Sometimes Life is an I Love Lucy Rerun

lucy and ethel

I’m not sure if you have ever had one of those days, but I just had one of those weeks.

After a week of finding just the right outfit, something that could double as professional for a seminar I was presenting at and the perfect wedding dress, I slid on my red high heels and was ready to take on the day. I was a little bit anxious, but also feeling pretty confident, as I grabbed my life bags, set the alarm, and headed out the door.

That’s when it all started!

Somehow, while closing the door, one of my life bags became caught. As I tugged, my momentum caused me to wobble on my at one time perfect high heels and fall head first out the front door. For the record, red high heels seem perfect until you see them fly over your head.

As I lay there on the deck, I had two realizations. First, I realized that those red shoes were not all everyone could see, since I chose a cute little lace dress for my attire for the day. Second, I realized that as I’m laying here tangled in life bags and lace, my door is still open, alarm viciously beeping at me, and if I don’t get up in time it could set off the security system. No problem you say. In most cases you would be right, however, since I’ve been reliant on the kindness of strangers for my housing situations, I didn’t have a security code and the owner was out of town.

Scrambling happened. I threw things. I used whatever was around me to help me up, eventually relying on the doorknob and quickly recovered.

Did I mention that the entire time, my sis stood at the bottom of the steps, mouth completely open, and a shocked look on her face?

After recovering, I brushed off the dirt from my legs and limped to the car in my perfect, red high heels, because of course I had sprung my ankle and there was no time to change shoes.

The seminar went off without a hitch. The wedding was charming and endearing. I went to sleep that night happy and content, with just a little bit of pain.

The next morning, I got up and started getting ready to go to lunch with my sis. As I put in my contact, fire set in. Instantly my eye turned red with burning and itching. In I’m sure what was an extremely calm voice, I asked my sis “what kind of solution do you have?” Her response of “oh no,” was enough.

She immediately started apologizing and explaining. Apparently, she now has “special” contacts with “special” solution. They go into what can only be described as a futuristic, chemically induced contraption and after six hours it becomes regular solution. And, of course, the bottle looks identical to the bottle of regular solution setting on the counter.

“But you’re not suppose to put it directly on your eye.” You think!

I once again recover and go to get my glasses out of my bag so we can go to lunch. But, the bag is nowhere to be found. Realization hits again. It’s in S’s car. So, now I’m blind. We’re talking barely able to see anything, setting within inches of the TV, and waiting patiently for S to get out of church and come to the rescue.

What seems like hours later, S shows up the hero and all is well. We eat lunch and again I am happy and content.

Now fast forward two days. Ever had one of those relationships that somehow, and sometimes without your understanding as to why, becomes awkward. Well, I have one of those. I wish it weren’t true, but…

Anyway, A (my Ethel-like companion) and I decide to go to dinner and then decide to return some items to the above mentioned relationship. It was suppose to be a simple drop and go, but anyone who sees my car (which I practically live out by the way) knows that is virtually impossible. We attempt getting the items out of my trunk but they are somehow attached to everything. Everytime I start to pull it out, something else flies out. A graciously saves my flip-flops and helps me get untangled.

We get back in the car and start to head out when my awkward relationship pulled up. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know how to handle awkwardness. I don’t know how to handle broken relationships. So, as he walks up to the window, my anxiety started pinging.

As A rolled down the window, I may have panicked a little bit and all that would come out was “hey.” Very profound, right? What was 30 seconds of awkward felt like 30 years. A looked back and forth, and then suddenly said, “ok, have a good night,” and started rolling up the window.

I have never wished I would have invested in power windows all those years ago when I first bought my car as I did in that moment. Because with each crank there was a small creak. We all just sat there and watched it happen. I was in shock and awe.

A looked at me and said, “I told you I don’t do well with awkward silences.”

This reality took a little bit to set in and “what should I do” was never really resolved. I drove around the block questioning. A talked it out questioning. No simple solution seemed relevant or appropriate.

So, we resolved sometimes we don’t have a good answer, or a best answer. We resolved that sometimes life is hard and no matter how graceful we try to be we still fall down. And, we resolved that sometimes the best thing you can do is find the humor in the situation.

So, we went to Starbucks and I was (somewhat) happy and content.

Moments

Sometimes, I find myself having a moment I can’t control; a moment when reality has hit me in the face causing shock and pain at a level I wasn’t expecting. It’s a rare moment, but it often lingers and hangs on, exhausting me at my core. Those moments often stem from coming face to face with the depravity that is surrounding me, hidden but lurking.

One of those moments, happened just a few weeks ago and the lingering is still there. I’m finding it impossible to forget about it, distant myself from it, or tuck it away in my often too jaded heart.

