Mojo Monday ~ Pacing Ourselves

A message has been repeating itself this past week.  I am listening.  

I heard it first last weekend during an amazing workshop presented by Cosmic Cowgirls that featured Lyz Anzia, human rights journalist and found of Women News Network.  The Women News Network has dedicated itself to bringing global attention to the needs and empowerment of women through online news journalism.   

During the workshop one participant asked how do the journalists covering difficult subjects about such human rights issues which include stories about sex trafficking, rape, abuse and more, keep from falling in to despair about the many problems around the world.  Lyz responded very clearly that journalists are able to do the work because they know that the work they are doing can help to change such things.  In addition Lys shared that the stories they are writing help to inform 500 UN agencies and NGO (non-governmental organization) affiliates, international offices of legislation, worldwide universities and Schools of Law, as well the public at large.  In effect the articles being written have the power to change laws, impact legislation, and inform people who are in positions to enact even greater changes in their communities and their governments.

Just this last Friday night I had dinner with two dear friends who work on the front lines with people in crisis.  One works for a women’s refuge shelter.  The other has served as a therapist for those with mental health and drug and alcohol related issues.  It is common that the shelter is short on staff and yet the clients continue to stream through their doors.  My friend’s healthy realization is that she is only one person, and she can only do what she can do during her eight hours at work.  My other friend spoke of the high number of 51/50 clients that had been brought into their center recently and then shared about talking to a peer who handles all the cases in a region for veterans who are suicidal.   Again the message was we are each one person and we can only do what we can do.  

In January of this year I wrote a Mojo Monday post called Change and Empowerment.  That post was about how we can be aware of what is going on in the world and being sensitive, thoughtful and caring people, not manage to lose ourselves in all the swirling problems and tragedies in the world.  There are always so many issues from the bees disappearing, to animal cruelty, to thousands dying because of chemical warfare, to people starving or not having enough clean water, to girls being sold for sex, and the list can go on and on and on.  While I don’t believe that burying our heads in the sand is the answer, it also isn’t helpful to the world or to our own well being if we begin to drown in a sea of depression.

When I see someone I know posting on Facebook one tragedy story after another I want to give them a hug in person and gently suggest “Pace yourself my friend.”   Personally I want to be informed of what is happening in this big wide world.  I do care deeply about our planet and all the people living on it.   My heart wants so much for every person to experience a loving and happy life.  I sadly know that this is not the reality for too many living among us.   I know that I have to balance out the harsher realities with uplifting and positive stories so that I am reminded of all the beauty and joy that also exists in our world.  I also think as Lys Anzia so clearly stated in her workshop, that knowing we are doing something to effect change and make a difference in a positive way can also keep us uplifted in the midst of stories and events that are hard to bear.  

The way we make a difference will vary and look different from person to person.  I know that my husbands day job as a middle school science and mathematics teacher impacts the lives of his students significantly.  He even has students who he taught about 20 years ago who have remained in contact with him all these years.  I have worked for a non-profit foster adoption agency for over nine years and working shoulder to shoulder with social workers and therapists to serve the foster and adoptive children and adoptive families has been very gratifying.  I also infuse the writing I do for Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine, this blog and the book I am writing with inspiring messages about healing, grace, love and forgiveness.  Other ways I try to make a difference is by eating a vegan diet, signing petitions, making my voice heard about political issues by writing my representatives and so on.  Even though we may earn modest teacher and non-profit salaries we also still choose to donate to causes each year that speak to our hearts.  It may be the local food shelter, a center to help those in need, a family that is struggling, or an animal shelter like The Farm Sanctuary.  

Photo by Michelle Fairchild

I realize that not all the day jobs out there will feel as if they are designed to serve a greater humanitarian purpose, but that doesn’t stop one from having a positive impact on one’s fellow workers or from volunteering or offering one’s services in other ways.  While it may not be the easiest thing to do all the time it is in some ways the simplest, and that is to extend love and kindness to others on a regular basis.

Photo by Michelle Fairchild

Think of some things or images that are uplifting to you.  Do you have these images in your immediate surroundings?  Do you keep things in your environment that bring you joy and remind you of the beauty that exists in our world?

One of the things that is always sure to make me smile are sunflowers.  Sunflowers remind me to breathe. They remind me of the wonders of nature and our planet. They remind me that nothing is permanent and that this is a good thing for life is dynamic. The praying mantis friend on the one sunflower reminds me that my positive thoughts create my world and that beauty comes in all forms.

There are also sources out there that offer up positive stories.  One such site is called Daily Good: News That Inspires.   Just today a friend shared a an article to warm the heart called The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret for Three Decades.  Here is a story about a small group of women who anonymously for many years have done things like paid someones utility bill, bought new clothes for children, donated pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and so much more.  They raised the money by selling pound cakes.  You can read more about these inspiring women by clicking the linked article title.

