Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Authentic Validation

Last week, I attended the 96th Annual Conference for the Illinois Municipal League. This is an organization run by and for municipal officers throughout the state of Illinois. Truly a great conference, especially for me as a newly elected official. I was particularly motivated by the keynote speaker from our general session.

Christopher Gardner, the NY Times Bestselling author of his autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness and subject of the 2006 film starring Will Smith of the same name, was the headliner sponsored by Walgreens. I just blogged on my political blog - "that Mr. Gardner was worth every penny Walgreens paid to bring him to us."

He spoke about "Breaking Cycles" and MAN, did he strike a cord with me. From the very basic to extremely complex - I can relate to this man on many fronts. I sat there captivated as he spoke. Often times - I'd swear he was talking directly to me. Not in a "sermon from the pastor" sort of way but literally as he spoke of taking responsibility for his life and his decisions- some of which landed him on the streets of San Francisco homeless with a 14 month old baby boy- and asking us to do the same - there was a validation of my current journey happening in my heart and in my mind and I would guess that he saw that in my eyes as he spoke. (I was sitting in the third row on the end of a row of seats right in the diagonal eye shot of Mr. Gardner as he spoke and paced in front of the ballroom that could have seated at least 600-700 people) As the whole room stood giving him the standing ovation - I vaguely remember him pointing in my direction and thanking me (and/or perhaps Emeka from East St. Louis who sat right next to me and shouted "C'mon" with a cadence as if we were in church) for truly standing with him this day. It was thrilling and quite possibly all in my head but I don't think so.

It's interesting because the cycles that Mr. Gardner spoke of breaking were quite different from the ones I am working to break in my life but the spirit was/is the same. If there is something in your life or in your history that you don't want to see repeated- get busy working on the solution to break the cycle and rewrite the history books for your descendants.

I am on it. In a big way at that.

Dictionary says validation means the act or process of validating. Validate means to recognize, establish or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of....

Christopher Gardner, I thank you. For you validating the journey I am on to transform my life and the lives of my kids and their kids by doing the following:

Cultivating and growing a mutually respectful and loving lifelong partnership with my husband and their dad

Establishing multiple streams of income utilizing my God-given talents to secure an inheritance that will enable them to start their adult lives without debt (or a sense of entitlement)

Demonstrating to them the fruits of living within your means and a sense of responsibility to the greater good of those around me as much as to ourselves in our immediate household

Serving both in government and my church as a leader who gives of their talents as much as they profit with them

By accomplishing these small yet powerful goals, I will have successfully started new cycles by which my children can strive to build.

I am on my way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tone Matters

We've all heard the saying, "Let's agree to disagree"

Perhaps, you've even said it on occasion.

I have observed (much more so) since I mounted a campaign and won public office earlier this year what the new spirit of "Let's agree to disagree" means.

In today's world - "Let's agree to disagree" should read...

Let's agree that I am right and you are wrong and nothing you say will remotely change my mind and further, I don't even respect the idea that anyone who disagrees with me is (sane - moral - you-fill-in-the-blank) SO you must be an idiot.

Maybe that is dramatic but that is the vibe I get these days and it is unbelievably sad. Sad but not any way discouraging me and it should not discourage you.

We can change this.

One full week removed, I want to quickly reference a "conversation" I had with someone on an Internet forum. The tone of the "conversation" fluctuated from righteous to defensive to wow - someone with a different experience and frame of reference does have something intelligent to say. Throughout the exchange - it was exhausting and at times felt tedious but it was OH SO NECESSARY. We finished the conversation not having "won each other over" or singing kumbaya but we commended each party for the willingness to have the difficult conversation and went on with our lives. Enlightened. We even influenced others who watched silently and (not so silently) as it played out right there on a Facebook comment string.

We must come to place where we can speak or exchange ideas that are wildly different from ours and walk away uninjured.

It's possible.

Here's how I go about it... maybe can adopt one or all of these suggestions.

1. Be open

This seems so obvious but must be said. Go into a conversation or forum to learn and hear. This is especially true if you troll the Internet on sites you know contradict your views. I find that when I interact with people from a different point of view it strengthens me and sharpens my view. Sometimes - I even learn something and change my view.

2. Think about learning/teaching, not winning

Most of us have the capacity to pass or absorb knowledge - that should be the objective when engaging in conversations especially with those who think differently than you do. Do you really think "facting" someone to death and calling them stupid for not getting it will further your view or cause?
3. Be aware of your language

This is big. There are so many buzz words or phrases out there today that start fires. Race Card. Liberal. Conservative. Religious Right. Illegals. I could go on and on.

