Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Racism: Why are we so afraid to talk about it?


Racism has been a common topic of conversation on Facebook and the media in recent months.  I have seen it most recently in the case of Ahmed Mohamed: the boy who brought a clock he had made to school and was arrested.  Many notables spoke up in support of this student and to share their stories of being victims to racism.  Anyone who followed my Facebook posts will know that I believe that racism was involved because of the actions taken by the teachers, administrators, and police.  Their responses were not consistent with what is standard procedure for bomb threats.  Yes, we have to protect all of our children in the school; so I wonder why they didn't evacuate the building.  Since they didn't do that, I have to question why this student was treated in such an egregious manner.  In questioning, I have to look at many different reasons this could happen, and racism is one of those reasons.

In our time of instant, digital media, we are constantly receiving information about events in our world.  Many are quick to label actions by stating that someone's civil rights were violated due to their sex, sexual preference/orientation, faith, age, or race.  What I'm discovering is that we are more open to discussing the first items on that list, but we are often afraid to discuss race.  Disturbingly, I have found that the ones who are so afraid to have these discussions are white people.

Let me begin by saying that I am a white woman who has grown up with white privilege.  I am well aware of it, because I have had glimpses of the lives of those who are not so privileged.  While I am not an expert, my experiences as a teacher and my connection with my students have served to educate and inform me about life in poverty, having a different faith or skin color, or having a sexual orientation different than mine.  I am a product of a lifetime of experiences, and I view the world around me through the lens of those experiences.

My friends of all races may not agree with what I'm writing in this blog, but I feel compelled to write about my observations and beliefs in the hope that I can inspire others to let go of their fears.  I will not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do see a pattern.  Friends of color are talking about racism and do not shy away from the conversation.  However, many white people discount racism, sometimes to the point of denying its existence, and do not want to talk about it.  I'm convinced that it is fear: fear that they will say the wrong thing, fear that their world will change, perhaps even fear that they may be labeled racist.  These fears should not stop us from examining events for racism or having conversations to test these ideas.

It may be a surprise to some of you, but racism is not exclusive to the white demographic.  It can occur in all cultures throughout the world, but I think that whites in the United States have the mistaken idea that racism only refers to them.  It doesn't!  You will be able to find racism in all cultures if you look for it, but I think this is a major reason why whites are so afraid to talk about it.  That is tragic, in my opinion.

Whenever situations occur like the one in which Ahmed Mohamed was involved, we have to look at the facts and ask ourselves: did this happen because of his sex, sexual preference/orientation, age, faith, or race?  We have to set aside our fears and examine the potential causes.  If this was my child, I would want that for him.  I would want the same for your children.

I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.  So much was accomplished during those difficult times by very brave people who weren't afraid to shine a light on prejudice and racism.  We became a better country and better people as a result.  Unfortunately, racism did not go away.  Instead, it became hidden away.

Recent events are beginning to again shine the light on prejudice and racism.  I believe that is a very good thing.  It is how we will grow and change and evolve as caring people who support everyone's rights, and white people have to be part of that change.  We have to set aside our guilt and fears.  We have to join the conversation even when we don't agree.  When we hear people saying that something happened as a result of racism, we have to take a breath, admit that it is possible, examine the facts, join in the conversation, and express our opinion.  We won't all agree, but we will be better for having had the conversation. We might learn something we didn't know, begin to think in new ways, and will definitely be better prepared for the next time. So, let's start having these conversations with respect for one another in the hope that we can build a better world for our children and their children...for our future as a humane, caring, accepting world.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Negativity

I am amazed at how many people comment that they are thinking of leaving Facebook because of the negativity there.  Now, I am not surprised that there are negative comments.  What surprises me is that someone would let this interfere with their enjoyment of Facebook!  It makes me wonder both what purpose Facebook serves for them and how they handle negativity in their lives.

