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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On getting snubbed…

A few days ago, I got snubbed. I was ignored, dismissed, and left to feel small. The cold shoulder in pure form.

I was talking to my friend ‘Jan.’ As we were chatting ‘Constance’ started to walk towards us. I don’t know Constance well, but we’ve seen each other around. Constance walks up to our conversation, and then BAM – Constance snubs me. She starts chatting with Jan, completely ignoring me. I tried to enter back in on their conversation only to have Constance slightly turn her back towards me. #coldshoulder
I get it buddy - it sucks.
What the shit, right? A snubbing from a grown ass woman! Who does that?

The next day I found myself obsessing over the encounter. Why would she snub me? I’m not mean, I’m not cruel. I’ve never done anything to her, have I?

Why would Constance do this? I bet she needs to think she’s better than everyone else because she feels small. I bet her husband is a jerk to her so she takes it out on other women. I probably intimidate her with my Honda Civic and stats talk, because that is SO intimidating.

I called my best friend and told her about the snubbing. I just needed to hear someone be like, “Do you need me to slap this chick – I’ll do it!”

Then, I started comparing myself to Constance. Of course, I won in every comparison. I’m smarter than Constance. I’m prettier. I have a better job, a nice house, and a better husband. Who does Constance think she is to treat me like that?

But after way too much thought, all of my thoughts boiled down to two questions.

1) How could one simple action result in me feeling so small?

I drifted back to second grade, which is the first time I lost a friend.

Jenny and I were best friends. One day Jenny and I were playing on the playground. Then, the new girl Tony wanted to play with us. I was excited for a new friend. Within days, Jenny stopped playing with me and became best friends with Tony.

Tony never liked me. I remember crying to my mother about losing a friend. I remember feeling small and unimportant. Why didn’t Jenny like me anymore? What the heck Tony?

I had forgotten about that moment for decades because – I mean – I was seven years old. But with a simple turn of the shoulder, Constance brought me back to second grade.

In second grade I learned that some people just won’t like you. I learned that some people do not want to be your friend. I learned what it is to lose a friend over pettiness.

The situation left me feeling inferior because deep down I have an insecurity that people will not like me as I am. I think a lot of people are terrified of that, which brings me to the second question…

2) What gives another woman value?

I’ve spent the last few days wondering about what gives someone value. Change is constant. If I set my value in changing things they are likely to be lost in a moment.

I have a good job. What happens if I lose that job? Do I still have value?

So I have a good husband. What happens if my husband dies (Del, you're not allowed to die - FYI)? Am I no longer valuable?

I’m pretty. Beauty is not eternal. Do I still have value if I’m no longer pretty?

When I think of why I’m valuable, it comes down to one thing: I am valuable because I am child of God. I am His, so I am worthy. That is constant. That is true.

Furthermore, when that is my standard it makes me think of Constance differently.

I am a child of God, and so is Constance. She cannot be better than me, and vice versa. God loves us the same. And if He loves us the same, I am called to love Constance.

I can see why Constance is loved. She is good with people (other than me, apparently). She has wonderful taste in clothing. She seems to have an abundance of friends.

So I’m taking my best friend’s advice, “You have to kill her with kindness. It’s a long-term plan, but in the end it’s the only thing that works.” She went onto say, "And the kinder you are, the more it highlights what she is doing."

I don’t need to snub Constance or cut her down (although I’ve toiled with the thought). Because deep down, I’m guessing that she is like all of us; just a bundle of weird childhood insecurities we need to overcome.

However, I don’t need Constance’s approval or even her friendship. I’m not seven anymore. I like who I am. I love myself, because God loved me first.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On how to survive the holidays with a food restriction…

So, you have celiac disease. Welcome to the club. Or a nut allergy? Glad you’re here. Allergic to eggs? Fish? Wheat or soy? Well, I bet you fear the holidays as much as I do.

My name is Stephanie, and last year I was diagnosed with celiac disease. On top of that – I’m allergic to nearly every damn food on this green earth.

I was diagnosed October of 2015. The harsh reality of my food restriction didn’t hit me until I was eating Christmas dinner with my in-laws. While my in-laws were dishing up their food, I came to the harsh realization that I would never be able to enjoy another holiday the same way again.

When you don’t have any food restrictions, all you have to do for most holidays (or parties, or meals, or anything) is just show up. But when you might vomit/have diarrhea/go into shock from consuming the smallest quantity of some food item – you start viewing eating food with a group of people a little differently.

Last year, my holidays were sad because I didn’t know what to do. One year later, I’ve learned. I wanted to share what I’ve learned and recommend how you can prepare for the upcoming holiday feasts/potential reactions season. If you read this and have more tips/recommendations please leave them in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

1) If this is your first holiday with a restriction – it’s ok to cry... for a minute.

My ham brought me to tears. It brought me to tears because in a house full of food, it was the only thing I could eat. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s ok to cry for a few minutes. But then (and sorry to be so harsh here) you have to pick your ass up and get over it. No amount of crying is going to feed you. So feel sad, and then go find yourself some amazing food that you can scarf down. Wine is one of my go-to consumables.

2) When you come to someone else’s house – don’t expect to be able to eat anything.

Last year I somehow thought I could just eat the stuff that didn’t contain gluten. But then, I saw my GF cookies nuzzling the gluten-filled cookies. I thought I could just eat the turkey, but then I saw someone graze a plate of turkey with the stuffing spoon. Within seconds all of my plans were destroyed. The worst part was, I didn’t come with a plan B. Honestly – what is fair for me to expect? There are 20+ people at this event. It is unfair and unreasonable for me to think everyone should shift their plans for me. It is my responsibility to make sure my food is safe. I think this has been one of the most difficult things for me to overcome, but it's gotten better.

3) Bring your own food.

