Time to Look in the Mirror

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We see what we want to see.  That’s part of the problem.

I was perusing Facebook, which I must say prompts many posts on this blog, and I saw a theme.  Negativity.  Plain and simple.

There were posts about “those” people.  Of one sort of another.  You know them, the idiots, the ridiculous, the terrible, the stupid, the crazy, the deluded, the poor things… them.   They seem to be everywhere, “these” people.  They must be.  Everyone is talking about them.

Then it hit me.

We are a beautiful lot, humanity.  A tapestry like no other.  Preferences, likes and dislikes, and ways of being in the world that differ from each other.  We are sad or happy, diet coke or Pepsi, Chevy or Ford, Republican or Democrat,  dressing on the side or on the salad, rural or city,  cream or taking it black, gay or straight, married or single, serious or silly, tomAto or tomato, and on and on and on.  We love our families the best way we know how, we want the best for our kids or grandkids, we want to earn a decent living, take vacations, laugh a lot, and we want the right to live peacefully, with joy.  Each and every one of us.

But it’s not that simple.  Because what I noticed today, as I was perusing, was that people see what they want to see.  They notice what they want to notice.  I bet they don’t even know they’re doing it.  We seize on information, posts, articles, videos, that speak to us.  Things that in some way support our world view.  There’s probably a theme to how we post, what we post, etc., only we don’t even know it.

We need to pay attention.  To ourselves.  Instead of looking out at what that idiot said or didn’t say, which by the way, in and of itself, that language on its own, is wrong.  I would hope no one would put me in a class of “those idiots”, just because I happen to align myself with a certain ideology.  But they do.  Friends have posted many things about liberals being idiots or crazy or wrong or disturbed or… it goes on.  I’m shocked by it, every time.  Just as I’m sure some of my more conservative friends feel shocked or hurt when a liberal friend of theirs posts something about those idiotic conservatives.  Let’s be honest… none of us are idiotic.  We just don’t agree with each other.  That doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes a person with a different opinion.

But I digress.   This doesn’t just apply to politics.  I noticed it applies to many things… the videos people choose to post, the things they choose to put out into the world under their own names…. it’s interesting.  Are you a person who posts things that are generally positive, generally informative, upbeat, things that speak to beauty and light and love.  I’ve seen those people, and honestly, I hope I’m one of them.  Or are you someone who sees the dark and the crazy and the wrong in everything and then feels the need to put it out there?  And if so, why? So others like you can agree how bad everything is, or so that you can enlighten those of us who may be Pollyannas who try to look for the good?  I’m not being rhetorical.  I really want to know.

There are people who feel the need to fight everything, against life and what they see as wrongdoing.  I get trying to fight for what you think is right.  I get speaking your mind and your truth.  What I don’t get is a person coming across some debasing or derogatory or hurtful thing and re-posting it.  What’s the purpose of spreading that kind of negativity?  If you have strong opinions, if you feel things are wrong in the world and need fixing, find what you think are some solutions, speak to issues from the place of problem-solving, not finger-pointing.  Re-posting terrible things, some not even based on truth, just for the sake of talking bad about someone or something, is wrong.  You aren’t shining a light on them, you’re shining a terrible light on yourself.

We need to look at ourselves.  Decide if we want to be people who create solutions, who seek a more beautiful world for all of us, or are we people who debase, make fun of, and act from fear.  Who do we want to be?  How do we want to live?  What do we want to be putting out there into the world?  What do we want to be teaching our kids about how to be in the world?  Hurtful to others, or uplifting to others.  It’s up to us.

Look in a mirror.  Look at your personal news feeds.  Look at everything you’ve posted in the last year and judge for yourself.  What kind of person are you?  Are you happy with that?  If not.  Change.  Let’s lift people up.  Let’s inspire with kindness and goodness and love. Let’s try to speak from joy.  From positivity.  From a place of understanding, humility, and love.

I know there are things wrong in the world.  I know there are things that need to be changed.  One of those things is people calling other people idiots or other derogatory names.  One of those things is people being hurtful just, it seems, to be hurtful.  Let’s start being, and communicating, like intelligent humans.  After all, we are.  Sometimes I think we just forget ourselves.  Get swept up.  Let’s be better.  Let’s look with better eyes and hearts at a world that is a beautiful, wondrous place.  Let’s talk about that.

52 Thoughts: Seventh Thought

Photo by TJ Parker

In the last two weeks one friend suddenly lost his Mom and my honey’s Mom had some serious health issues and went into the hospital.  We are hoping the treatment helps her, that the doctors can fully figure out what’s going on, and that she can get on the road to recovery.  My honey flew out in January 31 to help her family.  That’s what you do.  You pull together.  You help.  You love.

I woke this morning with an overwhelming feeling of love.  Love for my honey and her Mom and Dad and my Mom and my friend who just lost his Mom.  Love for the rest of my family and my friends.  You are precious to me.  More than I could ever express in a blog post.

I also woke with this feeling that I needed to say something about the current climate in our country.  About how I feel about it, from a personal perspective.  Keyword, personal.

I hate divisiveness.  I’m always “preaching” togetherness and love because I mean it, I think those things, along with kindness and hope and joy are keys to life.  Both to our own personal living of it, and to our shared community, locally, nationally, and globally.  We are literally all in this together so we need to pull our heads out of our collective asses and get on with the business of working together.

I’m a patriot.  That means I can criticize what my government is doing, and should if I don’t agree.  We were founded on that principal.  Our right to disagree with our elected officials and call out any injustices we think are happening.  The fact that I don’t agree with what our current president is doing on many fronts is my personal opinion.  This opinion doesn’t make me unAmerican.  Not in the least.  In fact, it makes me an American.  We have that right here.  To disagree.  To call out.  And beyond that, we have a duty to do it.  I don’t mean we should just mindlessly repost memes about our politicians.  That kind of judgment and ridiculousness has gone on too long.  We need to be responsible about how we disagree, but disagreeing is an important part of our democracy.

I’m tired of playground tactics.  This crap about oh, they did it, they did it, so we are going to do it too.  Oh my God.  Grow up.  We all need to just grow up.  When the “other side” does something we don’t like, that we’ve found to be reprehensible, it’s not an excuse to then go and do the same or a similar thing just because, well, “they” did it.  Both sides do it, both politicians and the average joe.  C’mon people.  Grow a pair.  Pull up your big boy pants.  Quit reacting, pointing the finger, and being so childish.  You have good ideas that are your own, present them.  But don’t use as an excuse that the other side “did it” and now so will you.  If you think so little of the other side, why would you want to turn around and do something you found to be unacceptable.  It just widens the gap.  Creates further divide.  “They did it, they did it!”  Childish.  We aren’t on a playground anymore.

I care about the environment.  I’m tired of the climate change discussion.  There is climate change.  Yes, it’s occurring naturally, without man’s intervention, because it just is.  But we are also adding to it.  Making that change happen at a faster rate by putting toxins into the air.  Toxins we also put into the water and the land.  We need to take care of this planet.  Let’s stop talking about climate change and start talking about the planet itself, the environment.  We’ve gotten lost in semantics.  Holy hell, the Earth is the only one we have.   We want to treat it with respect, the respect it deserves.  You want to use it up without a thought about what that could mean for our children’s children?  Are you that arrogant and uncaring?  Get a grip.  Man is having an impact on this beautiful spinning ball and we need to try and make sure that impact is as minimal as possible.  Quit arguing about semantics.

