Me in the Middle of Looking Back (#FlashBack)

        
IT’S FLASHBACK FRIDAY – A TIME OF THE MONTH WHERE YOU CAN REPUBLISH AN OLD POST OF YOURS THAT MAYBE DIDN’T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION, OR THAT YOU’RE REALLY PROUD OF, OR YOU THINK IS STILL RELEVANT ETC. THIS BLOG-GO-ROUND IS HOSTED BY MICHAEL G D’AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED–THAT’S WHERE YOU’LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.

THE POST I’VE CHOSEN FOR THIS MONTH FIRST APPEARED ON ME IN THE MIDDLE ON November 20, 2015.  TO SEE THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS TO THAT POST YOU CAN CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE ORIGINAL POST. 

I CHOSE THIS POST BECAUSE I BELIEVE  IT’S STILL RELEVANT AND IT’S A MESSAGE THAT’S NEEDED IN TODAY’S WORLD WHERE SO MUCH SEEMS TO BE TAKING US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION:

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 Me in the Middle of a Virtual Cup of Coffee

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Writing 101 ~ Update my readers over a cup of coffee

Coffee Mug #2

 

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If we were having coffee right now …..

I’d tell you how awesome it is that we can connect this way and how much it means to me to be able to share with you.  Some of you are from all over the world and some are right here in the USA.  The ability to get to know you while sitting in my living room with a cup of coffee is fantastic!

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If we were having coffee right now …..

I’d share with you that this past week of seeing terrorism at work, has almost brought me to the place of hopelessness.  It almost brought me to a place of resignation that hate is winning over love.  I read this poem by a blogger I’m following and felt that she expressed exactly how I was feeling.  A human reaction to a violence that strikes out and destroys what people of good will strive to build.  Our hope is in the children growing up in this world.  We need to start there!  We need to show them and teach them that the courage to love is more powerful than cowardice of hate…………….

I Am Tired of Praying for This World ~ Thank you, Laura Lord

 

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If we were having coffee right now …..

I’d tell you I still believe in peace………… I still believe in love …………… I still believe in the goodness in most of us who chose to do the right thing.  We can’t be divided in these beliefs and straddle a fence between love and hate. 

At times like these I like to listen to the beautiful spirit of John Denver. Never stop dreaming …………………. ❤

John Denver ~ Peace Poem & Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

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If we were having coffee right now …………

I’d want to hear your hopes and dreams.  I’d ask you what gives you strength during difficult times?  How you put aside fear and act on love? 

Me in the Middle of Summer Reading

 

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First Book

This poem moved me so deeply that I followed up with a Google search and found that Dawna Markova had written a  book by the same title.  “Why are we here?” is the question she asks both herself and the reader of this wonderful book ~ I WILL NOT DIE AN UNLIVED LIFE ~.  It’s written while Dawna is on a retreat to solitude in a cabin far away from the hectic pace of modern life.  Her story travels along different paths than mine has and that’s the whole point of her book.  We’re here to follow our own passion and dreams.

“Anyone on a spiritual quest, seeking to discover their own deep wisdom, and uncover their “calling” will be enriched and energized in a powerful and gentle way……”

(Forward)

“Like the rest of the natural world, human beings go through seasons.  At one point, we are in the full bloom of summer, harvesting, committed, in abundance.  Then, naturally there is an autumnal time of falling away, disillusionment, stagnation, a shedding of what has been used up.  Then must come the fallowness and dormancy of winter, death, rest.  Eventually, as is happening right outside the window of this cabin, there is a great melting into muck and mud, which, if one can persevere, opens naturally into an abundant yellow-green time, when everything is possible and horizons open.”

~ Dawna Markova ~

“In a similar way to A Gift from the Sea, the readers of this book (I Will Not Live An Unlived Life) are invited to accompany me on a journey to come to know more intimately the value and purpose of their lives.”

~ Dawna Markova ~

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Men, Women and Happiness Cropped (2)

Ink Sketch and Watercolor by Mary Lou Q

Second Book

Gift from the Sea #3

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s bookGIFT FROM THE SEA ~ was shared with me by my mother back in the 90’s.  I packed myself a lunch and took a ride to the beach, setting up my chair in front of the ocean.  It was a restful day that I needed badly and I hoped to find nuggets of wisdom and truth from this book.  At the time it was difficult for me to concentrate on it.  I kept thinking ‘How can this wealthy woman whose life is so different than mine even relate to what I’m experiencing?’  It’s only been down through the years and coming across Anne’s various quotes from her book that I’ve decided to read it again.  Dawna Markova read it to inspire her book ‘I Will Not Live An Unlived Life’ and I decided to read them both this summer.

