Brave New Generation

Since the unspeakable tragedy in Parkland, the latest in a spree of escalating, senseless violence, young voices have started speaking out – articulately, courageously – against the madness.

They pledge to enact change.

They pledge to march on Washington, DC next month.

They pledge to do what they can to be the last school with a shooting; the last children to be slaughtered.

I stand in awe of these young people, taking on a fight that so many dare not touch.

They will march for their lives and the lives of their peers and future descendants. They will march on behalf of souls lost at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and the horrific others.

Image: Palm Beach Post

We owe them, and each other, our support.

 

 

 

 

The Right to Not

At a time when constitutional freedoms are under siege, and we look for the highest ground possible to defend them, when “I have a right to…” or “I’m entitled to…” dominates the public conversation, it’s good to remember our right to – not.

Today or any day gives us many chances at choices.  One of those choices is to not engage – in the conversation, the politics, the fight.

I believe it takes as much or more courage to stand down than to wage war that can’t be won by fighting.

We don’t have to have an opinion; or, if we do, we have the right to not voice it.  Or post it. Or tweet it. Or text it.  Or anything it.

Unless criticism comes from a place of love, or acceptance, or friendship, we have the right to not accept.  To not change. To not adapt.  To not assimilate.

When our beliefs are challenged by those whose minds won’t be changed, we have the right to not be provoked. To not lash out. To not challenge their beliefs. To not try to change another.

We have the right to stay true to our uniqueness.  To not fit in.

We have the right to refrain.  To not indulge. To not take. To not partake.

Our irrefutable rights – to be, to do, to dream, to have – anything we want are balanced by the right to not.

 

 

 

 

Daybreak

The early morning hours are a blessing, even if the night has been too short or the day before was rude.  The moments while the house is quiet are ideal for reflection and self-correction.

Feedback, as I get from time to time, is not always easy to hear and certainly not always easy to accept. The cycle of acceptance of criticism is similar to what we go through when we hear bad news according to Kubler-Ross, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial – No!  You got it all wrong! You’re putting words in my mouth. You don’t know my motivations. You assumed.

Anger – Are you freakin’ kidding me!?

Bargaining – I didn’t mean it like that.  Can’t you try to see it my way?

Depression – Ugly tears. Shame. Blame. Regret.

Acceptance – Hm. I guess I can see why it would look that way.  Actually, you’re right. I’ll work on that.

We have to get to that point, the place where we accept, reflect, examine our motivations and the self-absorption or entitlement or apathy that led to the problem, and repair.  We can’t stop along the way, or we are, quite literally, in a bad place.

I am grateful for the perspective and re-set power of daybreak.

 

(R)evolutionary Courage

Yesterday, millions of women and men all over the world took to the streets for the second annual Womens’ March, many wearing homemade pink hats with ears.  In our evolutionary imperative to fight or flight in the face of danger or annihilation, the choice heard around the world was to stand up and fight.

In the weeks leading up to yesterday, alien beings listening to our world soundtrack from other corners of our universe would have heard the clicking of millions of knitting needles and crochet hooks creating countless pieces of resistance.*

I knit, and I have one of those hats on my needles now.  I didn’t finish it or wear it yesterday, as I had another commitment, but I did march last year, and this year I was there in spirit, and in word – through tweet and retweet, post, like, and comment, spreading the message with my keyboard not my feet or hands holding a sign.

I have the profoundest respect and gratitude to everyone who braved cold, rain, snow, sleet, and possible violence from protesters of the protest, to come out yesterday and make their statement: that all people – of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, creeds, and convictions – matter. Each of us is a vital organ or component of the human race, none more or less important than the next.  All choices pertaining to one’s pursuit of self, health, or happiness, are individual, not by authority of law as this country was built on such freedom.

Thank you to all who stood up yesterday and who stand up daily to tyrannies and tyrants, ignorance and violence, isolationism and fascism.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my wooly pink ears.

