Letters From the Dead

I just got a letter from the little girl we sponsor in Haiti. It takes about 2 months to actually get letters from her. It tells of her normal progress in school, and her very thankful heart for us, and gives us updates on her and her family. This letter means a little more than normal today.

At this moment I am still waiting to hear if she is alive or ok. She lives right near the epicenter of the recent earthquakes. It may take several weeks or months to know. It is a hard wait. Of course I am hoping for the best, preparing for the worst…praying…and continuing to send support.

It’s a pretty strange feeling to be holding a letter in your hands that quite honestly – the person that penned it could be dead. It is very surreal. But of course – I am jumping to very morbid conclusions. For all intensive purposes and hopes – she is still very much alive.

It does, however, remind me of another letter I received back in my college days. A letter from a friend that decided that life was just too much for her and as I read the words that she wrote with her own hands…she was already gone. What a tragedy. What a waste.

The thing I am struck with is the contrast of these two situations. In one case, there is a young girl in such devastating circumstances, yet so hopeful and eager to live life to the fullest…So thankful for the smallest of things. In the other case, a young woman with every material wish lavished upon her by well meaning parents, but at the core she was empty, not thankful, unfulfilled.

One young girl fighting for her rights to even go to school and one young woman who had the education of her choice at great colleges and found it still not enough.

What is going on here? What is this disparity? Is it perspective? Entitlement? Expectations? It is a very curious thing to me. And it makes me look at myself and wonder where I lie in this extreme scale. Even more importantly – how am I raising my own children to view the world?

I find that it is honestly a very hard task to raise truly thankful kids in this society. It is so easy to give them so much – even modest givers. Little things can add up. Candy bars at the grocery store check out line, eating out, DVDs or going to the movies, leapster pads or DS games, organized sports, girl scouts, play dates, birthday parties, skating rinks, amusement parks, library trips, swimming pools, bouncy places, shopping, the zoo, carnivals, vacations and so many toys that there is not enough room to store them…all of these things are essentially luxuries and we don’t really even view them as that.

It’s not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when we view all these things as entitlements…it can make for some ungrateful hearts. Sometimes the luxuries and the noise of our everyday crazy and chaotic society are actually obstacles.

And do I have to mention the biggest one of all? Freedom! Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of where to go to school…all kinds of freedoms, rights, protections, and wonderful things that we honestly take for granted like the air we breathe most of the time. And though we witnessed and lived through the nightmare of 911, and are at war abroad…none of us in our recent history have experienced the fear of bombs and explosions from warfare on our own territory in an ongoing, everyday basis. We don’t live in constant fear of being killed at any given moment. Not yet anyway.

When I got to go on a mission trip to Dominican Republic years ago, Haiti was in political unrest and essentially war. It was a precarious situation. We almost didn’t get to go. But I am so glad we did. It broadened my horizons and opened my eyes to just how spoiled I had been and how wasteful and ungrateful I lived my life…and I had always lived a fairly modest life.

But it was about more than modesty or materialistic things. It was deeper than all that. It was a perspective that was more humbling than can really be described.

In the midst of pure economic devastation, there was a greater sense of happiness and peace in Dominican Republic than I had ever experienced here. I had gone over thinking I was going to help them out in some great way…and it was just the opposite. They saved me.

The one thing I remember the most is their smiles. You could see into their very beautiful souls. There was something so real, peaceful and inviting about them. Was it acceptance? Was it the kind of wisdom that you get when you finally stop thinking you deserve things in this life and just accept that you have to make the most of what you have?

I remember that last night I was there. One of the families was trying to offer me their baby. OMG! They were trying to offer their baby a better life – with me – an American! They were serious. It was such a crazy moment. It made me so sad.

What I realize now is that in so many ways, that child is so much better off there, in that family, with all that love. The Dominicans that I witnessed anyway, really loved their families. Cousins would hold hands just going to the market. Families stayed together. I could never have offered that child that kind of stability…that kind of foundation.

I could offer that child stuff and chaos and busyness and confusion. Yes, three round meals and snacks galore in between, and entertainment, and toys and movies, and all the hollow luxuries that we as Americans have come to love and take for granted…and somehow in all that – yes…opportunity. Opportunity if you can rise above the entitlement and expectations and realize that every moment is a moment to do something great.

Wow. I sound like I am down on America tonight – but I’m not. I am so very thankful to live here. We are honestly so blessed beyond imagination. The freedoms that I mentioned above are the most dear to me. I can’t imagine living in such oppression or fear of making one wrong move…fearing for the lives of my children every moment. I am so thankful for the veterans of the past and present that make our country what it is today!

But I probably should be more aware of the lives of my children than I am…Their hearts…the guarding of their hearts, their minds, their expectations. I hope and pray my children have hearts, minds and lives fashioned more after the little girl we sponsor in Haiti, than of the young woman I knew in college.

My big girl is fascinated with Laura Ingals, and loves old time black and white movies, both girls love the simple things of playing out doors and with card board boxes. But how easily I forget that and get caught up in the marketing of all that they could and should have. And even though I don’t personally buy them much – they get plenty in the way of gifts, hand be downs, etc. I keep finding myself fighting to simplify…fighting for simplicity, for a quiet and sacred space to inspire imagination, creativity, and the basics. Balls are still nearly every kids favorite toy. Why do we think they need every new trendy toy on the market? Because we are programed lemmings. Fight the good fight!

Anything is possible. There are so many great kids right here in America. We live in a great place. I am so thankful, yet still take so much for granted. I’m a work in progress for sure.

And in the meantime I am hopeful to get another letter from my sweet little sponsor child…a letter from the living!

E.ternal P.ositioning S.ystem

I tend to get lost a lot. It is a well known fact and downright humorous most of the time how ridiculously challenged I am when it comes to geographic details and intuition. I am getting better…with a lot of intention and handy things like modern technology so I can call someone who is not so handicapped in this area. I call a friend on a regular basis and it has become a joke that he is my unofficial GPS because I don’t have one. Oh…one day…one day I will have a real GPS.

