Reflections in the Heat of Day

I find it difficult not to reflect on the pain in the world, at present. How do we center ourselves in the face of such hurt? Well, here I go again touting the benefits of mindful thinking and about my outlook on life. These are some common question that I ask myself. Am I practicing gratitude? Am I practicing stewardship of the land, water, language, and preserving other parts of the natural world? I do realize that when we navigate in environments of poverty, exclusions, marginalizations, and living in the fringes, it becomes a great challenge to have gratitude for much of anything. But, what if we looked inside for what is going well for us? Are we able to stop for a minute and think about for what we can be grateful?

I know. Digging through your mind in the midst of conflict, deep emotions, and sadness may be the worst time to gather positive reflections. I do know that it works, however. My practice, which now is a habit, has been part of my life these past four months. Yes. I am facing some great life challenges, and I can tell you that focusing on gratitude and daily affirmations works! Challenges become navigable.

Bianka’s Hummer

I find that nature offers the best self-care, meditative, and gratitude-giving opportunities. My sweet cousin, Bianka, a war veteran who now spends much of her time bike racing on BMX tracks with her twin brother, also a military veteran, who builds racing bikes, like his father did, now works to perfect her photography skills. That’s her hummingbird picture. It gave me time to stop to appreicate the delicate body, the exquisite little feet, the striations on the neck, and the moment in time when Bianka got this perfect photo of the little bird hovering near the sugar water feeder. When we take that time to appreciate the perfect details of the natural world, we begin to offer gratitude for what some may think of as mundane, but it helps us to be thankful for what we may think of as insignificant details of the world. Also, when we take time to offer thanks for the small things, it helps us to slow down from busy lives and be in a moment with ourselves. Try it.

Bianka Hummer 2

Consider camping as an outdoor activity where you get to interact with the natural world. Camping is one of my favorite pasttimes. It’s a time when I just allow myself to do nothing but breathe in the clean air, listen to the birds and other flying, loping, crawling, or jumping lives of the natural world.

Kelly’s Flock (a few of them)

My dear friend, Kelly, recently, acquired a flock of chickens to raise in his and his lovely wife’s backyard. Kelly told me about raising chickens, “It is therapeutic for me and I have peace when I am around them! I know they are just chickens to most people and is not a big deal, but I almost can’t put into words the joy these animals bring to me! I want many more, and one day, I will have chickens galore will be our theme!” I cannot imagine a flock of chickens being in more gentle hands!

Kelly’s Chickens at His Feet

Kelly went on to say, “I think the older you get the more you see the benefit of working to live and not living to work! We are in a world that is so disconnected from the natural things around us that we forget the incredible inner peace found in nature! We have lost the fact that nature is our kin and we have neglected that relationship.” Those are words that we Indigenous People live by, and those words coming from my dear friend Kelly mean the world to me.

I will end with a few of my daily affirmations that come from those around me who inspire me to improve:

  • I am curious to know something about everything and everything about something
  • I am thankful for…
  • I am courageous
  • I am living a great life
  • I am interested in everyone I meet (from my Dad)
  • I am valuable
  • I have wonderful friends who enrich my life
  • I learn great lessons from my loved ones
  • Today, I will learn something new

There are more, but I leave you with this great picture of a friendly kiss from Heidi, a dog who belongs to a business associate of my son.

Heidi Kisses!

Thank you for reading my blog.

Reflecting and Looking Forward

When we think of a year that’s passed, it can be a good time to reflect on the past and to look forward in a new year. We can think about the good things that happened and contemplate any of the negative happenings. Of course, it does not serve us well to focus on our misfortunes, mistakes, losses, and other events that made a negative impact. However, it could serve well to give each of those challenges their due. I want to spend this space for reflecting on the year past and looking forward to year unfolding before us. Every year, I learn something new, and I give myself grace when I come up short. I will share some things I’ve learned and ask you to reflect on your life as well.

Blooming Hibiscus with Eight Blossoms

Reflecting on events of the past takes a Mindfulness approach. In the process, be a neutral observer. Think about what gave such an event a positive or negative impact. Notice how the event or interaction elicited emotions. How was that emotion navigated, or what was the response? The point in this reflection is to remind ourselves to be 1) a neutral observer to each experience, 2) Be patient with yourself: allow each experience to emerge at its own pace, 3) Have a “beginner’s mind” by experiencing the memory as if for the first time, 4) Trust and believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way, 5) Take it as it comes without the need to win or avoid losing. At this points, just be; 6) Accept and see things as they are in the present moment; 7) Let go and detach from your usuall feelings and thoughts. Perhaps this is a way for us to slow down for a moment to recharge our senses.

Enjoying a hot cup of tea on a crispy morning in front of the outdoor fire place

I’ve written about the “art of hygge.” Hygge is that danish word (Hoo-gah) that denotes comfort at the point of being cozy. Think of a hug! We get to decide on the characteristics of that hug. When the danish speak of hygge, they outline all the situations in which one can practice that coziness: our living spaces, our work spaces, and in outdoor spaces. I have designed my “living room” as a hygge corner.

