Be the change

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This month’s theme is “Change”, and when I pondered what I wanted to say, I kept coming back this Ghandi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Be the Change You Want to See in the World.

I live in St. Louis, and in October, I wrote about my experience in Ferguson, following the shooting of Michael Brown. This event, and much of what happened since, changed our society, changed our community, changed my family, changed me. Change is hard and never comes easily, but many times change is hastened by necessity. Our society and community, as well as my family and me, need to recognize where change is necessary in addressing the racial tension, the economic disparity, and the inequality of opportunity happening here in St. Louis, and all over our world.

But…Wow! Change like this seems too overwhelming to contemplate, much less facilitate. When I think about the Ghandhi quote, though, I feel like I can’t turn away. I have to ask myself: How can I be the change I want to see in the world? What can I really do? On the other hand, the idea that I can actually make a difference regarding racial relations in my community and in our country seems almost crazy. Maybe you feel like I tend to – that whatever I do is insignificant compared to the real work that needs to be done. And I wonder, Do I really have the time and energy it takes? I think about the fact that I have a job. I have many responsibilities in my daily life. I have three kids….

But…Wait! I HAVE THREE KIDS! One thing I can do is help my kids see the world as a place to BE THE CHANGE! I don’t know what my kids will end up doing in this world, or who they will become, but right now they are goldmines of potential! Right now they can do anything when they grow up! When I think about the fact that what I’m doing is raising people – citizens – not just kids, I can get overwhelmed, but I can also get excited. Part of my responsibility, as their mother, is to raise them to care about others, to care about change, to want to be change. Obviously my kids will grow up to be who they are. I can’t make them into certain types of people… but I sure can try! Influencing them now, is some of my real work – work that I believe will make a difference and facilitate change.

My 13-year-old son asked me recently, in a conversation about Ferguson, “Mom, what can I really do?” What a great question – with both not-enough and too-many answers! I didn’t immediately know how to respond. After a lengthy discussion, he and I decided that what we can both do is respond to the opportunities that come our way. We didn’t make a specific action plan, but we decided to seek opportunities to serve others, and to be open to the needs that find us. And it worked. Gregory and I have and are serving in ways that we weren’t before our conversation about Ferguson. Our idea of “being the change” constantly looks different, and the conversations he and I have must be on-going. While we could easily think that each small act of ours is not very impactful, we have to believe that all of these small acts, put together, done by all of us, will make a difference. Together, by caring about our communities, and looking for opportunities, we can “be the change we want to see in the world”!


 

Author: Laura Pierson

Change of relationship

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I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t self-conscious about being the chubby kid. I had pretty much tried every diet from the time I was 12 through my 30s. I want to eat when I’m happy, sad, frustrated, angry, lonely, or when I feel like celebrating. My weight has fluctuated up and down more times than I really care to admit.

When I was depressed, I would eat to numb my feelings. With each bite, it felt like I could somehow keep the feelings stuffed down inside a little longer. (This of course, doesn’t work, just in case you were wondering.)  My head and heart felt disconnected from my body, and I didn’t even really care that I was gaining weight… a LOT of weight. In two years time, I had gained a hundred pounds. Not 5 or 10 or even 20. One hundred. After I started to become more emotionally healthy, I thought that I would fall back into regular eating habits and the weight would naturally come off. (It’s ok, you can laugh.) But more than 6 years later, I am still carrying it.

In October, I finally had a “come to Jesus” moment and admitted to myself that I am an addict. I am no different from anyone else who struggles with another substance abuse. My stints in rehab (Weight Watchers) hadn’t changed me. And I started to understand why someone who has gone through the program of AA still considers himself an alcoholic; no matter how long they’ve been sober.

I realize that a food addiction may not seem as serious as being addicted to something like methamphetamine or even nicotine. It might not be as destructive to relationships; I am still able to hold down a job and be responsible with my money and time. But it is hard on my health. And if I truly want to love myself well, I must be good to my body.

