Boiling Down

Conversations on equity, justice, and rights can quickly boil over. But really it boils down to this...
When it comes to people I don't believe we can ever be truly equal. Perhaps nor should we. Each person brings a truly unique and wonderful individuality to this earth and the very least we can do for each other is recognize that. Since no person can actually be measured against another how can we judge worth and therefore qualify deserving.
We must treat people as people. As we would want to be considered and consulted before plans are made for us. All people on earth together each in distinct glory unto our own lives.

Can't we all get along is understated... not enough.. can't we love all others as ourselves?


Southern Comfort

I've started this post in fits and spurts over the last couple of weeks. My intent has been to write about the social issues and commentary that ran the length of a recent stay in North Carolina. Most recently I had an entry all prepared on health and the justice and luxury I felt being able to take three weeks out of my life to be with and care for my family during the final stages of my uncle's life. Truly that is a beautiful thing that I hope we can help every person to be able to do. Every time I went to copy that entry here though, it didn't seem to work quite right. There were pieces of my time down south that were nagging me and I believe this is the place to share them.

Two Stories of Strong Men

There are people I have looked up to for a long time. Men, that are strong and wise, loving and successful. Good husbands, close friends. Willing to take a bullet for their best friend. Able to cry through the pain of seeing that friend's chair empty after his death.

Then there are the times when that hero worship is faded by reality. All of the above still being true, the words of privilege and prejudice come reluctantly to my ears. Now I seek balance between disappointment in the new found flaw in their armor and maintaining the space in my heart for the wonderful love and care they display.

Calling Home

One man made comment of the "rough neighborhood" we drove through on the way to the hospice center each day, almost apologizing for our having to travel through it. This tree lined street with old, low-country homes had struck me as a beautiful, welcoming series of blocks that reflect the slow, southern pace. There were signs in several front yards, drawing attention to the work and support a local association was doing for those struggling with substance abuse in the area. Although a stark contrast (perhaps understated here) to the gated golf course-lined neighborhoods where this man lives, this place was steeped in history and had little intention of changing. To me it was a community in the truest sense of the word. More about togetherness and support and wearing all of that on its sleeve. The big houses on groomed lots across town seemed so cold in comparison. I was immediately uncomfortable with his judgement and I just made quick of mention of how I had actually been admiring it on my way through. I was surprised by his statement and thus didn't have the conversation we perhaps could have had about all that I explained here. Still it was a more productive response than my reaction to this second story of another strong man.

Are you comfortable?

This second strong man told a story involving a friend of his, an Enya CD and a gay man. He told the story of when his friend went to buy the music for a gift and the gay man's fairly stereotypical reaction to a particular genre. It was confusing. I didn't understand the purpose of the story. Nor how he wanted me and others in the room to react. Perhaps I should have inquired to that end. Instead I put on my best confused/disapproving look and said nothing. As a result, I am sure he will go on to tell the story again and I sit with some regret in not speaking with him then or at a less public time regarding my thoughts on his story. I was uncomfortable, but I didn't speak up.

Fresh Faced

Lastly there is a story to share of my nephew. A future strong man. At 18+ months, it is a joy to see the world through his eyes. Innocent and loving. One morning as we took a walk around the center together, he stopped in his tracks to notice someone he hadn't noticed before. She was a nurse at the facility and she was black. I smiled and watched as he watched her with curiosity. She didn't look like anyone he had spent time with before. After a pause, he smiled and waved and we went on about our walk. I realized, then, that this is our future and he is our opportunity. The economic status he was born into, his striking blonde hair and fair complexion need not be a continuation of the structures we have in place, but an opportunity for him to grow to acknowledge his privilege and use the power bestowed upon him by our society to show the world the joys of our diversity. It must begin in these young years and perhaps this is among my duties as his godmother. To help him grow up seeing potential in the world. Adulthood is an awfully long time from now and could be too late for some of these conversations.


A Learning Thread

Amazing that almost a year has gone by since last I wrote here. At some point, I promise, I will go back and fill in some blanks of what has been building over the last 10 months. In the meantime there is this thread I would like to explore.

Diversity. Social Justice. Inclusion. Acceptance. Tolerance.

Some of these words are magical; namely inclusion. What a wonderful way to get all the voices into the room. The conversation. Others are far less magical; acceptance and tolerance. If you are merely accepting or tolerating someone(s), you are not truly engaging the richness of our planet and the people that inhabit it. So limiting.

Bits and Pieces

It took us from 1776 to the 1960s, when both women and black Americans were allowed to vote, to truly be a democracy. Our representative government is so young.

