Thursday, December 29, 2016

And days of ...

auld lang syne. Do you know what it means? Times long past. That's what it means. It seems like this time of year we all seem very melancholy about how it used to be. We become nostalgic for the loveliness that was visited upon us over the past year, and we pause and get a bit misty eyed as we begin to shake off the dust of the old year and walk hopefully into the new.

But not this year. Our nostalgia for "times long past" reaches further back, beyond 2016 which is now scorned and disparaged and, dare I say, hated. Frankly, I see why. The performing arts community has lost some beloved members, our country seems divided in ways those of us fifty and under haven't experienced. Divided by money and power, race and religion, popular and electoral, gender, sexuality... the list goes on and on.

One of the saddest divides seems to be between those who hope and those who are in despair. There are those who are frightened and confused and oppressed. There are those who have become embolden -- for good and for bad. There are those whose voices now roar and those who have been reduced to a whisper -- again for good and for bad. Those who are seemingly irrecoverably lost, irreparably broken, irreversibly hurt. And we wish for old times past when they were whole. When we were all whole or at least we were more whole.

But in the middle of this darkness, fear, despair, gloating, greed, rage and arrogance we find beautifully bright lights. These lights, the people who carry them will show us the way home... the way to the before we broke ourselves, individually, as a community, as a nation, as a civilization. It was not perfect, our humanity, it really never was but it was striving to do better. I believe that most people have a centering spot inside them, sometimes deep but often near the surface, that wants this world to be good for everyone. We all want to leave it better than we found it. We have to start acting like it.

I've always tried, when writing this blog, to not accuse or judge or sway a person's thinking. I believe free-will was given to us after we begged for it from the Divine. When writing I imagine walking you over to a window and asking you to look at the view from there. Sometimes you are familiar with it and have embraced it. Sometimes you haven't. It's up to you at that point to decide if that view is how you want to see what's out there or not. It's up to you. I'm not here to make you feel and think and believe as I do. I'm here to offer my perspective.

Here's how I'm looking at my 2016. I do come from a place of privilege... white, middle-aged, Midwestern, Christian, straight married woman, so take it as you may. Here's the view out of my window, because honestly, it's all I've got.

2016 is the year...

I found myself engaged, married, infinitely loved, divinely favored, truly blessed. I found myself stuck in an airport with my patient and loving husband. I found out that the wife must carry all the things. I've learned that step daughters will bring you joys unspeakable and that they will repeatedly scare you with a loud noise all the while taking video to put on Snapchat. I found that St. Croix isn't my cup of tea, and that sunrises with coffee and my husband are.

My hair will never not be gray in some spot. My feet now reject my highest of heels and sometimes any heel at all, but looking at my shoes color coordinated on the rack is enough. That figuring out what's for dinner for more than just myself is hard, yo.  That you will find peace and contentment in folding laundry when you allow yourself to be grateful not just for your clothes but for the people for whom you are folding them.

Girls use lots of toilet paper. Taking a vacation to the beach with my husband and his girls and my brother's family was a dream come true and that I seriously suck at beach volleyball, but am awesome at fetching wet sand for sand castles.

Today when I accidentally gave my husband an anniversary card instead of a birthday card, he laughed and told me he loved me and that it was his very favorite card aside from those his daughters have made him. I found that even when I make a mistake... small or large... I'm loved and accepted. And that it will likely be a running joke for a while.

The kids in my life will never again be the age they are. The urgency I feel for this or that will wan as I find a new something to be passionate about. That drama is usually created by those of us who constantly point out drama. That there are people I don't need in my life and those I want with me every sunrise and sunset. Some people won't be here this time next year, so I better be grateful and present for them now. That I'm not guaranteed the next 365 days.

I learned that we have a lot of work to do to make the world a better, safer place and I should start with my corner, my mind, my heart and my mouth.
I learned that you cannot take away someone's fear.
I learned that I'm entitled to my beliefs, but expressing them also requires me to be responsible for them.
I learned that you never change someone with hate or ridicule, but by love.
I've learned that I have so very much to learn.

