Shared Voices

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As we talk about forgiving others and asking someone to forgive us, we must pause to think about what forgiveness is as well as what forgiveness is not. Let’s begin with a definition of forgiveness:  to stop requiring payment, either financial or emotional.   To say to another: I am no longer holding these things against you.  Forgiveness is an act of the will.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that your feelings have changed.

Often, we mistakenly combine or confuse forgiving with other actions.

Forgiveness is NOT condoning the behavior.  I do not say “Oh, that’s okay” because it is not okay.  If it were okay, there would be nothing to forgive. Rather, I say, “I forgive you”. It is important for the offender to know the behavior was not acceptable even though it is forgiven. It is also important for the offended to not accept or normalize the offense.  It was wrong and requires forgiveness.

Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a first step towards reconciliation; however reconciliation may not always be desired. A simplified example of this would be that I forgive someone for kicking me on the shins every time they see me. I decide that I am forgiving them, meaning that I no longer contemplate how to kick them back or make them pay for hurting me.   However, I don’t enjoy being kicked on the shins so I may decide to discontinue this relationship and avoid this person in every possible way.

Forgiveness is NOT automatic trust.  I may decide to forgive a friend for repeatedly being late when we meet for coffee.  I value the friendship; forgiveness and reconciliation occur. However, I highly suspect she will be late the next time we meet and may take some deliberate steps to keep me from waiting so long.

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting.  I wish I had a special kind of amnesia that would allow me to forget every time that I have been wronged by another.  Life doesn’t work that way. I remember. Often I can still feel the emotional hurt as if it happened yesterday. Many times I have to make a deliberate decision to forgive again and again for the same offense.  Each time that I let go of that intense desire to get even, I feel a burden lifted from me. In some mysterious way, forgiving others benefits me.

The need to forgive, unfortunately, will always be a part of our lives.  Within most of our relationships we hope reconciliation occurs as well as forgiveness.  We hope trust can be rebuilt. We pray the pain and the memories will diminish. May we all become wiser as we seek forgiveness and gentler as we forgive.

working mom shame

Working Mom Shame

A few weeks ago I was walking the halls of my dance studio.  I love getting a chance to watch the little ones glow with confidence as they leap and groove, but I also love watching proud parents light up while watching their kids   I had the opportunity to introduce myself to a mom who is new to the studio and we began chatting. Inevitably the conversation meandered to my own 4 year old son and pre-school. I lamented the shortage of schools that offer year-round and full time care in our community.  The response: “Yeah… I made the choice to stay home and raise my children, so I never had to worry about that.”

THUNK… There it was… working mom shame.  

I asked myself, who would respond to this?  “Diplomatic Business Owner Mom” “Tears Brimming, Guilty Working Mom” or “Are you F#*%ing Kidding Me Mom.”   With an audience of other parents in earshot, I chose to say, “Wow, being a stay at home mom is so much work! It is a full time job!”   I meant that and it was an honest response. However, I did not address how much it hurt. I was hurt because I am raising my son just as much as a SAHM. And I was even more hurt that she didn’t realize the deeper implications of her statement. She unwillingly (or willingly) was suggesting that by working, I was less. I was less of a mother. I was less than her.  Also, the word ‘choice’ is hurtful. Working, and staying home for that matter, are not always a choice for parents… especially in the expensive place that I live.  The choice to leverage work vs. staying home often involves valuing our time, which further politicizes this issue. When a family has means, and a woman truly has a ‘choice’, that word becomes a weapon for those of us who grapple with difficult decisions in order to afford to live in the place we call home.  What is that choice? Moving to another town or state? Living paycheck to paycheck? Forcing our family and our kids into debt and loans in the future? A simple statement felt like an attack on my ability to mother my child, my economic status, and my integrity.

My inner-optimist hopes that this was unintentional, even if somewhere buried deep, there was an attempt to gain self-worth at my expense. This made me realize that instead of waging war, we should be trying to educate each other on the ups and downs of our roles, while finding comrader in our shared experiences. The grass may always seem greener, but at the end of the long day as a mom of any kind, we are all in the trenches trying to survive.

