30 March 2015

Embracing my self

I started this year with big expectations for myself and lots of changes that I wanted to make. I was excited about what 2015 would bring for me on both personal and professional levels.

Over the course of beginning some of these changes, I discovered that some of them aren't going to work for me.

And I've discovered that a lot of the other changes I wanted to make were for the wrong reasons. Sure, I told myself it was because I wanted to improve myself, but it was really to improve the self I believed others wanted me to be.

These changes were not authentic to me.

So instead what I'm focusing on is making changes to be my more authentic self and embracing who I am.

Because I am enough.

Yes, there are things I'm continuing to work on in my life (a healthier, plant-based diet, meditation/yoga, holistic health approach, etc.), but because these are things that are important to me and not things I feel like I should be doing.

I am enough.

Are there things you do because you feel like you should? Why? How do you handle this feeling?

29 March 2015

Renew your spirit with plans for more plants

The plants are continuing to accumulate in our home and on our patio.

What started as one philodendron has become four (I just started two new plants yesterday). I have/had three spider plants, but joined them into one pot because they seemed very unhappy after being separated. We have two kinds of ivy hanging on the patio, a miniature rose bush and an orchid that were gifts for Bo, two separate pots with bamboo, a tall purple-leaved outdoor plant I can never remember the name of, and the munchkins each have a small flowering plant they picked for themselves.

I want more. Now that the cool weather is behind us in central Florida, I am eager to add to my plants and flowers. I don't know what specific plants I'd like to add to my little collection. Though I would like a little shamrock plant and some herbs.

I love having plants around, especially when it's too hot and humid outside to leave our patio door open to let fresh air in. I love taking care of them, re-potting them to make them happier, and seeing glimpses of the beauty of nature on my patio and around my home. And the plants I choose usually need a little extra attention at first. I have the tendency to choose plants that look a little scraggly or neglected.

I've found it incredibly relaxing to take care of the plants, whether it be watering, pruning, or re-potting. I like feeling the dirt in my hands and seeing the plants happier and growing. It's therapeutic.

I wish I could have a big garden, but Bo has assured me that when we have room for it, we definitely will. Until then, the plants I have (and will get) will have to be enough.

Do you have plants in your home?

28 March 2015

Sometimes it's hard

Sorrow (1892) by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai
We're in a state of transition here. My work is changing, Bo's work is changing, and we're gearing up for the wedding in the fall.

There's a lot going on.

So it's understandable that there have been some chaotic moments in my brain.

On the one hand, I'm fortunate enough that I've been busy enough that I haven't had to think too much about these chaotic and anxious moments. On the other hand, the busyness of my life has kept me from taking time to ground and center myself, so I feel like I'm just floating through and not really anchored to anything.

That is not good for my anxiety, and it makes it hard sometimes.

One of the challenges I face is that I'm not used to having a real support system.

I had family and friends when I was struggling before (such as during the divorce), but my experience has been that when you're really struggling and people ask how you're doing, they don't want to know the truth. Not really. They may care about you, but they don't want to be there in the way you may need them.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but I've manged to adjust. I've learned that when people ask how you're doing, the correct answer is "I'm okay."

I've gotten used to it, but sometimes it's hard.

And sometimes I'm still not used to having a real support system with people who won't stop asking how things are going because they don't want to know how I'm struggling with the same things again and again.

Lots of things are in transition right now, and that's hard.

How do you handle hard transitions?

27 March 2015

Fifty Shades, an introduction to reading dreck to prove a point

After a discussion with some friends (and one family member) on Facebook about my feelings on the Fifty Shades trilogy and film, I have decided to not only read the books and watch the film, but to make extensive notes about my reactions to what I read (both literary reactions and reactions to content) in order to make as objective a determination of the phenomenon as I can.

I will read the series with as open a mind as possible and read critically for content and literary merit. The popularity of the story doesn't matter to me. The story matters. So that's what I intend to focus on.

