Leave a comment

To my cherished friend Lori, on our birthday

It is pretty special to share a birthday with a life long friend. It’s something we look forward to every year, though we never spend it together. We even wish each other Happy Half-Birthday in January.

I’ve been friends with Lori for 32 years. For her second birthday, she got me as a present and we’ve never looked back. Though two years separate us, it was rarely an issue. I’ll admit, when she turned 16 and I was only 14, it seemed insurmountable, but we pushed through.  By the time she turned 18 and I was only 16 it was hardly a problem at all. I credit my incredible maturity, of course.

I wish I had the oodles of photos we took in our childhood, specifically the one we took in our Pepsi “You Got the Right One Baby” shirts. Every time I see “Day of the Week” underwear, I smile. I can’t watch a Val Kilmer or Mark Whalberg movie without wishing she was there to share it with me. When I hear “Independent Love Song” I sing it at the top of my lungs, just like old times.

Lori is my brave friend. My friend who does what she wants to do, not what she thinks she is “supposed” to do or what might make the most sense in the future. She makes choices for her happiness and I think that is very brave. What would my life be like if I actually did exactly what I wanted to do, instead of playing it safe? I make my choices based on security, she makes hers because she wants to be happy.

I have spent years trying to convince her that she needs to do this and she needs to do that because that’s what you’re supposed to do!! She has quietly reassured me again and again, she is where she wants to be and she is happy. I think I have finally accepted that.

My brave friend, my adventurous friend, I am behind you, where ever you are going. I am proud of you for living your life the way you want to live it and not bog yourself down with the doom of future responsibility. I am proud of you for not being afraid to be alone and to find your inner strength. I am proud of you for taking steps into the unknown because you know that if you stand still for one more second, you will burst.

I am proud of you for deciding that there are parts of your life that do not make you happy, and addressing them. I am proud of you for taking time to figure out where you want to be and going there. I am proud of you for not settling in so many ways. I’ll admit, I don’t always understand your methods, but that’s ok.

I wish we spent more time together, or that we even lived in the same city. But the beautiful thing about our friendship is the constant. It doesn’t matter how many weeks since we’ve spoken or how many months since we’ve seen each other, its constant. I have always appreciated the honestly we have been us. The honestly to share our own lives and struggles and the honesty to speak into each others lives. I get so excited for you when something good happens and I know you feel the same way. You are the only person I will willingly spend an hour on the phone with.

I wanted you to know today, on our birthday how much I cherish you. I wish I could see you today but instead, I just want you to know that I love you and I miss you. I hope to see you soon. Happy Birthday friend.

2 Comments

I chose you. A CASA update

It’s been about two months since I started getting together with my CASA child. We hang out every week, for an hour or so. I pick her up, we grab some food. Sometimes we eat there, sometimes I bring Cali and we take it to go and head to the local dog park. She loves to hang out with Cali and fortunately, Cali has also taken to her.

Our time together has slowly blossomed into a relationship, both personal and fun. She is very open about her life and also wants to know more about mine. She shares about the hard stuff, the fun stuff, the silly stuff. If I have a story that I think she can relate to, I share that. We laugh together.

I think we hit a little turning point these last few weeks. She has been asking more about how I got into this and how it works etc. The first big revelation to her was that I am not paid for this. I volunteer my time and I do, in fact, work a “real” job during the day.

The second was last night when she asked me if I had any other CASA kids. She also asked if she was assigned to me.

I told her she was my only kid and that I was given several case files to read and I chose her. The look on her face when I said that reminded me of the reason this is important to me. She was chosen. Chosen as important. Chosen to be loved and recognized as a worthwhile human. Chosen to be given undivided attention, respect and a listening ear.

God chose me. To chose her.

I’m so excited for our future together.

Leave a comment

#YesAllWomen #NotAllMen

Unless you have been living under a rock the last several days, you have heard about the horrific news that came out of Santa Barbara over the weekend. A male student, with a history of mental illness, shot and killed six people and wounded 13 before he killed himself. His motive? Well besides his previously recognized yet untreated mental illness, he targeted girls that didn’t give in to his advances and it escalated from there.

