Hunger and a Billionaire

Screenshot 2019-03-02 at 6.38.08 PM - EditedHoward Buffett is a rather remarkable character. Son of billionaire, Warren Buffett, Howard turned his back on taking over his father’s fortune and chose instead to farm. Real time, big farming on the plains of the mid-west. While spending his adult years farming he became interested in preserving the world’s mountain gorillas and this lead to an interest in world hunger. Through his travels of Africa and Central America he saw the powers available to him through his camera lens.

Yesterday the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine  at the University of Maine at Augusta and the Mid-Maine Global Forum presented, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, a 40 slide photo presentation of Buffett’s work.

“In this powerful exhibit featuring the photography of Howard G. Buffett, 40 photographs document the world hunger crisis as part of a global awareness campaign. Traveling to more than 137 countries, Buffett turned his camera lens on the powerful forces that fuel hunger and poverty. A philanthropist and farmer, Buffett believes that each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our life goals, just as farmers have about 40 growing seasons to improve their harvests. His photography is a call to action to find lasting solutions to the world hunger crisis.”

As I sat and listened to Indira Williams Babic, the curator of this exhibit, explain each photo and its significance, I kept coming back to the state of our country and the man elected (well kind of) president, and his family. The immoral greed and overt racism and disgust for anything and anyone “poor” is something that is difficult to bear witness to. But in all fairness, it isn’t just him/them. Watching the Cohen hearing and the hearing on Child Seperations this week it was clear that greed and white supremacy are deeply rooted in our government officials. Imagine if they had been raised to do good rather than such harm. But we must put that notion aside as it’s a fairy tale. Rather we need to think of the 40 chances we each have to do good in our world. We may not have the money and fame that Mr. Buffett has but we can do something where we live. Nothing is too small. This year I’m going to be better at donating parts of my weekly Harvest for Hunger  or as some folks call it, A Row for Hunger. That’s certainly easy enough to do. Almost every town has a food pantry or soup/sandwich program and they would love fresh, clean produce.

So take a minute and watch this video clip and talk with a friend or partner to decide what one thing you would like to do to make your small part of the world better for someone.

Peace, love, and acceptance,

Mary

 

 

 

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They Never Grow Up

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It’s clear that they never grow up. Elected officials acting just like 10 year old boys who got caught doing something wrong. We watch and listen to Trump and LePage (ex…thankfully… ex governor of Maine) and I swear it’s like standing in the hallway with a guilty young boy trying to help him own his behavior. The, “I didn’t knows.” The, “I don’t have tos.”  We teachers know those lines and we know that look. The lines they resort to  are often very similar to those we hear in the hallways of our schools when discussing a poor choice behavior with a child. There is something similar between both what the guilty elders say and what the guilty kids say when untruthfulness is coming out of their souls. The similarities are even worse when there’s a lack of remorse.

LePage just got caught spending lavish amounts of money for him and his corrupt cronies at Trump Towers. He says he didn’t know. Trump…well that list could take pages to fill up. We know about him. But watching these two clowns run our country and state into the ground and resort to these nonsense lies, well we recognize them for what they are. Backtracking lies just like a guilty little boy. That’s what I and many other educators see. It’s crystal clear. Two guilty little boys.

Geeze,

Mary

Finding our Niche

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It’s been almost 10 months since I have been in a classroom. I had envisioned this time to be spent joyously relaxing. But that was not what I have found this initial transition period to be like. I think I can assume that my experience has not been that unusual.

The need for rest during this time has allowed me the opportunity to began to wonder, “What’s next?” Being someone who has learned that  forcing things seldom works out, I decided to just be. To be still and let whatever opportunity is meant to be, show itself. Yesterday, I believe that opportunity has revealed itself to me.

The state of our country is a mess. A total mess. The man in the White House, the administration that supports him, and the millions of his followers leave me feeling sad, incredibly sad. I could ask, “How did this happen?” But we all know how this happened. We became lazy. Our deeply seated national racism was stoked and allowed to be loudly pronounced. We are fearful. We willingly believe propaganda because it supports our mindset. We are allowing ourselves to be divided. This has caused deep levels of harm and pain for so many people. Yet we seem to have lost sight of the people. But today people, from all parties, were front and center of my experience. This wasn’t political. It was people centered.

Back in the late 60’s Martin Luther King Jr led a campaign called, The Poor People’s Campaign. Upon his assassination this campaign ended. In light of the climate of our country the past two years, Reverend Barber reignited the campaign. Now if you are a friend of mine, you know organized religion is not an interest for me. But this isn’t about religion. This isn’t about politics. This is about moving our country into a more moral and humane future. While I dislike the title of the movement, the movement is real, it’s energized, and it’s fabulous.

