I’m So Tired

I am so tired of feeling angry all the time, and I am so angry about feeling tired all the time. Can anyone else relate? I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

I am not living my best life, and I am not being my best self. I have reset my expectations. I constantly practice self-care. I have both meditated and medicated. I have gotten acupuncture regularly. I have never worked this hard just to feel ok…

Despite all my efforts in self-care, I have never felt this emotionally spent and physically exhausted in my life. I have read all sorts of articles that describe this fatigue – so I know this is very real, and that there are valid reasons for it. It is just a matter of time until someone comes up with a clever phrase for the special kind of fatigue that we are experiencing in 2020. It is way more than “pandemic fatigue.” The combination of the pandemic, a divisive election, and racial unrest is just overwhelming at times. The wear and tear on my psyche, on my mental and emotional well being is palpable.

I know almost immediately when I am out of balance. I am edgy, am easily irritated and quick to snap (at Jerry since he is the one with me 24/7), and do not sleep well.  Lately, I have become quick to anger – and I often feel rage. My rage is usually caused by our current administration, and sometimes caused by the people who support it. Sometimes – it is caused by people I know. Sometimes – those people are family or friends.

I could try to turn it “off” and survive (I think of this as similar to “turning off my humanity” for any Vampire Diaries fans).  My ability to turn it off would be a manifestation of my privilege, and I no longer want to act from my privilege. I want things to be different – I want a different president, I want racial justice, I want to preserve our earth for future generations, and I want strong leadership, and a cooperative society to help us survive the COVID 19 pandemic. This is a lot. I am not going to give up hope, but the struggle in fighting for these things is very real.

Almost every single day, at any given moment, I feel more frustration, anger and rage – and underneath it, is fear and sadness. I am truly scared that things will continue to get worse before they get better. I truly feel that the election is going to culminate in a constitutional crisis, and that the traditional peaceful transition of power is not likely to be peaceful. In my lifetime, the stakes have never been this high…so to turn off my “caring” is just not a possibility for me. However, acting from my fear and rage is not working for me, nor is it helping to achieve anything that I support.

I care very deeply about our country – I care for our military and their families, I care for the our civil servants including our police and firefighters, for our healthcare workers, for our teachers, for people with disabilities, for dreamers, for BIPOC, for LBGTQ – ALL at the same time.

For example, it is possible – and in my opinion “right” – to support the police while at the same time supporting police reform. I support Black Lives Matters, while at the same time denouncing rioting and also denouncing the brutal use of force against unarmed people of color. The perception that this is an either/or has only divided us. When did we forget that many things can be true at the same time?? When did we start to accept “alternative facts” instead of reckoning with the truths of what is happening in our world? When did we forget that the answers are usually between the extremes, and that we can get to some answers through respectful discussion?

The rhetoric I see around this on a daily basis only feeds my frustration, anger and resentment. It is soooo tempting to lash out – to let the anger and fear control me. It is so easy to forward a tweet, meme, video, article or whatever that only add to the noise. I know because I have done it – many times.

Anger is like a drug. It makes me feel powerful – and can give me some fuel in the tank – but when I act from anger, I am left more depleted, more empty, and end up not only damaging relationships, but also failing to gain any kind of possible momentum for the causes I support. It is a false power as a friend pointed out to me…making us feel that we have control when we do not. It is not sustainable. And while I know this, it is still incredibly hard for me to channel it in a healthy way. And from what I see around me every moment of every day, we are ALL struggling with this.

 Remember this powerful quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I am trying to do this!!! And I definitely do not always get it right. Finding the middle ground is part of the answer. Acting from love instead of fear or anger is a HUGE part of the answer. I have learned that love is a renewable energy – and am trying to remember that in those moments of anger and rage.

More love.
I made this meme out a picture I took of a heart-shaped heirloom tomato. There are signs everywhere!

My anger has been spilling over a little too easily lately, but I have recognized it and am working through it. I even decided to try medication again because I recognize that I could use some help especially over the next few months with my fear and anxiety heightened more than usual.

Maintaining healthy boundaries is also a major part of the answer. Yes, I will try to be kind. Yes, I will try to be more “human.”  Yes, I will try to act from love instead of fear and anger.

But – to quote Glennon Doyle from Untamed,

“I will not stay, not ever again – in a room or conversation or institution that requires me to abandon myself.”

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

This means I will not be quiet just to make other people comfortable. I am not about to practice toxic positivity and ignore what is happening around me, nor will I silence myself to preserve someone else’s feelings.

However, I will work hard to find the right balance in all of this – and I will continue to fight for the things that I care about – and I will continue to try to do this in a way that will encourage others to follow.

All That You Have is Your Soul

Sometimes songs come to me at the exact right time. I think this is one of the ways God speaks to me – and I consider that to be “grace.” This gorgeous song by Tracy Chapman just came on my Pandora station as I sit and reflect about the state of our world – and my place in it.

