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via Our Red Front Door by Linda McKenney (MY FRONT DOOR Series)

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Holiday Season 2019

This year we didn’t send Thanksgiving cards, our tradition that began in 2001.  That was the year we’d all suffered trauma to varying degrees.  When it got closer to Thanksgiving, I wanted to share what we were feeling and connect to others.  I’d also had my consciousness raised regarding close friends who did not celebrate the Christian Christmas.  Thanksgiving cards with letters just seemed right.   Each year, I tried to write something inspirational for our friends and family.  This year, I just wasn’t feeling inspirational.

 

As cards started arriving at our home, I felt the pull to try to resurrect my usual optimism.  I looked for that original letter, which I remembered having a theme of hope.  Alas, that one was not saved. But as I was browsing, I found a letter from several years ago that seems right for 2019.  The year that many of us don’t feel safe.  We feel isolated.  Many of us are suffering some kind of trauma.  And so here’s the substance of that letter, which may sound familiar to some of you who received it several years ago. . . .

 

I was listening to a podcast talking about a survey of children four to six years old regarding the subject of love.  The children were each asked what love meant.  One little boy, age six, said that when someone loves you, they say your name differently, and your name is safe in their mouth.  Simple yet profound.

 

This holiday season I want to focus on love.  Give it freely and give myself permission to accept love when offered.  My wish for you this holiday season, is to think about all of the people who keep your name safe in their mouth and those that you cherish as well.  I hope your list is long, and your mouth is full.

 

 

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I marched today.

I’d had some trepidation regarding the Women’s March in Washington and a good excuse not to participate.  I’m in St. Croix.

That being the case, with mixed feelings, the idea of joining that historic March was off the table, but not forgotten.   Many dear friends were posting about the March on social media.  They’re not only marching in our Capital but in cities across the nation.  I thought that the only way I could feel connected was to pray and sit in silent solidarity, on this beautiful island miles away from all of them.

And then I saw the poster, tucked away, in the bathroom of a small restaurant on the beach.  I’d not seen it anywhere else.   The universe was beckoning me.  I’m marching.

My husband asks, “Is it okay if I join you?  Or is this just a thing for women?”

“I think that would be great.  It’s about equality and human rights.”  I visit the Women’s March webpage and read to him.

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

“Okay, I’m in,” he says.

We marched today.

The Women’s March webpage also states that the movement follows the principles of Kingian non-violence.  I’m not familiar with that term, so I Google it.  And find that these principles evolved from Dr. Martin Luther King’s concept of a Beloved Community, a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.

In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.

We marched today.  We were a part of the Beloved Community of St. Croix.

Our march today was not against, but for . . .

For our daughters and granddaughters who I pray will someday live in a world where women are respected and treated as equals.  Where women will not be judged on their looks, but on their intellect and capabilities.

As I marched, I couldn’t help but think about . . . .

  • The women and girls around the world who are made to marry as children or trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery.
  • The women who are refused access to education, political participation and prevented from making deeply personal choices in their personal lives.
  • The women trapped in conflict where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war.
  • Mary, who I met yesterday. She couldn’t come because she had to work.  From her I learned that the United States citizens on St. Croix and other U.S. Territories cannot vote in the Presidential election.  The Territories, not being states, can’t appoint electors to the Electoral College– and therefore US citizens residing there can’t vote in general elections for President.

The March ended on the grounds of D. Hamilton National Park, where Fort Christiansted’s yellow walls rise up from the green grass.  Just a few days prior, we’d visited the fort and I went down into the dungeon, where slaves who’d committed a crime, as simple as slapping a white person, were imprisoned.  All five feet, four and one-half inches of me could not stand up in the dungeon.  I looked at the women around me.  A significant part of the crowd were residents, some of them direct descendants of the slaves brought here to run the sugar plantations.

Now the March is over and my heart is heavy, the jubilance diminished.

Sometimes the most difficult thing is making the decision to act.  This March was easy compared to what my long dead sisters and women all over the world have suffered in the struggle for human rights.

Will I be brave enough to do more?

Can I be like my spirit sister, Susan B. Anthony?

The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled, the more I gain.”          – Susan B. Anthony

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Originally we were immigrants.

When Columbus met the Arawak people of the Bahama Islands, he and subsequent European explorers noted that they were remarkable for their hospitality and belief in sharing.  A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants were left on the island as a result of forced slavery and the search for gold.

Originally we were immigrants.

In New England, the elite of the Puritans wanted war but the ordinary Englishmen did not and often refused to fight.  The Indians certainly did not want war but they matched atrocity with atrocity.  When it was over three thousand Indians were dead.

Massacres took place on both sides.  The English developed a tactic of warfare: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy.

Ultimately the Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when European explorers first came to the Americas would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. All this because of the desire for land and resources.

I’m a descendant of immigrants.

When I read Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States, I was appalled at what took place when we first settled this country.   These immigrants were my ancestor’s ancestors.  As a descendant, are my hands not stained with blood?

I don’t believe that by characterizing a whole group as terrorist, we will solve this problem of violence.  I look forward to a time when we do not vilify a whole group of people based on the actions of a few.

Perception is what you think and feel, but may not be fact.  Our perception is tainted by our experiences, culture, outside influence, etc.  If we interpret the world through the eyes of a racist, homophobe or extremist, it will be our truth.  If we interpret the world with eyes of kindness, compassion and optimism, that will be our truth.

 

 

 

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Hit and Run

This is not a usual blog post, but one I feel compelled to write.  It’s an open letter to the person who backed into our car at SUNY Oneonta and didn’t leave a note.

