Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Keeping Connections

On this New Year’s Eve, I am reflective. I am grateful. I have my family, my health, my friends. I am comfortable and cared for, buoyed by the many connections I have with the people in my life. These are the folks who help stir the feelings of happiness, love, and completeness in my bones. They are my mainstays.

A favorite exercise I often present in self-care workshops is “Categories of Connectedness.” It’s an excellent vehicle for bringing forth the many ways and reasons we connect with others and for recognizing those for whom we are grateful.

The act of placing the names of important folks in our lives within the categories is illuminating as we see who fulfills certain roles for us. We have our confidants, intellectual stretchers, models, mentors, health watchers, “chicken soup” folks, and fun and adventure people. Some names appear in multiple categories. Some categories may be vacant -- for now.

  • Confidants -- those whom we can tell anything in the world about us and trust our words will go nowhere
  • Intellectual Stretchers -- those whose actions, words, and deeds propel us to think and grow
  •  Models -- the folks about whom we say or think, “I want to be just like them.”
  • Mentors -- the ones who take us under their wings, guide us or pave the way for us
  •  Health watchers -- those who remind us to make our appointments for physicals or mammograms, provide us with healthy recipes and choices, or research the medications the doctor prescribed. They are also our workout buddies.
  • “Chicken Soup” folks -- the ones who we turn to in time of crisis and know we will leave them feeling all the better.
  •  Fun and Adventure souls -- those whom we count on for a laughs and excitement or new, enjoyable experiences

Who are the people you have in each category? If there are empty spots, your mission is to seek and watch and allow someone in to occupy that category.

On whose lists would your name appear? These are the folks who look to you to satisfy a much-needed role in their lives.

Each of these dear family members or friends is a reason for our being. We are gifts to each other and all in this together. Let us stay connected or reconnect in 2016 for a healthy, happy, gratitude-filled year. Make that call or write an email or a letter. Soon.

With love and gratitude for each of you and looking forward to a happy, healthy, uplifting new year,
~ xoA ~

Friday, December 11, 2015


I didn’t want my next post to be a rant. That is not the style or purpose of The DayMaker.

I’d been searching for what I could say that would be positive. Show compassion. Lead the way. Present a solution or an action. Express my sadness, incredulity, and concern without condemning or vilifying. I didn’t want to fly about helter-skelter then zero in like a missile seeking its target.

So I have been silent.

But too often now, I am swallowing the sickness I feel over the tragedies and losses through gun violence. Too often I am turning away from photos of terrorists, foreign or home-grown. Too often I am appalled by the attacks on people who dare to claim the right to practice their religion or the freedom to make choices that affect their lives. Too often, I am stunned by the words of full-of-themselves politicians and wannabes.

Too much I am wondering how I can NOT let THEM, those outside forces, change ME. So when a coach friend, Karen Tax, posted a quote that spoke to me on Facebook, I knew I had to share it. 

These words were what I’d been searching for.

Written by Iain S. Thomas, 2007, in his blog post, The Fur

For sure, Thomas’s words don’t solve the world problems we face. But they help reinforce to me that I don’t have to become someone I don’t want to be.

What words have inspired you lately? Maybe they will make a bit of brightness for the rest of us, too.

~ xoA ~

Friday, November 20, 2015

No Words

Stunned, Judy and I watched the news from our hotel room in Chicago as the story unfolded of the terrorist attacks in Paris on the heels of an attack in Beirut. It was the night before our flight home from the Midwest. We’d been on a lovely ten-day jaunt to visit friends and take in some of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln sites. That evening, we watched  --  wordless, wide-eyed, and heart-sick.

I have no words to describe my disbelief of the terrorists' boldness. I have no words to convey the anger that welled up inside as I thought about their inhumanity. I wondered how these people could come to this place.  How could wreaking destruction on their fellow man be the thing that fills them up
But, The DayMaker is meant to uplift. So I have no more words about THEM.

These words are about US: Love and Hope. 

What we can do in our lives is spread love rather than hatred. Hold the individuals accountable for their actions, but extend love to the rest of the folks on our planet. That includes the “real” Muslims, the true believers, to all people of good will, and to those who seek peace and refuge.

We can spread hope. Teach and show our youth there is hope for them for a good life of their making. They don’t need to give over or place misguided trust in radical propagandists. Make sure they know they are valued and prepare them to offer their talents to the world in a positive way.

Kindness. Tolerance. Acceptance. Hope. Love. Peace. Words to incorporate in our vocabularies and in our hearts and our deeds.

~ xoA ~

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Gem Amidst the Junk

Feng Shui and clear-the-clutter books warn against reading while purging. The 18-year old grad school psych note I wrote about de-cluttering resurfaces every now and then. Number two on the list: “Keep going. Don’t stop to READ the papers.” But, that 3x5 card was stuck in another drawer that I needed to empty.

So, I did it. I stopped to read handfuls of torn scraps of paper, saved birthday greetings, faded notes on the backs of business cards, and glossy guarantees for luggage bought long ago.

That’s when I re-discovered a Chinese proverb I’d scribbled onto the back of a list of questions to ask my doctor at the next appointment. The proverb must have struck me when I wrote it down, probably a dozen years ago. Its message strikes me again today.

That the birds of worry and care
Fly about your head,
This you cannot change.

But that they build
Nests in your hair,
This you can prevent.

For sure, there is plenty to worry about in this life: our children (no matter their age); the drought, floods, earthquakes; what’s for dinner; our knees and whether we can keep putting knee replacement surgery off; our friends moving away to be near their grandkids; making it through airport security without a hassle; whether the car will last another year. The list is interminable.

So, the Chinese proverb is right. The worrisome stuff will show up. But we don’t have to let it consume or paralyze us. Especially if it’s something we cannot control. Let it come in, give it a little time, and let it fly away.

Let’s say “no” to over-worrying and say “yes” to ourselves. Allow issues to float away so we can experience the joy and positivity the world has to offer. So we can return to doing some of the things we love to do. We can’t let worries use up today.

What worry might you let go?

~ xoA ~

Image from

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Conversations about Race: Black Men Speak

(Internet Photo Question Bridge)
Many of us never get in on a conversation between Black men or about Black men so we have trouble imagining what it might be like. 

As a young woman occasionally returning home to visit my parents, I had the chance to listen in on some of those conversations. A group of young Black men would congregate on Saturday nights around the yellow Formica kitchen table with the chrome legs and matching chairs. Bringing in extra seats, my father would lead the discussion of the evening while doling out the cookies or slices of cake my mother had baked.

The Brothers discussed race and religion, what the world was coming to, gardening, what it took to be a man, relationships, and any other question or concern someone brought to the table. Respectful, questioning, needing to be heard, they looked to my dad for answers. He’d respond, but he’d also help them find the answers within themselves.

Without a gathering around our kitchen tables, it’s hard to fathom how such conversations might sound and how the participants might look. But thanks to the vision and work of the originators of Question Bridge: Black Males, a video Q&A exchange, we have the opportunity for experiencing a dialog between a diverse group of Black men. 

I first heard about the project in an email from my friend Peggy who wrote “…at Randolph College in Lynchburg - videos of black males discussing being black etc. … [It] is spectacular and exhausting.” So, with a little research, in moments, I, too, became enthralled with this enlightening, contemplative peek into how real Black men see the world and themselves in it.

In an article on Code Switch, an NPR blog on race (in existence since 2013), Shereen Marisol Meraji writes:

Executive producer Jesse Williams, an actor best known for playing Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey's Anatomy, says the project is an attempt to take back the narrative of "this country's most opaque and feared demographic," and to expand society's idea of who African-American men are and what they can do.

Here’s an opportunity to expand our knowledge and views on the Black Male experience and maybe find common ground for further meaningful conversations about race.

Tune in to Question Bridge: Black Males. It's a lengthy video so give yourself time and make yourself comfortable. 

Did anything surprise you? Provide new thoughts? Confirm your ideas and feelings? Cause a reaction?

We’ve begun our conversation. Let us keep it going.

~ xoA ~

Friday, October 2, 2015

Conversations about Race: Let’s Talk!

Ever have a difficult situation or conversation about race or racism come up at work or at a meeting? How about in your classroom? Or in your home or car when kids are interacting? How comfortable do you feel participating in these conversations?

Over 300 of us “met” this week on Teaching Tolerance’s webinar, “Let’s Talk!,” a program designed to instruct about handling difficult conversations. It was billed for teachers and school personnel, but I found many aspects of the presentation appropriate for anyone.

One thing the moderator suggested was to assess our own comfort level concerning dealing with conversations about race and racism. In a poll of the group, she asked us to designate True, False, or Sometimes regarding the following statements:
1.   I am comfortable talking about race/racism   (T - F - S)
2.   I would rather not talk about race/racism. (T - F - S)
3.   I feel prepared to talk about race/racism. (T - F - S)

Then the moderator asked us to finish the next two sentence stems:
1)   The hard part about talking about race/racism is . . .
2)   The beneficial part of talking about race/racism is . . .

Fingers flew and answers bolted upward like scattered birds as participants’ responses bombarded the Group Chat window. Some expressed fear of misspeaking, sounding racist, or doing harm. Others mentioned benefits such as empowerment, validation, and providing a voice for all ideas, feelings, and points of view. 

We can’t NOT hold these difficult conversations about race and racism if we want to provide an opportunity for understanding, tolerance, and acceptance on everyone's part. 

Additionally, the techniques and tools modeled in the webinar could apply to conversations about any difficult subject -- religious differences, anti-LGBTQ issues, and ableism, to name a few.  

None of us has all the answers, but we can prepare, learning more by studying history and current events. We can lean in, finding comfort in discomfort and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We can learn how to manage situations in which strong emotions are expressed.

Teaching Tolerance’s webinar includes a helpful downloadable resource guide that contains grade level appropriate strategies for classrooms, valuable resources, and graphic organizers.

And one of the best parts? It’s still available to everyone. You can view the one-hour webinar online. Below is the link to Let’s Talk!, which is now offered on-demand with accompanying resources.

So, how comfortable are you discussing race or racism? What experiences have you had you can share with others? How did you feel?

~ xoA ~

Monday, September 21, 2015

Conversations about Race: A Book and Real Life

Last month I learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s powerful book, Between the World and Me. My friend Cristina spoke about it as we began our Conversations about Race. This was my first introduction to the Atlantic national correspondent.

Part memoir, part history lesson, Coates writes a book-sized letter to his teen-aged son about being a Black boy and surviving growing up to become a Black man in America. It’s a reminder and warning to his son and other young Black men to be vigilant. Jeopardy is close at hand, eminent, in the form of racism.
“Racism dislodges brains, blocks airways, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this.”

The incident that occurred last week with the 16-year old Black boy being taken down in Stockton, California, illustrates Coates’s words. According to the article I read, the teenager had been jaywalking and when told to get on the sidewalk by a policeman, he did not comply and used “obscene language.”

The ensuing “scuffle” resulted in the boy being held against a tree with his knees up, the officer pinning the boy’s ankles tight to his body by pressing his baton against them. The teen tried to move the baton away, and the office told him stop resisting and then struck boy about the head, twice, with the baton. Soon, nine other officers arrived on the scene, four of whom grabbed the slender kid and pushed him to the ground. The teen was handcuffed and taken into police custody.

There are those who will say he should have done as instructed, shouldn’t have mouthed off, shouldn’t have resisted, shouldn’t have been jaywalking in the first place. Maybe so, but do those actions warrant the harsh treatment this kid, hardly more than a child, received? 

As any parent or teacher of adolescents knows, these behaviors and attitudes are typical during the teen years. They also know that to achieve teens’ compliance, situations must be dealt with by means other than physical force. I recognize that police officers have a formidable and dangerous job to do and most do it well. But I can't help but think their training should include child and adolescent development and strategies for working with difficult teens.

Regarding  Coates’s account and the Stockton incident, an observation from another friend and writer, Charlotte, came to mind: “There was a culture of superiority among the Whites that hung on from the beginning of slavery in this country… And it hasn't changed. Maybe, outwardly, since, except for the police, we don't go around killing and enslaving Blacks. But it still festers in their gut. How can it not be that today's Black has a terrifying chip on his shoulder?”

A “chip” and an unwillingness to continue to surrender, a need to protect his body. A young Black man must understand, as Coates relates, that “In America, it is traditional to destroy the Black body -- it is Heritage.” Coates wants his son to realize, “You are a Black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.”

For all the cautionary words and myriad examples of racism, Between the World and Me is also an anthem to the strength, resilience, and struggle of Blacks. Coates declares, “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.”

It’s a revelation, an honest entrance into his world and life experience. It’s a way that anyone, Blacks and Whites, can place themselves in his context.

In her assessment of the book, my friend Cristina said, “What I appreciated and respected so much about Coates’s Between the World and Me was his courage in looking at himself and then turning that "truth lens" on racism in our society. As he said : "Race is the child of racism, not the father." I have never read a book which is as honest and truthful as this one.”

What good book that explores questions and observations and provides insight about race can you recommend?
~ xoA ~

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Conversations about Race: TalkBack #2

Folks are talking about race. Facebook and blog comments, personal emails, and face-to-face discussions pop up daily. Today’s TalkBack shares a few responses.


A recent message came from my friend Cristina as she reflected on her behavior and feelings. Her words prompted conversations between our family members about “double consciousness.”

“When I interact with a person who seems of African background, I tend to have this heightened sense of "double consciousness". I'm monitoring myself and also wondering what that person of color is
thinking/feeling about me and the situation as we interact. I sense the other person may be doing the same. Tellingly, this only happens to me in America.”

“Double consciousness” is the phrase that struck Judy and me. Judy remarked on her own double consciousness. She pays attention to her words, tone, and body language, attempting to ensure they come across to show she’s receptive and friendly. “I think a large percentage of white people, namely those who are sensitive to race issues, feel this way too,” she said.

Cristina considered the reasons for her heightened awareness and monitoring, “Part of it has to do with the past slavery and continuing segregation/prejudice in America and my feelings of shame and guilt and anger over this. Part of it has to do with trying to imagine myself and my ancestors living in slavery and segregation. And who knows what else?”

When I shared the gist of Cristina’s post with my brother, Thomas, he related it to his job transporting disabled and elderly folks. He told of the sensitivity training bus drivers must complete and how he checks clients out to see how they might be taking his words and attempts to provide assistance.

Though we may not be conscious of it, I think most people monitor themselves and others in any conversation where the folks they are talking with matter to them. We do it with our family members, employees, friends, and strangers we want to get to know. So, when dealing with someone of a different ethnic group, if we want to be open to becoming acquainted, or developing a relationship, we exercise consciousness.

We all notice differences.  How individuals, groups, communities, or countries view those differences influences how they accept or treat people.

I am sure the people who claim to be "colorblind" have the same ability to see race that we all have. I am guessing what they mean is color doesn't matter to them in terms of accepting people as equal, friends, whatever,” friend and colleague Joan Kerr said. (See the blog comments for Joan’s full text.)

My poet friend Halia Pushkar shared, “I see this partly from a Canadian point of view, where history has been different, but prejudice there has also thrived, against immigrants, against religions, against native people, against differentness.”

Another friend, Sandy Burris, consciously chose her path. (See Sandy’s full text in the blog comments.) “Having grown up very racially isolated, I determined to provide my daughter with a DIFFERENT experience. It's been easy . . . my particular hobbies (especially dance) surround me with such a variety of very cool people--who come in all colors, sizes, shapes, ages, and sexual preferences. I think really, it's not colorblindness we seek, but simply openness to different ways of being.”

Some of us welcome differences. Others experience fear, either because of the unknown and/or imagined possibilities or because of misinformation and stories.

It seems to me, two things are a beginning toward improving race relations: 1) our willingness to experience and embrace differences and 2) taking a look at our interactions and noticing how we’re being received and responded to.

What do you think?

~ xoA ~

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Conversations about Race: Colorblindness

Teachers shift their eyes left and upward as they mentally go along the rows or seating groups, counting on their fingers when asked how many Black or Latino students are in their class. In our teaching mode, we notice who seems to be understanding, who looks puzzled, who is not paying attention. We look at the whole, see our class as one entity, but when working with individuals, we often need to pay attention to their ethnic and cultural variations.

A generation or two ago in America, we heard people -- mostly White people -- say, “I’m colorblind.” They meant a person’s skin color didn’t matter to them. Peace. Love. Brotherhood.

Today, Black folks flinch when they hear that phrase. Some view it as a sign of disrespect. Others see it as racist.

I’m not colorblind. I notice other people of color -- on the street, in a hallway, in a store, at a highway rest stop. But, I don’t think, “Oh, there’s a White person.” when I see one. That is, unless I am traveling in Africa. When in Mexico or South America and I see a White person, I wonder, “Do they speak English?”

I’m not colorblind. I notice whether a newly-met person is Black, White, Asian, or Latino. For one thing, I’m human, curious, interested in people and who they are. As a writer, I observe physical features, voices, accents, and mannerisms. On observation, I may speculate about people’s historical background and what they might have experienced in their lifetime.

Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, I look for ways we can connect. I see them, but my decision to interact with them or to become friends is not based on skin color or cultural group. It’s about our commonalities, whether we have similar interests, values, or upbringing.

Do we automatically become friends? No. But we have a starting place and a good chance. How they treat me and others, whether we can laugh together, our ability to listen to and respect each others’ point of view when our beliefs and experiences are not in harmony, the truth of our words, and the trust we build. These factors nurture friendship.

How comfortable do you feel in stepping outside your own group to make new friends? Has doing so affected your outlook and thinking? And, how do you think being your friend has affected them?
~ xo A ~

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Conversations about Race: Talk Back #1

“One would think everyone would enjoy the same rights by 2015, sadly we seem further away than before.” ~ Joan Raymond

“It seems to me, not only a race issue but "respect for life" in general.” ~ Shari Clutter-Wick

“Where exactly to start, well, could be anywhere, but I would choose workers’ rights to fair wages, meaning actual living wages.” ~ Gil Gia

My heart bursting with gratitude, I read the blog comments, emails, and Facebook posts as people began responding to the conversation about race. This was exactly what I wanted -- folks sharing their experiences, their questions, their takes on race and social issues. This is how we’re going to grow and begin to know how to even talk about race. So, this post will be a “Talk Back” to share and respond to some of the ideas brought forth.

White privilege is the phenomenon that because a person was born white, he or she is afforded a certain status and receives benefits by virtue of being a part of that group. These advantages are withheld from other groups, usually people of color, just because they are not white.  A good explanation of White Privilege is presented by Gina Crosley-Corcoran

My friend Rose posted on Facebook: “unfortunately, white privilege has some people very blinded to some facts that i have read. facts around how young black boys are viewed as older and more threatening, to them getting into trouble for things that their white friends would not.”

Blog comment from friend Joan Kerr: At a multicultural institute, “. . . I was told that I was racist simply by virtue of being part of the privileged class . .  I guess hearing that helped in terms of being more aware of what it means to NOT have to think about race. . . . Are ALL white people part of the problem just because they were born white? (To read Joan’s full text, see the Comments section.)

That doesn’t make a White person a racist in my book. What does make a White person racist is if they hate based on skin color or ethnicity, if they use their privilege to keep other groups down, if they perpetuate inequities. Gary Howard says Whites don’t have to continue the pattern, that there are different ways of being White. There is “. . . a choice as White people to become champions of justice and social healing.” 

Skin too light. Skin too dark. Hair too “good.” Trying to “act white.” Talking too “proper.” These are some of the words, insults, thrown at many young Blacks attempting to grow up and find/make their places in the world. Those who dare to step out of the perceived norm are often seen as disrespecting their group, being an “Uncle Tom.”

My friend Sylvia said, “I was consistently asked by my peers why I talked and acted "so White". I grew up being ostracized more by my own race than least openly and as far as I knew.” (see Sylvia’s full text in the Comments section.)

Our experiences mirror each others’. Sylvia wrote a book about it. I wrote a poem.


What kinda talk is that
My mother's moon-wide hazel eyes shone
harsh light on my non-standard grammar

We don't say ain't in this house
It's     That's not right
And    I don't have any

I yearned to please
Learned the code
Knew when not to say Ain't got no

And when to talk proper
Learned double negatives negate
Tacked on the i-n-g's

Precise, equalizing speech
a life-long saleable commodity
Cash language

She talk white
Like a col-lidge gurrl
She think she bettah den us

Join the conversation. If you send an email, please let me know if it’s okay to quote you in a future blog post.

Thanks. Peace. Love.

~ xoA ~

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Conversations about Race: It’s a Start

I’ve led an extraordinary life. I’ve felt loved and secure and had the opportunity to grow up unconcerned about my safety. There was no question that I would get my education and have a career. In my lifetime, I’ve been in countless situations in which I was the only Black person, or one of the few enough to count, in the room. That’s never been a problem for me. My experience, or any one person’s, is not everyone’s reality.

Today I feel the anguish, devastation, frustration, and horror of being Black in America. I worry about what might befall my young nephews, sons of friends, any black youth. And, nowadays, I fear for any Black person who is stopped by law enforcement or encounters armed citizens bent on brandishing their weapons.

This past year, we’ve been inundated with the images of Black people -- men, women, and kids -- thrown to the ground, screamed at as if they are inhuman, shot and killed, or dying in police custody. The reaction of far too many Americans that this is “okay” shows a need for real dialog that creates more questions and opportunities for each of us to share our thoughts, feelings, and dreams -- a chance to create understanding.

A safe place for conversation, people talking and people listening. That’s communicating in a rational way. With understanding comes change. There may be emotion. There may be tears and frustration. The opportunity for growth, understanding and peace are limited only by our openness and by our willingness to step outside our comfort zones.

Today’s blog post is my attempt to begin a conversation. It’s a start. No one has all the answers -- I sure don’t -- but we can begin. Questions and thoughtful, respectful comments and dialog are welcomed.  Communicate with me and others through the blog. Share a post with someone else as a conversation starter. The aim is to create the possibility for insight and perspective. And understanding. We ARE all in this together.
~ xoA ~

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Poem in Your Pocket

Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini, Greece

April 30 this year is Poem in Your Pocket Day. It’s a day set aside, during National Poetry Month, for a special celebration of poetry. 

Here’s how it works. You choose a poem -- or write one -- and carry a copy of it in your pocket. Throughout the day, take it out and read it aloud to random people. No, they won’t think you’re crazy. They will love it.

Poem in Your Pocket Day originated in 2002 in New York City by the mayor’s office. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took it national. Today, folks all across the country -- in parks, schools, libraries, offices, all over -- participate in this joyful celebration. Let’s face it. People enjoy sharing and hearing poems.

One year, I made extra copies of “Blessing the Boats” by Lucille Clifton. “Hello. It’s National Poetry Month and today’s Poem in Your Pocket Day. I’d like to share a poem with you.”

The answer was always, “Okay.”

       blessing the boats  by Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding                                               
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back   may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

After reading the poem, I’d hand her or him the copy to keep. Their faces would break out in wide smiles. “Really? I can keep this?” I’d nod and smile back, my heart radiating warmth.

Look up your favorite poem online, read it aloud, and then copy it to share on April 30. Or, be creative and write your own poem. I have an appointment at the beauty salon that day. Boy, are they in for a treat.

Who is your favorite poet? What poem do you remember being read to you as a child? Poetry is a fabulous way to communicate.

~ xoA ~