My daughter has a better sense of direction than me (Thank you God) and she can sense when I am heading in some aimless direction and I get “Mom…are we lost…AGAIN?” I reply “Oh no honey…mommy is just checking the turning radius of the car…yep…I can still do a u-turn.” No…not illegally, but yes…in gas stations, or back streets or wherever I can find to get turned around and headed back the other direction.

Well, I recently realized another thing about me. I tend to get lost in life sometimes too. I have lived a good portion of my life, aimlessly going through the motions. I have let life take me down any road I happen to be on, and until recently I think I felt fairly helpless to take any kind of control over where I may end up.

But there is a tool for this too. Its EPS…Eternal positioning system. Just like a GPS or a compass uses magnetic North as a positioning point…EPS does the same thing. By looking straight up and thinking on an eternal perspective, everything else falls into place too.

When I dwell on the here and now and get so caught up in the details of ME…it can get quite exhausting. When I take a step back and realize that life and this world is really not all about me – it helps gain a different perspective and makes whatever I am getting so worked up about seem like not that big of a deal. Even the really big deals become not quite as bad and at the very least…bearable. I get turned around, so to speak…a big U-turn in my soul.

But I so easily forget this and in the heat of the moment I tend to lose sight of any of my directional tools and devices. How great it is when I actually do regroup in the middle of a moment…it is taking a lot of intention on my part, but I am making progress. I need lots of reminders. Here are some other tools or little reminders that I have come up with to help myself out.

Stop, drop and roll – or in my case STOP (whatever I am obsessing about), DROP (my worries on some bigger shoulders – in my case, God), and ROLL (let the stress roll right off of me).

Think Globally, act locally. This was the slogan for the huge environmental awareness campaign from the 80’s. That’s pretty good on its own, but I like to also think about this: Think Eternally and act daily. This perspective helps me to think how insignificant whatever I am dealing with at the moment – no matter how big it seems to be – is really just a small matter on an eternal aspect. It also makes me wonder – what have I done today for someone else? And that is always a good question to ask.

And just like when my daughter calls me on it when I am physically lost, it is nice to have someone in your life that you can be completely honest with and they can help ask that same question…”Are you a bit lost?” The important part here is to not make up some silly answer as I tend to do when I am geographically lost and mask a potentially important issue that may need addressed. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who knows you well enough to ask you that question…take advantage of it and use that as another tool. Accountability is a gift when done out of love.

Some people find that eternal perspective a bit depressing. Maybe in some ways it is (that whole dust in the wind theory and how insignificant we really are), but I actually find some peace in knowing that this too shall pass. The good will not last – so treasure it when it is there. The bad will not last – so hold on one more day because every day really is a whole new day.

A complete side note here – but when I was at the ripe age of about 4 I remember specifically being terribly freaked out about this idea of forever. Thinking eternally at the age of 4 scared the complete wits out of me. I used to ponder it and actually think, “Great! I was blissfully ignorant and unaware of wherever my soul was before this…but now…NOW I am going to have to be FOREVER AWARE of where I am!!”. That’s a deep thought. Ponder it for a moment…then realize I was 4 at the time. I guess I was always a thinker. Not to be confused with a smart person…but a thinker.

I am sure you can come up with your own set of little sayings to help get you back on track. I am honestly too tired to think anymore. The above ones are 3 of my favorite most used ones. I am excited to hear what you guys come up with though. You are all so freaking shy on this blog. Speak up you people. I guess I am the only self deprecating dummy out there.

But that’s ok. Because I have my EPS, I am thinking eternally and acting daily and I can stop, drop and roll. So, even this too shall pass.

As Seen on TV!

My oldest daughter has always pretended to be different animals…ever since she was probably 2. I really thought it was just a passing phase, but now, at 8…I am starting to wonder. For the past 2 years now I guess, her theatrical animal of choice has been none other than a hamster.

She gets into character and digresses into one of the most annoying creatures that this mom could ever imagine. And this is coming from a mom that loves her daughter dearly. So of course – she has been bugging the daylights out of me to get a real hamster or a guinea pig.

As a single mom of 2 girls, with 2 cats and a dog (who is currently on sabbatical) I am thinking…the only way you are getting a hamster is if it doesn’t eat, drink or poop. A robot hamster, if you will. Mind you, this was before zu zu pets hit the scene with it’s fur ball frenzy and godzilla size presence.

Man – I missed my opportunity. I didn’t realize I was incubating a billion dollar idea. It just goes to show that ridiculous ideas like mechanical hamsters and blankets with arms worn like straight jackets can be a pot of gold with the right marketing techniques. I am also amazed and quite alarmed at how my 8 year old buys right into these marketing ploys. I really can’t use the word marketing genius because it is too degrading of a thought.


If I had the right marketing team I could be rich too. I am always coming up with crazy ideas that:

1. I am sure has already been thought of or even invented and

2. Have no idea how to launch the idea off the ground or find initial funding to do so and

3. Get too exhausted in the details of 1 and 2 and talk myself out of doing anything with them at all because the idea is so far out or ridiculous – where do you even start…and more importantly…why would you??!!

I mean in my mind, I created the roomba – the self vacuuming device that cleans your rooms while you are out doing better things – you know, that little robot vacuum thingy that aimlessly wonders about in any given direction for an hour, bouncing off anything it comes into contact with until it thinks it has actually cleaned the whole room. In the process it has completely freaked out the cats and dogs of the household – which, when all is said and done is really the only true entertainment or worth this silly contraption can offer.

