Our Stocking Prayer Tradition

Merry Christmas! Last night our family continued what has become a favorite Christmas tradition. We gather around the fireplace, take down the stockings that hang at the mantle and pass them out. Then we each write a prayer to Jesus. The letter gets tucked back in the stocking year after year for no one else but Jesus to see.

I don't know how this tradition started. But this is year nine, so my kids were 4, 6 and 9 when we began. Nothing more precious than a 4 year old's handwritten prayer, full of misspelled and backwards letters, wishing Jesus a Merry Christmas. Last night was the first time I got to see that! One daughter shared the cuteness of her first letter with me. (I don't read any of the prayers, even as I pack up decorations year after year. They are sacred.)

 There were no rules when we started. Some of us highlight the year, some are traditional prayers, some write their questions about the next year, one signs her signature each year to see how it changes. The girls last night were laughing at old phases they've been through in growing up.

 One awesome thing that happens is we can see how God has answered prayers. And we can see how things that seemed so huge and important at the time of writing has actually worked out or become unimportant during the span of twelve months.

 I'm sharing this tradition in hopes you'll steal it and start it too! It's never too late, you can do it on Christmas, New Years, maybe even birthdays. It's become too meaningful to not pass on. Tweak it to fit your family, then have fun.

 Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


Discerning Mom Vs. Rebellious Child - Wanda Watson

I'd like you to meet another friend of mine, Wanda Watson.  We met about 25 years ago through a mutual fun friend here in Tulsa. Wanda was the wise woman at the time and we were floundering youth!

Wanda has raised four amazing children, 3 daughters and a son, most of the time as a single mom. She lives in Texas now, but spent all of these childrearing years in Tulsa. Her kids are all grown, happily married and have given her 6 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren that she adores!!

We lost touch for years, but found each other again through Facebook! (One of the benefits of Facebook...)

One fun fact  about Wanda (that she won't tell you)  is how back then she would move wherever she felt like God led her to, for whatever period of time He said, and it was always to affect the life of someone nearby. This was when her empty nest years had started. She was extremely involved at Victory Christian Center while she was also a social worker at D.H.S. She might live in an apartment for a year because God said to move there, and there was always someone who needed her influence at that time. She loved every move and all the people along the way. She loves people, is humble, fun and silly too. But when it comes to spiritual things, she is strong and bold and seems to have a direct line to God (though she won't like that I just wrote that!) :)

There's something very beneficial about kids knowing that they can't lie, because their mom hears from God. That's the kind of mom she was. She was a very loving and supportive mom, who worked full time, volunteered many hours at church, made sure she spent time with all her kids, but also had to be extra strong, raising kids as a single mom.

I could come at her story from many angles, but what I want to focus on today is something very specific, hoping it will help those in similar situations.  That is, how to deal with a rebellious child, especially if you have the personality type Wanda has, which is very discerning.

There are too many good nuggets, so I'm breaking my 5 things rule and giving her more. She gets 8! :)

1.  You can use your discernment in two ways - to judge or for information. Some discerning people pounce on their kids because they feel like they "know" what's going on with them already. Don't pounce. Use your discernment for information, but follow up with questions. Try your best not to judge your kids. They know by your attitude when you have already judged them and they will close up. If you have a hard time not judging them, tell them "I don't want to judge you, I just need to understand, so that I won't." Never open your mouth to let the enemy of our souls use your words against them. (God watches over His Word to perform it and the enemy seems to watch over ours to make it happen as well.)

2. Even though I often knew what was going on, I didn't assume I knew for sure. I asked questions. I often said,  "You know when I was young, this is what was happening...what's it like now?" to start conversations. She seemed surprised that I was human and had any kind of problems, after all I was her mom. :)

3.  Whether your kids are rebellious or quiet, the same principles apply to each, just with a different approach. Since I never wanted to pounce or condemn her with my mouth, I prayed first and asked God how to deal with her rebellion. I asked "How do I lead her?" I always tried to give unconditional love, without judging her. God allows us to see their goodness and focus on that, rather than totally on the deed done, so we can teach them how to turn it around to their good. There were a few times when God put my discipline on hold until He had better opportunity to get my hearing in tune with His way of doing things; rather then me going off on a tangent at the moment of occurence.

4. I explained to her, sometimes drawing pictures so it made more sense, that she was  in this parameter of safety that God had for her (under me as the parent).  I drew a box to represent that. This parameter will expand as she got older, with more freedoms and trustworthiness.  If she messed up, the parameter decreased, with fewer freedoms, but it didn't mean she was a bad person.  It just meant she wasn't emotionally ready to have the parameter expanded. My answer wasn't "You can't do it again", but yes, when you are ready. Or we will try this again after you have had time to show you can handle more of your own decisions in other areas. I'm supporting you until you are ready. I'm on your team. My job is to protect you and I love doing it!

5.  I reasoned with my kids.  Taught them the right thing, let them know of choices that were ahead, what would happen, how to make better choices...We expounded not just on the consenquece of the bad decisions but the benefits of the good ones. I let them know that growing up is a process and they will make mistakes but I am always there to support them when it goes well and help when it does not.  This allowed me to be proactive instead of reactive. Roleplay with your kids.

6.  God gives you ability and insight with your kids. Listen to it and follow through with it. When I said my youngest couldn't date until 16, I didn't  relent on rules. I had to follow through.  Curfew was midnight, not 5 minutes after midnight. If they were after midnight at all, they had to skip the next date.  Even if the excuse was legitimate. I let her boyfriend and her know that being responsible in dating is planning ahead for delays. When she did start dating, I said "these are the days you can date, you won't go out more than these certain days a week." When she hit her limit that week, I didn't relent even if special circumstances came up. The mom of one of her dates was upset with me, saying "I don't want to have a Romeo and Juliet situation, since they aren't allowed to be together".  I said, "If you're son is that unstable, I'd rather they not keep dating."

I wouldn't let her go to the Caravan, the teen dance club in Tulsa. I told her and her date, "I'll know you are there and I'll come inside, embarrass you and get you out."  She actually smiled and shook her head in a "yes she will" kind of way that was not at all sarcastic. It told me that in her heart she really did know that my restrictions were because of my love for her and I would take care of her even if she couldn't. They never did go to the Caravan.I had to be strict because of her rebelliousness and stubbornness. She needed to know that I loved her. At times I knew her obedience was because  she knew there were consequences and not because it was in her heart, but God reminded me that obedience in action will lead to obedience in heart.

7.  Pray for wisdom. One of my daughters and her now husband, when they dated and would sit in the vehicle too long in the driveway, I would send younger siblings out to see them in the driveway so it wouldn't cause embarrassment, but would let them know it was time to come in.  Had that not worked I would have not had a problem embarrassing them by coming out myself. Later they told me they're glad I did that. God knew.

8. Pray scriptures for your kids, pray that the Word will be true in their lives. My kids know and say that I prayed Isaiah 61 over them, and have told me the many ways that Isaiah 61 has come true in their lives.

Other people  have commented to me what a blessing my children are to them and how their ministry to them has changed their lives. Now I have grandchildren who are following Christ and are now blessing others. The Word of God prayed over your chldren will not return to the Father without producing what that Word is sent out to do. He is faithful.

This daughter who was rebellious back then, is now a surgical care R.N. and working towards a degree to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Some kids are easy, some are difficult. Pray for wisdom and insight. Never assume you know what's going on. Never judge your kids. Love them unconditionally. Be the parent.

