Posts in Category: Intention

I AM…

Note: I wrote this piece the day after I experienced the total eclipse, so time referenced is of that period, not this.

Yesterday I watched as the moon fully covered the sun, revealing its beautiful corona, revealing darkness where daylight should have been, revealing people from all walks celebrating nature and our amazing universe.

Yesterday also marked one year since ___ broke off our engagement.

Before the eclipse, I spent the day thinking about what ___ did, and how he did it (over email) and how it affected my past year: devastation, depression, a crushing fear that it might be better to wall off my heart and be done with it.

But as I drove around in the beautiful, green countryside of South Carolina I thought about that and I thought about the eclipse, and why I’d traveled hours south to be in the path of totality. It reaffirmed something about me that I’d forgotten over the past six years: I only allow experiences that add to who I am to have a lasting effect. The ones that threaten to take away are left behind as dim memories. Because of that, I actively search for experiences that will impact me in the most positive ways. And because of that ___ and his reasons for breaking our engagement are no longer important to me.

I’m called an optimist and idealist by friends all the time. It’s not that I disagree. I generally do think the best of people and life and I believe that my ideals are worth pursuing. These only describe me because while they may describe how I think, they don’t describe what I do. It’s important to make this distinction because knowledge of the self and motivations are vital to living by intention.

I consciously put myself in the path of totality, and that’s where I intend to live until my last day. I like the phrase “path of totality.” Astrologically it is the track of the moon’s umbral shadow over Earth’s surface. For me, psychically, (emotionally, personally, whatever term you like) it means the life path I choose in order to be the entire human being I am meant to be. And among other things, what I am mostly is a woman who lives with her heart wide open.

I sometimes wonder what attracts people to me. I’m not beautiful, I don’t have a sexy body, I’m not the kindest, most generous, or most loyal person I know. I’m not the smartest, either.  Sure, I have enough of all of that to get by, but not enough to make me stand out. What makes me stand out is my heart. My heart is wide open for everyone to see and, here’s the hard part, for anyone to take what they need. Best case scenario for me is to live with others who follow the “give a penny, take a penny” rule. Worst case is to live among takers. I usually have lots of “pennies” saved up, but eventually they run out and there I am, expected to keep giving when there’s obviously nothing left in the penny cup.

What does all this have to do with the solar eclipse? The event itself? Well, as I sat watching the moon cover the sun, I had this eerie feeling that something mystical was happening. I understand the astronomy of a total eclipse. I know that it is fully explained by science. I’m not anti-science at all. But if a big part of “I am” is that I allow positive experiences to affect me deeply, then by traveling to South Carolina to watch the eclipse, I was creating an experience that could be deeply meaningful. And when you experience events that, in the grand scheme of your life, have a deep impact, you feel it through the whole core of your being.

My heart raced as the light dimmed. I’d snap a picture, look up through my eclipse glasses, stare in amazement at the light and shadows all around, then do it all over again. All the while I felt intense emotions welling up inside me. Gratitude and joy and wonder. I felt brave for no reason, then the sun was suddenly fully covered and I understood the feeling.

When the sun is totally eclipsed, you can stare at it, unprotected. What you see is a white glow around a big black circle: the corona. It’s beautiful in a way that anything rare is beautiful, only there I am, a puny little human being in the face of a giant fire ball, and I’m staring it down.

Even more relevant is the idea that the light of the sun is so powerful that even when fully covered by darkness it still shines bright around the edges. And that’s me, the bright light around the edges. I love so hard and so strong that even when I’m totally obliterated by people and life I will still shine. And that shine is a promise that with trust and patience my light, like the sun’s, will shine full and powerful as ever in only a little while.

And that, my friends, is why I traveled to watch the total eclipse.

My body is strong, who knew?

Strong

A few days ago I made a mistake. I went along on a fun family outing and it turned my day upside down.

We left home thinking we were heading to a Zipline course where we would zip from one tree to the next among a canopy of trees. It would be a thrill to fly fast through the forest, far above the ground. It would be cool in the green shade with the air rushing past. Two of our group were checking off an item on their bucket lists. Fun!

We arrived to find the “zipline” course was more of an athletic obstacle course, only one that was far off the ground. This “fun” activity would require strength, a lot of sweat, and result in shaking, wobbly muscles more than once or twice.