But eating is still required to live, so I needed to figure out a way to change my relationship with food. I started with a 21-day nutritional cleanse. I followed a program called CLEAN by Dr. Alejandro Junger (www.cleanprogram.com) and highly recommend it. You remove any foods that are known to cause digestive irritation (dairy, gluten, red meat) or are toxic triggers (sugar, alcohol, caffeine). You have liquid meals morning and night, take a variety of supplements and avoid all processed foods.

Since I had made it through Halloween unscathed, I decided to give myself a challenge. I would continue to cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol through January 1st. All the way through the holiday season: no stuffing, creamed spinach, or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, no Christmas candy or cookies and <gasp>no New Year’s toast. I posted my plan on Facebook. A few people thought I was crazy, but wished me good luck.

The great thing about starting with CLEAN was that it had removed my cravings for junk. I was waking up easier WITHOUT a morning cup of coffee, my energy level was staying consistent throughout the day, I wasn’t feeling deprived, and my mood was more level. When someone would say, “Would you like to have a piece of [chocolate, cake, pizza]?” it became easier and easier to say no. “I’m an addict” stops the “But a little bit won’t hurt you” responses. Because people don’t offer a beer to an alcoholic or a “little bit” of heroin to a drug addict.

I completed my challenge and learned a lot about myself. In no means do I feel like I have overcome my addiction, but I do think I understand it and am learning how to live with it in a way that is healthy. I’m down 30 pounds. And for the first time, in many years, my New Year’s Resolution wasn’t to change my diet.


Author: Wendy Hinkle

A constant in the midst of change

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A light gray, tattered sweatshirt sits on a chair in my bedroom, waiting for me to yank it over my head, as I often do. Although laundered frequently, it has some coffee stains on it that will be noticeable forever, in much the same way that scars stay visible on human skin. The small holes and frayed edges of the shirt cuffs could fool you into thinking that a mouse chewed on them at some point. I can reassure you, however, that this is not the case. Quite simply, this poor sweatshirt has survived 24 years under my care, and its ragged appearance is simply a consequence of living with me for almost a quarter of a century. Despite its condition, the word Kentucky is boldly emblazoned across the front in big, blue letters, a reminder that pride in one’s home state never declines with age.

This long-suffering sweatshirt has had to endure many stages of my life. First it had to withstand the regular suffocation of being plastered against the frames of teenage boys. Within a few years, it was sitting through dozens of late-night college study sessions in the company of bug-eyed young adults who were trembling from caffeine abuse.

My veteran sweatshirt was also worn during the first trimester of my pregnancy, gradually becoming tighter across my belly with each passing week. Like a hero, it tolerated the spit-up and tears shed by a newborn baby. Later on, it was victimized by a toddler’s sniffly nose. My washer and dryer, tired from over-use, would roll their mechanical eyes every time they saw my sweatshirt approaching them. As the years advanced, it weathered more late-night study sessions, but this time with an older child’s head snuggled against one shoulder. Yes, this sweatshirt has experienced many rites of passage and, in some ways, symbolizes the spirit of my will to survive.

I admit that my beloved Kentucky sweatshirt has become something of a security blanket over the years. We live in an age when technology is mutating and evolving faster than most of us can adapt. For example, I’m convinced that a new version of the iPhone comes out every time someone sneezes. And I still have a hard time believing that I must actually guard against the possibility of identity theft, a crime that sounds more like a science fiction movie than reality. Lastly, I never thought I would worry about the “shelf life” of libraries – pardon my pun – but now I’m beginning to resent the role of the Kindle in the declining popularity of printed books.

On a more personal level, I have experienced a multitude of life changes in recent times. Just within the last 180 days, I have moved to a different town, bought a house, gotten engaged, gotten married, started a new job, and watched my only child start middle school.

