Lord, Make me an Instrument of Your Peace

I have had the pleasure to spend time with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls because of my work. Their mission is, “Living the Gospel Courageously, with Energy, Spirit, Peace.” They truly live out their mission.  These are strong, courageous, liberal, women who care about social justice, take the vow of poverty, and dedicate their lives to making the world better.  What a blessing it has been.  As we prepare for Easter tomorrow, I am filled with a grateful heart for the people I meet who brighten my life.

I want to share about one Sister in particular-Sister Annella. She is a human being who brightens up a room with her presence.  Although her frame is small, her spiritual presence is so big.  She has such a generous, loving, spirit.  She is in her 90’s but her skin does not show it and her eyes have a youthful twinkle.  Sister Annella 2I see her about once a week and she always greets me by name.  She grabs my hand and says, “There’s my pal.”  She wishes I was there more, and said, “Can we keep you?”  It just warms my heart.  At the end of our visits she often asks if she can pray with me.  She puts her small hand on my forehead and prays the sweetest prayers for God to watch over me.  She has a coffee mug on her desk that quotes St. Francis’s famous prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.”  She truly is.

You may think her caring is to be expected since she is a nun. One of the things I was told by the leadership team at the Franciscan Sisters is “nuns are people too.”  The Sister who told me this, was explaining that Sisters struggle with the same things that other people do, and for some the spiritual life comes easier for some than it does for others.

Sister Annella has embraced this life whole-heartedly and stands out as someone who truly wants to make life better for others.  She told me a bit about her life and like me, she dedicated her life and work to caring for the elderly.  Her Mother died when she was fourteen and she was charged with caring for the household.  Her first job as a Sister was as a cook in a nursing home.  After many years working in dietary, she had someone tell her, “You need to come out of the kitchen, and be amongst people.”  They were right about her.  Her gifts are with people.  She worked in activities and spiritual care which she said, “was her favorite.”

I remember a guest on the Oprah show years ago, who had been involved in a plane crash. He was one of the few survivors.  He told Oprah he witnessed people’s spirits leaving their bodies and he said some were distinctly brighter than others.  He said his mission from that point forward was to live his life so he would leave the world as one of the bright lights.  This story has stayed with me, and I often think about living in such a way so I can be a bright light.

Sister Annella certainly is a bright light and I am so very grateful to have met her. She is an instrument of God’s peace, and has inspired me to be one too.  As we celebrate the gift of Jesus’ resurrection, I encourage you to be grateful for people you encounter in your life who give you inspiration to be a brighter, more peaceful presence in the world.

I leave you with the famous prayer of St. Francis. Have a blessed Easter.

Instrument of Peace

Can you think of an acquaintance who has touched your life and you feel they entered your life for a purpose?

The Power of Empathy

I want to share a paper my 16-year-old daughter Sierra wrote. I think this story describes exactly what the world needs more of and it happens one heart at a time.

“My Mother is the most outstanding person I have ever met and by example she has taught me how to be of service to society. Many people show a lack of empathy toward others, only looking out for themselves. Feeling empathy for others is something people must not disregard. Empathy is something my Mother taught me from a young age and it helps guide my life.

 As a child, empathy isn’t always thoroughly understood, but my Mother always made sure to put things into perspective to help me understand. EmpathyWhen I was in 1st grade, birthday parties were extravagant social events. The excitement of getting an invitation decorated with printed balloons and confetti in the mail or on your desk was such an honor. I would pace the aisles of Target searching for the perfect gift, something when unwrapped would be the best of all the presents. In contrast, I remember the feeling in my stomach when I came to school on Monday and I would hear girls giggle and tell stories of the party last weekend. The party I never received an invitation to.

 It was an ordinary day in Mrs. Newman’s 1st grade class, until something peculiar happened. A boy in my class, who smelled funny, was on the chubby side, and always had an extra teacher by his side, passed out ripped off sheets of lined paper with the details of his birthday party. He hand-wrote the invitations himself for the entire class. I could hear the girls giggling about whether they were going to go, followed by an exaggerated, “NO WAY!”. When I was asked, I responded the same. What if I was never invited to a birthday party again? I quickly shoved the paper into my backpack.

 When I arrived home my Mother looked through my bag to see my work, as she always did, and found the invitation. She reacted as if she didn’t notice the difference from the other invitations I received in the past. I told her I wasn’t going and the obvious reason why. She went on to tell me I had to go.  I whined and cried. How could she do this to me? After I calmed down, she left me with a question that ultimately convinced me to go.  She said, “What if you invited the entire class to your party and no one showed up, how would you feel?” Immediately I thought of the embarrassment I would feel.

