Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Defund the Police

Do you remember when the very first iPad came out?

People were apoplectic over the name that Apple had chosen for its highly anticipated new tablet. It was ridiculous! Downright embarrassing! It sounded like some sort of high-tech feminine hygiene product. Imagine the time and effort, not to mention marketing dollars, that went into this "disastrous" decision. There were tweets and blog posts and cartoons devoted to it.

And then the product came out, and people flocked to buy it and quickly adjusted to the name.

And that was that.

Of course, iPads aren't a matter of life and death. Let's consider a different example--something more complex and consequential like healthcare reform.

It's been talked about in different ways in this country for decades, using a variety of monikers: Universal Healthcare, Single-Payer, ACA, Obamacare, Romneycare...

When President Obama was elected, he tried unsuccessfully to pass even more comprehensive reform than the ACA that he eventually signed into law. One of the challenges was how best to talk about such a complex plan in a way that would be widely understood. Of course, opponents were also hard at work coming up with ways to make reform sound scary and even dangerous, hence the introduction of the dreaded "Death Panels."

After the fact, conventional wisdom settled on the idea of calling a proposed single-payer system, "Medicare for All" as a sort of shorthand, even though the proposal was not literally Medicare for everyone. Adjustments would be made to improve it and to make it work on a wider scale, but it would work a lot like Medicare for consumers. So it would surely be much less confusing to understand and talk about!

"Why didn't President Obama just call it Medicare for All?" the pundits queried from the Hindsight Department. So in 2016, pretty much everyone did. And it still scared people. There was all manner of confusion about how on earth the whole country could possibly just go on Medicare, especially if supplemental policies were abolished.

Maybe we should have called it something else? How could we have explained it better?

Photo by Koshu Kunii

Fast forward to May and June of 2020 and an arguably even more dire topic after video of the hideous killing of a handcuffed George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was caught on video and circulated on social media.

More people are finally catching on that #BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag to debate and even taking the risk of protesting police brutality on the streets during a global pandemic.

So what's the latest controversial phrase on everyone's lips? Defund the Police. 

Does it perfectly encapsulate all we need to do to replace a system so broken that minor reforms around the edges aren't nearly enough? No.

Does it get folks' attention? Yes.

Does it beg for further exploration and conversation? Definitely.

Will opponents spin it to sound like public safety is being abandoned? Of course.

Is it the same phrase we'll all be using 4 months from now? I don't know.

The conversation will continue to evolve, and you can bet the marketing teams of both major parties are already looking at poling and focus groups on the topic as the election draws nigh and considering alternatives. It's just what they do.

Here's what we can do in the meantime:

For now, let's try not to worry about the terminology. Learn what it MEANS. Learn what needs to be DONE. And help others to better understand what has to happen and why. Work for REAL CHANGE in local communities.

Frankly, this isn't a great time for white folks to tell black folks whose very lives are at stake exactly how they should talk about changing that fact. (It's really never a good time for that, by the way.)

Tragically, we have a dangerous president who is horrible at virtually every skill needed to preside over a country and utterly devoid of any quality one might hope for in a world leader. But he's brilliant at deflection, misinformation, and stoking fear and resentment, particularly among his base.

We MUST train ourselves to stay on task. This is especially difficult when the work is hard and distractions are everywhere. It's far easier to argue about semantics.

Please understand that I'm NOT suggesting words or messaging don't matter. They do. That will all get sorted out. But whether you like the slogans or the headlines or the tactics being used or not, let's try to focus on our work and the values they are based on. There's just too much at stake not to.



Sunday, June 7, 2020

Confession and Apology

At the risk of stating the obvious and in the spirit of confession, I'm just going to say this: The past 4 years or a little more have been really eye opening for me—and NOT in a good way.

It’s not that I'm surprised that Trump is a horrible President. That was crystal clear from the start (although he’s even worse in some ways than I ever imagined). And it’s not that I was SO naive that I thought there was no evil in the world or that cruelty and racism were relics of the past. I absolutely knew better than that. I was under no illusions that the world was all unicorns and rainbows. I knew there was systemic work to be done, and I tried to pay attention and keep learning and working in my own modest ways, to try to leave the world a little better than I found it. I've also tried to give others the benefit of the doubt at times, because we are all human and make mistakes...

But O.M.G.

I guess the simplest way to say it is that I knew some things were bad, but I had no clue just HOW bad until this country put Donald J. Trump in the White House. Of course, most People of Color knew all along, because they had no choice. It’s in their faces on a daily basis. But until fairly recently I still had the luxury of wishful thinking.

