Radical Gratitude

 

I promised my blog did not have a central theme so I am going to switch it up in this post. I still have more to say on the election because there are so many lessons to learn from it, but I grow weary of it as I am sure you do too.  I’ll come back to the lessons, but today I am going to talk about gratitude.  I don’t have that many readers so I don’t want to turn any of you off!

I believe in the power of gratitude. I came across the work of a Franciscan Monk named David Stendl-Rast, a great spiritual teacher who has an amazing but simple TED talk on the power of gratitude.  I highly encourage you to watch and listen to it.   He has created a website called, http://www.gratefulness.org.  How cool is that?  A website dedicated to gratitude.  He says many people think about happiness backwards.  People assume happy people are grateful.  He Gratitude-happy peoplesimply says the opposite.  For you to be happy you must be grateful.  He claims we all share one common goal- the pursuit of happiness.  We all want to be happy which means many different things to people. He said we all know people who have all the things our society says should make them happy who in fact, are miserable.  The opposite is also true. We have known people who have experienced significant misfortune in their life who radiate a sense of happiness.  He said the difference is gratitude.

He teaches that, lucky for us, the key is simple. I love simple as much as the next person!  Keep bringing me six minute abs!  I am a complete sucker for it.  Every single moment holds a gift.  He said we should all use the tool of stop, look, and go like our parents taught us when crossing the street.  Your day is filled with experiences and if you can learn to pause, look for the joy (or the lesson), and go, which means what action will you take during or after the moment.

He said he does not expect us to be grateful for violence, oppression, or death- especially when we first encounter it.  Okay good.  I knew I couldn’t be that enlightened.  He recognizes those difficult moments, but says there is opportunity in those too and they can be there to teach us something.  This resonates with me so much.  The difficult times may be a moment that gives rise to an emotion that allows you to stand up for your convictions, or to help lessen the pain of someone else with the same experience.  Don’t forget to pause, however.  If you don’t pause you may become bitter.  Many foundations were started after someone experiences a painful experience and wants to do their part in lessening the pain for others.  The choice is yours.  Lessen others pain or inflict more of it.

Gratitude is easy when you are in the flow.  Things are clicking along in life, and the stars seem to be aligned in your favor. One of my favorite Authors, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her friend, “She must have saved a lot of orphans from drowning during a previous lifetime,” because she has such a charmed life.  When the hard stuff hits, gratitude is the most difficult, but also the most important.

I have heard it described this way.  What most of us complain about is something that someone is wishing or praying for.  Who wouldn’t be grateful for the common cold if they are living with cancer.  When you are mad at your spouse, there are people praying every day for someone to love.  When it feels as if your kids are driving you crazy, there are those who have been trying for years to have a baby.  Many of us complain about our job and our work and of course there are those who have just been laid off.  I could give examples all day but you are truly just one thought away from a new perspective.

I am going to challenge myself to write a radical gratitude letter.  This is a letter of gratefulness for the beauty in life but also for the tough things.  I encourage you to do the same.  I choose to write mine to God, but you can choose to write Dear Universe or whomever you choose.  It helps to be specific.  The more good you see, the more good you will see.

Dear God,

I am so very grateful for my faith in you. It gives me courage, strength, and hope every day.

I am grateful for my health. When I get up in the morning, I may seem weary, and crabby but when my feet hit the ground, I realize what a miracle it is I can walk, see, smell, feel, hear, and taste.

I am grateful for my children- Sierra inspires me to be a better person because of her thoughtfulness and kindness for others, Jace is such an insightful, smart, funny, responsible kid, Mya has been such a gift to my life because she teaches me patience, unconditional love, and how to be a strong free spirit.  They all three make me smile and laugh- what a joy it is to be their Mother.

I am grateful for my Mom, my Dad, and my sister. My Mom has shown me what good mothering looks like. She is an example of how to be generous, kind, thoughtful, and to be a writer. My Dad has given me the gift of non-judgment and to think about deep things.  He is so open minded about others and accepts people regardless of their status in life.  He also is a great storyteller.  My sister, my sweet twin sister, Heather.  She has given me the gift of a lifelong best friend.  She sees beauty in the small things.  She saves spiders. I just love her spirit. I am so truly lucky to be surrounded by love and support.

I am grateful for “my guy” Kirk. I am so lucky to have found my person. He loves me in the way you should be loved.  He is so thoughtful, considerate, smart, funny, and kind.   He has the most amazing kids- Ellen and Esten, and family.  His parents are an example of what true love looks like. His Grandma in her 90’s is a living example of the power of gratitude and a positive outlook!gratitude- Piglet

I am grateful for my extended family and friends. I could write a page about each of my people but I think I might lose your interest.  There are so many people I have met that have taught me so many things. Some of these people are close to me like friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues.  Some of them are brief acquaintances.  There are many that I have never met but I have been introduced to them through books, T.V., conferences, or the internet.  They inspire me to be a better version of my unique self.

I am so very grateful for my education, my jobs, and my career of caring for seniors. What a blessing it has been to be part of mission work bigger than myself.  Caring for those in need is truly God’s work and I receive more than I give.

I am grateful for my dog Lexi and all the animals in my life, past and present, who teach me about how to be in the moment and to show love without abandon! They are absent of the fear of being too excited about something!

I am grateful for so many “small” things. Coffee, a good book, my 2006 Honda Odyssey (yes I proudly own a minivan), warm socks, cover-up for my dark circles, running water, deodorant- thank God the world has deodorant, all things nature, flowers, gourds, sunsets, rainbows, water, and bees, my phone, my computer, mantras, quotes, and inspiration.  The list of small things is so long I could write all day.

That was the low-hanging fruit. Those are easy things to be grateful for.  Here are some of the tougher things I am also grateful for after much reflection.

I am grateful for my parent’s divorce when I was 6. It gave me courage to be a more emotionally resilient kid and my parents have shown the world that divorce does not have to mean pain.  My parents are truly friends and we all get together as a family with my Stepmom and my Mom’s boyfriend and it all seems very “normal.” Okay, normal is not the right word, but what is that anyway!? My family’s lack of normalcy makes us less boring,

I am grateful we did not have a lot of money growing up because it makes me appreciate what I have and be more empathetic of those who struggle financially.

I am grateful for the death of my Grandfather when I was 16- Grandpa Will. I so loved my Grandpa- he was funny, happy, playful, and smelled like pipe smoke.  I am not grateful he died, but am grateful it opened my heart to what love feels like and made me appreciate my family at a time when I was most selfish.  Gratitude- happy with moreAll of my Grandparents touched my heart. My Nana- gave me my love of owls, and the gift of realizing how fragile life can be (she died in a car accident when I was 6), my Bampa was my biggest cheerleader, and taught me what class and dignity look like, and my Grandma Vi- gave me the gift of feistiness, and the gift of knowing a hard childhood does not have to turn you into a hard person. What gifts they all were and still are to me.

I am grateful for my ex-husband because I have three beautiful children and learned how to stay calm, resilient, and how to be a truer version of myself.

Dare I say it. I am grateful for Donald Trump.  He is inspiring me to be more compassionate, and speak up about my convictions.  I am finding my inner gumption (one of my favorite words)!

The small things apply here too. I am grateful when I am stuck in traffic because it gives me time to listen to my books and practice patience. When my kids are fighting, it teaches me that this too shall pass.  When I lose my keys, I can learn better tools to be organized.  When I encounter a crabby person, which isn’t uncommon in my work, it teaches me to look for a compassionate response and be responsible for my own energy.

There are gifts in each moment if we pause or stop, look for the gift or the lesson, and go. I am going to keep trying to be radically grateful and I encourage you to do the same.

Are you open to starting your own practice of radical gratitude?

My Heart Hurts

empath-a-blessing-and-curseI feel other people’s pain. Often more than my own.  This is more than empathy, more than pity.  It is actual pain.  My heart hurts so much sometimes I feel it could burst.  I want to yell, “Doesn’t anyone else feel how much this hurts!?”  I can see this is not the way all people feel. I am good at hiding it most of the time which helps me blend in.  There are times when I can protect myself better than others.  Most of the time I don’t know if I want to.  I don’t want to be the person that doesn’t feel as deeply as I feel, despite the burden it sometimes places on me.