For these very reasons, I need to make sure that my old Kentucky sweatshirt is always accessible, because wearing it somehow reminds me that I am who I am, even in the midst of a rapidly-changing world.  Some things never change….and thank God.


 

Author: Casey Miller

Some things don’t need to be changed

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Choosing to be OK with being a beaver

I have recently discovered that the most powerful tool I have—as a pseudo well-adjusted adult—is choosing to change how I think and feel about the things I am powerless to change. Like the fact that I am an introvert.

I have despised and regretted this all of my life. I felt shamed every time a 1970s-era personality test based on the “four temperaments” came up. In a nutshell, these are melancholic (emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic introverts), phlegmatic (submissive introverts, people pleasers), choleric (proud, extroverted “alphas”), and sanguine (boisterous, openly emotional, social extroverts). I always registered as a melancholic phlegmatic. The “worst” of all possible combinations.

A year ago, I was sitting in church with my mother and husband. The pastor was using some absurd variation that uses the more modern Myers Briggs test to match your personality type to one of 16 animals: owl, fox, sloth, lion, deer, octopus, cat, otter, wolf, dolphin, honeybee, beaver, dog, meerkat, parrot, and elephant. Look it up, you’ll be amused. (I think this was the pastor’s way of recruiting volunteers who have the proper bent to be parking lot attendants.)

My animal match was a beaver.

As the pastor begins to describe the beaver, my mother jabs me in the ribs with her elbow, hard. Sure, a stroke took away her capacity to speak, but she didn’t need words to get her point across. My husband chuckled, knowing I was getting angry.

Beaver: logical and hard-working conservative types. They enjoy organization and regulation, and have a reputation for being serious individuals who take a practical approach to everything. They are dependable and thorough, sensible and earnest. Like a beaver hard at work on its dam, they are known for being incredibly dedicated workers who will do whatever is needed to get the job done. On the negative side, they have good intentions but can sometimes have a difficult time understanding the emotional needs of others.

I DON’T WANT TO BE THE BLASTED BEAVER. Why can’t I be something “fun” like the dolphin or the otter?

But if I’m really honest, I am the beaver. I find comfort in following directions to accomplish a task. It really rubs me the wrong way that my husband refers to “directions” as “corrections” and only uses them after an attempt to figure it out on his own, usually after something is installed backwards or upside down.

I’m not “normal” with the touchy-feely stuff. Emotions are meant to be safely tucked away beneath a crust of sarcasm.

I think I get this from my father. He’s the one who taught me how to collate, which I thoroughly enjoyed even as an eight year old. I spent many an hour at the dining room table, picking up one sheet from each stack and stapling his sales materials together. I felt a sense of accomplishment when all of those stacks disappeared, everything was in the proper order, and each staple was properly placed.

My father was the one who never liked mixers, and he abhorred “getting-to-know-you” games. He had a lovely singing voice, but wouldn’t dare join the church choir because he’d have to interact with people. On holidays, after a big meal around the table or opening presents together in front of the Christmas tree, he’d happily retreat to his office to watch TV alone, even if guests were still there.

This Thanksgiving I had an epiphany moment as an introvert. I listened to the conversation before the meal—I was prepping, cooking, setting the table—and I was glad I wasn’t expected to make small talk with my family in the living room. Then the worst possible thing happened. The turkey wasn’t cooking and it was my fault.

Inexplicably, I put the turkey in the roasting pan upside down. Juices pooled, rawness persisted. We ended up slicing off a few pieces and roasting them separately. We had ham, too. Nobody went hungry.

This event, that should have thrown a perfectionist, people pleaser into full meltdown, was an error I let melt away. I didn’t feel the stomach churning despair I usually get when I make a mistake. It was as if I had finally accepted the fact that I’m human. I felt unusually well adjusted. I’ve come to realize introversion is not bad. It doesn’t mean I can’t effectively manage the social interactions that are necessary in my job. It doesn’t mean I’m doomed to be emotionally shut off from my family. It just means I need to choose to make the effort. Choose to smile more, share that absurd observation that is relevant to the conversation, tell my family I love them, and spend time with them. I’m not defective. God made beavers for a reason.


