Workin’ 9 to 5 (…and remembering to be thankful)

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As today I’ll be prep cook in my own home, sharing my first Thanksgiving in Portland with my Aussie husband, I thought I’d do an encore presentation of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago that I believe is worth repeating for this holiday season we are embarking upon.

In addition, I want to thank everyone both personally and professionally who have inspired me along the way. I am incredibly grateful in so many ways – for the life I lead, the partner who loves me, the dog snoring at my feet as I type this, the work that introduces me to so many interesting individuals and amazing teams, the organizations I’ve been able to volunteer with, and the opportunity to always do more in this world to make it a better, more beautiful place where people are taken care of and empowered along the way.

So, with that, a look back at words from 2012, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

It’s that crazy week here in America, where the pressure cooker on consumers is on high, where often the beauty of simple things gets lost.  Last night I watched the news highlight a woman who leaves right after Thanksgiving dinner to go do her “Black Friday” shopping.  They were “inspired” by her organizational tactics to hit every store and to be out from 9pm to 6am “getting all the best deals”.  It made me sick to my stomach to see the media giving attention to materialism instead of the wonderfulness that is Thanksgiving – being together, sharing a meal, expressing our gratitude for our lives and loved ones.

It’s not always an easy path out there in our careers.  I’ve been through more ups and downs in my own career than I ever imagined.  I’ve met people who have become fantastic friends and lifelong allies, and I’ve met just as many who are so caught up in their selves that ideas of generosity and acceptance of others never seemed to have occurred in their narrow minds.  It wasn’t until the last few years that I experienced sexism and it wasn’t until the last few years that I found strength within me that has powered me past the negative energies I’ve witnessed to become someone I finally recognize.

We all beat up on ourselves more than we should.  I read this quote recently -“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” (Steve Furtick).  Isn’t that the truth?

As for me, I’ve shared my “bag lady syndrome” mindset that’s been infiltrating my life since I went independent.  While my first few months were wildly successful, my inability to predict the future (heh) has caused great consternation in my highly organized mind.  Will I be OK? Will I lose everything?  What will happen next?  And I’m the only one saying it.  I’ve got incredible support from friends and colleagues and have met some truly wonderful human beings during this latest chapter, yet when I get home, it’s my own self I return to.

And that it’s my own responsibility to count my blessings, and realize how truly fortunate I am.

I have a roof over my head.  I have food in my pantry.  I grow and preserve a lot of my own food, and know ways to live simply and economically, while not sacrificing good health or environmental respect.  I have a journal to write in and a blog to write even more in.  I have close friends and colleagues and neighbors and community members who make me smile, who remind me of all that I am and all that I’m capable of.  I have a sweetheart who every single day reminds me in his existence in my life that everything – everything! – I went through in the past to get to this day was worth it.  I have promise.  I have a future.  I have love.

So, with that, I’m sharing my favorite Oprah/Maya piece that you may or may not already be familiar with, but it is about being thankful in both the good and the bad times.  Last night I was reading another chapter in Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight and it had a phenomenal exercise on ‘living backwards’ – i.e., looking at what’s best in your life and realizing some of the negative that had to happen to bring you this good thing.  And it reminded me of Just Say Thank You…

Just Say ‘Thank You’
By Oprah Winfrey

I live in the space of thankfulness — and I have been rewarded a million times over for it. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased.

That’s because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life. “Say thank you!” Those words from my friend and mentor Maya Angelou turned my life around.

One day about ten years ago, I was sitting in my bathroom with the door closed and the toilet seat down, booing and a-hooing on the phone so uncontrollably that I was incoherent.

“Stop it! Stop it right now and say thank you!” Maya chided. “But — you don’t understand,” I sobbed.

To this day, I can’t remember what it was that had me so far gone, which only proves the point Maya was trying to make. “I do understand,” she told me. “I want to hear you say it now. Out loud.”

“Thank you.” Tentatively, I repeated it:

“Thank you — but what am I saying thank you for?”

