A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”  ― Joseph Campbell

Many years ago I took a course at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Led by Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute, it was a course in shedding our fears and embracing Life, in whatever form it takes. Toward the end of the week we were asked the question, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” My answer at the time was “get a divorce.” I was becoming desperately unhappy, but my fear of being destitute, of being alone, kept me locked into a marriage that was not fulfilling.

Fast forward a decade to the summer of 2013. While on vacation visiting friends in Georgia that I hadn’t seen in years, my husband accused me yet again of having an affair, the fourth time in our 25 year marriage. In that moment, I reached into that place in my soul where my self-respect lived, pulled it out and said, “Enough!” Enough of the mistrust and accusations. Enough of being invisible, of always being second in line behind his job, his house, his yard. Enough of the lack of communication, the emotional wasteland. Just … enough.

September and October following last summer were rough. I took my cat and what few possessions I have, moved out of the house into an apartment in November, and we started counseling. While I felt at the time that the marriage was irreparably broken, I was willing to go just in case I was wrong, just in case there was something to be salvaged.

I was right. It was irreparably broken.

I wish I was skilled enough with words to explain how I feel about the loss of my marriage. Having cut my teeth on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney, I bought the whole fairy tale concept with the happy ending. The prince comes riding in and saves the girl and all is well. He loves her with a passionate focus and depth that leaves no room for doubt and they live happily ever after.

Only problem is, that’s bullshit. Marriage is hard. People get hurt. Wedges get driven in between people and cause wounds that grow and fester and make marital limbs gangrenous. Sometimes the problems are fixable with time and energy. In my case, they weren’t. I had been hurt too many times, and we suffered death by a thousand pinpricks. By the time the final accusatory wedge was driven in, we were bleeding from so many holes that it became best to just let it die.

Now I am faced with a new sunrise at age 50. A chance to succeed or fail based on my own merits. A chance to tackle and understand money and investing. A chance to live fully, healing a little more each day with new friends and coworkers in a new city. A chance to be passionate about Life and people again. It is daunting to be facing an empty slate at my age. It is frightening, but no longer paralyzing. I know deep inside that I will be OK. I’ve taken the first step and have the support of my daughter and my friends. I’m strong, determined and willing to embrace whatever comes my way. The future is mine to create again.

Dr. Brene Brown said, “When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” I own my decision to ask for a divorce. It did not come easily, but it is the right decision for me.

I still believe in fairy tales. It might just be, though, that in this one the princess saves herself and lives happily ever after.

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I hate being invisible.

The sort of invisible where you state your wishes or opinions and nobody hears and no response is forthcoming. Or maybe nobody listens because you aren’t deemed important enough to listen to in the first place. Or maybe what you say is counter to the opinions of the people you are talking to and they wouldn’t hear you even if you sat on their chest and yelled in their face. That sort of invisible.

“Please don’t walk up behind me and arbitrarily grab my breast, especially if I have a knife in my hand. That is SO not a turn on.”

“I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. It’s going to say, ‘Under Heaven all are equal.’ What do you think?”

“I really like the light gold stain.”

“I don’t like Florida. I never want to live there.”

“Please don’t tease me about that.”

Invisible. “Did you say something?”

Last summer, I was spouting my opinion on a topic to a friend, then I apologized. Twice! He told me never to apologize for talking to him. Not long after, while Skyping with my daughter, I found myself apologizing for being happy. I was on a road trip by myself, visiting friends and family around the country. I was meeting new people, seeing new things, tasting, touching, reaching for new experiences. I was SO thrilled to be doing this! Louise chastised me and told me to never apologize for being happy. “Why are you doing that, Mom?” Why, indeed! Some massive self-reflection was called for.

Years ago, I thought that I had to deny my needs and desires to keep the peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers” was the topic of the sermon at my wedding. So, whenever I felt slighted, or ignored, or played second fiddle to a job, or money, or a movie, or a news broadcast, I retreated into a shell where I would be safe and my heart wouldn’t hurt. I was half me and half my mother, who gave up her dreams to raise a family. (God love her; I hope she gets to paint in heaven.)

I learned long ago that I would never be the most important thing in my husband’s life. I learned that money and job and house would always be more important. If I wanted the marriage to survive (which I did because I had a small child and felt strongly that she should grow up in a two parent household), I would have to disappear and become the 20th century Donna Reed, because I realized the only thing I could change was me. His expectations seemed set in stone, so I tried to become what I wasn’t. I should love to cook and keep the house in fairly good shape, spread my legs when asked, be devoted and not express my opinions, because they rarely agree with my husband’s opinions. Only thing is, sometimes the thought of cooking bores me, I hate cleaning, sex is only good when both people are fully invested, and I have VERY strong opinions on certain topics.

