Sunday, February 20, 2011

Laugh Until You Cry, Then Keep Going

I want to share with you something that made me laugh uncontrollably.

As a self-diagnosed control freak, (ain't nobody else gonna diagnose this bidness!), I don't use the word "uncontrollably" lightly. The mirth this particular post brought forth from me was volcanic. Full-bodied. All-encompassing. In a word, EPIC.

Even now, hours later, the merest whisper of a thought of this story sends me into gales of jocularity. My belly hurts from laughing, and my cheeks are tear-streaked.

Props to Becky (HI, BECKY!) for sending the link to me. I may be one of the few folks on the planet who hadn't heard about this wondrous collection of illustration and storytelling, and now want to make damn sure you know about it, too.

Without further ado, I give you .... "The Party" on Hyperbole and a Half.

Hyperbole and a Half
Hyperbole and a Half is all Allie Brosh. I've never met her, but I think she deserves a park named after her.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The 'Stones Said It Best

You can't always get what you want, 
but if you try sometimes, 
you just might find,
you get what you need.
- The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

So I haven’t really, actually written in a while.

Something happened that shook me.  

I was let go from my job.

I questioned my worth. I questioned my intelligence. I questioned the reason for my existence.

Here’s the thing, though. Don’t feel sorry for me. Lord knows I did enough of that for myself and anyone else who maybe needed a little pity party action at the time.

That. Job. Was. HARD.

Like really, really, really hard.

Not the “gee I can’t figure out a solution to this logistical issue,” or “my brain may explode from the challenge” kind of hard, either.

It was the single most emotionally destructive job I’ve ever done. I have no idea how teachers, counselors, nurses, coaches and anyone else involved in public schooling does so for any length of time.  

Y’all, I had no idea how much abuse and neglect was out there. Kids go hungry, go dirty, go uncared for every day and for no apparent reason. Mom has a fresh manicure and freshly colored hair, but her first-grader doesn't have any money in his milk account, can't say his alphabet and doesn't know who--if anyone-- is picking him up after school? 

I cried or at least became teary on a daily basis. At one point, a colleague told me I was going to have to “toughen up.” That was like a slap to the face. Why, in the name of all things holy, would I WANT to toughen up? No, no … if I was going to be there, I wanted to be as open as I could be. I wanted everyone around me to feel the love.

Don’t get me wrong—angelic, I am not. There were days when my love volume was turned down so far, I didn’t even know when I’d hear it again.

So about two weeks before “the emancipation,” I prayed:

“Lord, I know I told you to use me. I’m down with that, but this is just too painful. I don’t know how much longer I can do it. Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Am I supposed to be suffering to offer a little love to 800 kids and their parents and even in those opportunities often come up short? Please, show me what it is you want me to do. And God? You’re going to have to make it obvious.”

Let me bunny trail here for a moment to tell you that about six months ago, I declared a hiatus from any of the work I’d been doing previously as a workshop facilitator or from any intuitive work.

Back to the linear story: two days after that prayer, I got an entirely out-of-the-blue email asking me to present my workshop to a women’s leadership 35 Under 35 group here in Fargo.

The next day, an email asking to do readings for a group of women celebrating a wedding.

The next day, a phone call asking for a private reading.

How these people found me, I have no idea. I took down my website, wasn't advertising and really was just blogging and on Facebook. 

Less than a week after that first phone call? No job.


The worst part for my ego is that I’d been here before. I got laid off from what was (at one point) my dream job in the fall of 2009. I saw that as opportunity, but never really full-on acted on it. So here I am, eighteen months later, unwanted and with nothing to show for the year I didn’t work before I landed the job at the school. Add that to the shame pile.

The last month has been hard emotionally and mentally. I wrapped myself up in shame, self-hatred and fear. Anything I’ve put out there during this time has been a false, brave face. This leads to this: the question of authenticity.

This is the fourth (I think) blog I’ve done, and by far the most authentic one yet. What it lacks, though, is complete transparency.

That scares me.

It scares me because I’ll have to actually show you who I am. And if you’ve met me in person, you know this blog is indeed me—but the cleaned-up, generally happier version. The me I want everyone to think I am all the time.

If you know me in person, however, you know I don’t ask too many people over, because my house is almost always dirty.

You know I curse like a sailor.

You know the dirtier the joke, the better.

