Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Letter To My Muslim Patients From a Nurse

I do not work in a traditional nursing role. I am a public health nurse who goes into low-income areas and serves those in need. Many of my patients are refugees and immigrants but I also serve many who were born in this country. In a single day I may meet with five different families, each with a different language, skin color, culture and faith. I can say without reservation that this job is both the hardest nursing job that I've ever had and the most rewarding.

The most eye-opening part of this job has been getting to know so many different cultures, traditions and faiths. It has been such a great blessing in my life. Getting to know my Muslim patients has most certainly been one of those wonderful blessings.

I know that in post-election America, there is much uncertainty right now. I know that many groups of people, including those of the Muslim faith, are scared. I know. My refugee patients are scared. My immigrant patients are scared. My LGBT patients are scared. So many of us are frightened. And, yet- so much of the hate has been focused directly on you-- my Muslim patients.

You have told me during my patient visits that you are anxious for your children and if they will be harmed, panicked at the possibility of a Muslim registry and what that may mean for you, terrified to wear your hijabs in public and are sometimes simply too full of fear to leave your home at all. I am so terribly sorry for your sorrow and fear. In the past two weeks I have left our visits with a sinking pit of shame in my stomach for what the hate that is pervasive in this post-election country is doing to people that I care so much about.

If you are my patient, I have already told you that I care for you and that will you will always receive the same quality of care as that given to my other patients. I have hugged you and assured you that the election results will not impact our visits when you voiced concern. But, there is so much more that I want you to know.

I know that your faith is not one of violence and that the actions of a few do not represent the whole. According to the Pew Research Center, the population of Muslims around the world in 2010 was 1.6 billion. Yes, I said billion. If the growth of the Muslim population continues at the projected rate, by 2030 they will encompass a full quarter of the world's population. And yet, the violent actions of those in the name of the Islamic religion are few and far between. I know that as a Christian, I am not discriminated against each time that someone of the Christian faith commits a violent crime(which happens frequently) and, yet- you as a Muslim are discriminated against for each and every infraction of those who share your faith. It saddens me deeply that so many can judge you, my beloved patients who have shown me so much love and hospitality, for something that you had no control over and are as horrified by as we are.

You have the right to health care, education and all basic human rights and deserve that such things are provided by those whose judgment is unclouded by political judgment or discrimination of any kind.  I will provide that for you and so will the vast majority of other public servants. If you at any time feel that you are provided sub-par health care, education, safety services provided by police officers or fire fighters, etcetera; I hope that you will find the courage to speak out. I hope even more that you will never need to speak out as it is my firm belief that those serving the public should have the hearts of servants of ALL people.

I know that mental health impacts every facet of your life and that living within fear means that your mental health and physical health will be impacted each and every day while we persist in this volatile and discriminatory post-election world. I know that you may need more support through this time and I am determined to give that to you. You do not deserve these burdens placed on your already weary shoulders and I will do my best to stand beside you and help you in any way to shoulder that burden with you. I implore you to ask for help if you need it.

I know that we cannot lump any section of humanity together and imagine that they are all the same. As human beings, we are all originals and are unique. However, my time working with the Muslim population has led me to believe that those of the Islam faith as a whole are extraordinary people. I have never seen such hospitality before as I have seen going into the homes of my Muslim clients.  You may have very little and yet you will offer me the last food in your fridge, the only chair in your home and likely would offer me the very shirt off of your back if you felt that I needed it. I have never felt anything but love in the homes of my Muslim patients that I have been welcomed into. I am a kinder and gentler person because of you.

I believe that my job as your nurse does not end when our visit is completed. As a nurse, it is my job to advocate for my patients, especially those who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves.  I believe that all oppressive structures, such as the talk of a Muslim registry and  of the disallowing of Muslims into our country, should be decimated. I believe that you have every right to the same rights as every other human being in this country. I am not Muslim but I am committed to standing up beside you in every way that I can to ensure your safety.  When I casted my non-Trump vote on election day, I was not only voting for myself and my families, but I was voting for you, my patients, as well. I did not take that vote likely. I have been spending my days calling my elected officials on my lunch breaks to protest Bannon's appointment and any talk of a Muslim registry. I know that this is not enough. I promise to not stop my work until we all have equal rights. I know that as a straight white Christian woman that I can never understand what it like to be discriminated against for who I am but I will keep trying to eradicate the hate.