Fake news.  My lord.  It exists.  On both sides.  So pull your head out and do your due diligence.  Quit reading your one or two sources that only support your point of view because you think only those sources are telling you the truth.  They probably aren’t.  Mainstream media is not the enemy.  Journalism has and always will help to shine the light and point our attention to things we should be paying attention to.  Sometimes we don’t like the message they send, but that’s life.  Since when do we want yes men and insular points of view to rule the land.  We don’t.  Again, grow the hell up and read.  Yes, I’ll say it again.  Read many sources, especially sources that disagree with your point of view.  Do your own research.  Be responsible.  Don’t just press send on meme after meme after meme without actually looking into the information you’re spreading.  If you just press send like a mindless automaton then you are a huge part of the problem.  YOU are encouraging the spread of misinformation.   Hell, let’s quit calling it fake news and start calling it misinformation.  That’s what it is.  Sleight of hand.  Don’t be gullible.  Don’t be an idiot.  There are good sources of information on both sides.  And mainstream media… just because they are printing things you don’t like to hear doesn’t mean what they’re printing is a lie because it doesn’t support your worldview.  Yes, I’m liberal, but I do read stuff from the right.  I want to know the point of view, I want to try and understand it, and I want to hear different points of view.  I don’t agree with what I read much of the time, but as I said somewhere earlier in this rant, not agreeing is part of the deal.

And speaking of just following along.  We should all be questioning and critical consumers of information.  Whatever the source.

I love the diversity of this country.  No one group or group’s dogma, religious or political, should have the final say about anything.  No one group should be able to determine how I live, who I sleep with, what I do with my body, etc.  You might have very strong feelings about these things, and I appreciate those.  You are entitled to have them, they are yours.  But since when did one group have the right to control me.  This country was founded on the principle that church and state should be separate.  Why?  Because there is more than one way to worship.  People pray to God differently, call God by different names.  Some don’t believe in God at all.  All of those beliefs are valid and no one of those groups should be able to legally make the other groups follow their tenants, their belief system.  Our spiritual beliefs should be kept out of government otherwise we run the very real risk of falling into a dictatorship where one group dictates to all other groups how they should live their lives, what is acceptable for them and not as to beliefs.  A suppression of beliefs is a very scary thing.

Speaking of fear… demonizing an entire group as the source of our woes is frightening. Yes, I’m talking about Muslims.  They worship differently than Christians do, people don’t understand their religion, but this difference, and a bit of mystery, doesn’t make them terrorists.  Terrorists are terrorists.  They come from all backgrounds, all religions, and are born in different countries.   The Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by a couple of white guys born in the U.S.  Both had been in the military and were upset about the FBI’s handling of the Waco, David Kuresh, situation.  My point is that we can’t look at only one group and demonize them as the source of all evil.  That’s happened in our world’s history before and it led to the execution of millions of people.  The Jews were not evil either.  Some people may read this and think I’m over simplifying things, and maybe I am a tad, but I’m an intelligent person, one who knows that just because someone is born somewhere doesn’t automatically mean they are bad.  Singling out an entire group for the actions of a few, that’s wrong, and it’s lazy.

We’ve somehow created a culture, or been led by the noses into it, that there is “the other” and “the other” is bad.  “The other” is evil.  There are things we won’t agree on ever.  That’s the way of it.  That’s how life works.  We all come from different places, have different backgrounds, grew up having our own unique experiences.  Those experiences inform how we see the world, how we think.  They should.  Our own experiences are ours.  Black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, disabled, abled, women, men, Mexican, Muslim, Christian, Asian, people in rural areas, city-dwellers, environmentalists, people from industry, conservationists, big business… it goes on and on.  We are different.  We come from different points of view.  It’s a beautiful bold diverse melting pot.  All points of view matter.  There is no “other”.  There’s just us.  And we need to start being responsible for ourselves.  Not following along with dogma because it’s supposed to be ours.  Because someone told us to.  We need to question.  Not just the beliefs of those spewing the dogma, what they are telling us is true, but ourselves.  We need to look inside, figure out why we are motivated the way we are.  Are we being responsible?  Are we taking responsibility?  Or are we just automatons.  Being controlled by our biases, or the biases of the people we are blindly listening to.

We have to ask questions people.  Of ourselves, our politicians, our media, our family, and friends.  We live in a community of diverse minds, we need to act like it.  To honor it.

That is all.

Shouting Out to the Void

970226_1264549013559639_2015577727281643272_nWe let ourselves forget we are all one people. People trying to be happy, to provide for our kids, to go on vacation, to pay our bills. We hug our children and grandchildren, laugh at silly jokes, watch movies, eat popcorn, tie our shoes. We want something better for our kids than we had, we want our grandchildren or future grandchildren to be happy, fulfilled, to find whatever success they might be striving for. We love our dogs and cats, fold our laundry, sleep, hug, cry, work in gardens, clean our houses, wash our dishes.

I don’t know when we forgot. I don’t know when that happened. Fellow man. Something you don’t hear much anymore. Do unto others. We might hear that some, but it doesn’t seem like people abide by it, or they do, but only sometimes.

Kindness, love, togetherness, a willingness to help each other. Without judgement or condemnation or a sense of being somehow better than someone else. I can tell you, you are not, I am not, better than anyone else.

I shout these things out into the world occasionally. Like now. I wonder if anyone is listening. If there’s anyone out there who feels the same. I’m filled with hope and sadness all at the same time. That’s life. Beautiful and ugly, soul killing and uplifting, all things at once.

Shouting to the void helps a little. At least, I say to myself, I’m putting out a positive message. I’m saying, out loud and in print, be kind to one another. Be gentle with the feelings of your fellows. Be empathetic. Be helpful instead of hurtful. Be understanding.

After 10 Minutes on Facebook

I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and now I have to write a blog post.

Oi!  I can’t take it.  Politics, division, divisiveness, people being crappy, showing their dark sides, thinking it’s funny.  It’s not.

I don’t care who you support.  I have my opinion, know what I’m going to do come November.  I expect you do too.  Why must we, over and over, post things on Facebook that are cruel character assassinations of candidates.  I mean on both sides.  I just saw it from both sides.

If you post, post something that includes facts, reflects your educated opinion, or supports your position in a classy way.  What’s with all the personal attacks?  Where did common decency go?  When did it become OK to publicly deride someone?  Sure, public figures sort of open themselves up for criticism.  So, criticize them intelligently.  I’m so sick of the memes showing one candidate or another with some intended to be cutesy, but isn’t, superimposed quote or other additions.  My God people.

We are better than this.  Our culture, with social media, has sunk so low that people think this crap is funny, when in fact it’s bullying behavior.  What are we teaching our kids?  That it’s OK, if you don’t like someone, to post something terrible about them, disparaging about them, out there for the world to see?  That it’s OK to make fun of other people?  That just because you don’t like someone you can publicly humiliate them?  Because every time something like all the ridiculousness I just saw is posted, that’s what you’re saying to your kids.  That it’s OK to bully, to deride, to act like a total ass, to treat others with disrespect.  And then, later, when your kid posts something about someone because they don’t like them, what are you going to say?  No no, you shouldn’t do that.  I guess that’s just a case of do as I say, not as I do.  We need to teach respect, kindness, love.  We need to be teaching you can disagree in civil way.  You can not like someone, but you don’t have to make fun of them, and in fact you shouldn’t.

If the goal is to get people to change their minds politically, you’ve missed the mark.  What you’ve accomplished is showing you can be mean, you can be nasty, you’ve shown your lesser self.  I don’t want to see that side of you.

Again, you don’t like someone, fine.  You don’t like them.  Feel the need to plaster your feelings all over Facebook… fine.  I’d rather see what you’re up to today, get a little photo of your shoe or your workspace or your beautiful smile, but if you must post something, if you just have to dip your toe in the cesspool, then be smart, be kind, be classy about it.  Simply post a status message saying… I support this person, and this is why.  Or, I don’t support this person, and this is why.  Re-post an article you think makes a good point.  Keep the slander, the meanness, the jerkdom out of it.  Would you?  Could you?  Will you?  Won’t you?

Crap, I’m slipping into Dr. Seuss… that’s how serious this has gotten.

I guess it’s just so tough to go on social media and see posts from people you love that turn your stomach.  That make them seem different than the people you thought they were.

Elevate.  Rise above.  Be the people I think you are.  Please.  I can’t take it.  I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and I had to write this post.

