Meghan Markle v #meangirls

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I didn’t mean to watch the Royal Wedding. I was in a hotel room in Florida and woke up before my alarm clock. I laid there, wishing myself back to sleep, but Instagram called. I followed the arrival of the guests and then finally sighed and clicked on the TV, I can’t be the only one awake who isn’t watching it.

I didn’t get caught up like others. I didn’t cry. I don’t know them. I’m always happy to see people in love, but my interest wasn’t seated in their romance.

No, I was more aware of the tone of the ceremony. It was one of marked diversity and inclusion. It asked the world to move from lines to love. It was purposeful and resolute. There was deep symbolism and meaning. Every moment was perfectly orchestrated. I saw two people who not only love one another, but who also recognize they are offered a global platform.

They said the things they needed to say without saying a word.

I was coming off a bit of a the world is changing kind of high. I had just watched Prince Charles reach out to Meghan’s mother, escorting her away from the alter as they supported their children by witnessing their marriage. This man, who will become King, also honored their family by walking Meghan down the aisle toward his son.

In those moments they were simply parents. Nothing more. Nothing less.

These are the moments that make me believe in people again. That make me fully aware that there is more good than bad, more hope than fear, more love than hate.

Until a bunch of women began posting comparisons of Meghan, a woman who just did what would have been considered impossible even a decade ago, to both Kate and Diana. Her dress was torn apart, her hair discussed in great detail and concerns over her minimal makeup were shared. Shared so that other women would join the discussion in a group-hating circle that would then be made socially acceptable by their complicity. Especially when toxicity begins with a compliment, “Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing, but…”

They call this the Oreo Effect. Start with the good, say something terrible, and end with the good, so that the person eating your particular trans fat (or what they call constructive criticism in Corporate America) feel better about something negative.

If you ever start a sentence, “Let me start by saying…” or “I don’t mean to be a bitch, but…” check yourself.

Women have been programmed to take each other out. We are asked to compete with one another for jobs, security, mates, survival. We compare ourselves and others to feel better about what we consider our own shortcomings. At some point in time we believed we were unworthy in all matter of ways. I could go on for at least three more paragraphs about misogyny, the patriarchy, advertising and social influence, but you get the picture. This unworthiness, this competition, has become a hum in our veins, a social and cultural bias that has been coded into our DNA, and we don’t even know when we are doing it.

Start recognizing when you are doing it. Consciously monitor your internal talk. Do you judge others? How does seeing another achieve make you feel? If you aren’t happy for them, why? If you have to find something wrong, why? Recognize you’ve been triggered, send them a blessing, good for them, and dig in to why you are having a hard time saying something kind. I guarantee it has to do with you, your internal talk, your insecurities, and what you subconsciously consider failure or unworthiness.

Check your influence. Do you feel the need to share your negative thoughts with others so they agree with you or find you flip or funny? To feel right in your opinions? Justified? That’s you, girl. You need their approval. Why? Unless you are truly trying to build a band of #meangirls to yes you to death and tell you you’re pretty, recognize that negativity begets negativity. You don’t need it and you don’t need to attract it. You want good people in your life? Be good people.

I have such hope for women. I know in my bones that the world I’m leaving my daughter will be so much better and because of women I personally know or am reading about in the news. Women who are alive during my child’s adolescence. Women who are using their voices, their influence and their intelligence to change conversations.

Women like Meghan Markle who just told the entire world that she is here to make change and has the Royals in tow.

She wasn’t wearing a wedding dress, loves.

It was a cape.

You Are Precious — Letter to My Younger Self by Kim Fredrickson

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It is wonderful to hear from women who believe in using their words and stories to help others. I was recently contacted by Kim Fredrickson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, with a beautiful story and a desire to spread her message of self-compassion. Kim dug in and below you will find the newest Love Letter to grace LORE. I am delighted to include her voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kim Fredrickson –

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Dear Kimmy,

You are a precious little girl. You have such a bright future ahead of you. You are likable, delightful and have a very kind heart. You are smart, hard-working and a very good friend.

You have many wonderful experiences ahead of you, enjoying life and making an impact on your world. You also have some hard times ahead, just like we all do. I’d like to encourage you to spend your time and energy on things that matter and will help you on the road ahead.

Have Fun!

Enjoy life. Do things that you enjoy, energize you and give your life. Try new things, seek out new experiences, and enjoy each day to the fullest!

Draw Close to God

God loves you and will be by your side no matter what. He created you uniquely, and He is so proud of you. Take time to get to learn about Him in the Bible, and through prayer. No matter what happens in your life, you can draw near to Him. He will help you and never leave you, no matter what.

Cultivate Your Friendships

Your friends will be a second family to you, and they will be your lifeline through thick and thin. You will have many fun and meaningful experiences with them, that will fill your heart over your lifetime. You will have struggles and misunderstandings with some friends which is normal. Do all you can to talk things through, and apologize for your part of the problem. If you feel repeatedly harmed by a friend, despite trying to work things out, you may need to say goodbye to that friendship. This is normal. Some friendships are for a season, and some for a lifetime.

