Friday, May 28, 2010


Every year for my birthday and Christmas, Lee comes up with the most fan-freaking-tastic gift ever. Actually, he does this for all of his friends and family. He is an amazing gift giver, and every year he tops it. He chooses gifts that reflect your current state of life, he finds things that you didn't even know were important to you. Which I think is the very best kind of gift. For Christmas one year, he got me New Glitterati bumper stickers for this blog. For my birthday last year, he purchased the domain name for me.

And this year?

A gift certificate to Kiva! I get to take this gift and invest in a foreign entrepreneur in a developing country. Plus, as Lee says, " Now you can say you are all grown up and investing in foreign markets." But, even better, Lee knows how important social activism has become to me, and how my drive to help make the world a little bit better in every way I can has started to shape my life and help me make the decisions and choices I need to make. I am so grateful for his support in this vision with which I'm working to align myself.

Ah-may-zing. He gets it perfect every time.

28th birthday this weekend, and I'm headed off to the beach!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Change Them Yourself

They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them for yourself.
-Andy Warhol

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Months Later

I've not written a whole lot about New Orleans lately, mostly because I had so many things percolating in my mind that I needed to give the entire thing some space and time before extrapolating anything of value.

The question that has been repeated to me, by others and myself, is "What did you get out of the situation?" And, at first, the answers were fast and many, disorganized and scattered thoughts and rage about social injustice, and feelings of inspiration and hope.

Two months later, I feel I've come up with some sort of generalized, definitive answer which also addresses the question: "Why did you go in the first place?"

The past few years have been quite scattered ones for me, as evidenced by this blog, and a period of a lot of questioning and "figuring things out." Seeking to do something like volunteer for a week in New Orleans sort of didn't make sense at the time; rather it was something that called out to me during a period of time when I was seeking direction, and I jumped on the opportunity. It wasn't what I had in mind for a transformative experience, and it certainly was never something I c\would have dreamed up on my own.

I couldn't even have articulated what it was I was seeking at the time, or to what gain, only that my heart was open and inquisitive.

And what it found was this: seeing how big, complex, and unpredictable the world is showed me what things I can and cannot control in my own life. Far from feeling stultified and helpless, it led me to feel proactive. Releasing my worries about what's out of my hands and staking a claim on what I CAN manipulate and alter (primarily my attitude towards life in general) opened up a new world for me.

For the first time in my life, I realized that happiness is not something that falls out of the sky or is waiting behind the right door. It's a choice. It's an active choice, it's a constant choice, and it's mine.

For the first time, I choose happiness and while it's constantly threatened (by things like complicated job issues, money worries, and tense interpersonal relationships, to name a few), I find that consistently choosing happiness over time leads to more happiness. The choice becomes more instinctual. I choose it over defensiveness, self-centeredness, pessimism, fear, doubt, and a host of things that kept me in the dark for so long.

So many things are out of my control. But this one thing I can have power over. And it's life-changing. Cancer patients choose it and it can improve their chances of remission. Athletes choose it and performance improves. And victims of disasters, both natural and man-made, choose it and find new means of coping.

Happiness, in my mind, is synonymous with hope, with humor, and with the genuine and concrete belief that things happen for reasons, and that those reasons are ultimately good.

I don't know why this never occurred to me before. I suppose, like anything else, it was a lesson to be learned. A hard lesson, to be sure, but with sweet, sweet results.

How did this come about? Because for every story of devastation and destruction, every horrible tale of dead bodies and loss and damage, there were gleaming little stories of hope, humor, and happiness.

I see how cataclysmic events lead to life-altering things like artistic reactions, volunteers, hope, hard work, and a call for re-structure. I see the cause-and-effect of negative occurrences and how the best reaction is its opposite- positivity. Because then you can't separate the negative and positive because one couldn't have happened without the other. So, ultimately, the negative becomes in itself a positive thing. Propelling you forward. Moving on.

Please do not misunderstand and think for a moment that I am selfishly capitalizing on the suffering and misfortune of others. I cannot, for an instant, downplay or trivialize the horrible, horrible things that happen in this world. I am simply pointing out that my experiences led me to a new way of viewing the world.

