Jan 172012
 

 


 

My college experience was a little….vague. I am told that I had an excellent time, but I can’t be sure. Mercifully, I mostly recall college as a seven year black out, but sometimes a memory of something I did, said, or worse, WORE, hits me like a wave of nausea, and I marvel at how I made it out of there alive.

Throughout college I had this sweet little ritual where I’d enjoy a couple dozen drinks and then go for a walk, perhaps at 3 am. And then, usually, I’d get lost and decide to go ahead and sleep in a cozy parking lot or under a tree somewhere in town. It was like camping, except without a tent, clue, or functioning liver. There must have been a strict No Camping rule in my college town though, because I was often awakened by annoyed men and women with guns. These uniformed bandits were not my parents, although it would take me a good three minutes to understand this. They would ask me why I was on the ground and I would assure them that I planned to explain just as soon as they told me where we all were, and also, my name.

Fortunately they actually would be able to teach me my name because, well, we’d met before. We went way back. And they’d invite me into the back of their cozy car and put shiny silver handcuffs on me. And I would sort of settle in and ask them how their families were, and they’d tell me. They liked me, and I liked them. I went to school in a sleepy little town, and so I like to think that maybe the night police shift was glad to have the company.

So we’d continue to catch up and all would go smoothly, but inevitably during the ride to my new camping spot my officers would get frustrated. Because every time they turned around to check on me, my handcuffs would be off and placed in a tidy pile on the seat beside me. So they’d stop the car and put them back on. And I’d take them back off. My wrists are very small and I had decided that while it may have been silly for one to sleep under a tree in January, it was ridiculous for one to PRETEND that one is handcuffed. I just couldn’t fake it, though I did try for the sake of my police friends. I have a paralyzing respect for authority, so I was always vehemently on their side. But they really were going to have to do better with the handcuffs. I understood that they weren’t arresting child sized people often, but still. I explained that it was probably important to be better prepared.

{A few years ago, Craig and I were watching Cops and I noticed that police forces had started using plastic cuffs that look like garbage bag ties which close more tightly. I got very excited and told Craig that I was positive that the plastic tie handcuff innovation was inspired by me and my mini wrists. He stared, as always, and then asked me to never share that theory with anyone. But it’s hard not to discuss what may have been a real contribution to the law enforcement community on my part.}

When we got to the station I would say hello to Tom and Carla, who were often in charge of checking me in. “Booking,” I believe they called it. They were lovely people, just lovely. And they’d lead me into my very own private cell which made me feel like a bit of a celebrity, to tell you the truth. Special treatment, you know. One time, after having been there for a few hours I called Carla over and asked her if I could be released early for good behavior. I’d been quite well behaved that night, if I did so say myself. She said no, it didn’t work that way. But she did agree that I was being especially good, so she shared her granola bar with me. I was deeply touched.

Eventually I’d fall asleep and I’d awake in the morning and call my long suffering friend Dana, who had always wisely slipped an index card with our phone number into my back pocket. And she’d pick me up and we’d go to Waffle House and discuss what we were going to wear that night.

Wow. Strange, but true.

I started thinking of these stories yesterday when I got an email from a woman who is a sheriff deputy and reads this blog daily. In her email she thanked me for inspiring her. I was up all night thinking about her and how proud I am that she’s reading my blog. I forwarded her email to my dad with the subject line: DADTHE POLICE ARE READING MY BLOG! which was probably so much more enjoyable for him to receive than my usual announcement “DAD- THE POLICE ARE READING MY RIGHTS!”

You guys, I don’t want to sound boastful, but I think I’m finally coming up in the world.

Joelle, Tom, Carla, Grandpa, and every other kind and dedicated officer. Thank you. Thank you for protecting me from bad guys, even when the bad guy is me. Thank you for serving so bravely and honorably. Thank you for improving all of my camping experiences exponentially. And thank you, especially, for the granola bar. I was really hungry. I appreciate you.

 

Love,
G

Jan 182012
 

originally published on august 28, 2011

 

Dear Chase,

Hey, baby.

Tomorrow is a big day. Third Grade – wow.

 

Chase – When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.

Adam looked a little different and he wore funny clothes and sometimes he even smelled a little bit. Adam didn’t smile. He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all. Adam never did his homework. I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do. The other kids teased Adam a lot. Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased him, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.

And I never talked to Adam, not once. I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, he sat and played by himself. He must have been very lonely.

I still think about Adam every day. I wonder if Adam remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked him to play, just once, he’d still remember me.

 

I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.

So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.

Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.

Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.

Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.

Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’s team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby. We will make a plan to help together.

 

When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.

Chase – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.

We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.

Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.

Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.

Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.

Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are one lucky boy . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.

I love you so much that my heart might explode.

Enjoy and cherish your gifts.

And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.

 

Love,

Mama

Jan 192012
 

 

A few years ago strange things started happening to me at church. I’d find myself in the middle of a lighthearted conversation with a woman I’d just met, and the woman would make a joke that didn’t sound like a joke suggesting that our family was “perfect,” and that this “perfection” made her feel bad about her family. This happened three of four times over a two week period. Once a woman said “You are so PULLED TOGETHER. It just makes me feel so APART.”

