July 29th, 2014

Hold the Whole, Part II

I have to be honest, sometimes God freaks me out, and this morning is the perfect example. I woke up pretty suddenly this morning with an intense burden and urgency to pray about the Israeli/Palestine conflict.  Since this has been on my mind a lot lately this is not necessarily surprising, except that there was such a sense of urgency that my positive thoughts and prayers were needed right then.  That love was needed to conquer fear.  That my sending love to the area was important. 

As I prayed about the situation I was reminded of an incident that happened last year in my classroom.  Two kids were having a bad day and unfortunately they bumped against each other on the narrow sidewalk.  They passed each other and really that would have been the end of the issue if their friends had not gotten involved.  As they kept walking in opposite directions the friends walking with each of them started goading them, telling them they needed to stand up for themselves, fight back, not let the other person get away with that. 

As you might guess, when they passed each other again, the fists started flying. I immediately stopped the fight and called them both in.  We worked through the incident, both kids admitted they both went overboard, and everything was fine…until they had to explain to their parents why they had detention.  Let’s just say the accuracy of the story was lost in the telling, one parent became highly upset and started a huge uproar on social media leading me to becoming concerned for the safety of the students in my care. All of this over two kids that were just having a bad day and happened to cross paths.

Remembering this incident made me realize that all my searching for who is right and who is wrong in the whole Israeli/Palestine conflict was a complete waste of my time.  Honestly, at this point it isn’t as important as the concept of “What vision do we want in the future?”

Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m completely enamored with the city of Chattanooga, Tn.  It’s natural beauty and the way people work together in Chattanooga to benefit everyone are blessings to me every time I get to visit. However, the truth about Chattanooga is that it wasn’t always like that, in fact in the 1970’s it had the worst pollution in the U.S., and was suffering from racial tension.  There were a lot of negatives that could have been focused on.  Instead, in 1984 the Lyndhurst Foundation and Chattanooga Venture led a community visioning process, in which community members from all different backgrounds and areas of the city were invited to take part in weekly meetings to imagine what could be done to change Chattanooga.  By the year 2,000, 37 of their 40 goals were met. 

O.K. so here comes the part of the story when God freaked me out…I got through praying and thinking about those two things and went to make my morning coffee and fired up my computer to find out what was happening on the book of faces, and the first post I saw was from my friend Arun Gandhi about a Vision Camp that has been going on for the past few days in the West Bank, that was ending today.  The Camp is made up of peace workers from Israel, Palestine, and other countries. Goosebumps went through my entire body! I realized at that moment exactly why I had been woken up with such an urgency to pray.  I wasn’t just praying for a vague concept, I was being asked to pray for a specific group of visionaries.  Wow, and when I read the post by Oran Halpern that I posted as Hold the Whole, Part I,  I knew exactly that the burden on my heart was to hold the whole area in a vision of peace, permeating the area with thoughts of love that could loosen the chains of fear, and promote forgiveness and peace.  

Hold The Whole, Part I

A comment posted in the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/aVisionCampinIsraelPalestine

Words of Oren Halpern
written to all my worldwide friends…. and beyond…

“I live in Israel.
I want peace.
I wish for dialogue and I condemn war.
I see and experience the complexity of this region since I was born into this world 51 years ago.
I have a deep request to you.
Please do not take sides.
This region is so torn and separated as it is, what we need are people to hold the whole and not take sides.
Please be those.
The Palestinians in Gaza are held hostage by a tyrannical military group.
The Israelis are held hostage by the survival mode and a militaristic ethos of heroism.
Both sides are under threat of the other.
Both sides are locked into self-perceptions of victimhood and perpetration.
Some more active than others, depending on timing.
It is not a competition of misery. You can never win in this competition.
It is a matter of empathy.
This complex reality is here for years upon years.
It is in the culture, heritage and ancestors.
Dialogue can take place when each person and each nation as a whole will look deep within and see its part and the ramifications it brought upon the other side and upon itself.
It is not about blaming and accusing, that is part of our continuous war.
I know I live in a country that is not democratic, it calls itself a democratic state and it isn’t in so many ways, internal and international.
Part of this is the horrible occupation of Gaza.
During this present war, when I, with many others speak these words, cry for the loss and destruction of the Gaza people or for the Arab Israelis that are being persecuted now, or speak about the perpetual loop we are in, or speak about stopping the war – then we ourselves are threatened, hit, persecuted on the Facebook and beyond and are even fired from jobs or such.
I am torn by what is happening.
I live in a country that has hardened its heart not only to Gaza but to any ‘other’.
It is becoming a very scary place to live in.
Every time I have a siren where I live and hear planes and bombings above my head or further away, I know there is killing, and fear, and hate and destruction.
It is horrid.
At moment’s hopeless.
At moment’s full of tears.
At moment’s despair is here.
At moment’s anger, so much anger.
At moment’s helplessness.
At moment’s fear.
At moment’s hope and a coming together for change.