In trying to be sensitive even my best intentions seem petty and reflect the privilege I never saw I had.

Even in the boundary of systemic or societal -isms (racism, ageism, class-ism, sexism, etc), each person beings the nuances of their own background and experience. Understanding each other's nuances requires honest communication. I might never have seen the privilege I benefit from had someone not told me about the things that they experience.

We need to use our language. We need to move through the moments, hours or days of uncomfortableness in order to include all our humans in the understanding of a class system that has developed over the last thousandish years. Our differences may not be new, but the -isms we have adopted against them are. The -isms no longer serve our goal of life, liberty and happiness. We need to move on.



I’m Off

In search of my own saga. The Norwegians have used sagas to tell the stories of their historic exploits, to narrate events in the history of personage. So now I will use this space to tell of my journey; hoping to build a tale of achievements, my own epic adventure.
Undoubtedly along the way I will meet people who amaze and inspire me. I will share pieces of their sage as well. Perhaps in my voice, perhaps in theirs.

31 Long Years Ago

The beginning of my saga was recorded by my sister for a junior high project and since no one can tell it like she did, I’ll let her lead off.
“The Saga of Sonja Begonia: Third Child

The saga of Sonja Begonia
Began on the second of May.
Eleven o”clock brought us Sonja,
Nine pounds and nine ounces she weighed.

An uncle named Frans getting married,
We took her to Maine on the plane.
A traveler so small she was carried,
And then she would start to complain –Waaa!

The baby turned one on a Sunday;
Too bad she was sick with the flu.
Her party was scheduled for midday
With family and Godmother Sue.

A tree house was built for the big kids.
Six feet off the ground did it stand.
Attempts to ascend were all thwarted;
They made her play down in the sand.

The words she first spoke were forgotten,
For shrieking was such a fun game.
From all we could tell t’was Brazilian,
For that we don’t know who’s to blame.

The terrible twos came like lightening,
And mother was reading from Spock.
Advice he gave freely to parents
But never prepared us for “pox”.

Fourth birthday for Sonja meant parties,
And friends came with presents galore.
Then how the excitement was mounting
As into the presents she tore.

Companion to Sally H. Dally,
To talk with each day and each night;
Our Sonja was always so happy.
They never engaged in a fight.

September brought school for dear Sonja,
And everything started out fine.
Til one day she came home announcing,
“I quit”, was her most famous line.

A sunny day Sonja went skating.
She fell on her soft derriere.
A broken arm, x-rays and casting,
It gave her quite a big scare.

Tundu, pirouette, pas de bourree;
Through sax and piano she whined.
Recitals and lessons were boring,
When would it be her turn to shine?

As six we heard nothing but Barbie,
And Skipper and Ken and the rest.
“Pick up,” said her Mom with voice raising,
“Pitch all of that junk in a chest.”

To copy her sister was tempting,
At seven her world opened wide.
She wished to wear makeup to school.
“Just wait awhile, “Mother would chide.

At seven, thirteen seemed appealing.
She wanted to do it all now.
It seemed to her Springman was nifty.
Just wait ‘til it’s her turn …Oh Wow!”


A Little Something I've Been Working On

So I know I have been a little sparse these days... and I suspect that will pick up again soon. To get us back in the game the following is a piece I wrote as part of an application. It fits the theme a little bit here, so I thought I would share it.

"Words to live by. The words that ring in me. The mantras that remind me of the right path. Some days I repeat ‘Be Present’. Other days I must channel Daniel Burnham and “make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood.” The intersection of these two ideas provides a compass for my life.
The first of these thoughts became clear in my mind five or so years ago. Having traveled over half the country to be with my brother on the weekend of his birthday, we were out together catching up. I felt anxious, insecure, and over the course of our dinner I saw what was causing my mood. His questions were not pertinent. His answers to my questions were not relevant. Although I have often tried to appreciate his busy mind, at that time I asked that he adjust it to ‘Be Present’ with me in that moment. His absence affected how we related to each other. I understood, then, how important it is to ‘Be Present.’ I never want to make anyone feel irrelevant by not paying attention or not taking an active part of the moments I spend with them, whether in conversation, in action or in silent stillness.
Being present gives me context. There is perspective to be gained in absorbing everything you can from the moment. It’s easier to understand my place in the world when I see how things are placed alongside me. Listening and observing my own self just as I observe others helps me to see how things fit together and make guesses as to why. Only by living in the moment am I able to experience the nuances that give the people and issues that I care about depth.
I cannot be stuck only in this moment, though. Forward momentum is ultimately what allows me to set goals. I derive that momentum from a quote from Daniel Burnham, architect and Chicago city planner, “make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood.” Daniel Burnham had a vision for Chicago’s potential. His foundation and plan, made public around the turn of the century, still provide the principles for the city’s ongoing development. Burnham’s vision was an urban community where all residents had access to the nature that surrounds the architecture of one of the greatest cities in the world; the lakefront to the west, the plains to the south, the forests to the north, and the rivers that cut through the middle. Chicago has long had a reputation of corruption and elitism yet amidst all that, Burnham gave the best parts of the city to all people. It’s those big plans, and visions that make an impact on the world.

The full quote explains what turns vision into reality. Plans are just the beginning. Action is what makes the mark.
“Make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”
My objective is to live in a balance of these two thoughts of presence and plans. From time to time one may need to advance and hold up the other, but both must be strong in order to move me forward with purpose. ‘Be Present’ has held significant meaning at times when I needed and intended to notice the details of the moment. The whys and hows that are easily missed by thrusting this moment too soon into the next. It’s critical to absorb as much as possible and, if appropriate, engage before moving on. This allows for more informed decisions, not always less emotional, but ones that will hold their truth after the moment is past.
Making plans may seem to contradict being present, but I feel a full and meaningful life is lived in the place where these two meet. In order to improve the world the big picture is paramount. Here is where one needs the other. If I am only present in this moment and do not make the grand plans the impact is limited. If I am always in the planning stage, one or ten steps ahead, the connection to reality is lost. Implementation in response to a need, or to head a need off at the pass, can only be effective if rooted in an understanding of the present tense.
I may never achieve the precision of that balance, but the journey itself is significant. I will always strive to take what I learn from this moment and apply my skills of leadership and organization to implement big plans. This is the way I can give something to the world in a way that will return the gift I have been given. That is, the blessing to experience all the amazing things this earth has to offer and help those around me take part in this gift as well."


I Giggle

You will never guess where I ended up to write this. The site of a prior crime… Elephant and Castle. Not entirely sure how I ended up here, but somehow while wandering the Loop trying to find a spot to enjoy a glass of wine and write, I came across it. A little grin as I remember the panic of the last time I was here. You may remember as well. No potatoes on are my menu today just a Cab. Maybe this is the perfect place to sit and write about…


In phonetics it’s the adjustments and movements of speech organs involved in pronouncing a particular sound, taken as a whole. In yoga, we talk about muscle articulation as small adjustments and movements you make to each muscle, ligament and bone in your body to set your whole posture in alignment. I’ve learned the benefits of being able to make those adjustments in my language and my muscles to really bring each pose into alignment. I even think that although I have heard the word “articulate” many times regarding speech I didn’t really grasp the extent to which positive articulation could impact my life until I came across it in yoga.
My enlightened digital guide talked me through a downward dog. Feet shoulder-width apart, ankles lowered as close to the ground as I can lifting my hips to the sky, holding my shoulders on my back and lengthening my spine. Often feeling like those things were contradictory and not realizing I could change the length of my spine, I try my best to form each part anyway. It wasn’t until she added the direction “turn elbow creases to the center” that it all began clear. I think this will all become clear to you if you try it too…

So read this paragraph, then try it .. come back when you are done…

Downward dog. Start on your hands and knees. Knees shoulder width apart. Hands under your shoulders, middle fingers pointed forward. Swing your hips back and above your feet. Straighten your legs. Flatten your back. Straighten your arms. Keep your shoulder blades down and on your back. Not up by your ears. Now… Here is the kicker.. without changing your hand position (from middle fingers facing forward) roll your elbow creases so they directly face each other. OK go… come back when you’re done….

Did you notice the difference? The muscles that engaged? If not try it again. I promise you will notice. That is when yoga all together became clearer to me. Each posture, pose and movement is broken down to so many tiny pieces and each change you make engages different muscles changing the intensity and benefits I gain from it.

I Think I Thought

If I could make these minor adjustments and gain major results overall, think of what learning to “articulate” my words can do to enhance my communications with others and my psyche! I tried it. Paying closer attention to the words that I use and how they affect me or others I talk to has been incredibly eye-opening. The details make a particular impact and when I make the adjustment I can more finely communicate my thoughts. All of a sudden my responses are more genuine. There have been fewer misunderstandings and I feel like people take away the true meaning of my words. So now.. I can stick my arm straight out in front of me without the aid of the floor to hold my wrist in place and turn my elbow creases toward one another. Or correct my posture by kissing my shoulder blades to my spine instead of shoving my upper arm bones to the wall behind me! Movements so small with such impact.
Now I am exploring a new use for articulation. Why can’t we apply this same concept of making smaller, more exact adjustments to our emotions, the way we are feeling? I’ve traditionally been a plow-ahead type person. Always moving to the next step. Having to be productive, make quick progress. This has dominated my career and both my professional and personal relationships. I’ve just charged on.

