A Lifelong Journey Meets Today

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Different people have asked me when I became passionate about social justice issues.  Pondering this question, I realized this fire has always been in me, but when I was growing up, it looked more “normal” because I was still developing my own views while largely parroting what I heard and filtering it through my own thoughts.  Today, many people in my sphere of influence do not agree with my views and perspective, but I am trying to learn how to interact and communicate in a non-alienating way (not something I’ve always done) while not compromising my stance.

It dawned on me that these facets of my personality and self are a combination of a fire in the core of my being and my mom conscientiously educating me about politics and processes, even placing me in observational situations, at a very young age.  Below, I attempt to articulate: when it all began, why I am passionate about social justice issues, and why politics energize me.

When I was young (maybe 4 or 5) my mom took me to a nearby city where former President George H. W. Bush was speaking.  It turned out the date was wrong, so we got breakfast instead, but she wanted me to have exposure to a recent former president speaking.

At age 5-6, flipping through a child’s book of different countries and cultures, I saw children sleeping/living in cardboard boxes.  It was the first time I knew that not all kids had safe and warm homes to live in.  I cried.

During the voting process of whether or not to impeach/remove (can’t remember which) former President Clinton from office, where was I?  You guessed it: sitting in front of the television watching a rare government process take place.  I was 7/8 years old—and, if I recall, I really wanted to play outside instead.  Now, I’m grateful.

When I was nine, my school handed us weekly copies of one of Scholastic Magazine’s student editions.  It was during the final months of the 2000 election campaign–the first one of which I have vivid memories.  We read and discussed it in school, the lady I carpooled with talked about it driving home, and my opinions were forming–obviously, at the time, in support of former President George W. Bush.  That year my mom made scones and tea and we watched the inauguration together.

Since then, I’ve aspired to be the first woman president, debated issues with teachers, scoured candidate’s websites to read their views on important topics, watched presidential debates, attended Virginia’s Model General Assembly statewide gathering for high school students, written for my university’s student newspaper, watched (with pride) the USA’s first black president take the oath of office, served on my university’s student government, studied journalism, worked as a journalist, opened my eyes to look for the deeper issues than what the news reports on the 24-hour cycle, and planned and attended activism and political events.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine—but I didn’t know to call it that.  However, it wasn’t until three years ago that I began to realize there were whole realms I didn’t know existed as problems.  I didn’t know people of color were still targeted by police.  Hate crimes against LGBTQIA seemed almost outside my comprehension—unless the action was specifically done as such.  And the “conspiracies” about the motivation behind politicians was still a little much for this young woman who wanted to believe that people were mostly good.

I started dating a guy.  He pushed me to see what I hadn’t yet seen.  It’s one of the things I love about him—that he wanted my awareness and consciousness to grow.  Since then, we’ve shared a passion for many areas: some are more his and others mine.  We’ve each supported the other one attending a massive social justice/political event.

I am passionate about social justice issues because all humans are not treated equally.  The earth is our home, our life source, and we treat it like the parent who never says no, but who one day decides enough is enough and no longer enables his/her children.  Governments of the world are controlled by greedy people, very few of whom genuinely care about the well being of their people, their country, and individuals around the globe.  We wage war on strangers in distant lands and justify it in the name of “national security”, while making other borders anything but secure.  We kill innocent bystanders and label them “collateral damage” so that we don’t have to dwell on the thousands, perhaps millions, who have died living their lives, hoping to survive.

Politics energize me because it is one way that people (supposedly) have the power to make a difference.  However, at this point, powerful families and corporations have control over much of the world’s governments, resources, and other systems.  It is important that we conscientiously put people in leadership who will fight for what is best, will critique and make changes, and take down what is not working.  The people have a responsibility to make known what they want for their region, country, and world.  More than anything, we have to engage in whatever ways possible: in person, by email/phone, social media, writing, speaking, etc.  We must make it known what we want and not step down, even when it happens, to ensure it continues.  Also, protests are not bad.

Finally, I firmly believe the biblical Proverb that says:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a sharp word stirs up anger.”

I firmly believe all humans are deserving of dignity.

If we all, government officials from the bottom to the top and citizens, applied these principles to our thoughts, words, and actions, our world would look drastically different—and war with N. Korea might not feel so imminent.