Cozy Corner

Another way of practicing that sense of being hugged, is looking to the outdoors for rest and relaxation. Viewing nature as if for the first time can be exhilirating! Perhaps asking oneself, “Which season do I like best? Why?” I like to notice what birds are active in which season? For example, I’m seeing more juncos during the winter than in the summer. We see snow geese in the winter but not summer! Those are changes that are only noticed when one looks up or notices changes in nature. It such a thing is new to you, try it sometime. As another example, in the photo, one could ask, “Why is the sunset so red?” The answer: Dust and smoke in the atmosphere from fires and wind (in many cases).

A Kansas Sunset

In a busy world where we are measured by how much we do, how much money we earn, and how we stand out as individuals (an individualistic society). I wonder if we would have less illness if we emulated that of a collective society (group oriented) and took the time to sit and talk, build relationships, and take more collective actions when it comes to governance. The concept of hygge supports that very thing, as does the Mediterranean way of conviviality. So what if we took three hours to consume our meals conversing around the table? Our lives would slow down, and we would take more time for ourselves and our loved one. I love the concept of “hygge with others,” which focuses on our relationships. While we have fewer opportunities to gether during this pandemic, and we’ve had to find new and different ways to connect with people, such as with on line platforms. When I think of “hygge” with others, I tend to think of gathering around meals. Sometimes it may be connecting through interest groups. Sometimes we attend a movie group, which meets online after participants watch the movie on their own. That is one way of connecting during a pandemic time. The meet up consists of questions by the facilitator. We found common themes through which we connected. A few years back, in a town where we spend nearly thirty years, we used to attend what we called, “Second Friday Cinema” at our local library. We picked nine movies for each of the months we met from September through May. We watched the movie together enjoying snack that each of us offered on a table. Unfortunately, that has gone away per safety measures. I miss those time, so I will share some photos of former gatherings and ways of enjoying our environments.

Friends at Table
My Home State

Setting a goal of practicing holistic well-being does take some discipline. For example, I made a pledge to myself to keep my house organized and free of clutter. That takes a lot of work! It seems that we get so involved in making a living, being a good employee, and meeting institutional goals that we forget to take care of ourselves. Now, all this sounds like I’m an expert at such things, I do teach about holistic well-being, but that means that I practice such things, and “practice makes perfect” as the saying goes. That’s the best we can do, and our best needs to be enough for us. That does not mean that we’ve reached a pinnacle. It’s just means that we keep trying. I saw a quote on practice the other day. The gist of it was that someone had asked the great cellist, Pablo Casals about his daily practicing at the age of 90 years. “After a stellar career and now at the age of 90, why do you practice the cello for the minimum of six hours per day?” Casals answered, “Because I think I am seeing progress.” Humans are not perfect. We work toward perfects, but perhaps too much, I wonder? I want to be the best for the world not the best in the world!

Thank you for reading.

Reflections on Native Boarding Schools

My featured image shows fall colors at my house.

As one who identifies as Indigenous, the latest findings of Indigenous children’s marked and unmarked graves on the grounds of Native Boarding Schools across Canada and the United States abhors me, which can feed into generational wounds. Lately, I have been invited to offer lectures on the topic. Here I share with you some of my reflections as presented to church groups. Remember, I only speak with my Indigenous relatives. I do not speak for all Indigenous Peoples.

Residential Boarding Schools: We must acknowledge what happened
to the First People of these Lands
at the hands of Colonial Settlers

To all my Relations…

Following in the ways of loving one another, as any faith journey tells us to do, gives us a framework for our way of life. Our works of truth and reconciliation must mirror that. Like baptism, we must face the truths of our past, even when they give us discomfort. When we learn some painful truths, we must reflect on those truths rather than deny, wallow in guilt or point fingers. The painful actions of history belong to all of us… together.  Again, the painful actions of history belong to all of us. I say that as one who is Indigenous to these lands to which I acknowledge: My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley, Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute). My Mother’s people experienced the same atrocities in their homeland of what is now, New Mexico.  In Kansas, I live and work on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations, including the Kaw, the Osage, and the Pawnee. Kansas is currently home to the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Iowa of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Sac and Fox Nations.  

I am grateful to these Nations. I ask you to Please remember these truths

Bathe in the Beauty of Nature

Today, we take this opportunity, no matter who we are, and no matter from whom we descend, to face the pain of the past, to confess it, and above all, to learn from it and not repeat it. To tell the truth in love, as our Creator teaches, gives us pause to learn love’s excellent way of life and way of being.

What are the ways in which we can behave in actionable ways to follow the path of love rather than hate, rather than ignoring inhumanities, rather than justifying slavery and other exclusions and turning away from the practice of human hierarchies? We must recognize and acknowledge the wounds of Indigenous Peoples promulgated by governments, churches, and other institutions that join in the cause of separation and erasure.  Then we must remove the barriers to access for all historically excluded identities. Only love, honor, and respect can dwell in the Creator’s presence, and we must join our hearts and hands to rebuild our communities of faith. 

Let us move away from mere performance to authentic and measurable actions toward an equitable society where we honor and love one another as the Creator loves us. 

In reflection, what makes me hopeful today are the Indigenous youth who are learning the spiritual teachings and the folkways of our ancestors.  We promote generational healing through prayer and acknowledgement that we only survive in the light and love of our Creator and through the support of one another.  When this society begins to acknowledge the truths that segregation, torture, abuse, and separation of Indigenous children is, by design, meant to erase a people not love them, the healing will begin. 