Author: Alicia Gregory

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The wave of change

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Change. Craved by some, despised by others while it remains indifferent to all. Standing on the beach watching the tide rise, we watch the wave draw closer and closer and start to consider the possible responses. Dive in to the middle of it and trust that you’ll pass through to the other side in tact?  Stand firmly, feet planted and let it crash over you with its full force, allowing for the very real possibility of being knocked to the ground, struggling to find which way is up, gasping for air?  Or turn and run? Run fast and hard in soft sand as the water licks your heels reminding you that the inevitable will soon arrive, knock you down, and pull you back out in a rip tide that seems stronger than the wave you were originally trying to escape.

This Christmas we travelled to California to celebrate with my parents and extended family. I was aware of changes that had taken place since my last visit and had convinced myself that I was prepared for them. I was wrong. My grandmother on my father’s side had been moved to an assisted living facility since my last trip out and my dad and I went Christmas morning to pick her up so she could be with us for the day.

We arrived at a beautiful new facility. Walking in the door it looked like a high end hotel complete with a rounded dark wood check-in desk, vaulted ceilings with stylish chandeliers and comfortable couches in the lobby. We signed into the visitors log and headed to the elevators. Stepping on to the second floor, the hotel theme continued with wide hallways and tastefully decorated corridors. One of the rooms had my grandmothers name and the door was open. I stepped in.

The first thing I noticed was a sink and a dorm sized refrigerator. There was no stove or oven. That may seem somewhat insignificant. I assure you it was not.  My stomach sank and I realized there were no familiar scents in the air. My senses expected smells of rice cooking on the stove, or fresh cut jalapeños on the cutting board ready to go into the salsa. There should have been beans warming on the back burner and maybe some chili verde bubbling on another. And my grandmother should have been there with a big smile saying, “can I make you a little something? I didn’t have time to really cook before you got here mijo!”

Instead I turned the corner to find my Abuela sitting on the bed of her new studio apartment. She saw me, and did smile from ear to ear with the warmth that I’ve known since first memory. I helped her off the bed and we hugged and just stood there for a very long time. I knew we were both crying but neither of us would admit it or let go. So much was said in complete silence. Our bond has always been a strong one, and in that moment we both knew that the wave of change had come and we just needed to allow it to wash over for a moment and hold each other up through the harsh, cold shock of the crash.  Then in a way only she could do, she stepped back and said, “well, how do you like my place?  Did you see all the old people?!”

She showed me all of her flowers and plants on the balcony as we got ready to leave. My dad and I helped her to her walker and opened the door to find a resident standing outside ready to greet her. She introduced us to him proudly. “This is my son, and his son Michael. And he has a boy Lucas so the family name will go on!”  We hadn’t made it another few feet when we ran into another gentlemen leaving his room who greeted her quite warmly. As soon as we got out of earshot (which wasn’t far) she said, “he’s the only decent looking man in the whoooooole place, that one.  Can you believe it?!”  We laughed the rest of the way to the elevator.

The rest of the afternoon I watched as the family enjoyed each other. I played with my niece and nephew and was able to spend time with my sister who I hadn’t seen in a year. One of the more special moments was watching my three grandparents enjoying watching their great grandchildren playing around the house with their new toys and seeing cousins get to know each other.

They say change is the constant and our reactions are the variable I suppose.  There’s some watered down self-helpy cliche line you’re welcome to write down.  My children will never see my grandmother roll out a fresh tortilla in the kitchen. I won’t see her make them again. That’s change I must accept despite my objections. Some traditions will change and some will remain. This I must also accept.