Happiness is a choice. It's a lens through which you view the world. It's not a job, or a car, or a relationship, or money, or any of the trappings of our lives. It's an attitude. It's how you receive all of these things. And if you're waiting for any one of those to bring you the clarity or buoyancy you crave, you will undoubtedly be disappointed.

I'm letting all of these things marinate and watching as fantastic little moments unfold in my life. The world is such an easier place in which to live when I'm not being defensive, "Why me," or shouldering the negativity I was carrying around for so long. That's not to say I don't have bad days or misfortune like everyone else, just that I know that these things are transitory, and their long-lasting effects depend primarily on how I choose to let them effect me. I am in control here, for the first time, of what I CAN control. And the things that I can't? I let them go.

I couldn't have asked for a better life-changing experience, and my gratitude is immeasurable.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The True Joy

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Never Grow So Old Again

and I will walk and talk
in gardens all wet with rain
and I will never, ever, ever, ever
grow so old again

Van Morrison, "Sweet Thing"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Let the Glue Dry

for D and N

I've been feeling this burst of spring cleaning after weeks of being in knots (Mercury is coming out of retrograde!!), and have spent the past few days tying up loose ends and purging, purging, purging. I am suddenly finding much greater ease to toss away things that I felt were important to keep around but have now created a feeling of baggage in my life. I'm a terrible pack rat, someone who falls in love with a pretty bottle or an idea written on a napkin, and these objects accumulate in my life until I suffocate. I'm getting better about it, and while outsiders might look at my living space and think that at some point I'll wind up on "Hoarders: Buried Alive," I am beginning to see change and progress, slowly but surely. Crossing things off the old To Do list.

One of my biggest accomplishments- and those who know me will understand the brevity of this step forward- has been weeding out my book case and bagging up stacks of books to donate.

I have a lot of books.

A lot.

And I keep buying them. Which means maximum input, zero output in terms of volume. This cannot continue. I have to get over my emotional attachments to literature.

(A sidenote of crowning achievement: I am finally allowing myself to give away Dave Egger's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." I've carried that piece of crap around for years now, made multiple attempts at reading it, and never gotten through it. I am finally in acceptance of the fact that I do not like what I read so far, and that I am not going to force myself to read it just because contemporary critics hailed it as the best thing since Surrano's (*Thanks, Snap, for correcting me*) Piss Christ. Pulitzer nomination be damned, I DON'T LIKE IT, AND I DON'T WANT TO READ IT. SO THERE.)

In my madcap efforts to sweep a pile of books into a bag to be sent away, I accidentally knocked over a little figurine of a designer shoe my mom gave me several birthdays ago. (Sorry, Mom.) The crystals remained on the heel, the pointed toe survived, but the sling-back snapped off. Frustrated, I blobbed some glue on it and set it properly, then went back to my manic cleaning.

It fell off again.

I held the piece in place, blowing on the glue, willing it to dry. I gingerly let go, and it stayed in place. Perfect. I set the shoe down, and anxiously turned to continue my chores.

The back fell again.

Repeat process until it dawns on my genius self that I'm going to have to sit and hold the piece in place until the glue dries.

I was endlessly frustrated, feeling pulled away from my momentum of productivity to have to sit and hold little pieces of a broken figurine together. Every time I thought the glue might have dried a bit (and it was not any quick-drying glue, I'll say that), I would let go and the piece would fall again. Apply more glue, start over.

Being artsy and weird, a metaphor began to form.

Eventually, the only way I could fix the shoe was to sit, patiently and quietly, holding the piece in place. Movement weakened the glue. So I just had to sit, amongst the piles of books and trash to be thrown out, and take a moment out of my frenzy of work. I sat, and I held on quietly, and I waited for the glue to dry. Eventually, one of the cats came and curled up next to me, grateful for this strange stillness in the middle of the day.

I wish I could say that I fixed the shoe.

