Want to Know What’s Funny?

Want to Know What’s Funny?

Letting go of EVERYTHING that ever made you feel bad doesn’t necessarily make you feel better.

What makes people feel better is closure.

For example…the moment when you tell someone -“We’re not friends”- because they went out of their way to make sure you felt horrible about yourself—but they still feel like they can send you an occasional text message.

Closure. The TELLING. The statement of dissolution. Words released into the Universe that establish clear meaning.

What I have learned about forgiveness in the last few months is that,  it is not necessary to “forgive and forget” as many people have told me. I can forgive a person…but, for now, I need to remember.

During the healing process, a grudge can be a healthy thing to hold onto. It will make you I-don-t-hold-grudges-I-hold-memories-that-keep-meremember WHAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE PEOPLE who have hurt you.

A grudge can make you stronger and smarter. A grudge can be downright HEALTHY.

A person can’t stop being angry without getting anger out.

A person can’t stop being a victim until after they are a survivor.

A person can’t stop being taken advantage of if they are willing to overlook purposeful bad behavior.

A person can’t listen to negative and hurtful things after they have learned enough about themselves to KNOW they aren’t true. Before that moment, they are still a victim and not yet a survivor. (After they are a Survivor-a person knows who’se toxic to them and, for a period of time, NEEDS that knowledge to exist.)

A person who is ready for closure, whenever it presents itself, needs to take advantage of it. I don’t mean go looking for it, but when it’s right in your face—it is OK to be extremely clear and simple. “We’re not friends.” No ill will toward them, just your boundary.

A person who can forgive someone else who has never apologized or in fact, does not believe they should be sorry, is the strongest person on the planet.

Forgiveness is not acceptance. 9eacaaec7077a88961e6d0ce7f348e77--inspirational-picture-quotes-good-quotesIt is Grace you show yourself. Give yourself that Grace, because carrying bad stuff around in your head-that was caused by other people- IS NOT YOUR LOAD TO CARRY. 

After that, your “Survivor Self” only needs to carry your Grudge (temporarily).  Hold onto your Grudge as long as you need it to remember where you will NEVER BE AGAIN.

As long as you need it to discern who is genuine and who is not.

As long as you need it to clearly see WHO is a positive presence in your life and who has another agenda.

There WILL come a time when you don’t need it anymore.

But then, you won’t just be a Survivor…you will be HEALED. I can’t wait to meet up with all of you there. All of you who understand exactly what I mean.

We are going to be FABULOUS…
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It’s Not a “Just” World, it’s Just a World.

IMG_4506This is a complicated topic. I think I’ve re-written this piece three or four times now and I’m never sure that I am able to make the message clear.

I need to start by saying that, we all do this. I also need to say that deep in our psyche, because we are parents (who used to be kids-raised by parents) we are utterly helpless in avoiding doing this to our own children.

As adults who have hopefully transcended a bit toward a broader view of the world, we need to see ourselves in the words I’m writing and make some adjustments. Adjustments to how we speak in front of, and to, our children because sometimes, the rules are just not going to apply. 

Morality and ethics are among the most important things we gift our children with. From the time they are babies, we encourage the behaviors that will help our kids be successful out in the world such as, how to be social and make friends or to share and take turns. To sum it up, the surest way to stay safe and  never get into trouble is to follow the rules. 

Enter stage left…The Just World Bias.

The world is just and people get what they deserve. (Or, if you are doing the right things, nothing bad will happen to you. If you are doing the wrong things, you will be punished/scorned/gossiped about/ etc)

We are taught (and need to believe) that there is order to the world, and that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished.

When the world is perfect and all things align, that thought works. The majority of the time, it is a narrow and inaccurate ideal to promote. Here is why…

Ponder this thought. Classroom children are in a single file line, going down the stairs, when a kid trips over his shoelace. As he is falling forward, he knocks over three other classmates and all four of them end up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. All the children are crying.

Scenario continued: You are a parent of one of the children who got knocked over by “shoe lace kid”. You don’t like that your child got hurt but you know… accidents happen. No big deal, all is well. Easy, right?

Now, add THIS: Same scenario as above but,  upon your arrival to school, and the subsequent conversations with the other parents involved (parents of the other victims) you find out that “Little Johnny- who is ALWAYS wearing shoes that are too big and untied” is the epicenter of this scary and hazardous fall.

Is it that easy to be nice-and logical- then?

If you are an honest person, your answer is NOOOOOO. Even the most logical and level headed parent-at that moment- thinks to themselves “His shoes are ALWAYS UNTIED! Accident waiting to happen! Have his parents not heard of Velcro? I mean, really!! Just get the kid some slip ons!” Subliminally, and without even realizing it, that kid is never looked at the same again.IMG_4507

You know you’ve done it. I’ve done it. That  little kid, who DID NOTHING WRONG is now in a place of blame. Of judgement. Of finger pointing. You are now-blaming the victim. This is the Just World Bias.

At times like these we don’t even know we are blaming the victim. It’s a fact, his shoe was untied, causing the fall. We have a POINT!

No, you really don’t. Bad things happen to good people.Your empathy for his suffering is overshadowed by the fact YOU THINK he MIGHT have caused the problem.

