Tuesday, March 27, 2018

For Dakota Which Turned into Being For Me

Today we're celebrating our youngest son's 19th birthday.

 My baby boy is 19 and I am a little mad about it. The years just go by so dang fast while the days get pokey and sometimes long and seem to drag by and so we miss more than we'd hoped.

How did this kid, who decided when I was 8 months pregnant it'd be super cool to show up a month early and break my water at 2am so his Dad would ask me if I'm absolutely certain I didn't just pee in the bed, suddenly, but also painfully slowly and beautifully minute by minute, become an almost not teenager?!

But, here we are.

Here I am and there are so many memories. 

I remember being pregnant with him and David's complete fascination with all that moving going on in his wife's belly.

I remember the minute he took his first breath. Literally, the second he took his first breath.

I remember he had SO MUCH HAIR. That hasn't changed.

I remember his Daddy's very first words as he laid eyes on his son for the 1st time:  "Oh my God. He looks exactly like me!" This was said as I am literally laid out on the operating table having the C-section and Dakota was still blue and cheesy hanging upside down in Dr. Davis' hands. And yes, he looks exactly like his Daddy, minus the blue and cheese.

I remember his first car ride. I remember his first outfit because I totally saved it. I remember his first favorite food and how he ate those PB & J's every single lunch for almost 5 straight years.

I remember his first words and his first steps and every single first of Dakota's life.

I also meticulously wrote them down in his baby book because he was only baby number 2 and those things were just so precious to do! I also had time to do them, which disappears after baby number 3 and I think we have like 9 pictures of baby number 4's first 3 years. Maybe. Anyway...

And so today, I'm reflecting on this spectacular kid who is now not really a kid, but a young man. I'm reflecting on how precious I'd intended to be as a Mom and ALL. THE. PLANS.

Plans that mostly didn't pan out but we had SO many art supplies in case I did morph into crafty Mom.

Turns out, this kid didn't need me to be crafty (Jesus is good, yall!). He could just draw everything!!! He could sketch actual things and I could tell what they were by the time he was 2 years old. He loved colors and shapes and pretty much anything that was artsy, just like his Dad. I enjoyed the final results, though, and that totally counts whether I participated or not.

My refrigerator was a plethora of pictures and shapes and abstracts and any kind of art that could be created.

We were going to eat all organic and maybe even never have meat but this kid really loves chicken nuggets, so what was pretend organic Mom to do with all those organic PLANS?  I fed that kid chicken nuggets and chocolate milk like I'd never heard of organic and didn't look back.

We even ate cheese out of a can and loved it. Judge away. That crap is good.

So many plans. Whatever.

I was also never, ever going to scream like crazy Mom and only watch documentaries. Again, whatever.

It turns out that the plan was all bogus nonsense. I will begrudgingly admit that the canned cheese is probably a less good choice than say...straight up spoonfuls of sugar, but it was still good.

It turns out that this kid was great, even with my screw ups. This boy of mine who loves art and comedy and drama and will discuss the National Enquirer like it is an actual publication of facts and have me in laughter tears turned out so great and so yummy I can't help but wonder if he didn't teach me as much I've ever taught him.

This man boy of mine who scared the fun right out of me sometimes because I so desperately wanted to do it all "right",  is able to see past that and hear my heart to stand against injustices in the world and love people more than we love ideas.

This young man who doesn't mince words, but has a kindness in him that shines so brightly he often takes my breath away.

He rarely leaves the house without first hugging me and telling me he loves me.

This young man of mine who sets his very own alarm for work on Saturdays without a single nudge from me! This cannot be underrated people.

This boy man who saves his money and discusses finances with his parents because he has his own plans. This financially savvy young man of mine who diligently oversees his checking and savings accounts because he knows it matters.

I know God has a different plan than any we could imagine for our kids. I know God will take our current plans and move them like gnats to get us where we need to be and yet...looking at this man child of mine who has surpassed every single plan I didn't even know I wanted fills me with both peace and, maybe, a bit of longing.

Longing for a time when he was safely tucked into my arms.

And still...that isn't God's plan. God intends my boy to stand on his own one day. He means for my boy to grow into a man. The kind of man who hears His voice and heeds the call.

I know the call for you is something precious, Dakota. You know it's now in your hands and I want you to know that I trust you. You are so trustworthy and your heart is so good and even with the teeny bit of longing I have for when you were little, I am so at peace watching you run your own life. Man, you are good at it! 

And I could not be prouder. You are so dang good at adulting already that I can't even stand it.

One reminder, son:  We're here. We're never more than a phone call or a word away. Your Dad and I have your back and you are one of our greatest treasures. You're so deeply loved and cherished and we are in awe of just how cool you actually are. :)

We love you, son.

We admire you and we are over here on the sidelines cheering you on, believing a life of adventure and courage and integrity for you.

I'll be the loudest one on the sidelines in the "Dakota's Mom" t-shirt and I will happily make you chicken and dumplings or homemade chili for the rest of your life. I'm just saying...

Forever and Always and Beyond,

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On Camping...A Travel Tuesday Post

We went camping this past weekend. 

My husband calls what we do "glamping" but that is clearly a discernment issue on his part that needs to be worked through. We have a camper. CAMP-er. That we also take a little flat grill, waffle iron and air conditioning is irrelevant.

We had fun. So much fun. 

Lake Hartwell. Our camper sat less than 15 yards from this sight and I started the day here and ended it in the exact same way. Just look at it. Seriously, look at that.

On the recommendation of a Facebook pal, we chose Twin Lakes Campground on Lake Hartwell. (SC) It was only about an hour and half from our house, so that added to it's appeal for a short weekend trip.

Side note: If you are a Clemson fan (and Lord knows half the state falls into this category because they are wise and discerning), then you'd like this campground even more. You can see the stadium from the lake. Supposedly, on game days, the campground is completely full of camping Clemson fans who just want to see their team and not have far to drive for their after game parties. Again, clearly wise people. They had a bye week on our weekend, which is probably why we were able to get a site during football season.