A Healing Fire

Please note that of the 367 Native boarding schools in the U.S. 73 remain open, and 15 continue to board Indigenous children taken from their parents. Here in Kansas, we must acknowledge the following boarding schools and the atrocities fraught upon Native children: Haskell Indian Training School (now Haskell University), Great Nemaha Indian School, Kaw Manual Labor School, Kickapoo Labor School, Osage Manual Labor School, Potawatomi Labor School, and the Shawnee Mission boarding school. The goals of these schools promised to “take the Indian out of the boy or girl.” Graduation was never a goal, however survival remained a wish for the children.  Again, The children who were able to leave these schools did not graduate!  They survived!

We cannot heal in the places that make us sick. We can only heal, if the society complicit in Indigenous extermination can move away from greed and the concepts of superiority in order to teach a people that they are, indeed, inferior. I am hopeful because I am here today, with each of you, lamenting the wrongs of the past by governments and other institutions who do not follow the teachings of the Creator to “Love one another.”  I ask you,  How is genocide of a people, Love? How are exclusionary laws and policies, Love? How is justifying slavery, love?    

Rev. Linda Nicholls and Rev. Mark Macdonald note that:

“The wrenching legacy of residential schools is felt not only by those who survived. It lingers in the pain of families whose children died while at school. It lingers in the agony of not knowing why they died or where they are buried. It lingers in the inadequate record-keeping that does not tell the cause of death. It lingers in the neglect to even record the names of almost one-third of those who died. For a parent the death of a child is an unimaginable pain.”

I ask you to empathize with the parents. Can you imagine such a thing to happen to you and your family?

What Matters to Me and Why

I work at a university with a leadership studies college. The school invites varying faculty, staff, and administration to talk about personal priorities and interests. As I always say, the more we know about one another, the more that the lines of separation fade. I love this notion of inviting people to talk about themselves. It becomes the living libraries favored by many communities. Here is one of my stories.

My father used to tell me, “Know something about everything and everything about something, and you will always be able to find common ground with another person.”  I have a penchant for music, literature, geography, history, art, language, biology, architecture, travel, navigation in air travel, and people.  Curiosity was the most important thing to my father.  He taught me to be curious, always!  Actually, I think my varied interests greatly inform my work in intercultural development, or helping humans find common ground with one another. It’s what I live.  It’s what I love. I like to begin my classes, workshops, and presentations with a land acknowledgment:

My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley in Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute).  

In Kansas, I live and work on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations, including the Kaw, the Osage, and the Pawnee. Kansas is currently home to the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Iowa, and the Sac and Fox Nations. 

  I am grateful to these Nations. 

Please remember these truths.

It can be quite enlightening to research and discover what Indigenous Nation occupied the land on which you live, work, and play. We can think about:

Who granted the land?​

Who held the land previously?​

What was the U.S. Homestead Act of May 1862?​ Who was given land, and who was removed from said land?

So, I begin all my teaching with this acknowledgment. I am honored and obligated to my ancestors to do it.

Next in my processes of teaching, I acknowledge myself and my identities. Here are a few of the things with which I identify:

•Native (Ohkay Owingeh/Diné/ Uncompahgré) •Human Ecologist/Geographer •National Geographic Society Explorer •Social Researcher •Banjo player •Mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, writer… •King Alfonso X enthusiast, the original pluralist! •Blogger •Craftsperson •Nature enthusiast.

I could also say, I’m a mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, and writer.

Embedded in each of these identities that I share with you denotes aspects of my of my culture. However, the most challenging part of working to educate students, especially those from a dominant identity (Anglo-European descent) about culture is that they possess a culture. Many of my students tell me, “I don’t really have a culture. I’m just an American.” That just tells me that they have not thought about their identities.

Each of us, if we think about it, has several identifying factors that contributes to our cultural identity. You have the same sets of identities – each with sets of verbiage, practices, and thought processes that are part of your culture.

Certainly, our environments influence our patterns of behavior, our ways of knowing, our ways of living. I grew up in a mountain environment, as pictured here. We learn certain behaviors to thrive in mountain valleys, which can be different than the tallgrass prairie where I live now. In humans’ cultural practices, we learn, adapt, and adopt, often maintaining our foundational family and community systems.

Prairie or mountains: both are beautiful, and we adapt and adopt the cultural aspects of each geography.

Speaking of geography, I grew up in a household where National Geographic magazine was honored as much as the family bible.  My father read them from cover to cover.  My brothers saw them as anatomy lessons.  I vowed to visit all the places imaginable.  My work with National Geographic Society, as an explorer, put me in company with the likes of Maria Mitchell, noted astronomer in the 19th Century, Munazza Alam, 21st century astrophysicist searching for Earth’s twin, Harriet Chalmers Adams, journalists in the French trenches of World War 1, and notably, traveled to Africa to see Haile Selassie’s coronation as emperor of Ethiopia.  Of course, everyone knows the names of Edmund Hillary, Jacques Couteau, and Alexander Graham Bell as NGS explorers, but I encourage you to seek out the females who made great strides in the name of discovery.  Being a NGS explorer is the greatest way I can honor my father’s love of knowledge.