I know that God taught me so much while raising my children and it was a case by case or child by child lesson, but when we are willing to trust Him and listen to HIs Spirit He will never fail to lead us to right thinking and decisions for each one. He promises to give wisdom.


5 Things I'm Glad I Did- Laura Francis

Photo credit: Pinterest Getty Images

It's been a bit since I've shared a 5 Things story from a Mom. I'm going to interrupt my friendship/bullying series to share a few Mom stories with you. To refresh memory, I ask moms of grown daughters if they will share "5 Things I'm Glad I Did Raising My Daughter".  These ladies have the advantage now of hindsight and can share with those of us still in the trenches what top things they see now that were most valuable.

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Laura Francis. I met Laura through Christian Women's Club, when I was asked to do a Fashion Show at a local event she was partially in charge of.  When we met, through conversation, one of us said something that sparked our common interest in advocating for young people. Once the fashion show was over with, we met to discuss bigger issues and have since been in many brainstorming sessions and events together, making efforts to better this world. 

I asked her, as a mom of a grown daughter and son, and grandma to two (with another due in December!)to share "5 things she's glad she did raising her daughter".  I thought her perspective would be interesting and helpful to many, because I've heard Laura's background.  You'd never guess it now, but she was raised in an abusive home. That surprised me when I first learned of it, because she's such a great mom. I wondered how she turned the tide so to speak, parenting well instead of repeating the cycle. And it's hard to imagine that she hardly left her house for years, being agoraphobic. She is nothing like that now!!

She tells of a special moment in childhood that looking back, I believe was God's hand on her life, when no one else was there.

"When I was four or five, we lived on a wheat ranch in the Texas panhandle (my dad managed the planting and harvesting of the wheat crops).  One summer day, my mother had made me a bologna sandwich and red kool-aid for lunch. (When my brother was in school, she usually locked me out of the house so she could watch her soaps or something). Anyway, I took it to the horse corral to eat it.  Sitting there on an old salt lick, I just felt a warm silence...kind of like an awareness or just knowing that I was different than what my family was relaying to me and ....that I wasn't alone.  The sun was shining, I had on an old white play dress, and no shoes on.  Actually, it was one of the few times as a child that I felt a type of safeness.  Yes...that I was safe and I was loved.  That memory has never left me. Life in the home I grew up in was pure chaos."

When I asked her how she didn't repeat the cycle, as is so common, she shared this.

"Because of my dysfunctional upbringing and family relationships, I could not have changed without the help of a psychologist(s).  I developed major anxiety disorder, a short time of agoraphobia, and was a type of functioning phobic for over 18 years.  The first psychologist introduced me to the love of God...for the first time in my life, she taught me to begin to consider that I was lovable. She also told me that the bravest thing anyone ever does is ask for help.  As a result of that kind of help and an agreement with my husband, Tony...we continued to treat our children as we both would have liked to been treated...with love, respect, and a true interest in their lives.  We encouraged independence,  compassion, and generosity as character traits."

She said one of the greatest compliments she ever received was from her own daughter, who said "I wish you had a mom like I have".  In my book, that says alot, so curiousity overtook me and I asked if she'd share her insights with us.

In her words...

"This was a hard one for me. I was an abused child, so I made choices raising my children that were never taught to me, but that I somehow knew were important. Here we go:

I'm glad I did the following raising my daughter:

1. We made sure we voiced that she was cherished, and was born on purpose for a purpose. We encouraged her creativity and natural gifts with wonder, love, and humor, AND that doing things "afraid" was part of the journey. That even failing was fine as long as she was moving forward. "It's hard to steer a parked car".

2. Choices were always part of the problem solving method. With choice A or B, we discussed what the responsibility and consequences would be.

3. I valued her and her input and never "shushed" her.

4. When she was dealing with a problem, I asked lots of questions in a variety of ways, not expecting the issue to "take care of itself or go away". I did my best to never abandon her emotionally.

5. I encouraged a strong relationship with her dad.

Number 6 would be that I have learned to watch, listen and enjoy her journey and to say "that's interesting" to so many things she does. She is not mine, she is God's. I am no longer her "mother", but one of her mentors who loves her with more depth than she may ever know."

Her kids today are grown and successful.

"Today, Matt is a 32 year old man who is kind, insightful, and very creative. He's very high energy and analyzes almost everything. He has a PHD in Electrical Engineering as well as a Masters in Physics and Electrical Engineering. He works part-time at the University of Arkansas coaching future PHD's and he is the president of a technology company that does research for space and the military. He is a true scientist. He has been married for over 6 years to Lynn, who is a music (percussion) professor at the U of A and they are expecting their first child in December. They live on a ten acre working farm in northwest Arkansas and are restoring the 115 year old farmhouse they live in...complete with music studio. Matt, too is a percussionist. He is a loving and caring husband, very disciplined, and not afraid to take a risk.

Kristen is 31, and is one of the most level headed young women I know. She has a very reflective personality and looks for the good in all situations and has understood from a very early age that it is not her job to fix other people. She is private with her emotions and generous with her love. She has a Bachelor's degree in Music from the University of Arkansas (a 5 year program she completed in 4 years). She married her husband when she was 20...Wayne is an attorney who owns a law office in Fayetteville and other small offices in several remote locations. He runs the law side with several other attorneys and she is his business manager. They have been married for 11 years and have worked together the entire small feat. They have two children, Allison 7, and Jack 3. Kristen is a mother who gives her children love, respect, and expectations. She talks to them often about making good or bad choices. She encourages one on one time with their dad and very importantly, plans one on one time with her husband. They have consistent date nights and little vacations to stay connected and not talk about business."

Both of the two couples are musicians and performers...and Allison can already play a mean marimba, a little piano, and drum trap set...Jack is working on the drum stuff, too. Music is a huge common link in the family.

Tony and I look at these kids and many times wonder how in the world we were blessed with them!"

When I read her 5 things she did, they make sense to me, knowing Laura. She did this for her kids and does this for many people still.  As a career coach, catalyst, motivator and networker, she listens, asks questions and inspires many to pursue their passions. As a career coach, she taught me that I'm a "green", which explained alot. (I'll leave you wondering. You'll have to ask her!)

One thing I admire about Laura is how she's filling her time now as an empty-nester and grandma. She and a good friend volunteer with OATH, helping to educate about Sex Trafficking in America, in pursuit of ending this awful practice. She also spends much time substituting for public schools, mainly in areas that are difficult to get substitutes, the tougher parts of town. She's learning the needs of our town this way and is able to make a difference in children's lives, even if it's just for one day. (It's definitely not for the money!)  From stories I've heard, I doubt those kids will forget their one day with Mrs. Francis. Quite a far cry from agoraphobia days. God is good!

Laura should be an inspiration to those from difficult backgrounds. It's possible to change and not repeat the cycles you may have experienced. She is proof!

And I also think she should be an inspiration to all the empty nesters out there that there is much work to be done.

Empty nesters and grandmas, it's time to use the gifts, abilities and experiences you have, plus the time you have now, to better our world.

There's people out there that need you.


Jury Dutyyyyyyy

So I complained from the minute I received the summons. Cursed my "twinfriend" for rubbing off on me even with this. My friend and I seem to be twins 15 years apart we have so much in common. It even becomes eerie at times. I just babysit her boy while she had jury duty. I barely turn around and there's the summons in my mailbox. Curses.