I went to a Thanksgiving party a few days ago with my close friends, and I brought all of my own food. Everyone at the party knows my limitations, so they weren’t freaked out when I was munching on my own numnums while they were scarfing down the food I couldn’t eat. When you can – just bring your own goodies. Cheese and crackers are relatively potable, so are Lara bars. And I mentioned wine, right?

4) Eat ahead of time.

Realistically, you can’t always bring your own food. You’ll either look like a cheapskate or seem crazy. When you can’t bring in your own food, eat ahead of time. And if you don’t want to feel bitter about watching strangers eat the food you can’t enjoy – eat something AMAZING. That way, you won’t feel sad about Timmy eating bonbons because you’ll have had some GF pizza, or nut-free donuts, or whatever.

5) If you can, cook at your own house.

By the grace of God, we are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I won’t have to bring all of my own food. I won’t have to starve. And the best part – I won’t have to worry about when I’ll get sick from cross contamination.

6) If you’re cooking for someone with an allergy – ask them about their preferences.

I trust about three people to cook for me; one is a chef and the other two are super GF. It isn’t personal, it’s just that I can’t afford to get sick. If you want to provide food for someone with an allergy, just shoot them a message and ask them their preferences. And if they say “Don’t do anything,” please don’t be offended.

Happy and safe holidays everyone.
Captain Jack knows what's up.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On what I've learned from my friends...

Last week I was talking to someone about the election. Yeah – my mistake.

Half way through the conversation the person said, “I don’t know how anyone could vote for candidate ________________.” The person then went on to say, “Any people I know that support ___________________, I am no longer friends with. I got rid of those people.

We are all entitled to form with relationships with any people we please. But the idea of quickly throwing someone away over a political disagreement makes me feel sad.

So I wanted to shift the conversation away from differences, and focus on something positive: what the amazing people in my life have taught me. I thought of all of the incredible people I’ve had the privilege of meeting, and then I thought about what I learned from our friendship. To the people in my life – I love you. Thanks for helping me become a better person.

Without further ado, here are the lessons I’ve learned from my friends. 

Alex Cash – Think about everything. Question everything. Remain open-minded.
Alexa Zimmerman – By the time she is age five, your niece can easily become a better person than you may be.
Amy Gafjken – While it’s tempting to correct people when they’re wrong, sometimes it’s better to remain silent.
Ashley Woods – Life is full of so much joy, so grab all of that each moment you can.
Barry Schmidt – Read the news, watch the news, and listen to the news. Just be informed.
Ben Klomsten – Don’t break the rules, find ways to make them bend.
Ben Vance – When the chips are down for a friend, be the person that calls to pick that person up.
Brian Goins – The most talented people need not brag, because their confidence comes from what they can do.
Brandy DeLeo – Be kind as long as you can. If being kind doesn't work – just shrug it off.
Bri Campo – Great friends are sacrificial.
Bri Fox – Advocate for yourself. Speak up for your needs. And never be scared to ask a good friend for help.
Cassi Hodgson – Any moment can become a silly moment.
Chris Cooper – You don’t have to put up with a shitty spouse. A good person will treat you well.
Courtney Kruse – Don’t rush through life. Take moments to do fun and silly things.
Danielle Dobies – Share your challenges with people – it helps them understand that life can be difficult.
Dan Kruse – Some people were born to give clear, concise directions.
Darrin Matthew Voris – Be the person that brings people together.
Del Belcher IV – Be kind to people. Try new things. Spend money on things you love.
Drew VanTongeren – Find ways to turn negative conversation into something productive.
Frances Gibbs – Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before.
Gary Miles – Energetic children are a thing of joy, and their adventures should be shared on Facebook.
Gloria Klomsten – It doesn’t take anything away from yourself to compliment a stranger.
Guy McHendry – You really can have amazing discourse on Facebook, if the person leading knows what they’re doing.
Haley Mulroney – The first person you love more than yourself will likely be your niece.
Heidi Rhodes – The greatest joy in life comes from being with your friends.
Jack Campo – When you’re at work, give people your best. Help them. Serve them.
Jason Zimmerman – When giving people gifts, go all out.
Jessica Pierce – Children are amazing, and we need to do everything we can to understand them.
Jill Shaffer (I could probably devote a few blogs to how much I learned from Jill) – Before you speak, take a deep breath and think about what you’re going to say.
John Voelz – Be yourself. Always.
Jolene Schatzinger – You really can be kind to everyone.
Julia Belcher – Speak with everyone. Listen to them.
Justen Rhodes – Don’t just talk about helping people. Actually help people.
Karysa Trombley – Be boldly confident in the person that God made you to be.
Kelly Heath – You can be a busy and active mother, and raise outstanding children.
Mary Sterrett – Arrogance doesn’t look good on people. You can simply exist as an amazing person.
Mandy Stutenberg – Women can do anything and everything. And they can do it with unparalleled strength and grace.
Megin Worsham – Just because someone is quiet, doesn’t mean they aren’t the wisest person in the room.
Melissa Rickert – People are attracted to the person that gives them a kind smile.
Nancy Belcher – Diplomacy is learned over time, through interactions with people different than yourself.
Nicholas Quade – You don’t have to agree about everything (or even anything) in order to be friends with someone.
Paul Health – Be kind to your children, and make sure they always help the Sunday school teacher pick up a mess.
Renee Guerrero – Be passionate about what you believe in.
Robert Huschka – A good leader is willing to listen to anyone in the room.
Ryan Rammelt – The average person has more depth than you’ll ever know.
Shane Ebel – There is no problem too great than cannot be improved with one solid hug.
Stephanie Klomsten – A well planned party is a thing of beauty.
Stephanie Wright – Advocate for people that need help.
Steve Klomsten – Try to understand people. Seriously try.
Steve Trosin – Love your community, and try to make it better.
Terri McGarry – When people are talking to you – stop what you’re doing and listen.
Theresa Sieg – When cancer gets you down, tell cancer to go fuck itself.
Tim Maynard – Never doubt the power of well-placed sarcasm.

