Feb 252015
 

Last month I began telling you about my trip to the Dominican Republic with our partner CWS. At the end of last year, I visited CWS-supported programs in the Dominican Republic and met the MessMaker, holy rascal, badass Sister: Denisse Pichardo. Denisse runs an organization called Caminante, which means “We Walk Together.”

Here’s More:

Caminante

When Amy and I landed in Boca Chica, we piled into a van and went straight from the airport to the main Caminante building. We were ushered up a flight of stairs into a room full of staff and volunteers who were all sitting around a table in a circle, looking at us. I was very scared.

My plan was to quietly smile a lot, see God in their work, and take one million notes so I could report back to you as accurately as possible. My plan was to be a silent but attentive REPORTER. At first, this plan seemed to be working. Folks went around the table telling us who they were and what they did at Caminante, while Luciano—a CWS Program Officer for Protection of the Rights of the Child, and also one of my translators—helped me understand. But when the circle got around to me, Luciano leaned over and whispered, “Glennon, would you move to the front of the room and take some time now to tell them your story?”

I am still embarrassed about my reaction to Luciano’s completely reasonable request. I panicked. WHA???? No no no no! NONONONONO! I already DID hard things! I came here! I left my couch and my COUNTRY! I’m here and this is my hard thing and no more hard things! No ambushes! I immediately started sweating through my shirt and had seven million heart attacks and stomped Amy’s foot underneath the table and I am surprised to report that I actually felt angry. Isn’t it crazy how quickly we try to cover our fear with anger? Is anger just fear wearing a bulletproof vest? I don’t know. I just know that I said: No, thank you. I’m here to listen, not speak. I’m here to learn, not teach. No, thank you. Luciano nodded and said, “Ok. I understand. You don’t have to share—it’s just that sometimes we can think that life is only hard in poor countries, and that people in America have it easy and are always happy. It might help people to hear that you struggle, too.”

My immediate and highly spiritual reaction to Luciano was DAMNIT, MAN!!!

“Ok, hold on.” I said. “So you just want me to explain that I’m all jacked up and so are most of my people? Okay. Fine. I can do that. THAT I can do. That is actually kind of my jam. I will try.” And Luciano said, “Yes. Your jam. I watched your Ted talk. This is your jam.”

You guys: pick a good jam because folks will keep requiring you to do your jam all the times forevermore amen. Even in places that are not your country: your jam it is. I might suggest that you choose a jam like hula-hooping or juggling. These seem solid. But if you have no skills, all you have to jam about is the truth. And so I stood up and dragged my chair in front of all the people and curled up in my little roly-poly ball and I said, “Hi. I’m very nervous right now because I’ve never sat in front of a crew of real live heroes before. My name is Glennon and I’m from the United States. I’m an alcoholic and food addict. I’m a bulimic actually.”

They all looked at each other and shifted in their chairs and then they seemed to collectively sit up straighter. I panicked again. Did they understand bulimia? Would I have to explain it? How the hell would I explain that I had so much food that I ate and ate and threw it up in the toilet and ate some more to people without enough food? I thought about being really, really ashamed of my horrible, ridiculous, wasteful, American, self-harming self. But then I told myself: STOP IT. NO. Glennon—refuse to be ashamed of your problems and they’ll not be ashamed of theirs. That’s how it works. At home and everywhere else, probably. CARRY ON. I carried on.

I went on to tell them that in America we tend to smile a lot in public and in our Facebook profile pics, but we also tend to cry a lot when we’re at home alone. I said that many of us have plenty to eat and warm homes but we’re lonely. I told them that I wanted to be less lonely and stop smiling all the time unless I meant it, so I started writing and telling the truth about my loneliness. I explained that others who were also tired of making life harder by pretending it’s not hard joined me, and so now we’re walking through life together. We just try to walk beside each other, I said, because life is a little less scary and lonely when you’re walking with somebody. I said that in our own way—we’re kind of Caminante-ing. When I said that part, they all started laughing. Caminate-ing is not a word, apparently. I was grateful for the laughter, though, because it was the first sound in the room since I’d started talking.

And then: magic. Love chaos. Everybody started going off script. We were not relief organization/reporter any longer. We were just human/human. They told me stories. They told me the same things you tell me when I visit you. They told me that they get tired and afraid a lot and sometimes they feel great hope and sometimes they feel hopeless. They told me that when I walked in, they’d assumed I had everything and that I had it all together. They told me that when people come to visit their programs they usually ask to hear about the work, ask to hear THEIR stories, but visitors rarely share their own lives and struggles. I listened and listened and relearned with fresh shock what I learn every single damn day: OH MY GOD. IT’S TRUE. WE REALLY ARE ALL THE SAME. WE REALLY ARE ALL THE SAME. Vulnerability breaks down all barriers, even the barriers of language and culture. Truth is a key that unlocks everybody.