*Recent articles and social media posts leading up to the march yesterday urged marchers to not wear the hats this year as they could be considered to exclude some people and thereby offensive. Time and events will probably replace them as symbols of resistance, but they were still relevant yesterday.  More important than what was worn was the message conveyed by individuals and the collective resistance.

Voice Recognition

On Thursday night, after a 10-year break, I re-joined my church choir.  

On the way to rehearsal, the butterflies in my stomach were working overtime, and I kept wanting to turn around.  The two years I’d spent in the soprano section in the late aughts had carried some stress, which I now realized was enabled if not initiated by the leader of the group, the former music director.

As a composer, arranger, and performer, he was brilliant; as a manager, he had shortcomings.  The music he composed and/or arranged for us to perform was magnificent, we rehearsed relentlessly, and we sounded great.   But there was always at least one elephant in the room any rehearsal or performance, an elephant unrelated to the reason we were there – to produce choral art.  Sometimes it was internal bickering or drama, sometimes a section lead who would build himself/herself up at the expense of his section, there was often political bickering or sniping (both choir/church politics and bipartisan politics of the usual kind) – none of it was ever acknowledged.  It festered, and from time to time, it caused internal mayhem, division, and loss of members.

He was a perfectionist, which was fine, but he didn’t always correct us softly when we strayed; sometimes he got frustrated and I felt like he thought we deliberately weren’t trying or were being lazy, which was never the case.

As someone without great range, a soft grasp of reading music, and a strong dependence on my section leader and the others in the group to help me contribute my voice to a part (I can only follow, not lead), I often felt like an imposter, a poser, a pretender.  I left for other reasons (increased responsibilities elsewhere) but I left with some relief that I wouldn’t have to feel that way for a voluntary gig again.  

I’d braced myself to deal with some of this stuff this time around.  A decade full of life events and lessons makes a big difference to perspective, so I was optimistic that this time would be different.

And it turns out, I was right. I found no drama, no harshness, and no judgment – only love, laughter, and acceptance. That’s down to leadership.  Our music director is also brilliant and talented, but she leads with humor, humility, compassion, respect, and recognition of the value that each member brings.  And that makes all the difference. I don’t feel judged; I feel that my contributions (even if they aren’t spectacular) have worth, and that I should stick around and keep contributing.

It’s said that people don’t leave jobs – they leave managers.  The flip side is that people treasure jobs or commitments that are well-managed – and they keep coming back.  This has been true for me for the past four years at work, where staff are treated with kindness and respect and their contributions and unique voices recognized.  Now I’m grateful for another commitment to keep coming back to – for compassion, and for recognition of a new voice.

 

 

Zena the Warrior Princess

Zena is a warrior, a destroyer.  Of toys.  

She’s never met a dog toy she couldn’t kill in 15 minutes or less.  Cheap ones take five minutes – from pristine with the tag just pulled off, to a hollow, gutless shell with a dead squeaker and white fluffy toy guts strewn all over the house.  It’s mayhem on a daily basis, perpetuated by us because there is always a new toy in the closet when an old one dies.  Confession: we enable her toy-a-day habit.  We’re not bankrupt because most of the toys are bought in bulk online or at dollar and discount stores.

For the record, she also loves socks (especially retired ones with squeakers tied in a knot inside, but really any socks will do), and any form of paper but particularly used napkins and Kleenex.

Zena was taught her craft of mayhem by Beggs, the original toy hoarder and killer,  during the first three years of Zena’s life which were also the last three years of Beggs’.

Beggsy in 2010

The problem then was that all the toys in the world belonged to Beggs, in the world according to Beggs.  The word “share” was not in her vocabulary.

Dogs know this already, but Zena was reminded in those years that you have to seize every opportunity and enjoy the time you have with it – both the ones you’re gifted and the ones you have to steal from your big sister.

Beggs with Boo-Boo, the One Toy that Lived

We love our middle child Zee-Zee and her endless capacity for love and play that reminds us when opportunities for love or play appear, grab em’. Give em’ a good shake, and then dig in.

