Making a Murderer

I’ve just finished watching the Netflix docuseries “Making a Murder.”  Whether one believes Avery is guilty or not, the story is disturbing.

There has been an outpouring of comments (and support for Steven Avery) on the internet.  Recently, I read one comment that really got under my skin.  The writer said, ” I tried watching it and I couldn’t stand watching a show about trailer park trash.

Hmmm.  Reality check here, friend.  Whether one is “trailer park trash” or a socialite, one deserves fair treatment by the justice system.

I’ve been in hundreds of homes like the one Steven Avery lived in, both professionally and personally.  His parents’ home is fairly neat and clean, but their personal belongings aren’t custom designed by an interior designer.  Does that make them bad people?  No.

In fact, Steven Avery’s parents should be applauded for sticking wiith him through thick and thin.  His mother visited him more than once per week during his first incarceration (for which he was exonerated) of 18 years.  How many prisoners can say that have someone like that on their team?

Calling these people “trailer park trash” is deplorable.  It is snobbery at its worst–because of education and socioeconomic factors.  Not everyone is dealt an easy hand in life and clearly Steven Avery isn’t a member of Mensa.  It doesn’t make him less deserving of being treated fairly.

Do you think the farmers who grow the food you eat live in mansions?  Do you think the farmers who milk cows so that you can have milk, cheese and ice cream live in mansions?  No.  They wear work jeans stained with manure, work boots, and have farmers’ tans. They work from before dawn until after dusk without weekends or holidays off.  That doesn’t make them less of a human being than you.  And you certainly enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Why do you think the Averys run an automobile graveyard?  Because someone is going to!  People look for used car parts.  People look for an inexpensive used car.  The Averys developed a business to meet a need,  That’s just smart business sense and they don’t have MBAs.  Not everyone goes to the Mercedes or Rolls dealer every year and walks out with a new model!

Big city man, get your head on straight and realize that not everyone is worth millions.  But, that doesn’t mean they are any less of a human being than you and that they deserve any less justice than you would.  Try living in a trailer on a huge plot of land for a few months–maybe the fresh air will clear that smog out of your head.

 

The Devil Wears Pendleton

“She told me my yeast infection was caused by having sex with my boyfriend.  She says it is because we aren’t married.”

This horrifying declaration came from a previous co-worker whom I had recruited to work with me.  She was a talented young woman with a good heart, a sweet little son, and a devoted boyfriend.

Our boss, the company’s owner, had her own talent–wheedling information out of you and then using it against you.  Usually in the most painful ways.

I had come to work at her small, Christian company because she was looking to grow one division.  That division happened to be my area of expertise.  Over the next three years, I would grow the start up from a $60,000 per year after-thought to a $3,000,000+ efficient, revenue-producing machine.

When I’d first come to work there, I’d told the owner that my family was looking for a new church.  She invited us to attend her church, where she was a deacon.  It seemed to me this was a sincere invitation and my family accepted.

I loved that church.  I loved the people at that church.  I loved the music.  I loved the programs.  I loved the minister.  Despite its strict doctrine, which my family worked hard to adopt and uphold, I loved it there.  I still miss it.

We would soon spend many weekend afternoons with my boss and her family at their home, going over after church.  They seemed sincerely happy and God-centered.

Then the polish wore off.

I don’t know if she’d always been this way, but my gut tells me she had been and just pulled the wool over my eyes so she could “convert me to Christ.”  Self-aggrandizing.  Above reproach.  Ego-maniacal.  Psychopathic.  Focused on nothing but making money–even if it was a little crooked–and justifying it with her favorite saying, “You can’t outgive God.  I tithe 20% of my income and God pours out the blessings to me.”

Human Resource standards didn’t apply to her.  She once posted a sign in the women’s bathroom instructing ladies to flush before any solid matter hit the water to avoid making a smell.  Nothing was out of her notice or comment:  weight, stray mole hair, ugly sweater.  It was a free-for-all for her to critique.

Despite her eccentricities, she kept talking about retiring.  She promised, more than once, to make me President when she did.  Then, I did something she didn’t expect:  I got pregnant.  On purpose.  Without asking her first.

I thought it was best to have another baby before I had the responsibility of running the full company, which included three divisions.  I worked up until the day before I had my daughter.  I worked 60 hour weeks.  One day, the server crashed and I couldn’t reach anyone, so I went in to reset it, despite the fact that my baby’s head was against a nerve and I had to drag my left leg up the stairs.

