Co-Dependency Further Defined

Co-dependency. It’s not what we do, but why we do it.

Take my friend Emma, for example, who I introduced in an earlier post. If you recall, she was sticking it out in an unhealthy relationship convinced she was doing the right thing. But I beg to differ and here’s why.

If Emma and her husband were both committed to making their marriage successful and were actively seeking professional help in working it out, then I would give her credit for not giving up easily. In such a case, honoring her marriage vows would be motivated by love. She would purely want to make it work for the sake of making it work. No hidden agendas. But the key word here is, both.

Are they both working on salvaging their marriage? Or is Emma doing all the work while her husband happily skips along in status-quo land? If she alone is trying to save her marriage, then she is demonstrating co-dependency. She needs to make it work because she’s looking for a payoff. And for her, the payoff is the feeling of doing the right thing.

If guilt or fear is the motivating factor in staying in an unhealthy relationship, then the marriage is already doomed. You can stay together forever, but it will never be a real marriage. It’s fake. It may look whole on the outside but it’s empty on the inside and your marriage license is merely a piece of paper that says you file your taxes jointly.

This is the co-dependent’s mantra: If I try hard enough, I can fix it.

This is where Emma gets stuck. She thinks she can fix her marriage by herself. If she’s patient enough. If she’s loving enough. If she gives enough. If she’s unselfish enough.

What complicates Emma’s little plan is that her desire to make her marriage work is not the only factor in play. What does her husband want? Is he willing to put in the sweat in order to reap the equity? Is he motivated by love to change what isn’t working? Or, is he content with the way things are, thinking good enough is good enough? Or even worse, that Emma deserves to be his emotional punching bag?

My ex-husband use to say, “Either shit or get off the pot.” I apologize for the crudeness, but it’s so true. Either do something, taking real steps toward fixing the core problem, or stop complaining. Stop pretending. Be honest. Most likely you are fooling no one but yourself with your pretense that everything is fine when it’s not.

In my first marriage, our son came to us one day and said, “Mom, I love you and Dad, I love you, but I can’t stand being around the two of you together.” As a Junior in high school he moved out and went to live with friends. If that isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is. My husband and I were legally married, living under one roof, regularly attending church, and raising our children together, but we were failing miserably in giving them the home they so desperately needed.

That’s what we co-dependents do. We settle for what is instead of either making it what it could be or admitting it’s beyond repair.

I do not advocate divorce. I do advocate healthy relationships. Therefore, if the one you’re with insists on maintaining their dysfunctional status-quo, you have not only the right but the responsibility to separate yourself and your children from the crazy-making. I’m not talking about imperfect people. We’re all imperfect. I’m talking about toxic people. Unsafe people. Crazymaking people!

You know who they are by the gut-wrenching feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when they verbally attack you for no good reason. “It’s your fault everything goes wrong,” they say. “You can’t do anything right. You don’t try hard enough.” You know the spiel. They’re very convincing and you find yourself walking on eggshells, trying to prevent anything from upsetting them.

Even if there was a good reason for confrontation, the matter should be discussed in a respectful manner. Never, ever with insulting, name-calling, blaming, or shaming! This is verbal and emotional abuse and it causes as many scars as the physical kind. Do not be deceived into thinking it’s your fault or that you deserve it. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect!

But after two failed marriages already under her belt, Emma is desperate for the self-respect she’d get from doing what she considers to be the right thing. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that by allowing her husband to treat her disrespectfully, Emma is inadvertently teaching their children to disrespect and verbally abuse others. This is how dysfunction travels from one generation to another until someone has the courage to stand up and say, “Enough! No more!”

Recently on Facebook I read this post submitted by Whitney Renee Huntwork on February 19, 2017:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

How we treat others and how we allow others to treat us, is a big deal. Larger than we realize. I was raised in an era where such things were not discussed. What happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. In religious circles it was considered sinful to separate for any reason and it was believed that you somehow earned heavenly brownie points for being long-suffering and patient and kind in the midst of abuse. That’s a lie.

Nowhere in the Bible does God say you should allow yourself and those under your care to be abused. Jesus was known for speaking up against pretense and injustice. He gently corrected the sin while still loving the sinner. He taught us when and how to be angry. Healthy relationships always has been and always will be His message to mankind. He died a humiliating and cruel death on the cross to restore broken relationships, first with God Himself, then with ourselves and others. There is hope, and there is help. “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.”

Thankfully, we have more resources available to us today to deal with such issues than did our predecessors.

Unlike them, we have no excuse!

It’s time we realize that our co-dependency in sticking by an abuser is doing no one any good. It is, in fact, doing a great deal of harm! Whatever payoff we think we’re getting is not worth it.

Whether our motivation is to support the underdog (my motivation), or whether our motivation is to do the seemingly right thing (Emma’s motivation), it’s time we stop the crazy-making. Separate yourself and your children from it long enough to be able to accurately evaluate what’s really going on, what your options are, and what needs to be done next.

By all means, get help from available safe people and professionals. You are not alone. Yes, life is filled with problems and challenges. As a healthy individual, you can meet them with wisdom and courage.

We each have the responsibility of taking care of what God has given us: the opportunity for physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. We do this best when living a crazy-free life!








Are You A Rescuer?

Co-dependents are rescuers.

