Deer will jump any fence, they said.
But they haven't, I said.
I'm safe, I said.
Clearly. I've been kidding myself.
Deer will jump any fence, they said.
But they haven't, I said.
I'm safe, I said.
Clearly. I've been kidding myself.
(In other words, finding balance in crazy times!)
Back in January, during the Women's March, I really enjoyed the signs. They were clever and funny and heartfelt.
I also recall my overwhelming realization that they covered . . . So. Many. Issues.
I remember just standing there, just kind of gobsmacked, that this wasn't just a march for women's issues. Or access to health care. Or clean water for Flint. Or saving Planned Parenthood. Or protecting LGBTQ rights. Or immigration and refugee issues. Or support for public education. Or doing something to slow down climate change. Or environmental protection. Or preserving first amendment rights.
I realized it was - suddenly - about ALL THE THINGS.
Because ALL THE THINGS were at risk.
All at once.
Those signs, for me, just brought that fact home.
I've explained here on the blog that after the shock of the election last November, I felt an overwhelming desire to . . . DO SOMETHING . . . in a way I never had in my life before. It was like - overnight - an activist was born! And since the inauguration in January, I have done things I never imagined I would do.
I started joining all the lists and sending all the postcards and making all the calls and reading all the news.
My approach was wearing my down. Because I don't like being on High Alert all the time. I've realized that I can't be an activist . . . for All The Things . . . All The Time . . . without sacrificing my internal peace.
Without losing my BALANCE.
I recently found this quote by Richard Rohr of The Center for Action & Contemplation:
"We need a contemplative mind in order to do compassionate action."
This gave me great pause . . . to stop and think and re-evaluate my chicken-with-her-head-cut-off approach.
Because a contemplative mind is not motivated by fear. Or urgency. Or my Facebook feed! Because, well, y'know. . . that just leads to stress, a feeling of impending doom, and RE-action. Not compassionate action.
A contemplative mind, rather, takes in the situation. Learns about the situation. And lines that up with personal values and goals. In short, a contemplative mind allows for (wait for it) . . . comtemplation!
Which is HARD.
Because ALL THE THINGS!
But necessary. Because we need to act from our best and most peaceful place.
I'm working hard to foster a contemplative space for myself (and - trust me - some days it's much easier to do this than others). For me, this means that every day, I try to:
By creating space to think, I'm better able to discover and discern just what kind of compassionate action to take. Because much as I might want to do All The Things, I simply cannot. I need to choose. I need to focus. I need to take aim at specific targets.
I'm finding that having a bit more balance - between my peaceful heart and my new activist mind-set - helps me feel better, speak from the heart, and act more effectively. By prioritizing my issues, I feel like I'll be able to DO SOMETHING in a way that keeps my values, my passions, my gifts, and my energies in better alignment.
(Balance, my friends! Turns out it's all about balance.)
"It's not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift - your true self - is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs."
--- Bill Plotkin in Soulcraft
Quiet your mind.
Discern your priorities.
Take compassionate action using your own gifts.
Find your balance.
It's the best we can do.
Last Friday, we had the first day that's really felt like spring (well . . . since February . . . ), so I decided to take the dogs for a trail walk.
Let's just say . . .
Although I take them out for a neighborhood walk nearly every day (which they love), our routes are completely "old hat" by now. There just aren't very many surprises or curiousities on our walks in the neighborhood, y'know?
So they loved getting out in the woods. On a trail. With millions of fresh smells! (Oh, happy day.)
It was great to be out, enjoying a beautiful spring day in the sunshine.
We went to Asylum Lake,* which is only about a 10 minute drive from my house. There is a trail that loops about 2.6 miles, past the lake, beside a little stream, and through a meadow.
It's very nice -- and especially with the dogs. They really do love getting out and exploring -- although it was hard to keep them out of the water. (Jenny plunged right into the creek, pulling JoJo -- and almost me, too -- with her.)
Best of all? Lovely weather -- with sunshine and warm temperatures.
There really wasn't any evidence of "spring" quite yet in the woods, but soon. Very soon, I'm sure.
For now, it was great to just be . . . out and about . . . with my very happy dogs!
* Asylum Lake is located on the former grounds of the Michigan State Asylum (yeah . . . ), now part of the Western Michigan University campus.
