Friday, February 21, 2014

Safety Patrol

When I was in early elementary school in the mid 1960's, I was selected to be on safety patrol. Now that was a huge honor. I got to have an official whistle and wear a blaze orange belt that had two parts, a strap over one shoulder that attached to a regular belt-like strap. The belts hung in the office on pegs, and before and after school, the safety patrol kids would race to grab their belts and whistles, sling them on, and calmly with authority walk into the hall to enforce civility among the masses.

Sometimes I was selected to be a cross walk guard and I got to take the long wooden pole with a safety flag on the end to the crosswalk and protect all my classmates from speeding Corvairs.  I would stand at attention at the edge of the road and hold the flag parallel to the ground, keeping the children behind it and safe from being squashed by a car. When traffic cleared, I walked out into the street, blocked traffic with my flag, and ushered the little kiddies to the other side of the road. I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time. Can you imagine that today? We were given so much more responsibility in those days...

One of the other major duties of safety patrol was to put up and take down the flag of the United States of America, which flew proudly from our flagpole in front of the school. And no, nobody got their tongue stuck to the pole in the winter.

It so happened I had just taken down the flag and was trying to fold it without letting it touch the ground, an offense punishable by death in those days, when I saw a naughty boy running on the sidewalk, a clear violation of the school's safety rules. I blew my whistle loudly and shouted "Hey kid, stop! No running! Stop! I said stop!".  Of course he ignored me. But what could I do? I was holding the sacred flag of the U.S. trying to keep it from touching the ground when I wasn't much taller than it was wide. I could feel my blood pressure rise. How dare he ignore a direct command from a safety patrol officer!  I wadded the flag up and gave chase, but he had too much of a head start. Grumbling, I finished folding the flag and made my report to headquarters, the principal's office.

My safety patrol experience taught me many things about life.

One, if given responsibility, kids stand up to the task.

Two, parents in the 1960's must have been stoned to let their little children be crosswalk guards.

Three, kids don't listen to other kids in positions of authority.

Four, I love to be the boss.

Five, that rule about not letting the flag touch the ground? It is a hindrance to carrying out law and order in the schoolyard.

Thank the good lord they don't have safety patrol these days. I can imagine kids dressed in camo with tasers and 9 mm furnished by the NRA. The naughty little boy that did not head my whistle? Today he might have been toast.

Ah the good old days...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Self Definition

I don't know if it is the weather or what, but lately it seems like there are many people around me that have polished up their badges and have them hanging prominently on their chests. Now before I continue, I must tell you that I have a box of badges myself, stored in the attic. Every once in awhile I will pull one or two out for a pity party, but for the most part I try to keep them put away. My goal? To compost them all. It wasn't always that way, but I am learning.

Just what the heck are you talking about Barb?  Let me tell you.

Every communication we have with another person is an opportunity to share who we are. We exchange energy with this person as well. I went to a vocal workshop given by the amazing Rhiannon. What I learned in those few hours truly impacted me on a deep level. Rhiannon said that our voices have power, and when we sing the energy goes directly into the people who are listening. So we must be very responsible with our songs and our voices. Think about it. We touch another person's inner Soul simply from the power of our voice and song. Wow.

This extends beyond music. How do you feel when someone speaks kindly and softly to you? How do you feel around someone who is loud and obnoxious with their voice? How do you feel when you hear someone shouting or screaming?

Singing and music are not the only things that carry energy from one person to another. What we say also holds energetic power and it can actually define the path we walk in our lifetime.

I think about conversations I have with people. What did I talk about? Was it positive? Did I vent about something? Did I tell a story that I have told a hundred times before? Did I exude inner power, compassion, strength, humour? Or did I paint myself as a victim, telling tales of how this person or that person is taking advantage of me, or hurting me, or using me, or on and on...

If we think about how we project ourselves into the world, we will soon learn that this projection not only defines us to those around us but to ourselves as well. After all, you can't present yourself as a victim unless you think of yourself as a victim. Similarly, you can't reflect true inner power if it isn't really there.

We all have badges in our closets. Victim. Martyr. Judge. We also have some that reflect positive qualities, but few wear those it seems. Maybe they are out of style in these days of blame.

