It’s not only a Justin Bieber song title, it’s good advice. No matter how fierce the pressures of job and family and service, steal a few minutes a day for yourself. A better you is better for everyone around you.
Ten Minute Re-Boots
Quick pencil sketch on a napkin
Text a compliment to someone
Pray or meditate
Watch a silly cat video
Enjoy a cup of tea
Stand outside and breathe deeply
As always, sending you my love. I hope you have a lovely week.
It was a long cold rainy winter in Seattle, the worst I’ve seen in my thirty years here.
But we survived.
Free Speech on life support
The addiction to news cycles
Social media squalls
The mad slough of friends and family on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
Is is over yet?
Well, my calendar says it is spring. And in a few days we begin a fresh month. It’s another chance to sweep away residual fear and worry and hate. Another opportunity to be our best selves and love others with an unjaded heart.
Last week, I was skimming Hacker News and found an article about ritual smudging or saging. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is something I do regularly in my house – usually when my husband goes out of town because he doesn’t love the residual scent.
It is derived from Native American roots, and is a spiritual ‘house cleaning’ of sorts.
Here’s how it’s done:
First, locate a bundle of dried sage, a bird feather (to fan smoke) and a large shell
Light the sage bundle
Walk through each space in your home
As you walk, ask God (or the Universe) to clear out dark energy and invite light, positive energy inside your home. I pray and walk slowly from room to room
Sometimes the sage bundle extinguishes. Stop and relight the bundle and remain in that space until the smoke clears the energy.
“God, fill this house with your love and light.” That is something I say as I walk the house, but you will find your own words.
When you’ve saged your home, respectfully empty the shell of ashes outside and say a thank you to God or the Universe.
My family used to (okay, STILL) roll their eyes at me for saging. But this article I found justifies the ancient ritual. It has been proven that herbal smoke has powerful antibacterial properties. Sage smoke cleans the air and keeps it clean for days. Wow, right? Here’s the article.
After I post this blog, I am going to sage my home. I will start this new season with a clean house and spirit. I will let go of any darkness and make room for something better. Because any day is a good day for a fresh start.
Again I ask. Would MLK wear a safety pin? I’ve been streaming his speeches on Spotify and have to wonder. Would MLK want us to feel safe? Maybe. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against racism from pulpits, pavements and prisons. He gave his life for a civil rights movement that shaped our country into something better. When things got violent, he stepped into the fray and preached a position of love and peace. Here’s a link to his famous speech, “Loving Our Enemies.” I encourage you to take a few moments to read it. Don’t worry. I’ll wait. 🙂 In this speech, Dr. King tells us that “Jesus wasn’t playin’.” He says we are to love (not like, LOVE) our enemies. In other speeches he urges us to look upon our fellow man and expect goodness. Those sentiments lead me to feel that Dr. King might not have donned a safety pin. A recurring theme of his speeches was to challenge us to look upon each other and expect the best, expect goodness, expect safety.
Maybe that’s why I resist wearing a safety pin. I want to walk through my days and look into the eyes of my fellow man for goodness, not look down for a pin on a lapel. Because what if it’s not there? What then? Do I assume that person is unsafe? Ignorant? Racist? Misogynist? I can’t. I won’t. Right now there’s enough us versus them, him versus her in the world. I choose to look upon everyone as safe and if I am harmed because of that supposition, well then, I’ll hurt. But I won’t let it color my judgment against everyone.
To every single person wearing a safety pin, I respect your choice. Your fear is real and I have great compassion for you, but the truth is places of fear and discomfort have inspired the most dramatic steps forward in civil rights. If Rosa Parks hadn’t refused to give up her seat on that bus, forward progress would have been delayed for who knows how long? Anxiety, fear, anger, discomfort, and the passion to right a wrong led to change.
