Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shine Your Light

Paris is bleeding and my heart is broken.

The beautiful City of Lights is darkened today by tragedy and destructive acts of violence. By black hatred.

There is nowhere on this planet that I have dreamed of more often than Paris ... its sites beckon me. I so long to walk by the Seine, browse the beauty of the Louvre, and sit in a street cafe to watch the artists of Montmatre near that place in Paris most dear to me ... Sacre Coeur. A poster of this white church once held a place of honor in my childhood bedroom.

But today, as I awoke to tales of horror and hate, the beauty of my dream is stained. And my spirit cries out against the senselessness and the cowardly actions of individuals bent on destruction.

When did violence become the answer? When did cruelty become the choice to influence change? And when did killing become an acceptable action to place upon a "to do list"?

There is so much hate surrounding us ... so much intolerance and self-righteousness. So much finger-pointing and condemnation of differences. I am crying as I type and think of parents who have lost children ... and children who must push on without parents. Of the loss of lives in a war of hate that no one is winning. I think of a nation devastated by the echo of bombs and gunshots and wonder what we have come to that this has become so commonplace.

I don't understand. Oh, I realize I am naive. But Please ... someone tell me how we've allowed our difference to become loathing, treatable only by acts of violence and suicide bombers. When did Peace and Cooperation fall victim ... and how did we allow that to happen? What do organizations like ISIS want to create? Or do they seek only to destroy? What do they want us to hear? How did they get to a place where cruelty is mistaken as the only way to create change? Why do they choose Hate?

I don't face such extreme violence. I don't hold onto that kind of Hate. But, I do struggle with the affects of Hatred and Unkindness, like everyone else I'm sure. Mind, the violence I face doesn't compare to what happend on the streets of Paris -- it exists more on an emotional level -- yet it affects me nonetheless. Disdain, dismissiveness or perceived unkindness from others has its affects on my spirit. A thoughtless act or word that that resulted in a breakdown in a relationship or something even worse. I struggle with difficult moments and people who have perhaps blasted holes in my heart. They had their reasons. Their agenda. But my response is a choice. Do I return cruelty for cruelty? Hate for Hate? Am I unkind when someone is unkind to me? Am I self-righteous? And what is the result of my actions?

The other morning as I read my Daily Bread Bible lesson, the writer discussed dealing with difficult people. We all have them ... the people we just don't gel with or the people who we've had a falling out with. People who dislike us because we may have wronged them at one time, unintentionally even. People who we don't see eye to eye with and may never find common ground.

How do we choose to deal with such individuals? With violence and cruelty? By avoiding eye contact and steering clear? By gossip or bullets? By bombs and bloodshed?

After reading this message the other day, I decided to take a different route with someone with whom I've had "issues." I've decided that silence and avoidance are not what I want. That differences are just that and not everyone may be my best friend but I can choose kindness.

See there is beauty in even the most difficult person if we can get past our own issues to discover it. The painful energy they are giving out may be reflective of some deeper pain they are feeling. Perhaps it is something they are struggling with ... a demon of their own which we know nothing about.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

So, after months of silence, I spoke. I initiated contact. I reached out. Twice. I planted the seeds. And, I moved past the past, feeling lighter as the healing energy surged through my spirit. I chose to shine my light instead of hide it under a bushel ... I chose to make peace instead of flame the fire of separation.

Perhaps the play I'm in right now influenced me. For my character personally, it's about forgiveness. Not forgiveness of others, but forgiveness and acceptance of my own self for all my limitations and losses. For me, it's about reaching out and accepting the light and love of others. It's about renewal. It's about discovering that who I am and what I offer is enough ... and beautiful in and of itself. And it's about Shining My Light for others and offering them the same opportunity.

Self-Love. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Wait, that's what I need too. I have much in common with my character of Rose ... 

We spend so much time in the Darkness, judging ourselves and others. Condemning and complaining. Firing bullets -- literal and figurative -- at others to deflate them and lesson them in our eyes. To make us bigger and them smaller. To break them down so we can rise higher.

Today, I shine my light toward Paris. Toward those broken who have chosen hate and those victims of that hate. And I shine my light toward those who may have once hurt me ... or whom I may have inadvertently or even intentionally once hurt. 

My heart bleeds for Paris and all those who have lost in this sea of dark violence shadowing our planet. I pray for peace. I pray we can find a way past this hatred. I pray we can find a way to shine our lights, different as they may be, to create beauty instead of hate.

