What Side Were You On?

 

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History will ask us what we said and did in these times. I assure you of that.  They will demand to know what part we played.

Your children and your children’s children, they will ask you, if we each make it that far. They will ask what you were thinking. And what you did. They will ask us you what side you were on.

And so many will have to answer, “I was eating my McDonalds, even though it was ruled unfit for human consumption. Because it’s fast and it’s cheap and I have important things to do. Plus, I never missed a professional football game and that took up a lot of my time…”

Others will say that they could not speak, because the simple words of, “You are using that word wrong,” and posting proof of it is enough to get them banished from their family.

The state of unrest in our America ripples through every single citizen, like it or not.

So many others will claim that they merely wanted to Make Facebook Fun Again, so they were so busy blocking and deleting and de-friending that they skewed the way the whole world looked around them, until they created a space where they only saw what they already knew and believed in.

And yet, ironically, our ancestors will not have to wonder what side we were on. They will not have to ponder what our lives were like. We have laid them out in detail all by ourselves, from corner to corner across the World Wide Web, like road maps to our destruction or our salvation. That part is still up for grabs.

Either way, we are writing own stories as we go along. Choosing what parts get the sunshine and which parts are kept hidden. Choosing “sides” or remaining “neutral.” Ignoring the whole damn mess or getting our hands dirty and helping to clean up the mess.

It could be easy to stick labels on everything, like name tags, and pretend it’s so simple.

But these dividing lines are not about Republican or Democrat.

They are not whether you are Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or atheist.

They are not about whether you are black or white or one of the multitudes of varieties of ethnic origins within the human race.

The dividing lines have nothing to do with where we all fit on the LGBT spectrum.

 

These dividing lines are about good versus evil.

They are about the top of the 1% who currently holds all the wealth and all the power, and the rest of us.

They are about right versus wrong.

These dividing lines are as old and as simple as our human existence.

Some among us are attempting to make things seem complicated. And to divide us, because they know (better than we do) that our strength lies in our numbers.

But this is not complicated. We can look at what makes us different or we can look for what makes us the similar. It is as simple as that.

These are the morals and truths that we were taught by our mothers and fathers. By our kindergarten teachers in classrooms all across this county. By our favorite aunties and our grandfathers and our cool older cousins.

Play nice.

Take turns.

Hands to yourself.

 Share.

Be respectful.

No name calling.

 Use your words.

We are always learning.

And most important, we love one another.

It is the words written in Red and the premise of the holy book of every major world religion.

Love one another.

But not everybody is ready.  One must set down the division to see the similarities. And love lies within the similarities. It cannot thrive or even exist among division. But that is something we can only see for ourselves.

I want to be clear that this is not about what label you put on yourself or what box you check inside your own voting booth.

This is about our America. And the fact that our democracy is being purposefully and systematically dismantled piece by piece. This is about real and actual danger.

And if you do not know this or believe this, then you are simply not paying enough attention. Or not listening to the whole story.

So I’m not going to stop talking about the important stuff that is going on around us. No matter who storms out of my life.

I’m not going to be quiet because it bothers some of you. Because that would be irresponsible.

 

And I assure you, unless you are a member of the true 1%, this will affect you and your family for generations.

 

Did you ever wonder where you would stand if a battle rose between good and evil? Now is your chance to find out.

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Dear Democrat Friends

 


Family voting for Wisconsin Education Superintendent. Voting happens more than once every 4 years. And every vote counts. 


I was thinking about that day back in November when we all voted.

My timeline filled up with nearly 100 women posting photos of themselves with their “I voted!” stickers, and the accompanying hashtag #Imwithher.

And what a proud day everyone thought that was going to be for women and for America.

And here’s what I said, out loud, to my husband. “Hashtag It’s Too Late.”

And I don’t mean to offend a single one of you because I’m sure that some of you reading this did this very thing with the voting and the sticker and the “ImWithHer.  And I love you all.