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The Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Gift from the Sea (2005)  is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s daughter, Reeve Lindbergh:

“I read Gift from the Sea at all Seasons of the Year and of my life.  I never once had the sense that my mother’s 1955 book has lost its freshness, or that the wisdom contained within its pages has ceased to apply, whether to my own life or to what I’ve learned , overtime, about hers.”

“Above all, I think, Gift from the Sea offers its readers an unusual kind of freedom.  It is hard to recognize, or even to describe, but I think this freedom is the real reason this book continues to be so well loved and so well read after all these years.  I am talking about the freedom that comes from choosing to remain open, as my mother did, to life itself, whatever it may bring:  Joys, sorrows, triumphs, failures, suffering, comfort and, certainly, always, change.”

Thanks, Mom!  I get it!  

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A Gift from the Sea

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Third Book

Francis Friendship

Francis Mandewah is one of my Guest Bloggers

Me in the Middle introducing Guest Blogger ~ Francis

I was so inspired by what Francis wrote in his guest blog that I bought his book on Amazon Kindle and I’ve just begun reading it.  His story begins with his life as a 15 year old young man in the African country of Sierra Leone and in the heart of the African diamond zone.  His story too is a spiritual journey of trust in goodness in the world in spite of the hardships and realities that might come along.  It’s his trust in this goodness that makes it possible for Francis to be fully present when God opens a door in his life that leads him to the path of his dreams.

“As I chronicled my trials and tribulations I discovered my voice in between the lines of my story ~ a voice that was filled with faith.”

~ Francis Mandewah ~

“I suppose this dream has been the script for my life, because even as I sit, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always feel a tinge of uncertainty, as if I’m eternally looking for a flight itinerary. I have lived a life filled with the adventure of being ushered onto stage and the turmoil of being blindfolded and locked in a cage. Through my travels, my willingness to walk to and through the door, I discovered within myself a will to not just survive, but to thrive, no matter the circumstance.”

Blood Diamond ~ Sierra Leone

“There are people who are kind, and people who are not kind, among all races and cultures. It was a White man who gave me opportunity so I could realize the American dream.  Our friendship transcended race, and built a positive connection between the races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross-cultural relationships.  “

Francis Mandewah’s WordPress Blog

 

Me in the Middle of Looking Back (#FlashBack)

        
IT’S FLASHBACK FRIDAY – A TIME OF THE MONTH WHERE YOU CAN REPUBLISH AN OLD POST OF YOURS THAT MAYBE DIDN’T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION, OR THAT YOU’RE REALLY PROUD OF, OR YOU THINK IS STILL RELEVANT ETC. THIS BLOG-GO-ROUND IS HOSTED BY MICHAEL G D’AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED–THAT’S WHERE YOU’LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.

THE POST I’VE CHOSEN FOR THIS MONTH FIRST APPEARED ON ME IN THE MIDDLE ON Friday, September 18, 2015.  TO SEE THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS TO THAT POST YOU CAN CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE ORIGINAL POST. 

I CHOSE THIS POST BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT’S A MESSAGE THAT’S NEEDED IN TODAY’S WORLD WHERE SO MUCH SEEMS TO BE TAKING US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION:

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Arrival ! ~ 2012 ~ at the Abu Dhabi Airport

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0061 Emirate with Falcon at Abu Dhabi Corniche

(c) Photo mlq

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As 2016 Campaign Season comes into full swing, I resolve to remember my visit to the UAE in 2012 and the lessons learned there.  Cable News 24×7 spews out fear of terrorist concerns about the Middle East and Muslims.  While I know there are genuine concerns about extremists, no matter where they spring up, I resolve to remember my arrival to a place in my awareness where I recognized that we all have so much in common as human beings and I refuse to let the media hype up divisions among us in the name of ratings.

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 My first introduction to the United Arab Emirates was through the Abu Dhabi Airport. This was the moment when I put aside all the preconceived notions and inner messages of fear of the unknown and of threat about the Middle East.  As I departed the plane and entered into the Abu Dhabi airport, I felt an inner peace and feeling of trust that enabled me to meet this new world with new eyes.

