The Often Dismissed Importance of Self-Standards

This morning as I parked in front of the house upon returning from a Top-Pot donut run (funny thing about having kids, donuts re-entered my life – I know that’s not the case for everyone, but they’re just so yummy and life’s short and I have such fond memories of weekend donuts when I was a kid, and well, enough excuses/justifications just don’t judge me :) I noticed something that I so wish I had captured on video – integrity and doing the right thing at its finest.

Standing on my neighbor’s sidewalk, bent at the waist, staring at the grass stood a neighbor (TS) from a few blocks over (I know he lives a few blocks away because he’s our friend.) Behind him two leashed dogs sat, waiting.

He looked and looked. Stood up, scratched his head, then looked some more. He absolutely couldn’t find what he was looking for. I just watched while gathering my delectables before getting out of the car and heading into the house. It was such a cute moment, I didn’t want to break it with a Hey-there friend.

Up a little distance ahead an older gentleman walked another leashed dogs. TS called out to him, so he stopped turned around with the other dog in tow. It didn’t take long before the older man was at TS’s side, bending down, searching the grass while the dogs looked on, bored to high heaven. Of course they had no clue that the search was for something one of them had left behind.

By this time TS is literally on his hands and knees (I’m not joking!) inspecting the grass while his companion (I’m guessing father-in-law or dad) leans over doing the same. It was as if they were looking for some money or a set of keys or something of great value that had been dropped. When in reality, they were just looking for a pile of poop.

I can’t tell you how many times we have stepped in a pile in our yard – and we don’t have a dog. It drives Jon crazy – partly because its gross, mostly because its rude and, well – sort of thoughtless, not really taking into consideration the people that either live at the house or will come along behind.

I sneaked into the house not wanting to disturb them – it was just so sweet. I told one of my daughters about it. Her response? “I love how it mattered.”

“What difference does it make,” her brother asked. “I mean if you can’t find it, at least you tried.”

“It’s not about that,” she thought out loud. “It’s about doing the right thing.”

I agreed. “Thinking about the people who will be walking behind – putting them ahead of yourself. I mean I would have been embarrassed looking in the grass on my hands and knees. And those were grown men”

“Mr. S is the coolest,” my daughter concluded, letting the goodness sink in.

Doing the right thing, sticking with integrity –  not so someone else might see, but so you can care for the next person walking along who you will likely never see.

Integrity and personal-standards have been the hot topic around here of late. It think it might have started with someone who claimed they brushed their teeth but didn’t. And let’s just say, it was easy to know the teeth that have not been brushed. So upon sending stinky-breath to find some toothpaste I couldn’t help but opine:

“Your integrity has so much more value than any ease of life temporarily accomplished by lying. Do you realize that you’re literally sacrificing something of great worth when you lie or cheat or cut corners? And I don’t care what it is – but especially something a small as brushing your teeth – is NOT worth sacrificing your integrity.”

I think in today’s fast-paced world, we easily cut-corners, spin truth, say what we want, justify. And in the process, lose sight of integrity’s value, depth and critical importance to our deepest well-being. A little bit of ourselves is either lost or redefined each time integrity or self-standards are pushed aside. But why not herald instead: telling the truth (always), obeying the law (even those no one obeys), staying the course, following through, finishing well.

I recently bumped into an example of this while watching a recording of CBS Evening News. I was deleting recordings, bumped into it & wondered why we would have recorded the news – until I watched and remembered why. It’s a about Rozetia Ellis, a contract worker at a bridal boutique that had declared bankruptcy.

After losing her job, Rozetia went to work (FOR FREE!) altering gowns, completing the work that had been promised to customers – wedding gowns. Really, does anything need to be said about all the emotion, the hopes, the dreams sewn into the seams of these garments – almost more than any other? Imagine having finally made a decision on that all-important dress, dates are set, plans are finalized – and the boutique calls with an I’m sorry, you’ll have to find and pay for another. Not if Rozetia’s name is involved.

“You don’t have to do this,” the interviewer said to Rozetia.
“I do,” she insisted.
“Says who?”
“Me,” Rozetia firmly replies. “My integrity says I have to. When you have standards for yourself, you live up to those standards.

My integrity says I have to. Beautiful. An inspiring and terrific reminder. The high road offers more than a steep climb – it reveals some stunning scenery.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

Freshman (college) to Freshman (high school) Advice

The college domino affect started a few years ago in our house.

With five kids, we knew it loomed on the horizon since the days when they were little tykes, convinced that swimming in a plastic pool in the front yard was as close to paradise as one could get. Now those early years of making a dollar stretch a mile, making life-altering decisions (like which Mother’s Day Out is “best” – as if), birthday parties, carpools, sports teams, … fill in the blank –  all seem like child’s play as we face daunting. Not only the cost (seriously – what happened?!) but also the huh?!-factor. Huh?, as in – since when did co-ed dorms sound like a good idea, for young adults – who may or may not be at the height of their wise-decision-making ability.

