Monday, October 15, 2007

100 Angels

There are alot of rude people in the world. I am trying to work from a place of love lately, to assume that everyone has good intentions but that things get lost in translation from their intention to their mouth. And I am often, still, so taken aback by someone's rudeness that I can't get it together enough to correct them or offer a witty comeback. People don't seem to be playing by the same set of rules or do they just have poor hometraining? I am constantly amazed (and I do mean AMAZED) at how many people tell me how polite my children are. When they are given something they say thank you. When they need to maneuver past someone they say excuse me. If they need something from someone they preface it with a please. And people actually take time out of their busy day to tell me what a polite child I have. And how impolite their children are. As though my kids just sprang from the head of Zeus with social skills. It's my job to make sure they are polite and aware and kind and compassionate and all the other things that get them into college and keep them out of bad relationships. And here are parents actually admitting that they have failed in their child-rearing responsibilities. Seriously, how hard is it?

We take it for granted that people are rude. We expect poor behavior, bad service and an attitude from everyone we meet. We don't trust anyone, even people we know and we are constantly looking for the downside - what's their angle? Is it then so shocking to me that we reap what we expect? Yeah, it still is. My daughter recently came home from school telling us that some of the girls didn't want to play with her or eat lunch with her. My husband asked her, "why do you think that is?" And she responded that they were not people that she wanted to play with "anyway." My husband's response was different than mine might have been. He told her that people can tell that she might not like them. That her face or attitude or even tone of voice might indicate that she didn't want to be around them. "What are you talking about daddy?" "Smile. And mean it." Was all he said. Two days later she came home telling us about all the fun she had at school with all her new "friends." Now, for me, life is too short to get involved in first grade drama, but what he told her made an impact on her. And it made an impact on me. Smile and mean it.

I could very easily interject quotes or video from The Secret here, but I won't. We all get karma. We know that what goes around comes around. And we know that ultimately what we leave behind is a legacy of our kindnesses.

There is a story that I have been attributing to my grandmother for some time now. Family members tell me that they don't remember my grandmother actually saying this story - so I am still going to give my grandmother the credit, even if it was my story, because if we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. So, this story is from my collective "grandmothers." Ashe.

For every change in your life, 100 angels must attend you to help create the change. If one angel does not show up to do their job, that change takes that much longer to happen.

I want to show up for other people. To be one in their number of angels and hopefully by doing so my angels will show up for me all the faster. And who doesn't need a little help and a smile?

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi

How will you change the world today?

in peace

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's Election Season - all year!

The actual presidential election is over a year away and it's a good thirteen weeks to the first primary but I find myself in a really uncomfortable position. I feel as though I have to decide right now who I am going to vote for in the New Jersey primary. I am, of course, a registered Democrat. And I have found that growing up, having children and trying to run a household has pushed me further and further away from my fiscal relativity. I like structure. I like budgets being balanced but I also want all people in our country to be free and a woman's right to choose to be protected. But my priorities have definitely changed since I first worked on Bill Clinton's campaign in college. I want better health care, even though our family is incredibly fortunate to have good health care and to be able to pay our medical bills. I want justice and opportunity for the poor and disenfranchised, I want better public education, more access to healthy, clean food and most importantly I want the seasons to appear as they should (read my previous post).

And all that being said, what lies heaviest on my mind is the growing or I should say shrinking distinction between the secular and religious in this country. Between church and state. I consider myself to be of a spiritual nature, participating in various organized religious pursuits at different times of the year. I do not attend any church, temple or mosque regularly - if at all. But I do believe and support the basic tenets of this country's foundation which I thought were: to escape religious persecution and to allow a space for practice and hopefully discourse. Since most of the people who founded America were of the same Christian ilk it may seem as though they agreed on everything, they did not. They were, it seems, far more progressive than most people running for President nowadays:

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.

George Washington

But endanger the peace it has. Religion and faith is the real wedge issue in this campaign. It is usually cloaked in phraseology or hidden behind strong anti-choice and anti-gay marriage rhetoric. But it is incredibly present. The right has had a stranglehold on religion and what must be its synonym in political parlance - morality - for years now. Apparently they are the only people who love their families and can do any good for this nation. The Democrats seemed too terrified to even mention the "m" word for fear of being attacked for their pro-choice positions. But one man has stood alone and distinguished himself by speaking out. And that man is Barack Obama.

