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Courage

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
― Mark Twain

Courage has often been understood as bravery and having the strength to do something extraordinary. We think of movie scenes when the hero or heroine is backed up against the wall but finds that last bit of gumption. Ironically, the original word comes from something we sometimes negate as being weaker when compared to the mind. Cor-age is Latin for of the heart or coming forth with your whole heart. There is nothing more brave or stronger than revealing your full heart, and the importance of carrying that message forth is why Courage is one of the Civil Graces.

Who are you? That is the most important question to answer. In a world overwhelmed with mantras of success and social acceptance, showing up as you are is precisely what is needed. As children, we are often rewarded by our parents, churches, and educational institutions for being what was expected of us. Personally, there was always something nagging inside me that there was a different path. There came a time when holding on to that programmed version of myself was too painful. I had to re-discover my voice and re-member my heart. Finding the Courage to do that has not always been easy but it has made my life more authentic.

Each of us emerges from the Universe with unique gifts. Courage is the energy that moves it forth. To come from a place of the heart, a place of love and passion is why we are here. And we must be persistent in bringing ourselves forward. In a sense, it reminds me of our silly cat, Pete, who every morning peers in the door looking to connect with us after a night of exploring. Again and again, he invites us to experience what is real outdoors, and he won’t be ignored. “Are you going to show up today?” This is what our heart says to us.

I watch for leaders to emerge who will show genuine love for those they serve. It is rare to see them featured on the media, but they are there. They may not have official titles, but there are individuals everywhere bringing all they are to tell their story and bring meaning to life. A beautiful example of this was watching Greta Thunberg state her case with such profound Courage–her heart was in every word, and it was such a sign to the world to do the same. One young woman had a vision of speaking up for the Earth, and millions in the world moved with her to stand out as well because they felt it in their own hearts. That is the power of Courage. We can ignite the world with passion toward a common goal.

We are heirs to the grace of Courage. The original founders of this nation, leaders from every walk of life, had the vision that we could govern ourselves in a new way. While it has taken centuries to reveal and reshape the ideal of self-government, it has been through individuals calling out from their heart to re-mind and re-member the center of something greater beyond the material world. The call is there for each of us. How do you show up in Courage?

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amazing grace

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
― Anne Lamott

One of my favorite hymns growing up was “Amazing Grace.” I would listen to the tune and wait for the moment, when amazing grace would teach my heart to believe…

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
  And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
  The hour I first believed!

I was always a sensitive kid and growing up defending myself with eight brothers and three older sisters often gave me a good reason to want to start a rebellion. Looking back, I never stopped feeling like it was my job to right the wrongs and save the world. It was exhausting! Trying to make sure I made the road perfect whether in my role as wife and mother, business woman and activist, or writer for that matter…it takes me days to work up the courage to write something. Working it over again and again in my mind before I can put words to print. And I like to write; even if just in my daily journal for my own mind to be emptied. Each time I do, it is that Grace appears.

The last few years have been really transformative for me. I had to face that my first marriage was ending despite whatever we tried. The sadness at failing both God, my family and someone who used to be my partner was tremendous, but it was multiplied each time I looked into my children’s eyes and tried to make things better despite all the statistics that said I would fail. My children are amazing. Statistics were wrong. Grace held us. Then there was the time Grace appeared to help me keep my home so that the kids didn’t have to endure losing both their security and home at the same time. Grace appeared when I first believed by a promotion that gave me exactly (almost to the penny) what I needed to sustain the mortgage even though I had no idea how it would all work out. That house was our hideout from the world–a shelter in the storm that was raging in my heart.

