The Warrior (Wonder Woman)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a fan of Wonder Woman for a long time. In the 70’s, Wonder Woman was the one of the few shows we watched as a family. For some reason, my dad never complained when our family sat down together to watch Lynda Carter change into the various Wonder Woman outfits to kick some butt and save the day.

Since then, I have been looking forward to her movie for many years. I have seen countless Marvel and DC movies over the years – and enjoyed most of them – and I could not have been more excited to buy tickets for opening night of Wonder Woman this week. Don’t worry – I won’t reveal any spoilers. I don’t intend for this to be a movie review…in short – go see the movie. It’s highly entertaining.

I do feel compelled to explore why I feel a connection to Wonder Woman – and to describe how the movie made me feel…and to find some meaning about my own life in some way. As I often do, I write to try to figure these things out.

Wonder Woman (Diana) stands for peace and justice. She is the first person to fight for it when no one else will. I got goosebumps when Diana says, “I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” Having my step-son Eric in my life has made me become a fighter in this way.

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Eric and my Wonder Woman Bobblehead – a gift from his dad (Jerry) who knows me very well.

 

Let me explain. A little more than four years ago, I was a single, divorced woman who always wanted to have a family. I embarked on a journey to make that happen – exploring international adoption, private adoption, foster care…Today, I have a family made up of my partner Jerry, his beautiful twin 23-year-old daughters (Chelsea and Kaitlyn), and his 18-year-old son, Eric, who has multiple disabilities. There are a LOT of stories in the “…”, and a lot to learn from that journey. However, that is not my focus today.

When I think about fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, I immediately think of Eric. Eric, who now lives with us full-time, is non-verbal. He relies on us to take care of him and his basic needs – and to also be his voice. Having him in my life has changed me forever. Eric’s teachers wrote me a note on the last day of school this Friday where they called me “an amazing mother, and a fearless advocate for Eric.” I cannot think of a better compliment I have ever received.

No one needs to feel sorry for me. In fact, when people do, I am almost offended – like they don’t really get who I am and what I stand for. Eric has brought so much joy and meaning to my life – I don’t need or want anyone’s sympathy. Instead, I want their support and recognition that Eric and other people with disabilities have so much to offer the world – and they deserve to be an active part of their communities. I fight for that every day as Eric’s step-mom and as a board member at his amazing school, PACE Charter school, a program of Pattison’s Academy.

Another thing that Diane says in the movie is this: “It’s not about what you deserve.  It’s what you believe.  And I believe in love.” I do too.

When we make choices from love instead of fear, we make our relationships better. We make ourselves better. One tiny step at a time, we change the world for the better. I believe that each one of us has the power to change the world, and that we should never give up trying. Anger is a fuel – that is certain, but it is a fuel that leaves us on “empty” – more tired than we were when we started. Love is a renewable fuel that not only keeps the tank full, but fills other tanks. It grows exponentially and will never run out.

Since the last presidential race, I have been overcome by “noise” on a regular basis. I try to deal with this noise by focusing on what I can do to live my values, and to try to make a difference in any small way that I can. I try not to succumb to fear by contributing to the noise. It is not easy, and I don’t always get it right – but this is what I try to do. Loving my family and doing what I can to fight for what is right is keeping me centered and hopeful for our future.

As the movie concludes, Diana says, “I used to want to save the world, to end war and protect mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives inside their light, and learned that both will always be inside them, and that is something no hero can defeat. They must always choose for themselves. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now, forever.”

This is my mission too. I may not be a superhero, and I certainly don’t have any special powers. But I do have the most important thing – love, because as Wonder Woman says, “Only love can truly save the world.”

 

America

Free,

Only want to be free

We huddle close

Hanging on to a dream

“America” sung by Neil Diamond

I know many of you are both mentally and emotionally exhausted from the constant barrage of “noise” over the last couple of weeks. It’s been hard – even harder than I expected it to be.