I can’t even write that enough times: YOUR EMPATHY FOR ANOTHER PERSON’S SUFFERING IS OVERSHADOWED BY THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A POINT…

Switching from kids to grown-ups now…

Adults decide who becomes their  friend based on things like how loyal they are, how kind, how fun, because they have common interests. We decide that based on these qualities……our friend is “good enough to hang out with the likes of us.”

You and your friend have years of great conversation, connections, support, and laughter. Then, comes a random (or not random) series of events where your friend is a victim of something traumatizing. Something scary. Something that  is persistent for years.

At first you support them because he/she is your friend. But if the events are prolonged, and rumors keep spreading, we begin to wonder…how can this person— that we have JUDGED to be a good person—have all these traumatic things keep happening to her?

Maybe…maybe…I’m not seeing everything. Maybe SHE is doing something (or things) to cause these problems.

Right there-your brain flips the switch and your ride down the slippery slope begins…

Your brain goes from addressing the very thing that traumatized someone to how they may have CAUSED the trauma. Again, the Just World Bias…aka Blaming the Victim.2953e8b9573a21b2a08712d49e37fe91--hard-truth-truth-hurts

The moment we lose focus of someone else’s trauma and begin to judge their character is the time when, if you believe in the teaching of Jesus or the Law of Nature, we have upset the balance of right and wrong. We have dismissed our humanity and our empathy for our righteousness. AND man oh man, do we want to be RIGHT!

The moment we are telling someone else what an embarrassment their behavior is, how stupid they are, or how despicable they are,  we are forgetting the very sin we were all born with. Yep, I’m talking to you.

YOU are no better.  And by speculating, gossiping, judging, and repeating negativity are in fact causing discord in the world because you have decided that someone else……does not deserve your empathy.

Well friends, the reality is bad stuff happens to people who follow the rules. People who raise good children. People who occasionally make mistakes. And, prolonged struggle in a person’s life is not indicative of poor character OR permission for your judgement.

You can decide to not be their friend. Perhaps you can’t handle the added stress. But….But….BUT… do NOT make a traumatized person more traumatized because YOU need to be heard. 

It is never our place to HAVE to verbally attack someone we are struggling with. It isn’t.

Why does it happen? Because it makes you …look…better…to…yourself. Because you have JUDGED them and you are RIGHT.  

This is the just world bias.

Justice is biased. The only real fact in this whole world is…This is NOT a just world, it is just a world.

Choose empathy. If you can’t, do no further harm. (Well, first admit it to yourself that your ego is huge and therefore does not have space for imperfection-much less the ability to have kindness for it, and then do no further harm meaning- just keep your mouth shut.)a070119a2118b75879b486a70a21e4c2--nice-people-quotes-quotes-about-mean-people

My hope is… maybe we can all just do better. WANT to do better. Want to be a little more human. Maybe we can move away from judgement and toward an actually “just world” one person at a time.

 

 

About those adult bullies…

A good friend recently told me, “Kelly, write about what you WANT to write about. The content here belongs to you, and whether or not other people like it…isn’t the point.”

So, I’m going to write about Adult Bullies, more specifically adult WOMEN who stomp their feet like children, yell louder than everyone, and verbally slander other women—simply to “get their point across”.  I’m going to write about the utter absurdity of their behavior, as it is their attempt to strongarm other women. These are the mean girls who have never grown up.

But unlike when they were teenagers, and their peers may have stood back and cowered at the buffoonery, when the recipient is a reasonable adult, the perception and knowledge that’s actually transmitted through an encounter is the supreme insecurity and emotional immaturity of your bully.42815_original

Of course, this has happened to me. Recently, in fact. When it does happen, my feelings aren’t hurt. It puzzles me, and my only response is to shrug my shoulders and move on.

There are fewer than 10 people in this world that I would lay down my life for. That I LOVE. If they needed a kidney, I would eagerly offer mine.

There are people I care deeply for, and if you are reading this you know who you are.

There are people I tolerate.

There are people who have been friends in the past, and I still wish them well.

There are people who have been friends in the past that I can’t get far enough away from.

And, there are people who are inconsequential. Here lies the bully.

Now, don’t confuse the writing of this piece as an attempt to project anger, or to make it seem as though I give word vomit a second thought. For me to be angry about it, it would have to MEAN something to me.  I am writing this because there are many of you out there who have gone through the same thing. Another woman who, while demonstrating her narcisicissim and lack of self worth, goes to great lengths to throw you under the bus. What they don’t know is, that through all of your trials and tribulations you have become:d2f38f6ffd577424cc3badcce90f1400

With this in mind,  I want to say something to those of you who have witnessed the behavior of these bullies and made the conscious decision to be a bystander.

“I’m not going to say anything!” you may think. “This is none of my business.”
When this happens, YOU become part of the problem. You are guilty of perpetuating the bully’s behavior.

Undoubtedly, you have begun the process of teaching your children how to stick up for THEMSELVES. The problem there is, THAT is an inborn survival skill. Before we are taught that snatching a toy away from a friend is ill looked upon, we are out to protect our own interests.