To be fair, I should state that I am a passionate person. I can rage with the best of them. Perhaps it is because of my Irish and Italian heritage, or perhaps it is because I grew up with and learned from an explosive father. Who cares what the reasons are; I am stubborn and do not suffer fools gladly.

I also love with my whole heart. I give everything I have and everything I am to  friends and family and students and even strangers. Buy a complete set of winter clothes for a homeless man in White Plains, making me short on my rent? Yup. Give up a sizeable chunk of my income to make sure my students have food in their bellies? Yup. Cheerfully greet and chat with an Alzheimer’s patient who “recognized” me, allowing her to feel good, if only for a moment? Yup. Use my voice to raise support for marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, a clean food supply, veteran’s benefits, etc., although to do so rarely gets me invited to parties? Yup. Buy a few weeks worth of groceries for a family because I had and they didn’t? Yup. Lay flat on the floor with a student who is having a crappy day and just wants to talk about his or her life? Yup. I know no other way to live but fully. I’m a registered marrow donor. I will give my organs if possible when I die. Burn the rest and sprinkle me on a body of water so I will be part of the web of life even after I’m gone. I give all of me.

I’m a good person. I’m an interesting person. I’m a loving person. I live large and love large. I shouldn’t be invisible.

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Comfort sweets

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The other day, after dropping my daughter off in Cambridge, MA, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. The first time I left her in Cambridge, she was a high school junior about to study calculus at Harvard University for the summer. I cried my eyes out on the Mass Pike on the way back to New York, begging and pleading the powers that be to keep her safe. She was fine and earned 8 college credits.

Now she’s nearly 21 years old and going into her junior year at college as a physics major. She is a remarkable young woman, full of promise and potential. I offer this recipe to you because it was one of our favorites before she became a vegan. It’s based on the Famous Amos recipe from the 1980s, and, yes, vegans can substitute any egg replacer for the eggs. We’ve done it with great results.

A note about the ‘lumps’ ingredient. This could be any combination of candy chips (chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, M&Ms, etc.) and dried fruits. You are limited only by your imagination. If you are a vegan, know that Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips are vegan. Yay!

Sorta-Famous Amos Cookies

  • 2 sticks softened butter or Earth Balance vegan margarine (1 cup), softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. water (omit if you use large eggs)
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry is fine)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3.5 cups lumps
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Beat butter/margarine, sugars, vanilla, water and eggs with electric mixer until creamy and thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, soda and salt and add to wet mixture. Dump in lumpy stuff and mix until well distributed.
  3. Measure dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets (works great if you have parchment paper). Allow about 1.5 – 2 inches between dough balls. Bake for 8 minutes for teaspoon sized cookies, longer for bigger ones, or until golden and done to your liking. A tablespoon sized scoop takes about 11-12 minutes to my liking.

Enjoy these cookies with the people you love. Life’s too short not to eat chocolate!

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snoopy_chocolate chips

Scuba-Diving-and-Sharks

“We must overcome the notion that we must be regular… it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.” –Uta Hagen

Merriam-Webster defines ‘extraordinary’ as “going beyond what is usual, regular or customary”. The usual life of going to work, raising the kids, counting the days to retirement when one can do what one really wants, strikes me as incredibly limiting. The regular lives we live as humans in western society are soul-stunting. We need to challenge ourselves on a daily basis to go outside the box, to live over the edge of what is comfortable and customary, in order to be fully alive.

I have always thought of ‘extraordinary’ in terms of large, grand gestures like traveling to India to taste the cuisines of all 29 Indian states (a dream of mine). However, my idea is remarkably limiting. During a solo 3-week road trip this summer, it became evident that the extraordinary can be found not only in the grand, but in the minutae of daily life, in the smallest of actions. Living an extraordinary life does not necessarily mean leaving home. While for me going far outside the box, traveling and experiencing the new, is essential to my well-being, it is not so for many people. My life pales in comparison to many, making me strive to be a better person. I would like you to meet a few people. I feel a great deal of love for these four people, not just because of who they are, but who they make me want to become. There are only so many mornings left for me to greet, and it is my full intention to live an extraordinary life in the next 30 or 40 years.

