How do we honor Kingston Frazier?


I can’t stop thinking about Kingston Frazier, the toothy six-year-old boy who was shot to death Thursday after his mom’s car was stolen from a grocery store parking lot in Jackson, Mississippi.

Admittedly, one of the reasons the story is hitting me so hard is that it strikes close to home. Kingston’s lifeless body was found uncomfortably close to my home in Madison County.

Kingston was supposed to be at his kindergarten graduation late last week, celebrating with his classmates and their families.

I can picture the event in my mind. Lots of smiles. Family members taking silly selfies after wiping away the bittersweet and not quite rational tears that so often come with such milestones.

Instead, there were different tears – the hysterical, gut-wrenching, sobbing, wailing tears of a mother who was so devastated at the loss of her son that she was unable to even walk when she heard the news.

I wonder, too, about Kingston’s classmates. I can imagine their questions, and I can picture his teacher trying so very hard to explain what happened in a way that was as soothing as possible.

But my imagination doesn’t stop there.

I also picture the wails that surely must have come from the mothers of the three suspects in Kingston’s death. And just as I can’t imagine for the life of me how Kingston’s mother will survive, I can’t imagine how the mothers of these three young men will make it, either.

Immediately after the suspects were publically identified, I heard and saw the hot, raging anger directed at these young men. They were called animals. Excrement. Devils.

And yes, what happened in that car was beyond sickening. Evil. Vile. Just knowing that my children live on the same planet as these killers makes me sick.

But I can’t see those young men as subhuman, either.

As an educator, I see the faces of some of my former students when I look at the mugshots of the accused killers.

I picture, too, some of the young men I grew up with – ones who might have been known to sell drugs and burglarize cars and houses, but who also were at times the first to toss me a dollar for a soda or a snack when I didn’t have the cash, the ones that sometimes spoke up for me when someone from the other side of town bullied this awkward, dorky, southside nerd in the hallways.

It’s complicated.

As far as I know, none of these former classmates of mine committed a crime quite as heinous as the brutal slaying of Kingston. But they did some bad things. Scary things. Arguably evil things.

I think, too, about the fact that these three young men are all part of my community. They are products of the same school system that serves my children. In fact, my children have been taught by some of the same teachers as the suspects. I bet they have done some of the same school projects, studied some of the same lessons.

I imagine that these young men have been to the same libraries, the same shopping centers, the same fast food restaurants and parks that we regularly visit.

And so I wonder what could have happened differently. I am curious about the support that was available to these young men. I wonder how they got so horrifically hardened at such a young age. I wonder, especially, about one of the young men, who was apparently a very talented athlete.

I wonder, too, why it is that I was spared the experiences that could make a person so hard.

I say a prayer of relief that when my own boy, who is just five years shy of the age of the youngest of the accused, looked at me after hearing the news of what happened to Kingston and, with tears in his eyes, he took my hand and said, “Oh mom. It’s so upsetting. I could never do anything like that.”

I keep thinking that just over a decade ago, these young men were kids graduating from kindergarten themselves, making silly faces and flashing happy smiles as they crossed the threshold to kindergarten. I imagine there were cupcakes. And photographs. And families wiping away crazy, happy, bittersweet tears.

What was the tipping point – the event or the experience or the influence that tipped them from smiling kindergartners to the kinds of people who steal a junky banged up car and, when they discover a little boy sleeping in the back seat, mercilessly gun him down?

And as a community, what could we have done to counter that tipping point? Could a mentor at church have helped? A school counselor? A psychiatrist? A drug rehab facility?

I don’t know the answers to those questions.

And I know that we absolutely can’t let the horrific loss of Kingston get muddied in those questions.

How do we honor Kingston now?

Many are quick to say that what we owe Kingston is ensuring that his killers are brought to justice. I don’t disagree with the cry for justice. We can’t be a community or a society that allows such a heinous act to go unpunished.

And yet, I am hoping that we also are a community that will also try to do a better job of answering some of the questions about these three accused killers and how they got this way. I hope we will do a better job of identifying young men – and women – in crisis. I hope that we think about what we can do to reach young men in similar situations before they get so angry and hard, and arguably evil.

What can we do?

Research tells us that strong connections to healthy, caring adults is important. We also know that young people who have a sense that their positive actions will yield positive results are less likely to commit crimes and more likely to become healthy, productive citizens.

