Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Radical Giving

Years ago, I read a book that shifted my thoughts on being a helper.  The book was so meaningful that I still think of it in the context of who I am as a social worker.  Robert Lupton's book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help.

I've written about it before (read this), and thought this time of year was relevant to revive the conversation.

One of the most meaningful pieces in the book was about Adopt a Family programs.  As a non-profit social worker for many years, this was a standard holiday method of giving for the families that I work with.

What Robert Lupton wrote opened my eyes to something that I probably already knew was there.

Adopt a Family programs can sometimes harm families.  It can feel shameful for families to have to come up with some list to their caseworker.  Sometimes the toys that are donated are broken.  Sometimes older kids get left out.  Sometimes folks who commit to buying gifts don't provide any gifts.

I could have read that section and completely denied the truth in that.  I didn't.  I let it sit with me.  And there were some tough feelings that came up, knowing that I had contributed to that shame experience.  I owned it.  And I tried to do better in my role as a social worker.

So how should we give?  So many of us want to help, especially around the holidays.  This is probably a really complex answer, that I simply don't have.

I do have some thoughts on giving that I would like to share.

If we are choosing to help by participating in an Adopt a Family program or giving tree, let's simply give.  Some tough questions sometimes come up for us.  "Why are they asking for such an expensive gift?"  And maybe we follow that up with a statement of worthiness, "They don't deserve such an expensive gift."

If we start asking questions/making statements about that, let's be curious about that.  Let's ask ourselves why those big feelings are coming up.

And then let's remember this...every child deserves to dream big.

Maybe you aren't able to get what they are asking for or maybe you can't resolve those questions.  That's ok.  No judgement here.  Perhaps there is a better way for you to give to your community with your whole heart.

I want to suggest something big here.  I want to suggest that if you are able to do so, let's simply give families gift cards (and something like a Visa gift card, no store cards with strings attached) so they can buy whatever they want.  So they have the dignity of buying gifts and celebrating traditions that are in line with their values and beliefs, not ours.

This is bold.  And maybe some of you are being curious about your resistance to this.  And good for you if you are being curious.

The money may get used to pay for utilities, it may be used to purchase booze to cope with the holidays.  You have no control over that.

Let's lean in a little to that discomfort.

And let's simply give.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Slow Start

A few weeks in, and I am feeling a bit more settled in this new reality.

One of the benefits of this big change to my world is that most days, my commute time is significantly less.  I had no idea how consuming the drive was until my first week not having it.  The fatigue finally caught up with me.

The other benefit is that most mornings, my work day starts a little later.  I don't want to make it seem like mornings are seamless or without drama or yelling up the stairs a dozen times to check in and give reminders about brushing teeth. 

I still get up early.  Usually 5 am.  I have a bit of margin in my schedule to get in some fitness and a shower before the house starts waking up.

I am able to make time for those to-dos that seemed to nag at the back of my mind because I was rushing out of the house in the mornings.  Balancing the bank account, dishes, laundry, etc.  To-dos that were always waiting for me at the end of the work day, after a long commute.

Lucy and I have time to have breakfast at the table together before she rushes off to her very early middle school bus. 

And in between her going to school and little Katy waking up, I have time to sit by myself and enjoy my second cup of coffee.  In silence.   Ok, sometimes not silence.  Sometimes the dogs are wrestling by my feet.

By the time Katy gets up, I feel settled and ready for the day.

I remembered that the reason I made such drastic changes wasn't just about the work that I do.  It was about living the life that I wanted. 

Peaceful mornings (for the most part) and being present for my family have been huge desires.

Of course, this isn't every morning.  The occasional morning requires a bit of a rush. 

I'm grateful for most mornings with a slow start.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


I have spent this past year circling over ideas of who I want to be.

Trying out new ideas, letting go of ones that no longer fit.

Grieving what life used to look like.  I didn't realize how hung up I was on this person that I used to be.  And I'm not even referring to how dramatically life changes after a major loss.

I'm talking about the day to day changes that you only notice after a few years have gone by.  Realizing that I am no longer connected with those things that kept me grounded.

