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Good Morning, Vietnam!

In high school, I had a phenomenal sociology teacher, Mr. Stortz, who taught us how to question the status quo; how to see an obstacle and make a peaceful, law-abiding plan to eliminate it. He taught us about peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, walk-outs, beautiful sign-making, and petitions. His students decided we needed a place that was ours to hang out, to recite poetry, to be kids. He helped us draft a petition, get adult support, and present that petition to our local council. It resulted in an older home owned by the Hoover Company being reserved for our after-school use. There was nothing in the home but an old couch…there might have been a few chairs, but it didn’t matter to us. It was ours!

For about three months, which is how long it took us to get bored.

One of the businessmen in town whose son was in our class donated some basement space beside his barbershop. We painted the concrete block walls a lovely shade of black, hung a string of Christmas lights, and used blacklight paints to decorate. It was in this basement space that we held our weekend open mic nights with lots of bad poetry filled with teenage angst and pseudo-intellectualism. We said ‘FAR-OUT’ and ‘GROOVY’ a lot.

Way too much!

That went on for…about 3 months before we got bored, but my point is that Mr. Stortz inspired us to be citizens. Real citizens who paid attention and made a difference, which is why in high school I found a tribe…my tribe. I am part of the Protest Tribe…the generation that knew without a doubt that the Vietnam War was a bad idea.

Nixon didn’t like us. I’d say he didn’t like anyone who questioned or disagreed, but I was actually too young to know that for sure…it was the perception, and perception, as the psychologists say, is the individual’s reality. 

We weren’t the ‘jocks’, or the ‘eggheads’ (our term for nerds), or the ‘druggies’; we were the Flower Children of North Canton Hoover High School, the students who donned black armbands and sat in the courtyard during lunch…the only permitted protest time.

I know what you’re thinking…yes, we were a little nerdy, but hey, at least we were in the courtyard standing (actually sitting) for the end of the war!

I had a tin bracelet with a POW/MIA soldier’s name engraved and each night, I’d sit on the blue-green carpet in our living room in front of our small television while the names of the KIA scrolled slowly over the screen. My legs criss-cross applesauce; my left hand covering the bracelet on my right wrist; my eyes filling with tears as the names continued to flow, in complete silence, on the tv…each name another boy who would not come home; each name another family who would never see their son, husband, brother, cousin, uncle, nephew.

These were real people.

These were scared young men who followed the orders of other scared young men; who met with derision, scorn and disrespect from many who called themselves Flower Children, hippies, patriots. But for many of us, these were heroes fighting to keep communism from our shores.

I played and replayed, cried and re-cried, the 45 rpm record: The Ballad of the Green Beret sung by SSGT Barry Sadler, himself a member of the elite Green Beret.  See if you can get past the idea of his last request without tears welling in your eyes…I doubt you can.  It was an earworm as I sat in front of the neverending scroll of names unfurling in front of me each night.

It served to remind me that these were people, with lives and families and fears and hopes and dreams.

These names were people. REAL people.

I understood protesting that war.

I understood respecting the soldiers who returned home, and the memories of those who didn’t. They are all heroes, though I don’t feel the same about the politicians who sent them.

Many of the protestors were heroes too. Not me. I was a follower mostly. I would never have been the one to organize the lunchtime sit-ins in the courtyard, nor did I believe we were making much of a difference. I couldn’t have spoken intelligently about why the war was such a bad idea or how the US politicians prolonged the conflict, but these were some of the talking points that other protestors discussed with the confidence of knowing facts and figures.

One day in the spring of 1970, 45 minutes up the road from where I sat in the courtyard with black armbands made of crepe paper wrapped around my skinny upper arm, 4 students were murdered at Kent State as they protested on the green. Some who were injured or killed weren’t there for the protest at all; they were simply on their way to a class. I knew one of the National Guardsmen who was ordered to shoot that day. He was the same age as the victims of Kent State and of the war.

