Category Archives: The Variety Show

Keep Your Mind Flexible and Fertile

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Calcification is what happens when people get to a point in their lives when they stop learning, stop growing, and become suspended in the amber of the brightest moment from their youth and all the sweet ephemera that will haunt them and dog them until the day they die.

I refuse to become calcified in spirit even if my hip pain plasters me to the sidewalk in abject pain.

I spent an inordinate amount of time and gasoline looking for a very precise mini-muffin tin. A venture that was doomed from the start as are most super specific quests. It turns out I just need to remove the rust from the perfect muffin tin I already own and was trying to replace.

There are tiny paws grabbing at my toes while I write this. The paws of a brand new being. Nothing brings out my maternal instincts like a kitten. I’m fostering a feral kitten Max has named Sonar. He’s not more than 11 weeks on this planet and as untrusting as I have been my whole life. He came to me hissing and shrinking and slinking and now he’s dashing across my office like he owns it and battling my toes like a true son of the earth.

I saw my brother tonight. Beloved wild kid turned 43. I spoke to my sister several nights ago. My Stevie Nicks heart in Vermont. Fuck sibling day, every day is sibling day that you get to hug or talk to your siblings. And for some that means hugging your best friends. Sometimes that means remembering those who’ve gone already. I can’t even begin to know what it’s like to have to say goodbye to brothers and sisters.

More and more I’m convinced that if there’s no other evidence indicating how far humans have come, discontinuing troll dolls is IT.

It might be proof of my de-evolution that I’m listening to Journey right now.

I’ve come to a point in my life when acquiring beakers bisects that point between my professional aspirations and my deeply held personal belief that all things in life can be measured by volume.

When I look back on my youth I see a graph depicting how not to commit suicide by the skin of your teeth.

It boils down to a long collection of barely connected set of circumstances that support waking up in the morning against all odds.

It’s always a shock when I realize someone gets it all, gets all the invisible armor, gets all the invulnerability, the moat they cannot cross. Most people never try because I impressively discourage them from making useless attempts.

I used to think Roy Orbison was a creepy hack but I’ve changed my mind and think he had a brilliance worth notice. I’m the last to realize this, obviously.

My hip (the one I didn’t break) has been hurting now for a solid two weeks. I accept that this is part of getting older. I accept that some of this pain would diminish if I would only lose a ton of weight. I accept that my joints are going to complain at an increasingly irritating rate.

What I don’t accept is that things were at a peak of awesomeness when I was at my peak of youth. I don’t accept that the way we did things when I was young is the gold standard for how things should always be. I can tell you that if I’d had then what I have today I would have been a much better vessel for preserving what it IS to be seventeen and full of death.

I would have been a more effective documentarian.

If humans cease to evolve they cease to be worth even the salt that comprises their natural makeup.

I’ll know we’ve evolved enough when we no longer separate ourselves by skin color or nationality.

Listen to yourself. Do you hear yourself complaining about youth with their noses buried in their devices? Are you complaining about how no one knows how to talk face to face anymore? Are you lamenting those halcyon days when everyone answered their land lines and when they met for coffee without the encumbrance of connectedness to anything outside of coffee?

Have you closed your ears to new music? New ideas? New thoughts?

Hips hurting is nothing. Hips hurting is like continental breakfast: it’s painfully inadequate but it’s regular like pink sunrise with an Advil wash.

My hips might become as stiff as a mammoth’s grave site but my mind is constantly stretching itself beyond its limits. This is how we adapt, stay young, and not die.

Not die.

I’ve got the blueprint for happiness if you’re willing to wade through the border between beer and bitch.

I’m not gonna cry, but you should let it go like the river you’ve been holding behind the gates.

Don’t wait for me, I won’t be meeting the light in my pyjamas.

Simple One-Shoe Sue Loves Every Color but Stupidity

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People enjoy a lot of satisfaction in making things harder and more complicated than they need to be. If things are complicated but you understand them then you can congratulate yourself on being smart. Most of the congratulation is for thinking you’re smarter than others. Which is stupid, really, since everyone is smarter than someone right down to a single celled organism. Way to corner the market, hoomins!

There are plenty of things that truly are complicated in this world like quantum theory, psychology, anatomy, and the formulation of fast food recipes.  But I would like to posit that a lot of things we pretend are complicated are actually breathtakingly simple. In positing this I can already hear a thousand argumentarians sharpening the knives of their acid wit and flexing their muscles throwing the javelins that will pierce my stupidity and win them medals of – I don’t know – a stale bag of Jolly Ranchers?

I think making things complicated assuages our conscience’s shortcomings and our natural emotional responses to things.

To say that problems like racism, sexism, all forms of bigotry, and colonialism are simple isn’t the same as saying they’re easy. Please investigate the nuance of that difference before objecting to it.

