Posted in audience participation, connections, differences, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Workplace wellness

Today’s post is full of broad sweeping statements. Of course they are not true for every individual in every category. But I’m not going to make a disclaimer in every paragraph because it’s unwieldy to read.

Many companies are introducing (or have already introduced) wellness incentive plans regarding various biomarkers of their employees (with questionable legality).

But stress is seemingly worse for your health than any of the markers they’re measuring.

How many employers are actively seeking to reduce their employees’ stress levels?

None? Benefit of the doubt and say a few?

This embodies so many facets of America.

1. We’re unhealthy. We eat badly; we move insufficiently; we’re overweight and underslept; we lack meaningful community; we view vulnerability—necessary for connection—as a weakness; we prioritize work over play, over rest, over family; in addition to all of the -isms that culturally define us.

2. We don’t believe in health care as a right. Which, on a tangent, is mostly sick care. (For more details on that, see point #1.) Only people who work the right jobs for the right people for the right number of hours get to have health insurance. And even then, many of those people still have to pay for it. Sometimes a lot. And pay even more for their families to be covered. Which doesn’t even cover all of what’s potentially needed.

3. Companies are not interested in their people. They are interested in money. So they do whatever they can to siphon more money to the top people. (Because, despite current mindset, companies are not actually in themselves people. They’re just run by people. So we could more accurately say that the people at the top of companies are disinterested in everyone else in the company, so long as they continue to live large.)

Whether that’s hiring fewer salaried employees and expecting them to work more (sometimes way more) than 40 hours per week, or hiring more hourly employees part time so they don’t have to pay for benefits, or paying as little as possible, or countless other possibilities, the money needs to pour up.

It’s a giant mindset problem. A cultural problem. A mental health problem. A shaming problem. A physical health problem. An economic problem.

I don’t know how to fix it.

But I do know that I can contact people in charge of stuff (whether it’s government officials or company leaders), and I can vote. (Are you registered? If not, open another browser window and go do it now! People taking it all for themselves depend on your apathy to maintain or advance their position.)

And I can do my best to be the change I want to see, live my life out loud, and hope others join me. (And they do. They always do.)

Be the change. Be self-aware, even (especially) when it sucks. Be open. Be vulnerable. But be fierce.

(Except on the days that you just need to lay on the couch. Then just lay.)

Posted in differences, hope, know better do better, mindset

Breaking barriers

I get an email every weekday morning from “the universe.” Some of them say just the right thing on just the right day. Some … meh.

Today’s tied in to a post that I had a skeleton for already and decided to use the inspiration to fill it in.

“Performing miracles, Heat, isn’t a matter of doing the impossible, it’s a matter of redefining the possible.”

Running a mile in four minutes is an easy example. It was impossible, but once it was done, it was replicated hundreds of times. It’s not easy (and man, that’s fast!), but over 1400 men have done it so far. They just needed permission.

Another that comes to mind for me is climbing the Dawn Wall. In the last year, I saw the movie by the same name (on Netflix—watch it!) and read Tommy Caldwell’s book (The Push) about it. It’s a 3000-foot rock face in Yosemite, a place renowned for climbing. This particular bit of rock had never been free climbed and was considered unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed it in 19 days (after years of working on it). Not long after, it was climbed in eight days. It went from unclimbable to climbed to climbed in less than half the time in under a year.

Of course, this has application all over life, not just in elite athletics.

Women, people of color, queers are breaking barriers all over the place, which on one hand, is excellent! It’s about time!

On the other hand, it’s not cool or neat or fun that there are so many firsts for women, people of color, non-Christians, queer people. Because it’s 20 freaking 19.

But it does ask the question: what are we “not able” to do just because it hasn’t been done yet?

Posted in ebb & flow, hope, know better do better, mindset, vulnerability

The Liberty Bell

lib•er•ty (Merriam Webster)

the quality or state of being free:

  1. the power to do as one pleases
  2. freedom from physical restraint
  3. freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
  4. the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
  5. the power of choice

 

During our trip, we spent a just few hours in Philadelphia. We’d hoped to go to Independence Hall. It was sold out for the day, but we did get to see the Liberty Bell.

As I recall, when I was a kid, the bell was just kind of there, in a tiny building that you could just walk into. Now there are long lines outside of a large building full of history.

I’ll be honest: while The Kid and The Climbing Daddy were excited about going to see the Liberty, Bell, I wasn’t. But I learned some interesting things about it. Did I learn them before and forget them? Or did I not learn them before?

First, while we were waiting in line, I saw this quote engraved on the side of a building across the way:

Happily, the Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.

-George Washington, 1790

Um.

As we looked to that building in the distance, in front of us was a memorial to slaves, along with a less sugar-coated telling of their history than we were fed as kids.

The juxtaposition was jarring and sad. Our blindness to our mistreatment of others goes back to our earliest days. It’s embedded in our roots.

Sorry, George. You did some amazing things, and for those, you deserve credit and praise. But we have always sanctioned bigotry and assisted persecution (you owned slaves! your wife couldn’t vote or own land!) and continue to do so today.

As we continued into the building (hooray for climate control!), we read about the history of the bell, saw photos of xrays of it, saw tchotchktes of it.

Until the 1830s, it was the State House Bell. (All further quotes are from the exhibits in the Liberty Bell Center.)