We know, too, that early intervention for drug and alcohol abuse can help. So can access to mental health services. I believe that a warm, caring, supportive school environment where students learn what they need to know to be productive adults also matters an awful lot.

None of this is easy. None of it is tidy. There are other issues here, too – issues of race and class and equity and segregation. We wonder if these young men’s family lives might be to blame for how cold-blooded they have become. And we wonder if we as a society can possibly do much of anything to counteract what may have happened in those first years of life.

But just as a decent society can’t allow the murder of a little boy on the brink of his kindergarten graduation to go unpunished, I don’t think we can afford to be a society that lets questions about how Kingston’s killers became the way they are go unanswered, either.

We might want to admit it, but for many of us, it will be tempting – and even easy – to forget Kingston Frazier. Most of us, if we don’t make a point of it, won’t have natural opportunities to meet face-to-face with our highest risk students.

Many of us don’t see tweens and teens at all.

We will be distracted by our own business and get busy – with homework and doctor’s visits and making dinner (always with the making of dinner!) and paying bills.

I hope we won’t let that happen. I hope we will take the harder path. And I hope that one day, we can look back and say that in Kingston’s death, at least our community found a new way to live.


Thirteen Reasons Why (Not)



Parents and kids alike have been talking a lot lately about the hit Netflix hit show Thirteen Reasons Why, which is based on a book of the same name by Jay Asher.

I will confess that I read the book a few years back, but haven’t brought myself to watch the TV series. When I read the book, my own kids were younger and the subject wasn’t quite as raw to me because my own kids weren’t in the middle of the social and hormonal drama that often defines junior high and high school. Also, the fact that my daughter shares a name with the character who commits suicide doesn’t exactly make it easier for this worrier of a mom to stomach.

I am not arrogant enough to tell you whether watching the show or reading the book is right for you and your family – a question that has already been debated heavily in churches and schools, in the media and on social media. The truth is, I’m not sure I can fully know what is best for my own four-member family unit – much less for yours.

And yet, the book does have me thinking a lot about suicide – and especially the realities that can lead our young people to end their lives.

I’ve had multiple friends and colleagues commit suicide through the years  – starting when I was in junior high, continuing into young adulthood and as recently as last year. Every single time, the act absolutely knocked me to my knees. In some cases, the signs of the looming death were obvious. Other times – especially with younger people – the signs were not at all clear, even to family and close friends.

One of the things that absolutely terrifies me as a mom and an educator is knowing that increasingly younger and younger people are choosing to commit suicide. We are even beginning to see suicidal thoughts – and successful attempts – among students who haven’t reached third grade.

The book Thirteen Reasons Why – and I assume the show, also – does a good job of explaining why a fictional young person chose to take their own life. The reasons are outlined in extensive, gory, heartbreaking detail.

But it’s left me asking the inverse of the original question: What are Thirteen Reasons Why Not? Here is my (potentially feeble) attempt at offering up those 13 reasons. I hope that you will add your own. And maybe, just maybe, someone might be helped along the way.

1)      It gets better.

I know this has already been said — a lot. But if I could work just one miracle for our nation’s struggling young people, I think it would be to help every single one of them truly understand this reality. America has an unhealthy love affair with high school that I never fully understood – even as a kid myself. I promise you, prom is not the best night of your life. Neither is homecoming or Beta club or the football playoffs. In fact, if you are an adult and you peaked at prom or even in the football playoffs, you likely need to seriously reassess how you are spending your days.

Being a teenager is awkward – even for the luckiest among us. Everyone hates their hips and their skin. No one is entirely comfortable in their bodies. Almost everyone would rather be someone else.

My advice for high schoolers is to lower your expectations. Try to collect a few happy memories with fun, smart, kind people – the sorts of people that you would be lucky to carry into your adult life. But know that you might not find those people until a little later. And that’s ok, too. No one’s high school life is a Disney musical, all singing and choreographed dance moves. If it was, how would any of us ever develop any sort of resilience or character?

2)      And then it gets better (again).

Young adulthood can be challenging, but also a huge relief, because you at least are more in control of your choices. You get to choose who you spend your time with, what – and if – you study, and where you want to go. Odds are good your hormones have reached some sort of shaky ceasefire within your body. Maybe the angry acne that tormented you in your teens is calming down at least a tiny bit. By your 30s, life has the potential to get even better. You have more say than ever about what you do and who you do it with. You are no longer forced to sit side-by-side with the bullies of your youth. And in many cases, you have had the luxury of seeing karma take some of those bullies down a notch or two.

