here comes the judge

As the story is told there were many splendid trees in the garden, and we were free to eat of all except one. As a species we have never been good with limitations. Why did Wisdom say not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? What happens when we begin to sort people, places, and things into the boxes of good and evil? We set ourselves up as the adjudicators of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable.

I remember when we decided we wanted to start our journey into parenthood. When I shared the decision with my mother, her immediate response was that I would have to stop working and stay at home. My response was given that two paychecks were becoming necessary to thrive in this world, quitting wasn’t an option and being a bread winner in addition to a parent was my only option. Once the baby arrived, my priorities changed. I couldn’t imagine going back to my job until I had secured someone whom I trusted to watch my daughter. I stayed home the school year my daughter was born, found a sitter and returned to work. But I felt torn in two. I cared about being a teacher, but I never felt happy dropping my daughter off while I went to work. When I found out I was expecting our second child, I decided to step off the cliff of uncertain financial stability to become a stay-at-home mom. Who was right? My mom? Me? What if both or neither of us was right?

Why do we feel the need to be right? The need to judge? The need to be the arbiter of truth? The judge of just and unjust? How many times a day do we form an opinion? And why do we so desperately cling to our opinions? Why do we state our choices as fact rather than preference? Why do we show no mercy when people make mistakes? Why do we not allow others to change their minds or allow them to change their opinions? Why do we insist that people be normal, that they adapt to us, that they change who they are so that we may remain comfortable in our assumptions? Growth depends on our willingness to be teachable. When we define others according to our judgment, we close ourselves off to all other possibilities. We seal the coffin so to speak on others and on ourselves. When we judge others and new ideas, we see the world in binary terms. The problem with black and white thinking is that we leave no room for shades of gray. There is only good (my way) and bad (the highway)…

… Black/White… Young/Old… Conservative/Liberal… Gay/Straight… Breastfeed/Bottle… Abled/Disabled… Protest/Silence… Short/Long… Hard worker/Lazy… Easy life/Hard life… College/Trade School… Mentally well/Mentally ill… Rich/Poor… Married/Unwed… Choosers/Beggars… Native/Immigrant… Citizen/Undocumented… Technology is a tool/Technology is a curse… Buy/Adopt… Educated/Uneducated… Prolife/Prochoice… No children/Many children… Forward thinking/Backward thinking… Progressive/Traditional… Back the Blue/Black Lives Matter… Christian/Non-Christian… Tough/Fragile… Healthy/Chronically Ill… Bless/Curse… Go to School/Home school… Permissive/Strict… On time/Late… Too slow/Too fast… Insiders/Outsiders… Buyers/Renters… Believers/Unbelievers… Private/Public… Skinny/Fat… Tall/Short… Guilty/Innocent… Segregation/Desegregation… Regular Ed/Special Ed… Millennials/Boomers… Masculine/Feminine… Threatening/Non-threatening…

The list goes on forever. 

Sometimes labeling and sorting is good. We know what happens when you try to wash reds with whites or put easy to shrink fabrics in the dryer. Outside the laundry room, sorting and labeling can get us in trouble. The next time I catch myself sorting and labeling people, I need to pause and reflect why I feel the need to label one side or the other as wrong or right. We make so many mistakes when we label. Part of loving another is allowing them to be different. Different is sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes scary. Let’s put down that fruit we were never meant to eat and allow others to be free to make their own choices. We are free to be you and me. We are not limited to binary decisions. Try both/and rather than either/or. Minds like parachutes work better when open. 

Last year I wrote about the need to let go of thoughts and patterns of behavior that no longer served me well. We must ask ourselves if labeling and sorting people is serving ourselves and others well. If it’s not, then we may want to consider letting that practice go.



the corner

One of my favorite movies of all time is “Rocky IV” — the best Rocky movie. Rocky takes down the machine that is Ivan Drago…

I’m not going to lie — I love most boxing or fighting movies. I love the underdogs, the comeback kids, the blue collar tough guys… I love it all. If we pay close enough attention, I think we can learn a thing or two from them. 

In a boxing match there are many factors that come into play, but often overlooked is “the corner.” The corner is a designated corner of the ring where the fighter rests between rounds. While much happens in the corner, I want to highlight three key things that take place. The fighter gets coaching advice, their wounds are examined, and finally, they are reminded why they are fighting. 