And then I lost my father, who always felt like the one in my family who could truly see me. I know there was love, but to truly be seen. Well, that was a gift. His absence from the world made me feel vulnerable beyond what I ever can remember. Going home the long road to Michigan the day after Christmas to say goodbye was complicated by a car that decided to act up. It was Grace that allowed me to get through the icy roads to the safety of my childhood home where I walked in line behind the legacy my father created. Grace taught my heart to believe a few days later when a new friend asked me to a celebration at New Year’s Eve. We had known of each other but never spoke until he reached out to me on that lonely Christmas night after my dad had died to say I wasn’t alone in my sadness for he had lost his dad at Easter. He knew what I was feeling on my first Christmas without Dad. Grace gave me the courage to believe in love again. And Grace was right!

Not ever having lost my fighting spirit, Grace appeared to remind me about making a more just world. I answered what I felt was the call by running for the U.S. Congress–after all there were no women from my state in Washington and I knew what that meant…we would go hungry if we left it to the boys. After a year of running, resigning from my job, selling my beloved house, and almost my desire to live, Grace once again met me with the words, “we aren’t done with you yet.” Though the last few years have been about finding a set of wings to fly because my feet were too tired to walk, Grace has brought me safe thus far.

When my campaign experience was over despite my grief and disbelief, it was looking to Grace again to inspire me. The Civil Graces Project naturally emerged from the many instances during my race when I really witnessed the human need to reconnect with one another in a world that seems to push us apart. We needed to re-member. Grace is the quiet presence of love, forgiveness, not having the answer but waiting for the truth to emerge, and having the courage to stay engaged with one another. Grace will transform our hearts, and I believe, our nation and our world, if we remain open to that presence and one another.

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unpacking truth

“Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks 

before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, 

follow only beauty, and obey only love.”
-Kahlil Gibran

When I was a child, I was taught never to lie even with small things. If you did, you would have to tell a bigger lie to cover that up. Eventually, you would wind up so far from the truth, you might not find your way back. That was when someone’s word was as good as gold and those who didn’t keep their word were disadvantaged in business and social circles…it was a thing everyone knew and those individuals weren’t trusted. 

The world is very different today in some respects with video cameras all over the place, people can get caught saying one thing and then quite the opposite moments later. Our words have lost their value especially in the realms of telling the truth. Does the soul grow numb after a while when it is hidden in lies…coated like a scally covering which no longer can feel? I like to think that most people tell the truth or want to tell the truth, but maybe they are only telling what they want to believe. I wanted to serve in public office my whole life but could never grow comfortable with the idea that to succeed in that world, I would have to make compromises with my values. I guess I have to thank my lucky stars that things happened the way they did and I can still look myself in the eye knowing the truth of my being.

Yet those in power need to be held accountable for their words. As my college professor, Dr. McAnaw would say, “You have be able to speak truth to power!” I think that is our charge in this modern-day…to speak the truth and make sure that those who want to represent us do the same. How can we do this? In many ways. By the way you spend your money…are you paying attention to where you invest? where you shop? the organizations you support? Do you really pay attention to how you vote with your money? As I ran, I learned the unfortunate truth that corporations support candidates to get favorable laws passed. These interests very often supersede the people who should be represented.

Why is it in America the land that used to lead in solving problems is so slow to resolving anything? Follow the money and you will find the truth. Benjamin Franklin when asked, what kind of government shall we have responded, “A republic; if you can keep it.” In a republic, the people are the sovereigns and the truth is, we have to start acting like it and pay attention to the actions of those who represent us. Think about what you read. Consider the source. Entertain opposing views if you can if only to learn something different. Get involved in the process and write letters. Lots of letters to the editor, to your representatives, and to your President. Ask questions. Then maybe we will get closer to the truth.

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reconnecting to what is real

“A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air— eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.” 
― Andy Andrews

One morning as I was driving my son to school, I suggested he put down his device and look out the window at the full moon still resting in the early sky while the rosy haze in the east began to herald the sun.  As if on cue, a herd of deer raced across the misty field and a large crow made its perch in a tree along the road.  Mother Nature was definitely in show-off mode with this young observer, and we quietly took in the moment.
 