When I returned from maternity leave, I tried to discuss the President position with her.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.  What promotion?”

“The promotion you promised me.  President of your company.  You said you wanted to retire next year.”

“I never said that.”

Oh.  My.  God.

I should have seen this coming.  I had seen her turn on others for the tiniest infraction.  She fired the Office Manager the day she returned from vacation after hearing a rumor that the Office Manager was considering quitting and starting her own business.  She made the Vice President of another division apologize to all the office staff in a meeting because she had refused to sign the annual Medicare report–because the VP wasn’t convinced the accounting was correct (smart woman).

Her husband left her.  One of her sons became a drug addict and stole his brother’s social security number to obtain credit.  Her personal life began to crumble.

She decided to get an office cat.  The kitten was at the vet getting neutered when she changed her mind and wanted an office dog.  I said I’d take the kitten for my son, so we went by the vet to meet it on our way out of town for a family trip.  My son was very excited.The next Monday, she announces she will have both an office dog and cat.  Great.  Now it is up to me to calm a crying 7-year-old with a different kitten.

When I look back at all the lives we had the opportunity to touch–we employed over 300 people, 99% of whom were women–it saddens me to think we could have been such a positive influence.  A great example as a female business owner.  A great example as Christians.

Instead, the chaotic environment in that office turned the example into a joke.  The turnover of staff was through the roof.  The men who worked in the office fought like bulls–I actually feared they would kill each other.

I decided to leave.  I couldn’t take the constant fighting in the office and the lies upon lies and judgments upon judgments.  When I gave my notice, she became downright evil.

Right before I left, out of pure curiosity and a desire to preserve a need for a reference, I secretly pulled my personnel file.  I found a note in the file (back)dated for a year before.  It said “I told Connie that she could not be President of my company because she had not been a member of my church long enough.”  Guess she did have some HR sense.  The joke was on her, though.  She should have checked her calendar.  She had dated the note for a Saturday, which was our Sabbath–a day that she absolutely forbid anyone to work.

Within a month of leaving, my husband and I got a mean, spiteful “anonymous” letter in the mail.  It was easy to identify that it was from her.  I called our pastor in tears.  He was silent.  I guess I forgot she had more money to tithe than I did.

A couple of years after I left the company, I got a call from a friend asking what the name of the company was that I used to work for.  I told him and he said, “they were just on the news.”  I ordered a videotape (this was long before the internet) and anxiously awaited its arrival.  Sure enough, there she was, with her fat, Pendleton-clad behind, sneaking into the door of my old offices, shouting at the camera about how they were on private property.  The news report was something about getting caught committing fraud.

I learned so many important lessons here.  About not judging others.  About not making promises you don’t intend to keep–even if circumstances change.  About standing behind the people who have stood behind you through thick and thin.  And about evil wearing the costume of Christianity.

Why I Became an Ordained Minister

Let’s just get this out of the way:  the Universal Life Church is called an “ordination mill” by its critics.  They provide free ordination to anyone who feels they can support the Church’s mission of doing “that which is right.”

Yes, you can get ordained, too, and it is free.  For $39.95 you can get a really cool package of ordination materials, including a certificate (suitable for framing), a press pass and a parking pass.

The last five or six years have been a time of spiritual soul-searching and growth in my life.  Not only have I continued to study the Holy Bible, but I’ve also spent a lot of time studying other religions and belief systems and meeting people whose religious beliefs vary widely from the from the mainstream Midwest where I was raised.

I’ve come to this conclusion:  people have the right to religious freedom.  Please don’t start lecturing about non-Christian religions.  That is your agenda, not theirs.  There are extremists in every belief system–including Christians–and you can’t judge the whole group by the extremists.

Given the political agendas out there, I fully expect that one day ordination by the Universal Life Church will go away.  However, I figure the government will be forced to grandfather in those who are already ordained.  I am prepared.

What does it mean to be ordained an a minister?  I can marry people.  I can provide last rites.  I can perform baptisms.  I can start my own church.  I can do anything any other ordained minister can do.

This might make some of you who know me laugh until you wet your pants.  Can’t really picture it, can you?  I cuss like a sailor.  I don’t look like a minister or particularly act like a minster.

I fully believe, however, that God has called me to this.  We have talked about it.  He has given it His seal of approval.  He has a plan for this.  He’s not giving me the details yet, but I trust Him.