“You’re saying thank you,” Maya said, “because your faith is so strong that you don’t doubt that whatever the problem, you’ll get through it. You’re saying thank you because you know that even in the eye of the storm, God has put a rainbow in the clouds.

You’re saying thank you because you know there’s no problem created that can compare to the Creator of all things. Say thank you!”

So I did — and still do. Only now I do it every day. I kept a gratitude journal, as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in ‘Simple Abundance’, listing at least five things that I’m grateful for. My list includes small pleasures: the feel of Kentucky bluegrass under my feet (like damp silk); a walk in the woods with all nine of my dogs and my cocker spaniel Sophie trying to keep up; cooking fried green tomatoes with Stedman and eating them while they’re hot; reading a good book and knowing another awaits.

My thank-you list also includes things too important to take for granted: an “okay” mammogram, friends who love me, 15 years at the same job (and loving it more than the first day I started), a chance to share my vision for a better life, staying centered, having financial security.

I won’t kid you, having money for all the things I want is a blessing. But as I look back over my journals, which I’ve kept since I was 15 years old, 99 per cent of what brought me real joy had nothing to do with money. (It had a lot to do with food, however.)

It’s not easy being grateful all the time. But it’s when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you.

Tuesday Go Ponder: Imagine A Woman

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Today I wanted to share something I’ve kept with me for years that has been a reminder of how I need to remember the core of who I am as a woman. On days when I have needed to bring up more strength, to make the hard decisions, to confront my insecurities, to move forward rather than looking at what could have been, to be true to myself, this is what inspires me.

Imagine A Woman

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who believes she is good. A woman who trusts and respects herself. Who listens to her needs and desires, and meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past’s influence on the present. A woman who has walked through her past. Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life. A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf. Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods. A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness. Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body. A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face. A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use her precious life energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life. A woman who sits in circles of women. Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

~ Patricia Lynn Reilly

Weekend in Pictures

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The "true" November is back after last week's weirdness, with it being perfect weather to take the dog for a walk bundled up in polar fleece and a hat. The kind of weather that changes regularly - you know, the "don't like it? wait 5 minutes and it'll change!". This was taken on our Sunday morning walk after our regular breakfast and newspaper at the cafe down the street from our house.

The “true” November is back after last week’s weirdness, with it being perfect weather to take the dog for a walk bundled up in polar fleece and a hat. Woo hoo! It’s the kind of weather that changes regularly – you know, the “don’t like it? wait 5 minutes and it’ll change!”. This was taken on our Sunday morning walk after our regular breakfast and newspaper at the cafe down the street from our house.

Picked up the turkey we'd ordered from New Seasons (gotta love that store discount of my hubby's!) and got the rest of the Thanksgiving fixin's so I don't have to go to the grocery store at all between now and the holiday. Did it all early on a Saturday morning before it got nutso in there, as I don't do well in mega crowds with slow moving shoppers who don't know where they are going :)  Even though the hubby works for them, I still love the zen that is food shopping so he actually only gets the "oops I forgot XYZ" items. Anyhow, so I sat down and did some serious organizing and typing up of a schedule for the Big Holiday. It's my very first Thanksgiving with my honey and I want to put on the full show this year. Next year? Who knows :)  This above is a photo from the recipe I'm using for Slow Cooker Candied Yams - totally awesome way to keep from needing oven space, don't you think?

Picked up the turkey we’d ordered from New Seasons (gotta love that store discount of my hubby’s!) and got the rest of the Thanksgiving fixin’s so I don’t have to go to the grocery store at all between now and the holiday. Did it all early on a Saturday morning before it got nutso in there, as I don’t do well in mega crowds with slow moving shoppers who don’t know where they are going :) Even though the hubby works for them, I still love the zen that is food shopping so he actually only gets the “oops I forgot XYZ” items. Anyhow, so I sat down and did some serious organizing and typing up of a schedule for the Big Holiday. It’s my very first Thanksgiving with my honey and I want to put on the full show this year. Next year? Who knows :) This above is a photo from the web recipe I found for Slow Cooker Candied Yams – totally awesome way to keep from needing oven space, don’t you think? And yes, I’ll be documenting this historic process LOL – just digging through the dining room that became my office to get it cleaned up was enough work this weekend!!

