Children, Uncategorized

Safety First. The Quiet Death of a Generation.

I just watched a news segment on back to school in New York. A reporter asked a young child who was headed back on his first day, “What’s the most important thing you were told about going back to school?”

His answer?

“Be safe.”

My heart hurts. I expected, “Have fun!” or a least, “Make new friends!” I’d have even been happy with, “Learn a lot!”

But, “Be safe” ?!??

I want to cry. What are we doing?!??! What are we teaching our children? How will life be different for a child who grows up with safety as their first concern? Will a child who is always afraid ever be brave enough to take a risk? Step out of their comfort zone? Think outside the box? (Where, oh no! It might not be “safe.”)

We know that in order to be innovative, to step up as a leader, or even to just truly excel in life, we need to be willing to take risks.  We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and be uncomfortable.  To weigh safety against achievement. Are we unknowingly raising a generation of  people who will seek comfort and safety before success? Can we ever really go through life and thrive if we are constantly consumed with our physical safety?


What if those who ventured onto the Mayflower first stopped to ask, “Is this safe?”  Or what if the pioneers who migrated out west in search of gold first stopped to think, “Is this a safe choice?”  Did Neil Armstrong hesitate and say, “Wait guys…I’m not sure the moon looks all that safe.” I can’t imagine very many people would ever achieve or even do much, if safety was always the constant concern.  (I mean, most of us would never get into a car or step on a plane and certainly never dare enough to climb up Mount Everest.)  

Do you know what I’m scared of? An entire generation of people who will never experience the thrill of victory, who will never realize what they could accomplish or achieve if they would just be willing to take a risk. Because we conditioned them from childhood to …  be safe.


Now, I’m not minimizing the reality of COIVD19. I talk with my daughter about wearing her mask, washing her hands, and bringing sanitizer with her to the point she’s rolling her eyes at me on a regular basis. One of my best friends, who has probably been the most proactive throughout this whole Covid experience quarantining herself for over 21 weeks, was recently was diagnosed. (Which only affirmed to Emily that no matter what you do, you might still get Covid so you might just as well go live life with abandonment, which openly really wasn’t the message I was hoping she’d get).  So yes, with school starting, I’m definitely concerned for her safety. Our current argument is what will be an “acceptable mask” to wear to school. One that is socially acceptable (think Gap or Target) or one that mom deems medically acceptable. (Think N95, Cambridge or Vlog)

But, here’s the stark cold reality.  I’ve always been concerned for her safety.  From drop offs with her violent and abusive dad, which were ordered by the court against my frantic pleas, and continued until she was finally hurt and then given a life time restraining order, to nights sleeping next to her in her hospital bed listening to the beep beep of her vitals while cancer was trying it’s best to kill her (it lost and she won). I think about her going to college and college parties and my stomach does these funny flip flops. I think about her driving a car and drunk driver’s and then I’m the one ready to puke.  I mean the first time she went to sleep away camp I thought I was going to have a full blown nervous breakdown after the second night.  (Was she OK? Was she crying herself to sleep? Did she have sunburn? Did she tell them she wanted to go home and they just weren’t telling me? My baby needs me and someone help me break into camp and rescue her!!!!”)

Yet, I have to acknowledge that those are my fears and my job as her mom is to prepare her for life.  To encourage her to be responsible, make wise choices, and pursue life with a courageous heart in order to go boldly after her dreams. I hope that I will have given her a secure foundation of belief, confidence, and courage to live life in a way that when she’s old and gray herself, she will not be filled with regrets simply because she played it safe.

Yes, she will get hurt along the way. As much as I want to protect her from every pain, tear and heartache I can’t. I can only be there to hold her hand and remind her I’m always on “Team Emily,” God loves her even more than I do, and she is stronger than she thinks.

So, I will sanitize her up, put a mask on her face, and send her to school…and my message will be this …”Em just remember….have fun!

Uncategorized

I Missed Yoga, but Found a Flag

I’ve been thinking a lot about my core values over this season of COIVD, quarantine and political unrest.  Today, as I was driving through Highlands, NJ and a storm was coming in. (OK I was driving around because today I got up for outdoor yoga, yesterday it was sunny and gorgeous and I overslept, but today when it’s cold and rainy I wake up…only to find it was canceled…and a good reminder go when you can because in the current world COVID makes the rules when it rains.)

While I was driving home, I caught a glimpse of these beautiful flags flying in the drizzle & wind. I had to stop and take a picture (oh and a video for my insta of course).

My heart has been so heavy for our country recently. So much anger. So much hurt. People alienating each other with just a post or a meme.  People triggered over small things and silent over big things.  I find myself needing to stop regularly and reconnect with the higher energy of beauty and love that has always been and will always be in the world. A consciousness that comes from our Creator which I purposefully tap into because I refuse to be sucked into the darkness and anger that I feel swirling around me.

Yet, as I stood there in awe of these flags for a brief moment I was reminded…this is who we are. This is what we stand for. The flag is our physical representation of our core values.  And I was reminded, we are better than we’ve been acting.

50 stars and 13 stripes remind me:

  • We are the land of the free because of the brave.
  • We are one nation under God, founded by families seeking freedom of religion not freedom from religion.
  • We are a nation of equality, where all men are created equal. And while as a nation, we have had to mature to understand what “men” represents, (men= human race of every color and gender) each day gives us a new chance to embrace what “all” really needs to look like.
  • We are a land which protects inalienable rights for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.

As a country, we need to remember who we are, our core values.  Together, we need to eliminate anything that threatens our inalienable rights. Recognize where in the past (or currently) we aren’t living up to who we are, honor our core values and begin to stand in our greatness.

I think of the Statue of Liberty and what it meant to my mother’s ancestors when they first saw it as they entered Ellis Island. I think of how my Irish paternal great-grandparents felt leaving their home to escape starvation during the potato famine and coming to the USA with hopes and dreams of a new life and new possibilities.  I think of the people like my friend Kwan who just received her citizenship and threw a USA party.  How many pray to come here and sacrifice so much to get here.   I think of how much I take a simple thing like the American flag, protecting my freedom, for granted.  Even being able to write my unedited thoughts on a public forum is a freedom I might not have in another country.  Yet, with that freedom of speech comes deep responsibility. The responsibility that my words reflect my core values, not my fluctuating feelings. Much like a relationship that is destroyed in one hate filled rant, our words our powerful.

