Going and Growing

You've got to GO through it to GROW through it


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“Thou Shalt Not Steal”

I read the most interesting perspective on stealing. It started with the declaration that whatever we have is not ours anyway, so that makes stealing doubly wrong. I believe it’s accurate to say that when we think of stealing, and the fact that it’s considered wrong, we naturally think of tangible objects. We can’t steal stuff from our neighbors, we can’t rob banks, we can’t “sample” fruit from the produce section. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

As I began to travel down the dusty road of my thoughts, I began to think to myself, but what about the intangible things people own: our thoughts, our feelings, our identity. What about that? How do those things fit into the equation of stealing and God and all that stuff. Here’s my thought:

If everything we have  and everything we own is indeed not necessarily ours but on loan, as in it was given to us (a big prim and proper religious term is bestowed upon us) then our identity also is a gift…and given. The ability to be a free thinker is given to us. The desire to love and be loved is a gift given to us. Stealing is not allowed. Who are are, what we stand for, how we see ourselves…it’s all a gift given to us. We are not allowed to steal another person’s identity. Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about their online identity (although clearly that’s wrong too) I’m talking about their gender identity, sexual identity, how they see themselves in this world and how they expect to be seen.

There are lots of hate groups who have decided that to “be LGBTQ” is wrong and those of us who identify under that acronym need to be “corrected”. (For those who are unfamiliar LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). Folks who align with L-G-B are talking about their sexuality (very different and not related to gender); those who align with T are referring to their gender (male, female, both, neither); those who align with Q could be referring to either their sexual or gender identity. Further information can be found at PFLAG.org or HRC.org because this is not the blog post to go into this in depth.

Back to the stealing thing. When God (however you align with God or what represents a divine authority in your world) says stealing is wrong it is an abomination (another big scary religious word) and God cries. ALL of everything in what we call this world is made from the abundance of a divine authority who far exceeds any human capacity or authority.

When an organization or a person steals the hopes and dreams, the hard personal effort or blood-sweat-and-tears personal commitment from another person, a crime [against humanity] has been committed. We are what we are and have what we have as a gift. None of us owns any of this. We leave this “world” with the same as we came into it with – nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

When a person decides someone else is wrong for living into their full authenticity (i.e. sexual or gender identity) and advances are made toward taking it away, i.e. stealing it, we are no longer living as we are instructed. When someone robs another of a life worth living, a dream and a hope of a better life, a gesture of giving and receiving love…God cries. We are not allowed to steal.

Thou Shalt Not Steal. Not property. Not grapes. Not a person’s identity. Not a person’s joy.

Mind your business. Mind your manners. Mind yourself.


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Twinkies and Chips

Note: I have since moved into a different industry, but this this still good food for thought, pun intended.

Sometimes the food is not so bad at the bottom of the food chain. Sure, it’s not champagne and escargot. But, hey, you need a Twinkie and bag of chips every now and again to satisfy.

I was thinking about this at work today, as the clamor in the office rose up. I work in an often hostile work environment. It occurred to me, on this particular day, that being a bottom feeder is not always a bad thing. Take for instance this newly redesigned database which holds critical information on the taxpayers in my State. The darn thing was full of bugs, as the previous version was written in-house by our IT guys. Nice guys and helpful sometimes. So, as the story goes there was not enough justification to purchase a hi-tech system, one that would allow us to link nationally to a database that would all but eliminate error. So, our IT guys, yes the same folks who wrote the first version, redesigned a new one. Hmmm.

That’s not all. What really causes heartburn is that there was no rollout of static data, we used live data since we had the chance to test multiple scenarios in a live setting. Hmmmm. I sure hope those of you who are Techies are clinching your jaw and are a bit queasy right this moment. Anyway, today, I found a bug or two (yes, in the newly redesigned version) and inquired of the powers that be on how to resolve it. (This is where the Twinkie comes in). In my ignorance of all things IT, I failed to realize how temperamental program writers can be. Turns out there is a certain “personality” written into each program and it behaves differently in alternate settings. As I continued on in my search of the mistake, I asked for help. My co-worker overheard and graciously chimed in. Turns out he has a degree in programming but is not currently working in that role. The writer took issue of the bugs that were discovered and revealed. My coworker took advantage of an opportunity to share some of his knowledge and a few of us were, just there. In the periphery. In my case, looking cute (smiles). I thought to myself at one point, “Oh, how I wish I knew what they were talking about. It would be so helpful to be able to solve some of these issues on my own. Or at least be able to speak some informed words into the issue”. Wait! Stop right there lady. There’s a saying that goes something like this: You can’t be good at everything. I was grateful this day, because although I found the error, my job ended at reporting it. Clearly I have no idea how to fix it. Don’t need to. Not my job. That is someone else’s specialty. Someone else’s talent.

