be productive. I can only try to learn from her ignorance.

This statement might be shocking to some, but black people have been getting killed for hundreds of years for being black. For not knowing their "place." For daring to want equal treatment. For using the wrong door or sitting in the wrong seat or not calling someone "sir." For being black.

Pretending that isn't true might help some sleep at night, but it sure doesn't make the world a safer place.

Some of us can't wrap our minds around that kind of hate and intolerance. Some of us want to forget that during many of our lifetimes, black people weren't allowed to eat, drink, or use the same bathrooms with whites. Most want to forget that black people were treated like animals and in many cases worse because it's horrific. It. Is. Horrific.

Unfortunately, not thinking about it or talking about it won't change it. The fact that we don't or won't get it doesn't make it any less true. People get worked up about Black Lives Matter, but if black lives had mattered in this country for the last three hundred years, there would be no reason for a movement.

People want to believe in humanity's inherent goodness. I get it. I do too. I want a world that tolerates differences. I want a compassionate and accepting society. Wanting it to be that way doesn't make it so. Turning a blind eye to real problems won't fix anything. Might as well click your heels together and try to teleport.

My friend wrote, "If people don't get it by now, it's because they don't want to get it." Right? The information is available. We need to educate ourselves. We can't protect anyone from issues we won't admit exist. Reinforcing the opinions and beliefs we already hold isn't going to change the world. Changing the world requires acknowledging the problem first.

We don't make any progress by staying in our comfort zones. We have to listen to people with different views. We need to watch videos that make us uncomfortable. We need to question what we believe and why we believe it. We need to be less defensive and more inquisitive. Otherwise we're destined to keep grieving.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Black. Lives. Matter.

Each of the far-too-frequent times a black person has been killed under "questionable circumstances" recently, I have fought the urge to say something. Be quiet. You don't understand. What could you possibly say?

A few weeks ago when a lifelong friend told me that she and some of her friends were shunned at a popular local restaurant--for no reason other than their skin color--I struggled to find words to convey the outrage I felt on her behalf. Nothing seemed adequate. I hesitated to say anything for fear of offending my friend out of my own ignorance.

When that piece of shit rapist got a slap on the wrist a few weeks ago, I bit my tongue. What could I say that would make a bit of difference? If people couldn't see his whiteness and wealth got him that sentence, how could I make them see?

But this morning, I read something my daughter posted on instagram:

"it's time we atone & make haste to fix a broken system. Far too much blood has already been shed. That means you have to stop clogging the doorway to equity with your narcissism. That means you have to stop being defensive & start comprehending empathy. It's about comprehending privilege & deconstructing it. It's not about you, it's about the well-being of people of color in a country that assaults & scrutinizes their every movement. You can keep denying that, but know what your denial reflects."


And I realized it's not about what I say, it's about what I feel. How we act. No, I don't understand. Your son is not my son. Your husband is not my husband. I can't begin to understand. I am knee-deep in white, pretty, blonde, blue-eyed privilege. And I know that. Still...I feel.  

So, I recommend just doing this one thing: Walk across the bridge from sympathy to empathy. 

Stop looking at these atrocities as other people's problems and start feeling them as our own. Maybe then something would change. Maybe then we'll start holding the racists, the murderers, the rapists accountable for their actions. 

If we stand with each other, perhaps we can enact a change.

We can teach our children manners. We can raise them to respect authority. We can give them wisdom and tools and home-training to make them successful, but we can't protect them from the kind of pervasive evil that doesn't even view them as human. 

And that should matter to all of us. 



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It Will All Be Okay

For most of my life, I've struggled to reconcile my actual self with the person others wanted me to be. My mother forever admonished me to be more ladylike. Cross your legs, brush your hair, wear a dress, put some lipstick on...and on and on. I didn't--and still don't--have any desire to be ladylike. To me, that meant: Pretend to be something you're not.

When I was a little girl, I hated wearing dresses. My idols were my five older brothers. None of them wore dresses. My favorite outfit was worn Levi's and a Playboy bunny t-shirt. Before I started kindergarten, I could cuss with the best of them. In retrospect, I really empathize with my mother's plight.

Now, I struggle not to stifle my own spunky, strong-willed, and feisty little girl's spirit. She's creative and messy--a virtual whirling dervish. Yesterday, she "dyed" her beautiful blonde locks black at the ends with Crayola markers. "MOM, relax, it washes OUT. I watched a video!" When I walk out of the house with her today people are gonna judge the shit out of my mothering. That's okay. 