Out of all of the “noise”, the immigration ban has brought me to tears numerous times. I am so deeply saddened that America has been forced to shut its doors to people seeking a brighter future here. To suspend immigration is un-American to me. To ban refugees is against everything I believe in.

But while I am sad, I refuse to wallow, because wallowing would be living in my “privilege”. What right do I have to wallow when thousands of people’s lives have been thrown into sudden chaos? Yet, I also refuse to ignore the ban and to pretend I am not affected in some way by it. If each one of us took the time, we would find that we do indeed know someone in our community, in our circles, in our friendships, workplace – somewhere, someone you know is suffering from this ban.

So – what do I do?

Well, I decided to channel some of this energy, and do a little research on my own immigration story. Like each and every one of you that is not Native American, my ancestors came from somewhere else. All of my life, I have proudly said that all eight of my great grand-parents emigrated from Italy. They were not refugees in the way that Merriam-Webster defines it as “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” I imagine that all of them did what so many others did in the early 1900’s by coming to America to pursue the American dream – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Using the research my dad has done on our family tree, I subscribed to ancestry.com to see what I could find. It didn’t take me too long to find ship manifests that contained the names of five of my eight great-grandparents.

First is my dad’s maternal grandfather, Salvatore Raffaele, who left from Naples and arrived in New York City on the SS Britannia in 1893 at the age of 21. I am not sure when he married Maria Valenti, my great-grandmother, or when she moved to America. I do know that they had seven children, their fifth being my grandmother who was born in Stamford, CT in 1911.

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Next, my dad’s paternal grandmother, Amelia Maria Lamazzo was only 15 when she sailed from Naples to New York on the SS Lombardia in August, 1903. She married Francesco (Frank) Sessa sometime around those years, lived in Stamford, CT and had her first child (of 10!) in 1906 and then had Samuel (my grandfather) in 1907. According to the 1930 census, my great-grandfather Francesco (Frank) emigrated from Italy in 1900. I found a ship manifest with Francesco Sessa’s name on it from 1909 – so my guess he returned to Italy to visit and came back to CT – because he and Amelia had eight more children after that.

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On my mother’s side, her paternal grandfather, Arcangelo Martino, was 19 years old when he sailed on the SS Romanic from Naples to Boston in 1911.

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My mother’s maternal grandfather, Raffaele Ronzio, was also 19 years old when he left from Havre and arrived in New York City in 1913 on the SS Niagara. He was from a small town in Italy called S. Apollinaire – so I am not sure how France is part of his story. I do know that he married my great-grandmother Maria Valente before they moved to the US because my great-Aunt Lucy (Lucia) was born in S. Apollinaire, and then they had 2 more children (including my grandmother) in North Providence, RI.

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My family history may be a bit boring to anyone outside my family. What I hope happens to all of you reading this is for you to reflect and think about your own family’s emigration/immigration story. Because we are (almost) all alike in that we have one. If you think that immigration has not affected you in some positive way, I ask you to consider where you came from and why you are here.

And if you don’t think immigration affects your community today – well, maybe you are not looking hard enough. This article was posted today called “Meet the Last Refugees to Arrive in Charleston Before the President’s Ban”. The Mufuta family luckily arrived 24 hours before the ban went into effect. If you read this article, you will learn that Bakemayi Mufuta lived in refugee camps since he was seven (he is now 30 years old) when he fled his hometown in the Congo. He met his wife Rose in a refugee camp in Zambia (she also had fled the Congo). They have two children, 6 year-old Promise, and 3 year-old Georgina. They spent 4 years on the resettlement process that led here to Charleston a few weeks ago with the help of Lutheran Services Carolina. I am sure that nothing about that process was easy.

Before the ban, Lutheran Services Carolina had just begun to resettle refugees in our area – four families have come since January. Of course, the refugee program is now at a stand-still.

I have contacted Lutheran Services Carolina to see what these families could use and how to get supplies to them. I am happy to pass along my findings to anyone interested. You can also follow the SC for Refugee Justice Facebook page if you are interested in learning more.

