What I Learned From The Coffee Shop Couple

For those who hang out in coffee shops a lot, you are prone to hear the conversations of others. Read how one blogger overhead the painful demise of of a relationship and what she learned from it.

I had the unique privilege of eavesdropping listening to an uncomfortable conversation in a relationship while I was working at my local coffee shop the other day.

The couple didn’t actually break up right there, but they argued, and they single handedly made me want to apologize to any guy I’ve ever dated. Because I saw the games they were both playing and I recognized myself in some of those scenes.

Yes friends, it was that bad.  Continue reading “What I Learned From The Coffee Shop Couple”

Judging the Pain Away

In light of the tragedies that are occurring in our country, one mom encourages others to look past the tendency to judge.

The scene on social media that has become all too familiar lately played itself out again in the past few days. On the heels of a heinous event that defies what we have come to know and appreciate as humans – as Americans – we seem to forget what’s really needed to recover from devastation.

Empathy. Compassion. Love. Communication.

Instead, we’re using judgement to escape the pain.

Like many parents, I’ve had to have very difficult conversations with my children recently  surrounding gun violence, racism, sexual assault, the GLBTQ community, animal rights, the challenges of parenthood, and politics. I remember having the same types of conversations with my parents 30 years ago without the extra voices that social media can lend to our conversations. The voices that are the exact opposite of what I’m trying to teach my kids, no matter how old they grow.  Continue reading “Judging the Pain Away”

Do You Know What You Need? Are You Willing to Tell Others?

WHAT DO YOU NEED-

A close friend of mine was dealing with complications from  a chronic illness and one of the first things that came out of my mouth when I heard the news was, “What do you need?” Depending on the day, his answers would vary from a slice of gourmet pizza to fresh vegetables to a simple six pack of tomato juice.

He is amazing. And not because he loves gourmet pizza (well, maybe a little because he loves gourmet pizza), but moreso because he can identify and communicate what he needs so easily.

And just like anytime someone we know can do something better than we can, we get a little bummed. That is until we start the self-help rituals or therapy, whichever comes first.

As I think about it, I’m not sure where this particular personality trait came from, but I know it is frustrating to my friends and family.  A first years ago though, I discovered that if I couldn’t tell people what I needed, they would decide it for me, and the only child in me did NOT like being told what I need.

Enter 2016, my love of TED talks,  and the word vulnerable. After reading two of Brene Brown’s books and studying the concept of vulnerability more, I found that I had some work to do — on myself. I used what I studied and learned to admit some things to myself and others.

My name is Toni. For the past 25 years of my life, I have never been able to tell someone what I need from a relationship. Not my friends. Not my boyfriends. Not my ex-husband. No one.

I have never communicated my needs in a relationship to anyone.

My name is Toni. If you are going to be my friend, I need your support and kindness. I’d like to know that you really want the world to be a better place. I need you to understand that yes I am an extrovert, but when tempered with my only-child nature and LOUD three children, sometimes I absolutely need solace. I need you to know that between essential oils, Google, Shonda Rhimes, channeling my friends who are doctors, and all the medical advice I have ever received for every illness I’ve had, I am the expert on most medical conditions.

To know me, to really know me and love me means you know that the only thing I think I have done right in this world is parent those kids to absolute best of my ability. I need your reinforcement and smiles and hugs for fuel.

Don’t ask me not to be connected to technology. Don’t tell me I’m addicted to my phone. My phone, my computer, and yes, even my tv are important to when, how, and what I write. Yes, writing is how I eat, but it is also how I express my best self. Next to prayer and meditation, it soothes my soul.

this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

To Jay. (Not his real name. Most definitely NOT his real name.) You are probably one of the few people in the world that I know is smarter than me. While I live for information gathering, politics, and the news. I need to feel that our love thrives on mutual respect, admiration, and affection for one another. I need you to tell me what I mean to you in clear terms. If you can’t do that, or won’t do that – then we can’t be anything more than two people who’ve known each other for a really long time.

To Carl. (He’d sue me if I used his name.) When you told me you loved me, I needed you to honor that sentence. I needed you to stop being passive aggressive and doing one action, that was really a reaction, because you don’t like the way I did whatever. Just tell me, or better yet? Do it so I can see what you are talking about.

