Monday, April 11, 2016

My birthday

I received personally written notes yesterday from my kids for my birthday. While they said somewhat typical things that a child might say to their parent, I’ve noticed something that comes up in almost all of their letters to me…

My lack of perfection.

This years notes included:

"Of course you have flaws, but what great person doesn’t?”

“Mothers are people, and they mess up. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Your child may learn from your mistake, and so will you.”

I don’t know if other parents receive these type of sentiments or not in an otherwise kind letter?

No major blow ups have recently occurred that I need to apologize for. Nor am I one to complain out loud about my flaws since I’ve tried to be very intentional about my self talk, for both my and my kids sake. So I don’t experience their words as attempts of revenge or out of a need to reassure me, but simply stating observations. The truth.

Even still, when I first read them, there’s a grimace like reaction that occurs in my gut. What? I’m NOT the perfect mom? Worse yet, you don’t see me as the perfect mom? 


Nevertheless, as I reflect on the words they have shared with me over the years I realize that they are probably the best. gift. ever. 


A sign that maybe I have contributed to something pretty spectacular in their lives… the effects that should not be underestimated.

The groundwork for real love has been laid. Unconditionally.

Love that isn’t about perfection and pleasing and has no fear of shame. A love that is safe. A love that has eyes that can bare seeing it all, and remain present. This is their gift to me. I believe the fact that my kids don’t feel the need to sugar coat and please me by telling me I’m perfect communicates to me that they get this, at least on some level. And as best I can tell, they are not pretending or trying to send a passive aggressive message with the revelation that I’m not faultless. 

This is a big deal because over the years I have worked with and observed clients, coworkers, neighbors, family, friends  - and myself included, who did not grasp the possibility of this kind of love. Who could not, many still cannot, believe in it’s existence. I would suggest that a majority of us don’t, or at a minimum find it extremely difficult to live a life trusting it’s existence, consistently. It’s a foreign concept in our world of judgment and scarcity beliefs. For so many of us it’s hard work to love and to be loved. 

I have seen numerous people tie their value and worth to what they can or can’t produce. I’ve witnessed people continue patterns of unsafe relationships - because that’s what they know and believe they deserve, or who simply settle because of a failure to imagine the possibilities in creating a love and life that they want. I’ve seen many fill their inability to believe in their intrinsic value and worth by overworking, drug use, sex, pornography, vanity, shopping; or curling into a depression due to the fear of what they cannot do or overcome. For all of these different struggles, it's not been their experience that an unconditional love is possible, especially in the midst of their weaknesses or mistakes and they are tired of coming up empty. So they continue to hide and pretend because in many ways, it is so much easier, albeit painful. I believe that we cannot give from what we have not experienced ourselves. 

I see my kids letters as evidence that they may struggle a bit less with this. Maybe.


My best guess is they are able to observe the less than our best along with the good because I (and their dad) have had to apologize numerous times. They have an understanding for what grace looks like. I often say things like, “When I yelled at you for this, it was more about me and what I was believing and feeling at the time, than what you did. You did’t deserve to be shamed or screamed at. I want you to learn to do things because it’s the right thing to do and because you care about it. Not because you’re afraid of getting yelled at or guilted. It doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear, but please know that I wish that I had dealt with it differently. I am sorry.” 

Because of conversations like this, they know that being loved and making mistakes are tied together like constrictor knots. Love sometimes means having to say you’re sorry…
A LOT. we can keep the line of communication open and continue to look for win-wins for all involved. 

My kids will need to experience this kind of love from others as well, not just their parents; and I know the world will fail them many times. Nevertheless, we have set the groundwork for and encouraged their belief in the possibility of what healthy love can and should feel like, reassuring them to not give up until they find and create it for themselves. 

The more we experience a safe place to see and address our faults without judgment while experiencing respect and love, the more we can grow. The more we grow, the more grace we have for others and their mistakes and the more we are freed up to give and receive love because there is no fear of judgment. Perfect love casts out fear.

It’s counterintuitive for sure, but I am glad that my kids feel safe enough to acknowledge my lack of perfection and can love me still.  Not only for what it means for me, but for them as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

To my distressed friends about Mizzou:

To my distressed friends over the recent resignation of Mr. Wolfe at Mizzou, my alma mater: I understand the concerns about what kinds of precedent does this set.