Other stories of goodness and kindness abound if we look for them or take notice.  There is a beautiful story told in this video about a love letter a man name Fred wrote for his wife who had recently died.  You might want to have a box of tissues nearby as you watch how through the kindness of others his letter is transformed into a song.  

Recently I also found incredible inspiration in a children’s book called Amos & Boris that I read to my twin daughters.  There were some simple, yet profound messages in the book that captivated my heart. Here are some images for you to enjoy.

Mojo Monday ~ Harvey Milk Day

In honor of Harvey Milk Day – May 22nd

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.   Sadly,
Harvey Milk and the San Francisco mayor, George Moscone, were shot and killed by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, at city hall in November 1978. 
Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama.   Following that honor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as governor of California, signed a law setting aside May 22nd as Harvey Milk day in California.  May 22nd coincided with Milk’s birthday.   Milk is only the second Californian, after naturalist John Muir, to receive the honor. 
While it will not be a state holiday, schools will be encouraged to hold lessons “remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognizing his accomplishments and familiarizing pupils with the contributions he made to this state”.
This video features a wonderful speech known as The Hope speech that he made after being elected into office in 1977. 

The Forgotten Populist, Harvey Milk
Excerpted from an essay by
Gregory J. Rosmaita 

copyright 1993

Despite the clarity of his populist vision, his piercing assessment of the socio-economic crisis confronting contemporary America, and his eloquent defense of personal liberties, Harvey Milk has been forgotten by the majority of Americans. His is not a household name, invoking only blank stares or the faintest glimmer of recognition. It is tragically ironic that the notorious “twinkie defense” of his assassin is better remembered by Americans than the mercurial Milk himself. Those who do remember Milk remember him only as a “minor” footnote in American history–the first openly homosexual man to be popularly elevated into elective office in the United States. To remember Milk solely for his sexual orientation, however, is not only to misunderstand him, but his concept of gay pride as well. Harvey Milk was one of the most charismatic and pragmatic populists of the past half-century, a man of remarkable organizational talent who never compromised his vision of “a city of neighborhoods” nor sought to hide his homosexuality.

Harvey Milk never intended to enter the political arena until he moved to San Francisco in 1972. Prior to Milk’s arrival, San Francisco’s burgeoning homosexual population lacked a sense of community, and consequently its political empowerment had been stunted.  
The city’s homosexual intelligentsia–weary of bearing the brutal brunt of police persecution and public vilification–had organized several “educational” societies–designed to enlighten public opinion on the subject of homosexuality in the early seventies. Since the idea of an openly homosexual running for office in a city which still classified homosexuality as “a crime against nature”–punishable by up to ten years in prison–seemed ludicrous to the homosexual intelligentsia, an integral component of these societies were their political action committees. The homosexual PACs quickly succeeded in drawing sympathetic “liberal friends” from the Democratic party to their convocations, who–in return for their endorsement, promised to shield open homosexuals from officially sanctioned victimization. For the first time in American history, “mainstream” political figures treated their homosexual constituents with dignity and respect, actively courting their support.
The success of homosexual PACs was due in no small part to the fact that, “in this city of fewer than 700,000 people, approximately one out of every five adults and perhaps one out of every three or four voters was gay.”  At least half of the total homosexual population–like Milk himself–had moved to San Francisco between 1969 and 1977, bringing with them a bold assertiveness which had been sparked by the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City. Milk recognized the parallels between the growing gay enclaves and the traditional ethnic neighborhoods that made up the crazy-quilt fabric of San Francisco. Many of these ethnic enclaves–such as the Irish and Italian sections of the city–had long since turned what had initially been a liability–their insularity–into a source of municipal power. It seemed only logical to Milk that the gay neighborhoods follow suit. If the homosexual vote was significant enough for “respectable” politicians to run the risk of alienating San Francisco’s conservative voters by openly courting gay support, Milk reasoned, the homosexuals of San Francisco no longer needed to rely on “friends” for protection, but could rely on themselves.

You see there is a major difference–and it remains a vital difference–between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide… it’s not just enough anymore just to have friends represent us, no matter how good that friend may be… A gay official is needed not just for our protection, but to set an example for younger gays that says that the system works.