While sometimes I feel helpless, I won’t give up hope – because again, then I go back to living in my privilege because I CAN go about my business if I choose to. While I pledge to myself to speak up and take action, I will try not to add to the “noise” because it’s hard to hear through the noise.

I will continue to write about my feelings because if it helps even one person feel better or inspire them to take some kind of positive action – it’s 100% worth my time and effort.

I will continue to plea with people to practice empathy – to find what you have in common with the immigrants and refugees that are impacted by the ban. To ask those everyone to do the best you can to act from love and not fear. To rise about the political fray and realize this is a HUMAN issue – not a political one.

I will practice gratitude for my great-grandparents who were brave enough to move across an ocean at their young ages in order to pursue the American dream. I will practice gratitude that they were lucky enough to be allowed to do so.

I will continue to pray for the people who are frightened and confused, who are trying to find a better life for their families, and who are stuck somewhere other than here. I will pray that we remember who we are, where we came from, and what the American values are that we sometimes take for granted.

I will do what I can to help the refugees who do live in my community.

I will continue to follow the “real” news and will not be afraid to read the truth, or to share the truth. I will not remain silent or indifferent.

Get up, Stand Up

Today I helped make history…or as Kaitlyn said, “her-story”. From what I have read by Politicususa, today’s Women’s March was the largest protest in US history. However, I didn’t march today in protest of who sits in the White House. For me, today was not about politics, nor was it about one man. It was (and remains to be) so much bigger than that! It transcends politics and the temporary power that one person has. Today’s march was about renewing my belief in humanity, my love for my country, and my commitment to embody my values. I marched to “be the change I wish to see in the world” as Gandhi taught us to do.

I marched today to demonstrate what I believe in:

  1. TRUTH: I believe in speaking the truth. The truth can be a big pill to swallow. Many people will avoid the truth because once they admit the truth, they may have to take some kind of action – or God forbid – CHANGE. I know this because I spent a lot of my adult life avoiding some hard truths of my own. As a result of facing my truth, I have had to make some painful decisions and have experienced a whole lot of turmoil as a result. Now that I am on the other side of that pain, I know in my heart and in my bones that I am a better person for taking the risk to speak my truth.  When I reflect on our recent presidential election (which I have done A LOT), I feel that one of the takeaways is the truth has been exposed. I have been pretty comfortable in my white privilege and could have easily stayed there “on the fence”  as John Pavlovitz so eloquently wrote about recently. Not anymore. I am willing to speak the truth that racism is rampant in our country. That white privilege is a luxury that too many people cling to and avoid having to change. That too many wealthy people hold the power and WAY too many people have none. That women are not treated equally in the workplace. That people with disabilities need more help. That LBGTQ right’s need to be protected. That there were more people at the Women’s March than at the Inauguration. Some of you may think this is political, and that is your right to think whatever you want. But for me, the truth is a fundamental, personal value. Now that I can speak these truths, I am ready to DO something – I am ready to “be the change.” I am ready to take action to do what I can to make my life, my country, and my planet, a better place.
  2. EQUALITY: I believe that all men and women are created equal. I believe in equal pay for women. I believe that love is love and that everyone should be able to get married regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe that black lives matter. Of course I believe that all lives matter, but I am not afraid to say that black lives matter to call attention to the hard truth that racism is rampant (see #1). I will not be afraid to embody this value of equality – even when it may be uncomfortable. I want my actions to reflect my values. That is why I marched today.
  3. CHOICE: To me, believing in choice goes well beyond a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I believe that choice is a fundamental right each one of us has at ALL times. Each one of us has the power to make a choice every moment of every day. Making a choice is the opposite of being a victim of circumstance. I can’t control my feelings, and I can’t control what happens to me…yet still I have 100% control over my choice of my actions in response. By the way, doing nothing is still a choice. And the only person responsible for my choices is ME. Other people may have an opinion about my choices, but guess what – the older I get, the less I care.
  4. EMPATHY: I believe that empathy is the answer to the division in our country today. I believe that I can change the world one small act of kindness at a time. I believe that empathy makes it possible for me to have very difficult but necessary conversations about very difficult topics.
  5. HOPE: I believe that hope comes from my core belief that we are all connected in some way. I have hope that our country remains to be the best country in the world, and that it is built to last no matter who holds office. I believe that fear is the enemy of hope. I have hope in humanity – and today renewed that hope.
  6. LOVE: I believe that love trumps hate. I believe that love is the most powerful, renewable energy that not only replenishes itself, but can grow exponentially. I believe if our choices come from love and not from fear, that the world would be a much better place. I believe that the enemy of love is not only hate – but more importantly – indifference, like the wise Elie Wiesel taught us.

