naming mistakes…

Monica Gellar’s parents aren’t known for esteeming her life choices. In one episode, when Monica is beginning to (finally) feel like her mom may have some faith in her, after all, when her mom reminds her that they expect failure from her.

She charmingly refers to it as pulling a Monica.

It basically means: screwing up.

Mistakes and struggles Monica may have known were seen as dismissive and typical, by her family. These were the antics they expected of her…

Ever the faithful friend and advocate, one of Monica’s best friends Phoebe declares that from this moment on, “pulling a Monica” would mean successful and good things.

I LOVE seedless red grapes! In fact, one of my favorite meals is a bowl of these gems of antioxidant goodness paired with cubed chunks of cheese. So good!

Additionally, red grapes are my favorite side dish, a preferred late night snack and far more tasty than any packaged chocolate bar.

One evening I was having a “working dinner.” My husband was away, on a business trip and I had a looming press deadline. My rumbling stomach had led me to grab this delectable go-to grape & cheese dinner and retreat to my office.

There I sat, alternatingly plopping grapes and cheese into my mouth as I typed away. I was so in the zone that it took a couple of chews to realize my mouth was harboring a slimy, possibly fuzzy and altogether revoltingly mushy grape.

I’m not going to lie- I totally threw up.

A few times…

I couldn’t eat anything else, that evening, and possibly well into the next day. Whenever I would remember that heinous atrocity, my stomach would send out tremors to shake throughout my entire body.

For awhile, the sight of grapes made me cringe, but eventually my love of them one out and I’m proud to say that I am once again a grape eater, though I am much more thorough about checking and washing them…

One bad grape did not ruin them for me. While I will likely never forget the horror of that one, it was only one.

One.

Instead, I learned to alter my own behavior regarding the fresh fruit I eat.

~

At some point, for some odd reason (possibly, maybe tied to the show Will & Grace?) the basic, middle aged, difficult, American-white-woman became known as a “Karen.” It probably began as some social media moment of ranted-sarcasm that caused viral laughter, thus a trend was born.

Was one terrible woman actually named Karen deserving of her vile behavior become a pop culture mockery? Perhaps.

I’ve encountered many, many women who would fit into this label, especially when working retail. This sort of delightful peach goes back much farther than the birth of the Karen meme.

They are so frustrating, I KNOW. To be honest though, I’ve never encountered one named Karen.

Not one.

Last week our 63 year old neighbor saw us walking our golden retriever Elenor. She adores Elenor and was so excited, as she began crossing the street towards us. And then, instantly she was face first, on the ground, in the middle of the road. This woman, who cared more about making sure her friends were safe, not sad, not hungry or going without anything during the pandemic. This kind woman who lives alone and has devoted her life to taking in senior rescue dogs that have come from horrific neglect and abuses. She nurtures them, loves them and insures the rest of their days are spent somewhere safe where bowls are full, beds are plush and loving kindness is plenty. When they pass on, she grieves them because they were her heart, and then she opens her door again.

This beautiful heart gets up from her grieving losses, from her face-first street falls, and she smiles and showers love on Elenor anyway. She leaves special gifts on our doorstep and puts such a light into our quiet neighborhood.

This beautiful soul of a neighbor is Karen.

~

Through a chain of events, about a year ago, I was lucky enough to be connected with a lovely Canadian woman as she was enduring the death of her mother.

Her soul, cavernous and longing for the woman who gave her life, poured her own raw grief out into poetic and aching words filled with so much love. Love for the woman she’d lost, but also love for those of us hurting, who read her words. Such genuine transparence etched itself into the grieving hearts of these readers.

Into me…

This woman, who I am now so incredibly lucky to call friend, has taught me so much about grace, love, authenticity, faith and a hundred-thousand-trillion other vital things.

While my own name is merely a weather condition, envied by none, this beautiful soul’s name means PURE, and this is one hundred percent accurate because she absolutely is.

Karen means PURE.

In my 44 years, on this earth, I have known many Karens, and every single one of them have left marks of humanity and heart on the people lucky enough to know them.

Perhaps you don’t know Karens like the ones I’ve known… Think of the kindest and most worthy woman you’ve known. Perhaps a grandmother, or the sweet neighbor who always baked your favorite cookies and taught you to watercolor. Whoever this spirit is- give her a moment of space and honor in your mind… There is so much power and peace when we take a moment to reflect, honoring women who have shaped us in good ways, isn’t there?

Now, imagine the heroin’s name is an insult.

For being pure, raw, tender and honest women who love, and do it well, their very identity is a joke.

Everytime we call some awful, mean white woman a “karen”, we tarnish the names of women who are nothing like her. Women who are anything but basic. Everytime we use their name, we HURT them. We HURT their children and the people who love them. Doesn’t it kind of seem like that might be uglier behavior than the ridiculous way the “Karen” in question behaved? Who is the jerk now? We are.

When I was younger, if we were venting about the mean customer at the counter, we simply referred to her as a bitch. Feminism has shown us that if we want men to respect us and stop minimizing women into little labels of cruelty, then we need to set the example and not do things like calling other women derogatory names either.

Derogatory names, like bitch.

I’ve got to say though, if we are incapable of not labelling women like this something that conveys exactly how terrible they are, in that one word, then isn’t the vulgarity a kinder option? Isn’t it kinder to say the words “I had a customer today who was such a bitch, and here’s what she did…” rather than victimizing innocent women, their legacies and reputations because of one difficult woman’s selfishness.