But I had been going around for about 6 months by then telling people that unless people got on board, Hillary simply was not going to win. She did not have the excitement or following needed to win this election.

I was pretty much always called a conspiracy theorist for this statement. A term I have come to take as a form of compliment, regardless of how it is meant.

But in the 9 months before the election, I noticed a trend developing:

Republicans stand by Republicans. NO MATTER WHAT. Let’s repeat that for the people in the back. They vote Republican no matter what.

Most of the people I knew on all sides of the political fence did not want to associate with any party. And certainly not publicly.

But the Hillary supporters in my life, they were quite nearly all silent. All but, without exaggeration, 3 of my friends who felt compelled to post and stand behind Hillary Clinton. Of my 900 Facebook friends, there were 3 who felt compelled to publicly support her. THREE.

On the same note, the lawns of all my Democrat friends remained empty and free of yard signs.

Their Facebook feeds full of were gluten-free pasta and how to make Play-doh, but never about Hillary. I had many friends share with me privately that they felt that politics shouldn’t be on social media.

That is until voting day, when everyone had just assumed that she had already won. THEN everyone could stand behind her and cheer for what was supposed to be a historic day for America.

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. I was hopeful, don’t get me wrong. I’d take her over Trump in a heartbeat. But she wouldn’t win and I knew that.

Why? Because to win at anything, especially something so big, you need excitement. It doesn’t even need to be good excitement.

A big part of why Trump won is because he created a lot of stir and his name got said a million times. That guy got painted up one side and down the other, far and wide across America, every time he did anything. The media multiplied it. And then my Democrat friends (who never posted a single positive thing about Hillary) would share how terrible Trump is, and put another quarter in his jar.

If you want to win anything, you need to draw a crowd. Trump did that. And then he rode in on the coattails of a lot of people who vote Republican NO MATTER WHAT.

Whether your goal is the presidency or the cheer-leading squad, most of the real stuff happens before the big day. Before the voting even starts.

We all know that if you want to make the cheer-leading squad, what really matters happens in the cafeteria at lunch, and has to do with what party you were or weren’t invited to on Friday night. And what everyone is saying about you, or if they are saying anything at all.

What I saw was silence from so many of my Democratic friends. For so long. The desire to remain unsticky and stay the hell out of it.  I saw the need to not create waves and keep Facebook free of drama and ultimately the need to sit back and the hope that it would all just work out.

You could almost tell yourself that it’s important, or even honorable, until Donald Trump becomes President. And then it becomes irresponsible.

We tell our children daily that they don’t get anything done by sitting by silently ignoring the dishes or letting a kid get bullied. Nothing happens if we are merely waiting for something to happen. And yet we let “politics” drop off our list of battles worth picking, and stand by the excuse that we vote once every 4 years.

We have one vote, and we should use it. But we can no longer sit by and think that is enough.

It clearly isn’t.

 

 

 

Water Is Life

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I feel such a connection with Standing Rock.

I couldn’t tell you a specific reason why. Not exactly, anyway.

I haven’t been there. I don’t know anyone from there and I have no magical story to tie myself to that windswept land.

And yet, I feel drawn and connected to what has been happening there.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been paying attention, and relying on the “alternative media,” who DO consistently report and inform on this situation.

Or maybe it’s because in Standing Rock, the people call themselves Water Protectors.

When I was 19, I got lead poisoning from our city water. Because it was a small (and predominantly white) town in 1990’s America, this problem was resolved swiftly. A few elderly people died and many people got ill, and that’s all it took for the town to spring into action.

Unfortunately for me, I am a big water drinker, and as I felt worse, I ate less and dropped every liquid but water. And I got sicker. We were sent home from the doctor several times, being told that everyone had a bad flu bug that was going around.

When we found out that I actually had lead poisoning, I weighed close to 90 pounds. It took me 2 years to get back to a normal weight and to grow out of child -size clothing. It took much longer to trust water or food and feel normal with it. In fact, it’s still a struggle at times.