I begin calculating plots to talk my way out of duty when it arrives. I whine and moan to friends and family. No one really cares. I resign myself.

So yesterday, (which now feels like 2 weeks ago since I've now served 2 days) I rise at the crack of dawn to begin the day. Being a stay at home mom, I normally roll out of bed daily at the minute I have to take child #1 to school. About 8am. I don't get ready until home from taking child #2.  So to be downtown, a solid 30 minute drive, looking decent, at 8:30 in the morning, needed an early start. Time had to be allowed for getting lost, parking, walking, security, and most importantly, the Starbucks run on the way.

The car got parked, I began walking wherever the crowd walked, hoping they knew where they were going.  I found myself waiting in a line to get in the building through a door marked "Exit Only". So far so good, this is about how I expect the system to work. I'm scanned and approved and pointed down to the basement, only to be met by 300 solemn looking people winding back and forth through  a long skinny somewhat steamy hallway in lines that didn't really make sense.  I'm a people watcher, so the fun was about to begin.  But before I had much of a chance,  I internally gasp as I move ahead in line to be greeted by a large ghoul holding a sickle, pinned to the wall. What a greeting to jury duty! Was this planned? I look ahead to the next area around the corner where my line is leading to and find Halloween decor still up. Really? It's Nov. 7 at this point. But it set a menacing tone for the day.

I watch and listen. There are countless small conversations joking about how they plan to get out of service. We are all so patriotic.  I listen to the Jokesters of the group, looking to liven things up. There's always one. There are the Chatters, looking to strike up conversations to entertain themselves through the long line.  There are the Informants- the ones who share their jury expertise in a loud tone making sure everyone knows what to expect, because they have served before, and now are the resident experts.  There are those who share their horror stories of previous duty, seeming to revel in the gasps their stories provoke. There are the Expressionless ones, that there is really no way to read one way or another.  Do they feel? Speak? Do I appear to be one of those?

People pass through our line saying excuse me, which really isn't easy to do, excuse them, that is.  In order to pass, each of us in line has to squish against the wall to make room. I see a woman reading a book with a title something like "Teenage Boys- How to Make a Man" and I'm kinda excited there's moms caring about raising boys as much as I care about raising girls. I consider saying something to her, but it's morning and we're all still in our cool, calm, collected, group-think guarded mode. I decide to remain in my quiet observer people watcher mode. It's too early to reach out. My coffee is still being digested.

Boy this hallway is crowded.  I do feel somewhat better knowing that I'm surrounded by a close knit crowd of citizens who have never committed a felony.  They can't be all that bad.  I near the front of the line and read the plaque posted about the lady in charge, an article from a local magazine.  Basically stating, don't mess with her. She's heard it all and has no mercy. Well then. Ok.

Finally at the front of the line, I check in, get my card, sign on the line and then, the big moment. I begin eyeballing the area for a place to plop for the day. The spot. It has to be good. No mistakes can be made here. Creatures of habit, wherever people choose, they will sit there all week. According to my friend, I will spend hours on hours upon hours on end in this spot I pick. Seeing that a huge amount of people have already picked a spot, and in a very American-like way, everyone has ONE space in between them, no matter where I pick is going to be the awkward sit in between two people in a small area thing anyway. I scan the area, I walk through the side room, I see hard chairs, soft chairs, tables, sofas, tv's, laptop areas. I go for the back, seeing two nice older men on each end of a sofa. They look nice and harmless. I go for the middle, opting for a sofa type comfort for the day. We exchange pleasantries and I pull out my Ipad, settling in with my purse/bag of tricks cram packed full of entertainment for the day. My plan is to be uber productive today as I sit. Lots of writing will be accomplished!

Not three minutes into it, I hear Jokester and his friend he's met one time through work, talking about playing cards. They are right in front of me at a table, less than 5 feet away. A nice fun looking lady has joined them. I glance up and watch them debate their vague memories of rules for Rummy.  RUMMY! I love cards. I know the rules to Rummy. I look back down at my iPad, ready to write, but keep my ears alert on the conversation.  They need me. They are struggling. I can tell. I feel a magnetic pull from me to the table full of card players. Which personality should I choose today?! The quiet recluse or the life of the party? I've been known to lock people in my house to play games with me. I love games. Not everyone knows I actually have a split personality. I was so confused as to which to call on that day. The magnetic pull overpowered, I looked up and said "I know how to play" and we were all bff's immediately. The party table! So for the next few hours we played cards and laughed. Interrupted occasionally by oaths and summons. The oath was a bit surprising, ending with swearing we weren't "mentally retarded".  In this politically correct world, no one has updated this oath?!

Shockingly, two people at my table were both in rock business. PERFECT! I had a captive audience! I inquired about my "stinky granite problem", but once again, just like the "answers" in Google, they had no answers. According to everyone, granite countertops are not supposed to be stinky. But I, and many other rule breakers online, have stinky granite nonetheless and can find no answers. Back to cards.  We stop periodically, irritated by the distraction to our card game, to listen as jurors were being called to duty.  As the ridiculous shaking of the archaic metal box echoed in our ears, we waited for our name to be called. Such a terrifying wait.

Sadly, throughout the day, our card teams were disbanded as someone got called away to duty.  It was never more than 30 seconds before a fellow fun person came and grabbed the seat of the patriotic juror. Eventually we were all called to duty.  Three of the four of our last hand were called together. Twice. For being a random drawing, that was freaky! Off we went to court.

This is where the humor ended. What at first felt like  a nuisance in being summoned, became a serious job as several of us found ourselves in the middle of criminal cases. People's lives were at stake.  We watched and listened as cases were unfolded before us. We had to relive the pain of people's lives and makes decisions as best we could.

Deliberation was so interesting. What seemed so easy and obvious to me, was not easy or obvious once we got 12 strangers in a room expressing viewpoints and opinions. I realized how complex the world is. And people are. And how I would not want to be a judge. Or God. I gained respect for fellow jurors that at first glance I may have overlooked or judge wrongly, but in reality were very decent people with very good hearts. We hashed out differences, eventually came into unanimous agreement and had no bad feelings towards one another. It worked.

Even though the actuality of court was no where near as fun and entertaining as Drop Dead Diva, my favorite tv show (I did do my best to dress the part and represent),  I must say by the end of the trial I found myself valuing the whole experience. The judge made the comment that if jury duty was optional, juries would be full of jurors who had nothing better to do, which would definitely influence the outcomes of trials.

That made sense. My duty was done, I saw the value, and I'm $60 richer.

5 Random Things

1.  Given enough time together, a roomfull of random strangers will humanize into real people.
2.  Everyone should know how to play cards.
3.  Never order a BLT sandwich at the courthouse snackbar. Ever.
4.  Jury duty isn't that bad.
5.  Your life is just one tiny speck in a world full of so many different kinds of experiences.


How Social Media Affects Friendships

Recently I listened to a group of high school girls discuss the pros and cons of social media and how it affects friendships (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr). I'm also mixing in a few opinions I've heard from middle schoolers over the months too. Not really giving my opinions here, just passing along what girls have said.  My hope is that this will give you some content for thinking through the social media issues and will provide discussion starters with girls.

Ok, there ARE some PROS! I have to admit that too, because I love many things about Facebook.