So I will use my words to speak love, respect and compassion. I will pray those who are hurting are healed & those who are victimized are vindicated. And mostly, I will pray that we remember our core values as a country because one thing will always be true, “a house divided against itself can not stand.”  we are stronger 𝚃𝙾𝙶𝙴𝚃𝙷𝙴𝚁.

Cancer, Quarantine, Uncategorized

Fear, Faith and a Facebook Post

be afraid meme

What I have learned from Covid ……. the superhuman power of FEAR.
I always viewed fear as a both positive and negative motivator.  My eyes have been opened. If I wanted to destroy a person, their family, their livelihood, their future, their nation I would use fear.

Linda Toupin.

I woke up this morning to this post by one of my favorite and most influential mentors. Openly, I was surprised that she had previously viewed fear as positive (and relieved to hear her heart has changed on this stance).

I have learned a lot about fear over my life and what I can confidently say is, fear keeps us from our best self. It cripples us. Paralyzes us. It stops our brains from working and puts us in reaction vs response mode. It causes health issues and, in some cases, can even kill us. As a Christian, I believe fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us from living and experiencing all the blessings God has planned for us.

We are told Satan can’t change God’s will for us, but we can. So, what’s the best way to get to us? Fear. (and fear that is usually based on lies)

  • Don’t quit the job you hate because what if you never find another one?
  • Don’t donate that much money to that cause because what if you are short on cash next month?
  • Don’t say “yes” to trying that new business because what if you fail?
  • Don’t speak up against the wrong you see because what if everyone turns on you?
  • Don’t break up with him/her even though they treat you poorly because what if you never find anyone else?

I wonder how many of us (myself included) have missed out on huge blessings simply because we were afraid?

The word “fear” comes from a number of root words but the one I find most interesting  is from the Old Norse word far which means, “harm, distress, deception.DECEPTION.

Fear is used to deceive us. (From a biblical standpoint Satan is referred to as “the deceiver of the whole world” Rev 12:9) Fear stops us from thinking logically and rationally about a situation. And it has dire consequences.

Some might argue there is “healthy fear.” We are afraid to stick our hand into a fire, (keeps us from getting burned). We are afraid of heights, (keeps us from falling). We are afraid of creepy crawling things, (keeps us from getting bit or stung). I would venture to say that’s not the same fear we are talking about. Are those examples of fear or simply examples of common sense? I don’t want to get burned, fall, or stung, so my brain logically tells me …hey don’t do that.

That’s entirely different than my body being in a constant state of fear with unnecessary adrenaline running around throwing off my nervous system, switching my brain into my non-rational flight or flight mode, and disrupting my immune, endocrine, and nervous system (and that’s just to start).

No wonder why Satan uses fear to cripple us. It weakens us mentally, physically, emotionally and most importantly spiritually. The famous saying, “faith and fear can not exist together” now makes more sense. We can’t hear God when we are deaf with fear.

What’s worse, is most of us use fear daily to control those around us. I admit I currently use the fear of losing her cell phone to “control” my daughter. (Things like, “If you don’t do XYZ you are losing your phone for a week!” may or may not be heard in my home on a regular basis). Maybe a boss uses fear to control his/her employees. Or a teacher uses fear to get his/her students to pay attention. And certainly fear is used in intimate relationships at an alarming rate in our country (https://ncadv.org/statistics)

Today’s world surrounds us with fear. Fear that is being used to manipulate and control us. (long before Covid, the election, or 2020). The daily news, in my humble opinion, is the greatest source of fear-feeding. I recently posted that waking up and looking at the news is like waking up and asking, “What’s all the horrible stuff going on in the world today?

Now, I’m not saying we should live in ignorance. I am saying we need to balance that fear with faith. Faith in humanity, in each other, in ourselves and in God. For every scary fear-filled news story there is one of hope, love and faith. (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/)

I wonder what would our lives be like if we didn’t live in fear? If we truly stepped into faith every day? Would we walk haphazardly down the street into oncoming traffic? Swim in the ocean when the red flags are up? Start collectively telling off our bosses? Probably not. Faith doesn’t mean we are stupid. In fact, it’s the opposite. We are told “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7). Some versions translate sound mine as “good judgement” or “self control.” All things I want.

God tells me he has plans for me …plans to plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future, (Jer 29:11 and the verse I claimed for my daughter during her cancer treatment). And guess what? That’s His promise to YOU too!

So we get to choose. Will we stand in the TRUTH of God’s promise to us or the FEAR of Satan’s lie to us?

I’ve lived through fear. Fear my ex-husband was going to kill me. It wasn’t “perceived fear” or “fake fear” it was real logical fear of a man who graphically described to my daughter how he planned to kill me. I slept with my windows locked, security system on and adrenaline running through my body 24/7. I also experienced “real fear” when the doctors told me my daughter probably was going to die and had one of the lowest cure rates in the childhood cancer world. And even recently another “real fear” I am not ready to go public with just yet. So yes, I get fear can be “real.”

But, here’s the thing. Fear is also a choice. Faith is a choice. And like resiliency, it’s a muscle we can exercise and build. It was much easier for me to move from fear to faith with my daughter’s cancer (like a 2-minute turn around!) because I was already building that muscle super strong during my divorce. Now, was it a one-time decision? I regretfully admit, no. There were more times than I can count where I was dealing with her cancer and my ex-husband endangering her life that my “lizard brain” took over, I went into full reaction mode, and would physically shake with fear. Now, looking back, I realize how much power I gave away in that reactive response. And how much of a foothold I gave the devil.

I’ve seen the power I have when I choose faith instead. The energy around me physically changes. My mind becomes clear. My heart peace filled. My feet grounded. I feel strong, capable and competent. That is the power of faith. That is the power of a God-filled spirit moving through me…or you.

As we move into what will probably one of the most difficult seasons our country has faced in many years (between Covid, the election, the reopening or non-opening of schools and a looming financial crash) we each have a choice on how we will wake up every morning and face our day. We will choose faith or fear? (Remembering that fear is usually based on lies, deception, and manipulation.)

