Sometimes I am…

Sometimes I am so angry that the political scene of late is in such a despicable state.  It’s chaotic and scary.  I fret over the news and rail against the latest distraction caused by this president, his cabinet, his everything anti-Obama, his stupid tweets.  But I’ve gotten much better at knowing when to redirect and pursue some personal happiness.  I’ve gotten much better at recognizing that without the anger, I’d still be a bystander.  With the support of family and the goodness of friends, I have learned that when anger becomes an action for good, good things happen.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed at the cruelty that has surfaced since the election.  Hate crimes, Muslim bans, protections for vulnerable citizens erased, cyberbullying by our very own commander-in-chief, attacks against women, the list goes on.  I was in middle school during the Civil Rights Movement and grew up thinking those of us who had championed for the cause had made the world a better place, that hate was in retreat.  I know now I cannot let being overwhelmed by evidence that says otherwise get in the way of action against such blatant discrimination.

Sometimes I am just plain tired.  It’s exhausting to be so “woke” as they say.  Staying abreast of the resistance and living in a trumptown makes me feel so small at times. The energy, though, comes from knowing what I can do and what I can not.  I can donate to organizations that support the environment, social justice, women’s rights and education.  I can attend meetings that teach me how to contact my legislative representatives, to have a voice in this great democracy of ours. I can lead by example in the way I treat others.  And I can vote.  I have learned that I am not too tired to do any of those things.

Sometimes I am proud.  When I think of all the ways I have grown since the election, I am amazed. I see the world differently now and am proud that so many of us see ourselves a part of the change, of a movement that screams “enough is enough!” I am proud that voices in the Me, Too movement are being heard, proud that so many women are now running for office, proud that the momentum of the Women’s March continues, proud that I have been a part of the democratic process that believes in people over party. Reading the newly published book, Together We Rise, I came across a picture of a protester holding a sign that said, “I’m not going to get over it (p. 102).”  I remembered a local trumper telling me to “just get over it” after the election—nope, I’m not getting over it.  I’m staying strong, for me, for those I love, for those who need my voice.

Sometimes I am angry, overwhelmed and tired.  But mostly, I am proudly defiant and plan to stay that way.

Together We Rise: behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Round the World. Dey St., an Imprint of William Morrow, 2018.

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In Spite of it all…

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French Creek in winter, Cochranton, Pennsylvania

A Christmas card from a dear friend arrived yesterday, and I have read and reread his message a dozen times since. Something about the handwritten note touched me. In this season dedicated to the Prince of Peace, there is much to ponder, and our friend’s card reminded us that there is much to hope for in the coming year.

He wrote:

Hope this card finds you both all snuggled up warm in your nice bed while visions of justice, honesty, compassion, fairness, civility, truth, humility & humanity dance in your heads — they seem to be in such short supply in the great halls of power these days…in spite of it all:  Merry Christmas!

I suppose it was the phrase “in spite of it all” that got my attention. In spite of it all, indeed!  In spite of it all, he thought to wish us a Merry Christmas, a sentiment that portends hope regardless of color or creed. In spite of it all, dreams remain. And in spite of it all, I remain optimistic that those of us who have visions of justice, honesty, compassion, fairness, civility, truth, humility & humanity are great in number, fierce in our determination to see those visions rise up and hold this country steady.

To my readers, I wish you a season of hope, of love for each other, and of peace, lots of peace.

 

Photo by SleepingWoman

Bears Tears

 

img_0446.jpgDrumbeat by Carol Snow

Listen…

There! Do you not hear them?

Come away from your overcrowded city

To a place of eagles

And then perhaps you will hear.

Be still this once;

Hold the yammering

of your jackhammer tongue.

Take your stainless steel hands

From the ears of your heart

And listen.

Or have you forgotten how?

They are there yet

Through these hundred centuries

And all your metal thunder

Has not silenced them.

The wind is the messenger,

Heed the whispering spirit.