We all know the danger of using language unwisely. Rush Limbaugh, James Carville, Lou Dobbs and many others do it all day and make a great living at it. Don't fall into this trap. Be aware and informed of the origins and true meaning of the words and/or phrases you say or write.
Surely there are more techniques for navigating this but these are three I use.

Actually, there is one more. Micah 6:8.

"The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you; to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others and live humbly, obeying your God."

That is the New Century Version translation - I use an abbreviated paraphrase to remember

Act Justly - Love Mercy - Walk Humbly

When I remember that every time I enter these exchanges the outcome is considerably different.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Authentic Impression

Exactly nine days later and no change.

I am still in awe of the U2 360 show.

I've said to anyone who will listen - not only was the show magnificent but it was cool to share it with Isael.

This was his first U2 show and it was like experiencing them for the first time through his eyes.

By now, you've seen the pictures of the claw and heard the stories. It was everything you've heard.

U2 is the real deal.

They love their craft.

They love their fans.

We love them.

Nine days later - I am changed because of the time we spent together. The Barretos with U2.

And me with my love, Isael.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze, A man who adored his wife his entire life

The title of my blog is how I choose to honor the late Patrick Swayze.

Interestingly - as news spread of his death, my first reaction was to quick shoot up a prayer for his wife, Lisa Niemi who, in that instant, lost the love of her life.

Of course, I loved his work - Dirty Dancing, Point Break, Too Wong Fu and Outsiders in that exact order.

But I have long admired his devotion to his marriage. 30 years. In Hollywood, that is rare. Actually that is rare, period.

What an amazing story he and Lisa must have! From what has been reported, they had many ups and downs like most couples. Miscarriages. Alcoholism. Rehab.

Yet, they remained together and faced his toughest battle - pancreatic cancer, together.

In 1989 - I wanted to be like Patrick - dance, act and do what I loved for a living

Now, in honor of his memory, I want to be like Patrick again.

Only this time, I want to devote my all to having a successful marriage. For a lifetime.

Just like Patrick did.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Recognize an Authentic Miracle

Today I witnessed (and was beneficiary to) a carefully orchestrated miracle.

Each player had no idea their role.

Normally the ever optimist - I struggled today to shake an icky feeling.

A friend more than 1000 miles away does a favor for another friend.

A regular Facebook checker, I slacked heavily today, finally checking it at precisely the moment necessary.

The stars were aligned and then, there was the rejection.

Instead of my normal type-A response - I was unusually calm and really (for the first time truly) let go... I trusted that He knew what was best and sat and waited.

I did not move or make a plan or call in for back ups.

Nor did I plead for a miracle.

I waited.

With my eyes wide open.

No joke - within 10 minutes, my miracle had arrived. Complete - signed, sealed, delivered.

The best part of all this - I RECOGNIZED IT.

I didn't go on and on about coincidences or revel in how awesome everything "fell into place"

I looked my miracle in the eye and received it for what it was.

A miracle sent to me from my Maker.


In the hour I needed it most.

Thank you, Lord.

Also, thanks to all the players who took part without even knowing they were part of something so much bigger than what appeared before them today.

If you are waiting for a miracle - a big one. Don't close your eyes or give up hope. Your miracle is on the way.

In fact - I would bet there are many small miracles happening to get you to the big miracle. Don't be so focused on the "big one" that you miss all the small ones. Don't dismiss the small miracles, embrace them and honor Him for the small things.

Remember what you do in practice - you do in the game. Same principle here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Authentic Joy

This past week, I checked off another of my 2009 Objectives. Honestly, one that I was convinced had eluded me - see this post if you don't believe me.

The week started off brutal - I had crazy sinus issues and could not shake them as the day approached. Left work early Tuesday, went to bed at 7:30, took lots of medicine with pseudoephedrine (you know the kind you have to show ID to buy) and prayed for the best.

Well the best arrived in the way of an awesome opportunity to speak to the Sport Illinois Huddle 2009.

It was a great morning and I believe I struck a nerve with my many "main points". The pace of the talk was good, interaction was high and I was well within my time constraints with plenty of time for participant questions and not nearly enough time to network when I was finished. I was "at home" at the podium Wednesday morning.

What has really resonated with me for the rest of the week is this - I still did not wake up feeling that great but the moment I took the podium - the adrenaline carried me and I was well for the 45 minutes I spoke. I even generated enough adrenaline to fuel me through a previously planned afternoon activity with about 25 of my closest work partners.

That ONLY happens when you do something you love. Something that brings you authentic joy.

Dictionary says joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

Yes - it was satisfying to accomplish something I set out to do this year. Without question.

However - it was sheer joy to be transferring knowledge to the attendees of the Sports Illinois Huddle 2009.

I love doing that and will look forward to creating more opportunities to do so.