Anyway, if you are looking for peace and harmony, Twin Lakes could be for you. Our site was directly on the lake and, ya'll, there is just nothing like waking up to a crisp fall morning, sipping coffee and walking 25 steps to lakeside. The sites are super large, so unless the neighbors are fighting (more on this later), you sort of feel like you're in your own world. The sites are also wooded and laid out beautifully, which is typical of a Corp of Engineers campground.

We were at site 17 and I'd totally choose that site again. We were about 50 yards from the bathhouse and maybe that far from the playground, as well; not that our kids use the playground anymore (Praise Jesus!!), but still.

The only people I overheard, no matter how hard I tried, were the neighbors who were yelling one morning because she brought instant grits for the kids and no regular ones for him. I mean, is this girl Southern or nah? Nah. But, she did bring bacon, so he was totally chill about instant grits once bacon happened. I refrained from hollering over the super helpful advice that he could always pack his own crap next time because I am learning about being more thoughtful with my words.

Here's another big plus for me about Twin Lakes: Their roads are paved perfectly and the camper did not bounce around like it was on trampoline wheels. Barely a bump to be found in these bad boys. If you have a camper or an RV, you know this actually matters.

Next, bath houses. Even though we do have a shower in the camper, we don't use it. It's like Will Farrell in Elf in that thing. So, no. We use the sink for face washing and tooth brushing and that's it for us, therefore the bath houses matter to me. Not all of Twin Lakes bath houses are heated, so check out which ones are if you're there in the winter. It wasn't cold enough to matter when we went in October.

The shower stall, though. This was an issue. Only ONE of the stalls had handles for hot and cold water. We couldn't figure out how they worked or if they worked at all. The one with handles also had one of those little push buttons to keep the water going. I get the conservation thing, but it still irritated me. Not enough to never go back, but I didn't love it. This was my only gripe about this campground, though. That is, literally, it. 

There's also Frank: 

Frank, the Squirrel.

Frank came and sat with me every morning while my family slept in like they were on vacation or something. There were also other squirrels and critters but I didn't bond with them like I did Frank. I loved that they were used to human contact enough to visit, but not so used to it that they encroached. Frank understood camping etiquette. I understood I was on his turf, and he understood I had no intention of harming him. (I hope others do the same! Frank's a cool guy)

Twin Lakes is also pet friendly. Look at these guys faces when we took a walk without them. Sadness and Despair: 

Fonzi and Loki being appalled they couldn't go on every single walk. Ever. 

 Last thing, Twin Lakes isn't one of those campground that's packed with constant activity. It's a haven of peace, which is exactly what I want when I camp. It's less than 8 miles from a Super Wal-Mart, but you'd never know it. It's quiet and peaceful and a beacon that says, "Sit down. Slow down. Take all the time you need." We played cards and ate S'mores and took walks and read books and watched movies together. (Yes, we take a TV. Stop being all judgy)

 It was beautiful. There were a 1000 moments that looked like this one:

Sitting in a chair, reading a book and looked up. And there this was...

 If you don't have a camper, who even cares? Grab a tent and an air mattress and go. Twin Lakes has fire pits and grills right there at each site! Most Corp of Engineer campgrounds have these, so you really just need a cooler and some ice. Get out and do it. You will not regret a moment of time spent under the stars, on a lake, with people that you dearly love.

Feeling peaceful, even on a Tuesday, 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Meeting Harvey Weinstein

At 16 I started my first job at a local fast food place, Hardee's. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. I was fresh, excited, naive. The general manager was in his late 20's, attractive and intimidating. He invited me to his apartment to "pick up something" after work. I was what he wanted to pick up. 

To this day, there is a part of me that asks how could I have thought he had something in his apartment for me about work? I was just a cashier. Why didn't I even question? I felt stupid and ignorant. 

I wasn't raped and I left before things could progress very far. However, he tried to coerce me to drink with him and tried to grope me, all the while telling me if I'd just loosen up a bit I'd enjoy it. He wanted me to believe my discomfort was MY fault and that my lack of interest in him was a reflection of my wrongness. And for a while, I believed him. 

That is how the victim of harassment thinks but only AFTER the fact. You feel frozen DURING the act. That is the psychological trauma of sexual harassment and abuse and why it's so hard to speak up. You feel stupid for believing him, but you also tell yourself others will believe him, too. Sadly, this is often the case with victim shamers who defend men willing to sexually abuse, harass and rape women.

At 17, a girlfriend called and asked if I wanted to catch a movie. She picked me up along with another friend from high school and we ended up at an apartment complex. Turns out she was "dating" one of our high school football coaches, who was also her remedial math teacher, and he'd had two other high school coaches show up for her two friends. I demanded to be taken home. I was completely grossed out. 

My friend was upset and was never really my friend again. She fully believed that it was a compliment that a teacher wanted her. He didn't want her. He wanted sex. She couldn't see that at the time. At some point, she'd been taught that if a man "like him" wanted you, it must be complimentary. I often wonder if she still views him in the same light or if she now sees him for the predator that he was.

Later, the high school coaches wouldn't make eye contact when I happened to see them and still, any time I had to leave class for some reason it would vaguely cross my mind that I hoped I didn't run into any of them when no one was around. That feeling never fully left me when I was on school grounds and I was scared to tell anyone. Two of those coaches still work in public education.

At 20, while I was still in college, I took a local job at an athletic printing shop two days a week when I didn't have classes. I waited tables on the weekends, but this seemed like a good way to make extra cash. The owner, who later went to prison, told me on day 2 that the previous girl had given him blow jobs under the table while his wife worked in the printing shop. I didn't make it to day 3. I cried all the way home and at the time I couldn't have told you why I was sobbing. It's called trauma.