Now… the drums still talk,

From the grizzly bear hills,

Across the antelope plains,

In the veins of your blood:

The heartbeat

Of the Mother Earth.

Snow, Carol. “Drumbeat.” Celebrate America in Poetry and Art. The Smithsonian Institution, 1994, p. 20.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/12/national-monuments-in-utah-are-far-more-popular-than-trump-thinks/

Photo by SleepingWomanWakes

Doomed to Resist and Giving Thanks

It’s 10:34 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and I’m looking for a Thanksgiving Day message from our president.  I am hoping to find wonderfully coherent thoughts about giving thanks for each other and how America’s greatest asset is a nation that works together, plays together, and is together. I imagine him telling us it’s not just the Thanksgiving table we are gathering around, it’s the nation’s table, a table where there is a seat for everyone. I’m looking for a moment that I can forget that  “Trump is Trump” and remember why being part of the greatest nation on Earth was such a source of pride.

My thoughts drift back to the then president-elect, Trumpp [sic], tweeting out his New Year’s Day message

(Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!   5:17 AM – 31 Dec 2016)

and being sickened by it.  It had been a rough campaign and a brutal election—how did that tweet help heal the nation?  How did that tweet calm those of us who were so terrified of his presidency?  Surely he knew he had to start wooing us to broaden and sustain his base, to garner support for his administration. Surely!  Perhaps on this holiday his tweet will be different. Perhaps today will be the day that the president I did not vote for will speak to me as though I’m a winner, not a loser, an American, not a dirty Dem.  Perhaps today I will reconsider my resistance (it’s exhausting) and consider making peace with election results.

I find his message: a video on CNN (below). He reminded his listeners about the Pilgrims, how they came here seeking religious freedom, how they traveled here with depleted resources but “rich in faith, courage and dreams.” He talked about how Americans today are thankful for their freedom and how our strength of nation is most evident when neighbors help neighbors, strangers help strangers and citizens help those in need. He went on to thank the military, police and first responders who put their lives on the line for others. He said Americans come from many different backgrounds but that we are all family.

And it was exactly what I wanted to hear, right?

Nope.  Despite its content, it did nothing to lessen my resolve to resist this man.  He talked Pilgrims, I thought immigrants. He talked freedom of religion, I thought Muslim ban.  He talked about Americans helping each other, I thought of his assaults on the LGBTQ community, women’s rights and black athletes. He tried to tell me that we were family and I thought of Charlottesville, the increase in hate crimes since his inauguration, and his twitter feuds with private citizens. In the year since the election, he  has done nothing to assuage my fears or convince me that he is anything but a bully and a racist.  I am now convinced that he has no chance of changing my mind:  he has been given every opportunity to do so and has only succeeded in embracing all that I believe will do harm to this nation, its people and its planet.

I am doomed. I am doomed to resist and giving thanks that I live in a country where that is possible.

Happy Thanksgiving.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/11/23/president-trump-2017-thanksgiving-message-history-full.the-white-house

 

Women Who Couldn’t be Beaten

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I love a good historical fiction where strong, believable fictional characters are so commingled into a historical event or time or place that you come to see yourself as a piece of history.  Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network (2017) is just such a book.

The Alice Network was a network of female spies during WWI operating in the northeast portion of  France during the German occupation.  That much is true.  It is also true that female spies owed much of their success to the notion held by their male counterparts that the gentler sex could not possibly handle such sophisticated missions involving superior intellect or bravery.  Bumbling, emotional females were expected not suspected.  The author’s notes at the end of the book reveal the uneasiness of recognizing female spies after the war.  Were they wannabe men, hardened by the demands of war and by extension, not real women, or were they delicate flowers pressed into service out of a sense of duty to their men?  Either way, medals of honor and service or not, these women were not seen as soldiers and were expected to return to home and hearth afterwards.  And, yet, stories of real female spies like Louise de Bettignies, the head of the Alice Network, inspired women to train as spies against the Nazis in WWII,  and they were inspired by her grit, not her femininity.