To David. (You guessed it. Not his real name). Fidelity is important to me. I needed to know that our lives are shared with each other only. I know that in some cultures polygamy and sister-relationships are the norm. Not with me. 

To Kyle: (Nope. It’s safe to say that I’m not using real names here at all). I needed you to stop trying to fix things for me and use all of that energy to find solutions to the problems in your life.

To Me. I need you to stop being so critical with every mistake I make. I need you to eat at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I need you not to feel guilty when you do something nice for yourself. And Toni, this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

Twerking, Porn, and Drugs

TWERKING PORN AND DRUGS

This is a story about grace and mercy.

We’re not really going to talk specifics about porn and twerking. I’m thinking you can find that on Google if you’d like to know more. We are going to talk about the hidden lives and moments that teenagers have. The things they discuss with their friends. And  the things they look at on their computers and phones that we as parents have no idea about. And the things that other teens do that indirectly can affect our families.

This happens entirely too often. This happens in families where communication lines are open. This happens in families that are grounded in faith. And even when our kids absolutely know better, there can be a lapse in judgement.

Now before you shake your head, go off, and start to tell me about the values in your household, I need you to listen. Because it’s not just your daughters  and sons I’m talking about, it’s mine too. All three of mine to be exact.

And it’s because of one simple thing – curiosity.

Again, calm yourself down so I can explain myself.  I am not telling everyone on the internet that you have given birth to a stripper. I am telling the internet world that as parents we are raising a generation of children among influences we can’t control.

And even though our children may not openly subscribe to those influences, they are still exposed, and just like with medical illnesses, with exposure comes the risk of infection. Remember Ebola?

When CJ was in the 5th grade, he couldn’t wait to come home and tell me about the moment he saw a drug deal occur on the school bus. While he recounted every detail, the most exciting thing to him was, “I actually saw crack.”

Imagine the look on his face when I asked him what the crack looked like, and then had to tell him that it wasn’t crack, it was marijuana. And while marijuana is bad (in Texas anyway), it didn’t have the same exotic appeal to him as witnessing the crack deal. Yes, I know. There are several things wrong with this picture.

When Tyra was in 5th grade, two of her classmates were caught smoking marijuana in the school bathroom. From her classroom, she could smell it. And even though the school handled the situation appropriately, there was an overwhelming feeling of,  this is just the world we live in today normalcy.

And yes, it’s even happened to Jada, who had to witness a friends she’s had since the 1st grade be picked up from school in handcuffs for guess what, marijuana possession.

Grace and mercy.

In elementary school, one evening at the dinner table, CJ and Tyra mentioned twerking and physical education class in the same sentence. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Twerking?!?! Surely that couldn’t be the same dance that my college students talk about…surely not.

But it was the same dance…and when I asked them if they knew how to do it, they did. “Not because we do it Mom…we’ve just seen the other kids do it.” Right. And to believe that would also lend me to be a good candidate to believe I will find oil in my backyard and strike it rich. I’m just saying.

It now hit me that my children had been exposed, and to a degree infected. Because even if they aren’t twerking in public, the fact they can mention it so casually was a sign of a bigger problem.

Fyi, they really did know how to twerk. I know this  because I acted like I didn’t know the dance. And when I attempted to do it (opposite of what it is), they quickly told me what I was doing wrong and gave me advice on how to correct my proper form.

Grace and mercy.

So we had to have a little discussion. A discussion about our bodies and how we choose to showcase rhythmic movement. And that we should honor our bodies. I told them (with a straight face, I might add) that I do not twerk and they shouldn’t either. To me, twerking encourages the visualization of sexual images that are uncomfortable to have…especially at school. They looked confused. Sigh. So I reminded them that it’s no secret in our house that I am a fan of hip hop artist Ludacris. I sometimes even refer to him as my younger, richer, hip-hop boyfriend. I told them that thinking certain thoughts about Luda is perfectly fine for me, but if I am teaching a class at the college and supposed to be helping my students, thinking about Luda is not appropriate because it is not the correct time nor the place.

School is not the appropriate time or place to be thinking about twerking or drugs. I personally don’t believe 11- and 12-year-olds should be thinking about twerking or drugs at all. AT ALL. I made that clear. And I also made it clear that our house is a no-twerking zone.