I learned that sometimes ignorance can in fact be bliss. Well, bliss may be an overstatement. But, it can be convenient so say the least. By my not knowing anything about programming, I was able to avoid an office argument, hostile negotiations, hurt feelings, frustration, perspiration, palpitation and provocation. The only real residual harm done to me is that the explosion happened in my office, at my computer where the information was displayed on the screen. There was a bit of clean up from the “food fight”, which is okay with me. I had a Twinkie and a bag of chips in my desk when it was all done. So, I sat back and did what many bottom-feeders do. I ate to my heart’s content. Enjoyed every bite.


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Nice To Meet You, Authentic-Self

Nice To Meet You, Authentic Self.

Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I watched as people passed me by. I wondered if they lived the life they would like to live, or the life others expected them to live.  How often do we curtail our own desires and self-expectations to fit the mold that we’ve allowed others to place in front of us?

This question becomes more and more important to me, as I myself, have decided to journey in search of my authentic- self. It’s only in my own decision,  have I come to realize my children need to choose their own path; and I need to allow them to. I’ve done my job.  I’ve given them tools and rules to live by. They should have become, now that they are grown, guidelines. But so often I think we parents have an expectation that the tools and rules equate to coulds and shoulds.

Are you offended when your grown children make decisions that are contrary to “how you raised them”? It’s only in the second half of my life, second marriage and second chance to be my authentic-self that I admit I’m that child. I did what was expected of me, as a child, young adult, wife and mother. But rarely was I my authentic- self. Was my life a lie? No. It was sincere. There’s a difference. I sincerely loved my parents, my first husband and my children. I loved my friends and my job. But, if I’m honest, they chose me, I didn’t always willingly choose them. Wait. That may need some explaining. Yes, I chose my husband by virtue of our wedding. Yes, I chose my children, by virtue of my birthing and raising them. I’m talking about how I lived my life during those years. I forfeited my own authentic-self; my hopes and dreams, my goals, my wants and needs. It’s a very costly life, that non-authentic self.

I’ve made the most wonderful friend in the past few months. My friend lived his life doing all the same things I did – what was expected of us. I’ve learned it was just as costly for him. I’m glad to see she is now living her authentic-self life. Our changes are not easy, staggering and polarizing sometimes. But, necessary nonetheless. Very few people from the old life understand the requirement to declare authenticity, and we don’t all declare it. Some fortunate souls make the transition gently and over time. Their metamorphosis is celebrated. For a great many of us though it is shattering to our non-authentic world.

I read an article recently about the suicide of college students at Penn State. The strive to perfection is depleting and harmful. As a Christian, I can assure you, we will never reach it. We were not created to, actually. There is only One who succeeded. For the rest of us, we were created to live life as our authentic-self, the life gifted to us by our Creator, and through partnership with him, we attain ‘life more abundantly’.

I’ve met a great many people in the last few years who, by sheer requirement to continue breathing, have declared war on their non-authentic- self. It feels like war too, as societal expectations help to keep troops armored down with weapons.  I have a quote that has traveled in and out of my life for the past decade:

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
–Samuel Johnson

How little we know the power of this quote as we follow the path laid before us. It is only when we get to the end of that path and realize we are not there. The body that arrives is oftentimes the shell of our authentic-self, the innards are of another being.  Change must come.  Our very life depends on it. Otherwise, we leave this world, often by suicide, and the space in which we once stood is filled with grief and void.

