Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Octavia Butler

Wow. I began to write a post about the amazing, admirable, inimitable Octavia Butler, definitely one of my top 5 favorite authors of all time and probably the one I feel had "the most to say" regarding important issues, timeless issues. I have read what I thought was a sizable chunk of her list of works. I have studied and read about her life and ideas. A favorite quote of mine, which is just a description she once gave about herself was that she was "an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty and drive." She also described herself as "a Black, a feminist, and a pessimist if I'm not careful." ...Feels like I've thought these types of thoughts and words a thousand times myself (no, not the black part, sillies). I've loved a great many things that she said and even more that she wrote. But what I learned today while doing a "little bit of research" to make sure I stated the correct facts about her life and work in this blog post is that 1.) she has more works than I realized, which I must now go and read, and 2.) that I can not possibly hope to write about this complex, amazing, intuitive and passionate author without doing a lot more research on my subject. I stand humbled before her body of work and the story of her great life of ideas and writing.

If you aren't familiar with the late Ms. Butler (who died quite young and before her time in '06), do yourself a great favor and check her out. I recommend her book, "Kindred," if you're new to her. Don't be put off by the fact that she is often categorized as "Science Fiction." She is way deeper and more interesting than those two words could describe. She will tell you about yourself and your life and your race and your history. No matter who you are or where your walk of life has led you. And yes, no matter what color you happen to be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Weighty Matters (Pun Intended)

There is so, so much going on! So much on my own mind, so much going on around me with the holidays upcoming (or happening now, if you're Jewish!), so much going on in the world at large. I haven't been sure what to sit down and write about first! Haven't been able to sort out my many thoughts about the world, the country, the holidays, my own issues of serious and non-serious natures... So they say, for a writer, just sit down and start writing. I guess that what comes out in that situation is considered the "trash" one needs to unload before getting to the good stuff that really needs to be written. But oh well. I'm sifting through my trash here, and you can read along with me or not :)

I just muted the television, because I have grown completely sick of the Tiger Woods saga. I think he's complete scum. He's sold himself as a solid guy, a family man, a straight-laced athlete in a world where there aren't many of those, and it's just all bullshit. And he's sold that image not only to us, as golf fans and adults, but to kids in his Nike commercials and with his general image. And that's disgraceful, if you ask me. Is that judgmental of me to say? I guess, but it's my opinion nevertheless. I don't want to hear about him anymore, don't want to see him, don't want to watch his beleaguered wife and family pick up the pieces however they decide to do so. For me, it's over. Tiger Woods is shit. Next story?

I guess I've grown a bit tired of the world/national/celebrity news cycles in general lately. Having been home for awhile now with the disability situation, I've had some serious time to watch TV and read. I used to love to have a moment to myself to catch up on the news, politics, local stuff, and yes, to check out US Weekly and those rags. But for the past few weeks, it's all just making me kind of sick. I don't know. I really am working and praying and trying my best to make this holiday one-of-a-kind and special. It has so much potential in my personal life, with all of the beautiful changes that have taken place and continue to do so, that I really know it can be a miraculous holiday season. I'm going to make sure of it. And I guess a daily reading of war and misogyny and politics and infidelity just doesn't go along with that plan.

Don't get me wrong; I'm really sensitive to people thinking that I wouldn't stand up for, vote for, and otherwise stay tuned-in to the issues that are important to my loved ones and myself...and those that I feel are important in our world, for that matter. I would never close myself off completely from knowing what's going on in this country and world. There are many issues, especially right now, that are very close to my heart. Also, I am always praying for and supporting our troops, no matter how many are being sent or brought home, no matter the political crap going on here. I don't lose sight of that. But sometimes, in order to be effective at supporting your causes and to be effective as a functioning human being for that matter, I feel it's important to turn off the constant barrage of news we have available to us. So I'm trying to do that for the next few days or however long I can last without seeing what Nancy Grace has to say ... like I always eventually do!

So, let's see what else is in my scroll of thoughts and opinions! Okay, here's something I'll share with you all. Maybe someone has some advice. I am really upset lately because of the fact that I have been gaining weight. I know that some of you haven't seen me since I was barely maintaining 110 lbs, which was verrrry skinny for my 5'7" frame. But things have changed, seriously now. Before, I had a reaction to a new medicine, along with some really, really serious anxiety and stress in my life ... and that led to my extreme weight loss back then. But to put it all in perspective, I have gained 50 lbs in one year. Last year at this time I weighed 50 lbs less. So, yes, I needed to gain a little bit of weight, but now my Wii Fit meter is telling me I'm like 12 lbs away from obesity. Now, I work out a LOT, and I think I have enough muscle mass that maybe the Wii isn't quite accurate. I mean, you can see by my profile pictures that I'm not obese. But when you're already at a good weight, and you're eating normally and working out ... but still putting on serious weight, isn't something wrong? I'm growing concerned.

And here is where I admit my vanity. I was planning to ask the doctor about it today. He is a specialist in headache and neurological issues, but I thought I'd still run it by him, given that he knows my medicines and my recent general health history, and all of that. But I got too shy and embarrassed!! I admit it, okay? My doctor is decent-looking, and he's really, really thin! Also, he has all these books (okay, like two) on the book shelf in his office about nutrition and stuff. So I flat out was too embarrassed of my "weight problem" to ask him. I KNOW!!! Even thinking that thought makes me see how stupid and petty I was about the whole thing. But I couldn't do it. I'm currently looking for a new general doctor (I don't have one, and haven't for years), so I just figured I'd ask THAT doc about it. And I hope he/she is fat and therefore can understand. Then again, if the doctor has a weight problem, can he/she really be trusted with weight advice? Actually, I say yes. I've met many doctors and nurses and even police officers who are great at what they do, but fail miserably at applying their job knowledge to their own lives. But I digress somewhat ...

So there you have it. I now weigh 15 lbs. more than I have ever weighed in my life. I think a bit of it has to do with my being home these past few months and therefore the activity of just walking around and going to and from a job is lost. But still! Except for when I'm sick (in which case I don't usually feel well enough to eat), I am active. And as I said, I've been working out hardcore the past month or so; usually 6 days a week, I do some kind of activity at least.

I guess I'm kind of scared. I know writing on here isn't going to do anything about that. But I don't know whether weight gain can be a symptom of any serious (or non-serious, even) diseases???? I've heard it can mean Diabetes, but that seems a very remote possibility for a number of reasons for me. Maybe I'm just about to turn 34 and my metabolism has gone to shit? I don't know. Anybody ever have this issue? Oh, and P.S., while I do work out a lot, I admit I don't have the healthiest diet, if that matters.

Well, that is all for now. There are many issues and topics here for all to enjoy :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Smoke-Out / The Seventh Circle

When in doubt, write what you "know," isn't that what they always say? Well what I'm knowing these days isn't nothin' nice, let me tell you. But I've decided it might just be helpful to myself, and to others who read this as well, if I write it all down.

I've quit smoking. Yes, really. And yes, for good. I mean, let me just say - out of respect for reality and unpredictability in life - I never say Never, nor do I ever say Always. But just short of saying those words, I am done smoking. Not very many people know me well enough to understand; but the way that I work is this: I hem and haw and turn an idea over in my head for what might seem like forever. To others, it probably seems I've been smoking, and sort of flirting with and talking about quitting smoking, for a very long time ... so long, that most people who don't know me well (which is just about everyone) have probably given up on the idea of my quitting. But I have always known this day would come. I tend to get an idea of what I want to do, a goal. And I hold it, sit with it, sleep on it for many nights, write about it, talk to others about it, research it, try it out a few times using different methods ... all the while knowing inside that I will realize in my soul when the time is the Right Time. That's just something about me. It's just how I work.

I decided last week that it was the Right Time. I don't know how many of my readers are smokers or ex-smokers, and how many have never been addicted to the "habit." But those who have smoked might understand this love affair I had at first and for a long time with my cigarettes. Ohh yes, I loved to smoke for a long time, most of the time. If it wasn't an activity that was damaging to me, I might still do it. There were many occasions when smoking was fun, social, when it distilled some social awkwardness, and when it just helped with something that was going on, be it a big stress or a little annoyance. I don't know the statistics on how and why people of my generation got started. I don't know when. I have anecdotal evidence, but even in that case, not enough to draw any solid conclusions. Feel free to share with me: How / When / Why did you get started smoking? How long did your habit last? Or do you still smoke? Hey! Remember you won't get any judgment outta me. I'm not even one week into nicotine abstinence :)

I'm just writing about what I know, didn't do extra research into statistics or facts for this one; it's my own experience. I started smoking because of a guy. Yes, lovely readers. Yours truly, a woman who considers herself educated, enlightened in as many ways as possible, cultured, worldly, and definitely feminist ... nevertheless picked up a cigarette so she could sit on a bench, prolonging her lunch break one day and talk to a man, stars in her eyes and everything.

