Juneteenth

Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

When I think of Juneteenth, I see one hard-won step on a very long journey. May we continue to climb that mountain and reach a higher place. Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash

This second official Juneteenth happens to fall on Father’s Day. I find that fitting somehow, as I pause to consider what it means to be a good man and to give gratitude for all who father.

The official site for Juneteenth is here. It commemorates that July 19th day in 1865, 2-1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and over a month after the last battle of that hard, bloody war, when the last black american slaves in Galveston, TX were finally set free.

The date has been celebrated in black communities for years with street fairs, parades, concerts, and prayer. In 2021 it was finally, recognized as a federal holiday. It is good to see the growing acknowledgment and honoring of its significance among broader communities through events and such. Some are listed here in the LI Press . Others are in this piece from News12 LI.

Of course, being forcibly set free and actually realizing the stated promise of this nation are two different things. Another good way to honor this day is to study history, both before and after that day, and to reflect on how, while Juneteenth itself recalls a moment of triumph worthy of celebration, it was just one hard-won step on an ongoing journey toward “a more perfect union,” and far from the end of disparity in the treatment of human beings.

I am grateful to all who have given their best to advance civil rights and to create a more just world. May we honor ongoing endeavors to more fully realize the acknowledgment and admonishment entailed by our nation’s Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

One local organization focused on just that is ERASE Racism. Here, in their most recent newsletter they ask how folks are celebrating Juneteenth, share some of what they offer and are focused on, and offer a wealth of diverse and broader resources for exploration.

Check it out

Reflections on a Pandemic Rainbow

Oil Painting - Pandemic Rainbow, March 2020

Oil Painting from March 2020 Entitled “Pandemic Rainbow”

While I give it my best to be the adult and hopefully a halfway decent parent, often it is my children who end up guiding and grounding me.

One example of this was mid-March 2020. We were far enough in to know that COVID was serious, but it was still a largely inconceivable looming horror that had hardly begun to hit home. I had followed the story since before the disease cancelled Lunar New Year celebrations abroad, so I was not quite as surprised as some seemed to be. Still, I am pretty sure I was in shock.

Honestly, I think I might still be in shock.

At that time, though, my brain still wanted to treat COVID as a theoretical construct, not something…real. I had yet to have a case reach the outskirts of my personal orbit, let alone see a dear one pass or begin to experience the painful details of how everything would go. I was already thinking of collateral concerns that for so many were already more pressing than the disease but, for me, it was all processing like a computer with too many programs running, a computer with not just a mind, but a heart that was overwhelmed as well…and I know I was among the luckier ones…

The first case was confirmed on Long Island by March 5th. A week later, in what felt like a watershed moment, the NBA suspended its season right at the tipoff of a Jazz/Thunders game while at the same time Tom Hanks told the world he was sick. The next day a “temporary” school closing was announced, followed promptly by the shutdown of just about everything.

Teachers, parents and children turned on a dime to transform education as offices also emptied into homes. Overnight, Zoom went from being a cool app someone had suggested we play with, to the platform that would host most human encounters for the next two years.

In true apocalyptic fashion, folks that couldn’t stay home were suddenly being called heroes. This was an honor some immediately warned was less than empty and that others are actively praying we will more substantially appreciate to this day. Given the scarcity of tests and plethora of potential symptoms, it was fairly impossible to tell whether one had hay fever or might kill grandma.

This was just a sliver of the world’s hardships, with some facing suffering far worse than others. Already, we were realizing there wasn’t even sufficient protective gear for nurses. Hoarding was a concern. We were in it deep. There was hardly any toilet paper. Coming together as a nation seemed sadly and painfully less likely than ever, but at least folks were washing their hands.

With hardly any discussion it suddenly became perfectly legal to get take-out cocktails. Fellow Gen Xers were filling my Facebook newsfeed the way many of my friends do when things are stressful, scary and beyond our control: One part public service announcement, two parts “how y’all doin’ out there?” and three parts bad jokes as we collectively decided this was all way too serious not to laugh. It all seemed terribly surreal, especially when paired with the emergence of Tiger King, the unbelievable, utterly meme-able Netflix documentary about an ill-fated private zookeeper. We didn’t watch it here, but we couldn’t miss it either. Somehow, it seemed to fit.

