A Letter to My Children

 

Recently our country has erupted with news stories, staggering across the bottom of our tv screens, and finding their way into our news feeds, police brutality, another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman, Black Lives Matter rallies, violence against police. And my children have begun asking questions.

My eight year-old son Demetrius keeps asking me “ Mama, are they going to start segregation again?”

I have avoided his question for a long time. And I think the reason I’ve avoided it is because if I want to be honest, I have to answer him, “It never actually ended bud.”

 

And how do I begin to explain that dark history? How do I begin to explain that what they’ve taught him in school is not the whole story, or even an accurate portrayal of part of the story?

 

I feel super inadequate as a white woman, trying to communicate to my Black and American Indian son that the history of our country is full of darkness and oppression for his people.

 

Yet my avoiding his question, my unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and inadequate is problematic in this goal I’ve set to be a stone catcher. It speaks volumes of my privilege. So I am starting today, while sitting on the airport floor in Chicago, after binge listening to my hero Bryan Stevenson, I am feeling like I have to begin somewhere. So here is my letter to you Demetrius, and to all of my children:

 

D-D,
You know how we’ve been talking about what is going on in America, about why police have been shooting black people who didn’t have guns? You know how I’ve talked to you about how you need to act around police? You know how sometimes I yell at you when you loose your cool, and I start crying and I usually say something like, “Demetrius! If you act like that out there, you will get shot! You have got to learn NOW how to be respectful, because you don’t have the luxuries that Tre has.” And you always scream back at me, “That’s not fair!”

 

And you’re right!

It’s not fair.

 

And yet it is still true.

 

D-D, you keep asking me if they are going to start segregation again. But I want to tell you something. Something that th
ey haven’t told you in school, something that makes people uncomfortable. D-D, segregation hasn’t really gone away. We can call it different things now, it looks different than water fountains and schools. And yet it doesn’t at all. Because black people still don’t get the same water (Flint, Michigan) or the same access to education (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal ). And although we don’t have signs that hang outside of restaurants any more, we still have restaurants where you wouldn’t be served, just based on the color of your skin.

It’s awful. Really really awful.

 

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Here’s what I haven’t told you:

 

  1. There is a politics of fear and anger in America. Our leaders have fought to keep us afraid and angry for a long time. And when people are afraid and angry they will tolerate injustice, abuse, and cruelty. I don’t want you to be afraid and angry. I as your mom want to make sure you are a man full of hope. Because where there is hope, there is no longer a place for fear and anger. And then truth can reign. It is important that you, even as a little boy, begin to understand that identifying the ‘bad guy’ isn’t as clear as the news, our president, or your teacher makes it out to be. If we become afraid of a group of people, we will begin to make decisions that don’t represent our God.
  2. All people are equal. They aren’t treated equally though. And that is not what God wants. In my opinion, the worst part of slavery was that white people acted as if they were different than, better than, and superior to, black people. And we aren’t. And unfortunately that hasn’t much changed. The slaves were freed, but white people in America have continued to treat Black people as if they are inferior. It looks different than indentured servitude these days, usually, but it isn’t.
  3. Terrorism isn’t new. Terrorism has been occurring in the United States since the very beginning, it began with white people committing acts of terror on your American Indian ancestors. Terrorism didn’t strike in America for the first time on 9-11. Terrorism has been woven into the history that blankets our land. And without us being honest about what we, as white people have done, our country can never heal. The lynchings of black men, women, and children were acts of terror that infiltrated our country since the end of the Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1950s. Muslim’s aren’t the first terrorists on this dirt. We are.

 

Buddy, I know that when we talk about these things you cry. I don’t ever want you to loose that. I want you to forever feel how awful this is. I want you to forever feel the weight of injustice. I pray that your dad and I can encourage you to not run away from what feels hard. I pray that we will teach you through our own broken paths, that you, D-D Luke, were made to do hard and holy things. Please be brave brave brave.

 

I love you to the moon Bub.

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(This letter was spurred after listening to a talk given by Bryan Stevenson at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.)

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Tell Us How You Really Feel

You know how when someone says exactly what they are thinking people will say in jest, “Tell us how you really feel!”. I would venture to say that has been said to me a couple hundred times in my life. Because I am one of those people who doesn’t hold back. If I have something that needs to be said, I will usually just say it- no beating around the bush. And many times it is something that other people are thinking, too, so it resonates and sometimes makes people laugh.