Lead poisoning does not go away. Not entirely. It remains dormant and symptoms can reoccur when conditions are favorable.

I need more rest than most people. I have nerve deafness in one ear. And I have a pretty terrible short-term memory. I make a lot of notes and lists, but this does not help me keep track of say, a Pickleball score.

All in all, I’m lucky I found out when I did. I’m lucky I was not younger when it happened. I’m lucky to only have the issues that I do.

But it’s made me reasonably wary and suspicious of anything that endangers our water supply. Because we can’t live without water. Not for more than a few days. Our bodies are made of mostly water. And our groundwater is disappearing, and a lot of it is already toxic. And we have no Plan B, or Planet B.

For so many reasons, our water is growing toxic. This is a researchable fact and you can go find it yourself. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t lazy, or ignorant.

It is widely taken for granted that clean water magically comes up out of the ground. Until I no longer had the luxury, I took water for granted too.

The Water Protecters are trying to save the water for all of us. Whether you believe it or agree with it or not.
Either way, toxic water will effect us all, and all of our families, if we do not act. If we do not take a stand before the water is undrinkable.

❤Water is Life❤

 

Check Your Jesus

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I do not label myself as a Christian, despite being raised in a very actively Christian family and home and schools. But I do, every day, try to live the message of Jesus. The words written in red. I have always loved the words written in red.

Christians, by definition,  walk the walk of Christ. They stand up for what’s right (because he died on the cross for them, according to their very own Christian justification). Christians use their voice, because Jesus never said Be Kind or Be Quiet. He stood on the mound and he preached truth. And love. Jesus was a love guy.

Saying the words, “I am a Christian,” does not make you a Christian.

Not any more than dressing up like a lion on Halloween makes you a lion.

Jesus was willing to die a terrible death to save everyone. He walked the walk AND talked the talk. And all the while, he never talked shit about the fat people and the prostitutes, and he never told the poor and the weary and the needy and the women and the minorities to shut up and sit down. He told us to stand up for those who need it. He told us to call out the bullies and come together. He told us to love one another. He did not turn away or ignore, or waver. He used his voice. And he was brave.

It’s all in the Bible. Jesus’s words are written in red. If you are a Christian, you know these words. These words are burned into the heart of those who truly embody Christ.

So I’m going to ask you all what you think Jesus would do today? Not the Jesus that your “news” seems to know so intimately. Not the Jesus that gets used as a bat to hit with, or a promise to get your way. I’m referring to the Jesus you were taught as a child. The one who taught us to love one another. The guy with the words written in red.

What would HE say today?

Because I think He’d be the guy standing up and shouting from the hilltops for everyone to hear : “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And I am confident in this because you can find those words, written in red.

In what could be described as irony, most of the Christians that I know are very attached to the idea of a white Jesus. But given the fact that His birth and story take place in the middle east, it’s logical to assume that Jesus was actually of middle-eastern descent.

Which means, should Jesus come back (aka Christ’s “second coming,”) it wouldn’t be a stretch that He would return as say, a little Syrian boy. But we can’t let Him in, under the pretense that we are protecting, like Jesus.

So, on that note, what side are YOU on? Are you the one who was cheering to let Jesus in at the gate? Or were you the one who sat quiet in your house eating another bag of Taco Bell and donuts and tuning out with mindless television? Because “politics” is just too depressing. Jesus is watching, either way. Or so I’m told.

I believe that Jesus would look at America right now, with it’s mega-churches and mega-homeless vets and say, “I call bullshit. None of you are reading my words. Few of you remind me of me. Stop using my name for your hate. Check your Jesus!”

When it comes to hate, Jesus is never the reason.

And so I ask…

What walk are you walking today? I don’t mean calling yourself a Christian and I don’t mean going to church. I mean, what are you doing in your daily life that reminds you of Jesus? When, and how, do you remind yourself of Jesus? Because it is only then that you are acting with a Christian heart.