When Quinn’s ficticious Eve Gardiner finally meets up with her wartime tormentor 30 years after her stint as a British spy against Germany, she sees him as a pathetic profiteer, a collaborator with no friends or family who is “surprised to the end that there was pain he couldn’t outrun, vengeance he couldn’t escape, consequences he couldn’t evade. Women who couldn’t be beaten.” (chap. 43, p. 474)

I read that line over and over again: Women who couldn’t be beaten.  My mind drifted to the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year, the thousands of women at the Women’s Convention who were “claiming their time” in Detroit last month and the number of women who are currently standing up to their harassers/abusers.  I admire those women and the men who stand with them.  I’m proud to be a part of this “awakening of women” and, at the same time, dismayed that it took voting a sexual predator, a narcissistic demagog into the White House to get the movement going.

In my mind, Trumpp [sic] is no different than a wartime profiteer. And in my mind’s eye, I imagine that he, too, will be surprised in the end when he discovers that there will be pain he cannot outrun, vengeance he cannot escape, consequences he cannot evade and yes, women he cannot beat.

Quinn, Kate. The Alice Network. William Morrow, 2017.

“awakening of women” from  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/us/women-convention-detroit-march.html

image from http://recollections.biz/blog/world-war-i-changes-fashion/

Hillary’s Barn

 

Somewhere along I-90 between the Cascade Mountains and Thorp, WA stands a magnificent white barn.  Its broad side is quite noticeable as one travels east, and I, for one, never fail to admire it when passing by.  It should be noted that east of the Cascades is Trumpp [sic] territory and traveling through in the summer of 2016, it was hard to ignore the many signs proclaiming the name of our soon-to-be president. That said, it should also be noted that it was equally as hard not to miss this enormous white barn with its “Hillary Clinton for America” painted larger than any billboard I have ever seen.  The barn stood firm with her own lonely proclamation.

This year as my husband and I travelled east, there was an audible gasp (mine) when we saw the barn.  While the “for America” read bright and clear replete with stars and stripes, the Hillary Clinton had been whitewashed over so that it barely showed.  She had been ghosted.

The symbolism of a faded Hillary could not have been more poignant.  For months now, the hope and dreams of Hillary voters have continued to fade. The aspirations of young girls hoping to shatter glass ceilings of their own have seemingly inched further and further away.  The millennials who thought that whatever was broken in our government could be fixed by a dedicated public servant who understood the complexities of the system, a woman who would believe in them and would pull them into caring about the democratic process, a leader who would protect them and their future are now second guessing their own place in history.  The barn was a glaring reminder of all that has slipped away from us, of all that has been covered up as though whitewashed.

I had 2,000 miles to think about that barn. I thought about how hard it must have been for the owners of that barn to cover up Hillary’s name.  I thought about how sad it was to see not only the physical name painted over but also the metaphoric ghosting of all that Hillary stood for, of all that the 65 million of us believed in.

By the time we had less than 500 miles to go, I was thinking very differently about that barn.  By then, I was thinking how wonderful it was that her name still showed albeit faintly.  I was thinking how proud and resolute that barn looked despite the outcome of the election, how the “for America” stood out for all to see and give us hope. Hillary’s presidency may not have come to fruition but what she stood for, the inspiration she gave us, the causes she bequeathed us—those things are still very much alive and have given us resolve. No matter what is thrown at us, no matter how much the Trumpp [sic] agenda tries to cover us up, we stand proud of our vote.

Resist. For America.

The Old Man and the Crow

 

I watched him from across the street.  He was a solitary figure, walking slowly, looking very much in thought as though the day ahead was something to worry about.  He had about him a small bag of potato chips; something to occupy his hands, I suppose, as he made his way up the hill. He seemed not to notice me as I crossed the street toward him.

I nodded hello and he acknowledged with a smile. I wasn’t quite passed him when he dropped a large round chip on the sidewalk.  He seemed embarrassed, a shy grin told me so but we continued on in opposite directions.  When I heard the crow sound the alarm I turned around; and there stood the old man holding the chip high above his head imploring the crow to take his offering.

