Noticing Positive Change in Kids’ World Views

December 23, 2015

I never got very involved in grassroots work for gay rights, although I supported the movement financially and kept up with the progress. There were always too many other things we were involved in on the environmental, pet and human rights front. But I appreciate all the hard work of those who did. I have always had a lot of support from my friends and family and being gay didn’t seem to make me any different, especially once I moved to Atlanta, then to Sylva.

My Grand Niece, Emi

My Grand Niece, Emi

But recently, I have started to notice how society has changed in a positive way during the 48 years of my life.

Growing up, I never knew anyone who was gay. As a Floridian and a Catholic, I didn’t notice a lot of the racial or sexual orientation discrimination until I headed “north” to Alabama for college.   Our schools and communities were fully integrated. There were a lot of Latinos in Central Florida at the time.   I learned about the civil war in history class, but had no idea that civil rights were still an issue until college.

When I was in my senior year of high school, I “met” a gay person for the first time. At the time, I was getting involved in Young Life and developing more of a protestant view of Christianity, and was on the road to accepting a more conservative set of values and view of the world. That person was my aunt whom we called “Sister”. I was very close to her. I actually knew her all my life, but never recognized the clues that she might be into women. I remember talking about it with my sisters and parents. They said it was no big deal – they had known for quite some time.

While in college I didn’t have much of an opportunity to spend time with Sister and learn much about her “secret life.” But during that time, I did get more integrated into the evangelical church with all its’ values and beliefs. I loved Sister, and just couldn’t apply the judgement that homosexuality was wrong to her life.

After graduation I got married to a man and was deeply involved in the church. It was what you were “supposed to do,” and I drank the church koolaid! But something wasn’t right. I met a few gay women in a tennis league and started to realize that I had more in common with them than I thought.   I also spent time talking with Sister about her life. She discovered she was gay early in her young adulthood,   and at that time, ladies met one another at pot-luck dinners, not bars. No one was “out,” but they seemed to have a secret society of friendship and networking.

After I finally came out, I went for a visit to see Sister and her partner in Wisconsin. It was great to see Sister in her real life, but she was not out, even in her own home. Her partner had custody of her grandchildren, and they decided it would be best to keep their relationship a secret from the girls. It was heart-breaking for me to witness this because their relationship with each other and the girls was tenuous as a result of the secret. On the other hand, I realized society had evolved somewhat. At least in Birmingham, Alabama, we had our own gay gathering places, and could be “out” to more people as we got to know them.

I never had kids of my own, but I was very close to my sister and her children. When each of the kids were old enough, Nadine had a talk with them about Aunt Bern and the fact that I was gay. It didn’t seem to phase any of them very much, and they went about their day just like normal. They loved me before knowing, and just as much after. Still, it was a relief as I could be more open with each of them about my life.

Fast forward to today. The efforts among activists that resulted in the right for gay people to marry is amazing, and although we still have some issues today, Pat and I don’t have to explain anything to anyone. We are just married and everything works the same as any other married couple. In some ways, the right to marry “normalized” many peoples’ views of gay couples.

Last night my nephew’s wife, Susan, sent me a video of my grand-niece talking about her trip to visit us for the holidays. Emi was talking about who she would see in the family, and their “favorite colors.” Susan asked Emi what my wife, “Aunt Pat’s” favorite color was and she said, “Aunt Pat’s Favorite Color is Yellow!” The kid didn’t miss a beat. She referred to my wife as “Aunt Pat” just as I referred to all my dad’s siblings’ spouses as “aunt” and “uncle”. I will never have to come out to her or my new grand-nephew. They will know Pat as my wife just as they know their great grandparents are married, or that Aunt Niece and Uncle Todd are married.

Now that’s cool. You know we’ve made progress when there is no reaction. Things just are the way they are, and the young people of this world grow up with little or no discrimination in their hearts because people are just people. That is truly a holiday gift to notice positive changes in our world.

Noticing Good Change,

Bernadette

Choosing Your News Boosts Your Immune System

December 10, 2015

Watching the news and monitoring Facebook on a regular basis can be a lot like consuming a regular diet of fast and processed food – not good for you! We know it. We think we can tolerate a little. We go on media diets for short spurts of time. We get back in the game with the intention of making better choices, but there poisonous “news” flashes like a neon special board and sucks us in!

