Aleppo

Does the number twenty five hold any significance for you?

It keeps popping up for me, as I reflect on what is mine to share in this my twenty fifth blogpost.  I feel very passionate about what's been bubbling up for some time now. I can't not share this.

When I turned twenty five, I thought to myself, "Wow. A quarter of a century old!" Wow. I was so young!

Now nearing fifty nine and oh-so-much wiser and compassionate, I want to use this number to share the idea of solidarity and what it can look like in today's world.

What does solidarity mean to you?

Rather than give you a dictionary definition, here's what it means to me. That I am somehow connected to and impacted by my fellow members of the human race. Wherever they are, however they are living, whether they are suffering or not. I may or may not be able to change anything.

However I NOTICE them, I CARE about them. I HELP them if, when and how I can.

This last year, one topic has stolen and broken my heart, that being the civil war in Syria, especially in Aleppo. Today, the rebel forces are all but wiped out, their last "stronghold" being the Eastern portion of that city.

As you know, twenty five times ten thousand is two hundred fifty thousand. 250,000. A quarter of a million.

Did you know that that is the number of people trapped in Eastern Aleppo on this the 100th day of besiegement by the Syrian regime? It used to be more, but so many have died. And now, as tens of thousands attempt to flee, many are being targeted by regime forces with gunfire and bombs.

What about solidarity? How has that shown up?

Numerous organizations, including the Syrian Civil Defense, International Red Cross, and Catholic Relief Services have devoted resources to help victims and refugees. You can learn more here

Or, just google Aleppo relief.

For a long time now, the civilian rescue group called The White Helmets has been raising money, putting it to life saving use, with rescue and emergency medical training, ambulances and extraction equipment, etc. These are the men who run in to rescue after the bombs hit.

But now the bombing and gunfire is so incessant that the White Helmets often cannot get to the victims in time. They have to make decisions on how best to use their limited gasoline. They cannot keep up.

Their greatest joy is saving the life of another person.

Their greatest sorrow is hearing someone alive under the rubble, and finding them dead.

My emotions were shaken after listening to a journalist recently returned from Aleppo who discredited The White Helmets as puppets of terrorist forces. About this time, the White Helmets were featured in a Netflix documentary and were being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. I didn't know what to make of it all.

Solidarity kicked in. All I could think about were my Syrian brothers and sisters. Their humanity. Their innate dignity. And their horrific life and losses.

Today, I am facing the possibility, what may become the reality... that the regime will accomplish its goal of destroying killing wiping out those who remain. Whether through bombing, gunfire, lack of medical care, and/or starvation.

I feel the desperation of the noose tightening around the collective necks of these innocent people of God.

Solidarity? Today and every day, I am praying for relief. For an end to the suffering of my brothers and sisters. I am honoring their instinct to survive under impossible circumstances. And I am more and more understanding what some are saying, that the ones whose lives are taken by the bombs are the lucky ones.

Solidarity? Today and every day I am praying love, peace, consolation in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. I am intending a power greater than hate, greater than violence, and that's what I'm sending out into the world. For even though I cannot change what is happening in Aleppo, I can change how I treat those in my life and in my daily encounters. With love and compassion. Encouragement. Fairness.

Back in June, when I became aware of just how bad things were getting, I was moved to paint my first quadriptych. One image across four panels. Each panel 14"x14". This came from my heart, and only later would the words form to describe it.

Twenty five percent is one fourth of something. What showed up on these four in one panels was deep cobalt blue, with some black and white. Diversity. The circular movements of my arm and brush revealed wholeness, connectedness.

And suddenly I knew its name:

Aleppo

For you can no more take apart these pieces and have a whole than our world can lose the people of Aleppo and not be broken by it.

Solidarity? Hell yes.

Let's turn the word into action.

I now know what I'm called to do, and how you can help me serve.

I am auctioning off Aleppo, starting at $1000.00 for all four pieces together. I am going to donate 25% of the proceeds to the British Red Cross, Syria Campaign. (I just donated 25 GBP to them.) Auction ends December 25th. How fitting...

