The Morning After

Election 2016 is finally behind us. The good news is that there will be no more toxic debates, no more negative commercials, and hopefully more focus on the issues that matter. I’m proud to say that I am a Hillary supporter so the outcome of the election broke my heart for many reasons; good old boy bullying behavior and fear-mongering tactics once again succeeded. Believe me, I have endured these behaviors and attitudes throughout my life from childhood to my role as a CEO. I have fought for my place in business, for my employees to receive equitable treatment, for my rights as a gay woman, and for acceptance in both private and public spaces. After only a few hours of sleep once the election results were in, I sobbed in deep grief; I had my heart set on hearing the glass ceiling break by a very competent candidate. I was excited for feminine energy to have a chance to lead our country and I wanted a shot at equality. The universe (and the electoral college) delivered a different outcome.

Most of the media outlets are white collar, moderate tabloids yet we are easily swayed by their rhetoric; talking heads who scream at each other while making little room for listening. The addiction to holding social media as fact. Our country needs to stop, listen and tune into non-corporate sponsored media. Middle America drove this election because someone saw/heard their vulnerability and locked onto it like a shark with its prey. Perhaps this outcome tells us that we have stopped listening to each other, stopped noticing each other’s pain and spend too much time on the ME-ME-ME syndrome. Head in cell phone, self-absorbed, a need to be right, immediate gratification to sooth our pain all the while in denial of the connections we’re missing and the bridges that still need to built across, race, class, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

There is a distinct difference between passion and anger. The energy we’re experiencing is hateful, angry and exclusive versus inclusive. When I stand back, I painfully see that we have a long way to go to overcome racism and discrimination in all of its forms. We have to change that message, dust ourselves off and continue our journey. Taking our marbles home because our candidate lost is not humanity at its best. We must learn from this election and get on with the important issues at hand.

There is a leadership strategy that guides us to draw out the quietest person on a team because they often have the best solution. I have followed that practice through my career and it’s right on every time. Again, the perceived quietest group in the middle of our country spoke loudly on election day. They may not have attended the rallies but they heard the message and they used the most sacred voice that an American has which is our vote, with the hopes of finding a solution to their pain. And their team won the race. So let us begin to listen to those who have different opinions. We don’t need to argue and debate, we can simply listen and make room for more than one perspective. Somewhere in that exchange of different ideas, we can find the best solutions. And that is how we need to behave. If we hate others for electing Trump, we are missing the point. We must love each other for our differences and encourage passionate & peaceful collaborations.

I am still inspired by the message that Hillary Clinton left for us, her pride, her words of empowerment “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” And while we may not agree with how the election was won, we must continue our work in our communities, protect each other and make sure that there is equality for all. May God Bless us all and May God Bless the United States of America.

Animal Medicine

Animals bring us joy often times beyond what words can convey. They are our family, our companions, our best friends, our solace and our joy. There are so many adjectives we can choose from, yet the simple fact is our animals are pure love.

When we go away for vacation, separating from our furry family members is always heartbreaking, whether we are dropping them off somewhere or walking out the door leaving them behind. My eyes always well up with tears when I kiss goodbye to my Weimaranner, Bleu. She is connected to my soul in a way I have never experienced with any other animal. It may be that her 80-pound self is like a young child. Her green eyes are so expressive they immediately melt my heart.

I have learned, through Bleu, to communicate with our eyes. When she is happy, there is an amazing smile that comes over her face. If there is an energy near her that is unpleasant, her frown tells me and I quickly find a way to make her happy again. She entrusts me to care for her and keep her safe. Over the seven years we have been together, I am honored to be her human.

My family commitments in New Jersey take me away monthly for a few days at a time and I go in spurts for business travel. Recently, I had family, business and vacation travel all within a three-week period. As I grow “wiser,” I become more of a homebody, loving quality time at home with my wife and three pets, including Bleu. Before we left for vacation, I sat with Bleu and gently talked with her about the next trip I was taking. I couldn’t even understand why I set myself up to fly home on a Friday and leave for vacation on Saturday morning. Sometimes when it comes to business travel, everything else takes a back seat. It’s supposed to be the other way around but as a business owner the company typically takes a front seat more often.

The first two days we were away, I watched Bleu at her daycare by webcam, which often upsets me more than provides me peace. My Bleu tends to be a wallflower and a loner, much like her Mom! She prefers one-on-one attention. Who would have thought that my dog would be introvert, like me! So I have learned from my personality what she needs. Dog medicine embodies both loving gentleness and fierce protection. The dog is a symbol of unbreakable spirit. If you have a dog on your totem you are probably serving humanity in some way and are not easily defeated.

A few days into our vacation, I was really missing her and rather than wish away a blissful week on the beach with my wife, I decided to converse with her heart-to-heart. As I was on the beach, I closed my eyes and connected with her heart. I knew I found her when I immediately felt more relaxed. I felt at peace. I told Bleu that I missed her and that I would be home in a few days. I assured her that she was in a good place with people who loved her. So she could make it through a few more days as would I. She agreed that having me rest was important to her because when I feel good, she’s happy. And when I return this weekend, the priority will be playtime together, other than a few hours attending a wedding.

Now, I am fully here on vacation knowing that at any time, I can talk to Bleu and she will hear me. Is it silly? Not at all. Taking the time to hug and communicate with our animals is the best medicine I could ever want.

Tender Simplicity

I was recently home again with my mom for an extended stay. Each day we went out to have her favorite meals and each evening we spent time talking and watching TV. She doesn’t ask for much anymore, except having her family close by. It seems like a very simple request yet living three hours away, it takes a lot to condense my daily life into a few days to be away for most of the week. The hardest part is the travel and catching up when I get home, yet the time we have together is very special.

I watch her trying hard to remember what we are doing each day. She asks each morning what day it is and “what’s on the agenda for today”. Rather than answer her I say, “what day do you think it is and what would you like to do?” She stops, sometimes answers correctly and other times struggles to find the right answer, often asking for help when she needs it. I always give her what she asks for because at this stage of her 92 years, most requests are so simple. The only one that I have to say “no” to her is when she wishes I lived with her. I wish I could be with my Mom every day…heavy sigh.

I take more time to listen to her and to look at her when we are together. So I savor those moments to see the shades of her brown eyes, I look at how her hands have aged and remember all the dishes and floors she washed. Interestingly enough, as I look at her hands, I put mine next to hers and see how I am aging. I can only hope for her healthy longevity.

This morning we talked about the recent political conventions. For the first time, we are on the same page about who should win the Presidential election. That was a pleasant surprise and she even laughed about it. We have always had heated conversations about politics and now we have come full circle. Finally we agree, BUT it’s not November 8th yet!

I’m due back to visit her in two weeks and I am counting down the days. Our summer visits are always fun because we go out for ice cream, lobster rolls, hot dogs and most everything else that brings joy during the summer. We ride around our hometown, drive down the Jersey Shore and talk about our great memories.

I’m blessed to have a strong relationship with my mom. At this stage of her life she is the mother I have always wanted her to be and I can find blessings even in seemingly difficult situations. With her memory loss, she no longer frets over things that used to twist her up inside. She is much more relaxed, appreciative and thankful. She rarely complains anymore and everything seems to be more than enough for her. She sleeps more restfully without anxiety lingering over her. A lesson to us all to find joy in acceptance and gratitude and to let go of that which does not serve us. Thank you, God, for her lessons, love and tenderness.

Again and Again and Again?

I am shocked and numbed by the horrific violence that continues to take the lives of African-Americans and police officers. While the media reports the incidents, we may never fully know the complete and accurate story, but again and again, African American men (and women) are met with unnecessary force at the hand of law enforcement. I have to ask, if my tail light were out and I am pulled over, even if I had a licensed hand gun in the car, I bet that I would be treated differently. The traffic stop would most likely end with or without a formal warning issued and I drive away. I don’t have to live in fear that I could die as a result of a simple traffic stop; white privilege at work.

