Relationship: Two people, two stories

I can tell you the first and last names of almost all these kids. Nolan is the swagger in the middle of the second row.

When I was in the 4th grade at Faith Lutheran School, Mr. Johnson was thrust into our combination 4/5 class, his first year of teaching. I was a first year teacher once, so I understand that it can be rough that first year, but I think it is safe to say that Mr, Johnson had it worse than most. His class control was so bad that I can still see scenes in my 53 year old brain of my class running around, having too much fun for a Christian school education. During one of those times, a kid named Nolan was swinging his arms around, and by accident, his fist landed square on my face. Later a doctor told me that it probably was fractured but I was a kid in the days when you didn’t go to the doc for just anything, so I think it just healed on its own over time and now I have a little bump to remind me of that day.

Mr. J’s solution, to what must have appeared to him to be a fight…(why he thought I was fist fighting is of concern to me at this moment)…was to make Nolan and I put our desks side by side for the rest of the day to work it out. While I remember not totally blaming that kid for accidentally punching me, I also remember being irritated that I had to sit so close to him, as he still wasn’t my favorite person, since my nose hurt and he was the cause. But, sit there I did, because I am a rule follower most days…and, of course, there weren’t cell phones in the 70’s, so I couldn’t call my mom. By the end of the day, he and I were chatting and having a great time. Maybe Mr. Johnson wasn’t as clueless as we thought. Nope…he was. But, whatever, it is kind of funny now.

Sometimes, between people, there are disagreements about how things should be handled. But it doesn’t always mean that one person meant to hurt the other one or that someone has to be wrong. Nolan was swinging his arms and I was probably running, and sadly, I got a splintered bone out of the deal. But when we were made to sit next to each other and each made to apologize for the part we played, we ended up getting along just fine. I can almost hear the conversation when Nolan told me it was an accident and how he felt really bad and then he reenacted the whole thing so I could fully get a picture of his intentions.

Obviously, Nolan isn’t the last person to hurt me. Over the years, I have had lots of times where infractions have occurred in relationships, apologies exchanged and life continued. I have also had situations where people have hurt me, or I them, and there has not been reconciliation. I know I prefer the times when the relationship was recoverable.

We are in a historical time where tensions are high, opinions differ and people are getting very hurt. Some people are willing to sit next to their friends who have different perceptions or solutions to problems, and others are hell bent at getting everyone else to say, do and act exactly like them. There might be some value in sitting next to another person, to hear their story, to see if there are more similarities than differences in our viewpoints, as we navigate controversial issues and the approaches to solving the tough questions. I have a gut feeling that many of us have good intentions and want similar outcomes.

Hopefully, one day we will look back at this time and we won’t remember the fighting as much as remember the healing. Hopefully, we will remember good people, trying to do good things in a hurting world.

With love,

Sonia

Empathy: Love yourself, love others

 

A couple years ago, my brother did a DNA test that resulted in me finally understanding where my crazy-curly head of hair came from. We have some African lineage, that is obviously determined to be passed along from generation to generation through whatever DNA is linked to hair. You can only imagine some of the playground comments I got, in those sad days before real hair products. I often joke that it is a good thing I never met Farrah Fawcett in a dark alley, for what she did to me in junior high. I was so jealous of my straight-haired, blonde friends who could use one of those flimsy plastic curling irons to get results that took me hours to achieve and then didn’t last if the humidity markers were above 1%.

I realize now that my mom hated her hair too. I will never forget her pulling up to take me home from piano lessons, with a new wig on. It was the 70’s and I guess that was the solution for bad hair days back then. I didn’t know it was a wig, so I burst into tears when her new “frosted” wig had blonde streaks in it. I thought I was going to be alone in my brown-frizzy-curly-haired world. I wept all the way home. When she finally removed It so I could see that it wasn’t real, she told me that should would not wear it anymore if it hurt me so much. Of course, once I knew it was removable, I was good to go.

At her 4th birthday party, my daughter Emilee came running in the house bawling her eyes out. I pulled her into my lap to check for scraped knees but she wasn’t hurt. She sobbed into my chest, “I hate my hair!”. I was ready for this. I told her how Jesus made everyone different and that our family had curls…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…. She looked up at me and said, “No mama! I LOVE my curls! I hate my BLONDE hair. You, Azile, Daddy and Maddy (her little bestie at the time) all have BROWN hair!” I looked down at her beautiful platinum blonde hair and thought to myself, “How many people would love to have this color hair?” BUT WAIT…did my daughter say she loves her curls? Could I learn to love mine?