Oh, but I know there are very few among us who have not done a similar thing. Some of us have done things that we are so very ashamed to admit: be it sleeping with someone to gain status or professional gain, using sex or sexuality to score drugs or money, or using the same to make someone else jealous ... We do these things. Or some of us maybe haven't gone that far, but we have almost all done something we are not proud of, that we would not want our friends to know about, the motives for which we would never want to be made public. Maybe like me, some of you have drank or smoked or done drugs when you really didn't want that for yourself, because it helped you get close to someone you liked or close to a crowd you thought was important. Maybe you took risks sexually or physically to be "cool" in front of such people. Contrary to the way we all try to act on a daily basis in our peer groups and in our families and in our churches, almost every single human has made these types of mistakes, at least once. I don't say this to remove blame or judgment from myself; I know people who want to judge will do so, and I don't care. I'm just pointing out how, when it comes down to it, we are all so very much alike and together in our human struggle. I guess going through this journey and suffering through this withdrawal and the pain of it has forced me to think about these things.

Today was Day Six. In respect of full disclosure, I did utilize the nicotine patch. But I haven't wanted to do it the way they recommend. I know many people quit "cold-turkey," and I have found that isn't the way for me. Attempts to do so (remember I said I've tried a few things in the past, a few "dry runs" so to speak) have resulted in emotional break-downs, crying jags and damn near psychosis for me. So I knew that, while I am willing to take on the struggle and the pain of quitting, I am not willing to be driven to insanity; not when there is a safer way to do it. So I did four days of the Step 2 patch (there are 3 steps, meant to be done over the course of 12 weeks). That was, dare I say, pretty easy. I was moderately cranky, but it would come and go. I found that if I stayed busy working out and active in general, then I was basically fine. Being social was not fun for me, so I've been lying low until I'm through this first week or two. And fortunately for me (and a big reason I chose this particular time to embark on this Quitting Journey right now), my life and work right now allow for me to spend pretty much all my time alone if I choose to do so. Well, as I said, yesterday was Day Five, and on that day I started with the Step 3 patch, which delivers 7 mg of nicotine over the course of 24 hrs. This one hurts! No, it doesn't physically hurt, but it has been TOUGH. NOW I'm feelin' it, people. NOW it sucks.

I don't wear the patch for the full 24 hours, because (and this is mentioned in the patch literature) it gives me extremely vivid dreams and sometimes nightmares. It's all good if the dreams are vivid, but nightmares can be very upsetting when they are SO real and memorable. Plus, if I were smoking, I wouldn't be smoking all night, while I slept, so I think I should go patch-free during sleep. I made a deal with myself that if I wake up in the night, especially near dawn, and am extremely uncomfortable from withdrawal symptoms, I will put on a patch for the day at that time.

So here we are. I am not turning back. 7 mg is going to have to be alright, and if I'm uncomfortable and crabby and whatever until I get used to it, then I am. I mean, yes, they recommend doing it more slowly, but then again, people quit without any patches all the time. I want to do something in the middle. When I decide I'm done, I'm done. As I mentioned.

Finally, I wanted to mention how I went from loving my social, stress-reducing, sometimes-even-fun smoking to loathing it and wanting to quit this instant. I imagine that each of us has a different experience and yet, similarities must exist. For me, a lot of negative things started to occur and outweigh any perceived positives that I thought I was experiencing from smoking. First of all, smoking had obviously become this proverbial monkey on my back, an addiction, something that I had to do to feel okay, to keep from getting crabby, irrational, and weepy. I mean, hey: that is the epitome and definition of a drug addiction. I don't know why it hit me when it did, but is just did: I grew tired of being addicted. I grew tired of dragging the monkey around on my back.

There were many occasions when it became difficult to manage my "habit." One of these was any time we went to visit and spend time with my dad. He is adamantly opposed to smoking and furthermore claims that it unbearably irritates his allergies or lungs or sinuses or something. To give you an example, he began refusing to set foot inside my mother's house this past summer, because he claimed he could smell the remnant smoke from her letting my brother and I smoke occasionally in her house. I personally think this is just his way of making a point in his melodramatic fashion, but that's another story altogether. Let me just add that my father is far, far, far from having his own extremely destructive (to the self and everyone around him) habits and addictions; this fact renders him ineligible to take such an ostentatious stand against the activities of smokers. And might I add that the man is certainly no stranger to a bar, where until a couple years ago (in our state), smokers were welcome and ubiquitous. But enough on that. The rule at his house is no smoking, so there's no smoking there. Fine. I've always been one to respect the rules of someone else's place, someone else's car, someone else's belongings, etc. But it made it damn hard to sit calmly and focus on all the "fun" we were having at family events when I was counting the minutes until I could politely get the fuck outta there and have a smoke for God's sake. I used nicotine patches sometimes to quell the cravings, but I don't know ... something about being there just made me want to smoke, dammit. So it was always a problem.

Then, as mentioned, Illinois enacted a law stating that smoking indoors, anywhere, would no longer be tolerated. The rule is that a person smoking must remain 15 feet from any doorway, window or air intake vent. This translated to a whole lot of smokers freezing their asses off for about half the year; these winters are brutal, in case you haven't been! At my various workplaces, at bars, and at other various locales, I joined the other addicts wedging footholds in the frozen snow, puffing away, switching smoking hands every few seconds to save ourselves from frostbite. The truly dedicated learned to smoke with no hands at all. Perhaps the worst humiliation was the looks and comments we would get about how stupid and asinine we were. And you know what? Yeah, it's dumb to stand outside in the freezing cold for no reason. But we have an addiction to a drug, and the fact of the matter is, if we don't get that drug, we will get sick in a manner of speaking. That sickness reveals itself in different ways in different people, but it's withdrawal all the same. And frankly, I've seen many people do dumber things out in the cold for far dumber reasons. No matter that I've quit and don't intend to smoke anymore, I do not intend to be one of those who judge and mock what I do not understand and have not lived.

A lot of other annoyances piled on. Cigarettes cost plenty; although I found the gas stations and other vendors quite willing to do just about anything to create discounts, make use of coupons and anything else they could think of to bring the price down. In the 6 years I have been a smoker, the actual price paid did not fluctuate much. But c'mon, it's a waste of my money anyway. I know that, and this weighed on me as the years went on and as I fell on some difficult financial times as well. What else? It just is a pain in the ass after awhile. What was once a fun and sociable hobby became a ... well, a pain in the ass, yes. Needing that smoke is a - pardon the pun - real drag. Everyone's a little different, but I was someone who would wake up needing nicotine. I was rolling out of bed lighting a cigarette. The drug having control over me like that began to piss me off. I want control over me; no one and nothing else should have that power. And then there was the rationing and the constant maintenance of The Supply. Ugh. SO MANY times I underestimated how much I would smoke on a given night or weekend or whatever; and you better believe I have left my warm, cozy home at all hours, any hour you can name, to go get cigarettes, because I was out ... or was going to wake up and be out ... or was going to be out halfway through my workday ... on and on, the monkey on my back.

So for the past year or so, I've been preparing mentally. I've researched the methods, I've tried a few things as I mentioned, and I've just plain thought about it and tried to get myself ready. I tried to imagine what the perfect conditions for my quitting would be and whether they could be attained. And last week, while I sat here having my billionth cigarette, I thought: It's Time. It ain't gonna get better or more ideal than Now. And so I embarked on this journey.

I'd greatly appreciate any stories or experiences or knowledge that my readers have to share about this topic! I am getting close to letting go of my last crutch, that 7 mg patch. I have 5 days left on that, and then I'm on my own. I'm really focused and excited about the benefits, truly. According to everything I've read, my skin should get better, of course my cardiovascular system should reap wonderful benefits, and everyone I've ever heard from or spoken to about quitting has said they actually FEEL healthier and just good. To me, it's a no-brainer. Smoking was not the least bit enjoyable anymore. It was all negative, save for that small relief of having a puff when I was "needing" one. And now I can look forward literally to a better life. That's awesome, isn't it!

A loved one recently lamented to me that he just "hates to see [me] suffering like this" in reference to my withdrawal and all of the different symptoms that are accompanying it for me; I have not had an easy road, to say the least. But I told him this, and I truly believe it: This is not suffering like my migraines or my ADD issues or any of the life challenges that I have faced in the past several years. This, to me, is more like fasting for religious faith or dealing with aching body and muscles because you're training for a triathlon. It's for a much higher purpose and not very big at all in the grand scheme. I am having some bad days and expect at least a few more, but I fear not.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good, Bad, Annoying

I have had enough! Our government is fighting, with members individually attacking others "across the aisle" (or sometimes on the same side) in personal and completely non-productive ways. Washington state recently saw a brutal murder of four members of its law enforcement community. When I hear the vast majority of "commentators" (a term used here in the absolute broadest sense) on radio or TV, I have begun to feel sick. I wish to take a News-Hiatus, but I feel I should pay attention when the President speaks about continuing this war and whatever-the-hell else. Then again, maybe I'm not in the right frame of mind even for analyzing his speech or his actions. To put it frankly, the news is making me sick.

So let's talk about some FLUFF, shall we? I mean, the nitty-gritty of what really matters: celebrities acting out, holiday music, TV shows with a glorious lack of substance (except for humor; that's allowed), and such...

