Love Wins

Today was beautiful.  Actually, it was freezing cold and I woke up late and rushed out the door without any breakfast or caffeine.  But, when I arrived at my destination, none of that mattered anymore.  I was walking into a place where love was palpable.

In Dallas, there is a church called Wilshire Baptist, that recently voted on a resolution stating that it would permit all members to participate in congregational life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the ability to consider all members for leadership, ordination, baby dedication, and marriage.

As I am sure you can imagine, in the middle of a red state, in the bible belt, after an extremely contentious election, this has caused quite an uproar.  Because of this decision, the church will be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (although they can still operate as a Baptist church.)  This was a consequence of their vote that the congregation understood when they made their decision.  What was not expected was that protesters would show up last Sunday, with bullhorns, screaming at the people walking into church about how they are all going to “Burn in Hell.”

Way to act Christian, Christians.

I respect everyone’s right to their beliefs, but I have no respect for people that spew hatred.  In my home church the message that “love is love” is preached from the pulpit and that is one of the reasons the members there are my people.   I believe in a Jesus who very clearly said that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor- and we don’t get to make exceptions for that.

I have been having a lot of feelings lately, I mean these last few weeks, right?!!! No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think everyone is feeling a little rough after this election cycle.

You know how I got through the election? By drinking an entire bottle of wine in my “command center” surrounded by the TV, my laptop, and my phone, while stress-eating half a bucket of leftover Halloween candy.  Around midnight when it was pretty clear how it was going to turn out, my husband had to force my drunken crying hot mess into bed and take my phone away from me.

But I digress.  One of my friends from church invited me to a Facebook group of people who were going today to form a line of love in front of Wilshire Baptist. The idea was to serve as a sort of anti-protest just in case the protesters from last week came back.

Luckily they did not, but something magical did happen.  At 8:30 on a Sunday morning a small group of about 20, most of us strangers to each other and with no ties to Wilshire Baptist, welcomed the church attendees with smiles and signs of encouragement and thanks.  It went so well that a bigger group of us came back at 10:30 to greet the next service.

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How can you not smile when this is your greeting?!

And I can’t even begin to count the number of hugs I got today. I certainly can’t count the tears that were shed, a large portion of them admittedly by me.  All the pastors and church staff came out to thank us, most of them crying, to say how hard this time has been.  More than one person expressed to us that this showing of community support meant the world to them. I had one woman tell me that she had not been to the church in almost 40 years because she was not sure she was welcomed and that today was her first day coming back.  I think she picked a pretty good day for a homecoming.

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My girls on the front steps of Wilshire Baptist making their love poster.

For the second service, I brought my kids and husband with me because I wanted them to see this outpouring of love for our community and the impact it was making on our neighbors who were hurting.  Standing out there chatting with strangers, hugging everyone, and covering these people with love was not only good for them, it was healing for my soul.

A part of me has had a wall built up around my heart recently.  Sometimes I feel like there is a battle inside me between my desire to love everyone well and my fear of what could happen when my heart is that open. The scary state of the world made me want to protect myself-to curl up in a little ball and just hope for it to get better.

Today I got to remember that the best part of life isn’t waiting for the world to get better, it’s doing what little bit you can to actually make it better.

Today love won.

 

Hope

There are days when I look at the world, and see a place that has gone totally off the rails. A place where the blatant discrimination and racism and cruelty that we see every day makes me want to scream.  To give up.  To weep for the future that will be left to my children. To think that I can’t possibly make a difference when everything around me seems so broken.

When I wrote Survivor, I thought I was prepared for anything.  I felt confident enough in who I am that I believed I could handle any criticism that came my way.  What I did not expect though, was the overwhelming kindness with which I was met.  So many people, some of whom I hardly know, wrote, or messaged, or texted, or emailed, or commented about my post with words of encouragement, and solidarity, and support.  I had multiple women privately share with me that they too are rape survivors who had kept it to themselves for far too long.  I had friends and relatives I have not spoken to in years reach out to me to compliment my bravery and show me love.  And I did not have any negativity directed towards me.  None.

And that was truly a blessing for the scared little girl inside me who wrote those brave words but still worried about what people would think.  If I would be forever changed in the eyes of those who knew my secret.  I wish I could share the hundreds of messages of support that I received with every rape survivor who is afraid to tell her story or who feels alone.  That secret held a remarkable amount of power over me, and now that I am not clinging so tightly to it, trying to keep it in and stuff it down, I can actually let it go.

