Monday, January 14, 2019

Book #2 of 2019.... White Awake by Daniel Hill

This book isn't for everyone, but I wish everyone would read it.  Especially every white person that I know, and even those I don't.  I think of myself in a pretty good place in regards to understanding those that are not white, especially those that feel like they are still fighting a battle that is beyond their control.  Then I read this book, and realized that I honestly have so much still to learn.  So journey with me, as I go through some of the things that I learned, and was made aware of while I read through this book.  I am still thinking over, and dealing with quite a bit of this book, so this is just a very beginning of some major changes in my thoughts, and how I look at race, being white, and my role in helping a country, and the world to heal and learn to love each other more. 

Most of my blogs, are me trying to understand life more, and most of the time is a way for me to work through things that I have read, and thoughts that I have.  So, I am not here today as an expert by any means, but I do urge you to pick up this book, and read it.  I think that you realize some of the things that I have, and maybe even a few more. 

"Shared my confusion about the claim that I was part of a larger white culture that dominates every other culture it comes in contact with." 

My first instinct in reading the above was to say... no we don't do that.  Do we?  Then thinking about my life, the places that I have lived, and what I have encountered...I think we very much do.  I think I especially found this to be true when I lived overseas.  In a lot of ways I was never taught to be quiet or sink back into the shadows.  Because I never had to.  I never had to worry that someone was going to judge me because of my race.  I was able to be whoever I wanted to be in every place that I was, except for one.  When I visited Vietnam, it was like this weird out of body experience.  I wasn't supposed to show my passport, I wasn't supposed to let anyone know that I was an American.  The opposite of what I had felt in most every other country I had visited.  I had to sink back, and lose a part of my identity.  I can't imagine having to be cautious of that for my whole life, yet that is the reality for a LOT of people in my country and around the world.  

"Why do you think rich white people need to come save us poor brown people." 

My first ever overseas "mission trip" was to India.  A place that I grew to love, a people  that opened my eyes so much.  I was a sophomore in college at the time.  That trip led to me wanting to be a "missionary."  I spent a year in Egypt, 3 years in Thailand, and went on various mission trips all under the guise of "saving" people.  I think that there are plenty of missionaries out there doing what they feel called to do and they are humble, kind people.  But I also feel like some of the American especially Christian American mentality is to go "save" those that are less fortunate than ourselves.  I'm glad that God opened my eyes to the way I was looking down on others just because I was born in a different place than they were.  It doesn't make me better, and it doesn't mean that I need to go "save" them.  Sure love them, help them, but my goal should never be to "save" them because I am so much better off then they are.  Especially not because of their skin color.  

"Culture consists of assumptions that we make; these assumptions are then transmitted from generation to generation." 

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to step outside of my culture.  I am not sure where I would be now if I hadn't been able to see people in a different way.  We grow up in a household, hearing what our parents think and believe.  Those thoughts at least most of them came from their parents, and those came from their parents.  We look at people and assume that we know them because of what we have been told or experienced.  I for one am so glad that everything people believe to be true about me is not because of some assumptions on their part.  That would really stink.  But we do it, every single day.  We allow things said to us to impact the way we treat those around us.  What an awful way to raise up each generation.  

"Many names are considered "normal" within white culture, and when a name is seen as weird or unusual, it's usually because the name doesn't fall within that standard." 

Oh, I could tell you so many stories of hearing "that's a weird name."  Especially when telling stories of my former students that I had overseas.  This point really struck home to me, as an example of the way that we normalize white culture, and hold it as the standard to every other race.  We make fun of names that don't fall within our "normal" white culture.  We ask people with skepticism where they come up with that name.  We don't stop to think, it is their normal.  Why do we just assume that our normal is the "right" normal?  The next time I hear a name and think about how weird it sounds on my ear, I am going to ask myself why that is.  Why do I just automatically say that anything that is not my culture is weird? 

I'm going to leave with one more quote.  This is not at all the end of my blogging about this, but I do have other things to get done today, and I find that if blogs are too long, no one reads them! 

"When the journey begins to feel like any combination of scary, confusing, disorienting, or even painful, we have a privilege that people of color do not:  we walk away; we can go back to "normal," if we choose." 

