Opposites Attract: Celebrate Your Differences

Remember the book, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus? My husband and I could fill that book with real life examples that illustrate our ability to live on different planets and yet love each other deeply and with no regrets. Our differences were never noted in a larger public forum than during the unforgettable toasts at our wedding. One of our favorite examples came from my father-in-law who summed us up well when he said, “In thinking about this marriage I was at first struck by the apparent differences between Renee’ and Peter. While both were born in Arizona, Renee stayed and Peter left. She grew up in Arizona in a large family with three siblings; he grew up in New York in a small family as an only child. They grew up in different places and under different circumstances of religion and world views. She is from a mid-west conservative background; he is from an east coast liberal perspective. And yet, once past these obvious differences, there are many similarities….they share a love for…food (he loves to cook, she loves to eat), sports (she loves to play, he loves to watch)…with all of these shared values and characteristics, these two are certain to have a loving and happy marriage.” Truth be told, we do have a loving and happy marriage and I believe one of the many reasons is because we celebrate our differences (by pointing and laughing at one another).

One of our many “how in the world did we end up together” moments was wonderfully highlighted 2 years ago while I was pregnant with our first child. A dear friend had taken me to the hospital due to contractions and Pete met us there shortly after we arrived. To set the scene, I must say that with the exception of being pregnant with a beautiful and healthy little boy, the 9 month incubation period was less than ideal. To put it gently, Pregnancy made me its Bitch. I had ALL of the normal icky pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, teenage acne, back pain, stomach cramps, constipation, insomnia-inducing heartburn, exhaustion, and tooth pain that certainly would have lead to an unnecessary root canal if I hadn’t stumbled out of the Endodontist’s chair, pushed past the doctor, ran frantically out of the office, and called my dad from the parking lot swearing that I would NOT go through one more unpleasant thing during this pregnancy. In addition to these lovely symptoms that most women are prepared for, I also became completely debilitated with migraines during my third trimester. I admit that when I have severe pain in any part of my body that lasts longer than 30 seconds you can be sure to find me on WebMD, Ask.com, Answers.yahoo.com, CDC, livestrong, everydayhealth.com, and any other website (credible or completely bogus) that caters to neurotic women who can’t help but diagnose themselves based on information they receive from everyone BUT a doctor. With that being said, by the time I made it to the hospital, I was full of worry and fear about my health and the health of our baby. The 3 of us began talking about my worries and fears, and in an effort to lighten the mood and lower my blood pressure, Pete suggested that we review each other’s search history on our phones. He thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the variety of topics that occupy our minds on any given day. I bravely (yet another dissimilarity) went first. My search history looked something like this:

Can a migraine cause a stroke?

How long before a migraine leads to a stroke?

What symptoms appear before a stroke?

Can Tylenol tension headache hurt a baby at 32 weeks?

How long can I take Tylenol before it damages my organs?

What are the symptoms of a brain tumor and do I have one?

Obviously, Pete’s point had been made and we laughed at my lengthy anxiety-provoking “keyword” searches. Then it was my husband’s turn. He resisted at first, but eventually I was able to wrestle his phone away with my super pregnant lady strength and here is what I read:

Off-road vehicles

best sound system

speakers for sale

fastest luxury vehicle

and the most telling of all….

Does sex help with migraines?

We laughed so hard I had my baby. Kidding, but for a small and relieving moment I forgot all about the pain that had stolen every one of my waking moments for 3 months straight. Laughing at ourselves and at each other has been exactly the gravitational pull that has brought our 2 crazy planets together, and no matter where we are in life I’m proud that my husband and I continue to celebrate each other’s diversity in ways that would get us into trouble with any HR department.