Umm…bumpits! Oh yes…bumpits. I came up with that idea too. One day while teasing my hair I thought…there HAS to be a better way! I bet putting a sock or something under a clump of my existing hair would work like a charm! Of course, I hesitated moving forward with that keen idea because I wanted to keep the genius of it all to myself. Umm…no! it was because of the sheer ridiculousness of it all…but snap! I shoulda done something about that.

How about those bra clips that change the shape of your bra strap outlines so you can wear clothing with different kind of arm hole cuts outs. I made that too. It’s called using a safety pin real crafty like.

My favorite invention/idea so far that has not yet been developed, but I am sure in time will be a massive hit – is the do it yourself catheter. For that “hard to buy for relative that has everything”. It would revolutionize long road trips and movie marathons. I could sell it with a buy one, get 2 free deal…great for grand parents – and kids too! Replacement parts alone would keep me rolling in the dough. Yuck! Speaking of dough…

Ok…I didn’t come up with the perfect brownie pan contraption…but…seriously? Is it really THAT hard to actually cut brownies in a pan. Have we really gotten THAT lazy folks? Maybe I can come up with an invention that mechanically removes the brownie from the tray and inserts or catapults it into the lazy, gluttonous mouth of the person that thinks that cutting a brownie is just too much work.

Anyways…I am pretty sure that they are just recycling all the old stock and trash of those icecube trays of the 70’s. I mean…it is the exact same thing…what once was used for cold in the 70’s is now used for hot in 2000’s.

There’s another thing. What do you call this era we’re in? I mean, there was the 50’s the 60’s the…you get the picture. What the heck are we in right now? We are in the…the…see? You don’t know either! I think I should come up with a name for this no named time and market it as some kind of calendar or something. I can see it now…

Get your very own limited edition “in between” calendar ! Never before has there EVER been a time in our life time and never will there be again (never mind that it happens every century…let’s not be a kill joy here) – a time where we don’t even know what to call it…a time of all times…a time after the 90’s but before the 20’s, but not the 1920’s the NEW 20’s. Yes folks, get your limited edition laser space continuum “In between eras” calendars.

They’d come with a special laser marker that is actually a sharpie that you can mark off each day counting it down to the exciting time when the era actually has a handy name. Available on line, by phone or at your local store in the section for “as seen on tv”. With enough ridiculous hype…I bet people would actually buy it!

Give me a break.

The Shack

So many of my friends have read the book the Shack and rave about it. I have seriously thought about it several times, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. And the reason is very personal. I wonder sometimes, when is the right time to blog about something like this. Never, many might say.

My parents, especially, but they have their own reasons for that. Part of the reason I quietly carried my burden alone was to protect them from the pain and the reality of it. But this is my life and this is my story and we all have different ways of dealing with things and I have finally realized that it is ok to be my own person…and the stifling black veil of silence hasn’t really worked out so well for me.

The story line is about a little girl that is abducted and murdered in a ‘shack’, I guess. I am not sure how detailed they get, and I don’t know that I will ever find out. Because though, obviously, I wasn’t murdered, I have my own memories of a shack. And though I didn’t physically die there…in many other ways I did. It has taken me years to realize that I’m just not dead yet…and it’s time to start living.

I have made so much progress in overcoming that event in my life. In fact…it surprises me that I have this strong of a reaction still to even reading about an event that 1, is fictional, and 2, is not exactly the same as what I experienced. It shows me that I still haven’t made complete peace with it all just yet. But I am well on my way.

The shack that I remember was in Arizona. I was 13 or 14. My parents thought it would be a neat experience for me to head out west to visit some long lost relatives for a few weeks on my own. It was such a neat feeling…I was so independent, going to see a whole new world really.

For a nature nut like me, it was pure heaven visually. These relatives lived in the middle of nowhere on a horse ranch…on some flat, dusty plains right near some massive foothills. It was like living in a John Wayne Western. It was an interesting and beautiful visit in so many ways.

One of my favorite memories was when we loaded the 3 wheelers (yes, before they were outlawed or something) and we headed to somewhere – again, in the middle of nowhere. There were mesas and plateaus and all kinds of majestic visions. We rode all day long and saw some breathtaking views. I felt like I was in the U2 Joshua Tree album cover. There was even a natural hot spring to relax in after riding all day. It was a perfectly beautiful day.

It was several nights after that awesome day that changed my life forever. We headed up to the mountains for the night. We – meaning – me, my aunt who was only about 3 years older than me, her fiancé and his brother. I had no idea what to expect, hadn’t thought things through…just going with the flow. We met up with some mountain people (yes…they actually called themselves that) who played some awesome folk music and it was a really cool experience.

My aunt’s fiancé worked for a fire department on this mountain keeping brush fires under control. This also happened to be the same mountain that my future college (The Ohio State University) was in a huge environmental dispute over because they were trying to put a huge star gazing telescope on it. OSU won apparently – I really had no desire to follow the story after what was about to happen there.

It was on this very mountain that there was a certain shack. They called this shack a cabin, but I honestly don’t remember it that way. How it all happened is still a bit of mystery to me, but my aunt and her fiance went in one direction to one cabin and me and this boy went in another direction to a different secluded cabin.

He was older than me, and handsome and I was young and naïve and had no clue about anything, but I was trying to be cool and act like this was just a common occurrence for me. I really didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. I was thinking…cool! Maybe we’re going to watch movies or play checkers or something. I was really that naïve.

But he wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He was drunk out of his mind. I hadn’t really noticed until then. We get into this cabin/shack and it is pitch dark. He is not interested in trying to find the lights. He is only interested in one thing…consuming his kill for the night.

He literally became a raging animal…unstoppable. I tried to fight back, but I literally could not see in front of me. It was totally dark. And in that darkness I was ravaged like prey. I no longer was a girl. I became an invisible, faceless, thing to be conquered, used up and discarded.

