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I want to write today about implied words. Often, we shorthand our way through life, leaving a word out here or there, allowing the listener or reader to infer what was implied from context. For example, when someone gets car keys out of their pocket, and says they are about to head to the store, we can infer that they did not intend to travel by foot. We can assume they mean to drive, even though driving was never explicitly mentioned--it was implied. Language works like this a lot. We leave out a few explicit words, because they are simply understood by the audience. Stating them precisely leads to a huge waste of time, lack of clarity...and boredom.

Recently, there has been a lot of attention given to the phrase "black lives matter", which also happens to be the name of an activist group seeking to raise awareness about systemic racism against African Americans. This phrase is pared down to the very essence of the movement. A word has been intentionally left out, because it was assumed that it would communicate quite clearly all on its own--the missing word easily inferred by all who heard or read this phrase. Let me restore it for you:

Black lives matter, too.

If you have spent any time contemplating activism and social justice issues that missing word, "too", is pretty apparent from context. Heck, even if you were completely uninformed, a quick tour of the writings, tweets, and actions of #BLM membership makes the inference crystal clear within moments. The rhetoric of this group is about equality, calling for justice for all citizens, raising awareness of systemic racism that seems to be inherent in our enforcement and justice systems (as supported by statistics and factual outcomes). They do not call for extermination of other races, rights for black beyond fairness and justice--yet, still, so many have such difficulty with their name. After a lot of thought, I realized why.

You see, it all comes down to how you choose to fill in the blanks. There are a lot of frightened people out there the past couple of years who hear about a movement like Black Lives Matter and seek to shut them down with retorts and patronizing language. The response has been "All Lives Matter." Well, yes, they do...but this is a ridiculous response to someone who just said "black lives matter, too." It is patronizing and ugly. The problem is, the "too" was implicit.

Implied words only work when we can all see the world in a similar enough way that shorthand communicates more clearly. The fear and indignation I hear when (usually) white folks reply with "ALL lives matter" has always left me really confused as well as a little sick to my stomach. No one said they didn't. Why do these angry, fearful retort-throwers think their response is not only appropriate, but justified?

They have a different experience, and they are hearing a different implicit word. These folks are hearing:

ONLY black lives matter.

Now, if you look around at the people aligned with #BLM, you probably aren't going to find one who ever stated that sentiment explicitly--but I haven't searched the entire internet for that phrase. If you can find it, it will be a rare individual who supports that point of view as part of their #BLM activism. However, inferring an "ONLY" into the phrase makes the smarmy, patronizing retort of "ALL lives matter" make a good deal more sense to me. The folks shouting #ALM at the top of their lungs are responding to an implicit word that was never intended, and actually makes no sense from the context.

This is the oddity of someone jingling their car keys at another person, and inviting them to go the store, only to have that other person shout, "No! You know I can't walk all the way to the store! How dare you even suggest such a thing!"

So what causes this kind of volatile reaction? In my experience it all comes down to fear. Even anger and hatred start with fear. Something is so fearful in these folks that Black Lives Matter is heard as ONLY Black Lives Matter. That does give me pause. Because it isn't like black folks have ever imprisoned countless white folks, or marched them around in chains, or...owned them. So...what is the basis of fear so visceral it causes the inference of a word that makes no sense in context?

Perhaps it is the thought that if white folks had to play by the same cultural rules and endure the same treatment as black folks, that they would indeed suffer injustices. Perhaps it is the thought that black folks gaining equal treatment would allow centuries of oppression to be flipped onto white folks--systemically and objectively. It is a deep rooted fear. It is wildly out of control.

Elevation of rights to equal those of others doesn't remove rights from anyone else--unless you are and have been exploiting others so that granting them equal status means your dirty little societal or business perks are removed. Equality generally means a happier, more productive community--no one loses when we are all given the same voice and opportunity. In fact, we all gain. Values like freedom, equality, justice and liberty are not finite qualities that have to be meted out to the deserving lest someone important get less than they deserve. They are limitless. And they only bring about a successful, peaceful and prosperous society when ALL are granted generous and equal portions of each one.

For those of you reading this, shaking your heads and saying, "well, why isn't there a white lives matter movement, they DO want something we can't have!" I say check yourself if you feel the need to say either of the implicit statements above:

White lives matter, too!
ONLY white lives matter.

Crack a history book, a newspaper, or a social media feed--you have some work to do so you can join us here in the objective present. Privilege is real--and maybe THAT is why those most vocal about all the ways #BLM MUST be wrong (based on their incorrect and tone deaf inferences of the nonsensical "ONLY"). Loss of privilege, such as not getting profiled by law enforcement, or lenient sentencing when a convicted of a crime, can be a very frightening thing to those who currently get special treatment. Both statements above are not only tone deaf, they are at the heart of the issue #BLM is working to get our community to see. Time to take the blinders off and step into the 21st century.

For those who think #BLM is about lawlessness, murdering police officers or any other reactionary nonsense, I'd say that you, too, have not been paying attention. But it isn't too late to catch up. It starts with dropping the fear, and silencing that petty retort that does not make sense if you actually listen to #BLM. You need to infer the right missing word, and stop embracing a culture that sets some above others when it comes to the greatest virtues of our society: equality, justice and freedom.

