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Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on the fact that news talks about the worst, focusing specifically on the concerns a lot of people have over bringing in refugees to the US.  The fears seem to focus on two things.  The first is that why should we bring in refugees when we have people (especially veterans) in need who aren’t being helped.  The second issue is that terrorists might pose as refugees to gain access to the US.

I talked about the veteran issue yesterday.  I didn’t cover it comprehensively, but I did have a few points to make.  Mostly they boil down to: if you’re concerned about them, help in any way you can, even if you can’t do much.

Today I’d like to address the second concern, the perhaps we shouldn’t help refugees because some of them might be terrorists.

It’s true.  People who want to harm others will do all sorts of things to reach their goal.  They might lie, posing as a needy population in order to gain access to our country, and perhaps harm us.  People who want to harm others do things like that.

I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t give into fear.  If someone attempts to harm me or someone I love, I will react and attempt to defend myself.  With deadly force, if needed.

But while I try to be prepared to act in a potential crisis situation, I’m not going to give in to fear.  I’m not going to live as if people mean to harm me.  Crime happens everywhere.  Murders, rapes, robberies.  Accidents do too.  I could be in a car crash later today.  Health crises also happen.  People can die at any time of heart attacks, cancer, strokes.  We’ve had mass shootings and terrorist acts within the US by citizens.  I take reasonable precautions, but I don’t live my life thinking about these things.  If I did, I wouldn’t have much of a life.

My point is that the terrorists who seek to control us are no different than any other bad people.  The fact that they say they’re motivated by religion doesn’t change their behaviors.  They’re bullies.  And we can’t give in to bullies.  Bullies want your fear.  They want you to see their faces everywhere you go.

Most refugees are just people, wanting to live a life free from fear, with their loved ones.  Some of them are selfish, and some of them are selfless.  Some of them are pleasant and polite.  Others are rude and entitled.  In other words, they’re pretty much like people everywhere.  We need to start focusing on the fact that groups are made up of diverse individuals.

A Muslim man in Paris stood blindfolded with a sign asking people to hug him if they were willing to trust him.  And many people did.  People who harm others aren’t motivated by religion or ideologies.  They might say they are, but it’s an excuse.  People who want to harm others are motivated by hate and fear.

Here’s a link to some Syrian refugees who live in the US.  They talk about coming to the US so that they can be safe.

I want to be clear:  I’m not offering an opinion on whether or not we should accept the refugees.  The reason I’m not offering that opinion is the there are a lot of factors to take into account, and I don’t feel that I’ve done enough research on the potential financial and social ramifications to offer an opinion in a public forum.  What I am asking of my readers is to take a critical look at their attitudes and beliefs.  Don’t allow hate and fear to influence decisions.  Let’s talk about facts and make decisions based on logic, not emotion.

It seems like every time we turn around, people are doing awful things to other people.  Terrorists set bombs and kill people.  Police harm people.  Racism happens.  Politicians lie and sling mud.  We see these things in the news, so it seems like this is how people are, that it’s the norm.

Some people put me down because I don’t watch/ read the news regularly.  I don’t keep abreast of current events.  When I try to speak on a subject, I’m accused of not knowing what I’m talking about.

Not watching/ reading the news is a deliberate choice.  Much of what’s reported by large news sites is the worst of the worst about humanity.  No wonder people are suspicious of others.  No wonder people don’t want to help their neighbors.

I saw a meme this morning about people saying that others should help homeless vets before bringing in refugees.  That allowing refugees into the US will also bring terrorists.  The problem with this line of thinking is that our government isn’t doing a lot to help homeless vets.  When we see photos and hear about the problems of homelessness with our veterans, it’s heartbreaking and overwhelming.  People don’t know where to start to help.

A church in Portland opened a small homeless shelter for vets and allows them to bring their dogs.

A program in West Virginia helps veterans pay rent so that they don’t become homeless.

Here’s a news article about a police officer who bought a homeless man shoes.

Here’s an article about a homeless man providing food to other homeless people. 

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

-Edmund Burke

The other day, I was at a traffic light and was approached by a man who handed me a slip of paper saying that he was soliciting money for a homeless shelter.  It looks legit, and it has a website.  Whether or not it is legit, I usually give people $1 or $2.  Why do I do that?  They could be drug addicts.  They could be running a scam.  They could be whatever.

True.  But what if they’re not?  What if that $1 means they can get a meal or a bottle of water?  What if it means they have bus fare to get to a job interview?