3)      You can find your people.

If you are 14 and really love folk rock from the 1960s or studying molecular biology and you don’t attend a sprawling comprehensive high school, odds are good you struggle to find your people. As you get older, with some planning, you can construct a life with more opportunities for cultural exposure, done with other people who share your interests and values. Even if you are short on cash, the internet can probably bring these people right into your living room now.

4)      You Have Vitamin D and Endorphins.

When all else fails me and my mood falters, I have found that one of the best things I can do is get some exercise outside. A long walk, shooting some hoops or practicing tennis often makes me feel better – and I promise you I’m not a jock. Sometimes, just sitting on the front steps and getting some sunlight reminds me that the world really is a beautiful place.

5)      Someone Cares.

I know it’s easy as a young person to feel as though no one really cares. Sometimes, life seems to go out of our way to remind us how lonely we really are. It can be especially hard to feel good about your life if your parents are so busy dealing with their own struggles that they aren’t emotionally equipped to help you with yours.

But as an educator and as a parent, I really and truly have never seen a young person who did not have someone who cared. Maybe it was a teacher, or a neighbor, or a pastor, or a sibling. Someone really does care. Just the fact that you are a member of a community – in your town, in your school, maybe in your place of worship or a school club – gives you a natural connection to others. Use that. Growth that. Even when it’s scary and even when it hurts.

6)      Your potential is boundless.

One of the cruelest – and truest – things about life is that in our youth we aren’t able to fully see our potential. We look at ourselves in the mirror and we see the flaws. We see the things that we want to improve – maybe the things that others have teased us about. And yet I can honestly say I have never, ever seen a young person who did not absolutely scream potential. If you are young, living and breathing, you have tremendous potential – potential to learn and grow and become more than you are now. Don’t squander that.

7)      You really are beautiful – inside and out.

Lately, my own kids have been asking to see more pictures of me when I was their age. But since I came of age before the iPhone, I don’t have a ton of photos to share. And yet, when I do come across a photo and study it, I find myself astounded. Because – even with my weird, not quite matching clothes and lousy skin and frizzy hair, I was totally beautiful. I promise that you are beautiful, too. And that beauty comes from your looks, your youth, and also from the promise of who you are becoming each day.

8)      There is help available.

Maybe you have an awesome school counselor or a professional counselor who is working with you. I hope that you do. But if not, someone from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to talk. Call 1-800-273-TALK.

9)      Suicide is a lousy form of revenge.

One of the criticisms of 13 Reasons Why is that it paints suicide as the ultimate form of revenge against people who might have made your life miserable. But here is the thing I have noticed about suicide: In six months, only your loved ones will remember and miss you. Suicide isn’t going to make mean people nice, and it’s not going to make them remember you more fondly. Your tormentors will have moved on to someone else. And you will still be dead.

10)  The world is bigger than where you are now.

One thing I have seen in loved ones is that despair and sadness and depression can trick us into believing that our worlds are very small. As we deal with our problems, we interact less and less with others. We go fewer places. We see less to be excited about. But the world is a huge, sprawling, fascinating place. Push yourself to enjoy it and learn about it- and share it with others. Even on dark days, there is much beauty to embrace.

11)  Oreos. And Pringles. And Ice Cream

I know that obesity and diabetes aren’t going to do anything for anyone. But a scoop of ice cream or a simple piece of chocolate or a cookie, in moderation, sure can make life seem a little more worth living. Indulge a little.

12)  There are many things left to learn and master. 

Despair cruelly tells us that life is boring – that there is nothing left to enjoy. Do you know how to play guitar? Speak Mandarin? Repair a carburetor? Do you know every 1990s rap song that ever was on the Top 100 charts? Find something that excites you and learn it. Odds are good that no matter what you want to know, you can learn almost everything you need to know just from researching online.

13)  Suicide becomes your legacy.

When we are gone, one of the things that lives on is the memories of us. We all will be remembered in some way by others. We might be remembered as a really generous friend, or a dutiful son or daughter. We might be freakishly good at a video game or we might know a lot about history or a sport. But when a suicide happens, the decision to commit suicide often has the effect of overtaking our legacy. We aren’t as likely to be remembered for the kind things we did, or how much we knew about a given topic, or even the color of our eyes. We are remembered for the ugly, incredibly final decision to end our life.