It is incredibly sad that a man had to lose his job over something that could have been dealt with respectfully and thoughtfully by all parties. However, I would also add: Please do not feed the fears about where this will go. I think it's important not to project our fears onto this situation and that they are actually a part of the issue the students raised. Focusing on the fears have a way of perpetuating the actual problem and skewing how we see reality and prevent the continued listening that needs to occur. 

Perhaps we can focus on the listening and the hope of a win-win situation for all?

For what it’s worth, I have agreed and disagreed with both sides on the matter and have been saddened by reactions on both sides as well.

I believe that had Mr. Wolfe truly listened from the onset and responded in a way that the students felt heard we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today as of this writing; Mr. Wolfe jobless and people fearing anarchy on the horizon. At some point it would seem that Mr. Wolfe chose not to take them seriously, or at the very least - if he took them seriously, he didn’t communicate it to them well - which he seems to admit.

And I believe it is at this juncture where people are losing focus and where our unconscious prejudice (aka habits, because it sounds less judgy) reveals itself. Many believe it is unfair that Mr. Wolfe lost his job over this. Maybe. Many are also angry at the students and the way that they have handled this situation. Justified anger? Maybe. Though, while I agree both sides erred, it was Mr. Wolfe’s job to set the tone. I can’t help but think he reaped what his tone sowed.

I also think because of the way the media has reported the Mizzou strike as essentially motivated by “2 racial slurs and a swastika”, many people believe that the hunger strike and demands were ridiculous and ‘sissy’ and the student(s) just need to “grow a pair” and learn to deal with criticism. Which is also likely true. The "they need to learn to deal with criticism" part.

...though I would also remind us that MOST of us are not well equipped to deal with criticism and are thin skinned in some form. I would also argue that any denial of this lacks self awareness on your part. (Much of why our cultures many addictions are a thing and mental health issues like depression and anxiety dominate it is because individual voices got stifled somewhere and many individuals don’t value who they are or what they have to say is ‘enough’... but I digress.)  Point is, a majority of us stink at dealing with criticism.

I believe the students could have done a much better job of documenting and communicating about the occurrences of racism and/or prejudice that they have each experienced at Mizzou. Maybe it’s because it seems so obvious to them they have the inclination to believe that it should be obvious to the rest of us? Maybe there is a document like this that I have not seen?  Maybe it really is only the 2 slurs and the swastika? Anyway, it seems ideal to me that this would have been the next phase, to produce the litany of‘ proof - for all the naysayers, and that this would have occurred prior to a hunger strike and demanding someone lose their job. Ideally this evidence would have been well communicated to the media, after ignored, if in fact the situation needed to escalate in order to be heard. It appears that some important steps may have been missed by the students.

But back to my original point to the value of listening. I can think of many issues I attempted to address poorly in my life, where I was emotional and/or didn’t compile the evidence necessary to convince the person to make the changes I had hoped or to simply acknowledge my experience. I just expected the person to believe me. Immaturity and ignorance at its best, to be sure.

And I mean that.

At. it’s. BEST.

Immaturity and Ignorance are not the enemy. Surely, we can admit, we’ve all been there. Are there?

But when it’s combined with an important matter, why do we dismiss the important matter?

The ISSUE is still a valid and concerning one? Is it not?

If your child starts responding out of anger, their grades go south, and they stop talking to friends - do you instantly jump to blaming them? When a person cries, screams, and throws a vase after revealing a long held secret that they have been sexually abused, is the healthy response to dismiss it and say “grow a pair”? My hope is you would say “no”. Do we blame them for communicating this very valid and real pain “poorly” or do we understand and trust that maybe the pain is great and that the energy needed to communicate well is not a realistic or helpful one? What if we are partly to blame for why they had this painful experience and they are having to tell it to us? Whoa. That makes it even messier and more complicated then doesn’t it? Do we start filling the room with words, run away, or be quiet and listen? Make statements or ask more questions?

The issue the students bring up is valid and concerning, no matter how imperfect/perfect the message.  

It’s not as though the student(s) was saying, “I think we should make prostitution a thing on campus. I’m going to go on a hunger strike!”

So this is where SO many of us make the mistake in our thinking, we ‘shoot the messenger’. We want to blame the one or the few people who speak it out loud or messy. We want to blame Jonathan Butler and accuse him of overreacting, being too sensitive, etc. We make the assumption that the annoying one is the ONLY one that feels this way, he’s experienced it because he is annoying, or that those who feel this way ARE THE PROBLEM and too sensitive. Most of us don’t start from the place of “Where might I be missing something?” or “Can I give them the benefit of the doubt?”  or “What might be the underlying need here that I can help with?” and it takes quite a bit of energy and a lot of work to do this frankly - so many of us don’t. (side note: I can’t believe how long it has taken me to write this whole response, yet shouldn’t be surprised?! Because it takes time and energy to think of other sides and what I might be missing, and to come up with something more thoughtful and thorough.  And still, I know that I will miss valid points to be made and can only hope that my heart will be heard over the rightness/wrongness of my words.)