What I came away with this trip though was maybe more about what didn’t change. Love didn’t change.  My grandmother is still able to love me just as much without a stove that could now bring her harm. My family still loves each other even though the tradition of making a million tamales didn’t happen.  How we handle change is important, but maybe we should pay more attention to what is left standing after the water recedes.


Author: Michael Martinez

Tomorrow Change begins

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The village family

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I was driving south, when I received “the phone call” from my doctor.  My three children were nestled in their car seats in the back and I did not want them to hear the news, so despite my safety concerns, I turned off the speaker option and picked up my cell phone. I did not even consider pulling over to the shoulder of the road. I was a couple hours from my mommas’ front porch, I wanted to be home.

I was prepared for the results from my two biopsies.  I was already 100% convinced that I had cancer.  I did not demand the emergency dermatologist appointment to be tested for cancer; I made the appointment to find out how comfortable the tumor made itself inside the flesh on my back.  Still, nothing prepares you for the statement:

You have cancer.

There are two phases in my life now, BC and AC, (before cancer and after cancer).

I am an avid story teller, whose vivid details recounting personal adventure now began with the phrases, “before I had cancer, I…”and “after cancer, I…”  These phrases had unfortunately become precursors to my once no strings attached tall tales.

I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my face and malignant melanoma on my back.  The basal cell cancer was normally non-life threating and completely removed during the biopsy procedure. My fight against the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, was just beginning.

The only knowledge I was privy to( before my cancer escapade), concerning melanoma, was that it spread to legendary musician Bob Marley’s brain and killed him when he was only 36 years old.  I was two days shy of my birthday, I kept thinking, for my 39thbirthday; I received the dreaded gift of cancer, nice.

Melanoma develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, the color pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma accounts for 75% of all deaths related to skin cancer. Melanoma is an asshole!

My big sister was relaxing in the passenger seat of my car while I was discussing the details of my pathology report with the doctor. I was glad to have her company on this road trip even more so, now. I asked her to get a pen and jot down the numbers in my cancer journal. (I know, you all are thinking that I doomed myself by purchasing and labeling a notebook, “my cancer journal”.) I didn’t understand my cancer equation. Stages, phases and Levels…percentages, treatment options, survival rates…names of oncologists at UK Cancer center and then the final question, “am I going to die?”

“Not today,” was her only clear cut response.

I wasn’t instantly relieved but I guess that would have to do.  I had so many thoughts racing through my foggy brain.  I had drummed up emotions that were unfamiliar to me. I couldn’t believe that I actually had cancer. Cancer…real…live…cancer.  I felt so icky, tainted and violated.

When I hung up the phone, I glanced at my sister who said non-chalantly, “it’s just skin cancer, and you will be fine. Wanna stop at McDonalds for lunch?”

Seriously?

When we finally arrived home, I found the comfort and concern I so desperately needed.  I found my village.  My friends and family overwhelmed me with their love and support.  They came out by the dozens, like an army, prepped and ready to help me battle cancer.  They made phone calls, showed up at my doorstep with hugs and sent wildflowers.  They treated me to lunch, shared bottles of wine and more importantly, spent quality time with my children while I recuperated after surgery.  I couldn’t ask for a better tribe. I have never felt so loved.

Not everyone knows what to say or do when a loved one shares their cancer news.  It is not their fault, nor do they mean to come off insensitive or callous.  Everyone processes and grieves differently.  Everyone should be given care and consideration when dealing with your illness.  My sister meant no harm, she was in denial. She stayed in a state of denial for a long time.  She wasn’t ready to face cancer with me and that is ok.  Learning and accepting everyone’s role in your life’s journeys is a vital component to success.

It required a village to help me battle cancer successfully. My friends, who are my family, and my family, who provide me with some of the greatest friendships, did a beautiful job helping me navigate through the storm.  As I mend and learn to live with the cancer cells in my body that may never fully dissipate, they continue showering me with love and support.

It takes a village. My village rocks!

P.S. Wear sunscreen, check your spots and know your body.