Maybe it’s just me though… One day I hope there’s a world where we don’t need to exploit the behavior of someone for laughs and likes and sensationalism. One day I hope people resort to kindness and don’t inspire that reaction. This isn’t the world we live in, and so I simply have to ask if we can get some perspective when it comes to the actual Karens of the world…

The actual blondes, who aren’t ditzy.

The Black women who are beautiful and brilliant and inspiring.

The single moms who work hard and are not lazy or easy.

Can we just decide today, right now, to intentionally see people and stop this lazy minimization? Can we agree that one bad piece of fruit is incapable of destroying the whole orchard?

Kindness…

Today, February 17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. While it is so easy to become one of those bandwagon criticizers who bags on things like this, I wanted to take a minute to talk about some quick facts, and then share a list of some of my favorite RAK ideas…

There is a variety of people, out in the world, who say that performing Random Acts of Kindness is SELFISH, if you’re doing it for attention or to make yourself feel good.

This is a fine line to balance. On one hand, you have the TikTok contributors, who video themselves helping others (often in really unrealistic or large ways), and I do morally have a problem with this. It feels gross. If you’re handing a homeless person $400 while filming them, and using the dialogue “I saw this guy on the street so I’m giving him FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS and it will change his life! Here you go buddy, it’s yours. You can take it!” It is belittling, exploitive AND not at all generous. You look like a *insert a hundred different expletives here*, and you need to stop. Period.

On the other hand, if you have a photo of your kid and the fire chief posing with the plate of cookies you baked, on Instagram, that’s amazing. Sharing the kindness we have isn’t necessarily looking for attention when our hope is that it could inspire others to spread kindness too. We need to talk about our generosity, and let it spread like wildfire. It comes down to intent…

Now… to quickly address the selfish because it makes you feel good debate:

Everything makes us feel something. EVERYTHING. Every single day we should aspire to feel good. To feel good about the things we’ve done, the choices we’ve made, etc. How we feel impacts our actions, and our direct treatment of others. How we feel can have a LONG REACHING IMPACT, far beyond our feelings. Ripple effects are REAL.

There is no crime in feeling good about something…

While it is my sincere hope that we strive for true kindness every day, I’m going to focus on TODAY. Below is a list of some of my favorite RAK ideas. (And, if you receive my monthly email then you already know that my podcast, the Collective Podcast, has deemed the 20th day of every month, this year, as an Acts of Kindness day. Small gestures really can change the world…)

  • A donation to amazing organizations, fighting the good fight. (like Rescue Freedom, fighting in the trenches agains human trafficking)
  • Leaving children’s books in hospital waiting rooms.
  • taping baggies of coins to hospital vending machines.
  • full-filling wishlist items for underprivileged classrooms.
  • donating time at shelters, throughout the year, instead of just the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.
  • covering someone’s drive-thru order behind you.
  • purchasing a gift card, when you dine out, and handing it to someone entering the restaurant, as you leave.
  • buying a meal for homeless people.
  • better yet, sharing a meal with them and listening to their story.
  • sending pizza, or donuts to night shift first responders.
  • leaving beverages and treats, in a cooler, for delivery drivers OR
  • a note to ring for warm beverages, (or local coffee place gift cards)
  • mowing an elderly or disabled persons lawn. (or cleaning gutters, etc.)
  • picking up litter.
  • keeping random gas and coffee gift cards in your car, for when those “needs” arise.
  • used book donations to nursing homes and senior centers.
  • donating used clothing and housewares to women’s shelters and programs helping women rebuild their lives.
  • expanding your view of the world by hearing others stories. knowledge develops empathy and empathy paves the path for kindness 100% of the time. (The Collective Podcast EXISTS for this reason)
  • Adopting a foster family, through organizations like this.

There are SO MANY other ways to give… I’d love to hear yours!

(Just a reminder, you can listen to the Collective Podcast here. Please consider joining our Patreon community here.)

When willing…

On Fridays Kate, over at Five Minute Friday, hosts a fun writing prompt and link up. Over the summer I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t been great about joining in, but I’m back to day. (ready and… Willing! ha!)

Basically, we free write for five minutes, using the prompt… And here, I go-

Last night my husband and I were driving home when we nearly hit a dog. Reluctantly, at my insistence, my husband pulled the car over and I jumped out. The beautiful, and obviously very brave, German Shepherd came straight to me. He was so sweet, and also traveling with an adorable Pit Bull friend. They were both so loving, and one had a limp. They’d come running from the parking lot of an animal hospital, so my first thought was that this was all somehow connected.

There were people to call, weren’t there?

Hours later, as it turns out, there were not.

Thanks to a trusting stranger, we met in the dead of night, we followed a (cold) digital trail and eventually found the owner. Success! (despite a frustrated and tired husband, who easily could have just gone home without stopping, and was pretty determined that these sweet boys living their best lives, in our back seat, would not be sleeping over.)

This morning, my husband was putting gas in his car on the way to work, (something we were going to do last night, just before I decided to play Snow White, and rescue all of the animals) when a woman frantically approached him begging for money, for gas, because she was stranded. We seldom carry cash, so he decided instead to put $10 worth of fuel, in her car. Once their interaction was done, he witnessed her hit up several other people for cigarettes and cash, before he drove off to work, feeling like a fool.

Sometimes stepping up is hard, and ALWAYS stepping up will require sacrifice. Whether it’s money, time or a missed opportunity, something will be lost in exchange for the effort. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they were deserving. (the dogs were! The dogs were so sweet and I wanted to keep them forever, but I wanted to keep my husband more!) What matters is that we were willing to do it at all…