Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out-Wronging One Another (like that works)

Last week there was a new and disturbing twist in the Central High School tree cutting scandal. The parents of the boys who pulled off the “prank” received a threatening letter and they were told to “watch their backs”.

I wrote about this scandal a couple of weeks ago in my blog titled, “When Did We Become So Unforgiving?” A handful of high school seniors cut down two trees on their campus and although they repented, served their suspension time, and are paying for the damage, the school is not allowing them back into class (despite a judge’s order that they do so).

So, now someone has decided to harshly judge the parents of the boys for raising hooligans, and they do so in a rambling letter that oozes anger and venom. The letter writer threatened to harm these families. This incident reminds me of the people who bomb abortion clinics and kill abortion doctors. As cliché it sounds, it is true that two wrongs do not make a right. What happens in the brain when someone decides to express their anger or disagreement through violent and law-breaking means? I won’t pretend that I don’t understand that kind of anger—because I do. But wreaking havoc will destroy only me.

The boys who chopped down the trees will (hopefully) learn from their extremely bad choice and will grow to be respectful and law-abiding men who contribute good things to society. When the person who wrote the threatening letter is caught (and they will be) their punishment will be far worse than that of the tree-cutters. They may even serve jail time.

There are ways to effectively express our disappointment and anger. I often say that bad things happen to good people so that good people will rise up and effect change. Candice Lightner from Irving, Texas experienced excruciating sadness and outrage when a drunk driver killed her 13 year-old daughter. Candice did not, however, resort to threats and terrorism, but rather she channeled her grief and anger and started the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. Through her efforts and education an untold number of lives have been saved.

Intimidation and shakedowns rarely work and more often than not they lead to mayhem and more grief. I KNOW what it is to feel passionately about righting wrongs, but out-wronging won’t work.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Letter

A couple of days ago a letter arrived. It was addressed to our daughter, Giana. Gia moved out a few months ago, so the letter sat unopened for several days on the ledge. Last night she stopped by on her way home from work and opened the letter. She sat at the kitchen table and read the letter out loud. It was dated January 2002. “Dear Giana”, the letter began. “It’s me! How are ya?” Giana had written the letter to herself when she was in the 8th grade!

How awesome it is that a junior high English teacher inspired her students to tap into everything they loved about themselves and put it in a letter—then followed through and mailed the letter eight years later! Gia wrote that she loved tap dancing and she encouraged her future self by writing, “and you’d better still be dancing!” She extolled the virtues of “hot” guys like actor Brad Pitt and Justin Timberlake (from the boy band ‘N Sync), whom she called her “baby”. She talked about the events of 9/11.

In the letter Gia lamented the fact that her parents were “making” her go to Roosevelt School of the Arts even though she didn’t want to. But she went on to say that it would be okay because she’d get a “scholarship to Julliard” where she would dance. Finally, Gia wrote about her appreciation and affection for her best friends, Emily, Kayla, Ally, and more.

Gia laughed as she remembered her little girl self, and she smiled when thinking about her sweet friends. I couldn’t help but cry happy tears. Like all of us, Gia had dreams about what her future would look like. But, in her sophomore year of high school Gia took a detour down a very dark and scary road. We almost lost her. Somehow, though, Gia never let go of the person she wanted to become and those long held dreams.

Despite the detour, Gia is back on track. She still has many of the same friends she had back in the 8th grade, she still thinks Justin Timberlake is “hot” (although she appreciates his talent more than his looks), and yes, she still tap dances! And, I might add, she rocks!

If a letter arrived today from my past self, what would she say? Am I who I thought I’d be? My life definitely took twists and turns and for much of it, I’ve just had to hold on. I always dreamed of getting old and still being able to call up a long time girlfriend with whom I could cry, laugh, and gossip. Through circumstances beyond my control, I no longer have any of the same friends I had several years ago. That makes me a bit sad.

I have tomorrow—and the day after that and the day after that. I will spend each day making sure that the hope I have for my future, and the dreams I have for myself, will all come into fruition. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to my future self. “Hey Liz, it’s me! How are ya? About all those dreams and goals—how’re you doin’? Get on it, girl!”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Responsibility to Make The Good Stuff!