What many parents in my lifetime have chosen to forget is…TEACHING their children to protect each other. I use teaching in caps here because that is not an innate survival skill. We are not born with the desire or mindful nature to WANT to advocate for others. It is taught to us, modeled for us, and with persistance by our parents becomes second nature to us at some point. Without the two going hand in hand, we have become the self-centered world we live in today.

So, why don’t we do it? Because it is uncomfortable for US. Because it may turn animosity toward US, and not just the person being bullied. Because it’s easier for US to walk away.

With the clear idea that I may offend some of you, I believe that to be cowardice and one of the most harmful idealisms to replicate in our society. We, the world, WE NEED YOU TO BE BRAVE. We need you to be bigger than yourself. We need you to show and teach that we don’t need to be afraid of bad behavior demonstrated by others, because we will not tolerate it. We need you to teach your children, that NOT stopping a person (adult or child) who is attempting to be hurtful, harmful, or just plain mean, is WRONG.

Ladies, as a gender, we are falling short on advocating for what is right and having each other’s backs. If we can’t do it for each other, what hope do our daughters have of NOT becoming victims? We have shown them that being an inactive bystander is…..the right way to handle mistreatment of others.

Perhaps consider this…Speak UP! Not to the graphic and emotional extent of the bully, but a simple statement like, “What you are doing is wrong.” is a powerful stance. It’s that simple. You don’t need to explain further or make a longer statement, and by turning and walking away afterward, you are making the adult bully aware that SOCIETY sees them. Do nothing and your actions are perceived as a nod of acceptance.

71e6a228b71b1978dacf9b39bd60f000We all know it’s not acceptable. We all know it’s disgraceful. It’s a virus put out into the world, that we are setting our daughters up to deal with.

WE need to raise girls who are not bullies, and who grow up to be adults who have no tolerance for bullying. Girls who are capable of NOT seeing other women as enemies. Who have watched their Mothers demonstrate bravery, humility, and kindness—even if it put them out of their comfort zone.

In ending, I want to acknowledge that I began this piece speaking about adult women who attempt to bully other adult women. If you are the target, walk away. But, if you are a witness DON’T LET THAT PERSON STAND ALONE. It is wrong to the core of wrongness. Be the friend you would want standing next to your daughter. The world will be a better place.

 

 

 

 

The Mommy Mile

The veil opens in places like The Mommy Mile. It is not a mile in measurement, but of memory. The path is not secret or hidden, and often I am sharing this stretch of trail with a passing bicycle or an amateur fisherman.unnamed copy 2

As soon as the weather is remotely tolerable in Maine, I start to walk outside.  It’s the time I can feel most at peace and connected to myself.

As paths in the woods often do, the straight stretch is preceded and followed by bends leading in different directions. Approaching the straight section is a damp and shady walk of maybe 100 yards. The hill on the right drowns out sound from the outside world. The embankment to the left yields a drop steep enough that I am always ensured solitude.

Coming around the first turn, I reach the straight. A hearty swath cut in the middle of robust pine and oak trees. The breeze waits here, and carries with it a part of my Mother.

My arms are heavy, but I hold them out and I find myself saying in an audible fashion, “Hi, My Mommy!” The mile has begun. I breathe and will myself to be present in this moment. Breath to breath. Inhale. Exhale. Each time I am filled with her peace, her being. This is not a passive feeling, but an active feeling. Her BEING. For these 421 steps, she and I are part of the same air.

The second bend approaches to the left. I am on step 410. The end of the mile is approaching.  I will not turn around, linger, or go back and I will not pause. A measurement of memory must be walked as it happened, as it’s remembered, and without a moment of human covetousness.

My Mother did not pause when she exhaled for the last time. My Father, Sister, and I exhaled with her. And there, on the breeze of our deflating lungs, she took a part of us with her. A living part of the 3 of us slipped under the doorway.

That part of us is still there with her, across the veil that lifts and allows the breeze to cross Mommy Mile.

“Heaven” isn’t far. It’s right here, in fact. Each of us has a toe in and out of it every day. Not in the literal way, but in momentary ways. In laughter, in quiet, or on a breeze.

It’s almost like the veil that opens, in the twilight of my drifting to sleep, when I am not so much inside myself as I am drifting to somewhere else. She’s there, too. I feel our breath, that little piece that belongs to both sides. Her scent that slips back under the doorway when I inhale, and does not so much surprise me as soothe me.

IMG_2895I continue to drift into sleep, as gently as she slipped away when she carried us with her…as if we were dry leaves straying from an upturned basket. And here, we will flutter through life, in and around each other, until God’s hand places us eye to eye on The Mommy Mile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To quote Inigo Montoya…

 

 

Yes! From The Princess Bride. THAT Inigo Montoya. The “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” guy!

Now, The Princess Bride is a GREAT movie. And that may be Inigo’s most memorable line. But there’s another line of his that I find most endearing.

It’s the one Inigo speaks to Vizzini, the man who hired him to kill the Dread Pirate Roberts. Vizzini is a pompous little man who thinks himself a genius, and is perplexed to find his phenomenal plan being foiled at every turn. Whenever that happens — and it happens a LOT — Vizzini’s response is always the same.princess-bride-14

“Inconceivable!”