Don’t be tempted by the shiny apple

Don’t you eat of a bitter fruit

Hunger only for a taste of justice

Hunger only for a world of truth

‘Cause all that you have is your soul

Here I am waiting for a better day

A second chance

A little luck to come my way

A hope to dream a hope that I can sleep again

And wake in the world with a clear conscience and clean hands

‘Cause all that you have is your soul

-Tracy Chapman

I am contemplating a question my friend Maryanne posed to me a few weeks ago when she asked me “what do I stand for” and whether my answer is guiding me during these challenging times. I quickly answered her – that I stand for truth, justice, and love. I admitted to Maryanne that – yes – as corny as this is – these are Wonder Woman’s virtues. This is the reason I am a Wonder Woman aficionado.

My partner Jerry and my sister Jacquie both spend a small fortune on Wonder Woman gifts for me – and I am sure one of them has already bought me this t-shirt: https://www.wbshop.com/collections/wonder-woman-shirts/products/wonder-woman-1984-vintage-justice-unisex-t-shirt and/or Alex Ani bracelet https://www.alexandani.com/products/wonder-woman-truth-love-justice-duo-charm-bangle (hint, hint Jerry & Jacquie!)

While corny – truth, justice and love have truly become my guiding principles. That part of the equation is not the hard part for me.  I can easily discern my principles by paying close attention to what triggers me – and lately I am triggered almost daily (hourly!) by lies, chaos, injustices, and fear mongering that seem so prevalent in our society in 2020. The challenge for me is to detach from the things I cannot control – to not assign too much meaning to the outcome of my fight for truth, justice, and love.  If I cannot figure out how to let it go, I am left hopeless, frustrated, despondent, angry…yet another victim or perpetrator of the vitriol we all see in social media. My friend Matt recently reminded me of the pertinent words of Viktor Frankl, that “a human being is a deciding being” – that we each have our choices about our mindsets of how we view the world and how we attach meaning to what happens to us.

When I heard Tracy Chapman so beautifully sing these lyrics, I found a connection to Viktor Frankl’s search for meaning. So, I try each day to do what I can to live my values and work to detach from outcomes, so that I can go to sleep at night with some amount of peacefulness and hope amidst the chaos of 2020. Detachment from outcomes is NOT EASY for me, especially in this year. Believe me – I have a lot of strong reactions to what I see on social media – and say a lot to myself – or to Jerry – to process my thoughts and emotions before I decide to post or comment. There are usually more than a few curse words included in my reactions – but I try hard to filter out the anger – to not lash back out and create even more noise. I do not always get it right – but staying silent is no longer an option for me. “Staying out of it” or “choosing to not get political” is no longer consistent with my values.

I have both consciously and subconsciously surrounded myself with reminders of my values all around me. Yes – this has led to a minor obsession with Wonder Woman. These are on the wall in front of my desk where I see them all day, every day. The image on the left reminds me to fight for what is right. The image on the right (a gift from my sister Jacquie) reminds me to detach from the outcomes of that fight. EVERY DAY I look at these to try to remember to do both.

I also have this little menagerie of bobble heads and action figures that sit next to me on my bookshelf – which I see all day every day now that I exclusively work from home. Each of these special figures represents at least one value that is deeply important to me.

My version of “Super Friends”

Albert Einstein: Genius Scientist. Albert Einstein represents my value of TRUTH because science helps determine what is TRUE. It is because of science (and my discernment of the variety of sources that I curate) that I believe in climate change, that COVID-19 is not a hoax, that wearing a mask reduces the risks of its spread, and that a vaccine should be tested before being released to the public. There are so many great Einstein quotes, but this one speaks to me today:

“The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

Albert Einstein (Amen, sir!)

Yoda: Jedi Master. Yoda represents the value of JUSTICE because fighting evil is simply the right thing to do. One of the reasons I love the Star Wars movies so much is how well they tell the classic story of good versus evil, light versus dark.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Yoda, Episode One, The Phantom Menace

This quote is so relevant to me in 2020 when I see our president using fear as a tool to stoke anger, to deepen hatred, and to further divide our country. This is why I think of myself as part of the “Resistance” fighting against this administration’s evil policies like family separation. There are a lot of people who are on the wrong side of history in 2020, and history will be the judge after the political divides of 2020 are long forgotten.

Prince: Genius Musician. Prince represents the values of GRACE and CHOICE. As I said earlier, God speaks to me through music – and Prince’s music is a spiritual experience to me – and this figurine is my reminder to find joy in music and creative expression. I happen to think Prince may have been the single most talented musician of my generation. He was so unique that he used a symbol for a name for a while – and no one really seemed to mind! Nothing about Prince is easy to define or put “in a box.” He paved his own way with glorious talent and creativity. My favorite Prince lyric of all time can be applied almost daily these days watching the President – not that I want to kiss him. I do not.

“Act your age, not your shoe size.”

Prince, lyrics from “Kiss”

Pope Francis: Spiritual Leader. Pope Francis represents my values of GRACE, LOVE, JUSTICE and SERVICE. This bobble head is my go-to “Sacrament” gift for my nieces and nephews. Pope Francis has restored some of my faith in the Catholic church as an institution. As a divorced feminist who believes in marriage equality, and who believes that women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies – I have often felt lost in the church. Pope Francis has done a great deal of work in reconciling the truth of the abuse that the Church actively sought to hide for so many, many years. I am still uncertain of where I fit into the Catholic Church – but Pope Francis has helped me to feel more welcome than I have in a long time. This is one of my favorite quotes of his – that shows that Pope Francis believes like I do that actions speak louder than words.