Me? I was doing what I generally do in times of crisis, shunting aside feelings and endeavoring to be useful, going into overdrive to keep things moving and to share news of so many wonderful folks I saw giving it their best to be of service…teachers, human service providers, scientists and so many folks who sew or learned to sew just for the occasion. Grateful for so many artists and librarians rising to a quarantined call, I was also warmed by the concept of “Rainbows across Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” which were largely drawn by children and starting to appear everywhere.

I thought it would be nice to publish one. I asked my youngest, who had just turned 12, “Would you please draw me a rainbow for my newsletter?”

My daughter is a born artist. It’s just who she is. At this particular time in life, she was also (hopefully) at a height of adolescent prickliness toward her mother. Perhaps, this time at least, it was well deserved. She gave me a drawing she wouldn’t have been satisfied with when she was three.

“I’m not using this.”

“Use it.”

“Well, I’m not putting your name on it.”

”Fine.”

So…I used it. Without her name. She was fine with that.

A child's drawing of a rainbow

A few days later, I was up late working. It was sometime after midnight when she emerged from her room, came to my desk and thrust her arm forward.

“You want my rainbow? Here’s my rainbow!”

I looked at it, a ragged, shaken assault of color. Marks that looked like tiger swipes tore through it. Other areas were marred by splotches of brown as though dirt and other…stuff…had been hurled at it. Smears of white evoked flashes of terror…and…contagion….

I was stricken to see my heart laid bare on her canvas. Her heart laid bare on her canvas?

“I’ve never used oils before,” she said, her voice sweet and childlike as she considered her work. Funny how they switch back and forth so suddenly at that age, “I’m really pleased with how I got this wash along the edges…”

She’d always been all about the process, even when she was three…

I looked her in the eye. She looked back. Words went unspoken. Feelings, however, I think, transmitted. She retreated to the room that would become her fortress, her cocoon for the next several months.

The painting remained beside me, saying more than either she or I had words for. It got me to pause. It got me to think. It forced me to allow the weight of the situation to settle, to allow her the space she needed to process, to be a bit more mindful with her and all I encountered.

The work was soon followed by a similarly abstract piece entitled “Earth Day.”

“I sure hope we get it together.” was all she said.

“Me, too.”

Oil Paintins, "Earth Day" April 2020

Prints of “Pandemic Rainbow” (top of article) and “Earth Day” (immediately above) are available at The Firefly Artists in Northport. While she’s not nearly as attached to them as I am, the originals are not for sale. I am grateful to the galley for hosting these pieces, and for everyone who gives it their best to make the best of things and guide others to see the light. It matters more than we know. Thank you.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: To Reflect and Serve

Photo of MLK Monument in Washington DC

The third Monday in January is reserved to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the only federal holiday formally recognized as a national day of service, “a day on, not a day off.” In the spirit of listening and thinking first, people are warmly encouraged to study the works of King, and to devote time to serious reflection on how we will endeavor toward a healthier, more just world for all. Here are some ways you can learn about and advance his legacy.

Continue reading

Spencer’s Picks: Overcoming Pandemic Fatigue; Art, Science & Suggested Solutions; The Happiness of a Dog

Dr. Spencer Thomas atop the Uffizi in Florence, Italy

Photo of Dr. Spencer Thomas atop the Uffizi in Florence, Italy. Photo by Katheryn Laible

 

As usual, when he’s not scrying into the mysteries of metals at the atomic level, or pondering puzzles of more efficient means of tapping energy, Dr. Thomas is bringing some light into our life. Here are a few of the things he’s brought to our attention:

Now that we’re about a month into the college semester with social distancing and remote learning, a lot of people I know are feeling a bit of a drag. You are not alone: Lonliness at Pandemic U: 14 tips for college students and their parents

Along similar themes, but more for everyone:: Your Surge Capacity is Depleted. This is Why You Feel Awful (and a couple good things you can do about it)

One thing that’s helpful is — to help! Here is a heartwarming and inspiring story from one of my very favorite professors from back in my undergrad time at Stony Brook. Bente Videbaek is an amazing person who has been working hard to make sure people have masks Facebook Page: “Humans of Mather Hospital”

When you feel a bit grounded and ready to stare some of the bigger challenges facing humanity in the face: Countdown is a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. One of the speakers, Dr. Rose Mutiso, is a friend of mine – we were graduate students together. She’s the incredible CEO of the Mawazo Institute, which supports women scientists and leaders throughout East Africa. She has also spoken at TED and written in Scientific American about the challenges that people in Africa face building digital and clean-energy infrastructure.