We all play different roles and wear many hats in our lives, but those are just the things we do...not really who we are at our core. And that's what I'm working on: Just being who I am at my core. It's quite a journey to get back to who we were before our parents, teachers, society told us who we were supposed to be. Hence my efforts to refrain from shoving my own kids--especially this one who is so much like me--into boxes they'll have to bust out of in the future.

The past year, I've deepened relationships and walked away from friendships. I've accepted that some people were never going to like me, but I've also lowered walls and let other people get uncomfortably close to me. I have begun living more authentically and less apologetically.

Today, I sometimes wear dresses and lipstick--willingly. Other days I wear ratty t-shirts and holey jeans. I also swear. Maybe too much. That makes some people uncomfortable. They aren't my people, and I'm not theirs. That's okay too.

What I'm finding on this journey is that the more willing we are to love and accept ourselves, the easier it becomes to love and accept others. Even when they don't live up to our expectations. Even when they don't want or take our advice. Even when they could be so much happier if they would just _____. Even when they don't like us. Even when they say unkind things about us. Even when we don't really like them.

But the hardest part, still, is allowing myself to be okay with my shortcomings so that I am not stung when they are reflected back at me in others' behavior...because what annoys us most about others always has something to teach us about ourselves.

I recently reread one of my favorite books, The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer. I rarely re-read books, but there is so much wisdom packed into this gem I couldn't absorb it all in one experience. Today, I am reminding myself of his words: The truth is everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that's the only time everything will be okay.

And it's really that simple. As soon as we fully accept something, it no longer holds any power over us.

Except maybe coffee...that wily, delicious minx. But I accept my powerless over coffee.





Friday, April 29, 2016

You Gotta Fight . . for Your Right

I rarely post about controversial issues. It's not so much that I was raised believing that it's impolite to talk about religion or politics--even though I was. It's more that when I feel strongly about something, and someone expresses what I feel is hate, discrimination, intolerance or bias...it changes my perception of them. Those issues are few in number, but those few are deal breakers. And I understand that these issues also cause "friends" to change their opinion of me. It's all good.

A lot of people get worked up about their "rights," but many don't stop to consider that historically one group's "rights" have come at the expense of another's. Was it white people's "right" to enslave black people? Was it man's "right" to rape and abuse women? In the past, people believed that. Some still do.

Not so long ago people were up in arms about same-sex marriage. Not sure how it affected them. It affected our family because now my beautiful sisters can get married.

People are pissed that Harriet Tubman is on currency. Ummm...whyyyyyy?

And today, some are incensed about transgender individuals' freedom to use the bathroom with which they identify. Maybe they are confused about what trans means? Because certainly they wouldn't look at any of the beautiful, kind, loving, generous trans individuals I know and call them "perverts." That wouldn't even make any sense.

Certainly they wouldn't consider a precious, bright-eyed, innocent little three-year-old who played with dolls and longed to wear dresses a pervert. Most probably wouldn't even realize this grown-up child had a penis if they saw her in a bathroom. She's stunning. They likely wouldn't see her penis unless they invaded her privacy.

However, the gentle but very masculine-looking man who was born with a vagina incites panic, dirty looks and angry comments when he enters the women's restroom. He has to use that restroom. He has to endure those looks. He doesn't meant to scare the women...he just has to sit down to pee.

I understand that some people naturally fear what's different. I just don't understand why the reaction so often seems to be panic and hysteria. It's okay to be scared of what you don't understand, but ask a question, read a book, use the freaking internet for something other than fear-mongering ... perhaps to enlighten yourself.

It's appalling. I'm horrified.

Lots of people are afraid of the boogieman. And yes, let's be honest: Bad people exist. However, statistically speaking you and your children are far more likely to be abused, hurt, and victimized by someone you already know and trust than by a stranger. That means you're probably more likely to encounter the boogieman in your own home than in the Target bathroom.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Warning: This Post Contains Several Uses of the F Word

Life is hectic when you have multiple children involved in activities. It's more hectic when only one parent is available to take them to their activities. I do my best to be at each child's events, but it's just me. This is life for a single parent. This is also the life for a person whose spouse travels. And during the months of March through May, when I run from dance to baseball to dance to baseball...and back to dance, it wears me out a bit.