This month's donation is to the Portland Opportunities Industrial Center (POIC). (image source)

Every month I give a percentage of my pre-tax income to a deserving nonprofit. This month’s donation is to the Portland Opportunities Industrial Center (POIC). I learned about their great work from a colleague who’s on their board, and am truly impressed at the seriously tangible impact they are making with the young people in our community. (image source)

We are just loving seeing our dog getting more physically fit. It's a long process, but getting her out 2-3 times a day, even for short walks, is worthwhile and getting her stronger. We've also gotten her on Boswelia (which is way cheaper on Amazon by the way as compared to buying it from the vet), which has been a near-miracle-worker on her ability to recover quicker. She even is showing us her funny little canter when we're at the park :)

We are just loving seeing our dog getting more physically fit. It’s a long process, but getting her out 2-3 times a day, even for short walks, is worthwhile and getting her stronger. We’ve also gotten her on Boswelia (which is way cheaper on Amazon by the way as compared to buying it from the vet), which has been a near-miracle-worker on her ability to recover quicker. She even is showing us her funny little canter when we’re at the park :)

After the horrifying abuse and deceptive tactics of the Mankind Project's New Warrior Training that my husband got out of last weekend, he has been reading up about a variety of psychotherapy cults, from MKP (who has a multitude of survivor groups) to Landmark and more.

After the shocking abuse and deceptive tactics of the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training that my husband got the hell out of last weekend, he has been reading up about a variety of psychotherapy cults, from MKP (who has a multitude of survivor groups, and a brave video from one survivor) to Landmark and more. Dr Margaret Singer’s research has been particularly insightful into how groups. As Dirk Mathison reported, “Slicker than the hard-core religious sects (such as the Unification Church and the Boston Church of Christ), the new cults keep a sophisticated, media-wise profile. Nevertheless, says Kisser, “they mirror techniques used by less sophisticated religious cults. The tactics are the same.” And the results can be just as devastating.”  (image source)

Awww...this past weekend marked our 6 month wedding anniversary...yayyy! Hubby came home with a lovely card printed locally on 100% recycled paper on an antique letterpress. We snuggled up on the couch, watched a movie, and called it a night. Love is awesome :)

Awww…this past weekend marked our 6 month wedding anniversary…yayyy! My awesome hubby came home with a lovely Waterknot  for me, created locally on 100% recycled paper, on an antique letterpress – and of course lots of his lovely words inside… We snuggled up on the couch, watched a movie, and called it a night. Love is rad :)

 

White Male Embargo: An Introduction (guest post)

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I’ve had the seriously cool opportunity this past month to get to know Corvus Elrod, a Portland gaming expert, technology educator, and overall seriously interesting man who’s taking personal strides to assess his role in the world, and learn from this experience and those around him who don’t share the same skin color and gender. After telling me about a project he is kicking off tomorrow called The White Male Embargo, I was instantly hooked and asked him to introduce this to my blog readers, and encourage readers to follow him and get inspired…

 

I’m embarking on a bit of an adventure this Sunday when I begin a media-wide White Male Embargo. I’ll explain that fully, but let me start with some background.

I’ve been experimenting with restricting my media consumption in interesting ways for a couple of years now. It began with the Low Violence Challenge. For one year I didn’t play any video game that relied on the depiction of character-on-character violence as a major gameplay mechanic. The following year I implemented the Rule of Two. This rule involved what I call “geek culture” movies – action, sci-fi, fantasy, super hero, and animated films. I would only individually pay to see any of these types of movies where at least two of the three people in the roles of writer, director, and lead actor were women.

