Amsterdam/street photography

I love street photography.  The raw moment when something sparks me.  Be sure to scroll down and check out the pigeon slideshow.  My daughter Willa had an interesting encounter near the royal palace.

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Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

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Let’s get curious about each other.

Here’s to all the things I didn’t get done for Christmas…

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Every year I have such grand intentions of how I’m going to show my love to my family and friends and every year I fall a short of my intentions and beat myself up a bit.  I’m no longer going to miss out on the little moments of the season because of things I DIDN’T GET DONE.  That’s bullshit.

This year, I’m forgiving, no celebrating myself for all of the great ideas I’ve had and didn’t accomplish.  It’s those little moments with our loved ones, people in line at the coffee shop, grocery store or our bartenders for that matter that make the holiday special anyway.  I’m going to be jolly and generous like Santa out in the world, that just sounds fun, right?

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So now it’s December 19th and I’m putting one package in the mail for a very special little girl who will more thrilled than anyone on my list to receive a package.   I will tell the people in my life I love them and not think twice about what I didn’t get done.  Tonight, a Christmas lights drive with my family and spaghetti at our favorite family joint.

Have a very Merry Christmas and be ridiculously kind to yourself this year.

Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

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Anthem

by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

I starting thinking about…

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I read this line yesterday and it got me thinking about nonconformity.

“A culture that prizes traditional conformity, for example, may perceive specific kinds of individual rights and freedoms (e.g. freedom of speech) to pose a threat.”   Geographical Psychology, Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Rentfrow

There certainly is ease within organizations or families when conformity rules.  However, there also is a lack of creativity and innovation when we don’t have opposing viewpoints to challenge our long-held assumptions.

“A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates
when he becomes a conformist.”   —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Similarity or perceived similarity creates PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY to speak our minds, knowing that people basically agree with you. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to the people in our lives who challenge us as “BEAUTIFUL ENEMIES”.   What an apt description, huh?  We need to be challenged to be stretched.  Keep your beautiful enemies close AND consult them often.

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How do we share our perspectives without making others wrong?

Perhaps the goal isn’t to change minds.

What if our goal was simply to be HEARD?

To be heard, we have to LISTEN. Really listen.

Now, if I can practice what I preach, my teenagers would tell you I have a lot of work to do.

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I have a very helpful one page pdf file titled Blocks To Listening.  It’s a real game changer for both our personal and professional lives.  I thought I was a decent communicator—I learned that I was way off the mark in so many ways.  E-mail me to request a copy.

I just spend a day and a half alone…

and a little quiet, introspection and organization did wonders for my mind, body and spirit.  Last night I ran out to Barnes and Noble for a book and grabbed a magazine next to the checkout called FLOW.  It spoke to me.  I woke early this morning and decided a habit I want to create is reading something inspiring in the morning instead of news—aaarrgggh NEWS.  I fed my cat, Karen, blended lemon, parsley and ice (after a summer of beer, potato chips and ice cream a correction is necessary), made coffee and sat down to dive into FLOW.

“Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures.”  REALLY?

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WOW. I was right.  FLOW was utterly inspiring and if I was disciplined and organized enough to publish a magazine this is what it would be. Astrid and Irene are clearly my long lost sisters (and new heros) from the Netherlands. I’m reading the English edition, unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch.  I bet I missed out on some amazing Dutch words that were lost in the translation.   This is the quote below the title.  I need every back issue now.

“No need to hurry.  No need to sparkle.

No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolfe (1882-1941)

contents FLOW magazine LillibridgeThe first article was about positive psychology (which I’m studying) and how small changes in our lives (kaizen, I’ve written about this before) can net big shifts in our lives. The article talked about thinking in terms of solutions, not problems and looking for small ways to bring forth more joy in our lives. LITTLE STEPS, BIG CHANGES.

“It is easier to see things in black and white than to pay attention to all the grey tint in between.” —Dutch philosopher and psychologist, Gijs Deckers

Big, bigger and biggest often doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s the small things that make people happy.”  page 17.

Next was this picture of my hero, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Kahlo’s studio at Casa Azul.  Now, I can’t stop smiling by this point and I’m only on page 18…

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then this quote.  Oh, my sister.  I will write about my sister.  We have a story to tell.

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Then there were interviews with a jewelry artist from Poland, a family living off the grid in British Columbia and an illustrator living in London.  That’s as far as time allowed this morning.  If I had the whole day, I would throw a blanket in my yard and devour every word. I can’t wait until I get back into FLOW.

On page 33 is an article by journalist Catelijne Elzes in celebration of rainy days…my favorite and most inspiring kind of days, throw in fog and I’ll swoon all day.  I can’t wait to read that article.  Really, Irene and Astrid, lets do lunch…

I have to get to get to work on my designs for STRUT…I have only 11 days.  Picking something up that spoke to me randomly got me thinking about connections.  I believe when we’re looking for meaning and connections (threads) in our lives they keep revealing themselves.  We just have to be on our toes or we can miss them.  I often miss them. IMG_6612_3

I know a lot of people don’t believe in coincidences, magic or spirits…however, I choose to.  I will be searching for little signs of magic all day and I have hunch that I just might be able to find some more.

I hope you have a great day and experience a little magic today too.  We all are deserving of some.

Thank you Irene and Astrid. Are you hiring?