I know the almost irrepressible urge to seek and get revenge. Who doesn’t know what it is to want someone to hurt as much you do? There’s a scene in both the film and stage versions of “Steel Magnolias” where after Shelby dies her mom M’lynn says, “I just wanna hit somethin’ and hit it hard”. When we’re in pain, whether it be emotional or physical, the thought of being alone in that pain is hard. Pain makes people say and do crazy stuff. I understand that truth.

When my kids were lost and in their darkest place I was in intense pain. I really didn’t know how to deal with it, and who better to take my frustrations out on then the people closest to me. A series of sad events that brought even more distress to our lives had left us largely disconnected from long-time friends and some family, so Tom and I took our pain out on one another. Of course our kids weren’t alone in their addictions and their cohorts had parents who needed to release their anguish. When they vented they used us as a punching bag. We got several of those, “your bad kid is ruining my good kid” phone calls. Tom let those attacks roll of his back, but I internalized them.

I always believed that teaching our kids to take personal responsibility for their own behavior was a lesson that would serve them well in life. I never put 100% of blame on another child, and I never challenged a teacher—even when I disagreed with her teaching style or the way she punished my child. I believed that my kids needed to learn to respect authority and to understand that I would not step in and undermine their teachers or the classroom rules. I realize that anyone who may have known my kids in their pre-teen and teen years might be surprised to learn how very hard I worked at teaching them to respect adults, but I did try! I never bought into the “they just fell in with the wrong crowd” argument. People (little people and big people) are drawn to others with the same likes and interests. My daughter once told me that she didn’t persuade anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do or weren’t already doing. More truth. I never really figured out how to deal with the phone calls from those parents who were determined to blame me for the choices their kids were making. I typically agreed with them and accepted it probably was entirely my fault that their kid was on drugs. And I cried a lot.

Today our kids are healthy and moving forward with their lives. We are all putting our past behind us and our family relationship is strong and healthy. We like each other. Every once in a while my kids will hear from someone they used to hang out with or get into trouble with. Although some of those kids are in better places, I am sad to say that the kids whose parents blamed me for their ills are not doing so well. My kids took responsibility for their behavior. They’ve never blamed anyone (not even me) for their bad choices and they’ve paid dearly for their mistakes. I never blamed another parent for the decisions my kids were making for themselves, and I would never have considered blaming their child either. Childhood is the time to makes mistakes, then learn and grow.

I believe that taking responsibility for my indiscretions empowers me to take responsibility for making the good stuff happen. The good stuff isn’t an accident. Take ownership and make it happen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

He Showed Me The Way I Should Go

On the evening of October 3, 2004 around 75 friends and family members gathered in Fresno on the southwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues to hold a prayer vigil for a missing 16-year old girl. 

I’d seen these vigils on the news many times before – friends holding pictures of a smiling face, Mom crying as she begs for information or help, candles lighting up the dark night, and volunteers passing out flyers to anyone who would take one. But this time, I wasn’t watching the scene unfold on the 6:00 news, the face on the flyer belonged to my daughter, and I was the crying mom.

Giana—we call her Gia—had been missing for 2 ½ weeks, but for me it felt like a year! I hadn’t slept, I’d barely eaten, and I’d cried more than my weight in tears. Although I couldn’t stop working, I’d still managed to canvas most of the city with “Missing Child” flyers. My little girl’s bright smile and big blue eyes jumped off the page, and in the bottom left-hand corner was a picture of the person she’d last been seen with—an older married man with children of his own. I’ll call him “Guy”.

A 17 year-old girlfriend of Gia’s had disappeared from her college dorm on the same night, and though the girls had been seen together in the first two days of this ordeal, the friend had turned up safe and sound in Stockton on the fourth day. When her mom called me to report the good news, I wanted to know what she could tell us about Gia, but the teen offered very little information.

My husband Tom and I had watched our daughter slip further and further from us and deeper and deeper into the dark world of drug addiction. We’d gone through this with her older brother and we couldn’t believe we were in this darkness with another one of our children. Their drug of choice was Meth, and like thousands of other San Joaquin Valley teens, they were loosing their lives and souls to the insidious drug. The more we learned, the better they got at hiding the truth. We’d had no choice but to evict our son from our home and onto the streets, and now I feared we’d lost our daughter.