virginiaVirginia is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She and I were best buds in high school back in the 1970s, and I rented my first apartment from her mother in the basement of their house in New York in the mid 1980s. The love I feel for Virginia is deep and familial. Virginia is a cancer survivor. In November of last year, she was declared officially cancer free. It is not her survival that makes her remarkable, but, rather, her attitude toward her illness. In typical Brooklyn Italian style, she grabbed cancer by the horns, looked it full in the face, said, “not on MY watch,” and fought with everything she had to rid her body of it. In addition to the traditional allopathic treatments of surgery, chemo and radiation, she researched the effects of nutrition and exercise on cancer, and changed her life accordingly. She lived with joy and hope, not stopping to feel sorry for herself, not dwelling on “Why me?” She continued to play, to laugh, to learn, to raise a remarkable daughter. Through it all, she expected her good health to return, and so it did. Virginia is an extraordinary woman. It is an absolute privilege to have her in my life.

jenniferJennifer is one of my newest friends, although she feels like a very old soul. We met through an online diet and exercise group. To say that Jennifer is extraordinary would be the understatement of the year. Jennifer has many physical challenges. She has cerebral palsy. She has fibromyalgia. She also has some other as-yet-undiagnosed illness in her body – might be MS, might be advanced Lyme’s disease. Some days she can’t leave her house because she feels so awful, but she meets her life where it is and concentrates on growing her faith, raising her kids and being the best wife she can be. She is a certified BeachBody coach, encouraging others to reach for their very best selves and attain the highest level of fitness possible. Jennifer wakes up every morning and says, “How can I make today awesome? How can I use the strength I have today to make someone else’s life better?” I am humbled to know her.

rickMy cousin Rick loves bears. He really loves bears. The wonderful thing about Rick is that the bears love him, too. They come to his house in the Appalachians and share their lives with him. They bring their cubs to meet him; they fight and play and mate and carry on their lives in his presence. They come to him when they are injured and he sits with them until they are ready to go back to the woods. His home is their home. This summer I was privileged to meet Ninny and her two cubs. She walked right up the stairs to his deck, greeting him and licking his toes. She showed no concern for the safety of her cubs, and wanted to know who I was, smelling my hand and my iPad, which was a new item to her. Her curiosity was amazing, her spirit palpable, and I felt no fear at all. He walked with her to the woods, talking to her the whole way. He’s an extraordinary man; his family knows that, I know that, and the bears know that.

markIt’s hard to find words to describe my friend Mark. One of his closest friends recently called him, “the man, the legend”. It seems to me, in light of his ability to live outside the box, that might be an understatement. Mark and I have known each other since grade school, but after his family moved at the end of 8th grade, we fell out of touch (there being no Facebook or EMail back in the mid 1970s). I was thrilled to connect with him again last year and went to visit him as soon as I could. His life reads like an adventure story. 82nd airborne, Army Ranger, persona non grata in several countries, 20 year career as a police officer, currently paramedic/fire fighter. He has scuba dived for dead bodies, lost fingers, raced motorcycles, and rebuilt cars. He has an engineering degree and just started nursing school. He deals with enough violence, blood, guts and gore to make even the strongest person blanch. Mark is also one of the most compassionate and funny men I’ve ever met. He is very involved in cat rescues and feral cat management. His friendships are deep, and his sense of loyalty inviolable. He lives with honor and integrity. The words from Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech (Henry V) might well have been written for him, “If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.” Truly a remarkable and extraordinary man, one that I am proud to know and love.

It seems to me, after writing these brief curriculum vitae, that they are pale. They don’t describe the flesh and blood reality of these four people. They don’t describe the palpable vitality of their spirits. I could write and rewrite this post over and over for a month and would still not capture the essence of what makes them so important to me. However, I carry them in my heart, drawing inspiration from their lives every day.

It is my fervent wish that everyone who reads this post will find people who inspire you to be better, to reach farther, to be more compassionate and loving. It is my hope that you find the people who make you want to live a truly extraordinary life.

Namaste.

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Extraordinary_Couple

 

 

 

 

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How does one describe the importance of inconsequence? How are moments of no regard piling on each other in a seemingly haphazard arrangement, threatening to topple my carefully constructed life?