Last Tuesday, my schedule got a little messed up. I ended up going to the gym at a completely different time of day from normal -- several hours past my usual Pilates class. So I worked on the weight floor for a while.
It was there . . . that the idea for a new blog feature was born!
Yes. Let me introduce you to . . . The Weekly Eye Roll.*
Last Tuesday, I was using the weight machines at my gym for an upper body strength workout. The gym was pretty quiet - it being early afternoon and all. But there are always Those Guys in the weight area. And, if you spend any time at the gym, you probably know just who I'm talking about.
The Meathead Guys. (And the Meathead Wannabes.) (And sometimes their Groupies.)
I was working my way through the machines, and listening to an audiobook on my iPod. Targeting my deltoids . . . and lats . . . and biceps-triceps-chest. Doing shoulder presses and rows and curls. (Even pull ups.) When I noticed two guys . . . about my age . . . looking, well, a little too into themselves (if you know what I mean) using the same machines as me, but a little frenetically. As in . . . talking broadcasting to each other while quickly moving from machine to machine.
I mean, I could hear these guys broadcasting OVER the audiobook I was listening to. (They were so distracting I actually had to give up on listening to my book.)
Then, I noticed that one of the guys was a "Grunter." Yeah. One of those. He grunted - loud and ostentatiously - with EVERY movement. Every. Single. Movement.
Bicep curl . . . UHHHHHH.
Bicep curl . . . UHHHHHHHH.
Bicep curl . . . UHHHHHHHHHHH.
And then, he would throw down the grip portion of the weight machine, with his weights crashing (to loud and dramatic effect) and pace around . . . like it was some sort of Olympic effort. A total show.
Over and over and over again.
MAJOR EYE ROLL.
What is that even about?????
(What I really, truly wanted to do? Go over and tell the guy, "If it's that hard for you, maybe you should use lighter weights. And do fewer reps.")
(But I didn't.)
(I'm hoping he noticed my eye rolls, though.)
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!
* Which probably won't actually be weekly. Just sayin.
The windows in my house, for the most part, don't have window coverings. Some are bare; while some just have light, woven blinds.
Because we live on a hill and, for the most part, neighbors and passersby can't see in.
Because I like a lot of light.
Because I like to look out.
But there's one window I don't really use much. It looks out over the north side of my house, from high up ("3rd floor" - counting the walkout basement on that side of the house).
It used to be Brian's room. Now it's my "art room" -- where I paint and draw and (pretty much) store all my art supplies.
My "backyard" (delineated by the fence) is an L-shape. This view represents the short side of the L. (The patio and my pergola and most of my garden beds are on the other side of the house -- the long side of the L.) You can also see my neighbors' driveway. And the street - if you look through the trees.
It's kind of a bird's eye view.
If you remember past blog posts . . . of my garden . . . that corner (that really dead-looking corner) is the newest area of my garden, and it looks pretty good when things get going. But now? Not so much.
When I look down on my yard from this window at this time of year, I can't help thinking about my garden and mentally creating a list of things I want to do back there. . .
I've also decided I need to look out this window more often - especially as my garden comes to life. Because having a bird's eye view gives an interesting perspective. (And I can't wait to see my little redbud in the corner . . . blooming . . . from way up here!)
If you've been reading along here for a while, you know that I am a regular participant in Ali Edwards' One Little Word project. I really like having a "word" to focus on each year, and I find it adds value to my personal development.
Ali, who also happens to be a storytelling-scrapbooker extraordinaire, provides monthly "thought-prompts" to help participants connect with their word through the year. She also demonstrates some very creative and inventive techniques for creating a journal/scrapbook to document the process.
In my early years with OLW, I went along with the scrapbooking prompts, and created my yearly journals. But after my first couple of words, I realized that . . . those cookie-cutter scrapbooks just weren't for me! Ali totally encourages participants to do their own thing with regard to the OLW project. She provides a lovely framework for participants, but she also celebrates those of us who totally go off the grid.
What do I do? Well. I'm a life-long journaler -- and after a few years of kicking around various ways to document my One Little Word, I've stumbled on to this . . .
I create a "collection" of . . . well, things . . . that help me connect with my word for the year. I usually begin with Ali's prompts and challenges, but my own word-exploration usually takes me in other directions, too. Through the year, I end up finding poems and quotes and photos and journal entries and cards and drawings (etc.).