You’re in a fight. You need a corner. 

We all know what it’s like to be knocked down. If we’re honest, most of us also know what it’s like to not want to get back up. That’s what is so important about the corner. The corner has the ability to make or break a fight, because sometimes in a fight, it’s not about who’s in front of you — it’s about who’s behind you. The people in your corner are the people you take into the fight. They see the action up close and personal. 

Coaching Advice 

When the fighter gets to his corner, their coach or trainer has opportunity to talk with them. The trainers are normally older and definitely wiser. They’ve been here before; they’ve fought their own fights; and now they help others fight their own. The coaches see the fight outside of the chaos. When a fight is going on, it’s near impossible for the fighter to think about everything they’ve ever learned and not get punched in the face at the same time. During the fight, you can’t think; you just do and react. This is why coaching helps mid-fight. You need someone you can actually hear amidst the chaos. You know those people you know simply by hearing their voice? Your coach must be one of them. 

One of the most important things a fighter can do during the fight is discern the difference between the corner and the crowd. The crowd is the loudest; it emulates the chaos that’s during the fight — full of varied voices, different opinions, and tons of views shouting all different things. The crowd distracts from the corner. You may have people in the crowd, people you love, people you care about; they probably care about you, too, but they’re not in the corner. The corner is reserved for a select few. A crowded corner can become just at jumbled as the crowd. The corner is for the people who are best fit for this fight — the fight at hand. It’s not for people who think the same, look the same, act the same, worship the same, all from the same neighborhood — none of that. They don’t always agree with each other. In fact, you may have a different strategy than the corner, but the reason they are there is because you know they can help you win. The focus has to be on the fight. Having people in your corner that should instead be in the crowd would distract from the fight. 

Wounds Examined

It may not happen in the first or second round, but fighters will get wounded; it comes with the territory. Many times in fighting it’s a cut above or below the eye on the cheek, but it’s important to have it examined, stop the bleeding, and ensure the fighter’s eyes aren’t swollen. If the tissue around the eye swells, it can hinder the vision of the fighter. 

Bruised, bloody, and now blinded… 

I think this is how a lot of people feel in their own personal fight. They can get so beat up that if they get to their corner and don’t have anyone there to be authentic with, anyone they can bleed in front of, anyone there who can see the ugliness in/on them, it leads to many of us trying to fight when we’re actually falling apart. This is a result of an empty corner. Fighting is hard enough on its own; you don’t need to do it alone. 

Reminded Why 

Fighting alone is the easiest way to lose a fight. Not because you don’t have coaching, or because you may not get your wounds examined, but because there is going to be a moment or maybe ten, when you’re going to need to be reminded why. Most professional fighters fight for money, Rocky fought Ivan Drago to avenge the death of his best friend, Apollo. So… why are you fighting?

I mentioned earlier that we all know what it’s like to be knocked down, and to not want to get back up. We all have tough rounds; no one gets through this fight called life without being knocked down. We all go through rounds where when we get to the corner, we sit down and have no desire to get back up. We have to remember why we’re fighting in the first place. There is a reason we’re fighting, and if we aren’t reminded of that we could find ourselves camping in the corner. You need reminded that the fight is yours to win and the only way we lose is if we don’t get back out there. 

Don’t fight alone.

Find the right people to be in your corner. 

Get back in the fight. 


You have people in your corner, you’re not alone, and you have what it takes… Keep fighting. 




If asked to name a multi-billion industry today, what comes to mind? Probably Amazon, Starbucks, or McDonalds to name a few —  retail, coffee, or fast food. But would you have named one industry whose revenue in 2018 was over 38 billion dollars? Which one is that?  

It is the self-storage industry. In the beginning, units were for temporary use, but now we are told that 52% of the rentals are for a year or longer, and that 62% of those who rent storage space also have a garage, 32% have a basement, and who knows about attics? But the industry is still growing.

So, what motivates this love affair with “stuff”?  

Well, there are probably many rationales we use:

  • More makes me feel more successful.
  • Well, the Jones have it.
  • I might need it someday.
  • I can’t part with this treasure.
  • I’m saving it for the kids.