Black lives DO matter, TOO.
I've been on some journeys, friends, and I think it may be time to talk about some of them here.  Transformations and change have always followed in my wake.  Now it is more a life's work and purpose.  It has been a sacred journey--I've hinted at some on Facebook, and now that I feel myself breaking out of this cocoon, it may be time to talk about the journey some.  Yes, there have been many trips to Sedona, but there have been other journeys as well.  Most recently, I took a week long trip down California, supporting my favorite 545 mile bike ride/fundraiser:  the AIDS/Life Cycle.  The week was intense, as always, and I had a blast working in the Sports Med tent, trading secrets with some very awesome professionals, saving knees and aiding in more deep healing work than I had anticipated.  Healing.  That's something I had never hoped to lay claim to, but I don't know how else to describe the transformations I helped along.  See, I can't lay claim to them, for the true healing work isn't from me--I'm more of the catalyst or facilitator.  It is sacred work, probably more sacred than many of my clients realized.

Some of you may know of my work as a Reiki Master-teacher.  Some of you may not--or may have heard but don't understand what that means.  Some of you might think, as one client's friend mused, that I'm some kind of witch or voodoo practitioner.  That same client, pain free for the first time in weeks, got off the phone with her witch-hunting friend and laughed.  Her earnest thanks for the relief was all the encouragement I needed that the light, love and comfort I was able to bring to her came directly from Creator, from the source of Love. "Truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12.  I'm not here to preach to you all, but I know that many who come here are staunch Christians who might have the same reaction to the word Reiki.  There are others who prefer a scientific bent, who are skeptics about anything that can't be seen or measured.  I'm here to say I understand you both, and respect both points of view, not out of political correctness, but from my own beliefs and life experience.

Here's what I know:  people came to me in pain for reasons that could not be fixed, altered or remedied; they left feeling better, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Now, I'm not here to toot my own horn, either, but that week was transformative for me as well--and I need to write it out to come to some kind of understanding about it.  I'm first to be skeptical about what it is that I do when a client comes to me in any kind of pain.  The relief of trigger points and manual tissue work is easy to believe in.  The intangible stuff--well, I know it works from my own experience, and now I've seen it work for others when nothing else really could.  The beautiful thing about being in a rolling camp of about 3,000 people for a week is that you can see the transformation take place--not just in one client, but in handfuls.  This stuff works.  It's beautiful.  And I'm so happy to be able to help in whatever small way I can.

Aside from all the trips to Sedona this spring, working with drums, with crystals, learning to forgive myself and my ex, receiving Holy Fire Reiki, I've been working on another journey as well.  I'm a shamanic practitioner--and just as I cannot claim the title of healer, I can't claim the title of Shaman.  That is an honor bestowed from clients who feel they have received successful shamanic work.  Maybe one day my practice will lead there, but in the meantime I just practice and follow where I am led.

The shamanic work is something I've hesitated to talk about at all, but messages have been very clear that this work is not to be kept a secret.  I worried that talking about it might offend my Christian friends and my Native friends and my science friends.  But, again, I've seen my work in this area help others find their own way to transformation in both the ordinary world and the world beyond as well.  We lost a rider this year--a young woman had a cardiac arrest on the route, most of the way through her 13th ride.  The night her (very grave) condition was announced in camp, I noticed the disturbance in the energies of our little city, long before I heard the news myself.

The result was that I found myself confronted with some very old self-induced falsehoods about my unworthiness, and feelings of despair that I would never be "normal", never lead a "normal" life and never be able to make proper "friends" as I watched everyone swirl around me, socializing and making plans--with me barely able to make words or keep the unexplainable tears out of my eyes.  I recognized that the emotional/spiritual pain was from an old wound, especially from learning about my place on the autism spectrum, but I also recognized that this plunge into darkness wasn't really something of mine.  I think it was fueled by the grief and sadness of so many around me, and that it found the barest unhealed kernel, the deep down chink in my spiritual armor, and puffed it up greatly out of proportion.  At the time, I both recognized the distortion and fell helpless to it, wide open as I had been all week with the intention of transmuting our camp into a place of healing and light, with the intention of keeping all safe and protected in love.  That probably wasn't wise, I see that now, and I came away with a bout of pneumonia brought on through an allergic reaction.  I'm nearly all better now, but it took some serious help to stare down my own darkness.  We make our own reality, and that starts with our attitude and filters--through which we choose to see and interact with our worlds.  Starting with the premise of your own unworthiness is a sure way to find yourself surrounded in darkness, and the only way to let in the light is to know you're worthy of it--only then can you flip the switch and let in the reality of goodness, of positivity...of love.  Thank you to all of you who helped me in that long, arduous battle with my own inner demons.  I learned some stuff and continue to do so, but this was a huge month for inner growth.

That night we learned of our rider's cardiac arrest, I reached out to her as a shamanic practitioner, to ask if she needed help and to offer assistance if she needed it--either healing or crossing into her new life.  What I learned was that she knew her path and the way to find it, that she appreciated the offer but didn't need any help.  She wasn't confused, or wavering, or deciding whether to fight and heal or whether to pass beyond.  Essentially, she had passed and was surrounded in light, peace and joy.  This sort of amazed me, because we had been told she was still alive, but her spirit assured me that wasn't actually so--and, if anything, she wanted us to be happy for her!  News of her death a couple days later wasn't a surprise to me, but I still anticipated the news becoming public, so our community could support her in her journey and begin the healing process.  She is laid to rest now, and my heart goes out to her husband and fellow rider, because his healing must now begin.

My cough lingers a bit, but the massive amounts of Reiki I received over the weekend finally have begun to put me right.  So now I wonder--how and what do I need to do differently to keep this sort of transference at bay?  A few months ago I learned to never attempt work when I do not feel whole, and I think I didn't put that fully into practice because of urgency and my own exhaustion at the end of the ride.  I also think I need to set my intentions a little differently when working with such a large group--all I can say is rookies make rookie mistakes, and I'm grateful for the continued lessons and evolution.