One for the Coltrane fans out there: The most feared song in jazz, explained. It’s not too hard for a layman to follow this breakdown of “Giant Steps,” even as it’s still among the most challenging things a musician may face

Finally, no big point here, but a bit of joy for you since we could all use it: The happiness of this dog after they put prostheses on

Spencer Thomas received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After some time at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, we are DELIGHTED to welcome him back to Long Island as a researcher at Stony Brook University. He also happens to be Katie’s brother. For a time, Spencer studied metals at the atomic level; the way atoms are arranged in a material can change its properties; one can take ordinary metals make them stronger, more flexible, corrosion resistant, even radiation resistant. We’re still endeavoring to understand what he’s doing now well enough to explain it so simply.

Spencer believes that no matter who you are, good communication can put scientific concepts within reach. The modern world demands scientific literacy and it is the responsibility of scientists to make that possible.

Sending Our Love in a Letter…

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” ~Phyllis Theroux

Truthfully, ever since Sandy we have had a special fondness for the mailman. At that time, we weren’t sure how ANYTHING could EVER get down a road blocked on both sides with trees. STILL the US Mail came, exceeding expectations of the old credo, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Still, we must admit it: Holiday time is overwhelming. We struggle to send traditional cards. We just about gave up this year.

Then, an amazing local artist made us realize we were letting something really valuable go. We are committed to starting earlier next year.

Now, even more, we are remembering the deep joy of the U. S. Postal service — How special is it that we can send our handwritten love just by putting a stickered envelope in the box outside our door?

Ordering online, we remember the beauty and meaning of stamps. We’re thinking of adding to old collections!

as our children send cards of love and little treats

dear friends mail us beautiful, handmade masks

care packages come from a Mom

and beautiful, locally crafted cards fly home.

Feed Your Soul

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

While we STRONGLY RECOMMEND erring on the side of science in terms of understanding how disease spreads and what we have good evidence heals, we also know a great many who (while also following Dr’s orders) find healing and overcoming a deeply personal experience that is greatly strengthened by their faith.

We have also long agreed with Dale Carnegie that prayer is much more psychologically useful than worry and — when there’s nothing else we can do — remains better than doing nothing.

Many houses of worship are closing. While we haven’t yet found a comprehensive guide to what’s now available, we have seen many of our faithful friends posting information about services that are occurring online. We encourage you to contact your own community. We will share what we come across.

We see that Donna Martini has been offering her own “Mighy Mantras” on Facebook as her contribution to helping folks find some spiritual solace.

Additionally this local “Moonful Mama” has been offering some global healing meditations as well as a little of her own Momma’s spirit regarding how we might all find opportunity in times of crisis.

While she probably wouldn’t call herself a faith healer, we do find Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings deeply soothing to our souls. Here is her Meditation on Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “How To Love” a lesson on how to grow our hearts.

For our own part, we pray that – now and always – humanity endeavors toward truth and love, best we may humbly discern our way forward, fueled by faith, dexterity and strength, with gratitude for every blessing we may count, especially to those who keep hope alive.

Peace and well-wishes to all.

Support Local Business & Community Groups

Main St, Northport

Photo of Northport Village by Katheryn Laible

This is a really tough time to be a small business or a not-for-profit organization. While everyone is rightly encouraged to stay home and keep their hands off the world, bills are still coming due and people are wondering what’s going to happen to their income.

When you see one of your most go-getting survivors of a friend seeking donations for her employer, you have to stop and think — What are we going to do for our people here?

Vision Long Island is one of our region’s strongest advocates for Main Street. They have just released their first Main Street News offering a great guide to what people can do in terms of personal initiative, resources and advocacy.

Another strong advocate for local business that has been posting good stuff on their facebook page is the Long Island Business Council.

