Mar 042013

Chase and I found ourselves in the middle of a traffic teachable moment yesterday, during which I used every bit of my self control to avoid sticking my head out the window and screaming into the Universe all the curse words I know. ALL of them. Glad I didn’t.

Remember the Onion Man?





Last weekend, Chase and I were grocery shopping in the produce section and he was having a blast weighing each new bag of vegetables I collected. I handed him a bag of tomatoes and he walked over to the scale and waited patiently in line. As I watched, an elderly man walked up behind Chase, scowled at him for a moment, and stepped in front of him, bumping Chase out of the way. Chase looked shocked and scared. I left my cart and walked over to Chase, stood by him and said loudly, “Are you all right honey? I saw what that man did to you. That was very, very wrong and rude.” Chase said nothing, the Grumpy Old man said nothing. Chase and I held hands and waited.

When the man was finished weighing his bag, he turned around quickly and all of his onions spilled out of his bag and on to the dirty floor. The three of us froze for a moment. Then Chase looked up at me and I motioned toward the floor. Chase and I got down on our hands and knees and started collecting onions while the old man grouchily and grudgingly accepted them from our hands and put them back into his bag. After Chase and I retrieved the last onion, the old man walked away. Chase and I did too, and we didn’t discuss the event until we got back in the car.

On the drive home, Chase said through tears, “Mommy, I’ve had a frustrating day. That man cut right in front of me and that was wrong. And we had to help him pick up his onions! Why did we do that? That didn’t make any sense.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Chase, that man was acting horribly wasn’t he? He seemed to have a very angry heart. I’m so sorry that happened to you. But if we didn’t help him with his onions, do you think we would have made his heart softer or angrier?”

Angrier, Chase said.

“Since we did help him, do you think that might have made his heart softer?”

“Maybe,” Chase said.

“But you know what, Chase? I understand how you feel. I didn’t want to help that man with his onions. You know what I wanted to do?”


“I wanted to kick him really hard in the shin. I was very angry with that man for treating you badly. But sometimes doing what we really want to do, if it’s going to add more anger, isn’t the right thing to do. Even if it feels good at the time. If we wouldn’t have helped that old man, we might have felt good for a second, but then I bet we would have felt really, really yucky about ourselves for a long time. You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love. ”

And then this brilliant smile broke out on Chase’s face that was the smile of a heart recognizing the truth. It was a smile of a promise kept. It was the best smile I have ever seen, on any of my children. It was a smile that said: Oh, I see. Sometimes we actually do what we talk about doing. And this is how it feels.

God, it was a good moment. It may have been my best mommy moment ever.

Thanks, Grumpy Old Onion Man.




Mar 052013

Monkees, Meet Sarah. She’s about to take us on a wild, wonderful ride.


I am Sarah Nielsen, I’m a Monkee, and I’m also the Executive Director of Project Home Indy. Project Home Indy is a small non-profit agency in Indianapolis that serves up to five homeless teen moms, age 15-19, in a safe, home-like residential facility. The girls who move to Project Home Indy are desperate to find a home, and we provide a wraparound, intensive service that allows them to move into our community with their babies and function as independent families.  We believe that teens are capable of becoming good parents, but they need coordinated and comprehensive services and support to become heads of their own households.

Working at Project Home Indy is wonderful and challenging. Every so often I get the very special job of interviewing a prospective resident.  We get many phone calls each week from young teen moms who are desperate to live at Project Home Indy.  They are frightened, homeless, and hopeful that we’ll have room. Since we only have room for five young families at a time, I am too often saying no. No room. I’m so sorry.

But sometimes there is hope that I might be able to say YES, and for a moment, I feel like I’m giving someone the golden ticket on Willy Wonka.

Last week, as I interviewed a prospective resident, a tear ran down her cheek as she said:

“You know, I just want to live somewhere where the adults work, and don’t run out of money or gas.  I don’t want to be scared of being evicted.  I want to live somewhere where I don’t have to count the diapers I have for the rest of the week, and wonder if I’ll skip dinner.  I want to have my own bed and my own room.  I want my baby to only see the best way to be, the way things should be.”

Sometimes I can choke my own tears back and maintain a professional distance. Not this time.   Because here’s the thing- the life she is dreaming of- the one where people work and have enough diapers and food- that IS the way things should be.  That’s the home she deserved to grow up in years ago. That’s the home that she deserves to raise her baby in. And that’s the home we provide.