I guess the mom in me needs to say something else, too. Whether you’re a millennial or middle-ager like me, you have a right to feel however you feel. For now honor it. Cling to one another. Grieve. But then for God’s sake rise up! Take action to defend what you feel is most at risk. Use your fear and anxiety to push you out of your comfort zone and use your voice, your strong, unique and perfect voice to take action.
Attend that city council meeting. Write a letter to president-elect Trump and and local politicians to say that you expect the rights of all to be preserved and revered by this administration. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Give to the local food bank. Help a neighbor. Do. Something. Now.
This has been my strategy all week and I feel better, way better doing something with my anxiety and fear than not.
And I’ll confess something ugly to you, too. If Hillary had won last week I’d be smiling. I’d feel safe. I’d feel comfortable. And I sure as hell wouldn’t be recommitting myself to the causes I’ve always felt most strongly about. So for me, a self-confessed Pollyanna, this is the silver lining.
Hate. Did you listen to mainstream media today and scream? Did you jump on social media and stalk a few haters using words you’d never use with your kid in the room? Did you scream at the television during the ball game and scare off the cat?
You may be one of millions of Americans addicted to hate.
Neurologists studied brain scans and found some alarming facts. Feelings of intense hate and intense love trigger the same areas of the brain except for one key difference. Hate triggers the brain to judge more sharply. Love clouds those same judgmental neurons. Hmm. Interesting. Here’s the study if you want to read it in full. So love and hate ARE related, but love makes us look past each other’s flaws and hate does what? Oh, hate makes us harshly judge one another. Ouch. That’s right. No matter what the truth is about that other person, our hate filter shows them as ugly.
Here’s another interesting part of the study. Both intense hate and intense love are closely linked with the areas of the brain that trigger OCD behavior like compulsive thoughts. So if we feel intense hate, neurons are triggered that cause us to want to create that hate-filled surge again and again. Yeah. That seems addictive.
Does this explain why we troll people/groups on social media that make us angry? (I might’ve done this to the kicker’s wife that threatened Richard Sherman…) Is this why talk radio continues to flourish? Is this why sports are so damn popular? I’m not sure. Maybe. All I can say for sure is that I’m a simple woman that had a question and started down a rabbit hole of research about hate that I’m finding really really interesting.
So what does hate say about the hater? Well, according to Psychology Today, hate says everything about the hater and nothing about the hated. Hate is usually accompanied by fear and anxiety and often shows an ugliness inside us that we’ve spent a ton of energy stuffing deep deep down into the shadows of our minds. If you feel hate, let it be a wake up call. Notice that hate, name it and then ask yourself where it came from. If you can put a finger on that wriggly little thought-worm, then you can also deem it powerless.
Well, I won’t hate. More than ever, today I’m called to love and care and give.
And for me, love and compassion are the antiserum to this climate of hate. When I dip a toe in social media and start to feel the hate, I yank myself away and tie on my Asics. After running a couple miles, the runner’s high hits and the hate fades to nothing. The fake ugliness, the not-so-important differences between us seem insignificant. And again I see my fellow humans as they are, beautiful, loving, complicated people just trying to do the best they can.
When I was in college I began a list called, “Good Things Coming My Way.” Yeah, looking at the title now it seems a bit…umm…me-centric. But, the point of the list was to take note of all I had to look forward to in the coming days. Back then I was juggling a volunteer position for University of Washington athletics, a part-time job, and a full load of classes. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, but my little list put the positive in sharp perspective.
Here are a few that showed up every week:
Clean white socks on my feet
Food in my stomach
Healthy legs so I can exercise
A call or visit home
Spending time with my friends
Simple stuff, right? Well, I didn’t realize how well that attitude for gratitude has served me until I lost it recently. This election season has been derisive, corrosive, mean and ugly. And when people hurt, I hurt. It’s who I am. For a time, I was struggling to get out of bed.
Now though, after a week away from the news and social media, I’m lighter in spirit and seeing the blessings around me again.
Today I am grateful for:
Shelter over my head
Food in my cabinets
The freedom to worship God
The freedom of others to worship or not as they choose
Family and friends
Good schools and great teachers
People that do their jobs, not for the paycheck, but because they feel called to
My neighbors and community
Hope and healing
Healthy feet and legs that allow me to exercise
Fresh starts, not just on New Year’s Day, but every single day we choose to forgive, try again, or move on
And there’s so much more that I’m missing, right? What else do we humans have in common? As the United States seems to rage with hate-fire, I need to remind myself this is all propaganda, garbage that is leading people to become protectionist because the sky seems to be falling.
Well, the sky is still in place. And right now outside my Seattle window, the sky is actually clear and blue.
We’re going to be okay. And also know that I love you. I care about you. And I want you to make strides towards that dream you have that brings you joy.
Add onto my list. What do you feel we all have in common?
The other day #fatpet was trending on Twitter. So was #blackfamilythanksgiving .
Fresh off the heels of terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunisia and Lebanon and Israel and Baghdad, I was more than grateful for the lightness these threads provided. Yes, scrolling through countless tweets was a sweet diversion, but it quickly became more than that as I giggled over post after post, most of which I could relate to from my own life. I had a light bulb moment. Yes, we are spread out across this nation, we have different struggles, dreams and fears, but these Twitter threads illustrated how much we still have in common.
And it hit me. I knew in that moment what I value most about the United States of America – it’s the united part. What unites us? Well, that’s a beautiful complication. Our innovative spirit? Freedom of speech? Our belief in the American dream? Freedom of religion? Our rich diversity? Our unwillingness to quit? Yes, those are common strings that bind us, but they only begin to scratch the surface.
Recently, KUOW did a story about the crows of Seattle. Here’s the link in case you’d like to read it. Every evening at sunset, tens of thousands of crows take to the skies and fly north. Observing this, the reporter became obsessed with finding out where they gathered and why. After a harried drive through the city, she followed the crows to a cemetery in a northern suburb. The crows clustered across the grounds of Calvary Cemetery. The strongest birds perched in the treetops overhead, standing guard. The rest of the crows sat on the grass, arranging themselves so that the younger, smaller birds were surrounded, protected by the others. As the sun sunk into the Olympic mountains, all of the crows stood facing the same direction as a community. Their instincts led them to this place, where they stood a better chance of surviving the night against predator attacks. United.
As I read this story, the hair stood up on my arms. These crows are smart. They know there is safety in community. By instinct, they know to protect the frail, the young and the old. At night they stand together. Safe from the coyotes and raccoons and raptors that probably detest this unity because it makes killing all the tougher.
There are global predators that wish to do harm to America, obliterate our way of life. Can we stand united against them? Or will we continue to allow our mainstream media and political leaders to fracture us? Pit you against me? Us against them? Him against her? Or should we take a lesson from the crows and unite. Can we agree to protect our most vulnerable? Can we view our differences as a blessing? Can we seek to find our commonalities and rejoice in them?
So, if your social media threads of late have left you feeling angry, frustrated, scared, and maybe even invisible, I suggest you unplug for a couple days. Connect with people in real life. Look for the good your neighbors are doing right now, then roll up your sleeves and join them. Live your truth and value the person next to you who has their own take on the world. Relish the differences and find the common threads. Gather at sunset and face the same way. United.
I’ve been obsessed with cemeteries since I was a child. It all began when my mom, needing to attend night classes for her Master’s program, hired an unusual babysitter. The lady was nice enough, but she happened to be the daughter of a cemetery caretaker. Yes. Our sitter lived in a graveyard.
On that cold autumn afternoon, darkness descended before my brother and I had so much as swallowed down a decent after school snack. Cozy in the caretaker’s cabin, we started in on our homework when the babysitter encouraged (okay, maybe pushed) us out the front door. “Go get some fresh air before supper.”
I clung to my big brother’s arm, looking at the gray tombstones through my fingers. “What’re we supposed to do out here?” I asked.
“Well, how about hide-and-seek?” she offered. “My brother and I spent hours playing that out here when we were kids.”
That was a long night. And, toward bedtime, I was grateful to see the beam of mom’s headlights flash through the front window. I had nightmares after that. Well, in truth, I’ve always had nightmares. But after that experience, graveyards burrowed under my skin. My new two-headed fascination and phobia began.
Fast-forward to 2015. Traveling through London with my family, I stumbled across a book, HAUNTED LONDON. During an hour of down-time in the hotel, I read it cover to cover. Inside the author mentioned a place called, “Crossbones Cemetery.” A quick Google search and I found out it was a stone’s throw away from our hotel. I was determined to see it myself. Click here to book a haunted London walking tour!
The Crossbones Cemetery holds somewhere around 14,000 women and their children. There are no gravemarkers and prayers were never uttered over any of the bones within the property grounds. These were London’s castaways. Women of the night or Churchill’s geese for the orange hoods and white cloaks they were required to wear, these women were seen as too steeped in sin to warrant niceties like church rites and grave markers. That was 200 years ago.
Modern Londoners are atoning for the mistakes of their forefathers. On numerous occasions, developers have attempted to morph the property into a parking lot or other profit-churning venture. It’s always been fought and defeated. And now, well, what’s happening leaves me speechless.
IMG_6299Londoners come together once a month at Crossbones Cemetery. After uncovering the names of the women and children, they write those names on pieces of ribbon and tie them onto the surrounding fence. Slowly, they are remembering the dead, honoring their lives and reclaiming those lost souls.
As I tied our flower offering to the fence, I stood in awe. There was an overwhelming sense of peace at Crossbones. And love. And forgiveness.
This week, not because it’s Halloween, but because history lives and breathes in these sacred spaces, walk a cemetery. Take a photo. Tidy the leaves off a grave. And maybe utter a name etched into a tombstone. Who knows what this simple act will do for you or the person buried beneath your feet?
Reeling from his failed comeback and ruined marriage, washed-out actor Ian James (née Isaac Janowitz) flees Los Angeles for a two-week respite in Northern California’s remote Marble Mountains—Bigfoot country. His time alone in the wilderness begins to peel away the layers of his Hollywood persona. After a fateful meeting with a beguiling woman, Ian begins to question his heart. In a moment of clarity, Isaac ditches his publicist and finds himself in Redding, living with invisibility at the Vagabond Motel.
Professor Ruth Hill is burnt out teaching photography at Redding’s Shasta College, eager for her upcoming retirement. But for unexplained reasons, despite weekly therapy sessions, her panic attacks have escalated. Her artistic slump persists. Looking back, she regrets a life without risk; looking forward, she dreads a meaningless future. Going over her proof sheets one morning, she stumbles upon a series of striking thumbnails, reigniting her passion and creativity.
Readers will root for Isaac and Ruth as they grapple with their chance encounter on the mountain and search for meaning in their repellent, yet intense attraction. Their paths do cross again, but when confronted with the possibility of enduring love, Ruth’s cynicism creeps in; Isaac’s self-defeating beliefs take hold. For these two damaged souls, it just may be too late.
What Readers Are Saying
Bookwormon Amazon.com gave the novel five-stars and said this:
“Believing in Bigfoot is a great read. It is the kind of book you want to curl up with and not stop until it is done and then you are sorry that it is over. The characters are compelling, the story interesting and the settings lovely. I highly recommend it.”
Ana Manwaring on Amazon.com gave the novel five-stars and said this:
“I love Believing in Bigfoot. I’ve read it twice. JC Miller has the knack of digging down into real human emotions in her novels (I’ve read them all). She shows us ourselves through her characters, and we aren’t always pretty and perfect. Miller’s characters are humanly flawed like we are, and (hopefully) at the end of our stories, we’ll find hope, just as Isaac and Ruth do, even in the face of their failed dreams.”