Mama Bear

This week’s writing challenge (Hindsight is 20/20) helped me realize how much thicker my skin is now, than it was even 5 years ago. The idea of going back in time to apply the perfect comeback to a situation that had previously stunned me into silence (that’s a lie…I was stunned into sniveling in the last stall of the women’s bathroom) isn’t as enticing as it might have been before my 30’s. However, what hasn’t changed is my intrinsic “mama bear” response when those I love are treated poorly, so I decided to use the challenge to reply to the email below as if it had been originally sent to a dear friend or family member. The email below was written by a co-worker, and sent to me at 9:42pm for no other reason (that I can think of) than he could NOT stop thinking about me. Ha!

From:  (Jim) 

Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 9:42 PM

To:  Renee

Subject: Perception is reality?


I hate to be the one…but I really like you and I want you to know my perspective. I think your laughing is seen as distracting to others around us. I want you to realize that sometimes I think “perception is reality” to a certain extent…sometimes it’s not warranted…we must be mindful of those around us. Has anyone ever been honest enough with you to tell you what I’m telling you?


Below is the email I would’ve sent had I found my friend crying in the last stall of the bathroom due to this late night self-esteem crusher.


I hate to be one of many…but I really feel sorry for you, and you need to hear my perspective. I think your curmudgeon-ness is rubbing off on others around us. You need to realize that my friends laugh and general happiness present a unique leadership opportunity for you. As Stephen R. Covey, writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change: “To change ourselves effectively, we first (have) to change our perceptions.” You COULD choose to lead other trolls out from under the bridge, and begin perceiving laughter as a sound that brings joy and tolerance to the workplace. Sometimes we have to “face the facts” even when they are difficult to live with. You must be mindful of how your glum face and ogre-like presence tends to make others miserable. Has anyone ever been honest enough to tell you that you’re a sad little man?


I also could’ve been less wordy, but still got my message across with a little hard-core Christian sarcasm:


Everyone hates you but God. He loves you unconditionally! Isn’t that great news?!


And of course there’s the response that could only have been sent with sincerity if I had spent a week praying for wisdom:


God loves you!


In 2015, I pray that the Lord gives me the grace to be a vessel of love and forgiveness even when my flesh has every reason to be angry and hold a grudge. I pray that I will be an example of His love regardless of the personalities I may bump up against. Until then, I have 10 days to behave however I want! 🙂

My (Almost) Mug Shot

8 years ago I was in the middle of a divorce (the“middle” is after the gut-wrenching, “this isn’t working” conversation, and before that moment you no longer recognize your life) and although it was civil, it was still a divorce and I’m still a woman with intense emotions. One night I was having a particularly difficult time living with the idea that I was going to be divorced before 30, so I left the house and called a close friend to vent while driving aimlessly around the city. My sobs had escalated to a point that my friend became concerned and asked me to pull over before I got a ticket for noise violation or ended up in an accident. I quickly complied and pulled into the first dark parking lot I could find so that no one would be able to witness the scene in my car, which was lots and lots of snot and loud undecipherable noises. I eventually took a breath and happened to look into my rearview mirror. To my surprise a police car was pulling in behind me with the lights blazing. I had no idea why I would be in trouble for parking and crying, but thought that maybe Sheriff Joe was cracking down on women about to cross the border into loco-ville. I remained on the phone with my friend when the officer tapped on my window with a night stick (a night stick!!) and told me to hang up the phone and turn my car off immediately. It wasn’t until I nervously obeyed his instructions that I realized I had parked in a car wash parking lot, and more importantly, that the security alarm at said car wash was BLARING! I am such a loud crier (or maybe my friend is such a loud consoler) that I didn’t hear a screaming security alarm obviously pointing to me as the only reasonable suspect. The cop directed me to get out of the car and sit on the curb. I’ve only seen officers ask people to sit on the curb in reality TV shows right before that person is arrested, so you can imagine my dread. All I could think was I’m failing at marriage and now I’m going to have a mug shot…this is my punishment for divorce. The officer proceeded to ask me what I was doing at the car wash and I blubbered on about getting a divorce and being sad and needing to get out of the house and pulling over so I wouldn’t crash. He interrupted my slobbery excuse and told me to sit and wait for him while he “checked the perimeter.” This is when I realized he thought I was the driver of the getaway car for a grand theft auto wash. After securing the perimeter (AKA tip-toeing around a building with a flashlight) the officer apologetically admitted that this was a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At which I said, “No shit Sherlock!” Just kidding I didn’t curse at a cop…I was crying too hard (and I don’t curse mom!). He helped my soggy butt off the curb and asked me if I needed help getting home. As I drove home with swollen eyes and a broken heart, I thought, maybe just maybe this ridiculous turn of events was exactly what I needed to remind me that life is full of unexpected circumstances, and every moment will pass no matter how difficult or scary, or sad. I realize now that the lesson I can take away from this particularly unlucky night is to stop and quiet myself, (especially in trying times) so that I don’t miss the prounounced warnings that there’s trouble ahead OR the crystal clear solutions that could be glaring me right in the face.

