Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Great Accomplishment - Cayla

We've had a rough week. If you read my last post, you know my friends, my kids, my whole church family has taken a very hard loss. I read a FB post from one of these people that I care for and she said "It's hard to me that life just has to keep going on like normal. Why can't it stop for a minute?". I think everyone touched by this has felt like that. Like we just need a minute to catch our breath, to process the events. The hard reality is... life really does have to keep going on. It's just the way of it.

Today, is my oldest daughter's last day of high school. It should be a happy day for her. It should be a joyous celebration for us. It's overshadowed by sadness. But that is life. Life is a constant blending of conflicting emotions. A constant justification of actions versus reactions. It is an unpredictable, sometimes beautiful, sometimes heart wrenching mix of good and bad, high and low, and it is ever changing and ever moving toward our next destination. Life just keeps going on like normal.

Today while the other grads are leaping and whooping it up on their last day, I wonder if my daughter will be able to shelve her sadness long enough to revel in this moment. This great accomplishment. She's not had it easy. There have been many obstacles to her success. She has arrived in a big way.

Let me tell you what my dear girl has overcome to get where she is today. I need to brag on her a bit. She deserves to be bragged on.

Cayla has attended 3 different high schools in 4 years. Changing schools is never easy. She's done this willingly, and part of her decision to switch schools the last time was for the sake of her dear old mom. I don't know that I ever told her what a burden she lifted from me when she decided to get on the bus and go to the local high school. She did it to make my life a little less hectic, a little more manageable. I've spent her entire high school career in nursing school. I did it for all of us, but Cayla has carried a huge chunk of the effect of my decision. She's been Jr. mom to her siblings. She's waited in libraries and lobbies for me to pick her up when I got out of school. She's done her homework in hallways, in the car, late at night and early in the morning. She's sacrificed doing "teenage" things. She's paid for her own proms, graduation, homecoming dances and football games. We just couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. While trying to keep herself on track she has also worked to help keep me on track. Yes, there are many, many others who helped us, but Cayla did more than most kids would have. She did it without complaining (too much) and she has never once, not one time, thrown it in my face that she has had to do all of this to help her mother, who by all rights, should have been helping her.

Cayla, unfortunately, got my math gene. Or my lack of one. Math is a four letter word, you know. She's had to work extra hard in that area. She's succeeded. Then there is Chemistry. Don't even get us started there.
But she's worked hard and done her best, and I'm proud of her.

She's had to deal with her father seeing her and her sister less and less. He blames me of course, but that's for another post. The fact of the matter is she's pressed through most of her senior year without him. She's had a broken heart and we all know a broken heart makes it hard to function. She overcame, pressed on, pushed through it and succeeded.

She got a job in December. She has a strong work ethic. She gives everything she does her all and they have noticed. Which is good. Except they want her to work all the time. So she does. And she has less time to study, to relax, to be a teenager, than ever before. Welcome to the world kiddo. Ain't it great?

Jordan's death marks at least 4 young people Cayla has had the honor of knowing and the grief of losing. She wasn't as close to any of the others as Jordan, but they've all hit her hard. This one is the worst. And it's finals week.

At last check my baby's GPA is a 3.2 (we're hoping final grades will be 3.3 or better!). She earned a scholarship at Spring Arbor based on her efforts. That's amazing! Look what she's done! She has far exceeded what most people in her shoes would have or could have done. I am so proud of her!

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whatever she puts her mind to she will accomplish.

Cayla, I love you. I want you to know that. I'm proud of what you've done and the woman you're becoming. I pray when you get to college you'll have some of that time you sacrificed to help me and help our family grow and succeed. You deserve it. I pray for good friends, good instructors, good decisions and good times ahead. The Lord knows you deserve them.

Cayla, take time to be happy today. Take time to be a kid. Give yourself the break that the world won't and let out a yell of joy for what you've done. You're amazing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"None of us is promised tomorrow."

Yesterday, my church family took a devastating hit. On the wave of joy following the wedding of two of our young leaders tragedy struck. Saturday, Heather and Jordan were married. Sunday, they were involved in a car accident that took Jordan's life. There are no words for this kind of loss.

Jordan was a remarkable young man with a heart for God and a passion for young people. He was an intern at our church for youth and children. He was my youngest daughter's Sunday school teacher, he was a leader, mentor, and friend to my 3 older children. Jordan touched a lot of lives. I doubt there is a person under 18 in our church that Jordan has not affected.

Heather, and her beautiful, Godly family have served in our church as long as I can remember. If you've ever been to Connection Church you have undoubtedly been blessed, been touched by a Favazza. Sue (Heather's mother) heads up our children's ministry. She loves our children. She serves them, and us their parents. George (her father) is fabulously musically gifted, as is his brother Rich. If you've ever been to a service at our church chances are extremely good one or both of these brothers blessed you with their musical abilities. Both of them are gentle, genuine, generous men of God. Bridget, (Heather's aunt) Rich's wife blesses so many people with her gift of hospitality. She works quietly behind the scenes serving others, tirelessly, generously. Jen (Heather's aunt) and Josh (Jen's husband) also work with and teach, mentor our children. Josh is a faithful member of the children's ministries, of the drama team, he serves on our board. I know I'm missing someone, please don't be hurt if I did. Heather and her siblings have always been involved in our church. You'll find them watching children on Sunday mornings, acting as jr. counselors for camp, making themselves available wherever they are needed, whenever they can. In recent years Heather has asserted herself as a leader in our youth ministry. She has grown and blossomed into a beautiful young woman of God. She has a servant's heart. She shows faith and strength and grace so often to so many. My point being this: If you have been to our church, there is a member of their family who has touched your life in some way, whether you realized it or not.

Yesterday, my heart broke, shattered for Heather. I grieved and cried for Jordan's parents, for George and Sue, for Aunts and Uncles and Cousins... I grieved with my children in their loss, with the other young people  affected by this. I saw up close the ripple effect of grief in lives Jordan has touched, of those who love the Favazza family and have been blessed and loved by them.

We heard the news at the end of our service. Collectively the church gasped, immediately you heard the sounds of people crying. I looked around and throughout the church faces were covered with tears. There is a section in our sanctuary where our teenagers sit together as a group. We gathered there and surrounded those kids with prayers, hugs, tissues... The Favazza family began to arrive from wherever they were waiting to hear news of their loved ones. We prayed for Sue and George on their way to Heather, my God how we prayed and cried for Heather, we cried for our kids, we prayed for our church, we came together.

