Warning: May Offend

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Hello lovelies. Today I’m over at my other home, The Sisterwives. On Monday Briton, aka Punk Rock Papa, wrote a hilarious post about inappropriate humor. Today, it’s my turn. I’m not the funniest person in the room, never will be. But I’m a real good side kick. I can run with your jokes and play off of them and I can laugh until I’m wheezing like the Marlboro man.

Join me, will you? Come read all about my neurotic tendencies and my love for dark humor and my fear of cursing. It may offend you. If so, well… I’m sorry. Wait, no I’m not. Well, kind of. Oh, hell, just go read it. (I love you guys, srsly.)

I’m Offended That You’re Offended…. (warning: may offend)

#1000Speak: Building From Bullying

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Last month we had our first #1000Speak For Compassion event. It was pretty huge. Well over 1000 people participated. It was everywhere.

And we’re not done.

This month our theme is “Building From Bullying.”

And as this post by Lizzi so beautifully says,

“In a culture where fear is prevalent, it is easy to act divisively; gathering ourselves into packs and declaring our separate-ness from those we find less palatable, and to an extent this is based on a survival tactic because it brings together a group who can help to protect one another, should the need arise.

But when we decry other people for their characteristics rather than their poor behaviour; when we use shame, humiliation or holding someone up for others to point and laugh at, it’s unkind, and it contributes to the bully culture by generating a power-pyramid. At the top, there are the stronger people, who decide which person is next in line to be condemned. At the bottom are the weaker, who must either participate, or remain silent hoping that their abstinence will be sufficient to mark their distaste.”

So, let’s do this.

Let’s continue to build the village.

Participation is open to anyone and everyone who wants to take part.

Click on this link and add your post. (PLEASE put your post in the link. This is the only archive of all of the #1000Speak posts.) Then Tweet it Share it, and include #1000Speak. Tweet and Share the posts that others have contributed. The more we write, the more we Tweet, the more we Share, the more we are heard.

Link up will be open until Noon GMT on Sunday March 21 (or 8am EST)


The Problem With Girls In Math And Science

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Last year I went to a Parent-Teacher conference with my daughter’s G.T. (Gifted and Talented) teacher. She sang my daughter’s praises. I basked in her glowing words and swelled with pride. Until she said this:

“She’s really good in math. Probably one of my best math students. Even better than the boys in the class.” – said by a real, live teacher. One that teaches kids.

Cue record screech. I immediately snapped to. I wish I could tell you that I questioned this teacher’s perceptions. I wish I could tell you that I pointed out to her that the very statement she meant as a huge compliment was in itself sexist. But I didn’t. I muttered something along the lines of “She’s always been a natural at math,” and something about “number sense.”

My daughter doesn’t think she’s good at math. She thinks it’s her worst subject.

We’ve tried to remedy this. We’ve tried to give her confidence in all areas and avoid the trap of focusing primarily on her beauty. We try to shine a light on her strengths as much as we can.

But I worry it’s not enough.

I worry it’s not enough because in spite of what we might say or the encouragement we might offer, she’s receiving a message from all around her that is much larger. She’s absorbing the myth.

The myth that boys are better at math and science. The myth that her brain is not built for science or technology or engineering or math (STEM).

It’s an idea that has been around for centuries. That nature (gender) determines a person’s cognitive strengths or weaknesses. That girls are better at reading and writing. Boys are naturally better at math and science.

Wrong.

Researchers are speaking up and coming out against these misguided ideas. Scientists have refuted what they are referring to as junk science or the  psuedeo-science of neuro-sexism.

There is no difference between the brains of girls and boys. There is only individual differences. These are not based on gender. Or race. Or social class.

Signs are pointing to nurture playing a bigger role in girls’ attitudes towards STEM.

Girls often start off liking math and science. In elementary school 66% of girls say they are good in math. By high school that number drops to 18%. Girls are not showing up in STEM in high school and college.

And that is a problem.

According to recent studies, confidence is key when it comes to girls pursuing math and science.

Some factors that affect girls’ confidence in these subjects:

The soft-sexism of low expectations: The attitudes and assumptions of parents. Of teachers. Without even realizing it we are perpetuating the false notion of girls’ weakness in these subjects. It’s in the things we say to girls (as evidenced by my daughter’s well-meaning teacher). It’s pervasive.

In studies, teachers have shown a bias in how they grade students in math based on gender. When asked to indicate their gender on tests, girls are shown to score 20% lower. Teachers have been shown to discourage girls from pursuing higher levels of math and science while encouraging boys. When girls’ grades are lower they conclude that they are not smart. And what people think, especially people that girls look up to, influences the way girls perceive themselves.

STEMStereotypes

 

(My daughter’s school inexplicably took Science out of the GT program and replaced it with Language Arts. Baffling considering that STEM job growth is outpacing the rest of the economy by 300%).