I juggle ever-changing schedules. Is the game home or away? Is it knots or princess buns? Is it at the school or the park? Where am I supposed to glue these gems? Are you JV or Varsity? What color tights? What kind of glue? What. The. Fuck?!

It's just a little vent. I gotta get this stuff out of my head. 

So, here's the thing: My husband travels for work. Yes, every week. Yes, he's gone this week too. He's gone E-VE-RY week. Next week? He'll be gone then too. It's not a phase his job was going through; it's his job. No, he's not looking for another job. No, his job is not going to change so he doesn't have to travel. No, it doesn't make me crazy. Sometimes it makes life challenging since there is one me and two non-driving children. But in the meantime...

Here are a few suggestions for those who interact with a person whose spouse travels, based on my experiences:

  1. If you would hate your spouse traveling for work, then I'd recommend your spouse avoids getting a job that requires travel. Please don't repeatedly tell us, "Oh, I would HATE it if my husband traveled." Seriously. We get it. 
  2. Please don't give your friends books about a woman whose husband travels for work and has a secret family in another state. And then claim ignorance. That's 50 different kinds of fucked up.
  3. Don't suggest that your friend's husband might be unfaithful or that she might be naive. I trust my husband and rarely entertain the thought of him banging waitresses; thank you for asking. I know...you wouldn't like it if your husband traveled.
  4. No, I am not tempted to have an affair. I'm too busy remembering which bun and what field the glue and dinner, AND I'm completely in love with my husband.
  5. Please don't get mad when we won't make plans on the weekend; it is the only family time we have.
  6. No our marriage hasn't suffered, but again thanks for your concern.

I love my husband. I appreciate everything he does for our family, and he appreciates everything I do as well. Our situation is not that unique, but it's unique to us, and we're always working to make it better. 

Oh, and to the wonderful, amazing people, I'm blessed to call my tribe: Thank you for offering to pick up or drop off one of my kids. Thank you for accommodating my M-Thurs. day dates. Thank you for inviting Lily over so Brad and I can have a real date. Thank you for not feeling sorry for me. Thank you for sometimes suggesting it would be nice if your husband traveled occasionally. Thank you for saying, "What can I do?" and really meaning it. Thanks for letting me vent. Thank you for understanding that sometimes I'm trying so hard not to let any bit of our life slip through the cracks that I might forget to text you back or answer your question or ask about what is going on in your life. It doesn't mean I'm mad at you; I'm just at full capacity.

If you've been through a similar situation and have tips, by all means, I'd love to hear them. But save your sad faces and pity for someone else. And if you know someone whose spouse travels for work, please, please, please, please, please...don't do any of the dickish things I've mentioned. 



Monday, April 25, 2016

Being Brave

I've heard this said a lot of different ways, but this seems to fit me best. I'm trying to be okay with things being good, okay even, and not trying to make them perfect all the time. Like, the time I freaked out on the day after Thanksgiving because we weren't all going to be able to go together to get a Christmas tree, so I tainted a GOOD experience because it wasn't going to be perfect.

I don't want to do that anymore.

Additionally, I have a million and a half projects pinned that go uncompleted because they can't be ... perfect. So, I'm trying to make a couple good ones. Even if they're just kind of good, that's really better than just being a passing thought I never acted on.

And then there's writing. I can find 8 1/2 million reasons not to write or if I do write, I have 927 million reasons not to share it. Most of those reasons are......."it sucks," "no one will relate," "this is self-indulgent." It's a lot of defeatist drivel.

I listened to a TedTalk (linked if you wanna listen; it's fabulous) about how hesitant women are to try if we aren't certain that we're going to succeed. The speaker said that we should stop teaching our daughters to be perfect and start teaching them to be brave.

So, I'm going to be really brave and move forward with a project that's been on my heart for awhile. And do you know what I'm most afraid of? Failing. Embarrassing myself. People talking bad about me. I hear my group therapy facilitator saying, "So what would happen if they did?" And do you know what would happen? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I know who I am. And all of you who read this? You know who I am too. I am flawed, imperfect and a hot mess lots of days. I'm a work in progress. However, I am also kind, compassionate, loving and empathetic--I really want to write empathic, but it provokes the red squiggly line which makes my skin prickle because I'm such a rule follower.

Whether I succeed, fail or face criticism, I'll at least be able to say I used my unique gifts to contribute positively to humanity one kind word at a time. Do you want to do something, but fear is holding you back? Please share. We can be brave together!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Who Do You Think You Are?