Dave, one of our pastors, took the initiative to speak to our kids. His words were direct, full of truth, full of guidance, and love for the grief of our youth. He cried with them. Our pastors, Rocky, Dave, Zac, Mikie and Al, whether it was deliberate or not, lined up against the wall like an honor guard, watching our children, watching the Favazza family, waiting to meet the need. There were no dry eyes for these men either. They stood, they watched, they waited, they prayed, they cried, they met the need.

A meal had been planned for a volunteer appreciation luncheon that was, of course, immediately cancelled. Lovingly, it became a meal for those who just needed to grieve and be with each other. People flocked to our kitchen to do whatever task they could. The food was set out, we all moved to the largest classroom. We ate together, or tried to, and we just stayed with each other. We stayed with the family and friends and kids who were touched by these young lives. A group went to Heather's home to clean, to take care of business, to bless that family in the only way they could, in a remarkably loving way.

There was so much love there, I could never tell it all here. I tell you without a doubt, the love of Jesus was evident, the presence of God was undeniably present there. I consider myself honored to be among such a group of remarkable loving people.

I'm sitting here today wondering what I can do for this family. For this beautiful young woman devastated by loss. I got nothing. I'm praying, I can't stop, every thought leads me back to her. I am making myself available.

Yesterday, the rumblings of "Why, God why?" were beginning to be heard. I know that it is natural to ask this question. It's a part of our beginning to accept the unacceptable. However, I am not asking "Why?" There is no point in it because there are no good answers. There are no answers that satisfy our grief. In fact there are simply no answers to the question "Why?" at all. It simply is. Today, I prefer to ask "What?" What can I do for this family? What can I do to honor Jordan, his life and work in the service of the Lord? What can I say to let my loved ones know how I love them? I prefer the question "What?" far above the question "Why?" Why gives me no hope, no direction, no plan. Of course, Heather and her family, and Jordan's family will ask "Why?" Their grief is obviously different than mine. I do not mean to suggest that anyone else should grieve as I do. I hope only to offer, even if to one grieving heart, an alternative question. An action option to your pain and grief.

It will take some time for recovery and healing to happen in the wake of this loss. I intend to take an active role, in any way I am asked, to help in the healing of Heather's grief. To assist her family while they hold her up until she stands on her own. To encourage my church family as they heal, and recover. We have all lost something. It is beyond sad. But we have hope in Christ.

Dave said something that I can't shake today. "None of us is promised tomorrow." He challenged us to live as Jordan had, sharing his faith with everyone he met. I need to share my faith with all of you. I don't do that as I believe I should. Fear stops me. How ridiculous. Fear? What do I have to fear? Nothing.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the one true son of God. I have accepted his sacrifice to cover my sin, and reconcile me to God. I didn't deserve that love. I still don't. But that's the beauty of it. People, society, our culture has twisted the simple truth of Christ's mission here. He didn't come to damn us to hell, he came to deliver us from it. He came in love for all of us. LOVE. LOVE. He gives us a choice and does not force us to follow Him. He loved me when I was ugly to the core. He loved me when I spit in His face and turned my back on Him. God is LOVE. Mercy... sweet blessed mercy was shown to me. Unconditional acceptance of the person I was, with all my garbage and sin, with all my mess... love and mercy. I strive to show others love and mercy. I fail almost daily. God still loves me. God still grants me mercy. I have hope. I have peace. Those are things I thought I may never see not so very long ago. How can I call you my friend, how can I say I care about you, if I keep this awesome gift, this indescribable love, to myself? I make myself a liar by not sharing it with you. I'm sorry for that.

We are not promised tomorrow. We are not promised so much as another breath. All we have is this moment. Use it wisely.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I'm Most Proud Of...

Theme Thursday this week seemed like it would be an easy one to write. I figured I'd get on here and brag about my kids, how sweet they are, how well mannered, that so far they are all compassionate giving people. One has even made it to adulthood! They are my pride and joy for sure.

Then I thought - Hey! My college graduation is this weekend! I should write about my accomplishment in graduating nursing school (which is a certain kind of hell unto it's own) at 43 years old, with 4 kids, working 24 hours a week. Not to mention I'm a first generation college graduate in our family. That's a pretty big deal, right? I totally beat the odds! The statistics that say, in general, kids will only do as well as their parents did in terms of education. Neither of my parents graduated high school, and although they are/were very intelligent people, they never got the opportunity to finish their high school education. Heck, I think my dad only actually finished 8th or maybe 9th grade.

Then I read this: Pregnant Woman Shot in Detroit. A woman I know named Laura, heads up an outreach at our church called My Sister Song. The basic concept here is to reach out to women in the sex industry and those victimized by human trafficking, and show them a little love, compassion and acceptance. You can read all about what they do on the site linked above.

Anyway, in this article, there is almost no information given except that this young woman is a prostitute and she's 8 months pregnant, and she was shot through the abdomen. The article is fairly unremarkable. The comments, however, turn my stomach. I could go on and on about hatefulness and judgement, but that's not what this is about.

You'll see some comments by my friend Laura there too. They are loving and encouraging. She doesn't get caught in the trap of trying to make morons people see her side. She refrains from engaging them at all. I admire that. I managed to refrain from posting any remarks at all because honestly, there would have been no love or compassion in what I said to these people who can't see past a circumstance to catch a glimpse of a human being, 2 human beings in fact.

Anyway, I e-mailed Laura, I told her how mad I was and that I was having a hard time not ripping these heartless bastards people to shreds. Her response?

"...But I've been learning how to fight back constructively.  I spoke our truth and allow the reader to weigh out the differences between the hate posts and our love posts so I don't dignify their remarks with an answer... I've had moments of staring at their remarks while thinking, "how can I approach this to wake them up!".  But no, I'm putting my energy into the lil sweetheart they're ripping to shreds and we're gonna watch God build her up!  YAY!!!"

She just keeps focusing on that girl and her baby. She blows me away with how she loves people. Even people who don't "deserve" it, people who the world says are worthless, trash, less than human. I learn so much about love from her.

So while I have a lot to be proud of, today I'm most proud of this remarkable woman. I'm proud that I get to call her my friend. I'm proud to be a part of the outreach she leads, and to join up with women who aren't afraid to love when they've got nothing to gain, and plenty to lose.

