A Lesson after 9/11: Compassion

11 09 2011

At the software company I worked for, we watched in horror after the first tower was struck. With my co-workers, we watched as a plane drove into the second tower. We were in shock as was the entire nation. We were glued to the television…waiting for information. We saw people jump from the towers to their deaths and knew that many more had died as the towers crumbled to the ground. We saw the look of sheer terror on the faces of those present and running from the towers. It was an apocalyptic event being broadcast live as we watched.

To make it even more surreal, my manager at the time kept crossing through the lobby and glaring at me as if to say “Why are you wasting your time watching television?” My peers were all there watching. Something monumental was happening. We needed time to witness and attempt to cope with what we were seeing. Feeling the pressure from this demanding boss, I was one of the first to pull away and go back to my desk and it was incredibly difficult to focus and do technical marketing work. It was corporate America saying “You’re not human. Don’t feel. Just do your work…no matter what else is going on.” It was the birthday of one of my co-workers, but definitely not a day to celebrate.

Credit: TellingNicholas.com

Today, 10 years later, I am still disturbed by that glare. It’s one of the reasons I choose to work for myself. Yes, there are business demands and the software business is incredibly demanding. But people are not robots. Bad things happen and we have feelings. We need time and space to witness, to grieve, and to recover.

I just watched another one of HBO’s incredible documentaries. This one is called “Telling Nicholas” and first aired on May 19, 2002. Created by director/producer/writer James Ronald Whitney, it also won an Emmy.

It tells the story of how the mother of 7-year-old Nicholas died in the World Trade Centers on 9/11 and how the family struggled to accept that she is not coming back and is indeed dead. They also struggled with how to tell Nicholas. It his heart wrenching and I cried throughout most of the movie. The family is very sensitive to and protective of this little boy’s feelings.

I’m not a 7-year-old boy and I didn’t lose my mommy or anyone on 9/11. Still, we all grieve that day and the loss of innocence, security, and safety we had up until then. We grieve the loss of so many people who were doing nothing but living their lives and working and being mommies and daddies and brothers and sisters and children.

If 9/11 has had any positive impact, hopefully it has taught us to appreciate the freedom we have, to value life, to be grateful for the love of others, and to never take even one day of our lives for granted. And to stop the glares. We all need time to process when things happen…even if we’re at work…and we all need to practice and feel compassion.

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I Walked a 50K (31 Miles)

19 07 2011

On July 9, 2011 I walked a 12-hour race and completed 50K. That’s THIRTY-ONE MILES. I set some really bodacious goals at the start of the year. Walking a 12-hour race and completing a 50K (31 miles) was one of them. I had no idea at the time if I could even go 6 hours, but decided at least it was a good goal.

I decided to go for it and set a very aggressive training schedule. I stuck to it except for dealing with some setbacks along the way…lingering arm pain from a hard fall, an unexpected trip out of town, getting sick, and some foot pain that laid me up awhile. I wasn’t a beginning walker when I started. I sold my car when I moved out to the San Francisco Bay area so I walk everywhere and was already doing some long walks. [NOTE: See my blog post A Year of Living Carless, which is featured today on the home page of WordPress.]

My training started very aggressively the week of April 25 when I walked 27 miles with my longest walk being 10 miles. Because I was behind in training, I had to quickly ramp up. A month later, I walked 21.5 miles as my long walk. Three weeks after that I walked a marathon. And three weeks after that was the race. The last few weeks I walked loops very similar to the 3.1 loop in the actual race with 200 feet elevation gain every loop.

I did a lot of research about how to prepare for and walk a 12-hour race. To say I was nervous about it is an understatement. I did way too much carbo loading, put on weight leading up to the race, and had to order a new wicking shirt a few days before the race. I got a smartphone around this time and loaded tons of music on it, had extra batteries, and bought an extra headset. I bought a running hat, trained with the kind of food and sports drink at the race, and took good care of my feet (lots of soaks in Epsom salts, petroleum jelly, Tom’s Blister Shield foot powder, and taping my feet in blister-prone areas). With the help of  Facebook friends, I came up with an athletic alter ego to motivate me during the race: DIANAMO KICKASS SISTA DISTANCE. I tapered my walking down to almost nothing and now the BIG DAY HAD ARRIVED. GULP.

RACE DAY – 7/9/11 – BRAZEN RACING DIRTY DOZEN RACE STARTS AT 7:00 A.M. AT PINOLE POINT, EAST BAY

Up at 4:10 a.m. Breakfast of peanut butter sandwich and an apple, a cup of coffee, and 20 ounces of water. Watching a little TV to relax while I ate. Got dressed. Prepared my feet. Gathered stuff in my bag. Walked my dog. Picked up at 6:10 by my son-in-law and 22-month-old grandson, who took my daughter Val and me to the race.

I had just a few minutes to pin my bib (#2) on my shorts, sign the waiver, get my headset, thread my timing chip through my shoe laces, pee, get my water bottle, and get lined up for the start.Val did this race last year and was excited and cool; I was NERVOUS. There were runners lined up to do a 6-hour race along with us brave souls planning to do the 12-hour race. And we’re off!

It was a cool, overcast morning…perfect for running (or in my case, walking). We ran parallel to the Bay for much of the race and braved the 20-30 mph gusting winds throughout the race, which had me chasing my hat several times later in the race when the sun came out. Since I was walking, everyone else raced ahead of me and I took a wrong turn at one point and had to backtrack. I felt much more confident after I got through the first loop and knew the course.

My first headset gave out after only 1.5 hours (charging issues) so I just listened to the natural sounds until I completed four loops. I grabbed the second headset then and fiddled with it for about 15 minutes. I never got it to synch (I use a Bluetooth headset)…turns out I needed to hold down the button a couple of more seconds…aargh. I did another loop and tried again for another 15 minutes (tick, tick, tick…time’s a wasting!). No luck. So I had NO music for the rest of the race…tough because music takes your mind off the pain and the distance.

At 11 a.m., noon, 5:00, and 6:00 there 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) races going on the track. Those people looked fresh and were fast, average, and some were novices and just happy to be running/walking a race. After 1:00, the 6-hour racers were done (and eating barbecue back at the start/finish) and the course thinned out a lot. That’s when you knew the really hard-core people were left and I got a lot of “GOOD JOB!” kudos from other racers who sailed past me.

I saw my daughter Val out on the race every two laps and she came up and hugged me, told me how great her race was going, and we got our photo taken together by one of the volunteer photographers once out on the course. It was so much fun doing the race with her and helped me keep going, even when I wanted to stop after four laps due to foot pain, tiredness, and heaviness in my legs.