In one of my favorite books, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert likened life to a road trip. She mused that fear--along with anger, jealousy, bitterness and all your other emotions--get a seat in the mini-van; they just don't get to drive.

I've spent a good deal of time trying to outrun, outsmart, out-pray, and grow out of what self-labeled weak, negative, or non-productive feelings. Instead of just acknowledging them and then moving on, I wrestled, criticized, condemned and guilted* myself. For what seems like -ever, I prayed for more patience until a few years ago when a mentor-sister-saint-friend admonished, "MARE!!! If you pray for patience, God will give you trials so you can practice and develop it."

Sweet. Jesus. Light bulb moment to say the least.

A guided meditation I listened to recently focused on taking your power back. Letting go of the labels others place on us and more importantly resisting the urge to label ourselves.

I get angry sometimes, but I'm not an angry person. I feel sad sometimes, but I'm not a sad person. I have felt jealous, snippy, snarky, bitchy, embarrassed, insane, proud, smart, stupid, beautiful, sexy, confident, terrified and hideous... Guess what? Having feelings makes us human. Normal. Okay.

Throughout our lives we give up things, people, plans. Oddly enough, sometimes we give up what is good for us and have a harder time relinquishing what is bad. I'll chose to sit and watch a movie over a workout most days. I'll usually choose beer over water. And it's way easier for me to point out my many flaws than it is to acknowledge my strengths. I'll usually make myself small rather than allow myself to take up too much space in the world.

But when we are brave enough to let go of our own ideas, labels, and yes even sometimes dreams...when we are willing to let ourselves be who we already are, we open our hearts to receive blessings beyond our wildest imagination.

One of the questions I've struggled with my whole life is, "Who do you think you are?" Every word, every action, every thought ... I question. Every success. Every mistake. Who do you think you are? I'm claiming power over that question today and will no longer let it keep me "in my place." I know who I am.

So, my beautiful friends, I say this with the utmost love and compassion: Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be?

*Anyone who was raised by a Catholic mother knows that guilted absolutely is a verb.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Searching vs. Seeking

Today, my sister in law mentioned my "energy has been different." Although, I wasn't aware of a shift, it was apparent enough to her that she felt prompted to check on me. And that, of course, led me to question my behavior, demeanor, attitude and energy.

I try to be very aware of how I treat people, act, behave, and express myself in all interactions. I try to be kind, genuine, and seek to understand others rather than just responding or sharing information about myself. I try not only to make people feel that I'm interested, but also to genuinely BE* interested.

Generally, I'm about as transparent as a freshly cleaned window, and if someone perceives that I'm upset, off, distracted, it is usually because I am. Only once have I ever been "accused" of being stand-offish when I really had no idea that I was being stand-offish. And that caught me so off-guard that I've monitored the space I take up even more vigilantly since.

So when she said this--mind you, my sister-in-law is a straight shooter who would not ask this if she didn't genuinely sense something was amiss--it knocked me a little off-kilter.

Here's what I figured out.

My energy is different. I don't give it away anymore to people, places, things, or thoughts that don't inspire me. That doesn't mean I don't care ... I just don't hop on board the feelings express every time. Also, the more time I spend meditating, writing, doing yoga and just being, the less I engage with so many of the silly things that used to work me up.

Meditation teachers advise that when a thought crosses your mind during meditation, simply acknowledge it and then let it go. This simple revelation has rocked my world. For 43 years, I never had the space between an action and reaction that many people have. That space that allows you to process things before (over)reacting. Many of you have that space. Brad does. He has a big space. Sometimes, he doesn't react at all.

Meditation has given me that space. I'm still learning and practicing using the space, but I am so grateful every time I am able to observe, acknowledge and not lose my shit.

I read an article that clarified my energy shift beautifully. I have transitioned from a searcher to a seeker.

"A searcher needs ... to be supported to help find their goals. They need to find the thing that will provide motivation and propel them forward. This will require a more in-depth examination of values and wants, learning what makes the person tick and what gives his life meaning. 

A seeker has already set the path for herself. She may need help motivating to follow the course, to reach the goals, to keep envisioning and acting upon her own agency and pathways, but there is something already in her mind that she wants to achieve. " 

So thank you, my darling little sister, for helping me to see this.

Do you have that space? How did you get it or was it always there? Or, if you're like me, did you even know there was a space?