But along with daunting comes exciting. Seriously exciting. These kids are amazing. I’ve thought for years how incredible it will be to put smart, techno-savvy people head to head with some of the worlds most difficult issues. The day is coming and has arrived for many.

As we face new milestones, it’s probably good to look back and remember those “insurmountable”s that seemed so ick in the moment, but were handled and survived – even when the handling was more like bumbling, we still survived.

So – on that note, our Freshman (in college) daughter & I thought about tips to give to her Freshman (in high school) brother, some perspective. Because perspective can inform the mountains that are now no longer in the distance, but close-up and in our personal space.

And, truth be told, her words to him could probably go a long way to inform her new world. Funny how it works that way. I almost always need to hear whatever I’m telling my kids.  And core things haven’t much changed since I was a Freshman in high school or college.

So here you go, Freshman to Freshman:

You can say No to ANYTHING putting you in a position that compromises your morals, your personal standards – or is illegal, even things that seem minor. Really say No. I promise it’s okay. You’ll survive and your integrity is worth SO MUCH MORE than any compromise. And – if you get left out or jeered, then you’ve got proof it wasn’t worth your time anyway. Plus – you never know who else who wanted to say No but was having trouble finding their voice and just needed a hand-up.

You can say No if you don’t want to go to something or need down time. Just because “everyone” else is going, don’t be pressured. “Everyone” isn’t real. Yeah it’s fake. So don’t let it mess with your thoughts.

You can say No to feeling bad about yourself if/when (yes WHEN) you’re not invited or left out of something. Trust me, you’re not the only one. Really terrific people aren’t invited and sit at another table – just open your eyes. Or better yet, start the new table or have people over to our house (it’s not as lame as you think). And, by the way, it’s okay to sit alone – even courageous.

You can say Yes to listening in class. That might sound stupid, but the one thing that helped me more than anything on tests or homework or grades overall – was listening in class. If you can’t hear, be the dork and sit on the front row. Not every teacher is a rock star, but they have something to say that you can learn. It will get you through the Mid-Terms AND Finals.

You can say something nice to people. Saying someone’s name when you talk to them means more than you can imagine. But even if you can’t remember their name, something small-nice can literally make someone’s day. They might even pay it forward. It bounced back to me once on the volleyball court – who knew that would happen, and it sure made me feel good.

You can say something nice to your teacher. They’re people too. And I don’t think they teach for the money. They probably like kids and learning. Regardless, everyone could use a reminder that they’re appreciated. (Listen, I know that I probably talk more than you – but something small will mean even more coming from someone who isn’t super outgoing.) And who cares if people think you’re the teacher’s pet – you know you’re not – it’s okay to sincerely like them.

For sure say something nice to the workers in the cafeteria, at the cross walks, in the halls. Even a small thanks or hi.

You can say No to procrastination. I think that’s probably the hardest thing – next to the moral standard & peer pressure stuff. Try your hardest to not get behind. Staying on top of things actually makes you physically feel better.

Then say YES to enjoying/experiencing rather than just living through. For instance, when you have to read a book, try to forget the obligation part and try to enjoy it, and maybe learn from it. I mean, if you’re going to spend time doing something – don’t let the taskiness of it ruin the good part.

You can say No, but still be friends with people who make different choices than you. Don’t judge others – and this going to sound corny – but care about them. Don’t preach. Actions always speak louder than words. And you never know when you will be the one who might be on the other side of a questionable choice. You are a genuinely nice kid. And the person making questionable choices is likely a nice kid too.

Which leads to the last thing (this is from Mom) you can say NO to anything that tricks you into thinking your identity or self worth is defined by something other than Truth. You are so much more than grades or making a team or being in a certain friend group or getting into a certain college.

Then – have FUN. Don’t forget to enjoy.

Thanks for walking the road with US :)

– Kay

Change – Managing More than Nickels & Dimes

Sure death and taxes are inevitable, but so is change. I don’t about you, but we’ve got a lot going on in this house. New schools (new college, new high school, middle school), new teachers for everyone, Driver’s Ed, teams, hair styles, puberty (‘nuff said!) … seriously the list could go on and on. Some change is fun. Other change – not so much. And, how we meet change, how we handle change can have a major impact on our attitudes, our stress level and our contentment. The thing about change – it’s not just the landscape shift that determines the ripple affects, dormant emotions (of which we may not even be aware) can drive anxieties or reactions that come with change.