My personal rescuing method of choice was in the form of picking the runt of the litter. By bestowing my love and attention on the runt, the one everyone else over looked, I was validating her worth.

Case in point: As a child I wanted a puppy. After receiving the typical responsibility lecture that parents feel bound to give, my mom and dad gave in. We visited a local farm that was selling puppies. As we walked into the barn, several happy, bouncing puppies greeted me. I noticed several other families playing with the puppies, carefully choosing the one they would take home.

My radar, however, zeroed in on one particular puppy cowering against the wall. She had a scratch on her nose and she was significantly smaller than the others, indicating that her time at the feeding bowl had been limited. I could just picture her trying to eat as the other fatter, stronger puppies pushed her aside as they gobbled up more than their fare share. My heart went out to her.

I went over and picked her up. She shook in my arms. “I want this one,” I announced. My mom and dad looked at each other. “Are you sure?” they asked. “Wouldn’t you like one of the healthier ones?”

Their response only added to my resolve. “No. Lots of people want the others. No one wants this one. I want her.”

And thus began my life of co-dependency. You can call it kindness, generosity, a sensitive loving heart, but it was co-dependency in the making.

In junior high as Valentine’s Day approached, I knew what was going to happen. The popular kids would exchange valentines in order to preserve their elevated spot in the pecking order. Unpopular kids would give valentines to the popular kids in their effort to elevate their spot in the pecking order. The whole thing disgusted me. So I decided to do something to even things out.

I purchased two types of valentines that year. One box contained your usual greetings. The other more expensive box contained valentines with the usual greeting, but with attached lolly pops. Then I carefully addressed each envelope, the plain valentines going to the popular kids and the lolly pop endowed valentines to the unpopular kids. I knew my action would upset the way things had always been, but I didn’t care. I was a rebel at heart.

I passed out my valentines, getting the expected response. The less popular kids were delighted. I can still see the looks on their faces! The popular kids were confused. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Who would dare do such a thing? Certainly not the quiet, shy Diane!

What they didn’t know about me was that “I’m a December girl. I was born with my heart on my sleeve, a fire in my soul, and a mouth I can’t control.” I read this on a tee-shirt this past year and loved it. This is totally me. I don’t go for astrology so I’m not sure where this saying came from, but it speaks my language. The only difference is, back then I did control my mouth. I was a good girl and kept all my bad thoughts to myself. But you better believe they’ve been there all along! Now, sometimes my mouth gets away from me, but I try to control it while still being authentic and forth right. I say what I think needs saying, but in an appropriate way. At least most of the time.

What I didn’t realize back then was the fact that I was practicing reverse discrimination. To have been totally non-discriminatory, I would have given the same valentines to everyone. What I attempted to do was even the score. Bring down the popular kids and elevate the less popular. That is still discrimination, just opposite of the norm.

So, why did I do it? There’s payoff in co-dependency. You feel good about yourself; you feel like you’re making a difference. The difference between co-dependency and just plain having a kind heart is the need factor.

A kind person will do something just for the act itself. Help an old lady across the street, that type of thing. No payoff. Just do a good deed, no thanks necessary, and get on with your life.

The co-dependent will do the same good deed, but her motivation is for what she gets in return. She’ll help the little old lady across the street, then look around to see if anyone noticed. She needs this attention, this validation that she herself is worthy. It’s as if we give what we ourselves need, in an attempt to fill our own unmet needs.

After high school, my co-dependent heart when to college where I encountered more injustice. My freshman year I became part of a group that just hung around together. Guys and girls, freshmen and seniors and every thing in between. It was an awesome group. No expectations or drama or games. Just pure enjoyment of sharing adventures. We would often go to John Bryan State Park. Sometimes only a few would go, other times the whole crew. Regardless of how many attended, we always had fun.

In that group was a handsome young man, a junior, who was a little on the quiet side until you got to know him. He was very intelligent but not arrogant. It was easy to be around him. One day this junior dared to ask a popular senior out on a date. She said no.

I was so outraged by this injustice, this sign that she thought she was superior and he beneath her, that I started paying special attention to him in an effort to even the score. Teach her a lesson! Show her what she was missing! I’d show her and the whole world how worthy this young man truly was! And when he asked me out on a date, I accepted. Not because I really wanted to go out with him, but to prove there was nothing wrong with him. He really was a nice guy and I liked him a lot. I just didn’t like him in that way. But my co-dependent heart didn’t know the difference. The payoff I received was that I felt good about myself. I was elevating this young man’s status from being rejected to being accepted and appreciated.

What I know now that I didn’t know then was, this young man did not need rescuing. He took the rejection better than I took his rejection. He was fine. I was the one who was not fine.

What about my other relationships? Pretty much the same MO. I was attracted to those who I perceived as needing my validation of their worth, thereby validating my own.

Therefore I went through my adult life both looking for those to rescue and those who would rescue me, since that was my underlying need.

It’s been eight years since my last divorce and I’m determined to do it differently this time. That’s why I didn’t jump into dating right away, like I did after my first divorce. I knew there was something about me that made me choose good men who were not right for me. It’s taken me eight years to come to the place where I feel I am finally ready for a healthy relationship.

I’m looking for my soul-mate. That one guy, although not perfect, is perfect for me and I, albeit far from perfect, is perfect for him. I still believe in fairy tales and I still believe in Prince Charming. Although, at the tender age of 60, my prince will most likely look like a frog to the rest of the world. Pot belly, receding hairline, you get the picture. He’ll probably have a lot of hair on his face to compensate for what’s no longer on his head. Men do that. I don’t know why.

