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Monthly Archives: February 2014

“”I’m thirteen now and don’t know how my friends could be so mean, I come home cryin’ and you hold me tight and grab the keys, and we drive and drive until we found a town far enough away, and we talk and window shop until I’ve forgotten all their names…”

Precious girl,

You came home last week, sadness and dejection written on your usually sunny face. You began to tell me about being bullied by a group of girls at school. It’s almost cliché -a group of girls who do everything together, and for some reason, they have targeted you to make fun of. I asked you what they were mocking, and you told me “they said I like dumb baby things and I talk too much and my hair isn’t pretty and I’m just like, whatever.”  Someday you will understand the astonishment you can feel that anyone would dislike your baby and the riptide of protective rage that can sweep you out before you can even blink.

I was neither wildly popular nor relentlessly bullied in school. I did experience some teasing- the boys who stole my charm bracelet when I was six, a girl in the fourth grade who thought I sang too loud in school (she was probably right), and a classic group of “mean girls” in the sixth grade. In high school, there were a few less than friendly encounters and a boy who cruelly played with my emotions (but that’s another post!) but most of the bullying I experienced then came from a teacher.

Baby girl, as your mama, I can’t imagine anyone not liking you. You are sweet and kind and generous and funny and inclusive and there aren’t enough words to describe how amazing I think you are. But you will face those who see you as an easy target for pain and rage. This heart and flesh that has cared for you from the beginning cries out for justice and even revenge at times, but I want you to know these things…
In order to lash out, there has to be something being held in. Find out what that is. 
I wish I had the wisdom as a child and teenager to see past the name calling and cruel laughter to see, really see the girl who later displayed a severe eating disorder.  I wish I had not been so self protective to realize she never ate lunch. I wish I would have invited her to a sleepover. I wish I had seen her as a person, and not a caricature.  I wish I had the courage to gently confront the teacher who drove me to tears on a weekly basis. To remove the armor I faithfully put on to protect myself, and instead asked him how I could pray for him. I wish I had found my worth and identity in my Father who numbered the hairs on my head instead of projecting my bully’s voice onto my picture of Jesus. I wish I had told him how his words would echo around in an insecure and bruised heart for years.
Be brave enough to be bullied.
You can’t control if someone makes fun of your clothes or hair or voice. But have courage my girl, and choose to be bullied for loving others. Stand up for the girl being teased. Invite the boy to your party, the one who never gets invited. Smile and offer to show the new kid around. Run slower than the kid who is always last, and encourage them to keep trying. Choose one kid who gets teased and make it your goal to befriend them every month.  Take the brunt. Look for the misfit.
Embrace the suffering.
At some point you might read this and roll your eyes. These words might even sting. I know that in the moment of being chosen as the one to be hurt, the idea of doing anything but protecting yourself seems, well, crazy. Know that you can crawl into my lap at any time and I will cry with you, and we will likely share some Rocky Road and I’ll tell you about the time a girl told me every day for a year that I only made a certain choir because the teacher felt sorry for me. But when the tears have subsided and your heart is soft, I will encourage you to lean into the pain, not cower away from it. I’ll remind you that Jesus is real and experienced pain and hurt when persecuted by others. He was abandoned by friends and bullied in a way that led to death and yet even in that moment of agony, He offered forgiveness to those holding the swords. Empathy and kindness grow, and suffering is the water that encourage the roots to reach deep.

“We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-6

Love,

Mama

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“You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors, It’s the morning of your very first day, You say “Hi” to your friends you ain’t seen in a while, Try and stay out of everybody’s way…”

I attended elementary and middle school in the same district, but my mom and I moved into a new area for high school. It wasn’t lost on me that this meant that I didn’t know anyone at my new high school and that every single other student would already have spent precious bonding time with everyone else, forming unbreakable BFF statuses. They had all probably been in preschool together, maybe even were born in the same hospital. I bet they all spent weekends together, having sleepovers and making vows to NEVER welcome a new friend into their group. I was convinced that I would be eating lunch with the janitor, and spending my weekends reading Sweet Valley High books, because surely no one would have room for a newbie like myself. I remember walking through the crowded halls, and seeing a couple making out in the hallway. I was fascinated because 1. she had parts that I sooo did not have, and 2. he had a mustache. A MUSTACHE, people. They were like, real live grown ups, and I felt like a baby in my acid washed jeans and no brand name shirt. I’m going to admit something that I am not sure anyone knows- I ate lunch for the first two weeks in the library. I decided who needs friends when you have Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield?

Eventually, I got over myself and realized that not everyone had been friends from the womb, and began to meet other equally insecure people. By the time I graduated, I had a good group of friends and I knew many of the people attending my college, so that transition was easier. It would be nice to be able to laugh at my scared self back then and talk to you about how I don’t struggle with insecurity now, and how that was a season in my life that I am so over because I am totes mature.

But you guys, I’m going to a conference and I am thinking about eating lunch in the library.

Next week, I am going to the Storyline Conference. (http://storylineblog.com/conferences/sandiego2014/)  It is a gift from my sweet husband, and I am very excited about having a few days away from the everyday responsibilities of life. Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors, and I am pumped about getting to hear him speak, as well as Jon Acuff and Anne Lamott. But even as excited as I am, I have come up with a hundred reasons why I should cancel. I’ve been trying to understand what is happening in my heart and why I feel like that fourteen year old girl again and here is what it comes down to…

Am I a writer?

I don’t know. Does getting paid make you a writer? Being published? Is it like the difference between being technically able to sing and being a singer? I don’t know, but I DO know that I have convinced myself that I will be walking into a room full of accomplished and insanely talented writers, all of whom know each other already and have private jokes that I won’t get. Is this an absolutely irrational fear- yeah. Has it still made me consider canceling the trip- yes, yes it has.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, I wrote down an internal dialogue I have been having for the last month about what to bring to the conference….

Let’s see, I am going to need a bag for my computer…I wonder if everyone there has a Mac…it’s in California, of COURSE everyone will have a Mac…it’s probably a law…but maybe I will be like the rebel hipster that doesn’t have a mac because everyone has a mac so I have an old school Dell…but I don’t have glasses so that’s not gonna work…ugh, what am I going to wear…heels? Flip flops? Flip flop heels?? I want to look cute, but be comfortable…let’s look at Pinterest…okay, so no one has made a Storyline Conference clothes board…maybe boyfriend jeans, that seems trendy…can I wear boyfriend jeans at 36? Are husband jeans a thing? I could make husband jeans a thing…they’d have grass stains and a note stuck in the pocket that says don’t leave chickfila in the van…hmmm, leggings are comfortable…I have my space cat leggings…be serious Brandy, you can’t wear space cat leggings to a grown up conference…well, maybe I can…do cats in space say take my writing seriously or perhaps I need psychotropic medication? They are artistic cats, maybe they say I am a quirky artsy person who may or may not be kind of geniusy…or maybe they say I am definitely eating lunch by myself in the library…

What a mess. But when I dig, I know it comes down to this- I don’t know what the future holds for me in writing. I have felt stuck these last few months, alternating between feeling like I have nothing to offer and feeling like I am scared to put anything out there. And the ugliness of that is that it’s all about ME. My feelings, my insecurity, my attempts to wrap my worth around acknowledgment…

So, I’m going to The Storyline Conference and I am going to ask Him to remind me that anything I have is about Him. And then I am going to find the person who looks as nervous as I am and ask them to eat lunch with me. The space cat question is still up for debate.

regina george

Are YOU going to the Storyline Conference?

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“What’s love got to do, got to do with it…”

I’m taking a stand. I’m drawing a line in the pink and red sand and humming “We’re not Gonna Take it” under my breath. It’s time for us to join together and rise up against the machine of Valentine’s Day gifts for our children’s classmates. It all begins with you and me- won’t you join me?

When I was a kid, we used to go and buy valentines with cartoon characters on them. We would write our classmate’s name on the top and the next day, we would hand them out. We would have a party with chocolate cupcakes with red sprinkles and cheetos. We had cups of water, or if we were fancy, cups of red punch. One year, I decided to hand out little boxes of those candy hearts, the ones that taste like chalk dipped in powdered sugar. There was a boy- a quiet boy, but a boy who haunted my fifth grade dreams. He was a loner, my first foray into “bad boys”, and he didn’t play baseball like the rest of the boys, he just loitered around the field, looking all Dylan McKayish. He didn’t ever raise his hand in class. His voice had already changed, probably when he was four. He NEVER wore a helmet on his bike. I was enthralled. I dumped out all the chalk hearts and separated them into colors because one time I heard him tell someone that the yellow ones were his favorite (of course, he said this with disdain, as though he was scoffing at the whole candy chalk heart industry). Yellow ones are also MY favorite, which clearly meant that we were soul mates. You can’t fake a connection like that. I put all the yellow ones in his box. I waited all day, watching him to see when he would open them. I watched as he opened the box, Debbie Gibson’s “Shake your Love” playing in my head, waiting for the moment he would look up, and we would join hands and plan our yellow candy chalk heart themed wedding as we rode off, sans helmets, into the sunset.

What actually happened is that I saw him TRADE MY BOX OF LOVE to another kid for JOLLY FREAKING RANCHERS AS THOUGH THOSE WOULD EVER FILL HIS HEART. Heartbroken. Debbie abruptly stopped singing and was replaced by the mournful wailing of Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t we almost have it all”

I’ve never forgotten that. So Raymond Martinez, if you are out there, just know that every time I eat a yellow candy heart, I push down a tiny bit of bitterness.

But now that I am an adult (legally, anyway), I have a new issue with Valentine’s Day. I’m looking at you, Pinterest. You and your homemade crocheted hearts and cards made out of recycled pallet wood and individualized Baked Alaska’s and vegetables cut into hearts and arrows and dressing your kid up in a diaper and bow and arrow and the teachers gifts, DEAR LORD THE TEACHERS GIFT.  I tried your melt broken crayons into heart-shaped crayons project. Lord knows I have enough broken crayons, as my kids are convinced this will be the next Olympic sport and they are VERY dedicated to training for the gold. You know what I got? Heart shaped crayons that had melted into the color of “wet dog rolling in a pile of garbage” which is very difficult to fit onto the label. I also had the added bonus of my kitchen smelling like a spork factory. Nothing says I love you like the smell of melted sporks.

It doesn’t stop there. It’s not enough to send cupcakes or cookies anyone to class parties. Now we have to send marshmallow people holding carrot hearts, or cheese cherubs or cookies painted with Robert Frost poetry.

I can’t do it. I won’t do it. This is my stand.

Join me mamas, in taking back the Valentine’s Day of yore. Paint half your face blue and stand with me, and we will battle together against this one upmanship, for we know if we continue down this path, it will lead to our sons taking out loans for gifts that their girlfriends will expect because we taught them in third grade that a flower isn’t enough. Because they may take our yellow candy chalk hearts, but they will never take OUR FREEDOM!!!!!!

Oh Dylan. I can tell from your furrowed eyebrows that you regret throwing my love candy away. I forgive you.

Oh Dylan. I can tell from your furrowed eyebrows that you regret throwing my love candy away. I forgive you.

 

 

This post originally appeared in Feb 2013…

 Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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