Any of the above sound familiar? You mean more is how we ‘measure “success”? When is “someday”? Emotional attachment? Take a picture. Have you asked your kids what they really want? 

Seriously, have you ever watched “Storage Wars,” a successful TV show which annually auctions off the contents of storage units, the contents of which were stored for all the above reasons, but were apparently forgotten, neglected, or abandoned?

Now the relevancy of the above thoughts transitions me to a more difficult topic, the non-material “stuff” we hold on to, that which we keep in our personal “storage units.”  Things like:

  • They hurt my feelings.
  • He let me down.
  • She did not meet my expectations.
  • I don’t forgive.
  • They are all alike. 

We could add worry and fear to the list, but the common denominator is the hostility, anger, and bias that we rationalize and justify holding on to. You say. “Well, at least I don’t pay rent on my personal “storage unit!” Really? Maybe not in dollars, but certainly in effort and peace of mind.  It takes work to “nurse and rehearse” these attitudes. Nelson Mandela reminded us of this with his “…drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Yes, there is a cost… missing out on relationships and experiences, wasted energy, deaf and blind to the joys that would enrich us. More importantly, the cost makes us less capable of being who we were created to be. Our growth is negated physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Now any suggestions if we plead guilty? Well, avoid being on “Storage Wars,” and call a Habitat for Humanity store or give to a needy family. Probably tougher is to do an honest audit of what we are storing mentally whatever the reason, for none of them are good enough to maintain. They are all detrimental to our health and well-being. Get rid of them! Just let it go!

The result is truly liberating. So maybe, just maybe, it would be smart to empty both storage units!



what else don’t I know?

Very recently a friend of mine who I worked with a few years ago posted a question on one of the social media platforms. His question was prefaced by saying he had not heard of Juneteenth until recently. The question posed was a simple innocent question from someone who had not been exposed to a lot of other cultures outside of his Northern California upbringing. According to website: 

“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.”

More important is the fact that for 155 years this has been quietly celebrated by many in the black community in the US. Almost as important is that many in other communities knew very little if any at all that this celebration existed. In 1965, the late Senator Patrick Moynihan sent a report to the Johnson (LBJ) Administration, the very first comprehensive look that other societies other than black societies had a chance to look into the proverbial windows of black America. Many blacks already had a window into white America because they worked in the homes and businesses of the majority white America. It was a one-way mirror for many years — so most whites were slightly enlightened as to how things were on the sometime literal side of the tracks. 

Since that report 55 years ago, little has been done to put together an in-depth report on the 2 societies. Surely many things have changed. I would state that most have been for the good —some not so good. One of the most significant things is that there are more biracial relationships across America. The relationships are not just white and black, but Spanish, Asian, Native American. There have been many enlightening moments for our society such as having our first biracial President Barack Obama and the Loving v. Virginia US Supreme Court Ruling in 1967 which invalidated any laws governing biracial marriages. My starting conversation with my former colleague on his social posting prompted me to ask myself, “If many did not know this about Juneteenth, what else don’t we know about each other?” We live side-by-side with many colors, religion and cultures and yet we know very little outside of our own self-made bubbles. I want to attempt to let you know some of the things I’ve learned about other cultures in my adult life and challenge you to do the same…

About 10 years ago I worked with a man who was born in Kenya but is of Indian/Hindu descent. He enlightened me about his family’s celebration of Diwali. Diwali is celebrated through October and November. It is their festival of lights. This festive celebration shows the triumph of light over darkness or good over evil. We have celebrated several other Indian holidays at his house. Let’s just say many delicious curry dishes have been consumed with them — all, I might add, were vegetarian. Correspondingly, he has visited and celebrated with my family and our foods. If I forgot to mention, I was originally born in Jamaica in the Caribbean, a point I believe is germane to this essay. I believe a lot of my fascination with other cultures is because I am from another culture. My wife likes to say I’m from another time as well. She might very well be right. 