Does anyone know whether they still do the CLEO Awards? Isn't that what they used to call the awards for television commercials or advertising in general? I remember as a child I would watch something called the CLEO Awards; I recall seeing hilarious commercials rewarded during the program, as well as recognition for commercials that had become so well-known as to become a part of our social fabric in some way. Well, I haven't seen it on TV in years, but I have a lot of commercials that I would recognize!

Just go ahead and let me know: Am I unique or strange for watching commercials and really loving them (or really hating the bad ones)? I mean, I get into TV commercials; I am curious about and fascinated by the ways that people use to sell their product or service. I am amazed when I see something so NOT funny getting a lot of airplay, or even moreso, when I find that the ad is selling a lot for the company. Let me explain what I mean.

I HATE: There is a commercial with only two actors, an oldish man and a middle-aged-looking woman. They are walking through the halls of what looks like an abandoned Capitol building or museum. They are dressed in strict business attire, like full suits. We never see more of them than an odd view from above; it's nearly an aerial shot! As they walk, the woman's voice states something to the effect that their firm has effed up on something tax-related. Sorry, that's all I get from it. The guy simply asks what they are going to about it. This is when the woman says, "They're bringing in B.D.O. [indistinguishable]'s already on it." That's the whole conversation, and then a voice-over guy says simply, "Those who know, know B.D.O." Um, okay. I guess that I am not one of those who know. But if you are trying to sell your service, shouldn't you be addressing the fact that people look at that and have no effin idea what the hell you're talking about!

I LOVE: The holiday Garmin commercials. They brought endless joy to my TV watching last year, and I was so happy to see that they created a couple of new ones so far for this year. The ads always feature someone driving along through their town, with a voice singing a song to the tune of "Hark to the Bells." Only the words are changed into hilarious and frantic issues one faces while driving around trying to complete holiday errands. I remember the best part of last year's, in my opinion, was when the lady driver pushed a button on her Garmin GPS thingy to find the closest salon. As she did so, she glanced in the rear-view mirror at her eyes, while the song lyrics went: "Find salon now. Have a uni-brow." Most of the situations are silly, and it drives the point home perfectly and succinctly. As the ad fades to show the brand name alone on the screen, you hear a single young chorus-type voice: "Garmin-dot-com, Garmin-dot-com" to the fading tune of "Bells." I think these commercials are genius and also fun.

I'M CONFUSED: ...One commercial that I have recently begun to see on TV is for the Dodge Ram truck. As the truck is filmed doing all of these impressive turns and spin-outs and driving through mud and whatever, the voice-over guy is saying, "I am Ram. And my tank is full." It's obviously supposed to be the catchy slogan of the truck. But what does that mean? Why would that sell anything? The first time I saw it, I was with a friend, and we both agreed: "Don't remind us about the tank and having to fill it and the price of gas..." But it gets weirder. Interspersed among the footage of the truck maneuvering around are pictures of great minds from our history such as Albert Einstein. Is this just a blatant attempt at associating random, impressive people with the truck?! Am I meant to think Hmmm...If I buy a Ram, I'll be like Einstein (don't ask me how, I just will!)? The most offensive commercials on TV are the ones that insult my intelligence like that. So I won't be purchasing a Ram anytime soon.

And finally, I have had a love-hate relationship with that "Progressive Lady," as she is commonly called. Do you know who I mean? She's very chatty and made-up, a characature of a perky sales woman. And she does the ads for Progressive Auto Insurance. I used to be really annoyed by her, but I have found her funny in the more recent ads I've seen. I mean, I don't fall out laughing, but they are cute and amusing. However, while taking an online consumre survey recently, I realized that I had never put the ads featuring this lady (whose voice and visage I could now recognize anywhere) were indeed for Progressive. I marked on the survey that I could not recall seeing a TV ad for Progressive! It was only a few minutes after I completed the survey that I saw one of these commercials on TV. And I noticed for the first time that they are ads for Progressive. Weird.

Well, in conclusion, I am just a person who finds TV ads infinitely interesting. Am I the only one?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Washington Cop Killer

I hope someone finds this piece of shit and that they throw him in solitary confinement somewhere to live out his days thinking about nothing, doing nothing, looking at nothing, laughing at nothing ... one of those 6 x 9 ft cells with a bed and a pisser ... Or a bed and a drain. I could give a shit what he does. I hope he's bored. I hope it's too loud to sleep and too dark to do anything but sit awake. Sit and think. And go insane. And to die knowing that he was a piece of shit.

I usually try to present my opinions on serious matters with a measure of even-handedness. I try to remove all possible judgment from my mind and my hands as they write. I am fascinated with the legal system and our laws and how we apply them to society. And in studying this area of knowledge, I have learned how important it is to keep an open and objective mind when thinking about the big answers in life. In a court of law, as in a written piece for a blog or publication, it is extremely important to keep personal and emotionally - charged words and rhetoric out of what we present. Once it gets "down and dirty" in the court room or in any other debate, people fail to take seriously what the impassioned speaker/writer is saying. Plainly speaking, I think that when we start hurling insults and personal slurs, we lose our credibility as an opinion-holder on issues that carry huge weight within our society.

Hearing this story about this asshole today pushed me to the limits of what I believe. My immediate instinct upon hearing about the crime is to think Let's hunt down that motherf*cker and kill it (yes, IT). My anger and rage and personal experience, personal relationships, and personal values produced that reaction in me. But I have come to know myself well enough and to know my own mind enough, that eventually I was able to think of what I truly believe and well, think. I simply don't believe that anyone has the right to decide whether or not another human being should live. My main reason is not rooted in religious or moral values (although I have my own faith and values, for sure) as much as it is in my observation that none among us living today is intelligent enough to hold so much deciding-power over another. When I say "intelligent," I mean intelligent in enough ways, while also being compassionate enough, while also being passionate enough about doing what is right for the self and the society, while also being fortunate enough and diligent enough to have been educated thoroughly in ALL the myriad issues that can be involved in such a decision. That is what I mean with the meager word: Intelligent. I think that if such a person existed, well, that would be our God. There is no human being who holds enough talent and skill and feeling, who is also able to weigh those things out in the proper measure for each individual case, for that person to be nominated Decider of Fate.

That being said, what happened to the slain officers and their loved ones, has long been one of my worst nightmares. I grew up in a law-enforcement family. I was raised by a police deputy - turned - 911 operator. A great number of family and friends served and are serving as police officers or civilian staff around our country. I know what it looks like, what it feels like, what life is all about when you are the family of a police officer. Just about six years ago, I fell in love with someone who is to this day a sheriff's officer. I know how it feels to wonder, to worry, and to learn to live with those feelings.

I know what it's like to see the clock approaching midnight, then passing it, when I haven't received a phone call yet ... wondering whether this could be the day that we all dread. I have sat and wondered whether I should go to sleep knowing the odds are in our favor that tomorrow will dawn as it always does, that he will have arrived home safely, just busy, just late. I have woken up on such a morning many, many times. "My" sheriff's officer had wanted to do that job since he could remember, since he was a boy. He admired his late uncle who had done the job. He loves his work, rarely complains about even the worst nights on the job, even the worst atrocities and ugliness that he sees in people, and he remains dedicated to his work. As partner to someone like that, I knew that I could never ask him to leave it. I knew that I would either have to accept it, learn to live with the down side of it, or I could leave. In most situations in life, I don't believe in asking those we love to choose. Besides, I wanted this person to do what he loves and what makes him happy. Learning to live with the job was part of learning to love him.

And most of us do learn. We learn to revel in the wonderful moments that also come with the job our police officers do. I was so very proud to go to a reception at the County Sheriff's Office one day to see my boyfriend accept an award for saving a life (an accident victim on whom he had successfully performed CPR). I love his "gallows" sense of humor, which is clever and dark and devastatingly funny. And I love him for being someone who wanted to help others, while being willing to accept the fact that most days on his job would not be opportunities to achieve awards and accolades; in fact, most days will be thankless and difficult. Some days are boring. There are politics and gossip and pettiness, as with most of our jobs and careers. For every life saved with CPR and other techniques, there are many who cannot be saved. It's difficult to face life and death and violence and ugliness and appreciating and expectation and fear and courage and fighting and drunkenness and always, always the unexpected; it is difficult to face these day after day and still come home to loved ones and family laughing at cartoons on TV and wanting to you to mow the grass. Life "out there" is something that no one who hasn't lived it can never fully understand. Sometimes it's hard to come home to the rest of us and BE one of us. Sometimes, I imagine, it's easier, even fun, to be the one who does just that.

So today, knowing all of this and having lived as the partner of a policeman, I could feel the horror that must have surged through the hearts of these victims' families. When that phone rang, or when someone appeared at their doors (I don't know how it went down), the fear and recognition of what was happening must have sunk thick and deep into their souls. This is the Thing that we all pray will not happen. This is the Thing that we try to prepare for, mentally, even knowing one can never really prepare. I made up my own mind long ago that this was my life if I was going to love this person. I made up my mind that, while it was unlikely this day would come for me (the odds are stilll much better that it won't), I would prepare as best as I could, and then I would let it be. I made up my mind to trust in the training and skillfulness and dedication of the one I loved and appreciate every day. And so it goes. For most of us, the dreaded call does not ever come. For most of us, life does go on, with all the daily joys and failures and tasks and events. For most of us, we do live with it in the back of our minds, but we do not dwell or live in fear and panic. For most of us, we kiss our loved one goodbye and make plans for when that person comes home. After all, there is always a chance that anything could happen to anyone. We all have only this moment Now, always.