It is up to each of us to choose wisely.

Uncategorized

Negative People, Judgment and the Girl I Don’t Like.

I heard a speaker this week talk about how we are all prejudice. He concluded there was no way we couldn’t be because we only have our own points of view since we’ve only lived our own lives. I disagreed with him because prejudice by definition implies our views bring injury or damage to another and are inherently hostile. However, I do think it means we are all naturally judgmental. We judge things, experiences, and people based on our own points of view which grow from our experiences.  After Em’s cancer, I had to come face to face with my judgment. Not only of others, but more so of myself, and is something I still struggle with on a regular basis.

So, when someone asked on the Official Tony Robbins Comeback Challenge group, “How do you deal with negative family members that are part of your everyday life?”  I responded quickly and without much thought.

  • Love them
  • Limit listening to complaining
  • Don’t judge
  • Thinks of reasons you are grateful for them to refocus on gratitude vs frustration.

When I looked back at what I wrote, I realized these four quick “tips” really encompass so much of what I attempt to infuse into my life on a daily basis.

Love them.  My last post was about The Golden Rule. This however, is far beyond a “rule”. It is a “commandment”. When Jesus was asked what were the two greatest commandments (Because lets be real, as humans aren’t we quick to think, “Dude, ten rules? I can’t follow ten rules. Can you just give me like the top two? Maybe I can handle that?”)  Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)

Seems easy. It’s not.  Loving people who frustrate me? Loving people who hurt, disappoint or down right anger me? And I have to love them?  Can I stick to just the first part? Nope. God doesn’t say love me and then try to love others. Or, love me and if you can love others. Or even, love me and love those who don’t piss you off. In fact, loving God might be one in the same, because the Bible teaches us, “God Is Love”. (For all my Buddhist, non-Christian, Universal consciousness oriented friends that might resonate with you more and guess what? It’s actually biblical! (1 John 4:8, 16))

Limit listening to complaining. This one is easy for me because the science backs it up. There’s a saying, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with.” Sounds cliché but it’s actually true.  And if those five people (or even one of them) is constantly complaining it can negatively impact your health.

Venting Just Makes You More Miserable, Science Shows

You Become the Company You Keep – Choose Wisely!

How Complaining Affects the Brian and General Health

Don’t judge. Ugh this is the hardest for me.  Judgment is so wired into our DNA I think we sometimes do it without even realizing we are judging. Everything from public breast feeding, to the car someone drives, and even now whether or not they wear a mask.  The bible tells us by the way we judge someone else we will be judged. (Matthew 7:2)  When I find myself judging someone I try to think, “What is it about them that is triggering something in me?”  100% of the time I find it has to do with me and not them.  For example, I just was at a party with a woman I judged and quickly decided I didn’t like her.  It was her fault after all. She wasn’t friendly to me. Never made eye contact and definitely walked around with an “attitude” (like that judgment right there?).  I had to ask myself, “What is it about her that is triggering me?” Because truth be told, there were lots of people I didn’t talk to or make eye contact with so why did she bug me?  Want the truth? This one hurts to admit. I was judging her because she was skinnier than me, prettier than me, her daughter was way too cute and to put the nail into the  judgmental coffin she had a huge rock on her left hand. Meanwhile I was there at the party alone…as usual.  Her “picture perfect life” triggered my feelings of inadequacy and loneliness and I consoled myself with the fact she was smoking so eventually she would be wrinkled and smelly.  And I secretly, (and now not so secretly since I’m sharing this all with you) thought her life can’t really be as picture perfect as I am imagining because she is a smoker in 2020, a mom with a family and not a young teen without a fully developed frontal lobe. She must know she is slowing killing herself and obviously is choosing to smoke because of some underlying anxiety. And maybe that’s why she is skinny because she doesn’t eat and smokes instead and probably has body images and continues to smoke knowing it will kill her but doesn’t care because she’s obsessed with being skinny!

And after all that I’m expected to love her?????  Dude, I’m still stuck in judging her just to make myself feel better.  Because after all, isn’t that what all judgment is truly about? A flawed attempt to make ourselves feel better? It’s much harder to ask, “Why does this trigger me?” because then I need to acknowledge all my flaws instead of someone else’s.

Think of reasons to be grateful for them. This is my go-to-fixes-everything-in-my-life secret. I find once I focus on gratitude everything else seems easier.  People who I find difficult to love, want to run in the opposite direction of or have a list of judgment piling high, instantly are seen differently when I focus on gratitude.

My mother’s complaining? I’m grateful for a woman who would do anything for me including move across the country to help me during Em’s cancer and my domestic violence divorce. Giving up her life completely to help me save mine and Em’s.

My sister annoying me? I’m grateful she is the one on full time quarantine care with my mom. Living with her, sanitizing for her, grocery shopping for her, and keeping her company. I openly have no idea how my mom would survive fully quarantined alone in her house if it wasn’t for my sister.

Emily having a fit and driving me crazy with nagging and teenage attitude? (Fortunately my kid is awesome and this doesn’t happen often but when it does….) I’m grateful she’s alive and I remind myself it was her feistiness and I-will-wear-you-down-until-you-give-in that finally made her tumor surrender and say, “Forget it you win! I’m outta here!”

I have even been able to apply this simple strategy with my ex-husband. (Ok this took a few years and didn’t happen overnight.) A man who graphically described to my 3-year-old how he was going to kill me and who I now have a life time restraining order against. A man who still owes me tens of thousands of dollars and who I spent six years in court trying to keep my daughter safe from.  That man.  I am grateful he gave me Em. I am grateful he forced me to see how strong & resilient I am. I am grateful I learned what I don’t want in a relationship and how to look for “warning signs” going forward. I am grateful for those nights terrified, with my windows locked, because that’s when I grew closest to God.  I am grateful for that fear because it made me one day say. “I will not give you one more day of my life. I will not live in fear. If you want to kill me at the end of the day there is little I can do to stop that. But in the meantime, I will not let fear steal anymore from me. I choose not to be afraid.”  This same choice is one I am using now with COVID, and I have used multiple times over the last decade. I choose to face whatever uncertainty is in front of me and I choose to do so without fear. All of which I am grateful for.