Abolitionists in the 1830s gave the State House Bell a new name, Liberty Bell, recognizing the contradiction between the ideals of the Revolution and the reality of more than four million enslaved people.

I had no idea! People who realized we could do better renamed this icon. Its only name most of us know was assigned as part of the abolitionist movement! (I suspect there are people today who would insist it have its name returned to the State House Bell if they knew…)

Sadly, while slavery was ended, liberty is hardly what black folks enjoyed.

Following the Civil War, the Liberty Bell became a symbol of national reunification at the same time that civil rights were systematically denied to people based on the color of their skin.

The portion of the placard under that quote went on to clarify that “national reunification” was from a white perspective.

As the Liberty Bell increased in popularity as a symbol of freedom and liberty for white Americans during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it contrasted with the unrealized ideals of African Americans, Native Americans, other ethnic groups and women. While the Bell traveled the nation as a symbol of liberty, intermittent race riots, lynchings, and Indian wars presented an alternative picture of freedom denied.

At this point, I say: we know better. We can do better. We can do better for people of color (any color!). We can do better for women. We can do better for immigrants (regardless their status). Recognize that our system has benefitted you at the expense of others and work to fix it. No guilt, no shame (you didn’t build it!), just knowledge.

The rising tide raises all boats.

Posted in hope, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness

“I like you, just the way you are.”

I saw this a couple of months ago and saved it. I knew I wanted to share it—or the gist of it—at some point, but I wasn’t sure how. Finally, I just decided to quote it and cite it and let you just read the original.

A good portion of my pro-bono work is defending abused children. It’s a cause close to my heart. In the course of my work I met a man who was an adult survivor. You wouldn’t have known it looking at him. He was this gigantic Polynesian guy. Wild curly hair. I think of him every time I see Khal Drogo on GoT. He was counseling some of the little kids, and doing a fantastic job of it.

I visited his home to get his opinion on something and I noticed a little toy on his desk. It was Trolley. Naturally curious, I asked him about it. This is what he told me:

“The most dangerous time for me was in the afternoon when my mother got tired and irritable. Like clockwork. Now, she liked to beat me in discreet places so my father wouldn’t see the bruises. That particular day she went for the legs. Not uncommon for her. I was knocked down and couldn’t get back up. Also not uncommon. She gave me one last kick, the one I had come to learn meant ‘I’m done now’. Then she left me there upstairs, face in the carpet, alone. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. So I dragged myself, arm over arm, to the television, climbed up the tv cabinet and turned on the TV.

“And there was Mr. Rogers. It was the end of the show and he was having a quiet, calm conversation with those hundreds of kids. In that moment, he seemed to look me in the eye when he said ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most.

“It was like the hand of God, if you’re into that kind of thing. It hit me in the soul. I was a miserable little kid. I was sure I was a horrible person. I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I *knew* all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.

“It gave me hope. If that nice man liked me, then I wasn’t a monster. I was worth fighting for. From that day on, his words were like a secret fortress in my heart. No matter how broken I was, no matter how much it hurt or what was done to me, I could remember his words, get back on my feet, and go on for another day.

“That’s why I keep Trolley there. To remind me that, no matter how terrible things look, someone who had never met me liked me just for being me, and that makes even the worst day worth it to me. I know how stupid it sounds, but Mr. Rogers saved my life.”

The next time I saw him, he was talking to one of my little clients. When they were done with their session, he helped her out of her chair, took both of her hands, looked her in the eyes and said: “And remember, I like you just for being you.”

That, to me, is Mr. Rogers’ most powerful legacy. All of the little lives he changed and made better with simple and sincere words of love and kindness.

But I have to say—the more I learn about Fred Rogers, the more impressed I am. Maybe over the summer, I’ll revisit some old episodes…

 

Posted in about me, gardening, hope

Hope and excitement through plants

One of my biggest sadnesses in living in an apartment was not having space for garden beds (or not wanting to have to take out beds before moving out).

I was happy to have a house with a yard when The Climbing Daddy and I bought this one!

We’re in our second spring of gardening, and it’s lovely and exciting and gets a little bigger/fuller each year.

What’s out there? (Besides the unstoppable Bermuda grass?)

In one bed: tomato, two types of peppers, eggplant, cucumber, lima beans, lettuce. Lettuce was the only one from seed and I was late putting it in, so we’ll see if there’s any yield.

In the other bed: corn and squash.

In the small bed: strawberries. That bed is new this year and we’re hoping the plants do their magic and send runners out. (It would be great if something desirable would spread like the weeds do!)

In pots: tomatoes, Swiss chard (also planted late), and lots of unknowns. We have a few volunteers, so as they mature, we’ll find out what they are. Also, we got some clippings from a neighbor but we didn’t label them. While several didn’t root and are no longer with us, several more did! Blackberry or mulberry or somethings in that family.

Five fruit trees: apple, peach, plum, Mexican lime, tangelo.

Some succulents, flowers (some still blooming from last year, some growing from seed), a hibiscus, a bottlebrush. The Kid’s cactus.

Seeing new plants sprout up, flowers appear and turn into fruits—it’s all very exciting! As this gets bigger and more complicated, we’re going to need a better watering plan, but for now, going out with the hose still works.

Fingers crossed!