This tragedy raised an interesting conversation on social media, primarily Twitter, about gender violence, specifically violence toward women, by men. Violence is defined in a variety of ways for the purpose of this discussion, including physical, verbal and mental.

There was an outcry from men saying that #NotAllMen are like this and really, only a fraction of the male population needs to be feared. In response, women started using the hash tag #YesAllWomen because while we KNOW #NotAllMen are violent or need to be feared, we do not know who they are and who they aren’t, so we fear all men as a precaution.

I am guilty of having a silent panic attack when I find myself alone in an elevator with a man I do not know. Not because of how he looks, what he says or his actions, but because in my mind, I couldn’t be in a more vulnerable state or more alone and I HATE being physically vulnerable.

Just as men are upset at being generalized by the actions of a few men, women should be upset that we have become victims because of the actions of a few women.

We live in a society that questions a woman when she cries rape because there ARE woman that cry rape when it is not. We live in a society that blames what a girl is wearing or how she is acting for how she is treated because there are women wandering around in night clubs wearing little more than their underwear, yet we blame men for how they react to that. I know it is against our female nature to blame our own, it is so much easier to blame men.

This same argument applies to prejudices based on race, religion and upbringing. Every group has the few that give a bad name to the masses.

Women as a gender are so quick to point the finger at men, society and gender inequality when we forget that we are our own worst enemy. We will never free ourselves from the underlying fear of violence until all women choose to stand up for, respect and value ourselves and each other.  I get physically ill when I see the desperate lengths some women go to to get male attention.

#NotAllMen are villains, but #NotAllWomen are saints. #NotAllWomen respect themselves and demand respect from all men. If you want to be respected, please, respect yourself. And men, if you don’t want to be lumped in with the bad boys, don’t be a bad boy, don’t hang with bad boys and don’t be in situations where you can be confused as a bad boy.

I despise being hit on as much as the next married girl and in every situation, I’ve done nothing to ask for it, welcome it or acknowledge it, but it still happens (I have a ring on people, please do a hand scan). But until I can walk in a bar and not point out at least 25 girls who I can clearly identify as “attention seekers” I have no hope of change. Because of this, I typically stay away from situations where this happens.

All I can do is continue to respect myself, respect the other women in my life and raise the next generation, male and female, to do the same. While we cannot change the way our society behaves overnight, we can shape the up and coming generation of women and men to be for each other. To respect, support and encourage each other to be better.

I will likely never overcome my fear of being alone with a man I do not know, because the world is flawed and there is evil. But I can continue to strengthen my resolve to not be a victim, to demand respect and to make smart decisions in the face of a challenging situation. I will only surround myself with people who are committed to the same. Together, we can do better.

Leave a comment

But for the grace of God, go I.

I was born, raised and will die in the Christian church. It is a place I love, but also a place that can be broken. Christians are supposed to operate in love and grace, but often are overcome by judgment and it leads to loneliness. I’ve been faced with it again and again in my life. Judgment where love should be. Disrespect instead of grace.

Really it comes down to being selfish. It is easier to turn your back on someone in need than it is to help them. It is easier to say you won’t help them because it is their own damn fault then it is to say, “How can I help you get through this?” I also think that perfect people fear exposure if they get too close to the fallen.  Their own insecurities rise up as they realize, that might have been them.

But for the grace of God, go I.

I made oodles of poor decisions growing up and I continue to struggle to make “right” decisions every day. The bottom line is that only by the grace of God I never faced a life-altering change because of my decisions. I never got caught, it’s that simple. So what’s the difference between me and you? Nothing.

Absolutely nothing, except now you are paying for the mistakes we both made. The mistakes that I never got caught for. The mistakes that might have ended by death, in jail, under the influence of drugs, abuse or or or or….the list is endless. Why it didn’t happen to me but it did happen to you? I don’t know. It should have, but it didn’t. But it did happen to you and now you need grace. The grace I found myself under time and time again when things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t.