Are you aware of the grace that surrounds you every day?  The beauty despite the rush we are in to make our way to the next leg of our journey?  Native cultures looked to our environment for direction and with anticipation for what came next.  The cycle of the seasons, outer space in its orbit, and the weather have been linked to our own circadian rhythms, and yet the modern world seldom slows down to reconnect and breathe these beats.  Maybe this is why our environment is so easily disregarded by some…we have forgotten our interconnection and relationship to it.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need a break, take time to look at what surrounds you.  Give gratitude for the beauty no matter how small, and if you haven’t yet found anything to cherish, keep looking.
 
It can be hard to consider beauty when so many feel forgotten…the suffering around us doesn’t make sense at first sight, and it is hard to see “heaven” in certain situations.  Could it be that awesome forces are revealing something for all of us to see?  First glance we may see pain and suffering.  Second glance we see that we are being summoned to reach beyond borders and beyond our own limitations to help our fellow neighbors…to realize that we can create heaven here by the love that we share. Imagine if we each just unplugged and did what we could.  The invitation is there for each of us to re-engage with our natural world and one another.  One single drop in a pond creates ripples that reach the far offshore as a wave.  A flap of a butterfly wing contributes to the hurricane.  What are you waiting for?
 
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going the extra mile

“Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We went out for dinner tonight which was such a special treat for us, and unfortunately, we were rushed because of other agendas of the staff. A magical meal (because every meal should be special…none of us will know when our chips are getting cashed in) was overrun by, “ Are you done?” Rushing when there will still plenty of time until the restaurant closed.

I’ve started to notice that the extra mile, which used to be a lonely place is getting extra lonely. People excuse rudeness lately. There’s an infatuation with the virtual world (i.e. phones at the table) at a loss of the real world. Customer service, which built into its description is “to serve,” has become a lost art. I know this because I’m in customer service and see some crazy stuff. Wisdom is paved over by expediency. The words “thank you” and “I’m sorry” which used to be normal, are now rare.

Please slow down. Put your phone down. Consider the other human beings in your space especially if you’re on the roadways. We all are traveling together to the same destination…not to be a buzz-kill but the ending is the same. So how about we treat each other a little nicer on the journey?

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the keys that unlock it all

Hi, Judy, I read your book, ‘Go For It” when I was a kid…over 30 years later, I still think of your book and how you inspired me. This past year I ran for the U.S. Congress and while it didn’t work out the way I had hoped, I am ready to work to help kids the way you helped me–to be inspired to go for their dreams no matter what. I just wanted to say thank you!” –Elizabeth Moro

In my life even when things didn’t work out exactly the way I had planned, I believed there always was a reason. No time was it harder for me to find a reason than after my campaign had ended. I felt like I had answered a lifelong call only to have the Universe hang up. Wrong number. Prank call. Timing. Whatever it was, my dream of serving in public office came crashing around my ears. I felt empty, alone and pretty much worthless.

After a time, I had to find a way out of my sadness. Searching for the key, I literally enrolled in a class on how to be “authentically happy” and one of the professors quoted was Dr. Martin Seligman, the Founder of Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Since that was just up the road, I wrote to him and asked him to have lunch, and he agreed. “How can I be happy in a world when I know so much is wrong and there is nothing I can do about it?” His response, “You’re not needed in Congress. Go be a trumpet about what is right in the world!” Tall order. What did that even mean and how could I muster up the courage to pursue such a thing? It felt like a task I wasn’t ready to take on but I was willing to stay open in case inspiration hit.

One evening, Vince and I were talking over a glass of wine as we sometimes do at our farm, and I thought of how I had read this book as a kid by a woman named, Judy Zerafa. The book was entitled, Go For IT! Judy had made such an early impact on how I viewed the world and that I could make things happen. “If she never wrote that book, I don’t know if I would have had the ambition I did. I wish I could thank her.” And so I found her on Facebook and sent her a message. A few weeks later, Judy responded and it was soul-sisters at the onset of our conversations. We talked about many things–dreams, goals, and challenges along the way. Most importantly we discussed Judy’s most recent work The Seven Keys to Success and her book Your Path to an Easier and Better Life. Judy invited me to consider working with her to keep the message going. Just as before, Judy had the keys to unlock my biggest question–how can I serve?