This may seem like an odd journal entry to most.  I guess I'm trying to let you all know about the journey and pathways I walk these days.  It is also important to me that I don't give you a false impression of who I am or what I do--so I've probably shared more than you need to know about it.  This is legitimate.  I'm working hard, making mistakes and gratified by the transformations around me.  There is a quote from a shaman I held close to my heart as I watched the people I worked with on the Life Cycle begin to:  smile more, flaunt body parts they had previously held immobile, find rest, or toss away crutches and climb back on the bike.

"This isn't a miracle cure...it takes three days."  Or in my case, three weeks.  Transformation is hard, but worth it in the end.  Perhaps, one day, I'll be a beautiful butterfly.

Just Stand there and Sing!

Took the kids to see The Magic Flute at LA Opera on Friday night.  Their first opera experience, and not a bad place to start for kids who are into fantasy stories.  Mozart is, in my opinion, easier to listen to than other possibilities, and the fact that the action opens with the hero being chased by a big ol' snake/monster/dragon kind of thing certainly got their attention.  Probably the best thing about this version, for my kids at least, was the fact that it was animated.

Yes, I said animated.

Just behind the proscenium was a blank white wall that closed the stage and allowed the projection of images that the live singers interacted with to tell the story.  Sets were constructed and changed via animation, as were most props (including the magic flute and Papageno's bells).  There were doors that opened up on the animation screen that allowed singers to appear and disappear as needed, at various levels on the "stage" or projection screen.  This was both magical and not so magical, and I'm still trying to figure out if this presentation style is something I have to see again, or if it's just an interesting gimmick everyone should see at least once (a seat filler once).

Don't get me wrong, this production was as beautiful as it was unique, and I particularly enjoyed the artistry of the music.  Erika Miklosa delivered an exceptional Queen of the Night, that stunned with her ease and clarity even through the fire of rapid coloratura.  Reading her bio, it is clear why she has sung this role all over the world "more than 400 times", she was pitch-perfect and in complete ease even at the furthest reaches of standard repertoire range.  It was glorious to behold.  The rest of the cast was clearly not as experienced at their roles as Ms. Miklosa.  Janai Brugger as Pamina is building a significant performance resume, and her performance was nearly as polished--a gorgeous legato line that will amaze when she is done completing it, she's just about 90% of the way there.  Evan Boyer as Sarastro seems to still be growing into the limits of his range, and the lower notes (and Sarastro sings as low as the Queen of the Night sings high) were a bit unsteady and muddy.  When I looked at his picture and bio I was a little surprised he wasn't more unsteady, as he looks to be quite young for this kind of bass role.  Kudos to him as well.  There were definitely some incredible musical moments, and some of them may be due to the idiosyncrasies of the animation.  You see, in order to hit their marks with the animation, they pretty much just stood there and sang their hearts out.

This reminds me of an anecdote from my own experience with The Magic Flute, back in college (shout out to Tim McDonald if you're out there!).  My friends had been rehearsing for weeks, and as Papagena, I didn't get to do much during rehearsals, and a lot of our staging/choreography had been left to the last minute because Tim (Papageno) and I were quick studies, and it only effected the two of us.  It was during a marathon weekend of tech rehearsals that we finally put it together in the lobby of the rehearsal building.  So we took it to the stage for the first time near the end of this monster run through--first time on stage, first time on stage with the full orchestra (our conductor dropped his three beat regularly, but it took me hours of watching his baton backstage to figure out why I couldn't read him with my peripheral vision).  Good times.  The conductor didn't care for the choreography.  He stopped everything and had a classic 4-day before opening rant, aimed at Tim and I, in front of the full orchestra, the tech crew, and the whole rest of the cast waiting to take the stage for the finale.  After some choice words about the blocking (which was more movement across the stage than choreography), he said, "this is an opera, not a dance hall musical!  Just stand there and sing!!!"

We did.  I'm still not sure how we did, and I'm not convinced we didn't sound more like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals than our normal selves.  Still, our conductor's point was taken--music first in an opera, staging and other nonsense last.

This production definitely put music first, so although the animation could be used as a gimmick to sell tickets to a production that did not shine musically, it most definitely was not used this way.  The animation/set design had singers hovering at the top end of the "screen" center stage, the door would flip around and the singer would be standing there--far above the stage.  My guess is they were belted in somehow, but they most definitely could not move much, and rarely did so.  Any of you who thought being an opera singer is for the faint of heart, let me assure you it isn't.  First of all, you have to musically be extreme, pushing yourself physically to the limit--opera roles always demand athleticism and artistry--and then do so in the weirdest positions or places, based on the stage direction or sets.  The animation provided both sets and stage direction here, while the singers (out of necessity), just stood there and sang.  That doesn't mean it was easy.

Looking at the animation itself, there were some really creative and thrilling moments--the opening chase scene as Tamino runs from a monster has never been so much fun, as the normal bounds of what we can portray on live stage is instantaneously revised for the audience as the new medium is revealed.  The torture of Pamina was also given new life with animated dogs and chains, that could evaporate as soon as they were no longer needed.  The magic flute and the bells became animated objects that fairly took over the stage when it was there time to play.  There were times when the animation certainly added to the production, but alas there were also times when it did not.