The Biggest Lady

I’ve been awkwardly tall my whole life. The kind of tall where people immediately assume I played basketball, first base, and was never asked to prom. When I was a little girl I dreamed of competing in gymnastics, riding horses, and being on the top of a human pyramid. I might as well have wanted to be a little person. My favorite book in grade-school was BFG (Big Friendly Giant) because I could relate. My dad was always telling me to stand up tall and I was always looking for ways to appear shorter so I could avoid startling the 4ft soccer player I sat next to in 7th grade. It was my curse to always have a crush on the late bloomers or the stalky short-stop who would certainly french kiss my belly button if he ever leaned in for a smooch. Needless to say, being tall was terrible for my love life and I developed what I fondly refer to as a Goliath complex (thankfully sling-shots are no longer the weapon of choice!) As a result of my Goliath (AKA: T-rex, Frankenstein, or Godzilla) complex, I spent grade-school, Jr. High, High School, and college making flat-shoed shoe-makers extremely wealthy.

Years after I graduated from college I met a beautiful, tall, heel-toting, confident woman in my church choir. We naturally became fast friends (because we saw eye to eye) and eventually she persuaded me to own my colossal-ness and buy my first pair of heels. It was a big day…I was finally taking that step…I was growing up…I was ready to kick up my heels and if the shoe fit, wear it! I found a beautiful pair of patchwork leather boots (2 inches high) that came to my knees and fortunately Kohls carries behemoth size, so I tried them on. They were hot, they were sexy, and as I walked toward the mirror to take in this newly confident and proud woman, a little girl pointed at me and shouted across the shoe department, “Mommy, look at that giant lady!” Needless to say, the only thing I left the store with that day was a bruised ego.

Fortunately, with years comes maturity and I did eventually let go of my insecurity and embrace my giganticness with pride (heels and all!) It was about this time that my husband and I went to Boston to celebrate our dear friend’s marriage. We had a wonderful time dancing and toasting and drinking. At the end of the night we were winding down at the bride’s favorite Boston bar when the groom’s father stumbled over to me and put his arm around my shoulder. Clearly having had enough to drink, he leaned into me and slurred, “shhhyou’re a big shlady.” Knowing how embarrassed he would be if he knew how insulting he had just been, I attempted to dig him out of the hole by responding, “well, I wouldn’t say I’m big, but I am quite tall.” I quickly realized that he was determined to bury himself alive when he replied with “no, no, no, shhhyou’re the biggesht shlady in the room!”

Just once, I would like to feel like China in a Bull shop.

With that being said, what I love about getting older is that I no longer feel uncomfortable in my own skin, even if I AM the biggest lady in the room. Height is my family’s calling card and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m proud that I can help get a toy off the roof, find who I’m looking for in any sized crowd, turn the ceiling fan on and off with the fan chain, and step over child-gates, hurdles, and tennis court nets without ending up on America’s Funniest Videos. I am exactly the height I was meant to be and so is that powerful cheerleader at the top of the pyramid!

