Monday, January 30, 2017

My First 100 Days (Days 6, 7, 8 & 9)

 Day 6 - I cashed in a massage certificate someone got me for Christmas. (Reducing stress now top of mind on a daily basis. It goes right along with turning off the TV, which I confess, I backslid on this weekend.)

 Day 7 - I prayed a lot, thanks to said "backsliding" ~ Watching all those protests at all those airports did frighten me, as did several other things being signed in warp speed. (That man DOES like  his John Hancock)

 Day 8 - was a Sunday... but not just any Sunday. This one had a vibe about it, and has prompted action on my part and sent me into a spiral of reflection.

     For starters it was a "Spiritual Boot Camp" Sunday, (SBC is this thing my preacher has allowed me to test as a form of a support group for those struggling with their feelings in these volatile political times. It's not just for Democrats (I know what you're thinking.) It's for any caring person who is hurting for missing friends they no longer feel safe with, or feeling fear for things they don't understand.  (Think AA for the politically minded, which more of us than ever seem to be these days, again, regardless your party affiliation.)

     My church (Nashville Center for Spiritual Living) is a non-denominational church that focuses intensely on the power of prayer (also called Spiritual Mind Treatment, which no, is not Scientology). It's a form of praying that removes the negatives; for instance, if you came to me and said "I'm broke. I need to make more money." We would pray (treat) that "Abundance is flowing as God is your source." (as opposed to mentioning the words "broke" or "need" which only reinforces the same).

     After church, those of us who are practitioners (i.e. trained in these teachings and there to pray for folks who believe, as I do, in the scripture that states where two or more are gathered) avail ourselves to pray with you for whatever it is you are dealing with.

     Yesterday's prayer time caught me slightly off guard (though I don't know why it should've). A precious lady, a few years my senior, came to me with tears in her eyes asking if I would pray for her. "Of course" I said, thinking: "My gosh, whatever it is, it's clearly tragic. Was this a break up? A death?" Whatever it was she clearly needed help.

     We found ourselves a quiet space, sat down, then placing hands on hers I asked, "So tell me what is happening here?"

     With tears streaming down her face as if her dog had died, she says, "I just can't get past it. I am SO scared...SO angry at this election. I don't know what to do. I can't go on like this, but it seems to just keep getting worse."

     Clearly she, like me, had taken in too much of the political angst of our President's first week in office and in addition to praying for us both, I invited her to come join my group therapy session where for the next hour and a half we discussed various frustrations and potential solutions that each of us as individuals might mete out in the week ahead. (Again, while we might state the problems, we don't dwell on problems, but rather "How are WE as individuals ...we as Americans going to get through this together?")

     Response to my earlier blog touched my heart, and I thank you folks for that.

     But now I would like to issue another challenge~

     We cannot afford to be polarized.

     Whatever it is you believe...Whoever it is that you voted for, this was your right, my right, OUR rights as American citizens. And whether you are proud of this president or scared out of your wits right now, the worst thing that can happen to us is NOT going to come from some proclamation or some signed piece of parchment. It is what we do to ourselves if we insist on letting our leadership divide us.

     I know our President doesn't read books (his words, not mine), but I wish he would take in a biography of Lincoln right now. It is said that Lincoln, in the worst of the civil war, would be in meetings, head in his hands weeping when his assistant would come in with the daily death counts. "I cannot bear this...I cannot bear this." The man cried in front of his cabinet. Lincoln struggled with what the war meant to this country and to each family and each person in it. He spent the better part of his presidential career in a state of melancholy (as if losing a child weren't enough) and sadly he never lived to see the good that wound up resulting when the war ended. But folks, we don't have a Lincoln right now. All we have is US.

     I don't know who becomes the appointed leader for the spiritually minded (for spiritually minded people come in both Democrat and Republican parties; I know. I've met them.) But there ARE political tactics out there designed to divide and if I could have but one wish for this great land of ours, it would be that WE the people, don't fall for it.

     So today on Day 9, I issue this challenge (and I'd sincerely love to hear back). Practice this day, one concerted effort to hear the other side--truly HEAR the other side. FEEL their side. Have COMPASSION for their very real beliefs and opinions. Find someone you think you disagree with, and make an effort to either find something good (hey, we all want our economy to grow, we just disagree on how to do it); or find a personal trait you admire (i.e. something to compliment in this person who voted opposite you). We have GOT to diffuse the anger between us.

     If we don't, we all lose.

     And ours is NOT a nation of losers.

     My faith is in the goodness of humanity.
     My faith is on the God in each and every one of us.
(Even my atheist friends who don't believe in God. I honor your right to believe it.)
(I just know better ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Thank You Note to the President

Dear Mr. President,

     In my never-ending, PollyAnna search for ponies, I am writing today to sincerely thank you for the good that is resulting from your having been elected.

     To be clear, I did not vote for you. I had my reasons. You reminded me of people who had hurt me in the past and who callously hurts others without thinking and that concerned me more than anything else as I cast my vote, but I'm not writing about that now. I am writing to say thank you as you have set me on a mission, the likes of which I have never felt so passionate about in Lord knows when...I'm on a mission to feverishly to find the good in each and every thing you're so boldly placing your signature on, which you alone have made your priorities in this, your first week in office. (For the record, I have had a VERY good first week as well, but mine took some effort). Turns out, there's lots of good to be found in your actions; I wanted to take a few minutes before we launch into the next to say "Thank you."

     Thank you for doing what no one man, (president or otherwise) has done in recent history by engaging, really engaging the American public in politics once again. Used to be you'd ask folks "You follow politics?" as if it was polo or hockey. Some did; some didn't. I used to do a political talk show and we had a small, but politically influential audience. Still, it had nowhere near the ratings of the other shows. All I can say is never have more people, including me, become SO interested in so many things in such a short window. We're now educating ourselves on everything from the electoral college to what exactly an emolument is...I'm just saying...We're wearing that Google thing out.