Two of the great products of my NGS funding was developing introductory course in geography for females of color, now in its fifth year, also thanks to our Center for Engagement and Community Development’s incentive grants, I was able to study the women in the African diaspora in rural SW Kansas, which became a chapter in a book recently published.  Here’s a picture of the book. My chapter covers the women of the African Diaspora now settled in Southwest Kansas. It tells of the brave women, displaced from their countries by war, worked in the beef packing plants while raising families and navigating health care, educational, and faith systems.

If you have read previous blog entries of mine, you would know that I greatly esteem George Washington Carver, the great genius in botany, invention, music, art, and philosophy.

Carver had a small homestead in Beeler, Kansas.  As a child, his slave owners near Diamond, Missouri actually saw his genius in plant pathology.  He came to Kansas, finished high school, and applied and was accepted into Highland college until he showed up. Carver was denied a college education in Kansas, because of teh color of his skin.

He found his academic home, first at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.  Only being allowed to study the fine arts, his art teacher took great interest in his botanical illustration.  She connected Carver to her biologist husband who was teaching at what is now Iowa State University.  Carver received is Master’s degree there where his brilliance was duly noted by Henry Ford, who had invited him to work since Carver had created rubber out of golden rod. Thomas Edison tried to recruit him as an inventor since Carver was noted as a great inventor, having patents on wood stains made from peanuts and sweet potatoes.   Alas, he went to work at Tuskegee “Normal” Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, because it was there that he’d “do the most good.” Carver taught chemistry, botany, and other biology at Tuskegee until his death. I found this picture on the internet with Carver’s rules to live by: “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.”

Once a year, I pay homage to King Alfonso X, who ruled Castile-Leon (now Spain) in the 13th Century. Here are a few facts about the “Learned King.”

He ruled from1252 – 1284 13th C. Medieval – Father of Castilian language, which we now call Spanish.  During his time, his language was Galician-Portuguese, also called “Romance” 

420 songs, poems, and commissioned 3 dimensional pieces as a way to teach morality to his subjects. 

He had just missed being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor because he was “too learned!” according to the Pope of the Catholic Church at the time. I wrote a blog better examining the King last November. No doubt, I will write another about the king in the coming fall.

I like learning about different species in the animal world. I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo in Southwest Kansas. If you want to learn more about a subject, teach it! I was able to handle lots of cool animals. Here I am with a goshawk.

Finally, exploring my Indigenous roots remains an important part of my identity. I still practice the food, the songs, and the rituals of my grandmothers. The fire featured as my main image illustrates one of those practices of cleansing with smoke. I am born for the Ohkay Owingeh and the Dine and born to the Uncompahgre Ute.  I have DNA ties to the Athabascan, Alaskan Native.  My people, called the San Juan Pueblo by Spanish colonizers of what is now New Mexico. Spaniard plopped right on the Village at the confluence of the Chama and the Rio Grande Rivers.  Our villages straddled the rivers, so there was much struggle to keep our culture, our food ways, and our identities as The People of the Strong Land.  You can see a stature of our great leader, Popay, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.  Despite the push toward erasure, we are still here!

My family remains the most important, my children, grandchildren, spouse, parents, siblings, and extended family, natural and adopted, as I call my dear friends. Find what makes you happy, and develop curiosity about an array of subjects. For me, I can only think knowledge is the best brain food.

Thank you for reading.

In the Company of Kindred Spirits

Our friends joke about having a, “Covid bubble.” The Covid bubble contains a very small group of people who practice physical distancing, keep very serious sanitizing routines, and have little public exposure. We maintain a Covid bubble with a few friends. Since we still have to eat, often we choose to eat together…at a distance.

A few weeks ago, I had to travel to present a documentary in which I was involved. Humanities Kansas pays chosen speakers to talk about their projects. While I did not make the film, I was, somewhat, involved with its production. Strangers in Town. The film chronicles immigrants in a rural community and their positive impact on communities. Watch it and see what you think.

While I was in the area, we stayed with our good friends Mark and Kathy. The rest of the “Covid Bubble, ” Bob and Adrian, showed up for happy hour. Bob, an avid hunter, brought his smoked duck to the small gathering. Mark, another avid hunter, added elk smoked sausage. Adrian and Kathy added cheeses and crackers, and, voilà! We added gin and tonics to the menu for a lovely meal and great conversation. Here’s Bob with the duck:

He says the best way to smoke a duck:

Brine the duck in 1 cup (200g) brown sugar, 1 cup (273g) salt in 1 gallon (3.785 litres) for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, drain the duck. Pat dry, and place in smoker until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees (68.33 Celsius). Cool and serve. The smoked duck and elk sausage offer nice changes in meats on a charcuterie board.

The next morning, Kathy served a wonderful breakfast of egg, bacon, and cheese on a multi-grain bagel. That delicious meal serves as my featured image for this blog. One of the many things I love about my friends is that we all like to cook/bake, and we all like to eat.

In this time of Covid, we work quite diligently at make our meals special. I know that I write on this subject quite often, but I cannot emphasize this enough. Find those moments where you can derive special pleasures even out of the most mundane things. That concept surely plays a key role in sound mental health during isolating and challenging times.

