Posted in Activism, challenge, commentary, community

Blackkklansman

I’ve watched Blackkklansman several times now. Parts of it make me sick, particularly the parts where “Christians” believe white is right and the only color. Harry Belafonte’s part where he recounts several atrocities is particularly strong. One hopes we’ve made progress. Right?

Then a church going white man drives into a crowd to kill people for their assumed religion based on how they look. In Sunnyvale, California. In 2019.

We can do better, America. We need to stand up for each other. Own the past. Change the future.

I still have hope change can happen. May I do my part.

Posted in Activism, commentary, community, holidays, Human Rights, Humanity, politics

MLK Day

Until 1988, I didn’t know much about Martin Luther King, Jr. Nothing was taught about him in history class (of course, no history class I was in got much further than WW2), and so it passed under my radar.

In college, I had a friend named Dee Dee who suggested, since we were near Atlanta on Spring Break, that we go see the MLK Center opened by Dr. King’s widow.

We went on our journey that day and I didn’t know what to expect from our visit, but I left the MLK Center very reflective and sad that someone who fought so hard for equality was persecuted for it. He was not perfect, but he was important. For all of us.

My life is richer because of the diversity in it. May we all work together so we are all on equal footing to reach our dreams.

Happy birthday to the King of all Dreamers.

Posted in community, nature, pics, Uncategorized, weather

HARVEY, AND THE TURTLE SWIMMING IN MY BACK YARD

IMG_6213It’s been a week now since Harvey started steamrolling his way up the Texas coast, dumping 30 inches of rain in my neighborhood over a 5 day period.  I live in the Buffalo Bayou watershed, and that water is still lapping against the bottom floor of my four-story building.

Mercifully, that water has receded about a foot and a half in the last 24 hours.  It’s not unlike a clogged bathtub drain – since they keep releasing water from the reservoirs into Buffalo Bayou, they do not expect this water to fully drain (and that’s if there’s no additional rain) for another 10-15 days.  Most other places in town, the water is receding or has receded.

I’ve been working from home for over a week. Thankfully, I only lost power for 15 minutes on Saturday morning and it came back on and has stayed on.  Tuesday I did go out, in the pouring rain, because I was going a little stir-crazy.  I made it to the Thai place close by and got some takeout. While I waited, I chatted with a much older gentleman named Bill. It was nice to have some conversation that did not involve posting warnings to other coworkers (we are spread all over the Houston metro area) and checking in on people where the water was rising.

It’s not unusual to feel helpless during disasters like this.  My health is not allowing me to do much in the say of hands-on help for people, I have no cash to really help anyone, and though I live on the fourth floor, I sustained some water damage in my apartment due to the wind, prior undiscovered damage that this storm brought to light, and relentless, pounding rain.  I’m really worried about the mold that is already there and that will have a chance to grow until I get my turn on the fix list (there are many apartments on the first floor of other buildings that had rising water in them that are priorities, and I get that).

I know people who have lost everything (again) and people who have lost cars, and some people who are just stuck because we are living on a series of islands in this area of town and if you want to go north/south from here it is nearly impossible. It’s insane and difficult to describe what’s going on down here in Houston.

This is my fourth…fifth… major flood/storm in the last 9 years. I’ve really lost count how many times this creek that is often just a trickle of inches has gone over its banks (about five feet), but this is the first time the water has risen to within a foot of the balcony on the first floor.  It’s only gone down about 18 inches since the rain stopped Tuesday evening.

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I do the only thing I can do in times like this, document the situation as it happens, encourage others, and take photos.  Some of the photos you see on this post were taken with my iPhone or Canon over the past couple of days as the sun came out.

I noticed, while taking these photos, something was moving in the water. I know there are snakes down there, frogs, and who knows what, but a turtle surfaced in the water.  Of course, I named him Harvey.  How could I not?

Harvey-1-18

The apartment management visited yesterday to survey the damage and get me on the list of getting things fixed.  We opened the door to survey the door frame damage, and I pointed down to the turtle.   They were all amazed.  Through all that yucky, brown water, swam this little guy.  And from up here, if he looks like that, he’s probably a pretty good size.  Harvey finally made some people smile!