After hearing this for the umpteenth time, Inigo finally has to speak up. With the same sentiment as the little girl in another story who pointed out that the Emperor really wasn’t wearing new clothes, Inigo tells Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That has to be one of my favorite lines in any movie I’ve seen. Why? Because it illustrates the difference between seeing life through beer goggles and seeing it through a microscope. It shows us why it’s so important (and SO difficult) to choose words that mean what you think they mean. By the same token, it’s awfully easy to choose words that don’t, and to fall into the trap of using them — over and over and over again.

Maybe I think too much about that. On the other hand, maybe thinking about these words, and choosing different ones, will improve what we say, and how other people understand and respond to it.

Here’s my short list:

DESERVE

 Definition? To merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, punishment, assistance, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation.

 Here’s how it gets used every day: I deserve a happy life…. I’ve been working really hard, and I deserve a vacation…. I deserve some respect…. For all the trouble he caused, he deserves whatever he gets…

 Wow! I have an issue with all of that. Why? Because, just like my friend Inigo Montoya, I keep hearing people use that word — but I do not think it means what they think it means.

People — you, me, all of us — don’t “deserve” a whole heck of a lot of ANYTHING. We EARN it. We earn a vacation. We earn the respect of others. The choices we make — or DON’T make — earn us a happy life. And if someone has earned a harsh punishment for something they did, they absolutely should receive it.

More often than not, the word “deserve” is spoken with entitlement. It’s spoken with the sentiment that the world owes us something. Well, in the great scheme of things, not one single person “deserves” anything more than anyone else has or gets.

Deserve used correctly? What SHOULD every human being have claim to regardless of their situation? To never be physically hurt or abused. To never witness violence. To be safe. To be cared for. To live without being afraid. That list is long. Add to it!

FINE

 Definition? Of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade.

 How is this one used every day? I’m fine…. That decision will work out fine…. Your dress looks fine…. Everything is fine….

 Having been the recipient of all of the above statements, I can tell you that NONE of them elicit the feeling that you haven’t pissed someone off, that you made the best decision, or that your choice of wardrobe is of superior quality. Most often, they beg the question, “Okay, what’s wrong?”

As far as I’m concerned, “fine” is a non-word. It doesn’t mean anything. At best, it’s a neutral answer to a rote question (How are you? I’m fine.), and in many cases, it conveys something that is exactly the opposite of its definition because we all know it really means this…15203404_10211687276562557_7863788055781722237_n-2

We keep using “fine.” But it doesn’t mean what we think it means.

SUPPOSED TO

 This is a tricky one. And yes, I know it’s two words, not one.

Definition? Something that is expected or required to occur.

 How do we use it? You are supposed to save the cake until last!…. Couples are supposed to stay married forever!…. You’re not supposed to say things that might hurt someone’s feelings…. Moms aren’t supposed to swear (which is total BS, by the way, unless your kids are very young —and even then, “hell” and “dammit” were acceptable for me)

Sort of like “fine,” this is a phrase that doesn’t really mean anything. “Not supposed to” is a non-reason for not doing something.

I’m “not supposed to” eat the cake first?  WHY?? I’m “expected” or “required” not to? Who freakin’ says?

YOU decide. You are smart, and you know your own situation intimately (maybe a lot better than you’d like). Be secure in that. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You and your family have your own expectations and requirements.

Lastly, guess what? Those people giving you a slap on the hand with “supposed to’s”? You are not required to take their advice — especially if what they say you are “supposed to” do is something you know is not right for YOU. Me? I ate the cake first.dsc_0203-2

So…sorry,  dictionary definition. None of that “supposed to” stuff is a requirement out here in real life. That phrase does not mean what you think it means.

FAIR

 Definition? Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.

How do we use it? One sentence sums it up: That’s not fair!

How many times do we hear it every day, from all directions?

More importantly, how many times do we find ourselves using it? Every single one of us whips this one out on a regular basis. When the light turns red the second OUR car reaches the intersection. When our team loses an important game where (we are certain) the officials missed a crucial call because they were biased against us from the start. When we have the feeling that EVERYONE ELSE gets things that we don’t. Whenever we feel the least bit inconvenienced.

Man, what whiny babies we are!

Whether something is “fair” does not relate to how much effort one person has to put toward obtaining it, versus what another person might have to do. It has no place in an argument about, for example, getting a promotion you worked hard for, and then saw it go to someone else.

Fairness has nothing to do with making the same rules apply to everyone. In fact, the real meaning of being fair is treating each person DIFFERENTLY, according to his or her own situation or circumstances. Fairness is about seeing each situation, and judging each person on their own merits.  

Think about that. Is it fair that a visually impaired 12-year-old who wants to enjoy the bumper cars at the amusement park, is NOT ALLOWED to ride in a car with a driver because he is more than six years old (I actually saw this happen, by the way)? Okay, it’s the rule, and people have their reasons for making rules. But is it FAIR, as in free from bias and injustice? What do you think?

The wrong idea of fairness? That everybody is entitled to the same treatment!

At Barr Inc., fair is what is right for each individual person. It’s taking the one kid out for ice cream who has worked her tail off doing chores while leaving two other kids at home—and not feeling ONE BIT BAD ABOUT IT. Why? Because the others did nothing but play XBox and text their friends.