Work Hard

You are very bright, and catch on quickly. Work hard at school and your future jobs. The sky is the limit for you. There will be times you will feel like a challenge is too big for you. It isn’t. Take it one piece at a time, and you will grow and succeed. The world needs what you have to offer. God has given you abilities, a compassionate heart, and a message that He wants you to share.

Work Through Your Emotions

You will go through difficult times, and have many confusing emotions. This is normal. Seek help to process your emotions, regulate them, and learn to soothe yourself when you are distressed. These skills will help you make wise decisions and stay connected to yourself. Friends, books and counselors can be great resources to help you work through the normal emotions of life. Don’t hesitate to get help when you need it.

Face into Conflict

It can be scary and difficult to deal with conflict. That’s normal. The reality is that every relationship, job and friendship will have conflicts. Learn what you think, feel and need, and share with others in ways that don’t harm you or the other person. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable during these conversations. You can work through conflict most of the time. Learn to negotiate, and stand up for yourself. You don’t deserve abuse, and can remove yourself from situations and relationships that are harming you.

Grieve Well

You may be surprised to find out that grief can be your best friend. It is God’s answer to processing loss, pain, and disappointment. You may be afraid of these intense feelings and can’t believe they are good. I know. But they are. God is an expert at grief and transitions, and He completely understands. He doesn’t expect you to have your grief processed within a certain amount of time. He is faithful to love us through difficult times.

Being able to grieve throughout your life will be a big part of getting through difficult times. Grieving difficult times will help you feel the emotions, adjust to reality, and eventually adjust to your new normal. Even with times of loss, there are still wonderful times to come.

Learn How to Forgive

Life is full of well-meaning imperfect people who will hurt you, and whom you will hurt. Work through the pain of what has happened, grieve what you are going through and seek comfort and help as needed. Learn how to forgive yourself and others. Lack of forgiveness will keep you stuck in the past and will keep you imprisoned in your pain. You’ll need to learn to forgive yourself too. It’s normal to make mistakes and hurt others and yourself in the process. You can be a good friend to yourself by forgiving yourself for being human.

Be Your Own Best Friend

The way you treat yourself has more impact on you than any other relationship in your life. Learn how to treat yourself with kindness, as you would a dear friend. Don’t allow an inner critic to be your companion. Learn how to acknowledge your mistakes without beating yourself up. Listen to your instincts and speak out about things that are important to you.

In conclusion, you are a delight! You are a precious creation with so much of life ahead of you. I know you, I know what you are made of, and I know your kind and tender heart. I hold you close to my heart, and encourage you to hold you close to yourself too.

Love Always,

Kim

Kim Fredrickson is a licensed marriage and family therapist of thirty-plus years. She loves to teach others about the power of self-compassion from a faith perspective. Kim believes that learning to advocate for yourself with kindness and compassion, just as you would for a good friend, makes living life a little easier. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend and Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children. She recently retired from her counseling practice when diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal lung disease that developed as a rare complication from the chemotherapy and radiation she received for breast cancer.

After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decided to write Give Your Kids a Break as a way to have a positive influence in the lives of her adult children and their future grandchildren. Kim wanted to help them with the challenges of parenting, when the time came. She knew she wouldn’t be around to hold her grandbabies, and help her children raise them in person. Originally it was only going to be for them. As Kim wrote, she thought others might benefit as well, so decided to self-publish it.

Kim has been married to her husband, Dave for thirty-nine years and they have two grown children. Learn more and read her blog at www.kimfredrickson.com She also writes a weekly patient column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News, Just Breathe…Compassionate Help for the PF Journey. Thousands of patients and their loved ones read her column all over the world.

You can find Kim on IG @kimfredrickson, Twitter @kimfredrickson, or Facebook

All The New

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2017 was lumpy. It was a working year. A writing year. A holy hell, I’m 40 year. It was the year I was doing the ugly work that comes with manifesting the new; the details, the calls, the rewrites, the identity crisis, the growth. It was the year I saw myself in all my truth and recognized the things I do really well and the things I don’t. Yet. There may have been an existential crisis on a sailboat off the coast of South Florida over my birthday weekend. My most seasick friend held on to the mast for dear life and announced, “One day you are going to say, ‘remember when I was losing my shit on a sailboat when I turned 40? God, look at me now….'”

I almost see her, the woman my friend described. She’s in the distance, but coming into focus. She’s the woman who has wanted to write a book for as long as she can remember. She’s the one who believes her life’s purpose is to leave her words behind; to help the women and girls that come next.

This is the most vulnerable I have felt in a very long time. I’m almost there. That woman will be me in 2018. I’m still awaiting my pub date, but… it’s happening next year. No more wishing, no more dreaming, no more talking. It’s here.