When I arrived I received a warm welcome from an Emirati dressed in the clothing worn by the UAE nationals; a Gothra (white headscarf) and Kandura (long white cloak).   He asked me where I was from  and what brought me to Abu Dhabi.   Being greeted by an Emirati who was dressed in traditional clothing and who spoke in English was my first step towards embracing a whole new outlook.

The atmosphere was calm, not chaotic, and the airport was bright and clean.  It was hard to believe I was in a foreign land arriving from half way around the world.  Security didn’t seem as heightened and frenzied as it was in the Chicago Airport where I had departed from.

I began to take in the scene before me as people milled about….. some dressed in middle eastern garb and others, appearing to be visitors or expats from other countries, dressed in attire familiar to me.

As I was walking through the airport on my way to meet my family, the sounds of the Muslim Call to Prayer filled  the airport for about a minute or two.  The adgan, the Islamic call to prayer, is done five times a day and is heard throughout the United Arab Emirates.  While I was taking all this in, the visual and sensual experience all around me,  my visit to the Middle East was intensified by this sound of the Muslim Call to Prayer being transmitted over the P.A. system in the airport.  It was, at one and the same time, both calming and disconcerting.  In the US, under our Constitution, freedom of religion means government cannot show religious favoritism or choose a state religion.  I’d never been in an airport where the prayer time of a religion interrupted the daily routines at different times of the day, and yet I found myself lifting my heart and mind in prayer as I often did during my own daily routine.  It was calming.   My preconceived notions of a volatile, violent Middle East were slipping away and I could feel the building  of excitement for learning more about this new world welling up inside me.  Was I in danger?   My instincts and intuition told me …. No.

A year earlier, my youngest son and his family embarked on an adventure that would change their lives and open up a world of treasures.  They joined a group of families who had moved to the UAE to teach English to Arab-speaking students through the program called Teach Away (To Find Out More).  When I received the invitation to come visit them and spend “Christmas in Arabia”, I jumped at the chance.  It was a trip of a lifetime that I knew I couldn’t pass up.  I was eager to see this new world and the new life my son’s family was building.

….. And there waiting for me at the baggage claim was my son, his wife and my granddaughter.  My heart filled with joy and I felt I was home…… even though I was half-way around the world…. I was home.

This trip of a lifetime opened me up to an awareness of the common bonds we all share … we are all One …. People share so much of the same hopes and dreams that we all have as human beings.

On my returning back to the States I found I had a new resolve not to get caught up in the political fear mongering that makes a group of people or a particular religion a scapegoat.  I learned about the customs and beliefs of the people in the United Arab Emirates through this journey …… and I learned a lot about myself.  My trip to the Middle East helped me to discern what it is we really need to fear…. And what terrorism is….and how it can be addressed.  Terrorism is a tool used by those who hate.  It can reside in any part of the world …. In anyone’s heart… if we let it.

Visiting the Middle East has added so much to my conviction that we are a small world and have more things in common than our differences. When I was there, I felt at home and welcomed.   Traveling, in a way, grounds you and helps you appreciate life wherever you are.

The United Arab Emirates is a beacon of hope for the Middle East, rising out of the desert.  I hope they continue to be that example of hope for all of the Middle East.

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Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger, Nancy of Practically Wise

“For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.”

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Keeping a Home, Keeping a Legacy

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” –Sir Thomas More

My grandma, who passed earlier this spring, was a woman who had led a simple life. A typical life even, common to many of her era. Her immigrant parents, from the “old country,” came to the U.S. as young adults and eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan. Grandma was born in 1916, the younger of two children. She took her high school education to a typing job at the phone company and then to a real estate agency. She gave up full-time work after she married my grandpa in order to raise a family. They too lived in Detroit. She would take the bus to Hudson’s department store with her two young daughters, outfitted in true 1950s fashion in matching dress coats and tams, looking like tiny models out of a catalog. Her home was spic ‘n span clean with the décor arranged just so. And of course, she cooked. Hearty meals of roast beef or macaroni and cheese, with endless pleas to have some more, don’t let it go to waste.

Yet for such an ordinary life, the struggle at the very end of her life’s journey was extraordinary in the fear and agony she experienced as her body declined. Being with my grandma during her final, wretched days was heartrending. Months later, I am still processing the emotions from those mere handful of days. As Jane Austen would have said, it has “required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover.” Talking, and especially writing, has helped me find perspective. This essay is taken in part from the eulogy I delivered at my grandmother’s funeral.

