America is in an Abusive Relationship. Now what?

“He gives me so many chores to do, I can’t make it to work on time” Theresa explained quietly. Her head hung down, her hair covering her face.  She did not, would not make eye contact with me.  She was soft-spoken, kind, pretty, and had beautiful hair, but her spirit was so broken.

I remember this conversation as if it were yesterday.  The year was 1996.  It was my first professional job as a young Human Resource Director for a non-profit nursing home.  I was asked to speak to one of the nursing assistants because she had been consistently tardy to work.

She told me her husband gave her such a long list of things to do in the morning it was making it impossible to arrive to work on time.  I had to ask what would happen if she refused.  She told me he beat her.  She calmly explained they had four boys together and if she left him, he would get custody of the kids and if she fought him, she was sure he would kill her. The way she told me, was as if she was telling me the sky was blue.  This was a fact.  This was how it was.  She was not being dramatic, she was not making excuses, she was telling me the truth of her life.

I became determined to help her.  I called a counselor who specializes in domestic abuse, and had her and the employee meet with me in my office.  When presented with the information about the threats on her life, I will never forget what the counselor told her.  She said, “You can get a restraining order, but it will not do not do much to protect you since it is just a piece of paper.”  I wanted to scream.  I could see on the woman’s face she would not leave.  She couldn’t risk leaving her boys.  She would sacrifice herself.

survivingShe told me she had called the police once, and the story made it into the paper.  She pressed charges and pictures were taken.  She was covered in bruises.  Her husband owned a business in town and he blamed her because the business suffered after the abuse report.  Naturally, it was her fault his business suffered. The story haunted me.  I wondered how could someone be so selfish and cruel?

Years later, I was introduced to a book called, The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless vs. the Rest of Us, by Martha Stout Ph.D, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. It was eye opening to me. The book introduced me to the world of sociopaths and narcissists.  I knew there were sociopaths but I assumed they were mass murderers.  People like Ted Bundy.  The book explained while some are violent, many sociopaths and narcissists are not.  They do however wreak havoc and create chaos in their personal lives and most of us will encounter someone who has this disorder in our lifetime.  Obviously, the more power they have, the more damage they can do. The kindest people have to be the most careful, because they are susceptible to their charms.

This is an excerpt from her book. “Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.  Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.  The-Sociopath-Next-Door-313473And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.  Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs.  Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.  You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness.  The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.  You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered.”

The author explained narcissists are attracted to powerful positions but not all narcissists are powerful. Many people think narcissism is arrogance, but the deficiency is lack of empathy and guilt. She asked her readers to imagine what you could do if you lacked the ability to feel other people’s emotions or guilt when you hurt others.  Denzel WashingtonThe results are terrifying and it changed me.  She gave many real-life examples of people at work, in personal relationships and how they were harmed.  The stories stuck with me and made me more cautious with my trust.

After years of studying sociopaths and narcissists the number one question people asked Dr. Stout was how can you tell if you are dealing with a sociopath or a narcissist? People who have been harmed or duped want to know so they can avoid the pain in the future.  The skilled narcissists can charm people and hide it well.

She said the number one sign you may be dealing with someone with narcissism is they have a victim story and they use it to manipulate those of us with big hearts.  narcissmPay close attention if someone is trying to get you to feel sorry for them. Trust me when I say that empathy will never be reciprocated.  That is a red flag.  These individuals are the victim of other individuals, groups, perhaps a rigged system, dishonest media, or unfair coverage. Sound familiar?  They deflect the blame away from themselves.  When I read this book, I was immediately reminded of Theresa.  She was married to a sociopath and she felt trapped in his world of alternative facts.  He had empathy only for himself and had the audacity to blame her for his abuse.  Fast forward to 2017 and we have a narcissist in the White House therefore I submit Americans are all in an abusive relationship.

If you don’t believe me, here is a partial list from Dr. Stout of, “Personalities in the public eye who deserve our attention as exhibiting sociopathic behavior” from inside the mind of a sociopath:

Saddam Hussein

Mohamed Adminijad

Vladimir Putin

Donald Trump

O J Simpson

Lance Armstrong

Oscar Pistorius

We have elected a narcissist for a President and he is wreaking havoc. What can we do?  If you do an internet search on what to do if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the advice is clear and can be summed up in one word.  Run.  The best advice is to run, run fast, and don’t look back.  This isn’t a disorder that can be treated with medication and there is no cure. Narcissists do not get better and power often makes their disorder worse.