Most recently, the collective pain of others due to the hateful rhetoric of this election is having a profound effect on me.  I want the pain to stop but I imagine what it might feel like for the people being hurt and I can feel the ache in my chest.  I can’t shake it this time.  Someone explained to me I was an empath and I absorb the feelings of others as if they are my own.  It is a hard way to live sometimes but most of the time I am learning to recognize it as a gift.  I am going to attempt to express my feelings about this because I think there are so many lessons to learn from what is happening in our country.  We cannot ignore the pain that is emerging.  It is here to teach us all how to be better, kinder, gentler, more compassionate human beings.  I can feel it.  It is hard to see that because the negativity is getting so much more attention.  We cannot ignore the lessons.

My friend Marvin is a passionate leader in the industry I am so blessed to work in- caring for seniors. He is highly involved in politics and has flown to Florida the last two elections to volunteer for campaigns he believes in.  He is a leader of a non-profit in the heart of St. Paul who is committed to caring for seniors from all walks of life and employs staff that represent the diversity that, in my belief, is such a strength for our Country.  We connected before and after the election.  He sent an email that expressed exactly what I was feeling. Here is what he said:

Please know that I do not criticize Republicans for this election.  In fact, Trump put together a unique conglomeration of voters.  While my politics are more left of center on a number of issues, I respect all people and I respect where people right of center are coming from.  We all have a different lens through which we view the world.  And reasonable people can disagree on the numerous issues we face daily.  What I am struggling with is the person.  How America can elect a clear xenophobe, racist, and misogynist is beyond me.   He is crude and vulgar and brings out the worst of people’s instincts rather than speaking to their higher nature.  Frankly, I find Trump despicable.  He is the opposite of what a leader needs to represent.  That’s what I’m struggling with.

I will find a way to heal my soul and once again see a clearer path on this journey of making the world a better place. 

Those analyzing the election are labeling people like crazy and grouping us all into different categories, which as God explained is how all conflict arises. If you watch the discourse, I have no doubt he is right.  We are all unique individuals who have diverse ways of making decisions and name calling will not help us heal.  We should seek to understand more than be understood but I must admit I am struggling with the understanding.  I am trying.  It is not true that all white men voted for Donald Trump. I know many that did not and Marvin is one of them.  I am going to attempt to analyze the lessons we can learn from these powerful words.  How did America elect a clear xenophobe, racist and misogynist?  We cannot pretend we didn’t and we cannot say we were not warned.  Even the Pope tried to tell us there was danger in this decision- more than once.  How did we get here after all the progress we have made?  Understanding is not accepting.  For me this is not about politics but about values.

I am going to start with racism. Injustice in the form of racism is a hard no for me.  When I hear it, I can feel the heat rise up and take over my body.  I get red hot mad.  The idea there are those among us who think they are better than others simply because of the color of their skin, is so offensive to me that I feel lost to find a strong enough word.  Wrong. It is just so wrong.  martin-luther-king-love-will-have-the-final-wordEvery fiber of my being knows this.  I cannot keep silent about injustice.  I feel complacent if I do.  I understand racism and injustice exist but in 2016 I truly did not think we had enough people who would support a leader who was blatantly racist.  I do not believe everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist- or at least they do not think they are. I know people who made this decision.  They are good people and many voted for him in spite of his racism (and sexism, and xenophobia but I will get to that), not because of it.

I do know Donald Trump is racist.  He was open about it and did nothing to hide this side of himself- it was a theme of his campaign and has been a theme throughout his life.  It appears he learned this from his father.  His racist statements, and tone repulsed many, and tragically, it galvanized people too- those voters did not overlook his racism, they were inspired by it.  We don’t know how many, but it is beyond disturbing to me that there are any.  It makes me feel physically ill.  Make no mistake that is what he meant about being less “politically correct”, and people loving his “truth telling”.  He was arrogant enough to believe he had the right to say whatever he wanted about his beliefs about groups of people that he believes are a threat to our Country and collectively we emboldened him and others that feel that same way.  They feel empowered by that freedom to speak the “truth”, and in doing so we validated those beliefs.  No longer are we able to say, a leader who is brazenly racist can NOT be President of the Unites States.  There is a lesson in that.  A hard one.

People have been open about the reason he got their vote. This is what David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan said on November 18, 2016. “David Duke has expressed his approval of President-Elect Donald Trump’s recent cabinet appointments, saying they are examples of white people taking back their government.” OH MY GOD-typing that made that so disturbingly real.  mlk_silence_oppressionCalling people racist does not help them become less racist, but pretending it doesn’t exist will not make it go away.  Complacency to an injustice does in fact help the injustice continue.

The truth is, for over 60 million Americans blatant racism was not a hard no, it wasn’t a deal breaker for the candidate who got their vote. One of my favorite people, Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  maya-angelou-quoteWe had plenty of time to make a different decision, and there were many other candidates without these views to choose from.

His racism started on the first day of his campaign. When he said that Mexicans were rapists, and criminals, and almost as an after-thought- “and I assume some are good people,” many in the public and the media couldn’t believe it.  They thought there is no way someone running for President of the United States in the country that was founded on the ideals of liberty and freedom could say that and get away with it.

The fact checkers went crazy and published many articles refuting his claims.  This is one of six studies reported by the Washington Post that disputed this information.  “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course.” (Bianca Bersani, University of Massachusetts, 2014. Published in Justice Quarterly.)  But it didn’t matter.  Donald Trump denied the facts, attacked the reporters for daring to question him, and doubled down and people started responding to this message, yelling “BUILD THE WALL!” at rallies all across our nation. This is when the hurt in my heart started.

For me, the hurt is because I don’t think about Mexicans as a group of people, or statistics in a study.  I picture a person, just like me, watching T.V., and hearing a candidate for President of the United States make the claim I am rare if I am a good person because of my heritage and my skin color.  TearsThat must be so unbelievably painful.  I would want to scream, “I’m not a rapist, I’m not a criminal,” But that does no good because no one is listening. This has exposed an ugliness that many of us thought was on the fringes of society.  Our laws make it illegal to place a sign outside your restaurant that says, “No Blacks Allowed”, but clearly not enough hearts and minds have been changed.

This is a MAJOR lesson.  We cannot ignore this collective wound. I have told people hundreds of time at work, if someone is unwilling to admit they have an issue or an undesirable trait there is no way to change it or to heal it.  There is a reason the first step to any addiction program is to stand up and speak the truth out loud.  Every American should stand up and say, “My name is Carli Lindemann and I live in a country where racism is still a problem.”  Without truth, there is no healing. This is likely the blessing in this.

One of the first times I was introduced to the idea that people with black or brown skin bear the burden of the sins of their race in a way that white people don’t was when I was in college at St. Cloud State University. I worked at the University Book Store with a boy named Milton.  He was an awkward kid who wore khaki pants above his waste, and big thick glasses and had moved to Minnesota from California.  He had a bit of a lisp and seemed like a very intelligent kid who had never experienced hanging with the cool kids. I liked kids like Milton.  As someone who feels the pain of others, I have always been drawn to people I perceive as someone who just needs a friend.  Milton and I started visiting at work and I asked him why he moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota from California.  And he told me.  He no longer looked like the innocent, nerdy kid who needed a friend.  I wished I had not asked the question.  He told me in a very matter of fact way that he had researched the “whitest counties in the United States,” and had found Stearns County in St. Cloud, MN.  I was so shocked.  He asked me if I knew they called it, “White Cloud.”  I did not know that and I was so sorry I now did.

My family had raised me to be accepting of others.  I was very naïve that these beliefs still existed. He proceeded to tell me he was held up by gunpoint in California by a black person and had decided he would find the whitest place in America and move there.  I was dumbfounded.  I felt sick.  I do not remember how I responded, but I knew enough to distance myself from him.  RacismHe did not take the hint.  I have always been a person that people over share with.  I make a point of being friendly, and interested in people, which like any strength can be a weakness.  I hear things I wish I didn’t hear. In any case, Milton thought I was a friend, and my avoiding him did not prevent him from continuing to share his ideas with me.  He told me he had met a girl on the internet. This was in the early 1990’s before the internet was widely used.  He told me she was a skinhead.  This is the first time I understood the internet could be used to bring radical people together to validate their view of world.  He was very committed to his beliefs.  It shook me up and I wanted to ask him what he would have done had his attacker been a white person?

I am sure his experience was very scary but it always made me curious why that one encounter made him distrust all black people.  How did one person’s bad behavior reflect on millions of people.  I could not understand why he couldn’t hear how crazy that was. Racism has no logic.