But for the families of four suburban Seattle, WA officers today, that moment did come. Their loved ones were murdered this morning in cold blood by a psycho who should not have been allowed on our streets again, ever. I know how I would feel if I were them. I know that I would want to go murder the piece of shit with my own bare hands. That is anger. That reaction is hurt and pain and worry and loss and grief. Up until this morning, I knew exactly how the families felt, but now only a handful of us knows. I pray for all four families tonight, as I pray for law enforcement workers and their beloved every night. May God grant them peace and some measure of understanding in time.

Update 12-01-2009: Associated Press has received confirmation that the shooter has been apprehended by police and killed.

Update #2: A memorial service will be held for all four of the deceased officers at the Tacoma Dome. The service will begin at 1 p.m. on December 8. At press time organizers have said they expect more than 20,000 mourners and representatives of the national law enforcement community to attend.
**If you wish to make a charitable donation to the families of all or any of these officers, it can be sent directly to the Lakewood Police Independent Guild Fund; P.O. Box 99579; Lakewood, WA 98499. Those seeking further information may contact

Where is our Secret Service?

I'm just going to say it. People disgust me sometimes. People in our culture, our "pop" or common culture; however one might phrase it. Usually, I endeavor to ignore idiots and search instead for the beauty and good in people, in the world, in everyday. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to find the good; sometimes it isn't hard at all. When I worked in the so-called service industries, I learned very quickly that although it can be crushingly painstaking to find good people, to focus on the beauty and light of each day ... it is also quite frequently the only thing that keeps me going. My own perspective, my own thoughts and my most personal relationships and exchanges can sometimes get in the way; that is when we are our own worst enemies. Because if my dark mood prevents me from seeing a child or a kind word or a miracle as anything less than what it is, I have lose everything. Just my thoughts.

I'm sure everyone in the U.S. remembers the footage of shoes being hurled by an angry member of the press at then-President Bush a little over a year ago, while Bush was visiting the Middle East. Many of us laughed or expressed shock or even rage about the video. I had to admit the guy's athletic reflexes were in top form. But I recall conversations I had with my dad and others around that time ... None of us could believe that the Secret Service -- once imagined by many to be this clandestine, superiorly-trained, BEST, BIGGEST security agency in the world -- did not step in. From the fair amount of information that I have read and learned about the President's most-relied-upon agents, a flying shoe should never even enter our President's field of vision!! The moment that guy even thought, even considered thinking about, throwing his shoes at the President of the United States of America, eight or ten agents should have been on his ass. But they weren't. One shoe: President swats it and takes it down like a fly. Two shoe: President has ducked already. A seemingly-full, 60-seconds-long, moment occurs ... now the Secret Service approaches the offender, who is already being subdued by members of his own community. WHAT is wrong with this picture?

If the President didn't have something to say about his security agency right then, if heads didn't roll and re-training wasn't embarked upon, then I am shocked. Even if Bush 2.0 is the most self-centered, common-joe type of guy that ever held the office, I would think that his sense of self-preservation (not to mention pride, fear, etc.) would dictate that measures be taken to ensure his future safety. What if those shoes had been guns? Knives? Grenades? Home-made bombs? If I were him, I'd be saying What the Fuck.

I don't know what, if anything, was done to remedy that situation, which really looked like a failure to me. My friends and I went on to discuss other topics, Bush went on doing whatever he did for the remainder of his days in the Oval Office, and apparently, the Secret Service continued its swift decline in functioning. Has anyone ever watched that video from the John Kerry campaign, when a college student was forcibly removed from the room where Kerry was speaking? You might recall it as the "Don't Taze Me, Bro!" video. It's always on the internet and on those OMG! tv shows about viral video. Some big hulk of a "student activist" was basically just being obnoxious and asking too many questions and taking up everyone's time with his verbosity. Before he could even get going really, about 5 Secret Service agents were upon him, physically dragging his ass out of the room and away from Senator Kerry. And yes, when they got him a safe distance away from the candidate, they tasered him when he refused to pick up his own feet.

Well, I'm not here to debate the politics of Kerry vs. Bush vs. whoever. And I'm not here to determine whether that particular tazing (sp?) was in line with standard operating procedures for those who protect our government. What I am saying is ... A college student asks a few too many questions, gets a little out-of-hand verbally, and they physically remove him and taze him for good measure too. But NOW, yes, now-a-days, a couple can sweet-talk God-knows-how-many of our formidable agents and get right in next to our top FIVE in line for the Presidency? Have dinner with them? Cozy photos?

I began writing this post, because it was that couple ... you all know by now who THAT couple is, I am assuming ... who had disgusted me first. I won't name them here, because they are idiots. Asinine, self-obsessed jerk-offs. And they disgust me. But, as so often happens, when a blog post forces its way out of me, this one has taken a different turn. While the Idiots disgust me, the Secret Service really and truly disappoints me. I couldn't be more disappointed if the guy in charge was my own son.

I will take the fame whores of our culture to task later. For now, let's uproot this security agency and investigate what is going on there. If I were a government official, I'd be watching my back.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One of My Favorite Girls

This is a post about a young artist who reminds me so much of myself that I have been stunned and awed many times listening to her. We do not pursue the exact same art, and I can't claim the fame that this young lady has. But I see so much of my younger self in the way she writes her words, the sensitive soul that she reveals even when talking about everyday subjects, and her passionate reflection on the way our shared human experience leaves its indelible mark on each and every one of us... Nope, I'm not a famous musician at all. But when I sit down to write what I write, my aim is to address the exact same type of experiences and feelings and relationships between people as she does. I'm proud to be a "fan"...

Taylor Swift! I at first felt sort of embarrassed jumping on the girl's bandwagon. I guess I felt immature and old getting into her music; sometimes I feel wrong getting into the whole "fan" situation with musicians, especially teenaged ones. However, this teenaged one has sold the most records, won a billion or so awards this year, and she's just undeniably on fire now. Until about 2 months ago, I had heard maybe part of one or two songs by her. My view of her was a sorta-cute-in-a-quirky-way teenaged country singer who is rumored to be dating the werewolf from "New Moon" (actor Taylor Lautner, who is cradle-robbery adorable). But then ...

Her music was just everywhere for me. I caught her on Oprah's show one day and was just really touched by how sweet and genuine she seemed. Her performance on that show and subsequent appearances I saw in a short amount of time thereafter really impressed me with their simple precision. There is nothing sloppy or unrehearsed in Taylor's show. Every time I've seen her sing, play, perform ... she nails it. I would love to see her live.

So I downloaded her cd, Fearless (Deluxe) and I've been listening to it a lot. I asked for her debut cd for Christmas this year, and I was amused by the fact that my father asked for "Fearless" on his list. Impressive, girl! I mean, when you can catch the attention of that wide a demographic, and throw in the fact that neither of us listens to much country music these days (I like old-school country; Dad never listens to country) ... It says a lot about the way her songs are touching people, no matter who they are. I have always believed that the ability to genuinely reach people with your art is one of the true marks of talent. Taylor's songs at first appeared to me as just sweet little ditties about her life experience, love and growing up and being a kid. And they do stand up pefectly well as that. She's only 19, but she has absolutely nailed the "write what you know" skill. She uses everything she has to work with, and proves that no matter who you are and what you have (or haven't) done, it's enough for a true artist to create amazing work.

So to the specifics ... I think my favorite song by T-Swizzle (as celebrity blogger Perez Hilton likes to refer to her) is "Fifteen." Yes, at first I was embarrassed to tackle this whole subject, let alone discuss which one was my favorite song, but fuck that. I've written about it ALL in my life on the blog, so no hiding my favorite song :) Seriously now, if you listen to and really are feelin the lyrics and the passion behind that voice singing "Fifteen," then you know everything about my heart and my experience during that time in my life. In a way, it took listening to "Fifteen" for me even to remember being that girl and feeling those things in an authentic way. There are so many life experiences that shape us that we wall up and lock away forever as we grow. Sometimes they feel too painful to recall. Sometimes we feel like we can't think about what got us to where we are today, for fear of living in the past or for fear of remembering who we used to be. Or sometimes we think that it's just plain immature to remember any of those days fondly, let alone try to decipher how they might have shaped us. But Taylor Swift's song in all of it's perfect lyrical glory, has broken that wall within myself.

Fifteen, being a freshman in high school, being a girl growing up in middle America ... I have a feeling that Taylor's appeal is due to the fact that she has clinched what so many of us felt, maybe all of us who have this shared upbringing. A beautiful and perfectly-crafted poem or song wastes not one word. It utilizes every single rhythm and connection between syllables and words to paint a picture and evoke an emotion. And when it is executed just exactly right, it's a song like "Fifteen." I could go on and on about the technical beauty of some of the lyrics on the Fearless album, but I know not everyone falls to pieces over a perfectly - crafted line the way I do. But Swift's album sales show that many of us are passionate about what those lines set stirring in our very souls.