That night, at the vigil, I personally thanked each person for showing up and helping out. They took turns handing flyers to the passing motorists and talking with the people who stopped to get more information. We sang songs and prayed for our daughter’s safe return. As I was chatting with someone, a tiny young woman walked up behind me, and in a barely audible voice she said, “Liz?” “Yes”, I replied. “I’m Guy’s wife.” Though I’d never met her, I’d talked with her on the phone. At times she’d been angry—with me, with her husband and with our daughter. Other times she would cry with worry, as she had young children and now an uncertain future. I hugged her. I asked her if we could pray for her, and in a small voice she said, “I guess so”. I gathered the 75 people together, and a pastor friend of mine prayed for Guy’s wife, his children, and for Guy and Gia. The scared young mom stayed that evening and I’ll never forget watching her little girl hand out flyers and talking to people. “Have you seen my daddy?” she’d ask the passers-by. “We’re looking for my daddy.”

I went home that night, curled up on the couch and cried. “She’s not here”, I told my husband. “Gia's not in Fresno anymore.” “We’ll find her”, Tom assured me. I told Tom I thought she might have gone to Santa Cruz (she’d taken the family car the night she disappeared), but Tom knew she didn’t have any money and couldn’t imagine that she’d left town.

The next morning we did what we’d done every morning since our daughter went missing, we called the cell phone company to see if Gia had used her phone. The answer had always been the same, “No activity.” But today was different. She had used her phone in the wee hours of that morning and had called a phone in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz! We called the number, but the woman who answered claimed to not know what we were talking about. I got dressed, rented a truck, picked up a friend of mine for support, and took off to Santa Cruz. I had no idea what my plan was—I just knew I had to follow the clue. We’d had other clues, and we’d followed other trails, but they had all ended the same—no Gia. Still, I had to try.

When we got to Santa Cruz, my friend and I talked with police officers and to homeless men and women. We passed out flyers. Our family had spent many a vacation in Santa Cruz, so I drove to all our favorite vacation spots hoping to find Gia, or to catch a glimpse of our car. We walked the Boardwalk, drove around a familiar campground in Soquel, and searched the beaches. There was no sign of my daughter. I checked the homeless shelters and at around 5:30 that evening a police officer told me they tried to get all the homeless people off the streets by 6:00pm. So, he warned, if I hadn’t found Gia by then, I might want to try again the next day.

Meanwhile, back at home, a private investigator was working with the Santa Cruz number Gia had called and was trying to get more information from the woman who belonged to the number. I talked with Tom a couple of times throughout the day and he reported there had been no new information. My last contact with him had been around 4:00.

I was on my way to check out the last shelter for the day when I saw the sign, “Harvey West Park” with an arrow pointing left. I decided to follow the sign—it was now 5:45. I saw another sign and another arrow. I told my friend, “God has put these signs here for me. They will lead me to my daughter.” “Don’t get your hopes up”, she gently warned. When we finally drove into the park, we saw families playing baseball, dogs catching Frisbees, and joggers getting their evening exercise. This did not look like a place where homeless people hung out, but we drove on. It was 5:55. Then, in the last corner of the park, in the last parking spot, I saw it—our car! Sitting on the hood of the car was Gia!

My heart leapt from my chest, and the words shot out of my mouth, “there she is!” I didn’t want Gia to see me, as I was afraid she might run (that’s why I’d rented the truck). My friend grabbed the cell phone, but she was excited and it jumped out of her hands and into the air. It was downright comical as I was reached for the phone mid-air, the silly thing dancing between us! I caught the phone, called 911 and asked the police to come help me secure my child and get her home. I called Tom. “I found her!” I yelled. “I’m looking right at her!” Tom said, “Liz, the private investigator finally got the woman with the phone number to tell us the truth. Gia is with her!” The woman had agreed to keep Gia at Harvey West Park, but only until 6:00. Tom had been trying to call me for over an hour, but service had been spotty and there had been no signal and he hadn’t been able to get a hold of me. God HAD put those signs there to lead me to my daughter!