And, if the other two were to utter… “That’s not FAIR!” ?

My reply is always, “Why? She did all that work. Tell me why.”

They have never replied to this, but if they ever do you can be sure I’ll be saying…

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Deserve. Fine. Supposed to. Fair.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve said enough to make you think about those words the next time you hear them, or say them.

And you WILL say them. I catch myself all the time.

Life is like JENGA

Ever notice that?

It’s almost pitiful when you’re watching a group of kids play a board game and your thoughts go to ,”Hey, that’s just like life.”jenga-1

Jenga. What’s the goal?

Tactically and gently poke and push out blocks that have constructed a tower until it falls. Why? Because it’s FUN! Poke and push out pieces of the tower until your friend loses. What could be better than that?

Life. What’s the goal?

I’m going to use my life for this scenario, because it’s the one I walk in every day, and I’d be speculating to impose anyone else’s analogy here. Feel free to consider how this applies to your life afterward though, because truth be told, we ALL have Jenga moments.

Here we go:

The Jenga tower, with all its blocks in perfect form, is your life (or at least what people see on Facebook), what you’ve built.It fits together perfectly, one row bolstering the next, until you have a (seemingly) magnificent-looking structure.

Maybe it looks like a cohesive fun marriage, a sprawling house, taking the children to Disney, a group of friends and couples to spend time with, and your designer Doodle dog. “Ahhhhh,”we say, “Look at that! That is an accomplishment.”

As your opponents do in the game, so does The Great Finger of Fate. Undoubtedly, when we have almost finished looking longingly at our magnificent structure, the Fate Finger (I just know it’s a middle one) swoops in and pokes out just enough blocks for your eyebrows to start twitching.

For example, all four of my kids starting different schools the same year. One in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school, and one in preschool. When that happens, your ex-husband and kids look like this…206725_1029468862098_7360_n

Doesn’t that look like FUN? Don’t they look happy?

I am taking that photo because I have about 3 hairs left in my pony tail, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, and I’m still drinking my first cup of coffee—that I’ve already re-heated THREE times.

Oh, and the one who is starting preschool? I’m her teacher (one of the teachers, the assistant one). Yes, that’d be my first year back to work after TWELVE years of raising those little buggers. So, now that they all look beautiful to carry on their day and head off to work, I HAVE TO GET READY TO GO TO WORK!  Eyebrows, starting to twitch.

My tower still looks OK though. The Great Finger of Fate has poked us into a new era at Barr Inc., but through the twitching I can see that we are still solid. Game still on.

As the game would have it though, your opponent is never sedentary in mind or body. Their mind is watching for their next opportunity to push just the right block out. When they spy it, they push on it gingerly and with great consternation. A few turns later, your magnificent structure looks more like a 3-D puzzle of Swiss cheese than a solid mass of blocks.

The Great (middle) Finger of Fate has made a Swiss cheese puzzle of my life on several occasions.

High Schooler? Well, she’s too pretty (AND smart, and funny, and stubborn, and now….rebellious). All the girls hate her because all the boys like her. Friends have made up rumors about her and left her out as the “competition” is too much. She’s her mother’s kid at that point. She’s pissed and she’s done. With everyone. Including me.

The Middle Schooler? Well, when it’s pointed out to me that he “hasn’t developed scholarly study habits,” my first reaction is, Did you read his paperwork? He has inattentive type ADD. We went through hell last year to get all that paperwork, only to hear he doesn’t have scholarly study habits! Go check his locker!! I’ll bet alllllll the homework that you’re looking for is there. He…just…forgets…to…hand…it…in.

Elementary Schooler? She cries big, quiet tears at her desk sometimes because math is hard, she only wants to talk about 101 Dalmatians (which her classmates have moved beyond), and she has some impulsive moments of temper which she should have outgrown by now. She has so many big thoughts, but not enough words to get them out. She eats lunch by herself, and she is SO BEAUTIFUL that she melts my heart every time I tell her, “It will take you longer to find your friends, but you will find them. And they will be true friends.” My heart melts because I’m her mother, and she BELIEVES ME. 

My Preschooler? She goes to school with mom every day. Mom gets a really up close and personal look at one of the funniest kids ever — who is having a lot of difficulty remembering the alphabet. Even the letters we practice. She has to share her mom every day with 20 other little people, and she’s GREAT at it. But she knows, even at 3 and 4, that her friends know things she doesn’t quite remember yet.img_1211

Those are some Swiss cheese holes in the Jenga  tower. Eyebrows are twitching and the worry lines are beginning to make themselves known! I still got it though! Game still on! I can just pedal faster and swim harder.

That Great Finger of Fate is an A-hole though. While you might be able to walk away from the board game with a laugh, by the time there are enough holes in your life for the tower to fall, no one is laughing.

Just like Jenga, we keep playing to see how far we will get, how many skilled moves we can make, how many more chances we will have before there are just too many holes and the whole thing falls over. And it ALWAYS falls over.

