I Remember …

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Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? We have seen that question asked over and over again for those of us who are old enough to remember it. That was a big event in our nation’s history. In our own lives events might not be so monumental but yet they stand out as pivotal times in our lives that propel change. Each of us has those moments and these are mine.

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I remember somewhere around seven to eight years ago, going to Grandparent day at my grandson’s school located in a suburb of a large city. Sitting in his classroom I took note of the fact that the class was composed of many different races. In fact, I remember thinking my grandson was almost a minority in this classroom. This was a shock for this white woman from a small community in Southern Minnesota. I made sure I did not mention my observations to my grandson as he was oblivious to all of this. He hadn’t yet been made aware of the differences. All he knew was that they were his friends.

I remember attending a band concert at my granddaughter’s school during the time when suspicion and fear of Somali immigrants were high. I walked past a Somali woman with her head covered in her hijab and I too felt fear and suspicions because of what I had heard. I noticed there were more Somali parents with their children in my granddaughter’s school. Those from the community didn’t give them a second glance because they knew them and that was their normal, but I must admit because of all the attention by media and government, misinformation and haters, and no experience knowing a Somalian, I was afraid. Would we be in danger during the concert? I remember thinking I didn’t have this problem back home in my community. I felt comfortable and safe there.

I remember the first time I came in contact with a gay person. He was a friend of ours. We had known him for years but we didn’t know he was gay because he kept it hidden. He finally came out to us. It stands out in my mind that though we knew of this, someone decided they needed to point out to us that our friend was gay. They thought we didn’t know. Though our friend was our age he was also a friend of our daughters, and the person thought we should keep him away from her, and we should stay away too. They knew we wouldn’t want to expose our daughter to those things.

I remember the first time I met a black man. He was the husband of my best girlfriend from high school and they visited our home in our small white community. We didn’t have qualms about meeting him because if my friend could love him we would too, However, we wondered how our three-years-old and six years old would react and if they would say anything. They didn’t notice his skin was another color.

I remember the first time I met a Morman. The family moved to town and the husband worked with my husband. I was told by many to stay away from them because they would try to convert us to their ways. Some people shunned them. We gained loving friends and surrogate grandparents for our kids and religion was never talked about, though one of them was a leader in their church. Unless we asked a question they didn’t try to convert us to anything. They just loved us as family and spent many hours at services at our church supporting my children.

I remember when my relatives came to visit and stay for a few days when I was a teenager. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The flag went up with many of my parents friends. And my church at that time had taught me to be wary of the evil they may teach. I had already met them from a previous trip to visit them in California so all I knew was the love and caring of family, no matter the difference in religion.

I remember the first time I met a Transgender person. I knew them all their lives, however, I didn’t meet them as who they were inside until the last year because they hid it out of their fear of how we would react. They were family and my reaction when I finally knew, was love.

I wasn’t always tolerant of any of this. I would say in the past ten years I have evolved after a long hard look at myself, what I learned as a child, what I learned as an adult, and what ideals were actually chosen by me to believe, or what was planted in my head without thought and question and that included my religion and my belief in God.

I grew up in a religion that told you to believe and not question. I did that but was always silently not quite sure about what I was being taught. I came from a family where my mom was Catholic and my dad was Protestant. I was told I would go to hell if I believed or changed religions. I was never allowed to go to my dad’s church because it was a sin. We could go for the fabulous church dinners but never for the services. I don’t remember how we worked out attending funerals because we did do that when relatives on my dad’s side died. I wondered how all my relatives on my dad’s side could be going to hell because they were such good people. I wondered in my later years why would my mother marry someone she knew was going to hell because she really believed that. I finally did attend my dad’s church, for his funeral. How sad is it I missed all the years I could have attended church with him when he was alive if it wouldn’t have been for those preconceived edicts from my church at the time? It makes me very sad to think of that.

When I finally changed religions, my mother, to the day she died, told me I would go to hell and when she was in her dementia state she told me she should have disowned me when I changed religions.

I had a good reason for changing. I wanted to go to church as a family and when we got married the priest that presided at our wedding told my husband two things that really stood out during our counseling. The first was that he shouldn’t join the church because they had enough bad Catholics, and the second was that the Vikings were ***** rich and I can’t mention the racial slur here. That cemented my decision. I didn’t feel a man of God should speak that way of another race, or without knowing my husband, make the judgment that he would be a bad Catholic as I knew how strong my husband’s faith was having been through what he had been through in Viet Nam and being raised by a mother who had a strong faith.