I was beaten, restrained and forced to have repeated sexual intercourse, he forced himself into my mouth and when he had satisfied himself enough in all those ways, he moved on to something even more disturbing. He used some kind of utensils and proceeded to…what felt like at the time…stab me internally and destroy me from the inside out. He wasn’t trying to kill me…he was just messing me up…and somehow getting off on it. To this day I am not honestly sure what that was all about. All I know is that it was terribly perverted and evil.

At daybreak while he was still unconscious I limped out of this shack. I found my aunt and we headed back down the mountain to her ranch paradise. I was in shock. I had no words. I had no idea what to say. How could I explain what had happened when I couldn’t even comprehend it myself. When I finally did say that he hurt me and that I was having trouble walking, she only said – “Don’t make a scene and embarrass me in front of my fiancé”.

So I didn’t tell anyone of this event for about 15 or more years. Even when I did, I down played it and minimized it. And I didn’t tell the right people and it was used against me and I was victimized all over again. And it remained a destructive force in my life until I could finally somehow 1) honestly realize that I didn’t cause that or deserve it and 2) realize that I actually do have self worth and 3) figure out a way to forgive this demon of a human.

Honestly…it probably took having my own children for me to really do that. Because for the first time in my life I saw myself as a child…a helpless, innocent girl of a child that did nothing to provoke that kind of event. I thought how I would feel if anything like that would ever happen to one of my girls and I had to become my own advocate in my head.
I had to learn to see myself as clean, pure and full of potential…like my own children…instead of the dirty, discarded, worthless piece of meat that I had become overnight in that event and remained to be thereafter for all those years.

That was a big step. The next big hurdle was forgiveness. Being a mom also helped me get to that place. I had to recognize that holding a grudge or not forgiving this person was not really doing me any good. In fact, by doing so, I continued to feed into that victim/prey role, and live underneath the wrath of his power. He had long since moved on. He probably doesn’t even remember me or that night. But it was me that made that night live on and on…just because I couldn’t forgive.

I had to realize that this was no longer “my” problem. I had to let it go, give it up and surrender this event up. I gave it up to God. I stopped being angry…I stopped blaming myself or God, or wondering where He had been that night. I had to stop wondering why? I just had to accept it and then realize that this is no longer my burden to bear. It was time to make it a part of my past, something that happened, but not something that defined me.

I also had to realize that forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the act. It doesn’t make what was done “ok”. It is not a pardon, so to speak towards that person. It is really a releasing of the burden with the acceptance that you cannot change history. You can not undo what has been done. You have a choice to live in bitterness for the rest of your days enslaved by unforgiveness, or you can release it…and accept that it happened, and then figure out how to make something beautiful from something so ugly. The only real way to do that is to share it and hope that you just might help someone else along the way.

Not until I finally understood that forgiveness was more for the person forgiving than for the person that needs the forgiveness…I was finally able to let it go for the first time ever. When I realized that my lack of forgiveness was making me a crippled person, robbing me of all kinds of potential, and essentially a less effective mom… I knew I had no choice but to forgive. Not for him…for me…and for my girls.

Because the fact is that I DIDN’T die in that shack, though I lived a good 15-20 years or more of my life acting like or thinking that I did. A big part of me did die. My innocence, my security, my self worth…all stripped away.

But that is not where my story ends. As mentioned, I haven’t read the book, but I am curious to know if the two points that I had to come to on my own terms are mentioned in that book. Acceptance, and forgiveness – of self and others.
To live an effective life of any kind it is key to realize those two points – in nearly every situation – big or small. It has been a revelation for me. And as much as that horrific night changed my life for the worse and robbed me of so many years…is some ways – NOW – I can say that it changed my life in a positive way.

Because I don’t just get to read about concepts like this and think…one day I might try to figure out how to apply that good knowledge…I have had to live it. And since I could apply it to something that big…I can apply it to the tiniest of situations…where I feel like a failure of some kind or perhaps I need to forgive someone – and sometimes that someone is ME.

It’s funny. I talked to someone tonight that said that I am a pessimist and kind of a negative person. That bums me out, because I honestly feel like I have overcome SOO much. And this is only one little event in my very wretched beautiful life. Yes…there are more ugly stories to tell at some other point. But I like to stretch these hard to hear topics out over time. One…it wears ME out. Two…I don’t want to be downer. I need to post some light hearted stuff after something like this just for my own benefit.

But for some reason…I just felt like it was time to share that.

The point is this…You don’t have to experience such horrific events to “get” the message.

1. You are valuable. You are worthy. You are someone’s daughter or son.
2. You are going to make an impact in this world…will it be positive or negative?
3. No one can rob your potential to make a positive impact in this world but you
4. It’s never too late to change. You’re not dead yet. Start living now.
5. Forgiveness is about getting yourself out of the way, letting go and moving beyond an obstacle or handicap that you have created by not forgiving.
6. Forgiveness does not condone a terrible event. It is about acceptance of what you cannot change.
7. Realize that you have to work at applying these concepts every day and you will fail consistently.
8. Give yourself a break.

We all have obstacles to overcome. We all have our own versions of our ‘shack’. Despite that actual little shack on that mountain…My REAL shack wasn’t a physical shack or place at all. It was a spiritual and emotional prison that I put myself in for all those years. It’s good to be free.

I return to my shack sometimes. I get hung up in myself…in pride, self pity…you name it. I am currently struggling in forgiving a few people in my life right now…even knowing all that I know. I am still in the process of really forgiving my ex husband for all that he did and continues to do. I am making progress, but this is one of the bigger situations in life that require honesty, and probably just some time. Some people are amazed I have been able to function as well as I sometimes do. That probably has to do with all the lessons learned from my shack.

But I’m still just a work in progress. I go back to that prison sometimes…but now I am just visiting…and I always have my ‘get out of jail free’ card with me at all times.

I’ve found it very helpful and important to surround myself with constructive, like minded people that can accept me as who I am and to be real about this stuff. People who can give me a little sympathy now and then when I need it, but also give me a loving nudge or a push to help get me the heck out of my shack! Because though it is still a bit of a battleground, I know where I really live.