Maybe There’s Hope For Us After All

IMG_5153I believe we all basically want the same things, even if we don’t agree about how we might get them.  Trying to understand each other, giving each other simple respect as human beings, goes a long way.  We all have different experiences which inform how we’ve decided to live our lives.  There are many ways to happiness.  My way works for me, yours works for you, we can agree to disagree.  And if we can, if we can stop trying to tell each other what to do, how to live, if we can be forgiving and generous of spirit, we can be sympathetic, we can hope.

I’m not a religious person.  Spiritual, yes, religious no.  But even so, through my life I’ve been fascinated with organized religion.  I’ve taken classes, studied, and I’ve been exposed to religions of differing kinds through my family and friends.  I have seen people, in regards to their religion, be their best selves, and I’ve seen them be their not so best selves.

I never understood, growing up, why my Grandma on my father’s side played favorites with her children and her grandchildren.  Her choices seemed arbitrary, nonsensical.  There seemed to be no precipitating event or behavior that caused those choices.  I was, without a doubt, a favorite.  My brother was not.  When I was small I didn’t know this, or realize it, but then I grew.  I became aware of the behaviors of adults, of the kids around me.  I started to notice how my grandmother treated my brother.  It wasn’t good.  I was all cakes and smiles and praise and good cheer, he was insulted and degraded and made fun of.  When I noticed this, I started not wanting to go to grandma’s house anymore.  I loved my brother and I knew, innately, that my grandma’s behavior was cruel and mean and not at all acceptable.  I couldn’t get past how she could be so nice to me, buying me gifts, playing games, be so loving, and then be so awful to him.  He’d done nothing wrong, yet she acted as if his mere existence repulsed her.

My grandma was also very religious.  Religious as in talking in tongues, holy rollers, and tent revivals.  This never bothered me in and of itself, though it did scare me a lot when I went to church with her and the preacher was screaming and people were falling down in the aisles.  When I visited she would sometimes tell me stories from the bible, always choosing Revelations and emphasizing how if people weren’t good they would be branded and burn.  Scary stuff for a 7-year-old, but none of that really ever deterred me from seeing her, not even when she took me to a tent revival and had me saved by another screaming man.  I started not wanting to go see her on church days, but really I still loved seeing her.  Until, that is, I realized how she treated my brother.  Once that realization hit I instantly felt an incongruity.  I wasn’t more than 9 or 10, but I remember thinking how she was a person who espoused religious beliefs of love and faith and hope, but acted against them.  She was a hypocrite.  What I felt about religion told me it should be about love and understanding and compassion, not cruelty and judgement and disdain.

The other side of my family, my mom’s, wasn’t religious at all.  I found out later my mom’s mom had grown up in a religious household, but events happened that caused her to turn away from organized religion.  I think they all went to church as a family, for a time, but eventually that faded out for most of them.  When we visited my Mom’s parents religion was never discussed.  Instead we were taught to play chess and backgammon.  The arts were encouraged, books were encouraged, music was all around.  So was laughter and love and a very tight sense of family.

I grew up in a home with an atheist (my step-dad) and an agnostic (my mom).  We didn’t talk about religion much in our house, except when my step-dad mocked it, or my mom would explain that she thought, fundamentally, the tenants of organized religions were mostly good (do unto others, kindness, hope, love, compassion) but that organized religion, in the hands of some, seemed to be used to control, conquer, and judge people.  My mom, who treats people the best of anyone I’ve ever met, with respect and compassion and kindness, was and continues to be a great  role model for me about how to be a wonderful human.

Fast forward several years in my life.  I’d taken many courses on religion, read many religious books (large sections of the Bible, the Tao, Buddhist teachings, tenets of Hinduism, parts of the Koran, etc., etc.) and had formed what is the basis of my own spiritual thought.  No one religion encompasses what I think and feel, but they all actually have things in common, and have in their own way contributed to my philosophy.

I’ve had great experiences with people who are religious as well.  Being gay, this is a tough thing as many religious people condemn me for being who I am.  But, I have some wonderful people in my life, who are very religious, and have shown me, over and over, what love, truth, kindness, and understanding are.  Which is why I want to talk about my friend, Pat.  I met him a long time ago, 17 years or so.  We worked together, were office partners, and ended up loving each other like brother and sister.  He is a super religious guy.  Very much a man of his beliefs, very solid, very sure.  I respect him immensely for that.  As you can tell, I’m not a Christian person, and I’m gay, so our deep and abiding friendship was somewhat of a surprise to both of us.  And yet, it continues.  I have deep love for him, and I know he shares the same feelings for me.  He has been, at times, a youth pastor, a regular guest preacher, and very involved with whatever church he has belonged to over the years since I’ve known him.  He’s moved a bit so has had to change churches more than once, always finding a church home and always getting very involved with it when he does.  I also respect him for that.  He’s a man of faith, and his faith is strong.

Pat and I once had a very long very heartfelt conversation about my being gay, what he thought of it, and what he thinks the bible thinks of it as well.  At the time we had this conversation, which was several years ago now, he was not pro gay marriage.  He is a religious guy and he felt (and probably still feels) that a traditional marriage ceremony is inherently a religious ceremony.  I, who am now legally married to my partner of over 13 years, obviously disagrees with him on this point, but that’s OK, he doesn’t argue it with me.  We agree to disagree, which is OK too.  What he said to me that day, about my being gay, was beautiful.  He said that nowhere in his bible (and he knows it exceptionally well) does he interpret that people should be judged by anyone but God.  He said God teaches judge not lest ye be judged.  Judging, in and of itself, is a sin as great as any other.  He said it wasn’t his place to judge me.  He said it’s his place to love me, be kind to me, be accepting, and let God do what he will.  He believes that man is not God, and therefore shouldn’t think that he/she has the right to act as if they are acting for God.  I love Pat.  His beliefs are strong, and they don’t allow him to condemn me.  He would never do that.  He has often said he wants to bring me to his church and talk to the congregation about love, about our relationship, about how two very different people can form beautiful bonds with each other and how that’s what it should be all about.

This country, that I happen to love, was formed largely by people fleeing religious persecution.  People who weren’t able to worship and believe as they wished without consequence from their government, fled to a place where they could worship and believe as they wished.  We’ve somehow forgotten that.  If a person is not a Christian, in my experience, many Christians now seem to believe they have the right to tell that non-christian person they are somehow less than, and that they should, in essence, be cast out.  When did it become OK to judge?  When did it become OK to feel that because you believe a certain way you have the right to tell everyone else how to believe, how to be, what to do?  When did it become OK, with total arrogance, to feel that condemnation was a right anyone could have.  I don’t tell anyone what they should believe.  My feeling is that what works for you, as a person, as far as your belief system goes, is yours.  Your relationship with God, however you see him/her, is your business, your right.  I will not interfere with that, and I expect not to be interfered with.

I also expect that your religious beliefs, whatever they are, stay out of my government.  There was a reason for separation of church and state.  It was meant to protect us from any one group, who might gain power, from asserting its beliefs and wishes on to the rest of us, who could be in danger of experiencing consequences for not going along.

I know a lot of Christians now believe they are being persecuted.  I don’t see that, but I’m not them.  For all I know, it could be happening.  But here’s the thing, persecution because of religion has been going on for centuries. Since the beginning of religion.  Perpetuated both by and against people of varying religious beliefs.  I don’t think any one group, whoever you are, has the right to tell another group what to believe, how to live based on those beliefs.  Nobody should be discriminated against because of their beliefs, whatever they are.  If you have a set of rules, morals, tenants you live by based on your religion, more power to you.  I have mine, and they are no less real or valuable than yours.  As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, believe what you will.  We fear what we don’t understand.  When we fear we sometimes strike out.  When we fear we don’t always act as our better selves.  When we fear we create division and anger and hopelessness.  All things contrary to what I believe is the most important part of any religion and/or belief system… love.