The night started simple enough, hanging out over dinner. As it often goes, it’s in those simple times that depth of relationships are built. It was over this meal that I learned a screen name a girl used. As I attempted to keep a compassionate, yet calm face, my insides were screaming (a lot of inappropriate words to be exact).

As I went home, I was now faced with the “what do I do with this information” question running through my head. I could choose to go online and see what this woman had experienced, but I had to question, am I really strong enough to deal with what could be hidden behind this dark screen setting on my lap.

I turned on the TV thinking it would be a nice distraction and decide that I would only enter the name and see what images popped up, knowing the most graphic would probably be/should be hidden.

I was instantly hit with sickness. Sickness on all levels: mentally, emotionally, and physically. The first image was of this wonderful lady that now had a place in my heart standing directly beside what we now know as her perpetrator.

An innocent picture, with such vile undertones.

I wasn’t prepared. My body couldn’t handle it. I instantly went forward, having to set with my heads between my knees for fear I was going to throw up. Everytime I started to set up, I became nauseous.

As I was setting there, I heard a small, calm voice say, “pray for him.”

My response was an immediate “no.” Ok, if I’m being honest it was a “hell no.”

The voice again saying, “pray for him.”

This time, my response was a calmer “I can’t.”

I set there a little while longer, comtemplating what was next. This feeling was overwhelming and scary. But then I heard, “You have to remember that it is by my grace that you are not a victim…but it is also by my grace that you are not a perpetrator.”

In that moment, a lesson I had been given time and time again, became a reality. When we come face to face with the depravity around us, we have to come face to face with the depravity within us.

I still wasn’t strong enough to pray for him, but I was strong enough to ask others to help me pray for him. I sent out messages to friends, family, and co-workers and their response was immediate and supportive.

I still struggle with having that image in my mind of such darkness masked with such innocence. I still struggle with such anger and hatred at the man in that image.

But, God is also teaching me to judge righteously…

Love purely…

and walk in His grace.

Helpless…Hopeless…Damaged Goods

Recently, I’ve been catching myself “getting all worked up.” There have been times, I’ve noticed anger rising up inside up me causing me to verbally throw around harsh words and comments before I even know they are coming out of me. As the awareness of this emotion has been increasing, I’ve tried to examine the root of it, as it’s not really a norm for me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely opinionated. I have no problem expressing myself. But usually those opinions and expressions come out of an even keel, a place I stay pretty regularly.

On several occasions in the past couple of months, I have worked myself up to a point that I have literally made myself physically sick. On a few of those occasions, I had to set leaned over because my stomach was so upset and twisted in knots.

Considering the job that I do, I can’t just leave myself in that predictament. I’d be a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong…I wanted to forget about it. I wanted to let the excuses of I’m too busy, it’s just a distraction, or it will pass soon enough play out. But, if I did that, how would I ask the clients we work with to do something more. If I ignored my feelings and emotions, how could I challenge them to explore theirs. So, I started the journey (some might say a little unpolished) into this new dynamic in my life.

What I found was each incident of this ugly, sickly anger was rooted in a form of injustice. Shocking right, considering my career circles in the realm of social injustice. At its depth, though, it was a new level to this idea of injustice.

Now that I have been working with trafficking survivors, I have a new understanding and view of them. I get a rare opportunity to see them at their core. On the flip side, I’ve also become acutely aware of how, in ignorance often filled with good intentions, others see and respond to them.

It started at a community meeting when a woman referred to girls of sexual trauma as “damaged goods.” My guess is that many of you can understand the anger in this one. Although her intentions were not negative and her comment stemmed more out of lack of understanding then out of dark places, my body tensed, my mind spiraled, and an innate drive of protection started to go up.

You see, I realize that in our society at least 25% of us have been assaulted in some way, whether it be physical or sexual and those statistics are from what’s reported and assumed based on those reports. Looking at the women in my life, those numbers probably jump up. When I look at those women, I don’t see “damaged goods.” Damaged goods are things we discard, throw away or forget about. It’s the produce at the supermarket that has gone bad. It’s an item of clothing from junior high worn and frayed and unpresentable, but you keep it tucked in the back of your closet for sentimental reasons. It’s not my friends and family members that are beautiful, overcomers.

Then, there’s the word hopeless. This one is a little bit easier to swallow because who hasn’t felt this way before. But, what bothers me, and again gets me worked up, is when people do the patronizing head nod back and forth, utter the word hopeless, and then aren’t willing to do anything about it. Once you see a need, you no longer have an excuse to set passively by. You can’t ackowledge hopelessness and then ignore it without even offering a glimmer of hope.

But the word that got me worked up this week (and I can admit that this might be a rant) is the word helpless. Helpless…

That word…

It bothers me because I feel like it takes the attention away from the victim…survivor…or any many cases a thriver…and puts it on the well, those who are now viewed as the savior. It infers that without me where would they be.