     Never have more people educated themselves (period) in the American language. (Thank you Merriam Webster!) I myself did not know the subtle difference between a falsehood and a lie. (I'm not being snarky here. It was downright enlightening.) We're educating ourselves in far more than politics. We're searching, searching, searching in other areas as well...Scientific areas, legal areas, agriculture areas...What a beautiful day to be in the information age! Are we blessed or what to have access to all these things and endless resources for knowing more? I have been on learning overdrive and my friends have too, so thank you for lifting the conversation!

     To the spiritual side of things, (where my true interests lie)...Thank you for this revival of passion I am witnessing in my fellow Americans (and feeling it in wave after wave after wave myself). To my studies and observation, what is happening today is on par with that first Great Awakening that swept our country --that spiritual revival that triggered this deep, internal spirit-caught-fire in folks...sparking enlightenment in everyday common folk as they received the Spirit, then sweeping like wildfire across our baby nation ...forever to change the face of traditional hierarchical institutions of religion so that everybody felt they had access to the Divine.  Our country needed a wake up call like this and YOU delivered! You said you would! I don't know that you meant to do it this way, but maybe you did. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. But you've definitely been a spark plug for change and while the changes I see coming from your pen could concern me a tad, the changes I'm seeing down here on the ground bring tears to my eyes almost each and every day, and for that, Thank you! I needed that kind of reminder in my day to day. I genuinely and sincerely DO thank you simply for making me feel so alive again!

     Thank you too for dislodging that logjam of a congress of ours, to moving again. While we haven't seen it yet, I predict come voting time, we're going to see all sorts of dogs and cats working together. Call me psychic, but I don't see the teams voting straight party lines on all these many issues you've stirred up. There are smart Democrats and there are smart Republicans. There are passionate players on BOTH sides of the aisle...people with egos, yes, but people with causes, and concerns for their legacies...people with hearts all their own, AND people with constituents! Constituents they haven't heard from in eons, they are now hearing from! Isn't that exciting? You've gotten this country all abuzz again and quite frankly, I think we needed that wake up call, so thank you Mr. President. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

     Never have I seen or felt more passion from this country . . . from individuals that, quite frankly, may not have known they still had it in 'em ~ There is nothing more invigorating than realizing "Hey, I really DO care, and I really CAN make a difference!" Why the thought of scientists being so convicted they're coming out of their labs to rally their own marches...(Ok. That one touched my heart, but it also made me laugh as I envision a bunch of Sheldons in white lab coats, toting perfectly coiffed signs with detailed charts and such), but it's GOOD! It's a good thing! Even those we think have no emotion or limit the expression thereof are starting to emote and I personally find that exhilarating, don't you?

     For me personally you have done more to deepen my own soul's resolve to be a better person each and every day than any one person, place or thing in I don't know how long.  While I admit, I recoiled at this person I once enjoyed watching (on Apprentice...when you were just firing celebrities for fun) I am most sincere when I say you have enhanced my attempts at living the scripture of loving enemies and praying for those who could spitefully use. Not only has this past first week deepened my spiritual journey, it has strengthened my resolve to love my neighbors as well as my enemies. It has forced me to say "Unless you want to lose half your friends or limit 2/3rds of your conversations, you best work on your own tact and civility Evins...and remember: respect, respect, respect when you go to sharing thoughts or opinions."

   In short, this week has had a profound effect on me. YOU have had a profound effect on me. You, a person I do not know and will likely never meet, have made me reach, truly reach into the depths of my being for answers to things so perplexing and so profound...Honestly, I didn't think you had it in you. I didn't think I had it in me.

    All I can say is you have made me a better person, and for this I thank you most of all.

     Sincerely written,

     Karlen R. Evins

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My "First 100 Days" (Days 3 & 4)

     Inspired by the media, whose tradition it is to monitor the first 100 days of a newly sworn in president, and now watching our newly elected Commander in Chief DO just that (or undo, as the case may be), I pledged four days ago to embrace my own first 100 days and challenged my Facebook friends to do the same.

     Brief background:  For 20 years I worked alongside a man whose goal in life was to master the art of the question. Second to this obsession was an absolute and critical discipline of maintaining respect and civility when given the honor to host opposing forces.

     In 2005 Teddy Bart's Round Table came to an abrupt and sudden halt and while a shock to Teddy, to me, our newly unemployed employees and a handful of devoted fans, I inwardly felt I was to blame as I had grown weary of the anger and had no fight left in me when they pulled the plug.

     For the next 12 years I did everything opposite my life of 20 years prior. I went on a silence sabbatical. I holed up in monasteries. Writing became my passion and profession, and in a series of events that can only be described as Beyond Reason, I find myself today on a farm, back in my hometown, living amongst a sea of fluffy white dogs in an ocean of funny-faced goats.

     Thinking myself free from the seductress of my former life, I woke up several weeks ago-- to find myself breathing that same toxic air. I had, like that frog in the boiling pot, placed myself back among the very vexations I thought I had escaped. My morning writing ritual got replaced with morning news; my ramp-down to rest, escorted by national followed by cable news shows. Before I knew it I was fully engaged, mentally deteriorating, and in need of an intervention fast. Only problem was, there was no one to intervene: my friends had become news junkies as well. (And my old running buddies were oh to happy to welcome me home like some dyslexic version of the Prodigal daughter.)
      But this world was no longer my home. I had moved from this home to a simpler place. My home today does not drain like the last one did. It inspires and uplifts. Why was I knowingly letting old patterns back in....?
     I had to escape. I retraced the steps of how I'd done it before. And I prayed. A lot. And then this challenge thing hit me.

     Ours is not a political battle. It's an internal battle. I'm never gonna meet Donald Trump. So why was I letting him take up so much of MY inner real estate? Sure, I want to be active when the situation calls for it, but I don't need to consume endless hours of news to know when that is. (I've got friends who cull most of this stuff out for me. Plus, like a bad soap opera, you can miss a few episodes and still get there before the cliffhanger.)