Weeks later, we took a special trip with Mark and Kathy. We drove to their second home in Western New York where lakes were frozen hard enough to land small aircraft and support hundreds of ice fisher persons. Of course, one cannot be near a lake and not partake in good things that come from water. We like to eat at a little place called, Guppy’s. They specialize in the bounties of lake, ocean, and sea waters. The evening we ate there, I had the mussels steamed in a delicate wine, garlic, and butter sauce. Come to think of it, one could steam an old shoe in white wine, garlic, and butter, and it would likely be yummy. I digress. The mussels in their sauce came with a side of linguine and a glass of chardonnay, naked, not aged in oak barrels, a specialty of a nearby vineyard.

I should mention that the community posted 124 inches of snow had fallen since the beginning of winter. The frozen lake and all its charms were just one of the highlights. We traveled to Lake Erie one of the days. It had large snow cliffs where the waves had lapped up against the shore only to freeze in the process. Mark took this lovely picture of Kathy standing on one of the snow cliffs. It looked surreal at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Later, Kathy and I trekked out onto the lake close to her house. I wore my vintage grizzly bear coat, popular in the 1970s, which protected me from the elements quite well.

We spent Valentines Day with our Kathy and Mark at this auspicious lake cottage, so we decided to prepare a loving meal of lobsters, baked potatoes, drawn butter, and asparagus. We ate like queens and kings and washed it all down with, again, the local chardonnay. I loved it. I like a meal that makes me work hard for the sweet morsels of meat hidden behind an exoskeleton. Crusty bread made its way from Kansas to Western New York, so we had that, too.

Back home again, we arrived just a few days after freezing temperatures had dipped well below zero (-15F). Our neighbors dripped the kitchen faucet for us, so we came home to a cozy house feeling lucky that no pipes had burst. We found the four bird feeders and heated water dish quite empty with only a block of feed, meant for deer, as the only remaining food for our yard visitors. They flocked back to the yard once feeders and waters dishes filled.

Thank you for reading.

Remembering MLK

Remembering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work toward equity and justice, makes me think of family, so my featured image today is one of a memorable sisters’ trip. We visited the U.S. Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As I remember, the chapel, pictured behind us, closed for five years for restorations. We took this shot in 2017, so those repairs should be finished in another few years.

Today, I offer my reflection offered before a wreath laying ceremony, done virtually, at the bust on Dr. King on the campus of Kansas State University. Dr. King spoke at the university shortly before his untimely death at the hands of an assassin. I share this with you.

Please reflect with me.

As we prepare to lay wreaths at the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his words, “The ultimate measure of persons is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”

One can hardly acknowledge King’s work toward social Justice and equity without remembering his words of our past and thinking, “Why does this struggle continue today?”  Or asking, “Have we learned nothing?”

However, we see hope when, as Amanda Gorman put it, “a skinny little Black girl” steps to the Inauguration podium, and, as Dr. King did, tugs at the conscience of a Nation by telling us that, “the norms and notions of what Just Is, is not always Jus-tice!”

Let us reflect on those eloquent words while we remember Dr. King’s letters from the Birmingham Jail: Lodged, there for “parading without a permit.” For it was not legal for Black Folk to participate in public demonstrations, an exercise NOT for a people deemed “unworthy” or “un-deserving.”

He said, “Injustice is here in Birmingham, if the Negro man cannot exercise his first amendment rights in acts of peaceful assembly demonstrating for change with non-violence.” 

Dr. King noted, “They protested for the Negro brothers and sisters smothering in airtight cages of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”  They demonstrated for equity and justice. They were not insurrectionists, putting their feet on desks in hallowed halls and placing their knees upon the throat of democracy where, We. Could. No Longer. Breathe.

Dr. King emphasized, “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must transcend our, so-called, race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. This means we must develop a world perspective and tear down the walls of separation and hatred to seek common ground and to dissolve hierarchies.”

Further he encouraged for us to, “Rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the hills of creative protest!” “Humans are put on this earth to serve one another, and it must transcend class and privilege.” 

Dr. King possessed a deep hope that the world could be a better place for his children and for our children.

May Kansas State University as a community defined by pluralism find the common ground to stand together against darkness and hate to find light and love.

As we close our gathering today, I ask that you greet, even virtually, those around you with your own word or action that communicate peace. “Every effort we make to connect is meaningful.”

So be it…

Thank you for reading my blog. Enjoy this piece of art painted by my talented friend, Carole Geier.

The Language We Use

Before I get into this very deep subject, I share with you one of the blooms of my hibiscus shrub. I have it pruned into a topiary shape, and it gives us two to three blooms a day. We eat our breakfast on the front patio with the blooms in the morning in order to begin the day with its joyous brightness.

I work in education, and have done for nearly 30 years. My focus continues to be advocating for underrepresented populations in education. At one time, I worked in adult education. Then I worked in community education and research. Today, my title is director of intercultural learning. That means I teach around a variety of topics to “normalize” human difference. I offer these concepts to get them out into the world:

Language Used That Further Separates Us

Preface: It is not about “saying the right thing.” Rather we must understand the meaning (etymology) or the semantics (formal, lexical, and conceptual) in the words we use.  We tend to think that language is fluid. Meaning of words takes on different meanings in different eras. Systemic words tend to carry historical influences. When certain words become part of the lexicon, they tend to be “normalized” to the larger society, whether or not they have negative connotations.

Not an exhaustive list, I present the concepts of the following words to give us pause and to allow us to think of their historical meanings in our work to increase representative demographics in our students, faculty, staff, and administration at KSU.  After all, the intended outcome of our work focuses on erasing the barriers to acquiring college degrees and thriving in global economies who have historically excluded identities.  