Milk’s goal in asserting gay pride through political empowerment, was not to force mainstream America to accept homosexuality, but to respect the homosexual’s right to be homosexual, without governmental interference or hinderance. Milk fought not for the universal acceptance of homosexuality as “an alternate life-style”, but for a universal acceptance of homosexuals as human beings, endowed by their creator with the same unalienable rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Whether his audience was sympathetic or hostile, Milk always depicted the struggle for gay rights as “the fight to preserve your democracy.” 
Like the black civil rights leaders of the fiftiess and sixtiess, whose example Milk exhorted gays nationwide to follow, Milk viewed his struggle to assert the “unalienable Rights” of homosexuals as the penultimate expression of the most cherished of American values: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These basic American values were systematically denied homosexuals on the grounds of the Judeo-Christian abhorrence of homosexuality. Therefore, reason dictates that individual state and municipal governments had violated the Constitution’s separation of church and state, when they codified homosexuality as “a crime against nature”–a naked assertion of a religious proscription over individual liberty.
The issue of sexuality, however, is seldom discussed on a rational plane, especially when the debate revolves around same-sex relations. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans were classified as “deviants” who, solely by virtue of their sexuality, were guilty of a felony which–according to the whims of local or state authorities–could lead to their prosecution, often resulting in public humiliation, institutionalization, and/or imprisonment. Such anti-gay statutes, many of which were relics either of the colonial or Victorian eras, were based upon the homophobic myths which form the basis of mainstream America’s perception of homosexuality and homosexuals.

The blacks did not win their rights by sitting quietly in the back of the bus. They got off! Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays! [ellipse extant in text]

Milk firmly believed that the only way for homosexuals to break down homophobia–“the last major dam of prejudice in this country”–was for homosexuals to make themselves visible: to step out of the closet, and into the consciousness of the nation. Whilst the images of the “drag queen” and “butch dyke” are firmly ensconced in the popular imagination, there are no “defining” homosexual traits; most homosexuals–male and female alike–are indistinguishable from heterosexuals. Unless an individual makes the conscious decision to overtly express his or her homosexuality, that individual remains a member of an invisible minority. This invisibility is magnified by the fact that the majority of homosexuals do not live openly in Greenwich Village or the Castro district of San Francisco, but instead live lives of silent suburban exile in a society that–despite the rhetoric of diversity–still dictates conformity. Thus, the majority of American homosexuals remain trapped behind walls of fear–the proverbial “closet”–rendering them utterly invisible to mainstream America. Milk argued that this invisibility only fosters homophobic stereotypes:

Like every other group, we must he judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo–a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment. A tenth of our nation is supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children. But today, the black community is not judged by its friends, but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators. A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect not only from the larger community, but from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope. 

Milk’s entire political career was dedicated to shattering the silence of homosexual America and exposing the homophobic myths of heterosexual America. When he finally gained office–after three competitive but unsuccessful campaigns–Milk quickly transformed his public image, from “a gay politician” to a politician who “just happened” to be gay. By concentrating on implementing an aggressively populist agenda which encompassed the needs of all of San Francisco’s minorities, Milk quickly dispelled the false issue of his sexual orientation. His passionate attention to detail and his dedication to improving the quality of life of all San Franciscans greatly widened his base of support. His adept handling of the media allowed him to transform the popular conception of who and what he was–“all over the country, they’re reading about me,” he told his aides several months after his election to the City Council, “and the story doesn’t center on me being gay–it’s just about a gay person who’s doing his job.” 


I am on the email list for a group called Jewish Voice for Peace. They are calling on as many people as possible to sign a letter to the new Obama administration in support of working towards a fair and just peace between Israel and Palstine. Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy are aiming to deliver this letter on February 23. If you would like to add your name to this letter click here.

Here is the letter:

Dear President Obama,
Your presidency marks the beginning of a new era in America and in the world. Against all odds and maybe even our own better judgment, you taught us to hope again. Now, the crisis in Gaza demands that you match our hope with real progress. And, just to be clear, those who voted for you aren’t the only ones doing the hoping.
We are Americans who voted for you and we are Palestinians and Israelis a world away. We are the women, men, and children who are suffering every single day in Gaza and Israel and we are the people who seek to heal their suffering. We are mothers of soldiers and children of refuseniks. We are Jews and Muslims, Christians and Atheists. We are united in our call to you today:

Please, support peace for the people of Gaza and Israel.

Press for an end to the blockade of Gaza, so that the people there can have food, medicine, fuel, and basic necessities. That is the only way that they can live, thrive, and rebuild their economy.
Talk to everyone, including Hamas. The late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said, “You make peace by talking to your enemies.” This holds true today. Even a majority of American Jews support negotiations even with Israelis “worst enemies.”
Back up talk with actions. This includes monitoring arms smuggling into Gaza and U.S. military aid to Israel. Theseweapons are killing mostly children and civilians.
And, support the Peace Plan. 57 countries around the world support this plan that provides independence and support for both Israel and Palestine. Peace Plan supporters won’t wait for the United States forever – and without the United States, it won’t happen. It’s that simple.
President Obama, we will continue to hope, and to support your efforts. Please, don’t let us down. Please deliver the promise of hope.
Your Name Here