I know there’s no answer, and I know some people will disagree with me, may even become incensed or angered by something I’ve said here.  And I guess that’s OK.  You are entitled to your opinion, to your feelings.  As I am.  But if you do get angry, remember this… I’m not angry with you.  I just want us to talk to each other.  To realize we are all just trying to get through it the best we can, with the most dignity, compassion, and love in our lives as possible.  I think, ultimately, most of us want the same things.  To be respected as human beings, to be allowed to believe as we wish without repercussions from our government or our fellow humans, and to live the happiest of lives possible.  If we can just meet at that place, with that realization, maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Looking With Our Better Eyes

IMG_1785I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here.  It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.

I’m not going to post it.

I still agree with what I wrote.  How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like.  It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight.  How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well.  Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows.  It’s exhausting.

I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one.  I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.

What if, for a day, we posted only something positive.  The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.

What would that feel like?

I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook.  I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart.  I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night.  I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem.  How interesting.  I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them.  I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans.  I see us disagreeing with respect.  I see sharing and helping and love.

Life is a matter of perception.  It always is.  We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster.  It doesn’t make either of us an idiot.  From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness.  There is something to like in almost everyone.  Just as there is something to dislike.  We see what we want to see.

We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there.  If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first.  The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right.  Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other.  We can dwell there.  In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.

It’s up to each of us to decide.  I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.

I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world.  Making our way the best we know how.  Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control.  We don’t know anyone else’s story.  We can’t presume to know.  We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way.  There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways.  Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change.  We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to.  We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking.  Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return.  We don’t mind a good chat.  We all feel we should be respected.  That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background.  We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.

I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts.  If we were open, loving, and kind.  If we all realized we were in it together.  Facing it together.  Because we are.  None of us are in it alone.  Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.

I can only start with me.  So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world.  I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding.  I will try not to judge.  I’ll try to be fair.  I will try to be a better listener.

Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there.  Look around.  See them.  Feel what that feels like to see them.  To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Look with your better eyes.  Look with them, and see.

Excuse Me, Sir….

885049_10151628201270802_1338036815_oI’m not a man.

Though, apparently, I look like one.  Sometimes.  From the side maybe.  Or the back.  Or in the pancake line.

I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened this trip.  I was in a check-out line, or picking up pancakes at the griddle from the pancake chef, or walking into or out of a lady’s room and inevitably I got called sir or mistaken for a sir.  A few examples, hilarious as they are.  The woman walking into the restroom at the Wal-Mart in South Dakota who did a double take, sideways glancing at me, then at the restroom sign to make sure it was the women’s restroom she was walking into.  The guy serving beignets at the art fair cart who asked, “what can I get you sir”, who then looked me fully in the face and started to sort of sputter.  The time I was, once again, walking into a restroom at a gas station and a teen and her mother were sort of walking in tandem/following me in.  The teen said to her Mom, “a guy just went into the restroom.  Yes, mom, a man just went in.”  I knew they were talking about me.  I was just ahead of them.  At first they didn’t even come in behind me, then they did, but didn’t go into a stall, even though one was available, until I came out, looked directly at them, smiled, and said hello.  The mom said hi, then scowled at the teen.  I guess they didn’t want to go into a stall next to a man, if a man was in there with them.  Honestly, I don’t know why, I would.  I mean, if I have to go, and there’s an open stall, I don’t care whose next to me, I’m going in.  But then, I’m “the guy”, so maybe that changes my opinion about it.

I have a theory.

I don’t think we look at each other.  Not really.  Not in the eyes, not fully in the face.  We glance sideways and nod or say hello or ask how people are doing, but we don’t really look.  And because we don’t really look, we never truly see.  I feel this way not just because I was repeatedly called a man this trip, until people really looked at me, realized I was a girl, and then hemmed and ha’d and pretended they hadn’t made that mistake, but because I’m a person who does look people in the eye.  Unless I’m doing what I tell my honey to do occasionally which is, don’t make eye contact, don’t look at them, don’t engage.  Those are special circumstances.  Mostly both my honey and I look at people.  I’ve always loved that about her, and I know she loves it about me.  We are people who try to acknowledge other people.  And the people we try to acknowledge usually like it; clerks in stores, people walking on the street, receptionists, homeless people, the list goes on and on.  We look at people, both of us, but people don’t often look back, or at least they don’t initiate it.  They look sideways or down or off somewhere over the shoulder.  They don’t focus in, and in fact try not to.

Yeah, yeah… I wear boy shorts and t-shirts, my hair is really short, I probably even sort of walk like a guy, or not, I actually have no idea.  But, I sound like a girl, unless it’s late into the night and I’ve been around a camp fire and the man voice comes out.  I don’t think, when someone looks me fully in the face, they would ever wonder if I was a guy or a girl.  I guess I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told.  Especially when I smile, which I’m doing most of the time.  And all of this isn’t really the point.  I don’t actually care about being called a guy, but I do sort of care about not being seen.  Not being seen for who I am.

I wasn’t seen because people didn’t really look, not at first anyway.  I had to work at it, say something to them, make them look me in the eyes, in the face, before they realized the mistake they’d made.  I saw it play out on face after face, time after time.  Fascinating.

It makes me sad that we feel the need to avoid each other, to not fully engage with our fellow humans.  We try to keep ourselves separate, and what?  Safe?  Unencumbered? We try to stay in our own little bubbles.

Next time, when you’re out and about, do a little experiment.  Look people in the eyes, smile at them, say hello, engage in some brief but witty repartee.  SEE them.  Let them SEE you.  The world is brighter and fuller and more expansive if we let people in, if we open ourselves up.  I feel this way, and it can’t only be me.  Trust me, the people you acknowledge, that you look at, talk to, most of them will like it.  Most of them will light up.  And you will feel awesome, more connected, free.

But then again, do you really want to take advice from a dude?  This dude.  I don’t know….

Rumination on Hate

10560688744_f669afe803_b.jpgMerriam Webster defines hate as, “a deep and emotional extreme dislike for someone or something”.  You might find it strange that a person who tends to write about kindness and joy and love would start a piece with hate’s definition, but today I was watching something, a story on the program Sunday Morning that I’d recorded, and it reminded me why I think kindness and joy and love are so important.  They are the opposite of hating and divisiveness.

The story I was watching was pretty benign, about a photographer who takes photos of lookalikes.  You’ve probably seen it going around Facebook, stories about this photographer and his project.  Today the story itself wasn’t the thing, what struck me most was the part about how the country of Colombia had commissioned this photographer’s work as part of an exhibit putting forward the idea of sameness and likeness, instead of difference.  The message they wanted most to convey was that we are more alike than we are dissimilar.  It’s an idea close to my heart.  This idea of sameness and likeness.

We tend to be afraid, apprehensive, and suspicious, of things and people unfamiliar to us.  It’s a natural reaction, or seems to be anyway, for us to pull back, be cautious, to see what’s different about a person instead of what might be the same.  It’s natural, yes, but it also creates barriers, divisions, and sometimes conflict.  Before really getting to know a person or a place we often begin to think the differences make them better than, or worse than, ourselves.  We categorize.  We judge.  We assume.  And sometimes, we hate.

I’ve felt this judgment in myself, and it shames me.  Yes, it’s natural, to be cautious of difference, but it can also be a band-aid for our wounded hearts and souls.  Our feelings of superiority over some people allow us to feel better about ourselves, helping us to feel so much smarter or aware, and ultimately, somehow, so much better than “those” people.  Our feelings of inferiority allow us to justify our anger about our circumstance and our feeling that that circumstance is somehow the fault of “those” people, somehow their responsibility.  I’m guilty of both.  So are you.

Now that I have grandchildren I think about the future, I think about the people they will become.  I want them to appreciate and celebrate the differences in people, in cultures, in themselves.  I hope they will grow up to a world that’s matured.  I hope they live among people who show kindness and live joyously.  I hope they find people who strive for understanding and live with love.  I hope they are those people.