Here are the basics:834b96f2c6827cdd6891d25179458c8d

  • Five sections in the course
  • To start each course you climb a rope and wooden slat ladder to the first platform
  • Navigate from platform to platform in each section via a series of elevated bridges
  • From the final platform jump off! and zipline across a pond.

On the company’s website I learned: the highest platform is 48 feet, the longest zipline across the water is 700 feet, the longest crossing is 57 feet and the total course is 3,166 feet. It took us three hours to finish. The last ladder up was probably double the length of the first one.

I almost pooped out just before the last two rungs…

But it was FUN. It was worth all the effort to get to the end and zippppp so fast across the water. The view was spectacular and the thrill caused hysterical scream-laughing to fly out of me as soon as I left the platform, every single time!

I learned things about myself, too. Like when I almost pooped out right before the end of the last ladder? I had no other option but to gather whatever strength was hiding inside of me and use it. Sure, I could have climbed back down the ladder and decided I was done. In that moment the thought never occurred to me. I could have slipped off the ladder and taken a moment’s rest. I was harnessed in and would have been fine hanging there for a minute or two. Again, the thought never crossed my mind. I’m not sure if it’s because I am more stubborn that smart sometimes or because I never seem to allow myself the easy out, or that I would have been embarrassed to climb down and walk past the group of people waiting behind me. To be fair, it was probably a combination of all of that, but now I know that, by nature, I choose to keep moving forward. It’s something I’m sure I already knew about myself, but not to that extend. Any way I look at it, the reminder was a good one.

I also learned that I’m not afraid of heights. I always feel wobbly and nervous when I’m up high looking off the edge of a mountain or down into a canyon. I’ve assumed from that feeling it meant I was afraid of heights. But I didn’t have a bit of trouble looking down from way up there. I purposely did it. The forest floor and treetops, looking down from so high up, are beautiful. What I am, I discovered, is afraid of falling. Ahh! I was securely harnessed in and tethered onto a thick gauged safety wire with not one but two clips. I felt like there was no real danger of falling so it left me free to completely enjoy. It was so freeing! And what a cool way to clarify a tiny corner of my psyche.

Another thing I learned is that I don’t challenge myself nearly enough. Not physically I don’t, anyway. I challenge myself mentally and creatively on a daily basis. But I rarely put myself in positions where I need to work hard, strain and stretch my muscles. I assume I won’t like it much, but that’s the thing. I’m not terribly athletic by nature. I’m uncoordinated and I think it takes my muscles more time to develop that memory thing everyone always talks about with sports, so I usually opt out of feeling clumsy. But I definitely should not do that. I had a whole lot of fun on the zipline course and I would have missed it if I’d known what I was signing up for. I’m glad I was clueless!

The best thing I learned, hands down, is that even though I’ve packed on quite a bit of extra padding (FAT) over the past couple of years, underneath it all I’m still strong. I’ll be 51 next month. Aging is on my mind more than I like to admit, to be 100% honest. I don’t necessarily worry about it, I’m not a worrier, but I think about how I move now in comparison to how I moved a decade ago, two, three… I’m more cautious. I’m slower. I take care where and how I step on uneven surfaces. I feel weak and slouchy and round much of the time. But now I know under all that, I am still strong in my body. It’s a relief to me.

Why? Because I can still choose to up my physical game. My body will still allow it. My mind is all for it! Which is a little surprising to me, but I’m glad. I get bored in the gym. I’m not a fan of running (again with the boredom). I need variety, I want to be out in nature, I want to be able to run circles around my little grandbaby when he’s old enough to run and play.  I guess, in the end, I’ve learned that I’m ready to get moving again. Thanks, Universe! The search is on…

 

Political hate

Protector 800I was recently accused of being a GOP hater, no matter what, and regardless of the agenda. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been accused of a lot worse things, so that message cut about as deep as, well it bounced right off if you must know. But this morning I thought it might behoove me to address it.

Highlights of the Republican National Convention: a hubbub on the floor as Anti-Trump delegates attempted to force a roll-call vote (they were summarily ignored by loyalists*), a cribbed speech by Mrs. Trump (sorry, the third Mrs. Donald Trump, just to clarify), a whole lot of Anti-Hillary yelling and screeching (because an entire day’s event should be based on what you don’t believe), and Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse (the guy’s a steaming pile of horse shit**, in my book, but everybody has a bit of good in them, right?).