This letter will not solve your problems by any stretch of the imagination. It will not solve anything at all. I only wish to be a tiny light of love in your life in a time of great divisiveness and hate. I only wish to bring you a small amount of the love and joy that you, by being my patients and thus a part of my life, have brought me. I wish that I could also bring you peace. I promise to do all that I can to make that peace happen for you someday.

I stand beside you, my Muslim friends and patients, with love.

Nurse Mandi

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Design the Good

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Some of you may remember that I recently designed a submission for the Design the Good t-shirt design contest at Cents of Style. I was hoping to earn some money for a local organization that feeds hungry children. My design isn't a finalist(darn it!), but I'm sharing the ones that are because I love them!

I won't make a habit of putting merchandise up on this blog. This blog is mostly a place for raw and real writing that hopefully moves people and helps others to feel less alone. I would also like to start sharing items that fit with my internal desire to project love out into the world and support businesses that make a habit of helping others, like Cents of Style does.

Here are some of the finalists that did get their t-shirts made this year!

I own multiple t-shirts from Cents of Style and they are cozy and true to fit. Here is a picture of me in one of my favorites because, darn it- normal IS boring!

My favorite of the Design the Good finalists I think is the 'We are strong' shirt because I need that reminder most days. Which one is your favorite? Feel free to comment below. 

If you want to pick one of these shirts up you can go here. Be sure to use the coupon code 'DTG1' to make the shirt only 16.95 with free shipping. 

If you buy one, I'd love to see a picture of you wearing it, Loves! 

Be the good in the worlds, Dear Ones. We need the good more than ever. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Love Cannot Trump Hate if We Are Silent

I am scared. Yes, even as a white woman living in suburban Iowa, I am scared. I am scared as a sexual assault survivor. I am scared as someone who works with refugees and immigrants. I am scared as someone that loves many in the LGBT community. I am scared as someone with Muslim friends. I am scared as someone who loves many people of color. I am scared for my hispanic friends and co-workers. I am just plain scared.

I am terrified for the rash of violence and hate that has risen up in this country. For the people that now feel free to use painful words, to grab women "by the pussy" without permission, to scrawl graffiti aimed at those in oppressed populations. I'm terrified for my friend that had her hijab pulled off, for my son's classmate that was told to "go back to Africa", for my Hispanic friend whose classmates chanted "build a wall" as she walked in the lunchroom.

What scares me even more than the actions of hate, if such a thing is even possible, is those that are choosing to be silent in the wake of these actions. Those who are are decrying and denouncing the right to peaceful protest and asking the media to not cover the outrage. Those who are asking for Facebook to again be full of children's pictures and puppies because they don't want to look discomfort in the eye. Those mocking those who are hurting instead of wrapping them in love. Those who I thought would stand firmly beside me that are so painfully silent.

We must not be silent when violence against any our brothers and sisters is present(yes, this includes Trump supporters. Violence against anyone is wrong). We must not be silent when the anti-LGBT, anti-people of color, anti-Muslim slurs are used. We must stand beside them, especially those like myself that are straight, white Americans that have never experienced such hate against ourselves.

We must not go quietly into this dark night. We must not be silent.

How many of us have asked ourselves or had our children ask us what we would have done if we had lived in the time of Hitler's Germany. This is our time to find our answer. Will we be silent as others are persecuted for who they are or will we stand beside them? Will we allow for those who are different from us to have the same freedoms as us or we will allow them to have their rights stripped away?

We must not be violent. We must not be hateful. We also must not be silent.

This isn't about politics. This is about people. People who are hurting and scared and suffering.

No matter your political affiliation or the vote that was cast, I ask you to find the tiny place inside yourself that knows that we all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I ask that you stand firmly when you see hate or injustice. No, it's not always going to be easy-- nothing that matters ever is. A silent ambassador of peace and love is not an ambassador at all. 

I know many of you are scared. You are not alone.  I promise to stand beside you. It is not enough, I know. But, I promise to not be silent. I promise to raise children who will also stand beside you and not be silent. I promise to rise up and be a light in the darkness.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I Choose Love

I was speaking with one of my co-workers today, a woman who was once a refugee from Sudan. I asked if she was scared. 
There was a pregnant pause and then she asked if I was on Facebook. I replied yes and she asked if I've seen all the funny things on Facebook since the election ended.
I was confused. I replied that I've seen hate and anger and sadness, but not funny posts. 
She proceeded to tell me, while laughing heartily, about posts where black people paint themselves white and Barack Obama packs his bags to leave the country after seeing that Trump is elected president. 
This time I was the one with the pregnant pause. I replied that I didn't find those things funny but I was glad that she was able to find joy in this.
Her face hardened and she leaned into me and said, "I have seen what hate can do and I am choosing laughter instead of fear." 
I have officially been schooled by someone with a larger capacity for love than I. I'm choosing love over fear in honor of my refugee friends, coworkers and patients. You inspire me to the ends of the earth. You make this country the amazing place that it is. I love you.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Invisibility is Not a Superpower

I remember the days before motherhood when I believed that invisibility would be the superpower that I would choose if I were given the option to choose any superpower at all.  As an introvert who is often exhausted by large groups of people, the idea of disappearing at will has always appealed to me. In fact, I often joke that having Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak at large parties would be a godsend as my personality tends to send me into a lone corner avoiding conversation at all cost.

Motherhood has been a great joy for me and I am so grateful for my three wonderful children and all that they have taught me. However, my time as a wife and mother has also been a study in invisibility. I have lost myself inside the busyness and the role of motherhood.

My children and my husband love me- I know this to be true. But, so much of my daily actions are unnoticed. I wake early to clean, make breakfast and help the kids get ready for school, go to work for the day and come home to run kids to activities, clean, make dinner, run errands and the myriad of other duties for the day.  It is never-ending and exhausting.  I don’t believe that my husband or children have any idea just how much I do for them and for the household—and I imagine that I have some responsibility for that fact, as well.

 I have gratefully given up so much of myself for my family and wouldn’t change that for anything. I love my children and would do anything to help them to be healthy and happy. However, it would be nice to just be seen—to truly be seen for who I am as a person and not simply for the contributions and sacrifices that I make for this family.

There are times that I will speak (ahem, holler) to my family to help me with something—cleaning, cooking, etc.  Many times no one will answer me. In fact, some days it seemed that most everything that I have said within the walls of my own home fall on deaf ears, whether it be a request for help, an opinion or an ‘I love you’.  I have begun to wonder if I am, indeed, invisible.

In fact, this invisibility seems pervasive and happens outside of the home, as well. As a mother, I think the world tends to marginalize me as simple and void of important opinion. In a college course that I once took, the teacher asked us all to say what the most important thing we had ever done was. I immediately answered that being a loving mother would be the most important job of my life. My reply was greeted with laughter from around the room. The room, full of mostly single men, seemed to find my response hilarious—disbelieving that this would be a job of pride for me.

And so,  living inside of this invisibility for the fifteen years that I have been a mother has made me realize that invisibility-- the idea of which has fascinated me for years-- is not the superpower that I imagined it to be. It is painful and lonely. There are days when I wonder if anyone would notice if I was missing from the world or if only the pile of unwashed dishes and the empty cupboards would be noticed.

I no longer know who I am without a litany of daily tasks before me. I am lost somewhere underneath the never-ending to-do list, the invisibility of a strong-willed and opinionated woman lost underneath an anonymous life of repetitive motions, unseen by the words at-large.

I am in here, underneath this cloak of namelessness. I am crying out to be seen. I renounce the “superpower” of invisibility and instead choose the power of voice. I am ready to be heard.