How about you? Who are the people you've learned from in your life? How have they helped you become a better person?

Image result for friendship lesson

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Can you please stop saying I'm not a Christian...

In the last several months, I’ve heard my brothers and sisters from every side call into question the faith of other Christian brothers and sisters. From every corner of the internet and in public spaces, I’ve heard people question how anyone can call themselves a Christian and…
  •          Vote Trump
  •          Vote for Hilary
  •          Oppose Trump
  •          Oppose Hilary
  •          Be pro-choice
  •          Be anti-abortion
  •          Support Syrian refugees
  •          Not help Syrian refugees
  •          Be a liberal
  •          Be conservative
  •          Support smaller government
  •          Support larger government
The list is endless. There seems to be some person stating they know the “truth” on every corner of the internet. If you want to back up your own point of view, you’re just a google search away. I’m pretty certain I could find some crazy dude with stats on why being racist is a Christian thing to do.

But that isn’t my point.

People enjoy fun ideas. They like hearing about concepts and dreams. But if you want to start a fight, try to hammer out details in a room full of people. The devil lives in the details.

There is one simple truth that spans across Christianity:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Everything else is a detail.

Wine at communion? A detail.
Drums in church! A detail.
Women in leadership. A detail.
International aid versus local? A detail.

Please don’t misunderstand me, details are important. I spend my live digging through details.
But in this – in this fight – what are we really fighting against?

Are we fighting to spread the word of God across all nations? Are we fighting to show people that Jesus has died for them? Or are we just fighting?

I like debates, and I like heavy discussion. But it seems to me like most of these fights aren’t over God’s truth, they’re over whatever we believe personally – with a Wikipedia page to back it up.

The real fight is not against each other, it is against the devil and evil and darkness. And right now, the devil is kicking our asses because we’re so busy fighting over the details. And the details, is where that poop stain likes to live.

For a while, can we stop fighting over these things?

For a while, can we stop calling into question the faith of our brothers and sisters? What purpose is that serving?

Can we take a step back from the details, and look at this big picture. The big picture where Christ died for all so we could be redeemed. The big picture where we are forgiven, if we too forgive. The big picture where we are all children of God, even if we disagree about the details.

Friday, October 28, 2016

On how to help a friend going through a divorce...

The divorce rate has been declining for the last couple decades, and the “50% of marriages end in divorce” stat hasn’t been true for a while (1, 2). Depending on how you calculate it (and the calculations have a TON of differences), closer to 40% of marriages end in divorce (3). The notion that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at substantially lower rates is a convenient myth (sorry, but it is)(4). Although divorce rates are declining - it remains true that - whether you’re a Christian, a member of another faith, an agnostic or an atheist – you’ll likely know someone who goes through a divorce.

I'm divorced. And my current husband also went through a divorce. Prior to that, I believed I had to succeed at everything in order to be loved. Going through divorce helped me learn an important lesson: that grace exists beyond my failing (Romans 3:20-24). 

Every situation is different, but I wanted to write about divorce. Specifically, since we will also know someone who goes through a divorce, I wanted to write about how you can help a friend who is going through a divorce. 

1)      Don’t pick sides.

Marriage is complex, and messy, and tough. There aren’t two sides to a marriage; there are like… a gazillion. While it’s easy and convenient to think, “It’s his fault because he did X” or “It’s her fault because she did Y” – that is overly simplistic. People get divorced because they’re people, and imperfect. Don’t pick a side, it just makes one person feel like crap and the other person feel justified. And the truth is, no one will ever understand what happens in another marriage. So just listen. Just be kind.

2)      Try to keep in touch.

I have such good friends. When I was going through a divorce they let me call or text as often as I needed. My friends were my life line. They listened to me and loved me when I needed it. If you have a friend going through a divorce, try to keep in touch with him/her. If you don’t want to be overbearing send a text that says, “I love you friend." 

3)      Don’t say, “I’ll pray you’ll get back together.”

People mean well when they say this. They are holding out hope that a friend won’t have to go through the pain of a divorce. But when you’re going through a divorce and someone says this line, what you likely hear is, “You’re wrong for doing this.” It feels like a slap in the face, because you likely already feel like crap for getting divorced. It is also undermining. It assumes that the person getting divorced hasn’t been trying for years to fix their marriage. A better thing to say is, “How can I help you?”

4)      Gossip is the worst.

When I was going through a divorce, I remember feeling like people were talking about me wherever I went. Although I was being slightly paranoid, I’d never felt that terrible feeling before. And despite never asking for gossip reports, things that were said always seemed to come back to me. If you know someone that is getting divorced and you need to talk to a friend about it, do it in private – and try not to be a jerk about it. Gossip has a way of coming back around.

5)      Remember – you could be next.

My least favorite pictures on Facebook are the ones like the below. Divorce isn’t Santa Claus or the tooth fairy – it exists. And unlike Santa, who "supposedly" comes around on the same night each year, divorce isn’t always expected. Today, I’m remarried to a wonderful guy who also went through a divorce. My husband Del and I have had the conversation, “We never thought we would have gotten divorced.” You never know what will happen next in life, or what weird twists and turns may come your way. With kindness I say – before you pass judgment upon someone for getting divorced, remember that it could be something you go through (although I hope it isn’t). And if you ever have to go through it, I hope you’re surrounded by kindness and grace, instead of judgment.
You "don't believe"?


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On all these politics…

I actually like politics. Nay – love it.

In college, I was on student senate all four years. My senior year I was President.

So I LOVE debates, but although I love them – I’ve been struggling recently.

On the Myers Briggs I’m an INTJ. INTJ’s are exceptionally rare, and are most scarce among women. My most extreme trait – is thinking. My colleagues and my friends took the MBTI, and among all of them I scored the lowest percentage for ‘feeling.’ So if you want a cold, calculating, rational, objective person – I’m your gal.

