Tag Archives: Reflections

Showing Up, Every Day

About a week before the Women’s March on Washington, I was feeling overwhelmed… friends had shared their safety concerns regarding marching in D.C., and the reality of what would happen after inauguration began to really sink in. I knew well that the march was not going to be an arrival point, but rather a starting line. The work seemed insurmountable and I was emotionally drained.

Retro Drama Woman

On this particular day, I was heading to the GYN for my annual exam. I arrived about 30 minutes early and decided to hit the nearest King Soopers Starbucks for a cup of mint tea. Being new to mint tea and not a regular Starbucks customer, I didn’t know how to articulate my order. I wanted it minty, but not too minty… sweet, but not too sweet.

As I approached the Starbuck’s counter, it became clear that the barista was on overload. She avoided eye contact for a few minutes, said a few things under her breath, and seemed rather huffy. My mind said, “great, this is going to be a ‘fabulous’ customer service experience. Hold on for the ride.” When I told her my hopes for the perfect minty cup of tea, she patiently explained why the Jade Citrus Mint Tea would be just what I needed. The perfect mix of citrus and mint.

While she clicked my order into the register, it seemed like she was about to start crying. Her face was reddish purple and the stress lines on her forehead were turning white from pressure. By that time, I wondered if she was in physical pain or something serious. I took a chance and asked her if she was ok.

With tears streaming down her face, she said “I want to call the cops. I feel that I’ve been kidnapped and I’m stuck at my job. I have so much to do. I’ve been here since opening and I can’t get it all done. Here’s a sticky note from last night’s barista.” She handed me the sticky note which read:

Sorry! I had to leave an hour early.
I know the place is in shambles.
An emergency came up and I had to leave.
I will be late in the morning.
I’m so sorry!

After I paid, she stepped aside to brew coffee for customers who were lined up ahead of me. I heard a guy holler “Great cup of coffee! That was the perfect amount of espresso!” To which she replied in a comforting tone, “I’m so glad you liked it. See you next time.”

Her emotions seemed to range from “I’ve got this thang” to “help, I’m completely overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do!”

In that moment, I realized that I was watching a living metaphor of my life. The political landscape is like a war zone right now. There is so much to do, and some days I don’t know where to even begin. On top of that, there’s no way I can do it myself. At times, it feels overwhelming and there are moments when I’m even tempted to crawl under a rock.

Cartoon Animal Eyes Under Big Stone

As I watched and engaged with her a bit, I said “don’t worry. Just do what you have to do in this moment. That’s the best you can do, right now.”

As soon as those words spilled out of my mouth, something clicked inside of me. I realized that I had just articulated an answer for myself.

Don’t worry.
Do what you have to do.

Do your best right now.

Those words set my spirit free. I realized that I don’t have to take on the entire world. In fact, in that particular moment, I could do something meaningful for something happening right in front of me.

I walked over to the gift aisle and picked up an inspirational card. Then, I grabbed a $25 gift card to Gordman’s. I realized that in that moment, I could be a kind stranger to someone struggling. In my zest to head to march in D.C., I had almost forgotten how important the human-to-human contact can be in our lives.

I anonymously filled out the card, let her know that her work mattered, and thanked her for introducing me to the perfect cup of mint tea. I also wrote down that seeing her struggle reminded me of some important lessons in self care that I needed to remember in my own life. Specifically,

  • Take a breath
  • You can’t do everything at once. Prioritize.
  • Take care of what’s most important in that moment. The rest can wait.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Help will surface in meaningful ways. Be open to receiving help from family, friends, and strangers.
  • A cup of tea can literally change the trajectory of someone’s day.

As I sealed the envelope, I saw that she was removing her smock and getting ready to clock out. When she came from behind the counter, I handed her the envelope. She burst into tears, and I asked her if she needed a hug. “Yes please!” As we embraced, she looked up at me and said, “When someone is supposed to show up, they need to be there. They need to show up. People are counting on them. It’s the right thing to do.”

Honestly, those words from this stranger helped me reach a new level of clarity with regard to this human rights movement that I’ve stepped into. We don’t have to do it all. And there will be hard days. However, people are counting on us to “show up”. Lives literally depend on it.

I didn’t sign my name to the card, and I don’t expect to see that barista again. However, I think of her from time to time and remember the importance of “showing up” daily. In the midst of the work we are continuing to do with the organizers of the Women’s March and other progressive  groups, we must also show up daily to those who are counting on us. For me, that includes:

  • Listening attentively when my teenagers need to talk about school, friends, social struggles, current events, and their views on politics.
  • Carving time to spend with my husband. We’ve been together 25 years and investing in meaningful relationship time is critical to us making it another 25 years.
  • Checking in with friends regarding their life outside of politics (there’s still day-to-day job stress, financial hardships, health concerns, faith struggles, and good times to be had). Maintaining these personal connections is deeply meaningful to me.
  • Doing some legwork for friends who want to be civilian activists but have a more limited schedule: adding helpful links or phone numbers to posts on social media so that their words can help others take easy action; or inviting them to events or activities that are already in the works so that they can easily join in the effort.
  • Injecting light in the midst of the barrage of “more and more work to do”. I think it’s important to help my community of civilian activists celebrate milestones and wins. Kind of like the volunteers who hand off water at marathons, I want to help refresh the energy around the movement going on in our country. We really are in the midst of a long marathon, not a sprint.

