Community in the Deep Side of the Pond

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I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, Spring is playing a teasing game of hide-and-seek.  The tantalizing scents, sights, and sounds cause my heart to swell with joy and anticipation of the refreshing weather and soul rejuvenation that is just around the corner (but the continued chilly days bring a damper).

With the changing of the season, I feel the urge to start some new life-habits, including a new book that I hope will give me some deeper insight into my own journey.  Have you ever read The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie?  My impression is that it will compare, contrast, and ponder over what it’s four authors of focus wrote, lived, and contributed (the book looks at the lives of Flannery O’Connery, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy).  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it.

I know little bits about each of these authors—some more than others.  There is something deep and contemplative, hidden even, that I want to explore and gain from their experiences.  I’ve always loved the deeper things in life because that’s where bonding and community form, it’s where life is best lived and souls are grown.

Community is a beautiful and necessary thing.  When I reflect back over my 26.5 years, I see the ways I’ve grown and changed based on who I was around.  I also notice the maturing, though difficult, I’ve undergone during the lonely times in my life.  These authors, though separated by distance, have been placed in a category of influence during the 20th century much, it seems, like those members of the Lost Generation or the Transcendentalists (both groups with members or offspring from whom I garner inspiration) in their times.

Some of these communities burgeon into influential movements that impact the world, others will remain smaller and impact those in their immediate sphere of influence, but ALL serve a purpose.  One of my favorite times of community was during college when I was surrounded by close friends, all of us doing our best to figure out our lives.  It gets harder after graduating, when everyone disperses.  I’m thankful for the occasional visit or unexpected circle of peers (shout out to my Black Mountain people), because as a social adult, especially one recovering from a disease that limits my social time, I still need that connection that feeds my soul, the one that lets us share the struggles we are facing and what work we’re doing to address them.

One of my aunts shared a piece of Chinese wisdom with me yesterday: if you want to make a change in your life, do it for one minute a day until it becomes habit for that length of time.  Then, add a second minute.  The things in our lives we want to change—part of why I’ve chosen to read this new book—start with simple steps, like reading a short story in the evening before bed to feed my mind but without the commitment to something much longer.  It means making intentional decisions based on my personal goals for each day and stage of life.

Here’s to picking something you want to make a habit and doing it for one minute!
Here’s to creating community and going deep.
Here’s to Spring and rebirth.

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Tea With a Side of Truth, Please

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A few years ago I was inspired to name a blog “The Teapot Journalist.”  Since then, it’s taken different twists and turns as I continue to seek out what exactly the name means to me…the teapot journalist.

On the surface level, I enjoy writing and sipping tea—who doesn’t?  I am passionate about writing and sharing information and ideas, but my passions don’t stop there.  I find myself wanting to write about a great many things that don’t necessarily correlate with each other.  What connects them is the multi-faceted realm of life.

I desire to be transparent and vulnerable in appropriate areas.  In a way, I want to work through questions that I, and others, are facing.  Nothing is straight forward, but for people (like me) with a tendency for the black-and-white thinking approach, going into the colorful waters of “in between” can feel very overwhelming—like a brain overload.  I’m learning where I fit and that I am an evolving person with changing ideas.

These evolutions we (I) face are not free from conflict.  It’s a battle between many forces, including the perspectives I was taught to believe while growing up, the ideas I encountered during those wonderful college years, and the uncomfortable unearthing of new information…forever altering how I view our world.  (Forever altering, if I allow new information in, that is.). The problem is when I am too afraid, or not yet fully prepared, to move forward with such a shift.

That fear is what I don’t like.  I don’t enjoy being afraid; I like being certain.  However, there isn’t much of which we can be certain.  When people question what is generally accepted, they’re labeled as conspiracy theorists.  *Side note: there are a lot of conspiracies floating around…how does one choose which one(s) to investigate?*  What if, instead of being labeled as conspiracy theorists, we called them “truth seekers”?  Looking for the truth, not the smoke and mirrors that become more prevalent as people become more professional and powerful, is an admirable trait that I wish more people would develop.

I wish I could pursue it more fully without all the internal conflict, but I suppose it’s like a rite of passage into deeper realms of thought and understanding.

Recovering and Growing

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For the past year and a half I’ve been battling and recovering from cancer/cancer treatments.  Over that time, I’ve striven to continue posting about things I care about.  However, I want to restart, sporadic or not as it may be, because I have this inner drive to write.  It helps me process issues and this blog gives me a platform to choose what I want to write about.

The inspiration for this blog has not changed: my passion for social justice, journalism, and championing change in my own way.  What has changed is the way I’m approaching this blog.  As I recover from my stem cell transplant, I want to continue to grow as a person, not simply recover my physical abilities.  Therefore, I am still going to write about issues that are important, but with a different tone—probably a personal one.  This is not a newspaper, it’s a space where I can explore, write, and share about topics that matter to me.

My hope is, if you read what I write and it impacts you, that you’ll talk about it with people around you and share the conversation—or talk with me.

 

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.

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)!