Dear Seems-to-Lack-Integrity Hit And Run Person,

The damage you did to our car cost us.  It cost us time and inconvenience, as we had to wait for the campus police to assess the situation and submit an accident report.  They determined this to be a hit and run.  We had to fill out an accident report for New York State and make sure it was submitted within a certain period of time.  It cost us time as we reported the accident to our insurance company.  We lost more time from our lives having the damage assessed and will suffer the inconvenience of not having our vehicle for two days while its repaired.  And it cost us the amount of our deductible, $500, as the damage exceeds that amount.

All that considered, I think this incident cost you even more.  It chipped away a large piece of your integrity, the foundation of character.  Integrity is the value that guarantees all other values.  Even if you feel justified in leaving the scene, deep inside your psyche, you’ve done damage.  Allowing this type of behavior to be your modus operandi, will result in your good karma looking like Swiss cheese.

I understand that you may have felt fear or embarrassment, causing you to flee.  But allowing those feelings to be your life compass will only make you weaker not stronger.

But the most significant damage may not have directly impacted you.  If you were there to watch your preteen daughter play basketball, you’ve demonstrated to her that it’s okay to lie by submission.  You’ve taught her that when one no one is looking, it’s okay to not own up to your mistakes.  You’ve taught her that other people’s property does not matter.  You’ve taught her that fairness and integrity is inconsequential.  You’ve now constructed a faulty compass for her, that will weaken her as she navigates her way through life.

This has cost you much more than we have suffered.

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My Valentine

It didn’t start out as a love affair. I took everything you offered and seldom thought about what you needed. We were never apart. You’d think that would mean I’d have more awareness of you. But for so long, I took you for granted. I abused you. I tortured you and asked more of you than you could easily give. And yet you rose to the challenge.

In the beginning, it took you awhile to do what I asked. We floundered together. Trial and error. Bumps and bruises. Until finally, we were off and running.  Together forever.

I was often ashamed of you. Yet I never took responsibility for our relationship. I was envious of what others had. I began a campaign to change you.

I starved you and denied you. I didn’t listen to you. I ignored your voice in favor of the transformation I so longed for. And yet, you stayed with me. You made your best effort to be what I wanted you to be. But always, we’d end up back in the same place.

Eventually, you began to let me know that you needed something different. At first I resisted the change. I knew it would be hard and after all, I get to choose how we journey through life. You may have your little ways of letting me know what you need, but that didn’t scare me.

Then your warnings magnified. No longer little hints that surfaced occasionally, now every day and often, your message was delivered.

I need love!

I need nourishment!

I need protection!

I need to move!

I need attention!

Your cacophony made my head swim. Your twinges, restrictions and throbbing could no longer be ignored. I began to realize that, while you’d never leave me, you could certainly make life more painful and difficult.

I started paying attention to you. I’d notice your hot buttons. I’d notice how you reacted when I put something inside of you. I’d notice how you got even when I didn’t take you out.

I decided that we did indeed, need to make this a love affair. If I want you to be your best, I have to help you. I promise to nurture you. I promise to walk with you. I promise to fill you with what you need. I promise to be gentle with you. I promise to love you as you are and not try to change you.

I am so grateful for you and the places you take me.

Happy Valentine’s Day dear body.

 

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Source: Christmas Memories, story by Linda McKenney (ME, DURING THE HOLIDAYS Poetry and Prose Series)

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Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  And as I read commemorative pieces on the internet, I can’t help but think about how meaningful his song Imagine is right now.  Yes, we’re afraid, for ourselves and those we love.  This is the time of year we generally are feeling the love.  But that’s not the case for so many of us.  What seems to be emanating in the world is hate and suspicion.

I’m not advocating for an abandonment of prudence, but we can balance that with compassion.  There are terrorists that we cannot reason with.  But they are in the minority.  Throughout history there have been senseless killings in the name of some religious belief.  But those are distorted beliefs.  I hold on to the belief that we are more alike than we are different.  And in this time of fear and suspicion, we need to find our commonalities and an end to senseless violence and death.

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer

But [I hope] I’m not the only one

“Merry Christmas!”

“Light the candles and be blessed.
Get a wish and hope that it will be given.
Happy Hanukkah!”

“Habari gani”

“Umoja”

“Kujichagulia”

 

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Source: Sky Bar, story by Linda McKenney (MY SWEET WORD Series)

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My Calves Are Big

Recently a dear friend suggested that I delete the word “big” to describe my calves from an essay I’d written.    She said that I didn’t need to self-deprecate.  I deleted it, but that got me to thinking, “Wait a minute.  I was not intending to be self-deprecating.  I just wanted to describe my calves.”   They are bigger than some and smaller than others.  I will not need to ask Lloyd’s of London to insure them.  In addition to their size, they are scarred, laced with varicose veins and speckled with brown spots.

I was not using the word big in a good or bad sense.  I was simply using it to describe my calves, as compared to others’.  My granddaughter even commented that I have hefty calves and asked if I’d been working out.  She said that with a sense of amazement, not derogatively.

When I was a younger woman, I was embarrassed by my legs.  My calves were clearly larger than most of my friends.  After childbirth, the varicose veins surfaced.  I seldom went out in public in shorts, regardless of how hot it was.  If I wore a skirt or dress, I always wore stockings to camouflage my legs.  I’ve worked at getting to a place of loving, kindness and acceptance for my body.    Particularly at my age, I celebrate how my body serves me.  Those calves allow me to hike and swim.  They allow me to shop for hours with my daughters.  The support me when I pick up my great-grandchild.

Words like fat or big are only shaming when you believe that fat or big is shameful.   My boobs are large, my ass is flat, my skin is flabby and my calves are big.  Why not love all of me?  I do

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