In general, some ideas that have seemed good to us include:

  1. Buy Gift Certificates. Consider simply sending a donation to your favorite local business
  2. Realize small businesses are often better for social distancing because they tend to be less crowded. They may even have that hard to find supply!
  3. Restaurants are closing, but can still do takeout/delivery. Even for alcohol!
  4. Realize many of these places care about their own health, your health and the community more than most ever realized. Know that many local shops are going out of their way to safely keep on keeping on — Book Revue in Huntington, for example is offering curbside service and even delivery. We’ve heard report of local hair stylists all but wrapping their stylists in bubble wrap. Look up their website/social media. Even if they aren’t advertising it, call them to inquire!
  5. Special events are hugely important for organizations. Had an event cancelled? Send a donation! You can check our newsletter archives to find 100s of great local organizations
  6. Strongly consider supporting policy proposals that directly support individuals and small businesses. While they are going out of their way to come up with creative means of keeping going, there is only so much they can do,
  7. Just be kind — Especially to the cashiers, service providers and others working through this. Just. Be. Kind.
 
 

Networking Can and Should Continue!

Photo of Robbie Samuels, Zoom Facilitation Expert and Relationship-Based Business Strategist, Provided by Robbie Samuels

Photo provided by Robbie Samuels

We thought this article from our friend Robbie Samuels was really helpful:

9 Ways to Network During a Pandemic

“Due to an abundance of caution, we’re canceling our event.”

All over the world, event organizers have had to make the difficult decision to send this message.

According to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, 76% of people surveyed said that networking was a top driver for why they chose to attend a live event.

How do we keep networking if live events are being canceled, postponed, or becoming virtual events?”

Read Robbie’s Suggestions here

Online Virtual Meeting Tools

We’ve also been thinking about how to meet remotely, and what services might be helpful. Our friend, Deb Ingino brought Zoom to our attention, which was also recently recommended by a dear friend Kathy Kuthy.

Thanks to Pilar Moya, we learned that Google is making their premium version of Hangouts Meet free until July 1st. She also led us to be reminded about Skype Meanwhile, our kids have having a lot of their own meetings on Facebook Messenger.

Of course, the phone still works, too. 🙂

PARTING WAYS doesn’t mean you can’t keep it together

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences of a person’s life, impacting every member of the family. We are thankful for this guest submission that talks about the author’s professional passion for helping people find a better way to part company. 

This is the happiest time of the year and ironically one of the times that people are most likely to get divorced. Troubled couples often hope that the holidays will make everything better, and then ultimately when it doesn’t, it’s time to make a change.

Life is full of changes.  Some of them voluntary, some- not so much. So, here you find yourself…the decision to divorce has been made either by you, for you or together which is the best-case scenario. We have all heard horrendous war stories, we all know people who have experienced this nightmare or about to… breathe! You have options. And it’s called Collaborative Divorce. The fact that most people have never heard of this method of divorce is one reason we have generations of families who witness the unhealthy, adversarial litigation and very often continue this cycle in their own lives.

Most people have heard of mediation, however, with a mediator, there can be no legal advice and the lawyer who is mediating cannot advocate for either party. Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process that couples enter into with a signed participation agreement that they are agreeing not to litigate. Couples enter into the Collaborative process thereby eliminating the threat of Court and committing to align their interests to work out the structure of their family, finances, property and any other assets they have created during their marriage.

The Collaborative divorce process provides support for the couple so they take the lead in decision making, through respectful communication, with the assistance of the appropriate professionals, in a private, pressure free setting.  The team of professionals include an attorney for each spouse, a mental health professional and a financial advisor.

In the context of Collaborative divorce, the couple commit to finding a mutually beneficial solution as their highest priorities. The concepts of “winning or revenge” and “retribution” have no place in the collaborative process.  The hope of having a positive future co-parenting (if relevant) is often a primary motivation for entering this process.  This results in the creation of a new bi-nuclear family built upon a foundation of respect, incorporating a creative and realistic distribution of assets and a new way to live apart and divorced in harmony.

When couples who are getting divorced, find solutions that serve both parties, healing begins, successful co-parenting takes place and children can grow up to be emotionally secure and healthy adults.  Families benefit from the collaborative process, and engaging in a communicative and understanding process sometimes results in healthy reconciliation. Society as a whole reaps the benefits of this process, because people can divorce with dignity and respect, children learn how to have difficult conversations with positive outcomes and the process makes us whole, individually and as a family.

Collaborative Divorce needs to be the new norm and most people have never heard of it. Please help us and tell everyone you know who may be getting divorced, about this option. The only option that will help to sustain the nuclear families of the future. For more information, please visit us at adrlawny.com.
Kim Ciesinski