The Girls We Once Were

I remember us. Do you?

Young and beautiful and free.

Dancing, and jumping and twirling and laughing.

Do you remember that time we drew a circle of onlookers as we showed our skills on the makeshift stage at the roller rink?

Do you remember the time we played in the dark, hiding from the neighbor boys in a game that could have lasted all night?

Do you remember the time we rode our bikes to the drugstore and bought sodas and felt so grown up?

Do you remember the night we swam and ran on the beach at what seemed like midnight, but was really just past dark?

Do you remember when we earned those high scores after flipping and leaping and spinning till we hurt?

Do you remember when we planned snacks to share in class, with our teacher just shaking his head at us?

Do you remember when we planned for you to go to school with me in the 3rd grade and somehow pulled it off?

Do you remember when we worse sweats and ponytails because we didn’t care what anyone thought?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that friendships could end?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that our loved ones could be lost?

Do you remember when we believed we could do anything?

I remember us. Do you?

But we were told we might get hurt. We learned that scary things came in the dark. We learned that our bodies could fail us. We learned that people could hurt us. We learned that there were limits. We learned that friends moved on or away. We learned that those we love could be gone in a moment.

We learned there were limits. And we shrank back.

But only for a time.

We learned that hurt could make us stronger. We learned that we could be the light in the dark. We learned that our bodies could give life. We learned that we could love deeper than we ever thought. We learned that friendship can last years and miles. We learned that our memories can last.

We learned that the limits were meant to be broken through.

And now…

The girls we once were look so much like the women we are now.

I remember us. Do you?

 

{My post is dedicated to the beautiful girls who have become even more beautiful women who helped shape my life.}

This post is part of Story Sessions’ The Girls We Once Were linkup. I was inspired by the words there, and wanted to join. Read more of them, or add your own.

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We Live

The first day of a new year is one I typically love.  I love fresh starts and clean slates.  I love to start the year with an organized house, new plans, fresh calendars and renewed hope.

I’ve spent the last few days considering how to participate in one of the many challenges happening by authors and leaders I follow.  Do I make goals around my blog, my speaking ‘career’, family time, projects I volunteer with, health and fitness… so many choices, and so many things I’d truly like to focus on in the few spare minutes I have after the must do’s that include my job, my commute, showering, brushing teeth, etc.  (Incidentally, no one has gotten on board with me skipping some of those).  What do I make my one word of the year?

But I’m back in that stuck place, of waiting to see if Michael gets better or worse, and feeling on hold.  His sister and her family are visiting us too, which should be a great time, but isn’t what it should be since he’s not well enough to spend more than a few minutes at a time with them.

And in my holding pattern, it finally hit me.  My goal for 2014 is to not wait.  Not wait on resolutions, or timing, or feeling right.  Not to feel like I am constantly waiting on something to enjoy life.  This is the life we have.  And I love it.

There are things I’m praying will change- we ask God continuously to bring my brother home.  We ask God continuously to bring healing to Michael.  We will never stop.

But we also live.

So this year, I want to live in the moments we have, not waiting for better times.  These are the times we have.

And there are too many splendid things to keep waiting on something more.

Wishing you and your family the 2014 you hope for.

~Anita~

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The Season Of Joy- And Hurt

I rarely have the right words to say.  So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing.  I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often.  Not proud of that, just fact.

But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out.  I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.

So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips.  Why now?

Because it’s the start of the season of Joy.  But also the season of great loss and sorrow.

Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone.  Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else.  Or may be healing from heartbreak.  There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.

My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :

1.  Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.

2.  When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one.  You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen.  Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.

3.  Don’t ask if someone needs help.  If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need.  They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so.  Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them.  Don’t ask, just do.

4.  Give something personal and meaningful.  Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.

5.  Don’t offer religious catch phrases.  Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  (Great article about that here).

6.  Invite them but don’t push them.  Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready.  But they also may just need to be asked and loved.

7.  Enjoy your family.  No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.

8.  Don’t remind them that it will get better.  It doesn’t help and they probably already know that.  But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.

9.  Encourage.  Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.

10.  Pray.  It works.

With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy.  But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others.  And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.