So, when it can feel like “us vs them” in reality it’s just “me vs me.”  People who annoy frustrate, or even infuriate us are really just gifts forcing us to look beyond them and into ourselves.

I guess the Egyptians had it right after all (and later popularized by Socrates), our greatest quest really is to “know thyself.”

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Uncategorized

Freedom, Power, and 4th of July Wearing a Mask

face mask

I believe people are more alike than different. In the end we all desire the same things. Safety, opportunity, freedom and respect to name a few. I think it’s written down somewhere actually. Something like, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Words we celebrate this 4th of July weekend.

Words from our sacred Declaration of Independence. A sacredness that goes beyond hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks and two hours of beach traffic. Words that are interesting and intriguing document to me. Not just because it founded the country I have been born and raised in and took my 8th grade trip to Washington, DC to learn about. But words that remind me we are more similar than different.  That these are “unalienable rights.” Rights that are given to us by our creator and which governments are created in order to protect.

How exactly to preserve these “unalienable rights” seems to be where the division lies.  See Jefferson’s first draft didn’t say, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He actually wrote, “the preservation of life.” Later, after multiple edits, it was shorted to just say “life.” So, does it mean that our government can then force us to wear a mask to “preserve our life” or does that interference then step on the second enable right of “liberty”? Or, maybe it steps on the third one because wearing a mask sure doesn’t make me happy. (And openly makes me wonder how Muslim women wear burkas when taking off my mask offers more sweet relief then taking off my bra.)

Now more interestingly it was Richard Cumberland (a 17th philosopher) who said that in order for us to be able to enjoy our third “unalienable right” (pursing happiness), it was essential to “promote the well- being of our fellow humans” (Wikipedia quote not his).  This idea actually permeates most cultures and goes by a phrase I was taught as a young child: The Golden Rule. We say it so often we forget the deep intention and power behind it.  First, it’s the Golden one. Like the Golden Child, or the Golden Calf, it is special, unique and the one that stands above all others.  It’s not just on a list of rules. It’s the rule. The rule that stands above all others.  Like gold itself, it is precious, valuable, and worth more than the silver or bronze rules. If you only follow one rule, you follow The Golden One.

It makes me stop and think, “treat others the way I would want to be treated.” Do I always follow that rule? Just yesterday morning I can think of almost five people I drove pass waiting to cross the busy one road that  spans the beach by me. One way in and one way out. With everyone currently home, nothing opened, and nothing else to do, it was crammed so tightly with people that my 18 minute drive to and from yoga took almost an hour. I admit that even though I’ve mellowed out as I’ve gotten older, I was quick to drive right by those patiently waiting to cross the street because I was agitated, feeling claustrophobic and just wanted to get out of there. Not very golden rule like.

I also have a message sitting in my phone from yesterday. It’s a person who is attempting to do a “follow up call” with me. (I’m sure to sell me something.)  I haven’t returned the call. I hate high pressure sales or people who are trained to just ask leading questions to get a yes. (I say this as someone who has taught sales for 20 years).   Being in sales myself, I should be even more quick to return this call and yet the golden rule is no where to be found as that message still sits there. (If this was 1995 there would be a sad red light flashing on my answering machine.)

So, as I get ready to celebrate my freedom this weekend I have to stop and recognize that the golden rule means more here in the USA than probably any place else in the world.  Because here in America I am given my unalienable rights. And with those rights comes great responsibility. Responsibility to follow the golden rule in order to continue to enjoy those rights.

In 1817 William Lamb (a member of the British parliament) was recorded saying, “The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.” (If you don’t know who William Lamb was then you might recognize the abbreviated version from the Spider Man comic book series.)  Freedom is great power.  It’s power over ourselves. Power over our lives. Power over our choices. In a land where freedom is woven into our DNA I don’t think of freedom as power. It’s only when I stop, slow down and think about it that #1 I hear Mel Gibson screaming, “Freedom!” and #2 I understand the connection between my freedom and my power. 

Simply by acknowledging the power (freedom) I have because I was born in the USA, I begin to acknowledge that with that birthright came great responsibility.  More responsibility then those born in totalitarian or communist countries. More responsibility then maybe I deserve.  It’s my choice how I choose to use my power.  Do I use it to metaphorically give my finger to my neighbor? (“Hey look at me exercising my freedom and not wearing a mask because I am FREE! Free I tell you!”) Or do I use to say “Hey I’m not 100% sold that this whole mask wearing thing is actually effective and might be total propaganda but in the slim chance it will make a difference I’m willing to put it on because I might not be high risk but you might be and I’m following that whole Golden rule thing.”  (*Now if someone believes they are physically endangering their own health by wearing a mask, I would encourage you to have a heart to heart conversation with a mom who’s kid went through a bone marrow transplant and had to wear a rock hard mask for 100 straight like Em did at four years old, and then we can revisit that conversation).

It hurts my heart that a mask in our country has replaced the Elephant and the Donkey as our political emblem.  I tend to run conservative. (Unless it’s about victims’ rights or universal health care but that’s a whole other blog).  So I don’t wear a mask because it makes me a snowflake or a sheep. I wear a mask because I understand I was born into a country with great freedom. I understand that freedom came with great responsibility, great power, and my power gives me choices. I choose to follow the Golden Rule. Until N95’s are easily and readily accessible for everyone who wants to exercise their freedom and protect themselves then my choice is to do what I can to help those who can’t protect themselves.

As I am about to celebrate this day of declaring independence, I am deeply pondering my freedom, my power and my choices.  In the end, It’s my conscious I am responsible too. Not my government, not my neighbor, not even my flag.  And for me, because I so value my freedom, I will choose to be responsible with my power, lest one day my freedom is no more.

Happy 4th of July!

*If you like the mask in the photo you can get it on Etsy by LilieMayCo for 14.99

Uncategorized

Curious and I Want Your Feedback!

Curious and want your feedback! I’m seeing a lot of push back over the #blacklivesmatter tag line. Usually it’s in the form of an #alllivesmatter response.  I’m also reading tons and tons of commentary on this divide.