     Don't get me wrong. There's a bunch of flat out FEAR going on right now and I'm not immune. But I DO have an antidote. And I know MY antidote is stronger than the virus. Not to sound like a peacenic here (cause I know that turns some folks off) but everything from my faith to my grit to my past life experience has proven to me that love CAN and WILL prevail if you don't let fear hold the spot.
     Because I was exhausted I decided to start small. How hard is it to pick up a remote and turn off a TV? (Hey-- here's one even better. Don't pick it up to start with: Energy saved.) I won't say I'm not watching anything...(Not big on 'cold turkey') but I HAVE made a concerted effort NOT to turn it on first thing. Turns out the world gets by just fine while I hug my goats and enjoy my morning silence.
     And with that one gesture, the momentum began... With the time I've saved (not to mention the energy) guess what? There's time to do something different. Something OPPOSITE even. (That'll get 'em :) Something LOVING and with the intended notion of NOT letting the fear grab hold. (I need my energy elsewhere, thank you very much.)
     Day One: We put up a swing! Seems a simple thing, but it was a beautiful Sunday (my 100 days started a couple behind his)...I'd forgotten the simple pleasure of swinging on a rope swing... (Now I can do it anytime I want a rush.)
     Day Two: I hugged, and I mean really hugged each and every critter. Rather than rush through the morning feedings (done with news going on in the background up till yesterday) I MINDFULLY poured love into the lifeforms that live around me...To think there are things right outside my door, that can instantly turn my mood from sad to happy, from fearful to loving...Hello? Why wouldn't I take advantage of that...OFTEN? (What am I, crazy?)
     Day Three found me SO into the momentum, I got in several things:
--I began "The Purpose Driven Life" ~ I knew of the book, but had never DONE the book. A precious homeless man actually GAVE me this book yesterday. (How's that for coincidence?) Seemed a sign to toss it in the mix.
--Took an extra long walk with Roz in the woods (this alone, worth the price of the ticket)
--Began mapping a plan to create nature trails in said woods: a dream I've had for others someday to enjoy the same. Creating is my favorite thing to do...Why would I let TV rob me of this bliss?
--Helped my mom~ organized her storage closet, packed away her Christmas things...helped her make her bed...little tiny gestures to me, HUGE helps to her...(Good feelings all the way around.)

     And then I did something I haven't done in ages: I sat down with her over a dinner she prepared with her own feeble hands and I listened. She shared stories of her past...stories that made us laugh. With no TV, no mention of politics, we spoke only of things in her life that were precious to her and a few things going on in mine...

     And just before bed, I talked with not one, but two very close and soulful girlfriends...and not just gossipy, chit-chat talk, but deep and soulful, life-refleacting conversations. Like me they are in very tender places in their lives and I support that. I encourage that search. This has not been the most lucrative of years for me (putting it more than mildly), but I am RICH in meaningful friendships.  As each of us struggles with our own life's questions we came to remind ourselves that the whole world is as well...I was reminded of the healing comfort of a caring friend...

   ...which leads me to Day Four: (I'm writing this early so it hasn't happened yet, but in my mind it's going to be FABULOUS!!!)

     I'm going to be on the radio today...first time in over a decade (save for that one appearance on Josh's gardening show :)  I'd say I'm nervous, but only to the extent that radio once represented toxicity for me, in this case I am in utter awe of the talent and in love with the notion of sitting in front of a mic once again with a friend I've long wanted to share a mic with ~

     Thank you Devon O'Day for the invite to guest host with you this afternoon. For those who care to tune in/call in/listen in, I'll be with Devon from 3 - 6 pm on 650 WSM-AM. What's more, I will be taking a part of my world with me. Devon is an animal nut like me, so it seemed only fitting she meet Little Baby Hershey and soon she will! (Look out WSM, here we come!)

     All to say if we've learned nothing else from this past year in particular, there is a momentum building and its palpable. Be it campaign rallies or women's marches, there is power in setting your mind to something bigger and power in joining forces with others.  It has always, ALWAYS been my experience that once a decision is made, the doing becomes effortless as we learn to get out of our own way. (The reinforcements come out of the darndest places.)

     I made a decision not to let it get to me. I won't say I don't have my days, but I DO have a choice as to what to do about it. Here's to the next 100 and beyond. I choose peace. I choose love. I choose to take the one thing "I" have a say in and that is where I let my thoughts take root. It all begins with a single change to whatever it was that wasn't taking me in that direction.

     (NOTE: I was serious when I said I am keeping a notebook, and recommend you do as well. The power of positive, creative choices is palpable. Our answers aren't in Washington folks. Our answers are in our own back yards. ((goats or no goats)) ~ Blessings to you this day. Tune us in if you're near a radio!)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Thumper Blog

     In the spirit of Thumper the rabbit, made famous in the movie "Bambi" for quotable wisdom he learned from his father, and to show my intense and sincere desire to find the good in things even if it means getting more dirt under my nails than my garden ever did, I pulled out pad and paper and decided to list the good in our political landscape as I view it now today. 

     The good news: there is plenty of good to be found, so to the haters out there, may I just say it feels a lot better not to hate, so here's to getting in sync with the possible good that can happen here~ if I but allow my creative mind to take it to heart.

Here is a list of the "good" as I see it today when it comes to politics ~

1) We have one very pretty first family. 
     I don't care who you are, this is a bunch of pretty people. Sure they have money, so their clothes should be pretty. But I'm talking about a group. They have a regal spirit about them and I, for one, thought they looked pretty dancing last night and I really liked seeing that one son carry his daughter down the parade route.  If world rule were decided by pretty, our team would win. 
(The Trumps are a bunch of pretty people.)