Anyway, in the last week or so, I’ve been feeling this rising angst. Summer is just about over and I am done.  This morning, I sent this text to my two best friends  (and I’d like to apologize in advance to my readers who don’t appreciate a good swear once in a while). The text read: Let me say this to you so I don’t say it out loud to my children I CANNOT (swear word) WAIT FOR THESE (swear word swear word) TO GO BACK TO (swear word) SCHOOL #jesustakethewheel. Maybe that resonates with you and maybe it doesn’t, but either way- I’ve just told you all how I really feel.

Don’t get me wrong, we have actually had a pretty good summer, but the time is now. Either Jesus needs to come back, or I need to be sent to a beach for 3 weeks alone or my children need to go back to school. I don’t honestly care which one. But I’m done. D.O.N.E. Done. Finished. Goodbye children. Get out and don’t let the door hit you on the way.

Today I also went to see my therapist. As soon as I sat down I started crying; I was saying something that wasn’t cry-worthy at all. So I said, “I honestly don’t know why I am crying” and tried to brush it off with a joke. Being the worth-the-money therapist that he is, he said, “Wait a minute. Let’s not pass this by. What are you feeling?”

I don’t know what the hell I am feeling which is why I said, “I don’t know why I am crying.”!! But, being the eager patient that I am, I sat there and thought about it for a minute or two and I finally said through more tears: “I am tired. So tired of my children. I want them to go back to school. I’m exhausted from trying to be a good mom and dealing all day with them. I am scared that I am going to lash out at them and destroy them if they don’t go back to school soon. I don’t want to be rude to them. I’m afraid I will be rude to them. I’m exhausted from coping instead of escaping (the main reason I am in therapy) and I’m afraid of falling backward if these kids don’t get the hell out of my house.”

In saying that and crying and getting in touch with my actual feelings- I realized something: what I said to my friends in that swear word laden text was true. Every word. But what I said to Chris was the deeper truth and the text to my friends only contained the surface truth. The surface truth was anger & frustration & a bunch of swear words. But beneath that was the deeper truth that I am afraid and tired and feeling guilty and exhausted. As I said, I have always been known as a genuine person. Authentic. Real. Honest. Raw. These words have been used to describe me more often than any other word. But. BUT it’s because I say the things other people think but don’t say. Not necessarily because I actually let people get close to the real, real me (who has these unearthed feelings that are usually covered by anger or frustration).

Not everyone sees the hurting, scared Celina who doesn’t want to kill her children (honestly, even I don’t see her. I just see the surface stuff, too). People see me as real because in a funny way I can say what people are thinking. But underneath the funny and ‘true’ is always a deeper truth and what I understood today is that if I want to live the whole-hearted life that Brene Brown talks about, if I want to be courageous and brave- I can still send the funny text and mean it, but I’ve got to get to the deeper truth. And sharing the deeper truth will cause people to see the actual REAL me and maybe in the process set people free to realize their own deeper truths. And I’m ready. I ready to be honest and raw and vulnerable and live whole-heartedly in this world. It’s all I’ve got to give- myself- and as hard and painful and uncharted as it is, I’m ready and I’m scared but I’m not going to hold back. If you thought I was real before….there may be another side of “real” that we’re about to get to.

I absolutely love the quote from Liz Gilbert that Amanda shared last week. “I trust that you understand this is a story we are living, not a story we are telling.” That’s what this blog is about for me. This is the story I am living and it may be messy, but it’s mine and I am really learning to love it.

XO,

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We did it!

Well, it happened. Summer is almost over. School emails keep dinging in my inbox. School fees have been paid, boxed lunches, uniforms, all of the #2 sharpened pencils and Crayola 24-count crayons, they’ve been bought.
And now it’s time to make that decision that we as parents of kid’s from hard places struggle with making every single year at this time. What do we say to the new teacher? Anything? Everything? Some where in between? As a parent, I am looking for the right combination of words to fill this teacher with deep levels of understanding on developmental trauma and it’s effects on the brain, compassion that will carry them through some tough days, and huge levels of thanksgiving, because teachers are heroes.

 

So here is a note to all the teachers who will help us parent our children from trauma, from all of us parents, foster parents, kin parents, adoptive parents, and all of the other beautiful ways we find ourselves parenting these amazing kids. Here’s to you teachers!

 

Dear Teacher,

 

I am so sorry that you don’t get paid your worth in gold. If I could change that today, I would! You are a hero in our home!

 

I wanted to give you a little insight into my kiddo. I am not sure if you have heard things from previous teachers or not, but I wanted to give you some info that I hope will help you in creating a fun and safe learning environment for him, and everyone else in your classroom, this year.