I've already raved about the Queen of the Night, and her portrayal as a giant spider was creepy genius--I just wished she could also have moved.  It's not that I have a small attention span, her performance was far from boring, even just standing there, even if her animated legs had disintegrated, there was a ton going on.  Yet, like I mentioned before, opera is about pushing the limits.  Ms. Miklosa gave a stunning performance standing still, and I was wowed.  I left wondering if she could do the same hanging upside down on a wire or storming across the stage in fury.  In short, I felt a little like I had watched an animated concert version of The Magic Flute, wondering what else the singers had inside that hadn't been let out of the bottle, so to speak, so they could just stand there and sing and make all their animation marks.

Another thing about The Magic Flute that didn't quite work for this particular version:  a deeply flawed second act.  This opera is a big ol' allegory of mythic proportions, and as such it can get a little surreal and weird in the first half.  In the second act, it heads into this whole exploration of trials as the main players prove their heroic worthiness.  It's choppy as hell, as the audience is ping-ponged back and forth from one character's problems to the next, with no real attempt to transition them.  In short, the story doesn't really propel itself forward, and that's why I describe it as deeply flawed.  I felt like the animation could have helped string some sort of story together with animation or at least animated sets to help establish which struggle is about to be developed.  Since the basic theme was one of silent film, all dialogue was projected with animation.  This silence, and lack of physical character movement during dialogue, only contributed to the feeling of choppiness between musical numbers for me.   Perhaps I was just getting tired.  Still, I think the animation very much compartmentalized the libretto further, by taking on each musical number individually, instead of making an attempt to weave together the larger act or opera as a whole.

It was definitely interesting, and this was definitely an opera to animate, but I think it detracted as much as it added in this go around.  Might be fun to see this as a pure anime version instead of silent film, to take the allegory to full over the top musically AND visually--let there be ninjas, spirits, magical weapons.  Whip up a little Miyazaki/Mozart allegory goodness.
It's been nearly two weeks since gunfire erupted in the apartment below mine.  The vigil candles have all gone out and have been gathered up with the desiccated bouquets and balloons that have lost their plump.  They've been set aside in the courtyard near the dumpster; no one quite has the nerve to toss them away.  Life goes on more quietly here.  There has been a hush in this building, and the surrounding neighbors have been eerily quiet as well.

I'm left to contemplate the change in energy here, since energy has very much become my life's work.  It is lighter here now, when it had slowly become more and more choking and oppressive, as if the event about to come had been barreling down on us all for months.  The main sewer line backed up on the building a few weeks ago.  We were invaded by meat-hungry ants and gnats a few weeks before that.  But most of all, there was this heaviness in the air.  That's gone now.  I mentioned it to my kids, and they agreed.  I asked them if it felt lighter to them as well. They said it was weird, but yes, it did feel better.  I'm sure that sounds odd to all of you; maybe it's all just coincidence and weird imaginings from our heads.

The suspected killer was brought into custody the next day, and it seems his acts were a very personal vendetta.  He shot the surviving young man four times, and his former girl a number of times--although the neighbors guess it was 4 as well and that he emptied the entire clip of 12 bullets into his victims.  Unfortunately, Ms. Dora was caught in the middle of a type of love/business triangle gone seriously wrong.  She was also shot 4 times.  Both women died.

My phone call to 911 started at 12:50, so somewhere in the preceding seconds I stood stock still in the kitchen trying not to make any noise, and hoping the shooter did not fire up (toward me).  After a beat or two of silence I leaped for my cell phone in the living room, hands shaking, straining my ears for any further clues.  Disbelief is thick in times like that.  You don't want to believe that what you heard was indeed what you heard.  For a moment, I tried to convince myself that the rapid fire pops of the last flurry of bullets, and the harsh laugh I heard just before, meant that it was just a string of firecrackers.  Then my neighbor screamed for help, which broke my hesitation so I could mash the "SEND" button, hearing the footsteps that probably meant the gunman was fleeing the scene.

I opened the door, then realized I better make sure he was gone, and peeked out windows to see if anyone was still down there.  Peering around to see if the stairs were cleared, I crept out--phone to my ear.  All this eternal time, the phone was still connecting, still ringing and ringing and ringing.  By the time I hit the courtyard, neighbors from all over had joined me, screaming at each other for phones, calling out for help, none of them listening to anyone else.  911 picked up at last, but I didn't get a dispatcher, I got a phone tree for selecting Spanish or English--bear in mind that I can't process phone information very well even in a darkened room with a pair of head phones on and no ambient noise.  So...I'm only vaguely aware of the recorded phone tree at this point, and just know it felt like forever before the phone rang again and I got a real live human voice on the line.

I gave the address and cross street carefully, as my mouth can sometimes say the wrong things in times of stress--if I didn't concentrate very carefully I might be sending them to an address I haven't lived at since I was 5, and completely believe I'd said the correct place.  My quick reactions made me the first to get through to 911, and therefore the first to report about the number and conditions of each of the victims.  No one had gone near any of them yet.  I became first responder.  There isn't a lot of first aid to be administered to someone who has been shot so many times.  Basically, you grab a towel and try to stop any bleeding you can find.  You apply pressure and offer a soothing touch and you murmur whatever words of comfort you can come up with.

Dora didn't seem to breathing when I first touched her, but as I placed a hand on her ribs and watched her belly she seemed to gain more strength and began to breathe more deeply and regularly.  Reiki poured from my hands and forehead and heart--and I knew in that moment that this was why I had come to live here.  I wasn't able to save her, but I can only hope that a kind and loving touch at that very dark moment was some comfort to her.