2016 took a lot, broke a lot, hurt a lot. Oh but didn't it have some high spots for you? I do hope that as 2017 creeps over the horizon, you have a small sense of nostalgia for moments this past year that were shining and beautiful. I know I do. So as we count down to the new year perhaps we purposely take the love and laughter with us, while also using the heartbreak to motivate us to do better this time around the sun. Let's keep in mind the song just says "times long past" not happy or perfect times... just times.

Here's to loving and learning and finding the fresh in 2017 and leaving the hell behind. Me, I'll probably be fast asleep, holding my husband's hand when 2017 dawns. That's a perfect beginning.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I'm nervous...

about tomorrow. I really am. I usually have these feeling before an election: nervous anticipation, fear, concern, excitement and hope. This election, well, it's more anxious than anything. It's basically all anxious. I've not written anything really about the candidates, nor will I here today. By now I think people who call themselves "undecided" aren't that at all. They know for whom they will vote, they just don't want the judgment they'll face if they actually name their choice. This election has been hell. And even when it's over, it's really only just begun.

We all have issues that we prioritize when picking a candidate. Jobs, education, health care, gun rights, abortion, equal rights, environment... on and on and on. One of those topics or combinations of them are the stuff that keeps us awake at night trying to piece together justification for voting for this guy or that woman. There are infinite social media posts about how "bad" he is or she is. You can read them until you absolutely feel panic. Yet that changes nothing. Tomorrow we decide. It will happen with or without you.

Here's what I want to talk about, what about the day after tomorrow? The day we all wake up and this has been decided (hopefully) and we are all still Americans? How do we move forward from this huge divide we all feel? Them and us. His side and hers.   

The leader of this country is one person. There is this big beautiful nation full of citizens who are trying to do what they feel is best for us. I truly believe that. Perhaps what they think is best isn't what I think is best, but I believe that none of us want to see this country fail. We don't want to hate our neighbors or step on the necks of our countrymen to further our personal agendas.

I believe that this country has been through horribly dark days, days where we could barely raise our heads. Days where we didn't think we'd recover, much less thrive. At the beginning we were the underdogs. We declared our independence, fought for it, built a more perfect union. We were split in two during a hateful civil war, literally. Men shot and killed their neighbors, yet we reunited. We saw injustice that previously was accepted as righteousness and changed the collective conscious to begin to weed out the wrongs done to our fellow men and women.

We have marched and protested and supported. We've made terrible decisions and achieved greatness. We've succeed only to fail and failed only to then succeed. We've tried and tried and tried. And we have never quit. We have hoped and believed and doubted and feared. We've been attacked from outside and inside and rebuilt. We have stood up, shaken the defeat from our shoes and walked on. Forward. Pressing towards the goal of what our Forefathers and Mothers envisioned for us. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To be free and equal. To work diligently, tirelessly, endlessly to make it better for the next generation. 

If we are true patriots, truly patriotic, we do not want us to fail. We do not want to fail our children. We do not wish harm on each other. We win with grace and lose with dignity. And we pass those things onto our children. We lead by example.

Whatever happens tomorrow. I am an American. I am proud. I am your neighbor, your friend, your community. Without you, there is no us. No matter who wins, I hope they succeed in continuing to build a more perfect union. I hope that we remember that we cannot be the end of what has been so nobly built. We must continue to be united. We're the underdogs, yet here we are winning. This is our 57th Presidential election. This will not break us. Decide THAT today with me. No debating, no campaign ads, just you and me and our nation, united in the belief that our form of government is the ideal. That the way we do things should set a standard. That out of many, we are one.

Tomorrow I'll be rooting for America. I'll be so proud of my small contribution. One vote, one voice amid a chorus of millions. Doing our best to preserve this amazing experiment started with some starry eyed dreamers who knew we could achieve greatness. Yes there are still injustices of monumental size, yes we often behave in such a shameful manner that we want to turn away and give up. But we don't. Because we are Americans and that still means a hell of a lot to me and to you and to the world.

