Category Archives: kindness
Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free. That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems. It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.
Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations. Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations. The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years. There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.
Last week was our big annual fundraiser. The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area. Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support. We continue to imagine and to grow. That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money. I put in some extra hours last week to help out.
The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer. They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs. They were one of the first groups that offered free testing. They also provide education and support to their members.
I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have. One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life. Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project. It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.
In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life. (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.) We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant). We just got lucky.
We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided. We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants. It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.
Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation. We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed. We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.
How do you support your community?
Have you missed me? I’ve noticed that when I’m dealing with big events in my life I stop writing. My journals all have gapping holes during the times when I would be most interested in going back and reading about what I was thinking in the moment. I’ve blank spaces from when Orion was a baby, and each of his hospitalizations. I have holes in the record immediately after recording that I had cancer. I stopped journaling when the cupboards came off the walls.
My parents are aging and it’s hard. It’s hard on them and it’s hard on us. I’ve missed the last two blogs. The first I skipped because my folks don’t have internet, the second because I’d just gotten home. I have been slammed with emotional content and I shut down.
When I was a kid I was “sensitive”. I cried in empathy, wore my emotions on my shirtsleeve and was generally harassed about it. I made an active decision to stop.
The first trick was pretty easy, typical in my family. That is to put emotion aside while you deal with a crisis. The idea is to stay clear headed and available, and not add to the chaos while it is occurring. The aftermath, when everything is safe, comes like a tidal wave and can be very confusing as it appears to have no source.
Having that kind of emotional catharsis in public is a great opportunity for gaslighting. There IS nothing to be so upset about (anymore). It IS overreacting (because it’s all the reaction at once). Even the part about “just looking for attention” isn’t entirely false. If I’ve just spent hours offering sympathy and emotional support to others, yes I may be looking for a little sympathy and emotional support for myself.
So I learned to allow myself to be distracted. Eventually I learned never to “get around” to dealing with my emotional content. There are lots of distractions! I’ve been trying to unlearn that.
I’ve found that I’m a better writer when I can be open to emotion. I’ve found that there is strength in vulnerability. I’ve found that it’s really hard to make myself do the work and that I need to create a time and space for it. I still can’t do it in public, at least not until I have a good handle on it myself. The support would be nice, but the gaslighting I can’t deal with.
So I shut down, a little. I look for distractions (I don’t have to look hard). I pick and choose my confidants. I try to carve out some space. Please be patient with me.
I’ve spent the past two weeks babysitting my grandpuppy Minnie. She’s actually 4 years old now and much easier to have around. I was sick one of those weeks and she was warm and comforting. She’s not nearly as hyper or demanding, although she still knows Grandma is a sucker when it comes to treats.
Minnie has been through a lot this past year. My daughter has moved many times, and I had Minnie because she was moving again. All the stress and upheaval has taken a toll on the dog. She’s a lot more volatile, less trusting, quicker to say “enough”. That’s problematic.
Of course to my daughter Minnie is perfect. There is discipline, but not a lot of acknowledgement of an underlying problem. Mostly, I suspect, that’s because my daughter also feels like there’s nothing she can do about it. So I take the dog, and establish a routine. It’s easier for me. I’m home a lot more than my daughter is and just that is a reassurance.
Minnie and Orion have a love/hate relationship. Minnie is scared to death of the wheelchair and looses her mind any time Orion moves. On the other hand he often drops food while he’s eating. Orion adores Minnie, except he doesn’t actually want to touch her and hates all the noise. That’s a dynamic that scares me so I keep an eagle eye on the two of them anytime they interact. I also do a lot to make sure there isn’t much interaction, like putting Minnie outside while Orion comes to the table. It won’t solve anything, but Minnie isn’t my dog.
Karina has a few days off so she’s taken Minnie back. It’s nice to have quiet. No one barks every time a neighbor walks by or comes out of their house next door. It’s easier to have a morning where I’m not running back and forth letting Minnie in and out while Orion gets dressed and ready for his day. It’s nice to jump into the car for a quick trip to the library before the blizzard snow starts to accumulate without having to worry about getting Minnie settled or arguing about who might want to come with.
They say the best part about having grandchildren is that you get to give them back. This is true. Still, I find I’m Missing Miss Minnie. I catch myself looking for her, or thinking about her next treat. It’s definitely easier and quieter having her gone. It’s also just a little more lonely.
Facebook has exploded with photos, meme’s, commentary, and disgust at what happened this weekend in Charlottesville. I’ve got friends, People of Color, who are triggered. I would be too. Free speech is one thing, but Hate Speech is not protected under the 1st amendment and this entire rally was about Hate specifically directed at People of Color. They should never have gotten a permit under that premise. Even allowing the ACLU supporting their right to march, they should have been shut down as soon as they showed up with torches and weapons.
The meme’s that truly twist my gut are the one’s that compare the police responses. Charlottesville vs Ferguson (actually, according to some eye-witness responses I’ve read the most aggressive police actions in Charlottesville were against the unarmed counter-protestors.) Charlottesville vs Standing Rock (When the Nazi’s showed up armed where were the high pressure water hoses (in freezing temperatures) and the rubber bullets?). Most terrorist acts in this country have been committed by alt-right, white, males. Why aren’t we more afraid?
Well, some of us are. The problem is that most of the “authority” in this country is also white and male. I guess it’s harder to be afraid of someone who looks like you. People of Color know. None of them are surprised by the way things went down in Charlottesville. Women know too, but we’ve been taught to stay silent, to accept that ‘boys will be boys’.
Being Politically Correct takes a bad rap. But let’s talk about being socially correct. Let’s talk about being kind, civil, caring, thoughtful and considerate. Can we say, “That is NOT acceptable behavior.” when someone is actively trying to hurt someone else? Can we say, “That is a hurtful statement.” when someone says something that may not be intentional but is still not appropriate? Can we say, “Your feelings do not entitle you to hurt someone else.” when someone uses Free Speech as an excuse for Hate?
How often in my life have I remained silent when someone has spouted aggressive, hateful language? How often have I neglected to come to the defense of people I love, who society has marginalized? I have heard comments about People of Color, Gay people, Trans people, Disabled people, People of Faith and I have not always spoken up.
Small excuses lead to big actions. When someone is not called out, it gives them permission to continue. When no line is drawn there is implicit permission to escalate. What happened in Charlottesville is not acceptable behavior. Anyone who can’t see that needs to take a good look at why they support rude, hateful, hurtful, and inconsiderate behavior and recognize that it is supporting that kind of behavior that is truly evil.
My schedule has changed considerably in the past few weeks. My son’s step-mother and I have come to an agreement that scheduling would work better for everyone if the two of us confab and just let the ex know what we’ve arranged. That said, she even offered to return to the original agreement ex and I had when we first split up!
This is huge for everyone. It means Orion will be spending quite a bit more time with his father. It means that it will be easier on both sides to plan weekend events. It also means I may actually have an opportunity for a life outside of being “Mom”.
Orion and I spent the week of 4th of July with my parents. It’s clear they need a little help as they age and I’ve been trying to visit more frequently and for longer periods of time. I missed the trip I’d planned for Memorial Day weekend as I was in bed on heavy duty pain killers. Walking in at my folks I admit to feeling a little guilty for not making it up.
I know what it’s like to not be able to keep up with the day-to-day of living.
My own house is suffering from years of neglect and I’m playing catch up when I can. My parents are now at a point where they also need a boost just to stay even. They didn’t get that when I didn’t show up in May. After I’d been there a day I texted a friend “I think I’ve done more housework since I arrived than I’ve done at my house in the last month!” (I’m not sure if she was shocked about how much I was doing there or how little I’d done at home. LOL)
I don’t want to give the impression I’m doing it all. My sister is a trouper. She’s covering long drives, doctor appointments and scheduling, medications, emergencies and the 30 min. weekly (plus) drop-in to see how things are going. Her new husband has done things like adding grab bars to the bathrooms, helping with deadfall, and maintaining the driveway. He has also committed to shoring up the back porch and gazebo. (I wish I had one or two of him at my house!)
It’s not all work either. I had a lovely chat or two with my Mom. Orion and I got Dad to take us out on the lake in the canoe. Meals are still good (even if I am doing more of the cooking) and Dad still bakes bread. Orion gets his waffles for breakfast and most of the time he and Dad manage ‘bathed and dressed’ without me. (I do lay clothes out the night before.)
I’m grateful that I still have them to visit and that I’m able to be helpful. I’m grateful that they are still managing in their home. I’m very grateful my sister is close by when they need something.
Things change and life moves on. It’s clear we’re all shifting into a new stage. Hopefully we’ll all manage to do this with grace and compassion (and maybe a little fun).
I’ve not been feeling well. That’s why I’ve missed a post (or two). It’s also why I had to cancel my plans for the Memorial Day weekend. Orion and I were going to go up and spend time with my parents. We were all looking forward to it. Unfortunately I wasn’t up for the drive, much less a week in a bad bed.
Instead Orion got to spend the weekend with his father. I got to spend the weekend on pain meds and in pajamas. Not feeling well is boring. I did a little puttering when I felt up to it.
One day I decided I was up to putting in a few of my plants. I have a lot of containers so this isn’t a strenuous task. I was sorting through my “greenhouse” for the tomatillio’s and watering what I was leaving behind. Apparently I was there long enough to panic the poor fawn that was hiding behind the clematis.
I didn’t even notice it (not that I was noticing much anyway) until it ran from its hiding spot. Poor thing had to be scared near to death. Unfortunately it ran to the nearest, darkest, hidey hole it could find. My garage.
