When Ruth, Lori and I write about similar topics, it is funny how consistently we each fall into a role. Aunt Ruth has a folksy no-nonsense approach. She pulls in things she’s read and seen online. Lori waxes poetic, spinning lines that inspire. Me? I come in with the facts and a how-to spin every single time and this time is no different.

Earlier in the week, Lori wrote about reconciliation in her post Reconciliation Requirements. It took me some time to order my thoughts but I found myself contemplating a National Park Service program my son got to participate in. Called Pen or Pencil (POP) the program is all about breaking the school to prison pipeline. Because a part of this is racial tension, a big part of the program is reconciliation.

It is one thing to say that we want reconciliation to occur. It is another to do our part. As taught by the POP sessions my son attended, these three things need to take place for reconiciliation to take place.

Recognize Bias

Like I teach my writing students, we all have to learn to recognize our biases. Bias is the slanted way you and I see the world. It is shaped by our beliefs and our attitudes. It is especially important that we recognize how our biases shape our behaviors.

The most difficult part of this is realizing how bias shapes unintentional behaviors. Me? I’m the Queen of the Eyebrow Raise. My oldest niece has mastered the eye roll. Medals are also given out for the head shake and the martyred sigh.

For reconcilliation to take place, we need to own these things and be willing to do something about them. Sigh.

Truth Telling

Another vital part of reconcilliation is truth telling. This doesn’t just mean telling everyone what you think. In reconcilliation, truth telling is a process of airing grievances and misundertandings.

Wait? Didn’t I just say it isn’t all about telling everyone what we think? That’s because of the final, and perhaps hardest step.

All Voices Heard

Everyone has a voice at this table. When my son attended this program, he was the only young white man. It would have been really easy for them to shut him down. But each of his classmates had a chance to speak up and so did he.

That was because everyone has a voice. And everyone should feel heard. Not just the people who agree with us.

It isn’t an easy process. If it was we would have been there long ago. But that’s the wonder of carrying God’s light into the world. We are lighting the way not to a world lived our way but his way where there is a space for each of God’s children at the table.

–SueBE

As our government transitions from one president to the next, most of us are praying for peace. I include myself in their number. What I cannot stand behind, however, is the call to “forgive and move on.” To explain, I must bring in my Catholic upbringing. In the sacrament of Reconciliation, two things are required. One: the sinner must recognize that she has sinned and admit her responsibility for wrongdoing. Two: the sinner must resolve not to sin again. Of course, we — sinners all — fail at this repeatedly, but we should at least show a determination to try not to repeat our sins.

I have seen no recognition of sin or resolve not to repeat it from those who dared to rock our democracy to its core. Without these things, there can be no reconciliation. But without reconciliation, how does our country move forward? As Shakespeare might say, “Aye, there’s the rub.”

Take up needles
and begin the slow work
of knitting a country together.
The constituents are disparate,
some soft, new-spun, some
rope that once bound hands,
some silk, some knotted string.
Some of it will bloody our bodies
with barbs. No matter. We will
not still our hands. Each stitch
will be a prayer, each row an invitation
to join the circle. No person is exempt.
Perhaps at first, we will produce a sock,
a scarf, a mitten. Let us aim to weave
a blanket big enough to cover us all.
Begin.

sun reflection on calm water near green mountains
Image of sunrays bathing the shimmering ocean next to majestic, moss-covered mountains

Two men from the basement-waterproofing company arrived to give me an estimate to fix a small leak, walking into my house as if they owned it. 

Following me downstairs, they headed into an isolated area of the basement. One said to me, “Come here! Look! You can see cracks in the foundation. Water’s bound to get in here.”

I said, “I know.”

“No, look, you can see it,” he said, gesturing for me to go toward him.

“Yep, I’ve seen it,” I said, staying put.

You’re going to tell me where to stand? In my own house?

He said the leak from my bilco door couldn’t be fixed without addressing the structural issues in the house, to the tune of $4200. When I looked at him blankly behind my mask, he said, “Could you manage $3200?”

“Thanks for your time,” I said and ushered them to the door.

Another time, my son’s friend asked if he and his boss could give me a presentation about insurance. He said, “I’m not trying to sell you anything, just trying to learn how to do a ‘customer spiel’ from my boss.”

Oh. Sure! I was born yesterday, while simultaneously falling off a turnip truck by the Brooklyn Bridge. Why not? Come over to “not” sell me things.

When they arrived, his boss said, “Why don’t we all move over to this table so we can see the presentation better?” 

Hackles raised.

“I’m fine over here,” I said.

“Oh, but we could all see what I’ll be talking about…”

“Couch is better for my back.”