The purpose of these experiments was twofold. Firstly, I’m tired of seeing the journey of the white, western, male repeated in my media over and over. I’m tired of stories about triumph over adversity – especially when the route to that triumph is littered with the bodies of the protagonist’s fallen foes. The flawed idea that every “good” story is a reflection of the hero’s journey has become bland gospel in geek culture and it perpetuates the harmful notion that the experience of the white western male is a universal one that everyone can – and should – relate to.

Secondly – and related – I no longer wish to financially support this harmful shaping of our culture. As a call-back to a hashtag I started on Twitter during the Low Violence Challenge, our media conglomerates need to #BeBetterStewards.

I was a bit nervous going into both of these year-long experiments. I was going to be cutting myself off from conversational touchstones among my friends. I was, I knew, not going to play a few big game releases and see quite a few movies I’d otherwise pay to see. But as it turned out, I didn’t feel constrained at all. I felt freed. I sought out interesting media to consume, I heard more diverse voices, experienced more diverse approaches. So this upcoming year – as marked by my birthday – I’m upping the ante with the White Male Embargo.

This terms of the embargo are simple: During the Embargo I will not buy or rent any media – including books, movies, music, board games, and video games – created by white men.*

Further, as I am both white and male, I will not be posting any content that I, myself, create during the embargo. Any and all posts I make on public social networks during the embargo will be re-shares of content by non-white-dudes. Anything I feel the need to express publicly during the embargo will be posted to Tumblr, but post dated for one year from the date I post it.

You’re more than welcome to join me, or simply to follow along. My Tumblr is at http://corvuse.tumblr.com and my Twitter handle is @CorvusE.

*Excluding the selections of the Book & Movie club I belong to, which were proposed by a group of 4 women & 2 men (including myself) prior to my coming up with the embargo.

EcoGrrl-icious

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proceserv-1Helluva week, y’all. For those who regularly read my blog, some interesting stuff occurred last weekend that, if nothing else, has reminded me how much of an incredibly kick-ass strong bond my husband and I share with each other. I believe his favorite nickname for me right now is Wonder Woman. I am deeply appreciative of who he is, as well as two close girlfriends who have been unconditional allies over the years who supported us :)

Here’s what’s up on the EcoGrrl radar this week…

* Loving this article on Backyard Orchard Culture!

* In perfect timing for Thanksgiving, this Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather sounds soooo delish. We’ll see if I have leftover pumpkin puree from our harvest (after making pie!) to try this out! Oh and definitely check out what Family Yield’s blog has to

* The Keystone XL pipeline is not just an environmental tragedy waiting to happen, it’s also a socioeconomic one already in progress, and continuing to devastate communities. This On Earth article tells the story of Port Arthur, Texas, and what the industry has already done to hurt the inhabitants of this town.

* Confused about the eco-friendliness of buying a Christmas tree? There is now SERF (Socially & Environmentally Responsible Farm) certification and you can go to their website to find out who near you has it to make a smart choice this season. Not one in your area? Google “sustainable Christmas tree” and the name of your state, and there are usually listings for those who at least use low or no pesticides.

* I am LOVING Ted Turner’s updated ten commandments.

* While I’ve read some articles in the past, I’m incredibly heartbroken reading about the extent of the little value for female life in India and China.

* And finally, I love blog posts about having kids that are less mushy-squishy and more upfront and honest about the experience from all sides. Things Learned in the First 3 Months was a way cool, funny, and touching, post. #5 gave me the giggles as my hubby and I have recently bought a few kids’ books from our own childhoods over at Powell’s that we’ll read to our little one in the future, and a bunch of his I’ve never heard of!

“Getting down on all fours and imitating a rhinoceros stops babies from crying. (Put an empty cigarette pack on your nose for a horn and make loud “snort” noises.) I don’t know why parents don’t do this more often. Usually it makes the kid laugh. Sometimes it sends him into shock. Either way it quiets him down. If you’re a parent, acting like a rhino has another advantage. Keep it up until the kid is a teenager and he definitely won’t have his friends hanging around your house all the time.”
~P.J. O’Rourke

Workin’ 9 to 5 (…and encouraging men to follow their instincts)

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I talk to many of my coaching clients, especially men, about trusting their instincts and drawing the ability to utilize them in decision-making, even in the most data-driven environments.