Mother’s Day is Coming (And I’m Terrified)



Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I will admit I am already feeling more than a little jittery about the whole thing.

In my own little family, the past few Mother’s Days have been one horror show after another. One year, a stomach bug hit three of us mid-day. Another year, my oldest child was recovering from a nasty concussion. Last year, one of my children had a harrowing emergency surgery on what was supposed to be my big day. Another time, there was a nasty case of conjunctivitis that just refused to die a final death.

My husband is irrationally apologetic about this series of bad luck. He, kindly, as the father of my children, feels a certain responsibility to make the day extra-special. (He’s a good one.)

And yet the truth is, I have had a cursed relationship with this day since well before I became a mother. And maybe you have, too.

Pain for myself, pain for others

After two miscarriages, I know what it’s like to live through Mother’s Day gripped with fear that I would never be a mother.

I also know the pain my own mom endured each year on the holiday, when talk always, somehow, seemed to turn to discussions of labor and delivery – an experience that she did not know and never would.

I’ve also spent the day wondering about my biological mother – worried that she was feeling pain or guilt for her decision to give me up for adoption when she was just 19 and recognized that she wasn’t fully equipped to give me the life she felt I both needed and deserved. At the same time, I also worried that my mom wasn’t wondering about me – that she wasn’t alive or maybe that she was but never thought about me at all.

This is the first Mother’s Day where I know how to reach my biological mother. I know a bit more now about how she feels. I thought this would help, somehow – being able to know that she is OK and that she knows I have a good life. It helps, a little, but my heart continues to break for the pain I now know she has shouldered through the decades.

I think about my friends who are without their mother for the first time this year. No matter how old their mothers were when they passed away, there is a tremendous sense of loss – sometimes for the loss of what was, and sometimes for the mourning of things that never were.

Relationships Lost

Several of my friends have moms who are with them in body only – their minds and spirits mostly lost, long ago, to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, addiction or mental illnesses. These friends often don’t know how to speak about their mothers – or how to explain their relationship with this day, which is supposed to be chock full of love, admiration, chocolate, sappy sayings, flowers, greeting cards, and mani-pedis (or at least that’s what the marketing folks tell us).

Someone I know recently lost their adult child quite suddenly, in the middle of a weekend that was intended to be one of mighty celebration. It’s a tragedy that is so horrific I almost feel I can’t speak the details of it aloud. I have no idea how she will survive this Mother’s Day, or almost any day, really. I have no words to salve that sort of pain. (And at the same time, I know that, astoundingly, inexplicably, she will survive. We women tend to do that.)

Other mothers I know have children that aren’t with them for one reason or another. Some are separated by distance – sometimes geographical, sometimes emotional. Things happen. Life is hard and tends to gunk us up inside. Relationships suffer along the way.

Most of us know the pain of being disappointed in and hurt by our mothers or by other mother-like figures in our lives. It’s a pain that is hard to get over – a primal sort of wound.

You are Not Alone

So this weekend, as my little family tries to shatter this Mother’s Day curse – not just for me but for all of us – I will choose to keep expectations low. I will be thankful for the goodness of the last year. I will enjoy my children and husband for who they are now, in all of their beauty and honesty and glaring imperfection. We will keep things simple.

I will remember those who are hurting, and I will accept, as best I can, that life is breathtakingly beautiful, but also far more ugly and complex than any Hallmark card – or Instagram photo – can possibly express.

I hope it’s a good day – or at least a tolerable one – for ALL of us.

But if it’s not, know, at least, that you are most definitely not alone.





Is social media making us more lonely?


What social media seems to offer, on the surface, is a steady, round-the-clock escape from loneliness.

Facebook, particularly, is a tool that we can pick up at any time and use to connect with others. Even at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday, someone we know is likely to be online, posting and commenting, liking, replying, and poking (whatever the heck that means).

We experience these interactions – with our neighbor from third grade or our Biology I lab partner, or our favorite co-worker from our second job, and the stabs of loneliness fade.

Sounds like utopia, right?

But despite all our efforts to avoid it, discomfort can actually be a good thing. When we feel emotional pain, it’s a sign that we need to make changes. ASocial-Media-Marketing-Strategyvoiding it can even be dangerous.

Inward and Outward

I’ve moved several times through the years, both as a single person and with family. Most of these moves happened before social media was widespread. Each move was somehow simultaneously exhilarating and heartbreaking.