“It is not enough to say we are Christians. We must live the faith, not only with our words, but with our actions.”  

Pope Francis

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Notorious Justice. RBG represents my values of EQUALITY, JUSTICE, and CHOICE. Thanks to her work as an attorney in the early 70’s, the Supreme Court made it illegal for people to discriminate on the basis of sex. She became a Supreme Court Justice in 1993, and she is still actively serving at the age of 87. Coming full circle this year in 2020, she voted with 5 other justices to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or transgender status. She has helped to uphold women’s rights over her entire career. She is truly my real-life Wonder Woman. I have several pairs of special RBG socks that I wear on days that I feel the need to channel some extra inner strength.  I often drink my coffee out of a few special mugs that Jerry has given me that help me start my day off on the “right foot” along with my special socks:

Starting my day on the right foot with RBG

Wonder Woman: Superhero. As already stated, Wonder Woman represents my triumvirate of values: TRUTH, JUSTICE and LOVE. Wonder Woman stands for justice as she fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. In my life, I seek justice by advocating for my stepson Eric and other children with profound disabilities. This has become my passion and fuels my life’s purpose. To me, justice also means standing with #blacklivesmatters – and it means I am willing to say that all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.

Wonder Woman is not afraid of the truth – even with the truth is HARD.  What I would do for a magical lasso of truth to force people like our President to tell only truths… I value the truth, and I want to try to embrace it even when it is not easy. This means that I am willing to have hard conversations – not debates – not arguments – but real conversations with people that grapple with systemic racism. It means exploring my own racial biases – to dig a lot deeper than I have been willing to do in the past.

Wonder Woman acts from love, not fear. She knows, like I know, that no one person can save the world. She seems to struggle with the same thing that I struggle with – that pesky detachment from outcomes…the virtue of being able to let go of what we cannot control…But/and – she, like me, is not going to stop fighting for what is right. I hope and I pray that somehow my actions will make a difference to someone else, and that creates some kind of a ripple effect of positive change that shines a light in the darkness…that lights the path for the right choices…that demonstrates that good perseveres over evil…that shows that the truth wins over lies…that proves that love wins over fear. That justice will prevail for all.

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their mind and learned that inside every one of them there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight and I give for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever.”

Diana Prince, “Wonder Woman” movie

I sleep better on the days when I know I have fought the good fight for truth, love and justice…because all that I have is my soul…and some pretty cool bobbleheads and action figures to help light my way.

And on the days that I struggle…I have some special glasses and coozies to help!

Give a Little Bit (or a lot!)

For anyone who reads my blog pretty regularly, you already know I write a lot about Eric and how awesome he is. Well, today I am writing about Eric’s school, Pattison’s Academy – and how awesome it is!

Most of you know that Eric came to live with his Dad and I abruptly – and I had no previous experience with caring for a special needs child. As I wrote in my last blog, I welcomed Eric with all my heart – I knew I was all in, but that didn’t mean I knew exactly what I was getting into. I was apprehensive, and at times fearful, of what was ahead considering how little I knew about how to actually take care of Eric.

From the moment Jerry and I stepped into the doors of Pattison’s Academy (this picture was taken on our first visit), we instantly felt a sense of community and love.

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Our first day with Eric at Pattison’s Academy.

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Eric’s teacher Zach and his assistant Ryan welcomed us with open arms, and we felt a sense of relief immediately and knew we had a lot of support to help us through a tough transition. Zach told us about their big “spin” fundraiser that was taking place a week later – and we jumped right in and helped raise about $1,000 in about a week’s time. At the event, we met a lot of the staff – Eric literally stopped in his tracks to give a beautiful young woman a giant bear hug – which is how I met Coley, who has since become almost an extension of our family.

That first year, Zach, Ryan and Coley taught me how to push Eric to achieve his potential. We knew Eric was not steady on his feet and not physically strong, so we were very careful with him. We set up Eric’s bed without a box spring to make it easy for him to get in and out of bed. Well, imagine my surprise one day when I saw Ryan encourage Eric to lift himself onto a changing table that was more than twice as high as his bed – and he accomplished that with no problem at all! We ordered a box spring that day, and Eric has never had a problem getting in or out of his typical sized bed ever since. I used to carry Eric into the car – until I saw Ryan walk Eric to my car and tell him to climb in all by himself… Carrying Eric into the car ended IMMEDIATELY! From them, I learned the phrase “you do it” – which we use TO THIS DAY to encourage Eric to do more on his own.

Because of Pattison’s Academy, I have learned how to be the best mom I can be.