A few months ago, I took a week off from it all. I removed Facebook from my phone completely as well, and haven’t reloaded it. It was the mental “reboot” that I needed, but it is so easy to get catapulted back in. With all the bad news and election shinanigans, I find myself getting angry, feeling hopeless and flat out missing the good things that happen because everything else crowds it out for me.

Working in the restaurant industry in a college town, I am surrounded by young people – those of whom are very different from me when I was that age. I have gone through stages of utter frustration at what I perceive their values to be in terms of discipline, work ethic and goals. What I see in the news regarding the moral degradation of our country in the name of religion, has left me hopeless, wondering if our future leaders can bring anything to the table to fix it.

But the reality is that this younger generation has heart. They care about each other, their planet, their future. Innovation to them doesn’t mean bigger, better and making a few rich. Young inventors are creating things that benefit many, and are accessible to a lot of people. If you pay attention, you will start to see what I mean. This will be their contribution to our world. They can change it through Innovation, even if they can’t do it immediately through our elite political process.kid-inventor

And you can start to notice this too with a little effort! Our minds are a lot like Facebook. The more you click on Trump articles, the more you get served on Facebook. Start watching Upworthy videos, and you get more of them on your feed. In my daily life, I never noticed so many sage green SUV’s until we bought one. Now I see them everywhere. Driving by Dunkin’ Donuts might make you crave one, but you don’t have to eat it! Keep driving on by ‘till you find something that’s good for you!

I am no longer going to allow myself to be sucked into the drama of bad news. I want to notice good stuff in my world every day. My intention is to order information from the menu that is good for me, to savor it, and to share it with others. There is a lot of good going on in our world. Who wants to meet me for an incredible buffet dinner to start noticing it?

Noticing Hope,

Bernadette

Backyard Meets Life

May 30, 2015

2 years ago, Pat was in the back yard, and she witnessed a snake eating baby birds while the mom squacked and tried to protect them. Pat cried as she witnessed what she thought was a terrifying event at the time in our otherwise serene back yard.

bird-nest

Last Summer I was on the outbuilding roof clearing gutters when Pat let the dogs into the back yard. I saw from the roof that all of the dogs, including our 16 year-old beagle bee-lined straight under a big bush. Pat followed the commotion screaming, “Karma, Karma.” I couldn’t get to the ladder quick enough so I shouted to see what was going on. A snake killed a bird. Karma wanted the dead bird, and the snake was pissed. Pat snatched up Karma and called the other dogs into the house. This time, we were more concerned about our dogs, so Pat threw the dead bird in the trash, forcing the snake to slither away. When Pat let the dogs out again, of course Karma went to find the bird and encountered the snake who was looking for its dinner. We decided to put the dogs back in the house and return the dead bird to the snake. The snake did not appreciate that and an hour later killed another bird in the bush next door. This time there were no tears, just an awareness of how we needed to protect our dogs in this jungle of a back yard.

Just this morning, we heard squacking in the same bush, followed by flight and dogs rushing to take part in the chaos. This time was different. We put the dogs in the house, and investigated. A snake was in the bush stalking a nest and the momma bird was trying to protect her family. We acknowledged the inevitable, and allowed the snake and birds to work it out. Pat still didn’t want to watch the dinner preparations, but had more of a calm acceptance of what was happening in the yard.

At almost 48 years old, I am in the process of looking back on life, and ahead to the future. Its funny what you believed when you were younger – and adamantly too! But now life is full of shades of gray, and there are many perspectives to every situation. You don’t see these perspectives until you experience life, think about it, and realize that you can find good and bad in every situation. Ultimately, in order to have peace and joy in your life, you come to terms with things, and/or make a change and move on. Life is what it is. It can be a beautiful backyard if you choose to see it that way, or a terrifying jungle. We get to decide.

Noticing the Beauty in My Back Yard,

Bern

What It Takes to Change A View

April 20, 2013

In passing, on Facebook and to “the choir” – we all preach about our views regarding particular issues.  Our views and values have either evolved over time, or at some point we accepted a whole set of values based on groups that we might be affiliated with.

What I realize is this: In all of our judgment of others’ views, we will NEVER really know the impact of a particular issue until we have experienced it ourselves.