Let me start by saying that I really enjoy Facebook for many reasons.  First, I find it a very easy way to stay connected with people.  I can share in their experiences, commiserate and support them when life is difficult, and celebrate when something exciting happens to them.  Second, I am a very visual person and enjoy seeing the pictures that others post.  I also like to take pictures and find Facebook a way to share them with others.  Third, I think that Facebook forces me to look at new and different viewpoints.  Obviously, everyone doesn't believe the same things that I do.  This is a very good thing.  It adds richness and texture to the world we live in.  Facebook is a great way to learn about these opposing views.  

These opposing views give me an opportunity to examine other beliefs and keeps me open to a diversity of ideas.  It helps me grow as a compassionate human being.  While I may not change my beliefs, I usually have a better understanding of an issue or point of view.  If I leave emotion out of it and refuse to become entrenched in defending my own perspective, I often find that I have an appreciation for a differing viewpoint even though that hasn't been my personal experience.  These interchanges expand my thinking, open up my world, teach me to have empathy for people irregardless of circumstance, and help me respect the rights of others to have their own points of view. 

I have also learned that it is best to limit my interactions in a heated conversation where there are opposing views.  If I choose to comment, I make the decision to do so knowing that I may get some nasty responses-always from people I don't know.  I strongly believe that everyone has a right to express an opinion.  I've learned to do so only if I feel strongly that I need to share mine AND I'm prepared to deal with the negativity.  Otherwise, I read the dissenting comments so that I know what others believe, and then I move on!

We don't all agree on everything.  My friends display a diversity of beliefs regarding politics and religion-both topics that can become very emotional.  However, I read what they post so that I have opposing views which makes me reexamine my own beliefs.  I think this is a good thing.  I don't ever want to become so entrenched in an idea that I can't take it out of its box to see if it still fits.  As I have changed over the years, so have my ideas!

I am fortunate that my Facebook friends are people who tend to be very positive in their outlook.  There are times when someone might post something negative about their day, but this signals that they need someone to empathize in the moment.  I have also made a practice of only "friending" people I know or those who have been recommended by someone.  This has probably made my Facebook experience very positive.  I am also retired now so I don't have to protect my professional persona.  

I make a point of surrounding myself with positive people in my life.  It's a conscious choice!  I do the same with Facebook.  For anyone who is thinking of leaving Facebook due to negativity, look at the people who are your "friends".  Are these negative posts from people who just have opposing views that make you uncomfortable or are they truly bringing you down with their negativity?  If it's the latter, remove them as a "friend".  I can think of only twice when I have removed someone from my Facebook Friend list because they were too negative, but this action helped me maintain a positive experience.  I recommend using this option to make Facebook enjoyable for you.  
You can control the negativity by choosing your Facebook friends wisely.  So don't let the negativity win!  Stay on Facebook.  Keep posting and sharing: I'll be happy to share in your life.  Even more importantly, stay on Facebook so that you can keep learning about the wonderful lives around you with all of their differences and commonalities.  Look around for the positive voices, the posts that make you smile, and the videos that make you laugh.  They are there!

Have you found your joy today?


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hello! I'm back...


Hello!  It's hard to believe, but it has been almost 2 years since I last wrote a post for this blog.  I'm not sure why it's taken so long for me to get back to writing.  It's certainly not that my life has been boring so I had nothing to write about!  It's probably just the opposite: my life has been so full that I haven't had time or the right frame of mind or the right environment.  If you are a writer, you will probably know that you need quiet and calm to create.  Despite the fact that I'm retired, I have had only rare moments of quiet that are conducive to writing.

I tend to write at night.  It seems to be the time when I am most creative.  However, night time is usually the time when I socialize.  I often spend time with my adult son talking and/or watching TV.  My husband and I also have a pretty active social life: going out with friends, attending live performances, experiencing new restaurants, taking short road trips to explore and geocache.

Whatever the reasons, I have missed writing.  I miss crafting the words to express ideas.  I miss finding visuals to go along with my writing.  I miss the rare interaction with readers.  I've had a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head for awhile but never got to the point of writing them down.

This past weekend we had dinner with a friend who writes for a living.  I had so much fun talking with her about a wide variety of topics, and it made me realize that it's time to start writing again.  So, I'm back...  