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The Politeness Trap. Girls are taught first and foremost to be good. To be polite. And yes, boys are often taught these lessons. But there is a premium on politeness in girls and being sweet and “lady-like” that teaches them to lower their voice, to not interrupt, to defer when someone else is talking. “Boys will be boys” is often cited as an excuse for behavior that would not be excused so easily for girls. Boys are taught to be bold, assertive, independent. If at times they are loud and interrupt, so be it. The result is girls being silenced or not heard. In the classroom especially.

Perfectionism. Girls in our society are raised to be pleasers. Our society has always looked to the women to be the nurturers. They will be the caretakers. Then there’s the pressure to look a certain way. How you dress matters. Looking cute matters. There is infinitely more pressure on girls in this area than boys. Boys don’t have to sit still to have their hair braided. Boys don’t have to worry about dirtying their cute outfit or losing their hair bow. This is so much a part of our culture that we don’t even realize that these things are being absorbed and registered by girls at a very young age. It is imprinting on their brains. It is affecting their sense of self.

Perfect has no place in math and science. Hand writing can be perfect. Speech and reading can be perfect. But math and science rely on failure. Trial and error. If a child is under pressure in so many other areas it is logical that the idea of “freedom to fail” is contradictory to everything else they learn. The “error” portion of trial and error or developing a hypothesis that may be proven wrong are antithetical to so many things that girls are taught.

(This video powerfully illustrates how we are doing a disservice to our girls every day.)

All of these things add up to girls hearing the message loud and clear. Science and math are not their “natural” habitat. All of these things should make you angry. We have been boxing our daughters into a corner of limited options by our willingness to buy into these prejudices. By our ignorance and obliviousness to all of the things we say and do, all of the things they see and hear, all around them, from the day they are born. This makes me angry. Angry at myself for not realizing it sooner. Angry that I have been unknowingly guilty of buying into an ignorant and outdated mindset. Angry that our society still operates under archaic assumptions.

It’s time to un-learn what we’ve been told. It’s time to pay attention to the messages we’re sending. We need to take the pressure off of girls to be “perfect” and “polite” and “nice.” We have to stop quibbling over whether “bossy” is a bad word and simply allow girls to express themselves loudly and boldly and without apology.

Attempts are being made to bring more girls to STEM. There are initiatives and campaigns directed at motivating girls and encouraging them. But I worry that this will be a whisper under the roar of long held ideas about gender and socialization. Confidence is key. The question is how do we unlock it? 

What obstacles do you think stand in the way of girls pursuing STEM subjects and careers? What are your personal experiences with science and math? What do you think can be done to change this trend?

 

All the Stuff… I Forget What Number This Is (and who’s counting anyways?)

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There’s so much to tell you guys and catch you up on. I’m going to get right to it.

This year is the year I decided to focus on writing my book*. I have written a little here and there over the last few years and have maybe six (very) rough chapters. I recently made the difficult decision to say “No” to some things that would take up time and take me away from my goal of finishing the book.

But… blogging. It has become more involved and much much busier. And I haven’t found much time to squeeze in the actual writing of the book. I am trying to trust where this is all taking me. As flaky as it sounds, I have always believed in the flow of the universe and trusting it to guide me. (Actually, writing it sounds even flakier than how it sounded in my head. Oh well. I’m a flake.) The things that are going on with blogging are so exciting and important enough to me to focus on them and see where they go.

First, the Feminist Friday ebook. I can’t say how grateful I am that I met Gene’O and Diana and that we started a discussion that led to our Feminist Friday project. (Thank you Gene’O for your dogged determination and supreme organization and brilliant strategizing.) We’ve been doing it for a year and fellow FF collaborator, Natacha, had the amazing idea to make it into a free ebook. She took on the nuts and bolts of it (since she’s experienced and a real life author and all). And it turned out wonderfully and I’m so excited about it! And here it is! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524073

Second, I was invited to be a part of The Sisterwives blog. There are so many reasons I was ecstatic when they asked me. Aside from the fact that these ladies are all crazy talented, the whole purpose of the blog they created is beautiful:

“This is a place to seek out silver linings.

Darkness into light.

Adversity into strength.

Friendship into sisterhood. 

Alone we are enough; together we are STRONGER.”

And THIRD, in all caps because it’s huge is #1000Speak. It’s (over) 1000 bloggers coming together to speak about compassion. I won’t go into all the details of the hows and the whys because I’ve already written about it. But on February 20th it happened and it was huge. Scores of posts that were part of this project were on Huffington Post. One on Elephant Journal (which made me squeal ’cause that’s one of my favorite places on the internet) and it was just everywhere. Tweets. Facebook. Google+. StumbleUpon. And we’re not done. We have plans to keep it going, to keep it growing. We are not satisfied with one day, we’re going to DO something with this. Keep watching. Or better yet, be a part of it. It is the most uplifting beautiful thing I’ve ever been a part of and a lot of beautiful people are involved.