I stopped every lap to pee and grabbed food and sports drink at the start/finish and mid-course…GU gel, cut up peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and bagel, Payday candy bars, chips, and Peanut M&Ms. I had very short conversations with the encouraging volunteers and I’d be off again to do another lap. Toward the end I doubled what I ate and drank when my energy really started sagging on loop 8 and that gave me the energy to finish the last two loops much faster.

The last mile was LONG and I got tearful thinking about what I was achieving. I had the time to do a shortened lap, but I was happy with just reaching my goal. 31 MILES. When I crossed the finish line, my arms went up in the air and I yelled out “YES!!!!” It was 6:34:37 P.M. I had walked nearly 12 hours. I DID IT!!! I put on my jacket, got my medal, and watched my daughter finish a few minutes later. She RAN 55.8 miles (her longest ever) and finished SECOND of all the women. WOW!

In an incredibly well-run event (thanks, Sam!), the first place guy ran 74.5 miles. First place gal ran 62.7 miles. I walked 31 miles.

Me with other 12-hour finishers

At 58 years old, I was the oldest female to compete in the 12-hour race. (And oh by the way, I am a PLUS SIZE woman.) I’m proud of what I did. REAL PROUD. And my name is going to be published in “Ultrarunning” magazine as having completed an ultramarathon!

Twenty minutes after I finished, I started getting dizzy and nauseous and thought I was going to pass out and/or throw up. It quickly passed. And yes, I was stiff for a few days afterward (no muscle pain though) and have been nursing some amazing looking blisters on my feet and that nagging foot pain.

But when a friend asked me if it was all worth it and would I do it again, the answer is absolutely YES. Dianamo Kickass Sista Distance, you go girl!

UPDATE: In October 2011, I walked the Portland Marathon (26.2 miles) in 8 hours and 42 seconds. This time I felt great at the finish. I also walked the Portland Marathon in October, 2012 in 7 hours and 38 minutes and felt great again!





Healing the Tiger…in Egypt and in Each of Us

30 01 2011

COMPELLING. CAPTIVATING. We CONNECT with the drama unfolding in Eqypt. Why? In the U.S., we sit in our cozy homes and have the freedom to make a living (although many of us are admittedly struggling with that right now), the freedom to make decisions about our lives, and the freedom to speak our minds. We complain that the government is too big or not doing enough and yet our government has checks and balances with the three branches of government; no one person can dictate entirely what happens in the country and no one person can rob the country and the people in it of funds and assets. We are blessed and we so often take it for granted.

We are riveted to the stories of those who don’t have the freedoms we have…people like those protesting in the streets of Eqypt. Perhaps we are trying to imagine what it must be like to have lived 30 years under an oppressive regime. Perhaps we are stunned to see the police so powerless and the army for the most part just standing by, supporting the people, and allowing them to protest. Perhaps we are also stunned that a few people who take to the streets to protest would be gunned down and that the Internet and cell phone service would be shut down for an entire country. This would not happen here. No one person has that much power.

The country and people of Egypt seem to be suffering from societal trauma. Dr. Peter A. Levine, author of “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma,” says that:

Citizens in our inner cities randomly destroy property and life as the effects of years of accumulated stress, trauma, hostility, and economic oppression combust.

Credit: Dominic Harness

Dr. Levine talks of how an animal in the wild handles being attacked by another animal. It can fight back, flee, or freeze (play dead) until the attacking animal loses interest and then run away. The last option of freezing is what happens to people when their options are taken from them.

Unfortunately, human beings…unlike a tiger in the wild…don’t know how to shake off the trauma physically after freezing and we wind up internalizing the trauma sometimes for decades. Perhaps the traumatized part in each of us (for whatever reason…child abuse, a surgery, an accident, a divorce, a job loss, losing our home, the loss of a child, returning from war, etc.) connects with the people of Eqypt. They are acting out the effects of decades of trauma and woundedness and we get it.

Dr. Levine says that:

Trauma cannot be ignored. It is an inherent part of the primitive biology that brought us here. The only way we will be able to release ourselves, individually and collectively, from re-enacting our traumatic legacies is by transforming them through renegotiation.

He goes on to say that:

Transformation requires a willingness to challenge your basic beliefs about who you are. Through transformation, the nervous system regains its capacity for self-regulation. Our emotions begin to lift us up rather than bring us down. They propel us into the exhilarating ability to soar and fly, giving us a more complete view of our place in nature. Our perceptions broaden to encompass a receptivity and acceptance of what is, without judgment. We are able to learn from our life experiences. Without trying to forgive, we understand that there is no blame. We often obtain a surer sense of self while become more resilient and spontaneous. This new self-assuredness allows us to relax, enjoy, and live life more fully. We become more in tune with the passion and ecstatic dimensions of life.

Perhaps this is happening with the people in Egypt; they seem to be feeling more confident and more hopeful and are transforming as a people. We are watching history in the making, unfolding before our eyes. We see the possibility of what happens when people unite in a common cause to help lift each other and a nation up. It gives us hope as individuals that we can lift ourselves up out of our own personal traumas and transform our own personal and collective lives.





A Year of Living Carless

5 01 2011

Have you ever thought of giving up your car? Does the thought make you break out in a cold sweat? Does it sound impossible? It’s not. I’ve managed for over a year now without a car. I must admit that when I first thought of selling my car and going without one, I felt fearful.

I was living in Austin, Texas…a really hard place to get around without a car. I made the decision to move out to the Berkeley/Albany area (East Bay) in San Francisco to live near one of my daughters and baby grandson. They moved out here and have gone carless. I saw that it was possible and decided to give it a try. It certainly simplified my move. I just put all my stuff in a 16-foot truck and drove it out here (okay, that wasn’t simple…that was scary and long and challenging) and didn’t have to worry about how to get a vehicle out here too.

So how DO you go without a car? How does that work?

  • You do a lot of walking. I walk to see my daughter. I walk to the YMCA (gym) to work out. I walk to the grocery store…and yes, I carry groceries home (just not $150 worth at a time…more like $15 or $20 worth). If I want to do anything, I start out walking.
  • Sometimes…though rarely…I take the bus. If I do, I walk to the bus stop.

    Credit: “The Carless Generation” article on http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com

  • More often, I’ll take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit…light rail system) if I want to go downtown San Francisco or other places too far to walk to. Of course, I walk the mile to the BART station and the mile home from the BART station.
  • On very rare occasions I’ve gone places in a car with a friend (still making those out here).
  • I’ve taken a taxi once when I came back from a trip later than expected and didn’t want to lug my luggage the mile to my house late at night.
  • And of course I could always rent a car, but in the 12.5 months I’ve lived here, I haven’t yet rented a car. If I did, I’d walk to the car rental place.
  • To repeat the first point…you do a lot of walking…and that’s a good thing!