Loneliness was a big part of my discomfort.

And through that echoing loneliness, I did two things: first, I looked inward, and then, I pushed outward.

Looking inward, and being a spiritual person, loneliness pushed me to do my own internal work. I prayed and thought more about my purpose. I processed why I was lonely and what it meant.

I taught myself to be more comfortable being alone, and to really understand the crazy, quirky, messy person that I am. I learned to enjoy museums, movie theaters, restaurants, and festivals by myself. This is a gift to myself that I continue to enjoy, and it’s one I have tried to encourage my children to develop, too.

Inevitably, after I turn inward, loneliness next has the effect of pushing me to reach out and make stronger, healthier connections and to build my community.

An Introvert’s Struggle

A disclaimer is probably needed here: I am a classic introvert. I absolutely adore meaningful, deep conversations and find them energizing.

But I loathe the small talk and getting-to-know-you exercises of an early friendship. The older I get, the more I find that I despise having to tell my story over and over. I get frustrated when people try to put me in a box, especially if that box is inaccurately labeled.

Reaching out to others can be messy, weird, and exhausting, and there are definitely risks involved.

Inviting someone to invest their time meeting face-to-face with you can be awkward, especially if the friendship is a new one. We also run the risk of getting together and realizing there really isn’t a strong connection, and having to manage the disappointment and all around weirdness of that.

This is probably why, looking back, some of the most meaningful connections I’ve made in my life have come because I got really uncomfortable.

Sitting with Loneliness

Earlier this week, I had an experience that made me feel isolated. It was the first time I’ve felt that way in a long time – possibly even since we made our move back to Mississippi almost two years ago.

I was tempted to immediately distract myself with social media – to push the pain away. But instead, I chose to fully feel and accept the punches to the gut that loneliness can throw. I squirmed in my seat. I got a little angry. I even shed a few hot tears.

I sat with this feeling until it faded – or at least became tolerable.

Today, I’ve made some simple efforts to reach out and to enrich some old and new connections. (Ironically, I used social media to do the initial reaching out, but texting or calling or knocking on doors would have been just as effective.)

I’ll still be on social media plenty. But I will be using it more to make real, face-to-face connections, instead of being lulled into thinking that I don’t have that need.

Is it More Blessed to Receive than Give? (Maybe?)


Ask me if it’s important to serve others – especially those who are most in need – and you will get an enthusiastic “yes.” (I might even throw in an awkward fist pump or a half clap if I’m still riding my morning caffeine high.)

This is especially true if we are talking about giving our time to help highly vulnerable populations – like children and families who are homeless, migratory, or living in extreme poverty.

But ask me if I believe that I should allow others to serve me, and I will absolutely agonize over my answer.

Realistically, I know that in order for the whole giving and receiving formula to work, we have to have both people willing to serve and people willing to accept acts of service.

This week, as we struggled with the day-to- day logistics of caring for an active 13-year- old who is on crutches, my husband and I were forced to realize we needed help. While we could figure out how to transport her to school in the morning, it was far more difficult to get away from work in time to pick her up from school each day.

As our stress levels spiked, I sensed the lesson I was being pushed to learn: “ask for help. There are people who would consider it a gift to help you – and to get to know your kids better. Don’t deny them that.” One part of my brain recognized that this might be true – that there are plenty of people who, like me, love getting to know young people and connecting with families.

And yet, I quickly canceled out that message. “I don’t want to be so reliant. I want to fix this problem using the resources I have. I don’t want people to think I can’t take care of my own responsibilities. These are my kids. It’s my responsibility to give them everything they need.”

So instead of just asking for help like a normal person, I posted on our neighborhood social media, looking for a college student or other adult who might be interested in getting paid to drive my daughter home from school each day.

Immediately after I made the post, people were responding on the page – and also texting and private messaging me – that they didn’t realize my need and would be happy to help, as long as I didn’t insist on actually paying them.

Walking into work with my phone buzzing with messages offering immediate assistance, I couldn’t help but get teary eyed.

For someone who insisted they didn’t need unpaid help, I sure was mighty thankful to get it.

We now have a plan for the remaining 2.5 weeks of school that will get my girl (and her 981,407-pound backpack!) to and from school safely.

A part of me still feels compelled to apologize to the people who will be helping. I can’t seem to stop saying – and thinking – things like, “I’m sorry.” “Thanks so much – I really wish we didn’t need this.” “We definitely owe you a favor in return one day.” “We need to have Matt make you guys a nice dinner really soon.”