Running is not an option for most Americans, not to mention many are like me and we love our Country. I feel like Theresa- stuck in an impossible situation. Here are some things we can do:

  1. Understand what you can and cannot expect. Do not expect reason, calmness, or truth. Never appeal to their better nature or expect them to empathize with others. Understanding what to expect helps and knowledge is power.
  2. Do not get sucked into the chaos. A narcissist wants to create chaos. Don’t bite.
  3. Stay calm. The angry outbursts will keep coming. The threats will keep coming but we must take the high road. That is where our power lies.
  4. Leaders have the power to send out energy and set a tone. Be mindful of your energy and your tone. If someone is angry, anger back is a choice. No one can take that away from you.
  5. Do whatever you can to keep your mood positive and loving. Just like Dr. Martin Luther King said, only light can drown out darkness.
  6. Stay informed, but take a break from news. Pay attention to how you feel after watching the news or reading about it.
  7. Do not be intimidated. In a democracy, people have power. Use your voice. We have to stick together to protect our values and those who are unable to speak for themselves. We cannot allow the lack of empathy to spread.
  8. Abusers try and separate people from friends and family. Do not allow that to happen. Regardless of our beliefs, Americans need to be united. We should not be angry with each other and we need each other to stand up for our values.
  9. Be understanding and compassionate with people. Narcissists have followers. All of them do. Dr. Stout said, the followers will often stand by them despite extremely strong evidence they are doing harm. No one is immune from manipulative people. The reason people hang on so long to the belief in someone is because admitting someone they trusted is a fraud or worse feels like a reflection on them. Many of us have done this before.
  10. Believe in our democracy. This will be a test to see if the separation of power that was designed into our system has the strength to withstand the test.
  11. Remain hopeful. For those like me on a spiritual path, we must believe good can rise from chaos.deepok-chopra

Despite the chaos on the outside, only we can individually learn to create peace on the inside. People who radiate a peaceful presence change the world one person at a time. Let’s not let our spirit be broken.

 

I want to end with another positive note if this information makes you lose your faith in humanity.  Most people are good.  Sociopath next door hopeThe reason many sociopaths and narcissists go undetected for years, even a lifetime and often even get rewarded is because people don’t want to believe there are humans that lack a conscience.  The good news is, this is true.  Dr. Stout confirms this.  Most people are good, but we do have to be aware. I encourage you to read this book.  It is very enlightening.

 

I am curious to know how you are coping with the external chaos?

 

Dear President Obama

Dear President Barack Obama,

This letter is my weak attempt at expressing my gratitude to you for your leadership of our country these last eight years. You have been such a personal inspiration to me, I am afraid my words will not do my feelings justice, but I write this because it is in my heart.

I remember the first time I saw you, and heard your voice. Like many Americans, it was your appearance at the 2004 Democratic Convention.  I was not as interested in politics as I am now.  I had two young children, and was pregnant with my third child.  Like many Moms, I had little time for myself and I rarely watched television.

I now believe we are all nudged to do things that seem insignificant at the time, that turn out to have a bigger impact on your life than you realize.  barack-obama-quotesTurning on the T.V. that night was one of those moments.  You were speaking to the crowd at the convention and I was immediately transfixed.  Your words and delivery were so eloquent, so inspirational, I remember thinking, “Now there is someone who makes me want to be a better person.”  I was not alone and I understand that speech was the catalyst for a wider audience for your message.  It is hard to imagine a time when Barack Obama was not a household name, but in 2004 it was not.

As a person who loves words, I believe when someone delivers words with such perfection, and they pierce through the noise of the world, and touch the hearts of thousands of people, that is no accident. Words have powerWords have energy and when that energy lifts hearts and inspires people, a ripple effect is released amongst those who hear them. Words matter.  You can tell when someone is in the right place at the right time, living their purpose on earth.  For some, that bright light is intimidating and threatening, but for others it gives them hope.  That is what your speech did for me.

After that speech, I admit, I became a bit of a fan. I started reading about you and as soon as it was released, I bought your book, “The Audacity of Hope” and read every word.  Your vision and caring for others was very reflective of my beliefs on optimistic leadership and it resonated with me.  I felt strongly, you would make a significant difference in the world.

When I heard, you were reading, A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, I went to the library and checked out the book.  It was over 900 pages, but I was interested in how you were preparing to become our leader.  Team of RivalsI thought it was such a wonderful idea to study the person most people would say is the greatest President in our history.  It helped me understand how you chose your cabinet, and made your decisions.  Because of the book, I could tell Lincoln was guiding you.  I remember being so surprised by the opposition Lincoln faced as a President.  We tend to glamorize the past and the history books do not always reflect the negative.  As you were criticized and I would feel defensive of you, I thought perhaps knowing how much criticism Lincoln faced was a comfort to you?  Greatness is not always recognized while history is being made.

I have never felt so proud of our country when we elected you. I had my three young children watch your inauguration and I remember saying to them, “You are watching history.  I want you to remember this moment.”  The hope was palpable.

You have not once disappointed me. As a student of leadership style, there is no one who inspires me more than you.  While I am grateful for many of your accomplishments, I am most appreciative of the way in which you conducted yourself as President of the United States.  You radiate class, grace, humbleness, genuine caring, empathy, compassion, integrity, and you made us laugh.  Barack Obama progressYou have raised the bar for what is possible for so many people.  One of my beliefs about leadership is, the leader sets the tone wherever their circle of influence is.  You set an optimistic, hopeful tone that literally changed the energy of our soul as a nation.  I am fully aware not everyone holds this viewpoint, but I know it to be true for me.