That’s where I am in my life and he will be, too, so I’m okay with that. I’m after relationship. Connection. Companionship. A feeling of safety and comfort in his presence. A warm feeling inside just thinking about him. That’s what I want these days.

I don’t need a rescuer, and I no longer need to rescue. God is my rescuer and as such, I am now able to freely give out of the pure desire to give, without attached motives.

My soul-mate, that perfect guy for me, will be my companion through the coming years, one who will bring a smile to my lips and a flutter to my heart. We’ll be that old couple on the beach, holding hands, looking tenderly into each others eyes. While others will most likely look at us and say, “Aww, what a sweet old couple,” I won’t even notice because their attention and validation is no longer important to me.

That’s when I’ll know, I am co-dependent no more!






Co-Dependency Defined

In my last blog, I encouraged readers to take steps toward ridding their lives of dysfunctional behaviors and relationships. But the deep level of anger I felt writing that article surprised me. I had to step back and take a good look at myself to figure out why I had such a heated reaction to my own writing. Sure, it was hard to understand the hesitation that hinders so many of my friends from making healthy decisions for a healthier life. But it was more than that. It felt personal and the mother bear in me came out with claws flailing.

This week I had an epiphany that revealed why I had reacted so strongly. I was talking to my friend Emma, getting more and more upset over the fact that all she wanted to do was complain about her husband. She was either unwilling or unable to take responsibility for her own misery and do something. That’s when it hit me. Emma thinks it’s her responsibility to fix her husband. “If I stay with him,” she told me, “maybe he’ll become a Christian. If I leave, then he won’t.”

“How many years have you stayed with him so that maybe he’ll become a Christian?” I asked.

“Twenty-five,” she answered.

“So, what’s going to change this year?”

She shrugged her response. I so wanted to quote Alcoholics Annoymous’s definition of insanity but held my tongue.

“Whose responsibility is it for his salvation?” I continued. “Yours or his?”

Again, she had no answer.

And that’s when I realized Emma was co-dependent. She needed her husband to need her. She needed to fix him. And for reasons she couldn’t even begin to grasp, this dysfunctional relationship had her in a grip she was unable to break. Misplaced loyalty and guilt had a grimy strangle hold around her neck and she was stuck.

I was Emma a decade ago. That’s why her dilemma felt so personal. Because it was.

My son was out with his wife one evening, and on the way home he became sick. As he struggled to get his car window open, he vomited. Window, door, cup holder, seat, floor, you name it. It was also below freezing so with the window now open, the vomit froze where it landed.

When they got home, he announced with disgust, “I’m not cleaning that up!” He has a weak stomach to begin with. He even detests holding babies because they might drool on him. There was no way he was touching frozen vomit, not even his own.

His wife was just as adamant. “I’m not cleaning it up, either! We’ll just get rid of the car.”

But me, being the loving (Note: CO-DEPENDENT) mother I was, went out into the sub-freezing night air, armed with a flashlight and buckets of hot soapy water, numerous cleaning paraphernalia in tow. An hour and a half later I came into the house and announced with more than a little pride that the car was as good as new. I felt like I deserved a standing ovation. I had scrapped, soaked, brushed, and detailed with a sharp knife every inch the vomit had touched.

You’re probably reading this and saying, “Oh, what a wonderful mother! So loving. So giving. So unselfish.” Well, that’s exactly what I wanted everyone to think because my motivation was not to clean frozen vomit, it was to earn my son’s approval. Actually, the whole family’s approval! It was to make him dependent on me because I was the only one (Note: THE ONLY ONE!) who would sacrifice so much for him. I needed him to need me, therefore I tackled the unthinkable. I was Emma.

You notice my daughter-in-law was not co-dependent. She didn’t need to earn her husband’s love or approval. She didn’t need to sacrifice her own discomfort. But, as a deeply co-dependent mother, I did.

In the end, they got rid of the car anyway, even after all my hard work. My sacrifice was wasted because my motivation was wrong. If my motivation had been to simply clean a filthy car, then I had succeeded. But my motivation had been to earn their love and make myself indispensable. My self-gratifying efforts were not rewarded.

That is what we co-dependents do. We waste countless amounts of energy, countless resources, countless hours, and sometimes countless years (Note: YEARS!) on people who do not appreciate us or what we do. The validation we so desperately seek is never realized.

So, do we learn? No. We try harder. We do more. And as our enhanced efforts are not appreciated by our loved ones, we grow resentful, blaming them for our unhappiness.

In actuality, we have no one to blame but ourselves because, as I explained in my previous post, we teach people how to treat us (I first heard this from Joyce Meyer). If we neglect ourselves, we invite others to neglect us. If we criticize ourselves, we clear the way for others to criticize us. If we abuse ourselves, we open ourselves up to abuse from others.

Demanding respect falls on deaf ears. It takes action on our part to motivate change. We have to pave the way. We need to break new ground. We need to start over.

We do this by respecting ourselves.

Do You Believe In Second Chances?

If I take any credit for the way my kids have turned out, it is because I modeled for them a love of continuous lifelong learning. And each of them, by choice, has followed suit. Now as adults if they’re curious about something, they investigate. If they question something, they look into it. If they doubt something, they search for the truth.