I live a few miles away from where the Baltimore riots occurred last year over the police handling of Freddie Grey, who died as a result of a spinal injury incurred by police during custody. Even if you believe the prosecution had a weak case, it is hard to believe that no one will ever be held accountable for his death. There cannot be peace without justice.

Whatever opinion you have about law enforcement, the facts show that African Americans are profiled and held to a different standard than Whites. Enough already! I have such respect for police officers and am grateful for their courage. There is an overwhelmingly high % of brave and honest police officers, yet it is the few who are hateful, harmful and dangerous. They need to be held accountable! All officers need to be trained to become more aware of bias and profiling and police departments need to build community and implement community policing models. They are responsible for keeping us ALL safe.

There are too many families in pain because of fear and gun violence. When will we create peace? When will be bond with each other? When will we see the good in each other and when will we stop discrimination? I feel helpless, because no matter what I say to my State politicians, no matter how I vote and no matter how many tears I cry, it feels like WE as a country are held hostage by so many broken systems. When will we realize that all of our liberation is bound up together?

I pray every day that the lines of color, sexual preference, gender, religious belief, political affiliation, social class, etc. will be washed away and we can stand together as one to live in peace, to prosper, to educate our kids, to respect our elders, and to be grateful for this life that God has given us. I might feel helpless in this moment, but I will never lose hope that good will overcome evil and justice and love will triumph.

Orlando’s Messages

I have let the shock of last week’s tragic loss of 49 innocent victims, at the hands of a deeply disturbed gunman, settle in. My heart is still very sad. The past week has felt very somber and I was grateful for a busy schedule to keep me focused otherwise I could have been immobilized by grief. One more time we see how precious life can be taken from us, in the land of freedom. Every group of people, from children to every diversity, has been a target of death by an assault weapon. That topic will be a separate blog at some point.

For this blog, I am focusing on the LGBT community to whom were the target. The Pulse was a place of community where the LGBT community felt safe as well as everyone else who wanted to visit. You see, our community opens our door to everyone while doors have and continue to be closed to us. Sad and heartbreaking.
This event allowed many of us to observe reactions and responses by the public, our friends and families. As I listened to news coverage and read articles it was amazing to be part of as well as a recipient of heartfelt outpour of love simply because I was part of the LGBT community. Yet, as the week went on I noticed that about 95% of the heterosexual people in my life including friends and family were silent. There were no calls or texts with any type of checking in or “hey, I’m thinking about you.” While I do not participate in the gay club life anymore, there was a time when going to the local LGBT club was virtually the only place to be “out” with whom I loved with no judgement. Pretty sad yet very true. So this event could have been in any city/town to any of us. As the list of victims and survivors were revealed, there were a large number of heterosexual people at The Pulse. What that says again is that the LGBT doors are open to everyone. Isn’t that the way it should be everywhere for everyone regardless of skin color, gender, sexual preference, religious beliefs, etc.? We are a “conditional” world yet doesn’t God teach us to love unconditionally and do no harm to one another? Where have we gone wrong that we judge everyone where it’s none of our business?

There are many messages from this week’s events which include: our country has a serious problem with gun violence, we need to live life with love, not hate; and the media and politicians need to quiet down long enough to LISTEN. STOP TALKING!!!! We all need to get out of our self-absorbed lives and pay attention to the people we take for granted who we assume will always be there. That’s not the case. Pick up the phone to simply say hello, if texting is your communication mode then write a quick text of hello, or get in the car and take a drive to see someone you love who does not live locally.

I notice that while most heterosexual people in my life love my wife and I there is still that subtle ignoring of our family. Oh yea, it’s okay about us, but there’s no invite for my kids as well as never an acknowledgement for events in their life. That’s pretty conditional, wouldn’t you say??? Unfortunately, when I talk to many of my LGBT friends we share many of these disappointments. The only solution I see is to live life openly, joyfully and with love because our souls are richer for it.

As each day passes, I pray that our world will have more open hearts for diversity of any kind and that we work together to weave more love into our fiber so hate can fade away.