Laughing in the group

The floodgates opened after that afternoon. We spent the next two days sharing in groups big and small, introducing ourselves to each other, telling the stories of our brutiful lives. And I brought you all with me into the circles, by sharing who we are to each other, and what we do here at Momastery.

Hug

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barber

Santa

School

Here’s Sabrina.

Sabrina

Sabrina started coming to Caminante for counseling and support when she was 8 years old. She’s 17 now and she told us that she is a Multiplier. When I asked her what it meant to be a Multiplier, she explained: a multiplier is a young person who has passed through different Caminante programs. Once the Caminante staff feels the youth is ready, she is sent to seek out and serve others as she’s been served. To multiply the love she’s received. You pass it on. That’s just what you do. Sabrina is such an effective multiplier that, with Denisse’s support and encouragement, she has become a national youth leader. When we met Sabrina, she had just returned from an international youth conference in Mexico, training teens and youth adults to be tomorrow’s leaders. To that I said, “Ba-BAM.” It was hard to explain what Ba-BAM meant. We eventually settled on YAY.

This is Benjamin.

Benjamin

Benjamin was lost to drugs, violence and darkness for 22 years, so I felt a kinship with him right away. Benjamin heard that he could find a fresh start at Caminante, and he came to Boca Chica and enrolled in training classes to become a cook. Benjamin told us that the cooking teacher at Caminante saved him. She taught him skills he can use to get a job, but, more importantly, she showed him for the first time that he is loved, and worthy to receive love. He told us, “We know that when we give, we should give from the heart, but I didn’t know that when we receive, we need to receive from the heart as well. My teacher showed me how to receive the love that exists for me. I have to believe I’m worthy of receiving it. I receive it now. By teaching me to receive love, my teacher created a new me.” Sit with that truth for a minute. When we deem ourselves worthy to receive love: we become new. So wise, this Benjamin. I love him. He helped me.

cookCook

This is Benjamin’s cooking teacher. She may have been able to save Benjamin, but she couldn’t save me. Oh how they tried, but they couldn’t teach me how to cook. After this hour together, I felt like they were very worried about America. They will probably have telethons for our hungry children. Sorry.

And finally, this is Melissa.

Melissa

Melissa got involved with Caminante when she was 16, and it quickly became apparent that she was born to lead. She is 19 now, and she teaches a preschool program she created herself. As we sat in a circle with Melissa, talking about her work, someone asked her if she saw something special in any of the kids that she taught. Did any of them have a particular spark or light about them? Melissa paused and looked at us all hard for minute. Then she spoke truth. “Each one of my children has a special light in them. Every one. The question is not—’Do they shine?’ but ‘Do we see them shining?’ We have to be the ones to see it. Society smashes people down. How do we get back up? How do we help others to keep going? We look for the light already in children and we make it burn brighter, keep it from being put out. Every one of my students is full of light. ” Tweet: Everyone has a light. The question is not—

So there it is. That’s what CWS is doing, I think. They’re staring hard out into a world of pain and poverty and hardship, and they’re seeing sparks of light. They are fanning those sparks into flames in people, and supporting those flames so they can help others burn, too.

We are all the same. We all have a light that is meant to shine, and we are meant to see it in others. We are all born to shine, to be multipliers. I am now more sure of that than ever.

God Bless Us, Every One.

Let us keep caminante-ing, my beautiful friends.

Feb 202015
 
Shocked.

You’ve seen these faces before. I’m sure you’ll see them again.

My philosophy about sex talks with kids is to be open, honest and matter-of-fact, so they won’t sense that shame and sex are intertwined and so, when they do become interested in exploring their sexuality, they might be motivated by love instead of blind curiosity. I want them to take sex seriously enough to know it’s holy. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

My reality is that I AM STILL LEARNING THAT STUFF. This makes me a shaky-at-best sex teacher. So whenever my kids ask about sex- I panic and then just start saying crap. I just start saying all the things. Far too many things, Craig suggests. Last night I was sitting at dinner, minding my own business, when my middle child said the following words:

“So, how you get a baby is you pray for one, right?”

