Friday, December 11, 2015

Stage a Holiday Rebellion!

Today I'm going to share a story I'm calling "Sasha's First Holiday Rebellion".

Back in my 20s I was partnered with a woman who was both highly extroverted and loved the holiday season--to be honest we both did. We always had a decorated tree that we invited friends over to decorate with us. We went to parties, spent time with our families and generally enjoyed the colorful fun of the season.

But one year, all the visiting and spending time with others just burnt me out. After cooking two holiday dinners myself to entertain family and friends, my lovely partner volunteered me to cook for her cousins who were visiting her family. Don't get me wrong, these were lovely people AND I love to cook but I noticed that every I thought about it my entire body felt like I as wearing a lead suit. I just couldn't face another evening of cooking and socializing. I needed a break!

I chose to not go. I gave my partner a recipe card for my beef stew recipe and told her she could call me if she needed advice but I was going nowhere that evening. She wasn't happy about it and her family wondered "what's wrong with Sasha" but they got over it.

I don't remember exactly what I did with my evening but I believe it included putting my feet up and watching a movie. All I know is that when I think back on it my body relaxes a little and I breath a sigh of relief.

Just recently a good friend told me how she turned down a family plan to travel on Thanksgiving in favor of relaxing at home. This made me smile A LOT.

Sometimes the best thing you can give yourself is a vacation from the Holiday. There might be some resistance at first, but when people see you are serious about taking care of your own peace and well being, they often will follow your lead which will create a more peaceful season for everyone.

Thanksgiving -- have a serving of sanity

Hey Peeps, I sent this out to my mailing list and thought it was worth sharing more broadly. Just in case you are running hard trying to make everyone happy.

I love to cook and I especially love making Thanksgiving dinner. I love it so much that in the past I was quite willing to do my one woman act for my family like I was some kind of circus performer. Never mind I didn't get to actually visit with my family or really enjoy sitting down to dinner. I had a center stage position to maintain! Also, I didn't need any stinkin' help! I can DO IT ALL!


Do you find yourself in this position ever? Where you are just the center of some activity and loving the attention but just on the verge of collapse because if you admit in even the smallest way that the task is tiring you out (even with all the recognition) you will loose everyone's (love, respect, awe...).

Well, I found myself in that exact spot. After several years of creating unique menus that included things like chestnut soup shooters and gorgieres, multiple desserts and unique takes on traditional recipes I found myself burning out. I was just exhausted thinking about the menu. Never mind the cleaning, table decor etc.

(I just didn't want to disappoint anyone).

Only a couple years ago I took a risk and asked my sister to bring a pumpkin pie. The next year, I toned down the menu. This year, Keri is doing all the appetizers.

The weird thing is I don't think anyone is really noticing that these other elements aren't there. Or that I'm not doing everything. And perhaps my effort is appreciated even when I give up a little control.

What about you? Is there something you really dread that you possibly could risk farming out or just dropping all together?

Here is a tiny challenge. Find one thing that you think that you absolutely must do that you are dreading (it doesn't have to be around Thanksgiving or the holidays by the way) and DON'T DO IT. If it must be done, give it to someone else. If it's optional, drop it. See what happens.

Then take a nap.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Guns..what I think about the "debate"

We are on an upward trend of gun related violence and we are still arguing about the right to possess guns.

The argument always devolves into "good law abiding gun owner" clutching their pearls protesting "but I'm a good gun owner" and how they only shoot at targets and they have a right to defend their home and how they have a permit and how they obey the law and how blah blah blah THEY ARE GOOD PEOPLE NOT NUT-JOBS DAMMIT!!!

Despite the statistics stating that these good citizen gun owners are all for regulations (because those bad guys are gun manufactures or the NRA--not the people buying the guns or being influenced by the NRA), I have yet to see one gun owner getting up to offer any solution to gun violence if it in any way inconveniences their perceived rights to have a gun.

Because these good people aren't the problem, right? It's the crazy irresponsible people that are screwing up the party.

Why are we so fixated on owning guns anyway?

This is what I think.

The base impulse behind guns, no matter what story you tell yourself about heritage, family, good times, going hunting with your dad, your years as a scout (boy or girl), how safe and controlled you are...gun ownership is about being able to do a greater violence than you think can be visited upon you.

Guns have no alternate use. They are designed for killing (no really. I'll wait while you look that up).

In a zero sum mindset, superior firepower is a poor man's peace.

Our world moves fast and doesn't always feel safe.  It's not a big leap for a fragile person to use a gun to solve their feelings of angst, frustration or disenfranchisement.

(but, I'm a good person...a responsible person)

Oh boy, the spittle really starts to fly when talk about the right to "defend your home" begins.

In the story of the good responsible gun owner, shooting an intruder is the end of the story. The intruder is dead and the mini castle restored to peace. The good people win the evil intruder goes to jail (or is dead--you are supposed to shoot to kill in those instances, right?).

Rights as a good citizen fulfilled.

But the possibility of the dangerous outside coming in, taking your stuff and "getting you" never goes away. That looping film plays in the brain every time the good, responsible, recreational, "only protecting my home" gun owner hears or sees something that remotely triggers fear.

It's life on high alert with guns and ammo. Is that safety?

If you look at global statistics for countries with gun control the per capita rate for home break ins and gun related violence is far lower than here in the US.  This is well documented.

Then the conversation goes back to "our heritage, tradition, American values etc" and "why can't I have a gun? I'm a responsible blah blah blah".

Will we ever stop believing guns make us safer, freer (or more American)?

One thing is true for me. As I get ready to press Publish on this article, I know that it will likely upset some gun owners.

This fact doesn't make me feel very safe or free. We have that in common at least.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

the blessing of twisting my knee--how I'm letting others care for me

Yesterday morning I managed to fall hard in my kitchen and twist my knee. As I tried to step over the dog gate, full coffee cup in hand, the very tip of my bunny slipper caught the top of the gate and sent me tripping forward. I attempted to catch myself--first on the kitchen table, then the counter top. The coffee in my cup went flying up and out--all over the counter and floor where my not yet stable foot was still in motion. It went sliding fast forward and up. I was air borne for a second. Some where in that, my knee twisted against its normal alignment.

