What Does Thanksgiving Mean?

What Does Thanksgiving mean to you?

Hear the word “Thanksgiving” and what comes to mind?

  • Food and lots of it;
  • Football and lots of it;
  • Napping after the food and football;
  • Family gatherings, and realizing perhaps why you don’t get together more often;
  • For farming families it means the harvest;
  • For moms and grandmas it’s baking and cooking sometimes for days;
  • And the day after we now call “Black Friday” even though some retailers begin on Thanksgiving evening.

These are some of the most common responses to the meaning of Thanksgiving. But in our country we have so much to be thankful for that these responses seem inadequate, in my opinion.

My gratitude list for thanksgiving

Gratitude should be part of our every day, and yet we live very different lives one from the other so pick your best way to show your gratitude. On this day, this Thanksgiving eve I am grateful for:

  • My family–a loving husband, our three children and their families;
  • Our church family;
  • Our home sheltering us from the cold wind, rain, and maybe snow;
  • Nature and its beauty all seasons of the year;
  • Music, which lends harmony and peace to our days;
  • Books, which teach us and bring pleasure to our lives;
  • Love, peace, hope, and faith–cornerstones of our spiritual lives;
  • And for God’s enormous gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

Taking time for gratitude allows the joy to fill your world in greater abundance.

To you and your family wishes for a ~

Turbulent and Emotional Times (Part II)

TURBULENT and emotional times

Last week I posted my thoughts and opinions on the turbulent journey we are facing. It was not an uplifting nor light piece.

Today I want to bring hope and light to the page. I believe we have to react with hope and faith in order not to normalize what is happening in our government. Hope coupled with faith helps me hold my personal beliefs strong and founded on solid ground.

But like me, you’ve probably been asking what can I do? how can I help? who needs me to come along? and more. And we’re watching for the light.

WHAT WE CAN DO

FILTER THE NEWS

One thing we have done in our home is agree to limit our intake of news programming by the media. We all are aware that today’s media networks tend to over hype the news they bring us. Media networks, like each of us, have a political preference which impacts their programming.

Here’s what we’ve decided has permission to come into our home daily:

  • PBS NewsHour will be the first TV news we see each day.  We appreciate the intelligent presentation of news items. Most often one or more opinions from authorities on the subject are included.
  • We then watch the late local news, usually on an ABC affiliate.
  • Other news arrives in digital from the New York Times, NPR News, NPR Alerts, and The Oregonian.

I am the only user of social media in our home. Stepping back from Facebook and Twitter to a low profile has drained a lot of the vitriol from my life.

I urge you to think about eliminating how much negative information you read. It has helped us meet a more normal balance of emotional health since the election.

VOLUNTEER IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Many opportunities awaited us before and after the election. These opportunities allow us to give back some of our bounty to the marginalized in our community. I have researched and found several organizations accepting monetary and other donations.

  • Look for organizations in your community providing help to victims of domestic violence. Offer your time or financial support. Domestic abuses heighten in times of turmoil and tension in the rest of our world.
  • Planned Parenthood is always in need of volunteers and financial support.
  • The ACLU stands ready to protect all of usWhy not become a member? If there is a chapter nearby, volunteer to help in some way as a writer, teacher, mentor.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center functions to combat hate, intolerance and discrimination. The Center operates from donations. Legal fees are not charged to those they help, so donations are important.
  • Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization. Reach Out and Read operates to incorporate books into pediatric care. The programs encourage families to read aloud together. Reach Out and Read appreciates financial donations. Check out their volunteer page and find a way to find a program in your area and a list of ways you can take part. You can help by donating books, leading a program, reading to a child. What better way to give hope and promise of a future.
  • Volunteers often work with English as a second language students, both children and adults. Students learn to read and write English and converse. Check with schools and community colleges that might offer such programs.
  • Our local church home is one way we connect with the marginalized in our community. Often we help prepare meals for the hungry and work with Habitat for Humanity to build houses. Our congregation welcomes a homeless family a place for temporary shelter.