That was just one of many miracles I’ve seen over the past 5 years. Psalm 143:8 says, Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. That morning, October 4, 2004 I trusted God to lead me to my lost child, and He showed me the way. God wants to lead you to a miracle today!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Going on the Defensive

Wow! I really, really dislike being put in a position where I feel the need to be defensive. I want to be confident and self-assured. I try to make the best decision I can in any given circumstance, and I want the people I love to come along side me and support me. I’ve never expected everyone to agree with me, but knowing that I have someone who would go to the mattresses for me…well, we all could use a person like that in our corner.

Yesterday I felt the need to get on the defensive against a judgmental attack. My blood pressure rose, my heart began racing, and it took extreme self-control to keep from crying (or yelling). Here’s the setup: Despite being fired from a job that I loved at the church we presently attend, we have remained a part of the congregation. I was deeply hurt over being replaced so the new pastor could “go in a new direction”, but I know I did nothing wrong and that I always gave 120% to my job. There are a number of things that draw a person to a church family. We attended our church before I got my job, and we’ll continue to attend as long as this is where God has us. And now the challenge: Yesterday I was talking with a family member about my commitment to our congregation. She knows that this isn’t the first time we’ve encountered conflict with the church family, and it won’t be the last. After all, it’s a family. I told this person that it wasn’t in my nature to walk away. However, several years ago we did leave a church—the mega-church most of our extended family still attend. We would never have left, however, if we had not been asked to do so. And it was her questions (and her indifferent shrug) that caused my defenses to rise.

“Who told you to leave?” she asked. She knows the answer to that question as it’s been covered a hundred times (or so it feels). “Pastor (insert name of Junior High Pastor)”, I said. “Well,” she snapped, “he asked Dallas to leave.” So, when the pastor told me to not bring my 14-year-old son back to church because he was “too hard”, what should I have done? We spent anywhere from 8-12 hours a week in church because Tom and I served in a number of ministries. We were on the church campus twice on Sundays, Wednesday nights, and on Thursday nights for choir rehearsal (as well as occasional meetings or Bible studies throughout the rest of the week). Whenever we were there, our kids were there. Should I have left my already struggling 14-year-old son at home alone for 12 hours a week? I doubt anyone would have called me a good mom if I’d made that choice. I reminded my family member that when I sat across the desk from that Junior High Pastor he continued, “I think it’s time your family leaves this church.” "He's the one who made us leave the church", I told my relative. She shrugged her shoulders and looked away.

When we left that church we gave our reasons to only a few close friends, as we never wanted to tarnish the reputation of a man. We also shared our sadness with our family. The gossipmongers went crazy! According to them we left because we moved to a new city, because Tom and I were divorcing, because of a misunderstanding surrounding a phone call, or because of some egregious sin I was accused of committing. Of course, there was no truth to any of the rumors.

I look back now, and I see that all of my children were at a crucial spiritual crossroads at the time we left that church. Sadly, the decision made by the pastor (and then supported by the senior pastors) deeply affected each member of our immediate family. For starters, I spent many years battling deep depression. When we left the mega-church, we left our friends and social circle. It was the loneliest time of my life and I continue to fight the ravages of depression. My children were not old enough to really understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people. All they knew was that their brother was kicked out of a church - a church! My kids watched as their mother was the subject of gossip, cruelty, and then was left lonely, sad, and abandoned by her “friends”. They made a choice, at that crossroads, to turn their backs on anything God-related. I’ve written before about life’s hurricanes. They whip through our lives and damage everything in their wake, and then they never look back to assess the damage or aid in the clean up. Being abandoned by the church was a hurricane that left unimaginable destruction and it has taken years to rebuild our lives. The only thing we’ve ever asked for from our families is that they acknowledged that what happened to us was wrong. They’ve never been able to do that, and yesterday my family once again intimated that our leaving the mega-church was something we didn’t have to do. I was again left feeling that the many years of pain was something I brought on to my own family. I reiterate what I said at the beginning of this blog—it is NOT in my nature to walk away, and we wouldn’t have done it if we’d had a choice.