Actually, I haven’t watched a lick of the convention. I honestly can’t care about it; I’ve already heard enough out of the GOP. They have now officially nominated a man who thinks we need to build a wall between us and Mexico and named some ridiculous specific height – because surely there are no ladders that tall. He believes we should block all Muslims from entering the US and target those already here, just in case they’re radical – because that’s not unconstitutional at all, not to mention stupid on fiscal, moral, and logistical levels. He openly mocked a physically challenged reporter, made that insane statement about what he could do on Fifth Ave in NYC and not lose a single voter/fan/morally untethered American, incited violence inside of his rallies then blamed protesters outside. You poured that gasoline, (I want to write sir but I reserve that word for men I respect).

So let me ask you this: why should I have watched the convention? I’ve known everything I needed to know about that man since his reality TV show. He’s nothing but a big, dirty mouth. I honestly can’t believe anyone could support him. What American parent would tolerate such behavior out of their children? What child would have felt a quick backhand to the mouth if that language came out of it – not that I condone physical punishment, it’s as unnecessary as me watching the RNC.

And of course I’ve heard the Trump rhetoric deniers*** who run around saying things like, he doesn’t really believe that and he’s a big supporter of women and feminist values or we need him because he’s anti-establishment. 

I’ll take those one at a time, thanks:

  1. He doesn’t really believe that: So what you’re saying is it’s okay to say anything you want, make any ridiculous claims, say the most reprehensible things, in order to get nominated? It’s okay to target the worst of the worst, lowest of the low, humanity has to offer because the means justify the end? one word: No.
  2. He’s a big supporter of women and feminist values. The only person I’ve ever heard make this claim in any believable way is his daughter, Ivanka. But of course she’ll say that. That’s her dad. Oh, and her boss. Double whammy.
  3. We need him because he’s anti-establishment. This one’s the most comical of all. Why? Sure, he’s never held any office in which he couldn’t outright fire anyone who disagreed with him. But putting that aside, the US government is run by big corporations; that’s where the money is and that’s who pays lobbyists and big portions of campaigns. This is not new news to anyone. And Donald Trump is nothing if not a big corporation (with a horrible fashion sense). He’s not anti-establishment. He is the establishment.

What about the Democratic National Convention? I’m honestly not watching that one either. I had hope for the future of America several months back, but I don’t right now. Both party’s conventions seem like made-for-social-media events, with equal amounts of the ugliest we Americans can muster. I have, sadly, come to expect this on the internet. Trolls have turned it into a (cyber) place I frequently feel unsafe wandering through. But that this type of behavior has landed in the middle of the elections and seems to have taken over?  As an adult person, I just don’t know what to think or how to deal with it. I’m sad. I’m disgusted. And I’m depressed that this process represents me, as an American, to the rest of the world.

I wish I knew what to do…

* Loyalists? Yes, that’s what I consider Trump fans loyalists. I believe he wants to turn MY country into a monarchy and himself its king.

** Steaming pile of horse shit? Actually, I think I’m underestimating the value of horse shit. At least it’s got use in the garden.

*** Deniers? Of course I used this term on purpose. These folks are the same lot who talk about climate change as though our weather patterns aren’t causing chaos somewhere new every few weeks.

ForcingThe real problem I see with racism in America right now is that it’s become such a habit that a lot of folks don’t even know they’re doing it. When I’m writing, and I’m really on a roll, my leg starts bopping up and down, really fast, and totally on its own. I don’t even notice it until I stop to think what I want to write next and suddenly — hey! how did that happen?

It’s the same thing with racism. People have been trying so hard for so long to be “color blind” that they can’t see the problem for what it is: despicable. Like my leg bopping around they don’t know when it’s happening, how it started, or where in the heck did that habit start in the first place? It’s called an unconscious bias, if you care to know the social sciencey term. It means you have a preference for, or in this case against, something and you have no idea that you’re doing it.

Here’s the thing, though. When my legs is bopping up and down, and someone comes along and says why are you doing that? am I going to say what? I’m not doing anything! Actually, I might because maybe I didn’t notice. But when I stop for a moment to realize, or they point it out to me, what’s my reaction then? I’ll definitely say oh sorry, is that bothering you? I’ll stop. Then I will because I don’t what to be annoying. I don’t need anyone to feel uncomfortable in our shared space because of something I’m doing that I can just as easily stop. And I will absolutely become more aware of my body so that I can preemptively stop any accidental leg bopping that might occur later.

