Category Archives: Community

Standing Still

It’s been a year of change, and for me this has shown up as being the one who is left behind.

Shortly after my mother died in March, I learned that four unrelated close friends of mine are moving away. One moved three hours away, another back to Texas, and a third one, today, is leaving for Colorado. My fourth friend is still searching for somewhere out of the bay area to land, and I’m confident they will be gone by end of summer.

It happens to us all. Having been left, and having twice been the one leaving, I know it is harder to be left. The person departing is focused forward, on new adventures, on change (most often) of their own design. I know my friends will miss me. It’s just that I feel acutely, right now, how immobile I am. I don’t even necessarily want to move anywhere. It’s just that this pandemic has stopped everything.

My mother’s death still feels abstract. She was 3,000 miles away, and I couldn’t travel to bury her. My friend who is leaving today used to be part of my daily life, but the pandemic shut that down. We’ve still connected by text, Marco Polo, and a few socially distanced walks. The first two options remain.

It’s just hard to wave good-bye when I’m the one standing still.

So it’s time to be gentle, let myself feel sad, and important to not attach to the feeling and get stuck in this story. And maybe it’s time for a little chocolate.

Do You Remember?

This is a video of a marvelous poem by Marie Howe, illustrated by paper collage artist Elena Skoreyko Wagner and featuring original music by cellist Zoë Keating. As with most things, I found this video because is was shared by a friend on Facebook. And after I watched it, I wasn’t surprised to see that Maria Popova, the writer of BrainPickings, had helped the video come into being. Here is a link to her post about this poem and video.

It Matters

“It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing. What is most beautiful is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”

— Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

In Relationship With the Truth

“The dharma — understanding, peering into the nature of reality — is not specific to Buddhism. The dharma is truth. And the only choice we really have is whether to try to be in relationship with the truth or to live in ignorance. There are no other choices. You have to actively engage. How did I come to be? How do I think of myself? How did I get what I have? (I don’t mean your degrees.) Where did I come from? What land are we on?If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. All of us, in some way, have profited from our wrong knowing.”

— angel Kyodo williams, Your Liberation is on the Line

The Challenge of the Season

The challenge with this season is that our culture decides to focus on bright and shiny and joy, but reality does not change. There is still suffering. Christmas lights; people are sleeping outdoors in the cold. Baking cookies; 25% of the population in Silicon Valley is food insecure. Christmas carols; there are people sobbing and wailing in grief. Spending and spending on presents; foster kids have nothing. The differences are unsettling. My body is tired. My joints ache. My mind races with to-do lists.

So I do this: I sit in silence. I settle into my breathing and notice each breath. I take off my glasses and gently lay my hands on my face. I rest this way a few moments, feel the warmth and tenderness of my hands, feel my face relax. I move my hands to my head and neck, massaging them. If thoughts come, I decline the invitation to follow them. If I catch myself in a thought, I recognize and let it go. I do this until I feel real again, whole and connected. Then I feel into what comes alive in my core. What can I do in this moment, to help, to love, to heal part of the world? When an idea arises, I follow.

That idea might be to write a note to someone. Or pick up the phone and call. It might be to divert money that would be used for family gifts and spend it on gifts for children in foster care. Or to write a check to Second Harvest Food Bank. It’s as simple as really looking at the person who rings up my purchases and saying hello, how is your day going? And meaning it, receiving the response, making a connection.

mom and aunt reta hands

Another Biggish Work

This is my second painting done on a larger canvas. A friend of mine bought a townhouse in the area, which is a big achievement out here in the almost-most expensive housing market on earth. I offered a painting as a housewarming gift. Gradually the ideas of a colorful life and the density and intensity of urban living came to life in this work.

"stained glass city" / 2' x 4' stretched linen canvas with acrylic paint

“Stained Glass City” / 24″ x 48″ stretched linen canvas with acrylic

Women’s March San Jose

It’s late, and I’m exhausted. I volunteered as a Peace Ambassador at the San Jose march. The march was vibrant with loving and festive energy, creative and clever messages, and a wide diversity of people. About 25,000 activists attended. The Resistance has begun. At the end of the march were speeches, and there were many non-profit booths there. Because after the march comes the nitty gritty work.

Women's March - San Jose, CA - 2017

If my album doesn’t show above, here’s a link: Women’s March – San Jose

And here is a link to the attending and supporting organizations for the Bay Area marches. Scroll down for San Jose.

Indivisible: Resisting Trump

This is making the rounds.

Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda

We wrote this guide because we believe that the coming years will see an unprecedented movement of Americans rising up across the country to protect our values and our neighbors. Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your MoCs think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach. This is not a panacea, nor is it intended to stand alone. We strongly urge you to marry the strategy in this guide with a broader commitment to creating a more just society, building local power, and addressing systemic injustice and racism.