Now I had to worry that the little fawn might get hurt climbing amongst the piles. Gardening tools have some sharp edges. Fuel for tiki torches is toxic. Who knows what might slip and slide in that stack of coolers. I gathered my things and went into the back yard, leaving the garage door open.
When evening came I had to make a decision. I wasn’t going to bed with the doors wide open, but I didn’t want to trap the fawn overnight. About 9pm I shut the door and before I went to bed I went into the garage and looked around.
I didn’t see the fawn anymore. I know they are experts at hiding. I know the light wasn’t very good. I crossed my fingers and went to bed.
The next day my daughter came over and dropped off her dog. My daughter is a competent, conscientious, independent young woman. But sometimes when she comes home she’s 6. She came in and left the garage and the house door standing wide open. I only know this because as she was getting ready to go she realized her dog had run out.
Later that afternoon Minnie (the dog) and I took a little walk. When we came back in through the garage I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Damn. The fawn is in the garage. I don’t know if it was there all night or if it came back in the wake of Karina. Minnie didn’t notice it and I wanted to keep it that way.
I left the garage door open. I did put out some water. I also threw some oats along the driveway. I curled back up in my chair (that walk was a lot!) and watched movies for the rest of the evening.
As dusk settled I noticed the light went on in the garage. I have a motion sensor in there. I grabbed the camera and snuck over to the window. Sure enough the fawn was creeping back outside. Then I looked up, as did the fawn.
A happy ending. The pair ran off into the back yard and I immediately shut the garage door. It started raining, heavily, and I returned to my cozy chair and my movie. That was about as much excitement as I could manage for the weekend, but it left a warm feeling. I’m grateful to have been a participant.
Sorry the photo quality is so bad. Most of these are taken at a distance with zoom. Several are through the window, and standing a bit back. But at least you get the gist.
We all need an occasional “time out” to renew our spirits. Often times this is our hope when we take a vacation. It’s clearly a goal when we go on a retreat. But what may serve to renew us can vary from person to person and even across an individual’s lifetime.
I have known for a long time that I’ve needed a “get-away”. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel and take a break from the daily grind. Unfortunately for my renewal meter they haven’t really helped. Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past 5 years has been to promote my writing. They’ve been working vacations. I may not have had Orion along, I may have gotten inspired, but I haven’t had that sense of renewal.
I’ve been looking at a “real” vacation for awhile now. I had plans to go to Italy last fall, but they went by the wayside as I’ve been struggling to find a way to do home repairs. I haven’t given up. I’m still studying the language. But I also know that if I’m going to spend that kind of money I want to take time. If I take enough time then I also need to take Orion. That’s great for travel, but it’s not renewal.
As a birthday present to myself I gave myself a long weekend. Orion went to his Weekend Ventures retreat with Reach for Resources and to his Dad. I just had to figure out what I needed to do to find that renewal.
I tossed around driving or flying. How far could I go on my limited budget? Did I really want to spend the little time I had in transit? I looked at AirBnB I looked at package deals, I looked at the weather.
Historically my renewal/retreat weekends have involved a small (cheap) cabin in the woods, a fireplace, breakfast included and a kitchen for the rest of my meals. I’ve sat on porches and sipped coffee. I’ve curled up in the sunshine and read books. I’ve taken short walks in the woods. I’ve been alone long enough to get past the list of “shoulds” and into the bottled up emotions of my life.
Those options just aren’t available anymore. All the places I used to go have gone out of business. Any places I could still go seemed a little more structured, or a little more primitive, than I wanted. Even visiting my parents house (which used to be a cheap get-away) has become focused on helping them out. I can’t just sit and read undisturbed, or take a long soak in the tub.
Staying at home became more appealing, but I know myself well enough to recognize I’ve had plenty of weekends home without Orion that were not about renewal. It’s very easy to be distracted at home. It’s very easy to do the things that NEED to be done rather than the things that WANT to be done. It’s also very easy to bury my head to avoid the whole issue.
So I made an attitude adjustment plan. I know if I keep a fire going it shifts my focus. I know if I stay off the computer (read internet) I’m less likely to waste my time off. I know if I prepare ahead I can eliminate any URGENT household tasks.
So I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, went to the grocery store and had a lovely renewal weekend at home. I did get on the internet, but it was to write book reviews because I felt like writing. I did light a fire one evening, but only because I really wanted to have that grounding task. I took several long leisurely baths – book in hand. I even took a walk. I didn’t take phone calls, didn’t check email, didn’t read Facebook.
It was different than a retreat, but in some ways it was better. Now I know I can have a renewal in my own home. I can make choices that are about taking care of myself rather than just indulging the whim of the moment. I can make myself get out the door just because it’s a nice day.
Those insights alone make taking a break well worth while!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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?