Refugee Children

I hear the cries of refugee children. I’m a scholar of war and society, and my M.A. thesis was about U.S. refugee policy during the Holocaust. My undergrad honors thesis was a life history of a Holocaust survivor. My Ph.D. dissertation, which I’m turning into a book, examines identity during the Civil War through the lens of alcohol. The voices of the enslaved, of soldiers, of women, of heroes like Frederick Douglass, echo in my head.

I’ve been studying people, war, and human rights for seventeen years. It gets pretty heavy sometimes. Especially times like now, when I see tent cities being built to house children the USA has separated from their parents, who did nothing but try to cross the U.S. border to escape violence and poverty in Central America and Mexico.

Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has changed the legal status of undocumented immigrant children traveling into the USA with their parents to that of “smuggled” children, which legally allows border control and immigration to separate them from their parents. Some of these children have been lost–some even trafficked on a chicken farm.

My heart bleeds. I can’t help but look at this through the lens of my scholarship, but I remember the words of my Holocaust survivor friend. “The past is past,” she says; “we live now.”

And now is the time to write our Congressional representatives, to use our voices, to remember that the pen is stronger than the sword.

What can I do? I can pray. I can raise awareness. I can stay sober so that I can be useful, today, now, here, in this time.

Taking the difficult things moment by moment, processing them in our hearts and minds, and finding peaceful solutions is the answer, for me.

And yeah, I’m freaking out. But I’m still here, still sober, and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs–or screaming through my fingertips on the keyboard. Wake up. Take notice. Do not look away.

And do what you can, here, now, wherever you live, to be kind. Advocate. Work in your communities to build bridges between parties. Quit bashing the centrists who happen to wear a different party label. Republicans and Democrats can come together for the cause of human rights.

We have a system. Democracy. It matters. The rule of law matters. And when someone like Donald Trump tries to destroy that, we absolutely have to vote him out.

If I took a drink, I wouldn’t be useful. Giving in to the disease of alcoholism, seeking oblivion instead of facing the pain, would be wrong. Instead, I will look the darkness in the eye and fight it.

For the refugee kids.

I’m writing my senators tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

Anxiety and Mindful Self-Care

I have an anxiety disorder.

“I take a problem and chew on it until all the flavor’s gone. Then I stick it in my hair.” -Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

“Cast all your cares upon the Lord.”

“Instead of worrying, pray.”

I have an anxiety disorder. This means that I am extremely likely to follow neurological ruts of worry. It means that my body can respond to everyday worries with a reaction that would be more appropriate if my ice-age ancestors were being attacked by a sabertooth tiger. This is not healthy.

I work on it. I actively practice observing my thoughts and shifting them to different topics when I notice anxiety rising up. This book helps.

But one of the best things for me to do is stop and pray. Ask for help. Make a gratitude list. Check out some funny cat videos. Think happy thoughts—on purpose. Make an anxiety busting Pinterest board! And do what makes you feel cared for. For me, I love alone time with books. Or the ritual fun of crafting a new mocktail in a sparkly glass (recipes here!).

Sometimes it feels like like I’m tackling a calculus problem (actually, calculus was a lot easier for me than dealing with anxiety)… But it’s worth it. Because winning small battles against anxiety adds up to winning the war. But a little humor and prayer go a long way.

And the books and mocktails, of course.

Namaste, Darlings! 💜

“Everything Waiting to Grow”

I sat in my back yard looking and actually took the time to STOP and LOOK. What had just been a green space to step outside and take a breather from work became so much more when I let go and let myself become fully present in my garden moment.

I reflected on the changes from the cold winter, when I sat under the February Stars and watched the cold, naked tree limbs extent toward the inky blue sky. The world–my world–had transformed.

Now there are green leaves everywhere, wildflowers, grasses, soft moss. A squirrel was working in my favorite tree. A butterfly flitted by me, and a hummingbird hovered. A red robin looked for worms. Even the insects had come alive! But the winter didn’t show it.