You know how a main pointer for any good writing is to "show, not tell"? A wonderful achievement in doing so is the song "The Best Day," also on the Fearless album. A sentimental collection of stories paying gratitude to Taylor's family, "The Best Day" shows us the way it looked and how it felt and what it was like to be that girl, in that exact moment in time, exactly what it was to see her world through her eyes. She tells us a lot in that one song about her parents and brother, a bit about her faith and her upbringing, what matters to her in life, and what she used to think about as a small child ... and she does so without ever telling us at all. Rather, she paints us a musical picture so that we are not so much hearing a story about her life, but watching a memory as it is unveiled in the shadows of her own mind. Beauty.

Something that writers, myself included, bump up against is a fear of going there. It's a fear of going into that shadow, into that memory, into the farthest reaches of our mind and then not only sharing it in a story but really letting the reader know what it looked like to us, through our eyes and from the perspective of our very own personal world. If you are going to go for it and really do that, 1.) It's the only way you will write your best, most authentic work, and 2.) You should expect to feel the true terror that is vulnerability.

I've been listening to Fearless a lot lately when I am unable to sleep at night. When it is quiet and my mind is quieting down for the day, I am able to watch Taylor's stories unfold the way they do, and I am able to remember the times and experiences in my own life to which her music relates. I have to hand it to this teenager for reminding me of some very important experiences that I did not intend ever to wall away from my conscious mind; also, for reminding me that it takes this type of courage to stay true to our art. I've been writing more in the past few weeks than I had done in the past three years. So, as you might have noticed, I'm a bit rusty. But also, I'm experimenting with where I'm going to go with my work as I practice practice practice. I couldn't have been reminded of the simple and perfect beauty of a great lyric, song, or poem at a better time in my life!

My favorite line right now from Taylor's music is: In your life, you'll do things bigger than datin the player on the football team [but] I didn't know it at fifteen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If I Knew Then What I Know Now ...

... I would:
1. Get my ass immediately into Law School following my 1999 graduation from college.
2. Finish at the top of my class around 2002.
3. Move to Florida and take the Florida Bar.
4. Practice for a year or two as a Prosecutor before moving into the typically-more-lucrative
field of Criminal Defense.
5. Work hard to make a name for myself defending the accused in Florida.
6. Hear about this horrific story of a psycho-/socio- path mother who murdered her daughter.
7. Hear about this bullshit story of said murderer's attorneys and their plot to implicate the
good samaritan who found the baby's remains.
8. Be available to said good samaritan to take on his case pro-bono.
9. Wipe the courthouse floor with the collective ass of Casey
Anthony's defense team.

Remember: "Everybody hates [defense attorneys] until they need one of us." -- Mickey Sherman, criminal defense atty., Conneticut

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Not-My-Problem Mentality

I'm watching a documentary called "Thin" produced by HBO. It is, as the title suggests, about women dealing with anorexia. I had to start writing right here, right in the middle of the show, because guess what one of the girls is dealing with in the midst of her treatment? INSURANCE!!!!

This country has to change what it's doing. I'm watching this very, very sick young lady -- so sick with anorexia that she has been hospitalized and force-fed over the last 10 years on almost every birthday, plus other holidays! -- and she's being forced to go home by her insurance company, which decides based upon its arbitrary policy that it's time for her to be "treated," time for her to be "well."

When I tell my own story of insurance bullshit to others, everyone thinks it's horrible and can't believe the b.s. that I am expected to pay out-of-pocket for, AND that I got this nice "benefit" as reward for over a year's full-time work at a major American company. And of course am working on my situation now that I am well enough to do so. But I do believe that this, THIS woman's situation, takes the damn cake. I mean, thanks be to God I don't have a condition that causes me to be an inpatient in a treatment facility and incur all of those costs (well, not most of the time anyway)! To some extent, I am able to control when I make my doctor appointments; and when I communicate with most of my docs about my situation, they are pretty understanding. For example, they will try to work with me over the phone and do as much as they can at one appointment so that we can have as few face-to-face meetings as possible. They understand (and have vehemently voiced their agreement) that my situation with insurance is ridiculous, and I'm paying for everything.

But these women! What are they supposed to do? I'll just tell you that the young lady in this example was fortunate enough that her father volunteered to pay for her care after insurance ran out. And I think that's how most people get residential care, whether it is for mental illness, eating disorders, drug addictions, or whatever. Just look at the fancy "rehab" facilities available to the celebrities and their family, the ones we read about like Britney and Lindsay and Mel Gibson have recently gone to. And think about where the "other" people had to go, if you know anyone in your life who has dealt with these problems, anyone who isn't rich like the aforementioned folks.

I've heard it said over and over again by Republicans and those of the conservative mind-set that this type of problem is one that people "bring on themselves." The opponents to change, the opponents to healthcare reform, etc., constantly rail against our society's offering to help those in this type of need. Well, I have a lot to say to those people: Just like nearly ALL of you have taken that first (and second and third...) sip of alcohol in your life, just like nearly ALL of you have done that restrictive diet when you wanted to lose weight, and just like many of you have even tried marijuana and other illicit drugs while out for a "fun" night ... These people who are suffering did that same thing with the same intentions. You should say nothing except to count your fucking blessings that you do not have this pathology, that you do not have this genetic predisposition, that you are not sick from something that crept up on you during normal activities that a billion other people do in their lives.

Just think about it before you take measures to deny your fellow Americans assistance or carry on about how it isn't your problem.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Okay, One More D-MN Political Post ...

...I've been reading a lot today, even more than usual! Is it wrong to spend your day reading newspapers and magazines and books when you are supposed to be studying and organizing medical paperwork instead? I mean, I'm doing some valuable stuff ... It's just that, um, I'm gonna have to work hard tomorrow! ... So, be that as it may, I've been watching the news shows and perusing the gossip sites today. Just catching up on the weekend happenings (I'll deal with Lindsay Lohan in one of these upcoming blogs, ohhh yes). So I guess it's just par for the course that I'm catching a lot of these political issues too.

Right now I'm writing this while partially watching "The Joy Behar Show." Against all of my predictions and my better judgment, I began watching this -- it was a given, um, given that it follows my absolute favorite thing to watch: Ms. Nancy Grace's show. Well, I still don't particularly like Joy Behar's demeanor and persona on "The View," but she is very different on her own show. She seems more comfortable, more authentically herself (not that I know this, but she comes across as very comfortable in her own skin), and the lady does a good interview! So I'm watching, and there's all this business about Sarah Palin, and no, I can't seem to escape politics all of the sudden. Sheesh. I am working on an article right now, the details of which must remain under lock and key for the time being...Mainly because I do not know yet what they are. But a part of my focus is Sarah's portrayal of herself as a victim of a gender-based double standard. Oh, Sarah Sarah Sarah. What exactly is the double standard? I mean, I don't think many would argue that I have many feminist leanings and am typically quite quick to defend my sisterhood on matters where I feel we are being discriminated agains and treated unfairly in any other way. I like to push the limits of what is expected of us ... right now, it's my haircut, next up, who knows? But I don't need to go on defending me. Let my writing and my life speak about that ...

Mrs. Palin feels (or says she feels) that it's a double standard for the people to criticize anything to do with her appearance and her clothing choices, because they just don't do that where men are concerned. But I beg to differ! Yes, I heard a lot of critiquing of Hilary Clinton's brightly colored and questionably tailored dress suits at times. Hell, I was ready to be first in line to take a job as her stylist! I had plenty of better ideas for her wardrobe and what would flatter her! But whatever; because there were loads of people on the blogs and on TV making fun of John Edwards' pretty-boy hair and the rumored cost of his salon visits. People would often criticize our former President Bush II for dressing a little too casually for occasions or places they thought deserved more "respectful" attire. And certainly we have all heard people weigh in on both Obamas' clothing, hair, and overall style. If you haven't, take a second listen. Let's make sure we aren't just hearing what we want to hear in order to prove our hypothesis.

Hate Never Helps ... Do I Really Have to State This Fact???

I just have to "go there" on this one. I don't usually write about politics for a variety of reasons. It's not what I make my blog about, although it is about any and everything, when the mood strikes! Today, I am pissed.

What is the big brouhaha over President Obama and his bow to Emperor Akihito over the weekend? No, really. What is it? I'd love to know the truth of what is really behind this outrage. Because it is clearly not about the bow. The worst of the worst "news" I read about this matter today, which I am definitely not going to publicize by linking to, discussed that No, the bow was not unprecedented ... But when Fmr. President Richard Nixon showed similar respect for the culture in the country where he was a guest, he didn't bow as low. Ah. That explains everything. I mean, if Obama didn't bow, that would not be respectful ... no one had a fuckin' problem when he learned some of the customs expected of him by the Queen of England (oh, I'm sure probably someone did, silly me). It's only when countries of color, of other race so to speak, are involved, that every move the President makes in their company is criticized.