Vote. It's a gift paid for with blood. Vote and then get to the business of supporting this country as a whole. After this election is decided, if your candidate doesn't win (and perhaps even if he/she does) find a small bit of light and focus on that. Work towards positive instead of wallowing in the filth this election cycle has created. Once again, take a small step forward and keep moving. I'm going to. I owe that to you, my fellow Americans. I'll do that for you. Can you do that for me?



A big thank you to the women working at Shear Madness for the kind, encouraging words you sent to me through my husband. Also thanks for cutting his hair, because he'd end up bald if I did it.

To you KP. Always the middle child voice of reason. Thank you for keeping my feet planted.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I'm too soft...

for this election. I am. I've found myself crying more times than I care to admit lately. The news makes me exceedingly anxious. Social media makes me feel completely disheartened. My faith in my fellow Americans has been shaken. Who the hell have we become?

My husband and I were discussing it while drinking our morning coffee and he asked me if I could imagine a local election playing out the way the national one is. If the candidates for mayor of our small town talked about each other and acted towards each other the way the candidates for the most influential office in this fine country do. If the supporters of those candidates treated each other the way we see supporters behaving in news interviews and on social media. Our tiny town would be irreparably damaged. 

Families would be divided. Marriages compromised. Kids taunting each other on the playground. Churches coming apart at the seams. Hate and rage and fear would walk down the street with us everyday. Past the courthouse where we fly our deceased veterans' flags every Veterans Day. It would follow us down the aisle of the grocery stores where we'd hide behind the cracker display to avoid THAT person who thinks THAT way. It would follow our kiddos into the swimming pools where parents would usher their child to the other end because THAT parent is here and did you read what SHE said? It would put space between us watching the band at halftime at the football games. Instead of all of us waving that two finger high over our steering wheels, we'd be met with scowls and perhaps a middle finger wave.

Politics gets passionate. People feel so strongly about their interests and beliefs, so convinced they are right and the "other" school of thought is leading us off into the abyss that we rant and scream. And cry. We hate each other secretly and not so secretly. We believe "they" are self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and just plain wrong. We post funny little pictures that like-minded people comment "lol" or click the haha reaction on FB. We mock each other. We tear each other down a little at a time and turn ourselves into the very things we hate. Self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and wrong.

I understand the passion. I lay in bed awake concerned that this is where this country is right now. So divided and afraid and angry. And then I realize anger comes from hurt. Hurt about jobs lost, hurt about a way of life being made the butt of jokes, hurt that people don't seem to care about "doing unto others" anymore, hurt that their life, their thoughts, their love is being swung around like a club, hurt that this big beautiful country has turned into a bunch of squabbling siblings who are hell bent on taking the other side down instead of building something better.

I'm not talking about how we're specifically voting; I'm talking about how we are acting.  I care about how we are treating each other. Me included. I'm not just talking about during this election time; I'm talking about all the time. (Matt, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been that angry. I was wrong. Forgive me. -- But I'm standing by the whole "speaking in memes". Gag, okay?) 

We are a community: my family, my friends, my neighbors, my small town, my church. WE are a community... this country. If this country is going to you-know-where in the proverbial hand basket, we're all going together, so why don't we all change course or at the least be civil during the ride.

I'm too soft...

for this election. I am. I've found myself crying more times than I care to admit lately. The news makes me exceedingly anxious. Social media makes me feel completely disheartened. My faith in my fellow Americans has been shaken. Who the hell have we become?

My husband and I were discussing it while drinking our morning coffee and he asked me if I could imagine a local election playing out the way the national one is. If the candidates for mayor of our small town talked about each other and acted towards each other the way the candidates for the most influential office in this fine country do. If the supporters of those candidates treated each other the way we see supporters behaving in news interviews and on social media. Our tiny town would be irreparably damaged. 

Families would be divided. Marriages compromised. Kids taunting each other on the playground. Churches coming apart at the seams. Hate and rage and fear would walk down the street with us everyday. Past the courthouse where we fly our deceased veterans' flags every Veterans Day. It would follow us down the aisle of the grocery stores where we'd hide behind the cracker display to avoid THAT person who thinks THAT way. It would follow our kiddos into the swimming pools where parents would usher their child to the other end because THAT parent is here and did you read what SHE said? It would put space between us watching the band at halftime at the football games. Instead of all of us waving that two finger high over our steering wheels, we'd be met with scowls and perhaps a middle finger wave.