Once I've finished reading the books, I'll watch the film with the same critical eye, focusing on story and cinematography.

Along the way, I will do supplemental research. While I can analyze and critique the books wholly independently from other research, I know that there are some areas, particularly in the psychology of domestic violence, that I need to learn more about in order to evaluate. So that outside research and reading will be included in my notes and observations, as well.

My initial plan is to write about each book at the halfway point and again at the end, then take the film in its entirety.

It's going to be an interesting couple of months.

Do you have an opinion on the Fifty Shades books/film?

25 March 2015

Getting used to a new phone

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to get a new phone. The one I had was working (mostly) as a phone, but lacked a lot of features I needed in order to work effectively when I was out of the office. Since I take Puck to and pick him up from school when the munchkins are with us, there are about fifteen hours a week that I need to be able to work from outside of the office.

I love my new phone. It has all the features I need for work (and some extra features), and has already proven that I made the right phone choice.

Of course, with the benefits of a new phone comes the challenge of a new phone. Specifically, I am transitioning all my information and contacts and things into the new phone. Since the old phone is still technically active and on a different network, I didn't simply port over all the data from the old phone. Instead, I'm entering it in by hand.

One benefit of this method is that I can drop information I don't need anymore. Like phone numbers of people I probably won't be calling. It's giving me the chance to declutter my phone from the beginning, which is beneficial. There's no reason to keep information I'm not using; it makes room for new, valuable information.

Now if I could just remember that the "back" button is not where it used to be, I'll be in good shape.

24 March 2015

My social media hiatus

I've decided to take a bit of a break from Facebook and Twitter for a while.

I've discovered that I've been using Facebook as a distraction too much, which has turned it into a procrastination tool. Yes, I read headlines and get interesting/inspirational information, but I also know that if I don't want to work on something or I'm stuck or feeling lazy, Facebook is my go-to site.

As I've been going through The Artist's Way, I've found myself wanting to get away from things in my life that are only acting as distractions from what I should be/want to be doing. Facebook is one of those things.

So I'm going to very quietly slip away from Facebook for a while (I have an end-date in mind), and at the end of this time, I will re-evaluate if, when, and how I will reincorporate Facebook and Twitter into my life.

23 March 2015

Halfway through The Artist's Way

I've been working my way through The Artist's Way over the last five weeks (today is the beginning of week six for me).

I've gone through part of the book before, but I've never gotten this far, so it's been a very different experience for me.

So far, I've been enjoying it, and I'm starting to see where some of my obstacles and challenges are in my career and writing. I'm trying to push past my discomforts and continue to remember why I wanted to do this in the first place.

I have been able to see a change in myself when I stand back to compare where I was in mid-February and where I am now. I'm optimistic that the progress will continue, and my writing will benefit.

One of the biggest changes I've seen in myself is a shift in how I spend my time. Things I used to do to fill time or distract myself hold little interest to me anymore. Instead, I find myself drawn to things that have better purpose in my life: meditation, listening to music, writing, reading, yoga. I'm even taking a hiatus from Facebook for the next several weeks (more on that tomorrow).

I don't want to be (nor do I think I am) one of those people who gets all judge-y about people who watch a lot of TV, especially because I am/used to be one of those people. I can't say what is good or bad for anyone else except myself, and I know that, right now, The Artist's Way is helping me see what is best for me, and move away from things that are not good for me.

And that is making the whole process worth it.

22 March 2015

Renew your spirit with feminism

Despite what a lot of people try to tell you, feminism still matters.

Yes, women can vote and work outside the home. They can drive and own property and do the things that men can do.

But there is still a lot of stigma surrounding women (especially mothers) who work outside the home or single moms.

There are raised eyebrows when women work their way to tops of companies to be leaders or who go after positions traditionally considered men's jobs. And when they do work their way through their careers, they often do it at lower wages than their male counterparts.