Openly, when I first heard #blacklivesmatter (long before George Floyd and recent current events) my first reaction was to respond similarly. Wait? Don’t #alllivesmatter? However recently I’ve come to have a different understanding of the intention behind the hashtag.

The best explanations I’ve seen have been this from Manny Arteaga

jesus para #blm

and this from @giv.sharp

@giv.sharp

ngl this is how some of y’all sound :/ #blm #fyp

♬ original sound – giv.sharp

So now…I get it! I want to help put out the fire in my neighbor’s burning house and I’ll run out of mine to do it!

Twice this week I’ve had an opportunity to share these analogies with fellow “white people” when I’ve heard, #alllivesmatter. I’ve explained it’s a misunderstanding of the unspoken acknowledgment all lives matter and the black lives are the ones in danger so they get the attention. I’m happy to report one person even said, “Wow! I never thought of it that way! That makes sense. I’m going to share that with some people.” (I have to say I felt a little happy dance inside! Using my voice was making a positive difference. Now, my voice isn’t changing the world but it did change one…hers.)

So it got me wondering. Maybe it was just poor marketing when initially creating the hashtag? What if it had been #blacklivesmatter2 or #blacklivesmattertoo? I mean, it’s clear no one is saying #blacklivesmattermore #blacklivesaremoreimportantthanallotherlives or #onlyblacklivesmatter. But maybe, just maybe, the marketing hit the wrong target. Maybe, just maybe, #blacklivesmatter2 would have focused on the actual agenda and conveniently bypassed the need for any further explanation.

Then I began to wonder though, would #blacklivesmatter2 have been less powerful? Would it be offensive to the black community? Miss the point altogether?

I openly acknowledge this is an area I know very little about, so I’m genuinely and sincerely in interested in your feedback. Would it have been different for you if the initial movement was #blacklivesmatter2? Would the message have been clearer? Less clear? I’m especially interested in your opinion if you are a member of the black community or person of color.

And I’d love to be able to share comments that are posted in the spirit of kindness, respect and love, that reflect my intentional heart for our community of readers.

So let your voice be heard….

PS If you are curious (as I was) how the #blacklivesmatter started you can find out about the 3 powerful women who created this history making movement HERE (and yes I secretly love that it’s women who started this!)

Uncategorized

Pushed Out of the Quarantine Cave

blog pics

It has taken me a few days to write. To process all that I am seeing, hearing and feeling.  To continue talking about the “Quarantine Cave” when quarantine was instantly broken as our country came together in outrage over the murder of black man feels….irrelevant.

My feelings, I think like many of us, are all over the place. I am scared for my friends who are trying to peacefully protest. I’m sad for my friends who are too scared to protest. I’m sad watching a homeless man having his bed burned. I’m angry  it took this long to arrested the other three cops. I’m angry they still haven’t held the people accountable, the ones who didn’t do anything, after multiple reports were written up against Derek Chauvin.  I’m sad for my black friends who are scared right now more than ever. Sad for anyone who has a business, that’s already been struggling because of COVID19, watching their livelihood being looted and destroyed. I’m sad for my friends who have spouses who are good cops and are scared for them to go to work. I’m sad for the pain George Floyd’s family is going through. And mostly I’m horrified and forever shaken by a video of a man being murdered in broad daylight. I literally feel ill when I think of his mother watching and imaging if that was my child.

As a self proclaimed fun-finder there are few times I can not find the fun in a situation. This is one of them.  There is way to make light of the horror I saw on a video of a man suffocating to death. There is no way to find a funny as I watch cities burn. There is no way to focus on the positive as I hear of more people being shot and killed in ongoing violence.

So without fun as my go to coping tool what can I choose? What can give me a small sense of “control” in a world that feels so out of control and overwhelming right now?

I will share with you the Five Coping Tools I’m using right now with the hope maybe one will benefit you too.

#1 I’m reminding myself what I focus on gets bigger. After a few days glued to the news, I decided I would only check the news twice a day, morning and night. I want to stay informed on what’s happening in my world and I want to keep my mental health in check. This is how I feel comfortable doing both.  I also am consciously seeking out positive news stories. These are my three favorite so far: The Kansas Black Lives Matter group decided to hold a picnic with police instead of a protest.,  Colorado just introduced a new bill to address police brutality, and the #8cantwait campaign that decreases police violence by up to 70% is now trending.

#2 I am reminding myself no one really changes their mind during a social media argument.  People will continue to find “evidence” to support what they already believe.  The energy and anger is more detrimental to me than the unrealistic hope believing engaging someone will actually change their point of view.  Even my 14-year-old was smart enough to say, “Mom why are you doing that. Post a peace sign and log off.”  Smart kid.

#3 Instead I choose to engage in meaningful conversations which help me understand other people’s points of view and educate me on issues I know little about.  For example, my friend Kelly C recently shared with me information about Redlining.  I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize how recently this was still happening.  Growing up, I would hear adults say things like, “Well the black community doesn’t want to pull themselves out poverty” and compare them to other races that immigrated here. (Anyone remember the NINA signs (No Irish Need Apply))?  However, now having a better understanding how Redlining has lasted up even until recently (and probably is till continuing in hiding) I have a completely different point of view on why it’s been so difficult for the black community to “pull themselves out of poverty.”  Especially when lower-class white families were being approved for mortgages over upper-class black families. Even after the Fair Housing Act was enacted there have been redlining issues and the court system are still settling cases even as recently as 2015. (You can read more HERE).  This has completely changed how I see the struggles black communities face – with literal invisible lines around their communities – that I never understood before. Growing up in New Jersey I was keenly aware there were “black towns” and “white towns” but never really understood how that happened. Maybe in my childhood brain I just though all black people wanted to live together and all white people wanted to live together because that’s where their relatives were? (How innocent we are as kids). While they were never referred to by their “color” I grew up knowing these were “poor” towns, as if if the people there would simply just go get an education and a job they would no longer be poor.  Learning about Redlining has completely changed my understanding of why we have “white” and “black” neighborhoods. I will never be able to “un-understand” again. (Thanks Kelly!)