He was a scared young man haunted by the idea that it might have been one of the bullets from his gun that killed Allison Krause, or Jeffrey Miller, or Sandra Lee Scheuer, or William Knox Schroeder.

We will commemorate the 50th anniversary of these shootings in 2020.

2020…isn’t that the number assigned to perfect vision?

Over the last 50 years have we gotten perfect 20/20 vision?

Are we writing petitions, exercising our right to vote, fighting for every citizen’s right to vote in this country, honoring those patriots who FOUGHT for our right to vote, protesting peacefully FOR things like peace, human rights, human dignity, the safety of our children, the health of our planet?

Are we demonstrating respect for all humankind no matter their skin color, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, size?

As I watch the news on a large screen in my living room, I no longer see names scrolling across a screen. Maybe that’s something to celebrate, but what I do see are young black men being unfairly targeted by our institutions; I see food deserts across the world while we have an excess supply that rots; I see the voter registration roles being unjustly gutted with black and Latino voters suffering the most; I see politicians who ignore the constitution they were elected to uphold in order to retain lobbyist’s money and realize selfish ambitions.

Is this 20/20 vision?

I think it’s very presbyopic.

We aren’t seeing what’s right in front of us. We are believing the lie that we are a human-rights-committed democracy.

When I look at the big picture, what I see is a country filled with humane, compassionate, democracy-proponents. The details show a different view; a view that would make Mr. Stortz cringe.

We do NOT fulfill our civic responsibility to peacefully protest against unAmerican, unconstitutional practices; we do NOT fulfill our civic responsibility to overcome the obstacles to democracy by voting in and voting out those politicians who will stand for the principles that the majority of us value in our hearts:

  1. freedom of speech, religion, peaceful assembly, the press, to petition the government for change
  2. the existence of a “well-regulated” military who has the right to carry military weapons
  3. the right to refuse to allow soldiers to live in your home
  4. the right to be safe in your own home from searches, and seizure of property without proper warrants
  5. the right to due process of the law
  6. the right to a speedy trial
  7. the right to a trial by jury for any offense over the value of $20
  8. the right to appropriate bail, fines, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
  9. the rights of ALL people to have THESE rights without discrimination.
  10. the rights of states to regulate rights not specifically denied by the Constitution

BY the 50th anniversary of the May 4th killings at Kent, my vision for our country is that we can say truthfully that our eyesight has improved and that the people of this country we love, including the politicians…are acting on our shared values of equality for all, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and that we are all engaged in the fight to protect our Bill of Rights for ALL people.

After all, the heroes who follow the orders of these politicians deserve to KNOW that their leaders and the American people whom they protect fight for the same values; it is the least we can do for our country…to see with 20/20 vision and VOTE!

Get out and VOTE on November 5, 2019. 

Books, Enlighten Me

The Hidden Life of Trees

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Photo by Jeremy Holden on Unsplash

 

Trees are Socialists.

I’ve only read about 10% of The Hidden Life of Trees, but that’s the gist from someone I suspect is also a socialist…me.

The book discusses one scientific study after another conducted on trees, and one such study was about the rate of photosynthesis and sugar content/per leaf. This is the research that has me convinced trees are socialists…but as I read on, there’s more and more validation for that conclusion.

The Institute for Environmental Research at RWTH Aachen conducted their photosynthesis research in an “undisturbed beech forest” and what they discovered is that whether a tree is thick or thin, weak or strong, the rate of photosynthesis in a stand of trees is equal.

Underground, tree roots are communicating with each other through fungi! When a tree is ill or injured or weak, the other trees help out by lending it sugar to keep the process of photosynthesis active. It amazes me that trees communicate…through their root system…through their leaves…underground…in the canopy…silently…electrically…through sound waves…through silence.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, then you’re not paying attention…or you paid better attention during biology class than I did and this isn’t new to you at all!

So, how did I leap from photosynthesis to socialistic?