Check out Theme Thursday over at Something Clever 2.0. Read some posts, make a friend...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theme Thursday - Good Samaritans - Kevin Donelson

So we're talking about good Samaritans for Theme Thursday this week. I didn't plan to write a post this week, in fact, since the last one I've been so overwhelmed with the daily grind that is my life, I haven't written anything at all. I was reading over some of the other contributors posts and came across this one from Mom With Her Running Shoes On. It reminded me of the example set for us.

A parable (according to Merriam-Webster) is a "short fictitious story that illustrates a moral principle or religious attitude". A parable is always more than it appears on the surface.

When I was in my early 20's, I met a guy named Kevin. I don't think I knew his name was Kevin for quite sometime after I met him, everyone I knew called him "Chaos". Except I think he spelled it with a "K" - "Khaos"... but I digress.

When I met Kevin he had green hair and a pierced nose. He wore a heavy leather motorcycle jacket with chains hanging off it, beat up engineer boots, and ripped up dirty jeans. I don't know where Kevin lived, I think he bounced around, but mostly I think he stayed with his girlfriend wherever she was living. He looked to me like he was badly in need of a shower and a washing machine. He was loud. He was foul mouthed. He was surly and angry and somehow arrogant. He had this way of ignoring people he didn't like that made you feel like you'd been emotionally slapped, as he stomped past you completely disregarding the fact that you were speaking to him.

There were several people that I knew at the time who told me what a jerk Kevin was. Let me tell you, it didn't take much convincing to believe that was true. There were others though, who told me different. They told me that once Kevin got to know you, he was a good friend, basically a decent guy. I'm telling you, I just couldn't see it. As weeks and months passed, and Kevin's hardcore exterior faltered in my presence on occasion, I warmed to him. I never felt he was my "friend" though. He was just this guy I knew who was friends with some of my friends. It seemed to me too, that every time I began to see a little bit of that other Kevin, he'd pull some asshole move, and I'd be knocked back a bit on my opinion of him.

Gradually, as I accepted Kevin, he accepted me. We were never close, but he was decent to me, and I was blessedly never the recipient of his anger. Then, one night he shows up at my door, unannounced, and tells me he needs a place to stay, because his girlfriend kicked him out again. He didn't really ask to stay with me, mind you, he just sort of stated his dilemma and waited. When I hesitated he just said "Look, I know you don't really want me here. I don't really want to be here. Mostly I need a place to keep my stuff until she cools off." He was far more explicit in his terminology, but you get the gist. He told me he probably wouldn't even sleep here because he knew his girlfriend would let him stay with her, but he needed to make a show of moving more than anything. So I agreed. He didn't thank me, he didn't say anything, he just stepped outside the door and grabbed a couple bags of his stuff he had sitting there and hauled them up to my spare room. That's sort of how he was.

Kevin stayed there that night, but he really was gone most of the time. Sometimes he'd cruise in for a few minutes to take a shower or grab something he needed, but he really wasn't there more than 30 minutes or so at a time. One of these times he came uh... home (??) and he realized I needed to get to the grocery store so he just ordered me into the car, where a couple of guys he knew had been waiting for him and he made them wait while he and I shopped. It was a crazy experience, I felt like a huge imposition, but he told me in his very Kevin way "F*** them. They can wait." Well, that was Kevin.

Another time my brother called me, he was stranded in downtown Flint (not a great place to be late at night) and asked if there was anyway I could come get him. I had no car, nobody had cell phones then, shoot most of my friends didn't have land lines much less cars, it was late... I told him I would try to figure something out but I was absolutely clueless about what to do or who I could call. Yep. In walks Kevin. Just there to grab a shower before he had to pick his girlfriend up. I asked him anyway. He said he would do it if hedidn't have to get his girlfriend in about an hour when she got off work and that she'd basically freak out if he was late and she'd be especially mad if he drove her car to Flint. I'm thinking there's no hope of getting my brother when he gets this classic Kevin mischievous grin and says "How long does it take to get to Flint?" From where we were it was going to be just under an hour to get there...

We jumped in the car (an old beater wanna be a muscle car) and when we hit the highway, I saw the needle on the speedometer pass 100 and he was still gaining speed, I just turned my face to the window and refused to look. Kevin, of course, found this extremely funny and took great delight in announcing our speed to me and teasing me about being afraid. We got my brother, and he took a verbal beating from her, but later he told me he didn't care. He didn't want to see anybody stranded someplace like that.

Then there was the night he found me at home and I was so sick. I was puking and puking and probably should have gone to the ER, which he tried to convince me to do but I kept refusing. I don't even know what he had going on that night but it certainly wasn't in his plan to sit on the cold bathroom floor with me while I threw up until nothing was left in me. His plan certainly wasn't washing my face repeatedly with a cold washcloth and holding my hair back while I hurled and cried until I literally collapsed on the floor. It wasn't hauling my big old butt to bed when the vomit-fest finally ended and we both thought I might live after all, or sitting there on the edge of my bed telling me the most insane "bedtime story" ever told until I finally fell asleep. When I woke up I found him sleeping on the floor in the extra room, still wearing his boots. He didn't want to leave until he was sure I was going to be ok.

Kevin was the ultimate Good Samaritan to me. Kevin was sort of like a walking parable - always more than he appeared on the surface.

Kevin and I drifted apart some time after that. I saw him occasionally at parties or friends houses but by the way he acted, so casual, so nonchalant about me, you'd never know all the sacrifices he made just to be decent to me. It wasn't about me though. He would have done it for anyone.

Kevin died in August of 2011. He was 40. I heard the news through a friend on Facebook. I cried. I mourned the loss of the opportunity to thank him as much as I did his death. As I said, Kevin and I were never close, not in the traditional sense, but I lost a friend that day and the world lost a really good person. What he did for me, in our craziest years, has never left me. True kindness, never does.

Check out the other posts at Something Clever 2.0 and say "Hi" to our lovely host Jenn.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Theme Thursday #4

The fourth thing on my list was "I'd write more letters to my adopted (released) daughter and her family..."

This one is really pretty self-explanatory. Some details: When I was 17 I had a baby. I knew I wasn't ready to take care of a child properly, so I decided the best option for her was to release her for adoption. It was 1987. Open adoption was a pretty revolutionary concept. The agency I worked through used a semi-open approach. That means no last names or addresses, no visitation, but scheduled letters and pictures from the adopted parents to the birth mother and open access to records when the child reaches 18.

I also had the option to write to her, and to her family. There was no schedule for me to follow. Really I was kind of a mess in my late teens and early 20's so I didn't write often and I fear what I did write sounded borderline crazy. Maybe I was.