Sometimes the damage is minimal, and the sides can be shored up with a “Banana Splits for Dinner” party and a documentary about the idiot who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers, while curled up in my bed with my Corporation. I know my tower is compromised, but we are holding on to each other. There is still the illusion of victory. After all, that magnificent structure I stood back and admired and took years to build still looked successful and viable (at least on Facebook).

Other times, The Great Finger of Fate has become a Fist of Fate that has opened up its can of “whoop ass.” An entire section of your Jenga tower gets punched with the swiftness of a falcon carrying off your Chihuahua.

That looks like cashing in your 401K, a second mortgage, or bankruptcy. Those holes are big enough for the spectators in your life to see and, just like the game, spectators  yell,”AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod! What are you going to dooooooooooooo?”(And yes, they drag out the word “do” just like that).

One thing I have recognized about myself is that I do not possess the ability to mask my thoughts with my facial expression. When I imagine my appearance as those spectators are expressing concern, I envision my “puzzled and annoyed” look. The thoughts my face are not masking? “Ummm, DUH! Thank you for alerting me with your screams. And DUH — again! You’ve been watching this thing play out for a while now and I’VE BEEN WORKIN’ ON IT! SHEESH!!”

Finally, the collapse. No matter if it’s gradual or sudden, it always feels like Thor was your Jenga partner this whole time, and he swung his hammer down HARD! (I just got a little happy when I wrote that, because if that were true, at the very least I got to watch Thor’s biceps in action while he ruined my tower.)

Those holes are heartache. They that look like estrangement from family, divorce, rumors that circulate through a small town (or a small school), moving, and even leaving a job for a new one.

Jenga? The tower is now at ground level. Rubble.

Life? That magnificent tower was just a passing oasis in the desert. Try to look for it a second time, and all you see is sand and what used to be.

In my moment of looking back for that oasis and realizing that I will never see it again, I remember having an epiphany. I SEE all the rubble. I SEE the big mess. I also see my foundation hasn’t budged!

Jenga and life have the same ending. The foundation remains when that big tower cascades to the floor.

That’s where your real strength comes from….It’s at the bottom. At your foundation. You can sit in the rubble, or you can rise.

Those people you cuddled with for ice cream sundaes and documentaries and drove to counseling four times a week at the expense of your job? That you advocated and fought for? That you drove for hours in your taxi cab/mini van when you were legally too tired to drive but you did it anyway? HOLY CRAP!! THEY LOOK OK! Maybe a little worn around the edges, but DAMN! I laid an awesome foundation. Those kids? My corporation? They were already walking forward! We were already rebuilding. I just needed to jackhammer that rubble and start over.

Rebuild that Jenga tower of life people!! That Great Finger, Fist, or Hammer of Fate will always put holes in it, and in Jenga that’s fun.

In REAL life, re-building is a gift. It won’t ever look the same, but there will be parts of it that are more beautiful than before. That’s the truth!

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The Escape Hatch

The Escape Hatch.

At least once a week, I look for it. The way to get out and never have to come back. Yep, I mean to my life.  As glorious as some moments in each day can be, there are those that beat me to my core.

Here is my typical week:

  • I cannot please enough people, be smart enough at work, participate in school events, go through the mail, or pick up the freakin’ house.
  • I forget it’s trash day — for the fourth week in a row.
  • My garage door is frozen shut, with my car inside.
  • I forgot to submit half my time sheet, so I only got half my pay.
  • My #4 child has to be taken to the Doctor for the second time in three days because she REALLY DOES have strep throat and they forgot to send the culture in the first time you were there….but wait, did you know Christmas is tomorrow?!?!!?

This is when I start to open the Escape Hatch. The severity of daily events determines just how wide the opening needs to be.img_1733

For example, a day when I unknowingly slam my winter scarf in the car door and walk away JUST in time to clothesline a passing pedestrian followed by serving pancakes for the third night in a row (because it’s Tuesday and payday isn’t until Friday)? That opens up an Escape Hatch that looks ME, in my car, alone, driving up I-95 until I hit Canada.

A day that begins on a 9-degree morning when there is no water in my house? If the subsequent events include the “well guy” having to come on an emergency call to dig up your front yard with a backhoe because….the pump down in the well isn’t low enough (WTH?), telling your kids to “wait to pee at school”, “use the bottle of water to brush your teeth”, and a bill for $3,200?

Well, that day opens an Escape Hatch that is as large as a withdrawal from the ATM (in Escape Hatch mode there is actually money in my bank account) and a bus ticket (so no one can trace where I’ve gone) to as far West as it will take me. Then I’ll be a waitress and live at the Skylark Motel (doesn’t every town  have one of those?), and no one will know who I am.

When I am in Escape Hatch mode, that thought is comforting. No one knows who I am. I have no responsibilities to other people, therefore I’m not letting anybody down. And I don’t have to make any more pancakes….

Maybe that’s not your Escape Hatch. Maybe yours looks like a “safe cheat.” You know, the kind where you don’t get caught? Or perhaps three hot fudge sundaes and a movie binge? Mark Wahlberg with his shirt off? Making a powerful dent in a bottle of Patron? Or maybe just a very intense shopping spree.

Maybe your Escape Hatch looks like that fleeting moment when you think, Everyone would be okay if I….just….drove….into….this….tree.