I feel so unbelievably free.  Light and joyful and full of hope.  And I feel this way in spite of the fact that this has been a tough week.

A few days ago I was sitting in the ICU waiting room with my mother waiting for my dad to get out of an emergency appendectomy.  He is doing great now, but at the time I was getting a little nervous because his surgery was taking much longer than the doctor said that it was going to.  Then we started flipping channels and Shawshank Redemption came on – this is the new Walnut Hill Medical Center place and there are flat screens everywhere and the biggest hospital rooms I have ever seen. I seriously had hospital room envy that my dad had a palace for his few hours there and I had to spend twelve days in a drab shoebox, but I digress…

So it was the part where Andy says, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  And I was reminded just how incredibly important hope is.  I realized that the greatest gift I have ever been given is resiliency of spirit.  After everything I have been through I still have hope.

Thank you to everyone who helped me re-affirm my faith in humanity this week by going out of your way to reach out to me and offer a kind word or a message of support, or a hug. I know a lot of you are going through your own struggles, so tonight I spent a few moments in meditation and prayer for those I know who are having a tough time right now.

I have this little candle that I bought as part of a youth fundraiser at my church; it is a tea light covered in tissue paper with the word “Hope” written on it and I lit it for the first time tonight.

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I wish for you that when everything is at it’s worst you can see the glimmer of that tiny scrappy little candle- held together with Elmer’s glue and tissue paper.  It may not be much, but just a little bit can change everything.  Hope.

 

 

 

Grace

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This year I am giving up self-criticism for Lent.  I mean, it can’t be caffeine, wine is obviously out of the question, and my Jamberry addiction is really just in it’s infancy, so I have to find something…

I thought maybe I could use this season as a jump start to a new mental space where I give myself a bit of a break.  In my last post I wrote about how I don’t care what other people think of me anymore, and that’s true.  But I am still pretty harsh in what I think of myself.

I hold myself to ridiculous standards.  Clearly not when it comes to keeping my house clean or washing my hair more than once a week.  But I ruthlessly criticize myself for not being able to truly appreciate every moment with my kids while they are little and adorable, I mean I should be grateful that I am alive to be a part of their childhoods and frustrated at myself when I don’t feel that loving glow every second of the day.  I project forward to when they are pain-in-the ass teenagers and I have turned into Beverly Goldberg and am clinging to them demanding “snuggies” and that I will regret that I didn’t cherish this time more. And if I slip and snap at one of the kids when I have asked them the same f-ing question 37 times and they still refuse to answer me, or if I yell “I don’t care, just figure it out” through the bathroom door while two three year olds are screaming that they need me, I beat myself up pretty badly about that later.

And it’s funny because my absolute favorite about being a Christian (yes, I’m out of the closet now, I love me some Jesus) is the concept of Grace.  That you do nothing to earn it and there is no way to loose it. That is some pretty amazing stuff. Haha Amazing Grace, I totally wrote that not intending the pun but I’m gonna leave it here anyway.

And I am really good, like really good, at giving Grace.  I don’t just give second or third, but 27th chances.  I am able to look at someone who is being a total asshole and give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe his dog just died or he has some chronic pain that is not visible to the eye but eating away at his patience.  Because I have been there, I have been someone who fell to pieces when my husband asked me to make a reservation because “it was all just too much!!!!”  So I am very generous in my ability to forgive.

Except when it comes to me.  I hold grudges against myself for things I did in the third grade.  I’m not kidding.  I obsess over the hurtful comments I made years ago that the person I hurt probably doesn’t even remember. These are things that I would easily forgive in another person, but refuse to do so for myself.

So that’s what I’m giving up this Lent.  I am giving up (or going to try to give up) judging myself so harshly.  I mean, I’m pretty great.  I made it through the past four years when life kept dealing me blow after blow.  And I survived.  And I thrived.  I still have hope, and optimism, and more faith than I ever did.  And grace.  So I am going to start using a little bit of that on myself.