“Oh, if it’s a back issue, that’s fine,” he said.

As if he was giving me permission to sit where I wanted. In my own home.

People who try to physically move you in this way are gauging how malleable you are. No matter what they say, everybody is trying to sell you something.

Knowing you’ve got the right to say “no” is the most important life-lesson you’ll ever learn. And remember, you’ve got a rock and a foundation to stand on, so, when push comes to shove, you will not be greatly moved.

person looking at the milkyway
Picture of a man facing away from the camera, seen in silhouette, looking at the star-speckled night-time sky

Not to make light of the violence that occurred last week in the US capital, but I’d rather ponder esoteric ideas like life in outer space right now. Quite frankly, proving there’s intelligent life here on Earth at the moment might be a challenge. 

Science fiction books and movies always portray aliens as monsters, but what if they’re watching us right now, not with nefarious intentions, but kind-hearted curiosity?

A study claims there may be many civilizations in the universe, and I find this fascinating. 

What if extraterrestrials are watching you the way you watch those two bluebirds as they flutter around the cherry blossoms in your front yard every morning? Aren’t they magnificent! What will they do next? Pick up a tiny branch? Must be making a nest! Wow! Ain’t nature grand?

What if they’re checking in on you the way you keep an eye on that stray cat who visits your backyard. Does he need food? Where does he sleep? Is he okay? What color is that kitty really — black or brown? He almost seems to have subtle stripes. Look, honey, he might have stripes! Isn’t he a marvel?

Every day, as I look at the headlines, I ponder how strange our new normal has become. At this point, if we had an alien invasion, I might not bat an eyelash. “Aiiight,” I’d say, “just stay in your lane, supply me with coffee and chocolate, and we’ll get along fine.”

Mankind has become desensitized to disaster and demonstrates an utter lack of decorum — even humanity — but one day, civility will return. Empathy will emerge. Compassion will make a comeback. 

Until then, hunker down as best you can, and hold on till morning comes. Or at least till the Mother Ship comes to take us away from all this!

Instead of speaking my mind, I need to spend some time with God.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have to admit, I’ve tried again and again to write a meaningful post about what is happening in the US this week. What is there to say other than the obvious?

We fear change.

People are flawed.

We can be counted on to make bad decisions. Not hourly, God willing, but every now and again we do something astonishingly clueless. This week we’ve seen it all and so many people have commented. Some of the comments have been half-baked. Some have been racist. Others have been just plain . . . what?

And it is oh so tempting to step into it all on social media. I am, after all, a nonfiction writer. I so badly wanted to correct facts. There is a reason one of my friends calls me the Credible Hulk. I always come in with the data, but I’m also sharp-tongued.

Sometimes it is best if I just don’t act. It is better to simply be.

Maybe that’s why we are called human BE-ings. We really do best when we spend a certain amount of time with God in prayerful contemplation. Even if we don’t know what to say, we can spend time simply BE-ing in God’s presence. Basking. Breathing deep.

Eventually, when we are calmer and recharged, we can step back out into the world. And even then? Sometimes it is best to simply BE or, instead of arguing, to go out into the world, carrying His Light, His Love, and His Spirit of Change.

–SueBE

The general consensus seems to be that we’ve kicked 2020 to the curb. Our long, international nightmare is over! But is it? The funny thing about time is that one year tends to spill over into the next year. We still have challenges to face. Old ones. New ones we can’t even foresee. Do we have the stuff to face it? Maybe with a little faith, a little hope and a little grace, we really can begin all over again.

We have swept the mess to the sill.
Still, it sits, casting an accusing eye:
What will you do with me?
It will not be as easy
as clearing the threshold
and shutting the door.
The scent of it lingers,
its obdurate conundrums
persist, twisted as steel
by the side of the road.
Fresh eyes, fresh hearts
are required, new courage
flowing from hope
we didn’t know we had.
Listen to the urgings of your heart.
It is time for a new song,
sung louder, though throats are sore.
Bear up. Lean in.
Call for change
and change will come.

books on ground

I just read that there’s a mystery phisher out there who is scamming authors out of their manuscripts, but has in no way shared or monetized them. 

Why do this? It’s making my brain hurt. 

It’s causing a fissure in my understanding of evildoers in the world, to wit: 

a. They do bad things. 

b. They profit from said bad things.

Maybe miscreants don’t even know why they do the wrong thing themselves. It could be they don’t set out to cause harm. And you never know; good people might have a whole other side we know nothing about.

Maybe it’s our own writing professor, SueBE, who just happens to be working on a cozy mystery and needs an unexpected plot twist. She and the Mystery Phisher both like books. Coincidence? Hmm?