So in response to her dream – I ran through our rules and programs with her. I explained that since so few people get to live here, we must know that she’s serious about her future and her education.  We must know that she’ll work as hard as we work to move her towards her goals.  She looked at me steadily and said,

 “I’m not scared.  I’m ready for this.  You guys don’t sound so bad.  I need someone to help keep me on track.”

 I wish I had a magic sense that could tell us whether or not she’ll be successful here. I don’t know that. But I do know that she deserves a CHANCE. We all do.

In the work I do, there is a certain level of overwhelming, heart-aching pain for what these teens and their babies go through.  Most adults in their lives have let them down.  They don’t deserve the hardship they have endured, and the odds are stacked against them.  These girls are facing a highly documented uphill battle.  Teen pregnancy is full of daunting statistics about dropouts and poverty.  It’s heavy.

And so I wish people could really see these kids. Really see them. Not just the statistics, but the kids. They are so brave, so gritty, so scrappy and smart.  They are strong, and they have, and always will, survive. They are WARRIORS. They have endured things that most adults would find unfathomable. And they are making it.  They are getting up, putting one foot in front of the other, and carving out a new life for themselves and their babies.  They are cracking jokes, making friends, and teaching their babies the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Down came the rain and washed the spider out… out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

It’s like that.

100% of our high school seniors have graduated.  100% of our babies have been born full-term and at a healthy birth weight and 75% of our girls have found employment while they have lived with us. And when they leave- when they move out and on and up – they call us.  They call us to tell us all about their baby’s birthday party, their college classes, their new apartment, their jobs.  They call to ask us what baby food to buy, and how to understand a light bill.  They came to us feeling like they were all alone in the world, but they leave with a family. They learn, here, that We Belong To Each Other.

Monkees- I am asking you to help me raise the funds necessary to say YES to the teenage warrior I met last week.  The one I just told you about. This Love Flash Mob is for HER. Right now she’s alone and without a home – but we don’t have to leave her that way. You – WE can offer her and her baby a CHANCE. She doesn’t know. She’s out there, wondering what she’ll do next. Why no one will help her. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that a WORLD FULL of women warriors are about to sweep her up in love and give her and her baby a home and a future. She doesn’t know that the world loves her yet. But she will.

It’s a tall order. We follow all state regulations and staffing rules so the money we need  to offer this girl and her baby a home for a year is a large sum- Eighty three thousand dollars.

As a small non-profit, we run on the leanest budget possible, and every dollar raised goes directly towards supporting client services.  The truth is, providing services at this level is expensive.  This funding provides a family with two highly trained, passionate and supportive staff twenty-four hours a day.  It provides this mom with a staff member to hold her hand during her first ultrasound, and someone to watch her child while she takes her final exam in Algebra.  It gives her programs on how to become a better parent, how to balance a checkbook, and hands-on help grocery shopping and cooking. It’s diapers, a backpack, a bus pass, and co-pays, and interview clothes.  It’s her first months’ rent and a crib when she leaves our house. It gives her a highly talented therapist to untangle and help her heal from the trauma and neglect she’s suffered in her life, and a staff member to sit on the couch with her at 2am to let her know that sometimes, babies just cry, and it’s not her fault.  It’s full support, and then some.

After all, we are not going wide, we are going deep.  

If, within the next two days, we raise the 83 thousand dollars needed to care for this girl and her baby for a year, I promise you that I will go to her and BRING HER HOME. In your name, Monkees- in the name of LOVE, I will bring her home.

And when Glennon comes to visit us at Project Home Indy in May, she will meet this young mama. And she will give her a hug that is sixty five thousand strong. And Glennon will tell her that she is Not Alone and that She is Loved. And because you will have turned your love into ACTION- this young mama, this warrior, will believe her.


 ***************************** **************************

Let’s bring her home, Monkees. Let’s show her that the world DOES care about her and DOES care about her baby…the world cares enough to make HER LIFE OUR business. Let’s make this young mama our business.

Love Flash Mob Rules:

  1. The Flash Mob will run for 48 hours. After the 48 hours are over – the flash mob is closed. Whatever we have at that time is what we have. In the unbelievable event that we raise more than what is needed, the overflow will go to Monkee See – Monkee Do to help other parents in need.

       2. THE MAXIMUM DONATION IS $25 dollars. Small things with great love.

      3. If you have $5 to give- give it.  This is NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT. It’s about the love being offered. Give what you can (UP TO $25) and rest in the fact that YOU ARE  MAKING A          DIFFERENCE. Changing the world for one mama today. That’s a decent day’s work.