Listening to one’s gut is often attributed to women, as if we are the only intuitive creatures out there, since society often speaks in horrendous stereotypes of women as the emotional creature and men as the logical creature, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone I’ve coached, everyone I’ve worked with, hell everyone I’ve known has the capacity for both, and intuition is definitely something that everyone can work on.

Today though I bring up the men, because they often don’t get the time or encouragement in our professional world to understand how one’s gut can be a strong tool in the workforce. And no, I’m not saying leave data behind, what I’m saying is, when you know something “just doesn’t feel right” in a situation, that you must give yourself permission to listen to it and investigate those feelings that are there for a reason.

Man will have replicated his own intelligence not when he teaches a computer to reason but when he teaches a computer to have a nagging feeling in its circuits.” ~Robert Brault

I’m working on a story to share with you that I provided some summary of in my last Weekend in Pictures post, and with that research that brought my husband and I to get him extricated from there, I read this story of a man whose trusted authority figure (in this case, his boss) pressured him over and over to attend a “training weekend” to bond with the rest of his team.

Now, most of us have done “teambuilding” exercises and/or workshops where we do assessments like Myers-Briggs, or throw a ball around or what not, and get to know how people make decisions, but as you’ll see in the Eggleston lawsuit, this employee discovered that the New Warrior Training Adventure was in no way a training, but rather a cult where men were deprived of food and sleep, wearing minimal if any clothing, and using Gestalt therapy techniques with unlicensed professionals to share personal and private experiences  that made him immediately suspicious and uncomfortable.

This man had the foresight to investigate the organization and learned about the great harm it’s done to so many men and he refused to attend. He received such horrendous treatment from his boss and then retaliation on his compensation package as well that he was forced to seek other employment. But he struck back. He knew what was happening was wrong in so many ways , and didn’t go along with the crowd. He stood strong amongst tremendous pressure, mentally, professionally and financially. And that’s something to applaud.

Fellas – how has listening to your gut helped you?

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.”
~Michael Burke

Weekend in Pictures

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Fried chicken, pork spare ribs, collard greens, mashed potatoes and leek/squash bread pudding as a special late night treat for my hubby at Bernie’s Southern Bistro (photo source)

Chai

Had our first sips of chai latte from our case of Prana Chai!

EPpancake-1

Used up some of our fresh pumpkin from this year’s garden to make delish pumpkin & spice pancakes, making them on my grandpa’s pancake grill. YUM!

sunset

lovely night sky!

Ladle

We (and our refrigerator) were banished to the living room while we had our kitchen floors refinished after I pulled up the black & white stick-on tiles 2 years ago, It was a bitch of a process as the contractor forgot we’d asked for a low-VOC water-based finish, and did the first coat with HIGHLY toxic & flammable “Swedish” finish, stinking the house up with formaldehyde odors, giving me a massive headache and forcing all of our windows & doors open on a 29 degree day. Along with that I had to get myself and the dog to safety and not wanting to leave my house with everything open, it meant working on an outdoor project all bundled up, she with a bone and me working fast with a shovel. The after the water based version was applied today, we realized while it was drying that we had no utensils! So my husband decided to make a bowl cereal using a glass storage dish and eat it with a giant ladle :)

Nwta

The last part of the weekend involved extricating my husband from a “training” where the group who set it up turned out to be a cult and a pyramid scheme, pressured to attend by our (now former) therapist calling it a great retreat for men. I will write about this more later, but it starts out with them stripping him of his name and turning him into a number (above), continues with food & sleep deprivation, misogynistic talk about women, forced nudity and constant pressure into groupthink, and ends with me following my gut after they didn’t want me to talk to him when I called (they had confiscated his cell phone and attempted unsuccessfully to get him to remove his wedding ring) and after doing a lot of research, getting a car to drive out there and get him the hell out of there. He was so relieved to see me and said another man had left shortly before I arrived. And on his way out? The Australian therapist who had for some reason decided to lead THIS particular “training”? Insulted who I was to my husband as he left. Disgusting sick freakish bastards. Very similar to Scientology where they use subtle mind-control. And yes – oh yes – I will be writing much MUCH more about this cult and it’s tremendous damage to so many participants (even suicide for at least one former attendee). For a bit about what happens, read this article for an undercover account. It’s very accurate.