This list offers suggestions only. Each community has its own needs, and I’m certain  you will be able to find a way to give back. By giving back, our lives are enriched. In the current political climate, we may find more people living on the margins than before. To counteract our own feelings, we must act and offer some type of help.

ARTICLES FOR READING AND USING IN MOVING AHEAD

The following are articles which crossed my desk via my computer. I found them helpful. Some of the suggestions above came from the Nicholas Kristof article.

WHAT WE CAN DO AS WRITERS

I believe in the power of writing. Writing sends our feelings, opinions, and beliefs on a variety of topics out to others. We have to continue to write. Search for publications looking for essays, short stories (fiction or nonfiction), poetry and submit something giving hope to future tomorrows.

We can also look for writing programs in our communities aimed at helping young writers. One example I found is Girls Write Now, a New York-based program. Review their site. Perhaps those of you in large cities will find something like this to use your writing skills. WriteGirl in Los Angeles is seeking mentors to work with girls and young women. Mentors may be either male or female

FINALLY…

Whatever you choose to take part in–peaceful protests, a Veterans program, reading to children, donating food and dollars to the hungry, providing warm clothes for the coming winter, and other ways–remember the message to deliver is one of love and hope.

We are in early days yet and although things may still look dark, I cling to the hope that the system of checks and balances put into place by our Founding Fathers holds strong.

Ours is a great country. We have had our struggles in decades past but no one ever said America was not a great country until someone said, “Make America great again.” She has always been great, and she still is.

Think on these words, if nothing else:

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance.
It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in
waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be
righteous as well as strong.

~James Bryce

Turbulent and Emotional Times (Part I)

TURBULENT TIMES AND EMOTIONS

Over the past week, many of us have walked through some turbulent times and dealt with turbulent emotions. Many people are worried, fearful, depressed. Others find themselves mistrusting, despairing, experiencing incredulity. They are not alone. Many of us have been there with them. But these were not the feelings I had anticipated experiencing.

Growing up, I was a dreamer, literally. I dreamed about books and their characters, school, friends, fantasies, and even nightmares. As I grew into my teens, I even dreamed of politics and campaigns.

I dreamed dreams

JOHN F. KENNEDY (1961)

My political dreams began with my first participation in a presidential campaign. I was 15 years old and campaigning for John F. Kennedy in the 1961 race. Too young to cast a vote, my parents gave me their blessing to volunteer for the local JFK office.

To my delight, JFK won. I felt certain I had something to do with his success in that race. Standing on street corners and in shopping malls was important work. I knew handing out fliers and brochures surely won the race!

JFK’s inaugural speech brought tears to my eyes. His words so powerful, so meaningful:

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

My heart thrilled each time I heard him speak or read something about his dreams for America. Among a long list of accomplishments in his too short presidency included:

  • Socio-economic improvements in housing, welfare, and food programs for the poverty-stricken;
  • Broadening Social Security benefits for the elderly of our nation;
  • Formation of the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities; and
  • Strides in closing the racial divide in our country.

JFK made a difference in America. No doubt about it in my opinion.

Then came November 1963. John F. Kennedy died with a bullet shot from the gun of an assassin. My dreams for our first Catholic president ended with shattering results. I remember darkness enveloping me as I heard our school principal announce the startling news. And the darkness didn’t lift for days. I watched as a stunned wife and mother stood by her husband’s casket. No expression in her face. Stoic and courageous. As a young woman, this was a new dream–to be stoic and courageous in all I attempted.

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA II

The 2008 Election

Fast forward to the 2008 election. Barack Hussein Obama, II, was a rising star after a powerful keynote speech given at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Obvious leadership characteristics included intelligence, expertise in Constitutional law, and eloquent speaker.

One of my dreams growing up in the racist South was to see an African-American hold the highest office in the land. This didn’t happen until after I moved to more liberal Portland, OR. I wanted to see the stereotypical image of these people negated forever. Mr. Obama represented the man who could do this in my dreams. He exhibited honesty, compassion, and love toward all people. What more could we ask for?