Mitzvah Therapy

Yesterday was an amazing day.  A Hallelujah, sing in the car, have a super-cool dance party with the hubs and kids sort of a day.  Yesterday I got some incredible news- my Osteoporosis has not only stopped getting worse, it may actually be reversing itself!!!!  I also had a great meeting with the wonderful folks at Cancer Support Community of North Texas.  The work they do for people affected by and living with cancer is unbelievable.  If you or anyone you know are dealing with cancer, please check them out as a resource.  They have support groups, informational meetings, kid’s nights, social workers, counselors- you name it, all FREE to members (but that actually cost a lot of money, so if you have some extra cash laying around you might want to throw it their way!)

At this meeting I got invaluable ideas and support for Mommies In Need, and I also came away from it with my favorite new term: “Mitzvah Therapy”

When I explained the whole backstory of Mommies In Need coming from my struggles and said that it has really been a huge source of comfort and joy to me in my recovery, one of the women in the meeting said that was an example of Mitzvah Therapy.  In its casual usage a “Mitzvah” is an act of kindness that you do for a person without expecting anything in return.

When I got home I googled the term and found this video:

http://storiesofchangeandpossibility.com/tag/mitzvah-therapy/

The story told here made me cry in it’s simplicity and beauty.  In it, Bill O’Hanlon describes what the late Dr. Sol Gordon coined “Mitzvah Therapy” and tells a lovely story about how it changed one woman’s life.  Now, I am all for psychotherapy- I’m not canceling those appointments anytime soon!  But as he says in the video, psychotherapy is all about you and Mitzvah Therapy is all about giving.

And I have a confession to make here, I have kind of become a giving junkie.  Seriously, I am always looking around for my next fix.  I actually keep some of it a secret (I guess until now) from my family because it seems a little crazy- well, crazier than usual.  If I have extra cash I pay for the parking of the person behind me whenever I leave the hospital lot- someone did that for me once and it made me smile on a not-so-good diagnosis day!  I have blessing bags in my car with protein bars, tissues, soap, etc. to give to any homeless people I see.  We did a diaper drive for the twins birthday and I got a huge high when the woman picking up the donations was so excited about everything she was loading in the car to distribute to underserved families.  I even carry around $5 gift cards to Starbucks that I sometimes give to random moms when I see them carting 3 kids through Target or dealing with a toddler having a stage 5 meltdown.  I hand it over with just a few words, “One mom to another, you probably need to treat yourself” and walk away.

I tell you this, but please don’t go on about how awesome I am or anything like that.  I mean, I’m pretty cool, don’t get me wrong, but I am not writing this for compliments!  See for me, those acts are actually pretty selfish, because I get such a huge boost of happiness and even self-confidence from doing those things.  When I walk away from that mom who has a little light of hope in her eyes that someone gets what she is going through, I feel pretty darn good about myself.  And that feeling, really helps me get through the day sometimes.  I have been forced to deal with a lot in the past few years- see A Brief Timeline of Crazy.  And there are days when I can get pretty depressed or anxious or just plain mad that all of those crazy and terrible things happened to me.

And I need my psychotherapy to work on the root of that depression and anxiety and anger, it’s not something that just goes away when you ignore it- believe me, I tried that and wound up with panic attacks (which I really don’t recommend!) But for me, when I get in a dark place, being alone and thinking about myself is a surefire way to go even darker.  And the quickest fix? A little Mitzvah Therapy!

So maybe I have taken this to an extreme by starting my own non-profit, but seriously, try to insert a little random kindness into the days you are feeling like crap.  It’s hard to be grumpy when you are giving joy to someone else.  Even just holding the door open for someone with a genuine smile on your face, rather than grudgingly doing it with no eye contact can brighten a person’s day just a bit.

Ugh, sorry if this whole post is a little Pollyanna, but I am coasting on a major high right now.  Mommies In Need has officially accepted TWO new families to help!  I am overwhelmed by the amount of support that this cause has gotten in such a short amount of time.  Don’t get me wrong, my heart hurts for the women we are helping.  I have been in situations like theirs and I know the kind of rough road they are going down.  But I am filled with joy knowing that Mommies In Need is taking a huge burden off of them by making sure their children are well taken care of.

If you feel like doing a little Mitzvah Therapy of your own today, please consider donating to our campaign to support these Mommies in their journeys through cancer.