I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.

 

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Aunt Cathy’s Dressing

After 12 years of marriage, something is happening for the first time that makes me sweat.  I’m hosting a meal for part of my husband’s family.  His sister and her family are coming to visit, and we’re really looking forward to it.  We don’t get much time with his family- with them several states away and the great difficulty we have with traveling, it’s very rare.  So spending time with them at all is special, but getting to share our home with them makes it even more so.  And did I mention it’s for Thanksgiving?  So feeling auntcathy_dressingsome pressure.

My first stop for help was my Aunt Cathy.  She’s a great cook, but in particular does the.best.dressing. every year- I asked her to send the recipe, and instead of emailing or sending a message, she took the time to hand write it and stick it in the mail, along with a recipe for gravy.  It’s in her handwriting, and something I’ll pull out and use year after year for as long as I cook.  It’s more than a recipe, more than instructions- it’s our family history.

About ten years ago, before I even realized how much our family history meant, or knew that I’d soon be missing loved ones every holiday, my Aunts and Mom knew.  We spent hours writing in recipe books, sharing our favorites with each other in our own handwriting.  I didn’t cook a lot- and still don’t honestly.  But now I pull that book out and find extended family favorites that have become our favorites too, and feel the connection.

I see my grandmother’s handwriting- sharing her potato soup, vanilla nut cookies, and surprise lemon cake.  Recipes she used with her family of 6, that she then passed on.

She’s gone now.  But the written words and legacy are an ongoing gift.

I see my mom’s recipes for things that Austin and I grew up with as favorites, and remember.  And I make them for our family now.

I’ve tucked my Aunt’s recgrandma_cakeipes into that book, and have decided to start building it again.  This year, my brother-in-law will be preparing some of their favorite things too.  And I’ll add those into our book.

I’m realizing that our traditions can continue to grow, and despite missing people at our table this year, we can celebrate those gathering at our table for the first time.

I’m thankful that there are plenty of empty pages left in the book to be filled in.  I’ll always look back to the special recipes written in my grandmother, aunts and mom’s handwriting.

But I’ll keep building new memories too, that can become my kids family history.

What are the traditions that you’ll honor this year?  What will you do new?  I can’t wait to hear!

The Help Experiment

A few weeks ago I learned about a leadership team being formed to start something BIG.  I wanted in.

The Help Experiment: We are a collective of individuals joining together to help others. We do it because we can, we do it because we should, and we do it because we think… you would too.  That was the vision of the man behind the project, Jon Levesque.  He is passionate about this, and assembled a team who is as well.

It’s the early days, but what has already happened?

People are offering help.  People are being helped.

In small ways and big.  People who thought they had nothing to offer have realized that their skills and talents are valuable and needed.  There have been offers of logo design, health and fitness coaching, baked goods, meals delivered, Christmas cards designed, Christmas gifts for kids in need, and many more.  We have seen people who needed encouragement and to believe that people care find that.  We’ve seen people who needed to realize that they have an important gift to give find those who are so grateful.

I truly believe we’ll start to see lives changed.

If you’ve read much of mine, you already know I can get on a soapbox about ‘DO SOMETHING!’ when there is a need, vs. something that makes you feel good but truly helps no one.  This is my chance to be more action than words, to not just fill a need, but to help give you, my friends, the opportunity to do something meaningful, however big or small.

Check it out- the website including stories of lives impacted will be launching soon- but amazing things are already happening on the Facebook page.  Click over, join, and look for yourself.  There’s no risk, no commitment, just come see…. I think you’ll stick around.

This month we’re reminded of how much we have to be thankful for and how much we have.  Now, it’s time to give.

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Why I love Halloween

When I was little, I wanted to be a monkey.  Not for Halloween, but all the time.  Olympic gymnast was a long time dream.  Then I hoped to be a marine biologist, then a psychologist, followed by working in sports administration, which after a long round about path through event planning, non-profit management and fundraising, has eventually led to me to work in software.  If you look at my path from what I wanted to do to where I am, it would seem that I’m off track.  But if you truly followed the steps, you’d see that each step led to another in a meaningful way that eventually led me to a something that I never knew I wanted to do but fits so well with my skills and desires.  And it took a lot of people to help me get there.

