Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcome 2017!

2016 was a weird fucking year. Consider the following things that happened just in my little corner of the world:

  • A neighbor crashed his car into my car while it was parked in my driveway
  • A con man posing as a landscaper stole nearly $1,000 from me
  • On-going health issues with BMG led to two long hospitalizations and one surgery 
  • The Downton Abbey series ended on PBS
  • "He Who Must Not Be Named" was elected president of the U.S. in a weak victory in November
  • A dear friend was raped and murdered by an apparent stranger on Christmas day

Reflecting on this list, I can see why I'm feeling so vulnerable today. Many of these experiences are big. And largely out of my control. Ugh.

I want 2017 to be a hopeful year, a year that offers life-affirming adventures, So, I also want to look at the bright spots from 2016, to see where I can draw power. These include:
  • Losing (and keeping off) nearly 25 pounds through hard work, a healthier diet, and a new found commitment to exercising
  • Learning I have only an ulcer, and not heart disease or stomach cancer
  • Being reminded of how great my community is when a retired neighbor took pity on me after the landscaper con and helped me finish a major gardening job
  • Purchasing a kayak rack after six years of kayak ownership, finally widening my boating circle exponentially
  • Taking a BMG-free trip to DC in October to visit with family and to be reunited with two dear college friends
  • Receiving multiple forms of recognition at work for excellence on the job, including be nominated and accepted into a regional women's leadership program
Analyzing this list I see that my power lies in making life affirming choices, working hard, and connecting with the positive people around me. 

Tonight, as I raise my flute of champagne in honor of the earth finishing another trip around the sun, I'll be wishing for another year of adventures, made possible with the strength I find from within, and from the people who help make my life complete.  

Welcome 2017!


Smart. Neurotic. Devoted. Quirky.

This is my Twitter bio.

BMG and I have been talking about the definition of quirky. Does it imply a value judgment? Is it about personality characteristics, or could it simply be description of a mannerism or habit?

I cheated and looked at and found this definition:

       a peculiarity of action, behavior, or personality;mannerism:

In calling myself "quirky," I'm primarily thinking about my:

  • Zelig-like way of moving between different crowds of people, without actually being part of any particular human tribe, perhaps a function of my sun, moon, and ascendant all being in Gemini
  • Habit of taking off my glasses nearly every time I use the toilet
  • Routine of rocking myself when I'm having trouble sleeping, even as a nearly 50 year-old woman
  • Precocious and life-long love of archeology, which includes an ability to almost conjure up the living, breathing human who lived in pre-historic and other ancient environments
  • Spooky ability to remember people's names
  • Extreme introversion, combined with an insatiable curiosity about other people which manifests itself as friendliness
  • Particular brand of intelligence, which often causes me to see and interpret ideas and scenarios unlike most other people (and, conversely, causes me to be unmoved by circumstances that typically move others)
When I started my most recent job, the Chief Administrative Officer described me to my boss as "different." While I've long labeled myself as :quirky," nevertheless, the comment originally caused me to feel disconnected. Over time, I've come around to seeing the moniker as a recognition of the value I bring to my work, to the world. Why? Because in economic theory, the rare commodity is typically the more valuable one. 

Would you describe yourself as quirky? Which of your actions, behaviors, or mannerisms help set you apart from others? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rest in Peace and Power Tricia McCauley

I am not so naive as to believe violence only happens to other people.
  • Domestic violence claimed the lives of a friend's mother, a friend's sister, and another acquaintance's sister.
  • In my younger life, I was acquainted with two separate people who shot themselves to death. 
  • The son of someone with whom I briefly worked was murdered by a serial killer.
  • The mother of one of my sister's high school friends was murdered in her own home.
  • Two old friends, now acquaintances, each discovered a body of someone who apparently committed suicide.
  • A colleague recently lost a teenage friend of the family to a car accident caused by another friend of the family. 
  • Another colleague knows two people who were perished earlier this month in the Oakland warehouse/artist collective fire
  • Shoot! I worked in a juvenile prison for 2.5 years, where many of our inmates were the perpetrators of violence. 

But never has violence affected my life directly.

Until today, when I learned a friend from college, a woman with whom I'd reconnected only 2.5 months ago, was murdered on Christmas. Tricia is dead at age 46. Life is so weird.

Here we are, with our pal Christy (left, holding the full-ish Corona),on the last day of freshman year. Tricia is the perky one in the middle.

And here we are, again with our pal Christy (with glasses, on the right), on Columbus Day weekend 2016. Tricia, an accomplished actress, herbalist, small business owner, farmer and yoga instructor, is still the perky one in the middle. 