I look back on it now, the HUNDREDS of letters I wrote but didn't send, and I just wish I had sent them. Maybe they were crazy, or sad, or lacked interesting content, but still... she and her family would have had a better understanding of who I was/am, what my struggles were, how much I loved her and them, and how hard and how long I grieved the loss of my beautiful baby girl. I absolutely do NOT regret the decision. I still believe with all my heart I made the right choice. It is, however, still a loss.

I'm rereading this post and I realize it has a far less personal feel to it than many of the others I've written. I think I've been negatively affected by some recent anti-adoption groups I stumbled upon. I am definitely pro-adoption. I think it's a loving, intelligent and selfless choice. I think it's a great option for girls too young, or just plain not ready to care for a child. And, most importantly, I think it is a kind, loving option for the babies involved. I don't understand the hatred toward birth mothers who chose or will choose this path. I don't understand the disdain for adoption agencies, the outright aggression specifically aimed toward Christian Crisis Pregnancy Centers. I don't understand the rage directed at those of us who think this is not only a viable option but a good one as well. I don't get the name calling and accusations of child abuse toward birth moms and adoption agencies. What I did was done to protect my baby from unnecessary hardship. I did it to try to give her a better and more stable start than I could have ever given her at 17. I don't get the childish name calling. Seriously. I. Don't. Get. It.

I don't get why I let it bother me. I don't know why I am always somehow hurt by people who carry opinions so rigid they promote hate, anger, and aggression toward those who don't agree with them. I believe everyone has a right to their opinions and beliefs. I believe you should have the right to express those opinions. I just wish people could be more compassionate to those whose beliefs differ from their own. I believe you change more minds and hearts with compassion and mercy than you ever will with rage and hatred.

Hmmm... seems I went off on quite a tangent.

I guess I'm playing this one close to the vest. Hope you don't mind.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Theme Thursday #3

So last weeks "Theme Thursday" post got a pretty neat response. If you're reading this you probably already know about the list and that several people encouraged me to write about each of my "do overs" individually. So I'm working on doing that.

Today we tackle #3 "I'd pass on that first cigarette..."

I suppose I should tell the story of how it all began...

Middle School sucks. We moved around alot and I switched schools in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Every year, new school, new form of torture to be had. 8th grade was probably the WORST school year ever. At some point I may tell the tortuous story of the bullying I endured that year, but not today. Let's just say it was horrendous and leave it at that.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in the girl's bathroom that year. Mostly I hid in a stall, hoping to avoid contact with the monsters other people called children. For the most part I was successful. One day while I was avoiding, oh, probably English class, I was in the girl's room, trying not to have a panic induced seizure. It was the middle of class, not a popular bathroom time, so I figured I was safe to come out of the stall. I don't remember exactly what I was doing, probably pacing, when the door flies open and in walks Carla Coggins.

Carla had quite a reputation. She was a "toughie". In other words, you didn't mess with her. She was known to be a fighter, a school skipper, a little bit mean, in general, NOT the girl to be on the wrong side of. She'd take on adults as quickly as her peers. She spent a lot of time suspended from school. You get the point. Carla was also a BIG girl. By big I mean obese. Severely obese. At any rate, I am immediately paralyzed with fear and trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to get passed the biggest, toughest girl in the 8th grade when she's blocking the only exit... of course I started to beat a path to the stall, the only safe haven I thought I might find.

And then something strange happened. Carla asked me what I was doing in the bathroom. She didn't sound mean, or like she was going to kill me so I said, "I, uh, I uhhhh..." Intelligent, I know.

She replies: "Oh, were you going to smoke a cigarette?"

Me: "Uh, yeah, but I just remembered I don't have any."

(Now let me tell you, I was not about to smoke a cigarette, I had NEVER smoked a cigarette, I didn't want anyone to smoke, period, because, well, "they" said it was bad for you and I believed them. What I wanted was for Carla not to join the leagues of bullies I already attracted and kick my butt right there in the bathroom!)

I started to beat it out of there: "I better get back to class..."

Carla: "Hey, I've got one you can have."

Me: Stunned silence...

Carla: "Come on back, we'll smoke one together."

I absolutely did not know what to do. I felt like this was some sort of trap. One wrong move and Carla and her legion of followers would descend on me... or maybe not. She sounded, well, nice. So I crammed into a tiny stall with Carla and lit my first cigarette.

As Carla watched me do the obvious newbie to smoking don't inhale thing, she said "Oh, you still don't inhale. Here do it like this: Take a drag off it and pretend your mom just walked in and do this: (here she makes a shocked inhalation noise)." So I do. And that was that. I was a smoker.

I wanted so badly to fit in. I wanted someone to like me. I had a couple of good friends but I wanted the protection of a group, a clique to fit into. I didn't even care who or what I had to do to get there. And here was Carla, big bad, Carla, being nice to me. I'd love to tell you that Carla and I became friends and that she wasn't mean at all just misunderstood, and maybe that last part is true, but we did not become friends. Not publicly anyway. We were sort of "secret friends". She lived a little ways away from me, but I'd see her sometimes when I was walking through her neighborhood to get to the library, or my church, or whatever. We'd always stop and have a cigarette together. Sometimes she'd smile at me as she passed me in the hallway. We never hung out. We just shared a little secret, and a cigarette now and then. You may think it's crazy, but if I saw Carla today, I'd hug her and tell her thank you for being nice to me.

Fast forward 30 years...

I'm sitting here today, as I write this, with a patch on my shoulder, and electronic cigarette in my purse, a bag of hard candies within easy reach, and 2 real cigarettes left in my pack, trying to quit AGAIN. I've failed at least twice this year already. I hate this habit. This addiction. I hate the expense, I hate the smell, I hate more than anything the hold it has on me. Hate isn't even a strong enough word, they don't make a word big enough for how I feel about this. And yet, I keep coming back. I'm struck by the word insidious...

I would love to have the chance to go back and when Carla offered me that first cigarette to just say "no thanks" and take the ass whooping if it was coming. It may have led to more trouble for me, and I do appreciate that secret friendship, but it would have been easier to get over than this addiction is.

I don't even know if I'll make it through today with this quitting thing. It's unbelievably hard for me. I'll keep trying. I have to, I don't want this having a hold on me forever.

Wish me luck. And if you find a "do over" lying around, have pity on me and pass it my way. I could really use one this time...

