Forgive and then give anyway

A few years ago I was betrayed by a friend, a very good friend and fellow woman student affairs professional. The truth is, I am not over it yet. She really, really hurt me. She betrayed me in an underhanded way. It was behind-the-scenes and it impacted not just me, but my job, my family, and our living situation. After months of not speaking about it, she finally broke the ice and contacted me. We met in a public place. I could not trust myself to be alone with her. I needed the safety of other people. So I wouldn’t lash out at her, so I wouldn’t cry, and so I wouldn’t jump on the “it’s okay” bandwagon that women so easily do when they have been wronged by others. She apologized. Sort of. She made excuses. She said she didn’t really know why she did what she did. She hoped that I would forgive her. When I was ready, she would be there waiting for me and we could pick up where we left off. (That’s not a real apology, but that is a post for another time.)

That was four years ago. Four years that I have let this hurt eat away at me. I have let it have power over me. I have let it change me.

I know I need to forgive her. I’ve written about that before. (See here) I haven’t forgiven her. Not completely. The wounds that she created cut deep and the scars are still fresh. However, as a result of some positive experiences I have had this summer, I feel I am closer to forgiving her than I have ever been.

A colleague (whom I have never actually met in real life but whom I feel I know thanks to Twitter and Facebook!) created a summer reciprocity group. Basically, it is women from all over the country, getting together virtually (some IRL) and submitting pitches. Your pitch is a call to action, an “ask.” You submit your ask and then anyone within the reciprocity group can comment with suggestions, tips, names of people to contact, resources to share. It has been AWESOME. The pitches have ranged from “please help me with my website” to “I want a career change” and the level of time and care that has gone into the responses has been the same, regardless of the ask. In our “free time” women are helping other women get what they want. We are all helping each other get where we want to go. There is camaraderie and genuine interest. The level of advice has even gone beyond the week of your pitch. People are continually posting articles, video clips, helpful tips, and resources, myself included. All free of charge, only asking that when it is your turn, someone will do the same for you.

This summer reciprocity ring has been the exact opposite of what I experienced four summers ago at the hands of another woman who used to be my friend.

As part of the ring, we have “Thankful Tuesdays” and “Flaunt it Fridays.” These are opportunities to thank someone, whether in the group or not, and chances to brag about progress you have made. Yesterday someone posted that they were grateful for…


Me? Sarcastic, sassy, too loud, not put together, abrasive, aggressive, east-coast me?

Yes, that one.

See, this summer, I have gotten back to my roots. I used to really love helping people. Helping them be their best. It’s why I chose student affairs as a profession, why I learned MBTI, why I used to volunteer and do community service. I am constantly reading articles or watching videos about interviewing, coaching, etc. Somewhere in the last four years, I stopped sharing all of that and kept it to myself. As a result of my friend’s betrayal, I became bitter. I got a huge chip on my shoulder and decided that I would only help someone if: they helped me first, if there was something in it for me, if I got compensated in some way, if, if if.

I put a shell around myself to prevent further hurts. I put strings on my giving. 

Being part of the reciprocity ring has helped me stop doing that. And, I am having an absolute blast! I have been sharing all kinds of stuff, not because I think it is so great. I have been sharing because that’s what you do. Help others. Help them be their best. Give them information that is relevant to what they are looking for. If they use it or not, that’s up to them. But, give it anyway.

I am realizing that by not forgiving my friend, I have hurt only myself because I closed myself off to the great joy that comes from selflessly helping others and letting them help you. This group has helped chip away at that exterior. Thank you, Amma for including me.


Making New Memories, Five Years After

My #oneword2014 is risk. I took a huge personal risk by auditioning for the first-ever #MetroDetroit Listen to Your Mother show. I was hesitant to audition with a piece about childhood cancer. I was nervous that it was too serious, too sad. Our story is serious and sad. But it’s true and real. Our journey changed who I am and how I see myself as a mother. That is what LTYM is all about. Stories by, of, and about motherhood.

My risk paid off- I was accepted as a castmember and on May 4, 2014 I had the amazing honor and privilege of standing center stage and sharing my story. LTYM was one of the best experiences of my life. It helped me trust other women and other mothers. It helped me remember that there are good and kind people who will hold you when you need it. And, it gave me a boost of confidence as a writer.

Thank you to my amazing husband Sean for driving 85+ mph from MSU graduation to make it in time.

Thanks, Hubs!

Thanks, Hubs!

And thank you to my friends Heather and Kelley for cheering me on.

Thanks to my cheering section!

Thanks to my cheering section!

The official LTYM You-Tube videos will post later this summer. Eek! Until then, this is the full text of my piece. Thank you for reading.

Making New Memories, Five Years After

“On December 12, 2008, our three year old son Luke was diagnosed with stage four cancer and our lives changed forever.

Many of my memories of diagnosis day are crystal clear:

the emergency ultrasound and MRI,

the ugly green sweater I was wearing,

meeting the oncology fellow who would be with us throughout Luke’s 15 months of treatment.

While my husband Sean played in the waiting room with Luke,

I somehow managed to sign paperwork giving strangers permission to pump my son full of poison,

in the hopes that the chemo would kill the rapidly growing cells inside his little body.

I remember holding Sean’s hand as he drove us home in the dark

and we wept in the deafening silence.

December 12, 2013 marked five years since our son’s cancer diagnosis. Like every year, it was a hard day. I just could not pull myself out of being angry and bitter.

The gray skies and snow on the ground are triggers.

The winter air in Michigan always smells the same

empty and raw.

Sean and I called each other a few times during the day. Family sent text messages saying they were thinking of us and sending good wishes.

Later that same night, Luke and his classmates performed “Betsy Ross and the First American Flag.”

Eighty-four second graders had been rehearsing since the second week of school. There was singing, dancing, and historical lessons about Betsy’s bravery and courage. Apparently, it was quite a coup to make a new flag that represented the new world!

Every single second grader had a speaking part and when Luke came up to the microphone to talk about Betsy buying blue ribbon for her flag, I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest.

I was bursting with pride.

Surely the mom next to me could hear my heart pounding and see my tears. I wonder if she was thinking, “Who is this woman? What an odd thing to be crying about! Betsy Ross isn’t really tear-worthy!”

As I was sitting there trying to film the square dancing and the Virginia reel, a different movie played in my mind. Snippets of the last five years kept flashing before me.

In the movies, photo montages are usually round and sepia.

Childhood cancer memories are jarring and unsettling.

I remember midnight trips to the ER, fevers, watching my baby lose his curly hair, MRIs and X-rays, bacterial infections, the list goes on and on and on.

I wanted everything to pause,

for the world to stop spinning for Just. One. Moment.

so that everyone in that smelly grade school gym could appreciate my skinny, angular boy and his fight against the odds.

I wanted to stand up and shout,



Do you see that boy in the middle?

That’s my son! My baby.

He is a CANCER survivor!

He is a cancer SURVIVOR!

You have no idea what he has been through! You have no idea how special this moment is!

As Luke’s mother, I know his beginning, his past, and our hopes for his future.

The audience could only see his present.

The farther out Luke gets from diagnosis and treatment, the less he remembers. I am learning that this is a good thing

and how it should be.

His eight year old mind and body have been through more than enough. If he copes by choosing what memories to keep, that is fine.

I will be his memory.

I will always have one eye on the past, remembering all he has endured and another eye on the future, hoping and praying that he continues to get good news.

Luke’s radiation oncologist once told me, “Your hopes and dreams for him aren’t gone. They’re just different.”

Truer words were never spoken.

December 12th will always, always be the day that our son was diagnosed with cancer.

But, it can also be one of the days that he moved on, that he sang and danced with his classmates,

just like an eight year old should.”

Snark is my sugar

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. As a Catholic Christian, Lent is an important time for me. It is a 40 day journey (47 if you count weekend days) toward Easter. It is a time to pray better, reflect more, and strive to end the journey different than when I started. I hope to have a stronger relationship with Christ as a result of this Lenten journey. I hope to have a stronger relationship with myself as a result of this Lenten journey.

Every year I start Lent with great enthusiasm. I actually love Ash Wednesday. I love getting ashes. I love that the ashes come from burning the palms used  on Palm Sunday the  previous year. The cyclical nature of the Church’s seasons is very comforting to me. Catholics also do symbols really well. I love the symbolism of the ashes- “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

In my circles (very small ones on Twitter and Facebook), there is talk about “what did you give up for Lent?” There are many great responses- eating out, cursing, sweets, caffeine, Facebook, sugar. I decided a few days ago that I was going to take a huge personal risk (Risk is my #oneword2014) and give up public postings of snark. For 47 days, I will try to make all of my public posts, wall comments, and tweets positive. I will not post sarcastic, snarky things in response to what I read.

This is a huge deal for me. Snark is my sugar. I love snark. I am addicted to snark. Snark is hard to resist. It feels so good going down.

I use snark to be funny and self-deprecating, to put others at ease, to feel smart. I used to think that my snark was justified because I am from the east coast, smart, and been through more than most of my peers. While these things may be true in my head, they do not matter to the outside world.

Several people whom I know and love have told me that I am direct. I thought this was a good thing. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. What you see is what you get. These are good things. In context. With people who know and love me and whom I know and love. Snark is not a good thing without the context of relationship.

I am slowly learning that snark is my shield, my armor, my way to strike first. It also creates distance. It puts the receiver on the defensive, or leaves them confused. That is the opposite of the impact that I want to have. This is the opposite of the impact that I do have with the students, colleagues, and friends who know me well.

Snark is my sugar. It is so, so good going down. But after a bit, the sugar high wears off and I get a headache.

So, this Lent, I am going to try really hard to give up snark. I am going to be honest and positive, not direct and snarky. I am going to challenge myself to start, endure, and finish Lent strong. I am taking a huge risk by doing this and by telling you all about it. I welcome and appreciate your love, prayers, and words of encouragement.