Take a moment and watch their introductory video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkZCxWnSoyk&app=desktop

I now realize that I want to use my retirement time to do something positive. This is what I have chosen. I hope you can join me and the millions across our country to mobilize and support people. People who have taken a back seat to corporate corruption. Today, help me speak up for the oppressed, those without voices, and our most vulnerable. Look for a chapter in your state and give it a try. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Peace,

Mary

 

 

 

The Power of a Phone Call

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I remember the first time I picked up the phone to call my senator. I was scared. Actually I even began to sweat. I’m not quite sure why I was so nervous but I was. Did I think someone was going to come through the phone and grab me? Probably not. It was probably more the fear of  not sounding smart enough. But that was some years ago.

Sitting in my then office I received an email and so did the person who I shared an office with. It said something about contacting our senators. I moved on to the next email while the young man next to me took out his phone and called his senator! In amazement, I watched and listened. His call was short, to the point, and only lasted a mere 60 seconds. Wow. That definitely looked easy enough to do. So with that, I followed his lead and called my senator. My call was also short and to the point. No one came through the phone at me or got angry at me or asked me questions I couldn’t answer. They just took my name and address and the gist of my call. They thanked me and we hung up. Easy peasy.

For the past two years I have made many, many phone calls to my senators and representatives. The folks who pick up the phone are respectful and thank me for my call. This week we have the opportunity to call regarding the most important issue of our lives, our children’s lives, our grandchildren’s lives. That is to call you senators and ask them to support the Green New Deal. I’ll attach what I said below. Short. Sweet. To the point. And be sure to be polite and respectful. That’s usually a very young and underpaid worker on the other end of your phone. While we may not agree with who they work for, just try to remember that about them. If calling scares you, how about emailing them? Senators contact info is here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Dear Senator                  ,

“My name is __________ and I live in (state).  In a week or two the Senate is going to vote on the Green New Deal.  I am asking, begging really, the senator to vote for the Green New Deal brought forward by Senator Markey and Representative Ocasio-Cortez. The people of the United States deserve and demand our country aggressively address climate change and that is what the Green New Deal plans to do. Thank you.” 

What exactly will the proposed Green New Deal include? 1) To decarbonize the economy by getting electricity to neutral carbon aka 100% renewable electricity including transportation in 10 years (Think Kennedy going to the moon in 10 years. Many say it can’t be done in that time frame. I don’t agree but I’m a dreamer and I know the power of imagining). 2) Federal green jobs program to improve the economy, including jobs for lower and middle income folks. This makes this deal not only an environmental policy but an economy policy and is what should bring bipartisan support. There are many sites with information on this. Just type in Green New Deal into your search engine and you’ll see.

Be strong, use your voice, and call and/or write your legislators. You’ll feel really good about yourself. I promise! Together we can reroute our country.

Thanks, Mary

 

 

For the Love of Dog

 

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Meet Maisie. Maise is our new puppy. Her mom was a rescue dog from Georgia. Maisie and her 7 siblings were taken care of by foster families in Georgia and Maine. Vets volunteered to oversee their care and give them shots and neuter them. Maisie is lucky and we are too.

It’s been two years since we had a dog in our family. Seneca and Baxter, our labs died within a year of each other. They were brother and sister, 15 and 16 years old. We of course miss them deeply. They were members of our family. It took a while to get over their loss.

We’ve been retired a few months now and were finally feeling like we were ready for another puppy. Several family members have gotten new puppies. Several friends have too. Each dog I’ve ever had has crossed my path rather spontaneously. A college roommate brought home Dakota as a puppy for me. I had no idea she was going to do that. Neither did she. Dakota melted my heart and I of course kept her. She was the runt. The runt of a Great Dane dad and a St. Bernard mom. She was heaven sent. Dakota went to California with me, lived in the Berkshires, Vermont, Lawrence, MA, and New Hampshire with us. She loved my husband and little daughter as much as me. Then we had Clifford. Wild, wacky Clifford who was abandoned on the lake ice. To be honest we never quite got a handle on Clifford. But he was fun and my kids loved him. Then we were given Seneca, a chocolate lab. The women who lived in our home had 2 labs. The labs ruined our soft pine floors. In payment they gave us first pick of their litter. When we went to pick Seneca up I asked who the runt was. There was Baxter, a tiny black lab sleeping under a pile of squirming puppies. “He’s yours if you want him; no one else does,” the woman said. We went home with two puppies that day.  Baxter and Seneca were such a strong part of our family. We of course loved them. When Baxter got old he got dementia. He was fearful all the time. To see this fun loving dog who use to do anything to hang out with my son and “the guys” decline to this state broke our hearts. We put him down. Seneca was as devastated as we were. Her physical and mental health declined rapidly and to the point that she was always in pain and anxious. She followed her brother a year later.  Heartbroken. That’s what we were. We still cry just thinking of them and their unfair endings. So it took us a while to open our hearts again.

Enter little Ms Maisie and The Maine Lab Rescue organization. A friend was telling me about rescue dogs. She was telling me it was time. It took a while for me to believe her. When we were ready I did a little research, filled out an application, and went back on their website. There were puppies available! So damn cute. One had a face that reminded me of Dakota and Morton, my daughter’s dog who we love to pieces. Yes, that’s the one we’d like to meet.

We drove the hour and a half to southern Maine for our “Meet and Greet”. When we got there we stood back and just watched the wild litter of eight puppies being puppies. We wanted to see their personalities. There was Willie, the obvious alpha. There was Dolly; wow, wild woman Dollie. There was Reba so quiet and timid. And there was Patsy, our Patsy (now Maisie). She ran with the group. Didn’t get upset when Dollie was a tad too rough. Kissed Willie’s mouth and wagged her tail. She seemed happy and content. Then the foster dad scooped her up, flipped her over and rubbed her belly. She melted and so did he. He turned to the Rescue Lab lady and said, “This is the one. She’s my favorite by far. I wonder who will take her.” Ger and I smiled at each other. Once she was reunited with her gang we went up and introduced ourselves. She came with us easily. We walked the store. We sat down and introduced ourselves. Our hearts broke wide open.

We got a crate, a bed, her food, a few toys, chewies, a leash, and collar. We were family. When we left she sat in the back seat curiously looking out the window. She put her head on my lap and proceeded to fall fast asleep for the duration of the ride home.

Thankfully they didn’t use the puppies’ names. We’ve never been a big fan of country music. We were told the names were for ID purposes only so that would allow us to keep it if we wanted or to change it. With the help of a friend and a few very good books we chose her new name, Maisie. It’s been less than 24 hours and she comes when we call her, pees and poops everywhere but on the pee pads, and loves the biscuits I made for her and her cousin, Morton.  Just like Seneca before her, she is a hoover when she eats. We laugh.

Welcome home little Ms Maisie. What on Earth took us so long? But I’m so glad you are here now. It must have been meant to be that we waited.

If you ever decide to get a new dog or cat please seek out rescue organizations. They do the good work, are amazing people, and the dogs can’t be beat. http://www.mainelabrescue.com/

Hug your animal for me,

Mary

Working Together “For All”

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The above photo is of a curtain in the making. Each thread, bobbin, pin, and movement is important for the final product. The 85 year old woman making this is also an important part of the this curtain. It takes all the pieces, no one worth more or less than the other, working together to make this beautiful curtain.

I pledge allegiance… with liberty and justice for all. For all. It seems we often forget the “for all” part.

For all. Working for all. I thought about that today when I went to a talk on climate change. http://www.midmaineglobalforum.org/ It was the middle of the day so of course almost everyone there was over 60, most well over 70. It was odd to be honest. But then I realized that every one of these people left their warm homes and came out on this dreary and cold day to learn a little something about climate change. Why would these folks in the last decades of their lives care? They/we won’t be around long enough for the most severe consequences of climate change yet here we were. Each and every one who was there cares about their “for all”. They care about their grandkids and their neighbor’s grandkids. They care about grandkids they don’t know. For all. All these grandkids will be the ones who will live intimately with the effects of climate change. Yet, even with that looming over us, the thing this speaker said that resonated the most with me was her final comment. It was a comment about the interconnectedness of our world’s economy, poverty, and social justice. She graciously reminded us that those three things must be addressed and dealt with if we are going to address climate change effectively and humanely. It is the richest of us who contribute the most to climate change and the poorest of us who will suffer the worst of its effects. It became obviously clear our moral responsibilities in working to keep carbon in the ground. It’s a social justice issue as well as an environmental justice issue.

So just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at a social justice issue that has taken the internet by storm these past few days. There have been released photos and videos of a young white high school boy standing in the path of an Indigenous elder during a rally in DC. As millions around the world watched the events of that situation unfold we noticed the narrative change. For some reason mainstream media (do we have any major Black or Indigenous or Latino owned media?) decided to give the MAGA hat wearing boy(s) a break and make this about poor them, turning them into the victims. This was one of the most blatant examples of gas lighting I have seen in quite a while….well since this past fall that is. Sitting at the talk today I realized this is deeply connected with the crisis of our planet. Every time we have a national display of overt racism and/or misogyny it becomes more and more clear that the white, males who have run our country for hundreds of years aren’t going to go down without kicking and screaming. It is pretty much understood that abusive males (and certainly not all males are abusive!) have learned that gas lighting is very effective in keeping them in a position of superiority. And gas lighting is what happened here. The media, those with powerful voices from a privileged family, a powerful PR firm, a powerful president of the United States… they all took part in taking over the narrative and worked hard to cause the rest of us to question what we saw, what we watched.