2) We have a negotiator in the house.
     Being a former fan of The Apprentice (admittedly I have not watched the new one...I've been too busy watching hearings) but just when I thought I couldn't like it more,  John Rich won, and then Trace,  so yes, I've been a fan of the show since its inception...The show was very well produced. This guy DOES know how to negotiate and he knows how to get sponsors on board. (He also likes to fire people. Good luck with that last one. It'll be up to the public and mid-terms when it comes to firing, but this is a blog on the positives and where we stand today and Trump DOES like to negotiate. I say "Knock yourself out!" (And I mean it sincerely.) Your reputation for negotiating should be our greatest asset. I believe that's what elected you.  (Just don't negotiate with that code if you would. Our country is scared enough as it is...My bad...Positive blog...Stay focused Evins, stay focused.)

3) He is CAPABLE of respecting women.
     Let me be VERY delicately as I explain my thoughts on this one. I didn't say he HAS respected women. I don't feel he instinctively DOES respect women. More than anything his disrespect has saddened and yes, sickened me. Let me be VERY clear: his MOST offensive comments and off-the-cuff remarks are despicable and indefensible. But in watching far more of this stuff than I'd care to admit, I am reminded of an undergrad philosophy course and Hempel's Paradox in particular~ (i.e. "All Ravens are black".. a discourse involving inductive reasoning.)  If he is capable of respect for even one woman, he is capable of more and we should not only give him the space to prove this theorem, we should WISH it.  
     How do I KNOW he is capable of respecting women? Because I have seen it done at least once ~  his clear and obvious devotion and NEED for the input of his daughter, Ivanka, says to me "Well, the man clearly respects (at least) one woman. And that one will be advisor and confidant through this thing whether she's paid or not. (Note: this is not a discourse on the ethics of nepotism. Again, this is my Thumper blog.) But I DO think he counts on Ivanka for all things "women" and then some. And so far, I think I'd like Ivanka.  (At least I wouldn't be scared if left alone in a room with her, and I think she has a lot of Ivana in her.) But disclaimers aside, never underestimate the power of a father's love for a daughter and a daughter's devotion to father.  This, more than anything "women-related" gives me hope... It's a lot for her pretty young shoulders, and a stretch for me to even type these words, I admit, but in the spirit of Thumper, I WISH ( how I WISH) and I hope and I pray that Hempel and his black crow logic will apply. 

4) Finally (for the purpose of this blog anyway) the best and greatest thing I can say about the man is he inspires me. (Once again, let me be VERY delicate in explaining.) This man and this entire election process has sent me on a soul search the likes of which I have not experienced in ...I can't say when...and for that I do personally thank him. As I watch today's outpouring of feminine energy I am reminded that there is no more amazing power on this planet than that of us coming together. We may not do it as a nation. I pray we get there; admittedly, we have a ways to go. But we can and ARE doing it, each in our own ways. I believe it is in our wiring...our very DNA to turn to those of like spirit in times of contrast and conflict. The conversations I'm having and the people I am witnessing, both male and female, Dems and Republicans alike are "pricked in their hearts" and as scripture will attest (Acts 2:37) a heart pricked is a heart that's ready to change. This is a state of being from which great change can come, so yes, I am inspired... (From the Latin word "inspirare"~ inspire is a spiritual, even metaphysical word suggesting an otherworldly energy force swirling from within and pouring throughout our beings and no matter your party politics, there are passionate winds a-blowing right now.) 
     This election has not been fun to watch and even less fun to stomach (i.e. feel).  I have felt pain, I have felt confusion. I have felt sadness like I didn't know possible. But I must say I don't know when something inspired me to sit up and take note as it would seem, it's doing to everyone I'm talking to these days. It has forced me to dig deeper, to reach higher, to seek further, and to ask myself the hardest of hard questions about my life both out there in our country, but more here, in my very own heart.

     And if THAT is the ultimate take-away...well it's a dang good one. (Whadoyaknow? Politics went deep for a change.)

     My goal now is to discipline myself to stay poised for the good in whatever is to come, for all that is bad is easily enough spotted...(Why it's as easy as flipping on a remote cable changer...Takes no effort at all, save to find the remote.)  But to rise above literally look at all that makes me weep and ask "Why would this torment me so?" and "What's to bless in this mess?" well THIS becomes a challenge and a day to day proposition to keep at it no matter how much my human mind may be patterned for the wallowing.

     It's up to us folks. It's up to us.

     As I watch my television set today (and this was true yesterday as well) all I could think was "WOW! What a force of power." And to think, the decision lies within us to determine which way that tidal wave shall go.

     If we don't believe in the system, let's at least believe in us.

(I shall  now hop off my pedestal and thump my way back to my little garden patch ~ Never has a girl missed a garden more...2017's the year~ The kids and I can't wait!)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Name That Emotion

     I am so sad this morning I can hardly see straight. (I am in pajamas as I type.) This church of a house that I live in, is somber and quiet. Even the dogs look dismayed (though I'm sure that's just them picking up on me, cause let's face it...that's what dogs do, but I digress...)
     By design I opted to take a knee on this one...Give it a day of silence. Give my emotions a day of rest.
     I am sad to admit that these hearings hit me like a line of crack (Do they do crack in lines? Maybe that was not a good analogy, but you know what I was shooting for...) My point is, for all the discipline of coming off mic and moving back to the country, learning, laughing and dancing with the moods of Mother Nature, getting my hands in the dirt while surrounding myself with funny-faced goats and huggable furry dogs, it only took one election cycle to lure me back in and and remind me all over again why I used to answer the question: Do you miss your former political days with a simple: Miss the players, not the anger. (The anger bugged me then. It's off the charts now. I would not do well to be swimming in those waters ever again....again ...digress)
     I think I have the emotion right. (Sad comes with tears, right?) I decided before this day to do myself a favor and simply keep the TV off. Turns out, with nothing to distract, things bubbled up, and what bubbled up from deep inside of me was a bunch of pure, raw... sad.