 

My kiddo experienced lots of trauma before he came to us. We are one of many many homes he has lived in, and that’s not counting the many shelters that he called home as well. The traumas that he experienced as a young child have made him different that the average kid in our upper-middle class school. His brain literally looks different in a brain scan than that of the average child of his same age. And yet he looks just like the other eight year olds in your class this year.

 

With that in mind, if I could encourage you with just one thing it would be this: connect. It is hard for him to trust people, and his self-talk is really horrible. He thinks he is undesirable, that he is the worst in this class. He thinks no one likes him, and that he is stupid. But when you, and I, connect with him- we have a chance to change this inner-voice of his. If you lead each day with a point of connection for him, he is much more likely to stay connected, and feel safe, so that he can learn and grow like the other kids in your class this year. When you are not sure what to do with him, when he is acting angry or aggressive, my guess is that he is probably afraid and feeling shameful. It might feel really foreign to you, but would you please try to just connect with him? Just help him calm down, and speak over him the words that we want every child to think about themselves. Remember, he didn’t have anyone to teach his little baby brain and body how to calm down, no one spoke over him that he was precious and smart. No one helped him learn how to calm down when he was upset. So we, as his parents, have some catch up work that we are working on, and if you would help us this year, we would be eternally grateful.

 

If you are interested in other tips and tricks, or ways of getting to know him before school starts, please, let us know. We’d love to send you some more info.

 

Again, we are so appreciative of what you do, thank you for devoting yourself to teaching our kiddos!

With all of our hearts,

 

The Purvis Family.

 

 

 

You need a therapist. A good one.

One of our favorite things to do with this blog is to write a post together. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we get to sit down and write at the same time, we just work together on a post- both bringing our best ideas to the table. It’s been a while since we did this, but we’re excited to introduce: What Makes a Great Therapist.

From Celina:

Throughout my 38 years, I have had a good handful of therapists, counselors and other helpers. Honestly, most of them did me only a little bit of good.  I sought out a therapists because whatever I was dealing with I knew I needed help and being a self-aware, relatively intelligent person, I found that they could not offer me much more than I already knew. I want to point out that I went into these therapy sessions as a willing party-wanting help. I wasn’t dragged or forced into anything (well when I was 15, but that’s another post coming soon). I went ASKING for help, and usually leaving empty-handed.

So, I’ve had lots of not-so-great helpers until about two months ago. Two months ago, I was at the lowest point of struggling with addiction that I knew I was not overcoming even with the weekly help I was already getting. Through a series of referrals, I found Chris (who I’ve mentioned before). Chris is the best therapist I have ever seen. Ever. And seeing him has helped me to realize what makes a helper great.

Here are the top 5 things that I think make a great therapist.

  1. A great therapist does not interrupt you when you are speaking. Even if they know that what they have to say is important and you need to hear it, or they are so excited about your breakthrough, they wait until you are totally done talking so that you can listen well because you’ve said all you need to say.
  2. A great therapist rarely talks about his or her own life. If they do, it’s a totally relate-able experience. I once had a counselor who when I would tell her what I was struggling with would say, “Well you think that’s bad, blah, blah, blah, here’s my story that’s worse than that…..”. That is not helpful or professional. I know maybe 5 things about Chris and 4 of them are because I asked.
  3. A great therapist doesn’t give you all the answers to your problems, they make you work for it. They make you sort things out until you can come up with some answers on your own. Then they help you with answers and solutions.
  4. A great therapist waits. They let you sit in the silence after you’ve spoken and they wait. Because maybe you are not done and until you’ve exhausted all you have to say, you won’t be ready to listen. They wait because silence is sometimes the thing we need most to heal. They wait because maybe they are measuring their own words before they speak them.
  5. A great therapist is qualified for your specific need. Chris is a specialist. He has studied and worked in the area that I am struggling with. If you are struggling with trauma, a general family counselor probably does not posses the tools you need to heal. General counselors for sure have their place- I am not wanting to downplay their role, but in order to get the best help, seek out a qualified specialist.

If you think you need some therapy (and I kind of think we all do), please don’t hesitate to seek it out. You might have to wade through some shitty counsel before you find what you need, but don’t give up! I’ve been going through the process of healing from addiction for almost two years now and it was only two months ago that I found Chris. Healing doesn’t happen overnight and you have to work damn hard to get it.

From Amanda:

Like Celina, I think everyone needs a therapist. Especially if you are in a relationship. With anyone. So that means everyone.

I go to therapy most often with my husband. We have a great marriage. And we need help. All the time. Without getting into our business, which I am sure you are not interested in, I will just say that most people marry their opposites, and so they struggle with understanding each other and each others motives.

That’s not David and I.

We test the exact same in most personality tests there are (except the Enneagram). It’s scary. And apparently fairly rare.