It was clear to me why I was thinking about MAGA boy, white male privilege, and gas lighting during a talk on climate change. It was because they are interconnected. Science often focuses on systems, the interconnectedness of things. If we take that idea and think of the MAGA boy, his PR firm, his parents, the president who rewarded them and their racist behavior by inviting them to the White House, you can see how this is connected with the dysfunction of climate change. It’s really not a great leap at all. Rich, white, males run our country. They run our fossil fuel industries. They will continue to work together and do whatever they must to stay on top, to stay in power and wealthy. I am slowly realizing that they will take us all down with them rather than change course. We need to continue to rise up and lift our voices demanding this change. This is not going to happen easily. But change for the good seldom happens quickly or easily. As I left the talk today I walked for a few minutes with an older man, easily early 80’s. He turned and looked at me and said, “You, women, you are who are going to save us from ourselves. Please do a good job and do it quickly.” I looked at him and realized that he is right.

For well over 50 years we have known that climate change was happening, that burning fossil fuels was the primary cause, and that fossil fuel companies would do everything in their power to keep us from knowing this. In the past twenty years that “doing everything in their power” included taking over the United States government. I don’t say this tongue in cheek. It is well known and documented that many of our representatives take massive amounts of money from the fossil fuel companies, Republicans and Democrats alike. In return they vote with the companies’ interests not ours. Why do we continue to support them with our votes? Go figure.

For our grandkids. For our neighbor’s grandkids. For the grandkids we don’t know and who live far far away, may we all do something to work for social justice. Maybe it means writing a letter to your representatives on their webpages, or writing them a snail mail letter, or calling them. Maybe it means writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, or supporting an organization who is speaking up for those who’s voices are not listened to. But do something. Do your part to work for a more peaceful and inclusive world for our grandkids. Stay determined, persistent, and tenacious. Because when one grandkid somewhere is victim to social injustice, including the effects of climate change, we are not free, not really.

Peace and persistence,

Mary

 

Being Brave; Speaking Up

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Equality Rally in our town on the day that cities across the nation held Women’s Marches.

These kids and adults (above) are the Civil Rights Team from the local elementary school. Most have never raised their voices in a public forum before. But during freezing temperatures they stood proudly and spoke their truth. And they inspired the entire audience, both present and those following via social media. 

This post is about them, photos while they spoke, and snippets from their speeches. Yes, there were other inspiring and deeply moving speakers but today’s post gives voice to the youth. May they continue to lift their voices for those whose voices we often do not hear or choose not to listen to.

These two dedicated teachers gave their Saturday to provide support to their brave students. screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.33.59 am - edited       “Equal doesn’t always mean the same. It will often mean fair.” Penelope

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.33.13 am - edited“When I look out into the world I sometimes see unkindness and cruelty. When I look into the mirror I see someone who can change that.” Riveria

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.27.59 am - editedAt a last minute this young girl asked to read. She was visibly shaking but she spoke anyway. She read a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Read by Jayda

 

The young adults (below) who spoke next are from a camp that works for leadership, understanding, and peace:screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.32.21 am - edited“Who knew that after two weeks at an isolated leadership camp in Maine that I would be standing here today.” Olivia

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.30.47 am - edited“Shabbat Shalom! The realization that anti-Semitism is still a problem in the 21st century is terrifying.” Ali

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.34.47 am - edited“So the next time your at work and that one person that you just can’t stand, starts talking politics with you, remember three things… 
                Number 1: You never know what is going on in their life.
                Number 2: You will never look back on your life and regret being kind. 
               And Number 3: If you have perspective you will receive perspective.” Sarah

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.31.35 am - edited“During the summer before seeds, I slowly starting becoming anti social. I didn’t think my voice was valid or my opinions mattered. I felt small and closed in being a person of color in a small Maine town. I had so much anxiety I couldn’t even walk six houses down to my friends house because people driving by would look at me.” Amar

 

screenshot 2019-01-20 at 8.28.50 am - editedThis right here. A strong woman, mom, teacher, and 4 brave young women who were so shy to speak. Didn’t want to speak. But they spoke anyway. They lifted each other up and they spoke. This is what happens when women lift each other. We are learning. We are doing. We are inspiring. We are changing the world. And these youngsters today showed us the way. And we listened.

May we all continue to listen; the words we hear may surprise us and move us in new directions of love and peace,

Mary