Or our poet-in-residence, Lori, looking for new sources of inspiration for her work. Like the mystery phisher, she, too, uses email. Coincidence? Hmmmm?

Best bet would have to be, well, me! The Kindly Auntie who spins humorous little yarns, knits on a round loom, and has a cat named Squeaky. Who would ever suspect such a sweet soul? And admittedly, I, too, have used the internet. Coincidence? Hmmmmmmm?

This may be the year when we all finally, collectively, decide it may not be possible to understand all the Whys in the World — chief among them, why did we have to suffer through a pandemic? — but we can help each other with the How.

Fissures are divisions, and we’ve had our share of those this year. Politics. To wear a mask or not. To gather socially or not. To shut down towns or not. It’s a mystery why we’ve decided to stop getting along. 

If 2020 was a wounding time, let’s make a resolution for the coming year: to resurrect compassion. To allow the tincture of time and the poultice of prayer to heal all these fissures. It’s no mystery Who to call on to help us write this story of hope.

My resolution for 2021.

I am not seriously into making resolutions. I know what I need to do. You know what you need to do. If we were inclined to do it . . . well, we would. Right?

But sometimes we need a reminder. The week before Christmas I wrote this note to myself and left it on my desk.

I had taken a job that sounded like a great opportunity. But every contact I had from them meant more work or less income. And if I had to approach them with a question? Forget it. I never got a response.

It got to the point that I had a tiny tantrum every time they e-mailed me. It was clear that I needed to back out but I kept putting it off.

“Just do it first thing tomorrow morning,” my husband said.

So I wrote myself a reminder note. First thing the next morning I quit. And the last week before Christmas was probably the best week of the year. I felt lighter than air!

There are always going to be tasks we don’t want to undertake that we still need to do. Scooping the litter box. Cleaning behind the refrigerator. Writing ‘thank you’ notes.

But other times we weigh ourselves down. Sometimes it is a job we used to love but now dread. A change in management can turn a great job into an ordeal. Other times it is a volunteer opportunity that used to recharge you but now you dread. Whatever.

When I was waffling about what to do, I read Ruth’s post about calling something a project vs calling it a problem. Take action to change your attitude and your situation. Check! Her post was the encouragement I needed to write myself that note and quit.

Time and time again in the Bible we are told to avoid carrying a grudge, to avoid dragging negatives around with us in our daily life. Sometimes it is a matter of changing our attitude. Sometimes it is time to cut something loose.

Take a look at what you are carrying into 2021. Is there something you need to let go so that you have the space and energy to carry God’s light and love into the New Year?

–SueBE

A star atop a tree
can only be
a drowsy placebo
for something missing.
A sky-held star
is an echo, light hitting
earth like a memory.
Fix your ambition instead
on finding the true star.
You will know it by the way
it surges, hot stone,
crying for the love of something
it cannot name.
Follow the star
to the heart of you,
blind and ragged.
Find,
pure and bright,
a child
that is you.
That is He.
Know, at last,
Christmas,
breaking you,
laying you in straw,
lulling you to sleep with
the breath of sheep.

person writing on white paper

Hand writing with pink marker on white paper to create a list of projects to be managed.

This week, the idea of “maps” was on my mind. Some days, it seems clear what I need to do and where I want to go, but lately, it’s been murky. I decided to strip it down to basics, as if I was re-upholstering a chair. The cushion isn’t comfortable? Let’s get rid of it. 

My early morning “routine” (scanning news headlines, scanning my body for what hurts most today) leaves me anxious, so I had to ditch it. Instead, I’ll start the day with “beditation”  — meditation in bed, comprised of deep breathing, stretching and prayer.

The fabric on that armchair is rough? Let’s find soft, new material. 

In the same way, sometimes it helps to re-define and re-design your goals.

What actually is working right now? Stationary biking for half an hour, praying as I go through the day and counting my blessings by name. That stays in the “best practices” category. 

What really isn’t working right now? Not having the stamina to keep the house as clean as I’d like it to be. Always having pain somewhere in my body. Keeping track of appointments and zoom calls. That goes into the “project management” category.

What’s uplifting? Writing with Lori and SueBE. Not just our blog posts, but the emails we write to each other. We really do a deep dive into life. My low vision community. Bluebirds. Bach.

What’s troubling? Re-label that a project, not a problem. What resources are available to address it? Connect with others who face the same issues, and you’ll heal along with them. 

Find comforts you can count on. Have some herbal tea or chocolate milk. And every morning, bask in your blessings. Breathe in grace. Breathe out gratitude. Calibrate your compass to align with Providence, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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