I’m not saying everyone’s like me, but most people are thoughtful. Most people just want to try to get along and share space and not cause shit. Of course there are those jerks on the fringes, there are always a few, but that’s the point they’re numbers are few.

So turning back to racism (and bigotry in general), do you see what I’m getting at? I think oodles and oodles of white folks in America are behaving in a racist manner because they don’t notice it. But the problem that’s loaded on top is they’re being accused of doing something that they’re not aware of and they’re PISSED. Nobody wants to admit to something they aren’t doing, even when they really are, but don’t know it yet. And by the way, these are the very people that are running to the GOP in droves because instead of taking a good look at themselves it’s easier to collectively say, NO! Quit calling me a racist. I don’t hate Mexicans because they’re brown, I hate them because they’re taking our jobs. I don’t hate blacks because of their skin color and kinky hair, I hate them because they’re killing cops. I don’t hate Muslims because I don’t understand them. I hate them because I’m scared of all the upheaval and violence in the world and they’re an easy scapegoat. Let’s face it, anger is always easy.

Do I have a remedy? Honestly, I can’t say that I do. I think the wisest thing I can say is, it’s gonna take time. Yes, it’s been 50 years since the Martin Luther King era of race relations in America. That feels like a long time, but the human race has been fighting over our differences for hundreds and thousands of years. Fifty isn’t even a drop in the bucket. I try to be an example, I suppose. And I write things that I hope might help others think about what they’re doing and why, and if it’s something they’re proud of themselves for. And that’s another thing, I see people all over the internet being proud of themselves: he lost 10 lbs! she graduated college with a 3.8 GPA! he started running again! she won a pie eating contest! Celebrate!

Yes, please do celebrate. But what if we started celebrating ourselves for being good and kind and thoughtful people, no matter what the situation? I’d like my social newsfeeds a whole hell of a lot better if we did <3

A return to respect in politics

Respect

I read an article this morning about how Bernie Sanders was booed by a bunch of Democrats because he hedged when asked when he planned to come out and fully support Hillary Clinton. Commenters were up in arms that anyone dare boo their candidate of choice because how dare they?

Let me get this part out of the way first: I support Bernie Sanders. He has enough delegates to go the the Democratic Convention later this month and demonstrate to all of America just how important his message is. I applaud him for sticking to it and taking his supporters all the way to Philadelphia. I don’t know the guy personally, so I don’t know if its just part of his mystique or a real part of his core (I prefer to believe the later), but that he won’t back down from a tough fight is one of the traits I most admire.

My bigger point, in writing today, is to ask how have we become a nation that won’t tolerate dissent? How can we suddenly not stomach disagreement and wildly different ideas in this great big country of ours? I guess its not so sudden, really. I mean, four years ago I had a so-called friend tell me I should jump off the tallest building I could find because we were arguing over welfare policy. If you must know, I argued my point, he had no good counter argument, so instead of conceding, he thought I should inflict bodily harm upon myself. Some friend, huh? But I digress.

We live in a gigantic country. Google just told me it’s 3.806 million mi² to be exact. WOW. But, really, in all that space, we can’t eek out a corner for everyone to have their own opinion? And more importantly, we can’t give each other space to hold our competing ideals tightly against our chests? In my mind, a strong democracy is one where citizens who have distinctly different ideas will fight tooth and nail to find common ground and finally COME TOGETHER as one.

Anymore, we stop at the fighting part. How is that? Why?

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because the drama is in the fighting. Have you ever met a couple who fights constantly and seem to enjoy their relationship solely because they love the drama of fighting? I sure have and I gotta say I hate being around those people.

I’m definitely a peacenik. If I had my way we’d argue quickly and civilly and come to an agreement that suits everyone enough to create as much contentment as possible. Of course, nobody’d want to watch that on prime time TV. Plus, I understand that in politics especially, a lot of folks want to throw their chests out and make a big show of what they think. I’m always up for a good debate, but how about we lay out some ground rules? Because, honestly? Capitol Hill looks like a playground with an absent playground monitor most days. Which is pitiful because these are the people we’ve hired to take care of the business of running our country.

So how about those ground rules?