I once heard an Elder say that the greatest gift we have is our Power, the inner strength that keeps us centered in our Spiritual Core. It is that Power we draw from to meet the challenges of life, to help others, to be responsible to ourselves, our families, our communities, our Relations, our Earth home. When we give that Power away or deny it by not taking responsibility for our choices, our lives then become full of drama and stress, anxiety and depression, isolation and loneliness. Living under these conditions dramatically affects our health. Think about the illnesses you have. Are they a result of your life choices such as your diet, lack of exercise, drug/alcohol abuse, self abuse, bad relationships, or staying in situations that aren't good for you? Many of the diseases we see today are totally preventable if we made good choices about the food we eat and the life we live.

I am as guilty as the next here. I have made many choices in my life that resulted in some serious consequences for me, including my health. I take these experiences and learn from them and try to do better. My cholesterol is high, I am overweight, I have way to much stress and anxiety. What can I do about it? Everything. I have changed my diet. I have been going to the Y during my lunch hour every day including once on the weekend since mid-December. My lifelong battle with depression took me down a path of bad health choices that I am still paying for. But I have a choice. I can wear the badge of Victim or I can wear the badge of Healthy. That is the beauty of being human. We get to choose. And our bodies respond. I feel so great right now I could leap into the air! My depression is gone. Exercise took it way. My healthy diet feels good. I see my body and my emotions and my Spirit respond to these healthy choices and it is a positive feedback loop. I feel strong and empowered. How did this change happen? I had enough. I could not tolerate how I felt any longer. No more excuses. It was time to walk the walk. I have many many miles to go, but hey, I walked across the entire State of Michigan before. I can do it.

So the next time we tell a story, let's tell one of hopes and dreams, accomplishments and joys, and put away those old worn out tales of all the times we've been done wrong. If we keep doing things the same way, we will get the same results. Let's redefine ourselves and the way we share who we are with each other. Remember, that which we give energy to we give life to.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Pipeline and the Cereal Box

"Why, you look warm," said the old woman hidden beneath two coats, a pair of snowpants, one hat and a hood. "I am," I replied.

Cars honked as we lifted our hand-made signs protesting the Keystone Pipeline. This was not the kind of protest where you yelled and hollered. It was too damn cold. We just waved and hugged ourselves.

"I don't understand why there aren't more people out here," said Mary from within her layers. "I am 80 years old and look at me, out here in the snow and cold. This is too important. Don't people know that once we poison the water there is no going back?"

"I know," I said. I wondered too, why people have grown so apathetic.

Mary was holding a sign that read "Obama Stop the KXL". It was printed from a computer on white piece of paper that already had an old email printed on it. That's OK. The email was printed out in portrait, the protest message in landscape. This was then stapled to flattened cereal box, which was then covered in a clear plastic sleeve and stapled to a stick. Mary was thrifty. She reminded me of my Grandma.

"Come on let's march!" Mary shouted to the crowd in her 80-year-old voice. "It's too cold to stand still." But no one heard her. So she marched by herself, up and down the sidewalk. Three passes and she rejoined our little group.

"Hey," said Mary. "Did you read the article in that famous gardening magazine, you know which one I'm talking about?" she asked me.

"Better Homes and Gardens?" I answered.

"No, not one of the big fancy magazines, this one has the word Garden in it. You know, a magazine that a woman who wants to plant a big garden would read."

"Hmm, has the word Garden in it. Not ringing a bell to me," I told her. So she went to her car to fetch the article.

"Here it is," she said, handing me the page which was also in a plastic sleeve.

"Oh, Mother Earth News, yes I have heard of it," I said.

"Read that, it is only one page but is says it all," Mary instructed. I obeyed.

The article was on the dangers of fracking and all the chemicals that are in the water which is injected into the ground.

"There, now turn it over."

I again obeyed, and there on the backside was another protest sign, printed on an old email.

"You can use that for your sign," she said.  So I did. We stood on the side of the street in front of Michigan's Capital building for one hour, waving our signs at the cars passing by. Mary never faltered.

While this 80-year-old woman stood outside in zero degree weather holding her cereal box sign to protest a pipeline that will harm our Earth, where were you?