As I reach, scratch and claw my way through the muck and mire in the pond of my old non-authentic- self, I see light and life awaiting me on the other side. The harder I swim, strangely the more strength I gain. Yes, I lose a bit of weight along the way. This weight represents the expectations put on me, either by myself or by others. There is no shame in letting go, regardless of how it feels. Swim, swim, swim. Harder, with more veracity. Your life awaits you. Don’t spend one more day in fins that no longer fit. Declare life to your authentic- self, no matter the cost. Surely there is a cost, you will pay it now, or pay it later. Make safe decisions. Get help from trusted sources when needed. But always, always, listen to your inner voice. When it stops yelling, talking, whispering or squeaking you will expire. Your inner voice is your authentic self.  It may take some time, some rest, some partnership along your path, but as long as there is breath in your body, your authentic-self rents a room in your being. Our non-authentic-self rents a room also, work to keep it a broom closet.


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Vernacular. Respect It, Don’t Correct It

I heard myself telling a coworker about some particular phrases a loved one uses. Every time I hear the phrase something in me twinges. Not because it is offensive, but because it is not what Webster would define as proper English. We, my coworker and I, were discussing vernacular in general and what peculiarities exist within an individual’s world view.

She told me a quick story about her dad’s favorite restaurant; it’s a Mexican place down the road called Sopapillias (soap-a-peeyahs). But, she explained, every time her dad wants to go there he says, “Hey, let’s go eat at ‘soppa-pillas’ (sop-a-pill-as)”. My friend just chuckles under her breath. Her dad is old, so she says it’s cute. We exchanged a few more vernacular faux pas and had a good giggle between ourselves. After the very short conversation, I had a very long thought. In my experience, to hear [what I perceive to be] a skewed version of a word catches me off guard and I sometimes think to myself, don’t they know how to say this correctly? I wonder if I told them the proper way to pronounce this if they would be offended. The more I thought about this, the more troubled in myself I became.

Somewhere in my mind it occurred to me that a person’s phrases are theirs, not mine. Proper English is a relative term. English is, after all, a bastard language. Not much comes up under “proper English” upon a quick google search. In America, we use slang a lot. Our slang is a reflection of our culture, our nature and our nurture. Where someone was geographically raised, the family dynamic in which they were raised and the environment of their community, all play a large role in acquiring their vernacular (i.e. slang). Life is also lived out in the story of our slang. In this instance, when I read between the lines of what I perceive to be improper English, I find that my loved one has seen, heard and experienced things I will never encounter. Much can be learned about life and culture by listening to stories. Stories are how we love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s how we learn to become a more intimate society.

In a continuous effort to live, love and laugh in our lives, we also must learn to respect each other in such a way that allows for the freedom to be different. Imagine a world where everything was a shade of blue. No red. No yellow. No black. No white. Just, blue. Eventually, we would run out of questions to ask. Eventually, we would run out of new things to learn. It is only through the lens of variety that we are able to see our differences and our similarities.

When applying this thought to vernacular, imagine a world where everyone spoke English, with only a northeastern accent. Bostonian to be specific (since it’s my home town…go Sox!). Seriously though, imagine a world where we all spoke that way. There wouldn’t be any “Hey, Y’all!” in the South or “Eh?” in the Midwest. There would be nothing to talk about after a while. No comedy, which we all use as a way to cover up the fact that sometimes we don’t understand what someone’s saying. Eventually, we’d understand each other perfectly and there would be no need to ask any more questions. Eventually, we would know all there is to know, and have nothing new to learn about a person.

We can say that it is only through the lens of vernacular that we are able to see our differences and our similarities. We can say that it is only through the language of vernacular that we are able to learn patience and kindness, and gain wisdom and understanding about culture and society and family and tradition. These social outlets are how we express ourselves and how we [again], learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Vernacular, whether understood or not, must be respected. It requires no correction. It desires acknowledgement and appreciation. It encourages friendship and intimacy. It is a catalyst for new beginnings and it challenges us to be a better, more enriched, more knowledgeable version of yesterday’s self.

So, the next time you hear what you perceive to be a grammatical faux pas, and are tempted to correct it, stop and appreciate the moment. For, it is in that very moment you have the opportunity to love unconditionally.


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Line Leader

So you want to follow me? Do you know where I’m going? Maybe I want to follow you. Where are you going? Either way, get ready for an adventure.