Author: Heather Podnar

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Family of one?

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I remember when I turned 25; I had a hard time with the fact that I didn’t have a husband yet. Both of my sisters were married in their early twenties and had started their families. By the time they were my age, they each had 2 children! And for some reason, there was this unwritten expectation that I would, too. But… I didn’t even have a boyfriend.

Over the next several years a lot of life happened. I had experienced deep love; but also loss, disappointment, and heartache. I had to grieve the fact that I didn’t end up with what I wanted. Sometimes what we think we want isn’t necessarily what’s best for us. But it doesn’t mean it’s not painful. And it takes some distance, time, and work to find healing.

I used to believe that there was something missing in my life because I was single; that my world was somehow incomplete because there wasn’t someone significant in my life. And that I had wasted my “prime childbearing” years. Sometimes, it feels like there is an expectation that having a family is the “end all, be all” goal in life. When people would ask me if I was married or had kids, they would look at me with pity or disappointment when I said no. And it hurt. Because I felt I had failed, too. I didn’t realize it for a long time, but I was waiting… waiting for my life to start.

I turned 40 this year. Life looks a lot different at 40 than I thought it would when I was a little girl. Those 15 years between 25 and 40 brought a lot of life experience, but not a loving husband and house bustling with children. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a family. I have a community of AMAZING people in my life, and12 nieces and nephews that I absolutely ADORE. I have a few close friends that I offer babysitting services to; not only to give them time to connect as couples, but I get to borrow their KIDS! I finally realized that BECAUSE I do not have the responsibility of my own children, there are a lot more kids that get my love.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would love to get married someday, but the desire to have kids of my own has faded some. I have found that you don’t need husband to know love.  You don’t have to give birth to know how to nurture. That it’s better to be single than wish you were. There does not need to be an “other” in order for your life to be significant. And you don’t have to be related to be family.

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Author: Wendy Hinkle

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Everyone here is family

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Family. The one word that can cause just about every human emotion to well up, but why is it so powerful?  I think for most it’s because for good or bad, right or wrong, our “family” is where we come from. They’re our ancestral heritage, our story, Thanksgivings and Christmases, and God help us they’re our crazy Uncle Eddies we don’t want anyone to know about if possible.

image1The interesting thing about “family” is that I believe the definition has become more diverse and ever widening over the years. The high value once placed in traceable bloodlines and birthright has given way to circumstance, generosity, kindness, or usually all three.  The fact that my daughter is not blood related to me does not define my love for her, how quite silly really (said with Downton Abbey accent).  So why should extended family be any different?

My grandfather who passed away four years ago taught me a great deal about family. Things I continue to understand more even today. As Christmas approaches, I was remembering back to Christmas Eves during my childhood when we would gather with my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather always made a point to be at the front door to welcome each and every person who stepped in. It was usually a group of around fifty or so with all the cousins and some of their friends, current boyfriends and girlfriends, and because there are no strangers in the Martinez home, there were always an assortment of random people I had never seen before who were welcomed as part of the family.

image4One by one they would step in. At 5’8″ and with the strength of an ox he’d wrap his arms full around them, squeeze as hard as possible until all air had left their lungs, and then proceed to lift them off the ground with a, “Merry Christmas!”  That was quickly followed up by, “You’re BEAUTIFUL! We love you! Everyone here is family!”  All of us who knew what was coming took great joy in watching this unfold as unsuspecting newcomers came through the door. Our favorite was always the new boyfriend of one of the cousins who was too cool for anyone there who after putting his hand out to shake my grandfather’s hand quickly found himself airborne. You could tell if he was going to make it ten minutes in this family by his reaction. No smile?  No way. And give him one of the dry tamales at the top of the pan.

image3So what was it that my grandfather was doing during those front door exchanges?  I thinks it’s important because everyone I’ve ever talked to who came to our family events said that they felt welcome and like part of the family.  I think first, he acknowledged and welcomed them – “Merry Christmas!!”  He changed any preconception they had about what they were stepping into, reset it with a twist of self esteem – picked up, bear hugged, set down, “You’re beautiful!” And lastly he established the Martinez ground rules – “everyone here is family”.