Have you found your joy today?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chincoteague Island: Land of Misty and Relaxation



When trying to decide where we wanted to go for vacation this year, we considered going west to the Rockies or east to the beach.  After several discussions, we decided that we wanted to go east to visit my brother in North Carolina and that we wanted to visit Norfolk, VA.  I had been to Norfolk before on a recruitment trip and wanted to go back so that my husband could take a tour of the Naval base there.  I originally thought that we would spend several days in the area, but after reading about the attractions there, I started to focus more on the beach.

Let me start by saying that this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me and my background.   Having grown up in Florida, I always feel that I am home when I arrive at the water.  As much as I admire Minnesota lakes, they just don't do it for me although Lake Superior comes close.  There is just something about the ocean and coastal waterways that makes me feel like I have come home.


As I researched the coast of Virginia, I first looked at Virginia Beach.  It is close to Norfolk-almost a suburb-and is very popular.  However, I have driven through there and found it very busy and touristy.  So, I continued to search for other options.  That is when I discovered Chincoteague, Virginia on the map.  As I read about this area, I also remembered more about it.  I had always heard about and been intrigued by the tales of wild ponies that were herded to swim from their island home to the mainland.  I had also heard about the book Misty of Chincoteague because of my Children's Literature class in college.  Imagine my surprise to learn that this was the place for both of those things!  The more I read, the more convinced I was that we should spend some time on Chincoteague; so our focus changed to a quick trip to Norfolk followed by a few days in Chincoteague.

I am so glad that we made these changes to our vacation.  Chincoteague, and its neighboring Assateague, is a lovely place to relax.  There's a slowing down of time here.  Nothing is hurried or rushed, and there is something for everyone here.  Biking is a popular activity.  The land is flat, and there are bike paths throughout the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  There are boat cruises or fishing if you want water activities.  The beach is lovely as well.  There are scooters, trikes, and coupes to rent and explore the island and refuge.  There is a popular ice cream shop which offers locally made ice cream; at night people line up out the door.  There are miniature golf and go-carts as well as a theater for entertainment.  The people are helpful and friendly.  This is a wonderful place to relax, unwind, and have fun!


However, I would be remiss if I didn't write about what really drew me to this place-the wild horses. Their story is told in the book Misty of Chincoteague.  An avid reader, I bought the book on my Kindle and read it when I first arrived,  It is a good children's book which was published in 1947, written by Marguerite Henry, and won the Newberry Award.  Even now, Assateague Island is the place where wild horses roam and are herded by saltwater cowboys each year at the end of July.  They are gathered together from all areas of Assateague Island and made to swim across a channel to Chincoteague where the foals are auctioned to benefit the local fire department.   I think it would be fun to see the actual event although I'm afraid that the crowds of people would detract from the relaxed atmosphere found in this area.

This has been a wonderful place to spend some time.  I will be sad to leave, but I am so glad that we decided to head for the beach.  We have had a great time!

Have you found your joy today?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

30 Days of Beauty-Day 30: Writing



It is June 30th!  That means that this is the last post for 30 Days of Beauty.  As I sat down to write on this final evening in June, I went back to read my post a year ago on the last day of 30 Days of Joy.  I had learned a lot by completing that exercise.  That is also true this year.

Each of us creates our own circle;
Make yours a Circle of Joy.
In writing about beauty, I found that it is closely related to joy.  In looking around and identifying the beauty in my life, I often felt tremendous joy.  I hope that these posts have helped you to see the beauty that surrounds you each day.  I hope that this created a lot of joy for you.  Even more, I hope that you shared this joy with others.  After all, my intent with this blog is to create Circles of Joy that create ripples in the fabric of life; thus spreading joy to those around us.

When looking for beauty, I realized that, while nature is truly beautiful, the people I encounter each day provide the sources of beauty that are most meaningful.  It is just a matter of taking the time, looking for it, and treasuring its gift to you.  Please know that you are beautiful, and take the time to tell someone you love that they are beautiful to you.  You will experience and share great joy in this way.