Racism is not a complicated issue. People all across the world have developed insidious and harmful hatred of people of other races than themselves. Every race is guilty of this. It’s that simple. But in my own country the worst and most corrosive racism is the systemic racism that has blossomed out of white people settling on a vast piece of land that didn’t belong to them, stealing it, committing genocide against the native (brown) people who lived here already, and then importing predominately African slaves and building a nation on the backs of those slaves and  building an infrastructure that disproportionately benefits the needs and wants of white people over those of the free black and brown people “sharing” the country with them. That is a simple outline of what happened and led to the awful racial tensions that started the civil rights movement which is still going on today. The facts are simple. White people want to pollute it by throwing out a million examples meant to excuse their behavior. Meant to support the infrastructure that protects them against having to share opportunity and neighborhoods and schools and resources with their free and contributing black fellow Americans.

There is no defense for racism. None. zip. Zilch. There is no race that is intrinsically superior to any other race. There are no facts that support such fucked up beliefs and I don’t care if you’re black and trying to show that white people are intrinsically inferior or if you’re white and trying to show that black people are intrinsically inferior to white people or Asians trying to show that Mexicans are intrinsically inferior.

It’s all a huge steaming wet pile of fucking BULL SHIT full of maggots and covered in flies. I don’t give a fuck what race you are – there is no defense for racism. It’s that simple.

But in my country the worst offenders by far are white Americans and right now there’s a growing number of black and brown Americans rising up in a refreshed civil rights movement – outraged by disproportionate police violence against their communities, outraged by the insidiously common inequities they experience every fucking day of their lives that white Americans don’t experience.

As a white person it’s hard to listen to sometimes because I have a super pale skin and I come from a family of racist northerners (not my mom or step dad, but the rest of them to some degree) and I find the racism of my forebears shameful. But I’ve been listening a lot in the last couple of years because if change is going to happen, if racism is going to  be eradicated, you have to LISTEN. EVERY GODDAMNED ONE OF US HAS TO LISTEN. You have to listen if you’re black because you need to stand up and be counted and shout out and say no to the oppression and unwarranted violence. You have to listen if you’re white because you have to understand what non-white compatriots are experiencing. You have to HEAR THEIR STORIES. And you have to do it with an open heart.  Sometimes it hurts because I know that what’s in my heart isn’t this racist cancer I’m hearing about. The stories about white oppression of non-whites is painful because oppression sucks. Oppression more than sucks, it rots beautiful lives.

None of that is complicated. It’s simple.

The same is true of gender issues, religious issues, and class issues.

In so many ways I was born ancient. I’m an old soul. I’m a curmudgeon, a snappish old turtle, a rock that’s weathered the earth in one too many bodies. Yet there’s a part of me that has retained a child-like quality. My friend R has noticed and commented on this a couple of times and she is, I believe, the only person who has ever called attention to my child-like qualities without being destroyed by my laser-gaze of disdain. It’s because I know she has seen a part of me that’s irrepressible but invisible to many. I call it my “spaz”. This relates to what I have been talking about in a fundamental and important way.

If I could speak unfiltered, if I could express myself freely, truly freely, in all company, I would show you all a pretty blinding “inappropriate” level of enthusiasm. It’s peeled free of crust, of careful thought, of concern for gentle respect.

I would see everyone’s color and gender and background and education and origin and nationality and musical tastes and passions and celebrate the fuck out of it all. Fuck pretending race and gender and nationality don’t exist – let’s celebrate all that stuff that makes us intrinsically WHO WE ARE.

I LOVE BROWN SKIN THAT SHOUTS SONNETS TO THE SUN, THAT EXUDES WARMTH AND SPICE. I THINK THE DARKEST OF DARK SKIN IS LUMINESCENT AND IT TRANSFIXES ME WITH ITS DEPTH. I THINK PALE SKIN LIKE LANTERNS IN THE NIGHT, WHETHER LIGHTING PATHS THROUGH TRAILER PARKS OR THROUGH WET DARK FORESTS ARE ENCHANTING. I SEE OLIVE COMPLEXIONS AND IT MAKES ME TASTE THE NECTAR OF DESERT FLOWERS AND ANCIENT RESINS. SALLOW COMPLEXIONS ARE LIT FROM INSIDE WITH COLD PURE SPRING WATER, SHINING WITH MINERALS AND BLUSH WITH PEACH IN CONTRAST.

I would say these things, shout these things the moment they enter my head if I wasn’t afraid of reprisals. If I wasn’t afraid of giving offense by noticing people’s differences.

Maybe it’s childish but I see beauty everywhere and I love so many strangers for what little I know of them. I have a special love for transgender people. To say it sounds asinine. I can’t explain it. I feel protective of people whose bodies don’t match their identity. I don’t always have the proper words to discuss it, I’m not always up on the right and constantly evolving terminology, but I feel love there I can’t explain and don’t know that I should have to. Sometimes you understand something with your soul that your words are always trying to catch up with and never do. It’s not complicated.

Love is only as complicated as you make it.

I don’t always say the right things. I’m a fallible human being always in the process of personal evolution. But my motives are simple and full of a desire to always choose love.