Asia was face down, mouth gaping and gasping for air.  So tiny.  She seemed to be no older than 13.  Heavy-lidded eyes half-closed and unseeing, she fought for each gaping breath.  I placed a hand on her shoulders and encouraged her--accepted a towel from my neighbor and pressed it into the blood flowing down her neck.  Reiki flowed like fire and I sent her all the love I could manage.  The 911 dispatcher told me that the police had arrived, and I should talk to them.  Then she hung up with resounding click.

This is interesting now, in hindsight, because in our conversation she seemed focused on assuring me that the police were on their way, without much concern for first aid or medical attention.  At one point, I interrupted her, enunciating each phrase carefully, "hey!  I need you...to tell me...that the ambulance is on the way!"  Still, it was all about the police, but after that she did admit that medical teams were coming as well, of course.

The first officer in the apartment took a look around, muttered some word of shock and awe--like "wow" or "oh, man" or some other bit of futility.  Then he said, louder, "okay, they're done.  They've had it," before telling us to leave.

Last I checked, only an MD could pronounce someone dead, and I don't think that would happen while the victims are all still breathing.

We refused.  He insisted we had to leave so that the EMTs could make it in, that the space was small and they had a lot of equipment to bring in.  He made it sound like they were right outside.  So I complied, taking a moment to touch each victim on the head and bless them, telling them that Jesus was with them.  I suppose it was an assumption to think that they were Christian and would find comfort in this.  It isn't something I would say to...well, anyone in other circumstances, but it just seemed right in this case.

Perhaps the largest bit of learning to me from this--God forbid I should ever be on scene for a shooting again--is not to comply to that request that I take my hands off the victims and clear the scene.  My call to 911 began at 12:50 and ended at 12:56.  Some few minutes later we were chased out of the apartment to let the EMTs in.  At 1:05 I retreated to my apartment after loitering on the stairs, as the EMTs still had not been let in, and posted to Facebook asking for prayers or Reiki to be sent, because there was nothing else to be done--except to continue to beam Reiki in.  I came back to the stairs--still no sign of EMTs, but my neighbor who had been in the apartment (in her bedroom and had escaped the bullets) was crying out for the police, the fire fighters and the EMTs to please help her mom--as they just stood there.  I left the stairs to settle and support her out on the median strip, watching it all unfold.

It was at least 20 minutes before medical help made it to the victims.

I want to you think about that.  20 minutes.  Shot 4 times.  Bleeding and in pain, and except for the 7 minutes or so that someone had a hand on your back, urging you to hang on, that help is on the way, there was no other help.  The officers saying, out loud within your hearing, that you were done for.

No one deserves that.

To be fair, I understand why it took so long for proper medical response.  Well, at least I understand theoretically--administratively.  The EMTs should not be sent into a live shoot out, they should be safe when they respond to such calls.  However, with all the neighbors milling about in the courtyard, each one telling the police that the shooter had fled...the shooter had fled...the shooter had fled...it should not have taken over 10 minutes after arrival and 20 minutes after last shots fired to allow the medical teams in.  Period.

I'm angry about that.  I'm likely to get angrier.  I'm likely to get activist about this--if I can get over my fear of talking to people out loud.

God forbid I should ever live through such an experience again, but if I do, I won't be leaving the victims until the EMTs lay hands on them as well.  Any who ask will be told to fuck off in no uncertain terms.  My 20/20 hindsight showed me that the faith I had that attention was immediately forthcoming was a blind and uninformed faith.  I truly believe that Ms. Dora could have survived had she been seen faster, and barring that, I think she would have had far better chances if she'd at least not been left alone at that critical time.

No one deserves that.  Least of all the neighborhood grandma who looked out for everyone and everybody.  She was always outside watching the kids--grandkids and great grandkids.  More than once she signed for my packages and kept my stuff safe.  She never failed to check on me and my reclusive self.  She was a good and beautiful woman, and her family has suffered a great loss in her untimely death.

The Path to Healing on the Inside

First day of school has come and gone.  More than this I won't say, except that some days being Mom to teenagers is a mess with a capital M.  Here's hoping for a really good year.  Really, it all comes down to teaching the little darlings to shoulder their own lives and start steering the craft of their lives for themselves--all the while they think you're steering (and resent you for it), so there are a lot of crashes and near misses.  It takes a cast iron stomach and the ability to breath very deeply (and the courage to confiscate all electronic devices).

So...with the calendar telling me the kids are through with summer, I turn to my own experiences of the last 90 days.  What a ride.  My massage business is starting to take off; clients are beginning to find me.  I have a lot of work to do in that regard, and I have good friends and colleagues that are helping me book about 3-5 clients a week.  Not enough to live on, but I can feel the momentum building.  Two days a week I have access to a really nice place, and that has helped tremendously.  The biggest stuff started happening about 90 days ago, though, and I have to talk about it some.

About 90 days ago I changed my life forever by learning Reiki.  Now some of you may have heard of this, others may know exactly what it is, and still others have no idea what that is.  I'll give you a little run down so what I have to say makes some sense.  This is a form of bodywork, so in one sense the class was a way for me to expand my skills at the table.  Instead of tissue manipulation, Reiki can be done hands off, as it works with the client's energy field.  It is "energy work".

Okay, I can tell I already lost some of you...ki is the Japanese word for Qi (or chi), and it is the energetic animas that fills us all, or did you think that lump of tissue that you are could walk and talk without some sort of energy powering it?  I like to explain it (to those who like the truth of reality to be seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled) as the difference between a living cell and a dead one.  It's just that simple--I don't think you need to get into long winded discussions of souls and God and ghosts or higher powers or...flying spaghetti monsters to have the basic understanding of the energy I'm talking about.  It exists, or we wouldn't, and Rene Descartes would never have been able to rub to brain cells together.  What it gets called, how it gets defined, that's vocabulary and semantics.  At our cores, at the basic level of life and existence, we are energy.

This wasn't anything new to me, I've written lots of bad fiction about that simple fact.  Still, there are some who hear "energy work" or hear Reiki and react by saying I'm practicing voodoo or believing in magic.  Not on your life.  But I have felt old ills and difficulties simply fall away from me in the last three months.  I've finally learned how to say thank you and mean it--it's pretty amazing how this one simple act can revolutionize your life.  It certainly puts everything into perspective, until even the bad stuff, the challenges and trials, all come with reasons to be happy.  Really.  And I don't think I feel like some kind of wide-eyed Pollyanna, despite how I might sound to some of you cynical souls.  It's just basic physics.

Like attracts like, and if you think gravity only works on your physical self, it's time to rethink that.  If you're stuck in a space where your energy is stifled, or hampered or just isn't getting you anywhere productive, start looking for the dark matter that's bending your light.  Figure out what you're doing to attract it to you.  Break off that relationship and move yourself to a better energy 'hood.  That's all easier said than done, but when I look at my experience the last few weeks, the simplicity of cutting yourself off from all those binding forces has brought about a new me.  And...it's been an incredible journey.

A few weeks ago, I was towing my broken car up to my dad's place so I could park it for free while I figured out when and where to fix it.  Sitting in the gas station, I ended up waiting behind this lady for a really long time--she had a boat and other folks in the car, including at least one kid, and it seemed to me that they were having a hard time getting things organized before they could get back on the road.  I made the choice not to be angry or impatient with them for this.  I made the choice to not assume she was making a delay just to inconvenience me.  It wasn't personal, and I wasn't going to judge her situation.  If I had been in a hurry I would have asked her to move, but I wasn't.  So I waited.  Eventually, she pulled over and I was able to pull up and start gassing up the u-haul.  I'm about halfway done, when she comes up to me, profusely apologetic, and explains that she thought I had been able to reach the pump.


When does that happen?  When does someone, who clearly has so much going on, go out of their way to apologize to a stranger?  Someone they will never see again?  It certainly has never happened to me.  In fact, in the course of my life I'm usually the one person who gets treated with the least respect and generally gets further insult if I call these people on their crap.  Is it some kind of miracle?  Would it have happened anyway?  Eh, no and probably, but I do have to wonder.  This shocking turn of events took me completely by surprise, because it just isn't the type of energy I used to attract to my life, but in the last three months this kind of thing is the norm rather than the exception.  I can't explain that, except that although I'm still the same person, I've changed up the energy flow, and I attract some very different sorts of experiences to learn from than I once did.

How all that happened has been a long and private journey of letting go, but the end result is very real and measurable.  I'm not as worried about things anymore, just in general.  I feel at home anywhere, because...I am.  Is this the result of finding God?  Heck, I don't know what it is, and I don't need to ask a bunch of unanswerable questions to know it feels good and I feel good and this stuff is working.  Granted, I'm working pretty hard at it--with diet, with meditation, with prayer, with conscious effort--but peace is attainable, even if it's just baby steps on the journey in the right direction.

Guess I'm typing all this because it's time to live the life I've been building a little more loudly.  I'm also willing to share.  If you want to try it for yourself, drop me a message, I'll give you (or your intention) a distance healing--because you should know by now that time and space ARE relative, and simply illusions.  Feel free put me to work.  I don't need a ton of info, the intention is what counts.  Let's give this internet experiment a good go.

Out with the Old

Cleaning out my "professor" office today.  Having the exams shredded, the ancient texts carted away, and selling off the marketable books to a book buyer (scandal!).  A lot of folks around here think selling to book buyers equates to an act of immorality.  They can suck it.

In the shuffle I've got a pile of ancient electronic equipment, because before the smart phone era, I was a Palm junkie and had a lot of toys to go with it.  Time to toss it in the landfill, I guess.

Then there are the notebooks of research designs and seminar notes and experimental designs that will never see the light of day.  Have to sort through those (maybe I'll get an assistant a la Sheldon Cooper to comb those over for me *smirk).  Likely that they will just hit the bin with all the other dreck.

The one thing I'm having a hard time parting with are the mostly-completed research projects, the stuff I just didn't have the capacity to finish here while my life and I fell apart.  So there are boxes of raw data, with enough time and gumption I could finish properly--and then I think about hauling and storing that crap (which even if I finish no one will ever read and it will make no impact on anyone).  I'm torn in two and keep waiting for some fabulous revelation to provide some hint at dumpster or boxing.  People are mainly saying to hang onto it for some months or a year and then make the decision when the dust settles.  That seems like a pussy move to me, but at the same time removes the anxiety of tossing a whole bunch of hard work in gathered experimental data right out the window.

Maybe it's time to recognize the futility of those efforts and junk it--the last action of contempt for this life.  Still, although that is my feeling about this work, these reams and reams of data, it also feels a little like tossing away my lifeline.  Although I'm so much happier doing what I will be doing now, I also recognize that should I decide that life isn't for me, I can always dust off my credentials, get some papers lined up and give the academic realm another go.  That becomes harder without these reams and reams of data in my garage.  Still a pussy move to keep it, but perhaps it's less emotional and more sensible.

To the boxes...I guess.

Well, thank you so much...