You know…I think I’m going to read that book someday.

How to Save a Life

Yes. I love the Fray. But besides that…

Listening. Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a life. But sometimes that is just too much to ask. Sometimes there is just too much distraction, or not enough time or not enough interest. We go through our motions in life and miss so many opportunities to make a moment count. Lost in our own worlds, thoughts, and issues…we are completely unaware that the person right in front of us might just need someone to listen.

We get so used to functioning at some mediocre level in life in all our hustle and bustle. Talking about the days events, current issues, future plans. We are so very busy. When “how are you doing” is watered down to really mean – please just say good…I am not really interested in the details – especially if it isn’t an upbeat answer…you can feel like a sleep walking zombie if you are a deep thinker of any kind.

There is a time and place for everything. Yes. A time for being a little crazy, a time for playing air guitar with the kids like a maniac, a time to silly and funny and upbeat, a time to dance on the countertop…and yes…there is a time to dive deep and be real, and sometimes be sad or exhausted. I want to feel safe to be all these things. Not judged.

And sometimes when life has worn me down…I just need someone to listen, or even go out of their way to surprise me with a visit, call or text. My girlfriend did that one day. She just stopped over for coffee (unplanned!) one evening and we sat and talked and dreamed and connected. We sipped our yummy coffee with French vanilla creamer and Bailey’s, and took turns listening. It was an amazing thing she did for me. She showed me that I meant something to her.

Then I think…when have I done that for someone else? As a single working mom I don’t get to do that kind of sporadic thing…but I do make calls. I pour myself out. I carve time out of my busy schedule to be with the people I care about. But I know that I fail sometimes. Wrapped up in my own hectic schedule and world, I miss opportunities to be there for the people I care about too.

I get so upset at myself sometimes for needing anyone…for wanting to count on anyone. Why can’t I just be strong all alone all the time? I end up feeling all needy. I don’t like feeling needy. I would rather feel valuable, or worthwhile. I have found it takes a very special person to make you feel worthwhile instead of needy. I can be my same self with different people…but only my closest friends make me feel valuable, and not like a burden.

I am not sure I ever had someone to just listen before this year. Maybe it’s because I was never a good listener myself until this year. But I still fail at it sometimes. I fail at it most when I don’t feel like I receive the same gift back…and I feel so selfish for admitting that, but I am human and it is true. I feel like life is short – don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours. But that may not be altogether the best attitude.

Which brings me to the next point – I have also never been this open, honest and vulnerable before. I have lived my life mostly afraid to just be real and honest. For me, a lot of it was because I had so much to hide…so many terrible dark secrets that I didn’t even know how to tell anyone. While I don’t think that certain things should be dwelled on, I do know for a fact that hiding certain things can eat away your soul.

So, a girl like me sometimes just needs someone to listen. I have a lot to tell sometimes. Unfortunately I carry a lot of pain around still. It isn’t right on the surface all the time now thankfully. I don’t carry it like a millstone around my neck. But now and then, I just need someone to listen. And not judge, or cringe, or conveniently exit just because things are a little difficult at the moment. The payoff is big for those that actually stick around. But again…it takes a very special person.

And even then – special people fail sometimes too.

And everyone needs second chances.

Some of you may argue that you can’t save anyone. I agree to a large extent. I can’t ‘save’ anyone else. But I can at least try to listen intentionally – and enhance or enrich someones life. And I hate to admit there were a few key times where just listening actually did save my life – whether I chose to live or whatever it was – someone listening at just the right time did help. God – I am so thankful to be beyond that.

But the thing is this: I can choose to make someone feel worthwhile or a like a burden. I have that kind of power.

So do you.

What are we gonna do with it?

Global Dumbing

While you may be one of those who think we have made wonderful progress in our society with all the strides in safety precautions of every kind and form imaginable, I have come to the conclusion that we are actually messing with the whole “Survival of the fittest” theory. We are completely turning it upside down!

Yes, thanks to the hollow souls of the capitalist ways of consumerism, high profit margins and sales – not to mention an endless array of really cool safety products to choose from in any color of choice – we have successfully turned the tide on one of Darwin’s crowning glories. As blatantly as there is a huge gaping man made hole in the ozone, there is now also a huge sucker punch in the face to this whole survival and natural selection theory. Global warming is so yesterday. Yes folks, we are facing a new epic pandemic…Global Dumbing!!

Back in my child hood we threw caution to the wind by riding in the car without car seats, we had candies that glorified bad habits like candy cigarettes (umm…yuck!), thought electrical sockets were play things, and we definitely never wore helmets or knee pads when riding our bikes. Only the weird geeky kids did that.

And not only is this scientific law being turned on it’s head, but the whole laws of parental dictatorship is falling by the wayside too! I mean I am apparently no match for the lords of advertising that make their huge impression on my innocent babes so that they later recite things like…”Helmets saves lives and prevents brain injuries” at the tender age of 4 when I am trying to just go around the block on my bike. I mean…here I am a grown adult…and still being preached too…by my own child nonetheless. It just isn’t natural!

And forget about trying to get out of the driveway without your seatbelt on…the safety savvy kids of this new generation will bust you and call you right out on it. They will then persist to make such a fuss if you ignore that they will only repeat it louder and louder until you have no option but to obey and secure the blasted harness. I mean, can’t a mom break the law now and then?

My 2 year old refuses to go for a short stroll on the scooter without a painstaking 10 minute routine of meticulously fastening tiny little pads on each elbow and knee. Then of course there is the helmet which needs to be readjusted seemingly multiple times just to get the RIGHT fit. And I know that millions of other parents the world over know exactly what I am talking about. And she will absolutely not ride in the poshy non flippable bike cart without being properly buckled.

