the nest

the nest

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The others

Sunday my family went with others from our church to worship with a congregation in Northampton, MA.  We brought a meal to share and were welcomed with open arms.  This little congregation could not be more different than ours.  Many are homeless, physically or mentally ill, and/or drug addicted. Many are veterans. Many are recovering and struggling to re-build their life. Many are victims of violence; physical, sexual, emotional. All are food insecure.  For some, the dinner we brought was their first meal of the day.
We came from warm homes with cupboards and refrigerators and freezers full of food. We have closets full of clothing and multiple pairs of mittens or multiple hats and scarves and coats and boots to choose from when it's cold.
When we arrived, my 16 year snuggled up to me and whispered in my ear "is it terrible that some of these people make me uncomfortable?".  That my sweet child is why we are here.
We spend so much time with those who are just like us.  It's comfortable and easy.  The more time we spend with those like us the easier it is to look through those who are not.  To look at them as if they are alien.  But how different are they really?
They have flesh and blood. They feel pain and joy. They need to eat and and be sheltered. We also struggle with mental illnesses, addiction, violence. Many of them have or have had families who they loved and cared for.  They want to be able to live their life in peace.  They look out for each other. They are children of God.  They did not choose to be born into their life any more than I chose to be born into mine.  We all make choices that can either lead is in one direction or another, but here's the thing.  It's a whole lot easier for me to "pull myself up by my bootstraps" because I HAVE BOOTS.
When we first spend time with others who appear so different from us, it can be intensely uncomfortable.  The more time we spend, the more we remember that they are not so different from us.  Our discomfort increases when we realize that we could be them, but decreases when we share the Peace and are reminded that we are all children of God.
During the service there was a brief explanation of the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy is what many of us feel when we see someone who is "unfortunate."  Empathy is what we feel when we can put ourselves in their shoes.  Empathy leads to reaching out and offering a helping hand.  Empathy leads to kindness. Empathy is not just suggesting a way out of the pit. It's climbing down into the pit and being with the "other." When we can walk in someone else's shoes we realize that they are not "others".  They are "all of us".
The current political climate would lead us to believe that the Syrian refugees are "others".  While many are riding the tide of hate and fear, more and more of " us" are demanding that we reach out to those in need.  When we remember that the refugees are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, Christians and Muslims, we begin to demand that the rush to judgement be stopped.  When we acknowledge that the "others" are flesh and blood, they feel pain and joy and fear, they want to live their lives in peace, they didn't choose to be born in their war torn region any more than I chose to be born in the US, the more we are uncomfortable with the hate and fear-mongering.
Jesus was a refugee when his tiny family fled the murderous forces of Herod.  Many friends have told stories of parents and grandparents who were refugees from Poland or Germany.  We are a country of immigrants.  One of the things that makes the US such a great place is the Diversity that exists, but it seems like we allow the fear of the "other" to get in the way of celebrating the rich history and traditions of our melting pot.
In WWII we turned away refugees and they perished.  We said never again. We unjustly imprisoned Japanese Americans. We said never again.  Can this be the time we step up?  Can we show our best selves by honoring our commitment to the world community?  Can we acknowledge our fear and discomfort and then do the right thing?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I believe...

I'm thinking about taking a breather from my personal FB page.  I love FB.  With family and friends all over the country it has been an amazing way to stay in touch, share ideas, laughs and information. The potential for social media to do good in the world by mobilizing like-minded people to work for change is amazing.  The potential for it to do bad is the same.

The hate and divisiveness that is showing up around the refugee crisis is so disheartening.  I keep sharing information that I secretly hope will encourage those who are afraid to consider what they are really doing when they lump millions of human beings in with a small percentage of extremists.  I should know better.

We see what we want to see and I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  The difference is that our "differences" are so much more present now with social media.  Even 10 years ago, I could be friends with someone who had very different political and social views than I, because we didn't discuss them, and if we did it was a respectful debate/discussion that didn't include inflammatory photos and graphics and manipulated statistics.

This past weekend I was ridiculously weepy~ lots of reasons contributed, but what put me over the edge was the realization that no matter what I believe, there will be other's who don't just disagree, but who will mock my beliefs.  I can either argue with them, ignore them, try to persuade them, or agree to disagree.  There are many things I can agree to disagree on, but some differences are so profound they have completely altered my perception of some of those who cross my "cyber-world."

The thing is, I can't just let it go. No matter what I see to the contrary I still have hope that we can come together as a global community.  I still have hope that the "good" people in the world far out-number the "bad."  I still believe that when faced with an unreasonable amount of evidence that contradicts one's belief system, that one person's mind can be changed.

Here is what I believe ~ take it or leave it.  Mull about it, think about it, comment on it (respectfully), absorb it.  Anyone who chooses to be rude, disrespectful, reactive etc.. will be dropped from any discussion.  I'm not up for it.  Besides, I'd have to unfollow you on FB and since I'm taking a break that would be a nuisance.

~Lumping all Muslims in the same category as ISIS is like lumping all Christians into the same category as the Westboro Church. Most Muslims abhor what ISIS stands for just as most Christians abhor what the Westboro Church stands for.

~The process refugees must go through to enter the US is arduous enough as it is and to suggest that we add a religious "test" to it is contrary to everything I have ever learned or know about "the land of the free." We were founded on principles of religious freedom - to practice the religion of your choosing or not.  We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, not a Christian nation despite the GOP's current attempts to have us believe otherwise. You know that whole "under God" thing in the Pledge of Allegiance?  Added in 1954. History of the Pledge of Allegiance

~When we reject those who need us most we send them back to the arms of those who hate us and wish us harm. ISIS would like nothing more than for the refugees to be shunned by the rest of the world so they have no where else to turn.

~We can't fight an ideological war just with violence.  We have to educate; we have to offer an alternative world view.  We have to offer a future to those who don't see one for themselves.

~We must examine our own hypocrisy.  If you say you are a Christian, that means you are a follower of Jesus.  Jesus tells us to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.  He doesn't say "love the neighbors who look like you, believe like you, live like you." Jesus made it a point to preach to more than just the chosen people; sometimes to the dismay of his disciples.  He tells us to LOVE. The Gospel in a word is LOVE - period.

~We can use these horrible events like the bombings in Beirut on Thursday and the killings in Paris last Friday, to separate us.  We can use them as an excuse to close our borders and our homes. We can use them as a reason to turn our backs on a world that doesn't look just like ours.  Or we can use them as an opportunity to unite with our fellow citizens around the world to fight extremism of all kinds.

~Call me naive, innocent, Pollyanna, whatever, but I believe, AND WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE, that love wins. Making decisions out of hate and fear will only lead to more hate and fear.  Making decisions out of love, kindness and compassion will lead to more love, kindness and compassion.  Yes, there are risks to making decisions out of love, kindness and compassion, but those risks pale in comparison to the consequences of making decisions out of hate and fear.

~When we realize that we are in more danger from the terrorists who look just like the "boy next door," or when we accept that we are more at risk of being killed by one of the obscene numbers of guns in our country, then maybe we will stop demonizing all the "others".  THERE ARE NO OTHERS.  We are all one people.    We all breath, eat, sleep, love, hate, live, and die.

It is so easy to be afraid.  It is so easy to react to those things that horrify and frighten us.  Life isn't easy.  It's not easy for the mother with the baby trying to escape to safety.  It's not easy for the homeless vet who's been forgotten.  It's not easy for the teenage boy who's been bullied one too many times.  It's not a contest, but let's be honest - our life in comparison?  Pretty freakin' easy. Challenging ourselves to be courageous and reject hate isn't easy when we are afraid, but it is the right thing to do. I will be grateful everyday for the challenges of life in my world.  I will pray everyday for those whose lives are so hard and I will speak up for them when I can.  I will speak up for the bullied child.  I will speak up for the homeless vet. I will speak up for the Syrian refugee.

Sometimes I see all the hate and violence in the world and I am overwhelmed.  I want to make it all better but I can't.  I need to filter what I see for a while and re-focus on what I can do right here.  How I can serve those right around me, how I can raise my children to be kind, compassionate, tolerant and loving.

I will post this on FB.  I will not discuss it there.  If you have comments or thoughts, please post them here on the blog.  Please do not be rude or disrespectful to me or other's who comment.  I'm thankful for thoughtful discussion.  I appreciate solid data. I look forward to other perspectives and conversation with people willing to be open-minded and consider all perspectives. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fresh Starts

Starting fresh ~  I am the queen of the "fresh start."  I love to start things over, like budgets, lists, plans ~ anything that I can't seem to finish, I just decide to start over.  I'm pretty sure that this can be a useful strategy for a lot of things, but sometimes it seems like it's just an escape from something that isn't working. When do you just move on?
Starting over a list because it's gotten out of control and you have so many checks and marks and scribbles that you can't even see what's still on the list seems like a good use of the "fresh start" strategy.
Starting over a recipe when you've been trying to multi-task and have doubled some ingredients but not everything and you've completely forgotten few ingredients, also seems like a good time to "start fresh."
Starting over a budget because priorities have changed, line items have morphed and your current software makes it difficult to modify too much seems reasonable.  Starting over a budget because you don't like the numbers seems futile.

I'm thinking about giving my blog a fresh start ~ my current platform is really set up for a personal blog.  If it is to become part of my "work", it may make sense to start it over and rebuild using resources more designed for it's new purpose. The question is, am I considering a "fresh start" because it makes sense given my revised direction, or because trying to figure out ad's etc. on my current platform is hard? How hard does in need to be before it makes more sense to "start fresh?" Starting over on a new platform would probably mean asking for help, investing some resources in having someone who knows what they're doing help me out, or taking time away from other work to dig in a figure it out myself.

One of the tricky things about working for oneself, or doing work that is not compensated monetarily (being a mom, a volunteer, etc) is coming up with a way to value your time.  When is it better to pay someone else to do something that I could do, but that they could do in significantly less time?

In business I've gotten better at figuring this out.  I have a ballpark figure of what I "pay" myself.  There are some tasks (like bookkeeping) that it is more economical to pay someone else to do because it would take me twice the time and end up costing more. With a blog that is not yet earning money, how do I decide when it's time to pay someone else to help get it up and running in a new way, assuming that those expenses will be recouped when I have a wildly successful blog, vs. just taking my time to figure it out at my leisure because I really have no idea whether it will turn into anything more than it is?

How do you value your time?  As a mom and volunteer I struggle with placing a dollar value on myself.  Where this can be so frustrating is that we live in a culture that puts a monetary value on everything - if something costs a lot it must be more valuable.  When I look too closely at what this says about what we "value" as a country, I am so discouraged.

We spend unbelievable amounts of money on technology and other things, on concerts, on sporting events, meals out and entertainment of all sorts.  We pay for what we value, so what does that say about how we value children and education?  Childcare workers are some of the most poorly paid people in our country.  Teachers in many parts of the country have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  We "pay" for college degrees, but we don't "pay" the very people who are teaching our students what they need to learn - in many academic settings the actual professors are paid for research while graduate assistants who are still students themselves are being paid poorly to "teach" college students.  What are we actually paying for here?  Facilities, a "name", layers of bureaucracy. This is something I'd like to dive into more later, but it's a whole other blog!

When do we decide to make a "fresh start?" Is that even possible?  When do we decide that rather than fixing a political system, or an educational system or any kind of "system," that it's time for a "fresh start?" A "clean slate?"  While all this gets mulled about, I'm going to go create a fresh list for the week - Monday is a great day for a "fresh start."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Taking a leap...

There just might be some changes to my blog in the future.  It's been a personal blog for me and the few select friends who read what I have to say.  I've gotten enough positive feedback over the last few years that I've decided to be more intentional about it and to be honest, use it to increase my income.

I've been leary of advertising on my blog as it feels sketchy to me.  Not sure why, but it does.  That being said, if it is a simple way to bring in some additional income, why not?

With one child out of college (with loans), one in college (with loans), one in High School looking at college (most likely with loans), finances have been on my mind.  I know I'm in good company when I say that while my husband and I have a very comfortable income (mostly his), a comfortable life, and a strong support network, we still live paycheck to paycheck.  Over almost 25 years of marriage, this has been our primary source of discord.  The only thing we ever seem to fight about is $.

We've tried a number of budget programs and are currently using one called YNAB (  It is super easy, links my phone to hubby's phone to the desktop to my iPad etc... No excuses not to keep it updated and pay attention.  4 basic rules to follow and we are hopeful that if we can stick to it, we will slowly find our way out of debt and begin to save better for our future.

Managing the funds we have is one way to find our way to a less stressful financial life.  Increasing my income (even for the short term) is another.  As a small business owner, there is nothing consistent about my income.  As I work to grow my business and expand the reach of Music Together  ( through Arts from the Heart, llc (, I need to be investing in teachers and materials and locations and marketing etc... Maintaining my small draw, let alone increasing it, is a challenge!

I've contemplated lots of ways to supplement my draw - teaching Community College classes  (they all have my resume and application), working part time for another agency (great interview, didn't get the job, would have been tricky to manage logistically), adding programming to my center (working on it, but takes time and energy and I'm a little short on both!).

This brings me back to the blog. I love to write. I love to contemplate. I love to engage with people on topics I'm passionate about. I have blogged sporadically mostly because it's been for my own self, but perhaps if I had more of an external "purpose" for it I would engage in blogging more.  If blogging more and hosting some advertising on my blog could supplement my draw, how could that be a bad thing?

Here is where I need your thoughts - what would you like to see my blog about?  What would you like to know, think about, discuss, hear my thoughts on?  While this started as a blog about launching my children, it has really become more a blog about me launching my thoughts, ideas and passions out into the world.  Share your ideas with me and maybe they will show up in the future!

I'm committing to blogging a minimum of 1x per week to begin and then we will see where that goes. If you want to keep up with me, subscribe.  Let me know what you think. If you really want to support my effort, click on an ad (but only if you really want to!)