A Universal Time-Out

 

Life around here is always pretty full. But this past summer, when 80 degree days were in full swing, I had a particularly busy period, brimming with photo jobs and settling back in from vacation. A bathroom floor we were trying to finish, along with getting ready for a party with 40 people at my house and a visit from my dad. I was bustling around doing too many things at once. And I can operate there for a while, quite productively. But we are not machines meant to go at high speeds for long periods of time, at least not without some rest periods. There are seasons for everything.

I believe that if we don’t take these rests for ourselves, the universe hands them out to us. Like the next playing card you pick up in Monopoly. I call this The Universal Time-Out.

I rarely take these time-outs for myself. Rather, I wait until a brick wall in the form of some nasty cold or injury to take me out completely.  This past summer when I was running around trying to get it all done? I cut my hand on a glass jar. Deep enough to stop me from cleaning or sanding a bathroom floor. Or doing much of anything for the better part of a week. And it hurt.

“Nope. You’re in time out” said the Universe. And I took it. Because then I had no damn choice.

So I’ve been looking for these little moments. These places where I find myself in time-out (like a long grocery line or a slow-moving toddler). Places where I could pause and let it be. Because my instinct, truth be told, is to go running around “fixing” it. Find a shorter line. Hurry the kid along. Just make it happen. But I think there are lessons to be learned from the sitting still.

This morning I sat down with my brand new and lovely fingerling yarn to teach myself to knit some socks for the very first time. I had my knitting basket full of everything I’d need. My iPad with the pattern on it. A book to listen to once I got going. Lincoln was all nice and quiet with his toys because it’s Monday and Brice is in school so he can play with whatever he wants.

And then I took out my knitting and realized that I had to make the skein into a ball. But, that’s okay. That’ll be fine.

It took about 45 seconds to realize that “okay” or “fine” weren’t really the correct words. And within 3 minutes, I had a nice tangled mess of lovely yarn that must be dealt with before I can even start to make socks.  I don’t even know how it happened.

And I suppose I could just set the yarn down and go about the rest of my life.  There is always something to do.

But maybe, the universe is telling me that today is a good day to curl up and untangle some yarn.

I think today, I will listen.

 

 

 

My Yoga Journey

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I’m Michelle, a 42-year-old wife and mother of four children. I am also a writer and a photographer and somewhere along the way these things became too much and I fell off of the yoga bandwagon. I’m finding my way back now. I am currently on day 7 of the Yoga30for30 program.

I stumbled upon yoga almost 10 years ago in a yoga class at our local YMCA. I knew right away that there was something magical there. I knew that there was more to find, but it didn’t occur to me (for years) that maybe I should make yoga a part of my daily life.

When I did realize that I wanted and needed more yoga, I had a hard time finding it. I found some DVD’s but they all left me still wanting for more. As if the magic wasn’t there, or as if I was only being told part of the story but not the whole thing. And since I live in a small town in Wisconsin, there isn’t much for yoga here unless I drive nearly an hour. I kept searching though, and then someone told me about the Ultimate Yogi.

I was a single mom of three kids back then and it took me some time to be able to purchase the program. My mom pitched in half and I began immediately. And I knew, right away, that I had found my teacher. Travis spoke to me on so many levels and I found myself wanting to be on my yoga mat. And I found a sense of calm that I have never experienced in my life. (On top of all of this, I was in the best shape of my life and never felt better.)

And then, as if the yoga wasn’t enough, I found this amazing group of people doing the UY together for the first time in a Facebook group.  I felt like I had found my class and my yoga people. It took me longer to finish (167 days, I think. I was a single mom of 3, remember) But I did finish, and I continued with yoga for years. Even through my pregnancy with my now 2-year-old.

And then, my mom got very ill and died. I sent two kids to college. My 7-year-old niece got cancer and we bought a house and a million other things until life was just crazy and full. And somehow, the yoga got set down. I wish I could tell you that I replaced it with lots of great things but I didn’t. Because that’s not really how it works, is it? It took some time to find my way back.

