Let’s Talk, America

 

I’m not a fan of engaging in controversial topics through social media. While I think it can be informative, it’s often too impersonal. And things escalate way too quickly, leaving folks feeling attacked, demeaned and more decisively divided.

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Let’s Talk, America.

However, I believe in-person, open-ended, listening-focused conversations can be extremely fruitful. I’ve been grateful for the conversations I’ve had this election season with friends and family with wide-ranging views.

As a middle-class white male, I recognize my perception isn’t always reality. Perhaps it’s not even normally reality. I’ve never experienced most aspects of life as a minority.

While my family has its share of dysfunction – singe-parent household raising 5 kids on a substitute teacher’s salary – we never experienced the added element of discrimination or other less obvious unfair treatment based on the color of our skin or our sexual orientation.

While I acknowledge my immense privilege, this isn’t an apology for being white. Or being male. Or being middle class.

It’s an invitation to begin a more meaningful dialogue with my friends, colleagues & neighbors that may not come from the same side of the tracks. I believe we all have something valuable to add as individuals. I believe we all have life experiences that should be added to the conversation to provide a more holistic, realistic understanding of our country & the world in general. I believe that’s how we can move forward together, in spite of our differing opinions.

Perception isn’t Reality – but it does count for something

Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the extreme privilege of traveling internationally. Through those experiences, and my current employer, I’ve had the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with people who don’t look like me or whose first language isn’t English.

I’ve had the privilege of learning from their experience as a minority in America. I’ve had the privilege of learning of their background in their country of origin and what challenges they’ve faced and/or overcome. I’ve experienced the despair of hearing the heart-breaking story of several friends that have been deported or jailed for being in America illegally.

I’ve had the privilege of tutoring refugees living in low-income housing in Kansas City, KS. Through this experience, I’ve been able to learn more about their lives. I’ve been able to hear about their family’s hardships and bleak outlook. But more than anything, I’ve been able to appreciate the privilege and opportunity afforded to me because of where I grew up and what services were available to me.

While my family dynamics weren’t ideal, I had a mother who loved me and believed in me. She always encouraged me to pursue my passions regardless of what it cost her (time, money, her own passions/desires).

I had grandparents who spoke life and truth into me, even when things weren’t going my way. I’ll never forget the countless times my grandpa reiterated, “the cream always rises to the top” when I was heartbroken with family problems, friendship problems or confused about my future.

Stop Labeling Others 

My heart has been broken by the extreme divisiveness and hate-speech that has been seemingly effortlessly spewed by both sides of the political spectrum.

I believe the divide is so great because few supporters of Mrs. Clinton actually know someone — on a deep, personal level — that voted for Mr. Trump.

Similarly, I suspect few Trump-supporters have many (or any) deep, personal relationships with anyone on the other side of the fence.

The result is both sides unjustly labeling 50% of the country (* those who voted*) as racist, godless, clueless or helpless. I believe that’s the definition of bigotry by both sides. And bigotry will bring about no positive outcome.

Let’s Talk, America

My invitation is to join me for a conversation: an open, honest dialogue about the matters of your heart and mine.

I don’t care if you’re white. I don’t care if you’re a woman. I don’t care if you speak English. I don’t care if you voted for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson or Mr. Elmo.

What I care most about is that you’d join me in starting a conversation that’s long overdue for this country.

Let’s talk, America. I’m ready to listen. Are you?

Mondays from 6:30a-7:30a at Friendly Bean Coffee (420 NE Barry Rd, Kansas City, MO 64155)

Fridays from 6:45a-7:45a at The Roasterie Factory Cafe (1204 W 27th St, Kansas City, MO 64108)


 

Comment below or Tweet Me @jtsotojr if you’re planning to join. You can also message me on Facebook. If neither of the times listed above work for your schedule, feel free to propose another time and we can try to meet.

Watching Wendy | Fun Facts with your Furry Friend

Rumor has it my mommy & daddy are gonna be gone for some reason. They don’t tell me all the details, but the good news is that one of my aunts or uncles will be taking special care of me for a few days. I can’t wait!

If we’re going to have a memorable time together, there are a few things you might want to know about me first. I’m a pretty quirky little lovey, after all.

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Oh, so you’ll be my new friend?

First off, my favorite pastime is napping. During our time together, you’ll probably find me napping anywhere from 14-18 hours per day. I’m not super particular about where I sleep — sometimes it’s on the floor, sometimes the bed, other times it’s in other random places and positions.