At 23, I had my first management job. The general manager of the store backed me into the office, placed his arms on either side of me and told me he'd stop if I cried. I refused to break eye contact and he finally laughed and let me leave. I told the regional manager what happened and they moved the general manager to a different store but didn't fire him. They spoke with me beforehand to ask if I was absolutely certain I hadn't misunderstood the situation. I had to see him at every company meeting we had. He almost always made a point to speak to me, and not once did he ever act as though anything had happened. But it DID happen.

I've stood in a CVS line waiting for medicine while a man stood behind me making suggestive noises. Even turning and looking him in the eye, being completely disgusted, made no difference. He laughed. Walking to my car made me feel fearful. 

I've walked down the street and heard cat calls and dog barking noises, as though these things should be appreciated. When I didn't look at them, acknowledge them, the name calling started. I was now a bitch and a cunt because I didn't want men to make those sounds at me. 

I've been patted inappropriately. I've been squeezed suggestively.

I've had men in positions of authority make inappropriate jokes about women right in front of me. 

I've had those same men compliment my eyes or my choice of clothing, while never mentioning I out sold them in real estate that year by a huge margin. Just my eyes or my skirt or my legs.That was who I was to them, regardless of my job performance, my education or my lack of interest in them.

There is no woman on this planet who has not had these things happen to her in some way.  This is not a "Hollywood" issue.

In my own personal circle I have 2 friends AND 2 family members who have been sexually assaulted. I know of at least 3 more women in my broader circle, though I don't know their precise details. 

So here is my call to men: STOP. Just stop and demand that your colleagues and friends stop.

We are not meat. We are your counterparts. We are intelligent and hard working and witty and wise. We are women. We are NOT your playthings or here for your pleasure. We are NOT here to make your life better or easier. We do not want your unsolicited advances.

My call to women is to speak up and teach your daughters to speak up. Stop telling little girls that boys like them if they push them or hit them or pull their hair. Teach your boys that women are whole human beings. Support women who are brave enough to come forward.

Stop shaming the victims for waiting to speak up. Shame the men who made them afraid or held power over them because they could. Stop implying that a woman is to blame because a man raped her. Stop pretending that men are not responsible for themselves. 

And to all the women reading this who have had their dignity, their safety and their innocence stripped from them: I'm sorry. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. 


 Please feel free to leave your stories in the comments. It's important that we speak up. We are saving the future generations of women who come behind us from these same behaviors and thought patterns. Speak!

How many of you have also met a Harvey Weinstein?




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

When Jesus Came to Hang Out for Two Days

Here's a story for you:

Back in Jesus' day, the Pharisees, Sadducee and religious leaders walked to Jerusalem because, you know, they didn't have cars. The shortest route to Jerusalem from a lot of places the leaders lived or met was straight through Samaria. 

Samaritans were ostracized by church leaders and Jews back then kind of like certain groups are ostracized by church goers today (nothing new under the sun, people). 

So, these church leaders would walk AROUND Samaria to get to Jerusalem. The first time I read that in a concordance and did the research I almost laughed. Ya'll, it added almost a week to their travel. 

A WEEK!!!!!!!

If something is gonna add 15 minutes to my travel time I get antsy. I would ride through pitch black forests with signs declaring Deliverance type antics with banjos playing in the background before adding A WEEK to my travel time.

But, these religiously pious leaders would walk around this city to avoid the Samaritans. What?!

Now listen, these two groups have a long history that we aren't going to cover here. A lot of it was that it's sometimes toughest to love your neighbor who is just next door, especially if their political, economic, social, religious rituals and customs don't match yours. With today's social media culture, fear is more common than love and hype is more common than grass growing outside. We're not good neighbors anymore, ya'll. We aren't. It's a little like the Samaritans and Jews out there.

So they avoided the people they didn't like and claimed God didn't like them, either.

Not Jesus. He walked right up in the middle of it. Smack dab through Samaria.

You may remember the woman at the well Jesus met and changed her life so much that she ran back into the town to tell everyone about this guy she'd met. He met her in Samaria.

This lady had been married 5 times and was currently living with number 6. She was at the well alone because she had to come at a time when the other women weren't getting water because she was such a "bad sinner" that she wasn't allowed to go with the other ladies.  I guess they thought her promiscuity would rub off or something. I don't know. 

Not Jesus. He cozied up and had a nice long conversation with her right there in public. 

And you know what? He didn't use her sinful life as a starting point in the conversation, nor did he point out how awesome He was for coming around and talking to her. He didn't act better than her or more enlightened than her or fearful of her. AND HE IS GOD. He just talked to her and swapped thoughts and conversed with her like she mattered. Know why? Because we all matter to God. Every single one of us.

In fact, it was her who said, "Hey. You're a Jew. In case you forgot, you guys don't talk to us" 

Jesus just says, "Yeah, that's how they do it here, but if you knew who I was you'd ask me for a drink and I'd give you some Living Water."  Basically, he's telling her he couldn't care less where she comes from or what the "rules" were, He'd still bless her if she'd let Him. Jesus is awesome like that.

She ends up telling Him all about herself and he said, "Yeah. That's true, you've done those things." He talks to her about a time that is coming when no one will have to come through Samaria to get to Jerusalem. He tells her that a time is coming when we can worship in our Spirit and in Truth. She's the first person he confirms fully that HE IS THE CHRIST. 

His disciples show up with some food about this time and they're like, "Ummm, Jesus? What in the world are you doing talking to this woman?"  They actually don't say that out loud; the Bible tells us they were just thinking it. Same thing, ya'll. Same thing.

After the woman leaves Jesus to go back into town and tell everyone she meets about this guy she met down at the well, the disciples try to get Jesus to eat. He says, I've got what I need. I'm eating bread from my Father. He tells them that his food, the thing that is sustaining Him, is to do the will of His father.