 

I get angry sometimes and lash out unreasonably against people or institutions. I say regrettable things sometimes. I misunderstand people and have rough interactions. I’m an introvert who isn’t really rooting for the human race as a whole but who geeks out constantly on amazing human individuals. I WANT to be inspired. I WANT to choose love.

Doesn’t mean I’m a fucking imbecile.

But often I meet people and I want to say things like “YOU’RE GAY? THAT’S SO FUCKING AWESOME!” and “YOU HAVE BREASTS AND A PENIS AND A GREAT SINGING VOICE? I FUCKING LOVE THE CRAP OUT OF YOU!” and “YOUR BROWN SKIN IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FUCKING COLOR I’VE EVER SEEN!” and “YOU’RE THE OLDEST WOMAN ON EARTH WHOSE BOOBS ARE HANGING AT YOUR ANKLES AND YOU HAVE THE BEST SMILE I’VE EVER SEEN AND I WANT TO BE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE SO FUCKING GORGEOUS!”

That’s how simple it is. Not just for me but – PERIOD.

Sexual Health OR oh my god what are you doing with that doughnut?!

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There are only two things that determine if a person’s sexuality is healthy or not and they apply to BOTH men and women:

How they treat themselves.

Self care. Choosing partners that don’t abuse them. Taking precautions to prevent venereal diseases. Honesty with themselves about what they’re doing and why. Only engaging in sex and sex acts they want to. Having sex for their own pleasure as well as their partner’s.

How they treat their sexual partners.

Honesty. You need to be free to pursue multiple sexual partners? That’s totally fine if you’re honest with all your partners that that’s what you’re doing. Consideration for your partner’s pleasure as well as your own. Always stopping when a partner gets uncomfortable and not shaming them for it. All their partners are consensual.

Things that do NOT determine how healthy a person’s sexuality is or their worth as a person:

How many sexual partners they’ve had.

How they dress.

What kind of sex they like. (If it’s 100% consensual then it’s no one’s business to place value on a person for their sexual tastes)

How few sexual partners they’ve had.

How quickly they do or do not “put out”.

How often they have sex.

How often they think about sex or don’t think about sex.

What gender they prefer having sex with.

I’m so fucking tired of people being judged for their sexuality. For the number of partners they’ve had. I’m especially sick to death of men calling women who’ve had as many or more partners as they’ve had “sluts” and then calling women who won’t have sex with them “prudes”. I’m sick to death of value judgements being placed on people, by other people, over their sex lives. It’s bullshit. In all the millions of species of creatures on this earth, only humans could twist something so natural, integral, and healthy into a public stage on which to pillory people.

My feelings are complicated by my love of the word “whore” which I apply to everyone pretty equally but never because of their sexual activities.

None of us can win with the asinine rules that religion has set across the world. I’m not pointing to any one religion in particular. MOST of them place a bizarre premium on virginity in women and sexual prowess in men. MOST of them place value judgements on human sexuality that is unhealthy and feeds directly into a power hungry patriarchy. The thing is, even men can’t really win with these rules. Without the unhealthy constructs religion has put around human sexuality there would be so much less emphasis on marriage and partnership would be more often steered by an individual’s needs rather than society ideals based on archaic civilizations.

I have an uneasy relationship with physical contact with other human beings. I mean in all contexts, not just sexual. I had to train myself to be a “hugger” because it isn’t natural to me to let others embrace me or to volunteer such contact with them. Maybe this is because my first years were spent in a hippie commune in which a pedophile was violating a couple of my toddler friends. Maybe seeing and experiencing physical violence at a young age made me fear humans. Or maybe I was born this way. I only know that my mistrust of touch goes very deep. My relationship with my sexuality is complicated but healthy. It’s healthy because I honor my personal needs and peculiarities. It’s healthy because I don’t try to lead a sexual life that doesn’t suit me in order to please others. It’s healthy because I have done my best to meet my partner’s needs while not allowing them to ever over-ride my need to feel safe.

I have a lot of friends with strong sexual appetites and some of them seem to me to have very healthy sex lives while others have seemed to me to value themselves less than they should. But the bottom line is that other people’s sexuality and sexual lives are not my business unless they make it my business. Whatever you think you know about a person’s sex life is probably only part of their story, the part they let you see, and we all superimpose our own ideals and issues onto other people who may not actually share them.

I don’t judge prostitutes for doing the work they do. I judge people for judging prostitutes negatively for the work they do. But that’s a whole different post for another day.

So here’s my wish for everyone: see to the health of your own sex life and stop judging other people for theirs, okay? Work towards having a healthy sex life in which you respect yourself and your body and extend that respect to your partners, no matter how many you choose to have over the course of your life. No matter what lifestyle is right for you. No matter if you’re religious or not. No matter what your peers are doing differently. Eschew adopting separate standards for yourself than you apply to others because doing so makes you and asshole and then I won’t be able to help you survive the apocalypse because, you know, I don’t share supplies with assholes. Eschew the practice of worshiping the faulty concept of “purity”* with regards to sexuality.

Respect yourself. Respect others.

It’s that simple.