What have been the benefits of going without a car for over a year?

  • I’ve lost weight! Remember all that walking? It pays off!
  • I’ve gained stamina and strength…not only from the walking, but carrying groceries or whatever.
  • I don’t have to pay for gas, car insurance, car maintenance, parking, car washes, or anything to do with a car. I’ve avoided spending a LOT of money.
  • I was able to sell my car and use that money for other things.
  • I don’t have to try and find a parking spot. In this area, that’s a big deal.
  • I never get stuck in traffic. I walk right past all the people who are backed up in traffic.
  • I just walk out the door and I’m on my way and never have to worry about a car that’s broken down or not working properly.
  • I’m not polluting the environment.
  • I get to be outside in nature, get more sunlight (and that valuable Vitamin D), and enjoy Mother Earth more.
  • I have slowed down and experience less stress.

Are there any negatives to not owning a car?

  • If you live in a spread-out urban area (like Austin) that doesn’t have good public transportation, not having a car is surely a real challenge.
  • I haven’t shopped at Costco during the whole year (and I really miss it). I just can’t carry enough at a time to make it worth the 2.3 mile walk each way to Costco.
  • Sometimes during the rainy season (which we’re in now) when it’s also cold, windy, and the rain has been pelting for days, I wish I could travel in a car.
  • It may take more time to walk somewhere than to ride in a car (depending on traffic). I have to allow the time to walk somewhere when planning on going somewhere.
  • I can’t give anyone a ride anywhere (maybe that’s a positive!).
  • I can’t transport really large items. If I must have them, I order them online.
  • I don’t go places at night as much as I used to.
  • I don’t venture out to other areas as much as I would if I owned a car.

When I look at the two lists, in sheer numbers there are almost as many negatives as positives, but the positives are a lot more important to me than the negatives. The thing I’ve gotten from going carless for a year is a real sense of freedom. Owning a car is EXPENSIVE and a HASSLE. Walking is CHEAP and EASY plus it has the added benefit of improving your health and fitness.

Will I always be without a car? Not if I move to an area less friendly and accessible to walking than Berkeley and Albany. But for right now, I’m enjoying this freedom of being carless. Try it…you might like it!

7/20/11 NOTE: Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., San Francisco is now ranked the 2nd most walkable behind New York. Check out the scores at http://www.walkscore.com/rankings. Oakland, which is in the East Bay (where I live) is ranked the 10th most walkable large city. And Austin? My former home town? It is ranked the 31st most walkable large city and scores 91 out of 100. That might be true if you live downtown. Albany, CA, where I live now has a walkable score of 95 out of 100 and is called a “walker’s paradise.” I’d have to agree!

7/21/11 NOTE: Thanks to WordPress for putting this post on the front page! I am loving reading all the comments that you are leaving about your experiences of going carless…or desires to. After 19 months without a car, I’m still loving being carless…at least most of the time!

6/21/13 NOTE: I am still carless…now for 3.5 years…and still loving it!





Multigenerational Connectedness

29 12 2010

We’re all one, right? Brothers and sisters, connected souls, timeless, pure energy, love, and light. So how many of us actually spend time with people outside our age group…give or take 20 years or so? And why don’t we? Is it because it’s uncomfortable? Inconvenient? We feel we have nothing in common with people so outside our age range? How can we truly feel the connectedness with all others if we shun or exclude people much younger or much older than ourselves?

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with four generations…my 16-month-old grandson, both my daughters (and one son-in-law), my sister and her husband, and my mother and her husband. The age span from youngest to oldest was 83 years. What did I observe and take away from my interactions with each generation in addition to lots of love and gratitude for being together?

  • My 16-month-old grandson – Instant smiles when he sees me, spontaneity, lots of hugs and kisses, fun, big faces that indicate delight, play, playfulness, and sheer joy
  • My two daughters – Pride in making their way in the world so well, joy in watching one be a mother, seriousness about life and drive, self-confidence, kindness, an adult-to-adult relationship, hugs, and smiles
  • My sister – Giggles, ease, familiarity, shared family history, remembering, delight, hugs, consideration, laughing at ourselves, and fun
  • My mother – Comfort, hugs, tears, understanding, patience, honoring, helping, taking time, being cared for, being girlish and playful with friends, and shared family history

Credit: Edanley on Flickr

In being with family from each generation, I got to connect with that child, young woman, middle-aged woman, and aging woman inside me and feel the delights and challenges of each age. I could be silly with my grandson and be totally spontaneous in the moment. I could talk with my daughters about their careers and remember when I was that age and so driven and I could recall how it felt to be a young mother. I could feel a real connection with my sister, who is also experiencing the fears and humor of aging and the delights and wisdom from a life lived so far. And I could be understanding toward and appreciative of my mother, who is slowing down, and delight in watching her giggle and chat with her friends around the table in the dining room of her retirement community.

There is much to be gained by stepping outside our comfort zones and being with people of all ages. I’m grateful for all of these relationships; they all help me to honor the many ages within me and within others. Spending time with others of varying ages reminds us that we are all timeless and are connected through our joy, love, kindness, consideration, acceptance, understanding, and being.





The Power of a Mother’s Kangaroo Love

3 09 2010

Twenty minutes after twin Jamie Ogg was born prematurely at 27 weeks into his mom Kate’s pregnancy, he was pronounced dead when doctors could not get him to breathe. He was placed across Kate’s bare chest and she held him to her skin while she and husband David spoke to him about his sister Emily and the hopes and dreams they had for him.

David and Kate Ogg with their twins on the Today Show - Credit Today Show website

Kate (who is from Australia along with her husband) continued practicing kangaroo love, where the holding of an infant with their skin next to the mother’s or father’s generates heat and bonding for the baby like he received in the womb…or like a baby kangaroo receives in its mother’s pouch.

After five minutes, they began to notice Jamie move, but the doctor said it was just a bodily reflex. This continued for two hours of the parents holding the baby next to their bare chests and talking gently and lovingly to him. They kept trying to get the doctor to come back in the room and see the baby moving, but the doctor kept insisting the baby was dead. Finally, the doctor consented and was shocked to see the baby alive.

The Today Show featured this family and their story today and I burst into tears upon hearing this story. The babies are now five months old and both are healthy and doing well.

