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.


 

 

Two Years

 

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It’s the crunch of the leaves and the smells of this season. The cold bite of the wind through a warm day and the dark blue of the sky.  It’s how the steam rises from rooftops on crisp mornings when the sun hits them, and how the vines that grow all over my house are changing color. All of it signifies this season of fall.

It’s my favorite season. It always has been. Though I’ve always loved the hot days of summer, there is something about the way autumn shows up. How beautifully it is able to let it all go.

Which is precisely why, though I would still call this season my favorite, I’m kind of disenchanted with it at the moment.

My mom fell and broke her pelvis two years ago today. In the busiest period of my life, amidst the crunching leaves and beautiful changing colors. Like so many pivotal moments, time stood still and I noticed. I noticed so clearly the colors and smells and feelings of that fall. Because I was clinging to some normalcy outside of the everyday life that was taking away my mom.

As soon as I found out about her pelvis, I knew that it was the end. I recalled her doctor telling us the previous winter that she probably had one year left, give or take, unless she fell and broke a hip, in which case she’d be gone in a month. As it turns out, she lasted almost 2 months after her injury. But she was not the same, and in so many ways, who my mother was left her after she fell. She was heavily medicated, still in a lot of pain, and her whole body was shutting down. There was a handful of very lucid moments that almost gave me hope, but mostly she used those times to settle her affairs and say her goodbyes.

But it’s two years later and I so badly want to enjoy this lovely season. To feel happy about it, but mixed in is the bitterness of those terrible 2 months. Because we are creatures of habit who look to the past to guide us. And this lovely autumn makes me think of falling in love when I was 16. It also reminds me of the lovely October day that I met my husband, and when my niece Addison was born, and trick or treating as a kid. And my mother dying.  Autumn has become all of those things for me.

I tell myself, because it’s true, that we are beings that get to choose. We can only think of one thing at a time. Our brain does not have to run the show. We can choose our thoughts, but like all things, this is a practice. And a work in progress.

I will have to choose the joy-filled moments, over and over, for the rest of my life. There is no one-stop-shop where I can purchase a bag of something and be fine about my mother’s death. The hard stuff, like the great stuff, is built in as a part of our foundation. We would not even be us without it.

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So I will take today, with the lovely autumn light and the wind blowing brightly colored leaves off the trees, and I will miss my mom. I will let myself be sad right now. And then I’m going to remind myself of a better memory every time the breeze tries to pull me back to sadder times. I will bring my mother with me through my life in search of what is beautiful and worth remembering. I know that this is how she wants me to carry her with me.

Mr. Watts

 

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This is Watts. He’s our big orange tomcat. Can you tell he thinks he owns the place?

We adopted him from my cousin’s farm a few years ago. He was tiny and hungry and needed a home. He came to us startlingly protective of his food, and sort of fierce, yet willing to cuddle up in my sweatshirt and nap. He got really sick when he was still a tiny guy and we had to get him IV antibiotics. We were all so worried that you’d have thought he was a real baby. He is the least friendly cat I’ve ever owned, but even with his “dark side” as we call it, we all love him so much.

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Even as a tiny kitten, he has always been a commanding force. My niece Riley started calling him Mr. Watts when he was just a couple months old, and it fit so much that we still call him Mr. Watts. Which is funny because we don’t really stand on ceremony around here and the only people we give titles to are teachers. And cats, apparently.

Watts will gently headbump Steve, or try to clean my face if he’s in the mood. But most times, he accept a handful of pets from Steve or me before he gets frisky and starts to warn us to knock it off. He doesn’t hurt us, but I wouldn’t really test him. He puts his teeth on our hand without hurting us, just enough to tell us to back the hell off. He’ll come hang out with us on the porch or in the living room, but he insists on having his own chair and would never sit with us or beside us.

That said, Watts is the animal who would protect us from some evil force should we need it. I have no doubt that if something bad occurred, Watts would go down swinging as the one who tried to save us all. He will occasionally be cuddly and want our affection, but the majority of the time, he merely tolerates our affection.

When I took him to the vet the last time, he kind of freaked out and wouldn’t let anyone touch him. Not even me. They gave him something to calm him down and sent us home with a borrowed pet crate, for the protection of all of us. So, he’s kind of a wild card.