My heart is with all those that are paying the price.
All those living in this region are paying a price!!
A price of living in a constant war zone, dormant or not, it still is a war zone.

So please hold the whole and don’t get trapped in the discourse of one side or another.
Both sides are so torn among themselves and we are torn as two nations of people.
We need those that live beyond this region to hold the whole.
I believe that only within this whole, exists the love, which is the language of peace.

Thank you.”

July 25th, 2014

21 People On What They Would Tell Their 19-Year-Old Selves

July 24th, 2014

Fisher Houses

I had heard of Ronald McDonald Houses for families with children that were seeking long term medical treatment at hospitals, but until today I had never heard of Fisher Houses.  Fisher Houses are for families that have a loved one in the military that is in the hospital for long term treatment.  Started in 1991, these places of refuge for families in the midst of a medical crisis can be found throughout the U.S. and in England and Germany.  To find out more about this program that is supporting families go to: https://www.fisherhouse.org/about/

Another organization that I learned about today was Tip of the Arrow, which is a non-profit that helps veterans that are returning from service find jobs. Their website is http://tipofthearrow.net/

July 23rd, 2014


Praying for peace has really been on my mind this week because I started out my week reading a book about praying for peace.  So today when I saw Reba McEntire’s new music video for her song, “Pray For Peace” I definitely felt like it was significant.  I am a huge believer in the power of our thoughts to transform the world. Collective thoughts and prayers for peace are a valid and meaningful way to make a difference.  Beautiful song, beautiful message:


July 22nd, 2014

Cyrus the Great

“Events had been set in motion whose echo would be heard a thousand and more generations from now.”
J. Valor, Salome

This fall I have been given the task to teach world history from 400 BC to the present age.  I’ve never taught this before and I’m trying to even wrap my mind around how to best accomplish that goal.  My first thought is that I need to immerse myself in as much information as I can.  What I’m learning is, there is a lot I’ve never learned.  One of the people I studied in depth today was Cyrus the Great of Persia, what I learned about him was that he ruled for around 30 years and was well loved because he respected the people around him, he set up his government to be an advantage to the people he ruled and was a leader in human rights. He was born around 600 BC.  Peace moments in history-they happened, and they can continue to happen.

July 21st, 2014

The Healing Space

One of the things I’m learning about conflict is that sometimes people need to time to process the situation.  If I’m upset, I’m learning that it is sometimes prudent to calmly and assertively explain my point of view then back away.  Letting another person have the space they need to process usually allows them the opportunity to think about my point of view without any pressure. Giving space without any negative attitude provides room in the relationship for healing and growth.  

July 20th, 2014


I often light candles in the middle of the day when they are not needed, except by me.  I light candles in the middle of the day to illuminate my soul, which needs a different type of light than Edison could ever hope to provide. 

July 19th, 2014


One of the gifts I cherish the most was given to me by my nephew Khai, it is a small gift box lid with part of a broken mirror and his pre-teen scrawl that says, “You are beautiful”.  It touches my heart every time I look at it to remember that even if some parts of me have been broken by life, in the eyes of the people that love me, I am still beautiful. 

That is the reason I’m so excited about a song that my niece Jenny Mason and her Austin based band, The Mrs. have recently released.  The song, “I’m Enough” is a great reminder that the mirror never tells the whole picture.  I’ve watched the video several times today, and cried and laughed every time. 

The video: http://youtu.be/kuoBEJ9DkJM

The making of the video: http://youtu.be/Q_Yfw3raILw

Let those skeleton’s dance

"If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance," -George Bernard Shaw

Most of us have things that bring us shame and a feeling of unrest that “if anyone knew this about me” it would be bad, really, really bad.  The truth is though, sometimes when you stop hiding those things and are open about them, it opens doors instead and helps you let go of the pain you have held onto for a long time.  I spent Friday with someone that has definitely learned how to let the skeleton in his closet dance.  He embraces his life and his story with no reservations.  It was rather refreshing.

July 17th, 2014

Unconditional Love

I have a friend who is going through a rough time right now and as a result is lashing out in some not healthy, rude and obnoxious ways.  This is someone I’ve known most of my life so we have a long history and that means while I’m not willing to take abuse, I’m also not willing to give up on him.  So today I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to love someone unconditionally. 