But only after long amounts of quiet sitting did I realize that the glue I was using wasn't strong enough to hold the pieces of the figurine together. I'm going to have to go buy some Krazy Glue, or something stronger, to fix it. It took awhile for me to figure this out. I thought I could quick-fix the situation, and I couldn't. I don't even have the proper materials to fix the situation; I will have to procure them.

The metaphor keeps growing.

When something is broken in your life, you can't be in a hurry to fix it. It takes time, it takes trial-and-error, and it sometimes takes a little stillness and quiet. And if you sit still long enough, and you're lucky, somebody might even come join you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Culture of Silence"

I've been meaning to write a post about the on-going disaster in the Gulf; which is absolutely stultifying and heart-wrenching to watch unfold; and more specifically about the economic and natural ramifications for New Orleans (again), but something else momentarily grabbed my attention that I've been chewing on in my mind.

Because I am creepily attracted to weird murder stories and fascinated by news and media coverage of such things (the details reporters think of to comment upon is mind-boggling), I've been following the Yeardley Love murder along with everyone else. There is one specific issue that's been brought out in harshly critical ways: the way that male athletes engage with society.

Sally Jenkins wrote a fascinating article for the Sports section of the Washington Post on Saturday that directly posits the question only a handful of people have dared to vocalize:

"It's reasonable to ask: should women fear athletes? Is there something in our sports culture that condones these assaults? It's a difficult, even upsetting question, because it risks demonizing scores of decent, guiltless men. but we've got to ask it, because something is going on here - there's a disturbing association, and surely we're just as obliged to address it as we are concussions."

Jenkins goes on to point out George Huguely's former physical altercations, including a physical assult on a female police officer, who subsequently Tasered him, and the roughing up of a teammate who he thought had kissed his girlfriend. Clearly, although it may not be fair to point to these actions as "premeditation" for murder, it is certainly worth noting that the kid had a temper problem out of his realm of control.

But Jenkins also points to "the system" as being part of the problem which, although some might argue lets male athletes off the hook simply by blaming their behavior on a larger influence, has more than an element of truth. She brings up the Sports Illustrated article about Ben Roethlisberger and his band of protectors:

"According to the magazine story, on the night that he allegedly accosted an over-served undergrad in a Milledgeville, GA., restroom, Roethlisberger held up a tray of tequila shots and hollered 'All my bitches, take some shots!' He exposed himself at the bar. He forced his hand up someone's skirt. Yet police sergeant Jerry Blash described the alleged victim as 'this drunken bitch,' and Roethlisberger's bodyguards apparently blocked off the area. Protecting Roethlisberger, being 'in' with him, took precedence over ethics."

How is any of this appropriate? As a professional athlete, part of the job is the marketing of an image, and what the hell kind of image is being marketed here aside from one normally found in some rap lyrics? Any team manager is going to look at this behavior as a liability- regardless of whether or not an assault actually occurred- and understand that while touchdowns win football games, lawsuits take players out of commission and cost millions.

It's not so much that Jenkins is calling out male athletes as testosterone-charged cave men or implying that they are offered social "outs" that allow them to behave like total idiots, but she poses the question of why it would ever, ever be OK for anyone to act like this, let alone someone that's been given money to be a role model.

Of course, there's nothing new about these assertions that the world of sports perpetuates ideas of masculinity, brute strength, brawn over brains, and all kinds of other critiques that have been around since man was intelligent enough to understand that battles and wars are fought on all kinds of fronts. It's an old conversation, refreshed anew to accommodate a world of litigious people and no one can deny that it's sometimes even twisted around to accommodate opportunistic people anxious to use it in their favor. This, also, cannot be ignored.