I mean, please. To me, the President's behavior doesn't really even need explaining and certainly doesn't need defending. This, for me, is an outrageous non-issue, ridiculous and deeply personal as opposed to any sort of critique of the man's performance as a leader or a public servant, the public servant. Since Obama was elected, the group that hates him, has been stomping its feet and throwing a collective tantrum. They just cannot believe that there isn't something they can do to make his Presidency not-so! Just like The Rest of Us had to sit there and twiddle our thumbs while W. was in office. If you vote for the one that loses, that is what happens. It takes place every single election in our system of government. But this time, the Bush sympathizers are just so spoiled by their recent run, their recent domination of the country and pillaging of the Constitution and government services ... I suppose it seemed for awhile like that party would never end.

They cannot stand the fact that he was elected. They cannot stand the fact that he was elected and he's a Democrat. They cannot stand the fact that he was elected and he's black. They cannot fathom that he was elected and is now, in fact, working hard to effect changes on his agenda. As for that last point, um, what else would anyone expect the President of a party opposing the last one to do? Every step he takes, every move, is met with shock. They can't believe his ideals or opinions or existence. The campaign against Obama is born of true, pure hatred of the man himself (rather than the type of differences and discourse that have always shaped America and kept our Democracy alive). It is a hatred so ugly that I count my blessings rarely to have seen it first-hand in my life. And I have been even luckier to have experienced it directed toward me even fewer times in my life.

Well ... in my opinion, there is nothing else to say. I don't believe that anyone in his right mind would honestly think that the President is telling us with his actions to "bow low in submission to the other countries in the world," as one editorial alleged. All I could say in response was Give me an effin break. If all you can criticize is that he didn't bow correctly or behave the way you wanted him to in another culture ... Well, that is truly a compliment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Themes

I've been wanting to get this going for awhile: pick a day or days of the week and on that day post a little bit about a lot of topics that are on my mind or that I have recently written about here or that are current events, etc.

First of all, I had to get back to writing anything frequently, of course! I'm on a roll in that department. I'm so grateful for my loyal blog readers. This little site is just getting off the ground, and there is so much I still want to do with it. My editing and writing need to be polished, and I'm going to do a few things differently with the layout. I had the great fortune of emailing back and forth with a very successful guy who is a consultant; he became successful at a young age and now works with huge companies and makes pretty huge money. His main work is that he consults with all different types of companies and organizations about how they can use social networking sites to increase their sales and other marketing goals. He also has always written blogs for fun. I didn't think he'd have much time to give me any pointers when I contacted him, if he even responded at all, but he did! He wrote me a very in-depth and generously helpful email with all sorts of tips on how to get noticed in the vast sea of blogs and websites out there. Awesome!

So far, I've kept it mostly about the writing and the stories/topics themselves, but I realize that to be effective, the blog has to do it all ... Meaning, I need to have interactive things going on (like Tom's Hideaway -- see my sidebar, to the right -- where you can feed Tom's virtual fish!) and links to Facebook, Twitter and the like. I'm excited to build this up! But I'm taking my time. In the immediate future, it's still going to be all about perfecting my writing and choosing a pattern or a few core topics, etc. If anyone has ideas or suggestions or something they liked on here, feel free to share. It was recently suggested that I submit the two-part head-shaving story to a magazine. I'm in the process of researching which mags it might be best suited for and what their submission rules are. Then I will clean it up and send it. Can't hurt!

More to come later, when I'll be trying out something new...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Part II - The Reaction

In my last post, I related my personal experience of how and why and when I shaved my hair into a buzz-cut, a style I am currently sporting again (albeit a tiny bit longer these days). I did it on a week night, and I was thrilled. I spent that night enjoying the look and feel of my new, spiky, short, light hair. My head felt unbelievabley light-weight. It was insane how many times I was surprised to find no hair swinging or falling against my back. I never got used to it, it seemed.

That year, although I was not altogether unprepared for it, I found out that our heads really do release half or more of our body heat! This is wonderful in the hot summers; a simple splash of ice cold water on my un-mussable hair makes a world of difference. But in winter time, I had never before been so cold! I'm one of those always-cold girls anyway, so I had to think fast of a solution. That was the first year I shopped for new and stylin' hats to wear. It was a lot of trial and error. Sometimes the hats were too itchy (I cannot wear wool at all, not even for a second!), some too childish despite looking "cute" at the store, some too big for my (another new discovery) smaller-than-average adult head. But I found what I liked and what flattered me eventually. It was a new piece of my wardrobe in a way, something new to try out. It is still amazing to me how much difference a warm hat makes when I am cold!

But what you really want to know is whether my worst fears came true ... whether no boys ever like me again ... right!? Well, they did. But some didn't. I wore a hat to work that next morning, for my very first unveiling. It would be in front of the owner of my workplace, a man who had become a second father to me, a member of my second family. I saw him everyday, he had been with me and there for me through some very intimate times, and he had brought out my leadership skills before I even knew I had them. But I knew that he was among the most conservative people in my world. Regarding politics and clothing and just ways of living life in general, the man was Conservative. Our conversations had revealed that his taste in lifestyle was making money, having a wife who mainly stayed home and raised the children and prepared food and laundry for the family, and who looked, well, traditional: longish hair, preppy, etc. Now don't get me wrong, all of you who might sway toward the same preferences. There is nothing wrong with wanting and having these things or this lifestyle. It just isn't quite the same as what I personally strive for. But I don't see myself or my views as better or worse, merely different. My boss was pretty much the same. I had worked for him for years at that point, and he respected me. He accepted me as being "different" to his way of thinking. We teased each other about our differences but worked well as a team. It was like that.

Nevertheless, I was nervous as I approached the door of the restaurant where he was already inside working. I came in, and he greeted me, barely looking up, working on something at his desk as I recall. I remember blurting out, "I need to get this over with and show you what I did." I admit that I was feeling less "liberated" and "excited" and more fearful and like a little kid, wondering whether she would be grounded for something. But feigning the confidence that had deserted me, I whipped off my winter hat: Ta-da! I think I could have predicted his reaction.

"Oh. My. Frickin'. God!" He stood up and began walking slowly around me, peering at each side and angle of my head. "What the hell did you do that for?" But he was smiling. He was surprised but not shocked. Not disgusted. In our relationship, he was usually at least amused by my constant changes of hair color and style or whatever. And that was fine with me. He came from a different walk of life, completely. And like I said, we teased each other but respected one another's opinions. The rest of the business day went along alright, with other emmployees exclaiming when they saw me and asking whether there was a specific reason I had done this. At least half of the people who spoke to me about it said they liked it! My boss kept up the peering and laughing and staring. It was difficult to get used to, for me too.

I could tell, as those first days went on, that people were most disturbed by the fact that they wanted to know what this meant. My own mother took time out to ask me whether I had done this because of any sort of emotional upheaval or upset. She said if I truly just liked it and wanted my hair gone, then she supported whatever. But she wanted to know that I wasn't suffering silently through something and acting out with this drastic change. Oh my! I assured her that it was the former, and that was true.

I can't say that it came as a surprise to me that I became my own walking, living, breathing social experiment. Contrary to what some people think, I never did this to get attention or in order to become such an experiment. I did it for the reasons already explained. I accepted whatever "consequences" came of my choice to do what made me feel the best. The main social consequence was that people always want to talk to me about my haircut. Whether they are curious, admiring, aghast, disgusted, or attracted, they want to tell me about it. A lot of girls I know who have extreme haircuts or shaved heads claim that they find this behavior rude, that they are offended at people's willingness to say whatever they think. That view never occurs to me really. I mean, if you do something that is not average or right in the middle of what is normal, I just think you can expect people to be curious. And their reasons for being curious might be any of the ones I listed. It doesn't usually bother me.

So what about the men? The main thing that women say to me (and it was the same for most of the other females I talked to while researching for this little story) is that they wish they could "pull it off" or "have the guts" or something to that effect. I always am encouraging, telling them how happy I was to try it; but of course, you have to feel like I did or it can be quite traumatic. GUYS, on the other hand, come with all sorts of opinions. I guess it shouldn't be a shock to find that it's often a cultural thing. For example, I rarely meet a black man who does not really like my cut. Black guys in clubs have stopped me to tell me it's "clever" and "sharp" and "hot." None have ever stopped to share their opinion if it was negative. And that brings me to something that really bothered me at first: black women are often seen rocking nearly-bald heads. I know that the whole issue of hair with black women is a huge, expensive, sensitive ordeal, and I'm not trying to pretend I know about that (although I'm excited to go see Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair"); so I am guessing that when a black woman grows weary of all that maintenance, that might be a major reason for cutting it all off. But whatever the reason, having extremely short hair, whether it's natural and close-cropped or dyed a shade of blond or whatever style ... that's accepted in our society. When I say it's accepted, I mean, nobody thinks a black woman with a shaved head is punk or counter-culture or rebellious, do they? It's just a style. But when I rock my shaved head, it's like I am explaining here: a bevy of opinions come out, and they run the gamut. And like some of the females interviewed say, people feel they have a RIGHT to some crazy opinions. I struggled with that race issue at first. I couldn't understand why I was being looked at if another girl right next to me with the same exact haircut but a different color skin was being considered "normal." Going into race / society issues is something that I will delve into more deeply another time, because it deserves an entire blog post. But that was one interesting thing and one that I admit puzzled and frustrated me.