You know I am addicted to television.

You know I can be snide or catty.

It’s my own imperfection I grapple with the most.

I believe in the perfection in the imperfection in humanity. I believe everyone is exactly right where they need to be in order to learn or experience what their soul needs to. I believe our flaws as a human being are the most endearing, most beautiful thing we can share with one another. I believe love is, indeed, the answer.

I teach this, I preach this, I coach this. I am often guided to use this message to extend grace, but often would ignore the opportunity to extend it to myself. As though somehow, I didn’t deserve it.

But I can’t do that any longer. It’s exhausting, and it’s taking its physical, emotional and mental toll. Enough. It’s time to practice what I preach. We teach what we most need to learn? You’re damned right we do.

When I pull my head out of my butt long enough to look around, I find I have a veritable treasure trove of evidence surrounding me that exude the very presence and, in many cases, personification of grace itself.

A multitude of people await to extend a helping hand … a high five, a shove upward, a nod, a shared belly laugh, a towel to wipe the sweat, a different perspective, or my personal favorite—acceptance. It makes me wonder how long they’ve been standing there, just waiting, like patient angels.

And so here I stand in front of you, revealing my imperfection. Flashing my flaws. Tentatively extending myself the grace I see as so vital to extend to others, and for what very well may be the first time in my life, accepting the grace of others to me. 

The most immediate grace for me is knowing I'm not alone in this feeling, in this fear. But I also know it's not real. The fear is something I created. I made it up. And then I held it close for so long I started to believe it. 

So, dear reader: I know you’re out there. Just as afraid as I am. And believe me, I know. I get it.

But it's time. 

It’s time to learn to be gentle with yourself. Remember that grace is just as much for you as it is anyone else. And trust that you're being given what you need. 

And I'll do the same. 

Mobile Update

Winter sucks. Let's just address that immediately. I live in what I am told is the fifth coldest city in America. "Why?" is the oft-asked question this time of year. Rest assured, however, that in three months' time, I and everyone else around here will have forgotten these weeks of nastiness and be all high on Fargo and the Red River Valley all over again. It's what we do. Well, that and sandbag in between.

I have a great camera with a flash that's stuck and really not a very clear understanding of how it works in the first place. I also have a mobile phone with a camera that's pretty much always on me. Good 'nuf, I say! Let's see what I've captured, shall we?

'Ria made me invited me to go to South Dakota on Super Bowl Sunday. Since my favorite football team is generally whichever one isn't playing, I agreed. It was pretty fun, actually. Well, fun if you're into car sickness, winter weather only the Great Plains could stir up, and did I mention car sickness? I shouldn't complain. That girl is a good time. In fact, she passed my "we can get married now" test ... the road trip. She's even a good driver! And that's a good thing, because the roads were crap:

Define Your Lane

I got to see where she grew up. You find out a lot about a person when you see from whenst they came. Apparently, that woman is as pure as the driven snow, completely without a defined horizon, and may or may not have a dead deer leg sticking straight up. Wait, maybe that's a fence post. I dunno. I was busy trying not to barf in 'Ria's nice, clean car. Not being able to tell the difference between ground and sky was a new experience for me. I know my equilibrium appreciated it.

Where's The Horizon?

Amos got caught snugglin': (Points if that made a Jane's Addiction song drop into your mental jukebox!)

Orange On Orange

I got together with girlfriends to make Valentine's cards:


There may or may not have been wine, queso and cheesecake involved. We decided it was classier to keep the sticker on the wineglasses. Of course, if one has eyelashes like these, one can do whatever one wants with a wineglass. At least, that's what I decided when I snapped this photo:


Speaking of classy, here's one I made: (HI, KELLY!)

A Homemade Valentine By Yours Truly

We celebrated the second birthday of our nephew, The Little Man. Amos insisted on helping with the early stages of gift-wrapping:

Oh, Amos

Lucky for us all, we were able to convince kitty he should stay home and guard the box rather than attend the party. Honestly, I don't think that much cute should be in one room. I mean seriously, LOOK at these two:


We had to keep the lampshades away from Uncle Kitty Daddy. 'Makes you wonder what he's hiding under there, dudn't it?

