My Village

My village

These women…where do I begin…it’s safe to say that they are the Family that I choose. A couple of them have known each other since pigtails, a few since high school, two more since their first cherished neighborhood. I thankfully fell into this group about 13 years ago.

We have been through the births of babies… (Cindy almost decked my OBGYN because he wouldn’t let her in the delivery room.) The drama of middle school; hormones, dating, attitudes…watching all of our kids (19 between us) come in to their own….finding their voices. And, high school….oh, that was fun. Celebrations have been thrown as kids have left for college, and glasses of wine have been poured as we commiserated when kids have come back home…Just to stay for a little while.

Hands have been held and we’ve shared the worry when jobs have been lost and life has been uncertain. And, we’ve pulled each other tight and offered comfort as we’ve lost parents. Reminding each other that we are always here no matter what…

We have raised our glasses to our kids’ accomplishments, and celebrated when they’ve married. And, now Grandbabies!!! How wonderful is this? Our village is coming full circle.

Us Instead Of Them

us Instead of themUsually in our lives we tend to separate people into groups …most often two groups. US and THEM .

Our neat and tidy group…US. These are our friends, acquaintances, and people who look like us. It’s a pretty safe group. We gravitate towards them at Church, parties, sit by them in theaters, smile at them in line, push our kiddos towards them on the playground. Oh come on you’ve done it. I’ve done it. Go play with that cute little girl; she has a pony tail just like you. We don’t even have to “know” them, but we seek them out. They look like us, dress like us, behave like us…We’re smart like that. How convenient. How typical. How boring.

Why do we stay in our comfort zone? Why are we afraid to dip our toe in the water of unknown?

And then there’s THEM…you know…people who aren’t like US. (At least that’s what we think) Are we afraid that the tattoos and piercings covering the young man in line 13 are going to rub off on us? Surely, we know they aren’t contagious, but still WE stand back a couple of feet. Not to pick on tatts and piercings…I’ve got a kid with a tatt, and I’m sure it won’t be his last. Ladies, we have all given that Mom the “look” at the grocery store. You know the one pushing the cart with a shirtless diaper clad baby in the front swigging on a juice box; followed closely by a snotty nosed toddler with no shoes on…with his face buried in a cereal box. Maybe instead of judging this poor exhausted Momma we should be saying, “Sister, I feel your pain! How can I help you?”. (Honestly, it wasn’t that long ago that I WAS that Momma). How about the person on the corner? Store clerks? The new kid at school or Church?  Someone with skin a different color?   A person who loves differently? You see them everyday.

I was reading Bob Goff’s essay: 10 Ways To An Extraordinary Life last night, and this really struck me…

Goff suggests making friendship intentional and, moreover, risky. Because sometimes you can learn more from friends who stand just left of center than those with whom you share everything in common.

What if we got rid of THEM, and included everyone in US? How cool would that be? Step out of your comfort zone and you will be amazed who you meet. Just start looking at people as humans…not as races, tattoos, piercings, homeless, exhausted Mommas, store clerks, straights or gays.

Humans. Us instead of THEM.

 

Love Others As Themselves

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This. Is. Everything. Love others, but as THEMSELVES. Embrace others…all their quirks, messiness, decisions, beliefs, everything. Just love them. Don’t try to change them to fit your mold or ideal; or question how they run their house. Truth be told you’ll never understand everything that makes another person tick…

We all do this judgy thing. Only when it’s small we call it gossip…you know what I mean. We’ve all been on the giving and the receiving end. Jen Hatmaker in one of her preview essays from her new book  For The Love brings up a fabulous list that I am all too familiar with: stay at home Vs career, private school vs public, free range vs tight ship, Christiany vs non-Christiany, formula Vs breastfeeding, glitter & glam vs yoga pants, attachment parenting vs traditional. No matter what you call it…Gossip or judging it serves no purpose. So many of these things seem to center around women…why are we so hard on each other?