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There are some, like my late grandfather, who have a zest for life. He owned a succession of small businesses, owned a sailboat, and organized rafting trips down a raging river in Virginia. But every adventurer needs a solid anchor back home, making that home and keeping it.

Such a simple-sounding verb, to keep. Yet it means more than mere tending. The art of keeping includes an array of responsibilities: being able to form strong habits, fulfilling your part of an ongoing agreement, and preserving long-standing traditions. At our best, we keep friends and promises; we keep Christmas in our hearts; we keep a home for those we love most.

My grandma was a home maker, and a keeper of that home. There’s a how-to book, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, that I came across several years ago. In it, Mendelson suggests that many of us underappreciate the value of a well-kept home. She explains it like this:

“Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home…it is your housekeeping that makes your home alive, that turns it into a small society in its own right, a vital place with its own ways and rhythms, the place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.”

That was my grandma’s house. No matter what calamities were occurring in the world or what stresses we faced in our personal spheres, time spent at Grandma’s was restorative, a reminder that structure and comfort will always exist because they can be created with readily abundant supplies: diligence and love. She made homemaking a practice. A practice she worked at every day, creating—and keeping—a warm, inviting home for us, her small society of family she loved so dearly. A home and hub that for decades structured our lives, brought us happiness, and from which multiple generations would make our way in the world.

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In her last years, Grandma lived in an senior apartment that offered some care assistance. Her apartment, with its kitchenette and small living room, was still a home in the sense that she could receive guests. They could gather at her table or sit around the TV. Toward the end, however, we had to move Grandma to a nursing home, which was little more than a glorified hospital room, short on both privacy and space for visitors. Although she would be in the nursing home less than three months, moving her there more than anything signaled the beginning of the end. Not only was she facing the physical decline of her body, she was also losing her role, her place in life as homemaker and hostess.

And then the pneumonia set in. Her body had little defense against illness and it began to shut down. We — my mother, aunt, and a few other close family members — braced ourselves. We contacted hospice. We had been here before. In the early 2000s, we gathered at the deathbed of first my great uncle and then my grandfather. We thought we knew what to expect.

But where my uncle and grandfather went more or less “gentle into that good night,” my grandma resisted. For several days, she writhed in an agitated, restless state. She kept trying to sit upright, though lacked the strength to do so. We wrung our hands in despair.

She’ll wear herself out completely, we said. We had to take turns, relieving one another of the harrowing vigil because of the difficulty of watching her and feeling completely helpless. It will be ok, we said. The nurse will come soon with more medicine, we said.

Yet we could not soothe her. We knew our words were feeble; we knew that we could not make them strong merely through force of repetition. But we didn’t know what else to do.

So we repeated ourselves, again and again. Mother, it’s ok, we said. Lie back down, Helen. Let go. It’s ok, Helen.

We love you, Grandma.

Did she hear us? We couldn’t tell. Her distressed mind slipped into the Finn of her girlhood. She pleaded with people who were none of us. At times, the hovering people must be speaking, for Grandma would suddenly be still, listening. Who were they? Her long-lost parents? Her revered older brother, the exceptionally smart one who had been the family pride? Surely he would know what to do, how to help her.

Then she would moan and wail again, a stream of vowels and gurgling consonants, erupting from deep recesses within. She would push her frail body forward, away from the pillows. Where in life she sailed calmly like a mother duck on placid waters, in dying, she clawed her way along a rocky path, brambled, always into the head winds.

Was she fighting against death in pure terror, or was she pleading for it to take her faster? Perhaps it was the knowledge that at age 99 she was one of the last of her generation to carry the weight of her home, her life, and all that had been across her thin shoulders.

We’ll never know. Around 9p Monday evening we lost contact with her after a very long weekend. The morphine at last took over. She passed at 11:30p. In many ways, we were relieved. She was finally at peace.

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It was the hospice nurse who helped me see what Grandma’s life stood for. We talked about her life, her vocation as a homemaker, for she was more than a consummate homemaker, she was the keeper of the well-being of her family. A role she held onto stubbornly, so that even two days before she died, she insisted on knowing the fate of her apartment furniture. My brother told her he had taken it. This was a “loving lie” — as the hospice nurse later called it — because we had actually donated the furniture. Yet we knew Grandma would rest easier if she believed that her table, her bed had stayed in the family. Her shrewd shopper instincts were still intact, though, and much to our surprise, she had asked what moving company we used and how much we paid.