I want the book done and out in the world like a pregnant woman at 39 weeks screaming, “Just get it out of me!” At the same time I remember the days after Olivia was born. She was no longer safe. I had given her over to the world. Other people would touch her, teach her, have opinions about her, and I could no longer hold her within me, keeping her safe. What feels like my life’s work is going to be outside of me soon. All the speeches I’ve given, all the workshops I’ve facilitated, all the articles and blogs and lengthy, long-winded oratory will be yours. In a book. In your hands. Out of mine.

I only hope that when you read it you will feel the love and intention from which it was created. I hope you walk away from the book feeling lighter, taller, more powerful, more… something.

I hope you welcome all the new that it offers.

Just like I will welcome this new year that I know in my heart is filled with so much joy, healing, love, blessings and a bunch of adventures I haven’t even dreamed up yet. I’m strong enough to take those wobbly steps into my new.

Will you join me?

Open hearts. Open minds. Always.

This Woman Is Tired: Female Competition and Her Role In The Patriarchy

 

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There are times when issues are swirling around me, leaving me disquieted, confused, and I can’t quite put my finger on the source. I find myself tucking words, sentences and articles in the Notes function of my phone, hoping it will all make sense at some point.

But, some things don’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense that women are using their voices to out their abusers, marching in solidarity, hash tagging our support and love, and then finding ways to also hate or shame one another. I revel in all of this stripping away of silence, adore the cultural move from one of shame to one of insolence and action. I hoped it would bring us closer to one another, but was smacked by the reminder we don’t all feel the same. This week I have been, over and over again, reminded of how far we have to go.

I walked into a meeting and another powerful woman refused to look at me when I spoke. Over the course of the following four hours we spent in one another’s company she refused to acknowledge me, and then belittled me to another when I was in earshot.

I introduced myself to a woman who then gave me the once over, head to toe and back up again, shaming me for wearing a dress that shows, God forbid, I have a body. A body that was fully covered, neck to knee. I felt my shoulders collapse into one another, becoming insecure. My only sin was that I had a dress altered to fit me.

Another woman called me a curse word because she didn’t like the way I showed up in conversation.

My daughter’s step mom showed me a group text in which she was completely obliterated by a long-term friend, called unfortunate descriptors, and reminded that everyone has had a baby so she’s not that special.

None of this makes sense and for a very good reason. It is much harder to unravel cultural and social bias than it is to play along, continuing the story that sits within our bones. This is about power and the unconscious bias against women, and more specifically, powerful women. We hate women. All of us. Even those of us who believe we are die-hard feminists. We have been programmed to compete with one another for jobs, men and security and, my loves, we have to get this part right. It is easy to say you want women to succeed, but then hate the woman next to you who is vying for the same job, man or social status. It is a static within us, deeply enmeshed into the folklore of our lives. It’s time to untangle ourselves from it.

Another very large issue that has come to light is the way women choose to dress with all these claims of sexual harassment and abuse. Both men and women have asked, “If she doesn’t want to be harassed, why is she trying to be seen?”

First, and most importantly, we all want to be seen. But, what does “seen” mean to each of us in a world rife with competition? Competition led by cultural and social belief systems and served up in a neat (and devastatingly cutting) advertising bow. This hits very close to home for me and I have remained quiet while I’ve tried to wrap my head around my thoughts.

Growing up I was taught that my body was shameful. That it made men do things. So I hid it. I am a curvy woman and have been since I was sixteen. I have worn extremely loose clothes to make sure I didn’t bring about unwanted attention. As I got older and wanted a partner, I was told that I had to look sexier, wear more makeup, never let my roots show, flaunt those curves so they knew what was under those “rags.” I found a way to hint at a body, while still remaining covered up. Then I began to rise up the ranks of Corporate America. I learned that the men at the table have their own opinions of women in the room. If you are too sexy they don’t take you seriously. If you are simply attractive they don’t take you seriously. If you are anything other than a big old bookish nerd covered from head to toe, they don’t take you seriously. Then you are just brainy, but, girl, you will never get a man, you need to try harder.

What man has ever walked around with such bullshit in his head about who he has to be and how he shows up in every aspect of his life?

Dear Men, here is a little known secret: Women have to figure out who we are going to be for you every single day.

We have been told that we have to figure out how to dress so as not to get raped, sexually harassed or be considered “dumb” and unworthy of your attention. But, we also have to figure out how to be beautiful to get or keep our partner’s attention, feel confident and seen. But, not be too seen, because then we are “extra.” We’ve been told that if we don’t keep up the maintenance there is another woman in the wings waiting to take our place. We have to figure out how to express our opinions without being considered bitchy. We have to figure out how to be heard without coming across as arrogant, full of ourselves or bossy.

Men can be assertive and aggressive, bless.

Women have to be chameleons to survive.