The Pattison’s staff knows how to safely push Eric to do more, to bring him out into the community more – and are kind, patient beyond measure, and nonjudgmental in their communication with me. I call his teacher Lisa and her assistant Tina my special needs “mom coaches” because of how they have helped me to learn and grow as a mother. This Christmas, I was so nervous to take Eric on my first plane ride together to LA – but I knew Eric could handle it – and I knew we could too. The support I received from the entire teaching, therapy and nursing staff was immeasurable. We have such a special relationship full of trust – it is truly priceless to me!

Pattison’s Academy has made such an impact to my life that I decided to join the board about a year ago. We have a vision for Pattison’s to become the model in our country for educating young students with severe and multiple disabilities in an integrated therapeutic environment. I know this model has worked for Eric and our family – and I want to help Pattison’s to impact more children that would benefit from its programs. As our fundraising chair, I spend most of my spare time helping to raise money for our mission. Once again, I have found myself “all-in” because in my heart I know I am doing the right thing by giving my time, treasure and talent to this organization.

Because the state funding in South Carolina is abysmal for students with multiple disabilities, Pattison’s relies on donations to help fund our programs – which include the charter school, therapy services, early intervention, and an AWESOME and unique summer camp. We also provide bus transportation for our students – which in a county that is over 1300 square miles – is no easy feat.

We would like to be able to grow to serve more children, and to add music & art therapy among other initiatives. All these things require generous donors and patrons to help us to achieve our potential…so that students like Eric can achieve theirs.

I ask you… if you have been moved by my stories about Eric, his accomplishments, and the impact he has had on our lives – please recognize that Pattison’s Academy has been an important factor these last few years.

Please consider supporting Eric and our fundraising team, and make a generous donation to this amazing organization! Our team goal is $4,000 – and we need your help to make it!

https://ktp2018.everydayhero.com/us/laurie

Beautiful Boy

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This is our beautiful boy Eric during “Snow-ma-geddon” here in Charleston a few weeks ago when we enjoyed a record snowfall.  Even though he didn’t want to touch the snow, he was in awe looking around him, and I was lucky enough to snap this photo – my all time favorite one of him.

 

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon

The day I took this picture of Eric a few weeks ago, I randomly came across a journal entry in one of my notebooks from October 2011, and it went straight to my heart. It starts with this line: “I feel it is inevitable that I will adopt a child one day.” I wrote about how I had discovered that the deepest longing I had been carrying during and after my failed marriage was my desire for a family. In that journal entry, I wrote to process my fears as a single person, and remember finding the courage to pursue my dream – and to “put it in the realm of possibility and explore it.” And I did just that – not having an idea that it would lead me one day to Eric.

In 2012, I did pursue adoption – I completed a home study and right before submitting my application to adopt in Russia, Putin shut the door on American adoptions from Russia. I created an adoption profile and pursued private adoption. My friend Diane helped me get “clear.” She asked me…”What is driving you – that you want to be a mom, or that you want to save a life?” And I immediately answered,  “I want to save a life.” So as I entered this journey, I considered all kinds of scenarios including foster care and older children that were in need of a home.

There were ups and downs, and then I met Jerry in March of 2013 after a possible private adoption had just fallen through. At that time, Jerry’s twin daughters Chelsea and Kaitlyn were 19 and lived with him, and Eric was 15 and lived with his mother in Columbia. I immediately bonded with the twins – we have developed wonderful, enriching relationships over the years. It has been my pleasure to have entered their lives during such a dynamic time – to help mentor and love them as they “adulted” over the last five years.

Eric came to live with his Dad (Jerry) and I a few years ago after their mom passed away tragically, and after living with Chelsea and Kaitlyn for some months (you can read more about that in this Post and Courier article). I distinctly remember telling my parents that I was “all in” and that was all they needed to hear from me. We welcomed Eric and life as I knew it changed immediately and forever.

It is not lost on me that I had a choice with Eric. People have said all kinds of things…I don’t know how you do it…are you sure you want to give up xyz…what will you do when Eric gets older…you should look at group homes for Eric to live…

My friend Megan got it immediately. She has a beautiful six year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome and has been a tremendous support to me. She nailed it when she told me: “for most people it would be a choice – but for you there was no other choice you would make.” Nailed it. She gets me – the real essence of me.

I have spent of a LOT of time thinking about my needs, my wants, my values and my fears. I do not want sympathy. I do not want to hear doubts. Those things are not helpful to me – because I am all in. I feel that the people who say these kinds of things don’t really get the real me. Thankfully, I have a great deal of people who do “get me” and see that I am living true to myself. For my oldest childhood friends – my current situation is no surprise to them at all! I was wired for service at a very young age and won citizenship awards in junior high AND high school… Making a difference has been important to me for my entire life.

I know most people mean well. I know that because of my wiring for fixing, controlling and helping that I sometimes take on too much, get out of balance, and over-do it. I continue to work on myself, to recognize the signs of my co-dependency, and practice self-care and making sure my needs are met. Of course I get stressed. Of course I have doubts and fears – I think that is a universal challenge for ANY parent! When that happens, I want support, encouragement and acceptance – not sympathy or doubt and definitely not judgment. I don’t expect people to understand – who could? Not many people have shared the same experiences that I have had!

I want to inspire other people to do hard things in the name of love and for the greater good.

