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A Few Things On Raising Daughters

I’ve been raising women since the day my first child was born and then I was given another shot at it when my youngest came along. I’m not finished yet, but ‘half time’ has come and gone now for both of my girls and I’ve long since entered into other phases of parenting.IMG_8814

In all their magnificence, they’re still human – flawed and imperfect – and I let them be – while at the same time teaching them to grow from there, using imperfections as keys to improvement – and sometimes just simply accepting that what others may see as an imperfection, may really be something unique and beautiful about the woman they are created to be.

img_0559There is a time to be little. The teenage years can be tricky and our girls sometimes think they must sprint into all things ‘grown up.’ I’ve found the importance in balancing these years with responsibility, womanhood preparation (easing into all things grown up) and continued childhood play IMG_2375(letting them be little – they’re not too old or big to color, play with dolls or run around outside and get dirty – and to prove it to them, I do it with them).

I’ve listened to many adults talk about young girls – parents, social workers, teachers, etc. – and they use the words ‘drama’ and ‘moody’ as descriptors. I have no judgements toward anyone who chooses those adjectives – I’ve just found they aren’t at all useful for me as I bring these women to womanhood. I believe IMG_2067children manifest what we speak into them and their lives and I refuse to speak drama or moodiness into their lives. Instead, I teach them about their emotions. I help them understand why they might feel the way they do and then how to fully feel and release – or use those feelings to produce results. This also teaches them to identify emotions in others and develop empathy. I don’t allow them to use emotions as an excuse for behavior, rather I teach them to think through those feelings and choose the positive thoughts over the negative ones to lead them to the outcome they really want. It’s not about perfection, it’s a process to sound mental health.

I promised myself I will love them even when they frown, I will kiss them even when IMG_7665they are mad at me, I will tell them I love them even if they don’t say it back, I will hold them when their heart is broken even if I didn’t think it is as big of deal as they do. I promised I’d love them more than I think they need – so they know without a doubt what love really looks and feels like and no other person could ever come and trick them into believing in a lesser love.

This list isn’t all inclusive and there are more ways than these that will Develop a Positively Influential Woman, but here’s my short list of things I’ve found to be Worthy of use when Raising a Woman Who Will Positively Change The World.

1. Introduce her to God.

2. Let her be little.

3. Stop telling her she’s moody.

4. Don’t make excuses for her.

5. Hug her, kiss her, hold her – more than she needs and there will be no void to fill.

6. Remind her of her heart – that it heals, that it is special, that you will always be there when it feels whole or broken.

7. Show her ambition is for girls.

8. Remind her to close her eyes and remember her dreams – then be bold and bring them to life.

9. Stop making her pose.

10. When she starts to be influenced by diamonds – teach her how rare, precious, and STRONG they really are.

11. Stop telling her she can’t. Stop telling her she is too little. Stop overindulging her and making her think ‘things’ will ever satisfy her heart that was built for so much more.

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Echoes Of My Mother

I remember when my mother lost her speech as a result of the cancer she was fighting, Christmas 2001.

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My Mother July 2000

I’ve often longed to hear her voice…

The five hour surgery on her brain left her unable to form words in the last few weeks of her life, and to add insult to injury she also lost use of her hands, leaving her unable to write as well.

Back then I was a teenager, barely becoming a young adult, and although I wondered why God would take her from me at all, I really wondered why God would take her speech too.

We knew she would die – I mean – that was the prognosis. Yes, we prayed for miracles and believe it or not, even though she died, miracles happened.

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My Family 2000, from top left: Matt (third child), Brandon (first child), Mom, from bottom left: Stacey (second child), Me (last child), Dad

Like many things in life, I believe miracles are often visible when we look for them. Take a rainy day for example: often not so miraculous to the busy eye, but to a quiet eye and a heart in pursuit, a rainy day is full of tiny miracles.

Evaporation causes clouds to condense, and millions of water droplets crash together until heavy with expectation before finally bursting forth. Even more amazing is that if the sun peeks through with enough precision, the rain drops act like tiny prisms. The light can enter the drop of water and bend, forming a wavelength that spreads into an array of colors, reflected back to you as a rainbow. Beautiful science, miraculous nonetheless.

Back then, my eye was busier than it is now and I didn’t always see all the miracles of the moment. Life experiences, passing of time and years of growth have made them more clear to me.

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There are miracles found in the pain and loss of my mother. When she couldn’t speak, I noticed the touch of her hand became more distinguished. My mother worked with her hands and even healthy, she had thin strong hands.

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Mom and My Brother Matt

In the evening sometimes I would watch her file her nails. I remember wanting hands like hers. In her hospital room as I sat with her and held her hands, I could feel them thin, but still stronger than they should have been in her condition. Her veins were more pronounced and her pulse was visible in the camouflage of bruises. Without her voice, her hands told stories of when she held me, prepared meals for her family, rubbed my back, pruned her flowers…

Her eyes were deeper with love more visible than ever before. In some moments she was completely present, memorizing faces. Other times, when she looked at you, she didn’t see you in that moment.