After almost a year of emails and weekly conference calls, we met face-to-face this past week in Long Beach, California. It simply was magical as we both felt huge confirmation of the importance of this vision– bring the Seven Keys to those who need them most–not only what the keys are, but HOW to make them work in every life! We will be sharing more about our work but the big message here is to never believe that it is over. Life takes twists and turns, but doors are unlocked when we continue to believe and look for the keys.

P.S. Guess who Judy had quoted in her new book? Dr. Seligman. I love those coincidences!

The Seven Keys to Success by Judy Zerafa

  1. Develop and Maintain a Positive Attitude
  2. Believe in Yourself
  3. Make Wise Choices
  4. Develop Positive Habits
  5. Set and Achieve Goals
  6. Use Creative Imagination
  7. Be Persistent
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dancing stars…

“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” –from Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s graduation from high school and as often happens during life’s milestones, we look back and say, “where did the time go?” Because we were making a short video for her party, we had the pleasure of looking back over all the photos from the past eighteen years and seeing all the smiles, challenges and victories of this one precious life. From the chaos came this little dancing star, my daughter Kate who always carried great expression. Guiding her journey and watching her make her way to the next chapters of her life is an invitation to grow as well. It is an opportunity to access our own lives and realize that we are at a moment of transformation and new exploration.

In this time of commencement, let us chart new courses for our own growth and development of the next step toward our dreams. In another week, I will be heading to California to meet with an author, Judy Zerafa, who’s book Go For IT! I read as a young kid. Her vision to write down your dreams and make them happen changed the trajectory of my life. I am beyond excited to connect with her and see how we can bring her work into action for the next generation. Sitting at the graduation ceremony last Friday, I heard familiar themes–Believe in Yourself. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes. Have a Positive Attitude. Judy and I will be working together to help create the “how to do” of these timeless ideas. The future is bright…just watch for those dancing stars!!

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it is all about relationships

“On that day they remembered that there were things more important than agreeing. They remembered the Village Square. And, for that moment as they remembered who they really were deep down, there was a chance to share with the whole world -many of whom were still having very bad problems with bossy kings, many of whom lived in places where people would sooner kill each other than find something to agree about – the beauty of this country they had built on regular people agreeing to disagree.” -Liz Joyner, The Village Square

In our one hour conversation, I knew I had met a kindred spirit. Liz Joyner, Founder and CEO of The Village Square in Tallahassee understands that our ability to agree about what we disagree and move forward despite our differences is what made this country great. In her edgy and playful manner, Liz tells the story of where we came from, how we got to where we are and what we need to do to keep our country moving forward. We laughed and shared so many connections in our work. We both came to the realization–what this is all about is relationships.

Finding a way to bring people together in this highly digital age is not easy. It is much safer to stay at home behind your computer and connect only with those who you “like” and similarly, it is easier to call someone out when you aren’t looking into their eyes. While we are in incredibly challenging times due to the growth of what we term “tribalism,” it is also an incredibly inspiring time because people are taking action. Creating spaces where it is safe to dialogue and debate the larger issues of our time is essential to our communities and our country. In Liz’s words, “Hometowns with strong and deep relationships are communities that thrive.” Our founding principles allowed for us to sort things out–sometimes we did this better than others.

So here is a challenge, look at your circle of friends and see how you are doing with creating diversity in your life. Do you only choose friends with whom you agree and have similar values? Do you seek out opportunities to listen to other viewpoints without the need to judge? At the end of all that occupies our time and space on this earth, the most important things end up being the relationships we keep. All studies show that we can literally transform our lives and our world if we are willing to make space for the dialogues which we most fear. I saw this in my work on the campaign trail; human to human conversations can break down walls and new ideas and solutions can come forth. Thomas Jefferson share this notion when he wrote, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.”

At the end of our conversation, Liz and I agreed that we are living in incredible times–without all this tension in our society would either of us be moved to do what we are doing to address these issues? The very challenges we all face are the catalysts for growth that is happening. People shift opinions not because of rational thought, but in relation to the people whom they connect to. I invite you to open your space to new connections and new relationships and see what magic happens there! I would love to know how it goes!

Pigs Fly is part of the fun at The Village Square.
To learn more please visit: https://tlh.villagesquare.us
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hospitality: the art of healing

“Hospitality is an invitation to enter into the ancient art of the healer and bring people together despite our differences so we all can be nourished…There is something so visceral about knowing you are needed that warms the heart and keeps you safe in the larger sense.”

-Elizabeth Moro

Hospitality shares the same root as the word “hospital” and is the first of the Civil Graces in my book because I believe when we come together in a place to heal, we open ourselves to the abundant Universe which constantly gives despite our mishaps. It is a way to open connection with another when we break bread and give of what we have. I remember hearing a quote from Wayne Dyer of an ancient poem by Hafez, “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.”  We are invited to light up the world by this quiet grace of Hospitality and make room in our hearts, our minds and our spirits so we all have a place at the table where we will find the beautiful gift each of us brings which becomes the balm to a world that needs each of our medicines.

How can you bring the spirit of hospitality into your daily living? Share your ideas below!

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there is hope because we care

“The very fact that we have people seeking to change civility, that’s an expression of civility’s value. The true crisis of civility is if none of us cared. If we all stopped caring about what counts as appropriate behavior, then civility’s not in crisis, it’s dead.”

–Keith Bybee, Author of How Civility Works

Last year this segment on civility aired on CBS Sunday Morning, and it is important to bring this back to light in the wake of the government shutdown. All this debate of who won and who lost the stalemate overshadows the fact that around the country, and even around the world, the conversation is again calling upon the Civil Graces that seem to be slipping from everyday relations. And yet, if you consider the work being done by various organizations and individuals–leaders of all walks of life including the two Congress members featured in this segment who founded the “Civility and Respect Caucus” each of them on opposite sides of the aisle, there is a reason for hope.

CBS Sunday Morning discusses whether Civility is Disappearing

The very fact that we are still seeing behaviors as unreal means that we know what is real. When we see unbelievable actions displayed, that means we still know what we do believe. Civil Graces are more than manners. Civil Graces are principles that address the question of how shall we live with one another and both find a way to a life of meaning and purpose. It is about understanding that we don’t have to agree to be together. Part of the challenge of a democratic nation is that we have to make space for it all.

Our attitudes are one of the most important determiners in this. When we choose to see the world as falling apart, there is plenty out there to suggest we are right. However, if you choose to see these changing times as an opportunity for us to confront some age-old behaviors and beliefs that no longer fit, well then there is definitely a reason for hope. The challenge of our modern world with so much exhausting noise surrounding us is to do some introspection. For example, I was finding myself being annoyed when people sped by my house each morning, and yet one day while taking my son to school, I asked myself, “how are my driving habits?” It was interesting to observe the posted speed limits as I passed other houses and how I felt anxiety at the pressure from the car behind me to speed up. I realized I had unconsciously been doing what I found fault in others, and I made a commitment to change my habit. This is a small thing on the scale of life, but maybe not when you think about how many people are injured and killed in auto accidents each year. Respect for others is a Civil Grace and therefore taking the time to drive more mindfully is something I have adopted.