The Today Show’s website quoted Dr. Lisa Eiland of the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, who said this seeming miracle may be well grounded in science:

What’s important is the warmth that the mother provides and the stimulation that the baby may have received from hearing the mother’s heartbeat. So those are all things that may have helped the baby in terms of going down the path to living as opposed to the path of death.

My own daughter used this practice with her one-day-old son when he was taken to the ICU after a difficult start. This story and that of my own daughter and grandson are powerful reminders that love…especially that of a mother…can be so powerful to even save a life and how important love, nurturing, and human touch are for our very survival.





Life at a Fast Toddle

31 08 2010

Aren’t toddlers fun to watch? My grandson Sebastian recently turned one. I have so much fun watching him toddle back and forth at his house, mine, the library, the park, wherever. Although his steps may be a bit wobbly, he doesn’t judge himself, hold back, or act fearful because he’s not a perfect walker. He “runs” with abandon, not worrying about whether he is going to fall or run into anything or step on anything. He just does it because he can. He is gleeful and often laughs or scrunches up his face in a delightful look that says “I’m having so much fun!” And he loves having something to carry as he toddles…a basket, a cake pan, a ball, a wooden puzzle piece…just about anything will work. It’s just the act of carrying while walking that is just so cool!

He was at my house several hours yesterday and today while his momma is at a conference and observing and being with him awakens so much in me. I am completely present with him just as I was with his momma and her sister when they were young. I sit on the floor and play with him, dance as he’s dancing, and sit in the sandbox at the park while he scoops sand and watches it fall through his fingers. His attention moves from one thing to another at mind boggling speed, but for the time he’s doing something, he’s completely focused on it.

Sebastian doesn’t fret about where his next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be. He just eats when he’s hungry and says “Nah!” or throws it when he isn’t…sounds fun, doesn’t it? He has no idea when or if he’s going to be taken on a plane, to the park, the grocery store, out for a stroller ride, on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to go downtown San Francisco, to babygym, or to see Oma (that’s me…German for “grandmother”). Everything is fun and he just rolls with it.

And oh…the dancing. A toddler isn’t self conscious and doesn’t wonder if he looks stupid when he dances. He just does it. When I turn on the Raffi CD or he hears something with a catchy beat, he just starts bouncing up and down, twirling, moving his shoulders, and getting his groove on. He can’t help himself…the boy has to dance.

At 12 months, he doesn’t have life experiences, societal influences, and the developmental “maturity” that can contribute to feeling hatred, anger, disgust, sadness, disappointment, resentment, worry, shame, or any other negative emotion. Life is all about possibility, learning, new experiences, wonder, discovery, delight, laughter, smiling, having fun, hugs and kisses, and toddling at full bore.

The more I observe Sebastian, the more I think he has it right. We can be a lot more present to the joys of life by practicing living life at a fast toddle.





Already Home

9 08 2010

Financial uncertainty, a physical move to an unfamiliar area or to a new house, a health crisis, a divorce or relationship breakup, middle age, and a death can all create a longing for home…a sense of belonging, of the familiar, of claiming a place that is ours, of feeling comforted and comfortable, of feeling safe, and a place we can truly be ourselves.

Barbara Gates - Credit: BarbaraGates.com

This is what Barbara Gates, author of the exquisite book Already Home: A Topography of Spirit and Place, writes about. She struggles to understand her new home in Berkeley, California after a move from New York and to understand the body she calls home as she goes through treatments for breast cancer and strives to live while being mother to a five-year-old daughter and wife to her lawyer husband.

Barbara does extensive research on the house she and her husband remodel limb by limb and on the colorful Ocean View neighborhood she lives in. She wants to know who lived there before she and her neighbors did and what home was like for those people. At first the search is about the physicality of the place, but “home” and “inhabit” take on much bigger…and yet much simpler…meaning.

In an interview with Shambhala Publications, Barbara is asked about finding home right we are and she replies:

Already Home tells a story of neighborliness, about finding connection — with one’s family, oneself, and the folks next door, with whatever presents itself, no matter how off-putting or surprising. I find connection with a homeless woman who sleeps in our family car, a rat in our refrigerator, the bay, trees and streets, and, learning the vast history of my home place, with generations of neighborhood ancestors. In contrast to our global ethic of opposition and reprisal, Already Home offers a much-needed taste of underlying commonality grounded in a sense of home, always available right here and now.

In that same interview, Barbara (who is a Buddhist) talks of interviewing Buddhist monks, who call themselves the “Homeless Ones” because they leave behind their homes. Barbara tells of how that homelessness showed her a different meaning of home:

I was reminded that a house is not a home. No house of bricks or boards could offer me the enduring safety and sustenance I yearned for.  As I became intimate with the place where I lived and settled more fully into a wide sense of myself, I began to glimpse an inner sense of home. No matter who we are, through a shift in perception, we can see it.  We are already home.

In reading this book, I connect with Barbara’s search for home. I, too, recently left behind an area (Austin, Texas), which I had called home for 20 years, to move to the Berkeley area to live near my daughter, son-in-law, and almost one-year-old grandson. This area is so different from my birth home area of east Tennessee and my adopted home area of central Texas. It is much cooler here, the yards are lush with flowers and greenery, and the homes are

A Berkeley Home - Credit: Trip Advisor Website

charming. People I pass on the streets often say “Isn’t it beautiful here? I feel so lucky to live here.” There is a relaxation, comfort, and sense of gratitude that comes with these perfect temperatures and beauty every where you look. If you walk up into the Berkeley hills, you get gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay.

Almost anywhere you can hear the whoosh of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains zipping through the community and offering easy transportation to most anywhere you’d like to go. I sold my car before I moved out here and walk or take the BART (or the occasional bus) everywhere and the worries and expense of gas, car payments, car repairs, car insurance, parking, and traffic are gone for me.

Besides a freedom and sense of adventure in getting around, home takes on additional new meaning for me here. It is being a grandmother who gets to really be a part of my grandson’s life. It is being able to walk over to my daughter’s home after yoga at the YMCA or to the local farmer’s market with her and to have conversations in person that used to be months apart. It is cool air blowing through open windows in the summer and walks at any time of day and never breaking a sweat. It is exploring downtown San Francisco and new neighborhoods…each with their own charm. Home here is a scaling down of things and an expansion of sensual delight, new experiences, and sense of awe and possibility.

I’ve moved enough times in my life to not feel an attachment to any one building as “home”. Instead, I am developing the sense of home that noted Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of (and Barbara Gates quotes in her book):

In East Asia, we speak of the human body as a mini-cosmos. The cosmos is our home, and we can touch it by being aware of our body. Meditation is to be still: to sit still, to stand still, and to walk with stillness. Meditation means to look deeply, to touch deeply so we can realize we are already home.