It’s easy to get cynical when you watch the news and don’t agree with what you see, what you hear, but I still believe in the human heart, the human spirit.  I believe, seriously, that most people can be kind.  I believe most people prefer love over hate.  I believe we are more alike than we are not.  I believe most of us want the same things: to be loved, to love, to have a place we love to call home, to have friends and community, to not stress about money, to have good health and for our loved ones to have good health, to be safe, to be happy.  We all want these things.  So do our neighbors and the people we don’t agree with, and so do “those” people, whoever they are.

We are more alike than we are not.  And love, if we let it, will always win over hate.

A Drop Becomes a Ripple Becoming a Wave

Life is Beautiful
Life is Beautiful (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

I was commenting on a friend’s Facebook post today, trying to put across the message that we need a little more positivity in the world and how positivity catches hold, just like negativity, if we let it.

So, here’s the deal. (Yes, I’m on the soap box again.)  I don’t post negative stuff on Facebook, or this blog for that matter. It’s a conscious choice. I decided that what I put out into the world will try to be positive and beautiful and kind. Not to say I’m not aware of the myriad of things about this country, the world, the way things are politically and spiritually and environmentally, etc., etc., etc., and on, and on, and on, that could be changed. Or frankly, need to be changed. I know there are issues. I know there are things that are wrong. I know we all have varying ideas about what those things are. I’m aware. I just choose, being the person I am on the this planet, to only put out positive energy. At least, that’s what I strive to do.

Here’s why. There’s enough bullshit out there already. There’s enough opinion and doomsday predictions and nasty words and accusations and scare tactics and bullying behavior and finger-pointing and hurtfulness to fill pages and pages for years and years. Frankly, it doesn’t really solve anything, or do us any good. It’s divisive and has about as much impact as spitting in the wind.

I believe in what comes around goes around, do unto others, being kind to our fellow humans and the planet, what you put out you get back 10 fold, I believe in being the change I wish to see in the world. And the change I wish to see in the world is that we all become kinder, gentler, less judging, more helpful, less greedy, not as self-centered, nicer versions of ourselves. We can choose to look at all that’s wrong, pointing fingers and shouting doomsday predictions, or we can look at what’s right, and build on that. We can try for understanding and compassion instead of accusations and tearing people down. Ideas, even if they aren’t yours or mine, are all valid.   None of us have all the answers. Which brings me to the thought that a little less arrogance would also be in order. Thinking we have all the answers is the first step to not getting any worthwhile answers at all. And believing we know, without a doubt, what’s best for our neighbors, our towns, our country, or the world, is crazy thinking.  Just sayin’.  No one knows everything, and the moment we start to think we do, we’ve cut off our nose to spite our face. We can only try our best, try to evolve with our problems, and try to respect each other. We all, whoever we are, deserve at least some modicum of respect. As human beings with feelings if nothing else.

So, I know there’s a lot going on in the world.  I know some of it isn’t good.  I know some of it needs to be changed.  But, I also know that there’s beauty and light and love and kindness and compassion and gentleness and giving and loving and respecting and grace out there.  People are, generally, good.  Most of us want the same things in life.  Most of us want not only ourselves but our fellow humans to be well, to be happy, to be fulfilled and to have joy.  Most of us are good people doing the best we can to get by, to have a life, to make a better future for our children and grandchildren.  We are more alike than we aren’t.

Like I used to tell the kids I worked with, “use your powers (and there are many) for good, not evil”.  You have a choice.  I choose to try to emphasize the love and beauty and light and joy in the world.  Not to say my way is better than any other way, but it’s my way, and this is my blog.  This is the best way for me.  It helps to remind me, every day, that there are good people out there and good things happening.  It helps me remember that we are more the same than different and that there’s so much creativity and goodness in the world.  If I seek out the positive, I find it.

I think of it like this… a drop of light creates a ripple of kindness, which leads to waves of joy and compassion and understanding that flow out well beyond where that one drop started.  Just think what would happen if we all got together and tried compassion and understanding and joy for change.  Think of what could happen.  Think of the huge wonderful waves that shared energy would create.  Think of how beautiful that would be.

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

snowI want it to be sunny AND warm.  Is that too much to ask?  It looks gorgeous outside today.  Blue sky, slightly breezy, crisp.  Looking out there, it seems as though I could grab my cup of coffee, the book I’m reading, and head out to the chairs we have on our back deck.  The chairs that just yesterday were covered in snow.  But, no.  Uh uh.  Ain’t going to happen.  Why?  It’s damn cold.

It’s not really that bad, being 37 out there right now that is.  Not bad considering the winter we’ve had.  Not bad considering how much snow and cold and wind we’ve had this year.  But, c’mon.  37.  It’s spring.  I’m ready for spring weather.

Not long ago, November of last year, we had our first snow of the season.  We were so excited.  Yay, we said.  It’s going to snow we exclaimed excitedly.  Yay.  When we only got a dusting we were upset.  We felt robbed.  We wanted more.  We should’ve kept our gosh darn mouths shut.  Be careful what you ask for is right.

Those months ago, when we were entering the cold season and we wanted to experience a real Illinois winter, we didn’t know what we were asking for.  The previous two winters we’d lived here were mild, mellow in fact.  We were told repeatedly that the warmer weather we were experiencing then wasn’t normal at all.  We had no idea.

Now, after a frigid winter and loads of laundry from all the layers we have to constantly wear, we’re ready to pare down.  We’re ready to break out only t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops and not have to spend 10 minutes just getting ready, layer by layer, to go out.  We’re ready to actually look forward to walking the dogs.  We’re ready to be able to sit outside on our deck and watch the birds in the feeders and talk to our neighbors over the fence and grill with ease.  We’re more than ready.

Of course, in three months I’ll be complaining about how hot it is, how humid it is, and I will long for the cool breezes of early spring.

What Kind of Eyes Do You See With?

Eisenhower QuoteI happened to be looking at quotes this morning, which is something I occasionally do, and found this little gem.

I’ve never been a huge Eisenhower fan, and to be honest, I don’t really know too much about him.  He was a two term president, a conservative who also happened to be against McCarthy, for civil rights and inclusion, and ultimately pretty good a foreign policy.  He adhered to a policy of moderation and cooperation as a means of governance.  Yeah, you got me, I just looked him up and that last bit is a direct quote from Wikipedia.  I just read a bit about him and turns out he was an interesting guy that somehow gets overlooked when we mention presidents.  Probably because he came after Truman, and World War II, and before Kennedy, who garnered a lot of attention.

What strikes me about this quote is how relevant it is today.  We find ourselves in an era of bitter rivalry, and one might even say hatred, toward our fellows.  Our political system is a prime example of this.  Hate, fear, finger-pointing, and a general culture of unkindness seems to prevail.  Individuals, and I see this all the time on Facebook, love to post hurtful, finger-pointing comments full of ridicule and scorn.  Nowhere in that is a thought toward commonality, togetherness, kindness, or even an idea toward actually working a solution to our many problems.  It’s all about how the other guy is an oaf or an idiot or simple-minded.  Sadly, it’s the same behavior I saw so many times while I was working with at risk kids.  People who post these inflammatory things are bullies.  They wouldn’t call themselves that, no.  They would say they are passionate about their topic of choice and are attempting to push change.  They are wrong, just as people who try to bully have always been wrong.  One does not get their way by pushing, cajoling, shoving, and name-calling.  Name-calling… I’m appalled.  Adults, people I know, do this.  It’s like we’re back on the playground again.  Ridiculous.  Arrogant.  Shameful.

If you are a passionate person about, well, anything, the way forward is to promote an idea, not knock someone else down for an opinion that differs from yours.  Find what you feel are solutions and put those forward.  Create ideas or support causes you feel are worthy and promote those.  Stand up and state what you believe in, without saying that someone who believes differently is an idiot.  They aren’t, they just don’t agree with you.  And their not agreeing with you is OK too.  Differing ideas bring different looks at a problem.  We have a lot of problems, we need a lot of looks.  If you must comment on the “other side”, do so by posting actual, honest and real, events or circumstances that happened that you don’t agree with.  Then, comment on those with integrity, and an eye, again, toward solution.