I have been presented with a lot of situations in my life where I had two choices: Judge or Love. I haven’t always chose love, I am ashamed to admit. There have been times where the sacrifice was too great for me at the time, so I chose to judge and walk away. There have been times I have been encouraged to judge. Not to soil myself with the mistakes of others.

As I get older and experience judgment in place of love, I have made a decision about the person I want to be. I don’t want to have a checklist for people before I decide if they are “worth” helping, worth loving.

I want to be the person that won’t judge you, won’t turn my back on you and won’t tell you “I told you so” or “If only you had”….. I want to be the person who you haven’t spoken with in ten years, but in your time of need, you can come to me. I want to be a complete stranger who decided that we are meant to help each other. I want to be the person who still believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. I want to be there for you. In your darkest hour and in your greatest moments.

If my CASA experience is teaching me anything, it is that love, acceptance and grace can be the difference between complete failure and a successful future. Maybe even between life and death.

I don’t have to agree with your decisions, but I will stand by you as you take your next step. I will do everything I can to help you overcome and succeed. I will listen as you talk it out, work it out and figure it out. Hopefully I will one day be able to witness you live it out.

I find myself presented with more and more opportunities to extend this love beyond my comfort zone. Beyond my close friends and family. Sometimes they are people who require personal sacrifice to love. Time, money and emotional fatigue. Sometimes they are people I don’t want to love. Even so far as people who have hurt me. It would be easy to turn away and never look back. But I cannot.

In turn, I can only hope that when I inevitability make a choice in life that has a negative impact on my future, someone will be there for me. Someone will extend me grace, listen when I need to talk and offer me a helping hand to get back on course. Someone who believes that my mistakes do not define me but instead, they refine me.

I am not good enough for God’s love, yet he loves me unconditionally. I remember all of the times that it could have been me. Compassion and grace do not mean that I condone or agree with your decisions, but I do support you and I support your journey to the place you want/need to be.

We all make mistakes. Some are fleeting and some last a lifetime. Sometimes it takes a while to learn our lesson. But the beauty of grace is that God takes our failings and weakness and turns them into a beautiful story of redemption, triumph and success. His plans are bigger than ours.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “ Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Here is to the future.

Leave a comment

Dear Derek

On one hand it seems impossible that we’ve already been married four years. On the other hand, I feel like we’ve been together forever.

Dear Derek,

Though I celebrate us every day, today is a special day for words. Fours years ago we promised to love, cherish and hold each other in good times, bad times, sick times and healthy times. We’ve been blessed with mostly good and healthy times, but I know that we can withstand the bad and sick times. I have no fear about our capacity to handle what may come. It will come, eventually. But you are my greatest pillar, ally and partner in all that we do.

Thank you for loving me extravagantly, even when I don’t demand it or deserve it. Thank you for being thoughtful and for always taking the extra step to make sure that I know you are always thinking about me. Thank you for making a celebration of things that deserve to be celebrated. Thank you for being an active participant in our household, in even the daily, mundane tasks of life. Thank you for being organized, clean and efficient.

Thank you for being a provider, a saver and a decision maker. Thank you for being the hardest working person I have ever met and for never settling for second best. Thank you for being responsible with your time, money and priorities. Thank you for thinking of our future and our family at all times.

Thank you for giving me the freedom to be who I am, be with my friends and family and be an individual person. Thank you for doing the same. Our own identities have never been lost, even though we are one. Thank you for sending me on (and even planning) fun times with my girl friends. Thank you for going on trips with your guy friends. I cherish these relationships so much and I believe they make us stronger as people and as a couple.

Thank you for loving my family, even when it means three family get-togethers in one week or silly calls from my brother when he is driving or a weekend with the kids. Thank you for thinking of their needs, offering your help and support when they need it and being willing to sacrifice when times call for it.

Thank you for taking care of your mom. For loving and respecting her. For walking Cali over there just to say hi, running over to do quick tasks and having dinner together on Sunday nights. For making holidays and birthdays a priority and always putting so much thought into how to celebrate and what to give her that will bless her.