Well, here we are, 3 1/2 years into the presidency of a vile, utterly unqualified, narcissistic con man, and the list of growing cruelties and injustices being perpetuated in our country is too long to even keep track of, from the children in cages at our border and school shootings to the incompetent handling of the pandemic to widespread police brutality, mass incarceration, and corruption—even at the highest levels of our government.

And the thing that REALLY gets me is how many people in this country are just fine with that. In fact, they are PROUD of it.

It keeps me up at night. I will NEVER understand how—EVEN NOW— nearly half of this country justifies and even aligns itself with these atrocities.

Don’t bother to suggest to me that all this country really needs is Jesus, because it just so happens that most Trump supporters already think they've got a corner on that market, and it hasn’t helped.

I wish I had a great finish for this little rant—some magical solution or divine inspiration. But I don’t. All I can offer is a meager apology to my Black and Brown friends and neighbors for not realizing sooner what deep trouble we are in and a solemn promise to join forces with those who are determined to stop the insanity and make an effort to behave like decent human beings.

As Maya Angelou taught us, now that we know better, we need to DO better.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Favorite Things

I've recently re-established my gratitude practice. It's nothing fancy. I simply write down at least five things I'm grateful for each day. Over time, I almost always find this practice more influential than I anticipate. I love that it encourages me to watch for goodness throughout the day, even when things aren't going particularly well and my impulse is to do the opposite. Beautiful sunsets, the scent of freshly cut grass, and the taste of a juicy summer peach were on my list this morning. (So was cheesecake, but that's admittedly less poetic.)

As a child who had trouble sleeping without a nightlight, I was captivated by songs from musicals which eased my anxiety by focusing on pleasant thoughts or actions, like "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music and "Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I. My nighttime worries have evolved over the years, but I still deal with insomnia when I have a lot on my mind. I don't think our nervous systems were designed to take in the enormity of the world's problems in the way our 24/7 news cycles constantly serve them up today.

Of course, I don't want to deny reality and pretend that serious problems do not exist, but neither do I want to become so overwhelmed by chaos that I can't function effectively or appreciate life. My grandmother would have called it counting your blessings. It's important not to lose sight of the beauty and kindness that already exists in the world, even as we try to create more. Sharing little discoveries with others is also meaningful, whether we are on the giving or receiving end. A good book or movie, a helpful hint, a great recipe--the smallest shared discovery can shift energy in a positive direction.

I plan to include a few cherished finds here from time to time, and I invite you to share some of your own discoveries in the comments, as well. I'll probably also share these posts on Facebook.

This week, a couple of phone apps that I've found helpful:

The Insight Timer app (insighttimer.com) is a free phone app--there is also a premium version--that started as a simple timer to use when meditating and has grown into a far more comprehensive resource, with lots of guided meditations and a worldwide community which you can choose to interact with or not. It also tracks your stats, like how often you have meditated, exercised, done yoga, etc. and for how long. It includes a journal function, which is where I've been recording my five gratitudes each day. I have used the free version for years.

The Cozi app (cozi.com) is advertised as a simple Family Organizer, but I think it could be useful for any small group of two or more people who need to coordinate schedules, activities, and other information. The free version has ads and doesn't include some of the features I like, such as the shared contacts list, so my husband and I recently upgraded, which requires an annual fee. Cozi was a godsend several years ago when my brother and I were sharing caregiving responsibilities during our parents' final years. Their doctors and treatments were in different hospitals, and there was so much to keep track of. We used the contacts list for doctors and such and took notes during appointments in the shared journal. We kept track of groceries and other supplies that our parents needed in the Cozi lists, where we could also keep separate personal lists for our own families.

After our parents' passing, I no longer used the app as much, so my husband and I stuck with the free version for a while, but when Bill started traveling more for work we decided to upgrade again. My work schedule varies from week to week, so Cozi is really helpful for both of us, especially since Bill and I are often in different states and no longer have in-person time together on a daily basis.

I think both of the above apps have Facebook pages, and probably Facebook user groups, as well. On Twitter, look for @InsightTimer and @CoziFamily.

So that's a start. I'll share a couple more finds next week, in a category other than apps.

How about you? Is there a discovery--large or small, old or new--that you'd like to share?  Maybe you have a favorite recipe or a household hint you'd be willing to pass along. You may have come across a great new podcast or YouTube channel.  Or perhaps something else entirely comes to mind. Please share a discovery or favorite thing (or two or three) in the comments and pass along this post to anyone who might like to participate. I'd love to hear from you!

 
 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tortoise Practice

It seems I'm forever thinking of ideas that I don’t follow through on. That may not be entirely bad, as not all ideas warrant action. Still, I'd like to improve my idea selection process and do a better job of acting on my conscious choices.