You can see why we might worry about bringing, say, a little kitten, into in the house.

Only here’s the thing about my tough guy Watts. He loves babies.

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All babies of all kinds. He loves the kids in some way that makes him seem like a completely different cat. His patience with them far exceeds what any other cat I’ve had would accept. He is happy to be cuddled with and kissed and dragged around. He works diligently to sneak into their rooms at night so he can sleep with them. He is mellow and sweet. He is a lover.


Every day, I watch my big beast of a cat play with our tiny kitten, Eleven. She wraps her paws around his neck and bites. In return, he cleans her. She wrestles him and bites him and he allows it. He plays back so gently that she doesn’t need to cry out. He wouldn’t hurt her. It warms my heart, this love. This sweet gentle love coming from my tough guy.

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It makes me think we all have this. These gifts hiding just on the other side of our dark side. That even a rough and tumble tomcat has a gentle side. A kryptonite that turns him to putty.

We all have something that make us crumble and turn to love.

My 3rd Parent and My 5th Child

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Two years ago today we moved into our lovely old house. It was built in 1896, so this place is celebrating its 120th birthday this year, as we celebrate 2 years of calling it home. I refer to this place as “mine,” but more accurately we are the caretakers here. There have been others before us and there will be more after. This house sees generations of humans, where I get one human lifetime.

On one of my favorite tv shows, a man owns an estate and a castle. He refers to his home as his 3rd parent and his 4th child. When I first heard that, something ran through me that left goosebumps. I completely understood the weight of that.

This big old house that I call mine is my 3rd parent and my 5th child…

In the way that it keeps me warm and dry, a safe haven of love and acceptance in a scary world. 24/7, always here for me. I never even think to doubt it.

In the way that it has constant needs and demands, always requiring my hands on it to fill cracks and sweep out corners and give attention. Such constant cries for my attention and affection.

In the way that it takes my time and my love, and seems to breathe it all right back into the people who step inside.  This home feels more like a person than a place.

Maybe it is the 120 years of history and stories and families that have lived here. Or maybe it’s because we believe this house chose us. But either way, it IS a part of our family. This may not make sense to you, but then I’m guessing you haven’t been here.

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I spent a lot of my adult life with a lot of responsibilities and not a lot of money. I had a couple decent places to live but mostly pretty crappy ones. I rented what I could afford, and often had very little heat or money or food and life was really hard. I dreamed for many years of a warm old house with extra bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms and room for all of us to gather or be alone at times. And two years ago, that wish came true.

If I could create any home, any place on earth to tuck away and be safe and sound from the storms of life, it would be here. With its flowery wallpaper inside and it’s vines growing up the walls outside. I feel lucky every day to be here, even when I’m scrubbing hundreds of windows. But especially today, as we celebrate 2 years caring for this parent/child house of ours. This dream come true.

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*** I sometimes write about how much I love my life and I worry that people think things are all “perfect” and I totally “have it together.” No one should be under the impression that I do not bitch about my big old house from time to time. ‘Cause I do. Nor should you be confused that I have a perfect life, as I do not. My toddler refused to leave his high chair all morning so I let him to watch 5 episodes of Barbie Dreamhouse because it kept him reigned in and allowed me to write to you kind folks…

 

Who My Son is Supposed To Be

 

My son Lincoln loves Frozen. Not so much the movie anymore, now that everyone in the house has it memorized. But he loves to play with his purple Frozen bucket in the sand box. And his pink and blue Frozen pajamas are such a hit that it’s a holy battle to get him to take them off. So when we went shopping for new shoes last weekend, he picked out fuchsia Frozen Crocs with Anna and Olaf on them. He looked around the whole store at all of the shoes, but these were the shoes that he clutched to his chest and carried proudly to the checkout.

 

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Lincoln loves dinosaurs and dragons, and he likes trucks. But he gets lost for an hour playing in the doll house that we found on Varagesale. It’s not unusual to find he’s carrying the set of babies that came with it around in his chubby little hands.

He gets excited about the real construction equipment that is working on the next block, but he could mostly take or leave the trucks at home. He does like to play with Optimus Prime on occasion, but I think that might be more about getting his big brothers undies in a bundle.

I spent a lot of my life doing “should be” things, for myself and my kids. Girls “should be” dressed a certain way. I “should be” a certain way. Boys “should” only play with certain toys.