I did a slow, walking meditation through the Berkeley hills this morning and connected with all the outward beauty I saw. The beauty inside me, which has always been, yearns for deep recognition and reconnection. It is that place that calls out to me and reminds me that I am already home…no matter where I go.





A 40th High School Reunion in Maryville, Tennessee

18 06 2010

There’s nothing like 40 years to give you some perspective. I attended the 40th high school reunion of  the Maryville High School class of 1970 on 6/11/10 in Maryville, Tennessee. Over a third of our class showed up along with some spouses and partners. About 8% of our class members are dead…something that seems inconceivable to me. What was their path…and that of their family and friends…that it included a life cut short? Death is an equalizer, showing no favor to the popular classmates who have passed on.

For those us still kicking it, for the most part, our personalities really haven’t changed all that much. The outgoing ones are still outgoing, the quiet ones are still quiet, and the nerdy ones are still nerdy. Not only is death an equalizer, so is aging. It’s fascinating to see how people age differently.

Overall, we look pretty good, but if you look closely, you see a few more wrinkles on some faces. You don’t have to look closely to see the extra pounds that many of us (myself included) now carry. One guy and one gal from the class who are on Facebook have…since the reunion…listed the “Hotties” and it feels like we’re in high school all over again.

There were a few surprises like how many people have never had children or have never been married. A few people are gay…something that wasn’t on my radar at all in high school. At least half of those in attendance still live in the area. Some lived other places, but came back. It is a charming town, so this is understandable.

People were upbeat and I didn’t really hear stories of tragedy and suffering and turmoil unless I knew about them and asked. At our age, I’m sure most people have experienced many ups and downs. One of our classmates dropped dead of a brain aneurysm 11 years ago and his wife…also one of our classmates…talked of the rough road she’d had in raising their children alone afterward.

I heard some talk of careers, but mostly there was talk of children and grandchildren and where you’ve lived and wow, it’s great to see you. After 40 years, the conversations distilled down to what is really important in our lives. We also reminisced about painting the bridge red and black before rival football games with Alcoa High and how tough our English teacher Ms. Miller (whose daughter was one of our classmates and was there) was…and how grateful we were when we went to college.

My Senior High School Photo

What’s really neat is that our spirits are ageless. We may be 57 or 58 years old, but we’re still giggly and fun-loving and witty and engaging and curious. If I closed my eyes…or simply looked past the extra pounds and wrinkles and hair dye…I saw those same classmates who I knew and loved in high school.

A 40th high school reunion is not only a reunion with classmates, but also with the self you were all those years ago. I could instantly erase 40 years of living and step back to being that girl who was living life to the fullest and had the whole world ahead of her. Maybe I’ll decide to stay 17 and continue to see a world of opportunity available to me. Maryville, Maryville High, my family, and those classmates instilled in me that sense of possibility…and I’ll forever be that girl.





Are Your Human Rights More Right Than Mine?

31 01 2010

When I say HUMAN RIGHTS, you may think about a trafficked sex slave, a child soldier, a raped woman prosecuted for adultery in a Muslim country, a woman in China who is pregnant with a second child being forcibly taken to a hospital and given an abortion, and the people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti who need food, water, safety, and shelter.

But what about the basic human right to live in peace and quiet in your own home? Most cities…including my new city of Berkeley, California…have ordinances that proclaim that this is a right of residents. Even my own apartment lease declares this one of the rules that residents must abide by.

For over a month I have lived under a family of four who choose not to respect this basic human right.  I moved here from out of state and never saw this apartment except on videotape before moving in. I rented the apartment next door and due to the mold there, was moved by my landlord into this apartment…completely unaware that I’d be moving under a family with two young children.

The family plays drums (which the lease says is not allowed), loud thumping music, allows the boys to run up and down the halls (this sounds like a stampede since there are hardwood floors and no carpet), slams windows and doors, stomps around, argues loudly…everything is done LOUDLY. They tell me they are just living their life.

Who’s to say that me living my life doesn’t include playing my stereo really loudly at 3 a.m. or that I have to turn up my television as loud as it goes because that’s the way I like it or I need to plug my amplifier into my keyboard and play it loud so I can really get the feel of the music when I play it? (I haven’t done any of those things, but sometimes it is tempting.)

I have spoken twice with the mother/wife. The last time, when I calmly explained that the noise was unbearable, she screamed at me and threatened me. She said I had “no right to come from Texas and tell her to be quiet in HER neighborhood.” She also informed me that her children were going to continue doing what they were doing that was so loud and they were going to do it ALL DAY LONG.

My neighbor asserted to me that she and her family have MORE rights than me because they were here first and they are a family (and I’m a single woman). I pay rent here too…no less than they do…and my lease reads the same as theirs. I’m protected by the same city laws as they are that give me the right to peace and quiet in my own home.

I’m saying all this not to complain, but to show how absurd it is when one person proclaims they have more rights than another person and that their rights are more important than another person’s. You could substitute anything going on in the world in exchange for this story and see how ridiculous it is…and yet we do it all the time. My neighbor and her family have a sense of entitlement and so they do whatever they want to do without any regard for my rights.

My landlord/apartment owner has little regard for my rights also…rights that they even decreed in the rules we all signed. Instead of asking these people to leave, I am being let out of my lease. The neighbors will then be allowed to intrude on the rights of the next person(s) who live(s) where I do now. And me? I am spending my time, energy, and money to move to another place where my basic human right of peace and quiet in my own home will be respected.

How often do we let the people who intrude on our human rights or those of others continue? Or perhaps we perceive the person who had their rights violated as a complainer and the violaters just bully us into letting them do whatever they feel they are entitled to do?

In my case, I could go to the city and complain and could probably force the issue so that the people above me are evicted and I could stay here. I choose instead to no longer rent an apartment from a landlord who doesn’t back up the rights they guaranteed me and to no longer live under people who are so disrespectful and scream at me to my face that their rights matter more than mine.

For 5 weeks I’ve felt victimized by these people…the neighbors and the non-acting landlords. Now I’m taking my power back and moving to a place that will be a refuge.  Peace and quiet are an important basic human right to me. I need it to survive…and to thrive.

Do you think your rights are more important…or more right…than those of other people? Are you respecting the rights of others?





Reflection on Human Rights Day

10 12 2009

Today is Human Right’s Day. Take a moment to reflect.