Now we have a President-elect who makes the same argument.  He told the horrific story of a girl killed by an illegal immigrant as a method to justify his position on deporting 11 million people.  He is essentially saying the same thing as Milton.  Because of the actions of one person, all illegal immigrants must bear the punishment.  I think Donald Trump must know the story of Dillan Roof the white man who killed 9 African Americans after they welcomed them into their prayer group as good Christians would.  Did anyone say, “well what do you expect from “The Whites,” which is what Donald calls minority groups.  White men do not have to carry the burden of that horrific crime.  Rosa Parks- quotesDid any white man feel responsible for it or worried they may need to be registered? As Donald Trump Jr. said,  “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”  Lets use that logic with white men. Quite frankly, all men are like skittles too.  Over 90% of all violent crimes are committed by men.  If we really want to be safe, we’d institute a male ban.  I do not understand it?

When I left for college, my Mom had me read a biography about Ted Bundy, one of the worst serial killers in American history (a white male described as handsome and charming by some). It was terrifying. I grew up in a small town and she wanted me to know there were people in the world who could not be trusted.  It worked.  That book terrified me and I slept with a knife under my bed for a few weeks. What I learned is evil people and deeds come in all colors and for some reason white people do not have to carry the burden of that pain.  I do not understand why this isn’t obvious to everyone.

When Barack Obama was elected President, I still remember the declarations of, “racism is dead.”  There should be “no more excuses” from anyone of color because we elected a black person as President of the United States.  That was a major milestone in our pursuit of justice, but I don’t know if there is anyone in America who can honestly make that claim now.  We still have a lot of work to do.  I am paying attention to the lessons.  I believe Martin Luther King when he says unconditional love will have the final word. I intend to do my part by not being complacent in the face of racism. I will use my voice to speak up and just maybe, just maybe my heart can hurt a bit less.

How will you do your part to speak up in the face of injustice?

The Trap of “Us” vs. “Them”

One of the main ways I have comforted myself this past week is by reading what God said to me. Words have always comforted me. For me, knowledge and understanding is power.  It gives me a sense of peace.  This is what He said to me.

What we have done is made labels for people, so everyone can fit into one box or another. This is a human phenomenon and creates most of the conflicts in the world.  Not the labels themselves, but the assumption that labels mean better or worse.  It makes us feel better to think when bad things happen, it just means that one group is superior to another.  It secures us to know: we are better human beings than “those” people.  Labels give us a sense of understanding to our world.  The labels themselves are not bad, it’s what happens when we react with fear to those labels.  The truth of the matter is all human beings are ultimately the same at their core, it is just hard for people to understand that.  It is painful to believe that at times.

bible-verses-about-gods-acceptance-of-us

When we identify with a group and start feeling superior to another group, conflict arises. We all do it. This election is a perfect example.  Many of us are feeling superior to each other based on which candidate we voted for. Let the superiority and name calling begin.  I am feeling it too.  If you are honest, you can watch this happen in the workplace, in schools, and even at church.  Pay attention to the times you talk about another group as if they are less than you.  You start dehumanizing them by speaking about them as a group.  Think about the labels we use.  “Trump supporters,” “liberal elites”,  and “Muslims” for example.  The labels themselves are not bad, but how we use them to judge can be.  It happens at work frequently.  The “us” vs. “them” makes “us” feel important, better, confident we are right.  We are constantly looking for information to validate those beliefs.  In thinking about how to heal our country after this emotionally charged election, I have been thinking of a personal experience of “us” vs. “them” and the healing that happened after a bitter fight.

The year was 1998. I was 25 years old and had just been hired as the Administrator of my hometown nursing home and assisted living, Oak Hills Living Center.  A year and half prior to me starting at Oak Hills, on July 3, 1997 the employees walked out on strike.  All the employees except the RN’s, management, and office staff were members of the Teamsters Union.  The Administrator had created a culture within the organization of significant animosity between management, and staff and the tensions reached a boiling point. The staff and the union chose July 3, the day before the holiday because they thought that would help force an agreement.

They miscalculated the tenacity of the Administrator who from what I heard later had become obsessed with “winning” at all costs.  You cannot take care of the elderly without people, so temporary staff were brought in at double the cost of the employees to take care of those that lived at Oak Hills.  I heard stories of the picket line and the strike and it got ugly.  Those that crossed the picket line were spit at, and called names like “scab.”  Tensions and animosity ran high between the employees who walked out, the employees who crossed the picket line to care for the residents, and the management and Board of Directors.

When I arrived in December of 1998, the picketing had ended but many of the employees who had been on strike had yet to be called back to work. The nursing home was being staffed primarily by temporary staff, called pool.  We lost $100,000 in the first month I was there, bond payments had not been made since June, we weren’t paying bills and were receiving collection calls several times per day, there was a lawsuit in the works between the organization and the architect and contractor because the building, which was only five years old had mold in the walls, and last but not least we needed to rebuild our team and our culture.  I was young and determined enough to try!  Many of the direct care employees were temporary employees and only a select few had been called back to work.

The first order of business was to call the employees back to work and start hiring permanent employees to replace the temporary workers that we could not afford to pay. I knew from my previous work, the nurses and direct caregivers are like gold in the nursing home.  CultureWithout caring, compassionate, well-trained, dedicated, employees the business of caring for people was not a viable one.  I had to act fast. I knew instinctively that recreating the culture was my top priority.

The previous Administrator had surrounded himself with a team of people who in hindsight did not share my values.  I still remember one of the advisors telling me when an employee group organizes and joins a union I needed to understand they no longer communicated directly with me.  I only talked to employees through the union or the employee union representatives.  That advice did not sit right with me.  I had been the Administrator of a nursing home before and had learned that people responded to me because I formed relationships with them.  I told him I didn’t care if the employees were in a union or not, I would treat them the same.  I will never forget what he said to me.  He said, “That is why they send 18 year-old’s to the front line in war.  You will get slaughtered.”

It wasn’t the first time someone had underestimated me because of my age and it wouldn’t be the last.  I instinctively knew he was wrong.  albert_einstein_definition-of-insanityThe next piece advice I got was from the attorney who had been hired to negotiate the final agreement to call the employees back to work.  She told me I should create a policy that did not allow any employee who had previously worked for our organization to be rehired.  That ranks as some of the worst advice I have ever been given.  I told her in an environment where we desperately needed qualified caregivers, I would be creating no such policy.  She also warned me I would regret that decision.  I was beginning to understand how the organization had gotten into such a mess if the Administrator had surrounded himself with advisors that gave this kind of advice.  I knew we had to approach employee relations in a completely different way.

I heard the employees who had previously worked at Oak Hills but had not been called back to work were hosting a gathering with the union representatives at a local restaurant. I was again warned that going to the gathering would be a mistake and I would be walking into a hostile environment.  Again, my instincts told me not to listen to the advice.  Trust your instinctsIt had been announced in the local paper, along with my picture, that I had been hired as the new Administrator.  I walked into the room where the employees and union representatives had gathered.  The group turned and all eyes were on me.  I smiled and waved and the group broke into applause.  I introduced myself to each person in the room, and told them I was looking forward to getting them back to work.  The healing had begun but it truly was only the beginning.

The day before the employees were to return to work, the anxiety was palpable. The Dietary Manager told me she vomited that morning.  She supervised one of the union reps, a cook who was one of the loudest, angriest, and most aggressive in hurling insults at those who crossed the picket line. Many of the staff who had crossed the picket line had been harassed and for the first time were facing their attackers.  The words and anger stung and still haunted them.  They were scared, they were angry and they didn’t know if they could forgive, let alone forget enough to be able to work side by side with each other.  Emotions were very high.

I knew I had to set the expectations clearly and early on. I had a staff meeting and my message was clear and simple.  I acknowledged the pain that had been inflicted on both sides.  I said, I understood feelings were hurt and people still felt angry but it was time to put our differences aside and rebuild a team that had the focus of the residents we were honored to serve.  I told the group, if I heard of any instances of harassment or name-calling, they would no longer have a job.

Less than 24 hours later, someone called my bluff. The woman who had her manager vomiting came to my office sobbing.  She was a tough looking woman who had an intimidating presence, but she had been reduced to tears.  She claimed she had been verbally attacked in the kitchen by another employee who had been the driver of a van who crossed the picket line to get employees to work.  His wife worked for us as a nurse.  I confirmed with staff that this in fact had happened.  I called this man into my office.  He was twice my age, over 6 feet tall.  I am 5’4”.  I asked him if he had in fact verbally attacked a co-worker?  He admitted he had and started yelling, “Do you have ANY IDEA how vulgar that woman was!  She called my wife names and I will NOT let her get away with that!”