Photo credit : Pinterest for iPhone

their PROS

Meeting up with old friends
staying in touch with friends you normally wouldn't get to
sad posts from girls give awareness of what needs are out there
it's a way to encourage friends- you can write nice things to them
it's fun
you can creep on people
you can investigate and check out people you don't know well
post fun pictures

Here are their CONS.

one was at a place with a lot of new people all in one area, and instead of meeting and talking with each other, everyone was on their phones.

girls post pictures of themselves then say things like "oh this is so ugly", to get compliments.

promotes jealousy.  you see pictures of other friends doing things together that you weren't invited to.

friends get mad seeing that you did things with other people too that they weren't in on.

some always post negative posts to get attention.

some take it too seriously and always have a long commentary and opinion on why they may not agree with something, instead of being lighthearted.

easier to be critical

people have the guts to say what they wouldn't say in person

we judge people entirely by their profile

if someone leaves an awkward post on your wall, you either have to leave it there, or risk offending them by deleting it.

someone may post pictures of you that you don't want and you can't do anything about it.

boys hide behind facebook sometimes, initiating conversation through messages instead of being brave enough to talk to you in person.

girls will post pictures that they look the best in, not caring as much how good or bad their friends look.

school drama follows you home when you have facebook.

when you get together with friends and they want to do is creep online instead of actually doing something fun

when get together with friends and they just stay on their phone on facebook and don't pay attention to them. rude.

Other observations-

you used to be able to politely keep a secret who you invite and don't invite to events, but now anyone can post pictures about everything, so it's harder to keep it a secret.  If you had a party and your mom only let you invite 8 people instead of the 20 you wanted, and it wasn't your choice,  now it looks rude if your friends post pictures.  Friends feelings can be hurt even though you wanted them there.

some girls don't take down pictures that others ask them to remove. there's nothing you can do.

i know mean stuff happens between girls on facebook that they may not be brave enough to do in person.

girls have observed things written on social media that give glimpses into girls lives that look VERY different from the persona they portray at school

My only suggestion for now...Consider with care the decision whether or not to let your teen use social media in middle school, because this seems to be the years when most drama happens.  Teens are still developing their identity at this age and may need to be protected from some of the harmful sides of social media. If they do use it in middle school, keep a close eye on what they do.

It's a privilege, not a right.


Pt. 5- Bring on the Mom!

It's possible to be mean without thinking you're mean.  Your daughter may tell you she's not mean and that everyone else is, while in fact she's being mean.  She may hide her behavior from you entirely, but act out when you're not looking. It takes a brave and humble mom to admit and deal with this, and an even braver and more humble mom to write a blog about it.  I'd like to introduce you to one today! Meet my friend, Heidi, Britni's mom. 

Heidi and I have been fab friends since we were 18 and have lived much life together, full of fun (and our own drama).  We've laughed so hard we've broken belts and been kicked out of collegiate classes, and I'd like to think we invented the Mac. Or at least photobooth.  We distorted our own faces without the use of a computer and spent hours enjoying our amazing ability in the mirror!  This was back in the day before anyone had a computer at school and (gasp) the internet didn't exist!  Since then, we've birthed a combined total of 9 children and have done lots and lots of momming. 
Yesterday we heard Morgan's side of the ongoing middle school story. Today Heidi is gladly sharing her perspective from the Mom point of view. I must say, it doesn't always go well when moms get involved, more on that subject later, but this is one situation that was a success.  The success was partly due to the attitude in which Morgan's mom approached Heidi, and even just as important, Heidi's open attitude to hear hard things about her daughter. Moms, pull up a chair and listen.

Heidi's story....

1. I'd received "the call" from Morgan's mother, on numerous occasions, regarding how Britni was treating her daughter. We spent a great deal of time discussing the girl's personalities, patterns of behavior, and various offenses. I was glad her mother shared her feelings and how her daughter was affected by Britni's treatment, and truly wanted to see things mended and resolved between them. Taking initiative to appropriately deal with the other party I think is imperative. Consider the other parent may be totally unaware. I was open to tough words and criticisms and it shed light at home with Britni beginning to act very abrasively towards her siblings or when she'd have other friends over. Britni had the stronger "leader-type" personality; Morgan was shy and a follower of sorts. Efforts were definitely made on both of our parts to help guide, instruct and counsel our daughters on how to share their feelings appropriately, and what is or is not acceptable behavior. My kids know that when a teacher, classmate or adult has an issue with them, my first question will be directed to them, "What did you do to play a part in this?" I've noticed that parents who are quick defenders of their little angels and believe they can do no wrong, will create self-centered, self-serving children (call it bratty), or will at some point be devastated about the devilish behavior their kids are capable of. God's Word promises us that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Some have a larger capacity for it than others, but all are capable of foolish behavior. We need to be "parent" enough to see the truth about ourselves and our children and be willing, humble and forthright in our path to correct it.

2. If your kids are behaving badly elsewhere, you may not be aware of it until you see it manifest at home. When bad behavior rears it's ugly head, you can be sure it's not contained within the walls of just your home. It WILL be seeping out somewhere else or upon someone else. So pay attention with how they are treating siblings and obvious signs of disrespect at home.

3. Sometimes as parents, we are backed into a corner with choices for our children. My gut told me to get her out of school and give her a long break at home. My mind told me I'd ruin her education. My heart told me she was at her breaking point and needed an intervention of the Mom-kind. My spirit said she needed some peace and deep inner healing.

4. There were so many changes the kids and I were having to make and adjust to.  The one stabilizer was, I thought, keeping the kids in their Christian school with their friends and familiar environment. Everything else in our world had changed: no dad, loss of our home, business failure and much more. Everything for them had changed. I fought hard to make ends meet to keep them in their private school. When I saw how difficult life was getting for Britni, I didn't realize it had a lot to do with her lashing out and subsequent backlashes with her friends.  She seemed to have managed to put her self smack in the middle of every conflict between friends or the boys whom they liked. She'd become the go-between, the secret-agent, The Informer. I realized she wasn't functioning well, at all, even though we were only two months into her school year. I made a very tough decision to step in, remove her and bring her home to homeschool her. This was about the only thing that I was in control of and could do about the situation. Taking a break from the catty girls and bringing her back to a safe place was the best thing I could have done at the time. I also withdrew my two younger children in k-4 and k-5. They too were anxious and emotional with attending school. We had a wonderfully restful, peaceful year at home together.

5. I thought it interesting that she felt so alone. We spent hours at a time together pouring over her troubles, anger, frustrations and attitudes. The year at home was a long one. Many times her anger was turned on me or her siblings since there was no one else to blame. We had many emotional talks where she'd drain out her thoughts, disappointments and struggles. Listening was key. There is one thing that comes to mind that kids don't understand.  They may feel alone in their pain or suffering, but they are not truly alone. Britni probably felt very alone in her brokenness, voicing "Nobody understands me!" "You don't understand or know how it is!!"  But I know the reality of how much investment was made in her life. She was also reaping consequences she had caused in her life- isolating herself by her own actions of poor friendship. Perhaps it would have been helpful to point that out to her in this light, that we do bear our consequences and choices very much on our own, no one can pick up our hearts and carry our burdens in their entirety.  But we, as a family, and with God as our Father, can bear each other's burdens and help lighten the load. And in fact, that is just what happened. When she returned to school the next year, she was a changed young lady. Kinder, compassionate, considerate, well-liked, more self-controlled, stabilized and a healthier perspective on who she wanted to be. She eventually became cheer captain and was the class president her Junior year. This period of time was when I realized I needed to truly invest in learning more about parenting through adolescence, study teen development and issues, read respected authors and counselor-recommended books, and how to be more pro-active instead of reactive as a mother.