I am not just a step-mom to Chelsea, Kaitlyn and Eric. I will never replace their mom, but I am their “bonus” mom – their “Mamelle” (which is the name I think we may have settled on recently.) Over the last five years, Eric, Chelsea and Kaitlyn have become the children I always knew I wanted to adopt. Technically they are all too old for it to be “legally official” but there is nothing that will break the bond that we share. In my heart it is official, and that is all that matters to me. I have what I always wanted – a family.

Eric brings out the best in me and Jerry.

Having Eric live with us has added a deep dimension to our relationship, and has taught us so much. When people see me with Eric – I want them to feel inspiration rather than sympathy. Look closely because you will see how much love and joy we share as a family. Eric has helped me to be a better person – to become crystal clear on who I am and what I stand for.

Eric makes me feel like I can change the world because I have helped to change his, and because he has helped to change mine.

#bethechange

#lovewins

(What’s so Funny) About Peace, Love & Understanding

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I took this picture outside of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC July 5th, 2015.

 

“As I walk through this wicked world

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself is all hope lost

Is there only pain and hatred and misery

And each time I feel like this inside Just one thing I want to know

What’s So Funny bout Peace, Love, and Understanding oh

What’s So Funny bout Peace, Love, and Understanding

As I walk on through troubled times

My spirit gets so down hearted sometimes

So where are the strong who are the trusted

And where is the harmony sweet harmony

Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away Just makes me want to cry…”

Songwriters: NICHOLAS ORAIN LOWE; Performed by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Where are the strong, and who are the trusted – because it is time for you TO SHOW UP. It is time for you to SPEAK UP.

What happened in Charlottesville last Saturday was domestic terrorism. I am baffled to hear our president once again reiterate that he sees “many sides” to what happened and that there were “fine people” on both sides of this. I did not see one “fine person” holding tiki torches and Nazi flags. I am horrified to see David Duke thank Trump today for his support of their hateful movement.

There are not “many sides” to the hate being spewed on my television and my phone since Friday night. There is only one right side of history to be on. And there is only one wrong side.

I wish I could say I am surprised – but in my heart, I believe that Trump is simply revealing himself – ONCE AGAIN. What will it take for the strong and the trusted to say enough is enough?

It is up to each and every one of us to shine our light on the darkness that has come out of the shadows. This is not about politics. This is about our values – the very ideals our nation was founded on – the very values that our “Greatest Generation” fought and died for in a WORLD WAR.  I never thought I would see a time where a white nationalist is allowed to work in my president’s White House – a place I have honored and respected my entire life. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see Nazi flags on display in my country in this day and age, and that it would take days for my President to tepidly denounce it, to only one day later, unleash his true self like he did today.

I am angry. I am bitterly disappointed. I am terrified. I am trying as hard as I can not to spew hateful words and rhetoric back at these people and at our president. I would like to be able to say he is not my president – but the bottom line is that he is indeed my president. He carries the “football” that contains the nuclear codes that can start a nuclear war within minutes. He has that power until the day he leaves office.

I am trying to not answer hate with hate. I am trying with ALL of my might to channel my anger in some kind of constructive way.

I ask everyone out there who is also upset, angry and frankly pissed off – to please not contribute to the violent rhetoric. Be pissed off – but demand change, resist, protest – but in a peaceful manner and don’t contribute to the violence.

I ask everyone who supported Trump and who is now upset about what is happening – please do not stay silent. It is time to speak up. It is time to demand better. Please be brave and see the truth and authenticity that Trump is showing us about himself each and every day.

We are better than this. We need to ACT better than this. We need to DEMAND better than this. Staying silent implies complacency and even complicity. Doing nothing is a choice our country may not survive.

Stand with me on the right side of history. This is my rally cry for each of you to be the light in the darkness of insanity!!

The Warrior (Wonder Woman)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a fan of Wonder Woman for a long time. In the 70’s, Wonder Woman was the one of the few shows we watched as a family. For some reason, my dad never complained when our family sat down together to watch Lynda Carter change into the various Wonder Woman outfits to kick some butt and save the day.

Since then, I have been looking forward to her movie for many years. I have seen countless Marvel and DC movies over the years – and enjoyed most of them – and I could not have been more excited to buy tickets for opening night of Wonder Woman this week. Don’t worry – I won’t reveal any spoilers. I don’t intend for this to be a movie review…in short – go see the movie. It’s highly entertaining.

I do feel compelled to explore why I feel a connection to Wonder Woman – and to describe how the movie made me feel…and to find some meaning about my own life in some way. As I often do, I write to try to figure these things out.

Wonder Woman (Diana) stands for peace and justice. She is the first person to fight for it when no one else will. I got goosebumps when Diana says, “I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” Having my step-son Eric in my life has made me become a fighter in this way.

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Eric and my Wonder Woman Bobblehead – a gift from his dad (Jerry) who knows me very well.