No Place Like Home

Our home, while not humble, isn’t fancy either.  It’s a two-bedroom upstairs unit in our four-unit building.  

On a wet, blustery day like today, it’s heaven on earth as I hear the rain buffeting the windows, occasional gusts of cold wind, and the sounds of car tires on the wet street.

A few minutes ago, I put on my rain boots and my hooded raincoat, grabbed the dog leashes, and opened the door.  Red the Beagle took one look out at the cold wet everything and retreated back into the house.  I couldn’t agree more, and told her no worries.

No matter what the weather brings, we are warm and dry, and we have this place for retreat and the comfort of family.  I am grateful; I try not to forget that we are fortunate while many are less so.

It’s a Good Thing We Have Humor

When the world gets chaotic and crazy, sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh.  Merchants of chaos hate that worse than anything, as they take themselves dead seriously.

So I read satire and rudely brilliant comics, and I watch spoofs and sitcoms.

The joker and the straight man

I particularly adore and appreciate people who give the world humor as it’s something I myself can’t pull off well.  Occasionally, completely by accident, I will say or do something funny, but I can’t do it on command or when the situation demands it.

So, thank you madly, creators of funny.

 

 

20 Christmases

The tree came down today; as did the lights, the woodland creatures, and the snowman by the front door.  Another holiday season is behind us.

We celebrate the winter holiday season with a tree and presents because those are the traditions with which we were raised, no longer as a religious observance although the message of love, hope, and peace weaves its way through our consciousness this time each year.

Christmas 2017 was the 20th my husband and I have spent together. We’ve been married 13 of those years.

As long as we’ve known each other, dogs have been part of our family: first Tommy, then Polly (Border Collies), then Beggs (Beagle 1).  When Tommy and Polly died, Beggs was joined by Zena, then Jessie (Terriers).  Finally, a few months after Beggs passed away, Red (Beagle 2) joined our family.  So, this Christmas, Jessie, Zena, and Red shared our holiday meals.

As I put away the tree decorations, I smiled at the pictures and tags we’d kept of all six of our furry friends, the pictures that anchor their memories to the season.

I’m thankful for family and traditions that keep us grounded and together.

A Toast to Health

Today I’m appreciative for good health at a level that lets me run.

I’m not fast, and last year I wasn’t at all consistent.  In 2017 I ran twice instead of the four times I’d managed for years up to that point.  I ran the LA Marathon (my 10th) in March and the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon in December.   I told myself that that was enough and that I should save my energy.

The rest of the year I ate more than my share of sweets and refined fake food.

About three weeks ago I finally figured out how to break the bad eating habits and I’m happy to say I’ve lost 5 pounds over the holiday season instead of gaining the usual holiday 5 (hey, does that mean I lost 10 pounds?)

Near the Bunker Hill Drum Line March 2017

These days I use food for fuel instead of comfort and to cater pity parties.  I feel better, I have much more energy, my clothes are starting to fit better, and I find myself looking forward to – instead of dreading – the LA Marathon coming up in March.

Because toenails are overrated.

 

 

Laughter

I have to keep reminding myself to not take myself too seriously.

The gift of humor is welcome not only during a stressful or underproductive holiday season but all year round, especially in these troubled times.

A few days ago I started down the sometimes thorny path of memories as part of a quest to find what led me here.  I’m doing my best to keep it light and I’m going to keep putting it back through the rinse cycle until I clean off any hint of seriousness, pomposity, or self-aggrandizement.

Sea lions in Ensenada February 2015. Because they can’t help it – they’re just funny.

To live brighter, to love better, we have to laugh more.  Without directing meanness at others, we have to keep seeing the sunny side of situations, how we got ourselves into the pickles in which we find ourselves.  We don’t learn anything from the easy days but from the tough ones; we don’t get better because we reacted angrily.

So, I’m going to smile more, laugh more, see the humor more, because a sunny perspective brings coaxes away the shadows.

 

seeds of greatness

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