Posted in hope, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness

“I like you, just the way you are.”

I saw this a couple of months ago and saved it. I knew I wanted to share it—or the gist of it—at some point, but I wasn’t sure how. Finally, I just decided to quote it and cite it and let you just read the original.

A good portion of my pro-bono work is defending abused children. It’s a cause close to my heart. In the course of my work I met a man who was an adult survivor. You wouldn’t have known it looking at him. He was this gigantic Polynesian guy. Wild curly hair. I think of him every time I see Khal Drogo on GoT. He was counseling some of the little kids, and doing a fantastic job of it.

I visited his home to get his opinion on something and I noticed a little toy on his desk. It was Trolley. Naturally curious, I asked him about it. This is what he told me:

“The most dangerous time for me was in the afternoon when my mother got tired and irritable. Like clockwork. Now, she liked to beat me in discreet places so my father wouldn’t see the bruises. That particular day she went for the legs. Not uncommon for her. I was knocked down and couldn’t get back up. Also not uncommon. She gave me one last kick, the one I had come to learn meant ‘I’m done now’. Then she left me there upstairs, face in the carpet, alone. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. So I dragged myself, arm over arm, to the television, climbed up the tv cabinet and turned on the TV.

“And there was Mr. Rogers. It was the end of the show and he was having a quiet, calm conversation with those hundreds of kids. In that moment, he seemed to look me in the eye when he said ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most.

“It was like the hand of God, if you’re into that kind of thing. It hit me in the soul. I was a miserable little kid. I was sure I was a horrible person. I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I *knew* all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.

“It gave me hope. If that nice man liked me, then I wasn’t a monster. I was worth fighting for. From that day on, his words were like a secret fortress in my heart. No matter how broken I was, no matter how much it hurt or what was done to me, I could remember his words, get back on my feet, and go on for another day.

“That’s why I keep Trolley there. To remind me that, no matter how terrible things look, someone who had never met me liked me just for being me, and that makes even the worst day worth it to me. I know how stupid it sounds, but Mr. Rogers saved my life.”

The next time I saw him, he was talking to one of my little clients. When they were done with their session, he helped her out of her chair, took both of her hands, looked her in the eyes and said: “And remember, I like you just for being you.”

That, to me, is Mr. Rogers’ most powerful legacy. All of the little lives he changed and made better with simple and sincere words of love and kindness.

But I have to say—the more I learn about Fred Rogers, the more impressed I am. Maybe over the summer, I’ll revisit some old episodes…


Posted in about me, gardening, hope

Hope and excitement through plants

One of my biggest sadnesses in living in an apartment was not having space for garden beds (or not wanting to have to take out beds before moving out).

I was happy to have a house with a yard when The Climbing Daddy and I bought this one!

We’re in our second spring of gardening, and it’s lovely and exciting and gets a little bigger/fuller each year.

What’s out there? (Besides the unstoppable Bermuda grass?)

In one bed: tomato, two types of peppers, eggplant, cucumber, lima beans, lettuce. Lettuce was the only one from seed and I was late putting it in, so we’ll see if there’s any yield.

In the other bed: corn and squash.

In the small bed: strawberries. That bed is new this year and we’re hoping the plants do their magic and send runners out. (It would be great if something desirable would spread like the weeds do!)

In pots: tomatoes, Swiss chard (also planted late), and lots of unknowns. We have a few volunteers, so as they mature, we’ll find out what they are. Also, we got some clippings from a neighbor but we didn’t label them. While several didn’t root and are no longer with us, several more did! Blackberry or mulberry or somethings in that family.

Five fruit trees: apple, peach, plum, Mexican lime, tangelo.

Some succulents, flowers (some still blooming from last year, some growing from seed), a hibiscus, a bottlebrush. The Kid’s cactus.

Seeing new plants sprout up, flowers appear and turn into fruits—it’s all very exciting! As this gets bigger and more complicated, we’re going to need a better watering plan, but for now, going out with the hose still works.

Fingers crossed!








Posted in gardening, hope, meandering

New year’s should be in spring

We put in some fruit trees about a month ago. They were mostly bare at the time but are starting to flower, grow leaves, grow branches.

The growth is wonderful!

So much joy in the greens and pinks!

So much hope for fresh fruit straight from the back yard!

(So many exclamation points!)

It seems to me that spring, the season of new beginnings, should be when the new year begins, when we decide to renew ourselves.

If you skip all that BS in January, maybe consider it now. Beginning with a resolution to get outside more. (Pending weather in your area.) It’s invigorating and wonderful!

Posted in about me, hope, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

I don’t know what happens to healthy people

I have no role model in my family to show me what life looks like as an aging healthy person. I don’t know what life expectancy is.

I know one of my great-grandmothers lived to somewhere around 100 (she edited her birth certificate when she immigrated here so she could get work, so we’re not totally sure of her actual age).

I knew, to some extent, all four of my great-grandmothers, though three of them died when I was young. I don’t know how old they were. Their lives were so much different than ours, but at least I know there’s a bit of longevity in the gene pool somewhere.

And then you get into the people I knew.

There are no people in my parents’ or grandparents’ generations who kept themselves healthy.

“Vegetables” usually meant potatoes, corn, sometimes succotash. I don’t remember ever eating a salad unless it came with a meal in a restaurant.

Limited vegetables, but unlimited refined carbs (bread, cereal, pasta, white rice) and multiple servings of sugar daily (cereal, dessert with lunch, snacks, dessert with dinner, soda, other sweetened drinks).

Both grandfathers and one aunt smoked. Both grandfathers died of smoking-related cancers; my aunt died of a heart attack in her sleep in her 40s.