Hat Hog

Finally, I want to tell you I wasn't the only one gettin' my crafty on for VDay. The BoyRD made me a little somethin'. Clay in the Oaxacan style, this guy melted my heart the moment I saw him. His name is Jorge. Say hello to my little friend:


Until next time .... consider yourself hugged!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Envelope

I am comfortably nestled in with a group of folks studying, "A Course In Miracles". 

At one of these gatherings we were discussing the idea of not seeing anything as it is now; that every thing and every person we have contact with, we interact with based on our past experience with that item or individual. It was during this discussion that Jenn Bergen from Infinite Choice Consulting shared a story that gave me a great deal of perspective on the concept. It rolled around in my head for weeks, and when I next saw Jenn, I asked her to share her story here. Being the lovely human being she is, she agreed. (Thanks, Jenn! I would have seriously jacked up your story, probably inadvertently adding creepy clown shoes or something.)

Guys? Jenn. 

Jenn? Meet the gangI know you'll get along famously. 

'Take 'er away, darlin'!

A funny thing about first-born children:  We try so hard to do everything “right”. Everything from toys to foods to interactions.

My husband and I had stocked our daughter’s toy room full of the newest toys. She was our first child, and we were desperate to make sure she was never lacking for anything we could think of. We wanted her to have all the “right” toys.

On her first birthday, we received an incredible lesson. We had spent countless hours and effort making sure her birthday was perfect. All the people we could think of that would want to spend her special day with her, with gifts, cake…..

After she had opened all the gifts that well wishing friends and family had graciously brought, we watched her become mesmerized with the plain white envelope that one of the birthday cards came in. She spent hours playing with the envelope. She ignored most of the toys and became entranced with this dumb envelope. After a few days of my husband and I being entranced watching her play with this envelope, we started to worry. “Is something wrong with her? She spends hours playing with this envelope!” we would say to each other. Now this is where the lesson came into play.

To us, envelopes hold a singular purpose: to send and receive things. But to our daughter, it held so many possibilities. She spent hours putting things in it, folding it, putting her hands in it, putting it on her head, putting it on her feet, closing it and opening it, the list went on and on. She saw it as a purse, mittens, shoes, a book and what ever else her wonderful little mind could create. To us, it was still just an envelope. The phase with envelopes lasted at least 6 months. While I didn’t see the lesson at the time, I filed it away.

Then our second child came along, and her favorite thing in the world was bags, paper especially. Any size and shape—just as long as it was a bag. I thought “How cute, her purse obsession was obviously genetic.” My husband thought “OH NO! Her purse obsession has started already!!!”

We weren’t as worried about the fascination with a non- toy object as we were with our first. But we still put our label and singular use for the bag on her and the bag(s). They are just meant to carry things. But to her, it was something to play peek-a-boo with, a bed for her stuffed animal, a house and again, the list went on and on. And again, my husband and I didn’t see the lesson at that time.

By the time our third child came along, we were completely comfortable with the idea of how little toys truly mean and how much kids enjoy real-world items. My son’s favorite object was a paperclip. It was his gun, his keychain, his whistle, his work. Again, we limited the possibilities and didn’t see the magic that took place in our house not once but three times.

The magic was completely understated and easy to miss, but incredibly profound when we decided to see it.

The lesson we missed was discovering the magnitude of possibility that lies in everything we encounter. If a child, with their limited experience of the world, can see and examine everything with such wonder, what are we able to see? What if we started looking at everything as a child would? What could we create out of our ordinary “everyday” world? What could we see and do with experiences that were once limited?

It took 3 amazing kids and twelve years, but I think we are finally starting to enjoy the possibilities of the envelope.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Proof of the Living

OK, so I'm not dead. I figured we should address that first. 

Some stuff has happened, and I'm struggling with how much to share. Just give me a moment; I'll be back.

In the meantime, let's do another peace offering, shall we? That's right, kids -- it's time for mobile picture gallery fun!

Our windows may be in serious need of replacing, but then where would we see such beautiful ice work?
Oh, right. This is North Dakota. There will be many an ice artwork opportunity! 

Nothin' more unsettling than trying to pee in a public restroom while Wall-E's cousin watches from above. Thanks, Starbucks, for making sure my toilet time would be well-illuminated in the event of an emergency!

My honorary nephew, G., watches out the window for Daddy comin' home from work.

Conquering Carrot

Soon, my friends, soon. Hang in there. I know I am!