I think that’s what I love about this week.  We can all go back to the days of dreaming about what we want to be, and for one night a year, we open our doors to strangers who trick or treat and greet each other with smiles, helping the dream feel real.  We’re cautious as we drive, watching for firemen, princesses and superheros in our sights. We pretend to be braver and stronger.

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We encourage dreaming.  We reward creativity.

As we grow up, we often give up on dreaming.  We forget who we wanted to be.  We forget how to dream big and we stop believing that we can be brave and strong.

What did you dream of when you were little?

Maybe I can’t really become a monkey or reach the Olympics.  Okay, I definitely can’t.  But I can remember the dreams and find elements of myself that maybe I’d lost. I can use the help of those around me, who encourage my dreams and see the possibilities.

What are your dreams now?

Watch this week- the kids who dream of being something different, the parents who encourage the creativity, the friends who open their doors and reward all of those.

Let’s recapture that.  Dream big this week, but don’t throw the dream off at the end of the week.

Our Land

Today I have the HONOR of sharing about our life and vision of a world where we know people are trying their best, on a site I {love}, Finding Ninee.  Kristi is the writer, mom and friend extraordinaire behind the site, and the much loved ‘Our Land of Empathy and Wonder’ series.

I shared from my heart, in a way just raw enough to make me uncomfortable, but sometimes uncomfortable is good.

Please join me in ‘Our Land’  

 

And if you’re visiting from Finding Nineee, thank you and welcome!  To read a bit more about our family and journey, here are a few good places to start:

The Roller Coaster Ride

Choosing Joy

The Baseball Mom Rules

 

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Kindness Week

You know how you meet people every once in a blue moon that you know God connected you with to be the encouragement you need?  About a month ago, I had that experience, and have been amazed by the words that this new friend shares, but not just with me.  You should get in on this.

This week she is INSPIRING! us to be part of Kindness Week.

Her family {some clearly cool fabulous people} has been thinking up projects to do all week to just plain share kindness with people around them.  They’ve put a lot of prayer, thought, time, and even $ into this.  I’m already excited for the people they meet who get to be the receivers, but even more so to hear how this impacts her {already super cool} family.

I’m doing some brainstorming on my own of what Kindness Week looks like in our home, but it started yesterday with our family helping to serve a lunch to some VIP’s in our life.

Check out her words, and let us both know if you plan to join us, and what Kindness looks like in your home!

 

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Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

I had the chance to share this very important post on another site today (though it was written weeks ago)- it’s one I feel so strongly about, and hope that you’ll read and share.  It’s originally posted on Time’s Up Blog and I invite you to visit there to read more.  Though more than a month has past since this tragedy, we can’t forget.

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Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

 

by Anita Davis Sullivan

Saturday, June 22nd, I think you could hear our corner of Florida wail. It wasn’t the first time that something tragic has happened, but it was fresh and raw. Many of awoke that Saturday morning to reports of the abduction of 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle the previous night. Shortly after, we learned that Donald Smith, the prime suspect, had been arrested during a traffic stop, with no sign of Cherish. And a very short time later, we learned that the body of 8 year old Cherish had been found, near the Walmart she was abducted from.

Within moments, there were questions. Why had the mother allowed the child to go with a man they had known for just a few hours? Why had the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office not alerted the public sooner that there was a child abduction? Why did the FDLE not notify the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which would have prompted the phone alerts for the Amber Alert?  Why had Donald Smith seemingly fallen through the cracks and not been treated as a Sexually Violent Predator as recommended by the Department of Children and Families 11 years ago?

I don’t know. No one has the answers yet.

And though I pray they come, and that other children may be saved by what our community learns through this tragic event, my focus quickly turned to how we can help those here now. I heard from parents who sat and talked with their children about ‘Stranger Danger’ or watched them ever closer this weekend. I heard from one mother who had the heartbreaking job of telling her 8 year old daughter that her good friend Cherish was forever gone.