*I know that split infinitive irks me too, but "to be" feels so Shakespeare-y. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Unraveling

When someone suffers a tragedy, if it’s something we experienced, we sometimes re-suffer it with them. This is especially true if you are an emotional empath as I am. When my dear friend lost her dad, I relived the experience with her. My dad died five years ago, but around the anniversary—February 28th—I tend to think about him more, ponder his life, remember the good times and the bad, the patches of my life’s quilt I stitched with him.

I do a lot of stitching because my life periodically unravels. Once when I was 16, and my brother died of a drug overdose. Again at 24, when another brother took his own life. Most recently, three weeks after my 38th birthday, when my dad peacefully sauntered into eternal life, with no illness to blame. He simply said he was, “old and tired.” At 94, that was acceptable.

And for four months after, I told myself that it was acceptable. He was old. He was tired. He died very peacefully. No suffering. No sickness. He was ready. My mom was dealing with it. My brothers seemed to be doing fine. My sister seemed okay. It was just how I’d prayed he would go: quietly and peacefully. Everything was fine.

Except I didn’t really feel fine. I spent a half hour sobbing in the shower every morning. I was unable to smile. I felt unraveled.

For the first month, being sad was acceptable. People still called to check on me. My husband didn’t ask why I was crying every night, he simply pulled me close to him.

The second month was a little harder. No one called anymore. I didn’t get any cards in the mail. And my kids wondered why I was crying when we said prayers at night.

The third month I relegated my sobbing to 15 minutes in the shower, and then I tried to smile and take an interest in life again.

The fourth month, I gave up on everything I tried to do in the third month and sought a quick fix. A pharmaceutical intervention.

I never go to the doctor so to go to the doctor solely for some feel-better medication was a stretch. I have mild bi-polar tendencies, which I realized that the assessment would reveal if I answered honestly. But, my manic episodes focus mostly on cleaning and home improvement rather than reckless sex or spending, so I kind of welcome them. The depressive episodes usually last only a day and are bearable.

This particular malaise seemed to really drag on though.

After assuring the doctor that I was not suicidal, but normally a happily functioning person really wanting to function as a normally and happily again, the doctor prescribed a mood-stabilizing anti-depressant to help get me “over the hump.” That was her description of my malaise—the hump.

After a few weeks on the medicine, I felt…even. I was no longer sad, mad or depressed. I also wasn’t happy, excited, or passionate. I gained 20 pounds and didn’t care. In fact, I didn’t really care about anything. Not in a hopeless way …  just in a blissfully apathetic way.

It was in the midst of this blissful apathy that I ran across an article in Prevention that talked about depression being a God-given emotion to help us deal with times of sadness. Since we don’t feel like doing anything during a depression, we can often work through our pain, feelings of loss, or whatever is causing our sadness. Obviously this isn’t true for people whose depression is cued by chemical imbalances rather than sad events, but it was true for me.

I decided, after reading this article that I did not need a quick fix. What I did need was to stop telling myself that everything was okay and just be sad and miss my dad for awhile.

So, I did. And it got pretty dark. My husband, who had gotten used to and rather liked the easygoing-if-numb version of medicated me, didn’t think it was a good idea for me to stop. He thought it was an even worse idea when I started to cry all the time. But in a few months, after I walked through the depths of my sadness and out the other side, he agreed that it had been the right choice.

Years ago in graduate school, I took a group therapy class. Once, when I was reluctant to talk about something, the facilitator questioned my fear: “What do you think will happen if you talk about it?”

“I’ll cry.”

“And?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll never stop crying?”

“And…you will get dehydrated from all the crying and shrivel up like a raisin or what?”

It’s irrational to think you’ll never stop crying, but before that day, I’d never taken a moment to be present in my own fear. I’d never asked, “What am I really afraid of?” I’d spent so much time telling myself all the reasons I had to be happy—and there are so many—that I hadn’t allowed myself to be sad. It’s okay to be sad. Losing someone you love is heartbreaking.


Sometimes, it takes medication. Sometimes, it takes meditation. Sometimes all it takes is a margarita or mojito or Moscow Mule—I’m here all week, friends. But whatever your solution, a good step in the right direction is listening to what your feelings want to tell you. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. The only way we can ever fully heal is to feel.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Put Your Bat in the Holster

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." You've probably heard this numerous times over the years. I have anyway. I googled it this morning to see who actually said it. Wasn't Buddha. Wasn't Ghandi. Wasn't even Obi Wan Kenobi, which was my guess. In fact, I lost interest before I could finish the article that divulged true authorship, but the sentiment is right on.