I asked him if he remembered the expectations from the meeting and explained I understood it was hard to work with her but, for us to move forward we had to forgive each other.  I then told him he no longer had a job at our facility.  He leaned over me red-faced, severely invading my personal space and screamed, “YOU ARE GOING TO FIRE ME AND LET THAT B&%$@* WORK HERE!”  I held my ground and told him yes I was.  Hold your groundI thanked him for his service and he stormed out of the conference room. Word traveled fast that I meant what I said.  That was the one and only time we had an incident at work regarding harassment about the strike. Staff learned to work with and respect each other.  Four years later, the employees made the decision to vote the union out which brought some of the “us” against “them” back.

I can say by the time I left in 2011, the pain and anger of the strike was ancient history and we had moved forward.  This story reminds me people can come together after hurting each other and forge a new path of forgiveness and understanding.  This gives me hope for reconciliation after this bitter election.

Do you have an example of us vs. them in your life?

 

Positive Light

One of the goals for my blog is to be a hopeful positive light to the world. I love helping people be more compassionate with themselves and with each other.  I want to spread light not darkness. I also am using this as a vehicle to find my voice and use it to express my true feelings without fear.  Writing something that someone may not agree with is hard for me because I am a people pleaser.  Courage and vulnerabilityI desperately want everyone to like me.  I pride myself in being a person most people enjoy being around.  I don’t have any desire to be the person that people feel relieved when they leave a room.  I know many women feel this way.  Men too.  My Uncle Bruce calls himself a “conflict avoidant.”  He avoids it at all costs.  He is one of the nicest men I know and he raised my cousin, Ian, to also be one of the best examples of how to be a good man that I have witnessed.  Politics is one of those issues that brings out strong emotions, but never has an election shaken me to the core like this one.  I know I am not alone. Many people across the world were watching this one.

Love and kindness attract and create love and kindness. It’s how the world works.  The opposite is true as well.  Fear and anger have an energy that attracts too.  Fear and anger is so powerful, often louder, and gets more attention than love and kindness.  I want to align with the energy of love and kindness.

when-the-worldI work hard not to offend people. I believe in using your life and your world to make people feel better not worse.  In addition, I have such a strong reaction to injustice that being silent when I see it feels to me as if I am accepting it.  I am going to work hard in my writing to express my emotions while still being kind and understanding, yet true to my voice.  As God told me, “understanding is not accepting.” Despite the fact, people may not agree with me, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t write about this.

For anyone who read my letter to Donald Trump you know this election did not turn out the way I was hoping. It is comforting to me to know the majority of Americans hoped it would be different too.  I am fully aware there are millions of Americans who feel happy about this result. This is the result of any contest.  Some people cheer, some people are sad, and some feel neutral.  God told me this too.  It’s okay to be a Democrat. You are a valuable human being. It is not okay to hate everyone else because they are not.  I believe him (or her).  This has released a cascade of emotion.  I have not watched any news since election night but have been doing some selective reading.  I am trying to be very careful about what I fill my mind with.  This has been a significant spiritual test for me.  Now is the time for me to practice what I teach.

There is a purpose to things- even painful things. Good can come out of any situation.  Look for the good.  Look for the light.  As Mr. Rogers says during a tragedy, tell your children to look for the helpers, there are always helpers.  mr-rogersOne of my guiding principles that I use more and more is to look for the lessons.  There are always lessons.  This election has so many lessons if we are paying attention.  I am trying to understand the lessons.  My goal is to take the long view.  As I said in my previous blog post.  Sometimes chaos must reign so peace can prevail.

I left work on Tuesday, November 8 wearing my pantsuit, with anxious anticipation to potentially watch the first woman President be elected to the United States. I wanted to celebrate with my children, my girls and my son.  I imagined how we would talk about how anything is possible in our great Country for men and for women.  A co-worker asked me how I would feel if Trump did win.  I told him, I hadn’t allowed that thought to enter my mind.  I believed America would reject someone so brazenly racist, sexist, xenophobic, and such an unapologetic bully.  I thought love would trump hate.  My friend was worried.  He said, all of his friends were voting for Trump and he was concerned.  I was nervous, but hopeful and excited.  I drove home past many Trump signs and one Hillary for Prison sign to watch the results.

That night when I could see the election results coming in, the reality started sinking in. I turned off the television.  I couldn’t take it.  The weight of what was happening overwhelmed my emotions.  As I went to bed, my daughter said, “Mom, don’t give up hope.”  That is what I always say to her.  In the early morning, I was startled awake.  A sense of dread filled my whole my body.  I grabbed my phone.  It had been announced one minute before that Trump had been declared the winner.  The energy woke me up.  I knew before I looked.  I did not turn on the television.  I couldn’t.  This election has consequences.  I could feel the weight of all of them.

The first people I spoke to the morning of the election were my three children. They had been very involved and invested in this election.  The lessons started first thing.  My oldest daughter Sierra is 16.  She is like me, and feels the pain of others as if it is her own.  The first thing she said through tears was, “Mom, there are girls on Twitter who are Muslim and they don’t know if it is safe to wear their headscarf.”  I was so proud of her.  Teenagers are not typically known for their empathy for others.  Empathy quote.pngWe stereotype teenagers as self-centered and only care about things that affect their immediate lives.  I am so thankful my daughter sees the world through others eyes and can feel their pain.  It is a hard way to live, but it gives me hope.  After school she cried because her “President did not respect her.”  I had no words of comfort for that sentiment except to say there are many good men who do.

Four mornings a week I drive my son Jace, who is 13, to the high school early so he can lift weights or play basketball. He is so committed to his exercise and sports.  He is such a disciplined, smart, insightful, practical kid.  He, like me, likes to gather facts to make decisions.  Throughout the election he would hear something about one of the candidates and ask me what the facts were.  Everyone is entitledI would tell him things I had read and explain he needed to make sure he was checking the sources of where he gets information.  He said to me, “Why don’t people take time to learn the truth?  Most of what people believed, if they had done just a little bit of research, they would have learned most of it was lies.”  I felt hopeful.  I am raising a kid to think, to question, and to discover the truth.

My youngest daughter Mya who is 11 asked a question that really made me think. On my way to bring her to school she said, “I don’t know if I should talk to the kids whose parents voted for Trump?” Ouch.  Teachable moment time. Be Kind I told her that was definitely not the solution.  We have to be kind to each other.  Our children can be our greatest teachers if we pay attention.

I arrived at work and found a co-worker who had been crying all morning. We hugged and supported each other.  This gave me so much comfort.  Later, I saw a co-worker who felt differently than I did, and I told her I still loved her and she said she stilled loved me.  I meant it.  I know you can disagree and still love.

I am determined to be a light spreader. I am more determined than ever to contribute to a more compassionate, peaceful world.  The light spreaders have to get louder. Our voices need to heard.  Now is the time for us to gather together and spread light, love, kindness, and hope.  The world needs it more than ever.

I would be curious to know your 2016 election reaction, even if it doesn’t match mine, and how you plan to spread light?

Purpose To This Election?

My Mom sent me a video via email a few months ago by Marianne Williamson, one of the great spiritual teachers of our time. She says things like this amazing quote that I so love about our deepest fear is not our inadequacy but our power.our-deepest-fear

She also said this. “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.” 

In her speech, she said many people are so repulsed by the vitriol and hateful rhetoric on both sides of the American presidential election, that some are talking about not voting. I was never considering not voting but I was definitely repulsed by the tone of this election.  I was allowing it to affect my peace of mind.  This is not bringing out the best in us. Or is it?  What she said changed my perspective.  Marianne said if we really believe there is a purpose to all things, then we must believe in the purpose of this election.  That resonated with me.

I do believe there can always be a purpose to pain.  The purpose is almost always healing either yourself or someone else with your same pain.  This election has released some very powerful emotions and perhaps we should consider the possibility it will heal us in the long run?   It has been said that in order to heal a wound, you must expose it.  How about this? This election is releasing the pus from our collective wound.  Gross I know, but we are all connected and this ugliness is on all of us to confront and make efforts to change it.   Perhaps this election is no exception.  Peace Be Still.jpgWe have ripped the band aid off fast.  Now that all of this anger and fear has been exposed we can no longer ignore it.  Despite all of our progress in America, racism, sexism, and gravitation towards messengers of fear still exist. Those that have been left behind in our economy are speaking up too. Individually and collectively we will have to face the brutal reality and work together to fix it.