He tells them to open their eyes because the people needing Him, the Bread of Life and the Living Water, are all around them!! He tells them that God is showing them the harvest of souls! They are right in front of your face, He tells his closest pals. 

Boiling it down, Jesus tells them you are missing it because your eyes are closed with your preconceived notions and you need to get over yourselves. Samaritans NEED me, too, and you are letting your fear and your racism and your feelings and your ideas of what's right and wrong determine who YOU think is worthy!

Jesus pretty much made up the saying, "GET WOKE", ya'll. 

Look at all these people who need me so desperately and you are WALKING AROUND THEIR CITY TO AVOID HAVING TO SEE THEM.

About that time, lots of people from the town showed up at the well. Lots of Samaritans.They were coming because of all the woman had told them. You know people love to rubberneck. 

And you know what? He stayed in Samaria for TWO MORE DAYS because they asked Him to stay. He visited and hung out. He ate with them and loved on them. He taught them about God because He IS God so He kind of couldn't do anything else but be who He was and is and IS TO COME. (Jesus doesn't change. He'd still be hanging with the people others avoid.)

This Jew hung out in Samaria with people reviled by his people for two more days. And many were saved. 

And MANY were saved. 

Because Jesus showed up where religious people pretending to have it all figured out wouldn't go. Because Jesus just loved them. Because Jesus listened to them and loved them and ate with them and changed them.

They weren't saved because all those religious leaders of that day avoided them so they'd learn their lesson! Or because a Jew explained how wrong they were and the Samaritans suddenly understood how far off the track they were from being right. 

They weren't saved because they started being something other than a Samaritan. They weren't saved by anything other than the love Jesus poured on them and their willingness to accept it. 

So, I've been thinking. If Jesus showed up today -  just came back for a visit to hang out for two days - where would he show up?

California, maybe? (laugh...that was funny)  

Maybe a gay bar? This will smack with Evangelicals because homosexuality has become the mantra for sin and that mantra is becoming more important than the PEOPLE who are gay. This has nothing to do with Christ and he would NOT walk around a gay bar. He'd walk up in it and love those people made in HIS image. Period. And you know what? MANY WOULD BE SAVED. 

And then the restoration would start and it wouldn't look a thing like what we pretend it looks like today.

Maybe he'd show up in a Muslim mosque or smack dab in the middle of Mecca? Maybe close to that middle school with that kid who gets bullied, but they're weird and don't fit in so no one really pays it much attention? 

Maybe he'd show up in the middle of the ocean on a raft filled with Syrians refugees desperately trying to find safe harbor?

Maybe he'd show up with the young woman who just had an abortion? Maybe he'd show up at a riot in the middle of someone busting up someone's livelihood?  


Here's what I know about Jesus, based on Scripture: 

He wouldn't spend much time at the places where people who claim to have Him all figured out were showing up, because the last time He showed up He didn't hang out with them much, either. 

He wouldn't show up anywhere that claimed to be sin free but Jesus filled because they'd stone Him...or hang Him. Those people loathe the real Jesus. He's radical and fearless and loving and doesn't much care what your rules are because HE makes the rules and He said to LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, even if your neighbor has opposing political beliefs and comes from a different country and is gay and drinks too much and smokes a lot or wears immodest clothes or marches in rallies that you don't agree with or busts out windows in a riot. 

He said love them if they were snotty and judgemental and racist and self-righteous and self-absorbed and rude, too.

We don't get to make the rules. (Thank God!)

He wouldn't show up anywhere the lost didn't hang out. He wouldn't show up at a place that tried to keep the hurting and lost away with rules and regulations and judgements. 

He wouldn't show up at a place where money was more important than people without saying, "Give up your possessions (that thing you love more then ME) and then we'll talk".

He wouldn't show up where pious, religiousness forced people outside.

He'd show up in the very places that most people, especially religion loving people, wouldn't expect Him to go. 

His ways are not our ways. His ways rarely align with ways that make us comfortable in our flesh.

The narrow gate is shaped just like Jesus. It is a Jesus shaped gate. The only way through it is to accept that He's the ONLY way to it. You have to. 

But, Jesus didn't shove that down people's throat or yell at them standing on the street corner. 

He came where they were. He walked THROUGH Samaria. Not around it. He didn't avoid the lost and the hurting or the vile and oppressed or those with sin filled lives (that's all of us, in case you're confused on that point) or people different from Him . HE LOVED THEM AND WENT WHERE THEY LIVED.

I'm so thankful for that truth. I can't live up to all those other rules. I can't even get the head covering part in Corinthians right!

I can try the best I can with all the strength that I have and God will graciously give me the grace and love for what I can't handle, but I can't reach the bar of perfection. (pisses me off, too)

And then, Grace shows up and says, "You don't have to be perfect right now. You are perfect in Me but only because I am perfect. I'm here and I'm working on you and you're going to be OK. I'm not going anywhere. I love you. Now go and Love others. I'll do the rest."

And I can breath again. Grace says the same thing to everyone. This is what He says because He SO LOVES THE WORLD.

I'm called to submit MYSELF fully to God and to love OTHERS. That's my job.

Because that's what Jesus did. When his sandals met the dusty road on this planet, Jesus hung out with sinners. He hung out with those "Most Likely To NOT Get In Synagogue".  Shoot, He loved a guy He knew would betray Him so well the other 11 disciples didn't even know which one it would be! Jesus didn't play around with loving others exactly as they were, right where they happened to be.

Either we're going to be like Jesus, or we're going to make a ton of excuses about why we're right and we just can't do that.  There is no gray area.

Love is the narrow gate and we miss it every single day. It's so much harder than the wide gate. Hating and judging and conforming are what the world already does. Being fearful and refusing to bend, that's what the world does every day, all day. Doing those things confirms in our flesh that we are right and we humans LOVE to be right. We tend to lean unto our own understanding so often God has to warn us against it in the book of Psalms.

Pretending like our way is the law and we have it figured out is a worldly trait. That is the wide gate.

Your flesh will always tend toward doing what feels good, what makes you feel (falsely) safe and what makes life easier for you. That's probably not going to be the road through Samaria.

But, you're also going to miss Jesus because He mostly shows up in the least likely places with the people no one else wants to sit with at lunch. He is found in the Samarias of the world, sitting by a well, talking to a woman most people called a whore and a loser and avoided because it was against the "rules" to just love her.

Think long and hard about where Jesus went in the Bible. Those are the places He's still going. He doesn't change; He's the same now as He was then.

As for me and my house, we're going to try our best to walk straight through and I think we'll find Jesus sitting right there, still at that well, offering Living Water that He then expects me to pour back out, still filled with the love it had when I received that endless supply, free of charge. 

He expects me to love them and when they ask why I'm loving them when others avoid them I'm supposed to say, "I met this guy at a well once when I was thirsty, lonely and alone. Wanna here about Him?"

The end.  


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Used to Be A Porcupine (And the 5 Stages of Grief)

Grief, and the process of healing, deserves attention because it's holy. Getting well is a holy thing, ya'll. Grief and Pain change us in the deepest, truest, ways.

I think we come here pretty broken and get even more broken as our lives move forward. We adopt our parent's brokenness and our friends and family's brokenness. We adopt the world's idea of who we should be and how we should do things and this breaks us even more. It's up to us to determine what needs to remain broken and what must be repaired with holy glue. 

God made us the stewards of ourselves. He chose to make us the boss of us. He expects us to handle his creation with care.

In my head, I'm writing this post to 2 particular people that wrote to me who've never been to therapy and had no support in their efforts to try to get help. I don't know them personally, but I know their Spirits and their hearts. I know their hurt and their truth.

I get a LOT of questions about therapy and how it helped me and what I learned. These 2 women had a lot of questions but admitted they had a negative view of therapy. Therapy is still a taboo subject in a lot of ways. People flinch a little when the word therapy comes up, I think. 

Wellness, like beauty, warms people and brokenness, like intellect, will cool them. 

Brokenness will cause some people to cool to you because your brokenness reflects a part of themselves they aren't ready or willing to face (because we are ALL broken in some way) or because brokenness can often manifest in ways that are just flat out unpleasant.

I've talked openly about my therapy. It was extensive, it was long and I'm not done yet. I may never be done with therapy because I am never going to be done with myself and, for me, therapy helps me see myself clearly.

First, I need to touch on this: Almost every email I've received asked me how I got better in some form or another, directly or indirectly. The truth is that I don't much like the word "better". It implies that I was less than, at some point. I wasn't. I just wasn't well equipped to deal with where I was at the time.

So, I went and bought myself some equipment. The equipment was knowledge and understanding that began with therapy. I didn't get "better". I became more aware and more equipped. I learned a new skill. Same person, new skills.

I will continue to increase that skill for the rest of my life.

We are all either getting more equipped or we're staying in the same place. I am not a fan of stagnation. Funky junk grows in stagnant places.

Through the emails I receive, I learned that too many people think grieving is a structured process with a time limit. Almost every person that wrote me have people in their lives who are judging their grief. PS...if you are one of those people who think grief and/or pain has a time limit and you get to determine what that limit should be, please stop. Today.

So, here's the thing: I'm not a therapist. I'm not an expert. I'm just a woman who's on a journey and I like to write. 

But, I hear you. 

So, here's some more of my journey up to this point.

The first thing we all have to do is recognize where you are on the spectrum and call the Pain what it is: GRIEF. MOURNING. HURT. LOSS. There is zero shame in those words. You do not have to feel shame for being in pain. 

You don't even have to pretend. I've cried sitting in a restaurant while people stared. I'd gotten to the place that their imagined truth about me simply didn't matter as much as my actual truth. And in that moment, the truth was I was sitting in a restaurant when the pain became overwhelming. But I was also hungry. So, I ate and cried and ate some more.

Pain is a much bigger and truer teacher than Joy. Pain will teach you truth that no other emotion or feeling has the power to teach. Pain teaches us compassion in ways no lighter emotion has the capacity to teach.

Maybe that's why God allows us to go through it? I don't know, I just know it's true. 

One of the first things I learned in therapy is that grief (pain, mourning, hurting) usually has stages or steps. By learning what they were, I could recognize them and then think instead of reacting. Reacting is rarely a good thing. 

The 5 stages of grief are pretty universal but not necessarily linear (this is important). They were originally applied to people grieving the loss of a loved one (Kubler-Ross model), but have since been applied to all kinds of grief: divorce, sexual abuse, terminal illness, etc...   Really any kind of loss or grief.  

Everyone will experience each stage differently. Some people may circle around to one stage or another until they learn what they need to learn and some people may only visit each stage once and soak up the lessons quickly. There are NO RULES TO GRIEF AND PAIN except these: Do no harm and don't allow others to harm you.

 Say it again: THERE ARE NO RULES TO GRIEF and PAIN. Don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise. 

You get to feel however you feel. Period. 

You can't normalize a deeply abnormal time, or times, in your life.

Grieving in this way is not "normal" but it is universal. We all must walk in the dark at some point. The only real choice we have is what equipment we choose to take with us when the darkness comes. 

I once flailed around, smiling like a loon, pretending to be fine, even though I was drowning. It worked for a long time until it didn't. Here's the basics of how I stopped flailing and pretending.

The 5 stages of grief (sadness, heartache, whatever word you like more) are : Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

You may or may not experience these all at once. You may or may not experience these more than once. You may or may not experience these in this order, but most likely you will to some degree. Your walk will not look like any other's path, but I'll give you a run down of how mine looked.