 

Let me explain. A little more than four years ago, I was a single, divorced woman who always wanted to have a family. I embarked on a journey to make that happen – exploring international adoption, private adoption, foster care…Today, I have a family made up of my partner Jerry, his beautiful twin 23-year-old daughters (Chelsea and Kaitlyn), and his 18-year-old son, Eric, who has multiple disabilities. There are a LOT of stories in the “…”, and a lot to learn from that journey. However, that is not my focus today.

When I think about fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, I immediately think of Eric. Eric, who now lives with us full-time, is non-verbal. He relies on us to take care of him and his basic needs – and to also be his voice. Having him in my life has changed me forever. Eric’s teachers wrote me a note on the last day of school this Friday where they called me “an amazing mother, and a fearless advocate for Eric.” I cannot think of a better compliment I have ever received.

No one needs to feel sorry for me. In fact, when people do, I am almost offended – like they don’t really get who I am and what I stand for. Eric has brought so much joy and meaning to my life – I don’t need or want anyone’s sympathy. Instead, I want their support and recognition that Eric and other people with disabilities have so much to offer the world – and they deserve to be an active part of their communities. I fight for that every day as Eric’s step-mom and as a board member at his amazing school, PACE Charter school, a program of Pattison’s Academy.

Another thing that Diane says in the movie is this: “It’s not about what you deserve.  It’s what you believe.  And I believe in love.” I do too.

When we make choices from love instead of fear, we make our relationships better. We make ourselves better. One tiny step at a time, we change the world for the better. I believe that each one of us has the power to change the world, and that we should never give up trying. Anger is a fuel – that is certain, but it is a fuel that leaves us on “empty” – more tired than we were when we started. Love is a renewable fuel that not only keeps the tank full, but fills other tanks. It grows exponentially and will never run out.

Since the last presidential race, I have been overcome by “noise” on a regular basis. I try to deal with this noise by focusing on what I can do to live my values, and to try to make a difference in any small way that I can. I try not to succumb to fear by contributing to the noise. It is not easy, and I don’t always get it right – but this is what I try to do. Loving my family and doing what I can to fight for what is right is keeping me centered and hopeful for our future.

As the movie concludes, Diana says, “I used to want to save the world, to end war and protect mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives inside their light, and learned that both will always be inside them, and that is something no hero can defeat. They must always choose for themselves. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now, forever.”

This is my mission too. I may not be a superhero, and I certainly don’t have any special powers. But I do have the most important thing – love, because as Wonder Woman says, “Only love can truly save the world.”

 

Get up, Stand Up

Today I helped make history…or as Kaitlyn said, “her-story”. From what I have read by Politicususa, today’s Women’s March was the largest protest in US history. However, I didn’t march today in protest of who sits in the White House. For me, today was not about politics, nor was it about one man. It was (and remains to be) so much bigger than that! It transcends politics and the temporary power that one person has. Today’s march was about renewing my belief in humanity, my love for my country, and my commitment to embody my values. I marched to “be the change I wish to see in the world” as Gandhi taught us to do.

I marched today to demonstrate what I believe in:

  1. TRUTH: I believe in speaking the truth. The truth can be a big pill to swallow. Many people will avoid the truth because once they admit the truth, they may have to take some kind of action – or God forbid – CHANGE. I know this because I spent a lot of my adult life avoiding some hard truths of my own. As a result of facing my truth, I have had to make some painful decisions and have experienced a whole lot of turmoil as a result. Now that I am on the other side of that pain, I know in my heart and in my bones that I am a better person for taking the risk to speak my truth.  When I reflect on our recent presidential election (which I have done A LOT), I feel that one of the takeaways is the truth has been exposed. I have been pretty comfortable in my white privilege and could have easily stayed there “on the fence”  as John Pavlovitz so eloquently wrote about recently. Not anymore. I am willing to speak the truth that racism is rampant in our country. That white privilege is a luxury that too many people cling to and avoid having to change. That too many wealthy people hold the power and WAY too many people have none. That women are not treated equally in the workplace. That people with disabilities need more help. That LBGTQ right’s need to be protected. That there were more people at the Women’s March than at the Inauguration. Some of you may think this is political, and that is your right to think whatever you want. But for me, the truth is a fundamental, personal value. Now that I can speak these truths, I am ready to DO something – I am ready to “be the change.” I am ready to take action to do what I can to make my life, my country, and my planet, a better place.
  2. EQUALITY: I believe that all men and women are created equal. I believe in equal pay for women. I believe that love is love and that everyone should be able to get married regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe that black lives matter. Of course I believe that all lives matter, but I am not afraid to say that black lives matter to call attention to the hard truth that racism is rampant (see #1). I will not be afraid to embody this value of equality – even when it may be uncomfortable. I want my actions to reflect my values. That is why I marched today.
  3. CHOICE: To me, believing in choice goes well beyond a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I believe that choice is a fundamental right each one of us has at ALL times. Each one of us has the power to make a choice every moment of every day. Making a choice is the opposite of being a victim of circumstance. I can’t control my feelings, and I can’t control what happens to me…yet still I have 100% control over my choice of my actions in response. By the way, doing nothing is still a choice. And the only person responsible for my choices is ME. Other people may have an opinion about my choices, but guess what – the older I get, the less I care.
  4. EMPATHY: I believe that empathy is the answer to the division in our country today. I believe that I can change the world one small act of kindness at a time. I believe that empathy makes it possible for me to have very difficult but necessary conversations about very difficult topics.
  5. HOPE: I believe that hope comes from my core belief that we are all connected in some way. I have hope that our country remains to be the best country in the world, and that it is built to last no matter who holds office. I believe that fear is the enemy of hope. I have hope in humanity – and today renewed that hope.
  6. LOVE: I believe that love trumps hate. I believe that love is the most powerful, renewable energy that not only replenishes itself, but can grow exponentially. I believe if our choices come from love and not from fear, that the world would be a much better place. I believe that the enemy of love is not only hate – but more importantly – indifference, like the wise Elie Wiesel taught us.