I believe once the election is over, the losing side will lick their wounds and this will ignite a cascade of healing.  Not right away, but long-term it will. At least I hope so. Sometimes chaos has to reign so peace can prevail.  When you are in the chaos, the peace is hard to imagine. We all have a responsibility to focus on what we can do. What I can do is recognize my part in the chaos, seek to understand others point of view, and help with the healing. After months of being appalled by the ugliness within this election, I have resigned myself to believing there is a higher purpose to this snapshot in history.  Love and kindness will prevail.  It just has to.

“Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.” – Marianne Williamson

How are you going to do your part to heal our country after this election?

My Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I am one of those college educated women who are not feeling you this election. Granted, you may want to “feel” us, although my guess is I would not “be your first choice” since I have rocked an A cup since high school.  I understand that would make me “hard to be a ten.”

Let me tell you, you would not be my first choice either.  BELIEVE ME!  I feel as if I am captain obvious when I tell you this, but it appears you need to hear it.  It is unlikely you will read this, let alone actually hear it but it makes me feel better to type it.  It is NOT an honor for women to be your chosen grope victim.  The fact that you admitted you choose your victims by their looks makes every woman want to buy a lifetime supply of turtlenecks and stop wearing makeup forever.  By the way, if you are going to rate women by numbers, I think you should be a 10 yourself.  I am fully aware of my hypocrisy, but seriously, have you looked in the mirror lately?  News flash- without the size of your bank account, an aging man with small hands trying to cover up his obvious bald head with the worst comb over the world has ever seen is not what most women fantasize about.

donald-trump-hair-blowing-in-wind_0The size of your bank account does not do it for me either.  I am not impressed with a man who earned his money in large part by cheating other people out of theirs.  In addition, it is likely I have paid a higher percentage of federal taxes than you over the years. We wouldn’t know since you refused to release them.  It does not make me think you are smart it makes me MAD.  REALLY MAD!  Okay, sorry Michelle Obama, I am not taking your advice and I am going low.  I will make an effort to go higher.

Since I have a “really good brain”, and I think self-awareness is key to a successful life I am going to share some insight on why I will NOT be voting for you this year in the highly unlikely event you will ever read my letter.  My standard for the most important leadership role in the world is to vote for someone who inspires me to be a better person. You are NOT that person.

I have been trained through my work on Servant Leadership- thanks to Mark Deterding of Triune Leadership. This method of leadership is designed to look at your role as a leader as a servant to those you lead, with the example of Jesus as your model. I think one of the reasons I feel so repulsed by your leadership style is because there is not ONE OUNCE of servant leadership in your words, in your actions, or in your life.  I feel compelled to speak out.  Here are my top ten reasons I will not be voting for you this election:

  1. As part of my servant leadership training I had to write my leadership point of view. In the section called my “beliefs about leading” my first belief is: I believe leaders set the tone for how others will interact with each other. People will follow your lead, including your mood. I have supervised leaders and watched people lead large teams and small and this is what I know for sure. The tone is set by the leader. I don’t even think your supporters could admit you set a hopeful, positive, inspiring, tone. You are clearly setting a tone-fear and anger. This is my number one reason I CANNOT support you. Fear is NOT leadership!
  2. Another belief I have in my leadership point of view is: I believe ALL people have value and no one is more important than another. Donald, you have insulted, mocked, and offended women, those that have struggled with their weight and body image, disabled people, Latinos, American Indians, African-Americans, Veterans, journalists, Muslims, the LGBT community by choosing Mike Pence, and many people in your own party. Oh no Donald, not on MY WATCH, not when I still have a voice will you be my President! My President will NOT be allowed to say that because of your ethnicity or your religion you are less important than someone else.
  3. Blatant sexism, racism becoming normal- NO, NO, NO- NOT IN MY AMERICA. This is NOT who we are! donald-trump-sexismThis does not represent us! Being politically  correct involves carefully choosing how you communicate so you can make your point without offending large groups of people, or even one person. It takes class, dignity, intelligence, and empathy for how other people may feel. Words have power, especially when you are applying for the most important leadership position in the free world.
  4. I have a sign in my house that says, “BECAUSE NICE MATTERS.”Enough said.  You are NOT NICE.
  5. I believe global warming exists and science is real. We need leaders who trust scientists and are not arrogant enough to believe they know more than the scientific community.
  6. We are a country built by immigrants. I am part of the human family and my faith teaches me to have compassion and love for others. Your lack of humanity towards immigrants is appalling. Yes, we need to be safe, but we have to be kind too. Only love will combat terrorism- not hate.
  7. Facts matter. Decisions need to be made by sound, factual information. It appears you may not be aware there are websites now that fact check your statements. Many reputable sources have rated the majority of your statements as blatant lies. You don’t apologize, you don’t explain, you lie and expect people to believe you. And some do. Your arrogance is unprecedented. Just because you want something to be true, just because you wish something were true, just because you yourself believe it to be true, does not make it true. I know some people think you “tell it like it is.” I have fact checked you and I do NOT believe you!
  8. I want to feel proud of our President, not embarrassed. You embarrass me. My friends that have traveled overseas tell them people are laughing at America for even considering you for President. I want the world to know America has dignity.
  9. You are a BULLY. You need to attend preschool and sign your kindness pledge. I cannot believe I am saying that to a candidate for the President of the United States. I should not have to say that. kindness-pledgeWhen you tweeted a picture of Ted Cruz’s wife with a picture of your third wife to imply, my wife is prettier than yours. REALLY… people don’t discuss that disgusting tweet anymore because you have said so many other awful things before and since. A person should NOT be President if he would spend most of his days in detention in school for bullying! I find Heidi beautiful by the way!
  10. AMERICA IS GREAT!!!! Are we perfect- NO, but that is what makes us great! Our founding fathers created systems that allow us to continue to perfect our Union. We have been a beacon of hope for millions of people and that is the image we should project to the world. You have threatened journalists and freedom of speech! Freedom of speech allows us to speak up and change what is not so great- ask questions, fact check, hold people accountable. The irony of your slogan is, not electing you is the first step to make America great again. nelson-mandela-quoteStrong leaders accept criticism as part of the job. You have thin skin and attack anyone who dares to suggest you are less than perfect. Somehow that standard only applies to you?

I am glad I live in a country where I have a voice. Education and knowledge truly is power. I do believe in a God who loves you too, but that does not mean you deserve to be President of the Unites States. Not if I have anything to do about it!  You messed with the wrong crowd!

Sincerely,

Carli Lindemann

A proud college, educated, small-breasted woman with a “really good brain.”

Disclaimer: I am fully aware my ego is in charge when I write this letter but it makes me feel better to write it. I am not trying to convince anyone how to vote, but using this as vehicle to express my strong emotions.  I respect your opinion too.  I am aware this could offend someone and I apologize if it does.  I so admire those who have spoken out- especially Mitt Romney, Barbara Bush, John Kasich, David Brooks and others who are members of the Republican Party who are putting country over party this election.  You will be rewarded for this. This has to be especially painful for you to watch. My kind, respectful, dignified, Republican Grandfather who I called Bampa is shaking his head at you from heaven right now.  This is not the party he supported.  Next, I will attempt a more hopeful assessment of why this is happening.

Thoughts?

Then God Wanted Me to Know More- About Hope, Terrorism, and Oprah??

When I arrived home from my work trip, I knew something had happened to me, but I did not know what. I hugged my kids and was hoping I would start feeling like myself again soon.  I tried to explain it to my husband.  He looked extremely worried.  The next morning, the messages were back.  The first thought was, “don’t go to work.”  I said, “I HAVE to go to work.”  WHO was I arguing with?  Was I going crazy? I had missed three days of work due to the Board Retreat, and I am a very responsible person who did not just not go work.  I loved my work and people were depending on me.

Another message came, “check your lottery ticket.”  Fine, I thought.  This will prove this is all in my head.  I had a Powerball ticket in my purse.  I went over to the computer and checked my lottery ticket.  It was a winner!  I can’t remember the amount- not millions, but still a winner.  Again I heard, “God will give you everything you need.”  I was not having any of this.  I was getting frustrated.

I got in my van and realized I did not have my keys.  I had just had my keys and I was starting to feel agitated.  I went back into my house and searched high and low and finally located my keys.  I was convinced this was not where I left my keys, but I shook it off and got back in my van.  The drum beat got louder, “don’t go to work.”  Irritated, I got in my car and drove to work.  I did not have time to talk to God.  God SpeaksNobody- not even God was going to tell me what to do.  I had a life to live.  People were counting on me.  I was starting to feel very resistive to this nonsense.