Life wasn’t healthy for me during this election so I didn’t have the privilege of campaigning for Mr. Obama. But I was a proud supporter from the family room where our TV lives. Life wasn’t easy for the Obama campaign either. His birth came into question. His Christian beliefs came under scrutiny. The color of his skin became a question on the lips of many. We’d never had an African-American in the Oval Office. How would it work?

During his inaugural speech, President Obama shared these words:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

President Obama saw us as we are and should be: a whole made up of many parts. The divisions among us have been of our own making. The wealthy rise to the top. Those with lesser wealth huddle somewhere in the middle. The poor struggle obscurely in whatever workplace they can find.  Yet, President Obama gave credit to all, including the least among us, for America’s rise to greatness.

Richard Blanco appeared as the fifth inaugural poet at the 2009 inaugural ceremony. Blanco is the first Latino, first openly gay-identified person, and youngest person to serve as an inaugural poet. Listen as Blanco presents his poem written for this occasion, One Today. I felt that Blanco’s poem spoke for each American, emphasizing we are one, making up that whole President Obama would mention in his speech.

The 2012 Election

His first term worked well, and President Obama was re-elected in 2012 to a second term. War wasn’t kind to President Obama, but it was a problem inherited with his first term. Veterans began to speak out of unfairness in health care when they returned home. Their families weren’t cared for as well as expected. Then there were the ominous images from the situation room during the Benghazi attack. It appeared these cracks in the walls of this administration would be troublesome.

As these years sped by I felt we were still moving forward in hope. Moving toward a time when our country would be more united than ever before. I hoped for a time when every man, woman and child, regardless of skin color, religion, lifestyle, education, employment, ethnicity would be equal under the American flag.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (2016)

2016 Final Electoral College Results
2016 Final Electoral College Results

The election of 2016 disappointed me. You see I had a dream for this contest as well. A dream that a woman would break the glass ceiling and take the seat in the Oval Office, one never occupied by a woman.

On November 8, 2016, as I listened to the election results, the dark curtain of doom began to settle around me. It wasn’t going to be, was it? No, it wasn’t.

I don’t remember shedding tears over a lost election before. I probably wouldn’t have. But the winner here has some disturbing characteristics and behaviors. He associates with people who hold beliefs adverse to mine. A thread of racism and exclusivity ran through much of his rhetoric during his campaign and still does even now.

The days following November 8th reminded me of the days post-September 11, 2001. Feelings of disbelief, incredulity, mistrust, dubiety, and skepticism hung over my head. My heart ached.

Then the riots began in my hometown as well as many other cities across the nation. In Portland, a newly formed activist group, Portland’s Resistance, organized the protest. Their intent was a peaceful protest. Anarchists preyed on the peaceful protesters turning the it into a riot. In all, the police arrested 71 persons, most of whom live out-of-state.

The actions of the rioters did not make many of us here in Portland happy. The activist group did not cause any of the damages reported. Yet they stepped up to raise the funds to pay for the damages. Anytime there is a protest the anarchists come out and take advantage, but they never take responsibility.

I understand why the people gathered to protest. That’s how I felt too. I wanted to protest in some way. I knew there were people hurting and afraid as the news rolled out. Who wouldn’t be afraid having heard the promises from the campaign trail?  Who wouldn’t have cause for concern with what our new president-elect planned for America?

BUT WHAT CAN I DO?

There are many ways to show our displeasure and in the process give help to others. Many ways of helping appear online through social media, blogs, news articles, and more. A few suggestions have included wearing a safety-pin to show your solidarity with the fearful, the pin indicating to the marginalized you are a safe person. Others have shared the best ways to connect with your representatives in Washington. Attending town hall meetings in your area. Become involved as a volunteer. Sign a petition. Don’t just accept everything as normal until it unravels, and there’s nothing we can do.

In the second part of this post, I will list specific ways writers can bring hope to our country today. Will you join me and make a difference?

COME BACK TO READ PART II, AND LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT WE CAN DO IN OUR COMMUNITIES. ABOUT WHAT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR SOMEONE ELSE. ABOUT MAKING AMERICA BETTER.