You see, I believe Jesus told us everything we need to know about ministry.  For me, it comes down to one thing:  love one another.  He didn’t put any exclusions on that love thing, either.  He didn’t say love one another except…the gays, the obnoxious, the fat people, etc.  He said:  LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.  BY THIS, PEOPLE WILL KNOW YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES (John 13:34).

You see, I already have my own church.  You are a member, even if you didn’t join.  Because I truly love all people.  Some of you are easy to love; some, not so easy.  Those who have hurt me, I still love them as people created by God.  Those who have betrayed me, I still love them as people created by God.  My church has a name:   The Love One Another Church.  Please join–you can be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic or even atheist–you can be fat, thin, old, young, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, transsexual–you can be black, white, brown, yellow.  Just be you.  I love you exactly as you are.  I hope to see you at the next service.

 

 

 

Paybacks Can Be Hell

“Honey, I am on my way home from the school with a police car following me.  When I walked up to the school to get (our child), I was greeted by a police officer who said I was accused of abusing (our child).”  My husband was calling from his cell phone while driving.  I thought I would throw up.  How was this possibly happening to my family?  I assured him I would be home as soon as I could.

By the time I got home, my heart was still beating out of my chest.  The police officer and social worker had left.  Everyone in the household had been questioned.  They would be back to question me the next morning.  I called in sick to work.  I went over with each family member what they were asked.  I tried to figure out where this was coming from.

The next morning, a 22-year-old social work from the Department of Family Services and a distinguished-looking police showed up at my door.  The social worker started in with a series of questions while the police officer sat quietly at my kitchen table.

“Does your husband sleep with your child?”

“No, he sometimes falls asleep while he reads my child a bed time story.  He has to get up at 4:15 am to go to work, so he is really tired by the time it is my child’s bedtime.  He doesn’t even lay in the bed.  He gets on his knees and reads my child the story.”

“Does your husband wrestle and tickle your child?”

“Uh, yes.  That is called playing.”

I finally asked the social worker if she had any children.  I remember being young and thinking I knew everything and I really didn’t want to be the catty old bitch, but seriously, this is what they were basing a case on?

“No, I don’t have any children, but I know a dysfunctional family when I see it.”

Thank you, missy, I thought to myself.  Opinions are like assholes.  Everyone has one.

The police officer and the social worker left.  I sat at the table, crying.  Five minutes later, there was a knock at my door.  The police officer was back.  For the love of God, what could he want?

“May I come in?” he asked.

I welcomed him in and we sat at the table.

“I just had to come back to see you.  There is something seriously wrong here and I thought you needed to know.”

He proceeded to tell me that every child abuse interview at the school included him, the social worker from DFS and the principal.  Every interview except this one.  He was excluded from the interview between the principal, social worker, and my child.  He reported the irregularity to the Chief of Police and said, “the phone lines were burning last night between that principal and the Chief.  She has no explanation about why I was excluded this time.”

“I have four sons,” he said,”I know normal horsing around and playing.  You are just a normal family having fun.  There is something crazy going on here.”

That’s when it hit me.

Sitting in a colleague’s office about six months earlier, I’d seen a picture of our school principal on her desk.  I asked her why she had the picture.  “That’s my mother,” she said.  I was delighted to have this in common with her and complimented her on what a good job her mother did.

Fast forward three months from that discovery and the colleague and I had a disagreement over what was important.  She thought the most important thing that could be done was getting a communication survey out immediately.  I had other priorities.  We butted heads professionally, I wrongly assumed.

My blood pressure went through the roof at this point.  A letter was written by me to the superintendent.  His response was that he found no wrong doing on the part of the principal.  Well, of course not.  He was an egomaniac with a Napoleon syndrome (he was about 5’4″ tall) who never found anything wrong with what his teachers or principals did.

Over the rest of the school year, my child would be accused by the principal of other wrong doings that were proven to be false.

The daughter, my co-worker, at one point would listen in on a call I made to my employee health nurse to ask if I should remain home from work because I had been exposed to some contagious disease.  My co-worker went to the employee health nurse and said, “I’m calling my mother!  Her child should not be at my mother’s school, then.”  The employee health nurse basically told her to go to hell and that she had violated HIPPA.

By the end of the school year, I demanded my child be transferred to another school for the next year.  Keep in mind, this child was in second grade and had to go through all this because of a pair of vindictive, dysfunctional psychos.