I remember you made an announcement on your first Martin Luther King Day as President to all Americans to do what you can to help others in honor of his legacy. I had the day off work with my kids and I decided to give them each some money, take them to the grocery store and have them choose items to donate to the food shelf.  It was a successful trip, except they kept loudly yelling from the aisles, “Do you think poor people eat noodles?”  Here is a picture from that day inspired by you.

mlk-day-kids
Sierra, Jace, and Mya at Hy-Vee in New Ulm, MN 2009

I want you to know I was listening. I heard you.  I felt your heart.  I know your decision to reform health care was in part inspired, by watching your beloved Mother die of cancer and worry about medical bills.  I know you felt others pain as if it was your own.  I could see your tears for the victims of Sandy Hook were real.  You know parents walk around with their hearts outside of their bodies.  I could see your courage.  I could sense your peace despite the chaos.  I could feel your decisions were based on values.  I could see you cared.  I could see you gave great thought to how your decisions would affect real people, real lives.  I want you to know I noticed. Your leadership made me feel safe. I will miss that so much.

I think your greatest legacy will be the way you honored your wife and daughters. You showed the world what is possible for husbands, and fathers.  Barack Obama on FatherhoodThe pride you have for your family is so honorable and unique, it has been stamped on my heart.  The way you honored those who worked closest with you, for example, Joe Biden is another reason I admire you so.  It is not common for leaders, especially men, to model such open, and heartfelt love for friends and co-workers and the way you both publicly expressed admiration was trailblazing and I hope it gives others the courage to be so vulnerable.

Thank you from every ounce of my being. I pray for you and your beautiful family. I selfishly weep to have you no longer be my President, but I am so happy for you.  You must feel weary and frustrated, but as always you do what is best for us.  I will miss that the most.  I hope you can rest. As I reflect on the transition, the Cinderella song, “Don’t Know What You Got (‘til it’s Gone)” has been running through my mind.  I want you to know, I always knew.  I tried not to take you for granted, but I am afraid at times, I may have.

May God, bless you and may God bless the United States of America.  Please give me the audacity to continue to be as hopeful as you are.

With Heartfelt Love and Gratitude,

Carli Lindemann

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

Hello New Year! I have plans for you!  I plan to rise to meet you with open arms!  “Who is rising?”, you ask!? MY BEST SELF!  Although I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, there is something so exciting about a new year!  A fresh start!  new-yearAlthough every moment presents an opportunity for a fresh start, the New Year gives many people the feeling of a hopeful new beginning. The hope is palpable. Goodbye to those things that no longer serve me, and hello to all things that makes life better than ever! I am no exception!  Here is a list of the things I plan to do more of in 2017.

This year I will:

Feel more joy

Send more love to everyone

Compliment more

Be braver and stronger

Be kinder

Show more compassion

Eat healthier

Exercise more

Only buy things I need and love

Praise God more

Express more gratitude for all my blessings

Surrender to each moment

Notice beauty

Laugh more

Be softer when I need to and stronger when the occasion arises

Speak my truth

Add value with my words

Use my time wisely

Write

Have peaceful transitions

Be an instrument of peace

But here is what I know from years past. There are moments and likely whole days where I may not do ANY of these things in 2017 because I am HUMAN!  These are all things I strive for and know I can achieve, but my main goal is to be a truer version of myself.  To be authentic.  authenticityAnd forgive myself for not being perfect.

I may nap instead of working out, I may complain instead of expressing gratitude, I may forget to pray, and eat potato chips instead of broccoli.

When I do, I will forgive myself and realize I can always have another fresh start.  I have no plans to be perfect!  Perfect is boring and my number one plan in 2017 is to be ME. The best version of me I can muster every day. And if I can look back at the end of the year and feel as if I am a better, truer version of myself, then 2017 will be my best year yet!

I am curious what you plan to do more of in 2017?

My Journey to Feminism

I am a feminist. For someone who doesn’t like labels, this is one I have recently been comfortable declaring about myself.  I have not burned my bra – it wouldn’t make much of a fire anyway! For me, being a feminist means that men and women deserve to have equal rights and historically, and currently this is often not the world we live in.

As my daughter says, being a feminist does not mean you hate men. Not even close.  I am surrounded by men who I admire, respect, and love.  Strong men are never threatened by strong women. The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau declared himself a feminist.  So did the Dalai Lama.

We talk a lot about girl power at our house- even with my 13-year-old son.  Girl power does not take power away from men but compliments it.  Women are often conditioned to not own their strength and their power.  For me, calling myself a feminist was not always the case.  For most of my life, I didn’t give being a feminist much thought. Because of so many women, who paved the way before me, I grew up in a generation of women who fully expected we had choices and could be who we wanted to be.