I’m so tired, can you tell, of the trend toward mass posting these ridiculous saying and quotes about how liberals are this or that or tea party members are this or that.  Blanket statements that do nothing to enrich the world.  Mean quips and vicious comments about “those people”.  You know what?  I’m those people, and my mom is those people, my family is those people, and my friends are those people, on both sides.  Before you post something of that nature, think of people you know, picture their faces, and decide if you would say whatever it is you are about to post right to their face.  If you would, well then I guess you aren’t really a friend of mine because true friends of mine aren’t mean.  Friends of mine are kind.  I will, to borrow a phrase, accept no substitutes.  Everyone, and I mean nearly everyone, is entitled to a measure of respect. You choose who you are.  You can rise, be kind, elevate.  Or you can degrade, denigrate, and wallow in the muck.

As Eisenhower, whose quote started this whole little stand on the soap box, said…  “we must avoid becoming a community of dreadful hate and fear” and as the character Lindsey Brigman says in the movie The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and…  he sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  I love that quote.  It’s stuck with me.  We see what we want, we create our world based on what we see and what we do.  We have to be better, for the world and for each other.  If we show a general disrespect for people we don’t even know, we disrespect ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, our larger communities.  We have to look with better eyes than that.

If You Give a Little Love, You Can Get a Little Love of Your Own

Yes, grand gestures are awesome, but it’s the small things we do every day that really make a difference.

Parts of this video include footage from the Liberty Mutual campaign called the responsibility project.  It’s by far my favorite ad campaign.  All about doing small things to help our fellow beings, human and animal alike.  Good deeds, just like bad deeds, create a wave.  As the wave moves it picks up and grows.  Lets use our power for good people.  We have a choice.  Choose love and help and kindness over fear and animosity and cruelty.  If you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own.  Positive energy instead of negative energy.  It’s a choice we make hundreds of times a day in small ways and big.  Think, and be better.  I’m trying.

 

And Above All Things… Kindness

I’ve written many times about how I feel we should look at all sides, find common ground, talk over places we disagree with compassion and a willingness to hear. I’ve also written a lot about being open, non-judgemental, and how we are all, most of us anyway, pretty much the same, wanting the same basic things out of life. I believe all of it.

What I believe as well, more than anything else, is that we should all be kind to each other. We should talk from a place of kindness, act from a place of kindness, and think about the world and our fellow men and women from a place of kindness. This is not to say that we should all just get along and there will never be discord. Of course there will be, and is. It’s just that as we disagree we should do it with kindness. No name calling, no finger pointing, no bending of facts or twisting of ideals.

I was reading an article today on CNN.com, the subject of which I won’t talk about as it’s really not relevant to what I’m trying to say here, and then I looked at the comments. Needless to say it was the same ol’ same ol’. And people, listen when I say this, it came from both sides of the argument. As I’ve said, I’m liberal, but I get just as disgusted with the liberal rhetoric, hype, and nastiness, as I do the conservative comments in kind. What good does it do to point fingers, call names, make statements with no support or basis in fact, and generally act like an ass? We get nowhere doing this. Let me repeat… NOWHERE. We have to be better than this, people. We have to rise above our petty differences and playground tactics so we can have meaningful conversations. That is unless we feel we already have all the answers, know everything, and can learn nothing from each other. Arrogant much?

The key to acting with compassion is kindness. Kindness to ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones, and yes… even toward people we feel might be our adversaries. I will listen to your reasoning, your opinion, your ideas, much more willingly if you don’t call me a name, make fun of what I believe in, and presume to know me. I don’t know you and therefore should do the same. Other than to say, once again, I really feel we are all after pretty much the same things in life… a good life well lived with people we love.

In an effort to look into kindness, do a bit of research you might say, I stumbled upon the seven virtues. The antithesis of the seven deadly sins, these are the seven ideals, the seven character traits, we should all strive to achieve. I actually read them through, not skimming but reading, which made me realize the deeper meaning behind them instead of the sort of one word definitions that are so often assigned to them. Chastity is a great example of this. People always think of chastity as the no sex virtue. Yes, there is a part of the definition that says save yourself based on your current status, but there’s so much more to it than that. In finding the seven virtues I was fascinated… I’d read them before, long ago, but reading them again, with older and hopefully wiser eyes, I found myself agreeing with them in basic principal, as I interpreted them. Key point here is how I interpreted them. We, each of us, take things in through the filter of our own perception. It cannot be helped. So I read these virtues and this is what I understood them to mean, for myself, and for the larger world. I took the original definitions directly from Wikipedia so take that for what you will. I’ve left in the gloss (the four highlighted words directly after the virtue that represent a brief marginal notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text) and after that the sections of the definitions I felt summed up the essence of each virtue. I tried to do this paraphrasing elegantly so the basic premises of the virtues shown through. And away we go….

Chastity: Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom. To be honest with oneself, one’s family, one’s friends, and to all of humanity. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought-through education and betterment. The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.

Temperance: Self control, justice, honour, abstention. Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, moderation, zero-sum and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.

Charity: Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice. Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving. Charity—or love (agäpé) — is the greatest of the three theological virtues. Love, in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Such love is self-sacrificial. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word “love”. The love that is “caritas” is distinguished by its origin – being divinely infused into the soul – and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up.

Diligence: Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude. A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching (integrity).(The vice “acedia” is more commonly known as “sloth”.)

Patience: Peace, mercy, ahimsa, sufferance. Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. Accepting the grace to forgive; to show mercy. Creating a sense of peaceful stability and community rather than suffering, hostility, and antagonism.

Kindness: Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity. Charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlooks and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others.

Humility: Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism. Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; charity toward people you disagree with. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.

I love the character traits present in these… being unselfish, inspiring kindness in others, loving your fellow human, conviction, honesty, patience, mercy, honor, generosity of spirit, justice, peace, and compassion. Just to name a few. These are the things we should strive for, these are the ways in which we should act in our own lives and toward our fellows. This is how we should live in the larger world.

I read these virtues and thought again, the greatest of these is kindness… it generates all the other traits. If we are kind to ourselves we are better people out in the world. If we are kind to our fellow humans then we spread an energy of joy and understanding versus judgement and antagonism. Kind people act with charity, they act with mercy, they act with love.

I don’t profess to always be the kindest of people. I try, but am honestly not always successful. The hope, my hope, is that I am more kind than not, that I think before I speak and act, and that I am always attempting to be aware of my actions and their impact on the people around me and the world at large. What kind of energy do I, do we, want to put out into the world? There are two options… positive energy, which pushes things in a loving and caring direction, or negative energy, which diminishes and constricts. It’s our choice every day. It’s the choice we make when we interact with the barista at our coffee shop, our partners friends and family, or a homeless person, or someone we are angry with or maybe disagreeing with. It’s a choice people. We need to try and be better.

I say strive for kindness… we would all be better off. The world would be better off. Small acts to large, every act of kindness matters. It matters, and it makes the world a better place.

… stepping down off soap box now…

A Word From Our Sponsor… Namely, Me

I do not choose to post inflammatory political stuff on this blog or in social media. I’m liberal and have my opinion but I didn’t even post stuff of that nature when I was really anti a previous administration. I see that sort of thing as plain ol’ finger pointing, which gets us nowhere. You want to solve the worlds problems and don’t agree with whoever is making tough decisions then do something constructive.  Volunteer somewhere, run for office, donate money to organizations you feel will help move the country in the direction you think it should go, write letters, take part in the process in a constructive way.  And if you must air your political opinion out in the open for all to see then why not post things that offer solutions instead of nasty rhetoric.  I have no issue with you, even if you disagree with me and we feel completely different about how problems should be solved, but let’s all of us get the hell out of the sandbox, pull up our big boy pants, and be civil.