Easy…despite common misconceptions, socialism is not about government domination, dictatorships, giving up wealth. Socialism is about ‘equalizing distribution’…in economic terms this doesn’t mean that you can’t be wealthy, it just means that the government makes sure you’re more like Bill and Melinda Gates; less like Ebenezer Scrooge.

You can still live in a big mansion if you’re a socialist. You can still own a business and make tons of money. You just also share your obscene profits with the guys and gals cleaning your toilets and actually doing the jobs that make you the money.

Canada is the most familiar socialist country to Americans. Most of us have been there to look at the falls, gamble, drink wine, or experience The Phantom of the Opera. 

I love that scientists are proving the socialistic nature of nature. It might give socialism a nicer rep.

It’s comforting to think that trees take care of each other the way we might take care of a sick parent. To me, at least. Maybe to Bernie Sanders too.

And Justin Trudeau.

And Merka Angela.

And any American currently on/hoping to someday be on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

And … well…my Dad.

But don’t take my word for the Forest Socialist idea. Directly from the book:

Their enormous networks act as gigantic redistribution mechanisms. It’s a bit like the way social security systems operate to ensure individual members of society don’t fall too far behind. 

3 pages later:

This is because a tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it. 

Yep…the wisdom of Nature!

Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Books, Enlighten Me

Neil is my Hero

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Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is my hero…today. I love watching him on talk shows, and on documentaries. And now, I love listening to him read his newest book: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

He’s my hero of the day because he is passionate about the universe and within that passion, he has honed wisdom about life.

In the final chapter of the book, he explains why it’s so important to have a cosmic perspective of life. It’s a new way of stating what I’ve tried to do for most of my life: look at the bigger picture.

When you do that, you pay attention to more than how your husband irritates you when he interrupts you in mid-sentence and also remember how he put his day on hold to rescue you from a flat tire, built a pottery studio in your basement, supports your dream of being a writer.

When you have a cosmic perspective, you pay attention to more than the construction that has narrowed the highway to one lane and also notice the number of construction workers who can support their families, the potholes that will disappear, the beauty of the flowers in the new median strip or the convenience of that larger water pipe being buried.

When you have a cosmic perspective, you pay attention to more than the political labels and branding and notice how that candidate’s votes impacted our earth, took care of those with mental or physical illnesses, help the less fortunate, protect our young, defuse violence, care about the other people with whom we share this world.

The final chapter had me thinking about connection…in a broader John Donne “No Man is an Island” sort of way, because none of us are an island. Everything I do impacts you in some way…some day…maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in 10 years when you meet my former student who’s now a doctor in the hospital where you are being treated. Will you benefit from the kindnesses I may have shown her or suffer from the harsh way I judged her? What would you rather experience?

Or maybe tomorrow, you’ll ask one of my children for help and they’ll respond out of the lessons they learned in MY home about looking out for number one…or respond out of the lessons they learned about how we’re all connected and all responsible for the way we treat each other.  Which would you prefer?

But don’t just skip to the last chapter of Neil’s book…can I call him Neil? I don’t think he’d mind. 🙂

If you skip to the last chapter, you’ll miss out on the reason he says “Einstein was a badass.”

And you’ll miss the tongue-in-cheek explanation that ends with the idea we may be descendants of Martians! Don’t want to miss that, do you?

If you’ve read the book, or are currently reading the book, leave your comments. Let’s talk about the Cosmos like only those in the “Neil is our Hero” fan club can!

 

 

Enlighten Me, Hard to Label, The Write Life, Write Your Life, Writing Business, Writing life

My Niche is Life

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Someone asked me recently how I would categorize my blog.

This is important:

Niches MAKE a freelance writer’s career! 

I know this from the multiple webinars and classes I’ve attended given by successful freelance writers; writers who make enough to support themselves with their writing; writers who are well-known by editors and get major assignments for feature articles; writers who are paid to ghostwrite books for uber-busy CEO’s, who sell every essay they write for a nice amount; writers who…do I need to go on to convince you? Probably not.