These are the reasons I marched today. These are the reasons I will not stay on the fence. These are the reasons I will speak up and take action. I welcome difficult yet constructive conversations.

(Could it be) The End of the World (as We Know It)?

I watched the 3rd and final debate last night and I have something to say and it is this:

Donald Trump is a serious threat to our democracy.

When I heard Trump say that he would “keep us in suspense” rather than agreeing to accept the election results, I was horrified – terrified – and pissed off. The peaceful transfer of power in our country is the bedrock of our democracy. I cannot watch Trump take a sledgehammer to our country’s foundation without speaking up. I have voted in every election since I was old enough to vote. I have voted for Democrats and Republicans. Some have won, and some have lost. Each time I watch the inauguration, I pay attention to the outgoing president shaking hands with the incoming president on the steps of the White House to welcome the first family “home” -to the people’s house – the White House.  This is my favorite moment of each inauguration, and I get goose bumps of patriotism each and every time without fail.

Trump’s recent tirade about the notion of a “rigged” election, paired with his answer in the debate last night, are damaging America and its citizens by inciting people to consider some pretty radical and dangerous ideas. Take a few minutes and watch this clip from CNN showing Dan Bowman, a Trump supporter discussing “taking out” Hilary Clinton or a staging a coup of our government if she wins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5H5EsG5Ebls

Divisive is not a strong enough word to describe this rhetoric.

This is DANGEROUS. ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

I decided that I would not vote for Trump last November when I saw him mock Serge Kovlaski, the disabled reporter that Trump had clearly known – and in my opinion – clearly imitated and ridiculed at a campaign rally. This example of his inability and unwillingness to own his actions and their consequences was enough of a leadership flaw for me – and that was 11 months ago! The list of transgressions since last November is long. He has insulted so many groups of people for so many different reasons that I will not list here. That is not what I want to focus on. It’s so very clear that he will not stop on his own volition, and I don’t want to waste my time and energy on him any more than I have to.

What I DO want to focus on – is what I can do – and what WE can do as individuals to make a difference.

It is up to us as to make the madness stop.

How you ask?

  1. Vote. Each and every vote matters. Anyone who lived through the Bush/Gore election knows this. Make your voice heard.
  2. Accept today’s reality. The reality today is that our options stink. The die has been cast in this election and these are the options. Pick the lesser of the evils and do the best you can for America. It matters!!
  3. Speak up! Too often, I have been quiet about issues involving racism, gender inequality, LGBT discrimination, gun control – issues that seem may seem political but to me are about human decency, dignity, and unity. To me – this transcends politics, so I won’t be afraid to speak my mind, share my feelings, and be open to having difficult conversations in order to effect positive change in my community, my country and the world we live in. I am encouraged when I see people standing up for kindness. Photos like this give me hope (posted today to Instagram by Cheryl Strayed, author of the book “Wild”) img_2511
  4. Raise our expectations. This is the hard one. I have had enough therapy to know the pain that can come from having unrealistic expectations. It is really unrealistic to feel we can do better? That we are better than this? Some of you may think me naïve for feeling this way. But you know what I think it makes me?? Pretty f-ing patriotic. I love our country. I happen to already think America is great. And I would argue that the vast majority of Trump supporters would not want to live in another country besides America. But we have a LOT of work to do and it starts with us healing from this NASTY election, remembering what this country stands for, and demanding our politicians and parties to hear us as we figure out how to move forward. So think about what you want – what you stand for – and be sure you ask for it in the future.