I'm curious, for those who think that Mr. Butler and the like are being too sensitive, what would it take for you to believe that something should be done? What line needs to be crossed for it to be considered a worthy issue? How many people would you say have to speak up in order to give energy to the matter? What do the students need to say to convince you? Why do you need to be convinced?

In my life and as a social worker I have seen this phenomenon of blaming work itself out destructively in marriages, families, businesses, churches, prisons, politics, government, society…  Otherwise known as scapegoating - and I have YET to meet a SINGLE  person who does NOT participate in this in some form or another, and often - myself included. I am fully aware of the possibility of it AND am just as capable of participating in any given situation if I am not mindful.

Intellectually, we know NOT to shoot the messenger, nevertheless it is our habit, our bias. “They” are bringing something uncomfortable to “me” and it’s not my experience. It is our tendency to ignore, dismiss, or give minimum energy to an issue we deem as insignificant or less pressing to “me”. Based on what I’ve understood thus far, it appears this is Mr. Wolfe’s view. However, I could be wrong...

In the Mizzou incident - I mean, the black population ranks at only 7% of Mizzou. If we’re just purely thinking in numbers it could easily be justified to not put a significant amount of energy towards an issue of this size. Many would not fault an individual for doing so, if say the issue we’re about 7% of students don’t weekly shower. (I’m sure it’s much higher) And I imagine Mr. Wolfe is a numbers kind of guy, which is what has made him so successful to this point. However, could that also be a part of the issue? The fact that he is a numbers guy and yet there is only 7% black students at a state school of 30,000? And that these are human beings. Brothers and sisters. Does that speak to something in terms of numbers?

Blacks represent 11.8% of Missouri’s population, and 13.2% of the country’s. My math could be wrong, it often is - but it looks like in order for Mizzou to be representative of the states demographics they would need to add around 1440 more black students. Another statistic you may or may not be aware of, is that Missouri had a total of 11,854 black people in prison in 2012. Surely these numbers are problematic: 2,100 black students at Mizzou and 11,854 in prison? I can see someone viewing these statistics in one of two ways: “That seems about right.” or “Wow, something is off.” Maybe there is another way to view them? If you were the former, I am sad for you. Now, I know these numbers open up a another can of worms - as it should...but again, I digress and will let you sit with the numbers...

While those numbers aren’t all on Mr. Wolfe’s administration BY ANY stretch, he is “breathing the air” and is complicit by way of his lack of mindfulness around all of it. (Please, please, read this post to understand the last reference) And his response, or lack thereof, only confirmed this.

It is our nature to pay attention when it is something WE care about or someone else makes us care about it because they have more power/influence over us. Practically speaking, it makes sense that Mr. Wolfe seemed to show or communicate little concern over a 7% issue until the football team and $1 Million got involved. However, THAT is the even larger issue, isn’t it? In this day and age that there is only 7% represented at MU and there are 5x more than that in prison. Does it not suggest that maybe the state of Missouri has some unrecognized bias/prejudice/habits of their own? They are sick from the air, and don’t even realize it? Even in this article the author points out how 'diverse' the 30,000 of MU are. Just the fact that the author believes they live in a diverse community where 77% are white, points to a significant level of ignorance. While I realize people groups identified by race and ethnicity are identified as “minority” for a reason - it is also important to carefully look at what we define as diverse. Diversity defined: showing a great deal of variety; very different. 

Great deal... Very different.” 

So, I’m not really a numbers person as I think I said before, but 77% of the group being white does not qualify. In comparison, my son currently attends a high school where 31% are black, 16% Hispanic, 3.9% Asian, 5% other, and 43% are white. Now that, to me, seems to fit the diversity bill a bit better.

It is a terrible situation all around to be sure and I believe error has occurred on all sides. Nevertheless, I believe it was the actual putting it off, not communicating what was being done to address their concerns, dismissal, or refusing to acknowledge it as a problem to begin with that only amplified the point the students were making. The actual way Mr. Wolfe didn’t respond added fuel to the fire and revealed his ignorance in such matters and is a part of the systemic problem that they are attempting to address.  