Once I got to work, I checked in with a few people and much to my relief, I started feeling like myself again.  I sat down at my computer to check my emails, and there it was again.  This time I felt compelled to type. It was so strong that I could not resist.  I am going to share what I typed that day.  After researching other similar experiences, I am convinced this is channeled information.  At the time, I did not know what channeled information was.  When I read it, there are many things that do not sound like things I would have said- especially at that time in my life.  I find myself saying some of these things now since I learned them from what I now believe was God.

There were a few things that did sound a bit like my voice and my thoughts, so there may be a mixture of my personality mixed in with God’s voice?  I wish I knew.  All I know for sure is this had not happened to me before but not typing this message was not an option.  I was compelled to write it.  I was as skeptical about this as you may be, but one thing that convinced me this came from outside of me was when I titled it Hope Manifesto.  I had never used the word manifesto. I had to research what it meant.  Manifesto: “a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.”  I was not the issuer.

What did Nursing Home Administrator with three kids need a manifesto about hope for?  The other intriguing aspect is it almost sounds like a message for many people, or a call to action?  It expands on the “answer” I had received two days prior.  Hope- Elie WieselWhy was I talking about terrorists?  At the time, it was all very confusing.  I have not had a feeling to write this strong before or since.  It was only recently I found the “manifesto” when I was looking for something else.  I have recently started feeling the urge to write again, but still not like this- where I HAD to.  In looking at the current state of affairs in our country and our world, this information seems even more relevant to me as I reread it.

Hope Manifesto

America is restless. Humanity is restless.  Americans want answers.  Humanity wants answers.  Americans are part of the human family.  We know that but are starting to have doubts we are all the same. What has been said is, there are really only two ways of looking at the world: one with a sense of hope, which creates love and understanding, and one with a sense of fear, which creates anger and hatred.  The reality is, there are four kinds of people:

  1. Those that have hope
  2. Those that are close to believing in hope, but have questions and doubts
  3. Those that haven’t given hope much thought, but know they are not happy
  4. Those that are hopeless, or at least believe they are

Most people are in camp two and three- wanting to believe, but doubting, or just having a sense of restlessness they can’t put their finger on. The opportunity is to reach those that want to believe, instill a sense of knowing without doubt- there is hope, so they can believe it themselves.  There are less people who are truly hopeless than we think, and the terrorists believe.  If humanity creates their own destiny, why does it sometimes feel as if the majority of us who want peace can’t make it happen?

First of all, it is happening. It is not true that terror is winning.  There are messages of hope all around us, if we are paying attention.  Even on the news.  Even in the movies.  Jerry McGuire- “people just want to be inspired.  Show me the money- that’s not what inspires people.”  Some watched that and identified with how much money he was able to “get”, but what some people missed is he got the money because he had passion.

Watch for those messages of hope- they are everywhere.  Even in societies that seem hopeless- there are children, there are mothers.  Everyone has passion- it needs to be tapped for the good of the world.  Hope Quotes- from despairTerrorists are tapping into passion. Those that spread hope need to tap into that passion.  People actually use a sense of hope to sell their message of hate, which is evil of the worst kind.  Child molesters, pimps, terrorists, mass murderers understand people and know what to say to people to make them feel valuable and that is when they prey on the innocent.  It is easy to hate those people, and want to “eliminate them.”  But a person who holds love in their heart knows they are just people who are lost.  They lost their sense of hope for a better life, and make choices based on their view of the world.

Violence only creates more violence, no matter how much we wish it isn’t true.  It is a normal human reaction to awful crimes on humanity to want to fight back, and “eliminate” those that hate in the world, but what have we then become?  Most people do not join a terrorist organization, cult, a gang, or an army believing they are making the world worse.  They want the same thing in life as we do- a purpose.  They finally have a cause, a purpose, something to live for.

There are words for this- a collective shift, the tipping point, world peace. This is possible in our lifetime, if we make the choice to see the world different.

What we have done is made labels for people, so everyone can fit into one box or another.  This is a human phenomenon and creates most of the conflicts in the world.  Not the labels themselves, but the assumption that labels mean better or worse.  It makes us feel better to think when bad things happen, it just means that one group is superior to another.  It secures us to know: we are better human beings than “those” people.  Labels give us a sense of understanding to our world.  The labels themselves are not bad, it’s what happens when we react with fear to those labels.  The truth of the matter is all human beings are ultimately the same at their core, it is just hard for people to understand that.  It is painful to believe that at times.

Examples:

World: Christians vs. Muslims; Jewish vs. Palestinians; Sunni’s vs. Shiites; Western Culture vs. Eastern Culture; United States vs. Al Qaida; America vs. France.  It’s okay to identify yourself as a Palestinian.  You are a valuable human being.  It is not okay to hate everyone else because they are not.

America: Blacks vs. Whites; Rich vs. Poor; Management vs. Staff; North vs. South; Lawyers vs. Doctors; Athletes vs. Musicians; Working Mothers vs. Stay-at-Home Mothers; Men vs. Women; Democrats vs. Republicans.  It’s okay to be poor. You are a valuable human being. It is not okay to hate everyone else because they are not.

Personal: Teenagers vs. Parents; Husband vs. Wife; Co-worker vs. Boss; Mother vs. Daughter.  It is okay to be an employee rather than a leader.  You are a valuable human being.  It is not okay to hate everyone who is in a leadership position just because you are not.

Those that want to believe in hope sometimes feel that messages from our culture tell us something else, although it depends on what camp you are in. The answer that messages are all around you, but you’re not paying attention are not satisfying to those in camp two and three.  They want to believe it but here are too many doubts.

If you understand every human being is the same- they just want to be heard, it will help you understand. Understanding is not accepting.  The cycle is the same throughout history.  A group of people, or an individual at some point loses hope, feels a sense of hopelessness, they get scared, they get angry, they feel like they don’t have a voice.  Every human being has this experience at one extreme or another.  Quote- hope George ElliotIn horrible examples of humanity- human beings ALWAYS rise up from the culture of despair.  Someone always rises up to say, “things are really bad, this is wrong, but here’s the message: we need to make a choice- to hope- a choice for peace and understanding.  You have the power to make that choice.  There is no reason you can’t make that choice.  Those that still have a sense of hope are inspired by this message and make a personal shift and make better choices in their own lives and humanity improves.

Those that are hopeless get angry by the message because it threatens their perception of the world. They think, “that messenger of hope cannot possibly understand how bad MY life is.  It’s EASY for “him” or “her” to say “that.”  People that are hopeless can’t see that all the great visionaries are just like “them.”  Jesus was born in a manger, Gandhi lived in India in a culture of extreme poverty, John F. Kennedy was Catholic, Martin Luther King Jr. was a black man in a time when you could not sit in the front of the bus because of the color of your skin.

Wait!  These men were all brutally murdered.  Why did that happen? Does that prove the world is a horrible place? No- the reason those messengers of hope were killed is because there were oppressed human beings that saw the world as hopeless, they did not feel in control of their destiny, and it was too scary to admit they could make a choice to make their circumstances different. Quote- Hope. George Elliott That behavior was not okay, but there is a reason it happened.  All of those individuals understood that you could still love humanity and hate the behavior.  That message is scary to a small group of people, but when people are treated so poorly over long periods of time, it is easier to identify with that message. Understanding is not acceptance.  Most people have anger, and most people do not choose violence, but just peck away at other people’s soul to squelch messages of hope.  There is comfort in labeling people, and comfort in thinking one way of thinking is better than the other.  The problem with labels is it implies better or worse, and if you’re one way you are better, if you’re another way you are worse.

What could we possibly have in common with Osama Bin Laden? That doesn’t make sense.  The question we should be asking is why are people drawn to his message of hate and fear? The answer is, they have lost a sense of hope.  They live in hatred, anger, and fear, as do many of us who are not terrorists.

Why did they choose that message over the messages of hope all over the world?  Because which voice is louder? Which voice makes more sense when you have nothing? Which voice makes more sense when only two people you have ever known have ever left a poverty stricken area.  How about if you know of noone, and everyone you love has died of AIDS.  It is hard to imagine if you have always had enough food, and material things.

Even if you know in your heart it’s wrong, you don’t believe you have the power to change other people.  You are right.  You can’t change other people.  You can only change yourself.  Everyone can make a personal shift to make a difference in the world, and in their own way they are.

The Oprah’s of the world make some of us feel if we don’t have that kind of power, we can’t make a difference.  It is too painful to admit that Oprah had a harder childhood than most of us.  She chose a different life.  Sure she has special gifts and talents, but SO do you.  You don’t have to be on T.V. to be special.  Oprah- HopeYou don’t have to be an athlete to be special.  Oprah says it almost weekly on her show.  She has been saying just the opposite for twenty years, it is you that does not believe it.