Image result for intj meme

On a practical level, this means that the majority of my decisions are based on thoughts and evidence, and not how I feel (although, it’s totally arguable that I just rationalize my feelings). Please note here that I’m NOT saying my way of thinking is superior to others; it isn’t. There are many valid ways to come to a decision. And this isn’t to say I never make decisions based on feelings. Two months ago I bought an inflatable donut because I just liked it; I try to allow myself 6 feelings-based decisions a year (let’s not get too crazy).

In regards to politics, this means that I’m fully capable of having a best friend that I totally disagree with on politics. And in reality – I do. One of my best friends – politically - is the complete opposite of me. I say tomato, she says tomato. But what we have in common is the fact that we enjoy debate, and can put feelings aside to engage in a thoughtful argument. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

The thing is, most people are not capable of putting their feelings aside.  

And honestly – I can’t always do it. And I am scientifically the most rational person I know.

For the last few months, how people respond to politicians has seemed like a weird, hazy blur of irrationality to me.

I see what someone posts on Facebook, and all I can see is lines of hypocrisy.

Sally said: “This is just SO MEAN.”
Followed by…
Sally commented that: “These people are FUCKING IDIOTS.”

OR

Jim said: “Hillary Clinton is SUCH a liar.”
Followed by…
Jim said: “Trump’s honesty will lead us to greatness.” (ahem... wha?...)

I’m not telling you how to vote here, because science has proven you wouldn’t listen to me anyways.

I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy. And the person I’m most tired of hearing it from – is myself.

I’m calling out Sally and Jim, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never written a scathing post or comment.

I say I’m rational. I say I’m evidence based. But when I think of why I dislike a candidate, its mostly based on a deep feeling. A deep feeling that they are X, and Y, and Z. And I don’t know what to do with that?

I want to trust these feelings. But I’ve seen how feelings play out on Facebook and in business, and usually…. It doesn’t end well. Yet here I sit – feeling pissed off.

Pissed off at the hypocrisy. Angry at people who aren’t doing what they said they would. And angry that the root of it all is a feeling, and not a thought derived from evidence. I mean - why do we even HAVE science?

Image result for you're a hypocrite meme
And I'm one of them.
And at this point, I always come to the same question: “What would Jesus want from me?”

Would he want me to write a comment tearing a brother or sister apart? Probably not.

Would he want me to tie a Bible verse to a political position? Unlikely (although I’d be REALLY good at it).

Would Jesus vote for Hilary, or Trump, or Jill, or Gary? That is impossible to be known.

I don’t have every answer (who does?). But I think what Jesus would want, is for me to love my brothers and sisters. He would want me to listen to them, and share my views – as kindly as I can. He would want me to forgive errors I see and to look hard within myself to understand my own failings. 

And I think – he’d want me to try to feel as much love for my brothers and sisters – especially those I disagree with – as he would have for me.

Because at the end of the day, worshipping a false idol is just wrong (Exodus 20:3).
And at the end of the day, we’re called to love each other (1 Peter 4:8).
And at the end of the day, Jesus is The King (Revelation 17:14).

I think and I feel that is true.

Image result for christ is king
So let's just CTFO!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is power…

From a sociological perspective, I hate how much I can’t really show you what power is.

Thanks to James Watt, physics has a cool definition with some sweet formuli.

But when I look to social or political science, the definition is so ambiguous.

The ability of an individual or group to achieve their own goals or aims when others are trying to prevent them from realising them.

How the hell do I measure that?

I’d have to ask everyone their goal. Then I’d have to ask them at a later point in time whether they achieved that goal. And if they didn’t, I’d have to figure out the why of it all. But is that too micro? How do I measure structural influences?

But what’s the goal? Is it as simple as whether you’re able to get your work done at your job, or not posting something you want to say on Facebook out of fear? Or is it bigger? Like missing out on higher education, or being able to get that big job?

Likely, it’s all of those things. It’s big and it’s small.

When I think of power, the only semi-relevant quote that comes to mind is from the Jackson native justice Potter Stewart when he talked about porn.

“I shall not attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

I know power plays when I see them. I see them play out and I feel them deep inside my body. And they are larger forces playing out in small moments.

They are those moments when another person says or does something to make me feel small. 

And how old are you? I only hear that phrase used when someone wants me to know they’re older than me. Age being used to establish dominance.

They are those quips and phrases meant to keep me in my place. When someone says a woman is a “bitch” because she disagrees – that is power meant to keep a person down. What if I just want to disagree?

“I have the same ________ as a woman!” What? Do you realize what you’re saying here? You’re saying your job, or talent, or body part, or whatever is bad because a woman might have it. What is that saying about women?

Bible passages thrown on Facebook stories. I HATE this. People use The Word to beat people up.

Number of degrees. Number of articles read on a topic. Number of years worked at a job. Well some of these are helpful for understanding background and establishing credibility, I usually hear them used as a way to establish dominance. “Well I have a Ph.D. in X, so whatever your critique may be….”

But they are also more than words. They are body language. My old boss use to sit on my desk with his crotch facing me. He was using his body to make me feel, well, just icky.

But they are also larger than that. They are laws that seek to restrict my personal freedom. They are corporations and lobbyist groups that use their power to limit what people can do.

Science has proven that school integration is the best way to reduce test gap scores. But do we integrate? No, because there is power there. But what does that even mean?

Ask my husband how I experience the world, and you’ll likely get stunned silence. “She is overwhelmed a lot,” he will likely say.

I can’t shop at Meijer without having a panic attack. I have a hard time attending concerts, or theme parks, or stores, or meetings, or anything. Just being still is impossible.

I go into a room, and everything is there. I see every color on every wall. I hear every sound. I remember what people say, and feel what they feel, and notice what they imply. And I feel overwhelmed all of the time. So to subsist, I default to thinking over feeling and spending a lot of time alone.

And when I’m alone, I reflect back on my interactions throughout the day.

And in those interactions I see a complex world full of people. And some of those people are struggling to establish their power over other people. And for those people, my heart sinks.