So when asked that question, I began to mini-panic because even though the questioner is not a freelance writer and therefore doesn’t know all this, it’s still important for me AS a freelance writer AND a blogger to have a well-prepared sound byte.

Which I don’t have because I don’t have a niche for my blog.

As a writer, I like to write creative nonfiction pieces about spirituality, self-improvement, travel, and education. These are my passions. I love to write personal essays about those singular seconds in life that snap us awake like alarm clocks blaring in the predawn. Do you know these seconds?

The second you heard your newly born child or grandchild cry, or coo, or say your name.

The second you spotted your soulmate.

The second you got your first big career break.

The second you had your first loss.

The second you heard bad news from your doctor.

The second you shared your darkest secret with a friend and realized she would never judge you for it.

These are the seconds that change our lives and they fascinate me because in that tiny space of time, a pinpoint is poked in the fabric of the universe and light pours in like a laser tattooing a new synapse in the network of your brain. Nothing is ever the same…and it was just a second.

You could have ignored it, missed it. But you didn’t.

That’s what I love to write about. How do I collapse that into a sound byte?

So, when my questioner asked me to describe my blog, I said I like to blog about life, and insights, and enlightenment.

I wasn’t satisfied with the answer and I’ve been trying to edit, rewrite, and re-phrase for a week.

My blog is about those seconds that poke holes in our lives so our universe can expand.

How’s that?

Let me know what you think, so the next time someone asks, I’ll be able to answer with something that sounds at least an iota more writerly.

 

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Tips to Thwart Procrastination

So, see the theme this week? Yeah…all started back there on Monday with that TED Talk by Tim Urban.

Then instead of working on the rewrites of that YA fantasy that’s in its 50,000th reincarnation, I found Coffee Reading Writing on Youtube. 

Hope you enjoy it, Writerly Friends!

And after you watch, let me know what you’re working on!

THEN…GET BACK TO WORK!

PS. If this is a big challenge in your life right now and you would like someone to help you identify and eliminate those blocks to your creativity, contact me for a free  consultation to see if coaching is right for you!

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A TED talk about Procrastination You Probably Shouldn’t Be Watching Right Now

What kind of procrastinator are you?

My answer is that I’m the kind of procrastinator who puts things off till the last minute…and then, if no one else is waiting…decides it wasn’t important to do anyway.

This is a fatal type of procrastination for aspiring writers! So when I googled ‘procrastination’, I found this TED talk by Tim Urban that I think everyone will enjoy!

Share your thoughts after you watch!

Don’t procrastinate about sharing your thoughts! We’re all waiting!

 

 

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Printable Classroom Poster

Welcome to a new school year, Teachers!

When I worked in a public school system as a teacher, or a counselor, I began the school year with a vision for the year. I started doing this my second year of teaching when a very supportive principal shared his habit of setting yearly goals. He would spend his summer reflecting on the gaps in his teaching and then set goals for the following school year to address those. That’s how I began also, but quickly moved into a more affirmative visioning.

I think most of us spend our summers reflecting, taking workshops to grow our skillsets, developing new units of study, so it wasn’t difficult to add a reflective piece. This process may sound familiar to many of you:

  1. It’s easy to reflect on our gaps, but I liked to reflect on those days, units, lessons that went really well because that’s what I want more of in my classroom. What was the overall mood in the room? What caused the students to be so engaged? In other words, what went right?
  2. I bring back those days in my memory during meditations, prayers, daydreams…and I’d really let that soak into my brain cells.
  3. I’d set the new year intention of experiencing every day like those memories.

Easy-peezy, right?

I think we all realize…not quite right. Because what normally came up during my reflection stage were things like this: I brought the attitude that day…I was excited, interested, accepting, and calm when I walked into the building, knowing somehow that this was going to be a great day.

Measure your success in improvement…one more class today than yesterday that was engaging, exciting, and fun.

Don’t aim for perfection…because perfect doesn’t exist, so seeking it takes the fun out of bubbles, let alone school!

Remember to love your students, because until you have their hearts, you can’t possibly engage their minds.