My brother was forced to embellish the little loving lie into a full-blown story (which he did with gusto, I might add!) We have certainly laughed about this incident many times since. It’s a moment that will be cherished amid so many that were emotionally charged and downright painful. Yet it’s also a moment to serve as a reminder of how Grandma kept something very dear for us for 60 years: an inviting, comfortable, loving home. And beyond that, she had given us the resources and the know-how to keep homes for our own families. Her care and dedication has extended outward through the generations.

It was difficult to decide if I should bring my two teenaged kids to the nursing home during Grandma’s final weekend for it was hard to see her in that state. She was no longer the great-grandma who gave them coins from her bingo winnings or who was excited as a little kid when it came time for dessert or opening gifts. I’m proud to say that my kids decided that they should be there, for her sake, and for the family’s sake. I thought that they should be there for their own sake as well. For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.

And sometimes, it is only at the end, that we can fully appreciate a life. Despite her understated ways, Grandma knew how to make her home a living embodiment of her love. May I have the grace and fortitude to keep her legacy going strong and pass it on to my children.

~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~
July 17, 2016

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Purpose

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  An Invitation to share a time in life where you thought you’d never make it through and you did.  A witness of the strength that you never thought you had.

It’s an honor to feature Nancy’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at ~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~.

~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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Me in the Middle Hurting for My Country

…… The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together – want to improve the quality of our life – and want justice for all human beings that abide in our Land

Robert F. Kennedy

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Almost Fifty Years ago, I sat in my living room with my newborn son in my arms and listened to this announcement by Robert F. Kennedy on the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.  The Sixties were a time of much unrest.  Two months later on June 6, 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated while greeting supporters after a presidential primary win in California.

RFK was a man who walked the talk …….. and he also knew the risks he was taking when he spoke out in such a powerful way during a very tumultuous time in our history.  The Sixties brought us the “End of Camelot” with the assassination of his brother, John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963.  It was at that time, when I was seven months pregnant with my first son, that I watched the images and horror unfold on television before me.  Life changed from that point on for all of us in America.  As I stood in stunned silence watching the news unfold over the following days, I saw images of Jackie Kennedy and her small son, John, standing by the roadside as his casket was passing by.

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Black Ink and Watercolor Sketch on the 50th Memorial Anniversary by MLQ

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RFK saw sorrow in his life and was able to empathize with the sorrow that American citizens were feeling when violence struck and silenced MLK.  He saw a vision of where change needed to happen and wasn’t afraid to voice that vision even though he, too, might become the target of those who resist change to the point of violence.

How I long for a pivotal figure like this to come into our current American crisis fifty years later!  It’s so sad to watch the same sequence of events unfold over and over again, only to devolve into the same ugly unfolding with both sides feverishly digging up the most damaging speculation and/or facts about the current individuals who are involved in a violent altercation.  The blame game begins with the blowhards on both sides looking for a scapegoat. I’m so weary of the know-it-alls with all the answers.

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The victim is demonized as somehow deserving of the fate that came upon him and the quest to find solutions is interpreted as being disloyal to our law enforcement.   We can embrace the victim and at the same time recognize the realities and stresses that have created this distrust and fear in the minds and hearts of both sides.  We can recognize that the job of law enforcement has become more complicated by the distrust and fear created by these incidents.  A fear and distrust that has been intensified now by the presence of guns, both licensed and not, added to the mix.

Law enforcement, in most cases, do face unbelievable risks every time they walk out their door.  Yet we all know there is a need to better address  the  inevitable trauma effects of what their jobs require of them by giving them a way to process this and restore their sense of well being.  And, then again, there are some personalities who just don’t belong in law enforcement and who might seek out wearing the uniform and the badge for all the wrong reasons.  Let’s look at these issues and work towards making those changes without taking offense or seeing these moves as an act of disloyalty against those who are there to protect us.

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Robert Kennedy #2

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Most of us are heartbroken by what’s happening in our country.  Most of us want to work together to find solutions so that we can live together and improve the quality of our lives.   There will always be those on either side of these conflicts that will not want to see that happen and will continue to stir up division through violence.  Here’s to all the communities that keep coming together to try to make this a better world. Don’t give up!

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