Monthly Archives: February 2017

Happy Birthday to ME!

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn't take photos when I was up.

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn’t take photos when I was up.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate.  This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got.   I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I feel good.  There have been many years where I haven’t.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Five years ago I couldn’t move.  25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy.  Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.

I still have family.  I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house.  My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us.  At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share.  Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way.  Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

My kids seem to like spending time with me.  I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday.  We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier).  Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday.  Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends.  All worth celebrating.

My friends are finding time to “catch-up”  I’ve had three brunches this month.  I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum.  I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone.  Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly.  I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake.  It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me.  It’s great to touch base and reconnect.  I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not.  Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club.  It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast.  I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.

It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful.  I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with.  I have generous friends and family.  I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers.   Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash.  I am truly blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn't have to make it so no complaints.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn’t have to make it so no complaints.

 

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My People

My people PRIDE

My people PRIDE

There is a lot of research being done about the “information bubble” or more specifically “filter bubbles”.  The idea is that our view of the world is being filtered so that the only information we receive (from social media) is information that will not challenge our existing world view.   It certainly does happen, and it can be an issue  especially for those people who tend towards highly biased, badly vetted, and heavily self- referential information sources.

Many of us are aware these sources exist.  Many of us are not aware of how many of them we follow.  Because we agree with them they seem reasonable.  There bad sources coming from ALL points of view.  Liberal, conservative, religious, fiscal, civil rights, you name a point of view and there is someone on the internet writing (loudly) with no basis in actual facts.

My people - Orion's Transition graduation

My people – Orion’s Transition graduation

On the other hand there is the world we walk in.  This is the world where we are not umbilically attached to our electronic media.  It is a place where people talk to strangers.  The “real world” is where we have to get along with our co-workers.  We can’t be anonymous in this place when we shut up, stand up and sometimes get blindsided in our interactions with actual human beings.

I talk to strangers.  I chat in line at the grocery store.  I comment on reading material in the waiting room.  I drive for those ap based services and sometimes the passengers are up for conversation.  I also listen to stories from those strangers and from my friends about their experiences.   Sometimes they’re not friendly.

My people - Parliament of World Religions SLC

My people – Parliament of World Religions SLC

So what do we do when we are trapped in a conversation (on an airplane, in a doctors office) and suddenly it takes a turn.  The pleasant person we are talking to starts: quoting “fake news”, promoting a religious viewpoint we can’t support, making racist or sexist assumptions, belittling “my people”?  What do we do when the person who was a work friend is suddenly assuming we agree with them about a political viewpoint we find abhorrent?  What do we do when the customer we are serving starts spouting hate speech?

Those situations shake us up.  They make us question both our positions and our responses.  They can be threatening when they are clearly directed at us.  They can be threatening AND unnerving when we find ourselves “passing” instead of being representative of our group.  These kinds of occurrences seem to be happening more frequently, and more aggressively.  I think part of that is the “filter bubble”.  Strong language against another group can be “acceptable” within the filter, and so it is unquestioned in the world.

My people - who I call family

My people – who I call family

But when that world comes at us with active hatred we need to find some time with “our people”.  We need that sanctuary to regroup and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in the world.   Unfortunately I’m finding even in the most broad thinking sanctuaries there is little or no compassion for differing viewpoints, and so the aggressiveness becomes justified and reinforced.

Yes, bad behavior should be called out.  Yes, we have a right (and often a responsibility) to defend a point of view.  We need to remember that someone questioning a position is not the same as someone invalidating our existence.

Bad behavior does not always imply a bad intention.  Ignorance (even willful ignorance – which is where my tolerance explodes) is not improved by being demeaning.  Someone asking me for my sources is not a  “threat”.  It’s certainly not a threat equivalent to saying “my people” should be:  locked up, thrown out, burned at the stake, not allowed to participate, or somehow “put away”.   Defensiveness is not the same as defending a point.

We have the opportunity to practice these skills with “our people”.  Let’s do that, instead of just closing those doors and creating another version of “us” and “them”.

 

 

Refuge

Driving a loaner up to the North Woods

Driving a loaner up to the North Woods

Been gone for awhile.  I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble.   But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective.   All of this has had me thinking about refuge.

It’s a simple word, a simple concept.  It’s about being safe and protected.  That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble.  Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in.   I didn’t get the repairs paid for.  I didn’t have internet access.  But I did have refuge.  I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed.  I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.

Most of us think of our homes as a refuge.  I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not.    But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door.   There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.

Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge.  I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces.  Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down.  I’m struggling to make a “home”.   I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized.  I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.

I'm not the only one who thinks my parents home is a refuge

I’m not the only one who thinks my parents home is a refuge

At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night.  I sleep soundly.  I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats.  I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you.  There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games.  I’m not starving for anything.

When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge.  A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace.   Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem.  It just allows a little break.  Why is that so hard?

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