I denied I had a problem(s) and almost every single person does this with some aspect of their life. Healthy people and unhealthy people.

I was strong, successful and smart. I am fine. I'm fine. I may have a temper like the 7th layer of hell and be more controlling than Kim Jong-Un, but I am fine.

I AM FINE. Porcupine quills engage!

I held on to fine for as long as I could and that may have saved my life. I may have broken into a million pieces if I'd tried to move past "fine" and denial any sooner than I did. There's no proof of that except that I'm still here. I'll take it. 

Denial was my longest step, but also the one I am least likely to revisit at this point in my journey. I've become a pro at recognizing denial and kicking it's ass. If you aren't there yet, then you're not. It's not a race.

Anger has been my companion throughout my life. I've learned that those in close proximity to addicts almost always carry anger with them, whether acknowledged or not.

 I was short tempered, and impatient. I still struggle with patience.

I went through life as a porcupine. Don't get too close or I will hurt you back. I expected hurt from others. It's what I knew. I expected others to overlook me, so I made sure they didn't (You may do the opposite. You may become a little mouse and then resent it when people overlook you. No one handles this in the exact same way). I expected others to be fake, so I was extra harsh to force them into what I considered "real" emotions. Controlling and anger are cousins. Piss off a control freak and you will see the relationship.

Anger isn't always screaming and shouting, either. I am not much of a screamer when I'm angry. Anger is how we survive the pain and our core survives through the Pain and Grief. 

There are still days that I struggle with anger to an unhealthy degree. We are works in progress and I am learning how to feel the anger, determine if I have a legitimate reason to be angry and then either release it or take care of myself by expressing it in a healthy way. Mostly. (This is extra tricky for women. We're told being angry or mad and expressing it is wrong and/or makes us bitches. It's OK to be angry. That's not the kind we're talking about.We are talking about anger that can't be resolved with conversation and lingers over situations you can't change. Anger that sits on simmer, even when you're happy.)

Anger can feed denial because if we're angry enough then "We're fine!!" Anger can mask that we aren't fine, at all. This is anger and denial in one big suck cake. I've been there. I feel you. 

Bargaining (negotiating) is the "if only" part of healing. It's where we say, "If I'd only done....".  "If I'd only been more..."  "If only...."  It's the place where guilt lives and guilt will convince you that if you bargain long enough and well enough, you'll be fine. Everything will be fine. Just ask the woman/man who lives with an alcoholic.

Bargaining is the place we make up scenarios that change the outcome. We negotiate to pretend that we are in control or that if we'd had more control and been more controlling, things would have worked out differently. It's a fairy tale. It's a lie. But, it is also necessary so that we can heal. We have to feel what we're feeling!!

Bargaining was hard for me because I am a recovering control freak. Bargaining almost always returns me to anger, so I have to be careful with "if only". I'm also realist, so the "if only" part of grief pissed me off. I knew I couldn't change the past but... "if only" tries to creep in and old patterns try to take up residence. It's a trap I hate but one every grieving, hurting person must face. 

Bargaining can become heavier than lead. The fantasy of all we "could have" done differently can weigh us down with such force it gets hard to breath. This sets us up for Depression and Sadness.

See how all this works in a big, ugly circle? You have to see it first and then FEEL it. Feeling it will help you release it, but try to cut off the "what if's..." when they come. The past is unchangeable, but the future is right now and in your grasp. Cheesy and still true. 

Depression is a common word these days. No depression feels common. It feels like crap. This stage can range from a sad feeling to a black hole inside to someone being unable to function. 

You need to be self-aware here. Depression comes in many, many forms and can be a place to heal or a place so dark you must seek help immediately. It also tends to circle back around in times of deep grief and mourning and, for me, just after times of intense happiness (this truth is a completely different post and one of the things that once made me a porcupine).

Depression is a sneaky bastard. One day you're fine and then...BAM. One tiny thing happens and depression will take up residence.

Depression is also the thing that can numb you to the feelings you need to feel to get healthy. Numbness is necessary sometimes, but be wary if it lingers. 

Feelings aren't your enemy. Feelings are important flags on the journey that let us know what we need if we're brave enough to ask but some feelings like "what if..." are liars. Constant feelings of inadequency are also liars. It takes practice and deliberate focus to learn the difference.

It's important to take inventory, even on the really bad days.  If you're too numb for too long, you walk right off the path and down a slippery slope.

Here's a hint about the slope and it's a little sassy: Depression is BORING. My God, it's boring. If you think watching someone not be able to get out of bed is as awful as watching grass grow, you should try being that person! (don't actually do that) 

Depression will not only incapacitate you, it will bore you right into misery that makes the slippery slope look better. Recognize, ya'll. See the truth and then speak it. Depression is a liar. Remember that.

And finally, there's Acceptance (or Peace). I think this one is a step by step process all on it's own and I am not there in lots of ways, yet. I don't feel really capable of speaking about acceptance, so I'm going to give you what I've learned and leave it there.

I think you can accept certain pieces on the spectrum of grief, pain and loss, without being fully accepting of what caused those things. For me, acceptance has been a slow process and, some days, I'm just not there. I can live with that right now.

Here's where I am with it: 

I accept that I am a child of God. I am a beloved child of God. So is everyone else.

I accept that life is a journey. A true, real journey. Pain and Grief are as much a part of that journey as Love and Joy. They are teachers, not enemies.

I accept that everything I've ever lost has claw marks on it. Detaching and letting go is HARD for me. I feel and think very deeply and I accept that I probably always will. These are traits I accept and love about myself.

I accept that I am learning and growing.  Learning has always mattered to me. Growing is beginning to matter to me. These are good things. Light in a sometimes dark world. There is more light than darkness.

I accept that I may never understand many things I'd hoped to understand. I don't love this truth, but I do fully accept it. Some things will be mysteries forever. I think that may be a blessing.