 

The Art of Gratitude

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Grave-D

When I go see my father’s grave, it’s not something I mention much but I almost always pay my respects to other family members who have passed.

At Willamette National Cemetery, it’s not only to lay next to where my father’s body is buried, but also to say hello to my grandma and grandpa, his parents who were so good to me growing up. They were cremated so there’s just a placard on a wall for each of them. Not as personal. You have to find a unique way of getting the roses to smoosh right between theirs and other placards if you don’t want them to be on the ground below a long list of dead people. I talk to them about what I’ve been doing, thank them for the memories, tell them about my life.

At the same cemetery, in the section from ten or twelve years prior, is the gravesite of my third grandmother. She was the mother of my mother’s first husband, biological grandmother to my older siblings who I share only half of the same DNA with. We spent frequent weekends at her home near Peninsula Park growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, and she treated me just the same as the other two. Unlike my family, I wasn’t so-and-so’s kid, I was just another one of her granddaughters. I remember the week she died when I visited her on my own in the hospital. The wig was gone and her long hair that she hid was cascading down her shoulders. We giggled at all the marks in her arms and I hugged her and told her I loved her.

Across town, there are two more cemeteries. Mt Calvary, up in the hills, is a beautiful drive up Skyline Boulevard and the first gravesite I ever visited. My great grandmother on my father’s side, the mother of my grandfather, is one I went to with my father and cherish, as she was the one great grandmother I spent the most time with as a very small child. My memories of her consist of big hugs, carob stars, cigarettes (she died of lung cancer), my dad having long conversations with her, and the overwhelming love everyone had for her. No one told me she had passed, instead I found her obituary in the newspaper at the age of six. Yes, I was a very young newspaper reader, and remember seeing the same last name as me while I sat at my aforementioned non-biological grandma’s kitchen table one Sunday, and calling my dad to ask if that was her. I never understood why they hadn’t told me she was gone. It was the first in the string of not including me in big events, with later that being both parents getting remarried and not inviting me to the weddings. With my father, I learned decades later that not only was I not invited, the entire rest of the family was, and it was right across town (my mother had married my stepfather out of town).

Down the slope along the Sunset Highway is the last cemetery I visit, Sunset Hills, which now has the unfortunate background of freeway noise. There I don’t need directions, and instead look for a large tree and a row of hedges. Next to the hedge are the gravesites of three people – my grandparents on my mother’s side, one who died when I was fifteen and the other who was the first of the annual passings I was to deal with on my return to Portland. My grandfather took me to the duck pond and told me about his five dollar gold coin he won in a spelling bee. I remember laying on the carpet in their living room watching Circus of the Stars with my sister and he in the corner. And at 4 or 5 in the morning, the crack of light in our room as I heard the sound of my farm-raised grandfather up making waffles. I wonder what he thought of then. In later years he lived with us for a short time and I saw a side of him that drove my mother to a place I’d never seen her, and it changed my vision of him in many ways. I had never been close to this grandmother, and perhaps I should have done more, but was fortunate in that the very last time I saw her, nearly twenty years after his death, while she was living in a small home with other elderly women, I saw a woman at peace who was funny and interesting. She was 93 and I never had the chance to see that again, but it left me curious as to what she was really like – you know, outside of family life.