When I’m not napping, I enjoy taking 10-30 minute walks around the neighborhood or at Happy Rock Park. Be sure to bring a poop bag or two with you, as I like to go #2 on those longer walks. I also might squat to pee 10-15 times, but I’m not at liberty to divulge whether I’m actually peeing or not. That’s a personal question.

On a side note, be sure to keep me on the leash outdoors. I know I look pretty calm & docile, but in another life I was a distance sprinter. My PR puts Usain Bolt’s Olympic Record to shame. So please, spare yourself the workout and just keep me on the leash when we’re outside.

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I love to go on walks. It’s my favorite. Dog parks are cool too — but I actually prefer walks.

Now I know what you’re thinking — what do I have to pee or poop, after all? Well, that’s where feeding me is important. I typically eat 1/2 cup of disgustingly cheap Costco Dog food once or twice a day. Daddy normally pours me 1/2 a cup in my bowl after I potty first thing in the morning (6-7a on workdays, 7:15-8:30ish on weekends). I normally get a full bowl of water to sip on throughout the day, too. If I’ve eaten my breakfast, Daddy pours me another 1/2 cup of food for supper, but I honestly rarely ever eat that.

Here’s a protip — I normally only eat if someone else is eating cereal or something like that. I’m all about companionship, so I probably won’t eat if you don’t eat with me. Also — I tend to go on hunger strikes right after mom & dad leave, so don’t be surprised if I don’t eat much.

One trick dad does is jingling my food bowl and then dumping some of the food on the ground for me to come and eat. Dad knows I like to keep things orderly, so he knows I won’t leave food just lying on the ground. It normally works.

After I go potty in the morning, I’m normally able to control my bladder for up to 9 hours. On weekends, though, I prefer to go out early afternoon and then right before bed at night. Just three times a day will help me take care of business outside and not inside. [I’m potty trained, don’t get me wrong, but when nature calls or I’m super-scared, I might have the occasional accident. Whoops!]

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m extremely cuddly and affectionate. Perhaps my biggest quirk is my love for kisses. Humans call it licking — but to me it’s just a good old fashion sloppy kiss to show my affection.

At night, when you’re ready for bed, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be ready, too. If it’s okay with you, I like sleeping in the same place as my watcher. But I can also find a sleep on the floor or a couch if necessary. I don’t have a kennel, but I do have a severe fear of being in kennel, so spare us both the high-pitched squeals and shrieks and keep me out of small enclosed spaces.

Sometimes I get a little sassy, what can I say? It’s not that I’m mad, but sometimes I just want to feel heard. Or I want you to play with me. So don’t be surprised if I randomly singly a song full of woofs. It’s nothing personal. Sometimes I just like to let it all out. But I normally stop after a few moments (or minutes).

Finally, let’s face it, you’re probably going to leave me alone at some point during our time together. That’s okay — really. I understand. I’m an introvert dog at heart, so I could some alone time, too. When you do leave, feel free to put on my black “bark” collar. It calms me down and helps me relax while you’re gone. Don’t worry — dad took the batteries out, so it’s just a placebo effect. I don’t get shocked or anything if I bark. It just helps me relax while you’re gone. I don’t know how it works, either, but it does and that’s all the matters!

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I may look sad, but I’m really just sleepy. This black collar puts a spell on me that chills me out. I won’t mind a few extra hours to nap while you’re gone.

Thanks so much for being my friend during this pivotal time while my mommy & daddy are gone. I know they really appreciate it– and truth be told, I really like it, too! There’s nothing like cuddling and playing with new friends. From the bottom of my doggy heart, thank you!

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I’m not one to play favorites… but my favorite doggy park is the Waggin’ Trail in North Kansas City. Just sayin’!

 

 

Building their Castle

Another holiday season has come & gone with my grandparents completing their 3-month journey all the way from Florida to visit family & friends along the East Coast and across the midwest to Missouri before heading back south to escape winter.

I’ve treasured this special two week period ever since I was a child. It was always marked by laughs (Bible Salesman Story), age-old sayings (“Cream always rises to the top”) and quality time playing card games.

Over the last few years, I’ve been reminded how my grandparents helped shape my immediate family (the Sotos) and instilled lasting character in each of us.

I’m also reminded of the miracles in their past that had to happen for the Sotos to even exist.

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