To be clear, I do not believe Mr. Wolfe is a bad guy or racist. Nevertheless, with great power comes great responsibility (yep, I went there) - and so much of that responsibility is in the LISTENING. I wish that it didn’t have to come to this. I wish that both sides had more grace and goodwill involved throughout the process. However, I strongly believe that is the leader's job to lay that groundwork, set that example, and he didn’t. A really rough way to learn a lesson, indeed.

I hope through all the noise and arguing we can see the pearl for each of us...

Stop ignoring, dismissing, or minimizing someone with a complaint.

Start listening.  

It's that simple, complicated, and hard.
…. frankly “the how” of listening - is another lengthy topic.
Culturally, and individually, we STINK at it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Remove the plank...

A while back someone asked about why it is that my children get along so well. I was a bit taken back and didn't really have a response. She proceeded to share about her sibling and the difficulties they had through the years and only recently were healing from. Her stories reminded me of something that we had been doing, but I had not thought much about recently.

It is frowned upon in our home for either of our kids to tattle on or boss each other around when they are behaving in a way that is breaking some rule. They have been encouraged to either talk to each other directly and assertively using "I" statements and owning their feelings when in conflict, or to trust that mommy and daddy will observe the negative behavior soon enough and will deal with it as we see fit. By no means do we pull this off perfectly, but they get the gist and are pretty easily correctible when they try to gossip or step in above their pay grade.

I can't take a whole lot of credit for this. I think I came across an article years ago and thought it made good sense. The bottom line is siblings need each other and the peer relationship needs to be protected. If you allow them 'adult' like responsibilities (even if what they are saying is true and good) it changes the relationship dynamic. Because of the ego, it seems to instantly disconnect them and cause fear, distrust, or at minimum a breakdown in communication, further judgement, shame ...and the list can go on and on.

Is this what God wanted from us in the beginning? Could part of the avoid eating from the tree of knowledge (of good/evil) thing be so as not to cause such disconnection with our fellow humans? Was that His way of saying, "I got this. This is not part of your job. Trust Me."?

Far too long...

Oy. It's been too long since I last wrote here. So much has transpired...yet maybe not so much has changed.

However, we may be moving soon. My husband is in the final stage and waiting to hear back about a job in Chicago and flies out Monday for a third interview at another place in Atlanta. This two month process has been nerve wracking, to say the least, and absolutely nothing has least on my end. I'm not the one having to apply, prepare, and interview while holding down a full time job. By the way, much kudos goes to my husband for maintaining his sanity and remaining his calm, funny, and reliable self during all of this. Though I know it is taking it's toll on him as well.

This waiting, the in between or liminal space, is interesting. It is one of suspension. My brain wants to rationalize and suggest that in this latency I should feel free and buoyant.

La. Di. freaking Da.

Guess what, I don't.

I feel frozen and heavy.

That seems contradictory that I should feel heavy when I'm suspended? All movements feel extremely labored and half committed, like a third of a lunge. It seems like all daily decisions now run through the filter of this ambiguous future. How to answer what the kids will be doing this summer? Why clean that now, when we may have to do it all at once to sell the house? Will this be the last time I see them? Can we commit to this? Oh, and all the strolls down memory lane I've recently taken...

Yet I haven't left, and may not.

Are we staying? Going? Who will I miss? How will the kids adjust? What will I do for a job? What should we sell? Keep? Who will miss us? Can we afford this? Can we not? I imagine my little family in a scene from the Matrix, dressed in black of course, suspended...but we're not dodging anything. At least not yet. We're just suspended, looking around and it's... exHAUSting?

I am assuming that the tension and energy spent is because I am trying to live in the future. My gaze is fixed WAY out in front and all I see is good ole London fog. No amount of effort or squinting helps me to see through the vapor. For now, I'm going to work on putting one foot in from of the other and watching said feet... the haze can't last forever, can it?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lordy, Lordy...

Guess I'm 40.

This week has been a bit of a roller coaster emotionally, and I'm finally sitting down to reflect on my birthday that occurred on Wednesday.  I received so many kind words through notes, texts, phone calls, and thoughtful gifts - from long ago friends to current ones, and several in between.  I've only had time to read them once, but hope to many more and try to allow them to soak in.  I am afraid I am not able to thank everyone individually at this time, but please know that I SO needed it and am appreciative of the time and energy that people took to think of me.  Indeed, I could use that more often - as I imagine we all could.  It's like a shot of adrenaline.  One I hope to pay back to many of you in time.