But it seems that there are people who would defend this behavior as part of that so-called "culture of silence." Don't rat out your teammate, don't throw your friend under the bus for screwing up from time to time, keep it quiet. But the matter is complicated in the Love saga, because Love herself was an athlete. A good one. And Jenkins calls out the Virginia lacrosse team as having some semblance of responsibility in the matter:

"Undoubtedly, many of the young men on the Virginia lacrosse team are fine human beings. I don't mean to question their decency. I don't mean to blame them. But I do mean to ask those who knew of Huguely's behavior an important question. Why did they not treat Yeardley Love as their teammate too? Where were her brothers? Was she not deserving of the same loyalty as George Huguely? She played lacrosse. She wore a Virginia uniform. She was equally a champion. And yet because she played on a womens team, she seems not to have been accorded the same protection that Huguely was."

The story is gut-wrenching, upsetting, creepy, and hitting close to home. Love was a Baltimore County native, and the threads that connect all of us have brought the tragedy closer than is comfortable. Even more so, there are questions to be asked here and uncomfortable, unsettling things to think about. What might have been an isolated incident, an accident even, is slowly unfolding to reveal more complicated strands of a greater problem: no one could have prevented Huguely from going to Love's room that night, or staging an altercation, or banging her head against the wall. But who knows where intervention, earlier down the line perhaps when the stakes were not so high, might have derailed the course of events that unfolded that night. It's a tricky blame game, for sure, and no one is ever suggesting that Huguely himself isn't 100% personally responsible, but these are questions that need to be asked in order to help prevent this kind of behavior from occurring again.

They're questions that were asked when the Duke lacrosse team faced brutal speculation over the rape of a stripper (and begged the question- what are college athletes doing with a stripper in the first place), and asked again when Michael Vick's appalling behavior came to light, and will most likely be asked again in the future when another high-profile athlete does something stupid to garner negative media attention. But this time, they involved a college girl and her high-strung exboyfriend, and this time they involved a horrific accidental death. To not probe the different avenues of questioning leaves everyone liable in some way.

Cheers to Jenkins, and others, who have dared to voice these things.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank God I'm Not 12 Anymore....

Because I love my mother, and because my parents have kindly let me store endless amounts of crap in my old bedroom for far longer than they should have, I cleaned out some boxes today and came across various fragments of my life from different time periods. Pictures of long-deceased pets, letters from helpful mentoring adults, ribbons won in swimming competitions (mostly Fourth Places and Honorable Mentions, but WHATEVER), and little bits and bobs that I thought were important enough to keep.

And then there were the notes. Before Facebook and MySpace, before cell phones, pagers, email and Internet even, there were notes. Folded into little origami squares and decorated with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY!!!!!!!!!!! and DON'T TELL ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!

Below are excerpts from ACTUAL NOTES passed between myself and some friends in the seventh grade, 1994-1995.

All names have been changed, except for mine of course. Which is unfortunate. Because...well....apparently I was not....the nicest..................anyway. I digress.


Z- Please don't get shy and not talk to me like last year and I will gladly go out with you, Okay? I don't care what other people say. It's my decision, and someone like you, with your personality can't be a dork. So don't listen to them.
OK, it's a deal. Love, Z
Alrighty then.

Z- Sorry. You're nice as a friend, but not as a boyfriend. I hope you find someone nice. -Lindsay
PS: don't get teed- let's be good friends again. Okay?
What do you mean?
Uh, Z, I just let you off. Let's not go out anymore is what I said.
I know, but we're still friends. Can I sit with you at lunch?
We need the extra seat for N.
Ok. Sorry I couldn't call you back. I didn't want to call you after because it was 9:00pm
Oh. That's not why I dumped you, if you're wondering.
I know. Why did you dump me (the whole truth).
Because you were moving too fast. Telling me you loved me? We went out for 2 days and you asked me to kiss you. You followed me everywhere and when I tried to get the message across that I need my space, you ignored it. Why do you think I didn't wait for you this morning after band?
I just asked if you WANTED to kiss me. And you asked me if I loved you!

I suspected you were going too fast and I wanted to make sure.
Well I wasn't, sorry.