Oprah is changing the world and people have tried to peck away at her over the years- but she does not let them.  Every week with the Angel Network, she would bring people on the show- just like you and me who are making a difference. Some watched that and thought, “what can I do?”  Others were jealous and said, “but I’ve done something better- where’s my recognition?”  Most said, “I want to make a difference, but what can I do? I’m “only” a Housekeeper, I’m just a teacher, I’m just a stay-at-home Mom.  You are worthy of greatness!  You have a message of hope.  Speak out, say it, don’t apologize for it, and don’t let others will criticize you.  Expect it, embrace the criticism, know this is not about you, it is about a person that felt the same way you did at one time in their life- inadequate in some way.

No human being is perfect. Your hope was squelched at some point, by someone, but the hard fact is, once you reach a certain age, you know it and CAN choose how you feel.  It does not feel as if you can choose to be angry or not angry, but if you practice it you can.  The reason there is so much hope in children is because they are our future.  We can tap into the hope of mothers in the world right now.  I say mother’s because women understand this much easier than MOST men.  I emphasize this because many men are ambassadors of hope but it is easier for women.

Why do more men choose the message of hate than women? (this is where the Manifesto ended- with a question. I saved it as Hope Manifesto.)

I abruptly stopped typing and felt almost as if I had come out of a trance. It was surreal.  After years of reading about spirituality, and other people’s experiences I feel convinced that God was trying to get my attention.  I think he is trying to get everyone’s attention.  For some reason, my quiet peaceful environment that night in the hotel room, opened some space for me to “hear.”  In 2008, I was introduced to Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth.  The way he describes his experience sounds similar to what I went through.  Eckhart Tolle quoteMy understanding is, he quit his job as a Professor and started studying spirituality and reading everything he could find on the subject to help him understand.  I had a similar urge but life circumstances were much different for me.  I was not such a good listener.

My ego was diminished, but I forced it to come back because I couldn’t figure out how to function with only my soul. I was a mother and I had a family and responsibilities.  I remember thinking God should have chosen someone with a little more time on their hands!  I think if I had heard this story before I had the experience I may not have believed it, but once my heart was open, and I had this happen to me, I live with a much more open heart.  As Elizabeth Lessor said I was starting to become broken open.  Life has not been the same since.

I am curious to know of anyone who has experienced something like this in their life?

 

God Spoke to Me and I was Able to Hear

Ten years ago I had an experience that changed the trajectory of my life. It was a spiritual experience and I am now feeling compelled to share it.  It was summer of 2006. I was working as the Administrator of my hometown nursing home and serving on our state trade association Board of Directors.  I was living a life that had one speed- fast. I was working more than full-time, married, and I had three children age 6, 3, and 21 months.  I would often put the kids to bed and go back to work.  This was before I had a laptop and a smart phone.  There never seemed to be enough hours in the day. There definitely wasn’t enough of me to go around.  Everyone needed a piece of me.  I know many Moms can relate. I felt such a sense of responsibility for my family, the employees, the Board, and residents who were all counting on me.  It was during this time I was tucking my oldest daughter into bed, and she said, “Mom, it’s like you are here, but you are not really here.”  Be Here NowMy heart broke.  I knew exactly what she meant.  I wasn’t present with her. I was moving on to the next task.  I felt as if my life needed to change but I didn’t know how.

The trade association board I served on had an annual Summer board retreat. The retreat was in a peaceful location in Wisconsin which was several hours from my home.  It was big deal for me to leave my job, and my family for three days and two nights.  I remember feeling very overwhelmed by the trip but also looking forward to some time away.  I knew my location was very remote and the nearest town was 30 miles away. On the way I remember thinking I needed to fill up on gas in my mini-van before I arrived.  Like many thoughts I had during that phase of my life, it came and went.  I pulled up to the hotel and looked down in horror when I realized my van was on empty- the light was on!  I had forgotten to get gas and I did not have enough gas to make it to the nearest gas station.  I devised a plan.  I would park my van attend my meeting and talk to hotel staff about purchasing enough gas to get me to the gas station.  I took a deep breath and moved on with my day.

The night before I was going home, I was laying in my room by myself. Being by myself was a rare experience for me.  There I was, alone with my thoughts.  I have always been a curious person and I am intrigued by how people respond to things. One of my mentors, a friend, and a woman I look up to was the President of our trade association -Gayle.  She oozes grace and class.  Hope quotes- classI had been at a meeting earlier that summer and we were discussing some tough legislative issues facing nursing homes.  As always, Gayle was professional, articulate, calm, and optimistic. Gayle always delivered a hopeful message despite dire circumstances. A colleague who ran a rural nursing home was really angry that our trade association had not done enough for the providers, and attacked Gayle verbally at the meeting.  I was appalled and found it so disturbing and unprofessional.  For some reason that night I was pondering that situation and I asked a question, “Why do people attack those who have a message of hope?”

What happened next was so shocking, I will do my best to describe it.  I had a wave of information come over me so fast and furious, it scared me.  The energy of the information was so strong I jumped out of my bed!  It was as if I was given the answer to my question from somewhere else.  I was given six names of men in fast succession- Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan.

Then came the realization these were all men who were murdered or shot! I did not at the time know how Gandhi had died, but later discovered that he had been murdered.  I was in first grade when Ronald Reagan had been shot.

“Hopeful people are killed!?”, I asked? Who was I asking!? That’s when I jumped up in fear.  Then another answer came.  Their light was so bright, it scared people- not all people but those who lived in fear.  These men all had a message of hope despite circumstances that gave them disadvantages and could have made them bitter and angry.  Their message of hope resonated with many, but the fact that they beat the odds, and overcame their disadvantaged circumstances was a threat to those who saw themselves as victims.  That is why they were murdered or shot.  The fear of hope killed four of these five men.  This answer scared me.

Then I had three women come to me- Mother Theresa, Gayle, and Oprah.

Then the next “thought” or answer came.  When I use the word thought, that is not an accurate description but I struggle to find the appropriate description.  The words came from somewhere else and I had never experienced this before.  The answer was, “They do not kill women.  We need more women.”  I had a peaceful feeling come over me and it felt as if I was floating.  The energy inside of me shifted and I did not feel like the same person. It was very overwhelming.

I fell asleep that night wondering what had happened to me. I went to breakfast the next morning and I tried to speak about it to a friend of mine, and tears started flowing down my face.  I could see a look of worry on her face, and I knew I wasn’t explaining myself well.  I felt very light, airy, and not at all like myself.

I packed up my belongings, brought my luggage to the lobby and waited for the valet to bring my van around.  A man came up to me looked me right in my eyes and put my suitcase in my van.  Hope quotes- angelsI remember thinking he had the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen.  They were piercing and looked as if they were looking right into my soul.  I felt as if he knew I had changed.  I got in my van and started driving away.

It was then I remembered.  I had forgotten to ask about gas for my van.  I slammed on my brakes. I turned around to look for the valet and he had vanished.  I started driving, and was shocked to realize my tank had over a quarter tank of gas. It was no longer on empty.  The light was not on.  I kept driving expecting it to drop to empty.  I kept driving, and driving, and driving  all the while watching my gas gage in disbelief.  I got closer to a town, I saw a gas station and my gage dropped to E- the light came on.  An answer came again, “God will give you everything you need.”  God's TimingThe tears started flowing.  To this day, I do not know how that happened.  The valet would not have had time to put gas in unless he had done it earlier in the week.  I call him my angel.  I no longer need to know what happened.  What I do know is the experience changed me, and I have never looked back. I am ten years out from this spiritual experience and have learned so much. The journey has been filled with so many lessons.

I would love to hear about anyone else who has had a life changing spiritual experience?

My Theory on the Appeal of 50 Shades of Grey

I have had an ongoing debate with my boyfriend about the appeal of 50 Shades of Grey. I first heard about this book a few years ago at a golf tournament.  A woman, who is the Principal at a school was talking about this new book she was reading and I was intrigued.  I thought it was a love story.  I heard a couple more mentions of it, so decided I should buy it to see what everyone was talking about.  My daughter was having a birthday party, and we went to the beach.  I pulled out my new book, sat back in my beach chair and started reading.  Just when I realized this was definitely not your average love story, I was interrupted by one of my daughter’s friends who said to me, “My Grandma is reading that book!”