Deep down, it’s eating at me – this feeling that I am incurring a debt. Or that I’m being needy. I worry I will take more than is intended. Or maybe I will be a less appealing friend, somehow, because of my need. The friendship bank ledger will be thrown out of balance.

My daughter – who unfortunately seems to have inherited my obsession with emotional bank ledgers – is saying the same things, “That’s so nice. We should get them something to thank them really soon.” “I feel bad that people have to stop their lives to come and pick me up.” “We really do need to repay their favor.”

Even though we are trying, I know we will continue to struggle with accepting this generosity. But when we do struggle – and when we are tempted to apologize profusely for having a need that we certainly didn’t plan – we will try our best to stop and remember the times we have helped others.

We will recall these times, not because we think those acts of service make us more worthy of today’s extra support, but to remember how much being able to help others has enriched our lives. We are better, happier, more connected people because of the acts of service that we have done.

We also will work very hard to remember that when we choose to accept help, we are choosing to have relationships with others – and to allow those relationships to blossom. In accepting what others give, we will be saying yes to connection and community, while resisting isolation.

We will do our best to smile, accept the assistance, and hope that the people who are helping feel that same sense of joy, connection and meaning that we have.

Then, because we are still works in progress, we we will probably insist on cooking them a nice dinner to say thank-you just one more time.


The Perils of Being “Extra” (And Why It’s So Worth It)


There was a time when I thought surely the biggest test of friendship was finding people who would stick with me during difficult times. And fairly early on, I counted myself lucky because I’d already found those people.

But one of the most painful truths of my adult life has probably been that it’s not the challenging times that make friends hard to find – it’s the good ones.

The times when I’ve been struggling to adjust to a move? Agonizing over a seemingly stalled career? The times when I had difficulty conceiving children or when I worried that I would never have a strong, sane, mature relationship with my aging parents? Friends were easy to find then. In fact, people seemed to flock to me at every turn as though I was the crazed, stressed, tragic Pied Piper of Friends.

But some people I’ve counted as friends have made themselves far more scarce during the times when things were going especially well. The hardest times to find friends have been when I was celebrating getting accepted to my doctorate program, or when I wrote my first book, or, more recently, when I finally seemed – for one fleeting moment on a Tuesday afternoon in February – to have achieved the ultimate in work-life balance.

Those otherwise fabulous moments can be lonely. People who you expected to support you might suddenly view your happy turn of events as the perfect time for them to proclaim why they would never, ever make the same choices. (“I would never get a doctorate. It’s a waste of money and you won’t get a good return on your investment, even if you are getting the degree for free.” “Working outside the home wouldn’t work for me. I don’t agree with having other people raise my kids.” “I used to want to write books. Then I realized no one reads them anymore.”)

Now that I’m in my forties, I’ve come to terms with this foul weather friend reality. I have a ridiculously small but mighty circle of folks that will celebrate wildly with me on the good days. And, I’ve learned that the people who struggle to be happy for me in the rosiest of times are grappling with obstacles inside of them that have nothing at all to do with me.

And, I kind of get it. Like guacamole, I just really am kind of , well, extra. I bet you are pretty darned extra, too.

These days, it’s watching the young people in my life grappling with their extra-ness that has me feeling a little sad and frustrated.

I see the young lady who has learned to make Bs instead of As so that the boys in her life won’t deem her too much of an academic; the young mom who is hesitant to fully resign herself to the sheer giddiness of early motherhood because she is afraid that her other mom friends aren’t quite as consumed. There are boys who don’t try as hard as they might – at school or at Scouting or at archery or golf – all because they don’t want to be accused of doing – and even being – too much.

I’ve seen one woman close to me try to desperately hide how extra she really is at work. She truly thought if she didn’t act quite as intelligent – or if she wasn’t quite as thin – or perhaps if she didn’t speak with quite so much conviction – she would have friends who stuck with her in all things. But as she tried to meet the tiny expectations of others, her own self withered.

You are never going to be anything other than “extra” to someone who has a small sense of their own capacities. Be extra – as extra as guacamole. And savor every moment of it like crazy!







When a Lack of Time Makes Us People We Don’t Like


My 13-year-old daughter and I are usually a fast-moving pair, weaving in and out of large crowds with ease. But right now, we move slowly and painfully, as she labors to learn to maneuver life on crutches after severely spraining – and possibly fracturing – her ankle.