Recently, someone pointed out how much change I had been through in the past three years.  Moving, job change, life change, deep loss.  I got the impression that they were implying that it was good that I was slowing down, finding some stability.  I could have been reading too much into what they said.

Still, it stayed with me.  I've thought a lot about it in the past week.

Yes, I have been through a lot of changes in the past three years.  Haven't we all?  I don't know people whose life remains the same.  

And I don't want to be a person who remains the same.  I want to keep learning and growing.

So here I am, finding peace with my new self.  Struggling with that, at times.

A major career change (and adventure into being brave) has changed up my day to day life.

And I get to recreate what my life looks like.

I feel a pull to return back.  

This return back isn't to the old person.  We can't ever go back.

This pull is to return to the person I want to be.  To return to what keeps me joyful, healthy, and centered.

I will be trying out new ideas.

And I will experience failure.  And I will experience success.

And I will lean in.

Side note: I made some changes with the blog and it looks like my old pictures aren't pulling up.  Oops.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016


When you are going through something, it can be challenging to talk and write about, especially when you can’t put words to it.

I’ve been trying to think of why the blog has been silent for so long. 

What has been going on?  I’ve changed.  Of course I have.  I went through a major loss.  I had to adapt to this new world.

There was a lot of uncertainty.

There was a lot of fear.  I could feel myself changing, but I couldn’t describe how.  And I worried that I wouldn’t like who I was at the end of this.

And there were no words to describe it.

And looking at today, I don’t know that the words are there yet.

It’s ok to change.  It’s a good thing.  We can’t go through life without changing who we are, what are interests are, what our goals are.  This change was forced.  And scary.

There has been some sadness letting go of the person I used to be.  I look back on that person from two years ago with jealousy, at times.  That person was so hopeful about the future.  And not that despair has taken its place (well, for a while it did), I learned such hard lessons about life that sometimes I am afraid to hope like that.

So many times, I would think about sitting down to write a post and simply get overwhelmed with nothing to write.

Lately, I’m leaning into the change.  I’m giving myself permission to be this new person, instead of feeling guilty or sad that I’m not the old person.

I’m giving myself permission to explore new interests, new goals.

I’m giving myself permission to change, instead of resisting every moment of it, which is very exhausting.

One of my goals for 2016 is to practice gratitude.  Now that Lent is here, I’m trying to make that a daily practice. 

I’m finding that it’s ok to give gratitude to the person I used to be and the experiences I had, instead of feeling jealous and sad.

And I’m giving gratitude for those constants in my life-family, friendships, this quiet place that I call home.

And I’m giving gratitude to this new person that I am. 

I feel something stirring.  It’s nameless.  It’s part of this change.  I could fear it.  I could resist every moment of it.  Instead, I’m going to try leaning in a bit and see where I’m headed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kindred Spirits

Almost two years ago, I bought Anne of Green Gables for Lucy.  I never read the book and heard great things about it.  I thought she would enjoy it.  I think she read one chapter. 

A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of my library reading material, so I decided I would read it.

And it left me with one question….

Why haven’t I read this book before???

I love it.

I absolutely love it.  

I’m not done with it though, because I restocked at the library and worked through some new books.  Sometimes I like to take a break in the middle of a story.

This book is really beautiful and has some lovely reflections about life.

There have been moments where I have gotten teary, and this quote absolutely made me cry. 

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.

And then I rubbed my eyes, after I had been touching red pepper earlier, and I was really crying.

As an introvert, it can be hard connecting with people.  I like to be alone or with my people.  The people who know me best.

This past year has stretched me, being in a new space with a grieving heart.

What I have found is that there are some really lovely people around me.  Brand new people.  People from before that I have gotten to know.  And my old faves. 

These kindred spirits make me laugh.

They listen.

We are silly together. 

We can be still together.

They keep me connected to who I am and who I want to be.

So that quote, I was so touched by it.  I was so grateful that my reality includes kindred spirts…that I cried.

I hope you live in a world with kindred spirits too.