How can you help?

Bid to raise the price. Someone else bid.

Bid again. Let's make something big happen.

Think hard about the blessings you have in your life.

Think hard about how you spend your money.

Notice the roof over your head.

Notice how safe you are.

Donate to a Syrian relief organization of your choice.

 

 Assalam alaykum. Peace be upon you.

 

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Two Truths and a Lie

Have you ever heard of the game called Two Truths and a Lie?

Two truths and a lie for blog copy.png

It's often used as an icebreaker at team building or social activities where people do not know each other. Here's how it works:

You prepare three statements about yourself in your mind. Two of them are true and one is a lie. Then, taking turns, each person speaks their statements. It's up to the group to determine which statement is a lie. Keep in mind that these people and their life stories may or may not be known to the others playing the game.

Those who are savvy know to make the lie believable and the truth unbelievable.

Like the time years ago my brother said he practiced Bickram yoga. We knew he did yoga, so we said ok, that's the truth. Alas, it was the lie. He practiced Vinyasa yoga. Smartass.

See how it works? Think you want to play? What would your two truths and a lie be?

I've always enjoyed playing, yet in my early days, I struggled a bit with what I would say, wishing I had something remarkably unusual to share as a truth that people would think was a lie.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. As I look back over my life, especially the last ten years, I am blown away by the blessings and diversity of experiences I've had. And I look forward to many more. Life is good and it keeps getting better. 

So, you tell me… which of these are truths and which is the lie? 

  • I am an OR nurse with about 20 years experience
  • I have five sisters and two living brothers
  • I am an award winning belly dancer
  • I had dinner with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • I performed the Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London
  • My favorite food is fresh squeezed orange juice
  • I was married for almost 23 years
  • I lived and worked in the Middle East for a year
  • I am an international volunteer
  • I lived and worked in London for four years
  • I am fluent in French
  • I can play the piano
  • I have trekked through the Sahara Desert, the lower Himalayan Mountains below Annapurna, and across the Jordanian Desert to Petra
  • I worked in Healthcare Informatics for about 15 years
  • I attended sunrise service Easter Sunday at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
  • My favorite color is blue
  • I own my own business
  • I am an expert haggler
  • I went sky diving over Stonehenge
  • I am an artist and writer
  • I have traveled to more than thirty countries
  • I have three cats
  • I have moved six times in the last ten years

Now, seriously, I want to play.

With you.

In the comments.

This will be fun!

Your job is to guess which one of my entries is the lie. ( I know, I have lots more that three entries. But I've been waiting my whole life for this!!!)

Then type your two or more truths and a lie and let us guess which is the lie. Keep it clean

But don't do it like this: My two truths are 1) blah blah blah and 2) blah blah blah, and my lie is 3) blah blah blah. Keep it clean

Do it like this: 1) blah blah blah, 2) blah blah blah, 3) blah blah blah. Keep it clean.

Then let us guess. Did I mention keep it clean?

Let the game begin!

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From Turkey to Tacos

So, it's the day after Thanksgiving. Another day perfect for reflection. For how yesterday went, for recovering from food and family time. Maybe for being glad THAT'S over. Maybe for how you hope to learn and grow from your experience.

How do those of you who celebrate the holiday spend this day after? For many, life returns to normal, those with Monday through Friday jobs either returning to work, or lucky enough to have a four day weekend.

Thanksgiving leftovers, if any, are consumed. What's your favorite leftover combo? Do you eat pie for breakfast? :)

In my family, we follow an unconventional tradition: we have tacos. This started around forty years ago, when I was still living at home. Older siblings had married and moved away, spending Thanksgiving with out of town in-laws. My parents, wanting to have a complete family gathering at some point over the weekend, established a Saturday night taco feast.

Fast forward some years to when I began hosting the taco feast at my home, moving the day up to Friday to catch as many out of towners as possible. Dessert? Leftovers from the night before, plus some brownies. Tacos + brownies = perfect.

When I lived out of the country, someone else hosted. When I moved back, I resumed. Last year, with me not being up for hosting, we went to a movie then out for Mexican.