And though we must teach our children, I fear that we teach them the wrong things too often. The real danger is not in strangers- even Cherish was taken and killed by someone who gained her mother’s trust, albeit in a few short hours. But it’s estimated that less than 5% of attacks on children are by a stranger.

We must focus on teaching our children what is appropriate behavior, and how to trust their instincts.

June 26, 2013 marked the six year anniversary of the day that my brother, Michael “Austin” Davis went missing from Jacksonville, Florida. He was an adult, and most likely wasn’t abducted. But from this experience sometimes comes a need to protect my children even more. To make sure that our family doesn’t lose another. So I do teach them, not to be afraid, but to:

  • Know what kind of touching is appropriate and inappropriate, and that it’s okay to say “No!” and get away from anything that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Know who we consider safe grownups are. These are the people in our circle that they should be able to trust. But always reminding them, that it’s okay to say “No!” to even these people if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Know that they never have to protect us. If someone threatens us if they don’t do what the person says, they don’t have to do it.
  • Get permission to go anywhere, and stay in groups.
  • Never help an adult without our permission. It can be a trick.

In six years of missing my brother, we’ve also had to deal with the question of how much to tell our oldest, who celebrated his 4th birthday just two days before his Uncle Austin went missing. No matter if it’s a lost family member or a lost friend, children grieve and need help doing so.

Here are my tips on helping your child through a time of loss:

  • Let them see your emotions.
  • It’s okay for them to know you’re sad, as it let’s them know it’s okay for them to be sad too.
  • Encourage them to share memories of their loved one.
  • Create a scrapbook or box of memories that they can look through and remember their loved one. Allow them to participate in adding to it. For example, my son has a great memory of my brother taking him fishing. I’d forgotten about it, but he hasn’t.
  • Communicate with caregivers.
  • Let teachers or caregivers know that your child may experience out of the norm behaviors as they cope with this. Let your child know they can talk to these adults in their lives about what they’re feeling.
  • Share stories with your kids.
  • Tell stories about the lost loved one as your kids grow, reminding them how much the person loved them, or would have loved seeing them grow. Keep them alive in the heart of the family, giving your kids a feeling of roots and love. My sons have limited family in their lives, but I always want them to know the love of family.
  • Be honest on a level they can understand.
  • When my brother was first missing, we didn’t know what to tell our son. We didn’t want to lie, but we don’t really know the truth. We don’t know where he is. We’ve come to realize that it’s okay to say “we don’t know but we won’t give up until we do” and keep the brutal details from him (like that we believe he killed himself). As he’s gotten older, we’ve added more details but always the truth as he could understand and cope with it.

There are no simple answers on how to keep your kids safe, or how to help them through a loss like this. Just as there are no easy answers on why this tragedy happened.

But on this anniversary of my brother’s disappearance, I do know that I can help educate parents, who truly just want to keep their kids safe.

Rest in peace Cherish. You will not be forgotten.

Brave Women

I want to whine today.  My back hurts, my foot hurts, I’m tired, I have too much to do and too little time.  My son is in the Bahamas, with a tropical storm expected before he leaves.  I’m traveling all next week for work, when I’d really like a vacation.  (and yes, that was all kind of whiny)

But, you know what?

My friend was diagnosed with Lymphoma yesterday, and talks with an Oncologist for the first time today.  She is younger than me.  She has young kids.  She has a husband, and a job, and a life, and plans for next week and next month and next year.  But she’s taking a detour.  Today, she’s learning what the plan is, and for the next several months it will be about the fight.  She’s only had about 12 hours to process it.  And she’s cried.  But she’s strong and she knows she’ll beat it.  And have no question- I also believe she’ll kick it’s ass.  But today?  Today sucks.  Big time.

And then there is this.

The three young women who were held captive for years in Ohio, and were just freed two months ago (read my original post about it here) have released the video statement below.  They are showing us that you can walk through hell and not just make it out alive, but do it “with a smile on my face.”  Take 2 minutes and watch.  They are the face of hope.

So today, I will whine {less} and hopefully we can be inspired together by these brave women. 

All four of them, including my friend.