  1. Listen. If you’ve ever seen a counselor or read anything about human interactions you’ve heard the term active listening. All it means is really listen to what the other person is saying. Repeat back to them, in your words, their message so you’re all clear about what’s really being said and what’s most important. What this does not include is constructing your counter-argument while they’re still talking. You can’t take in what someone is saying that way.
  2. Think. Take a minute, take a few, and maybe a few more! In 2016 it seems we have no respect for reflection and rumination anymore. But to really roll a new or different idea around in your head, you’ll need some time. Take it! A little bit of thoughtfulness never hurt anyone!
  3. Focus. This is a biggie: pay most attention to what you can agree on. There’s always at least a sliver of agreement in two differing points. Start there. How can you grow that sliver?
  4. The Point. Stick to the single point at hand. It’s easy to take the issue you’re arguing and compare it to something similar, but then the argument gets wider, and more complicated, and you’re gonna get nowhere fast that way. Stick to the one issue and do not detour from it.
  5. Don’t Delay. While we definitely need time to think deeply about a disagreement, don’t put off the discussion for too long. Other issues will rear up and take precedence and then this first thing will never be resolved. Let’s face it, things like affordable higher education, racial equality, sensible gun regulations, etc. etc. need to be resolved.
  6. The Blame Game. Just don’t. It doesn’t help anyone to point fingers and find fault. It might be satisfying on some level to claim faultlessness, but the problem is still going to be there when you get done patting yourself on the back. This is a gigantic waste of time.
  7. Win-Win. Yup, we’re back to that common ground thing. If you’re going to make the largest portion of citizens happy or content with a decision, you need to look for the win-win. And let’s face it, win-win is never going to be on either extreme side of the realm of possibilities. I know this is particularly unpopular right now because politics has become some sort of extreme fight club, but it’s true.

If you got through that list, you might recognize it as a list of how to argue successfully in a relationship. Of course politics is about relationship. And we NEED to stop with the hate and the contention and the love of the drama because as an American, I don’t want to be a laughing stock on the world stage. I want to be proud of us. I want us to reach for our very highest ideals and quit with the hate and pandering to the ugliest parts of the human psyche.

And that, dear friends, is all I’m gonna say about that.

 

 

Hate is not okay

HateThe internet is overflowing with stories about the Orlando shooting yesterday at Pulse, a hot nightclub in the LGBTQ community there. Like always, Americans have differing opinions about what happened and why. Was it a gay thing? Was it a religious thing? Was it ISIS related? Was the shooter mentally unstable? Was he violent on a daily basis? Would the result be different if Americans didn’t have easy access to assault rifles? Should we ban assault rifles? Should we ban Muslims? Should we ban gays? Should we ban crazy people? Would changing any one of those elements make a difference?

All of this and more, I’m sure. Personally? I vote for banning assault rifles for personal use. Because, really? In what scenario does a private person need one of those things? When you’re living through a Hollywood-style apocalypse story is the only answer that makes sense to me. But I know a lot of people who disagree and think that placing any caveat on our 2nd Amendment rights will start a fast slide down a slippery slope. So…

Hatred, though. That’s the real issue, isn’t it? Somebody hates gays. Somebody else hates Muslims. Somebody else hates the Capitalist Pigs. We hate crazy people, disabled people, people with purple hair, brown skin, that dude with an extra toe. I’m willing to bet you can find an easy handful of Americans who hate at least one thing on the vast list of EVERYthing.

What I despise most about the internet, and our insta-news culture, is how every story is promoted with click bait. This inevitably leads to the following three (problematic) story writing rules

  • The story must be dramatic.
    • Drama sells. We want to read something exciting, right? Something to get our hearts racing, something we can have an opinion about. (Speaking of opinions, read this!)
  • The material must instantly evoke a strong emotion.
    • Love and Hate. If we’re talking basic human emotions, they’re it. If we’re talking emotions that are easily manipulated? You guessed it! They’re it, too. Now, love doesn’t sell much on the news circuit, unless you count baby animals being adorable. LOVE in the news, and most of the internet, is considered fluff. Insignificant: only relevant when there’s a spare corner or extra 30 seconds to kill. HATE, though. That’s meat and potatoes shit right there. If you want to sell a story, make it something everyone has a reason to hate. They don’t even have to be the same reason. Actually, it’s better if there’s a whole list of reasons to hate a story. You hit more demographics that way.
  • The concepts must be digestible in a three second eye-scan of the page.
    • This one drives me crazy, especially when it comes to social issues. They’re never simple. Bigotry, poverty, racism, sexism, extreme religiosity, etc, etc – none of it can be explained in a meme. And if you can’t explain a problem in three seconds, there’s no way the solution is simple either. Life is complicated (even on a good day), it’s multi-faceted, short term wins frequently lead to long term disasters, and ducking our heads in order to ignore these facts is absolutely unhelpful.