Sigh… so you see. I couldn’t NOT do any of these things. And all of these are long-term commitments. And I couldn’t be happier or more excited or feel more grateful to be a part of all of it.

And, of course, I have to share some of the stuff I’ve read recently that really made an impact on me.

Diana’s #1000Speak post. There are so many amazing ones to choose from, but this one I can’t get out of my head. The best posts inspire us and I know there’s something about this that makes me want to write. I just haven’t figured it out yet. https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/1000speak-body-image-body-compassion-and-choosing-myself/

PunkRockPapa wrote this poem and I almost stood on top of my desk to shout “Hell yeah!” http://punkrockpapa.com/?p=231 I don’t really look like a rebel (other than the fact that I’m 42 years old and wear ripped jeans and concert tees) but this is so what I feel, what I believe.

I’m leaving you with just those two. And that’s really hard for me because there’s been so much that I’ve read lately that has been so so good.

In the real life, busy. My girl is taking art classes downtown and I love to see her talent blossom. My boy is finishing up basketball and still doing his swim team. The little one is progressing in swim lessons and hopefully will be swimming by this summer. And this has been the year of perpetual illness in this house. But hey, it’s mostly good stuff and even the illnesses have been your run of the mill viruses so I’m not complaining. It’s been a good kind of busy.

What else?

I’m trying to not go into full concert withdrawal. We have NO tickets to any shows for this year. None. After an amazing concert season last year I’m feeling a little anxious about this year’s prospects. I need to smell the sweat of the crowd and feel the music pulsing through my chest and I need to go to sleep with my ears ringing. I need to dance with a thousand strangers and lose myself in the music and the mood and the vibe of the crowd. Sigh… in the meantime we’re trying to see some smaller acts at some of the smaller venues in town.

This weekend, more busy. A party in the ‘hood with friends, fun.

Drinking microbrews and craft beers at our annual neighborhood Beertopia festival tomorrow, more fun… we go to this festival every year and it’s always a good time. Last year it got a little crazy, so…

Cheers! to my liver surviving this fun weekend!

And Cheers! to all of you, I hope you have a great weekend!

Tell me what’s going on in your world. What are you excited about right now? What things are you looking forward to? What was the last live show you went to? Tell me everything…. 

*ahem… so, I mention the book but I’m not ready to really explain it yet. Not for any big dramatic reason. Let’s just put it this way, if you ask, I’ll stutter and stammer and sound like a fool. So please spare me the embarrassment and I’ll fill you guys in when I get a few things with it sorted out.

The Book Hangover: Order Of Seven

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You know how you’re reading a book and the characters become real and you feel like you know them? And you get sucked into the story and time seems to stand still while you’re reading? And you find yourself choked up and holding back tears… and then your palms are sweating with nervous anticipation as your eyes scan each word hungrily? And you finish the book with a sigh. You’re on a little bit of a high. You’re spent, yet twitchy. Twitchy because you want more. 

Book hangover. 

That is what happened to me when I finished Order Of Seven by Beth Teliho. And the coolest part? I got to interview her…

 

Writer-ly Questions:

Do you have a writing routine? Do you have a way of getting into the “headspace” you need before sitting down to write? 

I don’t have a routine, but I probably need one. When I wrote Order of Seven, I wasn’t blogging or involved in any social media. Now? Writing is an entirely different animal. I have to force myself to stay away from Facebook, emails, and the blog until I’ve written for my second novel. This is so much harder than it sounds! So for now, my routine is constantly changing and evolving. Some days I fail miserably. Some days I rock out 2,500 words. Just depends.

What was the hardest part of writing the book? 

The sheer tenacity it takes to muscle through to the end. You crawl and scrape through self-doubt, distractions out the wazoo, and days when you lack inspiration. It takes mule-like stubbornness and enormous belief in your story to make it happen. And then you have to edit it. << IN.SANE.

Do you work with structure or outline? Or do you wing it and go with the flow then organize after the fact? 

I call myself a “burst writer”. I stew with an idea in my head for weeks or sometimes even months – I call this the percolation period – during which I scribble endless notes (in brand new notebooks because… office supplies) about characters, scenes, and details. I try to have the conflict and purpose worked out before writing, because without them you don’t have a story. Then BAM, I’m at the computer day and night until I have a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a hideous monstrosity at this point (the original draft of Oo7 was near double what it is now), but I have a story to whittle and shape.

Questions about the book, Order Of Seven:

What sparked your interest in the paranormal?