And views can be changed . . . but primarily by experience or knowing or loving someone who has had an experience.

Senator Will Portman once opposed gay marriage, but changed his views once his son came out to him.

Gabby Giffords is a gun-owner and voted against tough gun legislation.  Once she was a victim of gun violence, she became involved with proposed legislation to tighten restrictions on the sale of guns.

Governor Rick Perry asked for Federal Aid for the people devastated in the West Texas explosions, after railing against government spending during his campaign for president.

Maybe one day, the man who snidely suggested that our hippie café would probably take food stamps as payment because we didn’t take his American Express card, will see the how insensitive his comment was if he ever needs help feeding his family.covers

Is that what it will take for human compassion and real action to change our nation?  Will every “representative” have to experience job loss, a debilitating disease or the agony of someone they love who goes through something horrific?  I hope not.

We can claim that we have compassion for those who are less fortunate.  We can justify our judgmental comments, by stating that those in need are in some way manipulative or are taking advantage of the help they have been given.  We can say all these things, but we are NOT God. We are NOT judge and jury.  We ARE HUMANS!  And at the end of the day, we are all here together.

So let’s help one another to be better people, to live a life of joy and purpose, to give a boost individually, or through what our government offers to those who need it.  Let’s put aside judgment and notice what makes each human amazing.  We all have something great to contribute to this world in talents, resources, time, etc.  Try to notice what you have to offer and give it!

Noticing Changes in Values Through Experiences,

Bernadette

What do we value in friendships?

December 23, 2012

When I was young, we were drawn toward those who accepted us for whatever reason.  The insecurities of youth either drove us toward the in-crowd to be “in” or to some other crowd that we shared commonalities with in order to have “friends.”  As we grow up and perhaps move to bigger cities, universities or communities, we have more people to choose from, and often gravitate toward those who share common interests with us – sports, hobbies, church, etc.  Then adulthood comes, along with dramas and value changes.  We realize that we must let go of certain people in our lives that drain us or don’t inspire the best in us.  And we start to choose.

With these choices, we gain clarity about the type of people we want to closely associate with.  And selecting friends becomes easier.  The challenge is building deeper friendships.  That only happens with 1) time and 2) shared interactions.

wendy-bern

When we lived in Atlanta, we were at the “shared interest” and “letting go” stage of our lives.  We wanted something more and thought that moving to a smaller community in the mountains would be the change that would ultimately satisfy us.  When we realized that we couldn’t financially make that change, we dove into our local sub-community of Atlanta.  We gained clarity regarding what the most important qualities of a friend are to us.  And with time and shared experiences, we developed some really deep friendships.  Some of them were still based on common interests like cycling, but the closest ones were build on a shared value system of what it means to be a friend.

It wasn’t until we were able to move away from Atlanta to the mountains, that I could actually articulate what those great qualities in a friend were.  Once we arrived, the start of a new business and care-giving made building new friendships a challenge.  We deeply missed our good friends in Atlanta and longed for those relationships in our new home.

In Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, he indicates that we love others in the manner in which we want to be loved.  Finding good friends is as easy as knowing how you are a friend to others.  Here are three of the most important values to me in a friendship.

  1. I crave people who get excited about my achievements and joys because I love it when someone I care about gets what their heart desires, even if it doesn’t involve me.
  2. I value those who love their community and work together from a perspective of abundance for all, rather than fear, probably because that’s what I want in my life as well.
  3. I feel very close to those who know my heart well enough to give me grace when I am not myself, make a mistake, or don’t have much to give at a certain time in my life.  Knowing someone’s heart comes with time, and when I do know someone’s heart, I have a hard time believing they are not the person I came to know by one mistake or their reaction to a tough period in their lives.

Those are the most important qualities to me and the bonds that have developed the closest friendships in my life.  Sure, I still need acquaintances – those who simply pop in my life periodically for my inspiration, for a challenge or for the opportunity to reach out and help them.  And I also need my dude friends who will distract me from the stress of life with a hammer of a bike ride or high gravity beer.  But the really close ones are those whom I invest in with very deliberate choices to spend time knowing and building a stronger friendship.

What do you value in a friendship?  How do you love others?  Once you know that, I trust that finding close friends and building those friendships can come with ease.

Noticing Value in Good Friends,

Bernadette