Back to MEN. On the flipside of getting a lot of acceptance from black guys, I found that almost NO Latino men had appreciation for my cut. I have quite a few friends of this ethnicity, so we felt free to talk to one another in a real way. They told me basically that they just thought women should have long, luscious hair and in that way be different from men. All the guys I spoke to told me they loved having their hands and fingers in some long, female hair. It was sexy, they said. Fair enough. As for white guys, well, they always say something different. It just depends, in my experience. And of course, to all of these rules, there are exceptions, and I'm sure that if I conducted this "experiment" in another part of the world, I would find altogether different trends. But I was here, in the Chicago suburbs, in the late '90's, and these were the reactions.

I can't say they have changed very much. There aren't as many references to Sinead O'Connor, as she doesn't seem to be as famous anymore. I saw her in a magazine recently, though, and she indeed still has her hair like this. I think I'm more comfortable than some women would be with this haircut, because I have some prominent facial features that are easily made even more noticeable with a little more makeup and less hair. My best feature was never my hair. Nothing wrong with it really, but I also was never attached to it. A close female friend recently told me that she feels her own best feature is her hair; and it IS beautiful. I can imagine someone who feels that way would have a much different experience if forced to lose her hair.

For me, it was not traumatic, but it WAS interesting to notice all the ways that I, as a woman had come to rely on my hair. I mean, we flirt with our hair, we have habits of twirling and fiddling with it, we use it to draw attention away from a tired or un-made-up face. I noticed that a lot of times guys will see long, beautiful hair and approach a woman or whistle at a woman or whatever before even getting a very good look at her face. I began to look at the chicks who were considered classically hot and wonder where they would fall on the hotness scale without their hair. It seemed the ways and meanings that we as a society attach to hair were never-ending. I felt it too; it took some plain old getting-used-to for me to be comfortable without my ponytail.

People look at me. They stare at me a lot more than when I had long hair. Even when they don't say anything, I know that it is because they have an opinion about my head. And of course, people offer their thoughts, more than they did when I had a more traditional 'do. But they are mostly friendly. And maybe I have grown more comfortable in myself, or maybe society has shifted a little bit ... I can't be sure. But recently it hasn't seemed like such a big deal. I have some tattoos, and when they are visible, THOSE are what seem to draw more controversy. And no, I generally do not get hooted and hollered at when walking down the city streets by men I don't know. Drunken bar guys do not approach me as often as they do my longer-haired companions. But I have found that I don't miss that kind of attention too much. It kind of weeds out that type of dude. I mean, for me anyway, I am not so much interested in starting a relationship with a drunk guy whistling in my general direction. It's fun to be flirted with, and I still get that in the right places, but I have just found that there are some kinds of attention I don't need.

If I ever change my mind, there are some very fancy wigs available these days!

I Shaved My Head, But WHY????

Once upon a time, I shaved my head. Unlike my friend Lisa, who did this recently (and whom I called attention to, because she inspires me) in reaction to the fact that her hair was falling out (she is fighting cancer) ... unlike Lisa, I was not fighting an illness. I have known several females who have shaved their heads bald because they suffer from cancer or alopoecia or went through brain surgery ... a number of things that made it more or less necessary. Some have shaved their heads in support of these females. Socially, this seems to make it more acceptable. When the masses find that you have shaved your hair off because of something like those reasons, they feel much more comfortable (like that is a woman's job anyway, to make everyone around them comfortable ... ha). For better or worse, my story was not like that.

And yet, it wasn't meant to make a statement. It wasn't meant to be a rebellion against anything or anyone. I just didn't want the hair anymore. Doesn't anyone else ever feel that way? Also, in case anyone needs a mental picture of exactly what happened, I shaved it only to a # 2 razor cut (if you know clippers, this is one of the guards you can use to measure how short the hair will get). So my hair was not cut to the scalp, but it was very short. For a woman, it was extremely short. Okay, and it didn't help that the very first time I did it, I made one little mistake and took a knick out of the back of my head. Oops. I didn't want that kind of extra attention, but I had to suffer through it.

It all started sometime in the previous year or so. I had a long, dark, swinging ponytail. I wore my hair like that, in a ponytail or tightly-wound bun at least 6 days a week while I worked my job as a fast-food manager. My shifts were 9 hours long, and I had to have my hair up. It wasn't that I minded putting my hair up. I thought it looked alright, I got compliments sometimes -- wait, no, I really did not get compliments on my hair at that time; it was more that I got compliments on things my hair accentuated, like my eyes or long neck. Wrapping that thick-ass hair (and it IS thick) into a squishy bun was the best way I knew how to let it air-dry out of my way. I have never learned to do cool things with my long hair; or, whenever I think I have learned, my hair has not "held" the style I've worked so hard upon for very long. I don't know for sure whether it's me or the hair. And I'm not the kind of person who has the patience to spend more than a few minutes on something like hair.

To tell you about me, and the time I'll allow for appearance-related duties each day ... I remember being 14-years-old and making a decision. I was a very disciplined little girl, always creating schedules and routines for myself. My parents were not as strict with me as I was with me! Maybe they didn't have to be, because I did it for them. In the summertimes, it was like I knew already that I would fall into boredom and despair if I did not plan ahead. It just came naturally to me, no one told me to do it. I find that so peculiar now. But anyway, if you look at my notebooks and journals from that time, I would always have my days planned -- I mean, right down to each hour -- with things like working out, tennis lessons, and working on my annual newspaper, which was a project I did just for fun each summer. And I was happy that way! To this day, there is little more unsettling to me than a day that just stretches out before me with no real plan. Although I have to admit that in recent years, I haven't always been so disciplined, and that is part of my problems and issues now. But that's going to be another post!

So, I was careful and diligent about my time. I decided at 14 that of course I wanted to be clean and pretty and "done" when I arrived at school each day. I wore a little bit of makeup, and I had long hair (a bit past my shoulders) that was highlighted that year. However, I decided that with all the options available to teenage girls (and all of us women) for hair and make-up and styling and fashion, one could spend an infinite amount of time and energy each day preparing. And while nobody said this or taught this to me explicitly, it occurred to me that for me, there had to be a limit. For me, that limit was going to be one hour. I don't know how I reached this conclusion at that age. My own mother, who was my main make-up and hair influence leading up to that time, would probably not agree. I just thought that there were only so many hours in each day for all my interests and priorities and responsibilities, okay? And while I wanted to look good and meet high school boys and all that, I also wanted to play sports and study English literature, and sleep and read and write. So I decided that I would spend one hour each morning getting beautiful, and after that, I would leave it alone.

That worked great, actually! I knew everyday that I had put my best effort into all those little details that we girls like to pay attention to, knew that I had worked my hardest on matters of appearance. As my mother would say, I had "put my best foot forward." If I felt I had spent that one hour doing that, then I didn't fuss over these things or obsess about them throughout the day. As a teenager, this was truly a feat. Because it wasn't lost on me that worrying you had a fucked-up hair do or not the right makeup or whatever throughout an entire school day can be utterly demoralizing at that age.

But back to the year of the shaved head. I was working at the restaurant, going to college, and those tasks pretty much took up my time. I dated a lot, but my priority was not finding a husband or even getting a date for that weekend. If you know me, you know it really never has been about that. My priority if and when I had free time was to get ahold of friends and go out somewhere fun and relaxing. Most of my time was about work, making money and getting closer to that college degree. That doesn't mean, however, that I didn't appreciate anytime a guy would flirt with me. The restaurant drew mostly construction workers, middle-aged family men and families with children. It wasn't a great pool of single guys. The ones that did come in were definitely the type to go for a buxom, long-haired blond, 9 times out of 10, and a few of my co-workers fit that bill. In the flirting wars, they almost always outshone me.

I understood that this was more about the type of person in our "audience" than it was about me, my personality or my looks. It also sucked to wear the uniform I had to wear as a manager there. And despite the fact that I sometimes was bothered by this, it was never at the forefront of my mind or on my list of Important Issues in My Life. I was tired of my hair. I was just plain sick of how long it took to dry, how difficult it was to make it look pretty when it was down, to keep it from engulfing or competing with my rather dramatic facial features (large eyes, big smile, European nose). It has the rather-unfortunate (in my opinion) combination of being both fine and thick. The individual strands of hair are fine and in the winter become staticky and flyaway-y. Yet the sheer amount of hair on my head is thick and heavy when it's long. I felt by the time I had reached my 20's that I was always fighting it. That hour I had allocated for getting ready each morning? I had begun to spend the majority of it fighting and wrestling with my hair. I resented this fact, wishing I could experiment with new make-up looks, drawing attention to my eyes, which usually get me the most compliments. And after I had fought my hair, it almost always came to pass that I didn't like how it looked. So what was the point of all of it?