Steve Jobs said,

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Today was a ‘No’ day. Yesterday was a ‘No’ day. Last week was filled with ‘No’ days. On school days, as much as I deeply love my students and admire and respect my coworkers, I would rather be hiking in the woods. As much as I love my family and want to feed them and let them know they are loved, deep inside I also want to be sitting on a beach watching a sunrise with an old friend. Instead of sitting in silence at my dining room table listening to my husband chew and swallow, I would rather be at a Mexican cantina, smelling charred chiles and having my consciousness altered by really good mescal. The life of nurturing professional and dutiful wife are being threatened by the urge to live the remaining years I have with utter passion and abandonment.

I’m quite sure that the people that know me as a stable and steady woman and upstanding member of society would say it’s just my approaching 50th birthday that is prompting this feeling. I have been focusing on the small moments which foment gratitude (like the honor of watching an eagle devour a pheasant this morning), but this now seems inadequate.

While I agree that my upcoming birthday may be the surface catalyst for any future living I do, I think the following realizations, my ‘inconsequential moments’, matter more.

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Louise in Boston

  • My daughter told me this past weekend that she never wants to come home again. Our little town holds no appeal for her anymore. Her old friends, with a few exceptions, are stagnating. There is nothing to ‘do’ within 30 miles of here. No cars pass by our house, and it’s just too quiet. She has moved to Boston, thriving on the history and the action and the funkiness and the LIFE. While the parents among you may say that this isn’t inconsequential, to me it was just a verbal confirmation of what I knew her feelings to be years ago. Her ability to say the words out loud made it apparent that her psyche is ready to move forward to create the life she wants. This makes me profoundly happy, because her life as a contented adult is the fulfillment of my role as a mother.
  • My daughter also told me she is afraid. Afraid of the great, yawning hole that is her future. She is filled with all the questions and insecurities I had when I was her age. “How do I take the first step? Where do I go to get a job? How do I choose an apartment that I like and can afford? What should I do with the rest of my life?” These are the same questions I asked myself at her age. I felt the insecurity, the ‘what if I die and nobody notices’ insecurity. My role as a parent has subtly switched from that of provider to that of nurturer. This brings with it a freedom to re-examine my own relationship with my daily life, as my life now parallels hers.

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  • For many, many years, I thought that one of my Life lessons was how to deal with abandonment. My sister, with whom I shared a bedroom until the age of 13, died after a quick illness in 1974, and I was alone. My parents moved as far away as they could (from NY to Hawai’i) as soon as I graduated from college, and I was alone. The men who I thought would be my passionate life partners fell by the wayside one by one, and I was alone. My best girlfriend accused me (erroneously) of being mean to her children and dropped me like a hot potato. Again, I was alone. My husband chose, after 2 years of marriage, to sleep in the guest room until forever, and I was alone. On the eve of our 25th anniversary, while driving home from the grocery store, it occurred to me (my moment) that the Life lesson is not one of abandonment, but one of attachment. All the people, and jobs, and animals to whom I have become attached have, one by one, left my life and they have moved on. The Buddhist maxim ‘Attachment is the source of suffering’, makes sense to me now. I have determined that living life in the moment, with no expectations for the future, just an appreciation of the present, is the only way to live.

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  • I have reconnected with an old grade school friend on Facebook. His name is Mark, and knowing him as an adult, with his incredible life story, has made me aware of my own story and how much richer it can be. We grew up together in a little town in NY, and his family moved away after the 8th grade. Since then, my Life has taken me around the world. I have smelled, tasted, heard, seen, felt, loved, and embraced what the world has to offer, at least, what my limited encounter with the world has shown me. My experience pales in comparison to his.

Mark spent 12 years in the Army Special Operations (including the 82nd Airborne), 20 years as a police officer, and is currently a paramedic/firefighter. He has jumped out of planes, been ushered across international boundaries for his own safety in the dead of night. He was tortured in foreign prisons, has been burned, shot, stabbed, run over, had fingers chopped off, and STILL takes utter delight in sunrises. STILL loves a good scotch. STILL lives passionately. STILL loves to sing. STILL has a bucket list that includes a trip to Antarctica. Next month, he is going back to school to learn the ins and outs of marine firefighting.

Mark has allowed me to realize that life is HUGE. Life is about passion, about reaching out beyond the safe and normal. Life is about embracing it all, feeling it all, loving it all, tasting it all. Life is intense. My small, safe life in rural New York has to change if the next 30 years of my life are to matter to me.

For those who were hoping, I will NOT be running for town office. I will NOT be joining the school board or the Band Boosters. I will, however, be walking barefoot at 2 am on beaches. I WILL be learning belly dancing with beautiful women in the Middle East. I WILL be running a marathon and making love and exploring China and wearing a sari in India and going down in a shark cage and all the other things that I can possibly do.