In many situations throughout the United States, women are treated separate but equal. (Which, as we know, is not equal at all.)

And while lots of women never consciously experience the rampant discrimination, objectification, and misogyny that permeate our society, those things still exist.

Women are still afraid to walk to their cars alone or go jogging alone in the mornings.* Women guard their drinks at bars and clubs. What it comes down to is that women are treated differently than men in our society. They just are.

Some of it is getting better, but there is still so much that people don't realize is harmful and continues to happen. Men make comments they claim are harmless or complimentary, not realizing those comments objectify the women they are speaking to. It happens all the time. Women expect to be cat called and harassed.

And instead of fixing the real problem, which is that we allow men to treat us this way without accountability, women are taught from a young age to learn self-defense, carry mace. I was told from middle school that if I was being attacked, I should yell "Fire" instead of "Rape" because it increased the likelihood that someone would come to help.


It's not okay that this happens in our society. It's not okay that women adapt to this treatment instead of men being held accountable for what they're being wrong. How many times have you heard "boys will be boys" said casually--often by mothers--as an excuse for bad behavior? Why is this acceptable?

And because I am a woman, because there are women in my life I love and respect, and because I have a daughter, feminism still matters.

*A friend of mine posted on Facebook just yesterday that she didn't get to run that morning because no one else from her running group showed up, and it was not safe for her to run alone, particularly in the dark.

21 March 2015

On meditative music

I am in the habit of watching/listening to TV when I work. As strange as it sounds, I need some kind of noise in order to work.

But I'm trying to get away from watching TV and movies while I work.

So I'm trying to shift to listening to meditative music while I work. This way I can get the noise I want while I'm writing, but I don't have the distraction of hearing actual words, and I'm not tempted to get drawn into a story of a film or TV episode and end up watching just one more episode of American Horror Story before I get back to working on that project that's due today.

I've added a meditative music channel on Pandora, so now when I'm working, I try to remember to turn that on instead of streaming Netflix in the background. I think it will be better for my productivity, and will help keep me centered and focused. Meditative music is good.

Of course, if I need a little extra motivation, I can always switch to my Harpeth Rising channel.

What do you listen to when you write? Why?

20 March 2015

Welcome, Spring

It has felt like spring summer here since Bo and I got back from our vacation, but today is the first day of spring. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn.

It sort of sneaks up on you in Florida because there's not really a winter here like there is elsewhere in the country. We haven't had the snow and ice and cold like others have. We only ran our heat a couple of nights the whole winter.

But today is more than just a shift in nature on the calendar, a day marking the coming of warmth and flowers and the new life after everything has spent the winter resting and recovering. Everything is getting ready for the change that comes with spring.

This is a spring of change.

My winter has been a bit odd. There's been a lot of chaos in our lives this winter, and a lot of planning and adjusting and anticipation for the next stage of many things.

So this year, spring really is a bit of a rebirth for me. I'm focusing on letting go of all the things that have been weighing on me on all winter. I'm focusing on embracing this moment each moment, living mindfully in the present so I can not only enjoy it, but so I can be much more at peace.

I'm looking forward to what this spring and summer has in store for me and for our family.

There has been a lot of chaos, but I still believe that 2015 is going to be a damn good year.

19 March 2015

Do you have to read a book to have an opinion about it?

Not too long ago, I engaged in a rather heated discussion on Facebook about the release of the film Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG).

I will be honest: I have not read the books and I have not seen the movie. And I have very specific reasons as to why that has been the case.

Part of the "problem" that others saw in the midst of the discussion was that I have an opinion about FSOG but haven't read the books. They took the position that, as a writer and reader, it is unfair and irresponsible for me to judge the books based on the opinions of others (blog posts and articles) and excerpts I've read online.

I didn't really argue the point. Much of the passionate reaction I received was due more to me critiquing (harshly) something they liked rather than an objective argument in favor of the literature.