I wish I could say that was the moment when I started to question what I totally believed in my life, but it wasn’t the aha moment you might think. It is moments over the years of questioning, experiences, and taking a hard look at myself that has gotten me to old age, and not without many mistakes and acts of prejudice that I didn’t think of as prejudice, and am ashamed of today.

I remember a former Catholic school member who became involved in a cult. This was one aha moment that began my questioning. He came to speak at my church to give us a little parenting advice. At that time I had two young children. When I heard him speak I asked him what I could do to protect my children. He answered, “Make sure they know what they believe and why they believe it.” I know I thought to myself, how can I teach them that when I don’t know what I believe totally either.

Life continued on and I worked on that advice but I switched to prejudice on a different front. If my children friended someone who didn’t have a good reputation I would not let them hang out. I will tell you now that it is the worst advice I could have given my children. Instead I should have welcomed those kids into my home and got to know them. You see, I listened to what everyone else was saying without giving them a chance and not making up my own mind. I am ashamed of that reaction and I try to do better now.

I began to notice in small ways the way prejudice seeps into our lives, even tiny little nudges in my own life.

I remember being told by someone I loved like a daughter, when she found a new religion, that she could no longer be in touch with me because I didn’t believe like she did. That was thirty years ago and to this day we have no contact, though I have tried.

I remember being told by a church council member when I gave an opinion on a decision waiting to be made to allow an LBGTQ support group to meet at our church, that I didn’t give enough money to our church to have my opinion count. My opinion was that if people felt the need for this group we should provide a place, but others did not feel that way and it was denied.

Recently a friend was invited to a girl’s get together. When asked if she could bring me she was told I wouldn’t fit in. I suspect because of my views on many of these subjects along with politics or maybe they no longer like me as a person because I do state my opinions and do not go along with the crowd.

I remember a letter I received from a reader when I started my column telling me how ugly I was and how I was ugly as a child and that I never had any friends. I kept the letter to remind me to try and never be like that.

In no way have I experienced what other friends and family have experienced because of their race, gender, or religious affiliation. In our culture, we seem to overlook the little slights that are there every day and accept them without thought. Little judgements in our own lives that are directed at us or those we throw out to others in the world erroneously that may pave the way for bigger ones

You might now be wondering or saying, “Get to the point.” It is this. I am a sum total of the parts of my past. I had prejudices I didn’t know I had until I was confronted with them. I have prejudices that are still there but I don’t see, especially if I don’t question what I am feeling or where those feelings about others or events came from, or why I make decisions that affect others’ lives.

I thought I knew what I knew until I didn’t, until life and experiences changed my perspective. I would have missed wonderful,caring relationships if I wouldn’t have been confronted with issues I was uncomfortable with, never given them a chance, and shown a different perspective.

This is my story and why what I believed has evolved over the years. I can’t imagine what life would feel like now if I hadn’t questioned, had held on to my rigid views, and boxed myself into a tiny world where I stayed in my comfort zone and there was no growth.

I can only hope that I can keep growing and learning no matter how old I become. I can only hope I still work on those prejudices I have buried inside of me, some that I see, acknowledge, and are working on, and others that will pop up as the world keeps changing. I admit I still judge harshly especially when it comes to hate and discrimination. When I feel judged by others I judge them back. I am a reactor and that is my first reaction. I boycott establishments where I feel employees don’t show respect for others by not wearing masks. I stay away from venues where I feel there is more judgment than welcome. So I too am guilty of the same thing I accuse others of. I know it’s not right but those human emotions are right there under the surface ready to rise up at any moment.

There is not an easy answer for me. Perhaps as in other instances that I mentioned, my perspective will change because of experiences as I will keep questioning and searching, and looking inside of myself to know what I believe and why I believe it.

I am not trying to change your mind on anything here, just sharing my story in the hope that during these challenging times you remember the words of my old school friend. “Know what you believe and why you believe it.” And also these wise words, The right decision is made out of love, not fear. —spiritual enlightenment

Are You An Influencer?

Are any of you confused by the popular rise to fame of influencers in our society? The definition of an influencer is a person or thing that influences another or a person with the ability to influence a person to buy a product or a service by promoting it on the internet.

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In searching for the popular influencers the names listed were Daily Dose, Huda Kattan, and Cameron Dallas who were the first three in the top 9 I found. Others on the list were Selena Gomez and Kylee Jenner, which were the only names I recognized, but then I am old and I don’t follow them so apparently, none of these people are influencing me. I wondered how my life would change if I let them into my social media life to give me tips.

I checked out Daily Dose on Instagram and it appears to influence you to think positively and is inspirational. Huda Kattan is a beauty influencer and sells beauty products. I would guess it is women, not men she is influencing. Cameron Dallas, according to Wikipedia is an American Internet personality and actor who has produced some of his own reality movies. Do a search for influencers and the list is endless. These people were made popular by pitching themselves and/or their product on social media sites. Americans tuned in and made them famous. Many of them have spun themselves so there are books and products representing them. Many live their lives online sharing some intimate details such as the couple who gave up their adopted son and put it all out there online.

I was influenced for a short time by Marie Kondo. I still like her but do not follow her methods after trying them. Let’s face it, I do not like being totally organized and don’t like a perfectly clean and organized home. It takes too much time to be perfect and I am not into perfect. I feel more at home in my organized chaos so I let Marie go.

Not only do their followers propel them to the top so they can be famous, but they also contribute to their financial success beyond any of our wildest dreams. What would happen if we took a worker in a care home and propelled them to influencer fame and threw our money at them as we are doing to those whose only claim to fame is what they put out for others to see on Social Media?

The internet has gained a power over us that we are drawn in and hooked on following people who would not be celebrities without it. Some are deserving of the status but others make their living conning us by letting us be voyeurs into their lives. We don’t know these people. We used to call them salesmen in real life. A good salesman with a gift of gab and a charismatic personality was at the top of his or her game. Some were sincere and some were able to lead people astray because of their magnetic charm making them believable.

We are all influencers in one way or another. By the way, did you know that now Influencer is an official word? I had to look it up because my spell check kept tagging it. Apparently, spellcheck isn’t up-to-date on what is happening with the word the same as we aren’t all up-to-date on how our society is changing because of it.

How do you influence someone in your everyday life, silently without social media making you famous?

Early on I was influenced by my parents to believe in God and to pray. I watched my dad interact with customers in his shoe store and I was taught honesty, caring for others because if someone came in and they were down on their luck and needed a little cash, he gave it to them. I still have the IOU’s in his billfold that he knew would never be paid. I keep them to remind me of the kindness my dad showed to others.

I was influenced by my friend Karen, and Orrie, and Jan, who all faced cancer with courage and hope.

Every day there is someone that I actually know that does something or says something that makes me step back and consider following their lead. it isn’t only soul-changing influences but also small things that might not change my path but add to it. Such as Sally, who encouraged me to try Stained Glass, or Charlotte who encourages me to paint, making me find a new way to release tension. They influenced my choices for creativity.

The women in my trivia group got me hooked on Avon Banishing Creme. Their stating how much they loved it made me want to try it. I knew them, I trusted them.

I know most of the influencers in my life do not turn off their magnetic personality and become a different person when not in the media spotlight. They are sincere. They are trustworthy. Why is it then, that so many people put their trust in an unknown entity and it is happening regularly with our teenagers. Do we model that for them?

My point is that we don’t need to turn to the internet guru Influencers to find our path. You are the influencer. You make a difference in what you do, what you say to your family and your friends. The influence is in our daily words, our daily lives, the way we laugh, the way we look at life and the way we treat others. The world might not know who you are but those who count, do, and that is most precious contact in the universe.

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Napoleon Hill

I’m A Weed!

I am a weed and I match all the weeds in my yard. Yes, my yard has weeds. I am also a flower. Weeds are an imperfect popup in the midst of the flowers. There is room in our yards and gardens for both, letting them balance each other out. If there isn’t a balance to the weeds growth they choke the life out of the living plants and the same thing can be said in our lives. If we let ourselves be overtaken by the weeds, society changes.

I suspect lately we have more weeds that don’t have that flower to balance them out in our society, popping up to remind us of our imperfections.

My mom had a green thumb. Our yard was full of flowers and our garden was a proliferation of planted vegetables, flowers, strawberries and yes, we had weeds. Our yard had the pretty weeds such as dandelions, violets and other things I would pick as a bouquet for my mom. My mom did not believe in pesticides so she let the weeds grow. The flowers weren’t planted in perfect flower beds but would pop up all over the yard wherever she decided she needed a pop of color. She loved the butterflies, bunnies and birds plus the squirrels that played in our yard. So did my cats, I might add. I remember sitting on the steps or looking out the window and loving the way the yard looked, flowers mixed with weeds. The imperfect lawn. I was naive. I thought that was the way yards were supposed to look, a mixture of flowers and weeds. I have no idea what everyone thought of our yard but I don’t remember my friends yards being much different. We had bare spots in our yard too. So did my friends. We played hard in those yards and the bare spots became bases for our ball games. We accepted all the imperfections of our gardens and our yards.

I have tried not to be a weed . I have tried not to have a yard with weeds and I found both very unsatisfying. Trying to live up to expectations of others wears one out. It is a cruel world out there and if you don’t measure up you are plucked and stripped very fast by a human weed killer. Those weed killers don’t understand there is room for both if both are responsible to not trample on each other.

I have found a balance in my yard. My friend who is a perfectionist gave me one flower bed that is well planned and neatly arranged. I love that she did that for me and I love that flower bed. But thinking back to my childhood I knew I wanted a yard also of random flowering wildflowers and weeds and so I took a page out of my mother’s book of planting, without the green thumb unfortunately. I threw wildflower seeds in one flower bed and I love the surprises popping up. There are weeds but I can’t tell what is what right now until they are up and blooming

I have sunflowers growing by my bird feeder and my yard is full of birds, rabbits and yes, squirrels. My shysters love the squirrels that climb our bird feeder in search of food. They turn around and there is a stare down between the squirrel and my cats. I suspect they both find it fun.

Some prefer manicured yards and make sure the bunnies and the squirrels stay away. I respect that if the manicured yard reflects their personality and values. There is room for both the manicured and the throw it together yard.

There is a fine line though while I am in weed mode. If it isn’t hurting anyone or breaking any laws while I am being a weed I can enjoy the feeling. Yet, if my weeds hurt my neighbors then I need to compromise. In fact we did that last year. We took down some bushes that caused too many shooters in my neighbors lawn. Our neighbors didn’t complain and were very nice about it but…it made me feel uncomfortable that my bushes were ruining their yard and causing them more work. Taking the bushes down was the right thing to do.

I am very lucky I to not live in a neighborhood with a covenant that tells me what I can or cannot do in my yard. Would that infringe on my right to be a weed? Yes it would, but I would have chose to live there and to compromise. Compromise is a hard word for some. Though I am a weed much of the time, I like to compromise with the flower as we need both to live.

Is my right as a weed more important than the right of my friend that is more flower than weed? Lately I’ve been trying to decide.

I don’t mind wearing a mask. Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes it is. I like to also think of it as a fashion statement. Some colorful masks rock. I could complain that it is violating my weed rights, but it is a given we have to wear clothes in public too. Doesn’t that violate our rights that we need to wear clothes in public or in stores? No one seems to be taking a stand on that? How is that different? Now remember that is the weed thinking, popping up and causing trouble.. I wear clothes to protect others. My skin wrinkles and rolls. Just as clothes protect you from seeing my wrinkles and my rolls, a mask protects you from seeing my jowls, my wrinkles and the puckery lined lips and possibly will keep you well.

There is a mixture of flowers and weeds in most of us. We learn to live with one another but in living with one another there has to be compassion, caring and compromise. If as a weed we don’t have the softness of a flower to balance us out we can become cruel, judgmental, unbending and destructive. Yes, I can be all of that.

The flower part of me says I need to compromise and think of my neighbor and how what I do may benefit or hurt them. The flower part of me says along with the right to be free comes the responsibility to see that others are free too and my choices might take their freedom away.

The weed part says it is my lawn and I can do what I want no matter who it harms. The weed part of me says I don’t need to worry if my neighbor has enough food, I worry only about my household. The weed part of me says I don’t have to wear a mask. As long as I’m not sick it doesn’t matter. The weed part of me says laws are for everyone else and not for me because I have the right to not follow the law. Throw that speed limit out.

Both parts of me fight all the time because I have so much selfishness inside of me, but I hope the flower in me isn’t choked out by my weeds so caring about others overrides the want or the need inside of myself to only think of how something benefits me. These past few weeks I have been surprised by the reactions of some I know both online and in person. I came to the conclusion we really don’t know who someone is until we are tested by diverse circumstances. True character sometimes is well hidden until it isn’t and it comes out in selfishness, hatred or racial divisiveness.

What is winning in your life, the flowers or the weeds or are you a perfect mix. allowing for a balance?