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My Sister’s HS Graduation 1994

No – when she was looking at you she was years beyond that moment, imagining your walk down the isle, how motherhood would change you, the moment heartbreak would hit your marriage, celebrations and years of accomplishments…

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1973

Without words, her tears flowed more freely. They flowed for her memories of being a young woman in love with my father, of early motherhood,

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Mom and Dad

for the moments she gave birth, the first steps she watched me take, the moments she had to correct me, all the lessons. They flowed for the challenge of walking her own children through the grief of losing their mother…

My tears also flowed more freely. For the pain she must feel, the moments I had her, for the wedding she would miss, the grandchildren she would never hold, the marriage advice she could never give, the pain she couldn’t ease me through…

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My College Signing Day 2001 with Mom, Dad and Nephew Max, age 2

My eyes got deeper, more clear and more wise. More than ever, I understood what it meant to hold dear and appreciate, to value and observe. To revere when reverence is due…

My touch became more precise. Physical touch became connection in a way I hadn’t understood before. I learned to memorize the feel of things, to close my eyes and experience the unseen, yet intensely perceived…

My words filled the silence that couldn’t be ignored and I learned to bring comfort to a dying woman, a woman who spent her days giving me her voice – I learned to give back that which had been given unto me…

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Mom and Dad Post Brain Surgery 2001

I learned to let love guide me for what would be the first of the darkest times of my life – times when pain can engulf and burn from the inside out.

Over the years, often the flames of life that were meant to burn me have only warmed me in my coldest times of deep despair, and for that I’m thankful. In many of my darkest moments I’ve gone back to the silent times – those weeks before my mother’s death – and I listen for miracles in the echoes.

Leading Unbelievers: The Beginning

Screenshot_2018-10-17-06-55-24-1~2For almost seventeen years I’ve been involved with the helping professions (child care providers, social workers, criminal justice workers, police, advocates, teachers, mental health professionals, parents, family service workers). I was so sure I wanted to help people years ago, but when I found out I wasn’t really helping it sent me on a mission.

My mission has introduced me to my gifts and enabled me to introduce others to their own gifts as well. I’ve learned to shine on people so they can find those things often buried inside them. Some things are accidentally buried, but others have been strategically buried and it’s generally those things that are the best of that human being – the thing they thought was useless and needed to be hidden from the world – is usually the unique thing they were given to add exactly what is needed to the world.

So how do you help others unbury their gifts, mobilize passion and live in their purpose(s)? How do you lead those who never learned to follow? What does it mean to lead those who struggle to activate their heart? Someone has to lead those who don’t believe. Over the course of my career I’ve often witnessed, with effective leadership – those groups of people become the most passionate leaders and the ones who inspire masses – great leaders create more great leaders.

The word leadership is everywhere. It’s almost a fad. Everywhere you turn leadership is hashtagged and coined, but what is true leadership? What kind of leadership actually produces deeply impactful results for your people, the organization, the world?

Throughout my high school and college athletic career I was generally granted leadership positions because I was a good athlete. Back then, I thought I was special because that meant someone thought I was a leader – so I thought I was a leader too. As the team captain people listened to me, but looking back I sometimes think it was really because they had to. If they were on the court with me and I was the team captain, they were at my mercy really – but were they really  listening? Some of you are in positions of leadership and people are sitting in the same room because they have to, but they aren’t listening. Do they really care what you’re saying? How do you get them to listen? How do you get them to invest?

So, I’ve decided to write a series of information taken from my own experiences and I will be addressing the questions asked here and any other questions you may have along the way, so stay tuned!

Leadership is grossly about relationship and relationship is often a long, arduous, effort filled, patience testing, calm requiring, selfless pursuit – of people – to the core of another human being.

Leadership isn’t about persuasion of your agenda, getting people on board or promoting your vision – more often leadership is about the journey you take with someone to the center of their heart, witnessing the exposure of their passion and watching them tap into their gifts – it isn’t until that happens that they can even begin to give the best of themselves to the mission of the organization.

True leadership paves the way for others to develop in their purpose.

What I Learned When I Shut My Mouth

I’m still learning the wisdom of timing when it comes to my mouthpiece! I’m not sure if it’s just that big of a challenge in general or if I have super mouth powers and can’t shut it like I should, but I’ve been going strong on tackling my tongue for at least ten years now! Do y’all struggle to tame your tongue like I do?

Long ago I learned how hard it is as a ‘fixer’ to just shut my mouth sometimes and listen. Of course, back then I had all the answers and knew what needed to be done and I was determined to do it. I knew what skills the task required, I knew what program would be most effective, I knew exactly what to tell someone to change their life and I could even draw them at least five different possible outcomes…

But then my ‘fixer’ world crashed when I found out I couldn’t fix anyone with my answers.