I can afford that dollar.  I never give anything I can’t afford.  Not money, time, energy, love, etc.  So I won’t be upset if I find out it was used for something I don’t approve of.  Even if that person is going to use the money for alcohol or drugs, maybe my giving it to him or her prevents them from breaking into someone’s car later that night.  Maybe it prevents them from stealing a purse.  I don’t know.  I don’t have all the answers.  But I’d rather assume the best about people.

I don’t feel that it’s okay for you to complain unless you’re helping.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be doing big things.  You could give one person a pair of shoes or an apple.  It’s east to say “someone else” should do it.  They should; you’re right.  But they’re not.  And if you aren’t either, then you’re part of the problem.

This has become kind of a long post, and I have more to say, so I’m going to talk about the refugees tomorrow.

I’d love to have a discussion, so please, if you have thoughts on this, leave a comment.


When Writing Isn’t Fun

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I mostly love to write.  Putting words on paper to communicate an idea is exciting for me.

Last week, I came back to blogging after taking an unexpected month off.  It’s just that writing wasn’t fun for a little while.  I’m fighting with my novel.

I wrote a novel, and I thought it was pretty good.  I thought it was mostly finished.  Then I had my critique partner read it, and his feedback was unexpected.  He didn’t feel that the main character had growth or change, and made suggestions for changes.  A lot of changes.

At first I was upset.  I wanted to disagree.  I learned early on in getting critiques that not every criticism is valid.  A lot of it boils down to differences in taste.  I like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and you prefer vanilla nonfat yogurt.

(That’s not even ice cream.)

But in doing some critical thinking about the book, I had to agree with him.  So I went back and tried to make changes.

And I ran into stumbling block after stumbling block.  The story is no longer fun, and I don’t feel like the characters are talking to me anymore.  I’ve tried all the usual things I do to start a conversation with them, but they’re remaining stubbornly silent.  The story just isn’t going anywhere.

In the past month, while I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been trying to write that story.  Trying is very different than succeeding.  Or, in the immortal words of Yoda,

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

Yeah, he was so right about that.

I have other novels that would like my attention, but putting aside the one I’m working on feels like giving up.  I’m not a quitter, so I don’t want to stop working on it.  When do I admit that taking a break from it might be a good thing?

I think that time is now.  Putting it aside and quitting aren’t the same thing.  I’ll come back to it.  After all, I’ve been trying (on and off) to write that particular novel for about 20 years.  It will keep.

In the meantime, I’ve learned some things about plot and conflict that I hadn’t thought through in the past.  I’ve always taken the lazy approach to writing, figuring that because writing comes easily, I never had to learn the mechanics.  I honestly think that’s why I’ve never completed a novel I’m happy with.

I’ve written three novels (if you don’t count the three I wrote as a teenager).  All three of those novels have critical plot issues.  Yes, they can be revised.  But as with everything else in life, it seems harder to revise a novel than it would be to write the damn thing correctly the first time.

So here I go, off to a new and different project.  Maybe after putting this one in a drawer for six months, I’ll come back to it with a fresh eye and new energy for editing.

Poetry and Me

Johns Hopkins Inlet, Alaska

Johns Hopkins Inlet, Alaska

I fell in love with my first poem in elementary school.  I probably read other poems, but the first one that really touched me was one I found in a book.  The book was The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.  In the book 11-year-old Gilly is a troubled foster child.  She ends up with a woman who won’t give up on her.

At one point, Gilly is asked to read a poem to her elderly, blind neighbor.  The poem is an excerpt from Ode, by William Wordsworth.  The poem is over 200 lines long, but less than 20 were included in the book.  Of course, I didn’t know that because these were pre-internet days.  What I did know was that the poem felt like it spoke to me, reached down inside and touched a special chord.  I read that poem over and over.  It was the first poem I transcribed in a spiral notebook of poems and snippets of text I liked.  I can still recite the excerpt today.

We were taught to analyze poetry in my high school, so I may have developed a love of poetry anyway, but I have to imagine that there was something special about being introduced to it so young, and on my own.  No one told me to like it.  No one directed me to analyze it for a grade.  It was all about me and my relationship with the prose.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, as I write my novel.  In it, I have one of the main characters quote lines of poetry and prose.  She does this maybe a half dozen times.  My critique partner hates it.  His argument is that you shouldn’t need to use someone else’s words to invoke an emotion.

I’m torn.  His argument makes sense, and yet… I remember what it was like to discover Wordsworth as a child, to find that pure love of something that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.  It still would have been a good book without those lines, but with them, for me, it became something akin to magic.