They don’t wait around for others to tell them what to think or do. They are self-motivated because they see the direct correlation between cause and effect; action and result; cowardice and regret; wisdom and reward.

They think for themselves and develop their own opinions yet have learned to play nicely with others. Few things are more disturbing than to see people “express” themselves at the expense of someone else or, to “be themselves” in an obnoxious way.

While none of us are perfect and we all learn from our mistakes at our own pace, some of us learn more easily than others. It took my brother, as a little boy, only one time of jumping off a stone wall with an umbrella to learn that cartoons weren’t a reliable source of reality. A broken heel reminded him that, unlike our mouse friend, Jerry, an umbrella would not break his fall. It’s a good thing he learned quickly, otherwise he might have jumped off a cliff like Wile-E-Coyote with drastically different results!

And yet, many of us jump off the proverbial cliff over and over, expecting a time-lapsed float instead of the free-fall that plummets us to earth. We get hurt by a person or situation, and yet we return time and time again.

A friend of mine recently told me she always seemed to choose the wrong men. She ended up with the ones who needed to be rescued and she wondered where all the good men were. It wasn’t hard for me to see why: Her radar was set on men who needed rescuing while emotionally healthy men passed by without her notice. Now well into her third miserable marriage, she recognizes the problem but can’t find the solution.

I’ve made similiar mistakes. Because of my lack of self-identity, or rather, a reluctance of sharing the real me for fear of rejection, I married men who saw potential and thought it was their duty to change me. And later when I resisted, to control me. Two failed marriages later, I see why. Because I was open to the idea that someone else might know what was better for me than I did, I attracted men who were more than willing to take on the job. Except that, it wasn’t their job or their responsibility. It’s only one person’s responsibility to fix me, and that person is me.

Most of us are more comfortable trying to fix others than to work on ourselves. It’s easier to see their problems than to see our own. And we think our problems are their fault. “If only he would treat me with respect ….” Maybe if you respected yourself, he would either follow suit or leave. “If only she wouldn’t spend so much money ….” “If only he wasn’t so lazy ….” “If only she wasn’t so moody… ” “If only …..” The list goes on and on. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we see how the behavior of others trails directly back to us.

“Do I respect myself enough to not allow someone to mistreat me? But how do I do that?” you might ask. “Are you really saying that if he mistreats me, I should remove myself from his presence? Not take his phone calls? Not answer the door when he shows up unexpectedly? Go to safe places and hang out with safe people? But …. but …. but…. You don’t know what you’re asking!”

Yes, I do. I’ve done it. Remember the whole lifelong learning thing? If what you’re doing isn’t working, well, we’ve all heard the definition of insanity coined by Alcoholics Anonymous: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If what you’re doing isn’t working, by all that is good and holy, stop doing it!

In her book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron discusses the two main hindrances to our recovery from whatever is not working in our lives. Crazymakers are external barriers to an emotionally healthy life, and skepticism is an inner enemy that sabotages our efforts to make improvements. While Ms. Cameron is writing specifically about recovery from blocked creativity, what she says can be applied to all areas, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In my own life, I apply her insights to my recovery from being stuck in unhealthy patterns of living.

She also refers to the crazymakers as poisonous playmates. Other authors use different words to describe them: Unsafe people, toxic people, narcissists.

You know who these people are in your life. They’re the ones who make you feel like you’re the one going crazy. When you catch them in a lie, they accuse you of not trusting. When you ask them why they are so grouchy, they accuse you of being negative. They put a spin on every situation that makes no logical sense and then somehow turn it around to make you look like the bad guy. They leave with a smug grin that says they won the argument, and you’re left wondering what happened. You had logic on your side and yet they seem to have come out on top once again. Things just don’t add up.

She also refers to skepticism as, the secret doubt. Just when we start seeing some improvement, skepticism jumps in and says, “Whoa. This can’t be true. Nothing ever goes my way. I must be imagining it.” This thought gives us permission to give up without looking bad. After all, we’re just being realistic, right? Getting our heads out of the clouds like we were admonished as children? The temptation here is to step back, give in to what is, and once again accept things the way they are. “After all, it’s not all bad,” we console ourselves. “It could be worse. I need to be thankful for what I have. No one’s life is perfect. We’re suppose to be content where we are, right?”

Ms. Cameron sums up our struggle with our two main enemies to recovery, crazymakers and skepticism, this way:

“One of the things most worth noting in … recovery is our reluctance to take seriously the possibility that the universe just might be cooperating with our new and expanded plans. We’ve gotten brave enough to try recovery, but we don’t want the universe to really pay attention. We still feel too much like frauds to handle some success. When it comes, we want to go.

“Of course we do! Any little bit of experimenting in self-nurturance is very frightening for most of us. When our little experiment provokes the universe to open a door or two, we start shying away. “Hey! You! Whatever you are! Not so fast!”

“I like to think of the mind as a room. In that room, we keep all of our usual ideas about life, God, what’s possible and what’s not. The room has a door. That door is ever so slightly ajar, and outside we can see a great deal of dazzling light. Out there in the dazzling light are a lot of new ideas that we consider too far-out for us, and so we keep them out there. The ideas we are comfortable with are in the room with us. The other ideas are out, and we keep them out.

“In our ordinary, pre-recovery life, when we would hear something weird or threatening, we’d just grab the door knob and pull the door shut. Fast.

“Inner work triggering outer change? Ridiculous! (Slam the door.) God bothering to help my … recovery? (Slam.) Synchronicity supporting … with serendipitous coincidences? (Slam, slam, slam.)

“Now that we are in … recovery, there is another approach we need to try. To do this, we gently set aside our skepticism – for later use, if we need it – and when a weird idea or coincidence whizzes by, we gently nudge the door a little further open.

“Setting skepticism aside, even briefly, can make for very interesting explorations. In … recovery, it is not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.” (pp. 41-51)

Ms. Cameron’s last statement is key: “In recovery, it is not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.” (p.51)

Often times we feel trapped; like we’re stuck with no way out. That’s a lie. Reality is, we all have choices and there is always something we can do. It may be a small, seemingly insignificant step in the right direction, or it may be a big one-time move. It doesn’t matter. Figure it out and do something. Stop feeling helpless or victimized, and stop expecting some kind of brownie points for being a martyr. There aren’t any. There’s only more suffering ahead if we choose to do nothing.

Those of us who were raised with a strong sense of right and wrong are often the most plagued with a sense of misplaced duty. Showing unconditional love and being steadfast in the face of adversity are admirable qualities. But when our sense of duty is hurting us and those we love, it would be advisable to step back and evaluate where our true duty lies. Is it in sticking with the crazymaker and letting her have her way, thus sidetracking us from our other responsibilities?

We’ve all heard the old saying that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets greased. This is never more true than with crazymakers. They are always squeaking because things are never right and we are never doing enough. Their needs are endless.

Thus, crazymakers eat up an inordinately large portion of our time and energy to the point where we simply cannot take adequate care of ourselves and those we are truly responsibility for. Skepticism, as the evil twin, joins right in and says, “What’s the use of fighting it? She’s my mother so I have to do what she says, even though I’m an adult. She has to come first,” or, “He’s my brother-in-law so I have to keep peace in the family,” or, “I married her so, that’s just the way it is.”

Enough with the excuses. It’s time we get off our fearful hinnies, make some tough decisions, change what isn’t working, and create a life worth living. We’ve wasted enough time and energy on those who don’t appreciate our help. It’s time we looked around and saw what’s been in our faces all along: those who truly deserve our time and attention. It’s like a person petting a stuffed animal while his dog looks up expectantly. We waste our lives on what we can’t change, and make no effort to change what we can.

I love this prayer written by Reinhold Neibuhr in the 1940’s: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (

When conflicting thoughts come, and they will, ask a safe person for help. Now is not the time to put on an invincible facade. We’re not fooling anyone other than ourselves when we claim to be OK when it’s obvious we’re not. It’s time to admit what everyone else already knows. We’re human. We’re vulnerable. We’re afraid. Now, let’s do something about it, together.

When all is said and done, we each have a choice. Stay where we are, stuff down the disappointment and frustration, maintain the status-quo, delude ourselves into thinking there’s virtue in suffering, and die unhappily at the end of a miserable life. It’s up to you.

But, if I were you, and I was, I’d do something and get back on the right path. There’s no better time than the present.

What Tools Do You Have On Your Belt?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently working a day job in retail. This is not my forever job, and it’s definitely not my dream job, but it pays the bills (barely) and I’ve accepted it as a learning tool God has temporarily placed on my belt of, “Skills Diane Needs To Learn To Reach Her Full Potential.”

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot in the couple months I’ve been cashiering. In an eight hour shift, I average around 40 customers an hour. That’s one customer every 1 1/2 minutes. And, boy do I have the stories to tell!

But that’s another blog post.

Suffice it to say, I meet all kinds. Fortunately, 99% are pleasant. But the variety of personalities and attitudes people portray while checking out is amazing.

So are their parenting styles.

As a result of witnessing hundreds of people in real life situations, i.e., it doesn’t get any more real than shopping for groceries with toddlers in tow, I’ve drawn this conclusion: INEFFECTIVE PARENTING ASSUMES CHILDREN ARE UNABLE TO CONTROL THEMSELVES, THEREFORE WE MUST MAKE CIRCUMSTANCES CONDUCTIVE TO THE CHILD BEING UNABLE TO MISBEHAVE.


Case it point: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register).

The father, being the considerate man he is, apologizes.

His solution to the problem? He moves the cart away from the register. Which makes it impossible for me to toss his items into the cart without unnecessary force. I explain to him that I need the cart right next to the belt so I can be as time efficient and careful with his items as possible.

He’s bewildered. “But if we put the cart next to the register, then he (Junior) will push the buttons.” The poor man only saw two choices, neither of which respected the child’s ability to obey: Either let him push buttons to his heart’s content or move him away so that he is unable to do so.

Dad’s only solution was to manipulate the environment to prevent Junior from misbehaving, i.e., forcing compliance.

His parenting tools? Manipulation and force.

Another true case: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register). Yes, this happens a lot. Like every other customer.

The mother, being the considerate woman she is, apologizes.

Her solution to the problem? She tells Junior to stop pushing the buttons. When he stops, Mom thanks him for exercising his self-control. Note: Child is responsible for his own behavior.

Her parenting tools? Faith and respect. Faith in the child’s ability to make good choices and respect in responding appropriately to his choice.

I think it’s worth noting that, no doubt at some earlier time, Mom told Junior to stop and he didn’t so she promptly and appropriately responded in a way that let Junior clearly know that it was in his best interest to obey. Kids are smart. We’d do well to respect their intelligence and persistence, and teach them to use both to their advantage.

Witnessing this mother’s approach reminded me of how God parents us. He never forces or manipulates. He allows us free choice. We can chose actions and attitudes which bring blessings and good fortune into our lives, or we can chose options which bring us unwanted consequences. Either way, his love for us is unconditional. We can neither earn nor loose his love. It’s steadfast, secure, and eternal.

God believes in our ability to make good choices, and respects us enough to let us face the consequences, often using them as learning tools. We tend to see difficulties in life as bad. Rarely do we see them as the learning opportunities they are.

So, once again, I ask, “What tools do you have on your belt? Do you tend to use manipulation and force? Or do you use faith and respect? In both yourself and others?”

It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I don’t know what the day will bring. But I think it’s time I take inventory of the tools on my belt so I will be ready for whatever comes next.






Why Is Life So Hard?

A few nights ago I woke up at 1:30 in the morning in a near panic. The dream I awoke from had confirmed my worst nightmare: that of being homeless.

It isn’t easy for a single woman to make it alone in our society.  Daily I feel the pressure to be two people: breadwinner and homemaker; repairman and chef; decision maker and nurturer.

More times than not, I feel as if I should be in two places at once, too. I should be outside mowing the lawn while also in the kitchen preparing dinner. I should be working 60 hours a week to make ends meet but also take time to nurture my children and grandchildren. It’s daunting.

A while back my lovely daughter-in-law tried reasoning my fears away. “What’s the worst that could happen, Mom? We put your things in storage and you sleep on our couch.” I know she meant this to be comforting, but it did nothing to alleviate my anxiety. Can you imagine that scenario for more than three days? The memory of my dad saying, “Fish and company stink after three days,” pops into my mind.

I was my father’s caregiver for seven years. The first three we lived independently; the last four we shared a home. He was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s and was also totally deaf in one ear and 80% deaf in the other. Communication was a struggle for both of us, not only because of his hearing difficulties, but because his mind would often not comprehend the words he heard.

Last summer, several months before his death, I wrote this journal entry:

“This morning after awaking, Dad came out into the hallway and saw me in the other room. “Diane?” he called. “Can you help me?”

“’Good morning, Dad,” I responded. “I’ll go get your breakfast.”

“But what he heard was silence. What he saw, was me walking away. What he felt, was rejection.

“How often does God retreat into the Heavenly realms out of our sight to prepare things on our behalf, but all we hear is silence? What we see is him walking away. What we feel is rejection.”

I was reminded of this in the wee morning hours as I scoured my Bible for something that would bring peace to my troubled soul. I wanted proof that just because I couldn’t hear God, he could still hear me; I wanted reassurance that just because he appeared to walk away, he was still working on my behalf; and I wanted evidence that even though I felt rejected, I was still foremost on his mind.

What I found were familiar verses once again brought to life. That’s why the Bible is referred to as the Living Word of God – because at times it literally comes alive and speaks directly to our souls.

I’ll share these verses with you here because, even if your financial situation is more stable than mine at the moment, we all face fear at one time or another, for one reason or another. Fortunately, God’s promises cover them all.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:24-34 New Living Translation).”

What hit me like a slap on the face was, “You mean, by worrying about money, by worrying about the possibility of being homeless, I’m worshiping money?” This was new to me. I thought we worshiped money by indulging our every whim when our money could be put to better use. But do these verses actually say that I’m a slave to money if I worry about a lack of it?

Martha Beck is a life coach who I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand she says some outlandish things that send my religious background teachings into a spasm; on the other hand she shares some truly profound truths. One thing she says that I totally agree with is that all fear is based on either the fear of lack or the fear of attack.

So, if I understand this correctly, I’ve actually been worshiping money through my fear of lack? Wow. I’m humbled. Now that I see what’s been going on, what do I do about it?

Concrete answers to my financial dilemmas eluded me in those early morning hours, but that’s okay. My mind was being transformed. I was beginning to see things in a new light. I began to realize that this is faith in action: Believing we are being cared for by unseen hands and comforted by an unheard lullaby.

We don’t have to understand the scheme of things or immediately fix all problems. Our task is to believe God is who he says he is, have faith that he will accomplish what he says he will, be authentic, love freely, forgive freely, enjoy our blessings, persevere, and allow hope and passion to reign in our lives.

Security cannot be found in the promises of political leaders, or in our bank accounts, our investments, or even in our own hard work and ingenuity. True security lies in doing the best we can with what is presently within our control, and then trusting God with the rest.

So, regardless of the screaming insanity of my outward circumstances, I am ultimately safe. My needs will be met.  Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow; maybe not even in the way I expect; but they will be met at the right time in the right way, according to God’s grace and mercy.

So, let’s go back to those verses where Jesus says God will provide for us as he does the birds in the air and the wildflowers in the field. Obviously, the makeup of our society and culture today differs from that of Biblical times in Palestine. Therefore it’s only logical that we ask ourselves, do these promises of Jesus still hold true today? Do they apply to us as well as to those he spoke to on that long ago hillside?

I believe yes, the message is the same, even if the specifics of our lives and needs may differ from those who were able to see and hear Jesus in person. The point is, God loves us and cares about every aspect of our lives and he knows our needs better than we do.