We are not here to “deal with diversity and inclusion.”  We are here to build relationships with one another to support students for maximal academic and social experiences.

“Minority” – The term further minoritizes historically excluded populations.  Could we use the term, “historically excluded populations?” The word, “minority” suggests “lesser than.”  No one wants to be referred as a psychologically pejorative term, “lesser than.”  It sets a life of low self-esteem and low social expectations of those in a majority.

“Marginalized” – A dominant power minoritizes groups by setting a standard for social, financial and governing expectations from an individualistic cultural pattern vantage point.  Groups from individualistic societies tend to marginalize groups from collective societies because of different approaches to social and economic “norms.”  See Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientations.  As we know, majority powers set the cultural and behavioral norms for all the people living in such a society, with the exception of Apartheid era South Africa.  In that case, the non-majority White power worked to set a social standard for the majority demographic.

“Inclusion” – In order to  advance the concept of “inclusion,” we must understand the history of exclusion with its laws, policies, and practices that exclude one population in favor of another as an active part of societal and institutional cultures. Some of those historical and present laws include Extreme Climate Theory, Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, Indian Removal Act of 1830, Homestead Act of 1862 (You must be Christian in order to receive and own land), Japanese Relocation Act, Redlining in housing, and the 21st Century Muslim ban, etc.

When we speak of being a Land Grant Institution, think of what we say. From a historical point of view, the Land Grant Act of July 1862 promoted that it was “Education for the common man.”  Who was the “common man?”  Natives were not labeled “human” until 1873 and not allowed to be citizens until 1924. President Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation six months later, January 1, 1863. In both cases, the majority referred to men as “bucks.” Women had equally dismissive labels, such as “squaws and apes.”   

When we say, equitable representation across human identities, we do not assign a majority power.  Instead, we demonstrate an authentic desire to assure that all voices and identities contribute to institutional and cultural structures.

When we use the word, “inclusion,” it denotes a dominant or majority power or culture allowing others to participate in power, cultural, and social structures.  Perhaps we can strive for building a culture of “belonging” for our students and other.

As school psychologist, Bengu Erguner-Takinalp, says, Belonging is more than ‘tolerance,’ accepting,’ or ‘inclusion.’ Belonging means we feel connected, important, valued, part of a group, which we call, ‘our group,’ ‘our program,’ ‘our community!’”

 “Diversity” – This term tends to be synonymous with people of color and leaves out other historically marginalized groups (LGBTQ, physical and mental disability, etc.).  May we discuss simple human difference, and the thought that, “I am not different from you.  I am different like you” (Octavius Black).

In her article about educational and retail institutions, Jennifer Rittner writes, “Diversity itself is a numbers game, easily addressed through clever, conspicuous hiring practices and even more clever promotional photography. Representation means that because we may not always be physically present, but our pedagogies, industry spaces, and frameworks are activated in our interests.”  Rittner reiterates, “Inclusion is about more than just those of us who have achieved the platform for speaking out. Representation requires that we all stay vigilant and attentive to all of those not represented in our own work”.

“Culture” – Those practices, beliefs, behaviors, and ways-of-knowing of each human being.  Every human possesses cultural identities.  Culture is not something to denote ethnicity or people from another country. We develop as human beings, and that development comes from family, community, state, national, and world cultures.

“Multi-cultural” – Since the word, “culture” has come into the lexicon meaning, students of color, this term tends to feed the notion that people of color are the only people who have a culture!  Since every human has many cultural identities, we could say that everyone is multi-cultural.  Using this term, also, can exclude others with historically excluded or under-represented identities, i.e., LGBTQIA, those with different physical and learning abilities, and others with whom we do not include when we say, “multi-cultural.”

Race

Race In everyday discourse, the word race invokes phenotypical features such as skin color, eye shape, hair texture, facial features, and so on. However, scientists generally agree that race is not a concept determined by biological evidence. In other words, categorization of different races cannot be verified by biological constructs such as genetic characteristics. Arguing that any differentiation of races, if they exist at all, depends on relative, rather than absolute, constancy of genes and raising a problem of classifying the human species in racial terms, Goldberg (1993) states: Human beings possess a far larger proportion of genes in common than they do genes that are supposed to differentiate them racially. Not surprisingly, we are much more like each other than we are different. It has been estimated that, genetically speaking, the difference in difference — the percentage of our genes that determines our purportedly racial or primarily morphological difference — is 0.5 percent. (p. 67)

More recently, the Human Genome Project has shown that human beings share 99.9% of their genes, leaving only 0.1% for potential racial difference in a biological sense (Hutchinson, 2005).  

References

Allan, B. & Smylie, J. (2015). First Peoples, second class treatment: The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Toronto, ON: the Wellesley Institute.

Ergüner-Tekinalp, B., Ilieva, V., Williams, K. (2011). Refugee Students in Public Schools: Guidelines for Developing Inclusive School Counseling Programs. Journal of Counseling Research and Practice, 28, 2.

Kubota, R. and Angel Lin. (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to Concepts and Theories.

TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 40, No. 3.

Martinez, E. (1998). De colores means all of us: Latina views for a multi-colored century. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Middleton, R.A., Ergüner-Tekinalp., B., Williams, N., Stadler, H., & Dow, J . (2011). Racial Identity Development and Multicultural Counseling Competencies of White Mental Health Practitioner. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 11, 2, 201-218.