I've seen so many angry posts from my family and friends about being "privileged."  How they can't believe that anyone would even consider them privileged.  Let me tell you about a time that I was overseas.  I was about to board a plane.  In my memory I did not remember that the weekend before I had gone on a retreat with middle school students.  One of them had brought a cap gun on the retreat and I had confiscated it, thinking I would give it back to him at the end of the retreat.  Well fast forward to the airport.  That same back goes through security.  The security guard calls me over and asks me if I have a gun.  I say "no, of course not."  My friend is with me visiting from the states, and she is looking at me in a state of shock.  I look at her and kind of shrug. Then this guy pulls out from a hidden pocket inside of my backpack, the gun that I had confiscated from my student.  I of course immediately freaked out, and said it wasn't mine.  Except for it came from MY backpack.  The thing is that he just let us throw it away, and then we boarded the plane.  He didn't question me, or call me a liar, he just let me go.  It is not lost on me that I was able to get through that situation without any problems because of my privilege.  I guarantee that you have a story like that if you are from America and are white.  You may think you don't because you didn't grow up wealthy or because you have never left the country, but I am telling you, that you do.  I guarantee it, just stop and think about it.  

I'm not here to judge you, and trust me when I say that reading this book will help you realize that even more.  But I am here to say that I am not going to stop writing, and reading, and trying to understand how we can heal this nation, and the world.  WE have to focus on healing.  We have to focus on understanding and loving.  

I'm thankful for where I am now, and where I came from.  I'm thankful that I am not just stuck in the same place that I was as a high school and college student who thought she should judge everyone.  I am thankful for moments of deep contemplation to help me understand my role, then and now.  

Monday, January 7, 2019

Book #1 of 2019.... Becoming by Michelle Obama

She is probably the hero I never knew I needed.  Reading Becoming, as my first book of 2019 was by far the best choice I could have made.  I am in complete awe of her raw vulnerability.  Seeing life on the inside of the presidency gives me goosebumps as I sit here typing this.  I think that in our age of screens, and instant communication we often forget that people are human.  The things we say and do to others impact them in a negative way.  It is an awful world we have created.  Where there is only hate for those that don't agree with us.  The words that are tossed around on social media especially by so called Christians makes me embarrassed at times to be one. 

This book opened up my eyes to see this family in a different way.  More than that though I realized as I read how very important it is to stand up to those that want to bring us down.  How important it is to be a voice for those that think they are a failure.  How very important it is that I fight for equality, of all races, and sexes. 

Thank you Michelle Obama for opening my eyes to see behind the scenes of what looks to be a glorious life.  Thank you for helping me to understand more about the sacrifices that were made to lead this country so well for 8 years.  Maybe I didn't agree with every decision that was made, but I sure am thankful that we were led by people that loved each other and all of those in our nation. 

A few of my favorite quotes from this book: 

"For me, it revived an old internal call-and-response, one that tracked all the way back to high school, when I'd shown up at Whitney Young and found myself suddenly gripped by doubt.  Confidence, I'd learned then, sometimes needs to be called from within.  I've repeated the same words to myself many times now, through many climbs.  Am I good enough?  Yes I am. "  page 284

"It's all a process, steps along a path.  Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor.  Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there's more growing to be done."  -page 419

"I've never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last ten years has done little to change that.  I continue to be put off by the nastiness- the tribal segregation of red and blue, this idea that we're supposed to choose one side and stick to it, unable to listen and compromise, or sometimes even to be civil.  I do believe that at its best, politics can be a means for positive change, but this arena is just not for me."  -419

"I'm an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey.  In sharing my story I hope to create space for others stories and other voices to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.  I've been lucky enough to get to walk into stone castles, urban classrooms, and Iowa kitchens, just trying to be myself, just trying to connect.  For every door that's been opened to me, I've tried to open my door to others.  And here is what I have to say, finally:  Let's invite one another in.  Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.  Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.  It's not about being perfect.  It's not about where you get yourself in the end.  There's power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.  And there's grace in being willing to know and hear others.  This, for me, is how we become."  -421

There was so much to learn in this book.  It will be on my shelf for a lifetime.  Thankful to be able to live my life as authentically as I can! 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019.... Focus

2019 will be here in less than two days.  I LOVE this time of year!  Although I have always said that I feel like the New Year should actually start in August, but it doesn't so here we go. 

This next year I want to focus on doing the things that are going to make me a healthy, happier person.  I noticed that I start a lot of things and don't finish them.  Or I get to February and just give up.  So this year is going to be focused.  I am going to work out, I am going  to eat right, I am going to journal and pray, I am going to read more.  These are the things that I know will help me to be healthier and happier.  I am not going to make excuses anymore of why I can't do this or that.  So if I say no to a social activity, or don't seem as present  on social media, it is just because I am over here living my life to the fullest! 

I'm thankful that I am finally in a place of healing.  The past 5 years had a lot of brokenness.  Brokenness as a teacher, as a friends, and as a human being.  I found myself struggling with how to even function.  This past year I spent a lot of time healing  and searching for who I wanted to be and the truths that I knew to be true about myself.  I am so thankful to have let go of the things and people that broke me. 

Here's to 2019.  May I stay focused on what's important, finish the tasks set before me, and let go of those things that don't belong!  May it be the BEST YET!