Thank you for the father I know you will be. The head of our household. A man who is firm, but loving. A father who is a leader, an example and a softie. I know that no matter how many kids we have or if they are boys or girls, you will be thankful, grateful and forever smitten with them. I know there is no one I would rather raise my children with than you.

When I look back at the times we have had together I am filled with so many feelings. There were years when we walked through the fire, but I believe it refined us. Melded us together stronger than steel. We are unshakable, unbreakable. Together we are building the most beautiful life.

No matter what may come, you are the one my soul loves. You are my best friend. You are my home. You are my forever.

I love you!

2 Comments

The first date

We went out for tacos. To a little hole-in-the-wall place on the main drag. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to swap out the cow tongue or carne asada listed on the menu for beans, but they were kind enough to accommodate me. She asked if she could get five tacos. That seemed like a lot until the three I ordered came out and they were half the size I was expecting. She could’ve warned me!!

We talked for an hour. About her family, school and some of her history. She was really open and talkative and I couldn’t help but send a quick prayer of thanks up.

She told me that she liked my truck and she thought it was cool that I wasn’t “afraid” of trucks like most girls. She already knows me…

We have a date again next week, this time sandwiches in the park while we play with my dog, who she specifically requested I bring.

If my pup Cali P helps us bridge the gap, she is worth her weight in gold! (As if I didn’t already feel that way)Image

2 Comments

Life Changing

I’m in the process of realizing a dream I’ve had in my heart the last four years. The dream of not being a selfish brat and trying to do something good for someone who could really use it. I’ve always known I live a charmed life.

Great family, great husband, great friends. The kind of head start in life that landed me a car, a college degree and living rent-free until I was 27. Never having to fear of long-term unemployment or having my power turned off. No “real” challenges in life.

I get it. Everyone has their demons and set backs in life and I do have mine, believe it or not. You can read about my biggest personal struggle here.

My point is, I haven’t had to triumph over dire circumstances, pull myself up by the boot-straps or put on my “big girl panties” to get where I am today. There are times I wish I had, because it could only make me stronger, but let’s be honest, I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed with the life I have.

I recently went through an intensive training for a volunteer program with the Yolo County chapter of the organization CASA. CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” CASA works with the child welfare system, particularly kids in foster care, to hook them up with qualified, background checked community advocates to not only mentor them, but to help represent their best interests in court. It combines the mentor-ship aspect of Big Brothers Big Sisters, with the legal power, confidentiality constraints and rights of a social worker. The court actually signs a court order giving me legal access to the files of my CASA child.

Basically my job is to spend some personal time with my CASA child, figure out what is working and not working in her life, assess what is in her best interest within the power of the court and advocate for it. Meanwhile, hopefully I can form a trust relationship with her and offer some valuable insight on growing up to become a happy, successful and productive member of society. No big deal right? Riiiiight……

I met my CASA child Monday night for the first time. I will maintain the mandated strict confidentiality with her personal details and history, but I’ll say this: This girl hasn’t had it and will never have it easy. She will have to overcome and work for everything. So how can I relate or ever have an impact? Why should she trust me or care what I think?  I’ve asked myself this question a thousand times since signing up for the program.

I came to this conclusion: It isn’t about being about to relate, or having the right thing to say or do.

It is about love.

This girl needs pure, unconditional love. Love that shows up when it says it is going to. Love that offer selfless advice and guidance. Love that listens and doesn’t want anything. Love that doesn’t take advantage of her when she is weak and use her to its advantage. Love that offers a positive path to follow and gives her a choice. Love that believes in her and cheers her on. Love that picks her up when she is down instead of kicking her.

As my mom likes to say, “I have more love and time than money, so I’ll give what I have.”

I know that we are fighting an uphill battle. The world is not kind to those who start at the bottom. But I’m positive that this girl is strong, smart and capable of doing whatever she wants to do, circumstances be damned. I’m also positive that although I set out to change her life, she is going to change mine.

I can’t wait.