Since I’m a big believer in the idea that we are all connected I realized the best way for me to love him unconditionally was to think about times when I felt hurt or angry.  Seeing my own pain allowed me to connect easier with his and send him love.  I was able to share thoughts and words of compassion instead of thoughts and words of judgement.  It was beautiful and opened my soul to let a breeze of love flow through.

The Platinum Rule

What is your favorite way to celebrate your birthday? Cake? Party? Lots of attention from people that love you? Those are some of the ways I love to celebrate my birthday, but today wasn’t my birthday, today was my husband’s birthday.  As a true introvert his favorite thing on his birthday is to have time alone, a lot of time alone.  He doesn’t even want dark chocolate for his birthday, he wants jelly beans…so weird! 

In my wedding vows I pledged not to follow the Golden rule, but instead the Platinum rule, which states “treat other people the way they want to be treated instead of assuming they want the same things you do”.  So, I left the house early this morning, spent the day working in my classroom, taking myself out to lunch and going shopping so he could have a quiet day  by himself.  I returned home with jelly beans and lots of different flavors of sparkling water, which he loves. It was all in all a very happy and peaceful day for both of us.

July 15th, 2014


Tonight I went to our town’s candidate forum for the upcoming local election.  I’m a big believer in the importance of voting, because a lot of people have died or undergone a lot of hardships so that I could have that right, and because a lot of people in the world would trade places with me in a heart beat to have the right to vote.  It is not something I take for granted.  When I hear people say, “I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t really matter” I tell them of the time someone in our town lost an election by three votes and I happen to know three people that would have voted for them but didn’t because they didn’t think their vote would count.  If you don’t like the current political system, become an informed citizen and vote, it really does make a difference.  As Edward Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

How do you become an informed citizen? Get your information from a variety of sources with varying opinions.  Check the records of your sources for accuracy.  Go to candidate forums so you can meet the people who are running for office.  Tonight for instance I met Dan Cramer who is running for the Tennessee 7th district for Congress.  He was actually kind enough to give up his seat for me, and he lives hours away and drove to come to this small town forum in order to meet the people that he wants to serve.  I heard some wonderful speeches from people I had no idea were good public speakers, I also heard some people that I put a big red x by because they were full of fluff.  You don’t know those things unless you take the time to be informed. 

July 14th, 2014

Choosing My Defining Moments

As within, so without, as the microcosm, so the macrocosm.  That is a small saying that has big meaning in my heart.  Another truth in my heart is that our world would look radically different if we looked at history from the perspective of peace rather than war.  Combining those two ideas it struck me with certain clarity today that I have been hypocritical in the way I look at my own personal history. 

With embarrassment I realized that when I think back over my life and my relationships I tend to think about them in terms of when major conflicts  have happened rather than moments of major peace.  I never even thought about the fact that I do this.  It was literally a wake up call at 4:00 a.m. when I realized, to change the world I have to first begin with my personal history. 

It is a beautiful gift that we get to choose our thoughts. I realized I have a choice to identify the defining moments of the history of my life in terms of moments of harmony and peace.  In order to do this however, I must be willing to let go of the self righteous indignation I have been holding on to about moments of conflict in relationships and instead choose to focus on peace and forgiveness.

Conflict is a normal part of the growth process, but it shouldn’t be the defining moment of the growth process, in truth the defining moment of growth should be the moment the conflict was solved either internally or externally.  As I take responsibility for healing my own thoughts about my personal relationships, in some minute but real way I feel like it will have an impact on the larger world.

July 13th, 2014

Not Just For Hobbits

I love it when a peace choice sends me into a positive daydream of good things that can happen on our planet! Today I spent time researching the benefits and costs of creating a green roof versus a regular roof for the building that is going to be remodeled for The East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice.  Since The Academy is going to be focusing on both beauty and justice and we have to install a roof anyway, it just makes sense that we build a green roof if it is feasible.

Chattanooga, Tn already has numerous green roofs for their municipal buildings and they have a goal to have at least 100 green roofs for the future. 

Green roofs have been around since the hanging gardens of Babylon.  They have numerous benefits including helping to purify the air, providing green space which promotes a diversity in nature, lessening the amount of storm water run off (Chattanooga residents are taxed on their ground water run off), lowering heating and cooling bills, reducing the amount of heat emissions from buildings, lowering the noise level outside when you are in a building, they also last much longer than a traditional roof.  So even if a green roof costs more in up front costs, the long term cost is going to be greatly lowered. 

Some companies that specialize in creating green roofs:

(this link includes a video of the installation of the green roof on top of The Crash Pad, an uncommon hostel, and one of my favorite places in Chattanooga!


Lots of questions answered on this link:


More information:


For more information about The East Chattanooga Academy of Art and Social Justice: