What do you do?

When you see someone acting ugly or doing something that crosses one of your values, what do you do?

Do you consider that maybe there’s more to the story and give them room for having their reasons?

Do you ignore them and wish for them to go away, all the while hoping they don’t hurt someone first?

Do you tell them they’ve crossed a line?

I ask you, what do you do?

I’ve made a concerted effort to not engage in social politickin’ and have been mostly quiet on Russia, immigration, pizzagate, tariffs, spygate, tax cuts, various versions of lock-them-up, corruption, decorum, the deficit, HUD policy…I could go on… Healthcare and LGBTQ issues are the two areas where I’ve felt compelled to comment, though (I did say ‘mostly quiet’).

Why have I held my tongue? Well, because I’m not sure any of you need me adding to the bickering and often over-dramatised craycray in American politics. It seems that most of the political huffing and puffing (including interweb commenters and social media posters) isn’t intended to address problems, it just generates attention. Since life is short, I keep my comments to myself and stay focused on what matters.

By now you’re asking “so what?”.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m setting the stage for a discussion about something that really bothers me: Treating anyone, regardless of their label, as if they don’t matter is not how I was raised.

I’m aware that we haven’t eradicated all bias, prejudice, or injustice, but I did think we’d driven it underground. You know what I mean, the kind of bias that people might be ashamed of, so they at least don’t plaster it on a sign.
Apparently, I’m wrong. There are still some things that people are willing to post in large letters on posterboard.

So let’s walk down memory lane.

Then you can tell me whether this recent news item is as disturbing as the anti-immigrant, pro-segregation days of the 20th century.

Image result for segregation signsThis sign dates back to a time when restaurants and other establishments freely discriminated against non-whites. For more info, check out Latino USA’s ‘No Mexicans Allowed: School Segregation in the Southwest’.

Image result for segregation signsThis one came from the University of Maryland’s Baltimore County online gallery. It’s a stark reminder of times when America freely discriminated on the basis of color. Can you imagine telling someone today that dogs and pick-a-label-for-someone couldn’t enter? Dogs, yes. People?

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Another sign, this time banning Irish job applicants.

I could keep searching for pictorial evidence of historical, overt discrimination that is now outlawed and socially unacceptable but I think y’all get my point. Plus, I’m getting kind of bummed about picking through our cultural rubbish bin. Let’s move on to the real point of this, shall we?

What label would you pick that could make a sign like those above seem reasonable?

Or are all signs of this nature discriminatory? Even the one below?

A Tennessee hardware store is under fire again for its "No Gays Allowed" sign. (Syracuse.com)

A store in Tennesee has had this sign up for about three years, according to Snopes. Several news sources (just google ” no gay amyx” and you’ll find them all) say Amyx Hardware put this sign up in 2015 or thereabouts.

The store owner apparently replaced it for a few days with one about constitutional freedoms, which is marginally better. At least it would have been if he hadn’t put the original sign back up.

I have to ask, though, if someone walked into your hardware store and they happened to buy a hammer or some paint while also being LGBTQ, what does that have to do with your freedom of speech or religion? I may be unclear on the concept but I’m pretty sure the label – their identity –  doesn’t affect your freedom to practice your religion or say your piece. Unless, of course, you bring it up.

Is that what happened? Did you offend someone or did they offend you and now you feel like you can’t have any of “them” in your store? Has the sign brought you peace?

I’m all for our constitutional freedoms. Recall, however, that folks based their racial discrimination on the same principals and we eventually decided (well, most of us), that we didn’t cotton to discrimination. As folks around here would say, ‘that dog don’t hunt’.

So, you’ve seen the sign now. You’ve read my thoughts.

What do you do?

Here’s what I’m doing.

I’m telling my LGBTQ friends that they matter.

I’ve made our family business a politics-free, religion-free zone. (These have been the rules for years – we all co-exist relatively peacefully and without judgment – Never-Trumpers and MAGA-hat wearers alike.)

And if I lived in Tennessee and needed something from the hardware store, I’d shop somewhere besides Amyx Hardware, partially because I think discrimination is wrong and partially because I think the owner doesn’t know how to deal with folks that disagree with him. Life’s short enough without adding more ugly to my life.

You Be You Boo

Happy Friday!
This one is for those who don’t fit the mold. Weirdo, geek, nerd… all the labels that meant we are Other.

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The older I get, though, the more I realize all of us have felt Other at some point.

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We all have the mental static getting in the way of being proud and strong in who we are.  We’re all different, aren’t we? That’s part of the fun of being human.

Being Other isn’t the problem. Feeling ashamed of your Otherness is. Don’t let someone else tell you what is good and true for you – or worse, that you don’t count.

Don’t let you tell yourself that either.

Believe in Yourself

Need something to replace the negative noise in your head? Put your paws up, cause you were Born This Way baby. (Lady Gaga version, in all her strangely glorious storytelling.)

“You’re beautiful in your way”, embrace your quirks, your weirdness. Be you, boo.

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Need a little more encouragement? Here’s Glee’s Born This Way, with message tees, in case you think only the nerds hear the noise – see all those cool kids?

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They’ve got the same static in their heads.

So, fly your freak flag

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You don’t have to be loud, just don’t hide your light from the rest of us.

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This one is especially for Seth. We love you, honey!

 

 

Traffic Jams

How was traffic today?

Imagine your entire day was made up of cars carrying a thought or feeling. I bet that your day was full of traffic, maybe even gridlocked, if today was stressful. Did you want to call a halt to everything? Or, if your thoughts or feelings were pleasant, did you want to go for a nice long drive in those particular cars and avoid the less pleasant ones? This traffic concept is one of the visualizations from a meditation app, Headspace.

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For those with preconceived notions about meditation, I’d like you to set them aside. Not all meditation is chanting phrases with your legs crossed. Instead, practitioners are taking time (10 minutes, in the case of Headspace) from the hustle and stress of our days to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. Some call it mental hygiene. Think of meditation this way: If you take the time to declutter and clean up your car, if you shower daily and do the laundry often, why wouldn’t you do the same for your mind? Meditation can improve concentration, self awareness, acceptance (Serenity Prayer anyone?) and physical well being (e.g., lower blood pressure). By the way, contemplative prayer is one form where prayer and meditation overlap. If you grew up, as I did, reciting the Hail Mary, then you’ve practiced contemplative prayer. Does it surprise you that this is very similar to the Eastern practice of mantra meditation?

Back to the benefits of meditation – this one is important for all of us who hope to age well: In one study, it appeared to slow the aging process in practitioners, including increasing the number of brain cells. Who knew you could grow a bigger brain?

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Blue is better!

Meditation comes in many forms (including the aforementioned chanting). The style I prefer is mindfulness. You start by focusing on your breathing, then taking stock of your physical and mental sensations. Throughout the meditation, your mind drifts off to tasks, worries, politics or whatever and you gently refocus. By the end of the 10 minute session, I’m calmer, less likely to react to things (pick any news topic right now) and, most importantly for me, a better listener for others. When I practice regularly, I find it easier to calm down in all kinds of stressful situations.

So, let’s get back to the traffic analogy. Do you chase after cars? Attempt to stop them? Do you realize how many cars are on your figurative road? What happens if you simply acknowledge them as they go by, instead of attempting to change them? Think about how you manage all of these thoughts and feelings today. Some of those self-management habits are healthy (e.g., going for a walk), some are less so, especially if you use them too often (e.g., alcohol or drugs). Meditation is free (or relatively cheap, like the Headspace app), requires no special equipment and travels well. All you need is you and a willingness to try.

I’ve mentioned Headspace before. It’s a meditation app that offers guided sessions and also gives you tools to help practice throughout the day. This traffic visualization is one of them. Helpful, huh? They have many others, like Blue Sky (Finding Calm). It’s a handy tool for finding calm when things are tough. If you want to learn more about Headspace or other meditation tools, you can follow the links in this post or just search on the web. I wish you peace this week!

 

 

 

Faith

Wow, it’s that time! countdownTwenty eight years ago, I walked into 633 Folsom in San Francisco, both nervous and excited to get started. My only goal? I wanted to work for a company that would give me room to grow. After my first day, my first week, my first month, my first year (!) I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do this stuff. (Yeah, that was not the first time I realized I was a nerd on a cosmic scale….. I can hear y’all snickering.) All these years later, I am so grateful for all of the adventures and opportunities I’ve had.

I’ve been so, So, SO fortunate to have y’all in my life and to have you share yours. I’m most grateful for your inspiration and I hope y’all know how much you’ve meant to me. There are not enough words (and y’all don’t have enough time 😉 ) for me to list all the things we’ve accomplished together. I have to mention, however, the most important of these was the world we built. We brought out the best in each other and I wish y’all the best as you carry on the AT&T community.

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As I sign off from AT&T for the last time, I leave you with this song –  Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande’s Faith (From “Sing”)

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Every time I see it, I’m reminded of the faith we have in each other, I’m reminded of y’all.

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Every time you see it, I hope you think of those in your life that need you for their inspiration.

Thank you for having faith in me and best wishes for a fabulous 2017!