While the tone of our national politics is probably an area where we have limited control, we can control the way we speak, post and comment on those issues. I read an article in the newspaper the other day that had me infuriated, and upon doing a little more research, I found out that there was another side to the story. It made me think twice about posting my opinions. How often have we seen that there is another side of the story that doesn’t always come immediately to light? Why spend time justifying my actions because someone was worse? Isn’t it just so much easier to look outside and point to one another than to do the inner work of transformation? We all know what we can do differently if we are willing to be honest with ourselves. How can we be the change we wish for the world?

The reason I am hopeful about this current era is because many people are asking these questions and are engaging in meaningful dialogue to learn about how to have civil discourse, individuals on opposing sides are realizing that something has to be done to bring the whole back together, and issues which were long in the shadows are coming to the public square to be examined. How then shall we live together knowing we are all so different? These are exciting times because so many of us care!!

Stay in touch with the dialogue on our social media page–Facebook: @CivilGracesProject.

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true connection

“I am a part of all that I have met.” 

– Lord Tennyson 

There is nothing more necessary in our world than genuine human connection, and to be loved, accepted, and contributing is a common thread we share. Nothing has changed this dynamic more than the devices we hold in our hands. We dialogue about the role mobile phones/devices have in our home frequently. Research shows they are truly changing the way humans relate to one another…and not in a good way. In an age of efficiency and virtual reality, are humans missing out on true connection? Earlier last year, I completed a course on “Authentic Happiness” and one of the discussions was all around our devices, the adrenaline rush we get from “likes” on social media and the devastating effects of social comparison. Think about what it would mean to have someone’s full attention in conversation. Perhaps one of the Civil Graces we can express is to take the time to be fully present with one another. Check out this short video by Simon Sinek and let me know your thoughts.

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an epiphany

…Will to the best of my Ability, preserve, 

protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

So help me God. -U.S. Presidential Oath of Office

In my tradition, today is the day of the Epiphany, or “little Christmas.” Symbolically, it is the day in ancient times when great kings of old knelt before a little baby who was promised to be the ruler of the world…a better world. Dignitaries kneeling before a homeless baby…let the irony sink in. Epiphany literally means “manifestation” and the theologic idea here is God is both made man and divine on this day. Little Christmas. Prepare room in your heart.

I have been thinking a lot about the oath of office that one takes upon entering office of any nature in America. An oath is a promise…I put my life on the line and give my word. So many oaths are broken in these modern days…our promise to preserve, protect and defend…but what is it that we are promising? An ideal? A better way of life? To each other? What? Because today, especially in my daily business, no one has faith in another’s word unless it is in writing. So what do we do with these words that were just spoken by the leaders of this great nation in the U.S. Congress?

We take them to heart…our hearts.

You don’t need an office to make an impact in your nation. I nominate and elect every American citizen to take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Why? Because it is a living document…living because we are, and it is our nation we are standing to defend. Too many people are talking glibly about “uncivil war” and calling each other names. I call upon every one of you to take to heart what is at the core of this nation…a small army standing up to the world’s greatest military powers at the time and declaring that “all people (my word) are created equal” endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let that sink into your bones and know that you are part of the manifestation of something that was bigger than big at the time of America’s rising. And let us not let this fire be drowned out by people who have no courage and who think walls are the answer.

Epictetus a Roman Slave is quoted as having said, “Why then are you ignorant of your noble birth? You carry a God about within you, poor wretch, and know nothing of it.” We as a nation have a noble birth and the blessings of our ancestors who have made it happen. What three gifts do you bring to help in the manifestation of something greater? The one thing after my campaign that I think of often is sitting with small children and listening to their concerns…”what has you worried?” I asked them. The resounding answer among the diverse room…war. Let us prepare in our hearts to make sure this does not happen. We can preserve, protect and defend what is greatest about us while making sure those who are the least among us can go to sleep at night knowing they can count on us. It is about civility, but not in the sense that we turn a blind eye. It is about examining what is happening in our country and realizing that this is the time for all of us to look into the mirror…to have an epiphany…about what we all contribute and where we have work to do.