6. Parenting is not for wimps or the faint of heart. We were all once foolish children. Hopefully with the help of our loving Father God, we too have been disciplined and Disciple'd into maturity.

As Heidi and I talked over the phone, what Heidi said caused sudden understanding for me about the "aloneness" factor. What she said is true. No matter who was around Britni at the time, talking with her and loving her through her struggles, there was still a feeling of aloneness in Britni.  That was one of her consequences, the friendless corner she had backed herself into. Sometimes no one can take that away. We bear consequences for our actions. Remember that in Britni's telling of this, she said though the year was hard and lonely, that was at the point God began working in her life.  Sometimes only God can restore.  But we have to allow Him in to do that. As moms we want to relieve all suffering from our kids lives, but sometimes we have to stand by and watch it happen, while still supporting them, in order for them to grow. That's not easy.

Special thanks to my dear friend Heidi for sharing a glimpse into her side of the story.  Thank you for those good words to moms.  It is hard to hear anything negative about our kids and it takes a strong mom to do so.  The way she handled Britni in this situation helped to restore her and to also protect a friendship that has ended up surviving many years.

And she continues to pour into many teens' lives on a daily basis.

More coming up on when and if moms should get involved in girls conflicts.  Now that's a loaded topic!


Pt. 4 - Ellie's Side

If you've missed it, we've been in an ongoing series for Anti-Bullying Month, retelling my friend Britni's story from her middle school years.  I told you the detective in me came out when we got into this story, and I had to find Ellie! Ellie and I have now conversed via phone to get her side of this drama.  Kinda fun becoming a reporter of sorts... I have great respect for these girls being willing to re-live some less than glamorous moments of their lives, in order to be a help. "Ellie" also gave permission to use her real identity, so today I introduce you to Morgan, aka Ellie.

Catch up on the story now if you need to so you can truly appreciate Morgan's perspective!

Pt. 1, Pt. 2, and Pt. 3 (Middle School Mean Girl Drama)

Now, to set the scene, I asked Morgan what her personality was like in middle school.  Britni was a strong personality, a leader, a go getter. Morgan was quiet, sensitive, compassionate.  She said if someone looked at her the wrong way, she might have cried back then. However, with Britni, her crazy silly side was brought out also,  in their very comfortable friend moments. They had a lot of fun during their many good times!

In Morgan's own words....

"I love Britni, and I have since we were in middle school together. I think what really drew me to Britni was the fact that even though she was going through so much pain- and at times she was not always the truest friend- I would see these glimpses of her strength, love and loyalty to me.  I always knew she was going to do big things, and now she is out traveling the world for Jesus! (You can see what Britni's currently up to at  When Britni says to me 'I'm sorry I wasn't always the nicest to you', I have to refresh my memory to even remember some of the situations that took place.  It's really amazing how forgiveness can do that.

I do remember days when my so called "best friend" would blow me off to hang out with the more mean and dominating girls, or when she would point out a flaw in me, in front of others, for her own attention.  It was very painful at the time, but I seem to always remember back then that hurt people hurt people, and Britni was hurting.  I realized that I wasn't going to do any good hurting her back, so I tried my best to keep on loving her, even when it was so hard to do so.

What I couldn't understand is why Britni was trying to have these relationships with these dominating mean girls during her difficult times, trying to win their approval when she didn't have to do anything for mine.

Many times when Britni said something mean to me, I'd run to my mom and cry.  My mom always tried to protect me when I was upset or she would encourage me to take breaks from my friends when they were hurtful.  She was compassionate and also a problem solver, so on occasion,  my mom approached Britni's mom and together they talked us through problems.  

My mother is really a good woman and I am actually very grateful she is so strong & wise, otherwise I don't know if I would have survived school and  some friendships when I was younger.

There were times that Britni and I may have hung out less but I can't remember if that was by our own choice, or moms encouraging a break. (It's nice to know what seems traumatic right now may not be remembered in a just a few short years!)

I remember feeling like I had this mission to be at my friend's side through her pain, even if that meant I would be hurt at times. I realized the pain that my friend was going through was real.  Deep down I knew the other girls were just taking turns hurting one another, and if I could stay out of it as much as possible I could avoid some pain.

I did choose to forgive Britni and other girls that hurt me.  But honestly, I didn't always know how to protect myself. Looking back, if I could warn young ladies of anything, it would be that it's so crucial not to allow the way others treat you affect how you feel about yourself.  Growing up, I always had people who I thought were friends take advantage of me and treat me unfairly.  Sadly, my insecurity made me believe it was okay to be treated this way as long as I just loved and forgave everyone.  Later in life, girlfriends who treated me unkindly became boyfriends who treated me unkindly.  I eventually had an abusive boyfriend for the majority of my high school years.

Now I believe it so very important to always stand up for yourself.  We won't always have the control to make others treat us kindly or fairly, but we can choose how we react.  I believe it is important to remember to love God, love others, but also to love yourself.  I needed back then to know that it was never okay for people to treat me this way.  I had to grow to learn who I am and how to be my confident, fabulous self!

Above everything, we must always take our pain to Jesus.  He is by far the ultimate healer.  Without feeling His acceptance, we won't know how to stand against the cruelty of others. 

Looking back on this story, what is so neat to see is that God uses what we have gone through to strengthen us and to help us help others.  Through the persistent love I have had for Britni despite of what we went through, it's amazing to see God in all of this, and that our friendship has carried on.  We now love one another and push each other towards the things God has for our lives.  I am so blessed to have her in my life!"

I'm so happy to tell you Morgan married a wonderfully kind (and good looking!) husband on December 11, 2010 and is happily married, still growing in her understanding of all these life issues.

When I asked what she wishes she would have done differently back then, she had an interesting answer.

"I wish I'd known who I was, who God made me to be..and had been confident in that. If you don't know who you are, you'll let anyone tell you who you are.  In Christian schools, kids often don't want to be there, but even the ones who do may not understand their relationship with God and how that should affect their daily life.  They can be in church and chapels all the time, so FEEL like they are being spiritual, but my challenge to those kids now would be this- spend time with God alone, ask Him "Who am I? Who have You made me to be?" I wish I would have concentrated more on my one on one time with Jesus, my personal relationship with Him.  If I could have understood who I was in His eyes, I don't think I would have listened to other people so much. "

My observations from Morgan's story...

1.  Morgan's personality is a gift- a compassionate loving supportive friend.  One of life's greatest treasures. In that compassionate gift, she now sees that she needed boundaries also.  Girls often can love potential and good traits, while overlooking negative behavior. It took the help of her mother to know what behavior from a friend should not be overlooked and where boundaries were needed to protect herself.

2.  Morgan felt her choices were 1) hurt Britni back or 2) just keep on loving and forgiving her even when it's hard.  Morgan isn't alone in thinking those are the only choices.  I've seen that with many girls over the years.  In our efforts to teach them the "Christian way", we have taught them is to be kind and loving and forgiving, but we may have slacked on teaching them boundaries and conflict resolution.  Knowing what to take and what not to take from someone is a subject we need to roleplay with our daughters. Standing up for themselves, or even knowing when to, is not a natural ability in middle school. It has to be taught and it's a crucial life skill.