The crow was wary. He would swoop from tree to fence and from fence to tree with his eye on the old man and the chip all the while.  Sometimes he would land on the sidewalk and dance close to the man but would not take the chip.  Eventually, the man laid the chip carefully, almost reverently, on the top of a large trash can sitting by the curb and then ducked behind the fence to watch.

Caw! the crow was excited to see that chip without the man!  Caw! he called and another crow joined him.  The two took turns pecking at the proffered morsel.  They were polite and humble, grateful for the gift, and the old man watched with such delight, I could not help but smile myself.

There is something very magical about witnessing the interplay between man and nature even if it nothing more than an old man and a crow or two. The sentience of each was a reminder of all that is dear to this planet and all that is worthy of our protection.  Goodness comes in many ways, large and small, but its effect is the same:  It makes us smile to remember it and gives us resolve to keep it going.

 

Hurt not the Earth, nor the seas, nor the trees…  Revelations 7:3

The Hypocrisy of Me

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I consider myself patriotic, civic-minded and proud to be American at the same time I am profoundly embarrassed of America.

I profess being a peacemaker but have done little to make peace with my Trumpp [sic] supporting neighbors.

I proudly proclaim my willingness to accept people of all colors, faiths or sexual orientation while living in a town that is as homogenous as vanilla pudding.

I believe in forgiveness but I’m at a loss to forgive a friend who voted for Trump.  I was horrified when she decided that supporting a man who disrespects women, taunts lunatic dictators, and showcases his limited vocabulary and general misunderstanding of the world (in tweets, no less!) was a good idea for her grandchildren and mine. Forgiving transgressions done to me, I’ve discovered, is way easier than forgiving harmful behavior done to all of mankind, and I believe my friend was a part of just that.

I enthusiastically jump at chances to march in protest, to actively rail against policies and agendas that are harmful to society’s marginalized and do it proudly in anybody’s town but my own.

I lean heavily on the optimistic side of life and yet remain resolutely pessimistic about Trumpp’s [sic] chances of leading us to greatness, to global security or to our own general pursuit of happiness.

I love the home my husband and I have built together but find my hometown replete with its 4’x8’ Trumpp [sic] signs along the main street and the Hillary for Prison signs at local establishments nauseating. I work on community projects that welcome visitors to an unwelcoming town unless you are “like them” and those signs prove it.

I embrace the teachings of Christ and fear being called a Christian.  What if people think I would use the Bible to perpetuate discrimination against any of God’s children, to embrace the subservience of women or the cruelty against the planet like all of those “Christians” that voted this monster to the highest office of the land? I live across the street from 2 churches that have many, many members still sporting their Trumpp [sic] stickers on their cars Sunday morning.  To share a sacred space with those Christians just seems wrong, a violation of sorts. And yet, isn’t that, in and of itself, unChristianlike behavior? Oh, the hypocrisy of me!

Recognizing this about myself has been an arduous and eye-opening journey.  My optimistic self says this reflection is good, that having identified areas of hypocritical thought and behavior, I have given myself goals to become a better person. My pessimistic self asks if improving myself is enough.  The trumpiness that abounds all around me is huge, and I am only one person, a tiny speck in the universe.  My young son reminds me that even as one, I can help many:  I just have to trust that there are lots and lots of other “ones” out there striving for the same goodness. And I do want to believe that so very, very much…

Persist, dear self.  Persist.

image from cliparting.com

Children, Teach Your Parents Well (Make America Great Again)

 

Teaching children to care, to navigate society with success, and to maintain some sense of respectful conflict resolution is a full time job whether you are a parent or a teacher — and I was both.  I will be the first to admit that as a first-time parent I knew very little about any of that but, I think— I hope — I got better with time.  Much of what I learned on how to parent came later in life from my training in Responsive Classroom on how to build a caring, learning community at school.  Responsive Classroom techniques rest on the premise that the social curriculum is every bit as important that the academic.  Maybe even more so.  Good academic behaviors are not going to happen if the social aren’t in place. There is no doubt that the successes in my classroom as well as my home came from Responsive Classroom tenets.