We can do better next time – because despite what Trump is threatening – there WILL be a next time.

What’s Going On

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye

I don’t really know what to do or say about the violence I am seeing on TV in my hometown of Charlotte. I am sad, frustrated and scared. I feel a sense of responsibility – a need to do something, and I am not quite sure what to do.

So I am sitting down to reflect, write and share my feelings from the heart in hopes it will help me – and possibly help at least one other person in some way.

I think it is the time for me to be willing to engage in a difficult conversation about race in our country. My heart tells me I have been silent too long, because my white privilege has allowed me to do just that. I grew up in the Charlotte public school system where we were bussed all over the city so that there was a racial mix of students. Though I went to schools that were very racially diverse, I only had one close black friend in high school, Erika, my tennis doubles partner. When we discussed race, I used to say repeatedly to her that the ideal was if we didn’t see color differences.

I felt I wasn’t racist because I didn’t see the world as divided by color, and because I treated her the same as I did my other close friends. All the while, my boyfriend would sing “Brown Sugar” whenever she walked into class while I did nothing to stop or prevent it. I gave same said boyfriend a Confederate flag for his freshman year dorm room. I don’t believe we had bad intent, but looking back now I can take responsibility for our ignorance and insensitivity. Erika tried her best to school me, but I continued on in my ignorant, privileged bliss for many years. I believe that these are examples of “micro transgressions,” a term I learned from my cousin Maria when she shared this reference in a very interesting Facebook thread yesterday. http://sph.umn.edu/site/docs/hewg/microaggressions.pdf

I am not quite sure what to do in order to help bridge the racial divide that is clearly so awful today. I know I am not directly responsible for it, but I want things to be better and want to be part of a solution. I want to be aware of the “micro transgressions” I have made so that I can learn and be a better human. I also want to point out to others when I hear them take place so that I can help others that are willing to learn and be better humans. And I want to speak up when I see instances of outright racism and violence like I have seen in too many videos. “The one thing you can do is not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed when every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by the police, it ends with them getting shot.” – Trevor Noah from the Daily Show.

I don’t want to be silent and say it is someone else’s problem anymore. This is our problem as a society. I feel I am responsible to do my part – to speak up – and frankly I could use some guidance because I am not quite sure what else to do.

I am not sure what actually happened in Charlotte – hopefully there will be enough video evidence to determine what happened to Keith Lamont Scott. Here is what I do know. It is not ok that unarmed black people are being killed by the police – over and over again. We have seen the videos, and there is no denying them. It is not ok that my friend Erika probably has to teach her beautiful children not only how to drive, but how to not get shot when pulled over by the police, when all I worry about is how many points I just “earned” and how much the speeding ticket is going to be. This is not ok.

I do understand why people feel compelled to protest, and hope and pray that these protests will become peaceful in Charlotte.  Let me make this clear to people who read this with an open mind…When I say that black lives matter, I am not saying that black lives matter more than mine. I am not saying that I support violence as a form of protest. I am saying simply that black lives matter. I will not be silent any longer. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel

I continue to be inspired by the family members of the Mother Emmanuel victims here in Charleston. Chris Singleton was 18 when he lost his mother Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and he tweeted this message today: “I understand the anger, but if you want to get your point across do it the right way. #GodsLove #CharlestonStrong #CantLetMomsDown

My 16 year old niece posted this today on her Facebook page, and I could not agree with her more. She gives me a lot of hope!

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R E S P E C T

bilesWatching the coverage of the Rio Olympics this week has made me feel a lot of things that are typical each time I watch the Olympics. But this time I also felt a whole lot of annoyance at some of the truly stupid things I have heard and read. And when I’m consistently annoyed it usually means something more is going on with me. That kind of annoyance and sometimes anger usually means that something I care deeply about is being threatened or challenged in some way.