After I finished the third book, I must say I was relieved it was over. The controlling relationship made me extremely uncomfortable since I had personal experience with that in my life.  I did start pondering what made the series go viral?  My boyfriend is convinced it was the sex.  He finds it funny that so many women read these books and I get exasperated every time I explain my theory to him, which makes him laugh even harder.  Women are certainly not supposed to enjoy reading about sex- a super sexist idea that still exists!  I am intrigued why so many women did- including Grandma’s!  I have no doubt that was part of the interest for many women, but my theory is, it is more than that.

Does anyone remember the lobster episode in Friends?  Phoebe is talking about Ross and Rachel’s relationship and she announces, “She is his lobster.”  Quote- your're my lobsterWhen her friends look puzzled.  Phoebe goes on to say, “Come on you guys, it’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life. You know what? You can actually see old lobster couples walking around their tank, you know, holding claws.”  I have researched this claim, and in typical Phoebe fashion, she is making this up, but we get the point.  Women love this idea.  The idea that a man and a woman are soul mates, and once they find each other they don’t have eyes for anyone else.

To me, that is the appeal of these books. It’s not the sex but the desire.  In my opinion, the real appeal is the power of one woman changing a man’s view of what he thought he wanted out of life.  He sees her for her, and wants a real relationship. He desires her but he desires more than just her body.  He sees her and can’t live without her. She is his lobster.  He chooses her when he could choose anyone.  He only has eyes for her.quote- the sun loved

It doesn’t hurt that these are two beautiful people, one is rich, powerful, and physically beautiful and bonus- he’s emotionally disturbed! People love reading about or watching rich, beautiful people with problems. Think soap operas.  Our society has been sold the myth that if you are rich enough, and skinny enough, you will be free of all problems. These myths are so harmful but they certainly persist.  It does make people feel better about their own lives to see rich, beautiful people with problems.

There are so many things wrong with the relationship in the books, not to mention the idea that an all-consuming relationship is the answer to people’s happiness, but I am not analyzing that. I just want to make the point that many women and I would argue some men fantasize about the idea of someone seeing you, really seeing you, and the desire for you blinds them from the desire for anyone else. And by the way, I also think you can be a spiritual person and still have read 50 Shades of Grey.

Is anyone with me on this?

My Love for Books

Oprah Quote on booksLooking back, there are stages of my life defined by the type of books I have been reading. Recently, I have been listening to audio books rather than reading. Because my life is so full, my most consistent “down” time is often my drive to and from work- I have a 20-minute commute one way.  I LOVE books and as far back as I can remember, books were a part of my life. They inspire me and help me learn.  I found myself saying, “I don’t have time to read anymore.”  I operate with the strategy that if I start annoying myself with a complaint, I either stop repeating the complaint or take some action to change it.  Eckhart Tolle- changeI asked for guidance on how to find time to pursue my passion to read.  Very quickly, I had the thought, “I have time in the car.”  The next day, I was at the library checking out an audio book.  Because I grew up in the 80’s I still say books on “tape.”  I really wish I could stop saying that!?  CD’s are even outdated.  I digress… Often times, as Bishop T.D. Jakes says a solution to a problem is only “one thought” away.  I challenge you to listen to one of your frequent complaints, ask for a solution, and the answer will come.   Often the answer has been there all the time.  It’s so obvious you can’t believe you didn’t think of it sooner. As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I am “reading” again and I love it!

I LOVE words, I LOVE books. Here are some of my favorites from different seasons of my life:

Childhood- my animal phase:

Curious George– I had a stuffed monkey named George of course, that went with me everywhere and I told my Aunt Jane I was, “NEVER getting married, NEVER having kids and living with only monkeys.” As any smart Aunt would do, she had me put it in writing and gave my declaration written in crayon, complete with pictures of me surrounded by “my monkeys” to me on my wedding day.  Since my marriage ended in divorce 12 years later, perhaps my 8-year-old self was on to something.

Charlotte’s Web, Where the Red Fern Grows, All Creatures Great and Small are some of my favorites. I devoured the James Herriot books.  all-things-bright-and-beautifulIt was the first time I was introduced to the self-deprecating, humorous writing style I am so attracted to.  He had the art of describing the characters in his books so you felt as if you really knew them and he had the ability to really find the funny, and the spiritual in himself and those he interacted with.  I LOVE his writing style. The Bible– it was around this time I decided I would attempt to read the Bible.  I was struggling with many of the words so I started underlining all of the words I knew.  Somewhere there is a copy of a Bible with pencil marks of all the words I knew at age 10.  I still haven’t read every page but it continues to inspire me.

My coming of age phase:

Are you There God?, it’s Me Margaret, by Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High books. My best friend in 6th grade-Jessica introduced me to these books.  For those of you who haven’t read them, the books revolve around the two character’s- twins Jessica, and Elizabeth.  Jessica is the “fun”, spontaneous twin who gets all the boys, and Elizabeth is the “responsible” twin who is jealous of her free-spirited sister.  They are both beautiful on the outside, but their insides could not be more different.  I have a twin sister, Heather, so these books really spoke to me at that age and time. I loved Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

I also was an avid magazine reader. bopOver the years I found time to read Bop Magazine, Tiger Beat, Seventeen (what American girl didn’t!?), Sassy– does anyone remember Sassy!?  My room was covered in posters of Duran Duran, and Madonna! I currently get Time magazine but have a hard time keeping up with reading it. I love the pictures attached to the stories in magazines however.

My business book Phase:

I have come a long way from Bop or so I would like to believe.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Good to Great, Strength Finders, and Hardwiring Excellence, Lean In are some that stick out in this list.  Good-is-the-Enemy-of-GreatMy latest favorite- The Story Teller’s Secret is one of the best I have read (listened to) in a LONG time.  I still quote those authors often.  I can hear my friends saying, “oh my Gosh she talks about these books all the time.”  When I read a book that moves me, I feel compelled to share it with everyone.  If I was Oprah I would buy everyone a copy just like she does and say you HAVE to read this!  It will change your life.  Because of my income, I usually borrow the books out, or give friends the CD’s from the library. What I have learned is, some books help people at different times, or not at all.  That is what is so cool.  Books are as unique as we are!

My inspirational people book phase:

I LOVE reading about inspirational people and leaders! The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, The Snowball about my business hero, Warren Buffet. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren, Team of Rivals about Abraham Lincoln to name a few.

My spiritual book Phase:

I am still in this one… I can’t get enough!  Some of my favorites are:

A New Earth, The Power, Heaven is for Real, Eat, Pray, Love, Broken Open, The Four Agreements, The Power of Intention, God Winks, The Power, Big Magic, Quotes-From-Elizabeth-Gilbert-Big-MagicProof of Heaven, The Untethered Soul, Love Warrior, Radical Acceptance, The Gifts of Imperfection, The Universe has your Back, The Awakened Family.  I could write a blog post on each of these books and how they have shaped and guided my life. I just might.

No matter what I am going through, the one thing that convinces me that God is speaking directly to us more than anything is through books.  When I read a book that speaks right to my heart, right to my soul and it says, “you are not alone. Someone else has the same thoughts and feelings as me,” I am so energized because it feels that book was meant just for me. Most of these books are top seller’s which indicates it moved thousands of people.  How cool as that?  We are all connected by the energy of the books that we have mutually read.

I ordered Broken OpenHow Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lessor from Amazon after my divorce. Broken Open It was a used copy, and there were tabbed and underlined phrases in the book that spoke right to what I was experiencing at the time.  I still have the book tabbed just the way it came.  One underlined quote is, “The question is, what does your soul want to learn?”  That is the perfect question to ask when you are facing difficult times.

My Escape Phase:

The Twilight Series, The Divergent Series, and many Jodi Picoult books.

My word porn phase: What!? I can’t believe I wrote that:

50 Shades of Grey and Sandra Day… I am ashamed to admit this but the book sales from these two Author’s prove that I am not alone. If I was a true writing snob, I could not have read them.  Although I noticed the writing quality, a writing snob I am not.  I think the sexuality “theme” in my blog description came from the question, “Can you be a serious, spiritual person if you have read “50 Shades of Grey?” I have also had an ongoing debate with a friend about why those books went viral.  More on that in my next blog post.

I am so grateful for all of the inspiring words that have been written, and for the opportunity to read them. I love when you read or hear something and it has the power to change your perspective.  When words, quotes, or stories stick I believe they stick for a reason. There are lessons everywhere, and no doubt there are lessons to learn in books.

I am curious to know what books have inspired you for the different seasons of your life?