So now by trying to more closely “articulate” my emotions, I’m trying to split those up. Maybe charging ahead in one realm on one day and be patient in another on that same day or another. It’s hard to change gears that way, but it may be a real game changer.

Articulation requires specificity and perhaps an enlarged vocabulary. First I need to identify the way I want to feel and the words I would use to describe it. Using the most descriptive words I can think of. Being patient doesn’t mean putting something on the back burner. Those things feel different. Being proactive feels different than being demanding. Being supportive does not mean holding someone up. Being involved does not mean doing the job myself. The first step is to identify the difference, I think. Some subtle.. some not so much. The second is to try them on. Feeling where each appears in my body. Where the tension or focus is.. and what feels better or more appropriate. Being supportive feels light and warm.. holding someone up shows up as tension in my chest. So I can assess for the situation… which feels right. Where do I want to be? Being proactive leads from my chest too… but demanding comes from between my eyes. Each may have a time to be engaged and if I can learn to feel them and identify them in their minute differences, I can recognize when they are engaged and shouldn’t be. Be sure they are on track with how I actually want to react.

This type of articulation has just begun with me and I am excited to try to be so exacting. The balance comes in not becoming overwhelmed in doing it right every time. Learn the technique maybe and make changes over time. Checking in with my thoughts and which path I am headed down to claim the most focus. If I become preoccupied I will be overwhelmed.. so balance and understanding that this can be merely a tool might be key.

We shall see...


Holiday Recovery

Its the 28th of November and I can still feel the effects of holiday grazing. Holidays are so rarely one day any more. They are entire weekends. Fourth of July weekend, Thanksgiving weekend... And, like most of us I grew up celebrating every one of them with special foods. Its a tradition I like and am unlikely to dispose of. But choices that I make and the extent to which I indulge are always a work in progress.

Brief summary: Red wine, pizza (night before a food holiday nobody cooks...), eggs, toast, coffee cake, coffee, ham sandwich, baked bree w/ orange fig spread, turkey, stuffing, red wine, mashed potato, sweet potatoes, apples, spinach and goat cheese salad, mince meat pie, ginger bread...leftovers...

The spiral downward usually starts this way. We have a big day, the next we are lethargic and there are leftovers so there is an encore presentation on an only slightly smaller scale and we still have no energy the next day to get chopping and fix ourselves a real meal. So we procrastinate and are "off the wagon" longer and longer.

Every holiday growing up I saw my aunt drink a Pepsi and grab a second piece of cake and say, "My diet starts Monday." And we would all laugh at the line we had heard 100,000 times. But its something we could all relate to. Thinking we'll get back to that diet the next day or the next day. I think there are a few ways I've learned to combat this downward spiral.
1. is to not diet in the first place. If the way I eat is on a continuum there is no starting place to put off. I try to eat well every day. Even on Thanksgiving survey the buffett and choose the most delicious foods that will make you feel good. Same as any other day.
2. is if its your event or you are charged with bringing a dish, make your contribution light and delicious to balance some of the heavier more traditional foods. My contribution to Thanksgiving was the spinach salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, a sprinkling of goat cheese and a very light apple cider vinegrette.
3. is to recognize these days are for celebration and don't beat your self up over a little indulgence. If we concentrate on the meaning of the holiday it is much easier to forgive, sure, but also to not spend as much time at the table or picking off the desert tray.

Giving Thanks for This Meal

Thanksgiving is sometimes downplayed these days. It is glossed over by Christmas decorations already in stores and football and turkey are certainly highlights. Even the parade was mostly cartoon balloons, teen heartthrobs and Rockettes as little Santa helpers.

Thanksgiving is about bringing together people you care about. Being thankful for their place in your life and the things we do have. Right before Christmas we think about all the things we want. But Thanksgiving reminds us what is important that we already have. For some its shelter, some its family and good friends, this season we could be lucky to have a job, and we need to stop and give thanks for those things. That we even have food on our table at all is a blessing and that we have the option to buy and eat it with our famlies. Other famlies around the world are not always blessed in this way and have very different things to be thankful for that we would most certainly take for granted.

I would like to give thanks for my ability to make my own choices. And thanks for my family that, although we have our share of challenges, was healthy enough to be together at my parents for our Thanksgiving meal this year. I can't be thankful enough for these gifts...