As soon as I read the news, at 4:45 this morning, I woke up BMG and cried as he hugged me. Right now, I feel numb, afraid to feel what I imagine is likely true. Afraid to feel that she likely suffered in her death - emotionally and/or physically. Afraid to feel angry that her death is such a waste - a death by someone desperate enough to murder someone in exchange for a Scion IQ and debit card. Afraid to feel the anguish I can only imagine her parents, her brother, her closest friends are feeling as they begin their grief journeys.

Whenever someone I know experiences a death, I share the same message of condolence: "The grief journey is the weirdest and most unpredictable trip we take in our lives. I trust you will make it through yours safely, buoyed by the love of family and friends."

BMG, who never met Tricia, is grieving in his own way - he stayed awake for the entire 75 minutes I was at the gym the morning, wanting to be sure I came home safely. And he's asked me to call him every 10 minutes while I'm at work today, so he can be sure I'm still alive.

Me? I've never been on this violent death journey. So I don't know where it will take me. Right now, I know I feel a little afraid, and resolved to make every moment matter, because life is unpredictable.

Rest in peace and power Tricia McCauley.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Closer

BMG sarcastically refers to me as "The Closer" because I never close packaging, doors, or drawers. Sitting here, (I'm aware there is a kitchen cupboard open, ready for me to reach in and grab the ancient grains/oatmeal package for my breakfast.)

This moniker is ironic because my number one motivation is getting things done, closing out projects. Nothing is more satisfying to me than crossing something off the list. And I won't let myself cross something off the list unless it is done completely. If I want the pleasure of knowing that a task is in process, even if it isn't quite done, I'll circle it on my list. This gives me the thrill of knowing I'm just a little bit closer to the beloved "crossing off" task.

Being "a closer" definitely motivates me. I'm a finisher, not a starter.

Now, I'm in this uncomfortable place of wanting to start a business, and I'm having a hard time getting motivated.

This week The 52 Lists project is asking "What motivates you?" This is a question I want to explore precisely because I'm having a hard time finding my mojo on this project of creating the task list for starting my business.

Theoretically, I know what my motivation for starting a business "should" be:
1. Professional freedom
2. Notoriety as a result of my success
3. Financial success

But, "shoulds" rarely work - at least not for me - in the long run.

So, I need to dig a little deeper and figure out what truly motivates me, so I can transform the pile of papers that sit at my elbow into a business plan.

What motivates me?
1. Knowing that I've made a positive difference for someone
2. Being kind and helpful
3. The feeling that I've done something life- or health-affirming for myself
4. My family
5. The adventure of learning, experiencing, or seeing something new
6. Accountability - following through on my promises or commitments

I'm also motivated by some fears - fear of breaking the law, fear of being hurt both physically and emotionally, fear of being homeless and alone.

Fingers crossed this list I can find something in this list to get me off my butt and into planning mode so I can start my business in 2017. And if it doesn't, I'll be looking to YOUR answer to the question "What motivates you?" to help me. So get writing.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Unity Starts With Me

As a liberal, the world feels like it is unraveling:
  • On-going conflicts in the middle east
  • Syrian civil war and resultant refugee concerns in Europe
  • European unity in crisis as a result of Brexit
  • Impeachment of the South Korean president
  • Black lives matter and the many other components of the cultural wars in the United States
I acutely feel the polarization of Americans on issues like reproductive rights, gun rights and transgender rights. And this feeling extends far beyond me versus those who hold opposing viewpoints to include other liberals. At least once a week I see a comment like this, which causes me to feel guilt because I'm not doing enough:
On my Facebook wall yesterday, I made reference to feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of these crises. In the ensuing discussion, I was reminded that we all can't do everything for everybody.
Which got me to thinking about unity, particularly here in America.
I propose that each of us find one or two issues that light our fires, and put everything we can towards those issues. Let people know what those issues are, and what you are doing to be the change you wish to see in the world.
Here's the unifying part.

While we are each doing our good work, try to celebrate the good work of others, rather than denigrating those who aren't fighting side-by-side. Recognize the others as soldiers in the same "Make the World a Better Place" army, who are simply engaged in other battles that are just as important as your battles.