This is the first memory I have of my Mother demonstrating empathy. It is something I feel quite often now; for the Syrian refugees, the homeless, the stray dog on the street, the old man who lost his leg in war. It is something I can carry with me for the rest of my life and I owe my thanks to my Mother for always putting things into perspective for me, and for that I am forever grateful.”

I love this story. You may be thinking the first sentence is my favorite part?  I was very touched to read her sentiment but frankly, I almost took that part out since I am afraid I do not live up to the compliment.

What I love the most is the insight Sierra has about the recognition of the pain someone else might feel, followed by the realization she had the ability to protect this person from the pain. That’s it.  That’s what we need more of. People have a choice to use their suffering to relieve pain or inflict it.  Sierra used her pain of not being invited to ease someone else from the same fate.  Empathy leads to compassion, and compassion leads to action to reduce the suffering in the world.  Compassion and EmpathyOne person, one heart, one birthday party at a time.  We should never underestimate the power of an act of kindness derived from a place of genuine empathy. This story gives me hope.  This caring heart is what I see in so many young people.   Thank you, Sierra, for telling it so well.

 

Can you reflect on a time when your empathy guided you to action?

God’s Work of Art!

God's Work of Art 2I came across this amazing mirror that said, “You are God’s Work of Art!” Note the exclamation point! Ever since I saw the mirror, the words have not left me.

What would you do if you knew this to be true?  What would you say to yourself in the mirror?  How would your inner voice change? How would you act? How would you carry yourself? How would you speak?  When you feel hurt, how would you react?  What career would you pursue? What fear would you overcome?

If you knew deep within your soul that you are God’s work of art!  What would change if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt you were chosen to be here, during this time, for a purpose. What if you understood you were created as a true, creative expression of love.  How would this knowing change your life?

Imagine the toughest situation you have experienced. Perhaps, it was a job loss, the loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, a person who you allow to get under your skin.  What if you had the ability to say, “I am not sure if you realize there is no challenge too great for God’s work of art.”

God does not make art, to see it destroyed.  God makes art for physical beauty but also to bring beauty manifested in the world through people.  A challenge does not take away the beauty, in fact, the challenges can bring out beauty that has been hidden before.  Emotional pain has the power to transform a cold heart into a soft, loving, compassionate heart.  Winter comes, but so does Spring.

I would love this message to be on everyone’s mirror. I believe firmly we are all the canvas for God’s work of art, and it is your job to discover this truth, and let the beauty inside of you shine so bright there will be no doubt this is true.

Would anything about you change if you truly believed you were God’s work of art?

Head Up, Heart Open

One of the highlights of my job is attending conferences through our trade association- Leading Age MN. There is always plenty of practical information to help me do my job better, but I especially look forward to the uplifting, inspirational messages from the keynote speakers.

Last week was institute week, and as my friend and co-worker, Angie tells me, you should always be on the lookout for the golden nuggets of information that stick with you and remind you to live better.

This year one of the “nuggets” I mined was from the gospel breakfast. The speaker was Jearlyn Steele from the award-winning singing group The Steele’s.  Jearlyn said her motto this year was, “head up, heart open.”  There is so much to learn from that short statement. open-heart

I fully believe our lives speak to us, and God is trying to get our attention through words, signs, people, nudges, quotes, and opportunities. The only way for us to hear this information is to have our head up and our heart open.  We must pay attention, and be open-hearted enough to hear and feel what we are meant to.

Another belief of mine is when you hear something more than once, it is a sign to pay attention. If two people ask you if you have read a certain book for example, you should buy the book. Interestingly, the speaker the day before said something similar so I am paying attention.

The speaker was Sara Ross, a Senior Research Consulting Partner with the Institute for Health and Human Potential, and one of her messages was also about keeping your head up. Sara referenced the work of Amy Cuddy, a Social Psychologist from Harvard who has researched the power of body language and how it can affect our confidence and connect to the power of our presence.  oprah-quote-open-heartShe has a TED talk in which she teaches power poses.  The stance that invokes the most power is described as the Wonder Woman pose (which works for men too).  She had us stand up straight, fists on our hips, elbows out the side, chest out, and chin up.  You can use this anytime you are facing a stressful situation.

Conversely, Sara explained confidence is lost when we are looking down. She spoke about how cell phones are causing many people to walk through the world with their head down, which is the pose that drains our confidence.  Think how much we are missing!

After hearing this information twice from two different people, I intend to spend more time with my head up and my heart open and thought perhaps you could too? I am hopeful this mantra will be as helpful to you as it was to me.

Can you think of times when you were using your full attention- both your head and your heart? If so, what did you learn?

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.