We go to therapy to be safe. Sometimes we go alone, but most often we go together. And our therapist is amazing. One time on the way to therapy I asked David, “We are doing so good, what are we even going to talk about?!” We found some stuff and I actually think that was one of our most powerful sessions.

So here are my top three things to look for in therapy.

  1. You leave with a lot less money than you came in with. I know this sounds silly, but I really believe it- good therapy is expensive and probably should be. Therapy is an art. It is something that takes a special gifting, and a lot of training. You can find cheap therapists, or even free ones but I suggest you invest in therapy. I really mean it. Investing in your mental health, spiritual health, and in your most precious relationships is wise. We may be broke, but we are rich in relationships, thanks to our crazy expensive therapist.
  2. You leave feeling redeemable. There have been times when David and I have stepped into our therapists office, and I wasn’t sure if we’d come out together or alive. I thought going in for sure one of us would be left bloodied on the floor. Never once have we stepped out of the therapists’ office feeling further apart. We have dealt with BIG stuff and every single time, on the elevator ride down to the parking lot, we hug and cry and kiss, and fall more in love. Our therapist has a way of reminding us what is the most important.
  3. You leave having learned something. Our therapist has taught us a few extremely valuable lessons. He does this quickly and usually in some sort of weird analogy. But the lessons he has taught us seem to come up daily in my relationships. Lessons about shame, lessons about arguing, lessons about listening, and lessons about story telling- all of which have been remarkably powerful. When I leave, I feel like I learned a lot, yet I have never felt like he was teaching me. It is a remarkable thing.

So you know we are a mess. And we know you probably are too. If you don’t have a good therapist yet, find one.

If you have a therapist, and you’re not sure if they’re good, they’re not good. Break up. Tomorrow. Because when you have a good therapist, its kind of like getting engaged, you can’t stop talking about it, you tell everyone, and your life changes forever!

nuts

XO,

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Truth, Love and Facebook Posts

I have a friend who I love with all of my heart. I wrote this message to her, never intending to send it, but wanting to sort out my feelings. After writing it and deciding to publish it as a blog, I felt like it would be cowardly and possibly damaging to our friendship to post this without talking to her first- so I called her. I told her all this in less eloquent words, but I told her. It started as a note- a way to sort out my feelings. It became a conversation with a friend- now it’s a note again that I’m sharing with you.

Dear Friend,

I love you so much. Of so many people I have met in my life, you have truly been a cheerleader and a fan. I can never thank you enough for all you have done for me: professionally, spiritually, and as a friend. You have been faithful through many seasons of my life. You are amazingly generous. Many times when I did not feel I was rich in friendship, I always had you. I love you and so I hope that my message to you comes across as such: filled with love.

The truth is, I don’t always know how to speak the truth in love. I don’t know how to tell the truth and have it be filled with love, because I haven’t had much practice, or much modeling, but I want to learn how to do it and the best way to learn something like this is to practice. Before I attempt to tell the truth in love, let me I assure you: I’m telling the truth and I love you.


I love Jesus. We can agree on that because I know that you do too. Just like me you are doing the best you know how to with your relationship with Jesus. You are trying to live for him and trying to show others what His love means. So am I.

When you talk about how you think God feels about some things, I tend to remain silent or say things that keep you talking like, “yeah” or “that makes sense”. But the reality is, I disagree with many of your Christian perspectives. My silence is not an act of agreement. My silence is my way to listen to your perspective and keep mine to myself. Whether that is the right thing to do or not, it is what I chose. I really don’t think I can influence the way you see things- because like I used to- you see things in black and white. Because I now see shades of gray, I find that I cannot stay silent anymore. I must tell you the truth.

Recently, a mutual female friend of ours got engaged to another female and they plan to be married. They announced their engagement on Facebook, which I clicked “Like” for- because I am happy that she has found love. You, on the same announcement of her engagement said this, “This breaks my heart. I do not believe this is God’s plan for you however this will never change his love for you nor mine”. Many quickly stepped up to disagree with you. I stayed silent, in this case because I felt that your shaming of our friend was inappropriate and I did not want to further detract from the point of the post which was our friend’s happiness. I just need to be clear though, I feel that love never shames another. If you really love our friend, you would call her on the phone or ask her to meet you for coffee. If you love our friend you would try to understand how she feels this aligns with her faith- so that you could understand better. If you love our friend, you can even express confusion- but not the certainty you offered on God’s position. I feel if you love her you would not go onto her public post where she is celebrating the life she has chosen and condemn and shame her using what you think are God’s feelings.