I've been noticing more and more that when I focus my energy and take steps in a certain direction, interesting people show up on my path. I listen to podcasts, order a book and then run into someone who is reading the same book. Or, I listen to a TedX talk and then one of my favorite podcasters mentions the speaker even though I'd never heard of her before and I'm a Ted junkie. So while I've always believed that coincidences were almost always divine appointments, sometimes synchronicity can be downright spooky.

Life has always brought me the people I needed. Even though sometimes I didn't realize at the time, when I look back at memories, experiences, circumstances, I realize that God--or whatever you want to call the omniscient, omni-benevolent universal energy source--always sent people to help me through. Sometimes those people vanished shortly after; some are still here. You know...reasons, seasons, lifetime.

But recently, it has been a different sort of energy. People seem to bring a specific idea or a very obvious lesson. I meet people who are exploring similar ideas or reading the same books or writing a book...whatever it is, it seems each day someone crosses my path with some nugget of wisdom or truth or love.

So this begs the question, "Has this been happening all along and I was too oblivious to notice?" Perhaps. I might have walked past hundreds of everyday gurus missing them and their lessons. I'm not going to ruminate on that because I want to focus my energy on being awake and aware to the new lessons--even painful ones--that each interaction brings.

I've always believed that my kids are my greatest teachers, and when I am present enough to step back from imposing my will on them and instead follow my current feeling to its origin, it's nearly always transformative. I've been trying to apply that beyond my precious offspring and onto others and to allow myself to be open and vulnerable enough to accept without seeking acceptance.

And I think all of this is possible because I'm no longer giving away my time and energy to people and situations that don't bring me joy. I have more room in my mind, my heart and my life for positive energy, good people and life lessons. Not the same ones you have to keep learning over and over because they don't sink in, but the good kind. The kind that make you get up and take an actual physical step toward your goals.

So, I would encourage you, if you're reading this, stop swatting the proverbial bee's nest because you'll just keep getting stung. Take a step back from situations or people that don't bring you joy and take a big giant leap toward something or someone that makes your heart sing. I'm going to as well. We can do it together. I'll encourage you.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Too Much of a Good Thing is Still Too Much

Since I'm very vulnerable and transparent here, I am going to confess something: I can be a know-it-all. Not the kind who argues about facts and ideas and theories and politics. Not even the kind who thinks she is always right--at least not in traditional ways. No, I would describe myself as a person who aspires to grow and change and be my best self while helping inspire others to do the same. Whether they want to or not.

Sometimes, that is helpful. Lots of my friends find my "help" inspiring and encouraging--which, for the record is always my goal. But there are also other people who don't want to read the books I suggest or the blogs I write or the podcasts I listen to. Some people aren't interested in my brand of self-improvement. And that is perfectly fine. Just because we don't work the same way doesn't mean we can't be friends.

However, there are others who just really aren't my people. Also, fine.

Brad told me one time that I can be "too much Mary" for some. I get that. I've never tried to be a self-improvement bully, but when something I read or watch or hear impacts me significantly, I want to share it so that others can have similar experiences. Alas, I know now that not everyone can or will or wants all these A-ha moments. So, I've been trying to keep my book, blog, and podcast recommendations to a minimum. Except here. This place is fair game for all my blathering.

For a long time, I subscribed to the philosophy of, "Leave the 99 and go after the 1." That might work in ministry, but in real life, at least in my real life, it's non-productive, nonsensical and painful. It's taken me a long, lonnnnggggg, LOOOOOONNNGG time to figure it out, but I'm getting it. I am making a habit of loving, encouraging, and inspiring the people who love me back (the 99) and letting the others go. Not being everyone's cup of tea doesn't make me a bad person. People disliking me and trying to convince others that I'm a bad person doesn't make me a bad person either. It's tough stuff for a recovering approval junkie to take though.

So, if you're reading this, I'm making a big assumption that you are one of my people or you care what I have to say or maybe the google brought you here via a keyword search for kookaloo, and I'm going to be really frank with you. I want everyone to be happy. Enormously, outrageously, love-cup-overflowing-ly happy. And sometimes, I feel like I see shortcuts to get there and I want to show them to people. "Look right here, if you just do this..." Sometimes, I feel like the blog or sermon that changed my life might change yours too. And sometimes I'm even right. People tell me all the time that my words or someone else's words that I shared really DID impact them. I mean The Four Agreements? Seriously?