Everyone was relatively sedentary. One grandma never learned to drive and so did a lot of walking. When her vision started to go, she got rides to do her errands and didn’t walk any more. Her heart stopped before she was 80.

My dad played basketball and softball when I was a kid but stopped before I got to high school. We took family bike rides when I was a kid but those ended, too. He occasionally rides his bike in the summer and often takes the dog for a daily walk but that’s all.

Everyone was/is obese.

My dad’s side has the heart problems. Meds, stents, death.

My mom’s side has the auto-immune disorders and lifestyle-related health problems. Lupus, MS, Type 2 diabetes. Breast and ovarian cancers thrown in for good measure.

No one is healthy. No one has good energy. No one can go out and do stuff. And the ones who are alive aren’t that old. None have lived to be 80 (though my grandma’s twin sister is well into her 90s).

So I don’t know what happens in my gene pool when someone takes care of themselves.

Now … I’ve had cancer and treatment for it, which is a huge detriment. More than that, I’ve had chronic stress (like so many of us) and had depression on some level most of the time since adolescence. I grew up overweight and sedentary, eating Pop Tarts and Apple Jacks for breakfast, having ice cream or cookies or both for dessert after lunch and dinner. A diet of meat, bread, and sugar.

While I’ve substantially changed that, my formative years were unhealthy. That takes a toll.

So I know I’m not going to be the model for good health. But I hope I can still do better than the paths I see forged ahead of me.

According to my mom, diet has nothing to do with weight—weight gain comes from not having enough time to exercise.

My dad didn’t get a fire lit under his butt by his sister’s death, his mom’s death, his stent put in.

I’m fortunate to be an apple that did roll from the tree. I recognize that I have a huge part in how well my body works, and whether that gives me extra years or “just” lets me be active in the years I’ve got, it’s worth it.

Spending the time and energy to eat well, spending the time and energy to exercise regularly, to get enough sleep (I’m still not the best at this, but improving), to manage stress (I’m still terrible at this but working on it) are worth it.

Because I see my path without it, and I choose to Robert Frost it and take the path less travelled by.


Posted in about me, hope, know better do better, mental health, parenting, vulnerability

“Michael would be proud.”

That’s what I wrote on Facebook eight years ago.

I had traveled to NJ to present at a conference. (I love doing that!! Public speaking is fun scary.)

I had spent several sessions with Michael, my therapist, working on a scripted conversation with my mom. (This is several years after starting with him.) To put it mildly, she and I had never had a good relationship (“You’ve been a problem since you were in kindergarten!”), and this conversation was intended to try to set boundaries — both for her (“I feel disrespected”) and for myself (not accepting the invitation to the argument—keeping myself within my boundaries and not blowing up).

I told him the conversation was unlikely to last as long as two minutes.

I was right.

But I maintained my boundaries, stayed calm, didn’t accept the invitation to the argument.

It ended with her stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door.

We’ve had very few conversations since then. None in the last several years.

I can’t explain to you how much it hurts to be rejected by your mom, to be told explicitly that you are decidedly not OK as you are, especially repeatedly, especially as a child. (Tears welled just seeing the post pop up in my “memories.” I remember that small chunk of that evening well. Because even though I knew how it was going to go, there’s always that little bit of hope…)

I can’t quantify all the little places that this comes out sideways.

I can’t fully explain the combination of shame and defensiveness that washes over me when someone says that hurts done to us when we’re children have no effect (or should not be blamed) for how we act as adults.

Are we responsible for our actions? Yes.

Are we unaffected by everything that has happened to us? Absolutely not.

I’m better than I was when I wrote that post eight years ago. I’m better than I was when I started this blog six-ish months ago.


Therapy. Lots of it. Intentionally ripping open old wounds and helping them to heal properly. Like breaking a bone so it mends itself the way it should.

Intentionality. Being aware of how I’m reacting, why I’m reacting, and working my ass off to fix it. Finding home in “it’s not me, it’s you” in situations where 1-that’s true and 2-I can’t get out of it.

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that when interpersonal relationships go wrong, it affects me in a way that seems to be abnormally intense.

(Or maybe they just chalk it up to “That’s Heat.” Either way, patience and love.)

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that friendships are more important to me than they seem to be to those with a solid root system.

It’s one of my top life priorities to be a good mom, to do better for The Kid than my mom did for me. For him to know that no matter how many times he leaves his Legos and backpack and socks laying around or how well he runs his races or what grades he gets on his report card or what activities he wants to participate in or how much I like or don’t like his dating partners, he is loved and I am a safe place for him to be.

I am especially mindful to tell him that I love him, that I’m lucky to be his mama when I’m angry. Or when he’s sad. (Or both.) We snuggle and talk when he’s upset. You are loved, just as you are. Even when you don’t feel lovable. Especially when you don’t feel lovable.

I might not like your actions, and we might need to work on changing them, but I love you regardless.

Working through all of my baggage is a lifelong journey (I assume, at this point). I am constantly handed new situations in which I can learn to make myself better, healthier.

Honestly, I’m tired of them. (“Builds character.” I have enough character, thanks.)

Honestly, I get angry sometimes that more people don’t do the same. (If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if other people would pick up their share of the work.)

My request to you, if you have children: be a safe place for them to be. Own your baggage. Don’t take it out on them. It’s hard to own some of the stuff that’s in us, some of the ways we’ve acted as a result. It’s easy to blame the kid. But ignoring or deferring just perpetuates it.

And your friends who had traumatic childhoods? Give them some extra love. They might still be running a deficit.