I accept that I am the boss of me and only I can take the steps to grow and heal myself. I am not necessarily in control of what happens around and to me, but I am where I am because of my choices. Childhood is over. I can't blame that for my decisions today. I am an adult and I am capable of walking away, detaching, letting go, healing, seeking help and making better choices. Me, and only me, gets to decide what I am willing to accept into my life. 

If I am surrounded by emotional succubus, that's because I let them in. If I am surrounded by kind, healthy, fun people, that's because I let them in. That's hard truth, but it is absolute truth.

I accept that I am not the boss of anyone else, including my children and my husband. Controlling behavior is a sign that you are dealing with something deeper, as well as a maturity issue. You aren't the boss of anyone else. The end. If your kids are 18 or older, you aren't the boss of them and even if they are under 18 you are only a little bit the boss of them. You are controlled by everything you try to control outside of yourself.

I accept that I am imperfect and flawed and forgiving myself is as important as forgiving others.

That's about all I've got, so far. 

But, I'm still on the path. Even if, some days, the path is strewn with litter and curse words. Even if, some days, the path is dark and scary. 

Even if, some days, I simply breathe.

Today, that's enough. 

My quills are slowly disappearing and my heart is opening. Mostly. 


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I'm Not Always The Nice Girl and I Don't Particularly Care

Someone told me the other day that what I said wasn't "nice". My immediate response was, "Sorry you feel that way." I wasn't being flippant. I was sorry they felt that way, but I wasn't sorry for what I'd said. It was said calmly, gently and truthfully (and they did freakin' ask!!). 

I can live with that.

They were super offended by that comment. I mean like red-faced offended that I wasn't overly concerned that they thought I'd lost my "nice" badge. 

I didn't get it. I still don't. 

Here's my take away from the experience: 

1. "Nice" is something women in particular are expected to strive for. It is the gold standard of adjectives if you are female!

2. "Nice" is an adjective that will be used as a weapon if you dare to be anything other than "Nice" 100% of the time. For me, it's begun to mean that I'm doing what I'm told, no questions asked. Sorry, I'm not gonna be your girl there. I ask questions and I often question authority. Period. 

3. "Nice" is JUST an adjective. There are other ones.

So, in typical Kristi style, I thought about the interaction for almost 4 days because I'm neurotic like that. This is how I assimilate and order the information in my head. I think about the interaction, rip it apart and then feel my feelings to see what feelings I'm actually feeling. 

THEN, I think about what I'm actually feeling and why I feel that way and what I want to do about it or if I want to do anything at all.

Initially, I was hurt that someone thought I wasn't "Nice", which bugged me. Not that I wasn't nice, but that I was hurt. Why would that hurt me?!  

And finally, I looked up the origin of the word "nice" because I love word origins. This TOTALLY reminded me why I love it, too!

 I laughed and laughed and laughed. Know what nice's original meaning is? 

It's derived from Latin "nescius" meaning....wait for it....IGNORANT. From there it took the 14th century by storm as a term for "foolish" or "silly". In the Middle Ages it took on "wantonness" and even "sloth" and then slid into "shyness" or "reserve". I suppose this is where we get our definition. I mean what is a woman if she isn't "shy and reserved", right?!  I am neither of those things, by the way. YAY!! Not kidding. Those are not qualities that I usually admire in anyone. And if you think those are Proverbs 31 qualities, you should re-read the text.

 We're taught from birth that we should be nice. I mean if you didn't want to hug Uncle G, who was a dirty, old, little girl ass grabber, then you weren't a nice little girl, right? If you didn't speak to the lady who spoke to you like dirt when your Mom wasn't around, then you weren't being nice. If you didn't totally want to date the guy who was SUPER nice to you for two entire whole days, then you were NOT a nice girl. You must be into "bad" boys. Again, not nice. 

After rolling that mess around for a while, I've decided that I'm going to strive for other adjectives that actually mean something to me. Ones like intelligent, funny, witty, interesting, driven, passionate, compassionate, generous and honest. (Honesty will quickly knock you out of the "Nice" tribe, so be prepared for that one)

After thinking about all the beautiful adjectives I prefer over "Nice", I couldn't stop thinking about all the nice people I'd known in my life. The ones who really, really embody the adjective. Like they will go to any lengths to maintain that adjective, Nice.

Every single one of them were full of crap. Almost all of them even spoke in that weird voice of high octave, breathy chirpiness that reeks of fake, but we still respond to it, or at least I often do. It wouldn't be "nice" if I didn't, right?

 Now, this is MY experience, so yours may not line up and I'm not knocking the people who strive diligently so that "Nice" will cling to their name for all time. I'm not. I'm just telling you that most of the hard core "nicers" that I've known were most often liars, gossips, fakers and about as deep as a 20 minute summer rain mud hole.

They'd tell you those skinny jeans TOTALLY held that cellulite in and there wasn't a lump in sight, even if you looked like cottage cheese had sprouted legs.

Most of the "Nice" people I know were also massive gossips. They were bubbly and chirpy until someone got about 10 steps away and then all bets were off. But, they'd end their gossip with, "But she's a nice girl and I'm not being mean, though."  And everyone around "Nice" girl would bob their heads because she'd ended her mean gossip by saying she wasn't being mean. Must be true then! And then THEY walked 10 paces away and she'd start in on them. They were all so "nice", though.

And "nice" is also a super general term, isn't it? It doesn't really say anything. Most often it means someone told you what you wanted to hear in a chirpy voice that made you feel all fuzzy. And then we're all like, "AWWWWW! You are so nice." "What a nice thing to say!" "She's so nice."  Bob head up and down in unison. 

People will go to great lengths to be labeled nice and to resist taking that label from someone. We loathe taking away an adjective that we've been convinced has value. We loathe it even more if someone tries to strip if from us, even if we don't place that much value in it.  Nice is what makes us say "Yes" when what we really want to do is scream "NO!!!!" from the top of our lungs. SO WEIRD!!