Over the summer we had lots of change. One of my favorite friends passed away. It really surprised me at how I couldn’t shake it. For over a month I had trouble sleeping and I felt like I was running in quicksand. The strange thing – we know the faith of that friend, a significant diagnosis should have prepared everyone, suffering ceased – so why the shut-down? Maybe it had something to do with a snowball affect – having experienced four significant losses/deaths in our lives over the last 12 months. Was it the loss? The physicality of it? The simple fact that we love these people and miss them – often? I don’t know, but it nailed me. And that change rolled over into more change – change of plans (including our Cleaning House re-boot here, back-burnering lots of tasks, travel & more), expectations, well-being, … the list goes and affected a lot of folks.

Change in one life not only affects it, but inevitably ripples out to touch many.

Another strangely emotion-laden event was something one of the kids decided to embark upon – a change of scenery: volunteering at Camp Barnabas for a week, doing what the kid loves to do. But a day or two before leaving, major emotional onslaught sneak-attacked and threatened shut-down. It was so unexpected and out of character for the kid – there had to be more to the story, something deeper going on. As we met it head on and tried to process, some old memories and fears surfaced. Who even knew they were hiding back there, waiting to misinform someone’s opportunity as well as identity.

So –  rather than wade through the waters unaware, why not meet change head on and invite insight along for the ride.

One of the things I love most about life is the fact that we don’t ever have to walk the road alone. As it relates to change, as with most things, we’ve all lived & experienced it. And there are likely people walking alongside who have thought deeply about it and have some wisdom to offer. So, when my sister-friend Brenda recently told me about her friend Shannan (isn’t that the way it works? :) and that we should carpool-chat with her about change – why not? Shannan Crawford is a clinical psychologist and popular conference speaker. Her desire is to help people “experience wholeness, purpose, & the knowledge of their great value.”

I had no idea how much her insight would bless me and I hope she will bless you too. Here are a few little nuggets on why change is significant and can sometimes be so hard:

  • We invest our identity in a lot of our roles. So when those change, we get stressed; we get overwhelmed & we don’t know who we are.
  • During transition and change, all of the things working together in our brains get hijacked … giving us less access to the conscious mind.
  • Most times, our stresses that are changes are because something within us is getting stirred up.

… and how can we manage/thrive in the midst:

  • In order to process through transition, trauma & adjustments — a big part of that is pulling back and understanding what we’re going through.
  • You have to work on the conscious level (processing/journaling) as well as the emotional level. Both in combination.

Instead of trying to share it all in writing – for you viewing pleasure we SaySomething Carpool-chatted so you could hear it all – with a promised TBC (to be cont.) – knowing that even then, things might change (see how I did that? give myself a way out? there’s just so many moving parts around here – promises can sometimes get the shaft. But I do promise to try!)

As always, thanks for walking the road (& putting up) with me.



Grief is a funny thing.

Not funny ha-ha. Funny in that though its a concept –  it acts like thing, a person, a force. It inflicts pain like a punch to the gut one minute, then it weighs down as if s a 300 pound gorilla scampered up your back to snag a shoulder-ride the next. Then It morphs into twins so it can grab onto both your legs at the same time like a tantrum-toddler hanging on for dear life, refusing to let go, dragging behind so steps forward feel like trudging through quicksand.

But Hope is a funny thing, too.

And Hope, though a concept, goes so much further than grief. Because unlike grief, Hope IS a person.

Hope gently lifts. It steadily adjusts and brings into focus Truth. It shines light. It holds back the floods & storms so the waters don’t rise over. It blocks the flames so they don’t burn. It shelters. It keeps safe. It protects and sets us up high upon a rock (an unmovable & unshakeable rock) planted upon the firmest foundation. It always sees and always knows and has defeated/defeats/will defeat every foe through which grief finds traction.

And Hope informs all areas of life – including/especially interruptions.

A significant interruption happened in my life (and the lives of many others – see for yourself: Greg Murtha Facebook) last night. It’s the interruption of a friendship caused by a friend’s life-interruption five years ago. Death won a battle last night. But Hope has won the war – and that win gives life, abundant life, joy-filled life where someone who has endured almost 80 rounds of chemo, surgeries, heart attacks and the like could say the words, “I have never felt more alive.”

How? Listen to what Greg has to say below.

In the craziest way, Greg & Tracey Murtha just happened to be in town several days ago and we just happened to have a window where they were game to share their story in a SaySomething carpool chat where one of my partners in crime Brenda Teele just happened to be available to ride along. None of us could have ever guessed that days later Greg would be back home in Nashville in the Vanderbilt ICU fighting to breathe.

If you have the time, take 38 minutes of it to watch, to be encouraged, to be inspired, to get to know Hope.

 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:3-5

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Thanks for walking the road with me.


[note: I haven’t forgotten our Cleaning House boot-camp, it’s just been hard to write and share of late – something I will do first thing next week for anyone who might be interested.]