Craig’s fork froze mid-air and I looked at him and then at my girl and I just wanted to yell: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, CHILD???  Don’t you remember when I said all the hard words like penis and vagina and union and consent to you???? PRAY? SWEET JESUS ON A BICYCLE — DOES NO ONE IN THIS DOMICILE HEAR THE WORDS THAT COME OUT OF MY MOUTH?????

But I did not say those things because I am an official, card-carrying Parenting Expert. And so I said: “WELL, I suppose praying might have something to do with baby-making, sure. But, you know, even if you  pray to win the lottery till the cows come home,  you’re not gonna win unless you also BUY A TICKET. Making big things happen requires PARTICIPATION.”

I thought that would take care of the whole sex thing because apparently clear, open and straightforward means speaking in strange parables and metaphors. But judging by the faces of my people, nothing was clear. All the children, plus Craig, plus the dogs, were quietly staring at me. Even the guinea pig suddenly looked confused. [OH SHUT UP, GUINEA PIG – YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! ALSO, WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING ALIVE? YOU ARE ONE MILLION IN GUINEA PIG YEARS!!!! LET GO! GO TOWARDS THE LIGHT! GO WITH GOD, ROMEO!!! FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF YOUR NAMESAKE AND ROMANTICALLY EMBRACE THE GREAT BEYOND!!!]

The point is that Team Melton looked puzzled. And so while they stared at me, I imagined them explaining to their future spouses that, since they felt ready to be parents now, it must be time to travel into town and purchase a ticket to win a cow. I tried to clarify:  “So you can pray, but in order to make a baby, what has to happen is that a man’s penis has to go inside a woman’s vagina.” (Now is when my oldest child covered his ears, slid under the table and started rocking back and forth and repeating: I’M GOING TO DIE I AM GOING TO DIE  MOM STOP TALKING MOM WE’RE EATING MOM I AM GOING TO DIE) But I warriored on because that’s what I do. I am a TRUTH TELLER AND TERROR SPREADER. “But that’s not the only way to make a baby. Now scientists can also take a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm and make a baby in a small plastic, like, container, dish thing. That’s another way.”

By now they were still staring, but their mouths had all gone slack, too. Chase was still chanting under the table. BUT I WARRIORED ON.

“The thing to remember is that sex is a special thing for older people who love each other deeply and are committed to each other. Like married.” Oh God, this part is tricky. Tricky, tricky, please don’t ask anymore questions.

And then my YOUNGEST said, “Well, if it’s the penis thing, then you don’t have to be married. You could just walk up to anybody and say: HEY: DO YOU WANT TO PUT YOUR PENIS IN MY VAGINA???”

This is when I was able to tell, just by his tomato face, that Craig had officially stopped trusting me to drive this train. Which was understandable but honestly man: don’t tell me with your face that there’s a problem UNLESS YOUR BRAIN HAS A SOLUTION. Craig’s solution was to put down his fork and say, over and over- one thousand million times. “NO. No, no, no, no. Nope. No. No. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. No, honey. No. You DON”T SAY THAT. YOU DON’T EVER, EVER ASK THAT, AMMA. No. Nope. No.”

After No number one billion I decide to take back my train.

I say. “The thing is, there is a lot more to say about this. This is a long, lifelong conversation. (“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” the boy adds sub-table. “NOOOOOO MORE!”) “YES. MORE. This is important. Sex is a grown-up, beautiful, wonderful thing that is about love and commitment and is NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. I also want to add that if you repeat to your friends anything we’ve said here, I will not only deny having said it- I will also deny that you are my children. ” As a parenting expert, I know that it’s important never to send mixed messages about shame.

Then I put us out of our collective misery by saying: LET’S GET BACK TO THIS ANOTHER DAY. How bout that?  “YES,” they all said. “Or never,” the tween added. “Maybe we never, ever get back to this. This is not your best work, Mom.” True, I said. But it’s not my worst, either.

When I went to tuck my middle into bed a few hours later, she said: “Mama, remember dinner?”

Yes, I remember dinner and I remember the Alamo and likely they were equally disastrous.

“Well, Mom, I am imagining that my head is a house. Way up here is the attic. I am going to put that story about the penis and the vaginas and the plastic containers up here in the attic. I’ll know it’s up there if I need it, but I don’t want to see it out laying around the house. Okay?”

WEIRD CONFUSING PARABLES AND METAPHORS! YES! THAT’S MY GIRL!

What I’m saying here is: That went well. Some things don’t get easier. Some conversations are hard and awkward and imperfect and all we have to do is keep having them anyway. Tweet: Some conversations are hard & awkward & imperfect & all we have to do is keep having them anyway. http://ctt.ec/nNws9+ @momastery

Carry On, Sexy Warriors.