*I loathe the concept of “purity” with regards to anything when it is a worshiped ideal. People who make eating “pure” foods into a religion – I hate that. People who talk about “clean living” – pisses me off. People who talk about purity being virginity – that fucking creeps the shit out of me. Purity is not a natural or healthy concept.

The Garden Wins The Morning

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I’m hypnotizing myself with this pretty rose picture. This is the first Abraham D’Arby bud that popped out this year. Now the bush is covered with them. In fact, I need to get out there and deadhead.

There are so many things vying for my attention right now I don’t know what to turn to. It’s time to get vegetables into the garden and some flowers I’ve been waiting to put in (penstamon is one) but to put the veg in I need to get a ton of compost first. If I get a ton of compost then I’m going to have to distribute it first. But to do that I have to do some cleanup first.

I also need to be working on my products so that when I have labels I can take new photographs and load them up on my site and start promoting my business so that I can get some income and not have to look for work.

But I’ve had a great writing week and I want to keep the energy going. So I thought I should map out the rest of the chapter I started on Thursday and THEN do garden stuff or business stuff. But it’s cool outside right now so I should probably get outside FIRST before it’s too warm. But if I –

See what I mean? How about a couple more garden pics first?

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They’re much bigger now. This pic was just a few weeks ago.

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Now there are several of these babies in bloom. You know, I really can’t tolerate much sun and warmth so I think I’m going to suit up right now and get my ass outside.

43 MINUTES LATER…

I got some good weeding done, planted my sungold tomato, and deadheaded all the roses in the front yard before I had to run back inside because it’s already too hot out there for me. That felt great, though. Maybe I won’t get as much done in the garden as I really want to this weekend but at least I got out there. Maybe I’ll get out there this evening for a bit too if I have the energy.

Now I will plan the rest of chapter 12. I tried planning it while weeding but couldn’t concentrate. My mind likes to wander when I weed. It would be cool if the energy of weeding could be harnessed to help me work out plot points for my writing but it’s also okay not to constantly multitask. In fact, I think it’s healthy to let the mind do what it wants sometimes while the body is busy.

The Strength of Kindness and Letting Go

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This Saturday was a stressful one in which a lot of people disappointed me by launching an online attack on someone over a case of semantics. I’m not going to talk about the thing that happened or the people involved. I AM going to share some thoughts I’m having right now that were triggered by this extremely upsetting incident because it revealed something about myself:

I have considered myself one of those lucky people who’ve been abused but overcame it and never lets anyone abuse me anymore. But the truth I’m having to look at now is that I have continued to enter into friendships with people who turn out to be abusive to others and I stay in the friendships because I’m scared of the confrontation that might occur should I end it. I’m afraid of being bullied and skewered and abused so I make lots of excuses for friends’ abusive and/or bad behaviors and cling hard to every little scrap of goodness I can in them to explain to myself why I don’t disconnect from such toxic people.

I’m just as afraid of these dominant people as I was of certain grownups in my life who I spent all my time trying to keep calm and happy so I wouldn’t have their unpredictable anger and punishment turned onto me. Which it was anyway.

I had one friend who I remained loyal to even after I found out how racist and angry and destructive she was. I told myself that I owed her my loyalty for having been there for me when no one else was. I told myself I could be friends with her even though she was a racist because I told her not to talk like that around me because I found it offensive. She got a gun eventually and in spite of deep misgivings I stayed friends with her. I told myself that she probably wouldn’t ever turn on me with her gun even though I knew her to be a deeply unstable person in desperate need of psychiatric intervention.

I stayed friends with her for 20 fucking years because I was afraid to cut her out of my life. I was afraid of what she might do to me. I was afraid of what she’d say to me. I was afraid of the drama and confrontation that I’d seen her enact with others. After 20 years I finally decided the risk of cutting her out of my life was better than living with the dread and unpleasantness of staying friends with a person whose values I could never share and who had such hatred in her heart and a punishing and unforgiving nature.

I’m still sometimes scared she checks in on me and will come and kill me in retribution one day. That’s no joke.

That’s the most extreme example, but it’s just one of many such friendships I’ve stayed in because I was scared of getting out. Rarely in fear of physical retribution. Always in fear of verbal retribution.

I know how I get into these relationships but I didn’t see the pattern for what it was and I have never admitted to myself the real reason why I wouldn’t just leave them once I felt uneasy about what kind of people they really were, once I saw their true poverty of character.

Once you have a revelation like this you have to DO something about it. You have to USE it. But then yesterday my friend Sid, who works in the mental health field, reframed it all for me and I want to share it because I have other friends who I think might benefit from hearing this.

  • It’s not a failing to give people the benefit of the doubt even when they disappoint you or others. We all need to be given the benefit of the doubt in our lives from time to time because we all make mistakes.

Working hard to find the good in people when you’ve discovered they’re badly broken is valuable and everyone deserves as much of this as you can afford to give them.

  • Sometimes the friendship and empathy you offer can help a person shed some of their own bitterness and influence their behaviors for the good. Sometimes not. It’s not always for us to know if we make a difference in someone’s life or not. That isn’t the POINT of offering kindness and love to people.

BEING A PERSON WHO WORKS HARD TO SEE THE GOOD IN OTHERS EVEN WHEN THEIR GOOD QUALITIES ARE OBSCURED BY A LOT OF TROUBLING QUALITIES IS VALUABLE. THE WORLD NEEDS A HELL OF A LOT PEOPLE LIKE THIS.

Sid reminds me that the person I am might get me in these unpleasant situations but that it would be a shame to take away from this revelation I’ve had that I should stop extending kindness to people who show destructive patterns of behavior.  She reminds me that it would be a shame to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt as a general rule, because those are qualities desperately needed in the world.

Instead of losing qualities in myself that are good, it would be better to work on empowering myself to leave when I feel I’ve given what I can. The thing to work on is not being afraid of the confrontation sometimes involved in saying “enough” to person. Absolving myself of guilt at abandoning people who are mentally ill like myself, who are as broken as I’ve been. I’m allowed to walk away when it feels unhealthy. It’s okay to walk away from someone when I see them abusing others.

It’s always okay to walk away. I don’t owe anyone anything. No one gets my permanent loyalty just because they were kind to me once or twice. Loyalty is not a blind observance that once given can be abused without fear of defection. At least, if that’s what it is, I’m not interested in loyalty and I need to stop believing I automatically owe it to everyone for the tiniest of reasons.

What matters is forgiveness. Forgiveness matters a whole fucking lot in this world. You can forgive a person and walk away from them. Forgiveness doesn’t require that you keep allowing someone to hurt you. But forgiveness requires that you let go of all desire for revenge or retaliation.

Kindness matters as much as forgiveness. Not that people be kind to YOU but that you cultivate kindness towards OTHERS. Kindness is an under-appreciated strength. Buddha knows the strength of showing kindness to your enemies. Jesus knew the strength of kindness. Gandhi knew the power of kindness.

So I’m not going to abandon my strengths just because I sometimes get burned. I will just practice walking away with forgiveness as soon as I need to. I’ll practice not waiting so long to let go when I need to do it for my own peace of heart.

Silent Disclosure Of Imperfection

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Before everything I say, before everything I think, before everything I commit to writing there is a silent disclosure of imperfection you should be able to hear with your heart: I’m a flawed passionate being. I’m in constant flux, constant evolution, a constant state of deconstruction and reconstruction.

I’ve got a broken set of keys to a shady universe. Your keys might look different than mine but they open into the same rooms of despair, of wild love, of earthly hellfire, and humiliation that shifts into peaceful bird cries cleansing dawn air. You might see saving where I see desperate loss in the same room. It’s okay. Hold your heart carefully, I’ll hold mine the same and we’ll find our way to fresh air together.

I know it doesn’t seem possible how I can not believe in God when God is so precious to you. How I can believe there is no divine purpose or plan when it is so vivid for you. I know it doesn’t seem possible that I can embrace your belief while not sharing it. All I can say is that if you can believe in any kind of divinity at all, in any kind of miracle, in the kind of magic that keeps a seven day supply of oil burning for eight days or a crucified Jew to rise from his tomb then you have a place already carved in your heart to  believe that an atheist can love and respect a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Mormon, and every kind of mysticism.

 But dudes, seriously, can we please show Jesus with brown skin as he almost certainly had to have? How is he not beautiful with brown skin? If you can’t love a dark skinned Jesus then you don’t get Jesus AT ALL.

I don’t care about faith. I don’t care about creed. Not when we’re stripped down to the bones of our humanity. When we stand naked and flawed next to each other we are equals. All of us. Doesn’t matter what our ethnicity is, our background, our last names, the schools we’ve attended, the color of our skin, the tradition of our beliefs – we are all equals in everything but in individual character we show through action.

I will drink at your strange fountain and I will invite you to drink at mine. I will lead you to this lean cot in my corner and I will feed you the last crumbs from my pantry because I have to believe that the most important thread of humanity is generosity. I will give you the shirt off my back even if it means I’ll be sunburned before dusk.

I will make fun of humanity, I will find humor in all faiths, in all human frailty, but I promise that when I hear your prayers I’ll grow quiet and let your belief blanket the altitudes, I’ll retreat so that your faith can find expression when you most need it without ridicule or interference.

I struggle every day to root for human beings. This is the hard truth. I rail and cry against the evil I see everywhere perpetrated by humans. I struggle to remember that we’re part of nature, that we’re animals gone feral but not evil, that there’s something good left in us.

I’m going to joke about Jesus. I’m going to joke about Mohammed. I’m going to fucking joke the shit out of L. Ron Hubbard because – there’s no religion or belief I won’t find the humor in. But this isn’t about hate or bigotry. I also joke about myself, my mental illness, my hippie upbringing.

I joke because finding the humor in the every day crap and the miracles I can’t explain and don’t particularly believe in is how I survive.