Some people thought I was delirious because I was saying a turtle swam by my apartment, but here he is:

Harvey-1-13

While I am ready to get back to work, I hope some of the routes north open up, otherwise it may take me over an hour (or more) to go 8 miles when it comes time to try go to the office. The Buffalo Bayou runs all the way to downtown and everywhere there’s a bridge over it, it’s under water and will be for a week or two.

Still, I’ve been able to find some beauty in the mess, and that’s saying something, because it’s a big mess!  All of Houston must reach deep inside to find the silver lining, and keep trudging forward, because Harvey left us with devastation that will take months to clean up.

The best part of this mess is seeing the best of humanity amid the worst of nature.  People helping people, no matter their color, creed or political slant.  Volunteers being turned away because there are too many.  Communities everywhere donating to those in need.  Trucks pulling boats from other states coming to rescue people from their homes. That’s still happening, by the way.  Amazing. People can be amazing when they need to be.

I hope this goodness continues to spread across the United States.  It’s too bad it took a natural disaster to draw it out, but I hope it’s a start.  Please be good to each other out there.

Harvey-1-9

Posted in Activism, advocate, commentary, community, Equality, fearless, feminism, Uncategorized, World

NEVERTHELESS, I PERSIST

Yesterday was another day of political upheaval here in the United States. I am 48 years young but I’ve never seen (or was too young to really remember) anything like the baffling regression of the American spirit like I’ve witnessed over the past 18 months or so.

I will say this and leave it right here: I believe in equality for everyone. Everyone. Progress has been made the past decade to close many gaps for many different people groups and I refuse to let any group in this country try to drag us back to the dark ages of closed-minded thinking.

With that out in the ether I’ll add this: I’m ashamed of the president and what he’s stirred up in this country and continues to allow with no intelligent comment or rebuke. I have a great admiration for presidents past, and I hope to have a president I can admire and be proud of and respect again, but 45 is not that president. I have great respect for the office of the president, but I do not respect the current president. I can and will make that distinction for the duration of his term. If you voted for him, that is your right, but please don’t try to defend him or your choice. I am tired of that conversation. It’s done.

My heart hurts for the family that lost a sweet daughter yesterday. All she was doing was protesting a hate group. Peacefully. She believed in the diversity and love of all in America and she was marching to show this hate group that she still believed we could all get along, that there was room enough at her table for all. This hate group cannot stand that thought, and one man from that group took it upon himself to violently end her life and injure many others because people like her are trying to put other beliefs, thoughts and color into his whitewashed world.

I believe I am fortunate to be surrounded by a wondrously varied group of people every day. I work for an international company in the most diverse city in America. I work with people who were not born in this country who came here for freedom and chose the US and became citizens. Some are just here for a few years or months, others’ parents or grandparents came here and brought their rich cultures to the greatest melting pot in the world.

I navigate a number of cultures, religions, belief systems, biases and dissimilarities every single day. Harmony, even when there are notable differences, can be achieved if everyone allows their worldview to be wide enough to consider that not everyone was raised the same, believes the same, or wants the same outcomes for their lives.

I still don’t understand the notion of making America great again (MAGA), as if America wasn’t already great. It seems to me that the MAGA directive for the 45 supporter is to regress back to the idea that one way is the only way, which is anchored in ignorance and fear.

I wholeheartedly believe that America’s diversity is its strength. When hate groups march (which is their right as long as they are peaceful) and preach that they want to keep America the way it is or was (for them) they miss the point. America has always been diverse. America has always been a haven for all. These groups have just isolated themselves so much that they are afraid of what and whom they don’t know or understand. Rather than build a bridge, they want to vote everyone else off their very small-minded island.

I’ve lived in Houston 23 years now. I went from a small town in Indiana where most people looked, talked and thought like me to the most diverse and culture rich city in America. I am all the better for it. I understand so much more of the world because the world is here all around me and it is a wondrous assortment of people. If MAGA means isolation, hatred, racism, and a white’s only attitude, I want no part of it.

After the events yesterday in Charlottesville, I was a bit disheartened to say the least. America feels like it is sliding backward, and I feel like a small minority of hatred is going to suck me down with it. I can’t let that happen, but I don’t always know what I can do.

I become overwhelmed with the vastness of the pervasive hatred that some humans have against other humans simply because they are not disciples of the same ethos or they have a different color of skin. What can one person do to turn the tide?