And then there’s porn.

It’s now 2016.  We are now in the presence of two teenagers and another child who will be a teenager in less than six months. All three have cell phones, mobile tablets and laptop computers. All three are at risk of contracting the twerking and pornography bug. Because at school that’s what some people their age talk about. I have found that with my kids, those talks and mentions at the lunch table have led to some not-so-appropriate internet searches.

Lesson #1: Check the Internet History on any computer your child uses regularly. It’s okay to be taken aback slightly should you find something, but you should always address situation.

 

We’re Still Looking for the Helpers

NYC

It seems that more and more frequently I have to have one of those conversations with the kids. The kind of conversations that become more and more difficult the older the kids get. It doesn’t help that the senseless shootings and victims of hate crimes affect kids who are close to my own kids’ ages, and sometimes, committed at the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting them.

These conversations are hard because for several years, we were part of the police family. We back the boys in blue, and enjoyed being connected to the fraternity of men and women who risk their lives daily. A lot of events have opened the door for conversations between the kids and my ex-husband, especially when they don’t understand if they should honor the police or be afraid of them.

Terrorism strikes in France. Terrorism strikes in Africa. And Terrorism strikes in Chicago.

I try to raise my kids with a sense of adventure and desire to explore the world, but it’s difficult when they have friends who live overseas and are living in a state of emergency and shelter in place at their home in Belgium.

Because of terrorist threats.

So now the terrorism is close to our hearts. Really close. And we have to have a conversation about it again. One that will begin with a prayer for our friends, the police, and the friends and family members of anyone in danger. And my hometown, Chicago…

So I ask them to pray without ceasing. But honestly I don’t what else I should say.

And the most recent conversation brought me back to a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago after tragedy occurred in our country. Keep reading.

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Look for the helpers.

The popular quote from Mr. Rogers still rings loud and true. But after the news events of this week, I can’t help but wonder why we have to keep saying it. Monday’s events at the Boston Marathon and Wednesday’s events in West, TX have put a downer on news watching. It is sad, but to me, what it sadder is the conversation that I had to have with the Three Amigos.

It was a conversation that I wasn’t quite ready for.

Me: “I know said this two days ago, but I need to tell you again. When tragedy strikes and you are in a situation and I am not there, look for the helpers. The police, the firefighters, anyone who can help you.”

Jada: “What about the EPA? I would think they would be helpful in times like these. Especially since you said the explosion in West, TX was caused by a plant. Was it as big as a tree…or small like grass?”

Me: Pausing and being thankful for childhood naivete. “A synonym for a factory is sometimes called a plant, so it was a factory, not a plant like you were thinking about.”

CJ: “Jada, it’s kind of like a Nuclear Power Plant. You know about those right?”

Jada: Rolls eyes.

Tyra: “That plant had fertilizer in it, not weapons. Fertilizer is a compound of minerals and poop that help the soil.”

Jada: “I’m glad you told me about it. I was confused.”

CJ: “Do you want to learn about the Nuclear Plants too? I can tell you about those.”

Me: “Not now. I just want to talk about the helpers. Can we talk about the helpers?”

We arrive at school #1 and Jada says her goodbyes. I’m now alone with the middle schoolers.

Tyra: “Momma, I didn’t want to say this while the Little One was in the car, but I know what happened.”

Me: Thinking to myself, what little one? You are all one year apart. “What do you think happened?”

Tyra: “Terrorists.”

Me: Silently wishing the moment of naivete would come back. “Really?”

Tyra: “Yes. The terrorists did horrible things in Boston and they snuck into that plant in West, Texas. They thought we wouldn’t make the connection, but I did.”

Me: “Tyra, you are using skills to deduce things. That’s good. I’m interested in seeing what’s on the news tonight about the causes. Let’s talk more about it then.”

CJ: “Tyra, you are not the only person who makes connections. The CIA and FBI are already checking this out. I’m telling you this is about nuclear weapons.”

Me: “We will find out more as the day unfolds. You guys have a good day.”

CJ: “I’ll research the nuclear connection, ok?”

Me: Grateful for the desire to research, but still wanting the naivete to return.

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And still today,  even though I’m at a loss for words, in addition to praying,  I find myself saying, “Always look for the helpers.”