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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.

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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.