Conflict is a part of life and there are right ways and wrong ways to handle the conflict. The mega-church handled it very, very badly! How great it would have been if someone had walked through the fire with us and defended us in the way the Bible teaches we ought. The fact that that didn’t happen, however, has not stopped the healing process. No doubt, it’s been slowed quite a bit by inaction, but the healing is now almost complete. We’re doing great now—really we are! Please don’t open old wounds by questioning once again why things happened the way they happened—unless of course you want to express sympathy (something no one has ever done). I can’t go back and you can’t go back. I don’t want to go back! Let the healing continue. Thank you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

When Did We Become So Unforgiving?

When did we decide that our fellow human beings do NOT deserve a second chance? Heck, I believe there are times when a third, or fourth chance is needed. Humans eat, breath, hurt, laugh, feel, and (hold on to your hats here) MAKE MISTAKES! Being imperfect is the human condition. I talked with a mom yesterday who told me that her 20-something year old son is looking for employment. Actually, he’s been job-hunting for many, many months. Several years ago he got into trouble. He went to jail, served his time, and has not been in trouble since. However, when a potential employer pulled up the young man’s past record, he was told that he is “un-hirable”. Are you kidding me?

A situation involving five outstanding students in a local school district has been the dominating story for the past week or so. It seems these young men pulled a “prank” and they cut down two trees on the high school campus. The high school seniors were suspended, and then sent to a continuation school. A judge ruled that they should be allowed back on campus, but when they returned to school, the district refused to welcome them back. They have taken their case to court. Apparently, restitution and remorse is just not enough! Mistakes will not be tolerated.

I see this unforgiving attitude all around me and in every walk of life. Oh, there is one exception – the famous! The famous are forgiven mistakes, missteps, misspeaks, misleadings, and misguided thinking. It seems sometimes that the famous and infamous get off scot-free for seriously egregious transgressions – rape, murder, child molestations, and other sexual crimes. Names like, R Kelly, Michael Jackson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Pee-Wee Herman come to mind.

A few months ago, the local Television news, talk shows, and newspapers covered a situation that demanded our attention. It seems that a group of homeless sex offenders were plugging their rechargeable tracking monitors in at a lighted downtown historical building. These men are homeless because of the myriad of restrictive laws that keep them from living near a park, school, or other gathering place for children. Mind you, they can get close to these places during the day, but they just can’t SLEEP near these spots. (Don’t get me started!) Of course, our city leaders spoke out against the paroled homeless men. These guys are doing their very best to comply with the law by keeping their GPS monitors charged at all times. They COULD cut the monitors off and go on the run. They COULD allow the batteries to die and hide out until they get caught. They COULD commit some small crime so they could go back to jail where they’d have a bed and three square meals a day. But they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. They are complying. Bear in mind that the vast majority of these men are NOT child molesters, but rather they are young men who had consensual sex with their under-age girlfriend, a guy who peed in public, someone who received a sexual picture on their cell phone, or someone who made a bad call while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Here’s the kicker in the whole question about whether or not we should allow sex offenders to charge their monitors at our downtown monument - our local police chief is himself a man with a checkered past. Some of his early indiscretions were made public when he became the police chief. He got into some trouble and was arrested a time or two. When he was 27 he was involved with an underage girl. The only reason he is not a registered sex offender today, is that the laws were different then! Our beloved police chief was given the opportunity to be a better man. If he had committed his crimes today, he would never have been able to become a police officer, let alone the admired and respected police chief that he is today!

Human beings make mistakes. Human beings DESERVE the chance to reform and to contribute something positive to our community and to our world. Some of the most beloved contributors have overcome obstacles, bad choices, addictions, and challenges. I think of Johnny Cash, Drew Barrymore, Abraham Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, and Thomas Edison, just to name a few. As a Christ-follower I look at over-comers like, Paul, David, Moses, Hosea’s wife, Noah, Jacob, Jesus, and more.

You deserve a second chance – everyone does! Look around. Reach out to a brother or sister who needs a hand up. Believe in someone today. It may make all the difference in both your lives!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

But I Would Have Missed The Miracle

A week or two ago we went through our storage unit looking for treasures we could use in a newly remodeled bedroom here at home, as well as long forgotten stuff we could release to the trash bin. I am so anxious to thin out my life, and bit-by-bit that is happening. It’s a good feeling. Tucked in the back corner of the unit was a large bag filled with work that had been done by my now 25-year-old son when he was in the first grade. I smiled as I read the simple sentences and enjoyed the short stories that screamed innocence and creativity. Each carefully completed assignment had a happy face sticker, a star sticker, or perhaps the word “excellent” stamped in the middle of the page. Dallas received awards and accolades. He was a child brimming with hope and the promise of a bright future. The mommy I was to that bright little boy could never have imagined one day sitting in a prison lobby, waiting for my name to be called so I could spend 30 minutes visiting my incarcerated son.