And I pray that Paris can find its light again ... 
                                                                                                      -- Jenni

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Take The Time Today

Today, I am baking an apple pie. It's 1:07pm -- as I begin this post -- and I have already snuggled with my cat, caught up with my son, stripped beds of sheets, done two loads of laundry, purchased necessary items for that same son at the local CVS, swept my kitchen floor and attended two funerals.

It's the last one that made the decision of what I'm doing this afternoon. It's the last one on that "done" list that inspired me to bake a pie.

I'm still wearing my dressy clothes as I type -- my Angel open heart necklace, skirt, tights, heels and dressy blouse. I swept the hard-wood floor and launched the second load of laundry in my dressy church clothes. Feel a bit like Donna Reed.

To tell the truth, I've already had a challenging week and I will admit to some weariness. I'm in a play. We have had a busy tech week. I wear two hair pieces, spend over an hour getting them on and my head is sore. Whereas some may choose to spend the weekend after such hecticness lounging in front of the TV, I am baking a pie. Or, I will be once I finish this post.

Today I said goodbye and honored the life of a lovely soul who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. But before that, I attended a funeral on the other side of town to support a coworker who lost her father. And on Monday, I will bid farewell to a theatre friend -- one who actually once gave me the opportunity to direct him in what turned out to be the last musical he performed at my local community theatre -- who also lost a battle to cancer. I am sad at the loss of so many beautiful spirits ... and hopeful they have a place on the stage, at the card table, or in the choir in a heavenly realm in their new shiny, transformed state.

Life happens. We get busy. Our priorities shift from caring about the people around us to "getting stuff done." We allow ourselves to feel hassled. We shut down and shut out.

Today as I sat in the church next to a very dear and very important friend of mine, I found perspective. I was truly blessed as I listened to a song my friend Conny recorded that she wanted shared in her Celebration of Life ... it was her taking the time to say Thank You to the people important to her. What am amazing message. See none of us knows how much time we are allowed on this planet. So we should make the most of it ... and we should remind the people who are important to us that they hold a place of honor in our hearts.

We should tell the people we enjoy spending time with how much we enjoy them ... whether our time together is limited or lengthy. We should make time for the "important" things, and let the rest go.

So, amidst the rushing, I have taken more time lately to bake cookies and snacks for my kids. I even made a great sacrifice and spent a couple hours last week catching up with a friend I hadn't had time to get together with in a month. I graciously helped her 'break in'  her new hot tub.

I messaged a friend who lives far away.

I made time to get dinner or a drink with friends who are important to me ... amidst our crazy schedules.

I have straightened my kids rooms and dressed my daughter's dolls up simply to see the resulting smiles -- and enjoyed doing it too.

And now, with this post, I speak words I don't always take the time to express. In case you don't know this ...

You are important to me.

And because I care and I don't know how much time I have to make a difference on this planet, I will reach out. I will send light. I will care for those who are important to me with unconditional acceptance and no expectations.

Whether we are gathered around the dinner table or have an evening once a week to lounge and watch TV or grab lunch in between yoga and picking up kids or take a few minutes over a cup of tea to talk politics or get a beer at the bar ... each moment was important to me because you -- the people I spent those times with -- are vital to me ...

You bring sunshine and joy to my heart. You challenge my thinking. You help me grow. You teach me things and give me more than I can ever express ...

Whether we took a walk and laughed or chatted on the phone across the miles or shared stories over knitting needles or took a drive ... I enjoyed the moments we shared. Whether you gave me a Valentine or took dance classes with me or performed with me in a show ... You gave me something in that moment. And you continue to give meaning to my life. Thank YOU for taking time to share with me.

When I was in fourth grade, my best friend Sheila Stratton and I listened to a 45 called Thank You For Being A Friend ... It was sung by Andrew Gold. Some of you may remember it ...

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
your heart is true you're a pal and a confidant
I'm not aschamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow...

Oh there's more to it. I'm sure iTunes has the song, if you're curious. But for now, I just want to thank you for the moments -- large, small, intense, passionate, quiet, simple, theatrical, etc. Thank you for making time for me. Thank you for choosing to spend your busy days or evenings with me. Thank you for your text of encouragement or the call just to say hello. Thank you for the Angel Card. Thank you for dinner and listening ... thank you for sharing.

You give meaning to my life ... you are special ... I enjoy you and whatever time we get ... I treasure you and our times together.