As I type, I plan in my mind for about 20 people tonight. In early years I cooked from scratch. For years now, I call the local Mexican restaurant and order trays of ingredients. It's thoughtful to support local businesses, don't you think?

Tacos at my KC flat, 2009 (I hope family doesn't mind!)

Tacos at my KC flat, 2009 (I hope family doesn't mind!)

For me, traditions are important in family life. Even with drama and trauma, they can serve to keep us connected and growing together as we grow larger in size - family size, that is… though it often includes body size.

So, what family traditions do you keep? Is it easy, not so easy, hard, near impossible, impossibleto keep them going? Can you spend time with each other, honoring your differences, recognizing your triggers? Have you been blessed with and/or developed healthy boundaries? Tell me what you think, what you feel.

Share your traditions story.

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Namaste, Namaskar, Namaskaram

Do you have a favorite word?

I do. It's Namaste. You may or may not have heard of it. You may use it regularly.

Also, did you know that this traditional Hindu greeting actually is one of several forms of the same word, all rooted in Sanskrit? Now, I once heard or read that Sanskrit is a dead language, meaning not in use today. I promise you that is NOT the case.

Sanskrit is alive and well and filled with depth and beauty.

Let's start with Namaste: In Sanskrit the words namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you - my greetings, salutations or prostration to you." It's a sign of respect practiced by Hindus and people of many other religions. In fact, its simple gesture is the same as what I was taught- to fold my hands together, palms facing each other at the level of the chest - in prayer as a child during my Catholic upbringing. I love how I use it now in my ecumenical and Catholic practices. And in my encounters with Hindus.

A true Namaste greeting also includes a slight bow of the head, to convey respect for the intention behind the word, and to the person being greeted… or being said good bye to. Because it's one of those hello and good-bye multi purpose words.

I first learned Namaste here in the Midwest USA. Awkward at first, the more I've learned about it, the more I've grown quite comfortable, offering it freely and with deep intention and love from my heart and soul.

As I understand, Namaste possesses several levels of meaning:

  • "I bow to you, I salute you." The literal translation above.

  • "May our minds meet." More like a prayer, the bowing down of the head at this level is a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect, and humility.

  • "I honor the divine in you." This recognizes the belief that God is present in all forms of life, human and otherwise, and conveys the deepest spirituality.

So what about the other versions? Not having any scholastic knowledge behind me, I will simply share what I have learned from my friends and encounters with many others.

  • The further north in India you are (or the person with whom you are speaking is from), Namaste is the commonly used word. This is what we spoke in Delhi and further north in the Himalayan Hill Mountains. This also applied in Nepal. Oh, Nepal! The children! This is a MUST SEE video.

  • As you travel south in India, Namaskar becomes more common.

  • In southernmost India, Namaskaram is more common, and there are other versions. 

I'm not sure if the differences are because Hindi is more common in the north and Tamil in the south.

What do you think? What kind of experiences have you had with these greetings?

On a respectful side note, while living in the Middle East, I learned from an Indian Muslim gentleman that just because he was Indian did not mean that Namaste was an acceptable greeting for him. He went on to explain that because Islam's core belief is "There is one God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet" it would be inappropriate to acknowledge that God is in another person. He was quite passionate about this, and I found myself wondering how other Muslims feel.

At any rate, I began to recognize names as being either Muslim or Hindu, and adapted my greeting accordingly, offering As-salam alaykum, meaning "Peace be upon you" to Muslims, and the appropriate version of Namaste to Hindus.

Yesterday as I was paying for a soda in a convenience store, I could tell the cashier was from Nepal or India, so I asked him. Learning he was from southern India and not yet knowing his name, I took a chance and offered Namaskar! Oh, how his smile lit up his eyes, his whole face, as he brought his hands together and replied with a heartfelt Namaskar!

What a small world it is.

Wouldn't it be incredible if all people greeted and really treated each other with such words and intention of love and respect?

Namaste, Namaskar, Namaskaram.