I didn’t love the template I proposed for this blog in my last post. It didn’t feel comfortable for this space. I do like the idea of blogging, so I periodically decide to re-launch this one with high hopes, then fail to achieve lift-off.

Today, I'm humbly easing back in, with the image of a tortoise in my mind. Each January, I like to select a word to use as a theme for that year, and the year that I chose “Tortoise” was one of my most satisfying. I stuck with the theme all year. In fact, I would say the positive effects lingered well beyond that 12 months. It's a concept I continue to use to this day.

My ingrained tendency is to be more of a hare, operating in spasmodic bursts of energy, often immediately followed by exhaustion and/or overwhelm. Realistically, I may always be more hare than tortoise, but I have certainly found value in trying to balance those two qualities by encouraging my inner tortoise to make her way forward.

My hare sprints signal an unfortunate perfectionism/procrastination cycle which does not serve me or anyone else. It's all or nothing. When I'm in hare mode, if I'm not sure I can do something as well as I hope to, I don’t want to do it at all, so I put things off until there's not nearly enough time left to do it well. I guess it gives me an excuse. It also gives me insomnia—which is equally destructive to my creativity and productivity.

It's an unhealthy cycle that I'd like to break.

So...

This time, I'm NOT announcing that I'll be blogging every Monday or committing to a particular format. I’m going to let those details emerge (or not) over time. What I will do is simply state my intention to chip away at this whole perfectionism/procrastination thing, tortoise-style and imperfectly. Blogging may become a part of that process.

I’m gonna try some stuff. 
I’m gonna let go of some stuff.
I’m undoubtedly gonna forget some stuff. 
I’m gonna keep moving, no matter how slowly.
And I’m going to release the idea that everything has to be carefully polished before it can see the light of day.

I plan to nourish and encourage my inner tortoise and see what happens.

As a matter of fact, I've already taken a few recent tortoise steps: I joined Weight Watchers Online six weeks ago, and I've lost about 10 pounds, as a result. That qualifies as meaningful tortoise progress, in my book.

My mom was very much a Tortoise—in the best possible way. Tenacious and low-key, she got things done. She didn’t get hung up on being sure everything was perfect, and she rarely seemed overwhelmed by the size of the mountain in front of her or even what she did or didn’t know about climbing it. She just took a deep breath and started to climb. She accomplished so many amazing things as a result.

My tortoise mom is at the very top of my list of heroes. I miss her so much. I hope she knows how much I will always love and be inspired by her. I pray that her spirit is with me as I set out on the tortoise journey before me. 

Slowly, but surely. 🐢

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hello Again



Life happens.

I haven’t blogged in a very long time, but I’m thinking of taking it up again.

My current plan (subject to revision, of course) involves a
weekly check in post here, that includes 4 brief parts:

YES!
What’s working, things I'm saying “yes” to this week.

NO.
What's not working at the moment, boundaries I've decided to set.

MAYBE?
What's under serious consideration but not (yet?) ready for either previous list.

ALSO…
Things which are on my mind but may be a bit too random to fit neatly into the YES/NO/MAYBE framework. In particular, I'll probably share things I’m learning—ah ha moments or reminders. I suspect a few of these could develop into separate blog posts to occasionally share on another day of the week.

I’m thinking Mondays for the weekly check in post.

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Taking My Own Advice

I don't always say them out loud, but I have thoughts. Thoughts about what other people should do. I'm not proud of this fact, but it's true. 

"Why didn't that car turn left when it had that big opening?"

"If you had worn something with a bit more fabric in it, you wouldn't be shivering right now."

"That person should get a ticket for parking like that!"

Okay, these are not just thoughts. These are judgments. I've been working on being less judgmental, and I think I've made at least a little improvement over the years, but there it is. Judgmental thoughts continue to pop into my mind.

Sometimes--often, in fact--these judgments are about me, in which case they can usually be filed under WHAT WAS I THINKING? (That folder is so overstuffed that I can hardly get it back in the file drawer.)

I was probably thinking about what someone else should be doing.

Photo: HGTV
My husband gets up very early for work: often around 4:30am. I am NOT a morning person. If I'm up at 4:30, it's because I'm STILL up. So my sweet, considerate husband uses the little downstairs bathroom to get ready rather than the master bathroom, so as not to disturb me.

I rarely set foot in that bathroom, but last night I dropped off some bathroom tissue.

Let's just say that Bill's bathroom did not look like the pages of Homes Beautiful. (Neither do the other rooms in our house, but I'm personally responsible for some of those messes, which makes them entirely different.)

I had this thought: If Bill would just take an extra 10 minutes every so often to tend to this bathroom, it wouldn't look like this.