What is going on here?!? What are we doing? Kids that might otherwise fallen victim to this whole “survival of the fittest” theory are actually making it through the system. As population increases, IQ is decreasing. We all contribute it to poor schooling systems and main stream media leading us astray…but I think the REAL issue is that less “fit” kids are actually surviving due to all these new safety precautions.

What I wouldn’t give to back in time and invest in the once pathetic, barely-there sales of helmets and safety gear equipment. In fact, I think that perhaps this whole racket was invented by some marketing genius just to increase the sales revenues…like some hallmark card holiday like ‘sweetest day’ or something. I can just see it now…20 years ago at long round table executive meeting room as they developed their evil plots to scare parents into throwing billions of dollars their way.

The time to act is now! I’d like to ask you to get behind me in this new campaign in trying to re-align ourselves with Darwin’s ruling of all that is true and sacred (insert sarcastic smirk here) and dare to defy the lords of advertisement and marketing and just say no to being a safety lemming of society. I mean, wouldn’t you want to know NOW rather than later that your child is actually among those that Darwin would consider weak and not genetically worthy of passing on the DNA baton? I mean…come on! I know I would.

This summer, if I have MY way – my girls will be out there riding bikes as fast as their little legs can take them withOUT cool flashy helmets, and with naked knees and elbows…that right. Just like their old mom used to do, only I did it gravel. Yea…I’m tough. If I have my way I am going to save hundreds on safety gear on all kinds of recreational activities. I mean…life vests? Are you kidding me? My girls are going to either beat the odds or sink like…


Yes. If I had my way of being a complete idiot myself, I would really show those safety product marketers just who’s the boss. But you know what? Some things are just not worth making a statement over.

And by the way…my daughters look absolutely freaking adorable in all their ridiculously cute gear…it is especially endearing then they put it on themselves as they so proudly flaunt their crooked helmets and woppy jawed elbow and knee pads. And do I really even have to mention how unbelievably edible both of my girls looked at 2 and 3 in inflatable swimmy suits that make her already disproportionate measurements even more magnified?

Sorry folks…and Darwin. This is one campaign that was doomed from the start. Well…I guess we still have the ozone thing to rally behind.

The Lying the Witch and the Wardrobe

Man. Divorce is UGLY. Just when I think I am past the pettiness and I think I have made some ground in forgiveness…I have some insane relapse and lose my mind and become a ridiculous ranting lunatic. I have refrained from spewing any of that ugliness here on this space. I wish I could say the same in my every day personal life.

Unfortunately, like everyone else, I probably appear better on paper than in real life. I am so flawed, and human and I can get really mean sometimes. I recognize it. But in fairness…I do need to be provoked. I don’t just walk around all mean and ready to go off on whoever crosses my path. In fact, I would argue that it takes a lot to get me to the point where I was this morning.

I had a full blown tantrum this morning on my ex. In my mind I had plenty of good reasons – and honestly in a lot of people’s minds I had plenty of good reasons.

But is still doesn’t make it RIGHT. I usually conduct myself towards him with as much tolerance, acceptance and respect as I can possibly muster. But this morning I failed…the pressure cooker of life and circumstances heated up and I blew my top. Thus…the witch.

I know there are two sides to every story, but this is my blog. He can start his own blog and tell his side. I have done a fair job of identifying my own failures in previous blogs (see 10 ways to ensure your spouse cheats at: https://leelander.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/10-ways-to-ensure-your-spouse-will-chea/). I have been honest in owning up to my side of the break down of my marriage. Now it’s time to give a little insight into the hell I experienced and sometimes still do.

I had always been very tolerant and trusting of my husband’s friendship with a certain female colleague at work. I was secure in myself and trusted him. I had no reason to doubt his love for me. I was the girl of his childhood dreams…the one that got away…the golden standard that every girl or woman that followed in my 14 year old footsteps would have to live in the shadow of. I am not bragging…I have letters to prove these thoughts actually came from his own thoughts – fabricated or real.

Anyhoo…we go our separate ways in life, and find ourselves at a crossroads of life and decide that it must be fate and love and the chance we have been waiting for our whole lives. It was such a hallmark moment. So…after all that…when we got married, I was pretty secure in our story and future.

…But there was this one female colleague…

Long story short, I started having some suspicions, but not until AFTER we had our daughter did I actually stumble upon the evidence that proved my worst nightmare. I got hold of his cell phone log and found an overwhelming amount of calls and texts (I’m talking 1000s) at all hours of the day and night – many right from our own home…probably while he was sitting right beside me and his daughter.

It made me re-evaluate so many moments – and realize that the last year of our lives was NOTHING that I thought it was. While I was pregnant and nursing and being a mom…he was out romancing that blasted colleague…who was also married with children by the way.

Later I found evidence of hotel stays with her – here and there, and all those trips out to Denver to visit the headquarters of his work place were really orchestrated just to spend time out there to be with her. He was actually there more than here. I found out that the majority of the meetings he flew out there for – could have easily been done via conference call.

She came to visit the ‘Ohio Branch’ several times. I made her dinner, she held my children. We talked and laughed…but I felt something awkward…what the heck was it? What was I feeling? Why was I feeling so strange? Well…hello. It was because they were trying very hard to act normal and contain themselves…keep their hands off of each other around the nuisance…the wife…me.

For over a year he carried on like this and lied to me countless times – like probably millions (but whose counting?). Lying became second nature to him and I am not sure that even now he is fully dealing with reality. Thus the Lying. Heck…this could have been called the Lying King, because he probably did earn some kind of award or crown for the performance of a lifetime. He had lots of people fooled.

Looking back at these times is absolutely bizarre to me. I still can’t quite get my head around it. But the fact that I can even write this blog without blood boiling out of my eyes is a sign of progress. I really don’t “feel” anything about it anymore. It is just a good story now. It is one that I feel like telling because it is real. I promised myself that I would never blog angry. And I am true to that. So…this is actually a good sign of healing.