  • Do you respect the human rights of those you deal with on a day-to-day basis?
  • Are you respectful, kind, considerate, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive?
  • Do you listen to, acknowledge, and treat respectfully people who think, act, look, speak, or practice religion differently from you?
  • Do you ever give any thought to the rights of those in other countries?
  • Do you care if women can vote, hold public office, work, drive a car, have protections through the legal system, love and marry who they want, and speak their minds?
  • Do you care if children are allowed to be children and go to school, wait until they are adults to marry, have nourishment, have clean water, and are free from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse?
  • Have you considered what life would be like if you had been born to poor parents in Afghanistan or Mali or Haiti?
  • Have you considered what it must be like to be hungry, to have no fresh water, to have no parents, to have AIDS, to have no access to the Internet, and to have no hope and feel useless in the world?

We are each important in the world. We each have rights just because of being born. Be aware. Care. Acknowledge. Listen. Then allow your heart to open and do what you can. Even a word of encouragement can make a difference.

Human Rights are not just for a day. Every day we must do what we can to help our brothers and sisters in the world. Every person is valuable, is needed, and is important…just like you.





I Pray for Grace

13 10 2009

Do you know someone who thinks about God or religion or spirituality differently from you? How do you feel about that? Are you respectful toward their beliefs? Are they respectful toward yours?

Did you pray to Buddha? Someone asked me this today. I was sharing how I have been meditating and doing spiritual work to affirm and attract Praying - Purchased from iStockPhotoprosperity. I incorporate various precepts in my spiritual practice. I love the  Buddhist concepts of loving-kindness, that suffering ceases when we let go of our attachment to ideas, people, places, and things, and that we can increase our own peacefulness (thereby increasing the peacefulness in the world) by practicing mindfulness and allowing life to flow. For some reason, these precepts are threatening to my Christian friend and he often mocks me not so subtly as if to say “Do you think Buddha can hear you?”

Why do we do this? Isn’t there enough derision, separation, and I’m-better-than-you (and so is my religion) mentality in this world without mocking someone’s beliefs…and especially the beliefs of someone we’re close to? Each time I encounter this, I feel battered and feel a need to hunker down and redouble my meditation. I…and my brothers and sisters of the world…really need instead so much healing, understanding, acceptance, tolerance, love, kindness, and grace.

Here’s Michael Franti singing what I ask for right now. I pray for grace…for myself, for my friend, and for my brothers and sisters all over the world.

Thanks to Gerry Starnes for sending me the link to this wonderful video.





Through the Eyes of My Daughter’s Newborn Child

18 08 2009
Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Awe. Delight. Ecstasy. Contentment. Pride. Gratitude. Joy. These are feelings I have at becoming a grandmother for the very first time and seeing my daughter Valerie become a mother to Sebastian, who entered the world at 1:29 a.m. PDT today.

I remember how awestruck I was to hold Valerie (and my first-born, her sister Julie) in my arms after giving birth. You can see a thousand tomorrows in the eyes of a newborn, but they remind you with their urgent cries for food and love that this moment is all that matters. A new baby doesn’t understand the concept of “Wait until I finish watching this TV show” or “I’m not feeling well so maybe some other time.” A baby knows now…and now…and now and calls to us to be present so we won’t miss the precious moments that so quickly pass.

A new baby is open…to love, to encouragement, to learning, to being. As a parent, you have the privilege and responsibility to influence who this child becomes. A new baby is trusting…that you’ll take care of him, keep him safe, meet his needs, teach him, and nurture him. You have the opportunity with a new baby to share with him the good in your life and the hope to shield him from the challenging.

One has a sense of wonder looking into the heart and soul of a newborn baby, who has no sense of prejudice, hatred, resentment, or ego. That baby is pure and innocent…the embodiment of all that is good and true in the world.

Sebastian's First Photo

Sebastian's First Photo

One considers all the hopes and dreams you have for a child who extends your physical time on this earth by literally carrying part of you in him. You wonder if he’ll play football or oboe, be on the debate team or the chess team, be married and have children or have a gay partner. There are so many possibilities, so many doors that can open, so many forks in the road that can lead him down paths unimagined as you hold him in your arms.

You’ve yet to make the many inevitable mistakes you’ll make as a parent even as you give your very best to this child. You’ve yet to have a teenage child scream “I hate you!” or take the car without permission and wreck it or fall for someone who doesn’t love them back. You’ve yet to have your heart broken as they make mistakes that have difficult consequences and to feel your heart soar as they make choices that lead to unexpectedly good results. You’ve yet to have your child blame you for their lot in life, swallow your pride, and know in your heart you did the very best you could. And you’ve yet to have your child make countless homemade cards that say “You’re the best mom ever” and to ease your load when you’re tired by dressing as combination wait staff/cooks in your high heels and impossibly large (for them) clothes and welcome you to Mom’s Night Out Restaurant with a menu of everything they know how to cook.

At the very beginning there is love bigger than you ever imagined…and the desire to never let these moments and these feelings go.

Sebastian, welcome to the world. You have two loving, caring, accomplished, super intelligent, personable, independent, creative, kind, and grateful parents. May life always be as full of wonder, delight, and love for you as it is right now. Thanks for making me a grandma. I promise to be the very best grandma I can be and to be present to each of our precious moments together. This is going to be fun! I love you, Sebastian.

…Your Oma





Let It Go!

9 08 2009

Full MontyA couple of years ago I played the zany piano player (that’s me in the ridiculous blond wig) in the music theater production of The Full Monty. The plot…similar to that in the movie…is that a bunch of laid off, ragamuffin steel workers stage a production where they sing, dance, and strip to make money. They build confidence and decide to just go for it…to do the full monty. In the last number, they sing “Let it go, let it go, loosen up, yeah, let it go. Let it go, let it go, it’s all right.”

Tuesday, 7/21 was a pivotal day for me…I knew it was time to LET IT GO and change how I responded to an ongoing, difficult situation. I called Gerry…a very spiritual person who makes a living guiding people…and asked if I could see him that day. For 1.5 hours I told him my story…the one I’ve told so many times…the one that is WHO I AM. You know…we all have it…THAT story that we think defines us.

And yet it DOESN’T. Define us. UNLESS. WE. LET. IT. I’m just tired of letting it. I am tired of dragging around that story. It makes me feel low-energy, powerless, and helpless.

I decided that day to get rid of all the stuff I have been moving from place to place for years that tells the tale of that story. I looked up the definition on dictionary.com of what I wanted to do:

Purge: to rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; cleanse; purify

StuffSo for 2.5 weeks, all I did (well, almost anyway) was go through old stuff. I made a huge pile (the picture doesn’t do it justice) on a round stone table in my living room. The stuff consisted of journal pages of pain that I ripped out one by one (that felt good!), caretaker notes, work notes, cards (the ones I didn’t want to keep), many many notes about what I want to be when I grow up…wouldn’t that be NOW???…that were made during countless self-help seminars and readings of self-help books, image pages, and more.