The Plan Behind the Safety Pin

While the idea of wearing a safety pin as a symbol to the marginalized that one is a safe person, it’s more than a symbol. This article provides excellent guidance about the intention behind it and how to act. Such as:

  • Are you willing to help all marginalized groups? You don’t get to pick and choose.
  • Do you have a plan? Who will engage with people, and who will film what’s happening?
  • Do you know how to de-escalate situations?
  • Are you willing to be beaten defending another person?
  • If you have children with you, are you willing to risk their safety?

The author says, “…the safety pin is a good idea but if you are going to wear it, you need to know that it is more than an idea. It is a visible, tangible announcement of your commitment to defend the rights and dignity of your fellow human. If you are not willing to follow that announcement up with action, rethink making the announcement.”

So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin

I Cannot Believe

This is not the United States I thought I lived in. I am ASHAMED of this country.

What I learned on #ElectionNight: Being a racist, bigoted, prejudiced, lying sexual predator is still more acceptable than being a woman.

-Allen Clifton

What’s even more demoralizing is knowing how hard Hillary’s worked and how qualified she is, and yet… And every woman knows this feeling.

-Anne T. Donahue

A perfect ending to the tale that asks how averse is America to being led by a woman who they don’t want to fuck.

-Paula Pell

I Am a Nasty Woman

Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” in the last debate, and with that, women rose up to embrace what he meant as an insult. In fact, calling her a “nasty woman” is just a shade cleaner and more acceptable than saying what he probably thought: cunt. When men feel viscerally threatened and rendered powerless by a woman they often resort to dismissing her by reducing her to that one body part.

If having agency over her life, speaking up, insisting on the right to take up space and be heard, asserting her rights as an equal, deciding that only she can make decisions about her health and body, and refusing to be defined by men’s expectations makes a woman nasty, then count me in. I am a nasty woman too.

I finished this painting just before the last debate. I called it The Alchemy of Feminine Wisdom. It is available for purchase. Just inquire.

the alchemy of feminine wisdom / 12" x 24" canvas with acrylic

The Alchemy of Feminine Wisdom / 12″ x 24″ canvas with acrylic

I’m With Her

I don’t post about politics. But this election is critical.

Here is a list: Hillary Clinton’s Record of Accomplishments.

Another record of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments.

Trump is: a narcissist, pathological liar, sexual predator, sexist, and a sociopath.

Characteristics of a sociopath:

  • Glibness and superficial charm
  • Shallow emotions
  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Pathological lying
  • Manipulative and conning
  • Lack of empathy/callousness
  • Impulsive nature
  • Promiscuous sexuality
  • Contemptuous of others
  • Authoritarian
  • Has an emotional need to justify their bad actions
  • Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  • Desire for despotic control

Hillary Clinton should be our next president.

Old Wounds and Misandry

On a deep fundamental level, I don’t like men. Part of me regards them as Other. Threatening. Inherently dangerous. Suspect. There are sound reasons why I feel this way. I don’t judge this part of myself, and I haven’t succeeded in healing it yet. I acknowledge and allow it to be.

As I watched the men reading aloud vile statements to these women (see link), I saw them struggle. I saw them blanche and look uncomfortable. I saw that they felt pain. And for a brief flash, I felt tender toward men. I felt a tiny bit safer that there are good men in the world. I felt an ache for how culture beats empathy and anything feminine out of boys as they grow up.

If you want to comment, please use love as your guide. I am not looking for a debate about gender politics. What these women experience in their jobs is real. What I’ve experienced is real. I am married to a good, loving, empathetic man. It took me a long time to be ready to meet him.

I have a younger brother. I was eight when he was born. I loved him so intensely I would have died for him. When I am feeling a wave of misandry, I try to remember how beautiful we start out as, including males. But it’s difficult. I even feel this tension toward boys, as though they are the enemy-to-be.

Here is the link: ‘I Hope You Get Raped Again’: Women Sportswriters Listen to Men Read Vile Tweets About Them.

Learning to Be an Includer

Experiencing bullying at school is traumatic. When a child comes from a loving, stable family with empathetic parents, it is still hard on a child. When a child comes from a family system that is authoritarian or neglectful, the distress is even worse; often there is bullying ongoing in the home as well, and the people from whom a child would get support don’t provide it.

As a parent, when my child encounters “mean girl” (or “mean kid”) behaviors, I struggle often with my own wounds from childhood. I did not have an empathetic, supportive family, because bullying also occurred within our home. All the parts of myself that I call “young stuff” — that didn’t get needed support — burst to the surface. Sometimes I parent from a state of panic and urgency. I’m working on this.

This article, Raising Girls Who Are Includers Instead of Mean Girls, felt timely and wise. I related to the author’s experiences in childhood and enjoyed reading how those experiences created in her a desire to become an “includer.”

She wrote a list of stories she hopes our daughters will someday say as they reflect on how we supported them during their struggles. I’m sharing here so I can return to it, to read and remind myself of my aspirations.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

~ “My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

~ “My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen – listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

~ “My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

~ “My mom wasn’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

~ “I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”

~ “I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

~ “I learned to name with compassion – for myself and others – what is happening. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”

~ “I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences and needs.”

~ “I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

~ “I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

~ “I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

-Lisa McCrohan