However…I am not immune to the anger, self pity and bitterness that can still creep up and attack me at any given moment on my walk to the higher places. Life is a constant battle of integrity and resisting the urge to give into our weaknesses. We all fail at this sometimes. I want to tell my story because even though I am making so much progress…I still fall down sometimes.

If you are out there and have experienced this kind of horrific event – finding out that everything you thought was your life was a lie…I want to say there is hope. You CAN move beyond the every day feelings of rejection, anger, worthlessness, depression and heal. BUT – in all reality…there is no magic wand that ERASES the event. You can move past the open wound and develop the scar that covers over the hole that was there. But that scar will always be there as a reminder.

And I guess I just wanted to say – give yourself a break if and when you do fall down and have a momentary relapse or resurgence of those very real and raw emotions. Hiding them and pretending you don’t feel them is more destructive sometimes than just acknowledging them.
But the other thing is – don’t stay there. Acknowledge the event or the pain…and then put it back where it belongs. In the past.

One day I will honestly completely forgive him and her. I have moments of it now and then. Like a blissful journey to another land where I have risen above the weight and strain of reality. I escape for weeks and months at a time now into that peaceful world of acceptance…like stepping into the magic wardrobe – I find myself in a place that I want to be…and know that I can return to as long as I believe.

I just can’t seem to hang on to it…so I know that I haven’t honestly and truly forgiven them. But I have hopes to one day…and not for them, but for me and my daughters. I am making progress towards that burning lamppost, but it is just going to take more time, more faith, more trust. I desire to be released from that prison of anger. My girls deserve it…and so do I.

So do you.

Peace of Work

When I walked away from my job at BMW in SC, I did so bravely and never really looked back. I walked straight towards my new goal – being a stay at home mom…a job I had dreamed of ever since my first daughter was born. It took almost 3 years, but I was finally getting my wish.

Well everything has it’s season. I got to stay at home for 5 wonderful years. In that time I had one more daughter. I have had the joy and frustration of being with them 24-7 for days on end. I didn’t miss the big milestones I had feared I would if I were a working mom. But things have changed.

Now I find myself being forced back in the working world. I had no idea what to expect on my return. I did find right away, however, that most employers looked down upon the 5 years of what they perceived as silence on my resume. But they are really wrong.

Taking 5 years off was one of the best things I have ever done. I got to taste first hand the mysterious world of the stay at home mom and found out for myself that it is the hardest job out there. I have been on both sides of the story now and I have had really hard jobs with serious stress to compare it to parenting…and hands down…being a stay at home mom is the hardest. I would love to challenge any man (or woman) that would dare to look at a lapse on a resume due to being at stay at home mom to try it themselves…for even a week. I dare them. I triple dog dare them!

At work I have deadlines, stress, logistic nightmares, vendors not cooperating, material not arriving on time, projections changing, receiving issues, inventory fluctuations and all kinds of stuff. It can make you lose sleep if you let it. But…you can always walk away at the end of the day. You can even sneak away for lunch now and then or visit the vending machine for a few moments of down time. As a stay at home mom – you never get that! You never get to just walk away and gather your wits for a few moments.

You also rarely get to finish a sentence or have a real conversation with another adult until you child reaches…well – I’ll let you know when I get there. I currently have an 8 and 2 year old and when either of them are with me – I have yet to have an uninterrupted conversation. You don’t receive accolades, promotions, incentives…in fact…you run the risk of becoming invisible.

All your hopes, agendas, desires, goals, hobbies…they all get pushed aside OR it takes some real intentional planning on your part to make them still happen. Parenting can potentially eat away any remnants of the real person you once were – with preferences, schedules, agendas – complete thoughts and big words.

The truth is – I was scared to death when I finally got my wish to stay at home. I was scared I wouldn’t know what to do with my own child all day. I mean – there was real training for this. I went from the fast paced world of supply chain management and logistics to…poopy diapers, Barney and play-doh all day long. I know in comparison it sounds like it wouldn’t be hard…but it is.

It was hard to be isolated and alone after being in the middle of everything with my hands in all kinds of little pieces of the pie. I was leading projects – cross functional multi cultural teams – to scheduling play dates and toddler gymnastics classes in between nap time, laundry, cleaning, etc. What a different world!

But during that time out of the fast paced world of red tape and mass consumerism…I learned a whole different skill set. A different kind of conflict management, leadership, using time wisely, instilling responsibility, how to teach, how to choose your battles, knowing when to say you’re sorry, encouragement and dealing with a consistent lack of rest or sleep on a long term basis, just to name a few.

But the most important thing I learned is…what is really important. My kids and my legacy are important…a job is just a job. It is a means – not my life. That doesn’t mean I won’t work like horse, cause I still have a strong work ethic.

I proved to myself that I COULD DO IT!

I also learned another very important thing…I have worth and I do deserve to be treated fairly. That may sound weird…but that is just how it happened for me. So – how does that translate into the working world?

What it all means is that I work even harder AND smarter to get things done more efficiently than ever before. I want to get the job done the best to my ability AND get out of there in time to have dinner and the evening with my girls. This means I am going to always be looking for ways to improve processes, work flows, and ideas.

I am not afraid to speak up and say things that I might have shyed away from before my 5 year break. Life is short. You gotta make it count. I am not saying to be abrasive, and pushy…but I speak up now instead of feeling all timid.

I also don’t feel like putting up with petty bull crap. Again – this is going to be a part of any work place…personality conflicts and what not, but I don’t have to stick around if things are being done stupid and there is no chance of them improving or changing. I like to be part of solutions…let me help. I have a lot of hours of training as a six sigma process improvement specialist (called a black belt). Though I didn’t stay to get my certification (kicking myself) I still have a lot of insight. If that is blatantly ingored for too long, then that is probably not the place for me.