Politics gets passionate. People feel so strongly about their interests and beliefs, so convinced they are right and the "other" school of thought is leading us off into the abyss that we rant and scream. And cry. We hate each other secretly and not so secretly. We believe "they" are self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and just plain wrong. We post funny little pictures that like-minded people comment "lol" or click the haha reaction on FB. We mock each other. We tear each other down a little at a time and turn ourselves into the very things we hate. Self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and wrong.

I understand the passion. I lay in bed awake concerned that this is where this country is right now. So divided and afraid and angry. And then I realize anger comes from hurt. Hurt about jobs lost, hurt about a way of life being made the butt of jokes, hurt that people don't seem to care about "doing unto others" anymore, hurt that their life, their thoughts, their love is being swung around like a club, hurt that this big beautiful country has turned into a bunch of squabbling siblings who are hell bent on taking the other side down instead of building something better.

I'm not talking about how we're specifically voting; I'm talking about how we are acting.  I care about how we are treating each other. Me included. I'm not just talking about during this election time; I'm talking about all the time. (Matt, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been that angry. I was wrong. Forgive me. -- But I'm standing by the whole "speaking in memes". Gag, okay?) 

We are a community: my family, my friends, my neighbors, my small town, my church. WE are a community... this country. If this country is going to you-know-where in the proverbial hand basket, we're all going together, so why don't we all change course or at the least be civil during the ride.

I'm too soft...

for this election. I am. I've found myself crying more times than I care to admit lately. The news makes me exceedingly anxious. Social media makes me feel completely disheartened. My faith in my fellow Americans has been shaken. Who the hell have we become?

My husband and I were discussing it while drinking our morning coffee and he asked me if I could imagine a local election playing out the way the national one is. If the candidates for mayor of our small town talked about each other and acted towards each other the way the candidates for the most influential office in this fine country do. If the supporters of those candidates treated each other the way we see supporters behaving in news interviews and on social media. Our tiny town would be irreparably damaged. 

Families would be divided. Marriages compromised. Kids taunting each other on the playground. Churches coming apart at the seams. Hate and rage and fear would walk down the street with us everyday. Past the courthouse where we fly our deceased veterans' flags every Veterans Day. It would follow us down the aisle of the grocery stores where we'd hide behind the cracker display to avoid THAT person who thinks THAT way. It would follow our kiddos into the swimming pools where parents would usher their child to the other end because THAT parent is here and did you read what SHE said? It would put space between us watching the band at halftime at the football games. Instead of all of us waving that two finger high over our steering wheels, we'd be met with scowls and perhaps a middle finger wave.

Politics gets passionate. People feel so strongly about their interests and beliefs, so convinced they are right and the "other" school of thought is leading us off into the abyss that we rant and scream. And cry. We hate each other secretly and not so secretly. We believe "they" are self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and just plain wrong. We post funny little pictures that like-minded people comment "lol" or click the haha reaction on FB. We mock each other. We tear each other down a little at a time and turn ourselves into the very things we hate. Self-serving, ignorant, naive, stupid and wrong.

I understand the passion. I lay in bed awake concerned that this is where this country is right now. So divided and afraid and angry. And then I realize anger comes from hurt. Hurt about jobs lost, hurt about a way of life being made the butt of jokes, hurt that people don't seem to care about "doing unto others" anymore, hurt that their life, their thoughts, their love is being swung around like a club, hurt that this big beautiful country has turned into a bunch of squabbling siblings who are hell bent on taking the other side down instead of building something better.

I'm not talking about how we're specifically voting; I'm talking about how we are acting.  I care about how we are treating each other. Me included. I'm not just talking about during this election time; I'm talking about all the time. (Matt, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been that angry. I was wrong. Forgive me. -- But I'm standing by the whole "speaking in memes". Gag, okay?) 