3.  What boundaries could have been set? Looking at their situation objectively, with no emotion, I could envision this scenario...

When Britni starts to tell Morgan what to do, who to like and who to be mad at, she can say, "Britni, I don't let anyone tell me what to do or who to like. If you're going to be that way, I'd rather not hang out. I like you, but not the way you're acting."  If Britni changes her ways, Morgan can keep hanging out with her. If she doesn't, Morgan can stop hanging out with her, at least for awhile.  She may be able to say, "Britni, why are you acting that way?" or "Hey I miss hanging out with you, are you still hanging out with the mean girls? How long are you gonna do that?" If Britni begins to miss the friendship, she may be more inclined to change her ways and go back to the true friend.  If not, Morgan may need to leave Britni alone until Britni amends her ways.

4.  In her insecurity, Morgan internalized mistreatment and allowed it to affect how she felt about herself.  She recognizes the only thing powerful enough to combat her inner feelings was her own relationship with God.  Being older now, she realizes the strength and healing that is possible with God's help.  I thought that was interesting she knows  now that a stronger relationship with God would have helped her at the time.

5.  It's possible to be mean without thinking you're mean.  Britni said in her post "I wasn't intentionally mean to Ellie".  But she said mean things to Ellie. So from Ellie's angle and in reality, Britni was mean (at the time).  Britni judged herself at the time from an internal perspective, that she was just dealing with life.  The truth was, which Britni acknowledges now, is that she was mean.

Lesson from that? Girls you are dealing with now, maybe even your daughter, may say they're not mean, and truly believe it, while they are acting out very mean behavior.  It takes a lengthy look to get to the bottom of things.

Back in Pt. 3,  I said it must be such a relief for the "Ellies" of the world to realize the mistreatment they endured wasn't because of their own failings, but because of the meanness of the perpetrator.  After hearing Morgan's side, it's only a relief looking back, when the situation is over. It doesn't save the Ellies from the pain put upon them at the time it occurs.

It's not okay to be mean.  It's not okay to hurt people or cause them pain. Britni agrees with this now. She's been portrayed as mean girl for a few posts, and she was, but it was only a small portion of her life. Morgan says  "Now that Britni and I are older its nice because we have each others back when we are going though things, and there is this 100% acceptance for one another. I can't honestly remember the last time we had a disagreement."  Here they are at Morgan's wedding last year :)

Let's continue to teach our kids the value of other human beings. Let's help our kids walk through the trials of life in depth, being open to hearing things they don't necessarily say out loud, and walking them through things they may feel they have to navigate alone. Some things are just too hard to figure out alone before life gives wisdom that only age can bring.

Tomorrow, you'll get to meet Britni's mom.  She has some encouraging words for moms out there. You won't want to miss it!

Pt. 3 - A Peek Inside Meanness

Did you pull out your popcorn and enjoy hearing Britni's middle school story unfold in the last two posts?!

(As much as you can "enjoy" reading mean girl stories that is....)

If you missed them, here they are again.

Middle School Mean Girl Pt. 1 and Mean Girl Pt. 2.

Sitting in Starbucks, hearing her story in person added all the heartfelt emotion that a blogpost can't properly convey. At the end of her story, I had to ask WHY... "Why do you think you acted the way you did?"

Because, you see, I know Britni and know she's not evil at heart. At all. Far from it. What makes a girl do mean things? A girl raised in a good family, well taken care of, not lacking in opportunity, raised in church, in a Christian school...

She shared these things with me.

1. Anger, inner turmoil and stress of personal situations made me want to be mean to others.
2. I couldn't confide in anyone really, or felt like I couldn't, so the stress came out in anger.
3. I looked to get reactions from others, because of the problems going on in my own life that I had no control over. I was reacting to my own problems with stress and anger, therefore I tried to cause reactions in other people too.
4. I was jealous of attention that other girls got, so a lot of the things I did was to get attention too.

Now, once again I paused hearing this. Number 2 bothered me. I know her family. She had many people to talk to. She was surrounded by family and friends who cared. She should have had me too. How did she feel like this? I know her family did talk to her, care for her and pay attention to her. Even with all of that, she felt this way. It's possible to feel alone even when you're not. I'm sad she felt alone during that time.

This has happened in my own parenting recently. I think I have processed something important effectively, later to find out my kids opinion is, no, not really. How could you say that? I said this, this and this. You said this. We talked about it. Somehow sometimes they don't hear it like we think it happened. People process differently. Maybe we should double check. And triple check?

And for #5, I was so curious about her treating Ellie differently at school then at home. I had to ask why, having seen this situation so many times. The friend acts great one on one or at home, then acts weird or mean at school or in front of other people. Why do girls do that?

5. I loved Ellie and knew she didn't want to be part of being mean, so I ignored her at school, but I still really liked being with her, so one on one I could be friends with her.

Being older now, Britni realized that didn't totally make sense, but in middle school it did.

How must Ellie have felt during this time? confused? wondering whether to give Britni more chances? I wonder!

Usually the "Ellie" of the situation feels hurt and wonders what's wrong with herself to make her friend mistreat her. But that wasn't the case at all. Britni loved Ellie, respected her, and liked being with her. Britni just divided her personality in half in order to deal with what she had created.

I found this interesting and a probable relief for all the Ellies out there! The problem wasn't with Ellie. Britni recognized it as a problem within herself. Not that it solves the problem or makes Ellie hurt less. Not that it's ok. We aren't giving a blanket "okay" for this, just trying to make some sense of the reasoning.

I got intrigued writing this and am attempting to find the true Ellie and hear her side. Detective suit on. Trench coat and magnifying glass out. Will let you know what I find.

I will say again Britni learned her lesson the hard way, through becoming a victim herself and enduring a very difficult year, of which she didn't share all the details for quite awhile. She allowed God to do a great work in her life, change her heart and she has take responsibility for her actions. She is more than willing to tell on herself now, in a hope to help girls not do what she did. Follow her blog now as she travels the world in an 11 month venture, 11 countries in 11 months with The World Race.

Meanwhile, also pursuing other stories from girls who have been the victim of bullying, so we can get a personal understanding of that side too. I know it's personal and perhaps painful to relive, but can be a source of education for others, in an attempt to combat what has become a huge problem in our country.

Let me know if you have one to share.


Pt. 2 - Mean Girl

Yesterday we left you hanging! Peep on over at Part 1 if you missed it before you read this post!

Britni had spent her entire 6th grade year being the mean girl, even into a portion of her 7th grade year...before things began to take a turn for the worse....

She was in a private Christian school where many kids ran around with smiles on their faces and "acted right" at the "right times", but were completely different behind the scenes. And we all know girls are pretty sneaky. They know how to appear innocent when necessary and still do damage to those around them, all while keeping a smile on their face!

In Britni's own words:
"Midway through our 7th grade cheer season, everything changed. A new girl decided to join the squad. She just transferred from a public school and she was gorgeous. Not to mention, just as cruel as we were. Being the new girl, she stirred curiousity from our peers. From myself, she stirred jealousy. I tried to protect what my friends and I had "built" for ourselves by gossiping about her and spreading around half true stories I had heard. But instead of joining in with me, my friends flocked to her. Needless to say, I was left once again, alone. Abandoned. Just like I felt from my parents divorce. I really hit a low point in my lost and festering emotions. I spent many times at school alone now, usually eating lunch in classrooms or bathrooms. Ellie stuck by me. It got so bad I decided to quit my private school and study at home for the rest of 7th grade year. I was so angry and hurt. I wanted nothing more to do with these people. I wanted nothing more to do with people in general. All they had proven to me was their capability to leave.