I need to create a journal that will contain my "collection."
Every year (so far) I've done something a little bit different. This year, for example, I started with a couple of pieces of decorated cardboard, a hole-punch, and a couple of binder rings.
Those binder rings? Really handy! They allow flexibility -- and plenty of room for inspiration.
My journal has heavy-duty dividers inside (even though I'm not quite sure what I'm "dividing" yet). This month, I used Ali's prompt about creating vision boards to "decorate" the dividers in my journal.
What I love best about my OLW journal this year is the flexibility. I can add anything I want; anything that inspires me to connect with my word - BALANCE.
It's like . . . I'm the curator of my own private collection!
"When you draw the lines, you make the rules."
--- Karl Rove
I was always a good student.
I learned and understood the basic tenets of American government. You know . . . we the people; separation of church and state; checks and balances. I was well-versed in all the biggest hits of Schoolhouse Rock. I lived through the Watergate hearings. I listen to NPR. I get it. I know how things are supposed to work.
I must have totally fallen asleep at the wheel. Because I really didn't get this gerrymandering thing.
But I'm getting it now.
And it's something we ALL should "get." Because what happens with gerrymandering (drawing those voting district lines in a manipulative way) is, basically, this: Politicians draw the lines . . . to benefit themselves. Gerrymandering gives polititicians the power to choose their voters --- instead of giving voters the power to choose their politicians.
Redistricting - the process of drawing electoral district boundaries - should be a non-partisan process. And in 12 states,* it is -- with independent or non-partisan commissions determining the boundaries. In 5 more states,** redistricting is proposed by independent commissions, but approved by the state legislature. Four states - Wyoming, Delaware, South Dakota, and North Dakota have low populations and only one electoral district.
In the remaining 28 states . . . the state legislatures have the authority to determine electoral districts. And that opens the gate for gerrymandering -- the deliberate manipulation of political boundaries for electoral advantage.
Partisan domination of state legislatures and improved technology to design contiguous districts that pack opponents into as few districts as possible have led to district maps which are skewed towards one party. Consequently, many states including Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas have succeeded in reducing or effectively eliminating competition for most House seats in those states.
So. If it feels like your elected officials aren't really paying attention to what you have to say, it's probably because gerrymandering is protecting them -- so they DON'T have to listen to what you have to say.
This . . . makes me a crazy person! This . . . is one of the reasons I decided to join the League of Women Voters. This . . . makes me want to Do Something.
Here in Michigan, where we have a huge gerrymandering problem, there is an active campaign to bring fairness, impartiality, and transparency back to the electoral districting process. I've signed up to attend a "virtual town hall" meeting tomorrow night sponsored by Voters Not Politicians. Their goal is to bring the power back to the people of Michigan through a citizen led ballot initiative. With the help of other grassroots organizations, Voters Not Politician's vision is to establish an Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission through a state constitutional amendment.
I'm going to learn what I can do to help.
And - if you happen to live in Michigan and want to join the town hall tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 22), here's more information on how to sign up. (And if you can't make it tomorrow night, check the schedule here -- because there are going to be more events - both virtual and IRL.)
Take action! Do Something!
Learn about the electoral districting process in your state -- and if you don't like what you learn, get involved in redistricting reform!
(Power to the people.)
Here are some great articles on redistricting and gerrymandering to wet your appetite:
From the Washington Post - This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see
* Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington
** Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia
Fall on the first day of Spring.
Seems like a double fresh beginning, doesn't it?
Welcome Spring . . . and welcome Monday.
(Fresh beginnings are always a good idea.)
I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.
This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing. No trips to gardens. No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs. No shows. Nothing fancy.
Just . . . a bit of pampering!
Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University. This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling. Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.
Mom to the rescue!
My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.
We did some shopping. (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . ) (And a new pair of shoes, too.)
We enjoyed an indulgent spa day. (Massages and facials, all around!)
We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.
We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash.
There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing. I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night. (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)
And . . . a special bonus! While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!
Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.
I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram). I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.
As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .
My time in Pittsburgh was perfect. Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.
So it doesn't feel much like Spring out there, I know. But I'm in Pittsburgh this week, celebrating Erin's Spring Break.
So ... no beach, for sure. But a little Mom-attention goes a long way at the midpoint of a grueling graduate program!
I'll be taking a few days away from the blog. See you (maybe) Friday!