In the movie of my life, at my funeral, someone will say, “I TOLD her she couldn’t outrun a cheetah!” Then they will raise a glass of ancient scotch and toast my existence.

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Or maybe…?

NOTE: There are so many thoughts in my mind about this topic that I fear this post is somewhat scattered. Bear with me. I’ll get it all out in a series of posts. I welcome comments – please – a dialogue is good.

This morning, I asked a question on my Facebook page. “Is the number of nasty, intolerant people in this world increasing or are they just getting more airtime??”

Almost immediately, a dear friend, a beautiful witch (from the local Reclaiming community) and intuitive wrote back. “Both, and the number of people who are awakening and called to notice and affect change is also increasing…more sensitivities all around. As the energies change, the ones who hold baggage are clenching more tightly and the ones who are evolving are doing so at a more increased speed and intensity.”

This brilliant insight is frighteningly true. Consider the following:

Mitt Romney, left, and President Obama confronted each other more directly in their second presidential debate.

  • Those involved in discussions about American politics became more strident and verbally abusive to those who disagree with them. Our beautiful country has become a hotbed of violent language and twisted priorities. The people who supported Mitt Romney have not ceased their attacks on Obama. He is, according to them, still Hitler, still a Communist, still deserving of assassination or, at the very least, impeachment. He was still born in Kenya, still wants to take away everyone’s guns and still wants all our money to *gasp* make sure all Americans have health insurance. Conversely, those who supported Obama have not stopped tearing down and exposing Fox News, the Tea Party, the Republican Party, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and so on, because they truly believe they are right. Meanwhile, programs to help the American people are moving at a snail’s pace, if at all. American people are hurting and nobody in Washington seems to give a hoot about it.

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  • Those who believe that women should have the right to determine when they bear children are increasingly under attack. Instead of having a rational national discussion, which should include a philosophical component, the current discourse includes one group screaming about murder, wrapping family planning in the cloak of religion, and doing everything in their power to restrict women’s access to family planning services, and the other group categorizing them as ignorant, dumb hicks who can’t put together an intelligent argument to support their irrational beliefs.

MLK

  • The gun lobby, for some unfathomable reason, decided to hold a “Gun Appreciation Day” on Martin Luther King’s birthday, saying he would have approved. This was vocally supported by millions of “patriotic” Americans. Since the gun lobby (specifically the NRA) wears the Constitution as a lapel pin, they dare anyone to challenge them, labeling those who do as “un-American”. Here is what King actually said about guns, shortly after Kennedy was assassinated. His words are eerily appropriate now – we have not evolved as a nation one bit since these words were spoken.

Our late President was assassinated by a morally inclement climate. It is a climate filled with heavy torrents of false accusation, jostling winds of hatred, and raging storms of violence.

It is a climate where men cannot disagree without being disagreeable, and where they express dissent through violence and murder. It is the same climate that murdered Medgar Evers in Mississippi and six innocent Negro children in Birmingham, Alabama.

So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.

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  • Conspiracy theories abound. 9/11 was a government conspiracy to give Bush a reason to attack Iraq. The tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT was a conspiracy to allow Obama to take away all our guns (a theory that I find particularly disgusting). Chemtrails induce stupidity; the New World Order is the Bush crime family’s attempt to control humanity; AIDS is man-made; water fluoridation is part of a conspiracy for the Illuminati to take over the world; Hurricane Sandy was man-made by the government (using the Navy’s HAARP program) to get Obama re-elected; and on and on and on. What is frightening about these theories is that people completely believe them. They claim to have irrefutable proof and exhaustive research results. They get angry, even violent, in defense of them. They are holding onto their baggage with both hands. I can give conspiracy theories a VERY minor forgiveness pass, because I understand that they are only humanity’s way of coping with horror. They are a way to wrap one’s brain around the massive scariness of Life. This is the same mindset that gave rise to the existence of God in early human cultures. How do we explain what is beyond our understanding?
Latina Muslims

Latina Muslims – double whammy on the bigot scale…

  • Americans are increasingly intolerant of Latinos and Muslims. A woman I work with said this about all the patients at a local health clinic: “They’re all Mexicans or Columbians – they’re all short and don’t speak English. I pay for my visits (insinuating that all of them don’t) and I speak English so I refuse to go there anymore.” I was stunned. Between the eyes with a hammer stunned. I was similarly stunned when I read about some “Christian” preacher in Florida who was going to burn the Koran (which incited anti-American riots around the world) and then went ahead and DID it! What exactly was Christian about that?