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To "Theme Thursday" #2

If you don't know, I'm attempting to write a series of posts about this list of "do overs" I'd like to be granted. It all started innocently enough, just another Theme Thursday post hosted by Jenn at Something Clever 2.0. But a funny thing happened, several people said they'd like to see me write about each of the things on my list. I was surprised by the interest, but thought, actually that might be a fun thing to do... my big concern was that the little snippets were far more interesting than the actual stories. I'm not a good judge of these things, it being my life and all, and my life seems pretty average to me, but I thought, what the heck! The worst that can happen is nobody is interested and since I only have like 9 people who read this thing, who cares, right?

So keeping that in mind, here is the second installment on my list: "I'd keep playing basketball the same year (6th grade, see this post) even though I ran the wrong way when I finally got the ball..."

Sixth grade was probably one of the most humiliating years of my life. Seriously. The year of peeing myself, the great rabbit sandwich incident, and basketball. Ugh. Basketball.

I've never been athletic. NEVER. Unless you count power reading. I could have taken a gold medal in that event. For some reason though, in sixth grade, I decided to play basketball. Maybe I just wanted to hang out with a friend, maybe it was because I really liked my sixth grade homeroom teacher and she was the coach, maybe my mother made me try it. Who knows? I tried out for the team though, and made it (probably because of that teacher/coach - it certainly was not my athletic ability that got me on the team).

So it was bad enough that I wasn't very good. Even in practice the other kids never gave me the ball, heck, they didn't even bother to cover me unless the coach yelled at them to do so. On occasion, I'd get passed the ball, but really very VERY rarely. I think I actually brought books to practice because I was not getting played even when it didn't count. Let's be honest, I sucked.

I wanted to do well, and when I did get the ball I did my best to get it to the basket and shoot. Oddly, I have pretty good aim so I managed to sink a few. Maybe that was why I was there. Looking back I remind myself of Chief from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" when Jack Nicholson tries to get him to play basketball. (Foul language warning, if you're so inclined to be sensitive to such things)

Maybe I was a little better than that.

Anyway, we finally get to the first game and everyone is pumped. We're all convinced we're going to play the best game of our lives, it's gonna be awesome, right? Well, I sit out most of the first half. Not surprising. I'm pretty sure we had a decent lead which is why I got put in to play. Unbelievably, almost instantly, one of my teammates throws me the ball... I look down the court and there is no one there! What luck! I take off running toward the basket, I might just have a shot at this, I'm thinking. The crowd is going nuts, they are screaming my name, my coach is yelling, my teammates are yelling... Yes, YES! I'm going to make it! I shoot and... Um, did you know that halfway through a basketball game you switch sides of the court?? 

'Nuff said.

I ran straight out the gym doors and never looked back.

I'm not saying I'd have ever been any good at this game, but in my list of do overs, I wish I'd gone back in. I wish I'd finished the game. I wish I would have been able to laugh it off and keep playing, keep trying. It isn't the biggest of big deals, but it is one of those things I would do over if I could. Shoot, if I'm going to do it over maybe I should just run the right way...

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Theme Thursday #1

So I wrote this post for a group blog thingy... I got a lot of good response to it along with multiple suggestions to expound upon the list of "do overs" I'd like to be granted. I think we all have those things we wish we could go back and do right, or at least different. My list, I thought, was nothing too remarkable. I don't really lament the huge mistakes in my life, they contribute to who we are and what we offer to the world and the people we love. I'll grant you it took me a long time to understand that, but now that I do, most things, the big character building events in life, I wouldn't change. Well, I wouldn't eliminate totally... It's the little things, the non-life altering things I'd most like to have an opportunity to rectify or repeat. So with all this in mind I'll be writing about my list. I hope the story is as interesting as the snippets were!

I'd really like to make this post funny, because really it's not. I'd like to say I gained some great wisdom, or character from what happened. I didn't. Well, I have an over developed sense of compassion for people who need to pee, as a nurse I suppose that's a good thing, but really that's about it. So here we go...

When I was 12 and in 6th grade, we moved to a new school. I was pegged as "smart" and given the AWESOME opportunity to take a crappy standardized multiple choice test to determine just how far above the bar I really was. Let me tell you, this backward little school hyped this test like it was your ticket to eternal life. Maybe if you spent your whole life there, it was. I have no clue. We were told future college placement and scholarships could be handed to us for high scores. We were told it was an honor and privilege to take this crappy piece of faulty analysis, in fact, it was all but our moral and civic duty as "smart kids" to take this test. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

I was the kid who was most often labeled as "teacher's pet". Hey, I was a good kid, what can I say? I was respectful, obedient, helpful. I was smart, I suppose, and I was always "mature for my age". Really, it all boiled down to I was nice and I did what I was told. I was not the kid who would disobey the teacher, cause a disruption, stand up against authority... in essence I was a smart little sheep.

I tell you all this only to prep you for the dilemma I faced when we finally took the dang assessment...

As 6th graders we never, I repeat NEVER, went to the 2nd floor of our school. I mean seriously that was the 8th grade hall. We had no business up there. I guess being smart, they thought they would treat us with taking our test on the restricted access 2nd level. Of course this means I don't know where anything is, including the bathroom. I decided I'd get to the test room, and ask to go to the bathroom then. You know, when someone could tell me where it was.

I get in the room, set down my stuff, a pencil and jacket I think, the tests were already laid out on the desks for us, we still had a minute or two before we started, and I asked the teacher who was proctoring the test if I could go to the bathroom before we started. Her response (please use your version of the haughty, condescending, teacher voice here...): "You don't have time to go to the bathroom now. We are about to start the test. How do I know you don't have materials to cheat in the bathroom?" Well, that's dumb, I thought. I've never even been on this floor of the building before and don't even know where the bathroom is so how am I going to hide something in there? And what would it be? But, I told myself, I don't want to be accused of cheating sooo... I sat back down. I couple of seconds later I got up and asked again. I told her I really needed to go. Her response: Well, you could go but you'll have to take a zero on the test, and there are no retakes.

A zero?? A ZERO?? No retakes?? My entire future apparently hinges on this test, so of course, I sit back down. The test starts. About 10 questions in, I realize I am not going to make it. I consider asking again. All I can think is "ZERO". Well, that and, "I'm not going to make it... how fast can I take this test??"

A few more questions in and I think, forget it, I'll take the zero... I go up to the desk and tell the teacher I really have to go and she tells me to SIT. BACK. DOWN. What???