I hope some of what I’ve shared somehow resonates with you. As you move forward in your life’s journey, remember:

Don’t worry. Just do what you have to do in this moment.
That’s the best you can do, right now.

Sending peace and light and love. Stay strong, take care of yourself in the journey, and accept love and kindness in whatever form it takes.

 

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© 2017, The Musing Maven, all rights reserved.

 

Why I March – Assimilation No More

WomensMarchWashington

This Saturday, I will join the Women’s March on Washington in honor of my mamma – Betty Laverne Mekelburg. This weekend marks what would have been her 81st birthday. The march begins, I recently learned, one block from the National Museum of the Native American.

This is profoundly meaningful to me for a couple of reasons… My mom was born on a reservation.  And, I never met my Native American grandmother, who meant so much to her.

As the story goes… my mom was born on an Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Her mom was white and her dad was Native American. She always told me that, as a white half-breed, she never fit in on the reservation. Her community, she recalled, always whispered and pointed at her curly auburn hair and the fair freckled skin that covered her youthful frame.

The only solace Mamma seemed to recall from her early childhood was her Indian grandmother. This full-framed lady, with salt and pepper hair, was a safe-haven of hugs topped off with a secret stash of warm breads and government issued butter and honey. Back then, Grandma’s embrace was the only thing that would wash away mamma’s whiteness. While my mom never shared much about her past, I do recall a certain fondness spilling out whenever she’d mention her native grandmother.

Mamma’s time as an Indian was cut short. When she was about five years old, the Catholic nuns arrived to remove her and her siblings from the reservation. The details of the sudden exit were never discussed, but she vividly remembered the trauma of nuns dipping her in kerosene to kill any mites, or other germs, that may have been infesting her small, white body. With sadness, she told the story of how they shaved her head to clear out any possibility of lice which may have nestled in her locks of red hair. They took every measure to clean up the “little Indian half-breed”.

I can’t imagine how traumatic and horrifying this experience must have been for my young mamma.

Arriving in her new life, mamma quickly learned that the 1940’s white America was no place for an Indian half-breed. In that regard, her fair skin and red hair served her well. After leaving the reservation, she assimilated as quickly as possible, and never looked back. So much culture and heritage tossed and discarded – a family tree pruned for survival.

There’s a huge gap in the story of my mom’s life. What I did learn from snippets of her early childhood is that racial intolerance, no matter where you are born, or where you end up in life, breeds hatred and fear.

Set me free

People are people are people. I believe that all lives matter. Part and parse as we may, our DNA proves that we are all human with hearts pumping blood and lungs breathing air. The rest is a distraction.

I join the Women’s March on Washington carrying the spirit of Momma’s native soul. In addition, I march with the intention of universal healing across all racial divides. Too many stories of hatred and bigotry line our path to 2017.

 

© 2017, The Musing Maven, all rights reserved.

Friends with Benefits, Starbucks, and Trump’s Genius

starbucks coffee shop

It’s been a week. The world is still spinning. The laundry is still piling up. The fridge needs restocking. And, client deadlines didn’t go away.

The election is over and we now know that some of our friends and loved-ones chose Trump.

Does that have to mean that they are not who we thought they were, at their core? We have a choice to make. Are we going to participate in hate acts that we so strongly denounce? Are we going to tell them there’s no room at the holiday table for their worldview? Are we going to officially un-friend them on Facebook? In some cases, the answer is a resounding YES. In others, it might behoove us to take a closer look.

It’s been said that we are all a sum total of our experiences. I will never be a Muslim woman or a transgender man. I’ll never worship Buddha or be able to understand the plight of the sex-trafficked teenager. I can read books, talk to people, form opinions… which, by the way, seems to change the more I read books, talk to people, and form opinions. (Anyone else have that happen?)

Opening the Door to Tolerance…

In recent days, many journalists have had to eat crow and admit that everything they thought about politics is now completely out the window. Don’t cast stones – many of us were flying in on the same plane, headed for a different landing.

Last Friday, I watched Meet The Press (I kind of have a political man-crush on Chuck Todd. Don’t judge me.) Chuck had Chris Clayton, an agricultural policy reporter on his show. It was a smart move, on Chuck’s part, because his viewers – like it or not – need to somehow figure out how to move on. The best way to start that process is by inviting a wider range of people, with differing views, to the discussion table.

I found Chris Clayton to be extremely level-headed and very eager to help those of us on the “other side” better understand our Trump-supporting counterparts. To watch the segment, click here. It’s well worth the 8 minute investment of your time.

chris clayton

My take-a-ways from the segment were threefold.

First, Democrats (and Washington) completely overlooked Middle America. Second, technology has empowered us to deepen our limited worldviews. Third, Trump is a marketing genius.