Because the need to establish power doesn’t come from confidence or skills or ability, it comes from inferiority. A deep insecurity where you feel like you aren’t listened to or just aren’t good enough. Real individual power comes from knowing within yourself that you are good enough, because you simply are.

And it has to come from that, because the reality is that the world is stratified. And no matter how much we love ourselves, external forces exist to try to limit our choices. They’re big, and they’re small. And some have bad hair, and some don’t know how servers work. But they are real.

But because it’s so damn hard to define them, it’s hard to see them. And when it’s hard to see them, it’s hard to stop them. And that’s probably what they all really want. Because you can’t stop what you can’t see.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On being vulnerable...

I was friends with “Hannah” for two years. Nearly every day for two years we would go on walks together. We’d walk and talk about our lives. I knew Hannah’s entire family, and Hannah knew everything about me.

I gauge my love of people by a “kidney test.” I ask myself “If that person needed my kidney, would I give it to them?” I would have given Hannah my kidney. Actually, both of them.

One (or both) of these could be yours!
Then, I got divorced. We went for a walk and I told Hannah I was divorcing my then husband. And soon after – Hannah just stopped talking to me. Hannah exiting our friendship remains one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me. When I asked Hannah what I’d done to her, she told me “I don’t agree with your choices.”

Hannah was the last time I ever let myself get close to a new friend. Since her, no new friend has ever passed the kidney test. It’s been five years.

A few months ago, a friend from church sent me Brene Brown’s video on vulnerability.

If ever there lived a researcher who is likely my life twin, it would be Brene Brown.

I watched Brene's video once, and I didn’t get it. So I watched the video again, and a little bit more sunk in. Then I watched the video a third time, and had an emotional breakdown.

The crux of the video is that the happiest people are vulnerable. And vulnerable people are courageous. And courageous people are those that live whole-hardheartedly. And people that are whole-hearted put all of themselves into what they do.

Vulnerable I was not. I sit behind a computer screen all day typing and playing with data. In person, I tell people personal things in an attempt to connect. But if I’m honest – really honest – my bags are always packed. And the sad thing about packed bags is that they always leave you feeling a little lonely.

Then, Brene Brown happened.

When I worked in Detroit I fell in love (co-worker love) with a woman name Ashley. If you’ve ever met Ashley, you love her too. It is impossible not to love her. And you love Ashley – because every moment you’re with her you get 100%. Ashley loves you, she loves life – and most importantly – she loves herself. She is beautifully confident in the fact that she is an amazing person (and she is… oh she is).

So I bought Brene’s book, and I’ve watched her video a fourth and fifth and sixth time. My goal – was to be my own version of Ashley. I’ve spent the last several months trying to be more vulnerable, and trying harder to connect with people.

The lynch pin of being vulnerable comes from one key thought – that you need to be resilient to shame. Shame is when you feel bad about who you are. Shame is the belief that we are unworthy of love and belonging. According to Brene, "The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it." 

Hannah broke me. I’d never had a friend get so close, and then leave. And since her, I’ve spent every encounter keeping myself a safe distance from everyone. If Hannah could just leave one day because she didn’t like my choices, who else would just leave? Maybe I'm just not good enough?

But if I want to feel connected, I can't continue to live the lie of thinking that I'm not good enough. I have to move on.

So a few nights ago I made cupcakes for my co-workers. I’m trying harder to get to know them. But when I tried one of the cupcakes, the damn ganache settled to the bottom in a sloppy mess.

My first thought was, “I can’t give this to people.”

My deeper thought was, “Because if these aren’t perfect people will be upset.”

But my real thought was, “And if these aren’t perfect, then I’m not perfect. And if I’m not perfect people won’t love me.”

Then I thought of the book. And then I thought of living with my whole heart. And then I thought of shame resilience. And then I served my co-workers the cupcakes anyways, and mentioned that the ganache wasn’t perfect but that the frosting was.

And with a cupcake, a layer of shame came off. My resilience was built up. One more shirt was taken out of the suitcase.

I don't know what's next, but I know I'm going to keep trying - because I am worthy.
My cupcake brings all the friends to the yard.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On my mission field...

You haven’t lived until you’ve cried in front of your boss. You new-ish boss.

Someone very close to me has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD does not kill you, but it makes your life very uncomfortable. People COPD are often short of breath, they may wheeze a lot, and they are prone to respiratory infections. Watching this person I love live with COPD is difficult. They have trouble walking quickly, and sometimes they struggle to breath. For most people, breathing is just what we do. But with COPD – breathing is difficult.

Working as an analyst at a hospital I’m asked for a lot of data. A few weeks ago my boss asked if I could pull data on COPD, and then present the findings to a group of leaders. The data pull was simple enough. Login, enter the parameters, some excel stuff – and presto - COPD data.

But then I had to present the data.

I drove to the meeting alone and thought about what I was going to say. The more I thought about COPD, the more I thought about the person I love. The more I thought about the person I love struggling to grab air, I started to cry.

I see more data than you can ever imagine; rows and columns of numbers and percentages. I have login after login for number after number. My excel sheets have excel sheets.

But in health care, numbers aren’t numbers – they are people.

And in this report – COPD wasn’t just a diagnosis code – it was a person.

And this person, was someone I love.

I've worked as an analyst for about 10 years. I've pulled data on everything from Pop Tarts to Free Press page views. I’ve always believed my role as a data analyst is special. I get to be the person that sees all of this data, and hears from ALL of these people, and I get to summarize what I see to people that can make changes. I feel humbled to be this person that gets to represent so many voices.

Tell a VP about the year-over-year percent change and why we're flat? Not a problem.

Market share reports for the north region? You got it.

But yesterday, for the first time in my life, the data I was going to speak on represented someone close to me. And even though I practiced what I would say, I could not get past the tears.