Unraveling patriarchal and unconscious bias will not happen easily. It was created by men, but ladies we are complicit in its toxicity. It will require us to be more aware of our internal talk as we find ourselves put off by one another. It will require self awareness of not only how we view other women, but how we raise our daughters to believe they have to show up for men and for one another. Big idea? Let’s start by refusing to call one another “bitch” and talking to our girls about their power, healthy friendships and their voices.

I will not be a mean girl. I will not raise a mean girl. Say it with me.

We have so much work to do, but I have such hope. I see the glimmers of change, the conversation shifting. I just ask that we don’t let it end in the headlines and instead do the internal work to unwind the patriarchal belief that we are in competition with one another.

This woman is tired.

Xo,

J

The Best Things In Life: Moving Toward Purpose

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“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.

Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.

At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”

Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.

The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith.  I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”

I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.

The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.

My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.

I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.

The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.

Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Xo,

J

Co-Parenting: My Daughter’s Two Mom(s)

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These are Olivia’s moms. Plural. I’m on the right. Jess is on the left. She met my ex-husband two years after our divorce and now they have a little boy named Luke that my daughter loves more than me. She told me so and I adore her for it. Nothing makes me happier than to hear her voice become nurturing and sweet when she talks to her brother. As moms of siblings, Jess and I are nailing this co-parenting thing. Olivia has recently tried to order another brother or sister and Jess announced that it was my turn, “You’re up, Sister Wife.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

Jess has a killer sense of humor and we spend every Christmas morning together making our weird little family work.

She also loves my daughter which makes me love her. She sent me a text several months ago to let me know she was concerned about some of Olivia’s comments surrounding body image and beauty, “She said no one cares about smarts. Not ok.” She immediately changed messaging in their home and asked for advice, “Liv is gorgeous, but she’s also brilliant and hilarious. We need to talk about how smart, clever and funny she is and dad is on board. No more telling her how pretty she is…”

Jess was there for Liv’s school orientation, she’s there for school plays and once she was there dealing with a bully when I was on a business trip. She picked Liv up that day, handled the fallout and was ready to go toe to toe with the parents if needed. The best thing I could have ever hoped for was that my daughter would be surrounded and raised by strong women who want the absolute best for her in life.

This is unusual, I know. It shouldn’t be.

Mutual friends give each of us the heads up when we may run into one another, concerned for a scene or an awkward encounter and we both laugh. Sunday night we ended up in the same suite at TMobile Arena to see the wonder that is NKOTB. Jess immediately gave me a hug when we saw each other, “They warned me you were going to be here and I was like, ‘I like Jeanette! We’re cool!'” Other mutual friends have called me before big events to warn me I’ll run into her and my ex-husband and I immediately announce, “I love Jess.”

When people respond with confusion or say, “I couldn’t do that,” I argue that you can, but you have to get out of your own way. I often remember the advice I was given in the required parenting class I had to take when I filed for divorce, “You have to die to the relationship you had and create a new one. You are in the business of raising a child together. No more who did what.”

You have to forgive the past, shed the hurt and there is no room for jealousy. You also pray the woman on the other side is secure, mature and willing to recognize your role as a parent. She has to be willing to meet you in the same place. Before Jess there were girlfriends who were uncomfortable with my frequent conversations with my ex-husband, our Christmas morning tradition that was created both out of divorce and a joint promise to our child, the photos we would text one another as milestones or memories were achieved. Those who have never had kids don’t realize that the ex doesn’t want your man anymore. She doesn’t show up to insert herself in your relationship or remain on his mind. She just wants him to be a good dad to their child and it takes a secure woman to understand the difference.

There is also a hell of a lot of respect. Jessica makes it clear that I’m mom and what I say always goes. She will always defer to me. I also back her up when Liv is in trouble with her and we both recognize that we need breaks. We all know that we are healthier parents when we have vacations, time to work on our own relationships and interests. It brings us back to the most important person in the equation with a much stronger, healthier mindset.

I always prayed that the woman that would end up in Olivia’s life would love her (almost) as much as I do. It would be the best thing for all of us.

We lucked out.

And Liv lucked out. She has an(other) amazing woman in her life and a baby brother that looks at her as if she herself hangs the stars.

And, if I’m honest… another thing I didn’t expect, but which has been a pleasant surprise?

I love Olivia’s brother too.

Life can be beautiful in all it’s weirdness… as long as you let it.

Keep An Open Heart

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We took a selfie one day, giggling in the snow. The snowflakes stayed in tact when they landed in her soft curls while my hair looked every bit wet dog. It’s an image, a moment, I can’t find in my phone, but forever burned in my brain.

We’d ski, drink spiked hot chocolate and share crazy stories. There were so many trips, date nights and dinners in pajamas with glasses of wine. Our friendship was one of ease and in the past few weeks I have seen her everywhere. In the profile of a woman at a conference in Salt Lake. In dark curls bouncing through a crowd. The freckles in someone else’s Instagram post. I randomly found myself in the same restaurant we were in during a blizzard in Utah. I ordered her favorite salad without even realizing that’s what it was until it was placed in front of me.