How do you feel about poems, quotes, or song lyrics in books?

Rekindling that Flame

Yay, fire!

Yay, fire!

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent from blogging for almost a month now, and before that, I’d been pretty inconsistent.  I’d still been working on my novel, sorta.  Actually, I wanted to work on it more than I actually did.

I’d sit down at my computer, then stare at the screen for awhile.  I’d type something.  No, I don’t like that.  Delete.  Type something else.  No, I don’t like that either.  Maybe I should go back and edit the beginning.  Maybe that will get the creativity flowing.  It got to the point where I’d more or less paralyzed myself.

I’m one of those people who either does it all, or does nothing.  So I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t editing.  I wasn’t blogging.  I wasn’t getting much productive done in my personal life either.  My motivation was completely blah.

For me, I have to get to a crisis point in order for anything to change, and I got there last week.  I decided I was a crappy writer and maybe it was time to just give up.  Stop writing my novel.  Stop writing short stories.  Stop blogging.  Just enjoy reading other people’s work and realize that not everyone can be a writer.

Lucky for me, I woke up the next morning and though, “Well that’s bullshit.”

Excuse my language.

Maybe my novel isn’t ready to publish today, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be next week or next month or next year.  Maybe it will be ready when I’m 90 years old.  Who cares?  I enjoy writing.

I’ve had a few short stories published.  I enjoy writing them, and it’s good practice.  So even if I never have another one published, writing as a hobby is much better than playing hours of Candy Crush.  While I do enjoy Candy Crush, I can’t call it productive.

And blogging?  Well, it’s good practice too.  Through my blog, I’ve connected with other cool writers.  And who knows? Maybe my words will encourage someone else who’s going through a similar crisis.

I’m writing a story, and in it, bullying is a central plot point.  It’s YA, and my main character is overweight and the target of a few girls.  My critique partner (a young man) said that he thinks my characters are meaner than what would happen in real life, and that when he was in high school, bullying wasn’t that prevalent.

It started to make me wonder if the world has gotten nicer.  I see a lot of encouraging things out there, like the Dove commercials which encourage us to love our bodies the way they are.  On Humans of New York, people rally around anyone who says they were bullied, encouraging them.

And then I saw this article.  It’s about a woman who was picked on by two adult women while she was buying coffee and donuts.  They said disparaging things about her weight and her hair.  It reminded me of the time I was at a buffet, and a friend and I were bickering in a friendly way about my vegetarianism, when a woman said “all the vegetarians I know are fat anyway.”

When I saw that article this morning, I realized that these things are still happening.  They don’t happen to everyone.  They don’t happen all the time.  But they do happen, and for people who are bullied, those incidents matter.  In the same way that every kindness matters, so does every incident of meanness.

It brought something else into focus for me.  I have a few friends who are people of color, and talk about racism.  I have one in particular who’s adamantly on the side that racism happens and that we need to talk about it.  And I have another who’s adamantly on the other side, that the people who’ve been “victims” of racism were doing something wrong.  I’m not here to argue either side, but what it made me realize that just because it didn’t happen to one person doesn’t mean it’s still not happening.  If it happened to one person, we still have a problem.  If it happened to one person who spoke up, how many people did it happen to who stayed silent?

I don’t know what the solution to racism, sexism, body shaming (because it’s not just about being fat… thin people are shamed too!), etc. is.  I just know that we need to keep talking about it.  And the next time someone says that it’s happening, don’t automatically assume that just because you’ve never seen it happen, it’s not true.

We all live in our own little world, but the world is a much bigger and more complicated place than our little piece of it.  If we expect to have any understanding of it, we need to listen to and support one another.  Don’t be silent, and don’t expect others to be silent.  Only by talking about things in the shadows can we shed light on them.

Happy Friday!

_DSF4864Movers help domestic violence victims move for free.  It’s a service offered by some moving companies in some states.

A woman strips down to her underwear and encourages people to draw hearts on her body to promote positive body image.  Another woman did the same thing, because she wondered if it would be as positive an experience for an overweight woman, and it was.  I love this, and hope that it helps people accept themselves and others.

An officer gets a dose of appreciation when a child insists on buying his breakfast.

Camping with dogs is a new Instagram thing.  I love it because it combines two of my favorite things.  Check out the dog in the backpack… too cute!

Nonprofit organization builds Halloween costumes around wheelchairs so that kids with disabilities can have cool costumes.