Now ... I need to go and bake that pie ...
                                                                                                -- Jenni

Monday, November 2, 2015

Share The Road!

I reside in a small-big town in the Midwest. Small enough to run into people you know at the grocery store or walking down the street. But large enough to boast at least 4 McDonald's and a few places you can blend in and disappear to when you want some quiet anonymity.

Recently my small-big town added bike lanes to its streets. They are highly confusing things believe me.

Sometimes there is a line with a symbol beside it.

At first I mistakenly thought the lane "lined off" was the bike lane. Silly me. Here I am riding along merrily in my own little world, protected from those mean old cars ... until I nearly ran into a parked car. Oops.

Point of Order: Why do you need a line if the symbol already indicates that a bike should be riding on the right hand side of the road. Don't bikers ALWAYS ride on the right hand side anyway and don't bikers know to avoid parked cars?

Other times there are two  lines with a slightly different symbol inside it. In these instances, I now understand a bike is to be ridden within the confines of those two parallel lines. And now a once two lane road is classified as a one lane car road and one lane bike road.

Point of Order: If there is no bike in that lane, can a car drive in it? Can I pass on the right? And what happens when I need to turn? Do I turn from the outer lane? Isn't that a no no?

Hence ... the confusion.

Along with the paint job came numerous signs warning bikers to stay off the sidewalks in the downtown area. They site the City Code. Isn't that friendly? But I get it. I understand the "why." Some busy shopper is walking out of a store and a bike slams into them, the rider oblivious with earbuds blaring music from their iPhone into their heads. Perhaps some innocent diner with a carry-out box gets lambasted by a racing bike. Ouch! Or someone scrolling through their contact list to send a text and not paying attention is greeted by screeching bike wheels.

I understand the why ... it just all seems extreme and unnecessary and government getting involved in what SHOULD be common sense.

Yeah, I said it. "Should."


Bikes and Cars have ridden on streets together for years. We have somehow managed to share the road. Oh there are instances of accidents. People can be careless. People can make mistakes. People can make bad decisions. But, we survived without the lines.

People and bikers have navigated sidewalks together too. Bikes have ridden down sidewalks to avoid the traffic and the drivers backing out of parking spaces. Drivers chatting on cell phones or just not looking behind them very well. I mean, backing out of parking spaces is hazardous enough without tossing a bike into the mix ...

But that's what we've done now. The bike lane downtown resides right behind those parked cars ,,,

My small-big town has invested quite a bit of cash into these painted white lines, symbols and signs. I honor and respect the leaders of this small-big town. I consider more than one of these leaders to be a good friend of mine. And I truly believe these leaders get up each day and work for the betterment of my small-big town. I believe and honor their efforts and good intentions.

But bike lanes and signs make me sad. They tell me that signs were needed because people don't know how to share ... how to pay attention and look out for others ... how to look beyond their dashboard -- or bike helmet -- and SEE.

For some, the lessons of Sharing taught in Kindergarten didn't stick. As drivers and bikers need special lanes and signs, other people need expensive and often ugly signs by the side of the road to tell them DO NOT LITTER. (Obviously the people who litter can't read since there is a lot of litter by the side of the road.)  There are even people who make special rules to not use the main staircase or instruct the people using their space to take a back entrance (to feel control maybe?) and maintain the integrity of a facility they manage. They need to separate instead of integrate. For some reason, power and separation have meaning to them.

I wonder how these people did on the playground ... did they share the sandbox? Or did they divide and make rules to put others in a different place.

I am sorry we need painted bike lanes, signs and special rules to tell people to be considerate of others. I am sorry people feel a need to separate or hold themselves higher than others and thus make people around them feel small. I'm sorry we can't all play in the same sandbox and appreciate the uniqueness of each other ... and honor and celebrate the fact that we aren't all the same. I'm sorry that we didn't all learn the value and joy of true sharing.

Too bad there are people out there who didn't read Robert Fulgrum's All I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It's not too late ...

Because if they did ... and they truly understood and embraced the message in that poem, we could spend our small-big town money on park care or improvement or road repairs or other welcoming, friendly small-big town stuff. We could enjoy the main staircase and have fun together instead of feeling misunderstood or hostile or frustrated. We could play in the sandbox together and just enjoy the toys.

But we have bike lanes ... Just what does that say?                                                                                                                                                                                 -- Jenni