Light it up

Like many of you I am worried about our country’s future. It’s all-consuming. In an attempt to be informed and not retreat to the places where my privilege protects me, I’m digesting as much as I can about the coming changes. IT’S SO HARD. I realize that I have to give myself some space to feel sad and scared as well as mad and ready to fight for all the people that are being threatened by the new proposed federal policies.

We often encourage advocates who are working with survivors to remember to take care of themselves. To do the things they need to do to come back the next day with renewed energy and focus to help others. I am realizing that I must do the same now if I’m to be any use at all to the work ahead. And there is quite a lot of work ahead.

I’m not a religious person, but I confess to LOVE the Christmas holidays. I love houses covered with twinkling lights, puffy fake snow in store windows, and giant trees filled with glittery ornaments. I’ve decided one way I can stay energized to pay attention and act for justice is to dive into the holiday season early. Christmas carols are going to fill the house and head’s up neighbors―my yard is about to get lit. And I’ve found the perfect thing.

This. Holiday. Dragon.

blow-up holiday dragon

Isn’t she amazing? So if you are feeling like I am, take care of yourselves so that you have the energy to stay tuned in and to show up. Holiday Dragon, bring us joy and light our path.

A new kind of New Year’s resolutions

2016 in sparklersEat healthier, read more, save money, get organized. Welcome to 2016 and New Year’s resolutions! I have been a sucker for resolutions for a long time and like many who make them, I break them.

My resolutions for 2016 weren’t going to skew much from the traditional list. Then I received news that one of my friends had been killed in a tragic car accident. The day after Christmas my family went to her memorial service. It was one of the saddest, raw, and full experiences I’ve had in a long time. People shared stories about Katie, how she had impacted the lives of her students, her family and friends, and her community. No one talked about how healthy she ate, how much she read, how organized she was. It’s because at the end of the day that’s not what matters.

So this year my resolutions are different:

  • Tell the people who I love how I feel about them
  • Be kind to myself and others
  • Listen and connect deeply with those in my life

Looking at these resolutions, I realize that it’s really all about relationships. If we were all to prioritize these things, it would not only make our own lives better, but it would help anyone in our lives who is experiencing abuse. A person who is being abused most needs to hear that she is loved, that she deserves kindness, and that you will stay connected with her no matter what.

Five greetings of holiday cheer

‘Tis the season. I close out my blog writing for 2015 with a string of holiday-themed confessions and advice. Please, grab an eggnog and pull up a chair.

Peace on Earth

Make peace with the earth.

I grew up outside. The outdoors is where I go when I need to experience renewal, re-creation. My first political activism involved working as a student intern in the 1970’s under the guidance of chain-smoking, tough-as-nails environmental bulldogs Flo Brodie and Jack Davis. Sadly, they are both long gone, but all of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for stopping an industrial logging export facility from being built right next to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

Blessings to Flo and Jack and to those young and very much alive activists who point out that earth and climate justice are the same thing as racial and social justice.

Home for the Holidays

Re-friend your people on Facebook. Make peace with your uncles, cousins, and former classmates who have posted hateful things that resulted in you tossing them off your friend list.

My cousin Bill posts pictures of guns and voices wildly different perspectives from my own. I once came close to unfriending him—but I resisted because I love him so much. I’ve discovered that arguing back in a clear, kind way actually results in him moderating his position a bit. I should ask him if he ever stops himself from posting something because he thinks of me. Probably not. But I know I think about what he’s going to say when I post certain things—and part of me can hardly wait.

I know you don’t want to re-friend your “cousin Bill.” Do it anyway because if you don’t argue back then we will all end up living in thicker bubbles among the dwindling pool of people who agree with us on everything. This trend toward isolation and intolerance of any view different from our own cannot end well.

Merry Christmas

Dig a little deeper into the story of Christmas and reflect on refugees past and present. Find ways to make it clear refugees are welcome here. Capitol_protest_Tyra

A small crowd gathered at the capitol the other day to express the opposite. They howled “Refugees are NOT welcome here.” I went to the counter-protest to see if I could persuade the people holding “Vets Before Refugees” signs to reconsider this us vs. them thing. I told them that I agreed that we have done a terrible job caring for returning vets. In the above photo captured by the Tacoma News Tribune, I was pointing to a vet’s Union Gospel Mission patch. He said he worked there. “Then you have experience working with folks who are caught in the crossfire of life circumstances. That’s gotta give you some sympathy for the Syrian war refugees, right?” We might have continued that conversation, but the rally organizer came over to hiss “Terrorists are embedded with those refugees.” She was not budging on that point. There was nothing more I could say.

The Syrian refugees are not terrorists. They need a home. I was taught that Mary and Joseph were refugees too. If we cannot learn some lessons from 2,015 years ago, what’s the point of celebrating the birth of that famous baby?

Joy to the World

Be happy for the liberation of yourself and others.