I recently read about two women who are considered pioneers of the women’s rights movement- Sarah and Angelina Grimke. They were born in the South around 1800 and lived in a family who owned slaves.  They saw the injustice of this lifestyle and started speaking publicly about it, which was considered very radical.  It was especially controversial that in some of their public forums, they spoke to a crowd of men and women.  sarah-grimke-quoteAt the time, it was unheard of for a woman to suggest to men- well, anything.  That right was only reserved for men.

What resonated with me about their story was their first cause was to speak out against slavery and while doing so, someone suggested to them they should make women’s rights their cause too.  So, they did. Interestingly, it was an afterthought, they started speaking out about women’s rights.  I find that story so compelling because Sarah and Angelina Grimke who were clearly facing discrimination because of their gender, felt compelled to speak out on behalf of others before they even considered defending themselves.  The story resonates with my journey.  I clearly remember at a young age feeling outraged by the injustice of racism, which like Sarah and Angelina didn’t affect me personally, while experiencing sexism and accepting it as part of life as a girl.  sarah-and-angelina-quotesThat is the blessing and the curse of being a woman. We are often nurturing and caring by nature and defense of others rights is more comfortable than defending our own.  I think it is important to recognize that nature within us and embrace the compassion we have for others, but not let it restrict our voice in speaking out about rights for ourselves.

As I said in past posts, this election has so many lessons for our country if we are paying attention. There is no way to analyze this election without considering the issues of sexism and sexual assault. They became front and center and just like racism, when you expose an ugliness, you no longer have the luxury of pretending the ugliness does not exist. That is the first step toward healing- admitting there is a problem.

Because the women’s rights movement has come so far, and some of our laws have changed to protect women from blatant sexism, it may seem like a thing of the past.  Just like racism, sexism did not go away, it has just become less politically correct to be publicly sexist.  Then along comes President Elect Donald Trump. Wow. Just wow.  I guess degrading women is “okay” again.  The thing is, ITS NOT OKAY!!  We should not allow him to normalize “locker room talk” and “boys being boys.” Donald Trump SexismDismissing that behavior is degrading to women, but also very disrespectful to men.  We should expect more from our husbands, our sons, and especially our leaders. I have been surrounded by wonderful men my whole life who respect women and treat them with dignity and to pretend that is “just how men are” is a disgrace to men too.  I am not naïve. I have been around plenty of men who talk this way about women but we certainly don’t have to accept it as the way it will always be.  This is especially for those in power.

Donald Trump’s sexist statements and actions have a long history. It is no secret that rich powerful men have used their status to use women as objects to validate their power and wealth.  They get away with it and women often accept it as the way it has always been. Just like Donald Trump’s blatant racism, his blatant sexism was not a deal breaker- even for some women.  I fully understand, many people felt compelled to overlook it because of various reasons, but we still should talk about the consequences of validating someone who has been so publicly vulgar towards women.

Leadership has power, and actions speak louder than words.  After the tape was released in which Donald could be heard bragging about how he grabs women and kisses them without their consent and they “let me do it.”  The blessing was, women have felt empowered to speak out about how this made them feel.  Women need to keep speaking out.  We will not be silent about sexism and assault anymore.  I know I won’t be and I know I am not alone. I think that video awakened a sleeping giant, and has woken us up from our complacency that there is still a need for women’s rights activists.  We have clearly not done enough.

In my estimation, we need more women in leadership, and whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, November 8, 2016 was a rough day for the women’s rights movement.

A major party had finally elected a woman to be the nominee for the President of the Unites States of America.  We didn’t just nominate any woman, we elected by many people’s accounts the most qualified person- man or woman who has ever been considered for the Presidency.  She ran against the most unqualified person to ever run for our highest office. And she lost.

I found a quote that resonates with me regarding what I believe is in part why Hillary Clinton was unsuccessful in becoming elected despite her undisputable better resume and qualifications. I don’t think she was “perfect enough” for the standards that we hold for a woman to consider a job of that caliber.

And make no mistake the standards are higher and different.  Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “If I have to jump six feet to get the same thing that you have to jump two feet for- that’s how racism works.”  six-feet-quoteIf I replace the word racism for sexism, that is exactly what I saw happen in the election.  For a woman to even consider becoming President, she must have an impeccable resume, and job qualifications, while men just need to, well have a penis I guess?  And for a woman to have the audacity to consider becoming the leader of the free world, she better never have made a mistake.

For the males considering the job, the standards for mistakes were, let me think, looks like it was just the penis again.  Sorry to be so crass, but this is my view.  Because we are comfortable with men in leadership and are willing to forgive them for all kinds of errors and mistakes, it makes seeking a leadership position that much easier.  Donald Trump had to jump 2 feet, and Hillary had to jump 6 and it still wasn’t high enough.  I call this the penis pass.  If you have one, especially a white one, you get a pass for all kinds of behavior, those of us who do not, will never get. This pass does not just harm women.  It also harms the millions of respectable men who live life with integrity and honor.  Men that have those qualities should be lifted up and given positions of power.