I also had a powerful conversation with my neighbor (who you’ll often hear me refer to as my “neighbor wife” because I’m convinced she went to some secret wife/mom school to learn all these fancy things from how to keep plants alive, to how to store a wreath for every occasion, to how to have every random school project supply you might ever need on hand. I, apparently, never went to this school).   Her boys are my daughter’s age and are mixed children.  Her son is currently being bombarded by social media posts from fellow classmates with #blm and #blacklivesmatter tags. He’s watching them get tons of “likes” and positive comments. These are the same kids who called him the N word just 16 weeks ago when schools were still open. Truth.  Imagine processing that in your 14- year-old brain. SLAP-IN-THE-FACE.  (I shared more about his post with permission on my Facebook page and you can view it HERE.)

#4 I’m sharing resources and finding resources for myself.  Ironically I posted this quote from Charlie Jones in my last post:  “You will be the same person five years from now except for the people you meet and the books you read.”  Books and education change us. In a country that is literally screaming out in pain for change, education is something we can all do on our own.  I was excited to see that anti-racism books are climbing up the New York Times Best Seller list this week!  What this tells me is people do want to learn, to change, to understand.  That’s exciting!  I’m one of those people, I always want to know how I can be a voice for those who feel they aren’t heard, whether that’s advocacy with domestic violence, childhood cancer, or with racism.  Want to join me? TED recently put out a great compilation of talks to help better understand racism. (HERE).  If you want to extend those talks to your littles there’s a whole list of books that are age appropriate (HERE). And my friend Irene Sisneros shared this great article as a starting point with me (HERE).

#5 I will pray. When my world feels out of control I will remind myself there is One who is always in control. The same God who stayed with me as I fought for my safety and my daughter’s safety in court, is the same God who held me while I sat by my daughter’s bedside in the hospital, and He is the same God who is here with me now as the world is shaking.  He is the God who created each of us and made us one race …the human race.  I believe the enemy wants to divide us. He comes “only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  As my wise mentor stated, “The enemy is real. His name is Satan. This is not a race issue this is a spiritual issue.” ~ Linda Toupin.  I believe there is power in prayer and when we come together God can do supernaturally that which we can not to naturally.

Below is the post I wrote the morning after the protests started, and it still feels just as relevant now.

“Woke up this morning with no words after watching horrifically violent protest videos. My heart is hurting. I’m heartbroken for our country on so many levels. I stand against ALL violence. Praying this morning for the black community, for George Floyd’s family, for the safety of peaceful protesters so they can exercise their right to protest & stand up for necessary change & justice, for shop & small businesses owners & other innocent people who are currently being victimized by looters and rioters, for the police & national guard, and for our elected government leaders who need to rise to a new level of leadership NOW. We are better than this. #walkwiththem

If one of these resonates with you I hope you’ll comment and share.

Quarantine, Uncategorized

Thanks

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A simple conversation on financial stress during COVID19 turned into a feature on CNBC!  How cool is that?  It just goes to show you never know where one conversation will lead!

I’ve been sharing with you my current mantra (one of the ways I am coping through quarantine). I wake up and say, “Only good things happen to me. I basically say this all day long anytime I start to feel anxious or stressed. I started back in March when COIVD was causing shutdowns and I wasn’t sure how my business would be affected and if I was going to end up a single mom, unemployed, moving back into my mother’s house because my company was closed and I had no way to work. (Yup that’s the rabbit worry hole my brain went down).  It’s actually one of the coping tools I’ve developed over the years. Go to the worst place…for a minute.

What I’ve discovered, is usually our worst case scenario really isn’t as bad as we imagine it will be.  My worst case is: I lose everything, move in with my mom, and have to rebuild my life post COVID.  Well, I’ve done that before so I know I can do it again. As long as my daughter and I are alive and healthy worst case isn’t really all that bad. Then I can breath again. *Note none of this has happened and my company never shut down so my imaginary rabbit hole never happened.

So after my worst case scenario minute I decided I needed a new mantra. See my grandfather was one of the few people who made money during the Great Depression. In fact, he started investing in the stock market while everyone else was scrambling to get out.  Much of their wealth came from that season.  My family story reminded me during this season the same thing will happen. New businesses and industries will boom (think of Zoom, Instacart, and the toilet paper companies!)  others will struggle and maybe even close.   What I choose to focus on will grow (another lesson from childhood cancer). So I am choosing to focus on only good things happening to me.  And guess what? The crazy thing is….that’s what’s happening!

Someone is going to be the success story that emerges from this season so why not me? (Same mantra I used during childhood cancer…someone’s child is going to live so why not mine?)

I’ve decided in my world (or at least the one in my head) that only good things happen to me. I wake up each day in anticipation of what those good things are. It’s a pretty fun way to start my day.

So yesterday’s “good thing” was waking up to this beautiful video and article by Michelle Fox on CNBC.  I’d say that’s a pretty good thing!

You can catch the full article HERE

I wonder what other “good things” will happen today? I wonder what “good things” can happen for you?  I’d love to hear your quarantine cave mantra and the good things that are still happening in the middle of a global pandemic! So please leave a comment…let’s spread a little (or a lot!) of “good things”….

Quarantine, Uncategorized

The Spiritual Cave

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Today we are tackling the third piece of how we want to emerge from our “Quarantine Cave.” First, we explored our emotional & mental choices. Then we considered our physical health & wellness.  (We took a detour with the barking dog). Now today we will dive into our spiritual health, because during this season we can choose to become spiritually stronger or spiritually weaker.

I saw this a lot while immersed in the childhood cancer world. The devastation of a child’s cancer diagnoses can really rock even the strongest faith. When faced with such a crisis there is a tendency to ask questions like, “Why me?” “Why did God let this happen?” or “Where is God in all of this?” I believe these are natural questions and crisis can shake our faith.

For me, one thing that served me well while I was going through my crisis with my daughter was I never asked the question “Why me?” I’ve always felt it was a narcissistic question because the answer is, “Well, why not me?” When we ask, “Why me?” we are really asking, “Why not you?  Why did this happen to my family and not yours?”  Yet, what makes us think we are so special that we get to go through life unscathed?

We all have loss, sadness, grief and trauma, it’s all part of life.