On my drive to get my hair done, I was nervous. I had never ventured into the world of blonde. I had never felt like it would fit. But my baby did not feel part of our family. So I added some blonde streaks so that my hair color would be the color of both my children. I remember Leelee touching those strands over and over when I got home. Years later when I tried to go back to my real hair color to save some money, people would ask me if I felt well. They would tell me that I didn’t “look myself”.

We all have voices in our head that tell us we aren’t good enough…that we don’t belong. I also know that this example is just hair…but almost every person has, at some point in their life, felt excluded because they were not like other people, because of physical appearance, or belief system, or family of origin, or where they lived, or WHATEVER!

What piece of yourself are you willing to give up, share, let go of, or offer as a gift to another human so they feel included, loved and part of a family?

When my oncologist was giving me my treatment plan 6 years ago, I think I shocked him when I told him I was less afraid of losing my boobs than I was of losing my hair. It had taken me a lifetime to love it and I wasn’t ready to lose it now.

 

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However, I am willing to give parts of myself, while I work through my story, for the emotional healing of others. As we all are living in this turbulent time, I encourage everyone to dig deep and find how you can be part of the solution for others feeling whole. And who knows…in that process you may find a YOU, that fits you even better.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

My Offering: Sitting in the Pain

I just got off the phone with my best friend from my childhood. We met in 7th grade when she and her brother accidentally rang my doorbell, when they were going door to door selling magazines for the school fundraiser. She told me later that she was mortified when I answered the door…we were in 7th grade where everything is embarrassing. I honestly thought it was hilarious, and it lead to a joined-at-the-hip friendship that took us through high school and beyond. I can’t tell you how many memories I have of the two of us laughing till we cried. We passed notes, talked on the phone, double dated, played sports, went on family vacations, were in each other’s weddings…we had no idea that life might not always be so carefree. Since then, our lives have not always been intertwined, but we talk and get together whenever we can, because we will always be heart sisters.

This morning I was liking a photo of her handsome son on Instagram. Her son and my girls are the same age. I remember thinking it was so fun that we were pregnant at the same time. He was recently made a deputy and I thought the picture was celebrating that. It wasn’t. It was the picture in the paper, that told how he died in a car accident yesterday. His was a young, beautiful life, cut short and his mama is my dear friend. And even though I am a trained counselor, and have lead grief groups, and taught seminars on grief… I had no words.

Sometimes in life, there are no words for the pain we shoulder. Even as I have been crying for her all day, and reflecting on our earlier conversation, where she shared about the last time she saw her son and the way God allowed some moments to take place in the last week that she will be forever grateful for…I still do not know what to say. I know better than to think there is a sentence or a phrase that will take any of her pain away. She has faith. She is relying on that to get her through this time. I can only offer myself to sit in the pain with her.

Have you ever had someone sit with you in the pain? I can think of several times in my life where my situation in life was inconsolable and there were no words to ease my burden and there were people who sat…sat next to me…no words…just presence. Presence just says, “I Iove you and I wish had a magic wand to wave on your behalf…but since I don’t, I will sit and pray and hold your hand…” I can only hope that is what I offered this morning.

Our world is topsy turvy right now and you might know of people who need some sitting next to. Maybe you need someone to sit in your pain with you. If you have ever shied away from being with another human because you didn’t know what to say, know that words are not always the only way to be there for someone. I am grateful for every person who has silently come alongside me and sometimes it is all I have to offer.

I wish I could wave a magic wand today…for my dear friend and for those who are facing all sorts of crazy in this pandemic. But today, all I can do is say I am sorry and offer my presence.

Love,

Sonia

Rebuild: Loss after laying it on the field

Caring about football is new to me. I grew up in a boy-house, so I had lots of opportunity to be a fan, if I had wanted that. A father and two brothers who love sports meant that our weekends and Monday nights were filled with games on TV. But it wasn’t until my girls started attending Baylor University, and I got caught up in their underdog team, that I became passionate. I am now a crazy fan who has lucky Baylor clothes and I admit to having screamed, cheered, prayed…all on behalf of a team, playing a game.

Having my team go to the championship game, in my girl’s senior year, was something I predicted their freshman year, and I have been anticipating the game all season. When my Bears lost their first string quarterback early in the game, to a concussion, I was praying for a miracle. We almost got it. I really thought we had it, when our third string QB passed for a touchdown tying the game. Losing in overtime, after watching those boys lay it all on the field was heartbreaking.