It’s always been fascinating to me. I’m the (weirdo) curled up on the couch on a Friday night watching Ancient Aliens, A Haunting, Ghost Hunters, Paranormal Children, Long Island Medium, etc. I love those shows. I’ve always been a little offended I wasn’t born with a paranormal gift.  I feel like I should have one. Can you do anything about that, Gretchen?

*author’s note* Beth, if I had the power to grant paranormal gifts, I would totally hook you up. Telekinesis? E.S.P.? What’s your flavor? Also, Ghost Hunters! I love that show. 

How long was this story (or the idea of it) in your head before you started writing it?

Some of the characters from Oo7 were in my head for years before I began writing the novel. I still have a notebook from 2004 with the names Devi and Nodin scribbled in the margins. I didn’t write seriously until years (and two kids) later, but when I did, I began what was supposed to be a short story, but turned into what I’d started years earlier in that notebook. It amazes me to think how it’s come full circle.

This book feels very connected to nature and the spirituality of the natural world. What is the significance of nature to you and/or to this book.

EVERYTHING. It’s probably no surprise that this book is incredibly personal to me. Probably more so than any novel I’ll write in the future. I’ve been asked which character in Oo7 is me, and my answer is simply: all of them. I’m Devi, Joe, Nodin, Ben, Baron…these are all pieces of me, and woven through them and in the message of the book are my philosophies, doubts, fears, inspirations and hopes.

Questionable questions:

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?

Use all my available credit to book an impromptu trip to Mexico. I was waitressing and had zero savings, but I was in love. I married him so I got my money back eventually. haha

Do you ever write naked? (This is for our dear friend Lizzi)

Only while texting Lizzi. Otherwise I have a strict dress code of cowboy boots and a tutu.

Tattoos. Do you have one? Do you plan on getting one (or more)?

I have three and plan on getting several more. It’s been two decades since I’ve been inked, but it’s high time I get back under the needle. I’ve been waiting for the right time and the right inspiration.

What is it with guys and tattoos that is so hot?

I DON’T KNOW BUT I’M UNDER THEIR SPELL AND DON’T WANT TO LEAVE

***

About Order Of Seven:

Eighteen-year-old Devi Bennett is surrounded by mysteries: her unknown heritage, a recurring dream about an African tribal ceremony, an inexplicable attachment to a certain tree and a psychic ability she’ll never understand—unless she finds her biological parents.

Things take a shocking turn when she meets Baron, an intense and alluring energy healer who receives prophetic dreams which all seem connected to her. Devi must rely on an empath, a seer, and Baron to help research her roots to discover who she is and what she is capable of. But when Baron’s visions lead to an ancient legend which may link to her birthright, Devi learns her gift is more imperative than she thought imaginable.

Equal parts suspenseful and sexy, philosophical and adventurous, Order of Seven delivers a story that will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about the hands that carry fate.

 

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BETH TELIHO is a writer, artist and tree hugger who lives in Texas with her husband and two adventurous sons. Restless in the mundane, she writes about the abnormal, paranormal and otherwise fantastical because that’s what quickens her heartbeat. She laughs at inappropriate jokes, and prefers spicy food and margaritas to almost anything. One day, she hopes to live in a treehouse, where she can be an eccentric introvert with at least seven cats.

 

 

Amazon pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/ORDER-SEVEN-Beth-Teliho-ebook/dp/B00U2VX80Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425150180&sr=8-1&keywords=order+of+seven%2C+beth+teliho

Visit the author at her website: www.bethteliho.me

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/writerbisme

Twitterverse: @beth_teliho

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/bethteliho

Goodreads giveaway, running Feb 23 – March 23: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24994112-order-of-seven

Isn’t Beth the coolest person ever? Are you dying to read this book? Do you think she should show us a picture of her in the tutu and cowboy boots? Talk to me!

 

 

 

 

Now’s the Time. Do Something. #1000Speak

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“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I wanted to do something. I felt helpless as I sat in the backseat. My legs couldn’t yet reach the floor board, my pockets were empty of all but a scuffed up Hot Wheel toy car. But I wanted to do something.

It was the first time I’d seen someone begging for food.

The seconds ticked by while we sat at the stop light. I studied him and wondered what it must be like to be him. I saw tattered clothes, I saw a worn face. I watched as he stared straight ahead, meeting no one’s eyes. Letting his roughly scrawled sign do all the talking.

And suddenly we were off, on our way. Off to do some destination so inconsequential I can’t remember it.

But I remember him.

I remember feeling the unfairness of it all.

I remember feeling incredibly sad.

Concerned.

Pity.

Shame.

I was young but I knew enough. I knew a little of hunger. Of shoes too small. I knew a little of the struggle to make it to payday.

But my hunger was always fed eventually. My toes were only pinched for a short time until we received hand me downs from family friends. My mom shielded us with stretched out cans of Beenie Weenies and a funny story or a silly face. Her casual manner hid the stress of trying to survive one more day.