Feb 182015
 

Amy and I asked you to send us your stories, to let us be your witnesses. You trusted us. We read, we cried, we breathed in your pain and courage and out love and peace to you.  We signed every story. Your stories have been witnessed. It all happened. You are seen and believed. It all happened. It’s true.

We cried a little. Then we burned your pain to ashes. Your pain was so beautiful- going up in flames. Warming us, scaring us a little, even. Your pain was bright and it smelled like marshmallows. Then it was cool. Cool ashes can’t burn us. Tweet: Your pain was beautiful, going up in flames. Warming us-scaring us, even. Then it was cool. Cool ashes can’t burn us. http://ctt.ec/35Z41+

These are our stories. Below are our words.

letters

So that boy told me I was fat, and I believed I was fat. And then little by little, I did get kinda fat. I was teased mercilessly, and it hurt so much.

You let me down

When I found the courage

To tell you what had happened to me.

What these men had done to me.

What they took from me.

You swept it under the rug.

You never spoke of it again.

You never even told dad. I don’t understand.

IT STILL HURTS.

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 I would love to work with other domestic abuse survivors. I would love to one day tell my story without crying. One day I’ll tell my story and it will bring strength to others like me. God gives beauty for ashes.

It was hard to carry a baby expected to die.  Everyone asks, what are you having? What are you supposed to say?

I don’t love my husband.

      In fact I don’t think I ever did.

        In fact, I’m certain I never have.

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I learned how to give a blowjob at ten. By eleven, I was an expert.

Even now, all these years later, I can still feel his cold eyes on me.

I fear I’m weak. I fear I’m selfish. I know I’m a bad person. I know what the right thing to do is but God help me, I don’t want to do it.

I’m not sure I’ve ever written that word down before. God, how that hurts.

Thank you for this gift. I’ve been waiting for it since I was ten years old. Thirty-four years is a long time to wait.

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 I was a ten-year-old being put in a girdle. Now I wear Spanx. Please God, help me love myself.

For most of my life, I feel like I’ve been let down by people.

I guess what I mean to say is that I want to be the person I used to be. A baby I loved was taken from me. My body failed me. My community of support failed me. I wish these things had never happened.

Man, it took such courage for me to go see that damn counselor.

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I honestly think I shouldn’t have had kids. It’s too hard. It’s just way too hard.

I think I’m addicted to my shame.

I have so much to offer the world. Mostly Love! A deep and true love for everyone I encounter. I don’t want to be famous, I just want to be respected and admired only at a level deep enough that it would make it worth something when I told someone that I care, I love them, I see them, and they’re not alone.

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I listened to your Ted Talk while I drove my husband to rehab.

And all I can think of is that I shouldn’t complain. Other people have bigger problems. I’m going to send this anyway, though.

I’m afraid if I start crying, I’ll never stop.

Please burn this and pray hard for the children who suffer from this disease. And for their parents. And for the others like me who do our very best to make it all go away.

My husband and I are 5 months into therapy. I am painting. I am present. I know me and love me again.

I wonder when in my life I’ll be able to be ME out in the open. I fear the answer is never. I fear Christians.

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“Come here,” she said, and beckoned me beside her.

I flew to her side as she moved the covers to let me snuggle next to her.

“Want to learn to sew?” she asked.

This is what heaven feels like.

The love of a mother.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel things so deeply.

I started thinking of all the things to write in the shower after reading your post. Do all of your twisty thoughts happen in the shower, too?

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 All he does is get home and check out. All he does is play his playstation. I want to be seen.

She’s been dead for twelve years this February…and it still FEELS.

I carry mace in case my husband loses his shit again.

You know what? I just wrote a very painful three page letter to you. When I was done, I stopped crying. Then I burned the letter myself in my fireplace! And now, for some reason, I’m laughing.

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I waited on him hand and foot. Then, by December he was healthy enough to start cheating again.

I was lost, hopeless, scared, hurt, and felt less than. Not anymore. The ashes are cool. And they can’t burn me anymore. Life is amazing.

You both are the only witnesses to this admission of mine. For this opportunity to be heard, prayed for, and transformed into cool ashes with the chance to rise again like the Phoenix…I cannot express my gratitude enough. From the bottom of my scarred, strong soul: thank you.

G, does God really love me? Does God see me? Is God real?

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Letters are still coming in, and we are still reading. There is no deadline. We will read your stories every night through lent and beyond.

To ashes you fell and from ashes you will rise.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

–e.e cummings

G and A

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