In those final seconds, when it became clear that the game could not be won, I had an aha about how this relates to everyday life.

Have you ever laid it all on the field of life…in a relationship, a job, or a dream…only to lose in the final moments? Has your heart been broken by situations or by people, in a way that impacts you for a long time? Have you, at those times, felt defeated in a way that makes you question if all the hard work was worth it?

Broken hearts and broken dreams can either steal our hope or empower us for more. It all depends on how we process and learn from those seasons of life. I have brokenness in my past. I am refusing to let it ruin me. How about you? Do you have situations that need reframing, and healing so that you can move forward with wisdom, learned skills, new dreams and vision for your future?

Experience tells me that when we allow healing to take place, the new relationships, new dreams and new possibilities can wow us in a way we never thought possible! But we must let the good in! What, in your life, do you need to embrace as part of the journey so that you can move into new life?

As always, let me know if I can help. But don’t call on January 1… I will be cheering for my Baylor Bears who will, no doubt, be even better on the field than ever!

With love,

Sonia

Mother’s Day: A memorial to my mamacita

The thing in my life that brings me more joy than anything else, is parenting alongside my husband, so I feel like I should love Mother’s Day. But, Mother’s Day is especially hard for people who don’t have a positive relationship with their mom, wish more than anything they could be a mother and aren’t, or have lost their mom and are left to navigate the world without her. I lost my mom when I was way too young. I look back and realize that it was the beginning of a life journey where I began to learn about grief and how to minister to people in a counseling setting. As we begin to celebrate moms this weekend, a practice that is beautiful in so many ways, I pray for those that have a hard time on this day. I miss my mom just a little bit more on Mother’s Day… so today, I am sharing the word’s I spoke at her memorial service so many years ago as a tribute to those who celebrate this day without their mama:

Mamacita…My little mama….

Last week, a friend of my mom’s (no, I won’t tell who…), was at the house when a hospice nurse was there. The nurse asked her relation to my mom. She said, “Salma is my best friend and although I know I am hers, I know there are at least 20 others who feel the same way.” The other day my brother and I were on the couch with mom and I jokingly asked her who her favorite child was. She smiled a little and giggled as she said, “Who’s all here?”. As my mom’s only living daughter, I’d like to think I was her favorite. Of course, she made me FEEL like she loved me best but the truth is, my mom didn’t have to play favorites. My teeny mama had a heart as big as a house with plenty of room for all those she loved. I don’t know how she had the time and energy to maintain all the relationships she had. I can only count it as a gift from God that she how to prioritize her life in a way that she was there for so many of us in this room when we needed her most. I have countless memories of times when my mom held my hand and said just the right thing to encourage me, praise me, confront me or challenge me.

I think she had time for all of us because she made time for all of us. I always thought my mom was a pretty decent housekeeper but she was always trying to be better at it. She was always saying, “I just need to get organized!”. One time she told me, “You know what my problem is? If someone calls or drops by, I’d much rather talk to them than finish what I am doing.” Thank goodness she realized that organized cupboards are great but they don’t make good friends. Still, it was always on her mind. Flying home from my brother John’s wedding in New Jersey, the engine of our plane caught on fire and we had to make an emergency landing in Denver. Thinking of other’s first, she turned to my Dad and said, “If you have to save us, save Sonia first.” Then she turned to me and said, “If I die, don’t let anyone see my messy drawers!”

My mom did always put others first. The event in my life that was most meaningful to me was the birth of my twins. As many of you know, Mike accepted a job in Salt Lake City and began commuting there 4 days a week just 14 days after my c-section delivery. I was overwhelmed by my colicky babies and with the showing of my home to potential buyers. Mom, still weak after beating cancer the first time, would arrive on Sunday night and stay for the four days while Mike was gone. She did this for almost 6 months. She gave up her lecturing, her lunches with friends…almost everything…during this time to make sure that I could recover and mentally prepare for my move. We had sweet times together during that crazy time. We laughed and cried, and talked and talked and talked as we rocked Azile and Emilee. I have often thought that I would not have enjoyed one minute of those months had she not been there with me.

Another gift that my mom gave to me is that she loved the people I loved. She took in every one of my friends as one of her own. Granted, most of my friends were lovely people, but there were a couple who were…well, not as wonderful as others…yet, I could always count on my mom to show the people I brought home, her renowned hospitality.