I have had an on-again, off-again love affair with Senator Obama. When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 I got chills. I was on my feet cheering and talking back to the television. He was speaking directly to me, to my heart. Building, with his words, the America I envisioned in my quietest and most hopeful moments. And he even seemed sincerely capable of achieving all he outlined. As time went on I began to fear that Senator Obama might not have enough experience to be the President (those damn pundits again!). That he would not be able to handle foreign affairs. That he was not ready. I embraced John Edwards who is almost as liberal as I am. There was just one problem: I didn't know if I actually trusted Edwards. Was he sincere? Or was he just really good at telling a story? I remembered that I was not that fond of him when he ran for VP in 2004, so what changed for me? Was it his positions? Was it his dedication to poverty? Or was it his electability? Did I want a Democrat to win that badly?
I owed it to myself to investigate further. To really read up on all the candidates. And so I have been doing my own independent investigation of truth.

I am back on the fence but now with both legs hanging over on the Obama side. And it is all because of my latest trip to his website. Under "issues" he has the usual suspects: poverty, education, healthcare, but then there is something interesting at the bottom of the list: "faith and politics." What you say?! Someone is actually going to take on this loaded topic? Take it on he did, and with incredible depth and thoughtfulness. He once again spoke to me, and the love affair is back on. Check it out for yourself:

Barack Obama's Reconciling Faith and Politics Speech

And check out a few words from the men who founded this country:

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God.

Thomas Jefferson

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
Thomas Jefferson

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
Thomas Paine

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
Thomas Paine

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.
Thomas Paine

in peace

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's Fall, Dammit!

I love fall it's my favorite season. Even though it's the beginning of "death season," leaves start to change and then die, harvesting comes to an end. I love fall. For me it has always been the time of new beginnings. Every fall I would get new school supplies, get my fall clothes and reinvent myself for school. What cool things had I done that summer? What revelations about my psyche was I read y to implement? And most importantly what horrible habits was I getting rid of? I was a new person every September. And one of the things that always helped me achieve that newness was clothes. Big sweaters, opaque tights and boots! Not the ugly snow-proof boots, but the cute boots that you wear before slush season. But now in October it is 90 degrees outside! What the hell? I went to school to pick up my daughter and all the moms were in shorts and tank tops! Not that I ever wear shorts or tank tops - at least not out in public. But here I was in my jeans and cute 3/4 sleeve tops and I was sweating! Why you ask? Because on Labor Day I put all my summer clothes away, along with any white shoes I might or might not own. Because after Labor Day you just don't DO that kind of thing. It's fall dammit. Where are my red leaves and warm apple cider? I think you all know where this is going - good ole' Al Gore.

I have always been a firm believer in global warming even if I really didn't understand exactly what it was. But after watching An Inconvenient Truth, and repeatedly taking the "reduce your carbon footprint quiz" until I was firmly below average, I think I get it. And after 90 degree weather in October, I really get it. What we do matters. What we drive, what we eat and what we throw away - it matters. We own one car. We eat organic, buy locally and recycle everything recyclable. We are decreasing our meat consumption to eventually become vegetarians (look for that post later) and we turn off the lights after leaving a room. So why can't we have fall? Why can't there be different earths for different people? Sort of like heaven, purgatory and hell. Hell being the place where single, childless people who drive Suburbans through the McDonald's drive-thru live - and it's hot there, you know like hell-hot. And heaven consists of all people co-habitating with every animal while eating tofu. I would take purgatory. There would probably be taxes and I would even deal with people who drive while talking on their cell phones if I could get fall back. Good old autumn.

But here's the rub: we get to share this planet with all people, Suburban drivers and tofu eaters. Not to disparage either group. And we have to figure out how to live with all different types of people. I wish I could create a tribe of the flawless, but that is not possible. Nor preferable. All I want is to have to stop wearing flip flops and be forced into a sweater. Because I get to reinvent myself via my wardrobe and I also get to pull my family closer. To nestle indoors with them and cook with them and be driven crazy by them when it is too cold to send them outside. Am I romanticizing the fall - you bet. But right now I would take a romantic walk down a leaf-littered lane to this heat. Pay attention to the environment. And I will do the same. Help me get fall back.

in peace