For me, this might look like:
  1. Thanking people for their advocacy - in whatever form it takes.
  2. Refraining from sharing/repeating content that derides people for not caring about the same issues I care about.
  3. Positioning the asks I make of people as an option, instead of an ultimatum. Rather than saying, "Not making a donation makes you no different than the Germans who did nothing as the Holocaust was starting," I'll try this: "There are so many issues demanding our attention. If ending the refugee crisis in Europe is one of the issues that lights your fire, please consider making a donation."
  4. When I need to say no, say it in a way that honors the passions of the other people. For example, instead of ignoring an ask made by a friend or acquaintance, I'll try saying something like, "I honor your commitment to ending the refugee crisis in Europe. Thank you for all the work you are doing. For my part, I'm dedicating myself to addressing the policing crisis here in America. So, I'm not going to give today."
  5. When I feel overwhelmed, consciously remind myself of the value of the work I am doing, rather than feeling guilty about whatever it is you are NOT doing.
I believe that honoring my individual efforts and those of others will help me feel more unified with my sisters and brothers fighting the good, liberal fight. And by working together, we can make a greater difference than we would working alone or in our issues silos.

Will you join me in making a pledge to be a little kinder in the way you position your advocacy work?  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Who Lights Up My Life?

I'm an ambivert, with strong introvert tendencies.

So, when The 52 Lists Project asks me, "Who are the people who brighten your day?" my immediate response is "No one." 

Hmmm. Let me re-position the question for an introvert. How about this: "When I want joy or comfort from another person, to whom do I turn?"

Okay, THAT'S a question I can answer. 

Always and forever, there are two people on my list:  
1. My husband, BMG
2. My mother

Neither of these people are *always* able to provide me with the comfort and joy I'm wishing for, but they always try. And even when they don't get it right, I'm left with the feeling that they love me. (And a feeling that I need to be better at both knowing and articulating my needs.)

There are also three more people, or groups of people, who I frequently find myself wanting to connect with on the rare occasion I want to share my stories of aggravation or triumph. They are: 
3. My three sisters 
4. My gal pal, Dillard57
5. My gal pal, @lardito

Typically, when I want to reach out to these people, it is because something big has happened that I need some sort of response to, either to validate my experience or to help me sort out a problem. But, I've had to learn that I can't always reach these loved ones because they have busy lives, balancing work, children, spouses, community.

So maybe I'll send a text, or a tweet, and hope for a response.

And, because I have great coping skills, when that doesn't work, I tend to turn to Twitter. There I might share what I originally wanted to say to a loved one. Or I might do a search to find people, tweets or news stories with a similar theme to my own news in an effort to find that validation I seek.

I'm curious, when you need to connect with another person, to whom do you turn to light up your life? Who gives you hope? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I Need a Little Christmas

I vividly recall the host of feelings I experienced as a child during the season of advent.

  • The feeling of excitement as my siblings and I counted down the days until Christmas. 
  • The feeling of hope as I carefully crafted my letter to Santa filled with my wishes for the year.
  • The feeling of love as I thoughtfully chose gifts to make or buy for my family members, to help ensure they knew how much I loved them.
  • The feeling of joyful community embedded in the Christmas traditions of caroling and the exchange of greeting cards. 

I love Christmas and the deep and positive memories the season conjures up for me.

As a childless adult, my celebration of the holiday is vastly different. But each of the items on my list of my favorite things about Christmas can be directly traced back to those childhood feelings:

Lights - on my home, my neighbors' homes, and in town squares
Beacons, letting Santa, or maybe the wise men, know that there are believers nearby, who are excited for the arrival of the 25th.

Making and sharing homemade Christmas treats
I give them to as many of the people who bring joy and comfort to my life. This year, there are nearly 30 people on the list, including the mailman, my pharmacist, the security guards and cleaning staff at my office, the cat sitter... The list goes on. I'll be making five different types of cookies: peanut butter blossoms, peppermint blossoms, double chocolate snowballs, cranberry orange shortbread, and eggnog whoopie pies. I'll also make Christmas muddy buddies to give to the gluten-free people in my life. Planning, baking and distributing cookie platters helps me express my gratitude for joyful community.

Admiring the display of packages artfully arranged under the Christmas tree
Every year, I try to pick a theme for my gift wrapping. I choose paper, and construct handmade tags that convey the theme. On Christmas morning, I try to intersperse the gifts I've brought in with the many others under the tree..Combined, these activities help me feel both hopeful that the gifts I've carefully selected and lovingly wrapped will delight the receiver, and excited about the packages I'll unwrap later in the day.

The results of this year's presidential election in the U.S. has left me feeling dejected. This holiday season, I need a little Christmas more than any other time I can remember. Because I need love, ope,  In 2016, more than any other time in my adult memory, I need a little Christmas. Because I need a little hope, joy, and love as I gear up for the start of 2017.

This blog post was inspired by my participation in The 52 Lists Project  in collaboration with BMG. This week, we're both making lists of our favorite parts of the holidays.

I'm curious. What are your favorite parts of whatever December holiday(s) you celebrate? What are your plans to make sure you get however much of the holiday spirit you need this year?

Regardless of your response, please know you have my wishes for a happy holiday.