Caryn

Take a Chance

The next time you doubt yourself, I want you to think about someone else. There’s no question that your days are hard and you could use a break. Can’t we all? But when you’re having your worst day, I hope thinking about someone else inspires you to keep going.

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Take a short journey with me: Imagine being Grace Murray Hopper, born in 1906, the oldest of three children. Can you imagine a young girl living in the 1900s in New York City? Would you expect her to marry, stay home and raise the children? Or maybe she would work, most likely as a teacher or a nurse.  What are the odds that she would be not just a mathematician, but one of the leading computer scientists of the 20th century, a United States Navy Rear Admiral and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? How many times do you think she heard the word the word ‘no’? How many times do you think she wondered if it could be done? How many times do you think she took a chance?

grace-murray-hopper-programmerMy dad brought me a couple of books when he visited last month, one of which was Computers: Their History, Present Applications, and Future by Shirley Thomas. Dad pointed out Grace Hopper’s role in computer programming, including her time at UNIVAC (now Unisys), where dad also worked. Among Ms Hopper’s accomplishments:

  • Attended Vassar despite being turned down the first time she applied.
  • Served in the WAVES (a branch of the US Naval Reserve), despite not meeting their physical requirements.
  • Developed the first compiler, despite no one believing it could be done, leading eventually to her work developing COBOL, the most ubiquitous business language to date.
  • Worked for the Department of Defense until she was 79, despite the mandatory retirement age of 60. (Congress had to approve her active duty status.)

Is it any wonder that she became known as Amazing Grace?

My favorite Amazing Grace quote is:

“The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, “Try it.” And I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

The next time you feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and all she accomplished. I hope you remember to take a chance.

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Have a Little Faith

Good Morning and Happy Monday!

Today’s sermon is Have a Little Faith.  😉

Let’s start with you. At the bottom of each metaphorical hill, do you think you’ll manage to climb it? Most days, we each have faith in ourselves, even if we can’t see exactly how we’ll manage it. After all, getting out of bed some mornings is the biggest act of optimism we have.

Now let’s move on to those you love, your closest family members, by blood, marriage, or otherwise. Do you doubt your loved ones’ ability to rise above, to learn new things, to right yesterday’s wrongs? Of course you do. I remember I cried when our oldest was accepted into college, not because I doubted him, but because we were so happy for him. Even when he doubted himself, we knew he could do it.

Let’s move further out, to those you know but aren’t invested in, like the neighbor who’s up for a promotion, the barista who’s working their way through college or your co-worker’s child, who’s saving for their first car. Do you have faith in their ability to learn, to change, to achieve? Or do you doubt them? Of course you have faith. It costs you nothing and you’re pleased when they accomplish their goal, right?

Up the challenge a bit, though. If the individual in question does something you don’t understand, or worse, don’t like or agree with, do you still have faith that they can rise to the challenge? Or do you focus on their flaws? Many of us focus on the flaws, especially if we’re not invested. We find ourselves expecting the worst. Children misbehave, jerks cut you off in traffic and “those people” always mess with your day. (Notice it’s always “those people” and not “my people” who mess with you.) Maybe you even doubt your own loved one. After all, the last time they were late it was because…. (fill in the blank with whatever awful thing they’d done in the past) …. and why wouldn’t they keep doing something thoughtless? It’s a wonder you bother with them at all, given how horribly awful they are, right? Isn’t the definition of faith seeing something that isn’t proven?

Expecting the worst of people takes no faith. Expecting others to do their best takes tremendous faith, especially if the individual has history. But don’t we all? Don’t each of us want to be measured on what we accomplished today, not what we failed to do yesterday?

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The joy of living in our culture is that we have the power of choice. We can choose to be optimistic, and have faith in each other. Or we can choose to be pessimistic and expect the worst. I choose faith. I choose to see opportunity. I choose to see the value in those around me. This is not because I’m naive or blind to their flaws, or that I’m happy with the consequences if (not when) they fall short. It’s because I don’t want to live in a world where everyone expects the worst of each other. I want to live in a world where we expect the best.

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How about you? Do you choose to have faith? I know many of you do because you’ve shown that you have faith in me. You’ve shown appreciation when I got it right and given me constructive feedback when I got it wrong, even when you didn’t know me well. We’ve grown together as a community and as friends because we have faith in each other.

As we go through challenging political times, I have faith in each of us to find the best, most productive path forward. I have faith that we really are better together, not in spite of our disagreements, but because we know that we are more in common than we are in difference. Even if we have apprehensions, I hope we all have a little faith that we will find our way. If you need a little musical inspiration, here’s is John Hiatt’s Have a Little FaithJohn Hiatt’s Have a Little FaithJohn Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith.

Have a great week!

Caryn