We are a community: my family, my friends, my neighbors, my small town, my church. WE are a community... this country. If this country is going to you-know-where in the proverbial hand basket, we're all going together, so why don't we all change course or at the least be civil during the ride.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Are you proud...

to be an American? Are you really? I'm not talking about cliches here. I'm not talking about guns God and glory or how we're going to make things great again or stand with whomever. I'm not campaign slogans or party lines.  I'm talking about the down deep on a gut and heart and head level. Well, are you?

The very first time I voted was in the same county I live in right now. I moved back to live with my now husband. I was raised here. When I'm driving through the county I have so many memories and so much love for it. I voted in the church fellowship hall that first time. Rose Hill Church. Methodist, I believe. Across the street from my elementary school, next to old friends of my grandma's. I have been in that church for death buffets and weddings. I even taught Bible School there. It's never been my "home church", but it plays a profound part in many memories, including my very first act of true patriotism... voting.

I remember the first time I saw the ocean on the west coast of this amazing land. I was with my friend Julie near Los Angeles. We walked up a hill and then as we crested it, I could see it. Vast and sparkling in the sun. I had never seen something that could make me feel so incredibly small without making me feel insignificant.

I've driven through the Smokey Mountains on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. Where water runs down the rock faces at a gentle pace. I've come out of a tunnel and lost my breath at the overwhelming beauty.

I've seen the Statue of Liberty. I've stood silently at the 9/11 Memorial and felt the power of loss the magnitude of which I can't begin to internalize. I lost some idealism that day; I lost my sense of safety. Others lost everything. I've been to the top of the Empire State Building. I've walked down the oldest street in American to maintain constant residences in Philadelphia.

I have so much more of this beautiful country I want to experience. From Washington D.C. to the mountains of the Rockies. Pikes Peak. Oklahoma City. The fall in Maine.

I love this country. I have been disappointed by it. I've been ashamed and saddened by our history and our present. I've feared for its future. We've put a man on the moon and elected a black man as president and now have a woman nominee for that office. Don't get hung up on who those two people are, just take a moment and be grateful that we live in a country where this is possible. It doesn't matter if it's the wrong black man to you or the wrong woman, but it should matter that YOUR daughter can be president... that anyone can accomplish what they want because we don't forbid it as a country. Read it for what I'm saying not what you're thinking. It's a big deal that we have that kind of gorgeous freedom here. 

This isn't a political post. I'm ever so tired of that right now. This is a post about our love for this country. About how we don't lose hope. About no matter how frustrated we are at the system and the process and the candidates and the foolishness, we are still part of this magnificent landscape. I'm not just talking about all those places I mentioned. I'm talking about my heart and yours. I'm talking about the profound love we all share for a common ideal. That a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

I'm talking about community and commitment. I'm talking about that feeling when you sit on your porch and watch a sunrise. I'm talking about your neighbor bringing you vegetables from their garden. I'm talking about a smile on the street or holding open a door. I'm talking about someone waving you through a four-way stop. 

I'm talking about you and me and our freedom to disagree yet still respect and love each other. About how despite all the hell we've been through, we are still so perfectly, intensely, devotedly proud citizens of this country. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

So now...

what? Engagement, done. Wedding, done. Honeymoon, done. (I still can't write about it. I'm still too frustrated. American Airlines, you suck!) Right, so now what? There's a huge let down from all the planning and the excitement. You're the center of attention and a big deal and the next thing you know, the lawn needs cut and you're trying to figure out what smells in the fridge. 

Being in that newlywed love bubble has made the outside world seem so less real to me. Like oh, that awful thing happened or he said WHAT feels softer. Then suddenly it's June and we have a couple of presumptive nominees and a guy rapes a woman and only has to serve six months because we can't ruin his life and we're arguing about bathrooms and gorillas. And I'm all... what fresh hell is THIS?!

There is much I could write on these individual topics. I've begun at least three entries on them and became so disheartened and sad I had to stop. The one thing that seemed to keep popping into my head was how incredibly unkind we've all become. How being heartless and insensitive has become something to aspire to. Caring for other human beings has become something to be mocked in unoriginal social media posts. It's as if everyone is sitting back, twirling their mustaches pouncing on any generosity of spirit or kind words and calling them weakness.