I got to the meeting looking like a soggy mess and had to tell my boss, “I can’t stop crying. I need you to do this.” And she did, because she's fantastic. Then, my tears brought forth conversation. My boss and I began talking about this person I love, and how with this data – maybe we can help more people. I think we will.

For the first time in my adult life I get to work in the community where I live. These numbers are my neighbors, and people I care about. When I talk about them, I’m talking about people I love.

I may never lead a church or travel to another country to preach. But these numbers are my purpose. And when I speak about them, I know that this is what I was always meant to do.

Yesterday, I fell in love with my job.

Yesterday, everything became real.

Today, and tomorrow, and every day after - numbers are my mission field.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

On the boundaries of my body...

Sometimes I think about how hard life can feel.

Flooded house. Celiac disease. Neck pain. The list goes on...

In those moments, I often wonder about one question: "What is my own?" 

I've thought about this for months. I've lost sleep over it. But one day, there's only one thing that came as a consistent certainty.

My body. It is mine. It is always my own.

As a child, I was molested. That impacts you. But what it stole from me is this notion that my body was mine.

That followed me. When I dated boys, they took advantage of this weakness of mine. I thought my body was not mine, but it was for them to be used.

But this extends beyond physical pleasure.

My husband tells me I'm beautiful. But in my life, I've had maybe three days where I've believed that to be true.

My outward appearance has never satisfied me. I work out six days a week. I do it out of fear that if my body is not pleasing to others, I am a disappointment.

Again, my body is not my own. But it is all I will ever always have.

Yet this thing that is my own, is often the most threatened. 

Women upset men online. A common male reaction is to threaten rape. A man wants to take from me the one thing I have.

A Disney princess is always beautiful. A Barbie is always thin. Name three ugly actresses?

When will it ever be enough? Why is external beauty even important?

Because somehow the devil has beaten me in this.

He took a culture, and convinced us the outside of our bodies are more important than our heart's desires.

He took one whole gender, and convinced them that physical assault - or threatening it - is an option (1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted - these are our sisters and daughters).

And he took children, like me - and put us in situations where the one thing we ever really had was stolen.

Well, today I declare the one thing we must always say to the devil: "Go fuck yourself."

This body is mine. You cannot take it. It is my own, and no matter what you put on me - you will not win.

Because regardless of what you take, oh Devil, Jesus gave up His body so I could love this one.

So fuck you. Today and every day after. Because this body is mine own.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

On the purpose of my depression...

I never talked to Kyle again after that day. After the day I hugged him.

Kyle, Del and I just sat in the mental health ward.

After few minutes Kyle looked at us and said, “Are you guys – like – religious? Because I think God sent you yesterday.”

That moment. That phrase. Those words – made everything worth it. 

They made it worth Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Celexa. They made it worth swallowing pills, and almost driving off a bridge. They made it worth my trip to a mental ward. They made it worth depression, anxiety, and OCD. They made it worth thousands of dollars in therapists and hospitals.

I often wondered the “Why?” of it all. So much suffering in a world of “Just be happy.” Days of crying and laying around in pain, and wondering why I can’t move.

Kyle drove his truck into a tree to try to kill himself.

He had a hard life, and the trigger of a cheating girlfriend was too much.

I get that. I had been there. It isn’t the girlfriend – it’s feeling alone.

In that moment, death feels like it could be better than pain.

So when I pulled Kyle from his truck – I knew what to say.

When I walked Kyle to the curb – I knew what to do.

When I held Kyle and he cried – I knew to let him cry.

When I prayed with Kyle as the ambulance came – I knew what to pray.

And when we visited Kyle in the mental health ward – I knew what to do.

I always wondered how I would react if I had to go back to a mental health ward. Would I break down? Would it be too much?

I didn’t break. It wasn’t too much. It felt safe, just like it did 10 years ago.

And when Kyle said, “God sent you” I knew he was right.

It seems so trite, but I saved a life that day.

Just like a friend saved mine ten years ago. When God called, my friend answered. Now it was my turn. 

Hopefully, one day, Kyle will do the same. I think he will. I know he will. And after he does, I'm sure he'll know that it was worth it too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On judging gay people...

I do not pretend to be a Theologian, although I've read the Bible a few times. There are people I know that are better versed on these issues. Yet it seems wrong to see groups of people being publicly condemned, and sit by idly without uttering a word.

Last week, I came upon a Facebook post that broke my heart.

A pastor I know posted on his church page about the evils of homosexuality. He then proceeded to condemn gay people to eternal hell fire.

There are so many things wrong with that post:
-It’s five years behind cultural discourse
-It pits people against each other
-It condemns an entire group of people
-It misses the opportunity to minister to people
-It’s a straight-up – douche bag thing to post

A close relative of mine left the church several years ago. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of this person and pray for him. I pray for two things: 1) I pray that Jesus finds a way to work in his life – but mostly 2) I pray that the people that caused so much pain to my relative see the pain they caused and apologize.

There are many reasons people leave the church – or never come at all. And it is na├»ve to think we can do anything and everything to ensure no one ever leaves. But we need to do more to invite people in, and let them know they are welcome.

If you have been hurt by the church, I am sorry for that. That sucks. If I have hurt you, I am sorry for that.

If someone has unfairly judged you, that was wrong. There are many Bible verses about not passing judgment upon others. (Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:1-8; Luke 6:31-36; Romans 2:1-3).

When you ascribe to Christianity, you must have standards and there are things that must be believed. We cannot disregard that if you know you are leading a life that is detrimental to God’s purpose for you, you must choose to walk away from that. I do not ascribe to know the plan God has for each person. However, it is of the utmost importance to show kindness to others. That includes people you like, dislike, agree with, or disagree with. I can’t believe I even have to write that here. I mean, have you read like – ANY of Romans?

And why is there such a huge focus on homosexuality above all else? There are so many other issues impacting us, why is this the great focus? Why not topics such as: divorce (hey, I'm divorced), affairs, poverty, abuse, lust, theft, drug abuse, laziness, body image issues (I struggle here), working too much (I struggle here too), selfishness (ok, real struggle here), lying, etc.

In case you're a judgmental jerk, let me spell it out for you. Just because you read the Bible every day, and pray a lot – doesn’t mean you get a free pass on passing eternal judgment against an entire people group. The only person that gets pass eternal judgment died on the cross. No one made you king of anything. So kindly hold your tongue.


Moving forward, instead of using these words we have to divide, let us choose to use them to unite.

Christ died for all. All. Period. End of sentence. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

We may not all agree on how we choose to live out our faith. But in the end, Jesus is what matters most of all. Let us try to agree on Him.

No matter what you have done, God wants you. You are forgiven by God. You are a child of God. You are loved by God.

If you want a church to attend, I’d love for you to attend mine. Attending church can be terrifying, but our church also has a way where you can attend online. You – all of you – any of you – are welcome here.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

On gluten cheat days…

There is a phenomenon I’ve seen floating around the interwebs called “cheat day.”

A person with celiac disease or gluten intolerance posts a picture of cake with an assortment of hashtags such as #glutenintolerance #cheatday #Imsobad.

In sum, cheat day is when folks with celiac disease or gluten intolerance eat gluten in spite of any consequences.

I am NOT a fan of cheat day.

I’ve never had a cheat day. Migraines, skins rashes, diarrhea, risk of osteoporosis, risk of cancer, and risk of other autoimmune disorders are enough to convince me to never consume gluten again in my life.

The impact of cheat days extend beyond the individual doing the cheating.

Since I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, I’ve gotten a range of responses when I ask restaurants about their food options.

The majority of restaurants are honest, and if folks can accommodate they will.

However, I once had a manager tell me, “You won’t have any reaction – unless it’s psychosomatic.” That was INCREDIBLY insulting to both me and my diarrhea.

I once had a restaurant bring me a wheat bun, and when I tried to confirm whether it was safe the eat the waitress said; “You’ll probably be ok.”

And every celiac I know has been served croutons on a salad, only to get the salad returned with crumbs from the tiny death cubes. As if picking off the croutons now makes the salad safe?

People don’t understand the severity of celiac disease. And some people think that gluten intolerance is a joke.

And people that have cheat days are NOT helping.

When you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease you are now a representative of the community. We represent less than 5% of the population. So when people meet us, they look to understand what we are doing.

As my husband says, “People are learning about this disease via you – so don’t be a dick.”

When you have celiac disease and eat pizza, people think I can do that same thing. But I can’t without getting sick.

When you have gluten intolerance and eat cake, people think you are a hypocrite. Do you really want to be that person?

So, for me, for the community, and for your own health - please don’t have cheat days.

And if you do, please just keep them to yourself.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On how to have a crappy marriage…

A few weeks ago, someone I know was going on endlessly about her terrible husband. Let’s call her “Mrs. Crankybutt.”

“I do everything! He NEVER does this! He doesn’t do that!”

After listening to Mrs. Crankybutt complain for an hour (yes, an hour) about her terrible husband, I told her, “If you want a happier marriage, you can start by trying to be nicer to your spouse.”

That didn’t end well. Mrs. Crankybutt came back at me with, “What would you know? I read your blog, and your marriage is perfect!” I’ve thought for several weeks about that last sentence. How does my blog portray my husband and my marriage? Do people really think my marriage is perfect? Do people think my husband is perfect?

What gets me the most about Mrs.Crankybutt's sentence is the sheer irony. Maybe instead of listening to all of your friend’s pooptastic advice about how to "fix" your spouse, you should listen to the person standing in front of you that you think has a "perfect" marriage.

Both my husband and I are divorced, so I’ve tried to refrain from writing a blog on “How to have a good marriage,” because it seems exceptionally hypocritical given this is my second marriage. What does not seem hypocritical is to write the opposite; laced with all of the sarcasm I can muster.

How to have a crappy marriage

Publicly degrade your spouse

My ex-husband once had a group of guy friends over. They were playing a board game, so my ex-husband asked me to get the guys some drinks. When I said, “Sure” he looked at the guys and said, “See, didn’t I train her well!”

I was totally humiliated. I am not a dog. He was not my father. If you want a miserable marriage, make fun of your spouse. If you want a terrible marriage, mock your spouse in public.

Megaphone optional

Hold onto past grievances

My favorite thing to do to my ex-husband was hold onto any error he ever committed.

He forgot my grad school graduation day. I held onto that for at least two years.

He didn’t get me anything for my birthday. I held onto that for at least three years.

I asked him to wash the dishes, and he didn’t. I held onto that for a few months.

Eventually, I held onto so many things that the resentment was untenable. This person I had loved became this person I could no longer stand to be around. If you want to hate your spouse, hold onto everything. Let it burn the inside of you until you melt.

He held onto resentment...
Blame your spouse for everything

During her one hour rant, Mrs. Crankybutt said to me, “I’m grounded. I’ve got my stuff figured out. But my husband – he needs to work on his issues.”

Mrs. Crankybutt. Is. A. F$%@&#$. Idiot.

Everyone has issues. Every person can improve him/herself.

My husband has the habit of leaving his clothing all over our house. I was once going to tell him to pick his pants up, but then I looked down and saw a clustering of my shoes surrounding his pants. I was so focused on what he was doing wrong, that I didn’t see my own stuff cluttering up our space.

If you want to dream of slapping your spouse, live in the ever-lasting denial that you don’t have any issues. Focus on all of your spouse’s flaws, and make sure to rub them in. Never take that log out of your eye, but focus on the stick in your spouse’s eye.

Kermit knows. He knows.
Don’t make your marriage a priority

Without asking me, my ex-husband told me he was going to go to law school. He then moved six hours away, and devoted all of his time to school. If I wanted a date night, law school came first. If I wanted to just see him, law school came first. After three years of not making me a priority, my ex-husband was no longer a priority for me.

I once heard of a couple that got a divorce because the husband wanted to play softball six nights a week, and the wife wanted him at home.

Some marriages are broken by alcohol and others by drugs. But most marriages break because one or both spouses make something else a priority – and they make it a priority for a long time.

If you too would like your marriage to break, prioritize other things above your marriage.

Also available with "I HATE My Wife"
May you all live crappily ever after!

Love,

The girl with the perfect marriage


Addition as of 6/24

Disclaimer: "Mrs. Crankybutt" is a fictitious character compiled from multiple recent events, and does not depict any one person. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On what to do when your new house floods…

In the spirit of personal growth, I wanted to write a different style blog. A post to highlight my genetic sarcasm.

About two months ago we moved into our new house. And by new, I mean – this house was just birthed from the abyss of construction a few months before we moved in. New walls, new carpet, new flooring. New, new, new…

Two weeks after we moved in – and the day after our house warming party (see irony, check), our house flooded.

WHAT HAPPENED
Our washing machine was on the top floor. I loaded it up, and went for a one hour walk (if you just said “You should've never left the house while you were doing laundry," you can stop reading. When was the last time a "You should" ever helped anyone?). When I walked into the house, I heard a waterfall-like sound. A waterfall-like sound is only beautiful when you hear it while you’re outside. I turned around the corner of the house entry-way, and there was water coming through a light in the ceiling. The washing machine hose got disconnected from the wall due to improper installation. The water flooded into two upstairs rooms, throughout our kitchen and living room, and through to the basement. That night, service master came, and in 5 hours they ripped apart and took out everything that was ‘new, new, new’ in our ‘new, new, new’ house. So for the last six weeks, our house has been a construction site. We’ve been waiting for fans to dry everything out, ceilings to be redone, and floors to come in.

Thankfully, insurance is covering the $20,000 (yeah, $20,000) cost to repair the damage.

Without futher ado….

HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR NEW, NEW, NEW, HOUSE FLOODING

1. Stop the source

You walk in. You hear water when you should be hearing silence. Don’t freak out (see step #2 and #3). Find the source of the water, if you can stop it. Seriously, stop that $hit.

If there is water coming through a light fixture, grab the nearest trash can. Take the bag of trash out of said trash can, and put it under the water source.

Find all of your precious towels and semi-loved blankets, and start absorbing whatever water you can.

2. Call your spouse/loved one/parent and freak out

Something like….

“Honey……….. noooooooooooo…………… our house. Come home….. quick. Our perfect house is (sob, sob, sob) RUUNIIIINNNNEEDDDDD FFOOOORREEEVVVVER.”

Hang up phone. Wait for spouse to come.

3. Freak the f$&@ out

Get on your knees, preferably not under that water, and throw your hands in the sky ala Platoon style.

Image result for platoon
"This is why we don't have nice thingsss....."
Loudly sob.

Scream things like, “This is why we don’t have nice things….. God doesn’t want me to have nice things….”

Move from your knees onto your back to both survey the ceiling water damage, as well as ensure you don’t keel over from your massive sobs.

Whilst on your back, scream things into the abyss such as, “Bahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…………. Nooooooooo………….”

4. Hug your spouse/loved one/parent when they come in

Hug your spouse. Take a few deep breathes (you probably need to catch your breath after that glorious freak out, I mean – wasn’t that amazing).

Find your homeowners insurance policy.

Call your agent. If he/she doesn’t respond, email your agent.

When your agent doesn’t respond, call the insurance company directly. Tell them your house is flooded. Provide your policy details.

5. Call service master

Holy crap. No company name has ever had a better name. They are truly masters of service.

Call service master. They take care of flood damage (and fire, and ‘home accidents’).

Wait quietly, powerless, for service master to come.

6. Drink a beer.

Or two. You need it.

7. Watch service master fix your life

Service master comes in. Like a knight in shining armor, they take care of the water situation. They rip out all of your new, new, new, stuff that needs to come out so black mold doesn’t take over your new, new, new house. They turn on fans to dry everything out.

Watch as they turn the thermostat up to 90. In May.

Watch as the cover rooms in plastic to quarantine your house.

Service master, I love you. Seriously. If I weren’t married….

8. Wait for the insurance adjuster

He’ll be here in 5 days? Seriously? How many homes does he have to adjust?

We don’t need new carpet? I bet if this were his mother’s house she’d get new carpet.

Whatever ‘Chad,’ if that is your real name.

9. Call the insurance company’s contractor. Get an estimate.

You can be here in 5 days. Fine, whatever.

Your estimate is $5,000 over the adjuster because the adjuster missed the flooring, the ceiling, and a slew of other stuff. Yeah, not surprised. Never trust a man named Chad.

But insurance covers the difference because we used their recommended contractor? Well, that’s sweet.

10. Wait for your contractor

They're on their third try of the ceiling, and they can’t match the texture?

They redo the ENTIRE ceiling, and it isn’t right.

Whatever.

11. Wait longer for your contractor

He said he’d be done June 10th, and now he says it’ll be closer to July.

Because they took too long on the ceiling.

Because they can’t find the right flooring.

Whatever.

Whoever prayed for me to be patient... I will find you.

12. Wait longer for your contractor

The flooring finally came, but its wrong because the guy that originally put it in can’t read a number on a box.

What. The. F$%#. Ever.

Just burn the house down and let’s rent. (not really, this is sarcasm)

13. Write a blog. Vent.

Check.

14. Pray

15. Pray some more

16. Pray even more

17. Read Lamentations for perspective

18. Read Job for perspective. Job had it super bad

19. Read terrible news stories for perspective

20. Chill. Chill. Chill.

21. Be Chill. Chill Chill.

22. #WhitePeopleProblems

23. #SomePeopleDon’tHaveFood

24. Everything will be ok. Whooosaaaaa……

25. Everything will be ok…… Thank God for homeowners, service master, and good husbands…
.
26. Whoossaaaaa…..