What’s happening as a result of our online culture? I’ll tell you. We are becoming an overly dramatic group of people who crave hatred and answers that require little to no thought or intelligence.

Hatred, though. We respond to tragedies like what happened at Pulse with more of it. We hate the shooter. We hate his religion. We hate gays for being the easy targets that they are. We hate the NRA. We hate the media for sensationalizing the very tragedy we spend 2 1/2 hours searching google, twitter, facebook, and the rest of the internet for information about. Our elected officials (BTW, I wanted to name them elected leaders, but I can’t.) jump on the bandwagon and make statements inflaming the hatred and promising simple answers. We hate them, too.

Are you noticing a political trend here? [[shudders]]

My answer is not LOVE. That’s also the easy answer, in my opinion. All you need is love? It’s a beautiful sentiment. First comes understanding, though, because I will never love racism, but I can understand the seeds from whence it stems. Same with folks who feel a need to buy a gun to protect their home and family. I don’t love their reasoning behind it, but I can work to understand it. I will never love the urge to cause a large group of people terror or physical harm and death. But I can try to understand how a person can reach that point. My point being it is difficult and almost impossible to hate a thing that you can understand. So I will always reach for a point of understanding.

Hatred, though… Can we just stop? Can we just, please?

If you know who I can attribute this photo to, please comment!

Inspirational?

Inspiration

I have a hard time with all the “inspirational” stories on social media these days. Today I found stories about: a little girl learning to walk with an artificial leg, a teen with Down’s Syndrome who is rounding the interwebz as this week’s most beautiful person, Alicia Keys’ #nomakeup movement, women breastfeeding in public, an ex-Army Ranger who is slowly rehabbing after severe injuries from an IED… I could go on.

Do I sound like a heartless bitch yet? I know. I feel like an awful human being because I’m sure that for every one of these stories there are real human beings who are only trying to be the best version of themselves. That is a good thing. But inspirational? On a deep and meaningful level?

Overcoming great odds inspires me. But a little girl with an artificial leg? I can’t quite stretch to inspirational for that one. Of course a girl who loses a leg is going to wear an artificial leg and learn to walk on it. Do you look at a lizard or starfish and call it an inspiration when it grows a new tail or leg after losing one? Nope. It’s just what happens. Living beings adapt to their circumstances. If they don’t, they are forever hampered. Maybe the little girl will learn to run SUPER fast. Or dance with her fancy, shiny leg; perhaps even gracefully. Or maybe she’ll learn to jump rope or play hopscotch. Those are all amazing for her, personally. I’m sure her parents are relieved that she won’t be permanently and wholey limited by her physical other-ness. And I’m glad for them that they have that sense of relief. But are they somehow super-humanly strong or tenacious because they – by accident, fate, or some other circumstance – had to face something they never thought they would? That none of us would rather.

I don’t think they are. I’m happy for them, but they don’t inspire me.

Why? Life is one long challenge, for every single one of us. If I hold one challenge (Down’s Syndrome) up as more admirable to overcome than another (Club foot) what am I saying to the kid growing up with trouble walking “normally?” Sorry, kid. Your disability isn’t “cool” enough. (P.S. Your parents should have had the money to spring for medical treatment so you wouldn’t walk so weird.)

Everyone has their own challenges. Some of them are invisible and private, others are impossible to hide. Instead of ranking them in ways that just end up as judgey, what if we encouraged everyone we meet to be their best? Actually, no. How about if we EXPECT the best out of everyone, instead?

That would be so nice…….