The kids of the first Mommies In Need family.  Knowing we helped them have stability while their mom was sick is the ultimate Mitzvah Therapy!
The kids of the first Mommies In Need family. Knowing we helped them have stability while their mom was sick is the ultimate Mitzvah Therapy!

I’m So Over The Elf

So here it is, yet another post about the Elf on The Shelf for your Facebook feed.  I have read a lot of these blogs and articles advocating how the Elf brings a smile to their kids faces or about how the Elf is super creepy.  (Personally I go with super creepy but that is probably because my #1 nightmare as a child was about my dolls coming to life to move around the house when I slept.)  What bothers me is not that people are voicing their sometimes very hilarious takes on the whole Elf thing, but that in the comments sections Moms are waging war on each other.

I think this little guy might cut me in my sleep, but I truly don't care if you want to move him around your house!
I think this little guy might cut me in my sleep, but I truly don’t care if you want to move him around your house!

Over an eff-ing Elf.  Seriously people, let’s take it down a notch.  Move a little Elf around your house and tell the kids it spies on them and Pintrest it every day in excotic locales and/or hilariously ironic settings.  Or don’t.  I really don’t care.  I certainly don’t think it reflects poorly on your parenting one way or another.  It’s just a holiday tradition.  I don’t get up in arms about what kind of Cranberry sauce you use on Thanksgiving (BTW the proper answer is none, it’s disgusting) or what kind of Halloween candy you give out (but seriously Dots lady, those thing are like gobs of Kool-Aid flavored cement) so why are we so defensive about our position vis a vis Elfgate?

It’s just another way to get all up in each other’s grills, because that is a lot easier than doing something productive.  And I get it, I am a stay at home mom, so I often feel the need for righteous vindication.  I stopped breast-feeding and supplemented with formula because of health reasons. My babies never slept in my room because every noise they made woke me up in a panic, I learned that with the monitor on the lowest setting I could hear if they really cried but not every whimper and that is what I used.  And we did a modified cry-it-out thing because I am terrible at instituting a pre-planned course of action that involves hours of baby crying, but we desperately needed the twins to sleep.  I sort of wore my kids but only because it meant I might have one hand free.  I give them every single vaccination that my pediatrician recommends and if they are sick they get Tylenol or antibiotics.  I am firmly anti-spanking but also at a total loss right now because time-outs seem to be nothing but a joke to my littles. I made my own organic baby food for about a day and then gave up and moved to those packet thingies.   I have spent many nights away from the loves of my life both because I had to (like when I was in the hospital) and because I wanted to (because getting a break makes me a better mom.)

I have made a lot of decisions that other moms might not agree with, and it feels incredibly personal when someone attacks the way you raise your children.  So personal that it sometimes makes you want to leave a nasty comment on that someone’s shared article because you just had an XL glass of wine and a really hard day and how dare they flaunt their obviously wrong choices in your Facebook feed!  Because being a stay at home mom means that a huge part of my identity is tied up in the parenting and lifestyle choices I make for my kiddos.  And I personally have a deep seated insecurity that I am probably screwing my children up in a million small ways that they will one day work out in very expensive therapy.

I am just trying to figure this parenting thing out as I go, and every new study, or article, or child development book floods me with anxiety that maybe I have been doing this all wrong and these precious creatures that I have been entrusted to care for are going to be the worse for it.  And then I try and take a deep breath (and maybe a Xanax) and realize that I know deep in my heart that my way may not be the “best” but it is the best I can do for my family given our circumstances.

So this holiday season, I would like to challenge us all to just be a little kinder to each other in social media where the easy thing is to only speak up when you are angry.  Maybe do a little something I like to call Anti-Trolling.  Instead of finding those threads that infuriate you and sparking up a rousing debate that is going to change no-one’s mind and will probably leave everyone feeling like crap.  Let’s take that energy and instead use it to give some loving words of encouragement to something a person took the time and energy to write, or sing, or make into a video.  It’s kind of a new hobby of mine.  In fact a few of my consistent blog readers/bloggy friends are complete strangers who I Anti-Trolled because I read something of theirs that sparked a desire in me to compliment them or just send a little kindness their way.  Give it a try, I promise there is a lot less remorse to drunk commenting to someone, “You are the greatest, I loooove your writing, I think you are super awesome and I want to be best friends and watch Mean Girls together,” than to actually being mean!