By giving of herself to others, my mom inadvertently gave me another gift that I have appreciated more than ever in the past week. She gave me the gift of many of you. Because Mom was a Godly woman, because she was a good friend, because she opened her heart and home to others, she created an enormous circle of friends that Dad, Paul, John and I think of as family. No one can ever replace my mom in my life, but she made sure I had at least 20 women, all her best friends, who because of their love for her, will grieve with me and love me through this most difficult time in my life.

Thank you all so much for being here today and for that you meant to my mom.

 

Happy Mother’s Day…because whatever our joy, whatever our pain…we are grateful for the women in our lives who have sacrificed to make our lives richer.

Marriage Seminar #6: Date Night

When I started doing things socially with my husband of 27 years…back in 1990…we were not really dating. We had known each other in high school (yes…you all know…he was my high school boyfriend’s friend…it is a story but not what you think) and we were simply hanging out a lot because we were back in our home town, working, without many people we knew who were our own age. I was teaching at California High School and he was in an entry level sales job…fresh out of college. We had money to spend because we were young and didn’t have a lot of expenses. He liked high school football and I liked having a super cute someone to go with me to those games. It took us at least 2 months to finally admit we were thinking it might be a relationship worth investing more in…

Mike and I were raised a little differently. I was raised in the Christian-live-by-guilt home where we were always having to consider the starving child in Africa or China when we bought something not on sale or didn’t eat our peas. Mike’s family knows how to party. There is always a reason to celebrate. When Mike and I started to actually call our relationship something more than “besties”, my heart was overwhelmed as he treated me to dinners, an evening at the ballet (I had never been!), a concert that was not something he necessarily would choose, and a bunch of other super fun stuff.  He would say, “There is a place I think you would like…”

When dating ends and real life begins, there is often a shift in marriage relationships. That may be why counselors often encourage suffering spousal relationships to re-instigate “the date”. Obviously there are major challenges to this when you have kids or are just super busy trying to build a future or a retirement fund. But bringing back the date has saved many relationships from stagnation or becoming that “we are just roommates” horror!

When couples come to me for marriage counseling and I ask about their dating life, 9 out of 10 times, the role of planning anything social has become the wife’s responsibility. And in most of the relationships I am asked to weigh in on, the wife feels like if she didn’t care about connecting emotionally, no one would care. Did you read in my last blog that emotional connectivity is what leads to physical connectivity????….keep reading.

So hubbies out there! Hear me! This is such an easy fix! If you did it well once, you can do it again!!! Date your wife or lose her forever!

Dating as a married couple can actually be easier if you think about it! You already know that your spouse will say yes! You also know what kind of activities they like to do, what kind of food they enjoy and what their calendar looks like most of the time! If you plan time for just the two of you now, the message is simply, “I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU AND YOU ALONE.”

Here are some guidelines:

Have a date night idea jar: Sit down with your spouse and come up with things you wish you would do together, what restaurants you would like to try, etc. Write them on pieces of paper and fold them up and put them in a jar. Pick one out at the beginning of each month and let the planning begin.

Now that you are married, try taking turns with the planning: We all get busy with life but the job of saving a marriage through time spent together should never fall on just one person. If you are the one planning date night, you also have to get the babysitter. For some reason, a common complaint that I hear is that it takes so much work to get the date organized that it takes the fun out of it. If you alternate the planning, one person gets to just show up!

These times together can be inexpensive or you can choose to splurge: Set a budget for your dating life so that it doesn’t get tossed aside just because the bill for Johnny’s hockey or Brooke’s dance popped up and you can’t justify it. Keep in mind that your kids will be happier in the long run if their parents stay married and they miss an activity as an 8 year old. Also, sometimes saving money one month by just grabbing a coffee or going for a bike ride can put pennies aside for a fancier dinner out or a concert that reminds you of when you met!

Be present emotionally and physically on date night: Remember the effort that you put into date night when you were first going out? You wouldn’t dream of not choosing your outfit carefully or brushing your teeth. You were sure to look your special person in the eyes and talk about more than your crappy day at work. Be a person that is engaging, flirtatious, interesting and a friend who asks good questions. You might be surprised how much fun you have!

My married clients know that I believe that the most important relationship in the home is the one between the two people that are married. There is no other relationship in the home that should compete with it. A family where the parents are working as a team are the happiest families overall…and when there is discord at the top, it is felt by everyone, even the pets…so rekindle that love in one of the easiest fixes out there…date night.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia