duplicity. duplicity everywhere.
whenever words and actions conflict, the actions carry the stronger – truer – message.

The following excerpt came to me via private message a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election:

“I enjoy a political discussion with someone who actually thinks, explores, and discusses – regardless of where we may agree or not. Although I couldn’t be more against Trump, I’ve invested in listening to him, tried to understand his positions, and tried to understand why his supporters can be so passionate.”

Mind you, this is just an excerpt – from which I gathered that the underlying assumption of this person was that I both supported Trump and that I was passionate about it. As I continued reading the rest of the message, I remembered something I saw in my facebook feed just a few days before I received this message. A quick click to their facebook wall. A few taps of the PgDn button on my keyboard and I found it.

A video meme with the caption: “REPUBLICANS RUSH TO CAST THEIR VOTES FOR DONALD TRUMP” and the looped video shows a big black hole in the middle of a vast field – with people speed walking straight toward it from all directions, their arms straight down by their sides to indicate a hypnotized zombie-like state. All the Trump voters were speed walking straight into a big black pit. You choose the message:
Are they sleepwalking?
Are they mindless and not paying attention?
Are they too blind to see the pit?
Are they just too stupid to avoid falling into it?
Or are they all insane because they are intentionally pit-bound?
(I won’t promote the video on my blog by embedding it. Here’s the link: if you want to add to the 3.1+ million views.)

As I watched the video on this person’s facebook wall loop over and over again and tried to reconcile it with the sentiment expressed in their private message, I suddenly heard Valerie’s voice yelling at Miracle Max:

See, I learned years ago that

whenever words and actions conflict, the actions carry the stronger – truer – message.

let me say that again.

whenever words and actions conflict, the actions carry the stronger – truer – message.

In this particular instance, the action of taking time and effort to post that video – and the mindset and motivation that led to posting that video – sent a stronger message than the seemingly patronizing invitation to be listened to with an attempt to “understand.”

#backtoyouValerie

And that video meme/private message dichotomy was NOT the only duplicity I was inundated with at that time – or since that time. Over the last year, there have been countless – and I sincerely mean COUNTless – posts by friends and family members mocking and deriding those who hold a different opinion than they do – on many issues. But IRL (in-real-life) conversations have been completely devoid of any acknowledgement that they hold strong negative opinions about people or that they expressed those opinions online by attacking “those people” with sarcasm, ridicule and outright contempt.

Not all who posted were 100% duplicitous. Some, (again assuming I was a “passionate Trump supporter”) actually blocked and/or unfriended me online while continuing (albeit awkward, Stepford and insincere) civil interactions with me in real life.

For instance, a family member posted:

“don’t give a f#&% who you are -friend, family, colleague – if you supported this man, unfriend me. Now. You have no place in my life.”

the day before taking the initiative to blatantly unfriend me, assuming I “supported” DT because I had the audacity to express an opinion that was intolerable by commenting that:

“talking about the character of HC and DT was like playing #GlobalThermonuclearWar.”

How that comment branded me a Trump supporter, I still don’t know.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been shunned by a family member because of an unfounded assumption and I only see this person once a year at most so the biggest impact of this particular online unfriending was the significant reduction of the overused and one-size-fits-all adjective “f#&%ing in my facebook news feed.

Of course, duplicity was the unacknowledged elephant in the room when the internet-infused courage of this person deflated like a day old birthday balloon during real life interactions: what happens online, stays online.

Except, it doesn’t.

We do not have compartmentalized lives: online and IRL. Everything we post online is an expression of who we are, what we believe, how we think and how we feel. Online attacks aren’t excused or diminished by someone saying they were “just upset when they posted that.”

Our words and actions, regardless of whether they are online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and our character:

“…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” [emphasis added] #IreadthereforeIquote
C. S. Lewis

People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.
Why would anyone want to engage in conversation with someone who thinks they are stupid?

January 20th [2017].

I should NOT have gone on facebook.

So. much. hate.

contemptuous mocking. sarcasm. ridicule.

Not just for DT, but for everyone who doesn’t overtly hate him.

My facebook feed was toxic, repelling me away.

Post after meme after video after tweet after comment,
reiterating again and again and again and again and again
how stupid and intolerable anyone is if they don’t hate
DT – AND everyone who “supports” him.

I think I’ve actually been grieving. genuinely, profoundly sad.

not because DT is the president.

The long term impact (positive and/or negative) of these next four years is yet to be evidenced.

not because people think I’m [insert contemptuous label here] because I don’t hate the same people they do.

I’ve been hated and shunned for being different before. It’s no fun, but it’s nothing new.

I’m grieving because I can’t un-know what I’ve learned about so many people I genuinely liked and respected:

That they have the capacity to be so callously and unflinchingly VICIOUS towards people who believe differently than they do. And not just because of differences – the actual differences aren’t even being acknowledged, much less discussed. It’s the relentless derisive personal attacks on the character of people who believe differently.

This is the one that finally drove me away:

fbh8te

Burn in Hell? Seriously? Burn in HELL?

This person is saying this to their own facebook friends. People they know personally – and supposedly like. This is not the only post like this from this particular person, much less the only post like this from a number of other people in my facebook feed. and I only have about 300 friends. If I actually unfriended every person who demanded that “unfriend them right now!!” if I don’t hate DT or anyone who voted for him, that number would be even lower. I imagine my facebook feed is not the only one contaminated with this virulent stream of bigotry.

All this blatant cruelty leaves me with these nagging thoughts:

When someone mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns a group of people,

Do they not realize there’s a strong chance they have a personal relationship with someone they would identify as belonging to that group?

And if they do recognize that some of their friends are “those people,” do they not make the connection that they are mocking and ridiculing and condemning their friend? or family member?

Maybe they themselves didn’t mock anyone. Maybe they just liked or commented or shared a post that does.

Do they not realize that the action of liking, commenting and sharing validates the attack?

That it aligns them with the attacker?

stop-hate-peace-signDo they not realize it’s evidence that their “no H8te” duct tape selfie and the “STOP HATE” peace sign they posted are dishonest and betray their true beliefs?

And that despite the safety pin they wore or posted online, a percentage of their friends know that the only reason they are safe from outright attack from the safety pin bearer is that they’ve remained silent. under the radar. out of line of sight.

Not that silence keeps anyone safe from judgment and ostracization. Because lack of commiseration makes you suspect. The solidarity of those who hate DT is stronger than a red rover line of linebackers who just picked their nose. Nobody wants to risk going near that. Better to stay away. where it’s REALLY safe.

As a result, many of my facebook friends have been missing. Silent. For months.

I completely understand.

Why would anyone want to engage in conversation with someone who thinks they are stupid?
Why would anyone make themselves vulnerable to attack by someone who’s evidenced that they prefer to talk ABOUT them as an enemy than WITH them as a friend?

so. What have I’ve been grieving?

The loss of authentic friendships? or the loss of the illusion of those friendships?

The loss of my naivety? or the discovery that I didn’t know people as well as I thought I did.

Maybe people had misrepresented themselves and I only knew the persona they wanted me to know.

Whatever the reason, the breadth and cruelty – and tenacity – of these expressions of hatred and intolerance have genuinely shocked me.

I’m trying to tell myself that, in the long run, it’s better that I know the truth, not only about what some of my friends are capable of, but also what they think of me.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like it’s better.

All that interpersonal destruction aside, the question that comes back to me again and again is this:

When someone attacks, mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns, why is it that the validation of their opinions and beliefs seem to require and thrive on the ridicule of people who hold to different opinions and beliefs? Are the opinions and beliefs not strong enough to stand on their own merit?

“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening so we just ran away.”

It was facebook’s “On This Day” feature that prompted me.

Browsing through all my facebook posts on January 16th from 2010 through 2017 got me thinking. What had I posted on my blog on that date over the past few years?

One click on the drop down arrow of the archive list on my blog led me to the image above.

At first glance, it appeared I had only published posts during April, May and September of 2017. When I looked the listing of all my posts in chronological order, I realized I actually only published THREE POSTS in total last year.

But then I noticed this:

133 drafts. Admittedly, not all dated 2017. I didn’t do much writing last year. I scrolled back through the list, looking for the first unpublished post from 2017.

It was entitled “People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening.”

I read the post. I checked at the original creation date.

January 20, 2017.

I knew why I hadn’t clicked publish because I could hear Rod Stewart’s voice in my head:

“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening so we just ran away.”

Tomorrow is January 20th, one year later. I’m thinking this time next year there will be at least two posts listed in my blog archive for January 2018.

Chain Breaker (unmixed cover by Julie Stiles Mills)

It’s the day after a 12 hour/3 song recording session and I realize I haven’t posted any of the covers I’ve recorded in a while. Here’s one recorded June 30, 2017

“If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker.
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker”

step outside your comfort zone.

Some of you know I serve as a career coach. Just last week I found myself in a Panera Bread working with one of my current students on their resume.
This particular location is extremely thin on power outlets
, so while working on battery power, we pretty much stalked every person at every table near a coveted outlet until finally we scored a “Power Table” with about 17% battery power remaining on my laptop.

A few minutes later, I looked up to see a super tall and impressively muscular guy walking around the restaurant, holding his phone and a power cable, clearly looking for a free outlet. I knew he was out of luck. He went to the cashier to ask where the outlets were and then he knew he was out of luck.

I watched him go back to his seat and join a large group of his friends seated at a span of tables.

I could have dismissed him and gotten back to work. It certainly would have been easy. and safe.

and selfish.

But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me.

So, as I reached into my purse for my favorite shiny red high speed portable charger, I told my student I would be right back.

The entire restaurant was loud and bustling and nobody was paying any attention to me, so the walk toward him was mindless, fast and easy. But, the moment I stepped up to that particular group of tables, every. single. person. seated there abruptly stopped talking and turned toward the interruption. .

that would be me.

every single face was silently staring. at me.

I admit, I was immediately uncomfortable. When I’d reached for the charger and while I was walking toward the table, I hadn’t considered the possibility that my attempt to help might be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion, but at that moment, from my perspective, 8 people halting their conversation to openly stare at me had “intrusion” written all over it.

and I was suddenly, extremely and self-consciously aware of the fact that I am white.

Did I not mention that every single person staring at me was black?

I held out my phone charger.

“Would you like to borrow this?”

There was a noticeable pause, then a look of disbelief and confusion, followed by a “REALLY?!?!” as his friends looked back and forth from me to him like they were watching a tennis match.

Ball was back in my court.

“Sure.”

I pointed to my table and my student. “I’ll be sitting right over there when you’re done with it.”

I’d like to say that he charged his phone, returned my phone charger and that was that.

In reality, I forgot about him and my charger for about a half hour and when I looked up, he – and all of his friends – were gone.

Me: “Did he leave?”

My student and I scanned the restaurant. He was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she said, “There he is! Outside.”

We kept working for another 20 minutes or so and then she noticed him get up and walk toward the parking lot, out of our line of sight. I stepped outside and saw him dump his drink cup in a garbage can at the edge of the parking lot, so I said, “Are you leaving?”

He immediately assured me he wasn’t and joined his friends who were now sitting at tables near the garbage can where he dumped his drink cup.

I went back inside, my student and I got engaged in a particularly challenging section of the resume and we both completely forgot about him.

Until he quietly slipped the charger on our the table, thanked me again and left.

Would I have left the building without saying something to me if I were him?
No. It was thoughtless, but not malicious or devious.

Did I think he was trying to steal my $20 rapid phone charger?
No. I thought he forgot it was in his pocket.

Did he think I thought he was trying to steal my phone charger?
I don’t think so. He didn’t seem offended.

Did I regret loaning it to him?
No. I knew when I stepped outside my comfort zone and handed over my phone charger to a complete stranger that it would be easier to keep to myself and let his phone die.

I know that reaching out to help someone is a witness for Christ even when His name isn’t spoken.

I hope and pray that by evidencing “Love God, Love Others” in that simple action, my student watched, processed and was inspired to step out of her own comfort zone and extend a helping hand when it would be easier to be quiet and stay comfortable.

Will I do it again?
Even more so.

But I also think that the next time I go back to that particular Panera, I’ll be bringing a power strip with me to share with my fellow power-needy laptop cohorts.

Lord, please help me to be aware of your presence in every moment of my life and to recognize your promptings. Please bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when you nudge me to do or say something. Don’t let me miss an opportunity to bless and be blessed because I’m held back by fear or because I want to cling to my comfort zone. AMEN.

Bill Nye. Regular Guy.

Confession.

Every time I read or hear something Bill Nye says, I have an instant flashback to this 1990s video of him wearing jogging shorts and a cape, hands on hips, valiantly announcing: “This looks like a job for SPEED WALKER!!!” (You’ll have to click over to youtube to watch. Embedding is disabled.)

And then I find myself thinking of that 80’s Vicks 44 commercial tag line:

“I’m not a real doctor, but I play one on TV”

Bill Nye has a B.S. in mechanical engineering, so when I saw his face onscreen as the virtual tour guide to building a virtual roller coaster at DisneyQuest’s CyberSpace Mountain, I thought, yeah. okay. That makes sense.

But outside of that – he’s a regular guy, with the same ability to research and form opinions as anyone and everyone else.

Why would I give his opinion on global warming preference over someone with a Ph.D. in ecology?

or the historical record:

“From 1910 to 1940, there was an increase in global average temperature of 0.5°C over that 30-year period.

Then there was a 30-year “pause” until 1970.

This was followed by an increase of 0.57°C during the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000.

Since then there has been no increase, perhaps a slight decrease, in average global temperature.
This in itself tends to negate the validity of the computer models, as CO2 emissions have continued to accelerate during this time.

The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000.

Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to “human influence.” [Source]

When I see Bill Nye (or read about him) talking about politics or global warming or gender or abortion or cognitive dissonance or other topics completely outside his field, his opinion doesn’t have credibility with me. Not because he’s “just an entertainer” but because he doesn’t have any more specialized knowledge or experience supporting his opinion than the average person who is interested in the same humanitarian issues.

I don’t understand why he gets interviewed and quoted so often about politics and other issues outside his field. Please tell me it’s not because the kids who grew up watching him on TV look to him as a subject matter expert now that they are adults.

He hasn’t established credibility as a subject matter expert in any of these areas.

Three final thoughts:
1. There are many more credible sources.
2. Do your own research – a celebrity’s opinion should never hold greater weight than your own.


Save

3. I bet Bill Nye could build a cool Rube Goldberg machine.

I suppose this means I’m officially a “recording artist.”

Merry Christmas!

Here’s a link to the Christmas song I just released – available on Amazon and itunes for 99 cents: “Bells of Christmas Medley

Bells of Christmas Medley Cover 300dpi

It’s a medley of: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Ring the Bells and Carol of the Bells and every vocal you hear is mine.

The distributor also posted it on youtube and some streaming sites, but I don’t know where, so if you stumble upon it, please let me know!

Just search for “Julie Stiles Mills” on any of those sites and you should find it – it’s the only song I’ve released.

I’m not in charge of pricing on those sites, but I have made it available for free here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/juliestilesmills

again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

the 1% rule. a minority with too much free time? or representative of the 99%?

Something has bothered me for a while. When someone says that a certain group of people “thinks” this or “says” that, where does the opinion of that group come from?

If it’s true that only 1% of people are “vocal” on the internet, (via posts, tweets, comments or blogs) does that really tell us what the quiet people are thinking? (I’m not claiming to be one of the quiet ones.)

1percentrule.svg

By Life of RileyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Even if a person on the internet seems to be in line with my own thoughts on a subject, I rarely agree with the way they’ve stated it much less every nuance of their opinion. Often, there is no nuance, the stand is so extreme it forces polarized positions and the statements are surface level, oversimplified, sarcastic or trite.

The world is bigger than this 1%.

The issues are complex and I have a feeling a good chunk of the other 99% think much deeper than can be expressed in a tweet. So, they don’t tweet, they talk. and listen.

In person.

Where there are no trolls and the only seagulls are at the beach.

I don’t say “the left” does or says this or “the right” does or says that. Reformed, Arminian, Atheist, Evangelicals, straight, LGBT, Clinton/Trump “supporters”….whatever group label you can think of, remember the 1% rule.

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.” [CLICK HERE to read the full wikimedia content on the 1% rule]

Given our propensity to get our information from the internet, it’s statistically probable that whatever opinion you hold about a certain labeled group and whatever reasoning behind that opinion is based on what 1% of the internet population thinks – and the internet population is only 40% of the world population.

The world is bigger than this 1%. We only think they represent the majority because they are the loudest and most visible.

The quiet people are thinking. And apparently, there’s more of them than we realize. I’m betting one of the reasons they are quiet is that they have no time or patience for the tic-tac-toe futility of the bickering that seems so prevalent on the internet today.

Thank God. Because there’s a LOT of intolerant and judgemental people on the internet who could use a day or two off the grid to regain some perspective.

#seepeople and #edify, because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken

the most divisive word of all: “THEY”

After the events of the last few days, my resilience is worn-down. I can’t read another post or comment by an armchair pundit containing divisive broadcasted attacks against the nameless, faceless “THEY.”

notpersecutedwhencontradictedArrogant sarcastic rants that begin with:
“I love it when…” or
“Don’t you just love it when…” or
“Isn’t it funny, how…”
when no one loves it or thinks it’s funny.

So many one-sided, barricaded opinions using words like “idiots” and “crazy” and the all encompassing and overused label of “hater” to pigeonhole anyone who disagrees with that particular social media blaster on a particular issue.

not to mention the onslaught of profanity-ridden contemptuous ridicule.

and the deliberately cruel comments like the ones below after an alligator attacked a toddler at Walt Disney World within days of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12th:

hatecomment1

The mom in me can’t help but think “What happened in this person’s childhood and life that could result in such a complete lack of compassion and empathy? How did this particular individual’s character deteriorate to this level of having so little respect for others? Why is this person seemingly incapable of extending kindness to people who are different from them or – even worse – to people who are suffering unimaginable pain? Is this person friendly in real life? or at least civil? Would they say these terrible things to the victim’s families face to face? Or are they a consummate fraud and a coward?”

And then there are the reports of commentators “slamming” someone or shutting someone down. Interviewers “grilling” and politicians “firing back.”

This stuff is coming from BOTH sides of the issues.

Neither side holds the high ground.

globalthermonuclearwarNeither side truly wins if bridges aren’t being built and crossed.

Making a stronger point is pointless if the conversations remain stalemate arguments instead of open dialogs revealing common ground and leading to softened hearts, opened minds and expanded thoughts.

When explaining the reasoning behind a particular point of view in our society today, the use of the words “clearly” and “simply” is empirically wrong.

There is NOTHING clear or simple about the complex and turbulent issues we’re engulfed in.

Thankfully, I’ve come to understand that those who have the capacity to reject the labels and the stereotypes and the caricatures and LISTEN more than they talk don’t spend their discretionary time pontificating through their fingertips about the issues that threaten to permanently divide us.

And I totally get it. I’d rather mow my quarter acre, knee high, 3 week neglected, sloped backyard in the noonday heat of a Florida summer than step a foot into the mire of these issues on the internet.

didntreactdoesntmeandidntnoticeSome of my personal facebook friends have unknowingly attacked me individually through a shotgun approach, railing against “idiots” whose opinions they believe are invalidated because those opinions are deemed irrelevant and wrong. I’ll never comment on one of those posts or reply to one of those comments and reveal that I have anything in common with the people my (facebook) friend can’t or doesn’t accept. That would make me and my family vulnerable to continued and/or focused attack. I’m not stupid.
(Contrary to their belief.)

Even so, I roll around the thought of asking a few of these individuals to meet with me and talk. Not to try and change their mind about whatever side of whatever issue they are committed to. I have no hopes or expectations of changing someone’s mind when they are so categorically entrenched in their commitment to a particular belief.

But still. I idealistically imagine that a face-to-face conversation would personalize the target of their attacks. And if so, would the personalizing of their target prompt them to pause before they post the next time? Is it possible that they might intentionally choose non-inflammatory and respectful language? Would they try to see from someone else’s perspective?

And most importantly, would they consider exploring the possibility of collaboration or compromise by patiently and thoroughly examining and stepping through the complex multifaceted issues instead of calling for a tunnel visioned, all encompassing mandate that barrels over anything and everything that might be a speed bump in achieving their goal?

Why do I think that more likely, they would just hide controversial posts from me after our conversation and continue as before, perpetuating the status quo?

My problem with jumping on a bandwagon is that I see so many sides to these issues. I understand that each of us have reasons for what we believe, need and want, and I can’t help but think that hearing those reasons might bridge some distance and be the first step to resolving some of the problems.

We need to consider perspectives other than our own. Because groupthink never serves anyone well.

I find it impossible to dismiss the fears and concerns of someone in order to validate my mindset or to get my way. [click to tweet]

I’ve said this before: Everybody is a #differentkindofbroken I want to #edify and #seepeople as individuals, even when they are different from me.

I’m praying for God to equip me to be not only His hands and feet in order to help in tangible ways, but also His eyes and ears and voice so as to follow His plan for me: to Love God and Love others. Even others who think and believe differently than I do.

ifyoucantbekindbequietI’m praying for people – in real life and on the internet –

to be slow to speak,
slow to anger and
quick to listen.

And I’m praying that if people can’t be kind,
that they will at least be quiet.

Ratatouille and Vegit Lasagna

[This post was an experiment. First post using only phone photos and my android WordPress app.]

I made ratatouille for the first time today. Actually, I assembled it. The oven is preheating now. I have yet to see how it turns out or if my family will like it.

20160425_144718.jpg

This was not a fast and easy recipe. I can’t decide if I want my kids to love this because I want them to eat more vegetables or hate it so I’ll never have to make it again.

This particular Ratatouille recipe came from HERE. Check out her mouth watering photos of premium veggies. And then there’s my week old Publix veggies because I was going to make this last week and never got around to it…

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And my freakish ability to shoot a sliced vegetable across the counter just by slicing it…

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My canned petite tomato (no salt added) based sauce…

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And my vegetable stacking skills…

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My obvious over estimation of the proper size pan needed.

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I ran out of onions, tomatoes and eggplant so I decided to keep slicing the zucchini and yellow squash and make a pan of a family favorite, Vegit Lasagna.

(Vegit is a spice I found years ago and I order it in bulk from Amazon.)

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

First, spray the pan with Pam to prevent sticking. Then layer sliced zucchini and sprinkle on some Vegit.

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Then some shredded cheese…

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Then a layer of yellow squash sprinkled with Vegit…

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Topped with more shredded cheese…

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Repeat until you run out of veggies or they reach the height of your pan. I usually have a total of 4 layers.

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I found three leftover slices of zucchini. I won’t say how far away.
Bake at 350 for about an hour. The same time and temp recommended to bake the Ratatouille.

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We’ll be vegging out tonight.