Being a Line Leader is a huge responsibility. In preschool a line leader is somewhat of a celebrity, at least for a day. But what about those of us who have advanced well beyond the years of preschool. Perhaps we are parents, or maybe we are in management at our jobs. Or, maybe a pastor in a faith community. Every day we go through our day we are a Line Leader in some capacity, if only at the traffic light. To be a good line leader, you’ll need three things: 1) A destination, 2) A map of the journey there, 3) All of the necessary equipment for the trip.

Let’s break it down. First a destination. As a line leader, everyone is expected to follow me, that is, behind me. Now, if no one inquires where we are going I could easily have a group of very misled people. Also, as a line leader I have control and opportunity over my fold. From their perspective, they offer me trust [that I’m going to lead them to a good place] and encouragement in the event that I get weary on our way. Some Line Leaders may enjoy the silent sheep, how very dangerous for that sheep. How easily you will be mistreated and misled ….. As a good Line Leader I will have at least two others to probe me with questions and hold me accountable for my choices. Lest in my poor leading I negatively infect rather than positively effect. If you are in line, who are you in line behind? Where are you being led to? Do you know? Do you care? You have responsibility to know. And to care. Ahead of time. If not, then you forfeit the right to cry about your destination when you arrive. Get to know your Line Leader.

Second, as an effective Line Leader, I’ll take the responsibility to map our journey ahead of time. Preschoolers know three things for sure. They know how to get to the bathroom, the snack table and the playground. There is a specific direction required to arrive at each destination. So many public figures are Line Leaders and they have not taken the time to map the journey. Or, maybe they have mapped it right straight back to their bank account. But, what about the account of people’s lives? Far more volatile than one’s bank account. As a Line Leader I must, and I repeat must, realize that mapping the journey is a critical step toward ensuring my safety and the safety of my fold (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). Hence, my need for those two others who ask questions and hold me accountable. Being a Line Leader is no easy task. There is a human element. What happens when I make a bad move? Well, Moses had a bunch of ticked off people. Out in the hot desert, hungry and whining. Thank goodness for Aaron, or he’d ‘ave sunk. How many public ministers I can think of today whose ministries have gotten dangerously big. So big, that when they stumble they take thousands of people down with them. As followers of the Line Leader people, WE have a responsibility to know where we’re headed and the basic plan of how we’re gonna get there! (Otherwise, remember, we lose our crying rights when we all fall down).

Finally, as a Line Leader I am tasked with the responsibility of packing for the trip. Some preschool leaders get to carry a flag, to signify their leadership. As an adult Line Leader, my flag is my dignity and integrity. And let me tell you, they will shine like a beacon as long as I’m on top. When I fall watch out! Not only will the light go out, but I will withdraw so you can’t see me (a human defense mechanism). As a follower, think about that. When my Line-Leader-light goes out, how will you see where you’re going? You see, as a Line Leader, I’ve only been given the role for a short period of time (relatively speaking). The reality is I’m human just as the rest of my group. I make mistakes, sometimes horrendous mistakes. If I don’t have the necessary equipment, which is my plan, my integrity, my moral compass, and my ethics in my satchel, then shame on you [followers] for getting in line behind me. (And by the way, you can’t buy ethics, no matter how many conferences or classes your pay for; either you have them or you don’t. A conference will just you up on Best Practices).

People, seriously, think about it. We all fall short. We all stumble. We all fall.

In life we are only Line Leader for a day, and some may never get the opportunity, because of social caste. Those of us in front have a huge responsibility to be kind, equitable, responsible and accountable. We have a responsibility to make a well thought out plan ahead of the journey. If there are changes along the way, fine, reassess, but always with the group in mind. The very day we begin to lie, cheat and scheme is the first day of the end of our leadership. If you are in line, great, we need supporters. Don’t follow blindly. Ask questions, hold your leader accountable. Stand up and be counted. If you choose not to, and it is your choice – no one can choose for you – you will forfeit your right to cry if you end up where you don’t want to be. Then, your journey back may be much longer than you planned.

Choose to be your own Line Leader. Just know people are watching and waiting. And we are all human.