Thanks for reading this blog!
I set out to write every day during June equaling 30 days of writing.  I didn't always get them done on time.  Life, power outages, and travel sometimes got in the way.  However, I made sure to write 30 posts, and each one reflected what I was experiencing that day.  I really like to write.  I hope that shows in my posts.  I greatly appreciate those who commented or "liked" my post on Facebook.  I knew that people were reading  these writings, and it meant a lot to me.  Now that the 30 days are over, I will go back to writing weekly.  I hope that you will continue to read my posts.

Have you found your joy today?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

30 Days of Beauty-Day 29: Family


Victoria-The Graduate

This has been a very busy month of Open Houses.  Many of my friends have children who graduated from high school.  We always try to attend, because we want to celebrate this major accomplishment.  Today we attended our last graduation open house of the season, but it was a special one.  Our niece's daughter graduated from high school with honors.  We definitely had to attend to be a part of this celebration.
Proud Dad and Grandma

We have enjoyed all of the Open Houses, but this one was so much fun because of all of the family members who were there,  It was a great opportunity to catch up on everyone's lives, give and get hugs, and congratulate the new grad.  There was great food, but my favorite thing was looking at the pictures of our great niece that chronicled her life since birth.  She has always had a smile on her face.  It was so much fun to see all of the years caught in pictures.


Our Beautiful Family


Victoria and Connie
Victoria and Dawn
Family is a beautiful and interesting thing.  Many of our family members aren't related by blood; however, they are very much our family.  I don't always get to see them but they are very important to me.  They have watched my children grow up and enjoy watching my grandchildren as they grow.  They are always there if I need them.  I also enjoy time with my nieces.  They have become such wonderful young women.  I am so proud of them, and this was an occasion to celebrate one of the most important accomplishments of a mother-seeing her child graduate.  Proud parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles abounded!  There was so much joy in their faces and in the hugs we all shared.  I'm so lucky to be a part of their lives.

Have you found your joy today?

Friday, June 28, 2013

30 Days of Beauty-Day 28: Outdoor Dining




I love outdoor dining!  There is a beauty to being a part of nature and its elements.  When I was young, we lived in Miami, Florida.  We ate outside a lot of the time, and many restaurants had outdoor dining.  I love that about warm, tropical areas.  There is something invigorating about dining al fresco, enjoying the sunshine, sharing good conversation, and relaxing with friends and family.

Living in Minnesota has made me appreciate this experience even more.  After months of being indoors, I crave being outside for dining.  I know this is true for many other Minnesotans as well.  I meet a friend for lunch every week, and our choices for dining are governed by which restaurants have outdoor dining.  This week we had to eat indoors after my eye appointment.  My dilated eyes couldn't take the sunshine even though I was wearing sunglasses.  It was truly a loss to have to be indoors on such a gorgeous summer day.  I know that she is really a friend since she was willing to forgo the outdoors for me after being cooped up in an office all day!

Many Fridays you will find my husband and me at our neighborhood D'Amico's restaurant.  They have a lovely outdoor dining area with flowers and a fountain.  We know many of the servers and managers since we regularly go there.  We chat about their families and catch up on their lives throughout our evening.  When I was working, we often went there, bought a glass of unlimited wine, and talked about our work week.  It gave me a chance to dump work issues before the weekend so I could relax.  We would sit for hours talking, eating, and drinking.  We would often close the evening with a trip to the Starbucks next door.

Abbey and Cousin Mya
at the fountain
Tyler flirts with Audrey
at the next table
Today we went to D'Amico's with our family.  There were 9 of us.  My sister-in-law and her 2 girls came to visit for the day.  So the 3 of them, my son and his family, and my husband and I went out for dinner.  We had a large table under the umbrellas outdoors.  It was a great time!  My granddaughter loved being with her cousins and throwing pennies (provided by Grandmum) into the fountain.  My grandson flirted with the little girl at the next table.  We all talked, ate, and enjoyed the Minnesota evening.  It was a wonderful, relaxing evening!

Have you found your joy today?