The moral of this story… Let’s just everyone get a grip, try to focus on the positive, try to offer real solutions to things if you must be heard. I might not agree with you, but I will respect your opinion more and maybe a real conversation could be had.  One where people respect each other, honor differences of opinion, agree to disagree on some things, and then just maybe work toward real honest compromise.   When people post stuff that’s inflammatory I shut down, and so does everyone who doesn’t absolutely agree with it.  What purpose does that serve?  So those on either side can all nod their heads and agree that the other side sucks?  That’s not true.  Those on the other side don’t suck.  Everyone, really, is just living their lives, trying to do the best they can, loving their family and friends, and believing what they believe because it’s what they feel is right.  Me, you, your neighbor, the person in the checkout line, the guy sitting in the car at the stoplight, your kid’s fifth grade teacher,  your dentist, the woman out walking her dog, and on and on.  It’s time we stopped this us and them crap.  There is no us and them.  There’s just us, and we had better start being nicer to each other, more understanding instead of less, listening instead of talking so damn much, and seeing the good in our fellow man instead of the less than one percent that’s truly bad.  Again I will say get a grip people.  I’m tired of it.

That is all….

One Nation

I grew up with the idea that it was OK to disagree, appropriately of course, and that having more than one opinion in the room is often a good thing.  It provides a discussion with more than one side, which I feel is always a good thing.  Granted, sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but if all parties remain respectful it can also be the best way to wade through a problem, working it from more than one side.

What floors me so much about the political landscape of our country right now is that we are so black and white, right and wrong, us and them.  Polarized.  It’s ridiculous.

Those who know me know I’m a liberal.  I tend to vote Democrat down the line, but the reasons I do this aren’t very popular even to me.  I do it because I care, deeply, about my personal rights.  I care about social issues very much.  It’s not that I don’t care about economic issues, foreign policy, education… I do.  Very much actually.  It’s just that in the current climate where people who I don’t even know are trying to tell me who I can and can’t marry, which impacts them not at all, I have to stand on the side of me, of my partner, of our life together.  I have to stand for my friends, and for millions of people who just want to love who they love and have everyone else stay out of their personal business. But I rant, and this is not really about that at all.

So I vote the way I do based mostly on social issues, but if those weren’t an issue how would I vote?  Honestly, probably somewhere in the middle.  Probably sometimes for a Republican candidate, or a third party candidate, that I thought was the best person for the job.  I’d vote the issue, or the candidate, and not the party.  I used to vote that way.  I’d love that.

I disagree with extremism.  My idea of what this country was founded on is about freedom.  Freedom to think, pray, work, live, prosper, and thrive as we each see fit.  As we each make our way.  There are different ideas about how to get there, but when did we become so polarized?  When did we forget that this whole thing was set up so there wouldn’t be just one way to be, one way to think, one party who had all the power.  We didn’t want a kingdom, we wanted a free republic that respected the thoughts of ALL of it’s people.

I may disagree with some of the more outlandish and extreme points of view, but I also feel like everyone needs to have a say.  I was raised to value all sides.  Weren’t you?  We’re better together.  Better even when we don’t agree with each other.  And in fact we are probably stronger because of it.  One nation.  So let’s get on with it.  Let’s get on with the real business of trying to right what’s wrong, expand on what’s right, and move forward together.  We are, after all, still living in the greatest country.  We are honored, and blessed, to live here.  We should remember that.

Why Can’t Jim Own a Canadian?

I just read this post on Facebook and had to repost it here on my blog.  It had me laughing so hard I was was crying.  Thanks Margaret for posting it there and Jim (whoever you are) for writing it.

Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?

by Margaret Shelburne Reed on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:46pm
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,

Jim

 

Freakin’ Busy

That’s all I have to say…. sort of.

My oh my have we been in the soup lately.  I don’t know when we had a day off recently.  I mean… a day off.  No work, no play away from our house, nothing but relaxin’ at the abode.  I can’t remember.  That’s bad.

I was sitting here thinking about our week so far and our week ahead.  ha ha ha ha!!  I just drew a blank on what we did Monday.  What did we do? Two days ago.  We went somewhere.  Did we?  If we were with you, don’t be offended, it’s not that you’re not important to me, it’s that my brain is full. (Oh, just remembered, right before hitting the publish button… we didn’t go anywhere.  Maggie came over and we made dinner and hung out.  We did a vehicle exchange so we could take Maggie’s rig to the tire place for her Tuesday morning… yeah, that’s it.  Sorry Maggie… I had a moment.  Those squash patties were awesome by the way!)

I do know what we did last night.  We went for a bike ride with some friends along Waterfront Park and the East Bank Esplanade.  We crossed the Hawthorne and Steele bridges and stopped for some bento, yakisoba, and greek food at Riverplace.  A great night.  We are in training for the Providence Bridge Pedal on Sunday.  In training… now that’s funny.  We are so out of shape that what we pedaled last night was nothing compared to what we are supposed to pedal on Sunday.  If we make it we will have to celebrate big time, if we can walk that is.

Tonight… I believe there’s a birthday get together for Don.  Happy birthday Don!  Tomorrow… we talked about going on another bike ride.  We’ll see.  Friday night… ah, Friday.  I think, maybe we have nothing planned.  Saturday an antique show/fair in Aurora.  Sunday… Bridge Pedal.

Plus, the whole time all this is happening our bathroom addition is getting built.  Framing is now done.  Roof on today (they are re-roofing our existing house and roofing our new addition) and rough plumbing starting today as well.  Kev put in the top of the sun tunnel that will be in our walk in closet last night.  Karen is hauling another load to the dump this morning.  Our tub, vanity, and other misc. stuff is getting delivered some time today between 10 and 2 (I have to run home when it happens to help unload… long story that involves curbside only delivery… ugh!  Big crates dropped at the bottom of our long driveway… ridiculous) and the shower head, valves, etc. are also supposed to get delivered today.  Karen is calling gutter people to get estimates.  Kev is calling sheet rock and insulation places to get estimates.  Electrician will start next week on rough electrical.  Kev will put on the siding some time in the next while.  It’s quite the production.

We need a vacation…

How To Sleep Walk Effectively

I’m tired.  Tired to the bones tired.  It’s nobody’s fault really.  It’s just that I got only three and a half or four hours of sleep.  Not good.  It went something like this… stay up until almost midnight, go to sleep, wake at 3:20 when the little girl pounced on me then sat there on me looking at me, take little girl out, go back to bed, little girl pounces again because apparently she didn’t do all her business, take little girl outside again, go back to bed, realize little girl had left “traces” of her “movement” on my arm where I’d carried her, get up again and go to bathroom, wash arm thoroughly, go back to bed, don’t go back to sleep for a long time, finally go to sleep, wake up again when little girl pounced on me about a half an hour after I went back to sleep, whine that I didn’t want to get up again, watch Karen get up with little girl, stay awake until about 10 minutes before the alarm went off.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a girl gets tired.

In The Waiting Room

Here we all are… waiting. Doesn’t really matter where as all waiting rooms are the same. Bad coffee, bad lighting, loads of people, weird smells, and the loud person. The loud person can be man or woman. I’ve experienced both. This particular loudy is a woman. A woman who’s knitting and talking simultaneously. Special.

We can all hear her. Clearly. We now know about her expected life span, her kids, her conversation with some percieved uppity person she once encountered. We know it all. Know it all and don’t want to. She keeps talking away and knitting. The people sitting next to her look like deer in the headlights. They are attempting to be polite by nodding, smiling, and adding an appropriately placed chuckle now and then. They are cringing. We all see it. Feel bad for them. Except, of course, the loudy. She sees nothing. Has no awareness of her impact. Has no idea we are all just wishing our names would be called so we could get up and leave this place. Ah.. That’s the dream…

I wonder… Always… Is she, are they, like this everywhere?The answer… Yes. Yes they are. Maybe it’s a nice life. Saying what you want to, wherever you happen to be, so loudly the people everywhere near you, and not so near you, can hear. Oblivious to the fact that people are simply longing for quiet. For peace. People are longing to be anywhere but near you, in the waiting room.