In the process of going through years of papers, I also went through closets and drawers and took a backseat full of stuff to Goodwill.

I not only made this huge pile of papers to destroy, I also put the saved mementos in folders chronologically, going all the way back to when I was born. Now…if I get really ambitious…I can make scrapbooks!

It was hard to let go of all that stuff. I kept thinking “What if I want to refer back to this? What if I want to reread what I was thinking and what was happening on such and such day? What if I ever want to show a family member what I was going through to validate my reality?” But you know what? I decided I didn’t want to do any of that. Nada.

Thursday night I stayed up (with a lot of energy) until 5 a.m. in the morning destroying that mound of old papers, old pain, and old stories. That pile… an ever growing visualization of all the crap I’ve literally and figuratively been holding on to for years…is now gone. GONE. W-O-W.

So now that it’s all gone, I have space…space for new stories, new journal writings, new…well I don’t know what! But I do know that by being willing to let go of all that has burdened me for so long, I can…

Allow: to permit something to happen or exist

Who knows what new stories I will create, but I promise I’ll never let the pile…and the attachment to old stories that it represents…get that big again. From here on out, in each moment, I’ll remember the freedom those Full Monty guys felt and just  LET IT GO.





Childhood Summers in a Small East Tennessee Town

27 07 2009

Me and My Siblings in Summer 1962

Me (the oldest and holding a cat) and my siblings in summer 1962

Ah, the summers of childhood. Those were about eating watermelons picked fresh out of Grandmother’s garden and competitive seed spitting with the cousins and siblings. They were about long days at the enormous city pool where huge throngs of people would come and they even had a 3-tier dive platform the heights of the ones used in the Olympics.

They were about taking picnics there or to the Smoky Mountains where we would build dams with large stones across the ice cold creeks, go for small hikes, and skip rocks. They were about playing outside all day long with the neighborhood kids, building forts out of logs from the giant oak tree that was felled by lightning, organizing and holding a 4th of July parade with decorated bicycles and the younger children pulled in wagons, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream or downtown to the movies, and just generally having freedom to go most anywhere our two legs could carry us.

They were about church and music camps and Girl Scout activities and still practicing the piano. They were about creating plays complete with ukuleles and singing and performing them for our parents. They were about long bicycle rides and lots of Kool-Aid and iced tea and marching band practice and living with no air conditioning. Every other summer they were about summer vacations to my Great Auntie Ann’s rented boarding house in St. Petersburg and frolicking on the beach and sunburns.

Those summers of old were about freedom and fun and being a kid. Ah!

And then there were those summer visits to the farm and staying with my grandmother and granddaddy. I don’t remember how long we stayed each time…a week? two?…but it was long enough to get comfortable and start feeling like a farmhand. We’d awake to incredible aromas of a big country breakfast that my grandmother cooked every morning. What a treat that was!

I’ve never had a breakfast since that could compare. Fluffy homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage patties and bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, grits, homemade strawberry jam, some kind of fruit, fresh orange juice, and that grainy coffee substitute Postem.

When we were little, we could scoot off after breakfast to go explore. As we got older, we were expected to help wash dishes by hand and dry them. Then it was off to watch my uncle milk cows and even try our hand at it. Or we’d go up in the hayloft and find the eggs the hens had laid. Or go feed the pigs. Or run fast enough to jump over the fence when the big bull was chasing you. Or follow my grandmother out to the enormous, industrial-sized garden and pick home-grown tomatoes for lunch or a watermelon to share with the cousins later.

There was time to sit on the porch swing and look out at the gorgeous rolling hillside or time to walk up to my cousins’ house and follow them as they did their chores of feeding their latest 4H hopeful pig or calf. There was time to go down to the pond and go fishing or to climb in the trees and make what my grandmother called the “monkey tree” with all us young’uns hanging out of it.

There was time to play the heavy old beat-up piano with real ivory keys that was always out of tune. Or to watch my grandmother when she unpinned her perfectly brown hair that hung to her bottom when it was down and she brushed it. There was time to eat the sweet mulberries that fell from the trees or go running through the vineyards. There was always church on Sunday and potluck on Wednesday nights at the little Niles Ferry Baptist Church where my uncle and grandfather were deacons.

Those were times I always looked forward to…those times spent at my grandparents’ house in the country in Greenback, Tennessee and at my enormous two-story home with 12 foot ceilings…the outstanding home of 1910 in our area…in Maryville, Tennessee.





Stand By Me

30 04 2009

Who do you stand by? Today. Right now. A child? Spouse or significant other? Best friend?  Maybe yourself? Is that about it? Hmmm. Too busy, too frazzled, or just don’t give a damn to stand by anyone else? Do you even think about others outside your primary relationships? Of course you do…right?

You are like a cell in the total of the human(ity) body. For this every-human-on-the-planet body to be healthy and functioning, each cell needs to be healthy. Think those women being children and women being raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo don’t affect your life? You have a deadly cancer…good luck. Think Chinese women being forced to abort 9-month-old fetuses to comply with the one-child law doesn’t affect you? You lost your sight…how does that feel?

globe-in-hands-smallerEspecially in the U.S. we have had this notion that we are independent and not connected to the rest of the world…that global body. Look what happened with the economic crisis here…it brought down economies around the world. Our greed, self-centeredness, and narcissim infected others and caused the global body harm.

Now look at the power of what one person can do. President Obama has such a positive, calm, comforting, reassuring, thoughtful, and attentive demeanor and he is lifting us all up. Our global cells are starting to hum and vibrate with hope again.

We are all interconnected. It starts with one person…and then another…and then another…and then another… Who do you stand by? Who do you stand with? Who do you connect with? The answer to that last question? EVERYONE.

 We all need each other. Stand by me. I stand by you.

 From the award-winning documentary “Playing for Change: Peace Through Music”…enjoy!





Tomb Time

12 04 2009

Christian or not, the resurrection story is metaphorical and instructional. Years ago I heard a progressive minister give a talk on “tomb time.” It really stuck with me. She talked of the darkness and uncertainty of the time when Jesus was in the tomb and presumed dead after he had been taken down off the cross.

We’ve all had tomb time. We’ve been through a trauma or a lifetime of trauma. We feel depressed and discouraged and down-and-out. It seems like nothing is happening. We can’t see the light. We see no way out. We think we are doomed. We feel alone.tomb4 We feel persecuted and cut off from others.

We feel misunderstood. We have no answers. We are in darkness. It is uncomfortable. We hate it. We want out.