The Importance of Being Ourselves

Have you ever admired someone so much that you trip over your words, behave in strange ways, and ultimately embarrass yourself while trying to be the person you THINK they want you to be? Have you ever looked up to someone with such reverence that you actually avoided being around them because you were afraid you might make a bad impression? Maybe you’ve tried too hard and walked away feeling inauthentic and even silly? If not, how lovely for you! 🙂 If so, then I want to tell you that you’re not alone and I want to encourage us all to be true to who we are regardless of our proximity to those we’ve placed on a pedestal.

My neurologist is a brilliant and lovely woman in her 30’s. Being her patient has me believing that I still have the opportunity to make something of myself, and that if I spend enough time with her I will acquire some of her success through osmosis. Early on in my treatment I was confident that one day we would tour the nation sharing her knowledge and my story while dramatically changing lives. (In an effort to be completely transparent about the level of my delusional day-dreaming, I must admit that I also believe if I ever met Steve Nash, Jewel, Brene’ Brown, or Jen Hatmaker, we would be BFFs).

Shortly after my future touring partner had her first baby, I went in for a quarterly appointment and had a bit of a cough. I spent the entire appointment feeling guilty that I was exposing her to my cold. I worried that my germs would be carried home to her newborn, and that in turn, the rapport we needed to establish prior to traveling the country with our transformative message would be hindered. The appointment was brief, and as she walked me out and shook my hand, I left her with this sound advice, “make sure you wash your hands!” Like a Jewish mother frantically calling her adult son on a Saturday afternoon insisting that he floss immediately because gum disease runs in the family or a Christian father telling his 30-something divorced daughter that no man will buy the cow if he can get the milk for free, I unnecessarily and unabashedly advised my doctor to wash her hands!

Whatever would she do without me and my sageness?

I was so embarrassed by my unnecessary counsel that at the next appointment (weeks later) I brought up the exchange and apologized for being thoughtlessly overbearing. Then, with all the accountability I could muster, I blamed my bossiness on my childhood. I explained, (in my defense) that I was the only girl of 4 children, and with 2 brothers 11 and 13 years older than me, I grew up with a lot of disciplinarians at home. Consequently, I turned to “leading” (or what others might unkindly and more accurately call bossing) the neighborhood kids. I’m told that I would direct everyone to sit in a line and then proceed to “teach” them. I can only imagine that these lessons included tips on how to avoid spankings, how to secretly feed your vegetables to the dog, and what to do when your parents threaten to “pull over the car!” After my sincere apology and lengthy justification, she assured me that she didn’t think a thing of it. Of course I knew the truth…I was convinced she had gone home that night and laughed with her husband about her “astute” patient who brilliantly encouraged her to wash her hands. I imagine their conversation snowballed into, “What would I have done without her keen instruction? I bet she counsels her pastor to pray, directs her therapist to meditate, and cautions her personal trainer to stay hydrated!”

As I received my treatment, I thought long and hard about how I could make light of our last encounter and “totally redeem myself!” This time, as my lovely doctor walked me out and shook my hand, I let my wit loose on her and said in what I think might’ve been an overly sultry voice, “and you can do whatever you want with your hands.”

In an effort to vindicate myself, I managed to unintentionally hit on my neurologist. Who does that!? Well….I do, obviously!

This is a light-hearted example, but what I’ve learned is that it rarely plays out well when we try to live up to the self-inflicted pressures of fitting in, impressing others, or trying to belong. We can avoid a lot of discomfort by resting in who we are and loving who we were made to be. As I allow myself to be the quirky, “helpful,” and sometimes sultry (ha) person that I am, I will build a community with people who appreciate those traits and allow me to lean in while fully belonging.

You are uniquely made and made to be you. You will experience true fellowship when you stop striving and start being. The impression you leave with your authentic self is so much more beautiful than the image you create when trying to impress.

Be you! You are enough!