Yes, it's true that I haven't read the books. However, based on the content of the story and the many, many, many articles (and even a research study) I've read about them, I know that I wouldn't like them. I know they would make me mad.

I don't have to read the books in order to be justified in that opinion.

Along the same lines, I am not a fan of chick lit. I don't have to read every chick lit story to determine whether or not I actually like it (or the genre).

However, FSOG is different. My qualms with the trilogy is not in the construction of the genre or the flat story. There are darker issues as play that make me dislike the author's works.

I know FSOG has been blogged by many, many wonderful bloggers. And I believe the accounts I've read.

But I also know that there are people I know who enjoy the trilogy very much who have histories of domestic violence in their lives. There is a person in my life who complains about a Christian Grey-esque man in her own life in one breath, and romanticizes the trilogy in the next. There is a person in my life who escaped a physically abusive relationship, and believes that Christian Grey is the ideal man.

These women I have always counted as strong, independent, wonderful women simply do not see the ugliness of the books (and film). They believe the romanticized media opinions that attempt to gloss over what the book is really about.

So I'm going to do a blog series about FSOG beginning at the end of this month. I will try to be as objective as possible, and record my notes and opinions as I read each of the books and watch the film. I will supplement my opinions with articles, blog posts, and other materials written about the books (and film). And I will present my opinions here for you to take or leave as you will.

I'm not expecting to change anyone's opinions about the trilogy or film. But for my own sanity, I have to do this. As someone who was in a dangerous relationship, I can't simply ignore what these women have said to me about those books.

I hope you will read my account, and, if you feel so inclined, pass it along to anyone you think needs to read it. And to everyone else.

I don't have to read the books to know what I think of them, but if it's evidence these individuals need, then that's what I'll provide.

17 March 2015

St. Patrick's Day adventures

Leprechaun trap
This year, we decided to have a little fun with St. Patrick's Day.

On Saturday, we talked to the munchkins about St. Patrick's Day, and explained that leprechauns like to play pranks when they visit Irish heritage homes around St. Patrick's Day. We also told them that if you catch a leprechaun, they have to give you their gold.

The munchkins were ecstatic. They made a few crafts for St. Patrick's Day, which was mostly fun. Puck ended the activities with a bit of a temper tantrum, but overall the crafts were successful.

We told him we wouldn't make a trap unless we knew for sure they were in the house. Later that day, we discovered "evidence" in the form of dirt from boots. It's funny how you can find evidence when you need or want to.

Puck made a list of ideas of how to catch a leprechaun. (A list he wrote all by himself without even asking how to spell the words, by the way.) Sunday morning, the leprechauns issued their challenge to Puck, teasing that his trap ideas wouldn't work.

We agreed to set a trap on Sunday night to try and catch the leprechauns.

Pranks ensued
When they woke up Monday morning, it was clear the leprechauns had invaded our home and were in prank mode.

Chairs were leaned against the table to allow the leprechauns access to the trap, which they evaded expertly. They ate the bait (broccoli because it's green and leprechauns are attracted to green) and a note indicating that the trap didn't work, but that they enjoyed the snack. They left two gold coins (chocolate) as a thank you for the snack.

This morning, there was a another note on the table, along with two stacks of gold coins (chocolate). The leprechauns thanks the munchkins for the fun, assuring them they'd be back the next year.

There are a couple of pranks we didn't get to this year, but there's always next year. After all, the leprechauns will have to keep upping their game to stay ahead of the munchkins.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!

16 March 2015

Tink has two moms, but Puck has a Mama and a Bo

Puck and Tink adopted the name "Bo" for Bo one day after the realization that she didn't have a nickname like other people in their lives. I have a name, but they call me Mama. Monty has a name, but they call him Daddy. But Bo didn't have another name for them to call her.

So "Bo" was born.