So, like most of us do as a natural response, I began looking around for things to blame the ‘unfixableness’ on (I made that up lol), but unfortunately the only thing I could blame – if I really got honest with myself – was me.

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I talked too much. Yes, I know I still do – I like to talk and I’m always working on the wisdom If timing (because that is really the key) – knowing when to talk and when to shut up and listen!

When I started listening better, I found out I do indeed have all the answers. But it wasn’t necessarily about programs or skills – it was people! I had people and that was the foundation of my answers. People are the answer. You are the answer. You are the tool you need. Methods matter, programs matter, timing matters – but ultimately – we are the answer.

Being The Answer

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Understanding. This is critical in building the foundation of a relationship. This comes before connection and before you grow into relationship.

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You will not develop connection – which means you won’t form relationship – until you first seek and gain understanding. How you see something – how you understand something –

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drives its progress.

Connection: Once understanding has been met, connection is natural. It isn’t even something you have to work at. When someone truly feels heard and understood a natural bond is formed that can’t be denied. There is an actual response in the brain. If you find you ‘can’t’ connect, I’d challenge you to go back to the beginning and seek understanding first.

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Relationship: This is the goal for most people – to have strong, positive and rewarding relationships. This takes effort. Relationship really is a ‘living thing.’ It evolves and moves. Breathes and suffocates. Smiles and frowns. Lives and dies. You don’t just gain understanding and find connection once to maintain a relationship – those are just foundation steps – but rather you create a relational culture where understanding is always sought; it becomes second nature to do that first – an atmosphere where connection flows out of the natural well of understanding.

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When you don’t know if you’re making a difference, just listen.

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Teach Me To Forget Pain With Love I Can Remember

No doubt I’m a pro at dissociating. The term gets a bad wrap, but truthfully it’s a very 20180319_084853-1useful for survival. But, before you label me crazy, many of you are also pros at some form of mild dissociation as well…

Remember when you drove somewhere and couldn’t remember the drive? Recall losing track of time? Have you ever ‘ignored’ body sensations to avoid going to the bathroom because you were busy with other priorities? (classic example is the parent who ‘forgot’ he/she even needed to pee due to managing kids)?

Our brain has a survival system that engages when dealing with a stressful situation (trauma, adversity, pain, etc.). Of course there are varying degrees of ‘stressful’ which is left to individual perspective. Frequency and intensity of stress also contribute to the level of dissociation applied (how often and how severe).

If you work with labeled youth you are probably experiencing a variation of maladaptive coping mechanisms. Self-harm, explosive reactions, routine tantrums, apathy…are just some you may recognize…and often times these behaviors originate from pain, unmanaged stress, trauma and you’re probably spending a major part of your time feeling hopeless – like nothing ‘works’ and in some cases actually applying methods that cause more damage.

Can we really heal? Will we ever be able to connect? I suppose that depends on how you define healing. It’s so unique and individual. Some want things the way they were before the wound, before the pain. Some recognize the progress even in the pain. Some bury the pain and sprint toward the finish line. I did a combination of these and more.

A wound is a current injury, but a scar is the connective tissue that develops to protect the wound. You can be what re-injures the wound or you can be part of the connective tissue…

BEING CONNECTIVE TISSUE

Suspend Condemnation. To even hope to be a part of the connective tissue you may need to refrain from disapproval. Disapproval can absolutely be a positive tool for behavior change when applied at the appropriate time and intensity, but that is generally once rapport and relationship has been established. Don’t start off telling someone how wrong they are for how they feel or how they’ve coped as a result.

Be Safe. You must be safe. Safe means different things to all of us. Safety doesn’t always look like we think – like providing a bed to sleep in, food to eat, hugs or our version of ‘comfort’ – sometimes safe looks like the person can’t run you off with flaws, imperfections and mess. Sometimes safe means you don’t immediately bombard someone with a list of rules – while of course maintaining fundamental safety. Sometimes safe means you respect someone’s distance, don’t get too close and don’t shame them when they don’t let you in and never, never break the shattered pieces they do give you.

Be Consistent. Loving in a way that can be remembered requires consistency. Time. Frequency. Intensity. Forgetting pain means a person needs to have more consistent restorative experiences to pull from than the painful experiences that taught them to break, to disconnect and push you away. The more you teach them you will consistently bring restorative responses to their life, the higher the odds are of reaching into their memory tool bag and pulling out a positive memory versus a painful one.

Recognize the progress and grow with it. You will always remember the original painful place in which you found them, but you must see how they’ve transformed and also must be willing to progress along side them. They will most likely always possess the capacity to return to their former dissociated coping, but if you’re safe and consistent – they won’t want to – and that is a very powerful place to dwell…

When you are a pro at dissociating, but actually choose to connect because someone taught you to forget the pain with the kind of love you can remember – I’d call that some kind of healing.