There are thousands of examples of intolerance that have surfaced in this country over the past few years. If you count the individual  people who are willing to sacrifice relationships with friends or family, that number exponentially increases. A relative of mine recently told me on Facebook to “grow the f*** up”. Twice. There was more verbal abuse included, but I deleted the whole mess and removed myself from that “friendship”. What led to that? A discussion of politics and his holding on tight to his rabid, conspiratorial beliefs, and me holding on to my Earth Mother ones.

Why are we as a people, as a human family defined by invisible borders, doing this? Why are we so willing to abuse others? What is it about our national mindset that makes us think we are the ‘IT’ in the world, or, thinking smaller, that we as individuals are right and everyone else is wrong? I think there is a pomposity in a large percentage of Americans that buys into the belief that we are somehow better humans because of our birthplace, or our birth religion, or our birth skin, and that those who are so unfortunate to be born elsewhere are sub-human and less deserving of our respect. This, to me, is tragic. There is no human in this world who is more or less deserving of rights or love or respect than I am.

There is a wide diversity of political and philosophical thought in the world. America, sorry to say, most assuredly does NOT have all the answers to the human condition, despite her arrogant claim to do so. Look at the widening economic and philosophical divide in this country. We are tearing apart at the seams, and the people who might be able to fix the problems are not listened to because they are not radical enough. I think we, as a people, need to shut the heck up. Religion is not the answer. Closing the borders is not the answer. Love, respect, and humility are tools we need to cultivate to get into the conversation where we can find the answers to our problems.

Let go of your baggage, America. Listen – truly listen – to people with differing opinions. Let go of your need to be right and acknowledge that there may be a better way. Drop your arrogance and listen to all ideas as equal to your own. Let’s evolve as a nation. Come on, let’s fix this thing…

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liberty-weeping

As is well known around the world, America is waist deep in the election year carnival. The issues are out there, lines have been drawn and philosophical battles are being fought. The rhetoric is particularly nasty this time around. Our sitting president is a terrorist-sympathizing Muslim Communist who wants to throw this country into civil war. His presumptive challenger is a tax-dodging, flip-flopping racist whose bat-shit crazy ideas will take us back to the Stone Age. No lie, those are real insults that I’ve read (and double checked for this blog).

I’m a Democrat. I make no secret of that. I wholeheartedly support strict separation of church and state, the right of ALL Americans to marry the people they love. I think our country needs social programs that help the unfortunate and the elderly, and I am willing to help pay for that. I also support a woman’s right to choose if, and when, she has offspring; I think in this day and age of global economic instability it is incredibly irresponsible to pop out children like Pez candies. I think we should NOT be the world’s police force, and think war is evil, but I wholeheartedly support the men and women who wear the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces. I just don’t support Presidents who make up reasons to go to war.

So that’s me. There are, obviously, many more issues than the ones above, but those are the hot button topics most people are discussing this year.

In response to my attempts at civilized debate, I have been disparagingly called a Liberal, stupid, ignorant, an asshole, uninformed, a fool, a Marxist (my favorite), and a Communist. Heck, even my own husband spoke disparagingly of me the other day. Even though, in retrospect, it is amusing, it highlights the seemingly growing trend of Americans to hurl labels at each other without knowing anything about each other. That’s dangerous. That’s divisive. It creates an atmosphere of hate and intolerance for anyone who is different, which brings us right back to the 1950s, when people thought nothing of calling each other by pejoratives related to race and color. Legally sanctioned cyberbullying at the national level cloaked in the guise of free speech. Whatever happened to civility?

There’s also an increasing mob mentality in this country, where people band together and are PROUD of their labels, PROUD of their ignorance, PROUD of their bigotry, PROUD to be on the “other side”. (Consider the recent Chick Fil-A circus.) This strikes me as incredibly dangerous. How are we going to move forward as a society if we revel in our compartmentalization, revel in our stupidity?

 

I think there needs to be a moratorium on labeling. We need to stop being an angry, bigoted society. There is room in this country for immigrants and gays and atheists and people who don’t speak English. Heck, our families were all immigrants at some point, we all have gays in our family trees, we all know people with religious beliefs that are different, and – shock of all shocks – English was not the native language here when the Europeans arrived. We are all human and deserving of respect and honor. It’s far past time that we remembered that.

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