Archive for the ‘Keighty Brigman’ Category

A Guide to Giving From a Former Domestic Violence Shelter Worker

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

A guide to givingWhen I used to work at a domestic violence shelter, there was little in this world that was more heartwarming than to see the members of the community reach out to try to provide a Christmas for those who were in undesirable situations. For some, though, there can be some questions about what can be expected of those hoping to help these families during the holidays, so here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you:


  • Call your local domestic violence shelter and ask how you can help. Some offer Sub for Santa programs, where they can match you up with a family staying in the shelter and give you a list of the things they might want/need this holiday season.
  • Offer to purchase gift cards for the shelter or the women staying there. Gift cards are great to use for planning holiday parties, or can be used by the women to purchase gifts on their own to provide for their children. As wonderful as the Sub for Santa programs are, it can help the self esteem of a shelter resident to actually go to the store and be able to purchase the items herself.
  • If baking is more your speed, contact your local shelter and see if they can accept homemade goods. Sometimes due to allergies and safety reasons, some shelters can only accept store purchased food. Find out what works for them, and see where you can drop off treats to share to help boost the morale of those living there.
  • Call the shelter to see if they have a list of items they might need. Shelters often rely heavily on donations, and can run low on things like tampons, toilet paper, and diapers. At your next holiday party, request on the invitation that your guests bring one of these items to donate.


  • Request to be there when the kids open the presents that you purchased for the Sub for Santa. This was a frequent request, and understandably so—part of the joy of buying presents is seeing the happiness on the faces of those you purchased them for. As a parent, though, one can imagine how difficult it can be to know that your child wants or needs something, and you aren’t in a position to provide it for them. While these women are not technically providing the gifts, they are doing an incredibly brave and difficult thing by choosing to leave what was likely a more financially secure situation because of the abuse they would no longer endure. What greater gift could you offer them than their pride on Christmas morning?
  • Forget the dignity of the people you are donating to. The saying is, “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but there is also the saying, “Don’t add insult to injury.” We would receive wrapped packages with requests that they be given to the residents, and the staff had to open them for safety reasons first. We would find partially used rolls of toilet paper, wrapped individually to be given as gifts. We would open boxes with an item of clothing inside, with food spilled on it that had not been laundered.
  • Overextend yourself with offers to volunteer. Spreading yourself too thin is an easy thing to do during the holidays, with all of the opportunities to do so that are presented. When an organization depends so heavily on volunteers, it can make the difference between an organized event being successful or stressful when a volunteer does not show up. It is wonderful if you can; but don’t pencil yourself in if you aren’t certain you can be there.

When in doubt, call and ask. And when you do, be pleasant to the person who answers the phone. It could easily be a new volunteer answering phones for the first time, and I can say from experience, little is more terrifying than answering a potential crisis call when you haven’t before. Thank you for caring to help; the world could use a lot more of that.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Convincing My Kids Not to Ruin Santa for Everyone Else

Friday, December 16th, 2016


It was in the thick of the holiday season last year when our little family decided to do some shopping. We went to an outdoor shopping center, and I was browsing in the store with my littlest one in the Ergo when my husband volunteered to take the other three out to explore the holiday décor outside. They found a sign advertising Santa’s Workshop, and went to explore. A woman with her two daughters, who seemed to also be interested in seeing Santa’s Workshop, arrived at the same time.

“Santa isn’t here yet,” said the older daughter to my oldest son.

“Santa isn’t real,” my oldest responded with confidence.

The daughter’s mother stared angrily at my husband, her face communicating an insistence that he correct the situation.

The final words were barely uttered before my husband scooped them up, shot a look of apology at the mom, and scurried away from the scene of the crime.

It’s no secret amongst my friends and family that we don’t do Santa with our kids. We went into this strategy with an intention of cultural sensitivity, but realized quickly that we had failed to convey this attitude with our children. As parents, and as people, we were on board with the parenting choices others made when it came to Santa—but how could we convince a five year old to get on the same page?

I thought about the things I wanted for my children. I wanted them to grow up to be compassionate, brave, and strong. All of those things come from experiencing conflict, whether it is conflict in a relationship or confronting something that is different than what you believe. They need to be in situations that feel uncomfortable, and they need a safe space to sit with that discomfort and understand what it means. This uncomfortable encounter at Santa’s Workshop was a perfect opportunity to teach our kids these things in an age appropriate way.

“What do you know about Santa?” I asked. After my oldest explained what he knew about the story of Santa Claus, I added, “And some people believe it’s real instead of pretend, right?” When he nodded, I continued, “And that’s okay. Some people believe different things. And when people believe things that are different than us, and those things don’t hurt other people, it’s okay for them to believe those things. Believing Santa is real doesn’t hurt people. So when your friends at school talk about Santa, it’s important to be respectful of what they believe, okay?”

We didn’t have any more incidences after that, and we keep having refresher courses. We talk about things that are happening in the world around us, about how people treat others poorly because they believe something different. “Is that kind, or is that mean?” we ask.

“Mean,” the kids answer.

“Do we want to be mean, or do we want to be kind?” we ask.

“Kind,” they answer.

“How can we be kind?” we ask.

With all parenting decisions, we often go in with altruistic intentions. In that regard, sometimes it is about both the “what” as well as the “why.” From there, they are more likely to understand the “how,” and from that, perhaps we can nurture a more compassionate generation.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Holiday Family Bingo!

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Happy Holidays! You’ve won the opportunity to spend another chunk of your precious vacation days with family members who make you want to pull your hair out. To help you survive the holidays without drinking yourself into liver failure, play this delightful game of BINGO instead. Because competition makes it fun, even if you’re only competing against the depression that sets in when you realize you cannot escape your family of origin.