Hills, M. D. (2002). Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientation Theory. General Psychological Issues in Cultural Perspectives. 3.

Wilcox, Jill. (2016). The hijacking of the words, diversity and inclusion. ( I am not able to insert the URL here)

Millennials have a different definition of diversity and inclusion

https://www.fastcompany.com/3046358/millennials-have-a-different-definition-of-diversity-and-inclusion

Rainbows
Rainbows over my yard

The Meaning of Safety in Common Spaces

I work at a university as a teacher of intercultural learning and development.  That means I work with students to learn about their own cultures so that they are better prepared to understand other cultures.  You see, we want to graduate students who are globally marketable and are able to think past their own identities.

I have developed many workshops over the years to address such learning outcomes.  One of the developmental workshops/classes is called Safe Zone.  It was developed by Anthropologist, Dr. Susan Allen, among others, originally to address sexual minorities, and then began to include intersectional identities deemed, “Not in the mainstream.”  That was back in the 1970s, and we continue this important work of building allies today.

With the recent focus on inequities across all social constructs, there remains a focus to help institutions build community, foster a sense of belonging for all, and address emotional well-being.  As I continue to say, it’s a life-long journey.  When one asks me, “How long with this take?”  My favorite answer is, “A life time.”

I have a class called, History of Exclusion, Implicit Bias, Aggression, and Language.  I present this here as a way for us to think about the environments that we build in order to exclude, which is the opposite of building community.  Here is a quick primer:

Justification:

As with any intercultural learning processes, all students , no matter who you are,  must understand and internalize the benefits of being globally aware, confident and competent. This learning is not a “check box,” nor is it a “once and done” process.

The goal is for a us to move toward “allyship,” with historically excluded groups with “Authentic Allyship.” For example:

  • “Performance Allyship,” i.e. extrinsically motivated and tends not to be sustainable. Rather is tends to be “a means to an end.”
  • “Authentic Allyship,” intrinsically motivated and tends to promote positive and sustainable change in systemic exclusion.

If we are asking ourselves and teaching our children to function in a global society, we must model that same “self and other” awareness.  Here’s a way to begin:

  • Learn about your own identity and the characteristics that make up your culture.
  • Learn about the identities of others and what about those identities that make up their cultures.
  • Internalize how this understanding contributes to cohesion and the equitable representation of multiple identities in the class (room), in community, and in  societal settings.

Intended Outcomes: Participants in this practice  internalize their personal journey in Authentic Allyship with persons who identify with populations not part of a dominant.  Practitioners of allyship understand how their own stories influence how they view the “other.”  Practitioners of allyship find common ground to learn the stories of “others” and build relationships.  Ultimately, practitioners of allyship advance the concepts of “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being” for all.

As you look for readings, look for key words in the following topics.

Topics Covered:

  • History of the exclusionary acts that contribute to racism and other “-ism” constructs
  • Understanding Implicit biases and its effects in building relationships
  • Understanding different types of aggressions: how do they affect the relationship between the aggressor and their “targets,” including:
    • Micro-invalidations
    • Micro-insults
    • Micro-assaults
  • Understanding the language that further “minoritizes” and separates one group from another.

Again, we promote: “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being”

This is what I want for us:

Jumbo Ball Pit with 10 students

Thank you for reading.

Emotional Pain in Crises and Self-Care

One would have to live under a rock in order not to acknowledge the global pain and suffering at the moment.  Since early March we hear the daily COVID-19 reports from countless sources.  Some we believe and send us into the realms of disbelief.

My featured image, this week, shows the baby bunny, a kit, living in my backyard.  His favorite nourishment appears to be crisp, dandelion greens and dandelion stalks.  Since both our dogs died last year, I am delighted that this little creature stays in our yard.  Watching him (I really cannot identify his gender) gorge himself on clover and dandelions while viewing the world around him, reminds me to engage in a quiet pace, enjoy my surroundings, eat my food contemplatively (Okay, I’m anthropomorphizing said bunny!), and be aware of my surroundings with its joys and its, possible, dangers.  Good advice from the bunny, considering world events of late.

My goal, here, does not center on my judgement of the current world and U.S. events.  I assure you, I have the full range of emotions around the effect of COVID-19 and senseless killings.  You don’t need to read those.  Rather, I hope to offer comments regarding self care and how we may focus on ourselves in a healthful way.  I’m sure you’ve read lots of information on mindfulness.  Here, I offer another resource.  A couple of friends wrote an Extension publication called, Everyday Mindfulness.   It comes complete with the “Fact Sheet,” which the actual publication, and with a leader’s guide, in case you want to teach it.  If you want more information on how to gain free access to the publication, just let me know in a comment.