I landed. There was a lot of noise from the dog gate falling over and me crashing heavily on the floor. And then shouting from Keri and our housemate--both rushing to see if I was ok.

For the first time that I can remember I couldn't spring up and say "I'm ok". Not even with false cheer. I wasn't sure which part of my body would allow that. My left shoulder was still giving me problems and my knee had a lot of sharp and unfamiliar pain. I just sat there until I worked out a plan for getting to my other knee (which was also banged up) and onto to my feet.

This was not how my day was supposed to go.

I had a day off planned for fun (a trip to the City for ramen, a tour of the Anchor Brewery and a trip to the public library there). Instead it was spent figuring out how to manage my quickly swelling joint.

A year ago I wrote about being laid up with some dreadful intestinal distress. The degree of chagrin and borderline shame of needing to be taken care of and sending Keri out to do "my" stuff was the beginning of a learning process that has been slow and uncomfortable for me (a self identified strong woman).

Since that event I've had many rich learnings on how to let someone else be in charge and to let others take care of me. I have been physically sidelined at least five times to the degree I was nearly fully dependent on others for my care (I say nearly because I could manage to bath and use the WC on my own--lessons I don't feel I need right now...please?).

The feeling of weird self consciousness in letting someone else do my chores is still there but at least I'm not protesting the kindness offered to me and am just saying yes to the help. I can still totally hear the little voice saying "no, it's ok, I'll take care of it, I've got this...blah blah blah".

And just what does that little voice think it's doing? My little voices are always protectors but many times misguided. Who am I after all if I am not doing all the things that normally fall to me? Not worthy? Not good enough? Weak? Lazy? Incompetent?

Strong women can handle a little discomfort, right?

(it's just a flesh wound)

So, for your enjoyment, my short list of things I let other people do instead of insisting on doing it myself.
I slept like a baby through this.

  1. Let my snacks, drinks, towels, medications and icepacks be brought to me--it is literally 15 ft to the kitchen and I totally feel this is a little thing but instead I asked to have them brought to me. 
  2. Let myself be driven around. I dislike being a passenger--it feels weird and I believe I'm a better driver than almost anyone (I hear the harrumphing, whatev, it's my blog). Still the stress of putting my foot on the gas and brake would not help my knee out at all so driving Miss Daisy it is. 
  3. Let someone else do the chores for others that I signed up to do--such as hanging my acupuncturist's painting for her or installing my Mom's new internet connection. I really did think I was going to do those things up until I realized they were not so unique that they required my personal touch (also they were kindly taken out of my hands).  
  4. Going for treatment early instead of toughing it out. I have a long history of refusing to see a doctor until I'm practically disabled. (now, I am aware that I actually AM disabled to a degree. However, there could be a whole lot more denial going on --I'm taking the win.)
  5. Letting someone offer Reiki to me and accepting it. Seriously, I never ask for Reiki because I think I should be able to do my own Reiki. That I should be able to erase my own pain with my own unimpeachable energetic flow--yah, Spirit loves that kind of thinking.
  6. Letting other people handle it in general.

I looked up what knees problems indicate in my Louse Hay book--pride, ego, inflexibility. The irony is not lost on me. While I don't believe my ego caused my knee problems I do find it rather entertaining that this is making me temporarily give up my hold on things.

I can accept help. I am no less strong for it. My knee will heal in it's own time.

In order to help other "strong women" avoid the same pitfalls I've had to navigate, I am planning a web class where I will share my learnings and experience as well as leave plenty of time to work with you on your own strong woman traps. Total freebie--mark your calendar for September 16th at 6PM. If you are interested, please leave a comment so I can send you a personal invite.

Strong woman, may you find the strength to ask for the the care you need before you become one of the walking (or not walking) wounded.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How I enraged 29 out of 30 readers

Back in my late twenties, in the throes of my dreadful, long time "writer's block" period I took a creative writing class to try to get some of my writing mojo back.

The objective of the class was actually to write a novella but all we were turning in was short stories.

It was like any other creative writing class--the first two lessons are about avoiding passive voice and a bunch of timed writing exercises. You then get to pass them around for feedback. Also, we were assigned homework--write short stories that could become that novella.

I liked the teacher. The advice he gave that stuck with me was how important it was to be kind when giving feedback. If you don't like something, it is really easy to say all kinds of unhelpful things. The flip side of course was to have a thick skin because receiving feedback was part of the program--your precious darling (story) was out there and there was a really good chance that people were not going to like it--not just the technical aspects of your prose but your story, your characters, your point in general.

So one evening I passed out the xeroxes of my story and braced myself for whatever was going to come from my peers (some of them wrote really well).

As the feedback came in some of my classmates pointed out things such as my use of passive voice but what really fascinated me was how much white hot hatred the room had for my main character and sympathy for the character that was her trigger. Name calling was involved (not towards me, just my character). I could see the bristling outrage--I somehow had tapped into some odd shared experiences and identities in the classroom.

Intriguing. I had no idea this would come back.

On the bottom of the pile was one person's feedback--he got my point. He understood my main character's dilemma and the conflicted feelings/thoughts she was having and the actions she ultimately took. Out of thrity pieces of feedback, my story stuck it's landing with one reader.

I got two gifts that evening. One, the experience of having my story land home. The other more trenchant experience was of touching a nerve with so many people. It felt amazing! As I gave my reaction to the feedback I said as much (the room looked puzzled and a little afraid).

I didn't return to class after that. What I told myself at the time was "these aren't my people". This might have been a mistake. I might never have made any friends or fans there, but I lost out on the delicious experience of provoking and disturbing people around me WITHOUT EVEN TRYING.

I don't write for bland acknowledgements. I'm also not on a mission to provoke or upset people. The only intentional thing I do when I write is try to tell the truth as I know it.

Writing from the gut, going for nuance, saying things that are hard to describe (even to myself) isn't going to win me a lot of fans-I only hope I reach someone who needs whatever it is I have to share. This kind of writing can be lonely because even when something hits home, I won't necessarily hear about it.

I review my blog periodically--I can see where I was trying too hard to make people happy or to reach a broader audience. Occasionally those articles get a bunch of reads. Just as occasionally the articles that are more personal and less apologetic catch attention and I get just as many reads.

Sometimes I try to reach one audience and alienate another audience.  Sometimes my writing isn't read at all.

Oh well.

I've been publishing less (still writing my share--just not pushing it all out). Contrary to what I'm told about keeping contact and staying in my audience's awareness, I only want to publish writing that is true. I can't do that if I am worried about "being on your mind". Also, I trust you more than that.

And in a world of seven billion people, one in thirty isn't a bad statistic.

Have a great week. May you provoke people in all the right ways.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It's been a year since Steve took his life

I have been dreading this week. I have been reliving memories of receiving the phone call from the coroner's office, breaking the news to my family and the dreadful slowness of sitting with searing pain.

My mother looks tiny these days--as if the year inserted a straw into her center and sipped at her life force every time Steve crossed her mind (and he crosses her mind all the time). She speaks of her own passing more than ever--what to do with her ashes and that she is sorry knowing it will fall to be and my sister to handle all the things in her house. I stay close, I listen, and I try to get her to at least use her walking stick (she really needs a walker).

Grief did strange things to me too. I wanted to be normal too fast. And while I was semi-conscious that I was efforting and braining my way through life, the caldron of my emotions bubbled under an unsteady lid ready to boil over. And when they boiled over, it wasn't just me who suffered the burns.

Grief set up little stations to catch my attention. She had a permanent position on Lawrence Exp. where I could see Steve's old apartment and the turn off I would take to pick him up for lunch at Mom's.

She was there at Mo's where I took Steve for breakfast on his last birthday.

She also clings most potently to a small container in my closet that contains the objects I collected from the coroner that Steve had in his pocket. The $40 in crisp $10 bills just feels so sad. That he didn't spend it. It looks like he had just got that money and $40 worth of living never made it out of him.

Throwing yourself into work is culturally seen as a brave thing to do to deal with grief. All the activity of the last year--my technology job, the book writing, taking on physical challenges, setting goals--none of it was therapeutic.

I thought my grief would just recede into background and normalcy would return. I honestly couldn't run fast enough to make that happen. Grief caught me when I stopped to take a breath.

I'm on a temporary moratorium on almost everything...challenges and goals be damned (for now).

I've been sharing this year along the way--partially because I want some company and partially because I want to slay any idea that grief is something that can be heroically (and neatly) endured and then bypassed. Parts of me died (and are dying) as I go through this. I'm still not done with this. I'm not the same woman I was 365 days ago.

One part that died what the compelling illusion that I could "save" anyone. No matter how may righteous seeming actions I might take, I cannot change a course someone else has chosen for them self. I don't regret any of the things I did to try to help Steven in his distress. What has been hard is knowing that there wasn't a magical blend of action that I could have chosen instead that would have "done the trick" by giving him a physical reality that would stand in for the emotional state he needed to stay in this world.

Grief will have her way with me--she has been having her way with me anyway. Only now I struggle less against her terrible tender hands.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

on being "seen" part two

I've written a little about some of these topics before but it's my blog so I get to repeat myself as often as I like.

Part of the experience of being bullied is creating a defense system. Some people do it by becoming bullies--you can't get picked on if you are doing the picking. Some find other ways. Bottomline, as children, without the help of wiser people, you are going to come up with systems that don't cut it over time.

You will bring your old, deficient defenses with you into adult life completely unaware they are deficient. When situations arise that resonate with who you were at age 8 or 10, you will trot out your old remedies and defenses and find them strangely lacking.

My old remedy was to lean against my creative talents. As a child I was very productive and skillful when it came to art. I received lots of praise from adults and sometimes from my peers, so even though I was terrified of being chased home by gangs of angry girls or cruel boys on dirt bikes or accosted in the hallway by some skeevy kid with bad skin, I had art as a refuge.

My creativity held me up for a long time. At least it did until the time that I wanted to take my art into a bigger arena. I quickly discovered that there were people who wouldn't like my stuff. Also, that I wasn't as skilled as others.

It devastated me. I was completely unprepared for my coping mechanism to come up short.

My lack of awareness, finding out that I was vulnerable in the one area I thought I was bullet proof, caused me to run away.

My life existed in two parts--the part of me that got all my self worth from being good at something and the other part of me that was broken, denigrated and deeply hidden.

But I didn't know that I was operating like that. And out of that I created a life of shielding and avoidance.

For years I lived looking over my shoulder, watching for the people who would sense my vulnerability and rip me to shreds. It became harder and harder to share the things I was interested in because of excessive concern over criticism.

The list of things I said "no" to was ridiculously long. Teaching or any career where I would need to control a room or deal with unruliness was absolutely off the list of possibilities.

Instead of dealing with people, I developing skill after skill so there would always be something I could hold up to protect the broken bird living in my heart.

But because I could never be perfect in any of my pursuits, eventually those things became new ways for my broken bird to be rebroken.

I ran for years until I recognized I couldn't "skill" myself into safety.

Eventually, the broken bird must be seen for what she is to be healed.

And it is hard. Because with it comes acknowledging that someone else saw you as less than...a person ok to harm. And for me came the double shame of lacking the resilience to stand up to the rigors of a critical world and therefore never being able to take creative risks.

There is a word that comes to mind for someone lacks resilience and that can be harmed.  That word is "weak".

With such a mindset, it's a wonder that the broken bird can ever see the light of day.

As I've said before, I feel a certain safety in writing. As I imagine you, my readers, you are infinitely kind and empathetic. I imagine you've been there. That you have a broken bird too.

The illusion of that safety allows me to write and start the process of being seen. Of giving my broken bird heart light and oxygen.

In seeking and finding others to witness, to bring compassion, to hold space, to seen and be seen--by and by, the broken bird is healed.

The world is not a perfectly safe place. People will not love you automatically. They also will not universally embrace your brokenness.

There are plenty of scenarios in my daily life where I don't feel safe--but I don't avoid them anymore.

I'm more ok with not being perfectly defended--with being vulnerable. I don't need my list of accomplishments to protect me as much. I'm less perfect today than I have ever been.

But I have a better sense of where I can bring my broken bird out into the light. And I do.

Monday, May 18, 2015

In Praise of the Shy, the Quiet, the Introvert

The ones that don't want to fight
but who are endlessly engaged and powered
by our own bubbles

for we are the ones exhorted to "put ourselves out there"
and "be seen"
 in a world ravenous for entertainment and stimulation

we are not here as your puppet show
or random curiosity

like some undiscovered life form
remote from all sight
in some undiscovered rainforest

we don't want to be discovered
lest we be consumed

(you wonder that we even exist)

we will not be consigned to a museum
where we can live in the stasis of your gaze

deep space stars blaze and burn on
ignorant of the limits of your perception

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Mom--it's Mother's Day

I mention Mom from time to time in this blog but I've never really gone into her story. In some ways I think that telling my Mom's story will be one of the great works of my life because of the slice of history she inhabited.

I started to write a little of Mom's story today but it's way too much to go into in a blog post.

I wrote in my Mother's Day card how everything I have in my life could be linked back to something she either taught me, did for me or gave me and that I give thanks for her daily.

The Super Hero as a young woman.
She smiled at this and then out of the blue said "you know what you really owe your life too?"



If the Allied forces hadn't pushed back Nazi occupation, my Mother would never have met my Father (an American GI) while she waited in the snow for the streetcar that was supposed to take her to her job at the American hospital.

When Mom talks about her young life it sounds adventurous and dramatic--a series of clear, happy images interspersed with genuinely terrifying events. Now that I think of it, it reminds me a little of the story of Candide.

Despite the fact that she lived in such a turbulent, dangerous time under such threatening circumstances, she speaks of most of her life during the war with great fondness.

Honestly, I think it was far more difficult for Mom to be an Army wife in the United States with three kids than it was to deal with Nazis occupying her home town or being shipped off to Germany to do forced labor. But, she managed to do both.

And then I came along.

I don't think having another child at age 43 was what Mom had in mind. After years of my father being away in the service, moving multiple times and raising my siblings I think Mom would have enjoyed being in one place with my Dad retired from the service to enjoy something other than child rearing.

Victory wasn't my benefactor. My Mom's decision to marry my Dad and follow that path was my benefactor. And perhaps the fact that Mom couldn't return to Belarus (repatriated prisoners were being consigned to forced labor to rebuild ware destroyed Russia) was also my benefactor.

Those doors closed and forced another door open for Mom.

And through that door was a domestic life in a country she didn't understand and that didn't understand her.
The Super Hero, the author and brunch.

But she walked through anyway and picked up little infant me on the other side.

As I strive to understand Mom I start to see life a little through her lens. By comparison, I was raised with a ridiculous amount of privilege and access and security.

Here is the real question I'll leave you with. How do you look back on a life that includes being interrogated by Nazis and dodging gun fire and be able to focus primarily on fond, happy memories?

Answer that, and you have the key to a happy, free life.

So Mom, thanks for all the decisions you made that made me.

Thanks for being in the right place at the right time.

Thanks for believing in music lessons and education and books.

Thanks for letting me do my own thing but being clear about boundaries.

Thanks for letting me fail and figure it out on my own.

Thanks for supporting my eccentric pursuits.

Thanks for loving Keri.

Thanks for being so fiercely yourself.

Thanks Mom. Just thanks.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On being "seen"

I started this essay about being seen a week ago after attending a conference with my peers.

The one way I have tried to be "seen" in the world is through writing. By writing myself out I transform into a less dimensional person--I show what I can bear to be seen.

There is so much people don't get to see.

One thing they say about introverts is that we are energetically renewed by time alone and depleted by dealing with crowds (crowds for me start at about +5 people). Part of this energy depletion is caused by overstimulation (having to parse so much simultaneously) but I realize for me that a far larger part of that is defensiveness--not knowing who or what in a crowd is safe for me emotionally.

I'm still dealing with grief (oh that you say?). Yes, that.

When Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband on Friday night I wish I could have been there to say to her personally that she doesn't have to be strong or inspire anyone right now. With all her power and influence, she still needs the space to fall apart.

I wish that for her with all my strength. I wish it for myself as well.

I hate having people catch me in an unguarded moment experiencing my grief. I hate it with a white hot passion. But because it shows up uninvited I don't have a lot of choice around it. I just roll with it.

I hate having people see my real frustration with things that don't frustrate them. I usually keep those things to myself. When I don't however, I get to hear from people exercising their smart muscles about what a grump I am for letting little things bother me.

I hate having people see that there are so many areas in my life where I am incompetent. The unasked for advice and feedback masked as concern bugs the shit out of me.

I hate having people see my anger. I have it and I'm told I am wrong for having it--it makes people uncomfortable.

Because of these things I have over the decades of my life cultivated a broken self sufficiency--a kind of DIY lifestyle that covered my heart. I could go to my corner, deal with what is broken alone (much of my internal life is duct taped together), and stay silent on those things that disturb me--from the trivial to the global.

But that all started to crack apart when Steve took his life. I needed to be seen. I needed people to know how broken I was (am). I couldn't pretend that I could bear it all and be so strong. I was falling apart on many levels (I still am).

There is risk in showing that. People have opinions, draw conclusions, and project themselves--many times speaking with good intention and flawed execution.

The human compulsion to opine on and insert themselves into things both sensitive and deeply personal to another--part of their own desire to exist, to be seen--it's just out there.

But taking this risk of being seen is how we build a tribe. We show ourselves little by little and see who shows up with their hearing ears on and speaking mouth closed. The ones who see us--not their own reflection speaking back. These are the safe ones. The ones who can see the grief, the failure, the discontent, the disappointment, and even the anger. They are not battered or bothered by it. They don't need to fix it or advise it away. They have been there.

Because of it, I am finding my tribe--person by person. People who can sit in silence with me. People who offer presence and companionship. People who bring their whole selves and who can bear to be seen by me too.

I have a heightened appreciation for these people and seek them out.

Even as this first year of grief is passing, I find my feelings changing but not dulling or dimming. I need to feel all my feelings. I need people who can hold this space with me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apple Watch, body scans--what the hell????

I had a soul enriching retreat with an inspiring group of women this last weekend. A great deal was discussed that I'm still digesting. So, I'm not ready to share any of that just yet.

So, instead for your entertainment...
I'm taking a picture of taking a picture.

I got my Apple Watch. 

I freely admit that I'm addicted to do dads that measure "me". What I'm doing, how much energy I'm expending, all that. I use them all for a while and then find I dislike being measured all the time. 

But I still get them when they promise to get me closer to "truth". 

I want to believe I'm working harder than I am so I'm always looking for some ultimately accurate device that will show me for sure what I'm doing. 

Part of me doesn't really want to know but I can't let it go. 

The other part of me (the one that is high and mighty) likes to dryly point out that my ancestors didn't need to monitor their movements at all. That voice usually doesn't get the mic for very long--I do love gadgets.

And because I really want to know more about this "truth" I had a body scan done--I wanted to see the results of all my hard work with Precious. I just knew underneath my cushy exterior would be a rock solid core of muscle and dense bone. The scan was going to tell me all that.

How body scans work is that you lie down on a table and an X-Ray mounted on a track makes slow sweeps across your body to give you a read out of how much of you is bone, muscle and (of course) fat. Takes less than 10 minutes. 

The scan looks kind of like the figure on the right.
When I got my results back I discovered that if you put me in a jar and shook me real hard, I'd turn into butter. 

Also, I discovered that the human body flattens out to an alarming extent when horizontal. The scan produces a silhouette of a teeny tiny thin person (the green and blue representing the bone and muscle) surrounded by a humanoid ocean of red (adipose tissue). It's not a good look. 

Heck, it was downright disturbing to see! I had no idea about how my excess weight was settled on my body.

I shared the result of my scan with Miss Keri who immediately shot back that the scan was WRONG and that I'm BEAUTIFUL. 

(I love Miss Keri ALOT--if my beauty was the problem she would be correct)

What I didn't know about was how much my muscle mass I'd lost over the years. 

How different body composition looks from being a super active person in their twenties to someone who is in their late forties who only gets in some walks along with going to the gym a couple times a week.

Working out is good but what I'm doing is barely stemming the tide of nature. 

I intend to live a long time. Not sure what quality that will be if I have fat nestled around my internal organs. 

I let Precious in on the scan results. She responded by adding more weight and more intensity. 

It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sugar--I had no idea

There is an awful lot in the media these days about the dangers of refined sugar. I do know this much--if I eat too much of it I feel like crap. Mental fog, low energy etc. Also, insane water retention.

When I was driving down to Ojai with Miss Keri I noticed my shorts were uncomfortably tight around the waist-band. My first thought was "DAMN! These were washed in hot water". Thirty seconds later I considered that hitting the bakery at work and eating more than "a little kettle corn" at home was contributing to my discomfort (nothing out of control but more than I was used to eating--even a gradual increase over the period of a couple of months can make a difference in your weight or how you feel).

So, I decided to just drop sugar. It wasn't hard to do--I don't eat much in the way of processed foods and already know which foods register high on the glycemic index.

So, its been about two weeks. Just as I expected, I feel better and my shorts are fitting the way I want them to again. Here is what I didn't expect.

Yesterday I went for a massage. For several years now I have experienced massage that is either borderline uncomfortable to excruciating. I breath through it, drink lots of water and let the MT do her thing knowing that spending time sitting most of the day, sports injuries and the aging process were contributing to my overall crunchiness.

This is the first time in a long time that I've had deep tissue massage that didn't feel like I was being worked with hot pokers.

I never made the connection that sugar could have been contributing to that much inflammation in my body. For a long time, I've avoided many activities but because I just HURT. I don't have chronic pain but I was experiencing enough day-to-day discomfort that I started limiting myself in what I thought was physically possible for me.

The irony in this of course was that I thought that by changing how I ate I was putting a major limit on myself--what I perceived as limiting my enjoyment was actually limiting me in ways that were more integral to my happiness and overall wellbeing.

A coworker asked me "so is this sugar free thing forever?". I guess it's forever until it's not. I change my diet up a lot and only a few years ago I thought low carb diets were completely stupid. I still think you need carbs in your diet to feel well and for proper brain function but clearly there is more for me to learn around what role carbs play in my diet and what is the best way to take them in.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Please take a compliment

When I was in Ojai with Miss Keri enjoying a little "she and me" time, I saw this hanging on the door of a metaphysical bookstore.
Like your hair...why thank you!
I loved it! Ojai is full of quirky, sweet surprises and I especially liked the idea of getting a spontaneous compliment.

When I got back into the office I made a few of my own and hung them around my area.

It took a few days, but eventually I noticed that the compliments were being torn off one by one.

(I was little surprised to see how long it took for people to take a compliment--is it really so hard to own a few kind words for yourself?)

Even so I was tickled to see that people were responding even a little so I took a few photos of my compliment campaign and shared them on Facebook.

It seems that others were as charmed by the signs as I was by the one I saw in Ojai.

Mixed in with all the kind feedback were a few requests for "virtual" compliments. At first I thought they wanted me to compliment them directly but then I realized what they really wanted was a way to get a compliment with the same spontaneity that the sign offers.

So with a little scripting help from Andrea, I compiled all the compliments into this little web page.

Compliments any time you need and as many as you need (just refresh the page).

Here is the really cool thing. People have been reporting back that the compliment they got were just the words they needed in the moment.

One woman who just returned from the salon got "You have really bouncy hair".

Another received "You don't need to settle" TWICE IN A ROW.

And yet another having a hard time felt her chin raise up a bit to hear "You have so much talent".

Kind of makes it feel a little like an oracle--and in the way anything can be a nudge the Universe I suppose it is.

It's amazing how a few positive words can give the little bit of confidence you need when you need it.

Not a whole lot else to say about this--please take a compliment. It would really knock my socks off to hear back from you on the compliment you get, especially if you love it.

Even better would be to hear that you run your own compliment campaigns. Have some sweet words to share? Put them out there and see what blossoms from it.

Let me hear from you in the comments below.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act: We still need to ACT UP

I'm a married woman, married to a woman. We and our kind may not be fully embraced and loved, but we are not invisible. Not by a long shot.

In 1989, during the height of the AIDs epidemic, 4,500 protestors gathered at St. Patrick's cathedral in New York to protest Cardinal O'Connor's position on safe sex, homosexuality, condom distribution and abortion. Several dozen protesters entered the church, disrupting services and even going so far to desecrate a communion wafer. 

At the time, the protests were vilified--many said ACT-UP had gone too far in its militancy and disrespect.

But, when your life is at stake, you can't be nice. When no one else is speaking up, you have to make whatever noise your tiny voice can manage. Even if it isn't nice. Even if people get upset.

Your silence will not protect you. --Audre Lourde 

Silence = Death


And just this week in Indiana...

In the midst of this furious debate, I have prayed earnestly for wisdom and compassion... --Gov. Mike Pence

This just gets me. 

I want to know why the governor's prayers for wisdom and compassion are coming after the NCAA, SalesForce, Gen-Con (etc etc) threaten to pull their business from Indiana and not before signing the original bill that would allow businesses to exclude LGBT from their businesses.

Did the wisdom and compassion come in the form of a new insight that everyone could see his position was total bull shit?

The governor's "surprise" that RFRA would impact his state's business just fascinates me. That anyone, much less the governor of such a populous state, would think such an act would go un-challenged speaks to how vocal we still need to be. To not be comfortable. To not be nice.

To not be silent.

Silence = Death

What was "good for the State of Indiana" just over a week ago needed to be signed into law in a private ceremony--make of that what you will. 

Prejudice is not nice either so lets keep it quiet behind a closed door. If we pretend it isn't happening, maybe everyone else will pretend too.

Governor, thank you for the "fix" but nobody is playing your game of make believe. There is still a lot to be done--not just in Indiana either. 

While I still believe dialog, mutual understanding and respect are the way forward, I will be damned if I stand by silent and docile for the sake of being nice and being respectful. 

I will not sit down because my anger makes you uncomfortable. 

I will not quietly die to keep things the same.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm about to piss everyone off--my take on bigotry esp in regards to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

What's going on in Indiana makes me enormously sad. Most of the time, as a lesbian, I feel safe, accepted and loved by the people in my life. 

It's when something like RFRA comes around that I'm made aware that I'm living in a bubble.

It's uncomfortable. Uncomfortable for me because I now see in the clear light of day what people will do when allowed to let their prejudices run free. 

The ugly rider of RFRA is that you can exclude anyone from your business and call it "religious freedom".

So blatant. Shocking to see how thin the veneer of civility was--all some people needed was a little permission to act on their intolerances.

We have laws in place against this kind of behavior because it keeps the peace. But it doesn't change people. I would love it if we didn't need laws to promote civility and tolerance. Apparently the thirst to express intolerance is so great that a whole state needed a law to make it so (and how many other states will be emboldened to take similar measures--that remains to be seen).

All I want is for there to be an acknowledgement that RFRA really isn't about God or even religion. RFRA is a license to act out on one of the ugliest human impulses--the impulse to separate out and dominate people unlike ourselves because of differences in beliefs, practices and innate qualities. 

Why? Because there are people who are terrified of losing their little place of privilege in a vast, unruly universe.

We all think we are good people until our behavior shows otherwise.

A couple years ago I was eating dinner with the family of a good friend in their home--this friend is someone who I believe loves and cares about me. During the dinner banter his daughter quipped how something was "so gay". I shot her a look and she got very quiet. I don't know if anyone else heard what she said but the banter just kept on. I took note. It shocked me. It also made me very sad.

We think we are so cool and inclusive to have a friend unlike ourselves until our biases show. 

I don't say these things because I am enlightened. I say these things because I know I am biased.

When I was in my early 30s, I moved to San Diego. I had lived most of my life in Northern California and was moving down the state to follow my partner. It was a big deal for me at the time--I was leaving my family and everything familiar. Still, I was willing to try something new so south I went.

The exhausting twelve-hour drive south in the suspension-free diesel truck killed my body--by the time we arrived I was a physical wreck running on fumes.

As we pulled up to our new home as the sun was setting. In my fatigue and emotional fragility I noticed one thing that I had never thought of until that moment.

We had moved into a predominantly non-white neighborhood.

The neighbors, the stores, and all the signs showed me loud and clear that I wasn't living in middle class San Jose any longer.

For the first time in my life I was going to live in a place where most people didn't look like me. The realization was unsettling because up until that moment I thought I was color blind.

I was the nice, liberal, white, lesbian who read all the right books and thought I "got it" when we discussed white privilege. Apparently not.

Although I came to it unconsciously, my idea of diversity meant adding non-whites to a pool that was already very white and would continue to be mostly white.

Up until that time I never could have imagined that I could share anything in common with people that I saw as hateful and bigoted, but I was blind to a bias that only needed a moment of vulnerability to show itself. 

Here is the thing. Everyone has biases--biases that remain largely unchallenged but affect how decisions get made and others get treated.

I don't think I've transcended my bias--I'm just aware it has an influence that I need to actively question.

We think we are good people--not hateful and certainly not bigots but then again, we start to get uncomfortable when some of our perceptions of normal get shook up.

Just because you have a lesbian friend at work, that doesn't mean every other thought you have about gays will be negated. And for those people who never spend any time with gays or anyone who falls outside their cultural norm, there are even fewer challenges to those biases.

Recently I read this remark made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference:

“So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that”

The headlines read that RGB was calling for an all female SCOTUS. I heard something different. It is still such a radical and upsetting idea that women can serve as Supreme Court justices that the idea that the entire court would be comprised of women tells us that don't view the talent pool in such an unbiased fashion. Who would represent men? some will ask yet we unquestioningly expect that a predominantly male court would be less biased towards their own interests.

If the talent pool was actually based on talent and ability, things would look a lot different. We could expect that the right people for the job might all be women, or all black or a combination not comprised in any of the pat diversity objectives that show "progress".

When we try to influence diversity we go for "improved" results. We aren't very hopeful that we can effect much change so we'll just improve the same broken old machine guaranteeing we stay sort of comfortably the same.

Same until it's not the same.


When I see things like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, what I see is an acknowledgement that there is a statistically significant amount of people who don't even want modest improvements. They would prefer to change the physical world so it more closely aligns to their biases-- a desperate last attempt to retain an outdated model.

But things are changing. The more you fight change, the more painful change is.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tell one true thing

When I sat down to write my blog post today I had a list of topics. And I started writing on each one and had to stop myself. I just couldn't settle down on a topic where I wanted to tell the full truth. They all kind of sucked.

See, the problem is when you have a line of work like mine, there is kind of a temptation to sound like you have your issues all tied up and emotional biz completely under control. That just isn't true in life--not mine or anyone else's. 

I'm just feeling a bit impatient about my own emotional story.

Truth is, I'm sick of all the grief in my life. 

We had to put Turtle to sleep two weeks after he started having terrible seizures. Except for a brief period where he seemed like he was more or less his old self, the medication zonked him out and his seizures came roaring back. I found myself crying in private and public a lot after that--something that I'm a little self conscious about because it wasn't that long ago that I was doing that over my brother Steve

And now, just this weekend, it was the 29th anniversary of my father's death--a day Steve usually marked by heading down to the cemetery with a can of Brasso and a rag to clean Dad's headstone. 

Before anyone starts taking issue with a possible comparison of my brother's suicide and my cat's demise, there is no comparison there. Only another loss--you can't control the way your heart responds as it knows no measure or scale around what you should feel. 

Only the other day I saw a work glove in the road and had to go hide in the garage and cry because I didn't want to talk about how the glove looked a lot like the pair Steve offered to give me but I turned down. 

Am I getting help for this? I'm working on finding someone who can guide me through my my grief labyrinth. Can't white knuckle it forever. It's time to step back...far back and look at what the last decade brought to my door--the joyous and the terrible.

This is one of the reasons why writing is so important to me. Through the accumulation of words I have a sky view of my life. I can see the grim thought loops and also when things are just too damn chirpy. The micro scope view of the moment to moment can fool a person into thinking things are "fine". 

Here is the truth. I'm not "fine".  

There is a whole lot I just don't give a shit about anymore. I don't have energy to waste. Some things have got to go-- at the top of that list is trading the truth for a ration of "fine". 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Breaking up with the past/the agony of unconscious time travelling

This was my weekend to get some fresh air and enjoy our early spring. The scent of white lilacs and jasmine have been tempting me every morning and evening when their perfume is most potent--I didn't want to miss out so Saturday morning I pulled on my gardening clogs and gloves and set to pulling the thousands of weeds dotting our back yard.

I recently started limiting listening to books on tape or other media while I'm outside so I can be more alive to my experience and to be more aware of what is going on inside me mentally and emotionally. You would think that listening to a book would be absorbing but many times it's just convenient background noise while my own thoughts go wild and unchecked.

Often this wild, unchecked state goes deep in my personal bucket of hurts and resentments from the past. I don't know exactly why doing something as pleasant as spending time in the yard would bring anything up other than something nice but with disturbing regularity I have found myself emotionally traveling back to some earlier part of my life and reliving a confrontation or some other event that hurt my feelings. Only now, in the safe confines of my imagination, I'm armed with a comeback or some other action that feels like evening things up (like forcing my abuser's head into the toilet and flushing a few dozen times).

These memories powerful, seductive and are on rotation and ready to play when I find myself not paying attention to what I'm thinking.

There is no satisfaction in these rewritten memories but my body responds just as if these awful events were happening right now. I tense up, my face screwing into an angry glare which confuses everyone when I walk into the house ("what happened?" they all say as I stalk off to use the restroom or to get a glass of water--completely unaware that I'm radiating rage).

Without my earbuds in I became aware that this time my mind drifted to this one boss I had nearly 25 years ago. He was the husband part of a husband/wife run business--she ran everything and he spent his time bloviating and hurling abuse. He was a nasty bully and I was frequently on the receiving end of his tirades.

I was inexperienced and didn't know how to handle bullies like him at the time. His wife just laughed--and let him go on. From my point of view,  I had very little power to change things. I just wanted to get out of there and away from him.

One day after months of looking I found a much better job quit without giving notice. Still, I never told him off--rationally I knew it wouldn't do any good but emotionally I never got the satisfaction of telling this jerk what I thought of him. Instead, I've spent many an afternoon in the intervening years on my imagined comebacks--comebacks that will never be delivered but reliably rile me up so much that I sometimes start muttering to myself (which only occasionally happens in front of other people--awkward).

Just as I was mentally winding up to psychically scream at the old gas bag, I caught myself--I was spending my fine jasmine scented morning chewing this rotten old bone--the opposite of what I intended for myself. I sat still for a while and just took in what my time traveling was costing me in lost time and serenity.

Could I break this habit of time traveling? Although it's tempting to replay these old hurts, they aren't part of my DNA. They also aren't making my life better. And above all, they are not representative of who I want to be in the world

And as simply as that, I let the old, hurtful thought go.

I took another deep breath and looked around. My orange tree was covered with blossoms. A single bud was uncurling on my peach tree. Delicate anise fronds poked through the soil here and there. Bees hovered over the blossoms of my black sage. The air hummed with the sound of electric garden tools and cars passing in the distance.

No old boss was to be seen anywhere. My breathing slowed. The day became exactly what I wished. No longer trapped by memory, I was free again.

Do you sometimes find yourself grousing over old hurts and grievances? I invite you to give yourself permission and see what it feels like to simply be present to what is right now.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring cleaning--I threw out so many stories!

Now that our kitchen has been reorganized, we decided to tackle the garage and make it into a more usable space for working out, laundry and projects. But in order to do that we had to go through 20+ years of archived paper work, old boxes of mementos, photos etc.

Not a small task but we had already made it easier on ourselves by presorting things so it would be easy to get to the boxes and boxes of old cancelled checks, receipts, ancient tax records and other documentation that had outlived it's useful life.

Saturday morning we put on the coffee and got to work. I pulled all the banker boxes down while Keri went through boxes of personal objects that hadn't seen the light of day in months or years.

Oddly, it was a pretty "whistle while you work" project and we managed to keep the pace up all day.

After about eight hours we had gone through nearly everything and had five 32 gallon garbage bags full of paper to send to the data destroyer--just about everything older than 7 years got bagged up. 

Luckily, I didn't just wholesale dump boxes into the bags. I pulled folders out and did a cursory check for dates and content. It was worth the effort! Going through one folder I found a number of treasury bonds I purchased in the 90s that are now mature--cha ching! I also found gift cards, See's gift certificates and other things we definitely wanted but had completely forgotten about. 

As Keri went through her possessions she did quick searches to check their market value--one statue she bought when she was in her 20s was now valued at over $3000. Others from the same set were also pretty valuable. These she set aside--the rest went to Goodwill.

Pretty good return on our time investment if you ask me.

After sending two full car loads to GoodWill our garage was much more manageable--our laundry area is completely cleared and I can now use my weights and punching bag again. A quick google search gave us the number of a mobile data destruction company that will come to our house to deal with the bags of paperwork, so no tedious shredding either.

However, not everything could be gone through quickly.

In going through my own personal paperwork I put aside a couple boxes full of my old journals, letters, cards and photos from my earlier life--it was too much to go through so I left it for when I could spend some time on it.

Two boxes really isn't that much stuff--I considered just putting it back on the shelf. But with all the other paperwork and personal effects out of the way, I felt just enough curiosity to take a look at what I had been holding onto for all these years.

I sat down with a beer and opened the first box. I was pretty sure I was going to throw most of it away but decided to go through each folder just as I did with all the paper records.

It takes a while to go through twenty years worth of cards--before email was so prevalent I sent lots of letters. I found cards and letters from friends I hadn't spoken to in years. Seeing their names and addresses made me smile.

Mixed in with the cards were dozens of hand written letters sent to me by my Mother after I had moved away from home--I had somehow forgotten how often she wrote me. Letter after letter were filled with little stories about what she was doing, and each one telling me that she missed me. Never one to be sentimental, each letter was written with my Mom's trademark wit and a little request to keep in touch. 

When I look back at that period of my life I most keenly remember my Mom being angry at me for moving, for our conversations being hard and for feeling deep disapproval from her. At the time I could only see Mom's anger, not her vulnerability--her wish to keep me close.

Reading these letters with fresh eyes, I now see Mom's love and concern for me. I couldn't see that the time because I was too busy feeling judged--a story that ossified and stuck in my mind for years.

To contrast my Mom's sweet letters, I found a sheaf of my journal entries written on loose leaf paper. I was taken aback at how much self criticism I put on myself--I committed to paper dozens of negative opinions about my circumstances, my appearance and many other things I believed were wrong with me. I basically said the same horrible things day after day, reminding myself that I was basically a sorry excuse for a human being. Its no wonder that I was reading the same message I was writing--even if the message said something completely different 

I guess I had to turn into the kind of person who could read these love messages--even twenty or so years later.  Even if I'm late, I'm glad--especially because I am able reflect this love back to Mom with new appreciation today.

Are you going to do a spring cleaning project? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know how you're doing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Decision to have a creative life.

One day, not yesterday and not last week but years ago  I decided to have a creative life.

Having a creative life right now is mostly expressed as writing--but it's not just that. It's the way I live. Sometimes my creativity is expressed as writing or drawing or painting or gardening or conducting some odd experiment but it's a thread that goes through my day to day living. Because of that thread, I write nearly every day--this wasn't always the case.

When I was a young adult I was really prolific--I turned out short stories and artwork with frightening ease. And then when I was flushed into the working world it all stopped. I just couldn't get back in my groove. So I started to tell myself ridiculous stories about all the things I had before that "made me creative". I tried to simulate those things and blamed my lack of creative fire on my job, my relationship, obligations etc. I blamed it on living in a two-bedroom apartment with no "space" to write in. I blamed it on being in a relationship with a highly extroverted person who loved being social (and taking me with her). I blamed it on everything except my failure to sit down and put pen to paper.

Instead of writing I spent my time thinking about what I didn't like doing, about how to escape the things I didn't like, and about how my life would be so much better once I finally escaped every irritation. Because then, once I wasn't irritated, I could finally have a creative life.

I played make believe that my creative life would happen in a future time when things were magically better.

My life felt like it was perpetually on hold.
I finally realized things wouldn't get better unless I sat down and wrote.

The space I wanted to have to create I had to create inside myself--the will to create no matter what my circumstances.

The will to create doesn't require me having a nice studio, perfect quiet, comfort or other rarified qualities. It meant making my creative life the Beloved. It meant taking the mundane and elevating it. Finding magic in everyday somethings. 

Today I'm focused on telling deeper truths.

It all started with the decision to have a creative life and believing in the perfection of right now.

Are you waiting for things to change so things will change for you or will you be the one to change first? How will you begin your own creative life?