Craig was standing behind me and I looked at him confused and he looked back at me equally confused. If you are friends with us in real life, you know the interaction I’m describing well. It is our signature interaction. I stammered my way through the rest of the conversation and on the way home, Craig and I debriefed.

We were baffled. Craig and I love each other dearly, but neither of us would describe the other as “pulled together.” These women may as well have been saying to me “I’m just so jealous of your HEIGHT and CULINARY SKILLS.” During our debriefing, Craig and I developed a theory that if you are thin and smile a lot, people tend to believe that you have the universe’s secrets in your pocket and also that a raindrop has never fallen upon your head. If you also happen to be wearing trendy jeans…just FUGGED ABOUT IT.

This theory distressed me greatly. Kept me up at night. I do not like to make other women feel APART. And I also like to match. I wanted my insides and outsides to match somehow. But I was scared I’d have to start looking like Pig Pen or Courtney Love to make that happen.

One day I was at the playground with a new friend from church named Tess. That’s not her real name, but it’s one of my favorites, and so is she, so Tess it is. I suspected that Tess was sad, and that she was having some trouble in her marriage. We hadn’t discussed this though, because we were too busy discussing more important things, like soccer practice and highlights.

All of a sudden I heard myself saying the following to Tess:

Listen. I want you to know that I’m a recovering alcohol, drug, and food addict. I’ve been arrested several times because of those things. Craig and I got accidentally pregnant and married a year after we started dating. We love each other madly but I’m secretly terrified that my issues with sex and anger will eventually screw things up. I get jealous easily…sometimes I actually feel sad and worried when good things happen to other people. Oh also, I snap at customer service people and my kids and husband regularly. I feel like I always have rage right beneath my surface. And right now I’m dealing with some post partum depression, I think. I spend most of my day just wishing my kids would leave me alone. Chase brought me a note the other morning that said “I hope mommy is nice today.” It’s depressing and scary, because I keep wondering what happens if that feeling never goes away? Maybe I just can’t handle this many kids. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know those things.

Tess stared at me, long enough that I wondered if she was going to call our minister or 911. Then I saw some tears and we sat down on a bench and she told me everything. Things with her husband were bad, apparently. Really bad. Tess felt scared and alone. But at the playground that day Tess decided she wanted help and love more than she wanted me to think she was perfect.

We hardly knew each other. But we both realized at that moment that we were in this together. We went through some tough times over the next few months. A lot of tears, therapy, separation, anger and fear. But a little army of love circled the wagons around Tess and her family and blockaded anybody from getting in too far or out too far. And eventually, things got better. A lot better. Tess and her husband and their beautiful children are together and healing and thriving now. And I got to watch all of that. I actually got to SEE the truth set a family free.

At that point in my life I was dying to do something meaningful and helpful, outside of my home, but no one would have me. We were rejected again and again when we tried to adopt. Then I tried to become a volunteer at the local nursing home, because I heard they were looking for volunteers to serve lemonade at lunch. They seemed thrilled with me until the background check, at which point they never called me back. Perhaps they thought I had a secret motivation to get all the old people wasted. Then I tried to volunteer at a local shelter for abused women. It actually looked like they might take me until the final interview when the woman said “As a formality, I just have to ask if you’ve ever been arrested.” She never called me back. It’s hard to explain it away as only five times.

I was depressed.

But then the Tess thing happened. And I thought, maybe I could do THAT. Maybe my public service could just be to tell people the truth about my insides. Because it seemed to make people feel better, for whatever reason. It struck me that for this particular “ministry,” my criminal record was a PLUS. It gave me street cred. And I considered that maybe the gifts God gave me were storytelling and shamelessness. Because you guys, I’m shameless. I’m almost ashamed at how little shame I have. Almost, but not really, at all. So I decided that’s what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to walk around telling people the truth. No mask, no hiding, no pretending. That was going to be my thing. I was going to make people feel better about their insides by showing them mine. By being my real self. But I was keeping my trendy jeans. I decided they were part of my real self.

A few days after I told Craig that I was going to “volunteer” as a “reckless truth teller” my minister called me on the phone. My first thought was that Tess had ratted me out. But this is what the minister said: “I know you’re having a hard time with the baby and it might seem like a bad time for you, but I feel like the time is now for you to tell your story to the church. The whole church. On stage. Live.”

Craig sweated and looked into whether or not he could be fired for having an ex -con for a wife. I planned my outfit.

Then I wrote my story, without leaving anything out. And I read it to my church. And it went really, really well. People were shocked. It is so fun to shock people. Lots and lots of people wanted to cry with me, too, and to tell me their stories. And I thought… WELL. OKAY, THEN. Take THAT, NURSING HOME. I DIDN’T WANT TO SERVE YOUR STUPID LEMONADE, ANYWAY. Do you get STANDING OVATIONS AND TEARS OF JOY FOR SERVING LEMONADE? I bet NOT.

I’d found my thing. Openness. I decided, based on firsthand experience , that it’s more fun to say things to make women feel hopeful than it is to say or omit things to make women feel jealous. And it’s easier, too. Less to keep track of and monitor.

I started Momastery a few months later,  to tell my truth recklessly to more people. And here, I’ve learned, along with hundreds of other brave women, that the most revolutionary act is telling the truth.

 

Love,
G