If you don’t believe me that’s okay but I would like you to consider a scenario in which a video had been uncovered of Hillary saying, “When I see a man I don’t like, I just grab him by the balls.  I can’t help myself.  It makes me feel powerful and because I am rich, I get away with it.”  Can you imagine a woman being forgiven for that statement?  Would people say, “She can’t help it.  That’s just how women who have power talk.”  The consideration to me is laughable. It’s hard to imagine a woman saying this, but if she did, it would be an alternate universe from the one I live in for her to be forgiven for it.

I have held leadership roles for my entire professional career and have been fortunate to work in an industry that embraces women in leadership. I have not felt like a victim and have been blessed with the opportunity to lead. This is not the case for a lot of women in many other industries.  Especially the highest paying ones.  Sheryl Sandberg- bossyCurrently, per Catalyst, a nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, 23 women hold the CEO position at Fortune 500 companies.  That means 477 men, or 95.4% of all men hold the CEO positions for the largest corporations.  In the year 2000, the number of women CEO’s for Fortune 500 companies was 3.  Three women and 497 men.  You could argue we have made progress, but with women representing 50% of the population, we have a long way to go.

Do women contribute to sexism? Absolutely.  Check out this disturbing photo of a Trump supporter.  I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.  trump-can-grabI am writing this to perhaps speak to women and men who have not considered their role in creating a more equal world for all people- men and women.  Once we acknowledge disparities, the hard work can be done to make our country and our world a more equitable one.  Despite the setback (and this photo), I see hope everywhere.  I think the awareness that has been raised by the recent developments in our country will spark change and activism.  If Hillary Clinton had won, we may have done the same thing we did with racism. See- we’re fine.  We are not a country of sexists.   We have elected a female President.  Quit whining.  I suggest we use this as the catalyst to learn,  and grow, because I firmly believe a more equal world, is a better world- for everyone. 

I am curious to know if you consider yourself a feminist or perhaps haven’t considered it at all?

Don’t Wait

“We do our very best but sometimes it’s just not good enough. We buckle our seat belts, we wear a helmet, we stick to the lighted paths. We try to be safe.  We try so hard to protect ourselves but it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference cause when the bad things come, they come out of nowhere.  The bad things come suddenly with no warning but we forget, that sometimes that’s how the good things come too.”  Meredith Grey Season 9-Grey’s Anatomy

Just over one year ago, a classmate of mine died. It was so sudden. One day he was larger than life and the next day he was gone. This is what I wrote a year ago on his Facebook page.  I was inspired to look through old photos from high school. I found this gem from Homecoming 1991.

homecoming
Eric is back row- top left.  I am in the bottom row- 4th from the left.

We lost one of our own, Eric Crabtree last week and our class is mourning the loss of a great person. He was one of those “boys” who did things right. He was a great student, athlete, and most importantly a good person. Although, like many classmates we lost touch but from Facebook it was obvious he became, as expected, an outstanding man. A Husband, Father, Dr., and a good Christian. Heaven is a better place. Class of ’92 will remember you fondly forever.  Our pain pales in comparison to his family’s. My heartfelt sympathies to his family.

One year later I still can’t believe he is gone. I still think about him and pray for his beautiful wife, two girls, and family who of course have an ache in their heart forever.  I pray the ache subsides some, and they find comfort in their love and memories.  I think the quote expresses one of the reasons his death affected me so deeply.  Eric was the type who seemed to always do the “right” thing.  He was the rule follower, the kid who wore his seat belt when other kids were riding in an open pick-up truck.  It was as if he was born an old soul.  He always seemed older than us.

I am so lucky I grew up in a small town and our class was close.  One of the blessings was our class coming together through social media to express love for Eric and each other.  We lost classmates before but it was before social media, so we weren’t as able to share with each other.  small townIt came as no surprise to anyone who knew Eric in high school that he became a Dr., and served our country in the Air Force, became a committed family man, and an involved church member. A few months before he died I remember talking to my boyfriend, who works as a Hospital CEO about Eric.  I told him, it would be amazing if he could recruit Eric to be a Dr. in our town.  I told him if there was anyone who was a great Dr. it would be Eric Crabtree.

I had the honor of attending his funeral with several of our classmates and I learned he had authored a book, he loved animals, especially caring for rescue horses, was committed to preserving land and wildlife, and was highly involved in his church and mission work. Naturally he did all those things. One would expect that from him. That makes so much sense.  It was his dying that didn’t make sense.