I was reminded today to do something I already try to do – reach one person at a time. Learn as much as I can about our differences and use every opportunity to lift that person up. If that person needs an ally, I will stand with them. I will celebrate everything that makes them unique, because I also thrive when my uniqueness is noted and celebrated.

It really does boil down to treating others as you yourself want to be treated.

Nevertheless, I persist.

Posted in community, Equality, GLBT, LGBT, Uncategorized

BAR NONE

Last weekend, I found myself in a gay bar down in Montrose. I was with a good friend of mine, someone who has let me into his world piece by piece. The more he shares with me, the more I understand him and what he goes through every day as a gay man.

He took me to one of his favorite bars.  We ordered some drinks and went outside to sit by the gas heaters (it was a nice, cool night). We were soon joined by a couple who engaged us in conversation.

They were dressed up for dinner and had stopped for a drink first. They were meeting some of their friends later. One of the friends joined them before the others. Immediately, I searched for the face of the third man in my memories. Joe (not his real name) introduced himself and after I told him he looked familiar, he said he just had one of those faces.

Joe had been a Southern Baptist preacher. His friend, Evan (not his real name), had been a Southern Baptist youth pastor. All once upon a time, because you can’t be gay and serve God, right?

Joe, Evan and my friend talked God and church for a while – the suffering they’d endured at the hands of the church, and yet they continued to believe in God and spread the Gospel that all, including the LGBT community were precious to Him.  They work to reconcile the church with the gay community.

Soon, their two other friends showed up. My friend went in to refill my drink and we began to talk about gay affirming churches. I expressed my frustration that the only place some in the LGBT community could feel welcome was in a bar and not in a church. One of the men sat down next to me and hugged me and said I was in the right place to make the difference I was supposed to make.

I was meeting people on their terms, in their territory and being myself. No pretense. Just love. Acceptance.

My friend returned, and we talked some more and then they left for their dinner, but not until there were hugs and blessings. I laughed at the irony.  Fellowship at a gay bar.

Actually, I’d rather be in a bar loving people as they are than in a congregation that excludes based on human judgment.

I realize this is controversial and heresy for some. That’s ok. I’ve already made my feelings known in a prior post- Human Affirming Human.

Please take a step back as a church and realize that the “lost” you seek to save rarely cross your threshold because you continually tell them they are not worthy to be there. I am not an evangelist, I’m just a human loving other humans where they are, and those humans are loving me where I am – with no judgment.

Don’t just imagine a world where we love without reservation – love in the world without reservation.

PS – I Googled Joe and sure enough – I found him. He is now preaching and reaching out to the gay community.

 

Posted in advocate, badassery, commentary, community, fearless, politics, Uncategorized

I WANT TO KNOW WHAT, OR RATHER, THAT YOU THINK

Politics, tragedy, religion, guns, nationality and so many more subjects are polarizing, especially in America. I’ve seen families, friends, and communities torn apart because of deeply held beliefs.  Rarely, but thankfully, I have found a few people in my life who can hold deeply held beliefs and still have conversations about the aforementioned subjects and still remain civil and friendly afterward.

I know I’ve been unfollowed, unfriended, branded, and abandoned because of my deeply held beliefs, and I know I’ve unfollowed, unfriended, branded and abandoned others for the same reasons.

Lately, I’ve even been branded as dangerous.  Dangerous? For having different beliefs?  For challenging long-held, deeply-entrenched beliefs and opinions?  Yes.

If I am being labeled dangerous for challenging the status quo of beliefs and thoughts and a lifetime of opinion, know that I relish it. I’d rather be known as someone who examines, inspects, interrogates, and thinks her way through life rather than accepting everything I’m told, skimming over issues to promote an opinion that’s only mine because I carry it forward for someone else.  I’ve lived a lifetime of promoting other agendas because of a sense of duty to what I’ve been told and indoctrinated to believe. I’m finished with that part of my life.

The extraordinary state of thinking for myself was a hard-fought battle. I’d go so far as calling the battle for my own beliefs and opinions a war.  Not only did I have to figure out what I truly believed, I had to fight for my right to express that belief and opinion freely. That’s a war I’m still fighting, because I’m dangerous, you see.

Throughout history, the people in the masses who think for themselves have been labeled as dangerous, especially women.  The awakening of owning a thought or idea that is truly mine is intoxicating, I’ll admit.  The further I pursue my own thoughts and beliefs, the further away from blind obedience to an idea I get, the freer I feel.