Instead of struggling to roll away the heavy stone and screaming for help, we can benefit by sitting with ourselves and being in tomb time. Be still. Be quiet. Be open. Be humble. Be present. Listen. Accept.

Time passes. Quiet and acceptance of things as they are lead to a more peaceful mind. The stone rolls away and the light shines in. We were not doomed, we were not done, we were not dead. We are born anew. We arise from the darkness, a resurrected being.

We see with clarity and with fresh eyes. We appreciate the beauty of life…a beauty that we could not see when we were in the darkness.

If you are in tomb time, realize that it won’t last forever. Cherish the gifts of tomb time. Know that you can come out of it and with a renewed clarity and vision. Every moment is an opportunity to allow the stone to roll away, step forward into the light, and live a new life.





Opportunity in the Economic Crisis

11 03 2009
Credit: Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Credit: Ishara de Garis

If you’re like me, this economic crisis is playing havoc with your confidence and has you wondering if you are on the right path in life. The good news? We have the opportunity in every moment to rebirth ourselves…to start anew and become new. I’m awake late on my birthday (the 10th) and reflecting. What do I need to give birth to?

I feel I have been carrying for a very long time a new life that is ready to push through into existence and yet it hesitates, stays put, and grows ever larger within me in the form of discontent, frustration, a gnawing, and at times a sense of futility.

I’m reminded of the quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

Indeed. The world needs all of our talents, our love, our kindness, our peacefulness, our being positive, our giving, and our caring toward others. We are in crisis all over the world and if you think about it, it is wonderful.

Wonderful? Yes. We are being called to stop being greedy, to be humble, to be grateful for what we have, to let go of the fear that is gripping the financial markets and employers, to care for our fellow man, and to realize that everything we do has a ripple effect all over the world…we are all interconnected.

 So here we are in this wonderful chaos…the Chinese symbol for chaos means danger and opportunity. Do we as a country and we as individuals sit frozen in fear of pending danger and gloom or do we seize this incredible moment as opportunity? How do we let go of the fear? How do we move into opportunity?

We do it by refusing to accept that things are “bad” and hopeless. All of the negative talking heads such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter want our country to fail and they spew vitriol and hatred. We cannot afford to listen to these people. They are poisoning our airwaves and the very air we breathe. We must rise up and give birth to a new vision for ourselves, our country, and our world. Even if things look hopeless, we must see with fresh eyes.

Really wake up. Look at the beauty around you. Look into the eyes of your child and see the wonder there. Consider all the people throughout the world…including the ever increasing numbers in the U.S. who are refugees, homeless, have nothing, and live in constant danger and fear. These are our brothers and sisters and they need us to be “…powerful beyond measure.” See what is, but see it through the eyes of a beautiful being that is being rebirthed and awakened to a new way of living and being in the world.

Will you join me in releasing all that is holding ourselves back and in embracing and welcoming into the world our rebirthed selves and nation?

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to you. May we remember that every moment is an opportunity to celebrate our birth anew.





Say What You Need to Say

9 02 2009

John Mayer’s “Say” won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards tonight. The song is featured in the movie “The Bucket List,” and in it he sings “Say what you need to say…even if your hands are shakin’ and your faith is broken, even as the eyes are closin’, do it with a heart wide open…say what you need to say.”

Is there something you need to say to someone? Join the wave of courage, authenticity and integrity, which begins now with the inauguration of President Obama, the end of the George Bush monarchy, and the exposure of Wall Street fat cats and others who have built a house of cards at our expense.

Authenticity is about saying what you need to say even when it is hard to do. It is about President Obama telling us that the road to healing our nation is going to be rocky and we will all have to make sacrifices. It is about speaking out about torture and child abuse even when people don’t want to think those things exist in the world and don’t want to hear about them. It is about telling a troubled family member their actions are hurtful and yet you are there to help.

I think a lot about women and children all over the world who live in fear, who are physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, who are refugees, who are treated as property and/or slaves, who are forced into marriages with men they don’t love, who are hungry, who have no money or means to support themselves, who have AIDS, and who have no hope for a better future.

Living in such conditions and just trying to survive, do they even think about life being precious, being understood, feeling a connection with others, being comforted, and treating others with integrity and love? How do we help people who have been so afflicted to rise above the trauma of the affliction and begin to trust, love, and connect with others?

The thing is that we don’t have to go to Darfur or the Congo or Somalia or any number of other places to find women and children who are suffering. Look around. Perhaps you have or know a child who is suffering, or a cousin, a friend, a parent, an acquaintance. Maybe you don’t know they are suffering, but you sense that something is wrong. These could be women or children who live with the shame of having been sexually abused, who live in poverty, who live in physically violent homes, or who are so desperate that they are considering committing suicide.

What do you need to say? Are you holding something back?  Reach out to that person. Be courageous. Step up. Perhaps what you have to say could make a difference in someone else’s life and could even save their life. Say what you need to say.

Here’s John Mayer singing the song as featured in “The Bucket List.”





Alone…with 6.7 Billion Other People

2 12 2008

Alone, but feeling my 6.7 billion brothers and sisters. Colored Christmas tree lights in a dark room. Listening to my breathing and patter on the laptop keys. Warm. Safe. Fed. Thinking about refugees and those fleeing or in constant danger in the Congo, Darfur, and so many other places. Thinking about all those who are tortured all over the world and how my country’s leaders have authorized so much torture. Thinking about the failing economy and how it personally affects me and millions of people all over the world. Thinking about all the women and children who are abused and violated and live in fear.

Alone. Thinking about the millions of other people sitting in their homes alone. Knowing that none of us are really alone. That instead of a-lone, we are really al(l)-one: all one. Each of us is important on this planet at this time. Each of us has a place. We are all connected to each other.

I’m feeling the pain of my brothers and sisters…in Mumbai and in the Congo of the late 19th and early 20th century where railroads were built and rubber was harvested through the slave labor, torture, and murder of native Africans. I am stunned at the inhumanity, the greed, and the self-aggrandizement of people like Leopold II of Belgium who did those unspeakable things in the Congo to build an empire… and Idi Amin, human traffickers, child molesters, and many others. So many innocent people have paid a price for their egomaniacal self-centeredness.

Wondering what my place is in the world is. I, with the sensitive nature who feels the pain of individuals and groups in this world. I, who is reading and learning the history and presence of so much violence and degradation in this world. I, who cares deeply for others and their plight. I, who feels a divine connection. I, who is…

Alone in the dark with the Christmas tree lights. Reflecting. Wondering. Aware. Open. All one with so many others.