I never thought that God “gave cancer” to my daughter. Instead I thought, this is part of life. Kids get cancer and it just so happens my kid is one of them. Instead, it was my faith and my connection with God that helped me through that season.

So you may or may not have the same faith as me. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that all of us have a spirit, a soul. Whatever it is that you’re connected to, this is the season that will either draw you in closer or push you farther away.

Maybe you’ve said in the past, “You know what? The real reason I don’t get up and pray every day is I just don’t have the time!” or “The reason I don’t sit and meditate every day is I just don’t have the time!” Well for lots of us, we now have plenty of time, and we no longer can cling to that excuse.  What if during this quarantine season we developed a habit of getting up and actually doing what we’d say we’d do if we had the time? What if we actually used our time to meditate or pray? How would that change our life?

Maybe you have the Bible sitting in the house somewhere and you’re thinking, “I’ve never actually read it.” Maybe you know passages, know a few scriptures or remember the stories you learned in a church service but never actually picked up the book itself to read it firsthand. Maybe you’ve never participated in a Bible study.  Could it be that after weeks of being at home it actually comes to, “You know, I’m kind of bored; I need something to do. Like there’s only so much Netflix I can watch; let me do a Bible study?” Plus, there’s tons of online Bible studies that you can join that are interactive and give us a chance to connect with other people (fight boredom and loneliness all at once!)

Even better, we now have access to all sorts of great apps to grow our spiritual health. I mentioned in a previous post two great meditation apps Head Space and the Oprah App. There’s also a few great Bible apps (I like Bible Hub) or Bible study plans (I like Jesus Calling and Holy Bible)  If you don’t read the Bible then find an app that supports your book of choice.

This is also a time for us to read.  Years ago I heard a quote from Charlie Jones that has stuck with me since then. He said,  “You will be the same person five years from now except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It reminded me that books can have a powerful impact on who we become.

Studies show that the average American reads 12 books a year. However, that number is impacted largely by avid readers. The most common answer was actually just 4 books a year. So, could this be a season that we go back to reading and impact who we become? Could simply reading a few extra books this season impact who we become in the long term?

Another way we can connect and grow our spiritual health is with journaling.  This can really make a difference during a season when we are already feeling angry, frustrated, and out of control. (Hey why do you think I started blogging again?)  It’s therapeutic! Sometimes I write for myself and sometimes I write to God.  In true transparency I usually write to God more when I’m angry.  Now, I know there are some people who are afraid to go to God when they are angry.  There’s lots of opinions about bringing your anger to God. Mine is that He knows me, He knows my weaknesses, He knows my strengths and He knows my frustration. He made me after all. I have full confidence He can handle me at my worst.

I feel fortunate that I had a strong faith in place before I had to exercise my resiliency muscle.  My faith didn’t waiver. If anything, it was during that season, when I felt so out of control and unsafe that my faith is what grounded me. There was a point where I just had release control. Start to live the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I had to come face to face with the fact there was very little in my control.

If you have read my book, “Making Cancer Fun: a parent’s guide” you might remember one of the last chapters where I share an excerpt from my journal during that time.  The book is about how I used fun as a coping tool during childhood cancer but this particular chapter is about having to come like face-to-face, on my bathroom floor, on my hands and knees in tears crying out,  “God, what if my kid doesn’t make it?” It was on a day when I had a reason to believe she had relapsed.  At that point there was not going to be a survival rate, a relapse would have meant focusing on extending her life not curing her cancer. In that moment I had to come to terms with how I would cope if she died. How would I get through something beyond devastating and couldn’t control. I can’t control cancer.  But the truth is, I can’t control what’s going to happen to her when she’d older either. I can’t control if she’s an adult and gets in a car accident or has a stroke long after cancer, right?

What’s difficult about this season in quarantine is we can’t control a virus or it’s impact. We can’t control whether our jobs are laying us off, whether businesses are going to be closing, whether a business is considered an essential business or not. Most of us are not the ones making state and public policies. We have no control on shutdowns, re-openings and CDC guidelines.

Some of us even feel very out of control in our home too. Trying to take care of kids, work from home while kids are home, keep a schedule when there is no schedule, have to homeschool/crisis school when we never even wanted to be a teacher, I mean even getting groceries and paper towels can make up feel powerless. Our “normal life” is gone, the comfort of our routines are gone, and with it goes our feelings of safety and security.

We also know that during seasons or crisis or disaster abuse goes up. Domestic violence and child abuse go up, because when people feel out of control, they look for “What can I control? Where can I feel a sense of control?”

Years ago during my life crisis I had to come to terms with, “Well there’s not a whole lot that I can control. I can trick myself and I can pretend I have control, but at the end of the day, I really don’t”; and none of us have control of this season. A season we don’t even see an end to.

Even today, my daughter said, “Mom, I just wish I knew when the end date was. I just wish I knew if I was  going back to school or not?  When is this going to be over?

I replied, “Em, I think that’s how all of us feel. We all want to know when, right?” It would be so much easier if we knew on this date, life will go back to “normal”, right?

But just like childhood cancer, I don’t think there will be a “normal” to go back to. We will all be changed because of this experience. And we will choose, each of us individually, will choose if we’re changed for the better or for the worst.

It’s when we become spiritually grounded, we understand and accept there’s so little we have control over.

Yet we are all connected. We are all made from energy and our energy is interconnected. We were created, from God, we come from one. We’re not individual people. We are a community. We are a whole world of interconnected people. This can be a beautiful season for us to grow in our faith, to be present to be with God, to ask difficult questions, and to have some difficult conversations.  

I wasn’t always ‘sure” of my faith. Remember how we mentioned books can change us? One book that changed me was Lee Strobel’s, “The Case for Christ”. I went through a season where I was raised in one religion, and as a young adult, really didn’t know what I actually believed.  It was a five-year period of questioning, studying different religions and faiths and when I stumbled across that book it changed me,

What I love most about the book is that Lee was an atheist when he started out. If you’re really questioning what you believe or what you don’t believe, this is must read. Especially if you are like I was and would think, “I don’t care what your book or Bible says. I want to know what history says. Secular facts that are available to me.” This book hit the mark.