I don’t care, really, what a person thinks or believes if I know that they truly have thought, examined, challenged and formed their own thoughts and opinions. All I really care to challenge in a person is that they think for themselves and not follow the masses just because it’s easier and more comfortable to follow the crowd.

A staggering number of people will follow a man in a pulpit, a person on a political soapbox, a person with a certain philosophy – anyone with a message or agenda – without challenging, investigating, examining what the person in charge is saying. If, after study and query, a person agrees with a different ideology than mine, I can respect that.

I have huge issues with people just accepting what another person says without thinking it all through for themselves.  That, to me, is a truly dangerous way to live. It’s why certain pastors and politicians have power – they tap into those minds who will follow without question.

People want to belong to something greater than themselves so much, they turn off their mind’s alarm systems: that doesn’t sound/feel right. I don’t think I agree with that, but if I challenge it, I won’t belong anymore. I believe that’s dangerous.

I wanted to belong to something so badly it turned me into a mindless sheep, and I became so judgmental and hurtful as I followed other people’s agenda.  I stopped thinking for myself at the cost of losing myself.  I put what I wanted/thought/believed over relationships and I believed it was what I should do and because I wanted to belong.

When I started sorting through what I believed and wanted for my life, I know I lost friends.  I lost certain membership in communities that don’t like dangerous thinkers in their midst.  I’ve actually been old-school shunned for challenging the status quo and asking questions.

Ironically, thinking for myself has opened up my mind enough to allow others to think for themselves. I gladly accept differences in opinions and sometimes challenge people with what they believe to be a differing opinion so I can see their resolve and commitment to their belief. Some would call that devil’s advocate, but I call it investigation.

Personally, I don’t care what a person believes, as long as it is truly a belief that is theirs, forged in thought and investigation and fire.  I care more that people think than what they think.  I wish that notion went both ways, but it often doesn’t.  It’s easier to label me a danger than a free-thinker.

I value the discussions I have with people. I enjoy hearing what other people think, and challenging them to own those beliefs and thoughts. If that labels me as dangerous, know that I don’t mind.

 

Posted in community, technology

SOMETIMES, I GREATLY DISLIKE MY CELL PHONE

At some point, we all take a technology detox involuntarily – that weekend where we’re out camping and can’t get a good signal or are stuck on a plane for hours, or voluntarily – when we go dark and just shut off the phone and computer for our own sanity.

I do both from time to time.

I’m 46 years old and I remember when, if I left the house, I was off the grid. No one could find me. Unless someone else was home, no one could leave a message for me.  Instead of texting the BFF, we passed notes in the hallway between classes.  If I wanted to have a conversation longer than 5 minutes, I had to do it in person.

We had a rule in my house that if a conversation could wait until the morning, then I waited to talk to my friends on the bus, in the hallways, or in class if I was feeling particularly brave that day.  I did not spend a lot of time on the phone as a teen.  Phone service did not include “call waiting” and my Mom loathed the busy signal turning away grownup conversations.  Furthermore, my parents paid for the phone service. Their house, their money, their rules.

The phones I used as a teen.
The phones I used as a teen. I had to dial with a pencil because sometimes fingers would get stuck.

I received my first cell phone in 2003. I was 34 years old. It was a Nextel push-to-talk model and what a novelty it was to be able to hear from someone when I was not at home. “Hey, we’re watching a movie at 8, come on over.” “Sally’s sick and we need to go to the doctor, can you come watch the baby?” or my favorite, when my phone was in my purse under my desk at work (a church), “This is Satan. How may I ruin your day?”

Having a cell phone was so much fun. I was connected to people in a way I never had been before, available 24-7 for good times (“we’re having a baby!”) and bad times (“I’ve been in a wreck, can you come get me?”).  In a very short time, this method of communication became a necessity and not a privilege or other option.

Twelve years later, there are times I want to throw the damn cell phone out the window.