The third grave belongs to that of David and is what spurred me to write today. Over the years I often refer to David as my second big brother, someone who this year would have turned fifty, and wondered what that would have been like having two brothers. He was my mother’s second son, and died in a car accident that was so excruciatingly painful for my mother that it changed her forever. I learned about him from my sister as an adolescent, but as for my mother, she only spoke of him in one sentence to me, and I never learned anything more. Not just about him but about her, which always crushed me.

You see, here’s the thing I realized at this last visit to his grave: he isn’t a second big brother. He was a baby boy of a year old who was intended to be the last of their children. A wife, a husband, and two sons. A year after his death my mother had her first daughter, and some time after that she divorced that first husband and married my father. Two years later I was born.

Do you see what I’m getting at? If he hadn’t have died in that tragic accident, I would not exist. All my memories, all my words, all my love, none of that would be here. I am living, because he did not. I have to find gratitude for my life that began because of the death of another. The circle of life presented its strange path on that fateful summer day in 1965 and one winter morning in 1974.

How does one come to grips with that?

The first reaction many have is about my mother. What she’s been through, the “no wonder” response. That almost five decades later, the event that day which forever changed her should also indelibly stamp how things were handled. I look at a bunch of childhood art I had made for her and rather than think warmly about them, my first thought is, ah, yes, that was in the pile she dumped on my front porch a few years back. No note, just a pile of what seemed to be every reminder of me she had, in an old plastic bin left in front of my house.

I think of this coming year where my husband and I want to start a family, and the natural instinct is to think about the two people who brought you into the world. We talk about our dead fathers who never will get to hold their grandchild, and we talk about our alive mothers whose narcissistic behaviors have forever created a rift that neither of us care to return to. My side is perhaps a bit softer than my husband’s as his situation has been recently much more dramatic and I’ve had time to let the years soothe my heart. I see the danger of trying to rekindle very similar to how I remember getting back together with ex-boyfriends, in that once you are around that person again, you are instantly reminded of why you left, that the ten or fifteen percent you loved so strongly was not enough to overcome the majority of experiences that left you feeling unloved.

Getting remarried this year has brought up a lot of emotion on so many topics. How will I deal with challenges this time around? What is and is not worth arguing over? Who am I this time around and who do I want to be as time goes by? Am I repeating the same mistakes? How do I deal with my fears and frustrations and failures? Will I be a good parent? Will he? When will I ever fucking relax about this kind of stuff? :)

I had a tremendous experience last night which told me exactly who I was and how much I bring into this world.

You know that fierceness and smile Uma Thurman’s character Beatrix Kiddo had as she drove away at the end of Kill Bill Pt 2? That was me. I fucking roared as I trusted my instincts and it was definitely an event (which I’ll write about soon) that reminded both my husband and I that our walk through this life together is and always will be a powerful one. This love is beyond beautiful. I have come into this world to shake it up, fight for the underdog, and expose the gorgeousness of it all in my words and actions.

I’m the hero of my own life.

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you,and that you will work with these stories from your life–not someone else’s life–water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

EcoGrrl-icious

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Cold, but gorgeous!

Frickin’ cold, but gorgeous!

Yes, as most folks around the US are experiencing, winter decided to cut into our gorgeous fall. Freezing rain, a bit of snow, bitter cold, and winds that make you curse. How was it last week we were in happy autumn fleece mode and now the furnace is cranked up? Even for a “penguin” like me, I bumped things up to a toasty 70 in the house. Hmph! And we aren’t even in places like Denver or Minneapolis or Atlanta or even our Central/Eastern Oregon neighbors that are all colder than us Stumptowners. But what’s nice? Watching our bullmastiff Ruby trying to eat snowflakes from the sky, sipping hot toddies at the cafe, and making pumpkin pancakes for my hubby.

And here are some other things I’ve been wanting to share…

* Meditation’s benefits proven by neuroscientists. Pretty sweet.

* Did you know 4-H and GMO big-ag are partnering in Africa? Shameful.