What are you trying to tell me, Briar?

I hold enormous guilt. You see, we had a falling out before she died. I was there for her the day she was diagnosed with brain cancer and I was there for a long while. When she first fell into a coma her husband and I walked behind the bed the surgeons were wheeling her away in as we clutched each other and cried the big tears that you don’t wipe away. Then I went through a divorce and stories were twisted and I saw how the pain of my breakup was hurting her. After I shared my tearful side of the story I heard her sob after she thought I’d hung up the phone. I felt selfish. She was undergoing hardcore chemo and radiation therapies and I was talking about my problems. I decided not to talk to her about it anymore.

She tried to get us back together. She begged. She asked me to keep an open heart, to listen to her, to accept a marriage intervention of sorts. I stopped talking to her altogether because I was in pain. I was hurting and I was hurting her and it was easier to hide inside myself. So I did. She sent me emails, texts. I explained that it was hard to see her because I knew she was spending time with my ex and that we used to be couple friends. That I just needed some time to get over everything.

I didn’t have time.

She didn’t have time.

My ex husband called me almost two years ago, “Jeanette, Briar is dying and you are going to regret it if you don’t see her.”

The doctor had determined it was the end. She had maybe a week and I immediately left the office and went straight over to her house. I felt her in my chest as soon as I entered the room. It almost knocked me over. Her pastor and several friends were sitting with her while I wished them away. I finally realized they were there for her and whatever was about to transpire. They knew our rift was the last thing she had to resolve so were firmly planted, no excuses.

I took a deep breath to steel myself, “I have to say this….” The room got incredibly quiet, “Briar, I was never mad at you.”

She immediately started crying, “I know.”

“I was hurting and I was so broken and I didn’t want to talk to you about it. I was losing my family and never once was I ever mad at you. Never once. I need you to know that.”

Now, in hindsight, I realize I probably could’ve included another sentence or three, “I knew I was losing you as well. I was too weak to handle all of that loss at the same time. I’m a jerk.”

We both sat there crying, softly sobbing and nodding. No more words needed to be said and before long her pastor asked if he could say a prayer.

Briar lost consciousness soon after my visit and passed away several days later.

Sometime before that day and between the emails, texts and tears, I shared the biggest gift she ever gave me and I know it filled her heart. She brought me back to faith. I’d forgotten the God of my childhood and I found some semblance of him; different, more amenable and forgiving, in the prayers that came after Briar’s first seizure. I thanked her for helping me find the courage to give something bigger than me a chance again.

At her funeral her mother and I locked eyes and moved directly into each others arms, crying. I apologized through sobs and she shushed me, “She loved you so much. That was her unfinished business. You helped her let go. Thank you.”

I felt guilty for my tears, guilty that I was mourning someone I’d abandoned. I didn’t feel deserving of my grief or time with Briar before she passed. I ran from the loss rather than facing it head on. I also didn’t know that I was still carrying all of this with me until this past week.

When I saw flickers of my friend in the life of others.

I’d like to believe she was sending me a message. That she’s ok. That she’s at peace. That WE are at peace and all is forgiven. I don’t think she’d say it exactly that way. I’m pretty sure it would be like, “I’ve seen your tears. Cut that shit out. We’re good. Have you seen my wings? They’re ridiculous.”

She’d probably have a beer in hand.

Say the things you need to say to the people you love. Say them before you can’t. Forgive like its your job. Love them when they’re in front of you. Love them hard.

And, in the words of my friend, “Keep an open heart.”

Miss you Briar.

xo

Love Yourself Some You

loving-yourself-revolutionMy inside-and-out beautiful friends at Kaia Fit asked me to guest blog for Valentine’s Day and I jumped up and down and said, “Yes, pick me!” It felt fitting as LORE turns two today! I’ve reposted my article for them below and I am so excited to spend a week with them in Belize in March to dig into the love letters process. Well, in between all the diving, hiking, yoga and such, I need a vacation.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is on the mind. I’d like to use this occasion to remind you of the most important love affair of all and that is the one with yourself.

I first began collecting and publishing love letters from women to their younger selves over a year ago. Successful women took off their shine to virally mentor those women who are still in the struggle. What I didn’t expect (nor did they) was the deep, cathartic work the writers would undertake. As I began to interview them about the process, it became clear I was on to something pretty amazing. Since that time I’ve been gifted stunning letters by incredible women. Donna Brazile, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, shared that she felt it was important to reflect, pause, and give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished. Emily Nolan, a plus-sized model and author, expressed the deep love she found for herself after years of severe body dysmorphia. Many themes bubbled up around forgiveness, boundaries within relationships and learning to ask for what you want in your life. Every woman shared how important the work had been, but one message stood out among the rest and on the heels of Valentine’s Day, consider it our gift:

You have to love yourself. First. Foremost. Always.