Still, other people wish I would shut up and stop being so happy and sharing pictures of my annoyingly beautiful kids and sickeningly hot husband who still loves me after 25 years and our obnoxious tattoos eye-roll. They're not my people. I don't care what they think. I don't care if they like me, and I give up trying to win them over. Today's Ash Wednesday, right? Good. I'm giving it up for Lent.

So, this is self-indulgent, I know. Sometimes I have to get this drivel out of my head to allow me to think clearly. However, I also know that at least one of you reading this relates. Among you are spiritual bullies, and kind-natured know-it-alls and do-gooders who see people not living up to their potential that could benefit from ______. Me too, friends. I'm trying to do better. I'm trying to listen more and advise less. I'm reading more body language (Stuff You Should Know 1-7, ONLY if you're interested) and recommending fewer books. I'm seeking more to understand and less to be understood.

But...I'm a work in progress. So here's a link to my kid's blog. Cause she's fabulosity personified. Peace out.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is That a Cat In There?

In the past few months, I've become obsessed with podcasts, and one of my current favorites is Gretchen Rubin's Happier. I love her books, and the podcast is chock full of her simple, commonsense, non-woo-woo-even-though-I-really-like-woo-woo-too suggestions to live happier. Make your bed, for instance, embrace good smells, do simple tasks right now instead of putting them off. Lots of quick easy ways to add a little more happiness to your day.

Yesterday, her suggestion might have changed my life. She said, "Give yourself permission to stop reading books you don't enjoy." I was currently slogging through a book that I really didn't like. But I have a hard time quitting a book. A really hard time. When I finally gave  up on Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, I had a psychic crisis. How can I hate this book and still consider myself a writer? What is wrong with me that this amazing author doesn't inspire me? Well ... nothing. You don't click with everyone, and Joan Didion and I didn't click.

So I stopped pushing myself to embrace something I wasn't really into and allowed myself to enjoy something that made my heart sing. And that felt amazing.

And that is what this year is about for me. I didn't make any resolutions because, it's so much darn pressure and then I get overwhelmed and crawl into my shell with chips and chocolate and darkness surrounds me and ... it's ugly. However, I did set some goals, and one of them was to give more energy to people and activities that bring me joy.

Fortunately, the universe responded by bringing some fabulous, inspiring, loving, wonderful NEW people into my life. Since I was already surrounded by fabulous, inspiring, loving and wonderful people, this seemed like a crazy bonus.

But I have to remind myself to shift my energy all the time ... especially lately in terms of my kids growing up. For so long we're celebrating firsts that before you know it you are clinging to one last after another. Those lasts can be gut-wrenching if you dwell on them.

My kids are never gonna be babies again. Chloe will never twist my hair around her finger and Peyton won't ask me to take my earrings out so he can rub my ear to fall asleep. Lily still snuggles, but there are no more naps on my shoulder.

Focusing too much energy on those things makes me put the cat in a sling and bounce him around while hot tears splash on his head. Disclaimer: I do carry the cat around in an infinity scarf, but he's old, and well, I'm not going to try to justify that. I own my eccentricity.

You get it though. It's sad to think about all that has gone by in a heartbeat. I had to answer a questionnaire about Peyton's college choices, and even as a tall, lanky teenager stood in front of me, I saw a chubby, curly-haired, dimpled baby snuggled in my lap.

So, I can cry all over the cat or I can shift my focus from what was to what is. And, if I really need to cheer up, what will be. Yes, he was a precious baby, and today he's a cool, funny kid, and tomorrow who knows.

Lately Brad is gone a lot for work. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep on Sunday night because I don't want our weekend to be over. But instead of dwelling on that, I try to focus on the time he is here and make our weekends mini-vacations when we only do fun things and spend quality time together.

So, I'm looking for more suggestions. I wonder: How do you shift your perspective? What simple things do you do to add a little happy to your day? Do you force yourself to finish books you are hating? And are any of you doing the Daniel Fast this year? I gave myself permission not to, and it's pretty fabulous I must say.

Oh, and what are your favorite podcasts? I LOVE: This American Life, Magic Lessons, Serial, Dear Sugar, Strangers, Happier, Detective...