Struggling today.  Been taken out of my exams so my department chair could proctor.  Apparently, one of the students I tried desperately to help pass, has decided I'm worth a ten page, single space, 10 point, multiple font rant--yep that's how fucked I am.  So much so, the department. Chair has decided to proctor my exams.  He classes the letter as 'pretty threatening'.  Nice.  Right?

If it had been a student I hadn't actually tried to help, maybe all the bluster and batshit crazy talk would be okay.  But it was one who had seemed...so in need of help.  And now I'm the under the bus wheels gal.

Hiding in my office.  Afraid to stay after dark.  Unable to say good bye to the ones who I really connected with.  I didn't want it to go this way.

Last Days F#%kery and The Vent

So it's my last week of teaching at a university, and I'm anticipating a big upwelling of some sort of feels.

I got nothing.

Unless you count the frustration.

I have to say this kind of reminds me of the first time I let there be sex with a new partner after being married for over two decades.  I planned ahead for an emotional shit storm that never arrived.  Sort of anticlimactic.  But I guess the tears and screaming had all come out in the time before the split.

The frustration?  Comes from the endless repetition of the same old shit to different people.  Oh, and the constant finger of blame I get from these 19 year-olds for their performance.

If you slept in class every day for the last 15 weeks, don't come cry to me that you've been been working SO hard and you can't understand why your performance is just "average".  Consider yourself lucky, Son.

If you bombed the second midterm because you had a 103 temp and tried to share your strep throat with us, of course I let you retake the exam.  I still counseled you that your performance had to change if the first score was less about your crud and more about your understanding.  I let you make that call.  Your score after the retake went up 50 points.  Now the third midterm is back in the toilet, and you are insisting that *I* counseled you to stay in the class instead of dropping?!  Oh, fuck no.  Take that river you're crying elsewhere, Kid.  In fact, drop it in Egypt, because that's where de Nile goes.  Evidence suggests that a repeat of the test and an additional week or two to study can give you the performance you need to pass, and your conclusion is it's all my fault you're even still in class?!  No.

If you want above average performance, yet can't pull that off in the time allowed, don't complain to me that the tests are too hard or  that you need more time to do well.  Plenty of others took the same exam with the same time constraints and turned in the damned key.  If you want above average performance, then have an above average preparation.  Period.

If you want to claim that you comprehend the material more than the tests demonstrate, then be able to answer my questions (especially the leading ones) that will help me give you the benefit of the doubt.  When you can't, and I point it out to you--own it. You don't understand what you think you do.

There.  I feel better now.  Maybe none of them will die when the next few try the same tactics on me this afternoon.  Maybe.

It would be a shame to leave the university in handcuffs because I delivered a braining to some well-deserving candidate.  Enlightenment can be delivered with the end of a cane, can't it?  Or am I thinking of Tai Kwan Leap?

I Stand with Dr. Dave

The night before Easter a friend of mine was brutally attacked on my former college campus.  Some of you may have seen me post about him, but there isn't a lot of room in a Facebook post to say what I want to say about my friend, fellow WSU alum and colleague, David Warner.  So I'll hope you'll indulge me with a story I need to tell.

I first met Dave back in...shoot I don't even remember the year...but looking back over my posts here it was March 2006.  In fact, Dave made such an impression on me that day, he made it to the post.  Here's what I said about him before I ever really knew who he was: "The childless man who got up from the table when one of the kids was muttering about being thirsty, and got her a glass of water from the kitchen.  Impressive.  I realized that as a parent we learn to not hear our own kids.  This girl was a little older than my oldest, and she certainly could have gotten the water herself if she were really thirsting.  I'm sure that was part of the parents' "filter."  Also, there was the way she said it.  She was thirsty, but parents would hear in her tone that she would need something to drink soon--and that if you got her the drink she'd probably look at you like you were crazy.  So, since little people are in a constant state of need, we parents learn to conserve our energy and get that water when it really counts.  In the meantime, what message does that send to our children?  It was a simple thing, her surprise at being served, my observation of his compassion--and willingness to DO something about it.  Call it a zen sort of moment, my eyes were opened, if only for a brief time."

ECU Pow Wow 2007That is Dave for you.  A man who listens more than he speaks, and when he speaks it is with intention, a man who lives a life of compassion.  Dave and I were PhD students together and worked in 2006 and 2007 to revive the Indigenous Graduate Student Council and the WSU drum circle, both under the guidance of our Elder, Dr. Ron Pond.  Of course, it wasn't just Dave and I doing that work, but whole communities, yet Dave is the one out of those communities who tried to keep in regular touch with me.

I cheered for him when he got his defense date and subsequently defended his dissertation.  Jumped up and down when he told me about falling in love with a woman (who must be truly remarkable), and pulled for him as he started his job search as he continued teaching at WSU.  He, in turn, had compassion for me and my children as I told him about the ugliness of my past years, my autism diagnosis and break up of my marriage.  Of all my friends/family, Dave was the most understanding of it all.  He accepted it all without judgment and reassured me that I wasn't wrong, just different, that I was still the person I always had been.  It was a precious gift.  I'm sad now, that the last time he popped up in my facebook chat a week or so ago, that I was too tired and hurting too much from a broken tooth to respond with a simple hello.  And now I feel like an asshole.

dw violence is yuckYou see, Dave worked late on campus most nights.  He is the kind of guy who would hang in the Native Center just to say hello to folks, and to be available if an undergrad needed a little mentoring or tutoring or just someone to talk to.  I know he also made time for his colleagues this way, and his own students.  So...you could usually find him online (and on campus) all through the night, being productive with research when the interruptions would be few and far between.  Last Saturday was no exception.  He was brutally attacked at about the time the bars close.  Police say he was attempting to break up a fight--which put my mind at ease some.