I am surviving as a wife, mom, and proud dance studio owner.  I spend 40-60 hours a week working away from home (depending on the season). I give up my own child’s practices to help other people’s children develop their passions.  I am daunted by the great privilege and responsibility of teaching other people’s children and raising my own. I wanted to quote my mentor Misty Lown who poignantly wrote, “Teachers, coaches (and all working parents): I’m sure there are times when you wonder whether or not it’s worth it. Maybe you’ve even had moments where you wonder whether or not your kids are in any way damaged or worse off because you chose to, or had to, go to work.”   My son doesn’t love me any MORE because I choose to work. He doesn’t love me any LESS because there are times that I have to work. He just loves ME because I’m his mom.

I think every woman knows it shouldn’t be a contest, but honestly, sometimes it is hard to relate to the ‘other side’.     I can 100% see the hellish challenge of getting through a grocery trip with a toddler and newborn, or even worse, facing a whole day/week home with the flu trying to care for a tribe of energetic banshees. However, I  have also developed an elaborate fantasy about what it must be like when the kids are old enough that you can grocery shop alone mid-week, lunch with a friend, or do yoga (before you turn into what feels like a glorified chauffeur).  I emphasize fantasy, because this is likely not what it is really like, or maybe it is. One of my friends explained it as her sanity time.  It helped me realize that I get it too… in a different package.   I relish in my student’s victories, developing leaders, and making a safe place for children to find worthiness. These precious moments make the long days worthwhile.  

Trust me… working is not all peeing alone and power lunches. My challenges are squeezing all of the housework  into the limited time that I want to spend with my son. Have you been to Trader Joes on a Sunday? We try to monetize a housekeeper because it literally equates to time with my family, even if it is not the best for our budget.  It is miserable trying to find child care when my son is sick and I have a show or deadline. The biggest pain point is dulling out the voices who try to make me feel like ‘strangers’ are raising my son or comments that loosely insinuate I am not as good of a parent, or should feel bad,  because I work. Nobody ever asked my husband if he felt guilty about going to work.

Thoughtful Charity

I want my daughters to be generous adults. But I want them to be purposeful in their giving rather than giving mindlessly or out of guilt.

Please allow me to tell you the story of what I attempted when they were in their teens. It was just after Christmas and my husband and I wanted to give a sizeable (for us) donation to a charity.  We invited them to select the charity to which we sent the money. Fortunately, they took us seriously and put thought and effort into the decision. Read more

Character with a super hero shadow


‘Tis the season of superheroes in my household.  We’ve seen the new “Incredibles 2” movie a handful of times this summer, and my kids love to watch YouTube videos of hypothetical matchups between superheroes that wouldn’t otherwise run into each other.  Did you ever wonder if the Hulk could take down Wonder Woman? Me neither, but plenty of people have their arguments for each side.

But superheroes don’t just appear in the movies or on a screen.  We are surrounded every day by people who possess incredible strengths that can change the world.  And while we might not be able to break down doors or float through space, our emotional superpowers can be just as strong.  You know, that thing you feel that comes so naturally and easily?  The one you almost can’t control but has served you well in most situations?  That’s your superpower. But, like fictional superheroes, these powers have to be managed properly.  Just like The Hulk can use his rage to break and destroy, he can also use his strength to bust out of the rubble and save Iron Man (yes, I had to look that up).  We can use our superpowers to hurt or to heal. Let’s explore.

My husband’s superpower is Problem Solver. This comes in handy when I need a leaky sink fixed, a set of sold-out concert tickets procured, a load of groceries taken in from the car, a math problem solved, a computer rebooted.  Do, do, do. Sounds great to have around, right? It is! Most of the time. But what a Problem Solver also does is take away the empowering feeling that one gets when he or she figures out a solution on their own. The pride that comes from trudging through the muck to emerge at the finish line. It can make people (ahem, me) dependent on this Problem Solver to take care of anything. But then what happens when there’s a truly impossible situation for which a solution can’t be found? Frustration.  Disappointment. “But you’re supposed to fix EVERYTHING!” (Those may or may not be literal words that have been said in my kitchen, and maybe more than once).  When managed properly, Problem Solvers are the glue that holds a group together. But there’s a fine line between Solving Problems and Taking Over. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, says, “Help is the sunny side of control.”  Being someone’s Google Maps is only helpful if they can navigate themselves through a no-cell-service zone.