These are the reasons I marched today. These are the reasons I will not stay on the fence. These are the reasons I will speak up and take action. I welcome difficult yet constructive conversations.

What’s Going On

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye

I don’t really know what to do or say about the violence I am seeing on TV in my hometown of Charlotte. I am sad, frustrated and scared. I feel a sense of responsibility – a need to do something, and I am not quite sure what to do.

So I am sitting down to reflect, write and share my feelings from the heart in hopes it will help me – and possibly help at least one other person in some way.

I think it is the time for me to be willing to engage in a difficult conversation about race in our country. My heart tells me I have been silent too long, because my white privilege has allowed me to do just that. I grew up in the Charlotte public school system where we were bussed all over the city so that there was a racial mix of students. Though I went to schools that were very racially diverse, I only had one close black friend in high school, Erika, my tennis doubles partner. When we discussed race, I used to say repeatedly to her that the ideal was if we didn’t see color differences.

I felt I wasn’t racist because I didn’t see the world as divided by color, and because I treated her the same as I did my other close friends. All the while, my boyfriend would sing “Brown Sugar” whenever she walked into class while I did nothing to stop or prevent it. I gave same said boyfriend a Confederate flag for his freshman year dorm room. I don’t believe we had bad intent, but looking back now I can take responsibility for our ignorance and insensitivity. Erika tried her best to school me, but I continued on in my ignorant, privileged bliss for many years. I believe that these are examples of “micro transgressions,” a term I learned from my cousin Maria when she shared this reference in a very interesting Facebook thread yesterday. http://sph.umn.edu/site/docs/hewg/microaggressions.pdf

I am not quite sure what to do in order to help bridge the racial divide that is clearly so awful today. I know I am not directly responsible for it, but I want things to be better and want to be part of a solution. I want to be aware of the “micro transgressions” I have made so that I can learn and be a better human. I also want to point out to others when I hear them take place so that I can help others that are willing to learn and be better humans. And I want to speak up when I see instances of outright racism and violence like I have seen in too many videos. “The one thing you can do is not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed when every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by the police, it ends with them getting shot.” – Trevor Noah from the Daily Show.

I don’t want to be silent and say it is someone else’s problem anymore. This is our problem as a society. I feel I am responsible to do my part – to speak up – and frankly I could use some guidance because I am not quite sure what else to do.

I am not sure what actually happened in Charlotte – hopefully there will be enough video evidence to determine what happened to Keith Lamont Scott. Here is what I do know. It is not ok that unarmed black people are being killed by the police – over and over again. We have seen the videos, and there is no denying them. It is not ok that my friend Erika probably has to teach her beautiful children not only how to drive, but how to not get shot when pulled over by the police, when all I worry about is how many points I just “earned” and how much the speeding ticket is going to be. This is not ok.

I do understand why people feel compelled to protest, and hope and pray that these protests will become peaceful in Charlotte.  Let me make this clear to people who read this with an open mind…When I say that black lives matter, I am not saying that black lives matter more than mine. I am not saying that I support violence as a form of protest. I am saying simply that black lives matter. I will not be silent any longer. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel

I continue to be inspired by the family members of the Mother Emmanuel victims here in Charleston. Chris Singleton was 18 when he lost his mother Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and he tweeted this message today: “I understand the anger, but if you want to get your point across do it the right way. #GodsLove #CharlestonStrong #CantLetMomsDown

My 16 year old niece posted this today on her Facebook page, and I could not agree with her more. She gives me a lot of hope!

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Once

This weekend, I saw the Broadway rendition of one of my favorite movies of all time, Once. Once is a story about a plucky, passionate young woman who feels it is her destiny to inspire a handsome street musician to get “unstuck”… to not give up on his music, and to take risks with love. She is only passing through his life – for one short week – yet they both are changed forever because of the gifts they share with each other. In my heart, I feel that the end of the show/movie is not really the end of their story…The hopeful romantic in me thinks that they reunite at the right time in their lives..but we will never really know unless someone writes an unlikely sequel to their story.

In any case – thinking about their love story made me start thinking about the men who have come into and out of my own life – and what I take away from each of these experiences. Too often, I look back at my past and think about the mistakes I made, and the troubles that I faced in my relationships. As a result, I keep adding to my list of non-negotiables and lessons learned, and I don’t focus enough on the positives – the good things that I take with me from each relationship.