And just in case you’ve gotten all the way down here to the end and still think I’m a heartless bitch. Well, that’s your perogative. But in my defense, I am the consummate cheerleader. This means in every challenging situation, my nearest and dearest always count on me to be on their sideline cheering them on loudly and in probably an inappropriately boisterous manner. So I’ve got that going for me 🙂

Here’s my opinion…

IMG_5309

I’m slowly developing a Hate-Hate relationship with social media. My problem is the same as everyone else is having:

We have instantaneous access to 90% of what’s happening in the world and every damn one of us thinks it’s our right, no our duty, to have an opinion about it. Or to give advice or criticism, our perspective or maybe just a little piece of our mind. We have to have a say, right?

In the past several days, the story everybody’s up in arms over is Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy fell into its enclosure. Either you think the kid’s mom is an idiot for letting her precious child so close to the edge that he fell in. Or you think the zoo keepers are idiots for killing the gorilla. Was lethal force really necessary? Or you think the media are idiots for making the story into such a big deal. Or you think gorillas are dangerous creatures and aren’t safe around humans, so good… Perhaps you’re anti-zoo in the first place. I could spend hours working my way around all the different opinions people have about this singular event. However I look at it, all I can come up with is that it was tragic all the way around.

The reality is, I do have an opinion about what happened, but I am far from being an expert about gorilla behavior, so I’m okay with letting the experts make the call. I mean, just because I spend a few hours online learning about how and why gorillas behave the way they do, doesn’t mean I am anywhere close to being an expert. (Likewise reading WebMD doesn’t make me an MD, reading Wikipedia doesn’t make me an expert historian, taking a course on HarvardX about String Theory won’t make me any sort of a physicist.)

Am I against animal cruelty? Sure I am. But isn’t it cruel to trap a wild animal in a small space in the first place? And the part that honestly bothers me most is people arguing that it’s the mother’s fault that her kid fell in to start with. As though, whatever might have happened would be okay with them because BAD mommy! I don’t know if you’ve ever had your own 4-year-old, or knew one that could magically disappear (like Harry Potter magical) within a matter of seconds, but it happens.

What I can say for 100% sure is that I was not there; I did not see the events unfold. My opinion is, therefore, totally irrelevant.

But this is the state of online experiences right now. Nasty responses to events that don’t even indirectly affect us. Everyone’s gotta be up in arms about something. Why? I dunno. Are we so bored with real life we have to trick ourselves into feeling like we’re better than our everyday, real life points to us being? Could be. Is there a solution?

Probably, but you’re not gonna like it because I’m about to sound like your mom when you were 10: Get off the damn computer and go do something with yourself. Read a good book. Take a walk. Smell a flower. Learn something new. Jump out of an airplane. Build a table or a garden or a new friendship. Whatever you do, do something so you’re something more than your own, irrelevant opinions.

An Utterly Impractical Grammy

ImpracticalThis is an open letter to my daughter, her husband, and their soon-to-be baby:

Dear family of mine,

As I prepare to journey back to the East Coast for my stint as a full-time Grammy, I realized there are a few things you should know.

First of all, Rachel: I love you dearly. I loved the idea of you before you were a you. The days since have shown me that the love of a mother before her child is born is nothing compared to the loving that swells every day after. You will learn this soon enough.

Secondly, Dan: That you love our Rachel so well makes you A-Okay in my book. But, thankfully it doesn’t stop there. I’m lucky to have your stand-alone friendship and I can’t imagine life without your silly puns and fantastical moustache. You’re a damn good guy. Period.

Third: I cannot wait for the day you two make me a Grammy! However, I haven’t spent a second wishing or wanting for this baby to be any one person. For some very specific reasons. To start with, every new person deserves to become who they are uncorrupted by anyone else’s expectations. I certainly can’t ignore that fact. Even more, though, I am so excited to see who this person is and how its parents’ features (both physical and personality) mix together to create it. Will it have curly hair? A Kunzle chin? Looooong fingers?? Will it be stubborn? A book worm? A wild child? Guh!! I can barely contain my excitement!

But there are a few things we need to get straight before that day comes. Just in case you haven’t already figured it out…

I plan to be an Utterly Impractical Grammy. 

Now, if you find yourself thinking, Whaa…? You should be ashamed of yourself. You obviously think I might be a totally different person when I become the third generation in our family. Your kneejerk reaction should be: Well, of course you are (with an accompanying eye roll). Just in case, I thought I’d announce my intentions before anyone goes having any absurd expectations.