Later, I was brushing my teeth upstairs in "my" bathroom--the larger, nicer bathroom with better light and more counter space, which Bill has graciously given over to me, for the most part.

It's fair to say my bathroom did not belong in Homes Beautiful either.

Here's a fun fact about my bathroom: There is a small bag of drawer pulls sitting in a corner on the floor that has been there for at least two years. 

TWO. YEARS.

I bought them probably 10 years ago to replace the existing pulls on those drawers and cabinets. A grand total of five to replace, if I'm not mistaken. They sat in my closet until a couple of years ago, when I decided to put them someplace more obvious, so I would see and change them.

Even if I had trouble finding the right size screwdriver and insisted on carefully cleaning each cabinet door before replacing the hardware, that's maybe a 30 minute project that I've been procrastinating about since roughly 2005.

And...

Truth be told, that little bag sitting in the corner is not the only thing standing between my bathroom and the pages of Homes Beautiful.

If I would just take an extra 10 minutes every so often to tend to this bathroom, it wouldn't look like this.

The same thing could be said for my office.

If only I would follow my own advice

If only I would focus on doing what I can, rather than on what I think others should do.


What piece of your own advice would improve your life, if you actually followed it?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Soundtracks of Our Lives


I awoke this morning to the sound of Elaine Stritch belting out, "Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” from the Broadway show, Company. She wasn’t in my bedroom, of course. Nor was her voice coming from the radio or iPod. The sound was playing quite clearly in my head. I have no idea why.

 

This sort of occurrence is not unusual for me, especially when I'm not waking to an alarm. Sometimes, like this morning, a specific performance comes to mind. Other times it’s a particular piece of music, but not a specified rendition. Not all selections are high-minded. For example, the Purina Cat Chow jingle from their 70s television commercials makes periodic appearances. 

Music has accompanied me through life as far back as I can remember. If I pause during the day to consider what’s playing in my head, it might be anything from a magnificent symphony to whatever Muzak was playing on my last trip to the supermarket.

I was relieved to learn the term “earworm" a while back, not because I like it (I don’t) but because if society had come up with a label for this phenomenon, it meant I wasn’t the only one experiencing it. I wonder sometimes if pervasive involuntary musical imagery like mine is a musician thing or perhaps a indication of an auditory learner. Do visual artists awaken with particular colors or paintings in their awareness? 

I miss the days when I could call my dad with some obscure piece of chamber music in my ear that I couldn’t place. I could sing a theme fragment to him over the phone for instant identification. (Occasionally, he would go on to gently point out that I was singing it in the wrong key.) 

My mom once revealed to me that dad’s entrance exam to the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his Master’s Degree, included a listening portion in which excerpts were played of pieces that were not widely known. Candidates were not expected to name the pieces, but were asked to place each example in the correct musical period (baroque, classic, romantic, etc.) and suggest a possible composer of the work, based on its musical characteristics. My father, legend has it, identified each piece correctly, down to the Opus number. I can scarcely fathom the elaborate concerts which must have played in his mind on a daily basis.

My own internal performances tend to be less noteworthy. It’s as though someone installed a personal version of Pandora software in my brain. I don’t consciously control the selections or sequence, but they are clearly influenced by my history, and a “thumbs down” from me does not guarantee that we will immediately move on to something I like better. Often, ads or other interruptions are jarringly louder than my music.
 
I have been known to whine about not being able to turn off this music, especially when the soundtrack is cloying or just plain annoying, but there are far worse things to have on a loop in your mind. Imagine the terrifying internal sounds that might awaken a war veteran with PTSD or a young person whose PTSD is from the war within her own home.

Of course, not everything floating around in my mind is music. I re-live arguments, complete with some of the things I wish I had said in place of what I actually said. I also rehearse future conversations, including many that never play out in person. I ponder questions and worry about the state of our world, fully aware that worrying doesn’t help.

I wonder if there are ways to consciously influence our personal soundtracks? (Who knows, that may be the basis of my own Master’s thesis one day.) I have found that a regular meditation practice seems to lower the volume and level of chaos in my mind to something I can more easily deal with and helps me focus.

I’d love to hear from others about your personal soundtracks. Do inventors or entrepreneurs have so many new ideas flying through their heads that there is little room for music? I know that some composers hear their own music before they write it down. Do architects and designers “see” things in their minds much of the time?

Do the voices of parents, ancestors, or other authorities ever offer you internal guidance or instruction? (If so, do you find this helpful or troublesome?) Do you ever hear your own voice - speaking, singing, laughing, crying? Do you hear new songs? ...or old refrains?  I invite you to share something of your personal soundtrack in the comments.