Change your focus; change your attitude.  Good news is all around us, if you’re willing to see it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

It’s Friday, the start of the weekend.  Keep your focus positive, and remember that there are many amazing people out there.

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Police in Massachusetts are using money seized from drug dealers to fund rehab for people who come to the police station and voluntarily turn in their drugs.  They’ve helped over 100 addicts in two month.  This is an amazing program that focuses on helping people rather than punishing them.

A 9 year-old stood up to protesters at a gay pride parade.  I’m not a fan of when people respond to peaceful protesters in a hateful way; I think that’s an example of being intolerant of other people’s opinions.  However, I think this kid responded to the protesters in exactly the right way.  He stood in front of their signs with a bunch of balloons, blocking them so they couldn’t be read.  No hatefulness or negativity was exchanged.  You go, kiddo!

Doctors are studying near-death experiences, and showing that people experience something after the brain stops functioning.  Very interesting article if you’re interested in learning more about this.

Formerly abused dogs, many of them used in dogfighting, show that they deserve a second chance.  This is a story about dogs who’ve been rescued and shown that they can overcome the past.

The Rock is someone who appears in the news from time to time as a good-guy-celebrity.  He recently spoke at the graduation of inmates from a voluntary prison boot camp program.  This was my first time hearing about it, but in Florida, they’ve allowed some men convicted of crimes to attend a boot camp to help them become better citizens, rather than serve sentences in prison.  Where do I start to gush about how wonderful this is?  I could go on and on, but many studies show that prison sentences don’t deter crime.  Programs that rehabilitate do.  *stepping off soapbox*

Be amazing today.  Smile at someone for no reason.  Be forgiving instead of judgmental.  Be the best you that you can be today.

A rare picture of the artist Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona Photo Credit: RJS Photos

A rare picture of the artist
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: RJS Photos

There’s a lot of bad news in the world.  It’s in my Facebook feed all the time.  It’s on the headline at Yahoo.  Sometimes I feel compelled to read more, and I always sort of regret it later.  It makes me anxious, upset, angry.  And those emotions would be fine, if I felt like I could do anything about what’s going on in the world.  I can’t.  Well, not anything more than what I already do, anyway.

My goal in life is to spread sunshine wherever I can.  I seek out and share good news.  I smile at strangers.  I hope that strangers won’t talk to me, as I really am antisocial, but if they do, I listen.  I try to maintain a positive attitude as often as possible.

That’s what I can do.

I know some people feel like they have to watch or read news in order to be aware of what’s going on in the world.  They feel they have to be informed, and that’s fine, if that works for them.

My goal has always been to treat people as I expect them to act.  My theory is that if you treat people like jerks, they act like jerks.  If you treat them like human beings worthy of respect, then they tend to act that way too.  I’ve been called naive for that attitude, and I’m okay with that.  Truthfully, I run into more good people than bad.  Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe there’s something to my attitude.

If I watch the news, I start to think badly of my fellow man.  According to the news, everyone is up to no good, judging others on race, color, sexual orientation, sexual identity.  If I believe the news, cops are out to kill people of color and dogs, abusing power and getting away with it.

I’m sure there are some bad people out there, but I think that most people who do bad things do so because they’re sick at heart.  That’s not an excuse, and I’m certainly not going to let people take advantage of me.  But my point is that there are very few people who are truly evil.  I choose to focus on good people, and if I find a rotten apple in my barrel of relationships, I get rid of it.  it’s not my responsibility to change anyone who doesn’t want to change.  Or, as one of my favorite quotes goes:

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”


I’ll focus on the good stuff and spread positivity.  That’s how I choose to make the world a better place.  It may not be much, but it’s what I can do.

Waterfall in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Waterfall in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we desperately want to make our words understood, but for whatever reason, the person we’re speaking to can’t hear us.  It’s a definite temptation to get louder, more animated, and more insistent.  I can tell you that from my own experience, and from what others have told me, it almost never works.

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

― Rumi

This is such a lovely quote for so many reasons.  First off, it’s true.  Second, I want to be the person who meets every situation with grace and poise.  I’ll never forget the story of the man who tried to publicly shame a Sikh woman on Reddit, and instead of responding with anger (which would have been totally justified), she responded in such a beautiful way that even though I read this story three years ago, it still hasn’t lost its impact on me.

I aspire to be the rain.

As you start your Monday, take a moment to think about who you want to be, and then remember that as you go forward and interact with the world.


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