A Year in Review 2018 in a nutshell

This was the year.... the year that I found my voice, found my drive, found my self-esteem.  This was the year that I decided I wasn't going to take crap and stay in toxic places.  This  was MY Year.  Not everything that happened was fantastic.  In fact I started the year in a VERY toxic place in a VERY toxic state of mind.  But I am ending it in a totally new and different place.  I am happy with where my life is.  I am not running from crush to crush wondering who might be there to walk with me for life.  I have put value in my singleness.  I look forward to going to work everyday.  I have sacrificed time and energy to spend time with people this year.  I find myself focusing more on being a better, kinder and more loving person.  I have patched up some broken relationships and let go of some toxic ones.  I have decided that I don't have to be liked by everyone, I just need a few good people in my life that love me and want to cheer me on.  I have walked through some tough moments where I doubted my self-worth.  I have forgiven those for past hurts, and I have said hello again to some old friends.  I have realized that in life we have to say we are sorry.  We have to give up control, and we have to let other people know how we feel. 

I spent most of January and February volunteering for Room At the Inn.  An experience that showed me a different side to the homeless population.  An experience that opened my eyes to see just how caring and loving our CoMo community is.  I'm thankful that's how my year started.  I am thankful that I was able to experience those long  cold nights, and meet people that I later would pass on the street.  They have names, they have stories, and they need to know they are valuable. 

The end of February brought True/False into my life again.  So thankful for that film festival and what it means to this community.  Thankful for the people I have met because of it.  Thankful for how it has changed me, and how it continues to change me every year.  The films are amazing, and I know that they change me. 

March and April were confusing months for me.  Do you ever feel betrayed by someone that you thought was a long-time friend?  They lead you on, and then all of a sudden they are not in your life anymore in the way that you hoped they would be?  Well that happened, and it made me so sad.  The loss hurt, it was a very big disappointment, but I moved on. 

My sister and brother-in-law also got their foster daughter!  We were able to meet her, and I am so glad that she joined our family even  if it is temporary. 

In June I was able to get together with my sisters, and cousins for a fun trip to Michigan.  It was a lovely weekend full of great conversation, good food, and a great last visit with my uncle.  We didn't know at the time, but he would pass away in August. 

July was moving month!  Yay!  No longer in  a place where I didn't feel welcome.  I left behind so much anxiety that I didn't even know I had.  I also started a new job.  The new job would prove to be one of those jobs that you just don't know are going to be super awful until you are in the midst  of them. 

August brought the death of my uncle.  It was a very tough loss.  I still have moments of just crying out to God of why it had to happen now.  I ended up going to Michigan for a quick trip to be with my aunt and cousins.  I will never regret that trip.  I'm thankful that I am at a place in life where I can just go. 

September brought Roots N Blues.  So many great artists this year.  A Blues Cat once again.  I'm so thankful for a music festival in our city.  We also had the celebration of life for my uncle.  So many memories with him and my cousins.  So many good stories.  So thankful for his life, and what he taught so many people. 

October brought a new job search.  My old job was proving to be more toxic than I even realized.  Gossip, and backstabbing right and left.  Also, I realized that I was not working in a place that I believed in.  So, a new job it was!  Got hired, and recruitment for GS is the right place for me at this time! 

November was Thanksgiving.  A time spent with family and reflecting on all that I have.  I'm thankful for my family.  We may not be perfect, but we are there for each other, and we enjoy each other's company.  For that I will always be blessed. 

December was by far the greatest month of 2018.  Mostly because I was able to spend so much time with friends and family.  I was able to travel to Michigan again, then Pennsylvania, a quick stop in Ohio, and then  on to Kentucky.  So thankful for that road trip.  Thankful for 2 whole weeks off of work for the first time in a very long time.  I don't have a lot of money, but I sure do enjoy traveling, and being loved by people.  Another highlight of December was time spend with family.  Sisters, nephews, mom, dad, step-mom, brother-inlaws.  So thankful for each and every one of them! 

Lessons learned this year: 

*Time with friends and family is worth the sacrifice
*People are greater than things
*You don't have to stay in toxic places
*Life is hard but count your blessings
*Serve till it hurts, because what you get in return is worth it! 

Disappointment and Focus

Typically I deal with disappointment pretty well.  I dwell on it for  couple of days, and then I move on.  Only thinking about it every now and then after that.  When things don't happen that we really want to happen.  When something that someone was going to do for us falls through.  When that person that we thought had interest doesn't pursue, when we have a job interview and don't get the job.  Disappointments come in all shapes and sizes.  The thing is that I know that there are going to be disappointments in life.  One happened for me yesterday.  But I want to get better at dealing with them. 

People aren't going to meet my expectations.  Things are going to fall through. 