Some of the norms we teach in our society are necessary, like manners, and hygiene. But some of the things we teach are not that important. Like what color our shoes are, or how we like to spend our spare (or play) time. They are small stuff but sometimes we talk about them until we convince everyone they are actually big stuff.

I’ve learned that some of the things I was brought up to believe (though taught to me with the best of intentions) do not fit me. I was not given the whole story, only the parts that our society and my particular family thought best for me. This is true for all of us.

We don’t have to take on all of the “supposed to be’s” in life. We don’t even have to pick them up. We are beings that get to choose. It is what makes us human. That, and the fact that we are all alike, but different.

Lincoln is just Lincoln, with his own set of unique fingerprints and his own multitudes of personality. A small human being with his own likes and dislikes. And fuchsia shoes.

I have no idea who he’ll “turn out” to be. But I’m going to do all I can to let him figure it out.

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My Once Great America 

 

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I grew up being told that I lived in a Great America.  A land with amber waves of grain and possibility for all as far as the eye could see.

There were purple mountains majesty and we were taught to be kind and brave. To stand up for the little guy and to open doors for others out of respect. We were taught that racism is wrong and that we could all find a way to get along. We were taught that our country was created from our lessons learned and this made America great. We made America great.

I don’t believe that anymore. Not like I once did.

Because now, the grain is toxic and you are quite possibly intolerant to it anyway. And a bright and shining future without poverty is only an 80k mountain of student loans away.

Most of the people that I know will talk about football for days at a time and give you stats and figures to prove how well versed they are. They will post recipes for blueberry pancakes and videos of dressed up kittens jumping into swimming pools, and all sorts of things in-between. And this is a good thing, because life is about balance.

The problem comes when we flat out refuse to talk about the important things. Like how politics is just as taboo of a subject as masturbation. No one wants to talk about that. Plus, everyone is just plain too busy because there aren’t enough hours in the day. We toil away, convinced that someone must not be working hard enough, which would explain why this great American ship appears to be sinking.

In the midst of all this, we’ve all collectively and silently decided that it is not polite nor appropriate to share our views, especially on social media.

But isn’t the internet where we are? Sitting on Facebook or scrolling through Twitter while we sit with aching backs in uncomfortable bleachers, waiting for our kids’ never-ending practices to end so we can go home and make dinner at 9pm. You know, the American Dream, which keeps us so busy that we don’t have time to talk politics.

The Kardashians. Well, we can name all of them. And there are 90 hours of time allotted for our DVR box and we use every single minute of it and we STILL can’t keep up with our favorite TV shows.

But the future of our country? The decisions about clean water (ever heard of Flint, Michigan?) and the deciding factors on who gets the job of The American Powers that Be for the next 4 years? Well, you know…

“There is plenty of time to decide.”

“My life is TOO crazy right now.”

“I don’t vote because it doesn’t even matter.”

This is what most of my friends will say about politics. Or, they will say that it is too chaotic and messy and they simply don’t want to make waves or take a stand.

“I don’t like to get involved with the drama,” I hear often.

As if the future of this country won’t affect them at all. Which makes me automatically think of two words: privileged and entitled.

And what I really want to say about all of this is What the fuck is wrong with all of you? This planet is in crisis. Our species is in crisis and you are talking to me about Lands’ End Mules and I don’t even know what those are and I DON’T CARE! I care about how there are people running for president who think that we should have concentration camps in our country for our own citizens, and in some strange form of new reality, this is not just accepted, but followed. As an added bonus, the people with morals and ethics stay silent, apparently out of respect for the niceties of social media.

I’m trying to be nice here (and not cuss) and to start a real conversation with grace and politeness. But it’s getting really hard to sit still and be quiet because I want to know what the flying hell happened to that once Great America. The one with the Purple Mountain Majesty and all the hope and promise. The one where old people could afford their meds and could live and die with dignity. The America where kids who lived in poverty weren’t to blame for their own demise. A time when we didn’t belittle our school teachers but respected them for the part they play in raising our future. A time when we were taught (and believed) that the police were there to protect us only. The time when our schools weren’t full of hazards and our roads weren’t literally crumbling apart. What the hell happened to that America?

Because I know you remember it too.