It was while I was at home that "the rumor" started. I began hearing comments from people regarding my sudden disappearance from school. Lies were being spread around that I was pregnant. They were whispering, gossiping, word vomitting all over me. ME! I was the gossiper, not the gossiped about! And yet, somehow, I had become the center of a vicious and degrading rumor mill for the first time in my life. Honestly, at the time I'm not even sure I completely knew how you get pregnant. My reputation took a beating. But this was the thing it took for me to take a real close look at myself for once. I had to swallow my pride and realize that they were now treating me how I had treated them. I was finally reaping the harvest from the seeds I had sown. Although I spent the remainder of my year feeling completely alone, I had started a process of growing up and allowing God to work on the mess of pain and filth hiding in my heart.

God began to bring across my path some wise individuals who spoke truth to me. One man once told me, "If you want a true friend, be a true friend." I pondered what that meant for me as I took this year at home to re-build. I also learned that it's okay to hurt, but you need to talk to someone about it. You can't deal with pent up emotions by yourself, otherwise you'll end up pouring out your wrath on others. So, as 8th grade finally came around, I gathered the courage I had gained and the lessons I had learned and headed back to school. That next year was easily one of the best school years I've ever had. And what's even greater? I gained true friends, many of which, especially Ellie, I've been close with to this day (a whole 8 years later)."

Insights: (not that these are correct actions or motives, these are observations of WHY)

1. It was because of Britni's jealousy that she lashed out at the new girl. Jealousy breeds drama.
2. In Britni's mind, the new girl threatened the friendship structure she had built with her friends, so Britni went into protective mode, trying to keep the new girl out.
3. Shallow friends abandon for the next new thing.
4. The friends she gossiped with, now gossiped about her.
5. It took something big for her to take a look at herself.

Now this story reads really quick and simple, but I know that the living out of these two years, especially the last one, was long and hard with much pain. She explained to me the reason her 8th grade year and on were so much better. She and some of the other girls had learned their lessons and made a decision to leave the drama behind, to change their ways. They stuck together. They split ways with those who continued to live in and create drama. That was key.

Britni is extremely remorseful for pain she caused. I offered to write this story anonymously, but she said no, she needed to "own" her past. Her hope is that girls may listen and recognize any behavior of their own that may need changing.

There is still more to come on this huge subject.

Helping girls understand the motives of why people act the way they do is key to 1) building empathy and 2) helping girls not internalize mean behavior toward them as if they are at fault. Generally, the mean ones are hurting inside so they bring hurt to others. The victims often wonder "what's wrong with them" and internalize the pain as if they themselves are at fault. It doesn't lessen the pain at all to understand why someone is mean to you, but it can help your mind understand the situation and know that it's not your problem, it's theirs.

We have to learn how to deal with bullying, to teach girls how to deal with it when it happens to them. I believe in confronting it, standing up for yourself and also standing up for others who can't seem to do it themselves.

Broaching that subject soon. Stayed tuned.


Pt. 1 - Middle School Mean Girl Turned Missionary

For Anti-Bullying month, I'd love to share the TRUE story of a twenty-something girl that I've known her entire life. Brini has graciously written out her middle school story to share, in hopes of helping some girls along the way. So grateful for her willingness and honesty. She is a changed person now and has much wisdom to share about middle school and mean girls.

Yesterday's blog also revealed some local teen girls thoughts on friendships in general. Make sure and check that out too for some juicy tidbits.

But first, let's go back a couple of decades! Here is sweet Britni ate age 2 at my wedding!

Isn't she presh??! And WAY too cute and sweet to ever do anything mean!! Right?! Well not according to her. (p.s. gotta love that 80's master headpiece! even though it was '91... Some of us hung on to the 80's.) Britni has grown into a wonderful young lady, and is currently on an 11 month missionary journey around the world, doing daring things that few of us would do! You can join in on that adventure via her blog at She has raised quite a chunk of change and still has quite a chunk to go to finish out her 11 months! It's a good cause. This is her now as the fabulous missionary that she is:

If you get inspired by her journey, feel free to contribute by giving online at the above website.

BACK TO the Mean Girl Story!

I love her story because she gives us a rare glimpse into the mind and motivations that mean behavior often stems from. I believe if girls can hear her story and understand her perspective, they will either 1) take a look at their own behavior or 2) have a better understanding of how to deal with girls who may be acting this way towards them!

So let's get to PART ONE of her story...(it's too long for one blog post.)

Fyi, this took place at a private Christian school. 6th grade.

"Middle School. Oh dear sweet middle school. So full of innocence, right? Maybe not as much as you'd like to think. Most pre-teens won't be out drinking on the weekends or visiting the backseat of a car with their "boyfriend/girlfriend", but that doesn't mean there isn't a battle to be fought! For me, and for most, it would be the fight for popularity. What would you do for the top spot on the A-list of your social sphere? We will leave that an unanswered question for now. Not so sure we would all want to confess that one out loud. I'll admit, however, that I was willing to risk others' reputations over my own. The possibilities truly were endless. Remember that law about reaping and sowing? Well this is one of those stories. I started off in 6th grade already emotionally torn up. My parents were in the process of an ugly divorce and I didn't handle it well. Abandoned is a good word to describe how I felt. I am not sure I understood the full extent of the emotions I was dealing with, but I certainly knew they were there. I always saw them (the emotions) manifest through my actions toward others. I truly wasn't a mean spirited person, I was just hurting and immature. I did find an outlet for a period of time through cheerleading. I quickly bonded with a group of girls who were alot like me; outgoing, adventurous and in need of attention. And boy, did we LOVE attention. We often sought it at the expense of others. We did things like de-panting girls in gym class and mocking kids during chapel praise and worship. Harmless things, like throwing gum in girls hair and laughing when they didn't notice. That's harmless, right? We spread vicious rumors about the people we didn't like and found entertainment in watching it spread like wildfire. We never thought about the way that it actually made people feel. We were just looking for a response from our peers. Now, I've got to step back for a moment because I feel I am painting a bad picture for the cheerleaders out there. We weren't all like that. There were actually a few that knew who they were and didn't stoop to our level. One in particular was a really good friend of mine. I will call her Ellie. I greatly admired this girl because she stood her ground and didn't let our influence get to her. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to respect that. I often blew her off to hang around my mean friends. I wasn't intentionally rude to Ellie. I really did love her as a person. I think it was just hard for me to be around her because her standard convicted my own behavior. I was also confused at what a real friend was. I thought that since she didn't want to do all the things I did, she thought she was better than me. True friends, in my mind, were supposed to do all things together; good and bad. I was really split over my different groups of friends. In response, I split my time and maybe even my personality to some degree. I would hang out with the "cheer girls" at school and all related activities, and I'd hang out with Ellie when no one else was around. I really couldn't find a way to fit these two parts of my life together. I am not sure I will ever know the extent of the damage I caused Ellie, but I'm thankful she stuck around anyway. Midway through our 7th grade cheer season, everything changed...A new girl decided to join the squad..."