I live in a very small community. I speak to my neighbors when I see them. We show each other support and kindness in times of need. We do for each other when we can't do for ourselves. Let me say that again, we do for each other when we CAN'T do for ourselves. Not won't. There is a difference. I'm incredibly lucky to live here. I've been on the receiving end of that kind of support, and I'm so grateful for it. I'm also very scared that our community will become an anomaly instead of the norm.

It seems lately, in our big beautiful world, we're expected to not do for each other, period. We need our piece of the pie and everyone else be damned. It reminds me of being a kid and hearing about the bomb shelters people put in their backyards during the 1950s. All I could think was "what about the people who don't have them? Do you really lock yourself in there and let everyone else die?" I couldn't do it; I'd want to die with everyone else rather than been that sort of selfish and greedy. It just feels so hateful and wrong to me.

That makes me weak and pathetic. I'm supposed to care about I ME MY and MINE. If someone is knocked down, I should either kick them as I pass or look the other way or take video of it so we can all comment on it later. Let me just say this, those two bicyclists who DID something when they SAW something... that's all kinds of bravery. They didn't know exactly what was happening, they didn't know if Brock Turner had a weapon. What they knew was that they needed to help and so they did. That should be an example of how we should be living our lives. ACT, DO, BE instead of filming it or deciding it's not our business.  You know what "not our business" means? I don't care. It's not happening to me, so I don't care.

I do blame the political environment for some of it. It seems that meanness and anger have become virtues. It's not enough to disagree, one much deride and despise the views of others and often the other with that view. If someone doesn't agree with us, we name call anyone who doesn't beat their drum to our cause. The hate is beginning to permeate everything. You can feel it swirling around you. It's frightening. We're losing our humanity, our souls. That's not America or human to me.

So here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to be kind. I've been less than that on at least one occasion recently when I felt that a kind heart of someone I love and admire seemed less kind than my perspective of them. So I retaliated with unkindness. Thus perpetuating and increasing the anger and bitterness. I put that unkindness out into the atmosphere. I was wrong to do that.

I'm going to do my level best to not get sucked into hate filled and fueled debates. I'm not going to let my temper run my show. I'm going to do my best to treat others the way I wish to be treated. This should be easy, right? I mean I'm a generally kind person. I'm loving. I'm freaking happy. Easy. Except, I'm also human. 

I'm not talking about looking the other way when I see injustice. I'm not talking about NOT speaking up about my beliefs. I'm talking about how no one ever changed someone's mind with hate. If they did it's because that hate was already in that mind, quietly waiting for someone to voice what they really thought and believed so they could chime with with their "yeah!". Kindness moves people. Even the most hateful, irrational people. Unless their hearts are really that cold and dead and even then I should still do the right thing because mine isn't.

Kindness is for the weak and the strong. It's a universal language. Sometimes your kindness isn't appreciated. It isn't your business how someone uses a gift you've given them. It's your business that you give the gift. If someone believes themselves to be so strong that caring about other's feelings seems like a weakness to them, well they are already weak. If something as small as not saying the next nasty thing you think of, if not pushing someone aside so you can for sure get yours screams weakness to you, then how can you possibly claim strength? Brought low by giving someone a hand up? Made weak by not hating the person who is not exactly like you? Not being able to live in a world where everyone thinks their own way instead aligning with your beliefs... that screams fear to me. And how can you be tough while living in fear?

It takes a brave person to extend their hand to someone at the risk of having it slapped away. It takes simple fear to be the one slapping the hand. I will manage my own soul. I will try to be the person others look at and wish they could have some of the kind of peace I have. I will encourage and build up. I will love even in the midst of hate. I will admire and support the victim and pray for the offender. I will not care that I look weak, because those judging me as that are afraid. I will practice kindness as much as possible in a world that is increasingly feeling like hell.*

*Does not include road rage. I'm going to continue to practice that, but I will discontinue use of hand gestures and horn honking.