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The Stone of American Ethnocentrism

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Currently, there are hurricanes wreaking havoc, potential changes to DACA striking fear in young Dreamers, a president who uses far too many adjectives, and the ongoing battles for social justice in areas of race, gender, and religion.

I told you—it’s a lot.

Today, I am pledging my support and action to those with DACA status.  I say this not out of obligation to sound socially aware, but because I worked with DACA students applying for college, saw their hard work and outstanding records, and witnessed the great disadvantages they have, even with legal and vetted status.

Don’t allow the fear-mongering message of Jeff Sessions be what you think about when you envision Dreamers.  Instead, think about young people, twelve years or older, who were brought to this country by their parents and made the United States home.  If deported, they will be sent back to a place that is their country of birth and (probably) little more.

The Department of Homeland Security and The Department of Justice should consider renaming themselves if they feel threatened by less than 800,000 young people who contribute to the infrastructure of this nation.  They work, they file taxes, and have clean records (read this report from factcheck.org).

In the words of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “We understand what’s going on in Washington. And we know that when bullies step up, you have to step to them and step to them quickly. And that’s what we’re here to do today. … By definition, DREAMers play by the rules. DREAMers work hard. DREAMers pay taxes. For most, America is the only home they’ve ever known. They deserve to stay here.”

The United States was created by the invasion of illegal immigrants who terrorized the people living here upon their arrival.  These invaders are many of our ancestors.  How, then, can we do anything other than work to find ways to welcome and empower others fleeing oppressive and dangerous situations—especially when our government is likely one of the reasons they had to leave?  Unlike our forefathers, they are not coming to take over and terrorize.  They are coming to find safety and freedom.

After all, let he/she/they without out sin cast the first stone.

For the Love of All Things Fresh

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Starting back in college, I used to think to myself, “I could be a vegetarian…if it wasn’t for the occasional times I really crave meat.”

Then, I started becoming more aware of healthy foods, eating as well as possible, etc.  But, my sweet tooth won more often than it should (sugar post for another day, because that’s a whole other topic).

Before my husband and I were married, we watched Cowspiracy together.  It was fascinating (I took notes while watching).  So many things I’d never thought about regarding food and agriculture were presented to me—and made perfect sense.

So, upon arriving home from our honeymoon, I became an ethical vegetarian.  It was a unique way to kick off married life, but a great way for my husband and me to bond over new recipes, the cravings that would hit when the smells of summer grilling drifted through the window, and finding the best ways to get proper nutrition.

Fast forward a little more than a year, and this week we are getting first hand experience with home grown stuff: gardening, chickens, goats, etc.  It’s fascinating.  I’ll share about my first chicken experience later this week, because one of our favorite things is fresh eggs from local chickens (I’m kind of obsessed…and have been for years).  Since we are chicken sitting…we want to eat eggs three meals a day.  But we won’t.

I know I’m not alone…I’d love to hear your healthy eating/vegetarian/chicken/garden stories!  After all…we are what we eat!

The Politics Behind Marital Name Changes

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Photo by: Gabe Gomez NY

I started my feminist journey during college (I know, stereotypical, right?).  It’s constantly evolving as I become more aware, change perspectives, and learn what “feminism” means for me.

One issue that was a real struggle was changing my name.  As stated previously, I didn’t get married straight out of college, and I had worked and done things with my birth surname.  My name is a connection to my family, and changing it felt like erasing that person and connection.  Also, there’s the issue of people not recognizing someone with a name change—an issue men just don’t get.

So, there I was, months, weeks, and days away from my wedding, unsure of what name to choose.  In fact, I may not have decided until after the wedding.  Regardless, I’m pretty well versed in the philosophies of name changing by this point.  I hyphenated, because it allows me to stay connected to my family and connect to my husband and show my love for him.  I’ve avoided making it official, though—because time and complexity.  Socially I’m hyphenated, legally…not so much.

I’ve researched various ways to change my name.  I know about the websites for changing my name—but it doesn’t seem worth it to me because the complicated stuff I have to deal with.  Social security and DMV stuff I can handle, it’s the passport and visa questions that are intimidating me.  There are so many things to consider and items to check off—men have it so easy.