His funeral was so touching and heartfelt. His brother spoke and gave such an amazing tribute of his brother. His brother, Josh, who looks like Eric, is a Dr. as well.  They are a family of high achievers.  He told about his brothers service in Iraq and how his witness to human suffering had affected him deeply. He felt his connection to rescue horses was he could connect to the pain they experienced.

Then his wife stood up in front of the church.  You could hear a pin drop.  I had only seen her in pictures.  It did not surprise me that Eric had married someone strong and beautiful.  Her tiny frame looks like she could blow away in a strong wind, but inside she must be a warrior.  I do not know if I have ever witnessed someone so brave.  She stood up and spoke straight from her heart.

She talked about how she met Eric, how their faith guided them, and how she wasn’t ready to no longer be his wife.  Then she told a story that touched me so much.  I love how some words and stories stick on your heart as if they were meant to be there.  It feels as if I was meant to hear it, and I believe I was.  It changed me and my guess is, I wasn’t the only one.  She told the story of how Eric had felt called to do more mission work but because of his work and family commitments he told her it would have to wait.  She said what a supportive spouse would say, and told him “don’t wait.”  If God is calling you to do something, you should do it.  God's CallingWe will be here to support you. Eric had planned to leave the day after he passed away for a mission trip.  She told us she knows now he was being called home.  She believes with 100% of her heart, as do I, that he is home and in a place where there is no pain, tears, or sadness.  Thank God she has that faith.  His family too.  I don’t know how people cope if they don’t.  Her voice, although filled with emotion was strong and sure and I was in awe of what I witnessed.  Her words have stayed with me this past year.  She told us not to wait. If we have a dream- don’t wait.  She knows more than most people do how precious and short life can be.  One of the reasons I am writing again is because she told us- don’t wait.

I tell this story to honor a friend and classmate Eric, but also to remind you what he taught us through his wife, Bridget. Don’t wait.  Thank you so much for that gift.  I will be forever grateful. I hope it touches you as much as it touched me.

Are there things in your life you have been waiting for the right time for?

The Power of Hope and Love

This week was a tough one in Minnesota.  Minnesota has been searching, leaving our porch lights, and praying for Jacob Wetterling’s return home since 1989.  2016 was the year we found out what happened to that sweet innocent boy we all felt as if we knew and loved.  On Monday, Jacobs killer was sentenced and his family and friends had a chance to make their victim statements.  I like so many others have been following this story and have felt deep sadness but have also been so touched by the outpouring of love and hope from all across our state.  It makes me proud to live here.  Jacobs story, although tragic, is such an amazing example of unconditional love having the final word.  The Wetterling’s did not turn to bitterness, but instead used their personal pain to help ease the pain of others. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I give thanks for the power of hope and love. Light can prevail in the midst of great darkness.  That is the power of hope. The power of Jacobs hope.

Aaron Larson, Jacobs best friend who was with him the night he was taken.  His childhood innocence ended that night, but after years of perspective, hear what he says.  This is so powerful.  “On that dark night in 1989, evil came out, but the good in life prevails. The Jacob in all of us comes out every day. You can see it everywhere. You can see his happiness everywhere. This is what I see in life. I see him. I find him every day, and I always will. That night I thought I made a choice to run into the darkness. Now, I make that choice freely. If there is darkness and evil out there, I choose to bring light. I run towards the darkness because I know I have the strength in me to overcome the evil out there.”

“We all have this strength. We can all make a difference because we all have Jacob in us, because we are Jacob’s hope.”

There are few people who have experienced the pain of Patty Wetterling.  She is a true testament to the power of the human spirit.  Here is a portion of what she said.  “We hold Jacob in our hearts, and we feel him every time something good happens, a smile, a hug, a helping hand, a rainbow. Jacob’s hope does live in all of us, and you can never take that away, ever.”

“We truly stand together with the good people in this world who believe in Jacob’s hope and who never gave up.”

The good people of the world do stand with the Wetterling’s and our voices have to continue to drown out the darkness.

The night after I found out what happened to Jacob I had severe nightmares.  I decided to write Jacob a letter to express my feelings, and I am sharing it below.

Dear Jacob,

I am so sad. My heart hurts today.  I feel so raw.  These words are not strong enough to describe my feelings.  I had nightmares and woke up four times last night. Upon waking, I felt as if I was in the dark, in the grove.  I was thinking about you and how confused and scared you must have felt.  No. Please don’t let that be real.  I don’t want to live in a world where that kind of fear and pain is real.  Thank God I believe in Heaven.  My daughter told me when she was four years old there is no crying in heaven.  I believe her.  Hearing about your last day on earth has affected me so deeply, like many Minnesotan’s, like many people.

Today is the day after your kidnapper, molester, and murderer admitted to his crimes and described what he did to you. Your family heard it in person.  The pain of that is unimaginable.  I know why I am so affected.  You remind me of my own son.  Your brown hair, your smile, your innocence.   I started following Joy Baker’s blog about you two years ago when my son was 11- your age when you were abducted.  jacob-wetterlingYour life sounded so much like my son’s- days filled with sports, laughter, sleepovers, and friends. He has two sisters, like you.  I know he wishes he has a brother.