First: Democrats and the mainstream media completely overlooked Middle America. Big Time!

Trump’s campaign met mid-America where they were. His team visited the Heartland with a message of hope and prosperity. To those with farms or living in rural America, he discussed issues that were top-of-mind like water rights, land rights, oil rights, gun rights… For many people who earn (or previously earned) their living working the land, processing oil, or working in factories – the Trump message was one of hope.

Don’t get me wrong, they also heard about his indiscretions. However, most were focused more on their lost jobs, lost wages, and the growing perception that they were losing everything they grew up believing was American.

Meanwhile, their airways provided a dog and pony show including a “Crooked Hillary” laundry list with hours of justification to that end.

Over the past several decades, Democrats (and Washington) have overlooked this growing voice of concern. On November 8, 2016, this collective voice rallied far and wide. They fought for their right to be heard. Like it or not, it is our time to listen.

Yes, the result of this election will also spill over into what we hold dear: environment, human rights, and other social issues. And you know what? It’s okay. They have a right to believe how and what they believe. They are a sum total of their experiences.

And, so.are.we.

Our democracy allows us to disagree. Veteran’s Day is a good reminder of this fact. (Moment of silent appreciation to all Vets and their families who have made, and continue to make, the ultimate sacrifice.)

Second: Technology has empowered us to deepen our limited worldviews.

Since we are a sum total of our experiences, we tend to seek out information about things that are familiar to us. We can hear from a wide range of similar voices, and choose to ignore other opinions – even if we don’t realize that we are making that choice. (If you don’t believe me, read up on how social media and search engines use our selections to frame ads, newsfeeds, and other blurbs that pop up each day.)

Some of us may abhor everything that Trump stands for. However, I think we can all agree that he is a marketing genius.

If you are choking on my use of “Trump” and “Genius” in the same sentence above, please let me explain… (Good segue to my 3rd take-a-way)

Third: Trump is a Marketing Genius.

I am a marketing person and when I was working on my undergraduate degree, there was a whole section on the genius of Starbucks. It’s a classic marketing case-study which points out that Starbucks took a .25 cent cup of coffee and turned it into a $5 buck experience. Some people were outraged. And, it changed an entire industry, seemingly overnight.

White cup of Starbucks coffee on wood board.

I believe that Trump was spinning two effective and powerful messages concurrently. Those on Camp Hillary were so focused on his message to us, that we missed what he was saying to the rest of the country. It was a 50/50 A/B split. (Marketing lingo) And you know what? He rocked it, folks.

While we were busy being barraged with 3 a.m. tweets, racist comments, offensive gestures, and other forms of unacceptable rhetoric – we took the high road. After all, “When they go low, we go… HIGH!” Yup, we fought a good fight for social justice, with the intent of giving those without a voice a platform to stand on. The problem was, we never saw or allowed ourselves to truly listen to what he was saying to the rest of the country. I firmly believe that Donald J. Trump hangs his hat on the philosophy that “there’s no such thing as bad PR”. Don’t believe me? Check out Hillary’s ad spend vs. Trump’s. Checkmate.

Meanwhile, mid-America… those listed above, as well as, 1st or 2nd generation Americans whose family fought hard to take a legal path to citizenship, may have been listening to Trumps message on “Making America Great Again.”

For example, talk to the construction worker who has the last name Gonzales and is a 45 year old registered Republican. See how he feels when Democrats send a Spanish speaking Hillary supporter to his door, assuming that his language of choice, will win them the vote. His surname does not dictate his education level or worldview. No one really took time to ask. We were too busy knocking on doors.

Or, talk to the property owner who thought they were renting to a family of four and later found out that 10 illegal immigrants were also living in their 3 bedroom rental. Immigration reform looks very different from where this landlord sits. I think we can all agree on that.

In Summary…

I lay all this out, as if to say, we must stop judging the other side. America has spoken, and it’s time to phone (or text) a friend and begin rebuilding together. After all, friendship has its benefits.

Multiracial group of people with cellphones

I had dinner with a Trump-voting friend last night. It was a fabulous exchange and I believe we left our meal with a better understanding and appreciation for the democratic process. She, a republican, believes in women’s rights, marriage equality, and when asked if she gloated after the election replied, “Gloat?! Never! Donald Trump won. What’s to gloat about?” However, the topics listed above really resonated with her 2nd generation mid-American family.

If you haven’t opened your heart to reaching out to someone who selected the T instead of the H, I challenge you to pick up the phone and schedule a coffee or dinner. (Starbuck’s anyone?!)

Sometimes, in our technologically advanced world, we forget that we are all humans…searching for our place in this universe… each with a unique set of circumstances. Allow yourself to find common ground, remember your similarities, and work together for meaningful change.

Along the way, take care of yourself, speak your truth, and take time to breath. Every.day. Sometimes it is okay to disagree.

In closing, here’s a meme I saw on Facebook that seemed especially appropriate:

screenshot-2016-11-15-08-19-16

No matter what anyone says, there is more that unites than that which divides.

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© 2016, The Musing Maven, all rights reserved.