Easier to read than practice, granted. I’m not talking self care. Self care is now almost medically approved. Many studies have been done to show the direct correlation between self care in all its iterations and life happiness, longevity and the avoidance of disease. I argue that one of the most loving things you can do for yourself is to dig in, do the work, learn who you are under all the layers you’ve put on and start to love yourself some you. Release all the stories you’ve been told and in that blissful, painful work you will begin to see the you your children and lover see. I’m here to get you started.

The instructions are easy. Imagine a younger version of yourself. Is she 5? Is she 8? Is she a teenager? When you see her, really see her, trust your gut. What do you want her to know? When I began this exercise I was completely blown away by my first sentence. I had an overwhelming desire to tell this dejected little girl I imagined that she was so loved, so worthy. The first sentence hit me like a ton of bricks,

“You will spend most of your life believing you are unlovable.”

I had to take a deep breath and sit back for a moment, shocked at how true that sentence was and how it had colored so much of my life and relationships. It is ok to take a moment as you write. Just don’t leave it because the feelings are too heavy. There is no growth without pain, my love. If you have to wait until the kids are in bed and you have your glass of wine and a box of Kleenex you do it. Give yourself the gift of time to feel your feelings. If that means you write one sentence and have to process it for several days before you get back to it, you are still on the path. I have found most women need time, because the unlocking of these truths have a bit of a whiplash effect. They bring up memories and misgivings that no child should believe about themselves. With all that said, if you begin unlocking repressed memories or find yourself reeling or having dark thoughts from what you begin to feel, please seek the counsel of a professional therapist.

As women have complete these exercises I have found that the ages they choose are typically aligned with the moment right before or during a tragic or painful event or memory. One writer, Chelli Wolford, a survivor of sexual violence, wrote to the four year old that was being molested by her uncle, “It’s not your fault.” It took her until she was forty to realize she’d carried so much of the responsibility for the behaviors of others on her shoulders and what a relief to finally put them down.

You will also notice that your tone changes. The harshness which you likely view yourself today, get it together, sister, falls away and is replaced with, it’s not your fault or you are perfect the way you are, love. You will find that you begin to guide your younger self with the tone of an older sister. One writer suggested that if we could be as gentle with ourselves today how much healthier we would be.

Once you imagine that younger version of yourself and start with your first sentence of the letter, begin to scan over the distance between that version of yourself and who you are today. How did that first message you’d share with your younger self play out over the course of your life and do you want to carry it with you?

Some questions to ask yourself:

What is one thing I’ve always known about myself? My greatest strength?

What is one thing I’ve always known about myself that was negative? How was it originally triggered? Was it reinforced by my family? Is it true?

What is the best thing that has ever happened to me?

What was your most humbling experience and what was the lesson?

What was I missing as a child?

Who or what do I need to forgive? Is that person me?

The act of writing the letter and referring back to it helps excavate old programming, memories and feelings that you’d like to release and offers you a chance to start fresh at a new point in your growth.

If, after you’ve written your letter, you realize you have something you’d like to share with other women or girls to further help our gender, I have the platform to do that and would love to publish your letters for others to read. If you would like to keep it personal, then thank you for having faith and trust in yourself to do the work and I hope you will share your experience with me.

I will be teaching a workshop at the Kaia Retreat in Belize in March and so look forward to meeting you lovely Kaia women in person!

Happy writing!

Love,

Me

An accomplished author and public speaker, Jeanette founded LORE Advocacy, a network of professional women who aspire to change the world through a gender lens. Jeanette also founded “LORE and Little Things” in 2015. It is a platform for women to discuss issues relevant to professional women and mothers. Her articles and “Love Letters to Myself,” a viral mentorship program, have been seen on Huffington Post.

During the day Jeanette is a Senior Vice President and Institutional Client Advisor within the financial services industry. She serves on the boards of Spread the Word Nevada, the President’s Advisory Council for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and a large charitable foundation. She is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada and a 2016 Vegas, Inc. Woman to Watch.

Connect with Jeanette at www.loreandlittlethings.com, on Twitter @msjwrites or Instagram @msjwrites and @loreandlittle. Letters can be sent to jeanetteschneider@gmail.com.

Five Facts About Your “Bad Boy” Boyfriend by Randy Susan Meyers

I had the distinct privilege of meeting Randy Susan Meyers several years ago in New York. I loved her Bostonian vibe, quick wit and literary prowess and then, when her first book THE MURDERERS DAUGHTERS was released, I fell in love with her brain.

I reached out to Randy to ask if she’d share something based on her experience working with batterers, what would you want women or girls to know? She recently sent this gem and I hope that it resonates with the those who need this kind of insight.

Please welcome the lovely Randy Susan Meyers –

Randy Susan Meyers

Perhaps the lure of the bad boy is similar to the lure of climbing Mt. Everest. It feels so good to conquer it and get to the top—despite all the pain you felt on the ascent. Unfortunately, you have to climb down and start all over again to get back up to that thrilling peak.

