A Lesson Learned…

The roots of a strong and fruitful tree grow silently and unseen.

In the same way, most of the important lessons we learn for ourselves are to be treasured up and pondered in our heart.

And in time, we bear fruit that we can share with others.

For doesn’t fruit sound better than lessons learned?

A Culture Where It DOES Hurt to Ask…

You know that phrase, it never hurts to ask? Well, I think it can be spot on and even more so, that it can be an indicator of a society and culture. I’m a big believer of not taking things personally (one of the Four Agreements) and when practicing and believing this truth in your life, then the phrase works in this situation and it doesn’t hurt to ask. Or to put it more clearly, it doesn’t have to hurt you to ask. Keep this in mind as you read on…

Have you ever asked a favor of someone or just asked for more information, perhaps more clarification regarding something? And then that someone just doesn’t respond back. I’m not talking about the situations where you have to break free of someone or an unhealthy relationship. I know there are times when it is best to not answer back. What I’m referring to is the basic favor or perhaps question that may even have to do with business and is not even along personal lines.

What is up with people just NOT responding and following up? With all the technology in the world that we have and how connected we are, it seems that our communication between each other has only gotten worse. People simply don’t respond back. And why is this? Are we too busy? Are we afraid of saying no? Do we not want to tell the truth? Are we taking things personally?

Well, I’m posing questions because I think for each person the answers will vary, depending on the unique situation that one may be in and how different we each are. So answers are not what you will find here. Yet, what you are reading is my personal opinion. Regarding this matter, I think it is rude and poor manners to absolutely ignore when something is asked of you. I have found this neglect and avoidance to be more common in the American culture. Personally and professionally, people think that to have no response is fine. And I think it’s not. I think it’s cowardly and lazy.

I take it upon myself and my own responsibility to not be hurt by it…that is in my control and I do not blame others for whether or not I take offense to their non-response. If someone does not respond to me, I know and believe that they are not trying to hurt me. Actually, they cannot hurt me, unless I allow them to by deciding to take it personally. The powerful thing about not taking things personally is that what someone does, in this case not responding to something asked, only says everything about that person, not about me.

So me being hurt by asking is not necessarily in the equation here (remember, I take responsibility for that on myself). What is hurt is our culture and society. The etiquette and integrity of our personal and professional relationships and such societal structures. From my own personal experience, it has shown me first-hand that American culture does not tend to share. We do not like to be asked for things or for that matter, to be asked anything. Perhaps we think we’re too busy, the proverbial response that is received to almost anything in American life. And I say we including myself, because 1) I’m American and do love my country and 2) I have lived that life before and been that way – too busy.

This year has taught me different though. And you know what? It’s worth having learned this: that now-a-days and throughout the world, it can hurt to ask. If I let it of course…and as imperfect as I am at this as well, I am excited to turn this observation into motivation to communicate more considerately and truthfully, getting back to people, even if it means having to say no to what they may be asking. There are many people who I am fortunate to know and work with who are considerate and brave in getting back to me. I appreciate and thank them greatly because they are the biggest inspiration of all regarding this conviction.

I want to be intentional about this concept because it’s the kind of person I want to be and the way I desire and hope for people to be with me. So here’s to the reality that it can hurt to ask. On what end of the asking will you be?

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Did you know that November 25th is designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women? I learned about this a number of years ago thanks to my mom. She was working on the music for a documentary called “Code Name Butterflies” and I joined her in New York City to record the background vocals. Now, years later, I have learned that most people are not aware of this day’s designation by the UN and the true story that inspired its international observance.

Nowadays, many people think that this day addresses domestic violence against women. While it does address this type of violence, it also incorporates a larger picture and is speaking to any and every kind of violence that is all too prevalent in our world. Political violence is what was occurring on this day in 1960, in the small island of the Dominican Republic. My mother was born and raised in this beautiful tropical island and remembers hearing stories from her parents of when her mother was pregnant with her and the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, was finally assassinated and his brutal reign over the country was put to an end. Yet that end and that victory for the people did not happen in that year of 1961 alone. It started years before, through the lives of the Mirabal Sisters.

Very close to where my mother grew up in the center of the Dominican Republic, is where years earlier the Mirabal family lived. They had four daughters who became revolutionaries and political activists who conspired to liberate their country from the dictator Trujillo. Several times, three of the sisters were imprisoned and their husbands as well. Now, only one still lives, Dede Mirabal, because on November 25, 1960, the other three sisters were brutally assassinated by Trujillo. Although it cost them their lives, their efforts were not in vain and were the largest and most essential contribution to the final overthrow of Rafael Trujillo and freedom from his violent oppression.