Start by creating your 5×5 grid. Pick a FREE space. Then fill in the remaining spaces with the following in any order your please:

holiday family bingo

  • Your kid is fed something you said they couldn’t have.
  • Racist comment.
  • Political comment.
  • Sexist comment.
  • Homophobic comment.
  • Anti-Muslim rant.
  • Anti-Semitic comment.
  • “When I was your age…”
  • Unwanted comment on your appearance.
  • “The Gays.”
  • “All Lives Matter.”
  • Defending the merits of spanking.
  • “I never ____, and look how you turned out!”
  • Relative gets drunk.
  • Your kiddo breaks something.
  • Someone else’s kiddo breaks something.
  • Someone tries to give your kid alcohol.
  • White Elephant gets heated.
  • Someone complains about a gift they received.
  • Physical altercation.
  • Naked kid.
  • Someone wets the bed.
  • Smoke alarm goes off.
  • Dog humps something/someone.

A BINGO wins you a free pass to stress-eat, and a blackout wins you a mandatory phone call to your therapist to schedule an extra appointment when you return. Drink responsibly, and have fun playing the game that no one wins!

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

My Honest Holiday Newsletter

Friday, December 9th, 2016

my honest holiday letterHappy Holidays, all! How the year has flown. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was enduring the passive-aggressive judgment of my parenting choices while surrounded by loved ones at the Christmas dinner table. In the intervening months, we have accomplished so much as a little family, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to politely insist on your validation in the form of reading my holiday letter.

We managed to leave the house on three whole occasions with all of the kids’ hair brushed and no food dribble on their faces or clothing. This was an improvement from zero times the year before, when the youngest was of the opinion that spit-up was fashionable and the second oldest thought hairbrushes were the devil.

We got to see what the sink looks like without dishes in it. It’s a pale yellow. Maybe next year we’ll be able to tell you if it’s actually supposed to be pale yellow, or if that’s just what it looks like when it hasn’t been scrubbed appropriately since we moved in. Stay tuned.

I started a job this year, because I value the skills I acquired in my graduate program and hope to develop as a professional, and to be a good example to my children of what it looks like to work hard and make a difference in the world. Also, paying your bills is important, and starting my job meant we were able to decrease the amount of time I spent in the fetal position, weeping, wondering where all the money went after bills were paid.

The kids are all growing up so fast. The oldest has started therapy for his anxiety disorder, and the youngest has decided that pooping in a diaper is so passé, and prefers the sweet satisfaction of her feces hitting the carpet or the furniture instead. I spend much of my time at work missing my kids, and much of my time at home calculating how much longer until I go back to work. So blessed!

I look forward to receiving Christmas letters from many of you. I am excited to see the ways that you have found to reframe your life so that it seems appealing!

Until next year!

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Teacher Gift Ideas for the Pinterest-Challenged

Monday, December 5th, 2016

teacher giftsI am terrible at crafts.

As a mom in 2016, I feel like there needs to be a support group for that. We could each take a turn, standing in a room, and recite, “I am terrible at crafts.” Then we disclose all of our crafting fails (like when I spent hundreds of dollars on a vinyl machine that sat in a drawer for a year and a half, doing nothing, because I didn’t accept that I was terrible at crafts), and then we eat store-bought baked goods until we either forgive ourselves of our shortcomings or are numb to the pain of our shortcomings.

The holidays seem to shine a spotlight on all crafty shortcomings, as it is the season where social media is peppered with everyone’s latest creation. It seems that the greatest of pressures for this is on the gift that is given to the teacher.

I think the idea behind this is that with multiple children in school, gifts can get expensive, so this allows you to provide something that is thoughtful, but inexpensive. Or perhaps it’s just like high school all over again, except instead it’s shaming me for not knowing how to adequately use a hot glue gun instead of a flat iron. Regardless of emotional and psychological barriers to crafting the perfect teacher gift, here are some ideas for those of us who break out into a cold sweat at the mention of Pinterest:

  • Gift cards. Sure, they can be impersonal. But think about the wide range appeal, the ease in wrapping, the ability to grab it in the check-out line at the grocery store when you are buying milk at 9:00 at night. Get a gift card that allows the teacher to treat themselves to a coffee or ice cream, or to get something lovely at the bookstore. Get them a gift card to Target, because everyone loves Target. Everyone.
  • Office supplies, fun edition! Yes, office supplies can be fun! Brightly colored sharpies, fun shaped post-it notes, and markers designed for sniffing that won’t make people think you might have a drug problem.
  • A thoughtful, handwritten note. Speaking fully as a social worker, I know what it feels like to be in a profession where you want to help people, and frequently only hear any feedback when things go wrong. Think about it; the last time you emailed your kid’s teacher, it was probably because something wasn’t working out well. So writing a note to express your gratitude that your kid has a safe place to learn every day can mean the world to someone who often only hears about the bad stuff.
  • And finally, a quote from the comments section of an article I read when researching teacher gifts: “One year my husband brought home another large box of gifts he had received from his early elementary-aged students for Christmas: a couple of fun ties, several boxes of chocolates and chocolate-covered cherries, mugs, ornaments, gift cards, items related to his hobbies, homemade treats, and many lovely cards and notes from students and families. Then I noticed a ceramic collie (dog), which was medium-sized and chipped in a couple of places. It looked like maybe it had been around for awhile (sic). I asked if the staff had a white elephant exchange or where the collie came from. He explained that it was a gift from a student who really didn’t have anything…but wanted to give something special. I don’t think any gesture or gift could have honored my husband more.”

So be thoughtful. Or don’t. The options are endless, even when you aren’t on Pinterest.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway.