Thanking Old Friends (And a Few New Ones, Too)

2020 was not an easy year on planet Earth, and yet there are people who have made it extra special. People who give and love freely, and make a kinder world possible. Even when we are separated by oceans, divided by continents and far from each other’s loving embrace, we still touch each other with our good deeds, kind words and unconditional positive regard. This is to say “Thank you!” to all the amazing people who have contributed to Karma Compass during 2020 and are helping us create a community of thriving artists.

Our gratitude goes out to these amazing human beings without whose contributions to Karma Compass we wouldn’t have made it to the present moment.

We love Sarai W for the way she wears her heart on her sleeves. We couldn’t do this work without her.

We remember every word Aria Zavocki wrote and miss her fierce gaze. Thank you for your gifts.

Youth Writer Colette J blesses us with her earnest accounting of adolescent’ triumphs and challenges. She is our future.

After his donation to Karma Compass, Creative Sponsor Peppo Valetto wrote, “It was the best present for my own birthday.”

Thank you, Poet in Residence Georgina Marie. You opened our hearts with the fires of your love and grief. We will always remember you.

Thanks to Sponsor Jonelle Tucker, who frequently comments on our posts. We feel her love and presence regularly.

Thank you, Taylor Duckett for your offerings on African Spirituality and healing. We miss you.

Sponsor and Guest Contributor Hal Huntsman is an ally and a worthy partner for our work as healers and hope dealers.

Resident Artist Kristine Moore brings sunshine and joy to our horizon each week. We are grateful.

Special thanks to Ashton Huntsman for his contributions to Karma Compass Films. Mad skills are necessary to move mountains.

Your donation, given from the heart is a powerful affirmation of our work. Thank you, Ilana Maxwell.

Thank you, Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman for holding a vision of inclusivity and love as the standard mode of operating.

Special gratitude for early Sponsor Robin Lovell for believing in us when few oth.

When Will Preston wrote about Early Childhood Development, we felt his conviction and understood the truth of what it takes to thrive. So grateful.

Special gratitude goes to Laura Joyce Davis of Shelter in Place Podcast for offering transcripts of her poignant storytelling for audience members of all abilities. We need allies like her to reach everyone.

When people show up year after year and give everything from time to money to encouragement, they must be recognized as a blessing. We’re so grateful for our Sponsoring Angel Adrienne Cacitti, miracle-working visionary.

Welcome back, dear friend and Earth Angel Dovanna Dean and Kim Mendoza. With your leadership, we will transform every open space into a source of food and spiritual nurturance.

We also want to thank all our subscribers, guests and Living Artist Project contributors who make our work possible in the here and now. We recognize that your readership and participation elevates our work to the realm of meaningful contribution, and you matter to us. As Karma Compass grows, we look forward to co-creating our virtual, visual and in-person connections through new positions and expanded offerings. Stay connected to the people who make your life better.

Donate to Karma Compass today. Your tax-deductible investment goes directly to content and program development.

The Most Important Reason to Say, “Thank you!”

Want to open the floodgates of abundance? Start a gratitude practice. Maybe this sounds difficult. Perhaps you see little value or have had no practice. A young woman, a classmate in psychology, commented during a discussion that affirmations don’t work. Reflecting on her words for a few days, I understood that such a statement is unattached to practice, because anyone who applies deliberate focus to a situation, behavior or habit will see results. It’s really a question of time. The real issues is whether we have focused our attention on something of value. This is where the motivation to engage, change or attract is most potent. And yet, gratitude, a practice is passe for many, is a mainstay in my rituals of friendships, professional etiquette and a fallback when at a loss. This simple practice, remembering, honoring and finding the words to say and express gratitude will transform your life for the better.

How do we express love? Gratitude is a connection to our heart language and the current of flow. Gratitude is the action of love. The energy of love, when present, is harmonious and resonates for most people. Suzan Hilton explains in her book The Feng Shui of Abundance that “Gratitude and abundance vibrate in harmony and create more flow and ease.” Yes, this is right. This ease, experienced as harmonious vibration, is what we feel when we are close to a loving couple, a kind clerk, an old, dear friend—it’s the essence of love. Without some physical, tangible demonstration of love, people would not know, perceive or understand that love is present. This is even move important when there is physical distance.

My Goddaughter tends to the newly planted seeds she spread with bare fingers. The seeds must be watered and tended daily until they grow into mature plants.

Despite being a historically controversial Catholic figure, Valentine’s Day is culturally embraced by millions of people each year. Valentine’s Day as an important holiday in the United States, adopted and adapted by people of all faiths and beliefs, languages and ethnic group. Somehow, for people of all walks, Valentine’s Day practices are acceptable, and we make grand gestures of our love on February 14th. What is special and unique about the muddled story of the real (Saint) Valentine is that in most versions there is at least one Valentine, who wrote letters to his beloved intending to communicate his devotion and regards for her in a manner she could feel despite his absence. In other words, his letters were an expression of his love, his feelings made visible. He showed her love in the act of writing to her, and we remember his example with fondness. Valentine showed us how to express love in an intimate, private way that celebrates the beloved with gratitude.

Many people think showing gratitude is a sign of weakness or a waste of time. After a dozen years in a committed relationship, now tried in the fires of COVID-19, I’m convinced that daily expressions of love far outweigh a yearly grand gesture. (My chocolate is yummy, however.) Maybe love is an evolutionary imperative, designed to benefit the survival of humans. Otherwise, why we would bond, pair and mate? We need the emotional entanglement to draw us in, and at the same time recognize that not all emotions provide the same blessings and fulfillment necessary to sustain two people in a committed relationship. Gratitude is a form of emotional intelligence that shows a person’s empathy pathways (mirror neurons) are open and can acknowledgement and reciprocate the receipt of an act of love. Reciprocity is vital to increasing the flow of desirable emotional energy. It’s like a call to gaming partner, a text or a ping: We have to answer and connect if we want the relationship to continue. Without acknowledgment or reciprocity, the energies of love and kindness will dissipate or transform to a different emotion, just like anything that is the recipient of sufficient neglect. Neglect is not an aspect of love, gratitude or abundance.

We must use or energy channels wisely, cultivating conduits of energy that lead to greater harmony, “the good vibes” that bring happiness. Witness in your own life that when you water seeds, your nurturance gives them life. This ageless lesson persists in its truth until now. Through our careful cultivation of and attention to the seeds we want to flourish, we define our lives and our reality for ourselves and our communities. Be sure to water the seeds of love and kindness all around you so that you magnetize the goodness you deserve and bring your gifts to the world on a beam of light. When I see that, I will thank you personally, with all my heart.

Edissa lives with her husband in SoCal, where they work and garden with love and gratitude all year long.

Donate to Karma Compass today. Change lives for the better.

Not “the (only) One”

What if when it comes to love, we got it wrong?

This post is an excerpt from Shelter in Place season 2, episode 20. Listen to the full episode above.

Romantic love has a long history; Petrarch and Dante wrote about it in the 1300s, and even the Bible gets pretty steamy with the Song of Solomon. But the idea that romantic love is the great goal of life is relatively new. For much of human history, the kind of love that made John Cusack raise his boombox in Say Anything was referred to as “lovesickness,” a mixture of intense romantic attraction with elements of obsession, impulsiveness, and delusions. This view of love as a sickness isn’t totally off base. Today scientists have linked “lovesickness” to the flood of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in our brains, a chemical reaction that looks a lot like what happens when we’re on drugs.

It wasn’t until 1750, when Romanticism found its way into poetry, art, and philosophy, that romantic love began to have its day. Before that marriage was less about love and more about economics. During the industrial age, as people began making enough money to think about marriage as more than a means to procreation and financial support, Romanticism dug its claws in deeper. Individual rights and the pursuit of happiness gained importance, and with them came the idea of marrying for love.

During the 1800s as the number of publishing houses in the U.S. and Britain increased, the dark fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm made their way to the public. I remember those fairy tales, where Cinderella’s sisters get their eyes pecked out by birds, and the Little Mermaid’s tragic ending is turning to sea foam. But thanks to Walt Disney, the aftertaste that those stories leave with me is now a happy one. 

After World War 1 and the Great Depression, Walt Disney saw that people were growing weary of sad tales and wanting to escape their bleak reality. Beginning in 1937, Disney launched a golden age of movies that borrowed from the old fairy tales, but gave them happily ever after endings. It was in the prettier versions of those old stories that our cultural obsession with romantic love reached its peak.

I bring up this history because with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I think it’s worth examining our assumptions about love. I’m not just talking about the love we associate with marriage or even with dating or sex—though the conversation certainly applies to all of those places, too. I’m talking about the perceptions of love that affect us whether we are single or married or divorced or widowed. It’s a belief so common in our culture that we have to zoom out in history to realize that we’ve been indoctrinated. The idea that Romanticism has fed us—that we’ve swallowed whole—is that whether in friendship or dating or marriage, our most important quest in life is finding “the one,” that person who at last will solve all of our problems and make us whole.

The idea that Romanticism has fed us—that we’ve swallowed whole—is that whether in friendship or dating or marriage, our most important quest in life is finding “the one,” that person who at last will solve all of our problems and make us whole.

In his essay, “How Romanticism Ruined Love,” Alain de Botton says, “We can at this point state boldly: Romanticism has been a disaster for our relationships. It is an intellectual and spiritual movement which has had a devastating impact on the ability of ordinary people to lead successful emotional lives. The salvation of love lies in overcoming a succession of errors within Romanticism. Our strongest cultural voices have—to our huge cost—set us up with the wrong expectations . . . .We’re surrounded by a culture that offers a well-meaning but fatally skewed ideal of how relationships might function. We’re trying to apply a very unhelpful script to a hugely tricky task.”

I think Alain de Botton is right. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with romantic love, but that we’ve zoomed in on it so close has blinded us to the bigger picture. Whether with a best friend or significant other, we expect it to be all snuggles and self-fulfillment, and think there’s something wrong with us if it takes work.

I’m not anti-romance. I still love a bouquet of roses and a shared bottle of wine. Our desire to be cherished is innate to our humanity, and we all deserve to be looked at with love and admiration. It’s just that when we fix our gaze on romance alone, we miss out on all of the other gifts that relationships can give us.

This post was an excerpt of an episode of Shelter in Place, season 2, episode 20. You can listen to the full episode here or read the transcript here.

A Time For Empathy

There is no time like the present to practice empathy. Social injustice and death runs rampant in the streets and the number of homelessness camps is on the rise while Covid cases soar to new heights. Now is not the time to become desensitized and turn a blind eye, but rather to flex the atrophied muscle of empathy and be moved to bring about change.

Empathy is feeling “as” others, while sympathy is feeling “for” others. As a Black woman raised around other Black women (my family), I learned that it takes a village to raise a child. My mom could leave me in their care knowing that I was well cared for. Being around them in public spaces, I watched how they would become alert when children were separated from their parents and how they herded them back to them, or stood guard as the parent approached. I didn’t fully understand it then, but this was empathy. Their attentiveness and protectiveness is something that I have adopted and carried with me from youth into adulthood. It is a mother’s greatest fear to lose a child, a pain I can only imagine, so when I see an unattended child, I immediately empathize so I wait to see where their mother is and I make sure the child is safely returned. When I see strangers in need of help, I offer help. This is empathy and this is a major difference between the Black and White community. More specifically, the privileged vs the underprivileged. An example of this would be publicized mugshots of Black suspects vs. White suspects and the racial bias in the portrayal of Black victims vs. White victims.

The slander knows no end. Most people will view this tweet with sympathy, and say, “That is so unfair!”, which is an appropriate sympathetic response that allows us to stay removed from the situation. Empathy, however, drives you to take corrective action like calling local news stations to call them out on their bias when they run those ridiculous headlines. By addressing thes title specific issues, we are in no way undercutting the seriousness of their crimes, but we are calling for justice and equity in the portrayal of criminals across the board. Empathy is both a gift and a skill set that must be developed. When underdeveloped, we wind up with generations of privileged people refusing to take accountability of their actions. The accuser of Emmett Till didn’t confess to her lie until decades after his murder. The entire Black community knew her story was a lie, but when she finally told the truth, it was too late. It’s the same with the 1989 Central Park 5 accuser. The Black men, who were the true victims in both instances, weren’t exonerated until years after their wrongful convictions. I believe these things happened because neither woman took the time to think how her words and actions would affect the lives of those accused and the community surrounding them. They didn’t consider how it might be in their position when they lied on them because they lacked empathy.

“Empathy is more active than sympathy. It requires more intellectual development.”, says actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith in her book letters to a young artist. It raises questions within me about the inefficiencies in the childhood development of the privileged: Were life lessons about empathy skipped or ignorantly ignored? and How can someone teach about something they don’t know? They can’t, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be constantly re-educating themselves about emotional and intellectual maturity. “Stepping outside gives you the space to watch, listen, feel. To step outside you must suspend opinions and judgments. It doesn’t mean you are devoid of them. It means that you have control long enough to watch, listen, and feel. You store what you have learned and do what you will with the information you have gathered. You may even try to influence how others watch, listen, and feel. But first you must step outside.”

Ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse for a lack of empathy. There are far too many resources available in the library and on the internet. We even have untapped wells of knowledge and experience within our own sphere of influence to reach out to. On my mom’s side, my great great grandmother was one generation out of slavery and my grandmother was born during the time of sharecropping. I am constantly asking questions to gain insight to my community so I can learn how to best help them. It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our communities to educate ourselves on how to be the best version of ourselves. This self-work not only betters us as individuals, it impacts the lives of those around us. It inspires and lights a pathway to emotional maturity for others to follow.

In an article, “Emotional Maturity: What it Looks Like“, written by Cindy Lamothe, she summarizes emotional maturity as a need to become more self-aware of one’s worth as well as the worth of those around us to truly lead a happier and more fulfilling life. She informs us to apologize to those around us when we are wrong and admit when we need help, while continually seeking ways to grow on a personal level. We are in control of our emotional journey to maturity and we have the power to make more mature choices day by day. I, however, want to take that a bit further. There are so many moments throughout our day bursting with opportunities for empathy. We may fail in some moments, but there are 24 hours in a day, to get it right. Use them wisely.

Why to Keep your Foot on the Political Pedal

Our lives depend on our political engagement. Not just a few of us, but all of us all the time. It’s not enough to vote every four years, though that’s definitely important. As we have witnessed from the past five years, political power is about reproductive health, Women’s Rights, Education, Immigration policy, wages and corporate oversight, technology oversight, Family Care, access of healthcare, liberty and justice for all. From where I’m working, not one of us can afford to ignore our elected officials ever again. They work for us. And yet a small minority of big spenders controls public policy, domestic security (that farce), education, riparian rights, access to vaccines, the prison-industrial complex, the stewardship of our environment and women’s reproductive rights, and at least in two branches of our government, the Senate and the Supreme Court, not one of those people looks like me, or has much interest in my welfare. That may be fine for you, but I think we deserve better.

Without our continued vigilance, engagement and activism from broad sectors, of white Nationalist, White Supremacists and apparently unabashed Congressional representation of a White Q-Anon believer from Georgia, of all places. Someone explain to me how that happened, please.We even have life appointments of three conservative Supreme Court Judges placed by a blatantly and unapologetic White-Nationalist, Neo-Nazi sympathetic leader. Who knows what the next fifty years will bring for future generations if we do nothing?

Do White Nationalist, White Supremacists and Q-Anon members know something that the rest of us don’t? Yes! They know that political activism is the best way to move policy in any desired direction.

My response letter after I called Mike Garcia following the January 6th Insurrection to demand he impeach Trump and resign.

Agitation and activism are the best ways to move policy in any desired direction, but this requires sustained effort, a luxury for people struggling with basic survival concerns. That’s why anyone not worried about food and housing should keep their public officials on speed dial. When you know who you are and what you stand for, waiting for crumbs to fall from the master’s table is unacceptable. Partisanship got us to the present moment, and looks like partisanship will get us out of it, too. And like I just read Abigail Weinberg of Mother Jones frame it: “So be it!” I’m sick of seeing daily representations of toxic masculinity modeled for our children, while exhibitions of Fascism and ineptitude in the face of a pandemic were utterly normalized. That’s not a normal I can tolerate.

If you loved the status quo, do nothing, and we will all see that White Nationalist ethnocentrism resurface again soon. If you want to see change, have your children grow up into kind, intelligent contributors to our democracy, then you better keep your foot on the pedal. Call your senators, and congressional representatives, regularly. Schedule your calls. Keep our elected officials working for us!

I’m also acutely aware that other systemic changes could really help. For example, adding one or two more Senators to each state may be the answer to the population growth of the past 200 years. More representation is better in a pluralistic society. Likewise, Supreme Court term limits and an expansion of that body to include two more Supreme Court Justices could give more people more voice in the direction of our country move in in the years ahead. But these ideas are for the future. First, call your public representatives regularly and remind them that they work for us, and not just a sector of the population that has a strangle hold on our systems of Government and the power such privileges wield.

Worm Composting – A Quick Tour

Welcome to Larry’s Place.

We call our worm box Larry’s Place. Larry is our friend who has a brilliant eye for antiques and home design – he even owns a shop called Larry’s Place that specializes in unique home decor items. But Larry did not have the attention span to keep a worm box going… He was given a couple of pounds of worms to set up a worm home, and well let’s just say he is the reason we got the worms.

We use worms for composting our kitchen scraps because we are limited on space plus the finished product makes a great fertilizer when added to potted plants or directly into garden beds. The process of using earth worms to convert organic waste into nutrient rich humus is called vermicomposting.

Our worm composting system

Worm box with faucet and top air vent.

Our system lives in a plastic tote bin we modified by installing a drain faucet, drilling holes, and adding screen material to the top lid. However you can purchase a complete system if that is easier for you. If you do use what you have handy, make sure these conditions are met:

  • Proper Type of Worms
  • Temperature
  • Moisture
  • Ventilation
  • Bedding
Proper Type of Worms
Meet some of the residents of Larry’s Place.

Eisenia foetida or redworms are the best to use in a worm composting system. They can process large amounts of organic materials and they reproduce quickly even in confinement. Check here for places to order your redworms.

Temperature
Vegetable scraps, eggs shells, and coffee grinds served once a week or more.

Redworms can tolerate a wide range of temperatures except for freezing. The conversion of waste to compost occurs between the temperatures of 55-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid locations that get too hot like an attic, under direct sun, or in a greenhouse. Larry’s Place is located on our breezy and shady back porch.

Need an idea of what to feed your worms? Check out my recommendations here.

Moisture
Drip spout with a catch pan for excess water.

Worms “breathe” through their skin. So it’s very important that their skin stay moist for the exchange of air to occur. You can always add water when necessary if it looks dry in the system. The drip spout on our box helps to regulate the water content in the bin by ensuring it does not fill with water. I’ve noticed that after a good feeding, the box drips out excess water for a few days. We throw this “compost tea” water in any nearby potted plant.

Ventilation
Our ventilation system also protects from cats. The torn screen is proof of this battle.

Worms use oxygen in their bodily processes and produce carbon dioxide just like we do. Make sure to locate your worm composting system in an area with good air circulation. To be certain we get optimal ventilation, we added mosquito netting to the lid of the bin and drilled small holes along the sides. We could drill bigger holes, but so far so good…For our next box I will.

Bedding

The composting box is filled with lots of dirt collected from around our yard, stuff sitting in old planter pots, or even from bags of soil we purchased (without vermiculite or perlite). In addition to soil we mix in shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg cartons, and leaf along with our kitchen scraps.

Dry leaf matter. Fresh green leaves are also good to use.
Shredded cardboard, egg cartons or newspaper works too.
Combining all components in sections.
Dry leaf, shredded cardboard and veggie scrapes.

Observing for improvements

Larry’s Place has turned out to be a great addition to our home! The volume of our trash is drastically reduced and we get to create an inexpensive source of fertilizer for our plants. With careful observation you can remedy any problems you encounter. If one thing does not work, try something else! Time and patience are great teachers.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is known to get dirt on her hands, tee-shirts, jeans, and shoes. She shares her home with a rescued pride of curious cats and a pack of singing dogs.

Don’t Patronize Me!

There’s nothing like

Standing idly by as an interloper buys the block,

only to disrespect it.

Who invited you?

Told you you can set up shop, sell us cancer sticks and candy,

while openly calling us food stamp cockroaches?

You must be so proud. And so ignorant

to berate us with disrespect and expect a payment for it.

To hear, “I don’t give a f*%k about the Black neighborhood!”

is to receive a slap in the face.

If you didn’t want me us to patronize you, you could have said it politely…

But you wanted the money, huh? Too bad!

A lot of us are waking up to the truth that the Black dollar is the final authority,

like “Dean, Big Brother Almighty!

And we won’t tolerate the injustices within the places of business that we frequent,

because we have the buying power, ya dig?

Or did you miss the memo?

In December of 2020, video footage of an East Atlanta Indian Gas station clerk expressing his blatant disregard for the Black community began to circulate the internet. I learned of this injustice through the 85 South Show podcast featuring Karlous Miller and his guest Scapegoat Jones who recounted the tale. He told Miller that after directly confronting the store clerk, he was told to, “Get out you food stamp cockroach”. It was shortly after this, that Jones started the Don’t Stop Don’t Shop (DSDS) organization, which headed the boycott against the racist Exxon establishment in East Atlanta. The boycott lasted for 60 days and caused the owner to decide to sell. This was a major win for the community and it is Jones’ hope to continue this winning streak by buying the gas station to generate wealth within the community as well as a means of inspiring other members of the Black community to take interest in owning property and businesses within the area. He is steadily raising funds to buy the gas station via gofundme, so whether you are located in the East Atlanta area or not, if you want to support this vision, please donate today and share the link with others. Help them buy back the block, one establishment at a time.