I know it might be an innocent word, but the clients I work with are strong, resilient, and tough. They are smart, and lovely, and funny. Our conversation revolve around witty banter, the latest movie, and insights they gathered through the week. And that word takes something away from those attributes.

You see…they don’t need me to save them just like I don’t need to say look at what I have done. That’s not what this journey is about. This journey is about them being knocked down by someone or something, and in response to that, us walking over to them offering a hand, helping them up, dusting them off, and asking if they would like for us to walk and do life with them for awhile.

Just like someone did for me once upon a time…

Special Days

I love celebrating “special days” with people. I think there is no better way for relationships to grow, no better to see someone as they really are, and no better way to show love.

I cherish watching teens from my youth groups graduate. Not necessarily because of the ceremony (let’s face it after the first five minutes I’m done), but because I like watching their faces as they walk in, all bright and excited. And I like comparing that face to when they walk out, it’s still bright but now mixed with a hint of sadness, relief, and “what now.”

I can’t wait to plan birthdays with people. Whether it’s going out to eat or hosting a grand theme party, my heart is so excited when the other person realizes just how special they are because you took them out to their favorite meal, found the most thoughtful or clever gift, or were the first one to wish them Happy Birthday.

I love “special days.” But, my favorite “special day” is weddings. I love the beauty of what that day represents. Perhaps, it’s because I witnessed a truly wonderful marriage between my parents. Or maybe, it’s because I could almost compete with Katherine Heigel in 27 Dresses. I just love that it is a special day between two people and they let us be a part of it.

I also like that it is the one “special day” that has months of celebration tied to it. You get to help pick out the dress, try many different types of cake (which is why some people got to the wedding to begin with), and you spend many girls night setting around planning the perfect day.

When you’re realy lucky, you get to participate in parties, and by parties I mean Bridal Showers and of course the Bachorlette Party. I’m not the most hip on showers, mainly because I’m not a big, hokey game person. But, if I get to plan them that all changes.

Bachorlette parties, however, I love and this weekend I was able to attend D’s. I had no idea what I was in for. Her request was to go to dinner and then Wild Country. As I began to ask around, the faces of the people I asked gave a lot away. Some people love Wild Country and it showed. Others weren’t so convincing.

Regardless, we all decked out (in very different styles, I might add) and began the journey. Pulling up, I couldn’t help but smile. In my wildest imaginations, I wouldn’t have pictured it. We walked in and it was pretty obvious who the regulars were and who the Wild Country Virgins were (their words, not mine).

I was quickly introduced to a whole new world. There were people of all ages line-dancing their hearts out. You would be in mid-conversation with someone and suddenly their “jam” would come on and they would be gone. My conversation was cut short by “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” (I seriously couldn’t make that up if I tried). A gentlemen also attempted to introduce me to their version of speed dating, also know as the barn dance. I was definitely speeding but not in the direction of the dance floor.

All in all, I have to say I had a blast. I loved that they had both a DJ and live music. I loved that they mixed the genres of music. I loved that the people were genuinely nice.

But, my favorite part of the evening was seeing D in her element. She was excited and truly enjoying herself. She taught us dances and we had some great conversations (I’m just going to say, you’re welcome W) on the patio. I enjoyed watching her and her sister T banter back and forth and watching her dance with her bridesmaids.

D, I know you are getting ready to start a new time in your life. I’m so excited to be a small part of it.

Go Cards!

Growing up in Southeast Missouri, being a Cardinals fan is just a state of being. It’s something you are born into. It’s a way of life; your lifestyle. You never know anything else, it’s simply a label attached to you at birth, much like some people say my family is Catholic or Irish, etc., you are a Cardinals fan. I always think it’s cute when someone finds out where I’m from and asks, “Are you a Cardinals fan?” Like I had a choice!

One of my earliest memories is of the 1982 World Series. I was 3 (I’ll let you do the math) and I can remember setting in the floor and my dad getting excited over the games that season. This was pretty significant because, well, my dad was pretty even all the time, never too excited, or mad, or sad.

He never sat inside to watch TV or read a book. We lived on a farm, so he was working from the time he woke up until he went to bed, stopping only for meals or pouring another cup of coffee.
All of that changed on the nights the Cardinal games were televised. He would get all the chores done early, pour a cup of coffee, and set in the recliner for the duration.

1982 was like a dream come true for Cardinal fans. I know it had to be significant, because remember I was only 3, and I can still remember Tommy Herr played 2nd and the outfielder Lonnie Smith. I remember my mom having a crush on Keith Hernandez (that is until he went to the Mets and it was over) and my dad just smiling and nodding his head at her. And Ozzie, well it’s just Ozzie. Everybody loves Ozzie.

When I started playing third base, Terry Pendleton immediately became my favorite. I couldn’t tell you much about him other than we were somehow comrades based on the position we played. I was devastated when he moved to the Braves, but my grandma patted me on the back and said, “it’s ok, they can be your second favorite,they just will never be able to take the place of the Cards.”