While a few of my wife’s family members live in the same town as us now, we actually are several thousand miles from my blood related family. That has been a rough change. Continues to be.  But if the miracle of adoption has taught me anything, it’s that love is the bond of family above all else. So we have grown our Kentucky family.

family_edited2My wife Julie’s post this month on Family included a story about our friend Teresa and her kids. We’ve been through crazy storms together.  After the F5 tornado devastated the Birmingham area where she is from we drove down to see if we could help. That’s what family does. But the reason I know for sure she’s family despite our skin tone difference is that when an officer stopped us to check ID’s and ask us what our purpose was for being there was, she told him, “I’m his jive translator man!”.  Got us past the checkpoint. That woman can make me laugh like no other. She was at my table for Thanksgiving this year again as always and even felt comfortable enough to bring a friend at the last minute who had no where to go. That made my day.

My best friend Marty just left my house after dropping off dinner for the family. I’ve been sick in bed six days during my wife’s first week on a new job and I knew if I asked him for help, he’d be there. Why?  Because he’s family. My kids call him Uncle Marty. Not because it’s a cute nickname we came up with, but because they know and believe him to be their uncle. When I hold his precious little girl, Bella, and tell her Uncle Michael loves her, I assure you, it’s because my heart sees family when I look into her sweet eyes.

Family has different meanings for everyone. For me it’s about love, grace, some mercy, showing up when it matters, and food. There should always be food.

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Author: Michael Martinez

A family united

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Words can uplift, inspire, and strengthen others. Words can heal, redeem, and forgive.

But words can also cause pain. Words can blister the soul.

Three years ago, a woman and I were casually talking about families. She knew that my ex-husband and I have a young daughter, and that we share custody. At one point, the woman described our family situation as “a broken home.”

One of the definitions of broken, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “disunited by divorce, separation, or desertion of one parent.”

When my daughter was a toddler, her father and I chose to end our marriage, but we promised each other that we would make every effort to create a happy, secure life for our precious child. Since that time, we have worked hard to remain respectful to each other, knowing that she depends on us to bring positive energy into her daily life.

The problem with the word broken, when used to describe a family, is that it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Merriam Webster confirms that a broken family is one that is disunited. But in choosing to use the word broken in describing a family, a person excludes the ways in which that same family might be united.

Since my daughter is related to her parents by blood, there is a biological connection that unites her father and me. She has some of her father’s characteristics, plus a good dose of some of mine.

He and I are also united by memories of my pregnancy, our daughter’s amazing birth, the delight of watching our little girl take her first steps, and the challenge of potty-training.

After the divorce was final, my ex-husband and I agreed to take a united approach to co-parenting. We try to be consistent in our rules, expectations, and forms of discipline. We are aware that our daughter might try to get what she wants by pitting one parent against the other. Oh, but we’re smarter than that! Neither one of us wants to raise a child who grows up to be manipulative, so we choose to support each other’s decisions.

We feel united, too, by our desire for our daughter to do well in school, to love the process of learning, and to value hard work.

We are united in our effort to help our child develop a healthy outlook on relationships and to realize that many marriages can (and should) last a lifetime. But we also want her to understand that tragedy and heartbreak can still occur, and that once in a while, people have to make agonizing decisions.

It’s true that divorce is painful. And a single word, like broken, can be painful to a family branded with such a label. Luckily, however, forgiveness and healing have the power to move us beyond the pain of divorce, as well as the pain of words, thus allowing us to grow and experience peace.

Merriam Webster indicates that one of the meanings of peace is “harmony in personal relations.”  My lifelong aim is to nurture a family that reflects the attributes of peace.  As Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”


 

Author: Casey Miller

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