But I didn’t know what it was like to be him.

“I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Life goes on. We see people barely hanging on to life, clinging to shreds of dignity.

You can’t really ignore it. It’s on the street corner. It’s huddled under the overpass. It’s on the t.v. It’s in the news.

All around us people are in pain or in fear or destitute.

It’s hard to ignore.

Yet somehow we do.

It’s survival. It’s not letting ourselves get washed away in the abyss of despair when you look at the suffering. When you feel hopeless in the face of tragedy. When you feel angry at ongoing injustices. We can’t let ourselves drown in it all. We have to take care of our lives, our kids, our families. That’s self preservation.

And we have to preserve ourselves.

“I don’t know why nobody told you

How to unfold your love.

I don’t know how someone controlled you

They bought and sold you”

Sometimes we insulate ourselves because of our own hurts and our own struggles that bearing the pain of another person’s suffering is just too much.

That’s ok. As long as when you’re better you take off the blinders and take part. As long as you don’t let your head stay nestled comfortably in the sand long after it’s due for an appearance above ground.

“I look at the world and I notice it’s turning

While my guitar gently weeps.

With every mistake we must surely be learning

Still my guitar gently weeps.”

Because there’s much to do my friends. Every great change that has ever taken place has required masses of people to take notice, to stand up, to participate.

There are so many things, so many ways to give. There’s causes to join. Movements to start. It’s little every day things and big grand gestures.

As long as it’s something. Because not doing something leaves you feeling much more helpless. Because not doing something leads to more of the same.

I look around and I see the world in pain. I see fear pulsating. I see children hungry. I see humans sold. I see divisions over arbitrary lines in the sand and borders that were decided ages ago. I see religions of love and peace tear each other apart. I see black men being shot. I see children being abused. I see people dying from diseases that don’t carry a big enough payout for a cure. I see people slipping through the cracks we all blithely step over every day.

And I remember him.

I remember the disappointment of driving away. Of wanting to run back and do something. But instead turning around to look out the back window. Watching as he faded from view.

“I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

Atrocities and injustices of the past tug on the back of our conscious. We struggle to comprehend the brutality of the past. How did people allow these things to happen? Why was there hatred over superficial and trumped up differences? Why did they allow needless suffering? Why didn’t they do something?

These things are viewed through the lens of present day.

How many things are we allowing to happen? How many things will our children, our grandchildren look back upon and wonder, Why didn’t someone stop it? Why didn’t people stand up? Why did’t they push back?

“Look at you all

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Now’s our chance to do something.

I know it’s there, in you. In me. In all of us.

The part of that cares.

The part that cries when we hear of pain and suffering.

The part that hurts when we see injustice.

The part that breaks when we see hate and anger.

The part that wants to do something.

Meet anger with softness.

Meet hatred with love.

Meet judgement with acceptance.

Meet ignorance with knowledge.

Meet apathy with urgency.

Meet hunger with food.

Meet cold with warmth.

Meet disregard with a mirror.

Indifference with compassion.

I have hope. I have overwhelming optimism and hope. Because,

Look at you all. 

#1000Speak

1000 Voices for Compassion

Over 1000 voices coming together to do something.

Spread the love, make our voices LOUD. Tweet, share on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s flood the internet with compassion!

Add your link here.

How Marriage Has Taught Me To Pick A Fight

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I met him in our college Spanish class. After admiring him from afar for the better part of a year, we fell into a heated relationship. I was crazy about him.  Our relationship was tumultuous. Until it wasn’t. Eventually the passion was gone.

We were living together, making a home and making plans. Three years together and talk of a future, but I knew it wasn’t working.

I tried to save us. For well over a year I tried. He was pleasantly apathetic.

Eventually I was done.

He called. He wrote. He begged me to give him another chance. He promised to make changes. Things I had pleaded for, he now promised to deliver.

It didn’t matter.

I was done.

That’s how it works. You try. You fight. You fight for your relationship.

Until you’re exhausted and tired from all of the effort. Until you realize you’re the only one putting in the effort.

It’s that cold realization that is the nail in the coffin of a relationship. The loneliness that comes with the scratching and clawing for love… and looking around and realizing that no one else is getting their hands dirty. The harsh loneliness of sharing space with someone.

That was a long time ago. Just after that relationship ended, I fell in love with my husband. I was gun-shy and not looking for romance. I tried to talk my way out of it. I told him I had fears. I told him that I needed more than he could give. I couldn’t live a life of complacency.

I told him that I get bored easily.

He promised our life would never be boring.

I told him I need passion. I needed fire.

He promised a lifetime of passion.

I told him I needed someone who wouldn’t give up easily.

He promised me he would fight for me. For us.

That was over 18 years ago. Three houses, three kids, three dogs ago. A lifetime ago.