Another book that I love is “Battlefield of the Mind”, by Joyce Meyer. Especially during this season it’s extra appropriate. We started the first day on this series talking about the battle is here in our mind, right? Not letting fear take over. I’ve actually read it multiple times in different seasons throughout my life.

The third book that has most impacted my spiritual life is, “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.  Another life-changing book for me.

Those are my top three and if you have a favorite one, comment, and share!

Again, you may not share my faith, and there maybe other books which are a better fit for you right now. That’s okay. The goal is to grow spiritually, regardless of where your get your connection with God.  Use this season to build those roots in your faith which allow you to stand strong during difficult times.

So later this week we will continue on in our quarantine cave…and this time we will be looking at the cave itself!  So comment, like, subscribe, share or whatever…just hope to see you back again ….thanks for being part of my world!

Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash

 

 

 

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The Damn Barking Dog

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I’m trying to work on my blog. It’s a beautiful sunny warm day (the kind I dream about in January living in New Jersey). My windows are open and my soul is happy. The perfect time to work on piece #3 of the Quarantine Cave – our spiritual health.  I have so much to share on how to be grounded, connected to God and grow in our spiritual health.  I’ve been trying to write for the last twenty minutes and can’t focus at all.  Why? Because there is a dog who has been incessantly barking on the top of his/her lungs for at least that long and has me so on edge I’m ready to jump out of my skin.

I want to stick my head out the window and yell, “SHUT THE F UP!”  The only thing stopping me is I logically know this is not going to stop the barking. Obviously, the inconsiderate owners aren’t home.

Then I feel bad. Bad for the poor dog who is left home, clearly in distress and can’t stop barking.

Another bark and I think, “Not my problem. Shut your Fing dog up and don’t leave him at home if he has separation anxiety!”

Is this some kind of quarantine dog purchase/adoption? In a moment of loneliness did some non-dog experienced neighbor decide they needed a friend and adopted a dog that is now sending me into a state of extreme anxiety?

Then I think, “Hey I’m supposed to be connecting to my spiritual self. Maybe my spirit is feeling the dog’s anxiousness and that’s why I want to crawl out of my skin. It’s because I’m soooo spiritually aware and connected to the universe I must be feeling the dog’s anxiety!

Nope, that’s definitely not it because I still want to put a muzzle on the animal (or duct tape). So much for my spiritual connectedness.

Then I feel guilty (again). As a dog owner myself, I remember a few days post-adoption coming home to my neighbor telling me my sweet chiweenine pup had barked the whole time I was gone. I decide I’m clearly a dark-judgmental-pot-calling-the-kettle-black dog owner.

“Will someone please tell these people their dog won’t stop barking???”

My heart is now beating faster and I feel like I’m being tortured. “Think of the poor dog!” I keep reminding myself as I feel my blood pressure rising like a pressure cooker. The barks alternate with high pitched yelps that send anxiety driven waves down my arms.

Em comes downstairs. “Is that our neighbor’s new dog?!?!” she asks.

Smart kid. I forgot our neighbor (who is dog experienced and has one dog) just rescued another new dog. Who happens to be adorable BTW.

She goes downstairs to check.

It’s confirmed. The once-was-sweet-now-is-the-damn-won’t -shut-up-dog is our neighbor’s.

Now I feel more guilty for wanting to duct tape it’s mouth closed.

I text my neighbor.  (Just call me Karen I guess).

Slowly something strange happens.  My anxiety driven anger begins to fade is being replaced with compassion and sadness for this new puppy.  She was recently adopted and is clearly in distress. I offer to check on her.  (and by check on her I mean make sure she is ok and also GET HER TO STOP BARKING!)

Funny how by simply knowing the barking culprit personally, I feel my anxiety dropping.  I hear back from my neighbor who is now horrified her new baby is barking.  Simply knowing she is horrified makes me feel better.

And I have to stop for a minute and recognize that this is a life lesson wrapped up in a yappy dog bark.

I was mad because I didn’t know the dog.

I was mad because I didn’t know the owner.

I was mad because I assumed the owner wouldn’t even care that their dog was bothering the entire neighborhood on this beautiful window open sunshine day.

And I was wrong.

Simply now knowing who the dog is and who the neighbor is sparks compassion for the situation instead of frustration.

I begin to wonder how often am I frustrated about situations now in COVID that I might not be if I personally knew the person or their situation.

Like the other day when I found myself angry at the woman walking around the store without a mask.   Would I feel differently it was my friend April who I know has a pre-existing medical condition which wearing a mask triggers and feels self-conscious knowing people are judging her every time she has to slip it off for a minute?

Or when I was mad at the person speeding past me who gave me the finger  and I secretly started judging their priorities as the world suffers a global pandemic. Would I feel differently If I knew it was my friend Mark who was racing home to say goodbye to his dad  because this might be the last time he ever sees him as he’s taken by ambulance to the hospital?

Or when I was frustrated at the checkout person for going sooo slow when I just wanted to get out of the damn store.  Would I feel differently if I knew it as my friend Linda who is nervous at work because she’s having to leave her kids alone at home since school’s closed and she’s worried every day about bringing COVID home to them?

Or each time I’m annoyed at the person using Facebook to, yet again, preach to the world about why we all need to continue to shelter in place and not even go to the beach. Would I feel differently if it was my friend Bill posting who is an ER doctor and just lost seven colleagues to COVID and is living in his basement afraid to infect his family?

Yup I would.

So what if every time I felt myself frustrated, agitated, or annoyed with someone I pictured them as a friend? Someone I cared about and knew their story. Someone I knew had good heart (after all we are all made in God’s image) and believed they were simply doing their best coping during a time with so many moving parts we often feel dizzy trying to make sense of it all.

I know that this season will change us. I pray I am changed for the better. That I’m stronger, wiser, and closer to God. Maybe that starts with compassion, empathy and kindness.  And maybe that was the spiritual lesson I needed to learn today….the one God wanted to teach me through a barking dog…not the one I thought I already knew.

 

 

And don’t worry…when the barking stops we’ll dive into the Spiritual Cave…. so leave a comment and check back soon…..

 

Photo by Robert Gramner on Unsplash