Throughout the world, this commemorative day is recognized greatly in Latin countries. This past week, I had the opportunity to perform one of my mother’s songs with her that she wrote for the documentary “Code Name Butterflies”. The song, “Bachata de las Carteras” tells of what things may have been found in the purse of Minerva, which was found in the vehicle where the bodies of the three sisters were placed after being beaten to death and the vehicle then pushed off a mountain cliff so it would look like an accident. Although sad and tragic, it is a perspective that reminds us that no woman is exempt from the damage of violence. What is done to one woman, extends out to others. These women were not only daughters and sisters, but they were also wives and mothers. The song tells of how perhaps a diaper for her son would be found in the purse among other items endearing and special only to a mother.

We presented the song at the monthly assembly for the government of the region of Extremadura in Spain. In attendance were military dignitaries and political figures, among which was the president of parliament of the region, the president of the government of the region, and the director of the Institute of Women of Extremadura. It was wonderful to see the great presentation that was also given by the Institute of Youth of Extremadura. When I saw these high school age teens standing up for at the front, I thought to myself these are the next Spaniards…this is where the country is going…

The presentation by the youth documented their projects in the visual arts, demonstrating how images can speak louder than words and deeply correlating how violence can be silent and yet affects everyone powerfully. There was no music in the video as it clicked through the images, slide by slide, in silence. It really made a motivating impact and I find myself still picturing the images, like a red heart made of yarn that on the next slide is torn in half and unraveling.

On this important day, I hope that you take time to think about any ways that you have ever witnessed violence being done against others. And although it can be the scariest and hardest thing to do, I hope that you give yourself the time and will yourself to take a look at yourself and your own life – have you ever experienced violence being done against you? Have you ever been the one to commit violence against another? These are not enjoyable or easy things to consider, yet where else do we start? With our own individual selves is the only place to start and doing so affects even entire countries, each other, and our societies. This day is important not only for women, but for men as well. For men and women alike are both capable of and called to being the instruments of education to prevent such violence, personal character to live as a person who would not accept or carry out such violence, and leaders who would advocate for this as they would for any other cause they deem personally and politically important.

A great way to personally commemorate this day and ensure you are ready to stand for such a cause when the need arises (for believe me, the need will arise and most likely, is already present in your life), is to educate one’s self. I highly recommend reading the book “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez as part of that education. It tells the story of the Mirabal sisters and is a great way to connect even more so with the importance of this cause and the significance of your part in this issue.

Imagine that there is a war. Bombs fall and stray bullets tear apart the ground spitting clouds of dust up into the laces of the boots of soldiers who run, run, run away from buildings that fall, fall, fall to the ground. There is no safety anymore, just things falling apart. The scenery that once made up your life is collapsing around you and amongst the noise of the sound of lives coming undone you can hear a very clear and very sound voice in your head say ‘You have to get out of here’

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To Throw a BF or Not to Throw a BF – Advice from a Teen Brother

Do you remember throwing fits as a kid? If you don’t, then maybe you didn’t throw them enough. Well, do you throw them now as an adult? I will unashamedly confess that I find myself doing so, occasionally that is. Actually, not that often at all, so don’t be afraid to ever meet me or be around me, please.

It’s my opinion, after introspection and observation, that as we progress through life into adulthood we still throw a good ‘ol fit every now and then. This past summer, my youngest brother Brendan taught me a lot about BF’s. And it wasn’t cause he was throwing fits, it was cause the amazing seventeen-year-old that he is had to spend a whole month in close quarters with our mom and me. Believe me, we had a great time, but you know how family is…you feel most comfortable around family, even to the extent that perhaps a fit or two may find its way out in front of each other. Oops. Well, this young man and best friend of mine certainly stood strong and loving against the barrage that a few times occurred and even had him caught in the cross-fire…and female cross-fire at that. Now that I think back to it, he didn’t throw any fits…hmmm…

With the advancement of age, these tantrums tend to simply take on a different look. After all, we’re adults now…right? We have to be careful of how we present ourselves to others. Now, if you’re sensing sarcasm in my writing, you’re sensing right. But I don’t want you to get me wrong either. While I think that we should be real and open with our feelings and emotions, I also believe that we have to exercise self-control and consideration of others. What I’m getting at here is a balance and that begins first with simply being real with one’s self. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t find ourselves throwing tantrums at the wrong times and in inappropriate places. Make sense?

If you’re willing to consider yourself in this same boat with the rest of us humans, then you’re on the right track and you’re not alone. I have a fun type of solution that seems to work for me and I’m happy to share about it here. After all, better to share that than to share a fit. Why does this work for me? It makes me laugh. Laughter seems to be a great remedy for tons of things in life. It works for most things in life actually and it is scientifically proven to be healthy for us on all levels.

So next time you feel your blood starting to boil…you know, when your imagination is playing out scene by scene something that you’re ready to explode out in verbal assault at someone…or maybe in your case the corner of your eye starts to twitch radically and you taste blood as you grind down on biting your lower lip…ask yourself this simple question and switch the channel in your head over to the following scene…

Do I really want to have a BF here and now?