It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Hard because we all have something, something that burdens us. Something that lives deep inside of us and comes out sideways. Hard because we’re all pretty messy inside. Hard because all of things that we all carry are forced to mingle with all of the messiness of this person you share a life with. And they bump up against each other and they feed each other and they confuse each other. And sometimes they hurt each other.

So what do you do with all of this?

You pick a fight.

You pick a fight with yourself. For yourself.

The fight you choose is the fight to become a better you. You trudge into the stagnant waters of long held pain and damage. You wade into the muck and you start cleaning it up. You fight through all the barriers and the defenses that we each cling to like a tattered blanket of comfort. You get dirty and you fight.

You fight through all of this because it’s the only fight you can really win. You can’t fight for him. It’s not about fixing him. If it was, there would be no break ups. There would be no divorce. The idea of fixing the person you love, of fighting his battles? That’s just a fantasy. His issues are his. They are borne of different things than yours. You can try to fix them but it will be fruitless. You can spin your wheels for a lifetime trying to fix someone else. Focusing on them and all of their stuff. This won’t get you far, I promise. It’s a twisted path to bitterness and disappointment.

But you can fight for you. You can work through all of your stuff. Recognize it. Deal with it. Learn from it. It may give you some peace and strength. It may stop the cycle of your stuff feeding his stuff and the chaos of emotions that tag along with that. It may give him enough room and space to see that something’s changed and that maybe, maybe he can start to work through his stuff too.

Regardless, you fight for you.

I picked this fight in recent years. It has been scary and hard and at times I’ve come close to giving up. But now I’m starting to see what comes after the fight. Some peace. Some healing. The burden of all of my stuff is much lighter and I feel more free. I am not so weighed down. I’m not as confused by my emotions. The other side of the fight with myself is a good place to be.

My husband has also picked his fight. He’s trekked into the depths of what burns deep inside of him. He’s never been one to be complacent or apathetic. Eighteen years and it’s never been boring. I’ve seen him refuse to give up and refuse to let me be the only one fighting.

I think back now, to that day years ago. The day I tearfully told the man I loved what I needed. What I thought was impossible for someone to give. The day I thought I should give up on love because my expectations were too high and unattainable.

He didn’t try to change my mind or my expectations.

He accepted the challenge and the needs of a naive young woman who thought she knew what she needed.

I never needed him to fight for us.

But he gave me things I didn’t know I needed. He did more than share space with me. He didn’t just sit and watch me fight my battles. He listened. He supported. He loved. And when I wanted to give up on my demons? He started fighting his. He showed me that vulnerability is the bravest place to be. He got his hands dirty with me. In fighting for himself he showed me just how much he loved me. The lengths he would go to to be better for us.

I didn’t need him to fight for us.

I needed him to wage his own fight.

I didn’t need him to fight for me.

I never needed him to fight for me.

I’m capable of doing that for myself.

I can fight my own battles.

Lessons From the Worst Day Of My Life

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“And I know it aches and your heart it breaks and you can only take so much….  Walk on.” -U2, Walk On

It was my wedding day.

I found myself standing outside the doors to the chapel. My heart was racing. Pressure began building inside and I felt my eyes fill up with tears.

I can’t do this.

Before I could turn and run, the doors were flung open. I was caught off guard as 80 expectant faces turned to look at me. I scanned the crowd….  I saw my family and friends…. I saw my Dad and Stepfather waiting in front of the alter to give me away.

But I was going to have to walk down the aisle alone.

And that’s not how it was supposed to be.

I don’t know how long I paused there. I felt like I couldn’t move.

Then my eyes found Joe. And right next to him a single candle burning on a tall candelabra. Gulp. I looked back at Joe and knew that if I could make it to him that I would be o.k.

I took a tentative step. I felt as if my knees were going to buckle. I took a deep breath and willed myself to move. Somehow I began walking. It was surreal. I felt as if I was floating down the aisle….  Something was propelling me forward.  I felt a sense of calm. A sense of warmth and serenity that I hadn’t felt in 18 months.

***

Eighteen months earlier, my 16 year old brother had been diagnosed with a rare pediatric bone cancer.

The diagnosis was grim. The prognosis was not good.

He was quick to rally. He was going to be fine. He was going to live his life. He was still planning a future. He packed a lot of living in a short time.

Ten days before my wedding he lost his fight.

That was the day my world forever changed. Nothing would ever be the same. The damage was irreparable. I felt gutted, depleted and seething with heartache.

September 15, 1999 was the worst day of my life.

Fifteen years later I still look back and I don’t know how my family and I made it through a funeral and a wedding. But we did. We somehow walked through it together, feeling our way through a fog of pain and grief.

