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

Candles

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

#imEnough

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

Informed

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!

http://www.appalachianlanddesign.com/index.php?id=live-green-roofs

Lots of questions answered on this link:

http://liveroof.com/green-roof-faq/

More information:

http://www.eco-roofs.com/?gclid=CNSwqfXUw78CFYZaMgodvVQAiw

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

http://eastchattanoogaacademyofartandsocialjustice.com/

July 12th, 2014

Anger happens, but peace is still a choice.

Reading for pleasure and enlightenment has been high on my To Do List this summer.  Today I have been finishing up, The Anger Trap, by Dr. Les Carter.  It has been a very insightful and helpful book to read in order to understand the ways I deal with the emotion of anger, and how to deal with other people that struggle with anger issues. 

Anger is just an emotion, there is no reason to be afraid of it, or to be controlled by it.  Unfortunately though, many of us are, and often anger turns inward and becomes depression.  Reading this book has really helped me pin point healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with anger and common pitfalls of anger such as using anger to try and get respect, or being caught in a trap of mythical thinking and getting angry when things don’t go my way. I think on a lot of levels I knew this already, but reading the book and seeing these things objectively through case studies helps me to see how they slip into my life when I’m not being observant.   Accepting imperfection in myself and in others is a sign of maturity, I’m not always going to do the right thing, and neither is anyone else.

So what is the book’s answer for handling anger? 

1. Recognize that your own worth is not dependent on the feelings of other people.

2. Choose to be assertive rather than angry or passive-aggressive in dealing with conflict.

3. A willingness to listen first and really empathize with another person rather than becoming defensive when they disagree with you will go a long way to build up relationships.

4. Even the best relationships take ongoing work, conflict is just an outward sign that growth has occurred and things need to be readjusted to fit that growth in a way that is beneficial to everyone. 

5.  Remember that the mark of an emotionally healthy person is to honestly be calm even when you encounter rudeness.  You understand that not everything is about you, they may just be having a bad day. Perhaps they just need a good book to read!

July 11th, 2014

Small steps, big thoughts.

Sometimes the world is confusing and seems to have lost its way. So how do you balance staying informed with staying sane? I think it is probably different for each person, but for myself I can tell if I’m getting too disheartened instead of excited and passionate about changes that are needed in the world, then it is time to refocus. It is healthy and wise to take care of your emotional health, it is very difficult to be a peaceful person and be angry at the world at the same time. The world needs compassion and understanding just like the individuals of the world need compassion and understanding. Becoming overwhelmed is normal at times, step back and refocus on the person or group of people you are closest to, sending positive energy to situations far away while sharing a cup of cold water with those nearest to you. Waves of love spread, our thoughts matter.

July 10th, 2014

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

It has been a long week of sitting in workshops listening and learning.  Today I realized the person sitting next to me that came across as having a very self depreciating sense of humor, wasn’t joking.  He really meant it when he said negative things about himself, but it was obvious from interacting with him that he was a really interesting person with a lot to offer.  So how do you tell a stranger, “Hey don’t be so hard on yourself, you are really sort of amazing!” I wrote it on a post it note:  Book Recommendation-Self Compassion by Dr. Kristen Neff 

I have no idea if he will actually read it, but I think if he did, it would be life changing for him. Sometimes the mirror you are looking into is lying to you…find a better one, preferably one that can also give you hugs when you need them…just a suggestion. 

July 9th, 2014

Emma Watson

She is smart, beautiful, an excellent role model, a tremendous actress, and now Emma Watson is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Women, a campaign to promote gender equality and safety for women.  What a wonderful person to choose to spotlight the importance of this issue! If you are interested in learning more about the UN Women (including information about the newly launched Beijing + 20 campaign) you can go to this link: http://www.unwomen.org/

July 8th, 2014

Unalienable Rights

"One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

These two quotes are from Letters from Birmingham Jail written by Martin Luther King, Jr., an incredible reminder of what I believe the American Dream is really all about, that as Thomas Jefferson would say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.  Re-reading these two documents I think about how far we have and haven’t come as a country, and as humans.  I can’t help but think that if I believe in these ideals for Americans, how are they not also true for the many immigrant children involved in the current U.S. border crisis? Children fleeing the violence of gangs and lack of food and basic needs.  These children are not here because they wanted a vacation, they are desperate.  Just as desperate as the disinherited children of the south once were, and sometimes still are.  These immigrant children are not a “nuisance”- they are a wake up call that something needs to change. 

Save The Children is an organization that works to protect and help these children and children all over the world, this is what their website states about the current US border crisis:

"Increasing numbers of children fleeing violence and insecurity in their Central American and Mexican communities are seeking refuge in the United States. According to government estimates, more than 50,000 children have crossed the border, with as many as 90,000 expected this year. Thousands of children are in custody of the U.S. Customs Border Protection in facilities struggling to meet the basic needs of such large numbers of children. These children are in urgent need of protective and supportive care, medical and hygiene care, and nutritious meals.

Save the Children is on the scene, providing child protection activities and programs, including Child Friendly Spaces to give these children access to structured play, emotional support and supervision provided by caring adults.”

To learn more about Save the Children, an organization that has been around since 1919 go to: http://www.savethechildren.org

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July 7th, 2014

World Chocolate Day

Today is World Chocolate Day.  Today is also the day I watched the third episode of the new Kid President t.v. show.  The show was all about dreams that people have to make the world a better place.  In researching about World Chocolate Day I discovered that while some people dream of chocolate, for others it can be a nightmare, specifically for children that are used as slaves on cocoa plantations in West Africa.  Hershey chocolate, Mars, and Nestle in particular are on the top of the list of chocolate companies that buy directly from cocoa farms that are linked to child labor, slavery, and human rights issues. 

Luckily there is an organization (the Food Empowerment Project) that has an extensive list of companies that sell chocolate without selling out kids.  To see this list go to: http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/