* A little closer to home, happy to see that my local cafe is welcoming the Social Pleasure Club on Sundays for some chill music mixed with local ingredients and awesome coffee. Guess where I’ll be :)

* And speaking of good drink, hubby & I splurged on a case of Prana Chai from his former stomping grounds of St Kilda in Australia. Good god it’s delish – and we’ve yet to find anything even somewhat close to this masala chai mix they make….mmmm!

* Today, we are depaving the back half of our long driveway that lines the south side of our property and hasn’t hosted a car, well, ever since I bought it. It’s such a long driveway and the 1925 garage being more of a shed, even when I had a car (which I sold 6 years ago) I only parked it in the front near the walkway, so it’s always been this hot piece of concrete that reflected the summer heat right into our bedroom. In 2009, I’d created a driveway garden, and my husband loved the idea to just depave it altogether. We’ll be fencing it off as well so we can get rid of the chain link between the garage and house and have more privacy (and security) as well. Before & after photos to come!

It may be cold but we are still finding a way to do things garden-related! :)

“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.”
~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

Workin’ 9 to 5 (…and preventing bias when screening ex-convicts)

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In the October 24, 2014, issue of the New York Times, I read a great article about curbing employment bias against ex-convicts, talking about the rampant discrimination during the hiring process for those with criminal records. Unfortunately, some states still allow employers to ask about criminal history at the start rather than at the end of the process, creating a huge potential for discrimination against candidates with convictions. In addition, many don’t ask about felony convictions within the past 7 years (the standard question), but rather ask about arrests and/or “have you ever been convicted of a crime”, inferring that misdemeanors could be used against you as well.

What worried me terribly in this article was one hiring manager saying, “the fact they have a criminal record proves that at one point in their lives they weren’t trustworthy,” using a conviction as the sole litmus test for hiring decisions. And while I’m not making a blanket statement about hiring or not hiring those who have served time for crimes committed, to say that someone who, for example, got a DUII six years ago, is one hundred percent not trustworthy compared to someone who has not? That’s just goofy logic.

  • What about the trustworthiness of the applicant who cheats on her spouse?
  • What about the trustworthiness of the applicant who beats his children and isn’t found out?
  • What about the trustworthiness of the applicant who lies on his taxes and doesn’t get caught?

But you can’t ask that on an application, now can you.

Yes, of course you don’t want to hire an accountant who’s been convicted of fraud, and you don’t want to hire a childcare provider who is a registered sex offender, or a delivery driver with a drunk driving record. But what about those jobs where their criminal record doesn’t apply?

As one job applicant (with a handgun possession conviction from 10 years earlier) whose candidacy for a janitorial role was immediately pulled by HR said in the article, “I was somehow too dangerous to clean the floors.

I’ve worked in Human Resources field for 16 years and have seen the issues come up in nearly every company. Fortunately, most of my employers have had the policy of decisions being dependent on whether the crime was relevant to the work, but it’s also because I as the recruiter or HR representative have always asked what our specific policy was. Most employers don’t have a written strategy or policy for dealing with the criminal question, and with that many haven’t done the homework to know what they can and can’t ask, and how they’re allowed to use this information in making hiring decisions.

As the Ban the Box campaign informs us, “The EEOC has already begun prosecuting employers who have a blanket ban on hiring people with felony convictions, since this ban violates an EEOC requirement for “individualized assessment” of the circumstances of any past convictions.”

Hiring and HR teams, do you want to learn more about what you can and can’t do? Check out the enforcement guidance provided by the EEOC. “And review the infographic below to start the process of assessing what you are currently practicing in your workplace – not what your policy claims you’re doing, but what you are really doing. “Ban the Box” generally prohibits employers from asking about your history during the initial part of the application process as well as preventing them from running background checks before an offer.

If you’re an applicant, pay attention – whether you have a criminal record or not (1 out of 4 do) – to what employers are asking on the application. If they want to run a background check before an offer is extended, that’s should be a warning sign that this company may be discriminating. Employment offers from companies who conduct background checks should include the paperwork with the offer letter (not before), with the forms stating how the information is used and how far they are going back.

As Mark Levin said so perfectly, “It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it’s from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.