Stand For Children Video

Mom… I agree with you. No matter what our politics, kids need to have a higher profile where our government spending is concerned. I see the aftermath when the cuts happen. What do we want… educated children, or a much higher drop out rate. People may say there’s no correlation, but trust me, there is.

What To Do When You Lose A Hard Drive

… and other sad tales….

There is only one response to this… you run out into your yard, or onto your deck, you throw up your hands, and you scream at the top of your lungs to any and all who might be listening… STELLA!!!!!!

That is what you do.  The end.

Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Yep… it snowed. Again. We still had a snow pile left over from the last time. Ah well… I guess Oregon has just joined the ranks of the East Coast winter club. Snow… cold… snow… and uh, oh yeah, more snow.

It is beautiful though. I have to admit. And… we’re going out anyway. Thor, as our car is now known after the last storm, can handle a mere couple of inches of snow. Besides… it’s already melting. I’m just whining… a little. Slightly. A small whine.

Abracadabra… And They’re Gone…

This is a sad and upsetting situation.  You give a guy a really nice, collector’s edition, Leatherman.  He loves it.  He packs it in his luggage, luggage he can’t lock, and trusting the TSA workers, he checks said baggage with said collector’s edition knife (along with another leatherman and a nice folding pocket knife… all presents he and his lovely fiance received for Christmas), and the bastard TSA agents steal the knives.  Steal them.  No question.  No doubt.  Stolen.  Right out of their can’t lock them bags.  Unbelievable.

Here’s the thing… they are supposed to have all this security to protect us.  I get that.  I even really appreciate it.  I never complain about waiting in line.  I never even complain about not being able to take along my larger than 3 oz bottle of shampoo in the carry on.  Some of it is an inconvenience, but I don’t mind.  I don’t think it’s ridiculous.  I mean hey, what’s the alternative right?  They don’t check, and something terrible happens.  So don’t go thinking I’m one of those complainer types.  I’m not.  But this… this has me incensed.

They are, as I said, supposed to be keeping us safe.  They are supposed to be keeping us protected.  They are NOT supposed to steal from us.  To make us feel like our property is not secure in their hands.  And what’s worse… we have no choice in matters.  It’s not like we can lock up our bags to keep them out and keep our stuff safe, from them.  We can’t.  It’s not allowed.  So every time we take a trip, travel anywhere, we basically say to them… here, here’s my stuff, go ahead, it’s free.  Take it.  We can’t stop them.  We can’t carry it on.

Our options…  we can not take our items (hard option when you travel for the holidays and receive gifts you want to take home) or we can ship them.  This is what they say… you should ship your items.  OK, so let me get this straight.  We can’t trust you, so we have to ship our items… which costs money.  Loads of money if you’re traveling out of the country.  And it’s not as if ticket prices are inexpensive as it is.  The price to fly anywhere, let alone Europe, is high.  It’s tough to just get the funds together to buy the ticket.  Now we also have to ship every little thing we don’t want ripped off by the airport “security”.  That’s crap.

I don’t know what the answer is to this… but I’m angry.  You should be too.  This could happen to you.  This could happen to anyone.  It’s aggravating.  It’s maddening.  It’s frustrating.  It’s wrong.  I guess that’s what it comes down to.  It’s wrong.  Plain and simple.  I’m disgusted.  I’m disappointed.  I’m wondering what the number is for FedEx.  I have to travel in May.  I think I might have to ship my entire bag to England.  It’s the only way to be sure.

I Suck

I realized recently that I haven’t posted much to this blog of mine in the last few weeks. Sure, there’s been the occasional photo posting for the photo hunt, but otherwise I’ve been a tad lax. My apologies. I have no excuse other than to say… I’m tired. Not of blogging. Just tired. Too many trips to the rental house, too many engagements, too many “things to do”. So much so that I’ve now resorted to whining about how much there is to do. How annoying.

I think, in an earlier post, I made a pledge to post more. I’ve obviously not followed through or fulfilled that promise. I guess, not even trying to defend myself, I’ll just have to do my best until this whole rental thing is finished. We are almost done. Just a bit more painting to do this weekend on the inside (thanks so much to Mom and Don who helped us, above and beyond the call of duty, last weekend! Props to you!!), the washer and dryer to move in, some trim to put up, and then the outside to get painted (we’ve hired someone to do that… we’re not completely insane). Ah, I can smell the end of this part of the project. It’s near.

This probably sounds like I’m complaining. And though I might be just a bit tired… brought on by a lack of sleep, recent MRI (no worries… just ended up being disc issues and some kind of shrinking sheath or something… I’m supposed to see a specialist. Also… I was glad the circus that lives in my brain didn’t show itself during the scan), out of town conference, Jann Arden concert, and dinner at a friend’s place (thanks Maggie for the panini)… all of this since last weekend… I’m not complaining. Just really really tired (have I already said that?). I’m looking forward to Saturday night when the painting, hopefully, will be finished, the trim put up, and the appliances moved. We will sit back with a bottle of good wine, put in a movie, and revel in our weeks worth of accomplishments. It will be glorious. Splendid. Fine indeed.

Then, perhaps, I won’t suck so much in my ability to get to the laptop and type a few words, or post a few pictures, or whatever. Perhaps I won’t be so sad and pitiful. Yeah… perhaps…

Spelling Miffed

I’m miffed, if that’s even how you spell miffed.  If it is, that’s what I am.  I’m in insurance cancelling hell.  Or was.  I’m still steaming about it.  Here’s the deal… I’ve been a loyal, on time premium paying customer of Nationwide Insurance for years.  It goes back to 1988 when I started working for the government and Nationwide offered discounts to government employees.  So, it’s been awhile.  I’ve only ever had one claim, and that was when someone else hit me.  All Nationwide had to do then was work with the other person’s insurance company so I could get my car fixed.  Not anything too harrowing for them I’m sure. 

Fast forward to April of this year.  Karen and I decided, after being together for four years, owning a house together, car together, and now a dog, that we should probably combine our insurance.  You know, quit paying two companies.  Save a bit of cash.  Given that decision we decided to go with her insurance as they also carry the homeowners policy.  So, I quit Nationwide.  Or so I thought.  Maybe I should say I tried  to quit Nationwide.  I thought I quit Nationwide.  I guess… I didn’t.

I sent them a letter, letting them know I was discontinuing my coverage with them and that I would be covered with someone else.  I even faxed them, or I should say, Karen faxed them, the proof of insurance from the other company.  I thought I was good to go, as that was the procedure that Nationwide layed out for me.  Call, fax, letter, good to go.

Fast forward again just a bit and… yes, a bill from Nationwide arrives.  So, Karen calls (she’s the real heavy hitter, the big gun, the more aggressive of the two of us, by far, hands down) and she is told by the not so nice and actually very surly folk at Nationwide that the bill was for my motorcycle and that we have to pay for the whole year on that policy and the bill we received was what was left of what we owed for the year.  Whew… long explanation, but you get what I’m saying.  The funny thing is, I was never aware that my insurance for the motorcycle was paid yearly.  I made payments on it every month, like those on the Toyota, thinking that’s how it worked.  They never told me any differently.  But, here they were, telling us we had to pay, or it would go to collections, and to look at the fine print on the policy (I guess I should read the fine print more often).  Funny thing is, when we called initially, they never said anything about us owing any more money.  They said they’d cancel.  They even said they’d refund part of the premium I’d already paid.  Interesting.

Ah well… this is how they get us.  I didn’t fight it.  I sent them a check.  I mean… it causes more frustration to stay in it than it does to just pay it (it wasn’t about the money anyway) and move on with our lives.  So, we’ve moved on.  Though I am, still, just a bit miffed…. if that’s how you spell it.