There would be no postponing of the wedding, as I’d suggested. I couldn’t imagine waking up in a world without my brother, let alone throwing a wedding. Every single member of my family told me in no uncertain terms that my brother would never want me to put it off. He always said he “didn’t have time for cancer”, he didn’t let it stop him from doing the things he wanted to do.

And he would be highly pissed if I let cancer stop my wedding.

So, we pulled it together and summoned our strength. Even though we were still in a state of shock, we had a wedding. There were tributes to my brother throughout the wedding. The single candle stood where he was supposed to stand as a groomsman. There was a beautiful poem in his memory read during the ceremony. His favorite song was played at the reception. And we danced. And we drank. And we had fun.

Inexplicably, we had fun.

Fifteen years have passed since that day.

Fifteen years later and I’m still trying to figure out how to move through life without him.

Fifteen years later and I’m still learning how all of this works… the after part.

And even though I’m sometimes exhausted by all that I’ve learned from that day, I know it’s important to pull my head out of the sand. I know I need to pay attention to all that grief has taught me.

I would gladly trade the things I’ve learned to have my brother back.

But I learned a long time ago that bargaining doesn’t work.

So I choose to appreciate the lessons I learned.

I learned to cut people some slack.

You really don’t know what people are going through. You don’t know what they have endured. You don’t know what battles they may be fighting.

There were the times that I would find myself driving 15mph in the left lane. I would be lost somewhere between grief and exhaustion after a long night at the hospital with my brother. I would arrive home with no idea how I got there.

There were times when I’d look up distractedly at the grocery store to realize I’d been standing in the middle of the aisle lost in thought.

I used to be that person that would honk impatiently and cast a dirty look as I zoomed past a slow driver.

Not anymore.

I learned what it was like to really have a bad day. To be so lost in a world turned on it’s head that you could be completely unaware of your surroundings.

I learned that we all have bad days and some of us have really bad days.

Some of us are just trying to make it to tomorrow.

Now I see people differently. I don’t see people who are trying to get in my way. I see someone who may have heavy things weighing on their mind. I’m sure many people granted me that grace, and I’m grateful. I was so fragile and raw that to be confronted by an impatient driver or shopper would have been too much.

Compassion and grace isn’t giving people a pass when you know they’re suffering.

Real compassion is giving people the benefit of the doubt. Granting them access. Assisting them when you don’t know them. Being patient and kind even when you don’t know what they are going through.

If you have to know the behind the scenes? If you have to know their story in order to be kind?

If your kindness is based on an assessment of their pain… if it is conditional…

then it’s not truly kindness.

It’s judgement.

I didn’t get this before. I wasn’t cruel. I wasn’t mean spirited. But I was impatient. I was easily irritated. That was before I realized the depths that people can be trapped in and look completely normal to the rest of the world.

I learned that comfort  sometimes comes from unexpected places.

There are some people who had such an impact on me, who helped me through difficult times. They probably will never know the significance of their actions.

The soft-spoken coworker who offered me a hug as I was leaving to meet my family at the hospital. We were meeting with doctors to get news of test results. He knew I was nervous. When my shy, reserved friend wrapped me in a big bear hug I was overcome. I knew this small gesture was not easy for him to give. His effort to offer me solace moved me. It reminded me that even though my coworkers didn’t know my brother, there was a whole team of people rooting for him.

There was my brash, loud, jokester boss who let me take off as much time as I needed to be with my brother at the hospital.

There was my friend from work who calmly assured me that I would feel joy again after I tearfully confided my fear and pain to her.

Then there’s my husband’s brother and my sister in law who drove 12 hours to attend my brother’s memorial service.

My sister in law was the person I leaned on during that service. I found myself opening up to her and this was only the second time she andI had met. She helped me get through an emotional night. She seemed genuinely touched by the stories she heard from my brother’s friends. She said that he sounded like an amazing person and she felt like she kind of knew him after hearing about his antics.

I almost collapsed with gratitude. Her words gave me hope that my brother wouldn’t be forgotten, that his spirit and his humor could be translated to people who’d never met him.

I learned that an act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wrong. Sometimes it’s the thing that can help someone put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it can make all the difference in the world.

I’ve learned that you can, even 15 years later, be blindsided by the cruel reality of it all.

You can be sitting at your kid’s swim practice just trying to write in your notebook when a memory you’re writing about simply knocks the wind out of you and next thing you know you’re wiping away tears hoping no one notices.

You can be eating dinner at a restaurant and the waiter looks just like your brother. You can’t stop looking at him. You feel the loss and pain take over and overwhelm you. You are again surprised at the cruel force of grief’s ability to blindside you. And you almost want to stalk the waiter just so you can pretend for a minute that your brother’s still here.

You can watch your kids doing something especially mischevious and your thoughts unwillingly flicker to images of your brother. Memories of the antics of a little boy long ago. And then, imagining what could have been. Him egging them on, encouraging their exasperating behavior.

And you can almost hear him laughing, enjoying every second of finding a way to torture you as an adult as he did as a little kid.

And your heart hurts because you know he would have had so much fun with your kids and they would have loved their uncle so much.

You could bottle yourself up and try to insulate yourself from it, but it’s not going away so you might as well let it happen.

You’ll feel it, you’ll hurt, but you’ll be ok. You will be ok. 

And I’ve learned that I still feel my brother’s presence.

I see him in each of my children, in their personalities…  in their sense of humor, which is what my brother was known for.

I feel him sometimes. I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I feel a warmth come over me. A warmth hard to describe because it’s unlike any sensation I’ve felt before.

I feel him when my family is together and my sister and my parents are laughing and we’re giving each other a hard time.

I feel him kicking me in the ass when I’m about to chicken out on doing something that scares me.  I can almost hear what he would say in those situations.

Don’t give up. You’re better than that.

I’ve learned to recognize these moments, when I feel him with me. They are bittersweet. They are welcome. And they tug at my heart because they will never be enough.

My brother was supposed to walk me down the aisle.

When we knew, in those last weeks, that it would not be possible for him to do that, we contemplated our other options.  We considered having both my dad and stepfather walk me down the aisle… or having my sister’s husband walk me down the aisle.

But in the end, I decided that my brother was who I had chosen to walk me down the aisle.

There was no understudy.

There would be no last minute stand in.

I couldn’t imagine replacing him in that role.

I didn’t know how I was going to manage making that walk without him. I didn’t have much time to dwell on it.

And what I’ve learned is that there didn’t need to be a replacement.

My brother showed up.

He kicked me in the ass a little and told me not to be scared. He reminded me that I didn’t have time to let my pain stand in the way of my wedding, my happiness.

My brother showed up…

he  was there with me on one of the best days of my life.

“Rebel Heart” Guest Post on Hasty Words

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Who Me???

That’s what I thought when the incredibly talented Hasty Words asked me to do a guest post. Hasty is a poet, an artist and writer who’s words always leave me a little breathless and I am honored to be a guest over at her blog today.

Click on the link and read all about why I want my kids to be rebels…

“Your Rebel Heart”

(Comments will be closed, but head over to HastyWord to tell me what you think!)

Be A Part Of A Movement: #1000Speak

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“My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark. I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark…. and I will not be a pawn… for the prince of darkness, any longer.”

-Indigo Girls, Prince of Darkness

This week something pretty incredible remarkable amazing happened. One blogger wrote a beautiful piece in response to recent tragedies and atrocities happening in the world. Another blogger was posting about these same events on FaceBook. The two had a conversation that inspired this:

“How cool would it be if we could get 1000 bloggers on the same day to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement etc.? (Date to be decided.)
We could call it 1000 Voices For Compassion.
Who’s in?”

And thus began a movement. 1000 Voices for Compassion. A call for bloggers to join together on one day to speak out in the name of compassion. To stand up to the bullies and the killers and the harmers and the haters. To make the voices of the good drown out the insatiable voice of negativity and hatred.

That was five days ago.

Within 48 hours 500 bloggers had joined the movement. Today, 690. People are moved by what Yvonne and Lizzi started.

Most of us write because we have to. Often we write about things that move us. Things we care about. Things that we think maybe need to be heard. Some of us have been floundering under the oppressive weight of heartbreak over everything that we’re reading and hearing and seeing in the world. Most of us want to do something.

And what do we do?

We write.

We write, damn it.

Because words matter.

Words change minds and change lives and words have power.

And all of our words together?

Just imagine.

So, this is my plea. If you’re tired of the negativity that permeates the news and social media. If you’ve grown weary of all the violence in this world. If you’re tired of the “us” and “them” mentality and want to be a part of “we.” If you are ready for things to shift, for something to change… then write. Speak. Be a part of this movement.

Maybe it will help.

Maybe someone someone will hear us and feel wrapped in the comfort of knowing that people care.

Maybe someone’s hardened heart will soften just a little.

Maybe positivity will breed more positivity.

Maybe all of us together will be heard.

Maybe we can convince the “us” and the “them” to join.

Because your thoughts might add to the thoughts of others who want to create change. And if enough of us join in eventually we’ll be heard. Eventually those trudging through life will hear our concert of thoughts and lift their heads and open their hearts.

So please, join in. All of you have something to say. All of you can be a part of something good.

Let’s do this.

When: February 20, 2015

How: Write a post about compassion. What it means to you. How has it affected you? How we can bring more of it to those who need it. Really, there are no rules, just as long as it’s about compassion.

Participate: via FaceBook go to this link and request to join.

via Twitter, post and use the hashtag #1000Speak

*If you’re not on Facebook but would like to join you can let me know in Comments, below, and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

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