I actually made it through the test, I was just about crying when I finished, and I knew if I moved I would wet myself right there in front of everyone. There was no way I could move, much less stand up, and get out of there dry. I waited until most of the other students left and yes, I peed my pants right there in the seat. I was crying and so embarrassed, there were still a couple of kids there. The teacher was so mad at me. She actually had the nerve to yell at me and tell me that if I had to go that bad I should have told her!

I went downstairs to my homeroom teacher, crying, and told her what happened. I had my jacket tied around my waist - humiliated. She was mad on my behalf. I don't really remember if she sent me to the office to call my mom or if she just called her for me while I waited in the bathroom but it wasn't long and my mother was there, dry clothes in her hands and murder in her eyes. I knew someone was going to "get it" I just hoped it wasn't me. (Side note, as a parent I now realize I was never in jeopardy of being punished by my mom, but at the time all I could think was "I'm 12 and I wet my pants. I'm in BIG trouble...")

I wasn't there when my mother "talked" to whoever she spoke with, but I heard about it. When she came back and found me again she told me "If you have to go to the bathroom, GO. You DO NOT have to sit there like that. You have my permission to get up and walk out of any test, any time, if this ever happens again." I believe I heard at some point, maybe in my mother telling the story to a friend or my homeroom teacher telling the story to someone else, I don't know, that my mother threatened to make that teacher sit there until she pissed all over herself to see how she liked it. That part may be my own imagination, a fault of  skewed childhood perception and many years gone by, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if she did say it. You don't mess with Momma Bear's babies. EVER.

So yes, even now, with 6th grade long, LONG past, I would still take a do over and walk out of that test without hesitation today. Or maybe I'd just pee on the teachers feet...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Theme Thursday: Do Over!

So the theme is, if you were given one "do over" what would you use it on?

One? Are you kidding me?? That's all I get? I need at least 12...
In no particular order they are:

I'd walk out of that test in 6th grade when the teacher made me sit there until I wet my pants...

I'd keep playing basketball the same year even though I ran the wrong way when I finally got the ball...

I'd pass on that first cigarette...

I'd write more letters to my adopted (released) daughter and her family...

I wouldn't quit theatre for over 15 years because of one bad audition...

I'd finish college my first go 'round...

I'd finish college my second go 'round...

I'd do more island hopping in Hawaii during the 3 years I lived on Oahu...

I'd stay in the army (I could have retired this year!)...

I would bring my dog to Hawaii instead of giving him to my ex sister in law...

I would go visit my Nan right after my first daughter was born so they could meet at least once...

I'd keep in better touch with my cousins...

This post is a part of "Theme Thursday" hosted by Jenn at Something Clever 2.0. You can check out other posts or join in the fray by clicking here:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Theme Thursday - Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation. Ahh, the memories. Seems to me that although I was very excited for school to be out, it was never truly summer vacation until we went to Kentucky. We went a lot. My grandmother was born in Kentucky. When she got married she migrated north to Michigan, but all her extended family was still down south. So a lot of summers, almost every summer it seems to me, we'd load up and head to the fast paced, exciting world of Breckinridge County Kentucky. (That's sarcasm... sort of.) This is Breckinridge County on a map:

It's very rural. You would think that would be "Boresville", but it wasn't. There were all these family members with funny slow accents who kept insisting I talked too fast and had, well, a funny accent. There were woods or fields everywhere and we could run around and explore everything. There is also the Rough River where we fished and swam and hung out quite a bit. It was always SO STINKING HOT but it seemed everyone had a covered porch and a porch swing (which we managed to break or fall off of nearly every summer... Who? Us? Swinging too high? Never!) and shade trees, and "cold dranks" (That's how my Yankee ears heard it) and fans you could sit in front of and make "WaaWaaWaa" noises while you cooled down.

Kentucky was where I learned about chiggers and ticks. Eww...ticks... It was where I learned about dentures, and moonshine, and outhouses. I learned how to break beans and shell peas. I learned what honeysuckle smells and tastes like. I learned what hard work looks like. I learned about being content with what you have. It's where I got my foundation for what beautiful looks like and what peace feels like.

I was that kid who usually sat quietly, listening to every word the grown ups said. I tried to become invisible when they started talking low, so I wouldn't be told to go play and miss something "good". I was always puzzling out who was kin to whom, which branch of which family had a scandal, or a tragedy, or a miracle in their midst.

I learned about family. I learned about respect for my elders and my heritage. I learned about loyalty and the ties that bind. I learned that adults could laugh so hard telling old stories you thought they might wet their pants one minute and the next minute be teared up remembering someone they loved but was now gone. I learned the importance of the tradition of storytelling. I learned about fierce family love. I learned that even through rough times, family fights, poverty, illness, and death: love triumphs. Love prevails. Mostly. I learned that no family is perfect but that doesn't mean it's not full of good people just doing the best they can with what they've got. I learned that there are two sides to every story and each one has validity in the telling of the whole tale.

I'm 43 now. Last spring, the "Kentucky Cousins" came up here for a visit. My Granny was sick and most, if not all, of us realized this might be the last chance we had to be all together with her. It was a sweet and sad kind of visit. They've visited frequently in recent years and as always, as we sit around in my mother's yard telling stories and catching up, eating together and sipping a "cold drank", I'm somehow transported back to Kentucky. I'm flooded with memories. I can almost smell the honeysuckle. I'm amazed at these marvelous people that I love, and that love me so much.

This is most of the clan. This is in Kentucky 1980-something. 

This is one of the more recent "Kentucky Cousin" visits at my mom's house.
I hope my family knows how much they've taught me, and how much they mean to me. And yes, it all happened over summer vacations.

This post is part of Theme Thursday hosted by Jenn at Something Clever 2.0. Join in the fun by clicking here: 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I don't want to write about Boston. So I won't. Kind of.

"What happened to innocence? I liked NOT being terrified of every public event. I like thinking that something terrible wouldn't or really couldn't happen. I hate having my country being compared to terrorized Middle Eastern countries. I miss the childhood innocence I once felt about the world. My prayers go out to those hurt and injured in the Boston Mass Marathon Bombing. And, this may seem out of place, but my prayers go even stronger out to those who committed this terrible crime. I pray for healing of everyone involved. Mental, physical, and emotional healing for all." 
- Cayla (my 18 year old daughter's Facebook status last night.)

What happened to innocence? My answer couldn't be any better than this my baby... We are leaving Eden. I too, want to walk toward hope, not hopelessness.