  1. While commentating on the women’s gymnastics competition, Al Trautwig, NBC announcer, said Simone Biles was raised by her grandparents “but she calls them Mom and Dad.” When the twitter-verse called him out, he then poured salt in the wound by tweeting that “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” He deleted the tweet pretty quickly – and later apologized. And in doing so, I hope that he – and others who have followed this story – have learned from the experience…that words like this undermine what adoption is fundamentally about, and deeply offends adoptive families. According to the AACAP, approximately 120,000 children are adopted in the United States every year. I am certain that each of you reading this knows someone that either was adopted or has adopted a child. I myself seriously considered – and even tried – to adopt a child. I know firsthand how courageous it is for people to choose this path, and I know firsthand how it feels to love children that I did not give birth to. I know firsthand how comments like Trautwig’s hurt.  I find Simon Biles inspiring in so many ways – including the way she handled this in the press by saying “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents and that’s it.” Drop the mic. Good for you Simon Biles! People can learn a lot from you!
  2. Next, Jim Watson, an NBC commentator, said the women’s gymnastics team “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” while talking with each other during the women’s team competition. What an utterly asinine and offensive thing to say! Listen up NBC. While I do hope they enjoy earn some money from endorsements so that they can enjoy a trip to the mall at some point…please refrain in the future from making insensitive, offensive, sexist comments about a team of young women who were clearly gathered to compete for an Olympic gold medal. These young women are the VERY BEST in their sport IN THE WORLD and are competing in the freaking Olympics. About to win the gold. For the second time IN A ROW. These women played as a team, and won as a team. They encouraged each other, and excelled together. No my friends – they were not there to shop. They were there to win.
  3. This is one of my favorite headlines of the week: “NBC Blames Women for Late Olympics Broadcast, Extra Commercials” When asked about the rational for not broadcasting the Opening Ceremony live, John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, said “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.” So somehow this is MY fault? That I have to pay for a cable subscription in order to watch my favorite events live online instead of live on TV? Let me be very clear. I will watch the Bachelor when I need my reality TV fix. I AM a sports fan. When I watch the Olympics, I watch for the competition – and am most definitely interested in the result. People – we are the “vast viewing public” and we need to speak up!   By the way, I read that the ratings for the Rio Opening Ceremony were the lowest since 1992. So – let’s learn something here and be better next time, ok?
  4. Geno Auriemma, the women’s basketball coach, keeps being asked if he thinks it’s bad for his sport that the US is so dominant in women’s basketball.Is anyone asking this about men’s swimming?? I, along with a large crowd of people, watched (live on TV I may add) Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold medal last night by winning the 200 IM. All of the coverage since has been positive about the records he is breaking…first to win 4 in a row in his event, first to win 13 individuals golds since Ancient Greece…The Ravens paused their pre-season game to watch this happen! Don’t get me wrong – he absolutely deserves this kind of attention. He’s incredible! But – no one is complaining about his dominance in his sport…no one is commenting about the dominance of men’s basketball…so why is this even a question for women’s basketball? Here is Auriemma’s awesome response (he by the way also coaches women’s basketball at UCONN. As an aforementioned SPORTS FAN, I know he also dominates there as well.) “We live in that Trumpian era where it’s OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they’re the opposite sex. We are what we are. We’re never going to apologize for being that good. We’re never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve…These are Olympians. They’re supposed to play at a high level. They’re professionals, they’re supposed to put on a show, they’re supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little?  Just like I say at UConn, we’re not bad for women’s basketball. What’s bad for women’s basketball is when nobody’s great, because then you could say, “You know what? I don’t think anybody really knows how to play this game.” I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they’re great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
  5. There have been comments made that Katie Ledecky swims like a man…and Jim Watson said that Simon Biles “might even go higher than some of them men” on the uneven bars…So I ask the question again – why the comparison to men? Can’t we appreciate their excellence without the unnecessary comparisons? Are men’s sports the standard set for the rest of us to aspire to? I sure hope not.
  6. And finally – 6… Calling Simone Biles the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. What a brilliant response by Biles: “I am not the next Usain Bolt of Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.”