This post is dedicated to my youngest brother, Brendan. Bro, you and Mark are the most amazing brothers anyone could have and my best friends! I will always keep in mind to pull a Brendan and will strive to not throw a BF…at least not in the wrong place and time.  🙂  Love you!

Thankful for Brokenness

I have to write this…I have to sit and write to face the pain; to face the hurt…and to even be thankful for the brokenness. On this Thanksgiving Day I am not in the United States, however, I am glad to be thinking of how my loved ones, friends and family alike, are celebrating this day and putting special attention to the powerful goodness of being thankful.

Perhaps thankfulness does not always feel so good though. Maybe sometimes, it is amidst hurt, pain, and sadness. My parents have been divorced since I was nineteen years old, which makes it eleven years now since that occurrence in our family. Yet long before the divorce took place, the hurtful damaging things that led up to it, started years before. I don’t feel the need or that it’s appropriate to get into too much detail or depth here, yet I do find it valuable and at least helpful for me, to spill out and release what I am learning from God today. That is this…my parents are very different people and they come from such different cultures and worlds. Rather than think that this means that it’s not possible to enjoy love and family while being such different people and from different parts of the world, I am going to be thankful…

I am so thankful for the rich heritage and history of my family ancestors on both sides. They both exhibited immense courage and integrity fighting for what they believed in and for their fellow countrymen. Venturing to places unknown and overcoming oppression and discrimination, these past relatives of mine were adventurous, industrious, faithful, and full of faith.

The continuing characteristics of quiet strength, steadfastness and endurance partnered with passion, boisterousness, art and romantic idealism, come together from both sides of my family to complement each other with the best of all hearts. In thankfulness I embrace the fiery spirit dressed in loud voices and intense emotion, meeting with the calm demeanor that borders on shyness and speaks its few words passively. Each can be overwhelming if enjoyed just on its own, thus I am so thankful and grateful, that I have all the wonderful differing aspects of my families to enjoy.

I am thankful for what both sides of my family have in common…kindness, hospitality, grace, forgiveness and love. Most importantly, my families are there for each other. They seek to be together for holidays, spend time together and take care of each other. They have all taught me what it means to truly live out being a person who deeply respects others and myself, is strong in character even when things are not going our way, and who works hard and is willing to sacrifice for oneself, love, and each other.

Amazing, what thankfulness can do…I think that among the many wonderful and magical effects that thankfulness can have, it can also make the picture clearer. No wonder I love different cultures so much. No wonder I love things that are different from me and what I know in general!  Here I am traveling in such a way to experience the actual local culture by experiencing the local people, and I myself come from such a diverse background: Scottish, Irish, Dominican, and Spaniard (and keep in mind that Dominican is Spaniard blood mixed with African blood, which I proudly embrace).

I have the kind of heart that loves to travel. So far, no one else in my family has traveled as much as I do or for that matter, gone about life the way that I do. Yet they all have wonderfully attributed to who I am and my heart for traveling. The capacity I have to not need a house or one place to feel secure and at peace, to love meeting people even if I don’t know their language, to trying new things…I was made with a heart that embraces travel. True, there are a lot of other things that I am passionate about as well, yet they all beautifully tie in together to support and enrich each other. Like my writing and singing, my love for music, dance, and nature…these are all very helpful to traveling as well. At least for me they are.

So what was I thinking? Yes, there is brokenness in my family. Last time I checked, everything in this life and world is broken, cause nothing is perfect. Being thankful has taught me that it’s okay to feel the pain, it has its place and purpose too. Thankfulness shows me that I don’t have to remain stuck in it, rather I can allow it to grow me up and break me free, up through the ground to flourish like a flower and see all the beauty and joy in the differences, the uniqueness. I love these differences that make up both sides of my family. I love them, because they make up me.

Thank you God for my family’s quietness and loudness. Thank you for their passiveness and aggressiveness. Thank you for the peaceful calmness and the intense fiery passion. Thank you God, that you are all these things as well and thank you for all of my family and me.


Enjoy the View

You may not see it, but it’s in my sight,

A far distant object, perhaps a castle on a hilltop.

It really is a small speck, I hardly noticed before,

Amidst other surrounding beauties, in the scene I behold.

Enjoy the view, I think,

Enjoy that long-distance sight.

This speaks to me deeply, even as I turn away,

And I see how it applies in all my life,

As I continue on my way.

For reaching the destination and achieving the goal,

Is wonderful and glorious, but even more so is the vision we hold.

To behold the entire scene, taking in colors, light and nature,

We see its contribution and leading to our distant dream.

An important part, essential in being actively a part of the vision.

So enjoy the view along your journey,

Look around and be present as you live towards your visions.