I felt connected to your Mom because when you are a Mom, a piece of your heart is in your children.  I also felt connected to Joy, who like me, considers herself a writer but had only recently started writing again.  Joy was a Mom who felt compelled to start investigating and writing about your story to help solve the mystery of what happened on October 22, 1989 to you.  Her blog is called, “[joy] the.curious,” and she is amazing.  I think God nudged Joy and she listened. You might already know these things? If anyone deserves to be close to God, it is you.

Writing this seems so selfish. My pain is a like a grain of sand on the all of the beaches in the world in comparison to your family’s pain.  I am writing to express my feelings of sadness, and the collective sadness of those of us who did not know you, but feel as if we did.  I, like many others, prayed for you to return home.  I am so sorry you had to experience that fear and darkness Jacob.  I am sorry our society didn’t take child abuse seriously enough in Paynesville to put your killer away for good.  I am sorry, I am sorry, I am so sorry.   You did not deserve that.  You did not do “anything wrong.”  I am sorry Jerry, Patty, Trevor, Amy, Carmen, Jered, Aaron, those innocent boys in Paynesville, your loved ones, and friends.  I am sorry to all of the other children who have been abducted and are still lost.  Our society can do better to protect you.  There are ripples of pain in this story.

Jacob, you were lucky before you died. You have brave parents who loved you so very much. You know this too.  Love never dies and they used your pain to help thousands of other kids.  The pain you suffered was not in vain.  We have to believe in a world in which love prevails over evil.  Your parents chose love and hope.  God bless you.  You are a child of God.  You are a hero. You and your family are in my prayers and in my heart.

Love,

Carli Lindemann

As we prepare to celebrate a day with family and friends in which we remember to be thankful for all the blessings we have, we cannot forget this young bright light, and family who has taught us the greatest lesson of all.  Love and hope live forever.

Radical Gratitude

 

I promised my blog did not have a central theme so I am going to switch it up in this post. I still have more to say on the election because there are so many lessons to learn from it, but I grow weary of it as I am sure you do too.  I’ll come back to the lessons, but today I am going to talk about gratitude.  I don’t have that many readers so I don’t want to turn any of you off!

I believe in the power of gratitude. I came across the work of a Franciscan Monk named David Stendl-Rast, a great spiritual teacher who has an amazing but simple TED talk on the power of gratitude.  I highly encourage you to watch and listen to it.   He has created a website called, http://www.gratefulness.org.  How cool is that?  A website dedicated to gratitude.  He says many people think about happiness backwards.  People assume happy people are grateful.  He Gratitude-happy peoplesimply says the opposite.  For you to be happy you must be grateful.  He claims we all share one common goal- the pursuit of happiness.  We all want to be happy which means many different things to people. He said we all know people who have all the things our society says should make them happy who in fact, are miserable.  The opposite is also true. We have known people who have experienced significant misfortune in their life who radiate a sense of happiness.  He said the difference is gratitude.

He teaches that, lucky for us, the key is simple. I love simple as much as the next person!  Keep bringing me six minute abs!  I am a complete sucker for it.  Every single moment holds a gift.  He said we should all use the tool of stop, look, and go like our parents taught us when crossing the street.  Your day is filled with experiences and if you can learn to pause, look for the joy (or the lesson), and go, which means what action will you take during or after the moment.

He said he does not expect us to be grateful for violence, oppression, or death- especially when we first encounter it.  Okay good.  I knew I couldn’t be that enlightened.  He recognizes those difficult moments, but says there is opportunity in those too and they can be there to teach us something.  This resonates with me so much.  The difficult times may be a moment that gives rise to an emotion that allows you to stand up for your convictions, or to help lessen the pain of someone else with the same experience.  Don’t forget to pause, however.  If you don’t pause you may become bitter.  Many foundations were started after someone experiences a painful experience and wants to do their part in lessening the pain for others.  The choice is yours.  Lessen others pain or inflict more of it.

Gratitude is easy when you are in the flow.  Things are clicking along in life, and the stars seem to be aligned in your favor. One of my favorite Authors, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her friend, “She must have saved a lot of orphans from drowning during a previous lifetime,” because she has such a charmed life.  When the hard stuff hits, gratitude is the most difficult, but also the most important.

I have heard it described this way.  What most of us complain about is something that someone is wishing or praying for.  Who wouldn’t be grateful for the common cold if they are living with cancer.  When you are mad at your spouse, there are people praying every day for someone to love.  When it feels as if your kids are driving you crazy, there are those who have been trying for years to have a baby.  Many of us complain about our job and our work and of course there are those who have just been laid off.  I could give examples all day but you are truly just one thought away from a new perspective.