The political news of the last year and half has been disconcerting to say the least but it has me wondering about the staying power of lessons learned as a child.  Once Responsive Classroom was in place, I rarely had a class I wasn’t proud of regarding their social behavior. These were not perfect kids.  They did not have perfect homes. They did not have the perfect teacher. We worked together to learn from each other.  We understood the importance of taking care of one another, of respecting the environment and our differences and, when things went sour, of using appropriate behaviors to make things great again.

When Shep Smith of Fox News lamented the lies, lies, lies stemming from Team Trumpp [sic] regarding “that Russian thing,” I couldn’t help but think of my former second graders. Where are my students now? As adults, are they still caring about the people around them, respecting their place and space, finding solutions in a respectful manner?  Are they still trying to make the world a better place? Many of the adults in the news (fake or otherwise) are not nice people but they were all second graders at one time.  At what point, were these learning lessons of childhood put aside or forgotten?

Recently, I happened upon a code of conduct put out by a children’s day camp. It reminded me of an elder in my church community who said, “The church is only as strong as the next generation.”  That can be said of any organization but today I’m thinking of our democratic nation. Chris Wallace, in response to Shep Smith’s frustration, said this, “This really shouldn’t be a matter of liberal v conservative, pro-Trump vs anti-Trump. If you’re a fair-minded citizen, you ought to be concerned about the fact that we were repeatedly misled…”  Sighing and eye-rolling aside, I loved the phrase “fair-minded citizens.”  Teachers and parents alike strive to encourage fair-mindedness in their children and, with great determination on our part, our fair-minded children will grow into fair-minded adults. Presidents even!

Sadly, many adults in the news today, some of which are rather high profile, model inappropriate social behaviors. I hope the children aren’t watching. Perhaps the lessons needed most these days come from the children themselves as they practice their camper’s code of conduct:

Be a responsible member of the camp community.

Be considerate and respectful of others’ feelings and needs.

Think in advance of the consequences of my actions.

Assure my own and others’ safety.

Resolve differences in a respectful manner.

Protect the natural environment.

Commit to honesty.

Commit to try.

I guess a lot is riding on the next generation, eh?

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jul/15/shepard-smith-host-fox-news-trump-lies

OMG: Oh My Goddard!

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Lake Wilhelm Bike Trail at Maurice K. Goddard State Park, July 2017

Sunday was one of those breathtakingly beautiful days in NW Pennsylvania. Seventy-eight degrees, low humidity, a slight breeze, and a sapphire sky peppered with puffy, white clouds. How could we not spend it on our favorite bike trail in M. K. Goddard State Park?

Unlike trails that follow old railroad beds, Goddard’s trail follows the terrain around Lake Wilhelm in a 13 mile loop.  It winds its way through cool deciduous woodlands, spikes over steep hillsides, drops down to kiss the lakeshore and passes through meadows thick with wild flowers.  Eagles nest along the wetlands, beavers smack the waters with their tails, herons stroke the air with their long legs trailing behind or stand stark still in shallow pools waiting for fish.  It did not disappoint today.

It is a well-used trail by hikers and bikers alike. Today was no exception as we passed whole families on bicycles, elderly gentlemen with walking sticks, fishermen and fisher ladies casting their lines, couples holding hands while teens jogged on by. The marina was busy as well and watercraft dotted the lake. The noticeable noise was that of human beings of all shapes and sizes, in various stages of life, enjoying this one little gorgeous spot on the planet.

And I shudder to think of Scott Pruitt and the new EPA’s assault on Mother Earth.  Tell me how we are making America great again…

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/07/a-jaw-dropping-list-of-all-the-terrible-things-trump-has-done-to-mother-earth/

PS  I think the Environmental Protection Agency is now officially a misnomer.

Photo by SleepingWomanWakes