There is hope. Read your own words my beautiful daughter. You didn't even know you needed to be afraid, terrified even. You were walking in the innocent belief that you were safe. I'm so sorry that it turns out you're not. 

There is innocence in your public prayer for the victims of this crime, it's even more evident in your prayers for those who committed this atrocity. That you can choose to act in love and show compassion for those least deserving of it, is in the true spirit of Jesus. Jesus never advocated hatred. He never advocated violence. He spoke of love and mercy and redemption. Your heart, in the midst of what has made the nation so angry, reflects him. I am so proud of you. Keep loving baby, even when it hurts, even when it's "out of place" even when it makes no sense and angers those around you. The innocence you seek is inside your own self. It's in your ability to be merciful and kind when it is undeserved.

Today I learned a lesson in compassion and mercy from my daughter. Along with all those people who rushed TOWARD the explosion, TOWARD the danger, to help their fellow humans, my kid gave me a little hope for humanity today.

My kids blow my mind on a daily basis. Today was Cayla's turn.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Little Broller

Today is one of my favorite people's birthday's! My brother Jon. I wanted to do a super snazzy all emotional post about how much I love him and how cool he is, but I got stuff to do today and these posts are time consuming! So I'm sharing our story in 5 pictures. That's right 5 pictures- whole story. Ready??

This is my baby brother. I love him alot. He's cute and soft and he smells like baby lotion.

This is my little brother and I with our Nan. He's still pretty ok. He's about 4 and I'm about 6.

Here we are again. I'm about 8 or 9 which makes him 6 or 7. He's getting annoying. We look like we like each other because it's Christmas.
This is us again, with our new little brother. We both think he's pretty awesome. We do not get along very well right now although we look sweet. He's irritating. He's 10. Maybe 11. He has cooties.
We're all grown up now. We like each other again.

I love you Jon! Have a happy birthday!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Working Out The Quirks

So a couple of posts ago I mentioned changing the name of my blog. You can read that post here. It isn't all that exciting, mostly it's goofy, but I really did/do want to change the name.

I'm not sure how interested I am in getting a huge following going but the advice received was overwhelmingly to keep it simple. Huh. Easier said than done. There is almost NOTHING simple about me except my jeans and t-shirt sense of "non-style".

I played with very complex names, very obscure references, goofy self depreciating phrases, I stalked dozens of blogs coveting their creativity and originality, you know the usual obsessive perfectionist approach to something fairly mundane. I mean really, I don't think enough people read this to even CARE what the name is, much less spend over a week mulling it around in my head.

I got a lot of good suggestions, mostly from Menopausal Mother who, by the way is a fantastic mentor and cheerleader if you're looking to take this blogging thing to the next level. She's super sweet, totally genuine and funny to boot... I think you should read her blog... just sayin... But also from others who just dropped by here to check it out, and some real life "skin on" friends.

Like I said there is nothing simple about me. I think I like complicated on some deep-seated subconscious level that I may never understand the root of. I'm just like that. I like plays on words, I like obscurity and when people get my weird references and jokes it thrills me.

I like being transparent. I'm not good at playing the hide-who-I-am-so-I-won't-be-hurt game. I think I'm too stupid to figure out the rules. They're pretty complicated. Someone will always find a way to hurt you if that's the kind of person they are. Anyway, I've survived a lot. I've made every mistake I can think of. I've been hurt and I've hurt other people. I'm not proud, just human. I think it's important to just share my experiences because as bad as it was, I made it. I came out ok. I'm grown and I'm sane and I have peeps that love me that aren't even related to me! It's a pretty good life. All I ever want to do is encourage others who are hurting, or in the process of healing, or whatever. I like to encourage people. I like to make them feel good about themselves. I like to tell them they are loved. I like to spread hope. I've been told I'm a Pollyanna. I've been told I'm too nice, too compassionate, weird, creative, an encourager, an enigma... It goes on and on.

I've learned to embrace my own quirkiness over the last 4 plus decades. I'm still working it out.

So with all this in mind, I think I've finally landed on a name, that while I'm not sure I love it, it suits me and what I do here better than the original name.

Welcome to "Working Out The Quirks".

Monday, April 1, 2013

Letter to me, from me


So this may be a bit difficult to understand, but just go with it... it's me (you) writing to you (me) from the future which is actually the present. I hope you get this in a timely fashion because as bad as you are at procrastinating, it never really gets any better for you in that department. And as bad as 15 was, the rest doesn't get much better for a really long time. So try to pay attention, ok?

I thought about trying to steer you away from your future ex-husbands but both of them have contributed to who you are today. One of them gives you two beautiful daughters and they are the start of regaining your sanity. So hold on. You won't feel crazy forever, just for a couple decades. You survive though, so that's good, although knowing you, you'll flatly disagree with that statement.

Graciously, God will see fit to delete a lot of this year, and last year from your memory. There is good and bad to that. Spoiler alert!! You are about to move in WITH YOUR FATHER. I know right?? No way, no how! But yes, you will. Do me a favor, do us a favor, don't be afraid of him. He's not as scary as we thought. Turns out, he was as afraid of you as you are of him. And he loves you, A LOT, he just doesn't know how to tell you and if you don't do what I'm asking, you won't find this out until he dies, and you just won't believe how bad that's going to hurt. Seriously, if you don't hear another thing I say, hear that. Ok?

You are about to do a lot of really stupid shit. Really stupid. I'd like to warn you away from that cute guy in study hall with the beautiful blue eyes, but I'm not going to. That choice is going to hurt for a really long time, like almost 18 years, but you seriously show your stuff out of a huge mistake and you give 2 people who are really deserving a very selfless gift. So, if you decide to turn on your brain between now and the time you meet him, so be it, but if not, really, it works out ok in the end. I promise. You're going to survive that too.

HOWEVER, please, don't start with the whole drug experimentation thing. It's not worth it. Sober people have fun too. And quit smoking you freaking idiot! PLEASE. Here we are almost 30 years later and you're, uhhh, I'm fighting like crazy to quit and I'm failing again. It doesn't make you cool, it makes you a junkie. Seriously, it's pathetic so just stop already.

Ok, this part is really important too. I know why you feel the way you do, but it's ok to say "no" to the boys and then the men who come into your life. There really is someone who will love you for you whether you have sex with him or not. His name is David. He's stubborn as hell, he has mediocre table manners at best, and he bastardizes the pronunciation of words pretty frequently, but you learn to laugh about it. Sometimes. Occasionally. Ok, he laughs about it... Anyway, try to be nicer to him in the beginning. He doesn't deserve your rage. Honestly, if you just keep your pants on, and stop measuring your worth by the man in your bed you probably won't HAVE so much rage.