P- This can be our notebook, okay? What r u doing this weekend? -L

L- I'm out of town all weekend. But Sunday I'll get back so we could get together that afternoon. What questions did you get wrong on the test? I got a B. I got #s 3 and 10 wrong. -P

P-I got 3, 5, 7, and 10 wrong. My first D. What a tragedy. Okay? -L

L- What are you doing on Sunday? Write a loooooong note back. Save me a seat at lunch
. -P

L- You don't have to become friends with J again just not enemies. Did you give J that slam note? I really don't think (if you did) that giving that note is going to solve your problems. I think you should ask her why she all of a sudden hated you. Then ask her to tell you hy she felt that way. Then tell her how you felt. -P

P- I don't think I want to be her best friend anymore, but I don't want another enemy! Maybe I've taken this thing way out of proportion, but I'm going to get to the bottom of this and figure out what happened. I feel like screaming "What's going on here!" -L

L- Mr. G is ready to blow! -P

P- He is in a REALLY bad mood. You should've seen him this morning. He was so mad! -L

L- About what? -P

P- I don't know. -L

L- Maybe about his divorce. -P

P- That wuz years ago! -L

L- Don't you think the story we had to read was stupid? What are you and Z talking about? -P

P- Z just gave me a note to give to J. It says "I love ice skating. I love your hair. I love you. I can't wait to go skating." -L

L- What did he really write? -P

P- That's what he wrote! He asked me not to tell anybody. -L

L- Why doesn't he write a poem like: roses are red, violets are blue, but nothing is as pretty as you. Tell him I won't tell anyone what he wrote. Write a looooooong note back. -P

L- Algebra was fun at first but know its boring. Have you and Z gone on a date yet it's stupid to go out with someone and not go on a date. You know that new Cheerio commercial? I love that song. -P

L- Everyone is so surprised that I'm friends with you. Especially J. Everyone says you're soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo annoying. But your only annoying when you and Z act really stupid. -P

P- Why does J hate me so much? I've done nothing to her. I don't want to be her friend though. Do you know why she hates me? Maybe I should change schools. -L

L- Changing schools will not solve your problems. I don't know why J hates you. I wish I could tell you. what are you going to be for Halloween? -P

P- I'm going to be Cleopatra that Egyptian woman. J can get a life. If she's mad at me and won't tell me why, that's her problem and I'm not going to worry about it too much. -L

L- Then why do you keep bringing it up? -P

P- It bothers me I guess. It worries me more than I like to think it does. -L

L- That's okay. TALK TO J. -P

P- SHE WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME. She ignores me. -L

L- At least you've tried and she can't say that you didn't. -P

P- What r u doing today? I'm not staying after school and I don't have a violin lesson after all. Maybe we can study for Language Arts and Science. -L

L- We should. I don't think I'm doing anything. Maybe we can call our moms at lunch and say that your coming over to my house or I'm coming over to yours. -P

L- When are you going to dump Z? He's going to be really upset. The science review sheet is so easy! - P

P- At lunch or 3rd period. If he begs for forgiveness, I won't listen. I'm going to ditch him nicely, though. -L

L- I don't think Z cares that you dumped him. -P

P- Oh yeah? -L


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who Are You Not To Be?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"

Actually, who are you
not to be?
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

-Marianne Williamson

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Get me this.


I haven't wanted anything this badly since I wanted the complete Black Beauty set from Breyer for my tenth birthday.

(And I got that. So dispatch with the mini horse, Birthday Fairy.)

This Is Good

(All measurements approximate. Very approximate. In fact, mostly made up. I just threw crap in Whack's Magic Bullet thingy and pureed the hell out of it. Delicious.)

2 TBS olive oil
handful fresh cilantro
2 TBS pine nuts
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 lime
1/2 lemon
pinch kosher salt
couple'a shakes a' black pepper
lots and lots of garlic, finely diced
tiny dash basil-oregano vinegar

Throw all into some sort of food processor thing, blend, taste, add more of whatever is lacking.

whole wheat pasta (I like the thin spaghetti) cooked, let sit to room temp so it won't cook the tomatoes
bunch of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Scrape sauce out of food processor thing, mix with whole wheat pasta and tomatoes. Chill. Serve.

Call me a Philistine, but tastes pretty damn good with some Bud Lite Lime. I'm just saying.