I am an incredibly flawed person working towards my own personal evolution. There’s no explanation for pure love and good will between people of wildly disparate spiritual and philosophical beliefs so let’s not even try.

Let’s simply practice loving the crap out of all human beings.

Let’s practice forgiving the shortcomings of other human beings especially when it costs us to do so.

Let’s practice forgiving our own shortcomings.

Let’s practice love.

Let’s practice peace.

Let’s see the universe through each others’ eyes and leave each other tiny gifts in the darkest corners.

Bible Crossing: Spring Break Part 3

bible crossingDudes. Duuuuuuuuudes! Mormons are serious about their bibles! They even carry them on cross walk signs.

coolest SLC

You will kindly ignore the misspelling of “poncy”. I’ve heard that Salt Lake City is cool but I really couldn’t believe it until I experienced it for myself. This is why it’s important to get out of dodge and see a few things for one’s self.

good food

We loved this place. First of all, the building is a protected art deco piece of history. Second of all, the food was great. Max tried lots of new stuff and liked some of it. I had a really good grilled cheese sandwich with tomato basil soup and fries. Max had lamb kabobs with tzatziki sauce and really liked it. Philip had a burger.

Max at Lambs

He also had a teriyaki rice bowl with chicken and vegetables. Apparently he now likes rice even when it isn’t in sushi. Loose rice. He wouldn’t eat loose rice even before he got super picky. Rice and pasta were never on his acceptable foods list. I love how much he’s growing with his food exploration. He tried broccoli and cauliflower at this meal too but didn’t like them. I didn’t even ask him to try them. I don’t ask him to try much anymore because his food exploration is largely self-propelled.

steven seagal was here

I was told by a local person to make special note about this building which she saw me admiring and taking pics of:

This building was used for the filming of a Steven Seagal movie recently. They filmed an explosion here.

film site Steven Seagal

She was a proud city-worker and it was really important to her that I include that hot tid-bit with my trip notes. Done!

Squatters

Squatters was the first and last place we ate in Salt Lake city. We love it. They have a beer called “Polygamy”, so how can you not love it?

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Max got to meet E’s nephew who is definitely cut from the same cloth as Max.

a grand time

The last thing I saw in Salt Lake City were these grand treats set out for the unwary and the desperate. I don’t believe there’s a real Mrs. Freshly. That’s a little too on the nose, don’t you think? “Freshly” for something so completely contrary to all notion of “fresh” I know of.

desert dread

I was so taken with the salt flats I could easily have spent a few hours enjoying it. I would have loved to have had time to walk across the expanse of it to the hills in the distance.

Max on the salt flats

Teens are so hard to impress.

Philip at the flats

We got there just after the sun rose. It was so pretty. We got to see the flats at dusk and dawn. That’s pretty cool.

pool of salt water

That’s right, I took 40 billion pictures of the flats. It’s not like I’ll probably ever see it again.

salt filaments  So much texture and color to examine and appreciate!The ART

Look Pam and Elizabeth! I finally saw THE ART! I can finally rest knowing that I have seen it.

walking on salt

Oh, did you think I was done yet? No way. Look at how that looks like snow but isn’t.

wet crust

Wet salt-crusted rocks.

reflections

This is the last pretty sight for hundreds of miles. Bye bye Utah!

salt

Ooops! Hang on, one more salt picture. It’s like if this was the moon and it was covered in salt.

the devil plays here

And then, once again, we had to drive through Lucifer’s junk yard where poets and writers splint the broken bones of mankind’s soul and artists get excited about the almost imperceptible washes of color that cover the brown hills and flats for 400 pitiless miles of desert.

Salt Lake City Surprise: Spring Break Part 2

ominous fairytale

One of the things I enjoyed the most about Salt Lake City were the trees. While it’s situated in a desert state and surrounded by desert, SLC has so many beautiful trees in bloom this time of year or just beginning to bud.

SLC surpriseOnce in J and E’s neighborhood, it’s easy to forget the nightmare of trying to find it through a string of freeways that look like gummy spaghetti thrown down violently on a map.       old truck

There are strange corners in Salt Lake City. Not bad neighborhoods, necessarily, but strange and creepy exits that lead to nowhere and have NO WAY OUT.

wrong exit

J and E live on Capital Hill in the Marmalade District at the “dodgy” end and the hill itself is like a giant wall enclosing it all. There are houses looking down on you that appear to have a slightly hostile stare. Also on that hill is Fort Douglas, an old army base that was built to look over the city and keep an eye on the Mormons back when they were restless to separate from the rest of the country.

slc hill

Like the history of all human beings, Mormon history is full of dark deeds, illicit fornication, and scandal. There is no history involving humans without bloodshed or creepy sex. Doesn’t matter what religion you belong to or if you have no religion at all. Where humans go, so goes the whole neighborhood. Says the birds who click their tongues in disgust as we savage each other and desecrate the planet… but wait – back to sex!

Brigham

The legend of J and E’s house might not be true but we enjoyed believing it and considering how many wives the dude supposedly had, the chances that one of them was housed where we stayed isn’t all that outrageous.

Luna and BenderLuna and Bender are J and E’s rescue dogs and we had such a good time hanging out with those looney-tune dogs. Such sweeties. You know what I love about dogs? They don’t give a shit who you have sex with or what you do for a living and they really couldn’t be bothered to worry over how Jesus does or doesn’t fit into your life, as long as you are kind to them and feed them and play with them. They don’t care if you have both boobs and a penis or if you had to get a leg amputated to save your life or if you were born with no hair.

hang tight

You can tell most Mormons from non-Mormons even if they’re wearing modern clothes. They have a quality. They have a je-ne-sais-quoi. It’s the same way you can tell I’m a Californian and that I’m liberal.

too bright

Maybe it’s my make-up or my Keen’s that give the show away. Maybe it’s my nose ring and my messenger bag. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Then I open my mouth and give the whole show away to those who haven’t guessed it yet. So yes, you really can spot Mormons in a crowd most of the time. And it’s fun. And I feel a little twinge of guilt saying that and feeling that because Mormons are not a side show. Mormons are not in a zoo. They are not living their life to amuse me.

I have been stared at and pointed to all my life. When people clearly express derision or hatred it hurts me or angers me. But the truth is that if you live and dress differently than the majority of the people around you, they will be curious about you and they will stare. Often it’s simply because you’re interesting and it’s enjoyable to see new and different things and people around us. Sometimes they stare because you’re like a strange dream they had once when they took too much Vicodin and there you are in front of them in all your vibrant weirdness like a flashback. Human curiosity is a beautiful thing. It keeps us asking questions, looking for fresh inspiration, for new horizons, for deeper understanding of our fellow beings.

So what I’m saying is that traveling to Salt Lake City and seeing lots of Mormons is just as interesting to me as hanging out in Paris to watch the parade of French fashion and culture drift past me or as cool as it was to hang out in Old Jerusalem and see the train of medieval looking Christian nuns pass solemnly by after the group of Muslim tourists stopped to get refreshments near our table. People watching is one of my favorite things to do and comes from a place of clean curiosity.

I love trees

So I sat in Temple square watching the crowds walk pass by, picking out the Mormons from the non- Mormons, enjoying the gorgeous trees, the Gothic architecture, and thinking about all the things that bind humans together across belief systems, race, origin, politics, and personal tastes. Salt Lake City is a strange mix of progressive and conservative politics and lifestyles. There’s a lot of opportunity to witness people attempting to find where the middle is between extremes.

Bender and ball

Bender doesn’t have time to think about how religion and politics mix and – well – should never mix. He’s a dog with a ball. The ball may as well be Jesus as far as he’s concerned.

Max and Luna

Luna was skittish around Max the first day of our visit. Bender loved him at once. This is Luna the second morning we stayed with her after she decided Max is awesome.

dogs hanging with Max

J and E are incredible hosts. They always have such wonderful homes – their decorating is warm and full of art and J’s handmade furniture. We always feel at home hanging out with them.

pretty living room

Philip relaxing in the morning before we head out for a walk to down town with Max to get lunch and see what there is to see.

pretty succulents

I clearly need more succulents in my life. I also need to spend a little more time arranging my space so that it’s inviting and inspiring and pretty. This is something I can work on until I have to get a day job again. Today I’m going to work on Winters Apothecary and procuring some needed supplies so I can make more products for the shop while Philip works on making my labels better. So much to do!

Crossing the Great Basin Desert: Spring Break Part 1

dangerous weeds

The last vacation we had was in 2008. We never have the money. In spite of being laid off two weeks ago we decided to take off on a road trip to visit our friends J and E in Salt Lake City during spring break in a spur-of-the-moment decision. To get to Utah from California you have to cross 400 miles of Nevada on the I 80E highway.

400 miles

It looks pretty much like this for all 400 miles. Considering how big the United States is, 400 hundred miles might not seem like much, but believe me – it’s a punishing drive. I’ve been through part of the Mojave desert in California and Nevada and thought that was a thirsty god-forsaken stretch of land but it’s nothing compared to this endless empty stretch of country.

hard living flower

This hearty wildflower/weed was the brightest thing in that desert not including the sun beating down through God’s giant toy magnifying glass of a sky. Did I say God? If I believed in God I would feel abandoned in this landscape.

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I couldn’t quite shake the fear that our clunker of a car would break down somewhere between Fernly and Winnemucca. Too bad if you’re bleeding out from a car wreck, expect to die. Emergency services are all very far away. I admit that I packed food and water as though I expected to get stuck on I 80.

picnic for desperados

This is how I imagine al fresco dining in prison yards to be. I will say that most of the rest stops had decently clean and equipped bathrooms. I can’t say the same for the rest stops on I 5 through California and Oregon. But at this stop I couldn’t bring myself to use them. Truly, I worried I might get murdered in it.

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By the time we made our way to Winnemucca, the only decent habitation along the entire length of that Nevada Highway, it had become our favorite game to come up with epic insults about Nevada to vent our feelings.