What happened to those great American leaders that I saw as a kid? They had varying opinions and policy, but they still made you feel not only safe but proud to be an American, because it was a nation of great advances and great people with great men running it. Men who were educated and knowledgeable, men who were well-spoken and walked honorably through situations of diversity and trying. Men with class.

We have lost this along the way. Sadly, we’ve been so brainwashed and dumbed down by the flashing images on all the screens that we watch all day and night long that we wouldn’t know genuine or real or even hope if it came through and kissed us like it meant it.

But we’d better start figuring it out.

Because I don’t mean any offense here, but the vast majority of you, dear friends, are silent. Silent as our country falls apart. Sleeping while the media spoon feeds us its own versions of reality and calls it truth. (Not unlike the grocery store full of boxes of food-like products that we can’t pronounce, disguised as food. “Food” that, shockingly, other first world countries won’t allow to dock at its shores because of the risk it poses to human health.)

I realize that most of us are staying silent out of the hope that it will keep us safe. So we stand in our own corners, too afraid to speak or take a stand. The internet backlash is real and unfriendly. I get it.

But then we should probably stop saying that we are the home of the free and the brave. Because no offense to all my wonderful friends, but when was the last time you stood up for what’s right? When was the last time that you were brave enough to use your words and help the greater good even when you knew you’d get lashed for it?

Most of us were taught to NOT speak out. We were taught not to make waves or say anything inappropriate. All societies need to have norms and ways to behave. But I keep thinking that the things that we are avoiding are exactly the things we are supposed to be talking about.

Friends, we are doing it WRONG.

This separation and division is going to take us all down, one way or another. If there are conversations happening, they are mostly throwing virtual rocks at each other on Facebook and Twitter over other people’s imaginary abortions. Meanwhile the big guys with the big money and the really big guns are poisoning our water and watching us bicker over where the money went while they count it, waiting for a chance to push The Button.

And can we all at least agree that we need to be sort of careful in choosing who answers the 3AM emergency Great American phone call and has access to The Button?

I sound like a conspiracy theorist. So be it. But I’m not. I’m someone with a degree in journalism and I’m very good at research and finding what the mainstream media isn’t talking about. These problems are real and we are all in danger here. ACTUAL danger. Toxic-food, brown-leaded water, melting-ice-caps, openly-racist-presidential-candidate-danger. And we are so blindly following, out of ignorance and fear, that we are being led right into our own demise. We didn’t notice because The Bachelor was on.

We need to start educating ourselves. More than 92% of our media is bought and paid for. They are telling you what they want you to hear and it isn’t news or accurate. This isn’t disputable. To make matters worse, it is the bad guys that are getting all the air time.

But what if we all stood up and talked back? What if we stood up and got counted as the ones who don’t tolerate the hate?

We need to start speaking up. On Facebook. At the school gym. On the street and with our friends. We need to have real conversations with each other (you know, actual people) about how we can fix this mess we’re in. Together, as the human species that we are. Before we become extinct like dinosaurs who didn’t know how to fix it before it was too late.

No matter what label we give ourselves or what “side” we think we’re on, we can probably ALL agree that our society here in this Great America is in danger of fracture. This is not the amber waves of grain from my childhood, which swelled pride in my heart for growing up in the land of the free where I could be anyone that I wanted to be.

I am an eternal optimist, but I find it hard to feel that about our great nation anymore.

What I do know is that electing a guy who brings hate as a house guest everywhere he goes is not the answer. I know that elections that are bought and paid for and candidates who are bought and paid for have no place in this government of the people and for the people. We are seeing what we have allowed with our silence and it isn’t pretty.

I wish I had more answers but I only have the ones I found myself. For me, the answer is to vote in a public servant who truly represents the people, because he is one himself. Not an empire or a millionaire, but a person.

The other is to create and engage in open conversations about the state of this country.

Conversations, not fights. You know the difference.

It’s exactly what we were taught when we were young, and it’s the lessons that we are constantly trying to instill in our own children.

Use your words. No backtalk or name-calling. Give others a turn. Don’t judge based on looks or first assumptions. Think critically and make educated decisions. Don’t believe everything you hear. Open a door. Be a nice person.

I would really like to go back to being proud of my country again. A Great America with amber waves of grain and hope and possibility.

But I can’t do that alone. We’re all going to have to take a stand for what is right together.

 

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