And that trip down is filled with pain and ugliness.

Working with batterers for ten years afforded me plenty of material and plenty of insight. The clearest and most useful lesson I learned was this: a ‘bad boy’ isn’t edgy, exciting, and a bag of fun, he’s mean and selfish and looking out for number one—himself—all the time.

Many of the batterers were classic bad boys; they could charm like no one else. They gave me smoldering glances so I’d know that I was the only one in the entire world who they’d let inside their soul. When they didn’t have money to pay for classes, or had been picked up on a new charge, or failed a drug test, they’d look at me with their carefully tortured eyes and tell me how sorry they were.

They really were sorry. Sorry they’d been caught and sorry they had to spend another night pretending to pay attention to this crap we were teaching.

At their core, these guys weren’t very different from the bad boys I’d once been drawn to. But never again, not after working that job. I wish I could share with every woman the experience of sitting in a circle with 15 court-ordered-to-be-there bad boys, because at some point during the 42 weeks they occupied that chair in the church basement, they let loose with some truth that revealed the dime a dozen ordinariness of bad boy behavior.

So, while I can’t put you in that room, I can try to share with you what I learned there:

1) When you and your bad boy get in that insane fight, and you don’t know how it began, why it happened, or why he stormed out the door . . . when you’re ready to follow him so you can beg his forgiveness—but you don’t have any idea what to apologize for—here’s what’s really going on:

He wanted to get out of the house. So he caused the fight. The men I worked with (ages seventeen to seventy-something) admitted it. This sleazy little tactic is dime-a-dozen common.

2) Which leads to this: What did most men admit they wanted to get out of the truly awful battles that you cried through? You know, the ones where he yelled so loud you finally backed down? The ones where you felt as though you’d die of hurt?

If Jeopardy could have more realistic categories, the response to “most common thing men want women to do during a fight?” would be “Alex, what is “shut the f*** up.

Yes, another thing these men admitted to me when I worked with them. They knew that with enough fighting and yelling they could wear you down and get you to shut up and back down.

3) Remember this when he tells you “you’re the only one I’ve ever been able to talk to.” Yeah, right. Think those words with a real sarcastic tone because first of all he’s probably said the same thing to 100 other women before you. Because he knows those words work like catnip and honey.  The men I worked with were very clear that they used this line only to manipulate. Every man I worked with admitted to saying the same.

4) When he says, “I can’t live without you,” here’s a news flash. He can. And he will. Quite well. The question is, can you live with him? Do you want to? Do you like being kept off balance? Do you treasure being used like medicine for someone’s lack of self-confidence or need to control?

5) You want to believe it will change and that things will get better. That if you explain it once more, write one more email, one more letter, one more pleading text, and cry one more time, then finally he will understand! And once he understands, those moments of incredible tenderness and bliss —when he gives you that crooked smile and takes you in his arms and then gently helps you onto his exciting motorcycle—will last forever.

I promise you, things will not change. He will not get better. There’s nothing you can do unless he wants to change. Nothing. The cycle will continue as long as you let it.

So here’s my advice, as a mother, a sister, a friend and most of all, from a woman who worked with those bad boys:

Choose kind over thrilling. It wears much better.

Choose responsible over devil-may-care. It will keep you and your children warm and safe at night.

Choose a man who wants to be your friend, not one who will be your life-long home improvement project.

Randy Susan Meyers’ novels are informed by her work with criminal offenders and families impacted by emotional and family violence. Her most recent novel, Accidents of Marriage, was chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “2015 Must Read Fiction” and by Kirkus Reviews as on of their “Top Ten Popular Fiction” choices. Both the hardcover and paperback placed on the Independent Bookstores IndieNext List in 2014 and 2015.

Choosing Accidents of Marriage as a People “Pick of The Week,” the magazine wrote, “This novel’s unsparing look at emotional abuse and its devastating consequences gives it gravity and bite, while a glimpse into a physically damaged mind both surprises and fascinates.
”

The Boston Globe called her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, “Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny when the author skewers Boston’s class and neighborhood dividing lines, but it has a lot of heart, too.”

Meyers debut novel, also picked by the Massachusetts Center for The Book as a “Must Read” book, The Murderer’s Daughters was called a “Knock-out Debut” by the LA Times and was a nationwide Target Book Club pick.

Meyers teaches writing at Grub Street Writers Center. She is the mother of two grown daughters and lives in Boston with her husband. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages.

You can find Randy at www.randysusanmeyers.com.

 

 

Co-Parenting: Loving The Women Who Love Your Child

J Web Files-0052.jpg

I blogged anonymously as Little Ms. J for several years. Although I had a nice little following and over 250 articles I decided to take down the site a little over two years ago. It just didn’t feel right.

When  I wrote as Little Ms. J I was a married woman who was coming into her career and wanted very badly to have a baby. I wrote about my fun adventures with my hot husband and our parenting aspirations. I needed to get my time in as a dancing tartlet in high heels with a handsome man by my side before burp rags and cellulite made their appearance. I was sassy, snarky and bold. I was also very naive.