Allright, Lovers of the Light. Let’s Make it Rain for this mama.


There is no greater honor than participating in the lifting up of another woman. None.
Today, you raised 85 thousand dollars in five and a half hours. THAT’S MORE THAN $250 DOLLARS PER MINUTE. I just received this message from Sarah:

We called her and told her that it’s REALLY going to happen. She’s packing faster now. She doesn’t have much, so it will be easy. I heard Jamie, our case manager say on the phone, “YES, REALLY”, “I REALLY MEAN IT” several times. We get to say yes. Because of you and the Monkees.

Love, Sarah

She’s packing. She’s crying and packing.
THROUGH YOU- GOD SAID YES. YES- this world cares for you. YES- you are worthy of becoming a mama and a good one and YES you are not only worthy of that but worthy of HELP. Because you matter. Your baby matters. What happens to the two of you MATTERS. You matter to women all over the WORLD who have NEVER even met you, sister. Because you and that baby – you belong to us. And we belong to you.
We Belong To Each Other.
She comes home tonight. It’s done. It’s done.

We will end this Flash Mob tonight. Don’t stop giving. We have more sisters to help. These are some of the women waiting for our help from Monkee See – Monkee Do. They are hoping and praying that we will have room.

– a woman whose husband has left her and her kids

– a family who needs to travel for treatment for a bi-polar child

– travel for a Monkee sister to meet her soul-Monkee-sister to hold her hand as her child goes through a bone marrow transplant

– mama who is bed-ridden and needs surgery to be able to care for her daughter with special needs

– mama who is drowning in stress and worry over how to pay for surgeries that gave her son fingers and -toes and more surgeries needed in the future

– mama and daughter who both have cancer


I’ll update you every hour.

I do not care what anyone says. It cannot ever, ever get better than this.

Love Wins.

With Love and Gratitude –

Mar 112013

Amma up, no time to edit- so sorry. Love.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson


It’s 5:30 am and still dark out. It’s sort of dark and chilly inside, too. The coffee is making that ticking, bubbling sound it makes when it’s brewing. There are not many spans of time I need to move through faster than the span between I have no coffee  and that first sip.

When Chase was a baby, he was so chubby that he couldn’t move for a couple months. I just thought: “I guess that’s how babies look!” But I’ve seen a lot of babies in the past decade and none of them look like Chase looked. He couldn’t crawl – couldn’t move, even. That part was nice. He just sat and laughed. Here’s a baby picture.

Every time we took him to well checks, the doctor would show us his growth curve and inform us that he was “off the charts.”  I always took that to be a compliment.  but in retrospect, maybe not.

That’s how I feel- like I’m always off the charts- up, down, left, right – one way or another. Too dramatic. I’ve heard it my whole life. Mostly from the critic in my own brain.

I woke up this morning thinking maybe I’d tell you how I’m really feeling.  I still keep some feelings secret. Sometimes, even here, I feel like I can only go so far. I feel inappropriate. I have felt, my whole life – like I’m just a little too much.  Life, in all its bruty – other people, the sunset, dogs, coffee, music – these things threaten to explode my heart on a daily basis. I don’t know how to explain how I feel other than explosive. I also feel explosive in other ways. I almost exploded from anger at some other parents at Chase’s soccer game on Saturday. Yep, I had to pray my way through the entire game to stay dormant – and by the time I made it to the car- I had to let a few tears go to get myself back on the charts.

Thick skin must be nice to have. Skinless is a hard way to live. It’s probably hard to live with, too. But maybe it’s good in some ways, also. Maybe it’s easier for me to see and catch beauty – like my sensitivity means I’ve been given an extra wide butterfly net with especially strong netting. Life is about how you use what you got, right?

Even though I know that, I’ve spent a whole lot of my life trying to be different than I am at my core. Fighting my nature. Trying to be less sensitive. More social. Trying to climb back onto the charts. Dulling my intense feelings with whatever was nearest- wine, food, cigarettes, sex, whatever. I just wanted to be acceptable. I wanted to fit in. But I don’t know about that anymore.

I’m thirty six years old. And as I sit here in the dark this morning, I am realizing that in all the most important ways- I am still the same person I was when I was six. So maybe I am who I am for a purpose. And maybe I’m wasting my energy trying to be different. The book “Quiet” by Susan Cain is helping me understand this better.