Let’s Admit It: Our Words and Actions Impact Others

JUST WHAT DO I MEAN?

The featured image above holds the answer to this question. The word cloud contains many emotions experienced by those confronted with negative reactions. Perhaps in the form of words or even by threatened actions. Reading the emotions tells us what our words and actions may do to another.

Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida
Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s see how that works. Look at the image of Will Muschamp during his tenure as head football coach at the University of Florida.

The score of this game held Muschamp’s future. Muschamp’s facial expression defines his anger. And it’s not hard to see the object of his scorn.

WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, another example I saw while watching an NCAA football game a couple of weeks ago. What I saw has stayed with me as it brought back memories of a painful childhood.

I searched online football news for a photo perhaps taken by a reporter or TV crew, but no luck. You’ll have to use your imaginations to bring the image to mind.

One of the two teams playing made a touchdown, and as usual, there was much celebration. As the offensive players made it to the sidelines, the offensive line coach was waiting. He expressed heated displeasure with his players. I couldn’t understand why.

As the young collegiate players took seats, the coach visibly berated them. His facial expressions, like those of Will Muschamp, revealed such anger it was frightening. His index finger did its share of chest jabbing. If faceguards had not been in place, I daresay he may have done more. Despite the touchdown, it seems some of his players had made a mistake in carrying out the play. The touchdown was forgotten in favor of berating his players.

As a child exposed to similar abuses, I looked on as these young men shrank on the TV screen. Still in full uniform and pads, their shoulders slumped and theirs heads hung low. They were experiencing many of the emotions in the word cloud above. I felt bad for them all, including the coach for his behavior.

IT’S NOT JUST IN SPORTS

I’m writing about this topic because it’s evident in all phases of our world. Today bullying runs rampant in so many places–the workplace, schoolroom, community activities, and organizations. Many relationships suffer the effects of bullying.

If we take a look around our daily lives, a short list becomes clear. We find it in professional workplaces, employer to employee, friendships, and among family members.

Take a look at why this happens. Usually it happens when a sense of competition, hierarchy, power, or control gets out of hand. Even in our community of writers, editors, coaches, and teachers it can happen.

How can this be you might ask? Among writers and those who support them or direct their paths?

I recently met with a writing coach. She requested I send the first ten pages of my manuscript for her review. Not to critique or edit, simply review. Despite knowing this, my nerves jangled as I headed toward the appointment. Rooted in my mother’s persistent negative reactions toward me, I anticipated a negative response.

Imagine my relief when the coach began our meeting with the words, “You’re a good writer.” Of course, there were topics addressed which needed work and I knew there would be. But she began our meeting on a positive note. It made all the difference in how I left the meeting.

A FEW THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • When critiquing another’s writing, do you jump on the most negative element in feedback? Or do you lead first with something positive?
  • When commenting on a blog post, do you immediately point out a grammatical error or an incorrect fact? Or do you first offer appreciation for the writer’s effort and time in posting?
  • When participating in a Google Hangout or Skype conversation, do you put others down? Or do you ignore whatever irritates you in a more private, less offensive way later?
  • Do you choose public forum vs. privacy to clear the air with a fellow writer, editor, coach, or teacher?
  • As adults, we no longer see the need to raise hands to speak. Yet, there is another way to avoid talking over each other and being rude. Be patient and wait for a break in the conversation and then speak. No reason to step on others’ toes and/or feelings.

This short list is only five examples of ways we can watch our own behavior. Sometimes, as the irate football coach did, we react too fast. In so doing, we reduce the other party to any of the several emotions in our word cloud. And we cast ourselves in the role of an abuser or bully.

Bullying isn’t found only among our children and youth. Adults have a handle on bullying too. It may be a carryover from a dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps a lack of self-respect from a feeling of unworthiness. Even jealousy plays a large role. As adults, we must set the example for children and youth.

Let’s try to make a difference by remembering these words:

“Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of
power they carry.”

~Joyce Meyer