Then I had the baby, I came into my career and got divorced.

The storyline as I knew it ended and I had to figure out how to rewrite the me I knew. So, I dug into who that person was, came up for air and as I started LORE I thought, “Oh, I’ll just go back every now and then and grab an old post off Little Ms. J as a “Throwback,” something fun.

Every single time I’ve gone through the posts I’ve come up short.

I don’t know that girl anymore.

I wince a little in the memories. I smile at others. I look at the precious child I waxed and waned over, both the planning and the pregnancy, and the mom I’ve grown into shakes her head, I was such a baby trying to have a baby. I was such a girl-child trying to be a wife.

As I was looking through posts today I smiled at a few. My then-husband pulled me along to every sort of outdoor sporting event he possibly could while I looked adorable in my tennis skirts and twirled around, “Check out my legs. I look hot. Seriously, how do you hold this racket?”

He laughed at me. A lot. He said things like, “Oh, Little,” which was how “Little Ms. J” came about. I was little. He was big. It worked.

I golfed, I played tennis, I joined a volleyball team, I scaled indoor rock walls, I became SCUBA certified.

I kind of hated it.

Not all of it. Just most of it. I had the harnesses, rock climbing shoes, gear, clubs, fins, you name it, but I’m an introverted type of fit girl. I really don’t want to talk to anyone while I play my sports. I’ll go on a yoga retreat, I’ll listen to my “Damn, Girl” playlist while I do circuit training, gym rat style. I’ll play pickup on a golf range and be blissed out. I will absolutely go diving with you (if the water is warm), but the moment we have to keep a tab, score or compete I am thoroughly annoyed, this is not Zen!

But, I did it all because I was in love and I thought this is what you did. You put on the really adorable gear and showed up with your insanely muscular legs as you flexed them in various positions to annoy your mother in law, is this how you address the ball? I love this skirt. Wicking, huh? Flex. Flex.

I dropped Liv off at her dad’s house recently and took note of the His and Hers tennis rackets on the floor. Girlfriend was likely going to play with Ex’s mom, a former State tennis champion, when they visited her in Tucson that weekend. I laughed inside, his mom is thrilled. I remembered her exasperation, “You have no coordination. I can’t help you,” when she tried to lob a few balls at me years before. I honestly think she’d have rather lobbed rackets at me.

That’s when I’d turn and spin, “No, but seriously. Have you seen my legs?”

Ex laughed. Mom rolled her eyes, “She has no sport!”

He argued that I went to the gym a lot. She sighed and shook her head. At the time I thought these interactions were funny. I just wasn’t like them. I can look back now and see how mismatched I was for him and for them.

They liked to compete in wicking fabrics. I did not.

I text the girlfriend the other day to tell her I was going to be late dropping Liv to them. She was playing tennis.

Today she text back that she was at beach volleyball, but she’d let dad know whatever I was updating her about, thanks!

Yesterday we text back and forth about my daughter’s diet and the search for the perfect smoothie to hide vitamins and nutrients in since she’d rather live on gummy bears and macaroni and cheese.

I smiled, knowing inside that he very well may have found his soulmate. I told him as such. I am thrilled for him and for my daughter.

Me too, if I’m being honest.

They make far more sense than we ever did and for 7000 reasons. Not only is she sporty as hell, but they match up for reasons we never could. They have a similar sense of humor, she’s patient and most importantly, she loves my daughter. All those years I thought we were meant for each other? Well, maybe we were meant to have Liv, but past that? I realize that I was just one person in the way of someone better for him. I actually text him after meeting her, “I like her. Don’t eff it up.”

My daughter still lets me know that she’d discuss an arrangement where dad, girlfriend and I could all live together in a compound sort of environment where she’d also have a trampoline, two dogs and four fish. I just have to say the word. I remind her of how much she loves dad’s girlfriend and she agrees with a sing-song sigh, “Alright. Don’t worry mom. I’ll find someone else that loves you.”

I have to laugh at her sweet, manipulative and earnest little heart.

I ran into Girlfriend after a hot yoga class a few weeks ago. She wanted to make sure Liv was ok with her moving in to their house and I shared that she was, “She loves you.” Liv once told me that she wanted a mom at dad’s house and I told her the story explaining that she just loves being around feminine energy so it makes sense that she’s more settled with the living arrangements. Girlfriend very quickly sided with me, “You are always the mom!” I smiled, appreciative for the unnecessary gesture, “The best thing that could happen for Liv is to be surrounded by women who love her. She will be the most well-adjusted woman.”

Girlfriend looked a little surprised and, in response, I couldn’t help but think about Liv’s earlier offer.

I certainly do hope that when she makes good on her promise to find the guy who loves me he will also come with a really cool Ex.

Like me.

Flex flex.

#grownup