And will have to wait for tomorrow to find out what big change happened!! SIGH!!! Not fair, I know...Stay tuned. it's a good one, full of drama.

Insights so far...
1. she hurt others because of her own pain
2. she didn't consider herself a mean person, just did things without thinking with similar girls.
3. she looked up to Ellie who was different, but she didn't understand how to deal with it.
4. Ellie probably felt confused and blown off by Britni's behavior, but it didn't mean that Britni didn't love her. Britni wanted to keep Ellie in her life, but didn't know how to be both kinds of people at once.
5. Britni misunderstood true friendship.

Lots more coming up on girl issues. (The new facebook layout has made viewing so much more difficult! Agreed?) So "Like" our page 5 Things on Facebook to get all the updates, or subscribe by email at to get every post!


Wanna Know Girls Thoughts on Friendships?

October is anti-bullying month. We've got some great things coming up on that subject, a real life story to share, but I want to start out with some real thoughts on friendships, from recent meetings held with local teen girls.

After years of meeting with teen girls talking about life issues, loneliness is one common theme that has never changed, no matter the age or the different group of girls I'm talking to. Girls can tend to be lonely. As busy as we are, it's an interesting thought! A middle schooler this weekend said "That's why girls want to have a boyfriend". Another said that girls you'd never expect sometimes post things on Facebook or Twitter declaring loneliness. Loneliness may be partly due to the fact we are made with such a great capacity for relationship. Learning what to do with that need for relationship is helpful.

Girls often say with sadness how they rarely have time to get together with so many friends they really enjoy. We talked of the need for relationship and friendship, how crucial it is. Our lifestyles sometimes make us so busy, they definitely feel stress at young ages, but does the primary need for good relationships get squeezed out? Good friendships are part of what eleviates stress in our lives. Are we making time for people? It's something to consider. It seems a constant battle for all of us, adults too. I know I can relate!

It is helpful to let girls know that occasional loneliness is relatively normal and they aren't the only ones that feel that way. So often we do feel like "the only ones" who feel a certain way. Oh, I'm normal?! What a relief! Sometimes just knowing that helps. It may be a surprise to learn some girls feel this way at all. Not all do, but it may be helpful to bring it up sometime and see if the girls you know can relate.

When we do have that great fun time with friends, it's so important who we hang out with. Friends influence us one way or another. At our last two meetings, girls have had to think through what character traits are important to them in friendships.

A group of 8th graders individually write down the 5 most important character traits they wanted a close friend to have. Then as a group they had to unanimously agree on just 3 of those traits as the most important. This was a difficult task which led to very interesting discussion!

After a lively debate, we finally realized narrowing down to 3 would be impossible before moms arrived to pick up girls to go home. These girls had lots of thoughts and compelling arguments! So the final 5 they could agree on as tops were: honesty, trust, Christian, fun, and a friend who listens. Each had their own personal top 3, that weren't necessarily the same as others, which is totally fine. It wasn't a right or wrong answer, just an exercise to think through what traits a good friend should have.

Lastly, looking in the mirror is necessary (but definitely not quite as fun), as we ask ourselves, am I displaying those qualities that I seek from others? This question solicited a couple of groans and sheepish looks....but teaching girls to consider their own behavior will give them life long skills they'll need for good relationships.

Random thoughts girls have shared this month-

1. I want a friend who listens to me. Some girls want to talk about their problems all the time, but get annoyed when I want to talk about mine.
2. I want a friend who isn't a downer all the time. If someone is negative a lot, I feel it pulling me down with them.
3. I want a friend who really wants to be with me. I don't want to be their back up plan.
4. I have alot of people tell me their problems. I have to make sure I don't get burdened down trying to take care of everyone's problems.
5. "Oh no..." when asked to think about how they themselves are acting toward others...indicating the need to examine self is definitely needed! :) haha... who can't relate to that?!

Discussion starter: When girls you know, daughter or otherwise, are talking about friends, ask what it is they enjoy about that person. Just listen. This can help her think through what traits are important to her in relationships.

Sometimes the opposite approach works too. If she is having friendship problems, recognizing what that friend is doing that hurts her, helps her to see the positive quality that friend may be lacking.


Access Hollywood- A Good Example

If you've followed the last few blogs, you know we are highlighting positive examples in our culture, after looking at the problem of girls pushing for perfectionism and growing up too fast. If you missed any, check out October posts!

Shaun Robinson is a bright light in the midst of Hollywood. In a city that seems to be so filled with "image", Shaun has seen through the smoke and mirrors and heard the needs of girls. Plus she is fighting to make a difference.

Some might say that the Hollywood culture, always vying for fame and beauty, is what is wrong with our society. It is the very source of false hopes our girls cling to. Therefore they may not want to support someone in the midst of the culture. I disagree. People of standards need to be in all parts of society, bringing their difference, message and hope to every corner of the world.

I heard about Shaun, not through her weekend co-anchor position at Access Hollywood, but through the book she wrote called Exactly As I Am. Her job as an entertainment reporter allows her to meet the most famous celebrities of our day. Over the years, she has received countless letters and emails from girls around the country. She has recognized the danger of girls equating their own self worth with the perceived perfection of the celebrities they follow.

"Of course, the cultural obsession with celebrity is not new, but how it is impacting the way girls and women feel about themselves has become a passionate concern of mine- so much so that over the past few years I began organizing informal task-force groups of girls and young women from around the country to talk directly about their issues of self esteem." (excerpt from Exactly As I Am)

Her book is a compilation of stories from famous women of all types of accomplishments, from actresses to athletes to governors and scientists. Their stories center around their advice to young women about gaining confidence in their "tangible skills", instead of just looks. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read about the struggles that even celebrities go through with their self image. No one is immune from self doubt. It is nice to hear from women who have accomplished great things in their careers, even through adversity.

She is also on the Board of Directors of Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit youth organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Shout out to Shaun!


Celebrating Good Examples

Another voice that has stood out from the crowd is from actress Emma Watson of the Harry Potter series. In 2009 she spoke out on modesty:

"I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me - dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt. It’s nothing to do with protecting the Hermione image. I wouldn’t do that. Personally, I don’t actually think it’s even that sexy. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder. - Emma Watson

That is a breath of fresh air coming from a teen living among fame and Hollywood culture! So many other young famous teen girls have spiraled downwards in that environment, leaving girls around the country disappointed. It's nice to see an actress take a stand for something different than the norm.

Now that she's a little older, we'll see what happens, but I hope she continues to be a good example. Girls need good role models to look up to!

Do you know other good examples in our culture that stand out from among the rest?


Andy Grammer- Music that Respects Women

Last week's blog was a five part series on the problems of and solutions for the early sexualization of girls in our culture. (A bit of a downer to focus on, but completely necessary to understand if we are going to combat the messages!) I could go on and on and on about the poor messages. They are endless...

BUT what's exciting is when a ray of light shines out from among the others with a POSITIVE message! Especially a positive message in the MUSIC industry about women and how to treat them! There have been a few shining lights lately and I'm happy to highlight them this week.

Andy Grammer is a fabulous upcoming artist with music that we can be proud of, and a very fun happy style that is too rare and so refreshing.

Brighten your day by clicking on this link to catch his song with a great message called "LADIES".

Now that you love him, here is one more! And add him to your Ipod today.

Check out his performance of "The Pocket".

We love Andy Grammer!