I feel quite disappointed that I don't have a family of my own, but then I realize just how lucky I am to have family and friends that surround me when I need them to.  My life might look very different at the age of 37 than I thought it was going to, but I am super thankful for it. I'm thankful that I can do things that I want to do, and I don't have to worry about how it will impact others.  I choose to spend time with people.  I choose to be the one to text first to set up dinner dates, or other social engagements, but I don't want to be bitter about that. 

There are a couple of people in my life that are really bitter that more people don't reach out to them to see how they are doing.  I have discovered, that some people are just the reachers.  They are the ones that seek out those experiences.  They are the ones that try to engage people in social interaction.  Some people are only ever the accepters.  They happily accept social engagements, but they do not think to the be initiator of such engagements. 

We have to understand that everyone has a life of their own.  That we can't control everything.  Sometimes we have to give in and let someone even if it is a child have some of the control.  They need to be able to be free to have some control.  I get disappointed when people don't act the way I want them to.  I want to force people to make the right decisions and choices, but in the end I truly am only responsible for the things I do and say. 

So, I focus on what I can control. I focus on my reaction when things happen that disappointment, and I realize that the thing that didn't go my way is actually a blessing in disguise. 

For instance my singleness.  I think about the men that I have considered to be worthy of my love and affection.  I realize that I am SO glad that nothing ever worked out with any of them.  Because in all reality none of them would have fit into my life.  None of them were or even are currently in a place where they are putting Jesus as number one.  If I am hones with myself that is truly what I want.  I don't want someone who is ritualistic religious, I want someone who is spiritual.  Someone who is going to see the positive in everyday life, who is going  to help me to see it as well.  Someone that is strong when I need him to be.  Not someone who I have to help see their worth every two seconds.  Honestly that's just plain exhausting. 

So I look at those disappointments and I see that I am far better off exactly where I am then with someone that would have only been bringing me down, and turning me into a negative creature of darkness. 

Focus on the good.  Focus on what you can change.  Focus on what you have instead of what you don't, and those disappointments will quickly become the silver linings on that dark cloud. 

So today I am thankful for the disappointments, for the things that didn't work on.  I have hopes that 2019 will be a year full of things that do work out, but we never really know do we?  For now I am thankful for all that has been, and excited for all that will be. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Updated 40 before 40...

I had to do a new list.  It's a process.  Here it is....

1.  Renaissance Festival   (completed Fall 2017)
2.  New Year's in NYC (hoping for Dec. 2019)
3.  Pay Down Student Loans
4.  Get a tattoo ( completed Aug. 2016 Elephant, June 2017 owl)
5.  See a show at the Fox
6.  Learn how to put together wine and cheese platters.
7.  Hike some of the PCT and AT
8.  Get in the best shape of my life.
9.  Go to 5 famous art museums
               a.  Metropolitan Museum of Art
               b.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
               c.  National Gallery of Art  (Wash DC)
               d.  Cleveland Museum of Art
               e.  Art Institute of Chicago
10.  Visit Napa Valley
11.  Go on a cruise
12.  Learn how to cook risotto
13.  Go to a racetrack
14.  Go to the Kentucky Derby (completed May 2017)
15.  Take a Road Trip (completed Dec. 2018 MI, Penn. Ohio, Kentucky)
16.  Learn to Quilt
17.  Read 100 Books
18.  Have a Spa Day
19.  Cook/Bake Gma's Recipes
20.  See the Northern Lights
21.  Go to all 50 states
22.  Complete 5, 5K's
23.  Complete 5, 10K's
24.  Complete a half marathon
25. Try Rock Climbing
26.  Watch every film on AFI top 100
27.  Write and publish a book
28.  Take 4 solitude retreats
29.  Have a signature dish
30.  Go for High Tea
31.  Sleep in a Haunted House
32.  Practice Yoga and Meditation
33.  Create a hashtag (complete #authenticallylivinglife)
34.  Blog More Often
35.  Send 10 handmade cards a year
36.  Simplify my life
37.  Learn Tennis well enough to play with my cousins
38.  Take an Art Class
39.  Be all in for my business
40.  Start a mini-garden

It looks like I have a lot still to do!  :)  But how fun it is going to be to plan these! 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Advent - Day 19

I'm skipping a few days, but I decided to get myself back on track this way, and then I will do some more blogging of the days I have missed once I get time. 

Thinking about joy.  Oftentimes I find myself in a joyless state.  I usually am thinking about everything that is going wrong instead of how much I have.  I think that my life is awful, but then I remember just how much I have.  Practicing gratitude sure does help me to know how much I have.  Sometimes I forget until I sit down and start listing all the good things that are in my life.  My friends, my family, the roof over my head.  These are all things that I take for granted.  So, today I am thankful for the things I have.  I want to live in a joyful state.  Joyfulness comes with gratitude.