     I am sad for the state of our nation...Sad for the leader we've chosen...Sad that in the end, our final option was a "lesser of evils" kinda option.
     I am sad for the state of the world right now...Sad for what others must think of us. Much as I work on not giving a rip what anyone else thinks because I'm told what other people think should be none of my business, well guess what? I'm not that advanced yet. I still care. Whadayaknow? ..Here it is ~ Showing up as sad.
     I am sad other countries don't respect us (Don't get me wrong. I'm sure they fear us, as anything could go wrong with insanity in charge, but that's not the same as respect. Fear is a short term fix to a long term problem and we can't just keep playing the "Fear us" card in hopes it will eventually become respect.
     Most of all I'm sad for what this is doing to our our homes...between our families, our working peers, our friends. I am sad this thing has divided us as it has and I'm frustrated as to how best to cope. (I think a shrink would say I should deal with my sad first....and hey, at least sad beats anger. But lucky for anger, I'm too tired to deal in anger, plus I don't want to add any more pain than is already out there. Anger makes me want to take it out on someone else. Sad just leaves it stuck here with me to figure out. This is exhausting.)

     For what it's worth I am not a big protester kind of person. I like being FOR things. I've heard it said that Mother Teresa was once asked to attend an anti war protest and she politely declined, adding "Now if you made it a peace rally, I'd be there." (I don't have sourcing on this, but it sounds like something Mother Teresa would say.) That said, my heart is with my female friends who today are marching...both in Nashville and in Washington (and I suppose in cities all across the country)  in peaceful protest. They represent me and my heart is with them. I am appalled at some of the things we've so blithely let slide when it comes to the crass and crude comments (not to mention behaviors) of our soon to be commander-in-chief and I cringed like nobody's business when I heard one of THE crudest lines to have ever been uttered when it came to blood and Megyn Kelly, after all Megyn is holding the kind of job I used to have (only LOADS bigger). Those of us IN those jobs look up to women like her and respect the heck out of a woman who worked and MADE it to that level of success. That was not funny to me. That one made me sad AND angry. Most of all it made me embarrassed.
     But to be clear, this is not about my political views or any one specific opinion of what it'll take to best run  this great country of ours (Don't get me wrong; I have many thoughts on this. But this blog is not about that.) And it is certainly not about me trying to persuade anyone to see things from my side and change who they are. (Although  I will say say most folks who think they know me would be surprised at how many views I share when it comes to keeping government to a minimum and I'm hoping like heck this president can at least get that part right as I sincerely believe he does know how to negotiate. I also believe that's why he won and believe it or not, I want these things too...I really do.  But it's the integrity of it all (or the lack thereof) that makes me sad. It's the lowering of the standard that has me hurting.
     I hurt to see Melania who didn't ask to be here and (as I observe it) is trying to protect her child, who (no one is saying, but is probably autistic) ....who likewise didn't want to be here...I hurt to think of a family, rich though they be are as dysfunctional as a family can be. (Take the rich part out and they probably DO represent a bunch of American modern families, so maybe we can relate to the dysfunctional parts, still and so, those  parts too made me cringe before it all got elevated. )
      It makes me sad to think we are probably going to witness our first divorce in the White House. (I can't help but study things like body language,  like no rings and forced hand-holdings. I can't help it. I'm a girl.) I am sad for the hearings that are something between a brag-a-thon and attack-a-thon....And I am sadder yet that all these people with that level of IQ (as Trump has repeatedly bragged) would not anticipate for themselves why certain conflicts of interest might look sketchy before a panel, much less a public. (They weren't ALL in this category let me be quick to say, but those who were, offended me that they did not so much as think they'd be asked the questions.)
     In the end, I guess I am most sad about the distance that is happening between us as the American people. Clearly the "haves" live in a different world view. The have-nots, voted them in out of protest. I am somewhere in the middle I guess, as is most of middle class America (and dang grateful to be given what I see in Aleppo and other war-torn countries). But I can't just hide my feelings under a rug right now because it is politically incorrect to speak out.

     All I can do is say "I'm sad....And these are the reasons why." And then sit with it...all day...distractions and temptations aside. All I can say is "I am sad."

     As a post script to this I would like to share what a dear shrink friend of mine once taught me (I call him a shrink-friend because he was a highly sought after shrink and he was likewise my friend. I would just say "He's my shrink" but I never paid him, save for a sandwich or two, so "shrink-friend" is our agreed upon title.) He taught me that emotions are like house guests that enter our minds... Some we like better than others. Others stay longer than we'd like. But not to worry...They'll eventually leave.

     So as I sit here with my mind-guest named Sad, wishing to heck she'd move on already, I take slightly small comfort in knowing she's not a live-in roommate...nor a partner of some kind.

     Guess the best I can do is pour her some tea...allow her (and me) the tears...And wait till she needs to pee all the while hoping she'll go home soon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Spiritual Boot Camp

      For the past 5 years, since moving from city to farm, I kinda thought I'd weaned myself more or less from a diet of steady political intake. For 20 years, 5 days a week and in some seasons, weekends, I was a part of some sort of political show or forum discussing the slimy world of politics: what WAS happening, what we FEARED would happen, how to AVOID things happening before they happened to us. (Sadly, it's the exception not the rule that anyone runs FOR anything. As is proven time and again "against" gets the vote out.)
     For those in the business, this meant basically soaking yourself in a steady stream (sadly again) of mostly negative soup. I likened my job as a talk show host to someone back in the 50s who'd landed a gig in OakRidge. Everybody wanted those high paying jobs, but even those who had 'em sorta suspected they were getting cancer from the toxins.
     For the last 5 of our 20 years together, Nashville legend Teddy Bart and I crafted a non-profit entity called The Public Forum, a think tank of political policy and happenings featuring his popular Round Table morning show.
     Now Teddy, for those unfamiliar, had a knack for these sorta things. Anyone who could bring polar opposites together around one (big round) table and manage two hours of civil discourse is a pro in my book. (Face it: this is a rare beast we hardly see anymore these days.)  I'm often asked if I miss those mornings and the excitement of the exchanges and my answer is consistent: miss the people; do NOT miss the anger.
     The anger was just beginning when we came off the air in 2005. We saw the tip of the iceberg and fortunate for us (I say in hindsight), our ship went down early. As I came home to rethink my life, write a few books, start a garden, I came to realize that my creativity quotient was inversely proportional to the amount of "other people's stuff" I consumed when it came to politics.
     But something about this last election got to me~
     Like a recovering crack addict who thinks one party hit for old times sake won't phase things, I soon found myself back with the monkey. First it was Meet the Press. (What's one hour in a week?) Then I started rearranging farm chores to catch another hour...then another. But because weekend political shows fed off the evening news, I started setting the phone alarm so as to not miss the opener of each evening newscast.  Before long, I was flipping on the TV to catch morning reports, pausing at mid-day to see what the markets were doing in aftermath (and I don't even own stock). Before I know it, I'm watching like an addict, not only the chaos of what I can only describe as an embarrassing presidential race (and I don't care which side you're for, it was beneath our dignity as a country to endure this)...but more important, watching a country I love and thought I knew, split itself right down the middle with anger, bigotry and depression.
     I honestly did not see it coming; nor did I know how hard it had hit me until day after the election when I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. Why in the world would I take this so personally? I, like most everyone I had talked to, wasn't excited either way, but suddenly I found myself sucked into the gut-wrenching emotion of it all...feeling lost as to who's going to lead us and saddened as for what it might take to turn this ship around. (Because honestly, if this is our best...there is no simple answer. To me, the only hope of an answer MUST come from the inside out.)
     Day after the election I padded about in my fuzzy slippers and fought the urge to even turn on a TV, but then gave in as I really wanted to see how Hillary handled the speech. I did take a little comfort in her choice of purple. I know it was a (not so subtle) gesture to blend our red and blue country, but more than this, purple is a spiritual color. To me it said, "Don't look to earthly thinking...Look for inspiration...DIG for deeper meaning...PRAY for Divine intervention."
     Two days after the election I noticed a slight shift in my depression (again, this was not about sore losing, as it was "When did we get so angry?" "How did this creep up on us so quickly?") Then I heard from (first) one dark ... another. But the discussions were different. Sure friends are there to comfort us, but with these 1st conversations, the questions were "What can WE of all low-totem-poll people DO to affect change?" (Spoiler alert: That may've been the question we started with; but the question that replaced it was: "What can little folk do to keep OURSELVES in check so as to not lose the only true asset any of us have and that is our hope, our peace of mind...our sanity.")
     Then a funny thing happened on the way to the (no longer here) Forum... (little inside humor there) ... The conversations I was having...with friends on BOTH sides of the aisle...hit new depths. These were longer than usual because we couldn't sum up so easily what we were feeling. These were not quippy updates or jabs at things that stuck in our crawl. These were soul-searching, gut-level, friend-talking-friends-off-ledges kinda conversations, like you have when your world has been turned upside down. (Usually things like the death of a close friend, or loss of something held dear do it...In this case, an election...What's that about?) Since when did I let Politics get under my skin this way? Then it hit me. This isn't about politics. This is about something in YOU, Evins, something that's bothering you ...something that's been ignored...Might be time you dig deeper under those 20 mattresses to find just what that annoying little pea looks like~
     I next reached out to my minister and I shared my feelings...along with an idea that I was mulling...designed as a little test market survey in a sort of spiritual support group therapy setting...
     "More than sadness, I'm feeling a little lazy" I confessed... "...not in a physical way, but mentally...Spiritually."  I've gone back to lazy thought habits and my muscles need a workout. The fact that something so worldly as elections run amuck or gossip replacing substance tells me I'm as much a part of the problem as the problem itself. I can't speak for them, but "I" gotta get fit. After all, I know better. I've been trained better. But what I haven't been doing is applying that training...And how better to do that than to start a workout schedule?
     For lack of a better title, I dubbed it Spiritual Boot Camp ~ (Something I was challenged on first day in, when one of my attendees asked "Isn't that a bit harsh? I mean, Boot Camp doesn't suggest kinder or gentler. It suggests training to punch somebody~" (Valid point.) But MY emphasis was on the spiritual. We've all found ourselves wanting to punch and jab. Heck, we were sharpening our chops just to prep for office Christmas parties, but were we devoting the same kind of training toward our own spiritual beliefs?
     Spiritual Boot Camp isn't about winning debates.  It's not about converting people to your ideology. It's about sharpening your own inner skills so as to know how to step away if necessary, or at the very least, not let things get to you to the point that you're taking it out in road rage or snapping at your spouse.
     Spiritual Boot Camp is about creating a safe place where we go back to the basics of civil discourse and learn how to separate a person's political beliefs from the soul of that individual, after all, we are more than our thinking when it comes to talking the soul of an individual. Beliefs are just one aspect of us...One facet. They are certainly NOT the entire individual. I, for one, needed a refresher course.
     As an example, I opened the first class by asking "How many of you have unfriended someone because of this election?" (Go ahead...Visualize the response. You'd be right.) When we allow something so "out there" get to us "in here" and AFFECT OUR blood pressure, or our health, or our sanity, then it's time to get spiritually fit.
     It is a delicate undertaking, I admit. Keeping the balance, keeping the peace, keeping calm as you watch person after person take someone to task in ways that are far from civil as if it's the new norm. I refuse to let this become my norm!
     It's not our differences we hate. (Our differences MADE this country folks.) It's the tone toward slamming each other personally. It's sensing we've removed all respect from the conversation. It's the emptiness we wind up feeling as we drive home from a job we once loved, no longer feeling safe to crack a joke or enter a water cooler conversation for fear of the backlash...Somehow with this last one, the wounds cut deeper than usual it seems. Or maybe we've grown hypersensitive.
     Like any new venture, (if it winds up at all) it will wind up being nothing like the image I started with. This I know from many years and many creations working with Teddy. We'd have an idea for a show, and once started, the show would show us what it wanted to become. I suspect this will follow a similar trajectory or else it will be a vent-fest that gets us through the transition and we all go back to being the way we were, but depending on who you were, I dare say we can never go back...We can only go forward.
     And it is with that forward-thinking discipline, that Spiritual Boot Camp was created.
     Our next forum is lined up for January 15th ~ You're welcome to join us.(Promise, you don't have to sign up as a member of my church, but my minister would love to have you if you're looking for a church home.)  Bring a journal. Bring your experiences. These become great fodder for approaching the days ahead with a more civil tone and a more grounded spiritual outlook.
     Think of it as a group think-tank for your own individual response to the increasing anger out there.
     I'm especially fond of the song "Let there be peace on earth" but as anyone knows whose ever sung it, the hook is "Let it begin with me."
     SBC is about finding that first step, then a second... then a third ...for YOU personally...the individual. We're not into infantry cadence drills; we're exploring ways to apply spiritual principles as we each march to the beat of our own inner drummers (while allowing those who disagree with us to do the same--AND respecting 'em for it).

Next Spiritual Boot Camp: This Sunday: January 15th.  
1 - 3 pm Center for Spiritual Living Nashville
6705 Charlotte Pike ~ Nashville

Suit up/Join us/Be there

(OK, attire is way casual...We're not really marching, marching... We're mentally marching.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

In Good we Trust

     I've debated writing on this topic because it's personal to me...More intimate than anything I dare say I've revealed to date about the inner workings of my day to day life. This topic has been more or less an anonymous journey until now~ As the causes we have given to in the past have for the most part, been done anonymously or with a giving trust to hide behind.

     In 2002, a successful business man received the news that his cancer (once in remission) had returned with a vengeance... While he had some say in controlling his wealth, his toys, his investments, cancer he could not control, which as you might imagine, was a wake up call like none other.

     With no children of his own and a wife he would leave well taken care of, he took a soulful inventory, re-assessing just what had been missing in  his life and came to the conclusion he had missed the point. In his drive to succeed, this man missed the experience of joy...specifically, the joy of giving...and sharing ... The joy of touching others by way of charitable deeds...the joy of creating miracles for others both known and unknown.

     In the weeks that remained, this man came to mourn the fact that he had not enjoyed his riches as fully as he could've...He'd stored treasures on earth, but if there was to be a heavenly payout, well, he had not been storing up there.

     His family rejoiced when he found Christ...They were moved when their somewhat Scroogey uncle had a drastic change of heart as he came to realize (without 3 Christmas ghosts and a really bad dream) that there was still time to make a difference...With this he, and his compassionate wife, set out to create a trust (the likes of which I have personally never seen...The likes of which continues to evolve today as there was no pattern for us to follow).

     I pause here to interject, I did not know this man. I was introduce through someone I was dating at the time. We met twice (this trust creator and I)...Our second meeting was (unbeknownst to me) to ask if I would serve on this trust and help his wife in what was anybody's guess regarding a trust with one mission: to give away money where we saw a need--no questions asked.

     With that he slapped $1 million dollars into an account to be managed by professionals who knew how to manage these kinda things...(Having great financial advisors was but one of many miracles to witness.) Within 2 weeks of his asking me to serve (with a woman I had only met twice as well, but one whose heart for giving I admired greatly and someone I eagerly wanted to help) I was sent a letter saying I'd soon be given direction by way of a meeting. All I thought at the time was, "No clue what we're doing here, but I'm in."

     The first meeting of the Richard T. and Dawn K. Sadler Trust committee was held Sunday, August 17, 2003. The mission of the meeting: "to provide financial assistance to deserving individuals and meet emergency needs or to provide assistance ... to respond to a improve their quality of life or to promote Christian values or family values or to carry out other good works which the Committee deems appropriate. "(He also added that he did not require us to use "necessity" as a strict prerequisite in any particular case, though most of our cases DO arrive with "need" at their core.)

     Seated around the dining room table of a man no longer living and one I barely knew even when he was, was this woman I had promised to help...and 13 other people -- total strangers, who, like me, had no idea what this trust would become.

     For starters, we were each handed $1000 with the directive to "give it in whatever increments, to someone YOU deem worthy."  This might be an overworked waitress. In other scenarios it was a student about to miss a flight for having misplaced a credit card. In most cases, we did our deeds anonymous. In some, it couldn't be helped. Where we could we tried to stretch our funds to help as many people as possible.

     Another unique trait of the trust was that we were not to worry about the tax ramifications, (which is to say, the trust covers this; we were not always going to have a receipt showing what we'd done, after all, this was in large part about anonymity). It was not mandated we give to non-profits or to causes or situations whereby a tax exemption required a receipt. No. Our funds were to go to people, places, causes that WE individually, spotted--usually short notice (i.e. in the moment)-- something WE deemed "needed" or "deserved" ...Each quarter we would report back the wildest "opportunities" presented to us. In time, we had to draft additions to our bi-laws as certain patterns in gift receiving surfaced almost immediately (i.e. repeat requests; requests by family members or close friends who, upon knowing of our trust might say "Hey...YOU with that old guy's money...Remember me?")

     I know what you're thinking because I've had person after person ask it too..."YOU-- have the TASK of giving away another person's money?" (Like "Is this a trick question?") But to be gut level honest...It's not as easy as you'd think, for with each decision to give comes a deluge of internal scrutiny of "Did I discern this need properly?" or "Will I be ticked if they don't show gratitude?" Thank you notes became a hot topic for me in those cases wherein we DID make it known to the recipient after all, "I" wasn't the one to thank, but if you want to truly show your gratitude, I'm MORE than happy to take your note to my next meeting. (Sadly thank you's don't always happen...That was something "I" had to get over.... Even in this were our spiritual lessons evolving.)

     So now... nearly 14 years later...we've lost 3 members to the overwhelm of the assignment...(Again, you wouldn't think it, but there is a certain emotional burden here if done properly. You might not think this logically, but it IS a BIG commitment to be responsible for giving away another's money...fulfilling another's intention, being lived out by folks here for those no longer living.) Two of our original members have passed, one of which was the man's wife and our leader (which adds another whole layer of "What's it all about Alfie" as now those of us remaining REALLY scrutinize if this is what He AND She would have us do in their stead.)

     Some of the trust's chairs were filled with family~ 3 sisters remain on the trust today, the energies from which I can only describe as heart-warmingly gut-wrenching (so intent are THEY on sticking to their uncle's dying wish)...

     Some of the chairs are held by fellow co-workers or employs who worked with the trust's founder the early years of growing his business...

     Some...(at least one), like my own is warmed by a person the man barely new...but a person he somehow felt might bring something to the table.

     We were given permission to bring larger requests to the group...such as for crises like those we're watching unfold in the Smoky Mountains. Larger needs called for larger contributions. (Last night's meeting spent much time and energy discussing just this.)

     In short, we're a team without our original captain at the helm...A team who regularly keeps to the meetings, but today, watches for signs and direction from on high as to how best we continue accomplishing the mission given to us as we give away money to strangers we (often individually and alone) deem worthy.

     One season we were given the creative exercise of giving our money ($100 at a pop) to 10 people to see what THEY would do with funds. Other times we voted on who  had the most hilarious story. (Trust me. You walk up to a stranger and offer to buy their groceries, their NES bill or their airplane ticket, you'll encounter some awkward moments and moments that can quite often, make you want to tuck tail and hide. Anonymous is our favorite way to go BY far, but you can't always pull that off logistically without SOMEone being in the know as to what's up and WHY?)

     While we can give to other non-profits and often have, it's not our favorite thing to do...The goal of the trust (as I feel it to be in life overall) is to LIVE the giving LEARN from the opportunity, both the good and the not-so-comfortable moments (like looking back when you called one wrong and found yourself gulping hard as you apologized to your fellow trust members for maybe not doing as much soul searching as you should've...Suffice it to say, we've had some tearful meetings along with some joyful ones~).

     We've given to dog causes, homeless causes...We've put families in hotels when their houses burned down. We've bought appliances after jobs or livelihoods were lost. We've paid funeral expenses. We've sent in repair people who were told to simply say "An angel sent me." We've paid last minute electric bills and water bills just before the shut off. We've sent pizzas, crayons, flowers...We've bought hearing aids and dentures...You name it. We've seen it and in many cases, we've funded it.

     But we've also given to folks you might NOT imagine...We've left anonymous, yet enormous tips where others would've gotten a news story out of it. We've slipped cash into the hands of cashiers and said "2 people behind me...Tell them it's covered...Just let me get out of the store first."

     In short, we've done our best for what was asked of us and today still ask "What next God?" when we gather around (now my own dining room table) every third month to say "How long can we keep this thing going?"

     I write all this....confess all this, NOT for praise or glory. (I think scripture is pretty clear on those wanting credit while on earth...This is NOT what this trust is about.) I share this to say the lessons I have lived/learned/continue to grow from are other-worldly...They are lessons in material giving, yes, but more, they are lessons in spiritual growth. These are tough lessons for petty egos feeling the need to have someone say thank you to the team...Lessons in guilt for wondering if perhaps I wasn't the greatest steward this go-round....Lessons in "never take for granted that giving is easy"~

     Don't get me wrong -- There is no joy like it, but giving done right (which is to say, done unconditionally...done PURELY for the sake of giving...of helping...NOT for glory or reward) ....this is an ever-evolving proposition and one we will continue to work on I suspect until the day we die.

     I share this because this trust is now a part of who I am. I'm not asking for folks to start hitting me up for money, and I'm certainly not asking for recognition. But I did, just this morning, feel the need to acknowledge my fellow givers  after reviewing pictures of them holding goats at a meeting, which served to remind just what a sacred bunch of family this is for me. In living this one alongside these who share the mission given us, that I count as the most valuable gift and lesson of all~

     I share likewise to say, giving is a funny thing. It's not natural. It's not easy. The rewards of giving are not logical...they are spiritual. And things like this trust in no way replace what we each ought be doing on our own with our own tithes and gifts... In truth, I believe there is no such thing as altruism...Those who are good at it (and I'm not listing myself amongst these, but the truly GREAT givers we have come to marvel at...the Mother Teresas...the Bill and Melinda Gates...the Rick Warrens of the world....) I am convinced, they do it for a reason....even a selfish one~  That reason is not a reasonable reason, It's an internal, spiritual high, the likes of which cannot be replicated by ANYthing other than the experience itself...The experience of GIVING...The FEELING of knowing lives have been touched by a decision YOU made to do something nice for someone else....Something that affects hearts changes outlooks at deep, CORE levels...that's one thing you cannot convey in words...It only conveys when you've experienced it (no matter how small the amount).

     For some things there are no words...Describing in logical, linear terms what giving feels like...What giving is all about...This is one of those things.

     To tap it...touch it... share in it... takes one simple gesture...One cup of coffee for a toll paid for the person behind you~ One parking meter plugged when you'll never see the stranger for whom your act was a miracle~

     If you don't believe me...Try it.

     I double dog dare you~
    (I double goat dare you~ )

     Here's to a season of giving...

     Like any skill, there's an art to it...To get better at it requires practice...Regular, disciplined, in the trenches PRACTICE.

     Here's to finding such opportunities in your own walk ...

     Trust me. They're out there...They're everywhere.

     (I share only because I want YOU to feel the joy too.)