In Once, “Guy” is inspired by “Girl” who helps him to realize that he deserves to pursue his love of music and that he should deal with his unresolved past love so that he can move forward in his life. For “Girl”, because of “Guy” she remembers what it is like to feel loved. As I thought about the musical and about its parallels to my life, I started reflecting on my past relationships. I dusted off my journal, and spent a few hours writing and remembering. I have had an experience as short as Guy and Girl in Once, and others that are many years long – and some in between. I won’t share too many details in my blog. If these men from my past happen to read this, I hope they know who they are without my using their names or sharing too much with the world.

So I am unsure of what to publish in my blog about this – besides to say that the simple exercise of reflecting about this has been cathartic and inspiring. I have a lot of gifts that I have gathered over the years. Like “Girl”, because of my past experiences, I know what it feels like to be loved, and I know what is possible. I know how to appreciate lightness and laughter. I also appreciate the deeper, darker layers that we all have. And I know how to be my authentic self.

These are gifts I treasure. And…again like “Girl”, I have learned that I am also a sucker for a good looking man who can play a guitar ☺.

One Year Later…

I realized a few days ago that I started my blog just over a year ago. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started it. Starting was simple. I went for a run with a close friend – someone I enjoy having deep discussions with – and I realized on that run that I had something to say that I wanted to share with the rest of the “world.”

Then, as I continued to write and find my “voice,” I realized that my blog has become an exercise in vulnerability. It has been about expressing who I am and sharing it with the rest of the world. At times, I have really questioned whether to hit the post button – do I really want people I may barely know to know my innermost thoughts and feelings?? I think I have been motivated to say yes because this is not something that is easy – and I think that discomfort means something good for me. Plus the encouragement I have received has been enormous, and has helped me to push further into the unknown.

Somewhere along the way, I found my all time favorite book called: The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,by Brené Brown.

I love this book. I have marked it up with notes, highlighters and these really cute goldfish sticky notes I bought at shop in Georgetown (same place I got the latest Wonder Woman mug). I have read and re-read it, I have taken notes in my journal about it.

My dog-eared copy of The Gifts of Imperfection

I keep it on my night stand or coffee table to refer to often. And what is so strange is that I NEVER do any of those things. Normally I read a book and am on to the next one. I haven’t taken notes about a book that I read “voluntarily”…ever!

Brené (I refer to her as Brené because I am pretty certain if we actually knew each other, we would be friends) is a researcher with a PhD in social work. She has studied shame, authenticity and vulnerability for many years, and has concluded that only one thing separates men and women who feel a deep sense of love and belonging from others who struggle for it. She writes “If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe we are worthy of love and belonging.”

Her book is about the “gifts of imperfection” – courage, compassion and connection that help us to live a more authentic, whole-hearted life.

Courage comes from the latin “cor” – which means heart. She says that originally before it morphed into heroism, courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.” Hmmm – she is on to something.

Compassion has Latin roots meaning “to suffer with” which probably sounds scary to most people. Most of the time when we see people in pain, we either self-protect or try to fix. She says that at the heart of compassion is acceptance, and that better we are at accepting ourselves – being compassionate to ourselves, the more compassionate we can become to others.

Connection she says is “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they can derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” She also says this energy must travel in both directions – a reminder to me to seek healthy connections, healthy balanced relationships.

For me, this book is not necessarily life changing. Rather, it’s life “clearing” – a validation of the work I have been doing to have a more balanced, fuller life.

Brené is also famous for her TEDx Talk on the power of vulnerability. If you can spare 20 minutes – it is well worth every second. Almost 6 million views – clearly her messaging is resonating. Here is the link: brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

This is not easy. I fight vulnerability all of the time. To the world – my coworkers, friends and family, I want to appear capable, confident, and strong. To admit that uncertainty absolutely freaks me out, is difficult. To take a risk and admit to myself or others my deepest fears, and to figure out what I need help with – and then to ASK for that help remains to be incredibly challenging for me. Vulnerability still makes me think of getting hurt, experiencing pain, and admitting weakness.

I put so much pressure on myself to have the answers. Lately in some situations, I have been finding myself outwardly angry and resentful, and inwardly anxious and stressed – and even though I recognize what I am doing to myself, I have found it hard to resolve. My MO is to make myself busy where I don’t give myself the space to figure out what are the REAL questions are that I am struggling with. And when I say busy what I really mean that I try to numb my heart – meaning my feelings and emotions – by keeping my brain engaged whether playing Words With Friends, watching TV, reading books. I trick myself that by doing something that actually is constructive for my head – but at the sacrifice of my heart.

So now I know I need to sit in some big questions and contemplate how to better live with uncertainty.

And thankfully – I have Brené’s books to help me practice. I just picked up her newest book released this week called “Daring Greatly.” The title comes from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt known as “The Man in the Arena” speech.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

I would like to dare greatly. I want to be in the “arena” and not the supporting actress in my own life. I would like to redefine vulnerability and think of it as the key to courage – and not a measure of weakness. I can’t wait to pick this one up – I have my post its and highlighters ready!

More to come later…