It also means that I am not going to be walked all over or taken advantage of. I am lucky enough to have a great resume and strong skill set. With my 5 year hiatus, and the way future employers looked down upon my break – I was a bit shaken. It took a temporary toll on my work confidence. But being back in the swing of things for 3 months I am proving to myself that I still have what it takes…and then some. Treat me fair…I will treat you fair and work like crazy. Don’t treat me fair…well, there are more fish in the sea. I won’t waste your time…don’t waste mine.

With my past experience and my current place in life – I have a drive and motivation to kick some butt at whatever I do. It doesn’t mean I am perfect or the most excellent at anything…it just means I am going to give my all.

Ok…now I am sounding like some arrogant, hot headed, full of myself jerk. Deal with it for a just a moment. I think that by being all reserved and quiet about some of this stuff isn’t doing myself or any future employer a favor. I think there is a right way and wrong way to say this stuff…but this is MY blog and MY space. I can rant if I want to.

I guess the BIG thing that has surprised me the very most about returning to work is that I found out that I am truly not the kind of person that is happy in the background doing some menial task on a long term basis. I know the little stuff has to be taken care of in any job…I am not saying I am above that stuff…I am just saying I didn’t expect to care so much!

I had really expected that I would have one foot out the door and merely do what I had to do and get out on time every day and just be happy doing some brainless job that wouldn’t require a whole lot out of me – so I could be easily accessible to my kids if they needed anything.

But I have found just the opposite to be true. If I am going to have to make the sacrifice to be away from my kids all day – I want to make it count! I want to feel like what I am doing in the world is somehow worth the huge sacrifice of missing those everyday milestones that I don’t get to see anymore.

How unexpected of an outcome. I walked into my current work place looking for a data entry job. I took the temporary assignment and have worked my way into a full blown merchandising position with all the stress and responsibilities to go with it. It’s great for my resume. It’s just not so great on my bank account. I am doing something completely different than I was hired in for. Now I have the ugly task of facing this huge disparity and having to make a hard choice if the outcome is not what I am hoping for.

However it works out – I can at least say I am learning so much along the way. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had so far – all the way from my beginnings at BMW, to staying at home, to now at my current work place. Whatever happens, I don’t think I can lose.

The worse that happens is that I am unemployed next week. In that case I get to close one chapter and open a new one. I get to open a whole new door – maybe it will allow me to focus more on writing. The other thing that could happen is that I get the compensation I am hoping for or perhaps even offered a permanent position. Either way will have some big choices to make.

Moving out to Arizona and raising my kids on some dude ranch is out of the question I guess, with exes and daddies involved I am restricted to certain areas of the US, it seems. I still dream of some life up in the mountains somewhere overlooking no civilization, a mountain stream babbling nearby, horses and all kinds of inspiration for song and book writing and a great place for kids to play and learn and be. But yes…all that is out of the question. I am stuck in the burbs – for possibly ever. And I have to make the most of that – like billions of other people have to.

Oh and for the record…yes…I DO miss my BMW’s! I miss having a new beamer every 10 months! I am currently driving a Toyota 4 runner that I love, but the check engine light keeps coming on, and I just had to have the thermostat replaced…and with 200K miles I am nervous about what might start going wrong. Call me petty if you will but…yes…I miss brand new bmw’s right now…just in case you were wondering.

I guess my hope is that future employers and even employees view any time spent out of the workforce raising children as a positive asset…not a black mark on a resume. Not only did I do something awesome for myself and children during that time…but I gathered a whole different perspective that can benefit any future company I partner with that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

So who knows what will happen. I am so glad I am ok either way. I hope I continue to be so level headed and strong about it. If I’m not – you’ll hear about it in some future blog I am sure. But for now, I’m just a Peace of Work.

The Catalyst and the Change

Sounds like a name of a band…a spinal tap kind of band.

I am not a fan of cliché’s or the predictable. But here is my obligatory New Year’s post. I promise…no count downs, or top 10 lists. All I can promise is honesty.

I think the big thing about a new ‘year’ is the idea of new hopes…the hope that maybe magically something will be different this year. The ‘hope’ that we might finally overcome some big obstacle or adopt a new healthy habit. We like this idea of ‘out with the old…in with the new’.

As humans, we like quantitative beginnings and ends…closure if you will. Because with closure comes a chance for new beginnings (The hardest times in life I have always found are in that limbo land or waiting place…when you need an ending or a new beginning, but you never get it.).

SO! With this great big date – we all get a magic clean slate! We are all new again…if even for a brief and fleeting moment. We make that midnight claim that things will be different this year as if we are planting the flag on the moon to claim the territory as “mine!’. This is MY year!

But all the reflecting and hoping and dreaming in the world, won’t change anything. There is one big problem in the way. US. WE are our own worst enemy. Making these claims and setting ourselves up for failure…heck, in the back of our minds some of us even KNOW we are fooling ourselves.

For a real change…there has to be a catalyst. And a new day, a new year, and even a momentarily new attitude (or comparing or wishing to be like someone else) usually just isn’t enough. The catalyst needs to be something that you can always go back to remind yourself why are you making the change – something that means something to you…an agent of change.

A catalyst is defined:
1. A substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. Something that causes an important event to happen.

Along with this catalyst, change requires energy. It is a matter of scientific law. Every change – no matter how large or microscopically small…requires energy. Some changes require a lot more than others. And the biggest, long term changes require consistent, ongoing energy. It requires intention…every day, every moment intention and energy, or ‘work’.

Maybe this is why I stopped making New Year resolutions altogether a few years back. A change has to happen when that catalyst triggers it. A toast at midnight just isn’t enough for me. I’m not saying it can’t be done – more power to you if you can pull it off, I am just admitting I have failed miserably at resolutions before.

Sorry – sounds rather uninspiring. But, I just mean – make a change when you need to make a change…not just because everyone else is doing it.