All through elementary, Granny Barb and Grandpa Deb invested in our baseball collection (they had all grandaughters, but that didn’t stop them). We each had our own bag of cards, but my mom always took out Cardinals like Ozzie Smith and Whitie Herzog, and tucked them away in her sock drawer so they would be protected, and if we are being honest she was probably scared our other cousins would convince us to trade.

In high school, our big city excursions usually involved driving up for the game and setting in the cheap seats. We’re talking the seats where you had to squint to see the game, but we didn’t care. We were there and that was all that mattered. And, now that I think about it, probably the only reason we were able to drive to the city was because it was for the Cardinals.

Since moving back to St. Louis, my love and appreciation for the Cards have been rekindled. I love that when I go to my families’ house every TV is tuned into the game because you never know which room you will be in when a big play happens. I love that it is expected on big days for the Cards you are expected to wear Cardinal gear (one of the girls in our office forgot and was forced to print out a Cardinal poster and tape it to her shirt. That’s serious). I love that when I wear my Cardinal shirt out to a restaurant, 90% of the time I get something free.

I love when you show up at a game there are all types of people, coming from different ages and backgrounds and they’re friendly to each other. Somehow, the Cards have forced us all to be together and to like each other. I feel sorry for anyone that shows up that isn’t a Cardinal’s Fan!

I love that Yadi is completely cool and chill, until he’s not. All of the sudden, he gets an excited face like a little kid and you instantly know he’s loving what he’s doing.

I love that when Wainwright was being interviewed, he didn’t brag, or come across as cocky. Instead, he talked about the men of character that are in the clubhouse.

I love that the Cardinals, even if it’s for a small moment makes us all feel like we are part of something great! That is Cardinal Nation.

Lessons from Addie on Feminism

This weekend, I spent some time with my little niece Addie. Every time I’m with her I gain a new insight. Somehow, in her little three year old body and mind she is packed with wisdom. This weekend was no exception. We decided to meet at the “Noble” store (that would be Barnes and Noble to adults). When you ask Addie if it’s her favorite store, she replies with, “it is indeed.”

She loves everything about it. She gets excited just walking through the front doors. She quickly runs to her book section and finds a book that appeals to her, then just lays down in the floor with it (don’t we all wish it would appropriate for adults to do the same).

The truly amazing part is you never know what is going to appeal to her. Sometimes, it’s pink and sparkly. Sometimes, it has her favorite character on it. Sometimes, there is no way to determine the appeal.

After our 2 hour stint in B & N, we decided we were starving. When you’re with a 3 year old and you would like to have some adult conversation, your options are limited. We found ourselves at Chick-fil-a. While playing in the playhouse, Addie came down the slide and quickly informed me that our white blood cells are what fight off our bacteria when we are sick (remember she’s 3).

As I went home that evening, I just kept thinking, “I hope she doesn’t lose that.” I know that sounds vague and it’s very hard to explain. I constantly find myself caught in this world of extremes. I see girls/women who rebel against anything feminine. They refuse to wear pink or decorate in anything too dainty. On the other extreme, I see girls who love all things girly and snub their nose at anything that doesn’t match that view.

But, here in front of me, was the balance wrapped up in a nice, neat little package. She hasn’t had time for her view to get skewed. She hasn’t been forced to choose between being the “smart” girl or the “pretty” girl. Right now, in this moment, she can tell me excitedly about her large intestine and then immediately change the subject to princesses.

I know many of you don’t like the sound of what I’m saying, so let me just tell you about my perspective.

Growing up, I was in a small town. It was a town that I loved. I loved the country, the people, and the fact that everyone knew everyone. But there was a part of me that couldn’t wait to get out and see the world. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I knew that it was what I desired more than anything.

Growing up in that small town, I figured the best way to do that was to get a scholarship and go away to college, so that’s what my mission became. I threw myself into be the smartest and the best. And, somehow, along the way a dichotomy happened. I didn’t know it was happening and nobody really taught it to me, but I began to think that you couldn’t be the “pretty” girl and the “smart” girl all at the same time. I can look at that thought process and realize it’s irrational, and I can’t really determine where it came from. But, it’s there.

The past few years, I’ve had to challenge that thought. I’ve had to realize that I can be both, and I am both. I don’t have to give up my feminism in order to be successful. And wearing a business suit can be just as attractive as a dress. Our beauty doesn’t come out of being one or the other. It comes from being authentic to who we are.

So…I’m going to encourage Addie to wear a pink tutu under her pretend doctor’s coat. I’m going to be just as engaged when she’s talking about princesses as I am when she’s telling me about her digestive system. And, most important, I’m going to love her regardless of what path she chooses to take.