Truth be told - I haven't exactly been excited about the age change and been very aware of my mortality as of late.  Don't worry, I'm not going to go there in this post and my health is good (at least that I am aware of).  Suffice it to say, I don't want to let go of my 30's.  They were good to me.

I am so grateful for the first 40 years and am doing my best to not take it for granted.  There are many that don't make it this far...  Nevertheless, strangely, I feel like I am just getting started in this life.  Truly.  The kids are at such a great age.  We just went for a 10 mile bike ride with nary a complaint or skinned knee.  This morning the family all contributed to household chores and three of us (minus Selah) are currently enjoying a James Bond movie.  Jason and I are relishing our 16th year of marriage and have so much more to go!   I truly enjoy him and wouldn't want anyone else by my side.  And on Wednesday, we had a mentor orientation for N2LIFE where we had more potential volunteers show up than expected (double).  How great is that!?!  Just writing these things down and in public causes me to fear I may be sabotaging myself.

My life is good.  Really.  There are certainly struggles, adjusted plans, etc.  Yet, there is so much to look forward to (God willing - family vacations, sharing our love of X-files & Smallville, dating, graduations, marriage, grandchildren, etc) as well as some difficult stuff that may be approaching.

All this to say, my hope for my 40's is to be present.  In the here and now.  I hope to not let the fear of joy rob me of all I have to celebrate or to get so busy that I disengage from the things that make my heart beat.  I am so thankful for my red headed posse, the hard work that I've chosen, and all of the people (friend and foe) that led me to these great places.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of now, I have to go to the bathroom and then plan some parties.  :)

Thank you again friends, for making my birthday so special.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

15 to life

My husband and I just celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary. In this day and age, I consider that a big deal and I feel like celebrating and sharing that with others today. By God's grace, we have survived and thrived through what many marriages have not. I wrote him a poem, albeit corny, filled with things only he and I really understand, but I thought I would share in the hope of hopes - that others be encouraged and know it's possible to be in this place 15 years after the ceremony.

We got this. We own it.
It's still you and me at 15... and I believe the best is yet to be, babe
Cause we're on a roll of lovin' and laughin', hangin' and playin', dancin' and creating...
You're my coffee fiend, spider-lovin, quipin' machine and decoder
You're my salsa and rhythm composer...adding spice and tempo to my willful

To this ragamuffin, Barnabus has nothing on you
My legionnaire, my iron, and my cheesy fondue
You are my triple threat: a walking dictionary, thesaurus, and editor
Without you, I would have little to say
Less learned, and no filter.

We've biked, hiked, camped, and climbed
Jogged, strolled, lingered, and loitered
Outstaying X-files, Smallville, and Boston Legal
Grooving on Cranberries, OTR, Denison, & VOL,
Sting, Peter, Brooke, and The National name a few

Been almost busted, sidetracked, and bankrupt
Beheld copious births and bereavements, and worshipped
Amid learning to engage, empathize, embrace, brainstorm, bargain, swap, and boost up
While tangled with hormones, diet, and haircuts

We've traveled to Africa, Netherlands, Arkansas, California,
Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Gehenna...and back
Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Carolina's all on this fast track.
I have journeyed 15+ years behind, in front of, and beside you

I have loved you. I have liked you. I am loving and liking you more, still...

We got this. We own it.
It's still you and me at 15... and I believe the best is yet to be, babe
Cause we're on a roll of lovin' and laughin', hangin' and playin', dancin' and creating...

Thursday, June 30, 2011


The seams of my brain are coming apart stitch by stitch.
I'm a cliche and am disintegrating into the mist.
I believe I have held too loosely to things, and the little I had is drifting.
Drifting to God know's where...the land of the pathetic I suppose.

I fear I have been lost in myself for years.
Where I once saw a line in the sand, I now see only erosion.
Where I once could declare who I was, I somehow seem to know less or less.
I am bored with myself, my aches, my thoughts.
In these present moments I see only comparison and envy, and all the qualities that I don't possess.

I've been here before, and have come back bedecked and bedazzled-
what now seems like a past reincarnated and lovely self...
Shouldn't I be farther in this life by now?
I'm supposing the Maker needs to rip and frazzle for a reason.
I'm surprised by how much I've seen of him lately and I wait in suspicion of his workings.
My ability to trust has been shaken again, because I have been shaken.
I feel as though I have no beginning or end.
I am a vague mess, at best conspicuous
at worst ...invisible.