The report to DFS was found as “inconclusive.”  It would remain on my husband’s record for five years.

Perhaps the most validating moment of all was when I broke down and went to the Director of Human Resources.  This woman was the most stoic individual I know when it came to confidentiality.  You would never be able to read her face if she didn’t want you to.

When I told her my story, she actually raised her eyebrows (a huge gesture for her) and said, “Let me handle this.”  Proof I wasn’t making associations in my mind that didn’t exist.  I would later learn there was a history of  Mama and Daughter causing similar chaos to those who didn’t kowtow to their whims.

This incident happened more than a decade ago.  The shame and embarrassment has hung on that long.  It is only recently that I have been able to talk about it.  None of us did anything wrong, but the system failed us.

Keep my story in mind when you see some of these wild child abuse cases on the news.  Sometimes, the system really does railroad people and make them appear to be monsters they aren’t.  All to satisfy someone’s bruised ego.

Why I Don’t Send Christmas Cards Anymore

Every year, you get a few of those cards.  You know the ones.  The letter inside with the glowing rendition of the wonderful and amazing year that your friend’s family had.  The trip to Paris or the Bahamas.  The new Porsche or Mercedes.  The engagements, the grandbabies…the perfect life they live.

Yes, we know they only hit the good points.  I’m sure they had their struggles, too.

The last ten years have been cruel to my family.  There has really been little good to report.  We have struggled.  One of us nearly died…several times.  Two of us were brutally assaulted…eight years apart.  One of us was the victim of a heinous plot of terror.  More than one of us suffers from depression that may never go away.  We drive the worst cars we’ve ever driven.  We almost lost our house three times.  Our credit scores went in the toilet.  We lost $1M in our retirement funds during the recession.

We are slowly recovering, but we are skeptical.  Ten years ago we could have written that same Christmas card that everyone else writes.  Today, we are bruised and battered and barely making it day-to-day.

God is good.  My son just got a great job.  My daughter’s artwork has been submitted to a national art contest by her school and her grades are the best they have been in all of high school.

I no longer have dreams of going to Paris or the Bahamas.  The last ten years robbed me of my ability to dream.  God will give it back when I am ready.  Until then, I pray for the strength to survive.  And every time I receive another blow, I ask God to give me the strength to get back up again.  He keeps His promise.  Matthew 17:20

How to Attend a CEU Class

Many of us, as professionals, are required to take a specific number of CEU courses throughout a one or two year period.  As the years go by, attending CEU classes becomes more and more painful, mostly because of the behavior of the other attendees.  So, I thought I’d offer some tips on how to attend a CEU class.

Pre-register:  For those of us who have driven through the wind, rain, or snow in bumper-to-bumper traffic to find ourselves barely on time, nothing is more frustrating than standing in line behind someone who didn’t bother to pre-register.  Really?  Did you just get up this morning and decide you’d drive over to this hotel and see what was going on?  No.  You knew you were coming here, so pre-register.  Save us all the frustration of standing behind you while you ask “who do I make the check out to?”

Stay awake:  Let’s face it, we all get sleepy at times in these classes.  But, show the rest of us courtesy and stand up in the back of the room until you are awake.  Even if you have to stand there all day.  This week, there was a woman who fell so asleep in my CEU class that she scattered her Cheetos all over the carpet.  And she still didn’t wake up.

Snacks:  If you are going to bring snacks into the room, please make them quiet snacks.  Snacks that are quiet to open and quiet to eat.  If the snack is noisy to open, wait until the break.  Your noisy wrapper might just make me miss the one thing I was going to get out of this eight hours or interrupt the meditation I am currently doing.

Are there any questions?:  This is not your opportunity to tell the story that you think is going to make you look absolutely brilliant to the rest of the group.  Trust me, your story isn’t any better than the hundreds of other stories that could be told by the other attendees.  The instructor asked if there are questions; he didn’t open up the floor for your commentary.

After the last break:  You do not have any questions.  You do not have a thing to say.  Because the more you say, the longer it takes us to get this over with.  If you have a burning question, do us all a favor and ask the instructor after the class.

Talking to your neighbor:  Don’t.  Save it for the break.  If the rest of us are trying to hear the instructor, we can’t because you are having a running conversation with the person next to you.  Consider passing notes instead.