Be kind to yourself. Stand up for what you believe in. Don't compromise your faith or your comfort level to please another person. You are worth far more than you realize.

Theatre. Seriously, you NEED to do this. Turns out you have talent. Don't quit going to auditions because you bomb that one your Senior year. One bad audition and you quit going?? Ugh. Just do it. You're good at it. Don't resent that you're a poet instead of a musician. Write to your brother more when he goes away. You aren't as ugly or as fat as you think you are, but if you're going to cry about it all the time do something about it. Put on a little blush and go for a walk now and then... but really, it's not as bad as you think. Go to college. Go to church. Don't make that first cut. Embrace your inner nerd. Forgive yourself. It's ok to be alone. Visit your Granny more. Start voting earlier. Laugh more. Don't let your pain or your past define you. Be a little more patient with your kids.

You've got a long way to go. You're going to make it through. You're tougher and smarter than you realize. Don't quit on yourself.

See you sooner than you think.

I'm actually 17 here, but it was the closest to the right age I had on the computer.

Theme Thursday

So I stumbled on this fun new blog, well, new to me anyway... It's called Something Clever 2.0. She has these great writing prompts she calls "Theme Thursday". I'm digging it. This past Thursday was "Write a letter to your 16 year old self". I loved the idea right away.

Actually I wanted to jump on the bandwagon last week, but I'm that kid who never tells you I want to play with you because I'm pretty sure you'll set me up to be the brunt of your joke or tell me I'm just not cool enough to hang out with you. But whatever. I'm 43 years old and I am most definitely telling my 16 year old self to stop acting like that. Anyway, Jenn at Something Clever 2.0 I'm not sure I'm doing this whole crediting you thing the right way, but I'm trying.

By the way, this isn't the letter. This is just the explanation for the next post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Changing the name of my blog

So, I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, mostly thanks to Menopausal Mother. (She happens to be hilariously funny by the way. You should read her blog!) I've noticed all these creative names people have for their blogs and I'm jealous. I want a creative name for mine too. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the name I started with. There's nothing particularly right about it either. I want the name of this blog to reflect something of myself. The name I currently blog under was chosen hurriedly, and fashioned after my brother's blog (He's not always hilariously funny, but he's always unashamedly himself. You should read his blog too!) because I wanted to say something out here to the world (or my current 4 followers, thanks Meno Mother!) and wanted to do it quickly before the urge and idea flew from my head as do many a good urge and idea.

So here I am. A dozen blog posts later I realize, I really don't like the name of my blog. It's sort of arrogant and stupid and trite and cliche and... I do go on sometimes. Anyway, I want it to say something about who I am. I think if I just figure that out, the perfect name will come to me. Until then, we're going to test out some new names. Now I know only a few people read this so your opinion really does count! Isn't that nice for a change? You could be the deciding factor in a monumental decision of miniscule proportions. Won't that look good on your resume?

Here are some names I'm toying with:

1.  A.D.D./Perfectionism x Love(2) + I'm sorry = Family
(A little complicated but wrought with meaning)

2.  Coming Out Me
(Simple but I kind of like it. Only it may imply I'm homosexual, and I don't want to mislead anyone.)

3.  Ticker Tape Brain
(I don't even know what the heck that means but the image makes me think of what's in my head. Little floaty shreds of thought flying around willy-nilly inside my skull.)

4.  One Part Poet, One part Sloth, 4 Parts Mom
(Really needs no explanation)

5.  Wordy McWord-Nerd
(I really only included that because my family will find it, no, not funny, appropriate)

I think your only real options are going to be 3 or 4, but who knows... convince me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words, I love them

Hmm. It's been a long time since I sat down here to write. My brother Jon, God love him, has been suggesting I get back to it - writing that is. I'm not sure I have anything I want to say but I love him SO MUCH that I'll cave, and give it a whirl. Now, it's not that there isn't plenty on my mind, plenty that I'm in an uproar about, no, it's just that I feel sort of at a loss for words. So I think I'm going to borrow someone else's words until I get myself back into writing my heart for the world (or my current 3 followers) to see.

You may not know it, but in my heart of hearts I am a poet. I am a lover of language, a word nerd, a verbal visionary. Ok. Maybe that last one went a little far, but I love words. I love how they string together to form thoughts that explode into pictures in our brains. I love how changing the phrasing and emotion of a simple sentence can change it's meaning a hundred different ways. I love how that same simple sentence can evoke laughter, or tears or rage or hope. I love how words sometimes escape us and that weird little noise you just made, because man, 'you got nothin', says what a thousand words could not. Are you getting the picture? I LOVE WORDS.

I'm not the best writer. I'm not a great poet. I'm envious of those that can weave these intricate pictures of pure undefiled emotion and grab you so tight with a phrase that for a second you can't breathe. Those people are my heroes. Those people rock. So I'm going to introduce you to my newest love, my new best friend, his name is Shane Koyczan, and he is flat out beautiful.

The first time I heard this piece I was captivated immediately by his voice and the rhythm and flow of his words, but when he got to the part about his friend in third grade, I couldn't breathe. By the time he finished her story I was crying, and when he reached the end of this piece I was utterly broken and conversely filled with hope and love and validation. I think if you know me, that is, if you've seen me face to face, you'll understand my brokenness at these words and my validation at the end. You may not get it, and that's ok too.

I have watched this video dozens of times. I still cry every time.

This is the video for his project "To This Day" which is an anti-bullying project. I encourage you to watch it, get a feel for it, watch it again, think about the person in your life who most needs to hear this today, and pass it along to them. This poem blows my mind. Here's the thing though, and maybe it's a bit much for those of us who aren't total word nerds and or poets, but I want you to watch this one next. It's a live performance of two of his poems ("When I Was A Child" and "To This Day") blended together for a live performance. I love watching him perform. He's funny, he's sincere, he's heartbreaking and hopeful all rolled up in one. For my friends who may be sensitive to foul language, there is one instance of it here. I'm not sure which of the 3 of you that is, but, you've been warned.

I'm not going to tell my bullying story today. It's overdone. I tell it mostly to encourage young girls that are being bullied. I hope it offers them hope and strength. I hope it tells them "They were wrong! They have to be wrong. Why else would we still be here?..."

There is limitless power in words. Power to wound. Power to kill. Power to heal and to restore. How will you use your words today?