In terms of our friend’s engagement- I honestly do not believe that God is upset about this, because I am not even sure if homosexuality is a sin. And if it is, it really isn’t my business because I am not participating in it. See, I believe what my friend Andy Landers said, which was, “Jesus didn’t say ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, Jesus said, “Love the sinner, hate your own damn sin”. I don’t believe that Jesus needs us to defend His position on any matters. I believe that our job as people who love Jesus is to follow the great commandment which is so simple: love Jesus and love people. We all have our own messes to worry about and a great way to detract attention from our own selfishness, greed, anger and covetousness is to point our fingers at the “big sins”. The things we think for absolute certain God hates.

The only thing I know about what God thinks for absolute certain is that I don’t know a damn thing for absolute certain about what God thinks.

I have wrestled with my faith in the last few years and maybe 3 years ago I would have congratulated you on your bravery to “tell the truth to our friend caught in deception!”, but now I see it for what it is: Pharisaical crap. I have tossed my conservative Christian views that I once held dear.  This happened for me when I had to start wrestling with my own demons- hidden for so long in my religious garments- big demons like addiction. I had to stop and figure out what God thought of me when I wasn’t measuring up to the meter I set for all people who love God. Wrestling with my own big sins gave me a chance to give the rest of the world grace because I know that we are all broken as long as we live on this earth- Christians and everyone else included. The most perfect churches are full of broken people. None of us is perfect and this conservative Christian viewpoint on the world just isn’t cutting it in a world full of broken people (including me and you- we are ALL broken!).

I’ll end the way I began: I love you and I am so grateful for our friendship, but I can no longer stay silent. I want to come clean as a broken person who loves God, believes in shades of gray, and makes so many mistakes and sins in so many ways that I don’t have time or energy to worry about anyone else. I don’t want to add to the voice of some in the Church who are saying to the world, “YOU. You over there! Come to us. We’ll take you as soon as you look like us.” I want to say to the world, “You! You over there! Look at how broken I am and how much God loves me still! I know He feels this way about you, too. Come as you are, friend and find love! There’s no shame here!”

 

XO,

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Make it count.

“I trust that you understand how this is a story that we are living- not a story that we are telling.”

I read that quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, in an article about her recent split from her partner whom she fell in love with and subsequently wrote about their relationship in her books Eat Pray Love and Committed.

The quote stuck because we are currently living a story that we cannot tell. And in the past it has been a story that we have talked (somewhat) openly about.

Our teenagers have moved from our family. We are utterly devastated.

My hope and prayer is this: Make it count Lord. Because all of this unnecessary pain, and this suffering that we are all experiencing is really awful, so I am choosing to believe that the story you are writing is bigger than what I can currently picture.

Please, make this count.

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Showing Up and Being Seen

We’re doing something brave and it involves early mornings, coffee and a good book.

A while back my friend mentioned to me that she gets up super early once a week to meet with a friend. The idea inspired me- not because I like early mornings, but because something has been missing in my life and I wanted it back. See, as much as I’ve been working to heal, I’m still missing connection-because that’s what I was made for. When my friend mentioned her early morning meeting, the idea that came to me was, “why don’t I get up early and meet with someone?”

Mornings are that special undisturbed time when anything seems possible (except getting out of bed). Mornings are the time when there really isn’t an excuse to NOT do something.

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So, I mentioned my idea to Amanda and my courageous friend and I decided to started an early morning book club. We decided that mornings are best because other than being sick, there isn’t an excuse NOT to meet. There aren’t school commitments, dinners to prepare or babysitters to hire. All it takes is a willingness to get up early and get out of the house. So, with a big cup of coffee, yoga pants, and sheet lines still on our faces, we’re meeting every other week at 5:30 AM at our local Starbucks and we’re reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong (which is exactly what I’m doing every other Tuesday).

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And it’s been amazing!

But, let me tell you, it’s scary to do something brave. It’s scary to send an email to 15 friends and say, “who wants to do this?” because what if no one says yes and then your big brave idea is just a dumb failure?  BUT- what if it isn’t? What if 3 other people say yes and you read an amazing book, cry every time you meet and change your entire life? What if those 3 other people needed this as much as you did? And what if your bravery and courage inspires them to do something else brave and 3 more lives are changed? What if….? As Brene says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

So, here’s your inspiration for today- whatever your big brave idea is- DO IT. Whether it’s reaching out to some friends to start a book club, quitting that habit that isn’t good for you, training for a marathon, or inviting someone to dinner. DO IT. Be brave. Be courageous. And for the love – PLEASE read this book if you haven’t already. I shouldn’t have to blog about it 15 times to get your attention!

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Bravely,

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