I do lots of walking,  but it’s too cold in the winter. I dropped gluten from my diet this summer, and I walked away from coffee a couple months ago. And I have (once again) broken up with sugar. Sneaky bitch creeps her way back into my house all the time though. I am finding my way back to health and wellness, one little piece of the puzzle at a time.

I tried numerous times to get back into yoga, but I would fizzle out after a day or two. I couldn’t get to the daily yoga part. Something else always felt more important. But I know and very much feel the difference between doing yoga sometimes and a regular yoga practice.

I honestly got very excited when I saw the promotions for Yoga30for30. Because as much as I LOVE Ultimate Yogi, I can’t commit to over an hour a day. But 30-40 minutes, I can sneak that in before we start our morning. And I have. For 7 days now.

So, my thoughts and feelings after 7 days…

This program is perfect for ME where I am in MY life. I’m an avid walker, but I was only doing yoga 3-5 times a month and couldn’t get myself into a rhythm. This has helped jump-start my love for yoga and has me eager to begin each morning.

I am proud of myself. I haven’t done 7 straight days of yoga in years. This program has encouraged me and for that, I’m already thankful.

In the 7 days since I started, I no longer feel like a rusty old truck. My hips and back and shoulders are so much more flexible in just this week. My body, overall, feels wonderful. I’m a little sore here and there, but I did take Epson salt baths twice this week, but mostly because I’m in love with my big old bathtub.

It is helpful and encouraging to see people’s post about their own journeys and to feel a part of something bigger. I feel calmer and happier. More focused and less stressed. All the magical things that yoga does. Most of all, I feel more gratitude, for all things.

I did not have an expectation that this program would somehow replace the UY for me. Mainly because 70-minute classes will always give you more of a challenge than a 30-minute class. But for me, right here and now, 70 minutes would be very difficult to make happen consistently. And I’d rather do 30 minute practices consistently than 70 minute classes 3 times a month.

My hope is that I will start to mix in UY classes after the challenge is over. I’ll keep the 30 minute classes as a staple because I know that they are shorter and fit my life more reasonably, but at the same time they seem to keep the yoga within the yoga.

I’m in love with my yoga mat again. I am reminded to honor myself and my body and where I am, in ALL moments. I’m grateful and humbled by yoga, and how it feels so much like a circle that pulls me back in time and time again.

Thanks for coming along on the journey. Namaste to you all.

82 and Sunny

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A friend posted a photo this morning of a car with a license plate that read “82 N SUNY,” which I assure you, it is not. At least not where I am standing. It’s below zero right now. Freaking stupid cold that freezes the stuff you didn’t even know you had in your nose. Cold that makes your face actually hurt. Avoid-outdoors-at-all-costs-cold. Stupid cold.

But this little photo made me pause. And my first thought was, “Uh, it ain’t 82 and sunny here, so, you know, fuck off.” Because it’s cold, and the cold makes me crabby. And everyone else might be crabby too because morning drop off at school today was totally horrendous. So maybe I am not the only one longing for warmer days with sunshine on my face and fresh air that I can walk in without the risk of freezing my face literally off.

But then, the license plate got me day dreaming about swimming in the warm lake at the cabin we rent each summer. I got lost in the thought of just floating there in the water, bobbing on one of the kids’ pool noodles.

I thought about crouching at the fence line photographing a softball game. The crack of the bat and the sweat rolling down my own back from the mid-day July sunshine.

I thought of putting fans in the windows to pull in the night summer air and shutting down the house as the light of day breaks to keep the house cool.

The breeze on the porches and the birds in the vines.

The kids in the yard picking dandelions and racing with the dog. And everything is green.

And a little bit of 82 and sunny crept in. Even though it’s cold enough to cuss about, I found a little 82 and sunny of my own.