So why then, can we point to so many areas in our lives that are unresolved? Why do we seemingly experience one problem after another? Despite our sometimes frantic efforts to improve our situation or the situation of those we love, why do dysfunction and disease and death oftentimes prevail?

Why can we point to so many “good” people who suffer atrocities at the hands of abusers? Why aren’t they delivered? Where is God while they cry out for someone to intervene?

Other than the fact that I really don’t know, an insert in The Life Recovery Bible sheds some light on this dilemma.

“We may feel as if our life is a battlefield. We may be a prisoner in the ongoing war between good and evil. When we turn our life over to God, will he rescue us and keep us safe?

“Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Zechariah wrote these words: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt. {This prophecy was fulfilled by the coming of Jesus (see Matthew 21: 4-11)}. I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles” (Zechariah 9:9-12).

“Jesus fulfilled part of these prophecies when he came the first time. He delivered us from death by shedding his own blood to seal our pardon. When he comes again as he promised, he will bring peace on earth. For now, we can take refuge in Jesus. When the war is over and Jesus is crowned King of kings, he will repay all those who are his, two mercies for every woe suffered in the war! No matter how terrible the battles we face, we can turn our life over to God and have a sure hope for the future. (The Life Recovery Bible, p. 1181)”

What I gather from these verses is that God’s provision for us is threefold:

  1. In the past: God provided eternal salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin, fully and completely, for everyone who acknowledges him as their Lord and Savior.
  1. In the present: Jesus promises that God knows our every need and that he will take care of us in this present age.  Life may not hand us the smorgasbord we think we deserve, but we are promised soup for the day.
  1. In the future: God promises that when he comes back to earth and establishes his new kingdom, that he will repay all who are his with two mercies for every trouble we suffered here on earth!

I don’t know about you, but that sounds fair to me.

So, regardless of how discouraging and hopeless our present circumstances may appear, the war is not over and the winner is yet to be crowned. I’m grateful that I will be among those in God’s army of believers and will share in the spoils of war for eternity.

If you can’t say for sure that you will be among God’s people on that day, please contact someone you know who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is actively living for him, or contact me anytime with your questions and concerns.  But regardless of what you do, don’t let the sun set today without knowing for sure who’s side you will be found on when the final battle is fought, because, we already know who’s coming out on top!

Do You Believe in Fairy Tales?

As a little girl, I believed in fairy tales.

I believed in Prince Charming.

And I was convinced that just when I needed him most, he would appear on his mighty steed, sweep me off my feet, and deliver me to safety within his fairy tale castle.

Then life happened. Blow after blow after blow to my idealistic beliefs finally brought me to the conclusion that maybe the naysayers had been right all along – Prince Charming simply did not exist. With my head hanging and an errant tear running down my cheek, I was forced to let go of my childhood fantasies and face reality.

Here’s the thing about fantasies. And dreams. And hopes. Since they resonate deep within our psyches, regardless of how many times we shoot them down, they pop right back up. They simply refuse to die.

So, this morning while I was staring out the window at the eastward moving clouds, I remembered once believing in Prince Charming. The way the morning sun peeked out between the clouds and cast golden rays across the heavens somehow made me think about past hopes and dreams – even those that never materialized such as the elusive Prince Charming. The memory of those beliefs, however, brought a smile to my lips as I felt the warm, safe feeling that had accompanied those childhood expectations.

And then, a sudden realization struck me – Prince Charming was not mythical and he certainly was not dead. Regardless of how many times I tried burying him, he was alive and well. I just didn’t recognize him because he looked different than I imagined.

Instead of being a handsome prince, he’d taken on a different form; several different forms, actually. My brother and sister-in-law, for instance, who have helped me financially; my daughter-in-law who took me out to Applebees and surprised me with flowers; my daughter who bought me a gym membership so we could work out together; my son who took me for an afternoon to the beach, just the two of us. My best friend who has been bathed in my tears over the 25 years I’ve known her who still answers the phone when in a shaky voice I ask, “Do you have a few minutes?” Knowing she’s in for another down pour, she once again tenderly responds, “Sure. What’s wrong?” The ladies at the Women’s Resource Center who tell me I’m beautiful and marvelous and so very talented that I’m sure to get that dream job!

So many times we miss the real thing because we’re looking for it to appear in a specific way or form or time so, even when its right in front of us, we look past it. In our never ending search for love, we fail to see that it’s already there.

Just as my view of Prince Charming has changed, my definition of a fairy tale life has also evolved. I used to think it would be one without problems – a picture perfect life consisting of one happy event after another. But now I define a fairy tale life as one spent doing what I love.

My life is not perfect, but it’s the path I’ve chosen. Every day I make it a little bit better, aligning it closer and closer to my values, priorities and goals. It’s a work in progress, for sure, but little by little, I’m creating the life I want.

I read, I write, I craft, and I design interiors. My websites, although not perfected, are up and running. I’m showcasing my work. I’m being authentic. I’m living my life with passion and purpose. That’s my definition of a fairy tale life. While I used to envision it in terms of comfort and ease, I now measure it according to the satisfaction and fulfillment I feel after a long day.

Okay, so I also have a day job working in retail. Not my idea of a fairy tale job. But it pays the rent so I do what I have to do, and then use my off-work hours doing what is meaningful. It’s not a life of ease, but it feeds my soul.