Did you struggle with your name change?  Did your husband consider changing his name to yours, creating a hyphenated name, or an entirely new last name?  I read this interesting article on The Knot that talked through various options, including pros and cons, for same-sex couples.  I’d love to hear your experiences (and tips)!

Meditating on the Eclipse

Before much more time passes, I want to reflect on the eclipse a bit more.

We started popping outside at 1:13PM to see the eclipse. I remember putting on my glasses and looking up for the first time—it was like photos I’d seen, except it was real. 

Over the next 1.5 hours, I noticed new and different things. A bird squealing strangely and flying away. Shadows through the tree leaves making crescent shapes on the ground in kaleidoscope fashion. The eerie light as the moon covered more and more of the sun—it wasn’t like dusk…it was like a simulated effect for a film. 

Then, as it reached totality, the temperature dropped and the crickets began chirping loudly. We stood and stared (safely) in wonder. Around us, we heard fireworks exploding and people whooping. It was as if the entire neighborhood and beyond had stopped to behold the phenomenon of nature. In that moment, we were all humans, smaller than the greatness on which we gazed.  

Afterwards, my friends slowly went back inside. I stayed out, standing still, soaking in the environment and all that had happened. Goosebumps were on my arms. I acknowledged the glorious display of God and nature we had seen. 

Then, turning, I walked back inside. The event over, but the memory still bright in my mind.

Eclipse Trip

Columbia, SC is a place I never wanted to live long-term, then I didn’t want to leave (but had to), and whenever I go back it is refreshing to my soul to visit friends and remember aspects of myself I’ve forgotten.

I left before 7AM Sunday morning to drive down to arrive in time for church (where I attended in college).  It’s the most special church I’ve ever encountered, with people who are loving, caring, intellectual, fun, deep, and from many walks of life.  The children have all grown up and my college acquaintances have children—life moves forward.

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I got to see two of my best friends from college…and we laughed so much.  Those friends are the best kind.  And we drank margaritas and had the best homemade, personal pizzas EVER.

On the day of the eclipse, I had tea, cheese, and strawberries with friends, chatted about trips to England, and had the best time getting to know my friend’s son—he’s darling.  Once the eclipse began, we’d pop outside every few minutes to check on its progress.  The first moment I put on those glasses and looked up—it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Perfection.  I started noticing the other ways nature was interacting with the phenomenon: shadows from the leaves, the crispness of my own shadow, and the increasing brightness and then darkness as it got closer to totality.  Also, a flying bird making a strange noise.  After totality, I stood and soaked in the beauty of what we’d experienced.  The lining up of two, huge orbs.  The impact it had on the earth.  The way it instilled a sense of awe in millions.  *goose bumps*

 

At the last minute, I learned a sweet friend was also in town with her roommate…and hedgehog.  Awesome conversations about feminism, social justice, racism, belief systems, and interacting with people you love but who just aren’t on the same page.  And, I got to hold her hedgehog!

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with my brother at my alma mater.  The caf is still the same—even down to my half a grapefruit (yum!).  But, they’ve added a great little coffee shop downstairs (why couldn’t that have been there when I was a student?).

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Till the next solar eclipse!  2024!

Weekends: Work and Play

(Throwback picture from last year’s trip…hiking in the mountains!)

It’s FriYay!  Unlike some, the weekends around here are not always relaxing.  This weekend is going to be a fun blend of play and work.  We are planning to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Boone, enjoy bagels at my favorite bagel place, Boone Bagelry, wander around, and enjoy lunch wherever A chooses (it’s his hometown).  Then, it’s off to perform with a quartet for a wedding at Grandfather Golf and Country Club.

Do you have any Boone recommendations?  We haven’t been in over a year, so if anything good has popped up, we’d love to know!

Next week is going to kick off in a historical way: the Solar Eclipse!  Are you traveling to get in the direct line of it?  Or, are you satisfied with a partial view?  I’m driving to South Carolina to see friends and the whole eclipse.  I think A and one of his friends are going camping somewhere between Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC to see the eclipse as fully as possible.  I don’t have glasses, though.  Maybe I’ll just do it the vintage way—with a box.

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope it is fulfilling and fun!  Be safe watching the eclipse (it’s only a moment, and you need your eyes forever).