I’ve been on one side of all of these “differences”, but the one that sticks out the most is Breastfeeding vs Formula. I’ve had five kids, and I kid you not; one of the first questions I would hear usually from an a acquaintance, or a total stranger…”Are you gonna breastfeed?” Why is that? Not, “Congratulations!”, or “when are you due?” And, the minute I would say, “No, we’ve (feeling the need to throw John under the formula bus) decided to use formula.” I would get this look~~the look that said my formula fed baby would have 3 eyes and 12 toes look~~that would compel me to defend my decision on how I had chosen to feed my baby. When I really wanted to shout, “Look lady, I tried it for a painful two weeks with my first kid…(I still need therapy from the trauma). I’m now on kids 4 & 5, and I want Dad to do his share. I’m just not a nurser.” Guess what? I’ve got 5 formula fed, healthy, happy, smart kiddos. Nurse if you want…I promise I’m good with that. I won’t give you “the look”.

Same with families who let their children sleep with them. I myself am not a fan. My kids know they can snuggle with us until 10…then off to their beds they go. We just need our peace and quiet. But, if others are ok with that in their homes; then go for it. I don’t recall reading about college dorms that have space for the parents of these “attachment” kiddos. They’re going to be just fine.

I gotta tell you…if you are raising an eyebrow at the decisions and choices of others chances are they are raising one right back at you. So, why not just enjoy the different beats of all of our drums? Seems to me that if we all marched to the same beat it might get a little boring around here.

 

 

 

Never Cut What You Can Untie

Never cut what you can untie

 

Never cut what you can untie.
Burning bridges, kicking down the ladder, closing doors…those are all pretty easy escapes, aren’t they? I know I’ve mastered them. When someone tears at our soul to the point of tears or anger we want out, and we want out fast. Often times our first reaction is to slam the door in their face without listening or giving the other person a chance. Without giving the relationship a chance. We base our entire relationship on that one turbulent moment. It’s such a knee-jerk reaction. You hurt me and I’m done with you. Forever.

Forever! Gone. In a flash. Time goes by and of course you second guess yourself; your rationale. But, if you’re stubborn like me you dig in a little deeper and applaud yourself for being RIGHT. Well, whatever!!! Can you even remember what the argument or issue was about? If you can I’m sure it seems trivial now. If you can’t…well, there ya have it.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s the number of doors I closed in the past. Maybe it’s the fact that life is too damn short to be frivolously getting rid of the important people in our lives. I know one thing; this anger thing we carry around is a heavy burden.

I am much more willing to extend an open hand and reach out now. Humility and Grace have played a huge part in how I handle my relationships. I no longer feel the need to be right….it serves no purpose, honestly; except to add fuel to the fire. If each person spends their time voicing how “right” they are then no one is listening.

Listening is where it’s at.

Listening=Understanding.

Listening was/is a hard one for me. The old me used to listen to reply, and as soon as the other person shut their mouth I couldn’t wait to get MY words out. I promise I never heard a word they said simply because I wasn’t listening. This changed everything. And, Grace! What power that word holds. YOU have this power. Give it freely!! Give others and yourself forgiveness and mercy. Remember that no one is perfect, and that we are all fighting some kind of battle…depending on the day you don’t know what someone else is bringing to the table. Cut them a little slack.

Before you walk away next time; stop and think about the words that were said. I mean really think about where they were coming from. How was the other person really feeling? Were they coming from a place of anger, really? Or was it pain, hurt, sadness. If you take a step back it might change everything. Take a walk in their shoes. Ask them how they feel. And, then LISTEN.

Friends…reach out. Sometimes it takes patience. Sometimes it takes persistence. Sometimes it takes time for the other person to reach back. I’m learning that that is OK. Everyone deals with their emotions differently; in their own time.

I urge you to take a moment in the heat of anger to breathe; walk away; to just think. Do whatever calms you. Go for a run, have a glass of wine, take a nap. Then and only then think about your relationship. Not just this one moment, but all of the moments. And remember…Never cut what you can untie.