One of my favorite songs is Catie Curtis’ “Everything Waiting to Grow,” about the beauty underneath the surface. In season, over time, after we work on it, our lives will sprout new growth.

It has been waiting, under the surface, for the spring to come.

Whatever season you are in, keep working, keep waiting. You will bloom in time.

Namaste, Darlings!💜

Self-care Isn’t Selfish

Protect your alone time.

I have a hard time with this, sometimes, because I want to be there for everyone alllllll the time. To be the friend who says YES instead of no. And when I keep a realistic view of my timetables and my boundaries intact, that’s okay. But sometimes, I get really tired.

That’s when I have to remember, repeat like a mantra: self-care isn’t selfish.

So I turn off the ringer. Enter Airplane mode. Soak up some sun, read a book, have a cup of tea, and just chill. Or put on some cute shoes. Whatever it takes!

Recharge.

Relax.

I consider it a duty—to myself, my higher power, and even my community. Because no one can pour from an empty cup. So fill it! Self care isn’t selfish, it’s critical to our own health and well-being.

20 Months of Freedom and Little Miracles

I arrived at an event to set up table and room decorations only to find that my spot had been taken over by a construction crew! All my careful plans for two weeks, and now it’s back to the drawing board. I gotta improvise. I feel the anxiety rising up in my heist and my pulse starting to spike…

But this time, I remember my intention for the day: to nip anxiety in the bud and stop the spiral into terror. I did it. I smiled, excused myself, put on headphones with my VERY BEST “you got this music,” and breathed intentionally. I went back to my car and reorganized. Drank some coconut-mango juice out of my favorite happy tumbler–prepared in advance for the morning. And I took a moment to write.

It’s gonna be okay. Here, I’m clutching my “18 month” chip–two 8-month chips which my favorite meeting gave me because I wanted to celebrate the milestone so much (those ladies ROCK!!! Community support for the win!). I don’t want a drink, but those chips in my hand remind me of serenity, of how far I’ve come in those (now 20) months, and how much better I’m dealing with problems, big and small.

Now, back to decorate that table.

Namaste, darlings!

Serenity Prayer

One of my favorite things about recovery is the serenity prayer. It makes sense on so many levels. It represents not only the shared chorus of voices celebrating the end of a great meeting, but also the encapsulates the spirit of Recovery. Here’s a great reflection from one of my favorite apps:

When I first read the Serenity Prayer, the word “serenity” itself seemed like an impossibility. At the time, the word conjured up images of lethargy, apathy, resignation, or grim-faced endurance; it hardly seemed a desirable goal. But I’ve since found that serenity means none of those things. Serenity for me today is simply a clear-eyed and realistic way of seeing the world, accompanied by inner peace and strength. My favorite definition is, “Serenity is like a gyroscope that lets us keep our balance no matter what turbulence swirls around us.” Is that a state of mind worth aiming for?

Wisdom: New, Old, Exquisitely Timeless

A while back, I shared with a recovery mentor some advice I’d gotten that was bugging me. she wisely told me not to let it get to me—even though it had come from someone with a great deal more sober time than I have.

My friend reminded me that, in the recovery community, we are all taking it one day at a time. So in one respect, all any of us has is TODAY.

I thought a lot about that.

Recently, I asked for wisdom to deal with a really stressful situation, and a friend from one of my groups reached out and talked with me that night. She was so sweet, so kind, so encouraging. Then, a couple of weeks later, I was beautifully surprised to learn that this gentle soul who has been a great inspiration to me has about a half a year of sobriety under her belt!

I shouldn’t be surprised. Think of the wunderkind stock genius fresh out of college, the editorial assistant with a gorgeous novel waiting to be published, the older person sitting next to you in the office chair in the government job who takes their time learning the computer codes, but then find out they leave work and run a volunteer clothes closet for those in need. We all know important stuff.

It’s a good lesson—whether our sobriety date count is at one year, six months, or 45 years—we all have just today. And we can all learn from each other. There is power in community!

And newcomers have important wisdom too, as fresh and gorgeous as the first spring flowers.

Namaste, darlings!