So, yeah, I believe in fairy tales.

I believe in Prince Charming, too.

He shows up every day in the hugs and kindness of those dearest to me and I see his character and values lived out in those I love. Last night I was invited to dinner with two couples from church. I swear I saw Prince Charming mirrored in their smiling faces. As they genuinely asked me what made me tick, I felt validated; accepted; appreciated.

So, do you believe in fairy tales?

Do you believe in Prince Charming?

Well, you should because if you look closely enough, I bet you’ll see him in your life, too.

The Law Of Big Cherries

I allow myself two indulgences on a regular basis. Kirkland brand Dark Chocolate Covered Super Fruits, and hot chocolate. Now, before you remind me of the potential adverse effects of dairy and sugar, let me explain. I rationalize that indulging once a day in these somewhat nutritious treats keeps me away from the really bad stuff. Most of the time, anyway.

So, like I was saying, a bag of this yummy chocolate covered dried fruit seem to find their way into my cart whenever I shop at Costco. From there they go into a glass canister in my pantry. If you have any questions as to their exact location, my three-year-old grandson would be happy to show you!

Every afternoon I swoop my hand into the canister, snagging the largest pieces which are, of course, the Bing cherries. After a few days the cherries are all eaten so the next to go are the cranberries. By the end of the week, only the little blueberries are left. They all taste good, but somehow I’m a sucker for those big beautiful cherries. Just one will fill my mouth with chocolatey yummy-ness that triggers serotonin in my brain to take me to my happy place. Somehow this feeling just can’t be duplicated with the smaller, although just as tasty, cranberries and blueberries. It’s a tactile thing. In this case, bigger is better.

A few weeks ago I had a brilliant idea. Since the cherries are my favorite and will inevitably be eaten first, why not just sort them into two groups to save myself the hassle (and un-sanitary-ness) of raking my fingers through the canister? When I pour the fruit out of the original packaging, why not just pick out all the cherries at that time and put them in a separate bowl?

So, that’s what I did. I put this bowl of cherries on my desk (for convenience sake) and the cranberries and blueberries in the usual canister in the pantry.

But a funny thing happened. As I perused my bowl of cherries, they seemed to have shrunken. They didn’t look big anymore. They all looked small. I actually found myself searching for the biggest cherries in the bowl full of big cherries! By then I realized I had reached an all time low.

I also realized something else. Drawing upon my limited knowledge of physics and psychology (that’s reassuring, isn’t it?), I came to this conclusion: Without the little ones, the big ones don’t look big. I call this the Law of Big Cherries.

Profound, huh? So, why don’t the big cherries in a bowl full of big cherries look big? Why does big only look big when compared to small?

I don’t have an answer for that. It’s human nature, I guess. Even if life was the proverbial “bowl full of cherries” we all long for, we probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. We seem to need the boring times and even the bad times to fully enjoy the good times. It’s as if, without comparison, we don’t recognize true worth. It may be unfair, but it’s true.

We apply this not only to snacks, but to all areas of life. Comparison is a valid way of determining what we want most. It’s a method of choosing what we consider to be the best for us.

But sometimes we take it too far in ways that don’t benefit either ourselves or others. That’s when our preference for the “big cherries” becomes a mode of judgment against ourselves and others.

Comparison may prove to be in our favor: “Um. Compared to him, I’m not fat at all.”

Or, comparison may prove to be condemning: “Wow. Compared to her, I’m fat.”

We use logic every day to judge people and circumstances. But this logic is almost always based on comparison.

While comparison may prove useful in a number of situations, we need to be careful that we don’t let comparison become the standard. It’s too easy to judge something’s worth based on how it stacks up against something else instead of making a determination based on it’s own merits.

When my cousin and her husband recently shopped for a new motor home, comparison  was a useful tool to find what worked best for them. Comparison separated the “too expensive” from the “do-able,” and the “not necessary” from the “needed.”

In some cases, comparison is based on absolutes. As in, “It would be unwise to extend ourselves that much.” Other times it’s based on preference. “I really like the casual feel of that decor rather than the traditional feel of the other one.”

In my case, I prefer big cherries. Someone else may prefer the medium sized cranberries because of their tartness. Another person may prefer the cute little blueberries. These are preferences.

Absolutes are different in that they do not change, regardless of our beliefs or opinions about them. Comparison neither elevates nor diminishes an absolute. The sun rises every morning whether or not we want it to. If we jump off a ten story building, we will die, regardless of whether we think we should or not.

Wisdom knows the difference between absolutes and preferences.

In God’s Word, we find the one, true standard. It isn’t based on comparison.

God loves us. He doesn’t love me more or less than you. His love is true, all encompassing, with everyone every day.

God forgives us when we ask. It doesn’t depend on whether I sinned more or less than anyone else. It is full and complete, every time.

God promises to watch over us every day, even in the midst of our problems. It doesn’t matter if my problems are bigger or smaller than your problems. He sees and cares about them all.

I’m so thankful God doesn’t operate by the Law of Big Cherries. For, when He looks down upon us, He doesn’t play favorites. Each one of us is the apple of His eye.

In case you’re wondering, I got rid of the bowl of big cherries and dumped them in the canister along with the rest. I discovered I prefer searching for the big ones while they look big. For me, that’s the challenge and that’s where the reward is found. At lease as far as chocolate covered cherries are concerned.