Part of my decision to leave academics has been because I have feared for my own safety, leaving campus at night, going home to an empty house--where no one would know if I didn't make it home for days at a stretch.  Given that Dave lectures regularly about social justice issues, prejudices and other topics of discrimination, bigotry, violence and hatred...it certainly first crossed my mind that someone had planned to hurt him.  It doesn't surprise me that he would be one to step between two combatants with his arms outstretched and try to get them to settle down.

Yet, this is only part of the story.  He was beaten.  Hard.  With something other than fists.  He was kicked in the head while on the ground at least once.  The local hospital was unable to treat him and he was taken to Spokane for treatment.  The swelling in his brain was so bad they had to remove parts of his skull.  He remained in critical condition until Thursday afternoon, and the good news is that he is likely to survive--but trauma of this nature is slow to heal.  I hope and pray my friend, the rising research star and excellent scholar (as well as human being), regains full use of his body and mind.  This isn't just a tale of brutal violence, it's also the equivalent of a concert violinist having his hands run over by a steamroller.

It's funny, though, or ugly I guess, some people have heard the time of the attack and were quick to begin blaming the victim--casting aspersions on what he was doing out at that time of night in the first place.  People are quick to follow that up with questions on his character and whether or not a decent professor would have been there.  Whether a decent upstanding citizen would be there.  Of course, these are all people who have never had the pleasure of meeting Dave, ever, or it wouldn't have even sparked their brains.  Still, I think that makes me more angry than the beating.  Senseless violence is senseless:  ugly and dim-witted.  I don't get it, but I understand the execution to be brutal and stupid and small.  The attempt to discredit my friend, who always spoke with understanding about people and their differences, who listened deeply to all who came in contact with him, and who lectured regularly about people's ability to remove dignity and personhood from others through their preconceived judgments and narrowed views of truth...well, that feels like people trying to dissolve even the intention of his life's work--throwing him under the steamroller in a far more damaging way.

Friends have set up a fund to help defray his medical costs--please feel free to follow the link to contribute.  I hope WSU had given him some decent benefits--although given his circumstances of recent graduation and all that, it's possible that they hadn't.  Even if he is well-covered, I'm sure the out of pocket costs will be tremendous.  If you are so moved, I'm sure any spare change (or large change) you can toss into his fund will go to good use.  Dave and his family are the type to make sure that the fund will go to appropriate charitable projects if they raise too much.

Soup will save your soul

This broad has tried every damn diet there is.  I've done everything from weight watchers to Jenny to Nutri-system and Medifast.  I've done the tropical fruit cleanses and the Atkins and South Beach, even dabbled in Paleo--but just because you *may* eat bacon doesn't mean your body *can* (mine sure couldn't).  South Beach stuck with me the longest, because it upped the veg and protein while cutting out on processed carbs.  Which means I stopped eating wheat, and I felt better.  Imagine that.

Years later, I found that I'm wheat intolerant and have eliminated processed foods almost entirely from my diet.  It feels great.  So good, I don't even mind the pain in the ass of prep time in the kitchen--although I was rebellious about it for a good long time.

The draw back?  Daily salads--one of the reasons I couldn't stick with South Beach (if you don't know this diet, it's high protein, high veg, low carb with most carbs coming from 1 or 2 fruit servings and 1 or 2 whole grain carb a day--oh and no worries about fats, just don't go overboard and keep them healthy).  I got exceptionally bored with piles of lettuce, especially since it seemed like everything I ate was cold.  Sometimes I wanted a big glop of spaghetti just to get that warm little knot in my belly.

My new eating plan--you know, the one where I take the time to cook and EAT shit--has me back on something very similar to the old familiar South Beach, but I'm determined not to let it get boring.  So far, my slow cooker and soups have rekindled my hope.  Soup will save your diet.

Who has time for slow food?  No one.  So delegate that shit.  Give it to your slow cooker robot and fill your freezer and fridge with several kinds of ready made staples:  beans, chili, quinoa, brown rice and SOUP.  Soup will save your soul.

This week I've made a gorgeous clear borshcht (yes, that's how it's spelled in the Cyrillic), potato leek, and roasted cauliflower.  The soup makes me look forward to my salad heavy dinner.  We'll see how it goes as the seasons change, because I'm determined to keep the cooker filled with seasonal shit, whatever looks good and is fresh, plentiful and cheap.

If the slow cooker isn't going, I'll just be tied to the stove later, so fill it up and let it stand there instead.  Today?  It's simmering a nice sauce for tonight's late spaghetti dinner with the kids.  Now, if I can just get my teen boy to put the noodles on at the right time...

Potato Leek Soup

5 garlic cloves - sliced
Minced Shallot - ~1-2 Tbls
2 med Potatoes (w/skin) - cubed
~2-3 C. Leeks (wash that shit!) - sliced thin
1 beer (I use GF, sorghum beer, but your choice--just don't tell me if you use that craptastic American beer in one of *my* recipes)
1 Knorr Beef stock gel pot
Water to fill the crock
Throw it all in the crock pot on low all day or over night.  I like to take the lid off and let the alcohol vent off for a bit before finishing it.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Give it a good beating with a boat motor (stick blender) or throw it in a blender.  Should make you at least 8 c of goodness, at only about 60 calories a cup.
one day I will learn to love unconditionally, but in the meantime, break me open a can social justice whupass
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