As difficult as these times are, I find joy in movements organizing for justice. Black Lives Matter to me as a white person because I want to live in a world where African Americans and have equal access to the same things that have brought me comfort, happiness, and peace. It is not asking too much because it can be done.

I recently joined Olympia SURJ and follow the leadership of Full Circle United as they direct me to take action. Find the group that is organizing in your town. Bring joy to your life and to the lives of everyone around you.

Silent Night

Rest and be well.

At times, I am shaken awake long past midnight by fear and worry. When that happens, I take a deep breath. And listen to the silence. Some nights I get up and creep outside to be in the stillness—the quiet darkness. We are all loved by the silent night. Be at peace. All is well.

Empezando bien (A good start)

womanatsunrisePosadas, Noche Buena, Navidad, Año Nuevo…¡cuánta celebración en tan poco tiempo! Tiempo para disfrutar en familia y con amigos queridos. Tiempo de reflexión y entrega. Tiempo de dar y recibir amor. ¡Me encanta ésta época!

Sí, ya sé que estas pensando, que las fiestas no fueron tan relajantes y que la familia a veces no es tan fácil, y que no descansaste como pensaste…pero podrías imaginar que éste ambiente de amor, de reflexión, de entrega, fuera possible y durara todo el año y no solo se intentara en una “época”. Imagina que tuvieramos el hábito de deternos y reflexionar más seguido, tomarnos el tiempo de conocernos, de saber que nos hace felices. Que aprendiermaos a escuchar nuestro yo interno y estar dispuesto a sanar todo lo que nos permiten vivir en paz. Porque el chiste de todo esto es vivir en paz, no crees?

Se que no es algo “sencillo” de realizar pero estoy segura que no es imposible. Es algo que require acción, no únicamente desearlo. Te invito a que este año que inicia comiences el hábito el tomarte el tiempo necesario para reflexionar, para descansar, para evaluar donde estas y a donde vas. No podemos mágicamente crear paz en nuestro corazón y a nuestro alrededor sin hacer algo al respecto día a día, no podemos mágicamente erradicar la violencia y vivir en un mundo de paz sólo con un abrir y cerrar de ojos. Todo lo que vale la pena tiene un precio, require una acción y un verdadero compromiso de nuestra parte. Iniciar con hacer las paces con uno mismo y amarnos tal cual somos. Este es mi propósito de Año Nuevo y probablemente requerirá acción constante y atención diaria a mi persona.

Felíz inicio de Año y mis mejores deseos para una vida mejor, empezando por uno mismo. Ahora sí, a trabajar en mí para ser ese cambio en el mundo que tanto quiero.

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Posadas, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year…so much to celebrate in so little time! A time to enjoy with family and dear friends. A time for reflection. A time to give and receive love. I love this season!

I know what you are thinking—that the season was not exactly relaxing, family are sometimes not so easy, and you are not as rested as you wanted to be. But could you imagine if this atmosphere of love and reflection was possible all year long and not just for one season? Imagine that we had the habit of stopping more often to reflect, taking the time to know ourselves and what makes us happy. That we could learn to listen to our inner self and be willing to heal all that does not allow us to live in peace. Because the point is to live in peace, isn’t it?

I know this is not as simple to do as it sounds, but I’m sure it’s not impossible. It is something that requires action, not just wishing for it. I invite you this New Year to make a habit of taking time to reflect, rest, and evaluate where you are and where you’re going. We cannot magically create peace in our hearts and around us without doing something about it every day. We cannot magically eradicate violence and live in a world of peace with just a blink of an eye. Everything worthwhile has a price; it requires an action and a real commitment on our part. It starts with making peace with ourselves and loving ourselves as we are, unconditionally. This is my New Year’s resolution and it will probably require constant action and daily attention.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a better life, starting with yourself. And now I’m off to start working on myself to be that living change that I want to see in our world.

Home for the holidays

nanshouseThis is my house. Even though I don’t spend as much time in it as I would like to, it is my anchor, my refuge, my home. I am particularly aware of—and grateful for—it at this time of year. When it’s cold and dark and chaotic outside, what’s inside is stable and familiar. During the next week, my house will be filled with family and friends, too much food, and traditions that define my observance of Christmas and the start of a new year. I will sleep in, watch movies on demand, knit, let my dog break a few rules (e.g., no sitting on the couch), pester my teenage son into multisyllabic conversation, and maybe even catch up on some overdue chores.

I don’t want to over-think this blog post. In fact, I need to take a break from thinking. And if you are reading this, my guess is that you might need a break too. A colleague recently told me that her “head hurts from thinking.” And do you know what? I believed her. Sometimes mine does too.

One of my favorite movement anthems is Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “Ella’s Song” which starts with “we who believe in freedom shall not rest…until it comes.” Actually, we who believe in freedom must rest. Freedom is going to take awhile, and it needs us, and so we must allow ourselves to rest.

Home is where I rest. It is the kind of home that I believe every person deserves to have. Oops, I’m starting to think again.

As we jettison toward 2014, I wish for you the comforts of home, the blessing of rest and, of course, peace on earth.