Personal Hygiene:  Please attend to your personal hygiene before the class.  When 100 people are stuffed into a room designed to hold 75, it is not time to brush your hair or clip your nails.

Shoes:  Leave them on.  No one has pretty feet.  The end.

 

It all boils down to this:  be considerate of other people.   Not all of us are as chipper and happy to be attending the umpteenth CEU class of our careers.  Or maybe CEU providers could consider offering CEU classes for “long in the tooth” and “newbies” so we would know ahead of time what we are walking into.

 

How Meditation Made Me Stupid

After meditating for about five years, I suddenly realized that I seemed stupid.  I wasn’t “on the cutting edge” at work anymore.  I wasn’t always coming up with the new ideas.  I wasn’t spending 100% of my time “on.”

For a short period of time, I was disturbed by this.  I wanted the old competitive, over-compensating, driven self back.  How would I recognize the next level in life without that drive?

Then, I realized what I had achieved was much more important.  Actually, I realized what I had achieved was more important than anything else I had ever achieved in my life.  I had achieved a calling to a higher level of consciousness that superseded any need to be conventionally “successful.”

Gone are the days of nothing matters but work.  Gone are the days of what goal will I achieve next.  Gone are the 20-hour days of either being at work, thinking about working, working at working or worrying about work.

My formal meditation experience started with a class in Kansas City with Tom Jacobs.  The class was about meditation as a way to deepen your prayer life.  Tom was smart.  He understood that meditation was something that many Christians viewed as “wrong” because it was seen as some mystical, Eastern, Hindu/Buddhist “thing” that a Christian wouldn’t be caught dead doing.  Remember, this was the Midwest and at least 15 years ago.

I didn’t use meditation much after this, but along came 2010 and I found myself in San Francisco, a place where values are more relaxed and people are more diverse.  I was stressed and scared and had faced many hardships and challenges since my first meditation experience.

I worked up the courage and made contact with a hypnotherapist in SF, Andrew Gentile.  My little Midwest self drove from San Jose, where I was working, into the city, parked on a city street and walked along the street to his address.  I was scared to death, sure I would be killed either by someone on the street or by him.  I was desperate.

Andrew ended up not being a psychopathic killer and a really cool guy.  He led me on a guided imagery, or self-hypnosis, and I relaxed into a deep state and in my mind I saw amazing, beautiful images.  I even remember telling him that the pigeons cooing outside irritated me when we first started the session, but as things progressed I remembered thinking, “isn’t their sound beautiful?”  He told me I had experienced a Zen-like state.  I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I liked it!

Meditation became my daily practice in a lonely world of living in San Francisco by myself.  My husband, children, and parents were still in the Midwest and I would be working on the West coast for the next three years.  With meditation, I was able to put all this in perspective and open myself to the idea that God had put me in this situation for a reason and it was my work to learn the lessons he had put in front of me.

I still had not given up my drive and determination at work, however.  Working 12 to 14 hour days was nothing–and spending my other waking hours worrying about work or the next promotion were my life–except when I meditated and prayed.

I would love to say that the last few years, working on both the west and east coast have been different, but that would be untrue.  More disappointments, more heartbreak, more broken trusts.  However, my life with meditation and prayer grew deeper during this time.

One evening in bed, I realized I felt something new in my heart.  I wasn’t sure I really liked it.  It wasn’t something I had felt before.  I thought it was sadness, but that wasn’t quite right.  No…it was PEACE.  I didn’t recognize it because I’d never felt it.

Peace is not being satisfied with everything.  Peace is acceptance and love and joy.  Joy is not the same as happiness, which is fleeting; joy is a state of mind that is content.

No longer am I driven by the commonplace American ideal of achievement.  I am called by a higher power, the Highest Power, God.  God put me in this situation to learn.  He put me on this path to deepen my relationship with Him and with humanity.

During a prayer this week, I was feeling down.  I said to God, “I have no talents to share with the world.  I run businesses, how does this help?  I cannot paint, I cannot create music, I have no great talent to share with others.”  God answered me very clearly.  He said, “You make others feel better about themselves.  That is your talent to share.”  I doubt myself, but I don’t doubt God.  He has called me to do this–whether through serving the homeless, sharing Reiki, taking others on Shamanic Journeys, or loving people for truly who they are.

So, meditation made me stupid.  It made me stupid about the American dream.  But, it opened the world of a bigger dream.  And that dream is much better.