In all my thinking, I couldn't figure out why this was truth, because it absolutely is.

I'm giving up on nice. There are flat out better things to be that feel more like truth to me so don't feel too bad if you don't think I'm all that nice. I don't, either. 

I'm doing just fine being funny and driven and intelligent and passionate and generous and compassionate and kind and stubborn and brave.  


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Girls and Tribes and Quarters

I have a confession: Girls scare me. 

When they travel in tribes, I can actually feel my breath back up in my chest and bad words want to slip out before I run frantically in the other direction. 

I'm a girl coward.

I'd like to say I don't know where this started but I totally know.
Two words: High School. 

Two things happened in quick succession this week that reminded me of my girl fear. One, I shared a post on Facebook that had beautiful women emailing and messaging me their stories that were a lot like mine. So, my perception got knocked around a little bit, which is a really good thing for me.

The second thing that happened was we had a CL100 done on our house because we're moving. A CL100 is a fancy way to say termite letter. Since I'm a real estate broker in real life, I know those guys pretty well, which means we talk about stuff besides bugs and vapor barriers and moisture levels. For some reason, Keith, my termite guy, said something about wanting to be 17 again and I laughed and laughed. Until I realized he didn't get the joke. 

I mean, would ANYONE do high school again?! Evidently, the answer is yes for some people. I even asked my Facebook buddies and some of them said YES! I am not one of those people. 

For me, high school felt a little like an LSD trip must feel. (I've never done LSD, so I'm guessing here.) 

I floated through high school marveling at all the colorful, shiny people and how they seemed to be doing life SO much better than I was doing it. Some of them were even having fun. I could totally tell!

I was (am) awkward. I was (am) loud. My brother was an addict who soaked up all the air in the room and it was an unspoken rule that we did not discuss this in my home, which added to my awkwardness, I think. I was in college prep and Honors classes but  had no ambition to be a doctor or lawyer or nurse or teacher. I wanted to write. Not a super cool thing for most 16 year old girls.

I was also more interested in becoming a Solid Gold dancer than partying and boys (that is a true story). 

I feel compelled to add that I often hid the things I was interested in because I believed no one else was interested in those things. Retrospectively, which is unfortunately the only way I see things clearly, I can say I think there were other people interested in those things, I just didn't know how to find those people. I made good grades and read books and went to exactly 3 parties my entire high school career. I also feel compelled to add that I was invited to more than 3, but that was my limit, evidently, and I would lie and say I had other plans when people asked me where I'd been Saturday night when "so and so" had their AWESOME party at the Peach Blossom Motel.

I clearly remember standing kind of over in the corner at one of the 3 parties I attended and, literally, eye balling every single person while thinking, "Are you REALLY having fun? Because you look like you're having fun over there playing quarters. Or maybe you're just drunk.Why aren't I having any fun here?" I hated the noise and the crush of people and the drinking and the sort of weird boy/girl dance that was very, very confusing for me. Side note: My husband, who wasn't yet my husband, was at that party playing quarters. He said he was, in fact, having a lot of fun, but doesn't remember most of it.

I wanted to go to the movies and talk about the new book I was reading and maybe grab a pizza without having my ass grabbed. Also, I wanted to remember doing those things.

So, anyway, high school wasn't my gig. College was more my thing, but even there I felt odd and out of place and like maybe I'd missed some secret meeting where the rules were explained in great detail on how this whole socializing thing worked because I didn't really get it and socializing still sometimes (all the time) makes me super nervous which makes me more awkward which makes me more nervous and so it goes. A GREAT cycle to be caught in, by the way. Good times.

Girls often travel in packs and I never found my pack. I was always just sort of floating along, happy to be involved in this group or that one, but never so far in that I got the inside jokes. I was cool with that because some of them were mean. Mean like a rabid dog is mean. But, I also kind of wanted to belong but I didn't know how. Then, I would feel "wrong" and anytime something feels wrong for me I become super offended because that's one of my struggles. Again, an awesome cycle to be caught up in.

But, here's the other thing: Girls are usually awesome when we're one on one, at least in my experience.

So, when I got those emails and had that high school discussion, a thought occurred to me that had truly never really occurred to me, which might be sad or might be totally common.

I was like, "OH MY GOSH!  Maybe we aren't in separate tribes. Maybe we're all one big tribe that's bought into the lie that women are gossipy and mean and cliquish. And we're helping to perpetuate the myth by being a little afraid of each other and cursing under our breath and then running away before we can know each other."  

Or maybe that's just me. I don't know. 

What I know is that for the first time in my life I paused and asked myself, "Why do women suffer alone when there are so many other women out there who share their story and their truth and their path? This isn't high school! Why aren't we lifting one another up and bearing one another's burdens with pride and strength and dignity and cheering like fanatical fans for one another when one of us finds her way and succeeds?" 

So, I'm making this blog that place. I'm going to tell the truth here, even when it's hard. Everyone is included here. There are NO exclusions. That's the only rule. Everyone gets to come to this party just like they are and they are included.

This can be a place for the girl tribe of women who want to love one another well and include everyone and encourage each other to be who we are, find our way and tell our truth. I would LOVE to have some guest bloggers write some awesome articles about their experiences and how they need a tribe or want a tribe or would like to stick a toe in just to see if they can be less scared, too.

This is going to be the place for me that I trust other women to care for me and trust me to care for them, exactly where they are. We can do that. We can totally freakin' do that. We can even do it while we're still in our pajamas! WIN!!!!

If you have a tribe, invite them here. If you don't have a tribe, I'm inviting you here. Everyone is welcome and safe and awesome. 

Even if you like to party and play quarters. I'll just be the one in the corner cheering you on and you can wave at me in the corner and ask me about my book when you're finished.