Me? I’m an Editor. Want your email proofread and jazzed up? I’m your gal. Need help with a website to take it to the next level?  I’ll give you pages of notes. Looking for guidance on changing the design of your living room? Send me over and I’ll make your house look brand new. But did you notice what each of those sentences started with? An invitation. WANT. NEED. LOOKING.   Editors who edit without being asked are just plain critical. Can you imagine if I came over to your house for a dinner party and, unprompted, offered, “Have you ever thought of switching these pieces of furniture? The couch would look much better over there, and adjusting these throw pillows will help balance the size and scale.”  Whether it’s true or not (and, honestly, I’m usually right) (Wanna to know another superpower that takes responsible management? Confidence.), it wasn’t invited, and immediately puts the listener on the defensive. What was wrong with my couch? I liked it where it was.  And heaven forbid that my ideas for improvement are interpreted as complaining.  “I love a complainer!” said no one ever. It’s my responsibility as an Editor to determine when to keep my ideas safely tucked in my head (and my mouth shut!), and when to share my opinion if help is being sought after.  Clean break between the two.

Both of my sweet children’s superpower is Big Heart. I used to say “sensitive,” but, unfortunately, my generation still uses that word in a negative context, as in, “Stop being so sensitive!” And, when I think about it, Big Heart is a more accurate description. Their hearts are HUGE!  They will look for the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite him or her over. A schoolmate is eyeing the chocolate-chip oatmeal bar we made at home?  My son will ask to make a double-sized second batch to share with everyone the next day. My daughter’s 4th grade class hosted a fundraiser selling yo-yos, so she brought in money from her own piggy bank to fund the kids who didn’t have enough. Are these

great qualities for human beings? YES! I’m so proud of the thoughtful and caring people they are. But can my kids buy yo-yos for the whole world with their saved-up quarters?  No. Is it their responsibility to lay awake at night and worry about everyone else’s problems? No. Do they have to be taken advantage of just because they’re the easiest to be taken advantage of? No. They must use their Big Hearts in ways that feel authentic, yet sustainable.  When a superpower is laced with vulnerability, one must “care with aware.”

The comforting thing about superpowers is that they are mostly used for good. Hooray! But it is lifelong work to continually apply these strengths in appropriate manners. Just this morning I could have blurted out 10 different situations where I noticed areas for improvement (“That news headline had a typo” or “If you organized your apps by category, you’d navigate quicker through your phone” or “Your backpack has fragile things on the bottom and the heaviest stuff on top”), but the only thing this Editor was asked for at 8:00am was a hug and kiss on the way out the door, so that’s what I provided.   If my kids wonder why their PB&J is squished by lunch time, perhaps I can give some sage wisdom, but for now they have to figure it out on their own.  But wait, does that make me a Problem Solver?!?  Oh man, this is more complicated than I thought.

So what’s your superpower?  Charm? People-pleasing? Introvert?  Academic? Optimist? Humor? How are you managing it responsibly?

Guac with peppers

Monique’s Voice: Raw Vegan Lifestyle

Different people choose to live different lifestyles and one of the ways they express it is through their food choices. I’m pretty sure many of you are familiar with the vegan lifestyle which means to abstain from eating any animal protein or animal by-products, like dairy, butter, and eggs, but a lifestyle referred to as “raw vegan” isn’t as popular. Raw vegans believe that cooking food can destroy its micronutrients and that the cooking process exposes foods to harmful chemicals – which resonated with me. When I began my journey as a raw vegan earlier this year, I really had no idea where to start. This lifestyle means eating uncooked and unprocessed foods – so pasta, rice, bread are all out (noooooooo). So I needed resources and recipe ideas, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. I chose to listen to Fully Raw Kristina – I absolutely love her energy and she makes everything look and sound incredible. And Yuri Elkaim – although he’s not 100% raw, I love his realistic down-to-earth approach on intermittent fasting, and he has some pretty bomb recipes too. Through this journey, I’ve really discovered that this is a great way to enjoy what you eat in its most natural form while maximizing its health benefits.

SO… how did I get here? I certainly wasn’t always vegan – I used to enjoy animal products on a regular basis. I considered myself relatively healthy – I never suffered from any serious health issues, other than hypoglycemia (aka low blood sugar levels), which I suppose in a way was a bad sign of things to come. Oddly enough, my mother in law (who I’m very close to), started eating raw and explained what she was learning from holistic nutritionists on YouTube videos. She’s always been very health conscious, so it wasn’t long after that I joined her and pretty immediately, I started feeling ALIVE. That’s the best way I can describe it. I was eating less calories, but I felt so satisfied. I learned that feeling was the result of my body actually being nourished on a cellular level. So naturally I continued. Fortunately, my husband joined us in this journey, which is a blessing because I don’t have to make two meals, and recently our 11 year old daughter has joined us in the raw foodie lifestyle. She was a bit resistant to it and complained she didn’t like the food options (even my hubby complained about some of the food options, so I can’t blame her) so we were patient in the hopes she would make the decision to join us. It was very important to me that she see the benefit in eating this way for herself and actually enjoy it. Growing up, my parents made me eat all kinds of things I had no desire to eat – something I don’t think should be forced upon anyone. The way you choose to eat is completely personal preference. But we’ll save that for another blog post.

A raw vegan lifestyle may sound restricting, but the truth is, you can have so much fun exploring different types of fruits and vegetables, spices, nuts, seeds, and much more. I’ve found some incredible recipes that I would’ve never dreamed could be made raw. Raw vegan taco salad with “sour cream”(photo below), raw vegan queso, raw veggie wraps (photo below), zoodles with marinara sauce, and of course my crazy good guacamole concoction (recipe below), and smoothie bowls.

I’m not a food nazi and I don’t believe that there is any such thing as perfection. I don’t condemn anyone for the decisions that they make and I will not beat myself up when I make a “less than ideal” decision. Which is the reason why I’m not 100% raw – I know I couldn’t realistically commit to never eating cooked food again and rather than lying to myself, then feeling guilty when I do have it, I’m just real with myself. I’ve made it a personal goal to be about 90% raw/10% cooked. What does that look like? If I have 10 total meals per week, then 1-2 of those meals are cooked. If you’re interested in trying this kind of lifestyle, keep in mind that it’s important to learn more about it and truly understand its mechanics, as well as some of the downfalls and benefits. I recommend starting small by replacing one cooked meal with one raw meal per day. I’m not saying that the raw vegan lifestyle is for everybody, but I know that it’s definitely worth the try. And with school starting back up, it’s a great incentive not to cook!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Is this something that you would like to read more about? Do you want to hear about my progress as I move through this journey?

Crazy good guacamole concoction recipe:

Ripe medium-sized organic avocados (usually 5-6 for a family of 4)

⅓ organic red onion chopped (food processor is your friend)

½ red bell pepper, chopped (again food processor)

Organic cherry tomatoes (I slice mine in ½ pieces since we like our guac on the chunky side)

1 lemon or lime freshly squeezed

Pitted Kalamata olives (I buy them already pre-sliced)

2-3 large spoonfuls of kimchi

Cayenne pepper to taste

Turmeric powder to taste

Black pepper to taste

Break up the avocados first, then mix in everything else. Season with cayenne, turmeric, and black pepper. Tastes delicious with romaine lettuce or stuffed inside bell peppers. You can also have it with chips. To my utter surprise, I found some dehydrated veggie chips at Whole Foods, which would still be considered raw. **Note, instead of adding salt, I use the juice from the olive jar to add more delicious salty olive flavor. Enjoy!