So, without further adieu, here are a few things you should expect as your baby grows into whoever s/he will be:

1. Things are gonna get a little bit loud. Impractical Grammy doesn’t care if we scream or sing or talk too loud. We’re just exercising our lungs. We’re probably clanking pots and pans, too. There will likely be quiet times, too, but they will be momentary at best.

2. Messes will definitely be made. If I’m honest, I will admit that messes will probably be the norm. Paint, playdough, ooblik? All nontoxic, but messy and more fun than we could ever have otherwise.

3. That’s gonna leave a mark. Clothes will be ruined: by paint, mud, some sciencey something or other I ordered on the internet. So, do not send your child(ren) to this Grammy’s house in their Sunday best. You’re only going to end up mad about it. And then I will have to remind you that we already discussed this very situation…

4. Homework will go undone. I will likely forget there’s homework to be done in the first place. However, even on the odd day I can rely on my memory, there’s probably going to be a book to read or trail that needs walking much more than the damn homework needs doing.

5. Crazy ideas will be discussed as though they are the most reasonable ideas in the world. Imaginations will be honed, sharpened, ripened (pick your favorite) at Grammy’s house and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. BE PREPARED!

6. Arguments will be had. But they will be made up again, too. Life isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes a kid has to wholeheartedly (toss in loudly here, too) disagree with the people s/he loves most in the world. Loud and boisterous arguments will always be welcome at this Grammy’s place. Meanness, however, will not be tolerated.

In other words, don’t expect me to suddenly become this alien, other person just because you’ve gone and had a baby… 🙂

P.S. This list is a decent start on things, I think. However, I reserve the right to revisit and revise it at any time in the future. I probably forgot something that needs specific attention. But don’t worry. I will love that little-little more than any other Grammy could love it. That will always be my priority more than sending her/him back home to you with clean clothes and without a scratch.

Love, Mama (AKA Becky-in-law and Grammy-to-be)

Doing it all the way

Philosophy 800Once I was in a delicious little town in Louisiana call LaFayette. The place was delicious because I adore green places; especially those with hanging mosses. The food was delicious because… Let’s just say if you’ve never eaten foods doused in creole sauce you’ve never really eaten. The people were also delicious in that they were kind and generous and oh, so laid back. Plus their accent made me wish I’d been born a Cajun lady instead of the Northeasterner that I am.

The best part about traveling is getting to know the cumulative quirks of the local culture and appreciating them for what they are: those little things that makes a place its own self. At that time I was traveling around the country teaching doctors to use an application called Dragon Medical to dictate medical notes into their patients’ health records. LaFayette is still the only place I ever trained where every single physician insisted on dictating the name of a sausage into their notes: Boudin.

Boudin is a cajun sausage which I’ve never seen outside of Louisiana. It’s so common down there I have no doubt there’s a McBoudin sandwich on every McDonald’s menu in the state. The name is pronounced Boo-DAN (the n being all but silent). Ha! The things I remember from my days as a trainer…

Anyway, one afternoon I went to a local sandwich shop to eat my lunch and learned they don’t have provolone cheese there. WHAT? I ordered swiss on my sandwich instead, then was shocked again when asked Do you want that all the way?

This was rather early on in my traveling trainer career, so I was a little embarrassed to admit I had no idea what the lady behind the counter meant. Right before she noticed the confused look on my face, I blurted out I don’t know what that means.

Where I come from, when we ask if someone wants a sandwich with all the fixings we say Do you want everything on that? In Louisiana it’s called All the way. I don’t like a bunch of stuff slipping and sliding out of my sandwiches, so I politely asked for just lettuce and mayo and hoped she hadn’t noticed me blushing.

The point of my story, which I may have hidden a little too well, is that while I don’t want my sandwich All The Way, that’s exactly how I intend to live my life. I try to make that my first thought every morning when I wake up. Why bother, otherwise?

It’s not like I don’t forget myself sometimes. Some days I wake up feeling blue, or lazy, or tired from too many hormones and not enough sleep, and I just can’t manage it. But most of the time? I intend to fill every single minute of every single day loving hard, imagining harder, thinking, writing, reading; breathing in every ounce of the life I deserve. I only get this one chance at it (maybe), so I don’t want to waste it.

Ding-ding-ding-ding!! Since you read all the way to the bottom, I think you deserve an extra special treat. I met Lady Tambourine on my most recent trip to Louisiana. She definitely knows a little bit about living All The WAY. What do you think?