Have you been there? Right there? Some of you have, and it’s a seriously rough spot to sit in.

Therein lies the drawback of the Escape Hatch. WHY? Because, it’s the most un-real place your brain will ever go.

It’s a lie.

Safe cheat? Ummm, there isn’t one. Three hot fudge sundaes and a movie binge? That equals sick to your stomach and —if you’re over 40, laying there in a bloated state from too much dairy.  Mark Wahlberg without his shirt on? Well, it depends on the movie….but even Marky Mark is getting old, my friends. A bottle of Patron? YUM, vomit, and then two weeks of out of body experiences while you detox. Shopping spree? A closet full of junk, with the tags still on them, because (let’s be honest) if you’ve got that problem, you’re not shopping because you NEED the items you bought.

Here’s what is really happening when your brain opens the Escape Hatch. It is telling you, “I need to stop! Too much is happening in here!”  In your frustrated, overloaded brain, it sounds like that high-pitched whistle that only dogs can hear.

Fact: Your brain IS telling you to stop. Your brain is creating “escapes” so that subconsciously it can regulate. I know this is true, because I live this.

Truth: I broke. For hours, one night, in the dark. I cried like I never knew I could cry and I couldn’t stop. I prayed out loud, the same words over and over, “Father please help me. Father please help me….” I laid on the floor and let my body feel the pain and remorse and loss and hurt and frustration and fatigue. Sometimes, I couldn’t even get a breath. I did not have the thought of plunging into my final eternity—BUT, afterward, I could understand and empathize with how someone else may get to that point.

I cried for hours. I have no idea how many. My guess would be however many my body and my brain needed. My crying stopped, and then I just laid there in the quiet. Hours passed. For once, I just let myself sit in the realness of life and felt it all.f328c596c6a14004a9acafd7ef6cb453-1

Wanna know what blows my mind? After all of that, after sitting in it and accepting it and feeling it, my sans-whistling brain told my body to GET UP.

So, I did. I got up and I walked forward. Then I freakin’ realized, “HERE  is the REAL Escape Hatch!” (My calm brain added, “You Moron!” to that previous statement) It’s walking forward….

Forward is the CHANGE you’re going to make because….well, you HAVE to. You can’t keep doing that shit! Forward is not a lie, or a mirage, and it’s definitely not Mark Wahlberg with his shirt off.

There is struggle that will become great. There is struggle that will stay struggling. You may find yourself crying on the floor again (and again).  BUT remember—you’ve been here before. It’s survivable. YOU WILL GET UP. YOU WILL ESCAPE FORWARD because, as I said, you HAVE to.

Why do you have to? Because that’s real, too. The world needs you, whether you know it or not.

unnamedSo, in my real life week, the unread mail was still there, the house was still disgusting, I still wasn’t smart enough at work, and I didn’t wrap the presents until Christmas morning. (No joke, I told my kids they had to wait upstairs until I was done!) Oh, and the Doctor called me three days after my daughter started antibiotics (for strep) to tell me that she had strep.

That’s messy happy life. There is never happy without messy — unless you’re a liar.

If you are reading this, and you have teetered on the edge for a moment or for hours, I need you to know this…CHOOSE to get up. Escape forward.

 

Barr, Inc….What’s in a name?

485261What is the most important job you will ever do? Your main focus in life, the masterpiece you contributed to during your years here on Earth? What will be your legacy? What do you want to be remembered for?

Not long ago, my oldest daughter saw me making my page for LinkedIn.

“Mom!” she said. “It’s SUPPOSED to be for professionals! People use it for business contacts! I’m not sure you get it.”

The thing is, I think I get “IT” better than a lot of people. I grew up with great parents, have five years of college, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s in Learning and Behavioral Disorders. My profession?? TWENTY-FIVE YEARS worth of putting all of that education into action — forming what I call my Corporation.2014-04-29-08-08-25

As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, a corporation is any group of persons united or regarded as one body. AKA: a family. MY family. Barr Inc.

Barr Inc. is a family corporation, born, built, and changing every day. It takes turns being loved and hated by all its members (depending on the day.)

dsc_0180Barr Inc. has its home office in Maine, where its duties are unevenly divided between Junior partners and the CEO. I (as you probably guessed) am the CEO. Our Junior partners describe my role as never listening to ANYTHING my kids say, being solely responsible for the fact that there is NEVER anything to eat at our house, and being the person who will never fail to be there when they need me.

Our main satellite office is located in Indiana, where their Dad (our CFO) resides. Along with keeping us on track financially, he is also Head of the Complaints about Mom Department, co-counselor to our four Junior partners, and Advisor In Absentia for which college classes to take and reminding the Junior partners never to take themselves too seriously.

We also have two other branch offices, located on Long Island, New York (home of our Senior Junior partner), and in Florida, where we find our Original Founding Member, my Dad. 15965034_10212198803590413_6962340233538217304_n  Our other founding members have moved forward, to their last Corporation, where we will be happy to meet them again in our own time.

My Corporation has no paid employees, and is an all guts and no glory operation. It IS my first profession and those four people God transferred into my temporary care ARE the corporation I was put here to build.