First, let us look at what mindfulness can be:

» Living in the present moment/awareness of the present moment — paying close attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and our surroundings (Like the bunny in my backyard!).
» Observing personal experiences of mindfulness, being completely focused on a project
reading a book, doing a hobby, or playing a sport. This heightened awareness is mindfulness.
» Taking a few deep breaths — becoming fully aware of the present moment.
» Having nonjudgmental awareness in which each thought, feeling, and sensation is acknowledged and accepted in their present state. This steady and non-reactive attention usually differs from the way we routinely operate in the world.
» Paying attention, precisely, to the present moment without judgment

Sometimes, delighting in the little things can help us to be more focused, though we can benefit from setting aside specific time for expressing anger and other emotions.  When we “schedule” such time for judgement, anger, sadness, and guilt, we can focus our energies for the difficult times.  The next step would be to schedule time for joy, celebration, and the plan-of-action for addressing the events that bring on anger, sadness, guilt, and judgement.  When we call ourselves to action, we address the helplessness that often accompanies injustices and inequities.

IMG_0515 - Copy

This photo is meant to help us imagine a peaceful scene to promote mindfulness.  It’s three of my four grandchildren enjoying Canada geese swimming while an elder feeds them.

Back to mindfulness. We follow seven principles.  They take practice, but it’s worth the effort in your journey toward self-care:

  • Non-judging: Be a neutral observer to each experience.
  • Patience: Allow each experience to emerge at its own pace.
  • Beginner’s mind: Avoid bringing in what you know to the current moment and try
    experiencing it as if it is the first time.
  • Trust: Believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way.
  • Non-striving: Avoid the need for winning or losing or striving for a purpose — it is about “being” and “non-doing.”
  • Acceptance: See things as they are in the present moment.
  • Letting go: Take the time to detach from your usual feelings and thoughts.

You may ask, “How can we do this when the world is hurting and in crisis?  My answer: We can better serve others and be the best for the world once we have addressed our own physical and emotional needs.”  It is not selfish.  It is good practice.

Tree

I snapped this shot on one of my walks not far from my house.  In a world of pain, suffering, and ugliness, somedays, I have to focus on beauty.  Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

It’s Geography Awareness Week!

Every year, around the second or third week in November, National Geographic Society celebrates Geography Awareness Week (GAW).  As a National Geographic Society Explorer, I have made it one of my missions to promote the study of geography in the class room.  In the U.S., the study of geography is not mandatory.  This sad reality means that many young people, mostly our Anglo students in the U.S.  have no idea that they  possess culture or are part of the human continuum that we call, “diversity.”  Geography teaches us that our respective cultures become part of us as we mature from infants to adulthood, gathering preferences, inter-sectional identities, belief systems, and ways-of-knowing, depending on what part of the world we call home.

It’s a great honor to be part of National Geographic Society as an explorer.  While I don’t get to travel to the far reaches of the globe, I help students look at the world with geo-spatial lenses.  I teach them to ask questions, which we call, “geo-inquiry.”  I have an example:

  • Ask: Framed question from a location-based perspective so that you understand the challenge
  • Acquire: the resources needed to study the question further, such as research data
  • Examine your data, and watch for patterns that begin to emerge
  • Analyze the data to see which factors influence other factors
  • Act on your knowledge to determine a problem-solving approach

–Develop your message for your intended audience to create visuals to communicate information

Let me break this down even further.  Suppose I parachute out of a plane, and I don’t know where I am.

  1. Where is this place? (Ask)
  2. What is the topography? What is the climate?  Am I surrounded by mountains?  Can I see snow on those mountains? Why am I surrounded by a treeless sandy plain but I can see mountains about 25 miles (40.2 km) in every direction? What else can my surrounding tell me? Have I been to a place like this previously?  (Acquire data)
  3. After I take in all this data, I can begin to examine it to create a hypothesis on my location. (Examine)
  4. Analyzing my data, I begin to realize that I am somewhat familiar with the surroundings.  About 25 years ago, I remember that I climbed Blanca Peak, a 14,000 Feet (4267.2 meters) peak at my 11:00 o’clock as I face south.
  5. I can now act on my knowledge to find my way to the nearest town in this valley.  Where am I?  I am at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, United States.

Geography asks us to consider all our surroundings and to recognize how we humans interact with our environments.  It asks us to consider place and what makes place important to us.  Here are some other questions we ask through geography:

“What is?  or Which is?

“Where is?”

“What has changed?”  “Since when”?

“How has it changed?”

“Which spatial patterns exist?”

“What if?”

Girls pointing at map.jpg
My students pointing to their places of origin!

Here are some other geography “tid-bits.”

  • Did you know that Geography is considered the “Mother of Sciences”?  Geography’s study field embraced the entire universe and later bore many children, among them astronomy, botany, geology, and anthropology.
  • Did you know that Climatology is the study of how climates are created and what they do the environment?  Climatology is a long-term study of the geographic world.
  • Did you know that Human Ecology, the study of humans in their environments, is a unique field of Geography?  This form of geographic inquiry aims to clarify the relationships between natural environments and varying activities of humans.
  • Did you know that geography explores human systems, which include culture, economics, migration, and politics?
  • Did you know that geography explores physical systems such as land forms, climate, and rivers?

Geography is wonderful!  Some people think that technology, such as map programs, will do away with maps and atlases.  I hope not.  The joy of exploring the world through maps remains a great excitement for those of us who grew up with maps.

If you would like to hear geography linked  with music, listen to High Plains Public Radio, online at hppr.org.  Silver Rails: Music of the World in the Folk Tradition airs Saturday, November 9, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Central Time.  Lynn Boitano and I will be your host for music, geography trivia call-in, and lots of geography information.  We will be celebrating Geography Awareness!

Thank you for reading!