Truth: I think that no matter how hard I fight it,  I am an incredibly sensitive, extreme introvert.


I can go days without speaking to anyone other than my family.

Craig always wants to travel – and I try to love the idea, but in the end it doesn’t really make sense to me. I can learn everything I need to know from the gas station attendant down the street –or from this book that ‘s rocking my world today – or from just staring at the ocean. Why travel? You can learn everything from anything.

I live in a retirement community. I call that an “accident” but, I mean, c’mon.

I’d rather give a speech to five hundred people than go to a party.

I feel most connected to humanity when I’m physically with no other human beings. Listening to a beautiful song, reading a gripping poem – looking at the sea. By myself.

I can write to you about my most personal things (marriage trouble, etc) but I find these things close to  impossible discuss out loud with my friends. Everything in writing, please.


I’ve forever felt like these things meant that something was wrong with me. My friends are mostly extroverts…and I didn’t understand how I could love them so much but really not need to see them all that often.  In a culture where GIRLS NIGHTS are supposed to be the holy grail of womenhood, I just felt like maybe I was less womanish than most. Anti-social, maybe.  I hate Girls’ Nights. There, I said it. I need my friends one on one. And I need them before eight pm. After eight pm is for the couch and  for TV and for books or it’s for bed. After eight pm is for turning into a pumpkin. It’s time to surrender to myself.

In honor of letting myself be myself –  Let me tell you my real feelings about this upcoming book tour.

I am scared- but not for the reasons you might think.

Truth- doing book signings sometimes feels like a little slice of hell to me.  At the last signing there were tons of Monkees in line. Monkees.  In a line. Doesn’t that seem off? And there were so many of them. One after the other. As far as I could see. Each with her own novel full of life chapters bursting inside of her. Pages and pages of triumphs and tragedies and comedies and horrors. I wanted to hear it all. I wanted to hear it all, from everyone. I am a student of this brutiful life and it was painfully clear to me as I sat in that stupid chair behind that stupid table that everyone in that line was my teacher.  And I had only a minute with each teacher. So I’d look into a woman’s eyes and I’d know from the electrically charged space between us that she was A MONKEE- someone who believed deeply in what was happening here- someone who recognized the truth here, someone who’d been changed by this place , someone who had been DOING LIFE with me and all the others here. Someone who had been catching these Hail Mary passes that my soul sends out every day. And so we’d hug over the table and cry a little and I’d try to write something in her book that would show her that I KNEW – that I was in this moment with her- that I wanted to run away with her actually, and hear her entire life story from start to finish with a bottomless cup of tea and a two cozy blankets. That even though I looked like I was on the charts- with my smile and regular appearance and heels and plain old words coming out of my mouth –  that inside my soul was completely off the charts. That my soul could see the strength and depth and height and width of her soul and wanted to just DANCE with her.

But we had a minute. And so every meeting felt like a missed opportunity.  Damn TIME and SPACE. How could we build this connection, this divine connection over five years and then only have one minute together? It felt absolutely hellish to me.

Hell is when the stupid boundaries of this physical world make it impossible to show how much you care.

Hell is Chronos when what you desperately need is Kairos.

Whenever something feels hellish to me, I try to consider the flipside of that experience, which points me to heaven. Part of my soul is rejecting this experience –so my soul must need something different, because Heaven is where our souls get what they need. And so all of a sudden, in this book signing context –  the idea of eternity made sense to me for the first time.

Eternity is for bottomless cups of tea and learning every little thing about each other. It’s the time and space for real intimacy with everyone. Heaven.

Anyway- this is what I was thinking about this morning.

I know. Off the charts. Whatevs.

Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it.

Monet- via Jeanette LeBlanc


Love You-



PS. Listen- there was a moment during the last book signing that I will never forget. A Monkee who had traveled far to meet me and the other Monkees made it to the front of the line. She looked at me and leaned over towards me and so I leaned towards her. And she wiped at her nose and whispered, “G – do this.”  So I wiped at my nose. And I had a BOOGER.

This Monkee used her minute to tell me I had a booger. She looked at me and made a snap decision to take one for the team. To risk an awkward moment in the hopes of saving me from 100 more awkward moments.

THAT, my friends, is MONKEE LOVE.

PPS.  Grab a few Kairos moments today. Let the rest go.


Invest 2 seconds & get your first G-LOVE email in your inbox NOW!!