I am going to challenge myself to write a radical gratitude letter.  This is a letter of gratefulness for the beauty in life but also for the tough things.  I encourage you to do the same.  I choose to write mine to God, but you can choose to write Dear Universe or whomever you choose.  It helps to be specific.  The more good you see, the more good you will see.

Dear God,

I am so very grateful for my faith in you. It gives me courage, strength, and hope every day.

I am grateful for my health. When I get up in the morning, I may seem weary, and crabby but when my feet hit the ground, I realize what a miracle it is I can walk, see, smell, feel, hear, and taste.

I am grateful for my children- Sierra inspires me to be a better person because of her thoughtfulness and kindness for others, Jace is such an insightful, smart, funny, responsible kid, Mya has been such a gift to my life because she teaches me patience, unconditional love, and how to be a strong free spirit.  They all three make me smile and laugh- what a joy it is to be their Mother.

I am grateful for my Mom, my Dad, and my sister. My Mom has shown me what good mothering looks like. She is an example of how to be generous, kind, thoughtful, and to be a writer. My Dad has given me the gift of non-judgment and to think about deep things.  He is so open minded about others and accepts people regardless of their status in life.  He also is a great storyteller.  My sister, my sweet twin sister, Heather.  She has given me the gift of a lifelong best friend.  She sees beauty in the small things.  She saves spiders. I just love her spirit. I am so truly lucky to be surrounded by love and support.

I am grateful for “my guy” Kirk. I am so lucky to have found my person. He loves me in the way you should be loved.  He is so thoughtful, considerate, smart, funny, and kind.   He has the most amazing kids- Ellen and Esten, and family.  His parents are an example of what true love looks like. His Grandma in her 90’s is a living example of the power of gratitude and a positive outlook!gratitude- Piglet

I am grateful for my extended family and friends. I could write a page about each of my people but I think I might lose your interest.  There are so many people I have met that have taught me so many things. Some of these people are close to me like friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues.  Some of them are brief acquaintances.  There are many that I have never met but I have been introduced to them through books, T.V., conferences, or the internet.  They inspire me to be a better version of my unique self.

I am so very grateful for my education, my jobs, and my career of caring for seniors. What a blessing it has been to be part of mission work bigger than myself.  Caring for those in need is truly God’s work and I receive more than I give.

I am grateful for my dog Lexi and all the animals in my life, past and present, who teach me about how to be in the moment and to show love without abandon! They are absent of the fear of being too excited about something!

I am grateful for so many “small” things. Coffee, a good book, my 2006 Honda Odyssey (yes I proudly own a minivan), warm socks, cover-up for my dark circles, running water, deodorant- thank God the world has deodorant, all things nature, flowers, gourds, sunsets, rainbows, water, and bees, my phone, my computer, mantras, quotes, and inspiration.  The list of small things is so long I could write all day.

That was the low-hanging fruit. Those are easy things to be grateful for.  Here are some of the tougher things I am also grateful for after much reflection.

I am grateful for my parent’s divorce when I was 6. It gave me courage to be a more emotionally resilient kid and my parents have shown the world that divorce does not have to mean pain.  My parents are truly friends and we all get together as a family with my Stepmom and my Mom’s boyfriend and it all seems very “normal.” Okay, normal is not the right word, but what is that anyway!? My family’s lack of normalcy makes us less boring,

I am grateful we did not have a lot of money growing up because it makes me appreciate what I have and be more empathetic of those who struggle financially.

I am grateful for the death of my Grandfather when I was 16- Grandpa Will. I so loved my Grandpa- he was funny, happy, playful, and smelled like pipe smoke.  I am not grateful he died, but am grateful it opened my heart to what love feels like and made me appreciate my family at a time when I was most selfish.  Gratitude- happy with moreAll of my Grandparents touched my heart. My Nana- gave me my love of owls, and the gift of realizing how fragile life can be (she died in a car accident when I was 6), my Bampa was my biggest cheerleader, and taught me what class and dignity look like, and my Grandma Vi- gave me the gift of feistiness, and the gift of knowing a hard childhood does not have to turn you into a hard person. What gifts they all were and still are to me.

I am grateful for my ex-husband because I have three beautiful children and learned how to stay calm, resilient, and how to be a truer version of myself.

Dare I say it. I am grateful for Donald Trump.  He is inspiring me to be more compassionate, and speak up about my convictions.  I am finding my inner gumption (one of my favorite words)!

The small things apply here too. I am grateful when I am stuck in traffic because it gives me time to listen to my books and practice patience. When my kids are fighting, it teaches me that this too shall pass.  When I lose my keys, I can learn better tools to be organized.  When I encounter a crabby person, which isn’t uncommon in my work, it teaches me to look for a compassionate response and be responsible for my own energy.

There are gifts in each moment if we pause or stop, look for the gift or the lesson, and go. I am going to keep trying to be radically grateful and I encourage you to do the same.

Are you open to starting your own practice of radical gratitude?