Dallas did not take the road I had expected him to take, and certainly not the path I would have chosen for him. I would have chosen the safe streets, the careful course, or the respectable route. But really, what was my dream from the beginning for each of my children? It was that they would grow to be kind, honest, happy adults who know who they are and how very much we love them. I dreamed of them being game changers whose talents made a difference in the world. World shakers don’t often take the traditional road, so I see now that the safe way would not have afforded my son the tools that have helped to shape the man he is today.

What would I do differently if I had it to do all over again? Would I have punished Dallas more, spanked him harder, put him in special schools, home schooled him, or sent him to a military academy? It’s easy for people on the outside to give me their pious opinions and rose-colored observations. For MANY years I heard the gossip, rumors, judgmental criticisms, and the “if he were my son” advice and gibberish from people I had once called "friend". God CHOSE me to be Dallas’s mom and I took that calling both joyfully and seriously. I did the best I could and God equipped me with what I lacked.

And today? Well, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am so lucky to have had a front row seat to the miracles that are my children. I would never have chosen my path from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog of Paths, but I would have missed the journey! The little boy whose school work at age 6 revealed so much hope and promise is today a young man of 25 whose writings, music, words, and talent reveals so much hope and promise for this day and for the future. I’m so glad I didn’t give up my front row seat to the miracles that are my children.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Words and Wounded Spirits

Why is it that the mind will so readily replay the ugly and hurtful words heard as far back as childhood, but the kind and encouraging words are so hard to receive and believe? Psychologists work with patients to try to find the answer to that question, and I would guess the answers are as numerous and diverse as those who do the seeking. I have three kids and I have accepted the fact that all of their emotional ills are mother-related. That’s okay. For years after I’m dead, my kids will still be paying for their therapy. Hey – at least they’ll be talkin’ about me ☺

Life has presented me with many reasons to seek counsel and therapy. Sometimes there are things in life that are just too big to handle without the benefit of wiser and more experienced direction. I have slowly come to understand that just because someone believes something to be true of me, doesn’t mean it is so! However, once upon a time, a dear friend un-friended me, and her reason for doing so plagues me to this day.

I have survived and have in some ways thrived beyond my wildest expectations, despite unimaginable life challenges. Those who know me are aware of those challenges and they are many and varied. I wrote about my struggles a few weeks ago in a blog entitled, “Please Forgive Me If I Have A Bad Day”. Once people hear my story, the ONE thing they all say is, “Liz, you are the strongest woman I’ve ever met.” Yep, a woman is like a teabag – you don’t know how strong she is until she’s put in hot water. I’ve definitely been in a lot of hot water and I’ve come out wiser and happier than I ever imagined I could be. But I don’t feel strong. I don’t believe I’m strong. I wish I appreciated my apparent strength. You see I once lost a friend because I was not strong enough, and it doesn’t matter how many people say otherwise, her words haunt me.

Rhonda told me she wanted strong women in her life and she said I was “too weak” to be her friend. I was shattered. My best friend, Pam was with me during that meeting with Rhonda and she promised to defend me and open Rhonda’s eyes to the truth about me. A year later, however, Pam told me that the “door of opportunity” had closed for her to talk with Rhonda. I lost two friends.

Words destroy – it’s just that simple. The kind words of an acquaintance are wonderful, but it’s the opinions of friends that matter to me. I think that’s why Rhonda’s hurtful words (and Pam’s inability to defend me) have not been undone by the supportive words of hundreds of other people. I still profoundly feel the pain of losing my two good friends (at least I thought they were friends).

I don’t write this to make anyone feel sorry for me, or because I blame anyone for anything negative in my life. NO! That would NOT be the truth! I simply want people to learn from my life. Please, please, please - we must understand that our words tear hearts and wound spirits.