Great Basin Desert

Max’s final assessment of Nevada:

NEVADA = SYPHILITIC BAG OF DICKS

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But our insults must be tempered with the fact that I know quite a few very cool people who come from Nevada. Please forgive our violent feelings!

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One of the great things about trips like this is to see with our own eyes the wildly different landscapes that are part of our country. We looked up information on The Great Basin Desert as we drove through it and learned some things about it. My son will never forget Nevada now. He’ll never take trees or water for granted.

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After 400 miles of brown desert, casinos lodged in every available crevice of habitation, and the endless parade of tiny townships that were no more than a handful of dilapidated trailer homes with a broken down barn or store, the salt flats just inside the Utah border were delightfully refreshing. We got there at dusk just in time to see the pink sky reflected in the pale expanse of salt crust.

Irrational Irritation is More Irritating Than Stale Coffee

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Jax, the foster super-kitty caught in a mighty  yawn roar.

As my first week of unemployment comes to a close I have some fears and irritations to chew on along with my not-so-quiet happiness at being home again.

Fear #1: MONEY. Lack of it. I only got a day-job because we really needed the money. I’m so happy to be home every day again but the sharp shadow encroaching on my happiness is knowing how short lived it must necessarily be. Soon I have to look for another part time job, unless by some miracle people really start buying my apothecary products.

Actually, I just spent a half an hour looking at available positions on Craigslist. So it has already begun.

Fear #2: My apothecary website is still unfindable even by a url search. This has never happened to me before and I don’t understand it and an online business relies heavily on one main thing – BEING SEARCHABLE AND FINDABLE ON SEARCH ENGINES. So, fuuuuuuuuck!

Irritation Numero Uno: The company that laid me off is now back in business and have rehired my one friend at that job. That’s not at all what irritates me. I’m relieved she got her job back because even though they treat her horribly she really needs the money. Like, more than I do. She deserves WAY better but at least this will tide her over for now. What irritates me is that I wasn’t offered my job back. I know what you’re thinking “But Bitch, you quit your asshole of a job just last week. What’s your damage?!”* First of all, I actually unquit my job an hour after quitting in hopes that when the dust of our company move settled, things would be much better and I could stay at my job. Second of all, they offered someone their job back who stole confidential documents, padded her time card (and was caught doing both these things, by the way), and who did very little actual work for many months. They offered HER her job back. A shady person who also has the distinction of having caused the company (inadvertently, it must be admitted) to shut down temporarily. They offered her a job back and not me. She pissed off everyone – that’s more people than I pissed off!

So yes, I’m irritated that they value someone who steals, is lazy, and lies more than they value the hard work I did, the honesty I brought to the job, my unwillingness to take advantage of the company even when I was invited to do so on occasion by a person who’s name will remain _________.

What I need to remind myself through my irritation is that while they have dished out the ultimate insult to me, it is also deeply revealing of the owner and the managers’ ethics. I also need to remind myself that if I have to work outside the home I deserve to work for people who share MY ethical standards and who appreciate and respect employees who bring that high standard to their work every day.

In the meantime I have much to work on. I have a lot to do to get my house back in order. I need to clean, organize, and clear the air of fears and irritations. I need to fill it with confidence, order, and love. That’s right, I’m getting all metaphysical on your ass!

I need to find out how to fix the invisibility of my website. I  need to work on my label design some more. It’s not quite right, not quite good enough. I need to sort that out. There are three super important things about making a successful apothecary business and here they are in order of importance:

  1. Make a superb line of products. This is the foundation and heart of a business – the quality of the product being made and offered.
  2. Eye-catching packaging and label. This isn’t just window dressing. This is the difference between being remembered or forgotten. This is the difference between a product being purchased or passed over for a more promising looking product. Before a customer has your product in their hands they only have the image of that product and the copy attached to it to make a decision with.
  3. Visibility/Findability. Your product has to be visible to your target market. Whether you put it on store shelves (I’m not doing wholesale so this won’t be me) or you operate from an online store – customers have to be able to find you.

I have some fantastic products. I’m working on more. But my labels and visibility to my target market are not good. So that’s where I’m at with my business. I’m reminding myself daily that impatience isn’t going to get me where I want to go. Building a good business takes time. There are a lot of details that have to get put in place first. You get there by taking one step at a time. The pressure of needing money might be a useful motivator but I think it can also get in the way of good decision making because if I let it get to me I’ll hurry things that need time to develop, I’ll skip things that shouldn’t be skipped, and I’ll settle in ways that don’t reflect the strong foundation I’m trying to build.

Talking that out made me feel calmer. More focused. How about you? Are you working on something impatiently? Are you battling fears and irritations? How are you dealing with them?

Don’t feel you have to answer. I’m going to go feed my dog, get dressed, and work on labeling as well as write a post on my website that you’ll get to read when the universe/domain handlers/IT people stop hiding it from everyone. Have a great Saturday!

*People don’t talk like that any more, do they?