That was the beginning of the end. One day it just crossed my mind: what if I just cut it all off? I mean, people say this all the time, but they don't usually mean it. Well, I thought about what it would mean to say it and do it. To cut it all OFF. It could be liberating for all the reasons I listed above; I would be free of all the trouble and annoyance my hair caused me. My next thought was, would it be worth it? I mean, really, the social consequences felt like they would be mighty. I have always suspected that this is because I live in the midwest. I don't think that anyone would look twice at me in New York City, for example, as a woman with a shaved head. But in the heartland, where people hold to traditional values and many people still rock their sweatshirts with applique seasonal designs on the front, and stretchy blue jeans, out to dinner ... well, you get the idea. Then, throw in the group that surrounded me, the construction worker dudes and guys from the bank and a few cops who at that time had only one woman on their department. I didn't see how shaving my head would appeal to them.

The more I thought about it, the more desirable it seemed TO ME. And the more I realized that my one sticking point was just that: the social upheaval that I was afraid would come of my actions, especially from men. Now, I have been fortunate to have great women around me, women as friends and family, about whom I never really worried. If anything, they were the ones who spurred me on, before I even showed anyone. I knew my girl group would love and support me no matter what I ever did with my hair. My girls always supported acts of courage and bucking the status quo, whether it was in society or at work or just in one's choice of clothes and hair.

I had to admit it. The only thing that was holding me back was my fear that BOYS WON'T LIKE ME ANYMORE. And guess what. When I realized that was my one sticking point, the ONLY thing keeping me from doing something I wanted to do, something that might be really liberating and fun ... and that was easily changeable, as my hair would begin growing back the minute I stopped shaving it ... I began to be angry and disgusted with MYSELF. So I thought more and more, it's either me or them ... I was going to live and make my decisions based on what THEY might think and how they will react OR I was going to live for me. The choice was obvious. I never make choices for anyone else if it stands in opposition to what I know is good for me, will make me happy.

So I made my decision. One night, when I had plenty of time and solitude, I chopped my ponytail off. I then carefully cut all but little, short tufts of hair off my head. There was no stopping. I plugged in the clippers, and I copped Sinead O'Connor's style. It was deliciously terrifying! I took my time, going over and over my head to get all those plucky hairs exactly the same length. I marveled while discovering the shape and length of my long neck. I could see the shape of my skull. I learned that I had to shave closer on the ridge which did not heal quite right on the top middle of my head (they were still using foreceps on babies when I was born). It was awesome. I was happy with my decision.

Everyone wants to touch a bald or shaved-short head, and I was no exception. It felt so funny to me, and it was fun to touch! You know that phenomenon of how, when you put your hair into a ponytail for several hours, you take it down and that spot where it was pulled kind of aches?? Well, my entire head felt that way for nearly two weeks!! I have since spoken to some guys who said they had this same experience. It's like the follicles are used to being pulled a different direction by the long hair, and suddenly they are not being pulled by the now-lightweight hair. So it kind of ached and itched. There were all sorts of little and new things like that with my new haircut.

Since then, I have re-grown my hair, but not as long as it was before the shave. It seems to grow pretty damn fast. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to grow it to ponytail length or whether that ship has sailed for me. People say that sometimes you reach a point where your hair will no longer grow past a certain length. I'm not sure I will ever have the patience to find out. Once I had cut that hair off, I really haven't ever wanted it back for very long. As many readers know, I usually keep it some version of short or shorter these days, stopping sometimes to grow it for awhile.

In Part 2 of this post (coming later or tomorrow!), I will tell you the story of the way society and my world in particular reacted and still reacts today. As for me, I have never been happier or felt more ... ME. I spend my "free" time in the mornings experimenting (like I had always wanted) with different eye make up, from golds to green and purple, or just some black-rimmed cat-eyes. With very short hair, I don't like to leave the house without ANY make-up. After all, my goal was never to look like a boy. I pay more attention to my wardrobe most of the time too; and I use my time (and money!) freed up from fussing with hair to do that as well. Every now and then, I do go to my stylist and have her trim my hair into a professional shape and cut, to make sure it's done properly. But most of the time, I just use my own clippers (I've invested in a reasonably good pair) to do this cut; it's nearly foolproof and I've gotten very practiced now. Today before I jump in the shower I am taking my hair back to a # 3, something I haven't done in awhile; that is part of what spurred me on to writing this post. I'm taking my look back (almost) to where it began. You can touch it if you want.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ventilation (Pure Venting)

I am in such a bad mood. I know, I know, what a quick turnaround! I'm not normally a mood-swinger; at least, I haven't been in quite awhile, not since I've had recently-mentioned treatments and help for various ailments / issues. I mean, a girl sometimes has a "mood swing" because actual shit is happening to cause all different emotions. I consider that quite different from just spazzing out for no reason.

And tonight (this morning) I have reason. I'm writing about it here (not linking anywhere else, but if you're reading this, then welcome, you've found it on your own) for my own mental health ... and so that afterward I can go to sleep. My mind tends to work like that: if I can just write the crap down on paper (or digitally as the case may be), then it feels as though I have actually removed the trash from within. Good.

I'm fighting an old, familiar urge to loathe myself, to feel unreasonably lonely, sort of ... small and embarrassed about who I am ... a general sense of wanting to be very tiny and very quiet, unseen and unheard. The worst part of this feeling, which is something I began to feel before I knew any better, waaaaay back in my youth, is that it is really a feeling of wishing that I had already been quieter and smaller than I have. Does that make any sense? It's like, wherever I sit right now, literally as well as metaphorically, I wish that I could take back any revealing details of myself that I have shared with the world. I guess that is wanting to hide really. Yeah. What happens is ... I can be going along fine, feeling well about myself and the world around me, but something happens to trigger me, and then I'm in THIS place. I have finally learned, in my recent adult years, that this is a habit (yes, I learned that our negative thinking patterns and feelings too can be habits ... and yay, habits can be broken, but boo, it's difficult) I developed as a child. Incidents would happen back then that taught me to feel this way; and maybe in those cases it was indeed a good decision or wise for me to clam up and not share myself with those around me, to want to hide from them. Maybe certain people around the young me could not understand me the way I needed them to, and maybe they were capable of causing great pain and injury to that little me. So I learned this feeling.

The problem is that I don't need it now. As a woman -- a strong, independent, free-spirited and free-thinking woman, woot!-- I do not need to shrink away from anything or anyone in this world. I believe truly that any person or body of persons who would attempt or desire to make me feel that I wanted to shrink from them are completely useless to me and not worth my time or my feelings or my shrinking power :) (Ha ha, I'm making myself laugh, that's better already!)

Tonight's incident was so unexpected and ... well, yes, that describes it. Given the topic of the conversation that was had, I would never in a billion years have predicted that this is what would come of it. But now I feel very small, very wrong in every way, just wrong as a person, like the things I have said and done and even the way I look, the way that I LIVE, is wrong.

Damn. That is powerful. It is a power I wish I would not give away to other human beings, not to anyone. It is a power that I do not wish to use upon anyone, including myself. I mean, to render someone so unsure, so unsteady, so cut-down ... it's brutal. It's not about feeling sorry for myself. No, this is different. This is what happens when you have not learned to take criticism or learned to differentiate types of comments made by those around you, learning when and how to take them, when and how to be sensitive to what they are.

(I love to change the font colors, I guess it keeps me from boring myself!). I just want to say something here for myself and for anyone who reads my words. It's a mini-manefesto of sorts. It's a state of the union of my soul. I have been through a lot, down a long and winding road, through the brambles. I expect to go through more but not like that. I am determined and hopeful that the worst is over, especially where physical and emotional illness and strife are concerned. Just that sentence, that hope, that fact alone is a GIANT. It's a THING that brings me to my knees in awe. This is my life- my big, bold, beautiful, bedazzled life. And there's more ...

Having been through those brambles, fought through all of that ... I recognize that now is the Transition. Soon it will be time to embark upon What Happens Next. This is not the time to explain, but I know deep within, I just know, that it isn't time yet. It isn't time to embark upon my great journey yet, not time yet to embark upon what can be simply and magnificently described as the Rest of my life. Rather, right now, today, and probably tomorrow, and maybe for awhile longer ... This is just time to BE. I'm not sure what, if much, will happen to me or take place in my life or my in my relationships during this time. All I know is that I have come home from war, and now there is time for rest, there is opportunity, and there is occasion for hope. I recognize the need to absorb all of that. I recognize the need to reflect on all that has transpired, to process things that I was unable to process while they happened. I need to sleep. I need to play. I need to pet my cat. I need to watch TV. Doing nothing. Doing something. Thinking about what it is that I like to do, need to do, want to do. This is the Transition.

I rarely have anxiety or concern about the Next bit. That will come when it comes and its shape will be whatever it will be. There are times in life when it is necessary to grab that proverbial bull by the horns and MAKE it do something; but other times, it is necessary to refrain from such aggression. This is where I am and who I am. I am completely at peace with it. In fact, as I've recently expressed in many ways, I am overjoyed about many things that are taking place and unfolding. I am thrilled about the many things that are giving me hope right now, the reasons I have to smile and wake up each day. Abundance. People in the western world, myself right in there among them, do not often have the time or inclination or opportunity to think about or learn about or put to use these ideas about Doing Nothing and my theory about the Transition. And maybe not everyone needs to focus upon such things in her life. All I know is that right now, I am here, and I am good, and I need to remain focus on where I am and what is good.