Being forced to move at a painfully slow pace in public spaces teaches you a lot of lessons about yourself – and about others, too.

From the bookstore to the grocery store to the local coffee shop, there are two very different types of people we encounter, as my five-foot-nine seventh-grader slings herself forward, slowly and steadily, clanking along on her steely silver crutches.

Many people who encounter us have an empathy that absolutely radiates. They study my girl’s pained, methodical movement, wincing along with her.

They pepper her with questions as they shoot her brave smiles. “What happened, sweetie?” they want to know. Some of them shift their attention to me, too. They see me, hawkishly scanning the path ahead of her for any sign of danger – including perils like toddling children, barely visible pockets of water, or carelessly strewn scraps of trash. “It’s hard to watch your child on crutches, isn’t it?” they ask understandingly.

They tell my girl stories – of their foot surgery, or of some pesky body part that just doesn’t quite behave. The stories are sometimes unnerving, but they still make us feel encouraged, somehow. Others bring their spirituality to share, adding, “I’m sorry. We will pray for you. It’s hard. Hang in there”

Then, there is a very different pack of people. These are the ones who give us darting sideways glances, and then quickly turn their carts, cutting us off so they do not have to be stalled by us. Some are so frantic to beat us that they even risk bumping my girl’s shaky ankle, as they quickly shift directions. Others go so far as to drag their young children in front of us, using them as shields to cut us off.

While the first group of people eagerly seeks out our eyes, this second group works hard to avoid our gazes. They pretend they don’t see us – because if they do, then they might have to slow to our pace – to allow us in front of them, or even to (horror of horrors!) offer assistance.

It’s tempting to rage at this second group of people – especially when their shopping carts or racing feet come too close to my fragile, teetering girl. “Have some compassion!” I want to yell. “Don’t be a jerk. You’re about to hurt my child!”

And then I remember how quickly my girl and I were moving in the very same places just a week ago. I recall how we, too, zig-zagged wildly in and out of identical store aisles, frantically grabbing lunch or dinner items before dashing off to some sports or band practice – or maybe (cringe) even to church. If we saw the needy faces of others in those hurried moments, we pretended not to notice. We were, we felt, on more “important” missions.

I don’t want to fall into this frantic, self-obsessed sort of behavior. And yet, all too often, this is exactly where I land.

I see – now more than ever – that in our family we behave well when we have margin in our life – extra time to get where we need to be and to accomplish what’s necessary.

But in those too-common moments when that cushion of extra time has disappeared from us? We often act exactly like all those frantic, shifty-eyed cart pushers, steeling ourselves against the struggles of others and using our carts as time-saving weapons.

How might we do better?

How do we focus on others when we don’t feel we have time to give? How can we create enough margin in our daily schedules so we aren’t at risk of missing opportunities to show kindness and empathy to people who may be struggling mightily?

And, when we still don’t have the time, how do we fight the urge to think our schedule is more important? How do we beat back our fears about being late and what it means?

How do we make the time for kindness – to fear missing an opportunity to help more than anything? And how do we behave – even when we are busy – like we always, always have enough time for people in the most need?

True generosity means we give when we have little to share. I want to love and share with others in ways that are wildly extravagant. Loving people with the time I’m given is an absolute calling – and it’s most important to give when we have the least.

I’m not there, yet. But with grace and the help of others (always), it’s a place I hope to increasingly move.

Welcome to Monique Writes All

Life is hard.

And beautiful.

And, if we are honest, sometimes downright ridiculous.

Often, one of the things that can make our lives even more absurd is the lack of authenticity in the world around us. From social media to the workplace to our families, it’s sometimes tempting to put a spin on everything we say and do. We might not talk about “real” things, and we tend to drift through our day to day, not connecting authentically with the people around us.

This, I hope, can be a place where we can talk about life – in all its magnificent, ridiculous, beauty and madness. It’s a place where I hope we can think about parenting – and about how to connect with our aging parents, too. Being an educator, I also expect to share stories about what I’m learning as a lifelong teacher and student of life. It’s a place to reflect on spirituality – and the crazy questions that we might have, too.

I hope Monique Writes is a place where you can feel encouraged, inspired, and a little more connected – both to others and to your day-to-day.

If you like the sound of this, I hope you will subscribe by email, and share this blog with your friends. If you have ideas about what you’d like to see here, I hope you will share that, too.