My second job, which intermingled 12 years of the above 25, was a true passion and extension of myself: Being a teacher. I was a better teacher because I had the experience of Barr Inc. to pull from every day. I loved my students harder and knew them more deeply as little PEOPLE, not just someone else’s children.

See? I get this professional thing just fine.

Moms…Dads…. you may never have thought of it this way, but however you do it, however you parent, do it like the life and death of your Corporation depends on it…because IT DOES! You absolutely don’t do it perfectly, and from our kids’ perspective we are terrible at it all the time!! You may not have the amount of time as some others, but whatever you do have, KNOW that it matters. YOUR Corporation isn’t the same as anyone else’s. It’s always a work in progress, and it’s never too late to build it or to make it better.

One last thing: Tell your Junior partners the stories of their Founding members. Tell them where their grit came from.

Tell them about the time Grandma ate a spoonful of mayonnaise because she thought it was vanilla pudding, and about how Papa fell in love with her in the 10th grade when she took the eraser off of his desk, used it, and put it back. Tell them how you learned to hit a golf ball and why you know the words to the Notre Dame Fight song. Tell them how you learned to love children, and love being their teacher. That’s how Barr Inc. operates anyway, because I believe that’s how my Corporation stays on track, even in the toughest times — by carrying the past along, so it will be here to benefit the next people that God transfers into our temporary care.

What’s in a name? In this case it’s the sum of some magnificent, flawed, strong, and tenacious people unified into one body. Barr Inc.

Just Me….

I freakin’ love this picture.

unnamed-1It started as kind of a joke. I was at a wedding, the most beautiful one I’ve ever been to by the way, and this lovely spot is where the bride entered to meet her groom.

After the ceremony and into the festivities, couples began wandering over to this gorgeous open air doorway to have their photo taken together. Happy couples do that at weddings.

Me being me, I was the third wheel with my awesome sister/friend and her husband. The 3 of us were enjoying the lovely view as one of those happy couples posed and smiled. As they walked away, I looked at sister/friend and said,”My turn! Photo with my date!!” We

were all laughing and it turned into an “Oh well, here I am again” kind of pose.

Did I mention…..I freakin’ LOVE this picture? At that moment, just me with my invisible boyfriend, was enough.

I don’t write that with a pity poor me attitude. It’s just a real statement about the way my life has turned out post-divorce. I am a Mom of 4, with an ex-husband who has lived out of state for the last 7 years. Do you know what that means?? That means, I have been by myself raising TEENAGERS! For YEARS! I should be drunk all the time, right??

There is only one of me, and it’s CRAZY. My household is not quiet, we do not always like each other, I am most often the Dean of Mean and the speaker of the infamous phrase, “Um, NO.” My last parent volunteer gig was at The Snack Shack during a Field Hockey game. Every other parent there knew the drill, and they knew each other. I’m there saying, “Yea, I think I’ve seen you a couple times at the grocery store.”

I cry a lot, but not a sad cry. It’s a frustrated/tired cry because bare minimum is all I seem to be able to give and it is literally EVERYTHING. I. HAVE..

Just Me….Is Enough, and here is why. Enough is all anyone EVER needs. Not “Too Much” or “The Best”, but E.N.O.U.G.H.

A piece of cardboard covering a broken window during a New England winter was enough to keep the snow out. Counting up some spare change from our “community change jar” was enough to get my youngest her donation to the Coaches end of the year gift. Two un-matching socks (which are all we have) are enough to keep our feet warm.

So, I’m going to write about me and my people and all the little things that have made most days enough. Like these faces.2014-06-28-06-06-18

To write….or not to write

“All the good and all the beautiful in the world is created by people who SHOW UP before they are ready.” -Glennon Doyle Melton

dsc_0164-2Deciding to start writing down and sharing real, and uncomfortable, personal situations with the world is kinda crazy. But, it’s brave. The author I quoted above poses the idea that the world is brutal AND, the world is beautiful. In fact, the word she uses is Brutiful. So, I’ll just hop on the wagon and call my Crazy and Brave attempt to identify with other people in similar situations-Brazy. I’m going to show up before I’m ready. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up sounding Brupid….:)

Wanna hear something scary? The fastest growing population in the United States for depression, drug dependancy, and suicide are women between 45 and 65. When I read that, my first thought was-“I feel ya man. Life is really hard!” Then I got sad because I realized that a good majority of those 45-65 year old women have given this world beautiful children, helped raise them or raised them on their own, put their career on hold or were working mom’s, took care of their elderly parents because they wanted to, loved and tried to be good spouses…..and are now finding themselves lost.They are hopeless, overwhelmed with the world, afraid, alone, and in some cases done.

That was when I pulled out my Brazy. An outraged little voice in my head yelled, “Well that’s just WRONG!!!” Maybe, if I show up before I’m ready (cuz who is ever ready to put their pain out for public consumption) it will help someone else.

I will never claim to have answers, because I struggle every day. There isn’t a solution, but there IS better. If you are struggling, or you are reading this and you love someone who is….let’s help each other. That’s WHY WE ARE HERE…on this Earth. Grab a hand and keep reading. Be BRAZY with me because we have given the world A LOT, and we have more to give AND to receive.