We've been very open about how the munchkins have viewed Bo in their lives. we didn't want to force them to see her a certain way or push them into a certain type of relationship. Instead, we let things progress the way they progressed.

Now, when we ask Tink how many mamas she has, she answers that she has two, and that they are "Mama and Bo." She is proud to consider Bo a mom, and I think Bo is proud of it, too.

When asked the same question, Puck, on the other hand, tells us he has a mama and a Bo. He keeps the titles very separate, even if it's clear that his relationship with Bo is a mother-child relationship. And that's fine, too.

We're not caught up in how the munchkins see Bo. What matters is their relationships with her, and both of the kids love her. We are Bo's herd, and that's good enough for me.

15 March 2015

Renew your spirit with an anniversary

May 2014
Bo and I celebrated our anniversary last week.

We were lucky enough to get to celebrate on a beautiful cruise ship on the ocean.

The trip was a much-needed break for both of us, and I'm so glad we were able to get away to celebrate and reconnect.

I'm so thankful to have Bo in my life.

I reached out to her on a whim, not really expecting a response or anything to come of it (except maybe friendship), and I got so much more than I could have hoped for. Not only has she become a wonderful companion to me, but has become a wonderful addition to the kids' lives, as well.

She is their Bo.

They adore her, and know that she will always be there to give them the love and support they need. She is firm when she needs to be, but is always up for silly games and adventures to add to our memories.

December 2014
She has become a positive force in their lives, and fits in so well with our little family it's as if she's always been here.

She is my Bo.

We found each other when I was in a darker place than I am now. It wasn't a bad place, and I was working hard at moving in the right direction, but there were some areas in my life that were still challenges to me. She met me where I was and helped me become a better person. She helped me work toward my goals and dreams.

She is what is best about me.

We've been through a lot over the past year, but we've been through it together. It's been hard and scary and rewarding and wonderful, and we've done it together, every step of the way.

And we have big plans for our future together as a couple and as a family. We'll be getting married this fall, we want to travel (a lot), and we have set specific and achievable goals that we're working toward every day.

March 2015
There have already been challenges along the way, causing us to re-evaluate our goals and timeline, but we haven't stopped moving forward. We've had to shift things around, but we're still making progress.

And through every step, we've grown together, and stronger as a couple. We lean on each other to get through the challenges and obstacles we face, knowing we can be strong for each other when it's needed.

I love Bo. And I feel so lucky to get to spend the rest of my life with her.

We complement each other in ways I didn't think could happen (some of them very quirky, too). We are like-minded in areas that are important, but have enough differences to keep discussions interesting, and to keep each other balanced. I feel that she is my perfect fit.

It has been a wonderful first year, and if this year has been any indication, there's nothing but good to come.

13 March 2015

Getting back into the office after an actual factual vacation

Nassau, Bahamas (March 2015)
Photo credit: Bo
Last week Bo and I took a little vacation to celebrate our first (dating) anniversary. We went on a cruise, which included stops in Cozumel and Nassau.

It was wonderful.

But it was also strange.

I haven't taken an actual factual vacation in quite a long time. I've taken time off here and there, but have remained in communication with work. In fact, most of the "vacations" I take usually include working at some point while I'm away. But this time I cleared my desk, put my phone away for the trip, and spent our five days disconnected from the things that have been wearing down on us lately.

Cozumel, Mexico (March 2015)
Photo credit: Bo
The first day was a bit of an adjustment for me. I'm not used to being disconnected from work (and from everything else). I kept wanting to check my phone for email and other messages.

By the end, though, I managed to forget about work and everything that's been waiting for me to come home and get back to reality. I was able to be in the moment with Bo, and I had an amazing time. Not only did we get to see new places (like Mayan ruins) and try new things (artichoke crepe), but we made new friends (Like Aviv, who will be coming to our wedding!) and incredible memories.

March 2015
Photo credit: RCCL Explorer of the Seas photographer
Bo and I have lots of places we want to visit together, and this trip was the first of many, many more that will fill photo frames and scrapbooks.

But now that we're back, I'm wading through emails and work messages and getting back into the office. I'm jumping back into work, task by task.

I've responded to the urgent messages and sent a few questions that need answering.

I've made my task list for the rest of the week.

I've updated my day planner with important dates, deadlines, and notes.

And I'm looking forward to using my new Explorer of the Seas coffee mug for coffee, even if it doesn't come with a smile from Aviv.

03 March 2015

My father chose to stand against homosexuality rather than loving his daughter unconditionally.

This post was supposed to go up yesterday. But it's a hard post to write, so I finished it yesterday and posted it today.

About a year ago, I had a conversation with my dad about my sexuality. He knew I was gay, but was choosing to sort of ignore it since I wasn't dating anyone. When I started dating Bo, I talked to him about it, reminding him that this is a fundamental part of who I am. That he can't ignore it because I'm in a relationship.

I told him that I didn't want to make him uncomfortable, so I would let him decide how to proceed with our father-daughter relationship. He told me he didn't want to lose me or the munchkins, but kept reaffirming his belief that "Biblically, it's wrong."

And I backed off.

Over the past year, we haven't really talked. He called on my birthday (though we didn't really chat) and each of the munchkins' birthdays. I texted him a couple of times and got minimal responses. Overall, it was clear to me that he had made his decision.

He decided that it was more important for him to stand against homosexuality according to his church's interpretation of the Bible than to love his daughter unconditionally.

I wasn't surprised, but it was still hard.

On his birthday, which was toward the end of February, I sent him a text that said, simply, "Happy Birthday." He thanked me and asked how work was going.* I didn't respond for lots of reasons. Mostly because it irritated me greatly that the one question he asked had no emotional link. He didn't ask how I am, how his grandchildren are, how life is going, or anything like that. He asked how work is going. So I didn't respond.

On Sunday, I got another text from him saying "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit."

For those who don't know, this expression is a family tradition on the first of every month. You tell people "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit," and if they say it back, it means you won't have an argument with that person for that month. It's always been a fun little family thing we do, trying to be the first to say it to others.

I didn't respond to this text, either.

I believe in my heart that the only reason he texted me was because I sent him the birthday text. He assumed that because I texted him on his birthday, he can pretend that everything is fine between us, and that we can go back to the way things were before.

We can't.

I know that my dad will not change his opinion of me. He believes I've chosen this lifestyle and that it's wrong. He believes that my choice to be gay is similar to his other kids choosing to live with their boy/girlfriends out of wedlock. He has shown over the past year that he is not willing to make any effort to maintain contact or have a real relationship with me and the munchkins.

As a result, I have decided that it's finally time to break away from the uncertainty of my relationship with my father, and to walk away.

This decision is about me, not him.

For too long, I've kept hoping that he'd come around or change his mind or be different, and that we could have a real relationship. And that he could have a real relationship with the munchkins.

But I know he won't. He believes what he believes, and nothing is going to change that.

And I don't want that kind of person in my life or around my kids.

I don't want them to have a relationship with a man who believes their mom is going to hell because of something beyond her control. Because of his narrow-minded beliefs. Because it's easier for him to believe that than to think for himself and stand for love and equality and justice and peace.

He would rather stand against homosexuality than love me unconditionally.

That's his decision. But it's not okay with me.

So in the next few weeks I will be taking the time to have a long conversation with him about it, and to finally, and with finality, break ties with him in order to move on with my life in a healthy, happy way.

He is my father, and I love him as my father, but I can't continue to have someone in my life who isn't willing to make any kind of effort to be in my life, even for the sake of the munchkins.

It's a hard decision, and it will be hard for a long time. But I believe it is the best decision, and it's been made.

*I could write an entire post about how, for my father, this was not him "reaching out," but simply his way of being able to convince himself that he did try to talk to me. But that would be better for another time.