When I moved to the State of Nevada in 1996, all I knew about the LDS church was that they were Mormons. My only exposure to this culture was limited to seeing their Book of Mormon in some hotels across the country. I also enjoyed watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and their presentation of Handel’s Messiah every Christmas and Easter season. Outside of these two references, I had no more until I started working with some LDS members in the late 90’s. Some of the myths that the larger society believes — such as polygamy, for example — are no longer practiced. They are very much Christians who have what they describe as additional teachings. Just as the Old Testament brought new teachings, their Book of Mormon gives continued dialog about Jesus. I have also found out it is better to refer to them as LDS (Latter Day Saints) rather than the term, “Mormons.” Also, they are super family and community oriented. I am not ready to convert, but I can see how someone could be attracted to this group. 

My overall point in this essay is to stimulate curiosity rather than adversity, enlightenment vs. condemnation. Our motto from the Latin of E Pluribus Unum — or “Out of Many, One” —  should be what stimulates us to embrace our differences and build on the similarities we share. The more I learn and know, the more I realize how much I don’t know. 

How about you ? Are you willing to explore?



black lives matter?

It has become the litmus test of our time. Are you willing to say the words, “Black lives matter”?

Well, of course I am. It is one of the founding tenets of our society, that all men and women are created equal, period.

For those who stubbornly insist on replying, “All lives matter,” well of course they do. Blue lives matter. Brown lives matter. Yellow, red, and white lives matter. Setting aside the obvious application to the abortion issue, all lives matter.

But you do not go to a funeral, get to the front of the receiving line, and say, “All lives matter.” You say, “I am so sorry for your loss.” And for African Americans who watched the atrocity of an unarmed black man killed in public by a white man sworn to protect and serve, they are grieving, and understandably so. The appropriate response is to empathize, to feel their pain. “Black lives matter.” Come on, you can do it.

Given my life experience, I do not feel I can speak for those who are grieving. So I reached out to African American friends, including a pastor, a community leader, and a CEO, and asked how they are feeling. The CEO said it best, “I am hurt, angry, exhausted, and provoked. The anger you see in the streets is the result of years of conversations with no actions to follow.”

The problem is that BLM is being turned into three completely different things, all being roped together under the umbrella of “Black Lives Matter.” It is critically important that we deal with them separately…

The first is the assertion, the validation that black lives should be valued equally to white lives. There is no argument against this point. Of course they should. There is much in our history that demonstrates this has not always been the case, such as slavery, lynchings, or separate schools, water fountains, or seats on a bus or in a restaurant.

But there is much in our current day that suggests we have not yet overcome this unfortunate history. I could list a hundred statistics here — education, dropout rates, unemployment, income, even at the same level of education and grades, rates of prosecution and sentence length for the same crimes, health, mortality rates, poverty, and food insecurity. Just Google them. To deny racial inequality in this country is to stick your head in the proverbial sand.

There are some systemic issues that bake this into society. Those born into poverty gravitate toward high-concentration, low-cost, high-crime, urban environments, perpetuating these statistics. And those whose political power is founded on people feeling discriminated against talk a good game, but risk losing that power should we ever enact substantive solutions.

Regardless of whether it was racially motivated, the murder of George Floyd lit a fire that has an abundance of fuel, and we should all be about fixing that. Black lives matter.

The second manifestation of these words is the violent demonstrations we see in our streets. This gets complicated, because the demonstrators themselves represent different groups:

There are peaceful protesters, whose constitutional right to voice objection to the inequities outlined above are being drowned out by others who take it too far.

There are violent protesters. Some are enraged by the injustice and years of inaction, like my CEO friend, and get carried away in response. This is understandable. Others see the broken Target doors as an opportunity to get free sneakers or TVs. This is criminal.

But there are also sinister protagonists, sects of society who benefit or are simply entertained by social unrest. These people literally deliver bricks or baseball bats to demonstration sites, infiltrating themselves among those with sincere motives for protesting, like the Whisperers among the Walking Dead. Ironically, these include both Antifa, which promotes violence against conservatism, and white supremacists, who want you to think badly about black protesters. When you do, they win.

This brings us to the third manifestation, the Black Lives Matter political organization. There are people who do not necessarily care one bit about racial equality, but see current events as an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of an unstoppable political force. Heard much about climate change lately? Nope. Because those operatives have hitched their cars to a new train with the potential to take them to political nirvana.

What is the agenda of Black Lives Matter as a political organization? You have to dig deeper than their banner slogans. The central organization is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. One of its leaders is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and that entity is associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, an avowed Marxist-Leninist group that has received funding from the Tides Foundation run by George Soros.

This is a secret hiding in plain sight. In a recent interview, a Foundation leader shared that she and her chief strategy advisor “in particular are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on ideological theories.”

Here is a sampling of their political agenda: 

  • Disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear-family structure
  • Abolishing all police and all prisons
  • Restructuring tax codes to ensure a radical redistribution of wealth
  • Retroactive decriminalization of all drug-related offenses and prostitution, with reparations
  • Reconstructing the economy to ensure communities have collective ownership

These are not my interpretations. These are quotes from the Movement for Black Lives website.

The problem before us is that Black Lives Matter as a principle, as a protest, and as a political organization have been lumped into one, when they are far different things. And the radicals are counting on this, that you are not allowed to criticize the political agenda, because it is socially unacceptable and flat out wrong to oppose the principle. These must be dissected.

Black lives matter as a principle must be affirmed. As a protest, the right answer is not to disallow them because of the violence, but to take meaningful action to right the wrongs that motivate them. But the political organization must be exposed for what it is, an opportunistic Trojan horse that seeks to prey on the injustice to advance a radical agenda.

Black lives matter as a principle? Absolutely. Black Lives Matter as a political organization? No, thank you.



wringer washers & kaleidoscopes

“If I am known as your ‘black friend,’ news flash: You see color. Let’s see each other as friends and fellow Americans.” — Carol T., age 50

“Everything feels so heavy. What is wrong with everyone? I love being brown.” — Jubilee W., age 13

The current social climate has been nothing short of tricky to navigate for the last several weeks. It feels as though as a nation, our hearts have been put through the wringer of that old-time three-tub wringer washer of my childhood. “Wash Day” was always a day of dread in some ways for me. As a teenager, just the thought of spending the whole day sorting, washing, hanging the wash on the line, folding, and finally putting loads and loads and loads of clean laundry all away is what I would dread. 

However, as a younger version of myself, it wasn’t the all-day affair that I dreaded as much as it was the wringer washer itself. And actually, in all honesty, the wringer itself was the epicenter of my dread. 

What if my hand got caught in the wringer? I was pretty confident it would be smashed flat. After all, just look at what happened to the clothes!!! Surely, my hand would have had the life completely squeezed out of it!! 

In many ways, our hearts, my heart, and spirits, have felt the “SQUEEZE” of the proverbial wringer washer of current happenings in so, so many ways. First, there came a global pandemic that brought about a somewhat forced shut down of our lives. Next, personally, there was the untimely passing of a very dear friend who was more like family than he was a friend… and now, the navigation of our current social climate which makes you feel like you are treading where serpents nest or bomb shells are buried. All of these situations force us to feel that squeeze and try to make sense of it all. 

Allow me to share the words that have brought my heart and spirit the most comfort in this season of “the wringer.” The two quotes at the beginning of this blog have come from two dear ones who are in different places in their lives but both have struck a deep well of pondering in my own heart… 

“If I am known as your ‘black friend,’ news flash: You see color. Let’s see each other as friends and fellow Americans.”

“Everything feels so heavy. What is wrong with everyone? I love being brown.”

The question that quickly leapt out of my heart and took me aback was this: is seeing color such a bad thing? And, as I have chewed on this question, a word study has ensued; that tends to be how the Great Big God of the Universe speaks to me.  

The word that came to me is “kaleidoscope.” Did you know that kaleidoscope is derived from the Greek? Let’s break it down…

Kalos – meaning beautiful, beauty.

Eidos – meaning that which is seen-form-shape.

Skopeo – meaning to look to, to examine.  

Thus, the word “kaleidoscope” equates to the observation of beautiful forms.

The observation of beautiful forms. 

You guys… isn’t that what we are?! We are those beautiful forms… the human racewith all of our good, bad, and ugly. We are those beautiful forms. We each have so much to bring to the table to share with each other. So much that goes beyond our skin color but even our skin tone is so vital to who we are and what we bring to the table. There is so much to value in another person — like their mind and how they think, their heart and how they feel, things deep inside their souls. 

So, I love to see the colors of the human race. I love watching the colors bend and shift and come together again in intricate patterns and designs. So many angles just like the kaleidoscope of our youth.  

Here, therefore, is the kaleidoscope in words: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.”

I think I hear that old wringer washer firing up again…



context clues

As a former elementary teacher, my answer to understanding most questions usually returns to the concept of context clues.

Context clues help a reader bring meaning to the stated words allowing a better grasp of the author’s intent including an understanding of tone and undertones of literary genre such as satire. Learning to grasp woven fibers through the text makes reading more relatable as readers travel to worlds unknown from the comfort of an armchair or hammock. 

This is the most difficult skill to teach and to learn because it requires internalizing text. It’s like music. You can play the notes, but if you don’t “feel” the music, it’s just not the same. Context is the connective fiber between writer and reader. Truly digesting context requires high level thinking, exposure to a variety of viewpoints and a willingness to understand beyond one’s own viewpoint. 

It requires both the writer and the reader to be responsible for their actions in the literary contract. The contract is not always the same at each encounter. Time has a way of changing both parties memories, relationship and understanding of how things are. Our understanding of context changes over time. This is the same with our relationships. 

It is often curious to me as to why two very people seem to “get along” so well even though their points of view are so very different. I always go back to context clues. What context do they have in common that links their ability communicate with one another? 

Is there is a common bond that is not obvious to others that is so simple as a love for a candy, a sports team or vacation spot? Have you ever seen two people realize they attended the same college and scream in sheer delight? Have you ever met someone who you had an instant liking?  Upon further reflection you can’t really figure out why, but you just “like” that person. 

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Michelle Obama come to mind. They genuinely love one another even though it would appear they are very different. Their context or connection as “partners-in-crime” is their humor. 

As children, we are often open to learning more context. As adults, our scopes are often limited by time, habits, day-to-day responsibilities, and our lack of energy. In a time that seems to have so much turmoil, I contend this an opportunity to find a common context. We have been forced to slow down whether we wanted to or not. One area is our recognition of race as it relates to not only to our history and our society as a whole, but how we interact daily. There is a large part of our history that has not been recognized. This does impact our daily relationships, our recognized context.

There are Americans who become bothered when they see Black Lives Matter. Their immediate response is All Lives Matter. All Lives Do Matter, but not ALL Lives have been treated equitably. I contend the different points of view are due to context. Our experiences have brought us to different conclusions. This is an opportunity to at least try and understand why context is so important. Everyone wants to be heard. No one wants to be discounted.

As a parent of one brown and one white son, their life experiences have been very different. Both are well-educated, polite, empathetic, upper-middle class handsome individuals. However, with one son I have had to have the “talk” on more than one occasion. I have had the responsibility of making him understand because it has meant a matter of life and death at times.  My sons are in their thirties, and we still have the “talk.” I am more afraid now than I have ever been. Having two young grandsons, it saddens me that this tradition must continue, but it is a matter of life and death. I see their innocence and think the “talk” won’t stop during their life time.

Our brown son has been pulled over multiple times by police, was run down by a “respectable” fraternity member with a pick-up truck as a grad student and has been refused service at a sporting goods store. He was told that it was the policy that shoes cannot be tried on prior to purchase. He is a social worker. He has called me on the phone when police have been harassing his students during school programming. As a mother, you feel completely helpless on the other end of phone listening to a potentially deadly situation when the phone goes silent. There is a real reason for the anger, the fear and the frustration. My family’s experiences are not atypical. 

Many white friends will say that is too bad, and say they are sorry for the way he has been treated because they know him and know what a nice person he is. They will add, but that’s not the norm. Friends of color understand these experiences as all too common place. My white son has not had these experiences. I do not hate police or other white people. I am one, but I know things need to change. I need to help be part of that change. 

I also offer a glimpse into my world as to “why” people saying they don’t see color it is so very irritating. My first reaction is, “Of course you do!” But then, I have to step back and consider their context clues. Maybe they are trying to say, “I am trying to treat everyone fairly.”  

They don’t understand my angst as a mother. I must remember that I have a responsibility to listen to theirs. (But please, if you say this, do stop saying, “You don’t see color.”)

Desmund Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

My hope is that we take the context of this time to reflect and help one another. 



can’t we all get along?

It was 28 years ago when Rodney King pleaded, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?”

We don’t know if George Floyd would be inclined to make a similar plea today. Even if he could, in our hyper-charged political environment no one seems willing to retreat from any position, on any topic, at any time. There’s an old movie line that goes “love means never having to say I’m sorry.” Sadly, the contemporary version might be “hate means never having to say I’m wrong.”

Anyone who’s been through relationship counseling knows that an attitude of “I’m right and the other person has to change” will lead to failure. It’s the same with race relations. Unless we are all willing to look at the world through a different perspective than our own and reassess our assumptions, the racial tensions will not subside.

George Floyd’s death has been the catalyst for dialogue not just about police brutality but racism in general. Many whites are uncomfortable even entering such a conversation. No one wants to be labeled a racist, and people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. There is also a tendency to be defensive because the concept of institutional/systemic racism is often conflated with personal bigotry.

I have good news. At the start of this discussion, you don’t have to talk. You can just listen.  Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next, try to put yourself in the shoes of a black person who got pulled over after doing nothing wrong, or watched a woman clutch her purse after they walked into an elevator, or had derogatory remarks made to them in a public place solely because of the color of their skin. How would that make you feel?

Much of our discourse around current events becomes an all-or-nothing affair. That’s just not the way the world usually works. Most things are along a spectrum. Yet, we’ve become conditioned to not give an inch to avoid a perceived slippery slope. Does racism exist? Undoubtedly. Does racism explain all the disparities in outcomes of social well-being? Of course not. Can we at least find common ground and agree that it’s somewhere between all or nothing?

Concerning police reform, some of us approach the debate logically and others emotionally. Again, we should try to view the subject from the other side. Statistics show that not only has the number of people who die at the hands of police declined over the past several years, but of those in an encounter with police, the odds of a black person being shot and killed are no greater than those of a white person. Nonetheless, those statistics don’t invalidate the anger and pain felt after watching the video of George Floyd’s death. If you have not watched the full timeline, you should. (Please be aware it is quite disturbing.)

Regardless of what the numbers say, we should acknowledge that many blacks feel genuine fear in the presence of police. Something struck me about the clashes between protesters and police after Floyd’s death. In several communities across the country, police got on one knee to demonstrate that they weren’t a threat and show solidarity with the protesters.  Many of the protesters reacted by crying. Those tears would not have come without an authentic belief that police are people to be afraid of.

How has that belief has been formed? Incidents of police behaving improperly receive outsized coverage in the news and social media, which can lead to thinking it is more common than it really is. Sure, there are cops who abuse their authority, but the vast majority of police are driven by a sincere desire to serve and protect all of us. It is appropriate to consider reforms to improve trust and confidence in public safety. However, calls to disband police departments are either grossly misguided or intentionally meant to create civil unrest. The obvious irony is that the result of implementing these plans would hurt black communities the most.

There are some trying to take advantage of the racial tensions to advance a political agenda, one that goes far beyond police reform to a Marxist reordering of our society. Yet, just as very few cops abuse their power, very few of us are Marxists. If everyone stays silent in the face of today’s emerging woke authoritarianism out of fear of being “cancelled,” then the radicals may very well realize their vision. Those of us who share a true willingness to improve race relations should keep the focus on the topic at hand and not let it be hijacked.

One last thought: racism isn’t going to be eliminated by passing a law. You can’t legislate hearts and minds. For us to figure out how to all get along, we’ll need to have an honest and candid exchange of ideas. Let’s get engaged.



I hate conflict

Have you heard about climate change? Chances are you have. I love our planet, but it’s not that climate I am focused on right now. I am concerned about the climate of the people living on the planet. Our internal temperature has risen, feeding an inferno of hatred and angst. There’s an epidemic alright, a dangerous infection of unfriending and cancelling, name-calling and finger pointing. At our core, we are melting down.  

Before you read any further, here’s one thing you should know about me: I HATE CONFLICT.  Yes, the caps are yelling from the page, though I detest yelling in general. I am not a yeller. I am a ‘stew-er,’ a ruminator, an internal and verbal processor when it comes to conflict. Interpersonal strife makes my stomach churn and I lay awake at night. Though I will on occasion, honk in automotive protest (I am from Chicago after all) or make a snarky remark to a customer “service” representative, as a general rule, I avoid all personal conflict — especially with people I love. I need those people just like I need the planet — for survival.  

We’ve all heard sayings about not being able to change others. It’s true. We can’t, and we shouldn’t try (unless those “others” are your minor children and then it is your job to try – a topic for another day). Trying to make other people think and feel just like us is not productive nor healthy. Just like species that become extinct when the atmosphere is polluted, relationships wither and die when we contaminate our conversations with disrespect and disapproval.  Unfortunately, many close relationships are now on the endangered species list due to the current emotionally-charged atmosphere. I can’t speak for those who try to change the masses’ opinion, but I can speak to how emotional climate change has affected my own close personal relationships. It’s real. It’s hard. My stomach has churned and my sleep has been affected. The good news is, it can be navigated if both parties are willing. (Yeah, that’s the sticky part.) 

Let’s face it, the pandemic has only served to amplify the political and social divide we were experiencing as a country, and as individuals. So how does one navigate the raging voices that permeate all sides of current discourse? As my recently deceased 84-year-old father used to say, “We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.” We need to listen. That seems a little cliché right now — doesn’t it?  Of course, we listen… or so we think. I’m not talking about “active” listening or even heightened listening, but rather, a deeper listening (stay with me here). After listening, we need to talk. Really talk. (FYI — social media doesn’t begin to count.) Honest, vulnerable, candid conversations about issues of the heart. It’s risky, I know. Believe me, I know. 

I had such a talk just last week with my oldest buddy, my lifeline, my heart sister. Like twins, we even have our own language, yet over the years, we have come to speak different languages when it comes to certain life views. Feeling the climate change intensely, we were having a heart-to-heart about my fears of an unthinkable collapse of our 50+ year bond due to those variances. I could hardly breathe, much less talk about it. Life without her would not be as rich, as meaningful, and not nearly as much fun. In the end, there were tears. Tears of relief that we do not have to be identical to be twins.  

I loved her suggestion that our friendship should be looked at through the lens of deep commitment, similar to that of a marriage. (I would like to say all relationships can be viewed this way, but let’s just start with our nearest and dearest, and those who are willing to do the work. Sometimes that’s all we get, and we’re truly blessed to get that when we do.)  

A good marriage is never easy. It takes work as spouses grow, change, and evolve over the years.  A solid union is made of individuals who cheer each other on to personal victories, even if those victories are not of our own personal liking. Not only that, we are to dignify and affirm the journeys our loved ones are on and defend their right to pursue their own personal path even if it “bugs us” (a bucket term for everything from slight irritation to outright fury). 

For example, my husband bought a motorcycle a few years ago. I thought it was a joke at first since I have always been staunchly, no — hysterically-opposed to motorcycles. To this former ER nurse, it’s a “donor-cycle”, and I’ve taken care of plenty of donors. Ultimately, he promised to be safe, so I told him to go for it. (Of course, I made sure his life insurance was up to date. He also agreed to either come home in one healthy piece, or ride straight into Heaven’s garage.  No in-between rehab scenarios allowed — my nursing days are over.) Do I love that he has a dangerous hobby? No, I don’t, but he’s a big boy and he has the right to live that out. Not only did I say ‘yes,’ I cheer him on by encouraging him to take advantage of good riding weather with fellow idiots, I mean enthusiasts; three years later, do I want to leather up and hop on a donor-cycle?  Heck, no. (I tried once, but apparently cried the entire time. I’ve successfully blocked it out.) Just because biking is his hobby, it doesn’t have to be mine. 

Can the same acceptance be said for all my interpersonal relationships, in every arena? I’m working on it. I really am. I know a motorcycle isn’t equal to diverging opinions on issues of politics, faith, abortion, LGBTQ+, racial justice, social change, or even masking up. However, the same principles of deep commitment need to apply when listening to those we love tell us what they want, feel, and need. Can we still be close, without being clones? If we love one another, we will not demand it. 


Funny Gal Sal