  1. I like sleep. There have been times I get non-emergency texts after midnight and even if they are from other time zones, I wonder, “why does this person not think I might be asleep?”
    1. I have set a Do Not Disturb rule that will silence texts from 10 PM – 8 AM, and I am thinking of expanding that to 9 AM. It’s not personal. It’s self-defense.
  2. Facebook (other social media) notification stalking.
    1. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I might check Facebook and read a bit before I fall back to sleep, or so I can fall back to sleep.  This does not mean I am up for a conversation! The Facebook stalking must stop! (if I had a dollar for every time someone did this to me). If you get alerts whenever I post something or like something, do not think I am coherent enough for conversation, especially from 10 PM – 9 AM. And on weekends – not until 11 at least!
  3. I do not hear as well as other people, and I was born that way. Out of the 5 ranges of hearing, I have the middle 3 and those are deteriorating as I get older.
    1. I prefer talking on a regular handset because that cups around my ear and I can hear more clearly.  Talking on the cell phone is painful unless I am in my car on the bluetooth, on speaker or wearing headphones.
    2. If a person is soft-spoken or can’t enunciate, I can’t understand them when I am on a cell phone. Saying “Huh” 101 times when a text will suffice is not my idea of fun or effective communication.  I can’t read their lips to aid in the process of understanding if I can’t see them. (yes, this is why, in a noisy room, I am often looking at your lips rather than your eyes).
  4. I am what Meyers-Briggs terms an INFJ. I use my words sparingly and I greatly value my alone, recharging time.
    1. I do not like being available to everyone all the time.  I can’t do it. I tried it, it wore me out.
    2. If I do not answer your text or phone call or like your FB post, it’s not personal. I haven’t had time to do so, or I really just want to enjoy my quiet time a little longer.
    3. If I do not answer your text or phone call right away, I am not avoiding you, persecuting you, angry with you, or punishing you.  I may get angry with you if you ask if my silence or non-talkativeness indicates anger toward you. My silence is about me almost 100% of the time.
    4. I don’t even talk on the phone with my BFF, who is also an INFJ. We text, we have our own chatroom on FB, we SnapChat, and occasionally, we will talk via video features on the iPhone or SnapChat. We are closer than ever.
    5. Did I mention it’s not personal?
  5. I do enjoy talking – in person. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and telling my own. When I go home, to my haven, however, speaking is a communication mode of last resort.

My phone is not surgically sewn to my hand. I put it down – often – and walk away from it.  If I cannot have a life without this phone, this connectivity, it’s not good for me at all.   I am not bound to it (and believe me, I used to be).  I used to sleep with the phone so I would be able to respond to it 24-7. After all, if one does not answer texts and phone calls, people eventually stop calling, right? And while sometimes this is true, I don’t need to be connected to people who NEED to be connected to me that much.

I feel sorry for people who cannot have a conversation in person with another person without grabbing that phone to check it. If I have come out of my haven to spend time with you, the biggest insult you can give me is to give that time to someone else on the other end of a phone for something that could definitely wait until I have left your presence.

I want to expand on the other reasons I do not rush to answer texts or return phone calls.  I suppose it’s because I was born before the 24-7 connected age, but I do not want to be 24-7 connected (except maybe with the BFF).

Reasons why/things I may be doing while not returning your text/phone call:

  1. I am in the bathroom.
  2. I am driving.
  3. I’m at work (baffles me how people don’t get how this is a boundary).
  4. I am working on a photography/writing/creative project and I do not want to stop to chat.
  5. I am with someone else. (I can’t believe how many people have conversations with other people while sitting with me, let me just say that will happen with me ONE time).
  6. I am not Google.
  7. I cannot adult today.
  8. I cannot person today.
  9. I am reading a book.
  10. I’m meditating.
  11. I’m on vacation, on a trip, on a sabbatical.
  12. I’m being examined by a doctor.
  13. I am cleaning.
  14. I am cooking.
  15. I am taking photos with my phone.
  16. I am playing a game.
  17. I am folding laundry.
  18. I am doing yoga.
  19. I am with the BFF in person.
  20. I am living my life.

Nothing in this post is written to offend, and no examples are aimed at one person because more than one person has done this to me in 12 years’ time. If you do, however, feel a pang of something, try putting your phone down for an hour and walking away from it. If you have an issue with this, you might want to think about your need for the cell phone.

I love hearing from people – via text or otherwise. Just give me the courtesy of answering you when it’s convenient for me, whether that be in 5 minutes or an hour or a day. Technology is there for my convenience, and I will keep it at arm’s length to keep it that way.

It’s not personal.