Perfection.

Athletes like Biles make me so hopeful about our future. She has managed to redirect the media coverage to focus on what is truly important and to disregard the rest. She must have been raised well be her parents ;-).

Week 1 is about to end. I sincerely hope that NBC and the rest of the media is listening to the feedback being shared and improves their commentary and coverage.

GO USA!
 

 

 

Joy…and Pain (or rather Pain…and Joy?)

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

-Brené Brown

As a kid, I remember complaining to my parents about my various aches and pains – and my parents would often say “that’s just growing pains.” Man I didn’t realize back then what they really meant – that growing up is literally painful – not just physically, but emotionally. How do you tell young people what is ahead of them? That becoming an adult is incredibly hard. That change can be excruciating painful. That growth is HARD WORK and no one can do it for you. That each one of us is going to face heartbreak, loss, and hardships that we never thought we would be able to handle. And that even when we get through a tough time, there is going to be another one down the road, and then another, and another.

I think it’s like what some people say about childbirth – that if women actually shared how painful it truly is, no one would choose to be a parent. If children knew how hard it is to enter adulthood, they would likely try to join Peter Pan in Never Never Land where no one grows up!

I remember when one of my best childhood friends lost his best friend in a tragic accident during our freshman year of college. A few short years later, he lost his father to cancer. I remember him telling me the day of his dad’s funeral that maybe his best friend’s death helped him prepare in some way for his father’s. Over 20 years later, what he told me has stayed with me all this time. I have often thought about how strong he was at the young age of 21 to try to cope with his grief by relying on what he had learned about himself during what had previously been the tougest loss he had faced. He taught me something about how to grieve, how to cope with pain, and how to grow.

My friend Erin and I had drinks together this week, and as we often do, we spoke about our lives, our struggles, and the lessons we are trying to learn. I did a terrible job trying to re-tell this wonderful story that teaches a great lesson about overcoming pain. I looked it up later to share with Erin, and decided I wanted to write about it in my blog, so here it is!

I hope that the author Sofo Archon of The Unbounded Spirit blog doesn’t mind if I share his story. His entire blog post can be found here.

The story begins when a young woman who is going through a very painful experience and reaches out to her wise grandmother for help:

“Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

May we all be like the COFFEE.”

Here are some painful truths.

  • When we live a life where we are open to love (any kind of love – not just romantic love), it is certain that we will experience pain at some point in the future. Not just possible. CERTAIN.
  • We are each responsible for how we cope with that pain, how we grieve, how we heal, how we grow. It is up to each of us to decide if we want to be the carrots, the egg, or the coffee.
  • There is no “pain contest” where anyone wins because their hardships are greater than one another. Who would want to win that anyway?? Each of us has our hardships, and it doesn’t help anyone to try to compare whose burden is greater.

I kind of hate the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” because it is too trite. I rephrase it to say “Everything happens for a reason if we take the time and put in the hark work to make meaning out of our experiences.” Too long to inscribe on a coffee mug, but still true. coffee

My intent is not to bring everyone down with this post – sorry that if it’s a bit intense! My intent is to speak the truth, and to encourage everyone to own your choices. I have not always made the right choices – that is FOR SURE. And you know what – I am CERTAIN that I am going to make more mistakes, and I am certain that I am going to experience more pain and loss in my future.

What I have tried to do is stop being a victim, and to own the decisions I made – or didn’t make – that got me to where I am, so that I learn my lessons and can move on with my life. One of the best compliments I received recently was from a friend who told me I was “wise.” Wisdom is healed pain. It hasn’t been easy – and it has been a lot of work up to this point. I have worked with a therapist/coach for years, and my work is ongoing and never-ending.  And it has been so incredibly worth it.

Just like the grandmother says in this story, when we are like the coffee, we change. We grow. We are able to let go of our heartache and our painful pasts. We are able to heal, and we remain open to love. We have the ability to experience joy. We can be happy with what we have, and we can look forward to a bright future. It won’t be perfect – but it will be ours.

“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

From the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley