Tuesday, December 31, 2013


So tonight did not go as planned.

I was going to hang with some friends and eat some good food and probably laugh a lot.

When I got in my car to leave it would not start.  This is a new thing since I got in a car accident at the beginning of December and smashed the car up.  It took three weeks to fix it and when I got it back it looked like new, but now it sometimes doesn't start. 

Clearly something got messed up in the smashing.

So I stayed home and contemplated the coming new year and what I would like to create for myself. 

I say create because my norm is to react to whatever is happening to me.

That really hasn't worked that great to date.

But I'm lazy and creating seems like a lot of effort and opens the possibility of making a mess.

However after reading this blog post about the new moon that happens tonight on the eve of a new year I decided to identify and understand where I am in my life right now...

Looking for new employment
In debt
In physical therapy
and since I'm not unhappy and not happy I am most likely depressed.

I was brutally honest and probably a tad dramatic with all the understanding of where I am in my life right now but I'm going to say it was a good exercise because it helped me be very clear about the intentions I am setting for the coming year.

Rather than go into all the things and experiences I don't want I got really focused on the experiences I do want.

I wrote everything down and burned each and every negative idea and thought conscious and unconscious that I am releasing.  I burned them in my living room with some Dragon's Blood resin that I dug out of a drawer - a souvenir from some Rennaisance Faire I went to 10 years ago - I knew it would come in handy.  All that negativity created quite a blaze and the adolescent firebug that still lives inside me had a really good time.  The adult part of me was borderline freaked out that I almost set my carpet on fire.

As the embers glowed I wrote down all of my intentions for the new year.  The things/experiences I am going to create, because the laziness of default has not gotten me where I want to be.  Then I took all those intentions and made little balls out of the paper and planted them in my garden out back.

Like seeds.

Of course I had to weed the area first because I haven't been back there since August and since it's a new moon it was really dark so that was kind of scary too.

And now it's 10pm and I'm worn out from all the assessing and burning and weeding and burying so I'm going to go to bed.

Honestly I have to say it's been a good new year's eve and I am looking forward to a new year, well aware that I have agreed to get really participatory and creative this year but I'm up for it.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle...

About 30 years ago I met my friend Joey who is one of the sisters I got to choose.  Over the years we have shared homes and celebrations and holidays and heartbreaks and along the way her family became part of my family.

Every year on my birthday, Jo's older sister Pam, and her mom and dad would call and leave an enthusiastic rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" in three part harmony on my voicemail.

Joey is the youngest of four and Pam was 16 by the time Joey came along.  She had been diagnosed with a congenital heart issue which was treated with surgery before her little sister was born, and because the doctors told her parents that although Pam's heart was fixed she could still drop dead at any time - they were very protective of her.  During the years when most teenagers are rebelling and getting ready to leave home, Pam was held very close.  In many ways, while she was like another parent to her youngest siblings, at the same time there were childlike aspects in Pam that were there her whole life.  Indeed she never moved from her parents home. Although she was very intelligent, she often missed social cues, and definitely marched to the beat of her own drum.

I met Pam in the early 80s when she was working at McDonnell Douglas.  She was very much into Republican politics, enthusiastically so, and she loved the candidates she worked for George Deukmejian and Ronald Reagan.

I did not.

Something that she didn't seem to notice although I was pretty clear that I wasn't interested in going to events or donating money to individuals that, according to my father, were responsible for the devastation of mental health services in the state of California and in the country.

Pam was also really involved with the Crystal Cathedral - if you've read anything I've written in the last couple of weeks it's pretty clear that I'm not a fan of organized religion.  If you ever watched the Hour of Power it really doesn't get more organized than that.  Pam began as an usher and every single year she invited me to come to the huge Christmas story production or the Easter morning production (where she would have gotten me into the best seat in the house), but it wasn't my thing. It was Pam's home for 25 years and I believe she eventually became an elder.  I really should have taken her up on her offer because it is an amazing piece of architecture and I'm certain that those services were beautiful.  I also could have practiced some Grace and appreciated and participated in something that was so special to her - but that would be one more thing that Pam taught me.

None of my rejection of her offers phased her and she did not love me any less.  Had I asked her for anything she would have gone out of her way to help me.

What I recognized is that although we were ideologically polar opposites, her intention was always about sharing love, never about proselytizing, or forcing me to believe what she believed - she would believe it enough for both of us.  

The last time I saw Pam was during the long weeks that her father was struggling to slip off this mortal coil at the end of his battle with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  She had discovered a love of "clowning" and she was also learning to play the ukelele.  Nothing made her happier than spreading joy as Twinkles D' Klown and if she could play her ukelele and sing at the same time - even better.

My last memory is of her in the backyard of the house in Malibu, on the edge of a hill looking over the ocean, sitting in a chair, playing her ukelele and smiling. At the time it was a bit surreal, but in a larger context it was the exact right thing for her to do.

To say that Pam was eccentric would be an entirely accurate statement, but she was also authentically loving and resilient in the face of rejection, and sometimes loneliness.  She showed up in a way that is so rare anymore.  She had a profound faith in God and heaven and she walked the walk more than most people who call themselves Christians. 

Pam passed away a couple of weeks ago - that day her doctors warned her parents about finally came.  It was shocking because I had always imagined her clowning her way into her 90s when it seems you can get away with anything.  My hope is that she went to sleep, that she left quickly and that she wasn't afraid.  In fact, I just know that she went to sleep and at some point she saw both her parents holding out their arms so she grabbed her ukelele and went with them and now they are singing once again in three part harmony.

Her memorial service was this past Saturday at the Crystal Cathedral (which has been sold to the Catholic Church and is only going to be Pam's beloved church for a little bit longer).  There were so many people there - all of whom were reflecting back the love that Pam had given them over the time she'd known them - and there were clowns and ukeleles.  It was as if she right there with us.

It was the best funeral a lot of us have ever been too, which is as it should be, because for all of her eccentricities and struggles, Pam was one of the best people we ever knew. She spread a lot of joy and even now she is twinkling.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Dear Google - you used to be awesome

But now you suck.

You are like that great boyfriend who at the beginning of a relationship is so easy and fun.  Everything just flows and it's like you could read my mind and all my needs were met - you even had stuff I didn't know I needed or wanted like the ability to track my conversations.

But now that we've been together for these past 7+ years you seem to continually be going through an identity crisis.  All of the things that I appreciated about you have been tweaked and changed so that you could keep up with the competition.

It's like coming home to your man to find he's shaved his head and is sporting skinny jeans because it's what's "in" even though he may not be carrying it off so well.

Where you used to be my preferred e-mail platform because things were so clear and organized, you have now become cryptic and almost impossible to decipher.  It's like I'm having a relationship with a Tween who only speaks in memes and wears his pants down below his buttcheeks. 

I am not a complete idiot when it comes to technology so this is not about my inability to figure out the various "new concepts" you keep foisting upon me - no - the issue is that you have become too much work and the "new look" isn't really working that well.

So, while I'm not breaking up with you right this minute I am defnitely open to a new relationship with someone who will give me function and form and ease of use - maybe even rock it a little old school.  Because here's the thing about technology.... it's cool and all but at the end of the day it's a tool to connect people, and if I get so frustrated with your bullshit that I'm using Outlook (seriously, it's got to be bad if I'm reconsidering Microsoft) as my primary means of e-mail communication you need to take a hard look at the choices you are making.

You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, because I'm predicting that the new trend is going to be humans putting their devices down and spending time together in the same room.  We are going to start missing each other.

If you can make it easier for that to happen you might be on to something.

Your new gmail "compose" is not easier, or better, or faster - it's bullshit (although I do like the colorful, fancy font in the corner of each e-mail) - and I am not the only one who thinks so.  In case you haven't done so, take a look at this article, which is just one of many that I've found from all over the world.

Did you just need some press?

Compose is like "new coke" - I know you all are probably too young to remember that marketing disaster, but it's the perfect illustration of that whole, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. How about you try some cross demographic focus groups before you force your "new compose" on users?  Right now it feels like those in the Google bubble were just sitting around thinking up something new to do to rationalize their paychecks.

You do so many things right - it's okay to admit that you occasionally miss the mark. Why don't you all try to figure out a way for people to connect meaningfully in 3D and real time because, as a society and a culture, we are going in the wrong direction.  Thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers don't actually make people happy - it just tends to make them neurotic and kind of mean and insecure because everything is a presentation for your followers.  It's getting really weird.

In the meantime I will be switching back to the original format by doing the following:
Pressing the "Compose" button on the left side of the screen.
Then when the new compose box pops up, I will click on the down-arrow icon at the bottom right of the window.
Then I will select "Temporarily switch back to old compose."

Next I will be shopping for a new e-mail address.  Anyone know of something good? - please pass that along.

So vaya con Dios Gmail Compose - seriously it's not me - it's you.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do you hear what I hear?

Since my last post I've had a number of conversations with friends about the brouhaha created by Michelle Shocked's statements at Yoshi's on 3/17 and the ensuing drama on twitter and national internet news.  I've been a bit taken aback because when I listened to the bootleg recording from the audience I heard something so different from everyone else.  They all heard her being intentionally hateful.  They all heard her being intentionally mean.  I already shared what I heard in my last post. The interesting thing is that a couple of these conversations were with friends who are professional journalists and they are as knee jerk as everyone else.

For me that's a sign of the times - journalism has evolved into expression of opinions rather than asking questions.

Granted Ms. Shocked is not making things easier for people to understand since she will only communicate, and cryptically at that, on twitter which gives you 140 characters. Not the best venue for coherent communication, but she's on her own journey with this experience.

What's been coming up for me on a macro level is how in this age of so many options for communication we seem to be mis-communicating more often than not.

In college my major was speech/communications and this was way before technology became such an overwhelming variable in the field.  I would imagine that it's astoundingly interesting to study how we communicate these days - the research is probably incredible.  Still the basics are foundational and what I remember as a most basic concept was that in any given dyad (2 people = smallest group), there are multiple points of view, or experiences.

When we talk to each other, there is what we intend to say, what we actually say and what the other person hears.  That's like six experiences in any given dyadic conversation. 

Myself, I get really knee jerky when I listen to the rhetoric on the political right.  I also get twitchy when I hear any kind of fundamentalist religious proselytizing.  I am dismissive and and punitive and rejecting.  To be honest I am rude and disrespectful, something I rationalize by my belief that "they don't know what they're talking about and they are stupid to believe what they believe."  I also rationalize it because in the case of Ann Coulter and Fred Phelps and their ilk, there is a level of hate speech, name calling and massive disrespect for anyone who isn't on their team - but what they do is what I just admitted to doing.

I don't ask any questions about why they believe what they believe.  They don't ask questions about the people who they are attacking.

Is this because we don't care?  Is it because we don't know how?  Why is it seemingly unimportant to understand where someone is coming from? and why they come from there?

Because they talk crazy? Well, yeah, in my opinion.  That and me getting all knee jerky and wanting to punch them in the neck.  Seriously, every time Ann Coulter gets something thrown at her I am doing a happy dance inside (self aware intentional meanness on my part).

But here's the other thing I am aware of - inside I am going to where I perceive them to be.  When Ann Coulter is calling people "retards" and Fred Phelps and his family are screaming hate speech on the news - emotionally I jump into anger and rage and helplessness and frustration, "NO YOU ARE".  They win.  I might not agree with a word they are saying, but I go right to where they are living their lives from in reaction to it.

Trust me when I tell you that this doesn't do me any good and it certainly doesn't provide any kind of counter balance energetically.  I think that there needs to be discussion about what comes up and why, I just can't find very many people who want to have that conversation.  My fundamentalist family members fall back on their script so I just move to "I love you but I don't agree with you," because that's true. My friends who are Republicans also stay on script. This is true for my friends on the left.

In so many ways it's like critical thinking doesn't enter into any of this at all.

Last week I listened to the funny and awesome Margaret Cho and Jim Short on their Monsters of Talk podcast - I love this show because it's like you are getting to eavesdrop on two really funny people talking honestly about stuff without an agenda.  Kind of like they're sitting on the couch having snacks and shooting the shit and you are a fly on the wall.  When they got to the part about Michelle Shocked there was discussion about how Margaret felt about Michelle's music and what it meant to her growing up queer.  Who she thought Michelle was and how that made her feel.  She shared about being chased and threatened for being a dyke and she explained that the statements that were made at Yoshi's were so hurtful because someone she had thought of as an ally, was now saying that God hates her.

Probably a lot of people had that experience last week and it's really sad.

I'm trying to stop reacting and ask more questions, but it's a challenge.  There's a reactive mean girl inside of me that would like to kick the Fred Phelps folks in the balls and she's co-existing with the more enlightened wise woman who tries to roll more like Jesus and see the love in all people and things no matter what they are saying and doing that is the opposite.

I truly do believe that in all things the power of love - cliche, I know, but true, so true - can overcome any obstacle.  It is profoundly powerful, but for some reason a tough place to live from all the time.  The Dalai Lama seems to have it down, but I think he spends a tremendous amount of time meditating and being in the moment. 

I aspire to be more like him but honestly it depends on the day.  The wise woman who knows what's true and can see love no matter what is having more days than not, which is good because the mean girl is unattractive and unpleasant.

And here I could write something really snarky about Ann Coulter's appearance, but the wise woman just put the mean girl on time out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Shocking thing I heard Michelle Shocked say

I woke up the other morning and checked my twitter feed to see a tweet from a good friend that said something about Michelle Shocked turning into a hateful homophobe.

Say what?

Some googling revealed numerous links to all kinds of posts, some written by journalists, that basically said that Michelle Shocked went on stage at Yoshi's in SAN FRANCISCO! and started channeling Fred Phelps, telling people to "go on twitter and say that Michelle Shocked says God hates Faggots."

The tweets about it all were even wilder because when you're limited to 140 characters and you are pissed off and affronted and trying to tweet with a lit torch in your hand there's not much room for more than name calling and belittling.

Over the course of the day on Tuesday her entire tour cancelled and there is a petition currently circulating encouraging promoters all over the world to cancel any future shows due to her "vile anti-gay tirade."

Because I can't help myself I just have to say - this all shocked the shit out me.

While I wouldn't profess to be on a friendship basis with Michelle, we have mutual friends, and I have had the pleasure of spending time with her and talking - in a real way - not in the LA "not really listening because we're scanning the room way."  In those conversations I have found her to be authentic in expressing how she feels about life and the living of it.  She joyously identifies as a Christian and like my family members who are aligned with the fundamentalist faction of that faith, she talks about it.

I myself have dipped in the Jesus pool which I've previously shared about here and here.  There were so many things that I loved about the experience, but the joy found in the singing and hugging could not balance the judgment and fear in the message expressed by and to those who claimed to be saved.
The singing and hugging and feeling of connection did not offset the rhetoric spewed in the literal interpretation of the bible by people who were using those words/stories to create a power platform to exert social controls in ways that, in my opinion, had nothing to do with God or Jesus.

I was 17 when I said, "enough" and discovered joy, singing and hugging with the Grateful Dead.

But, back to Michelle Shocked and her "rant" - an audio recording from an audience member showed up all over the place yesterday so I could hear for myself, not only WHAT she said, but HOW she said it and you can listen to it here

At this point people have already made their decisions about what she said, and what she meant, and what she thinks and believes - they have written her off as a hater and they are vociferously hating her right back.

What I heard was someone who is deeply connected to a community that is threatened to it's core by the idea of gay marriage - let's face it gay scares a lot of them.  When she started talking about the prayer meeting I got a visual of people holding hands and praying to God and Jesus to intervene with the Supreme Court as they review DOMA and Prop. 8 - both are bad legislation paid for by religious groups who have all kinds of faith in God, but still have to hedge their bets by crossing that line that separates church and state.  The tide of public opinion is turning (finally) in support of the rights of ALL people who love each other to enter into marriage.  Organized religion has always, in my opinion, been a means to control the masses through fear.  Losing control scares the crap out of most of us, but particularly those who band together in groups to decide what everyone else should believe (Taliban anyone?)

One thing I remember about being 'born again' is that you are told that you need to proselytize or witness about the Word (that's capitalized because it's that big a deal to these people who are literal interpreters).  You want to save others as you've been saved.  You want to spread the gospels like Jesus did.

My feeling is that this is where things went wrong at Yoshi's.

I do not believe that the point she wanted to make is that "Once Prop. 8 is instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the ho-mo-sexuals that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back. “  Yes, she said those words, but where she started was at her bible meeting with all the frightened people - "You’ve got to understand how scared folks on that side of the equation are. From their vantage point -- I really shouldn’t say their, because it’s mine, too -- we are near the end of time."  Yes, she said those words and yes, she aligned herself with a group that represents in the media, and I'll be honest, in my mind, as a bunch of haters, BUT, the word that I heard was SCARED.

I feel deep compassion for how frightened fundamentalist Christians are as the world is changing.  From my perspective their locus of control is externalized in the form of a magical being in the heavens who offers them the reward of eternal life with angelic choirs vs. eternal life in the fiery pit of hell, or you just get left behind in the purgatory that is earth after armegeddon.  Michelle called him the "invisible man in the audience".  But to get to heaven you gotta follow a lot of rules while you're here and, in my experience, a lot of fundamentalists end up acting like hall monitors for God.  Which doesn't make sense because if you really believe that Jesus is coming back to get you then aren't the end times a good thing?  If you REALLY believe then why would you be scared of ANYTHING?

Anyway, when she began, I believe that she wanted to talk about compassion for those who are scared, but when she got some less than receptive reaction it sounded to me like she got reactive herself and went off the rails with this statement:  "If someone could be so gracious to tweet out, ‘Michelle Shocked just said from stage, God hates faggots,’ would you do it now?" 

I do not for one minute believe that she was seriously espousing that as her personal belief. I think she was frustrated and disconcerted and quite frankly I think she sucks at extemporaneous speech making and getting defensively sardonic about it is proof that she was not grounded in her message in the first place.

It has got to be incredibly difficult to reconcile progressive ideals (someone who gets arrested on Occupy LA is defnitely aligned with the left) with fundamentalist beliefs; though I've always thought of Jesus as the original radical progressive, but look how that turned out. I believe that while he doesn't agree with the words Sister Shocked uttered on that stage, he does have compassion for what she was trying to say and for where she finds herself today.  I believe he also has compassion for those who are mad at her.

I sent Michelle a tweet stating that I felt something was missing from the story because in my experience she is not someone I think of as a hater.  Having listened to the audio recording of that night I stand by that statement.  She retweeted my tweet and I got tweets from people who really wanted to change my mind.  Some were hate-full.  When I went and read their twitter feeds it's clear that they are operating in some fairly serious pain (those who name call with the word 'retard' should check themselves before they ever point a finger at anyone else).

Honestly, what makes me feel sad is the knee jerk reaction from so many people and not only their willingness, but their seeming enthusiasm, to see someone so negatively and then effectively crucify her.  I see this reflected daily in the larger picture of our world and how we treat each other.  Bullying is bullying - it's coming from both the left and right these days (mean is still mean people no matter what you're being mean in the name of) and technology allows us to hurt each other without having to actually witness the fallout from, or take responsibility for, the damage we do.  Hateful rhetoric like that expressed by Fred Phelps is deeply offensive and hard to hear, but if your response to it is to be pulled into the angry, frightened energy that it comes from then you're living there too and you are allowing something that is not real to hurt you.

The words are the same but I did not hear Michelle Shocked say those words with the energy or intent that Fred Phelps says them.

If you did it's because you want to.

Regardless, the only good way to respond to hate is with love.

Love is louder, stronger and more enduring than anything else in our lives.  Love is the only true thing and that's what I think Michelle believes and feels and lives - she just tripped over the fundamentalism while she was trying to get it out.  She's the same fallible human being as the rest of us - and I ain't mad at her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winning like crazy

I've been reading a lot about Lance Armstrong and his upcoming conversation with Oprah.  Also out there are interviews with his friends and co-workers who've taken a fall because they tried to tell the truth about what was going on.  And then there are the blog posts and tweets from people who so very angry at Lance for not being the white knight he was portrayed to be.

They feel betrayed.

They feel like they've been lied to.

I guess they were and they have, although in my opinion, and it's all just opinions, the person who has probably had the hardest time is Lance himself.

He's had to live this lie for YEARS!

Granted I'm running the scenario through my personal filter and lying is not something I do very well.  It makes me cry.  I once told a lie to my roommate to get out of a dinner party she was throwing and within 3 hours I was sitting in her room, in tears, confessing everything.  It made me sick.

So when I think about Lance living all these years with this HUGE lie I do not know how he was able to breathe, much less sleep.  When you add to that the people who cared about him that he threw under the bus, at best, and aggressively attacked and ruined at worst, I cannot imagine how he lived with himself.

And the cancer thing.  Since we now know that he's been doping for years, there is a probably a good possibility that the choice to do those drugs may have contributed to the testicular cancer. Now he was much younger when he was diagnosed and he won the battle, but you'd think that in hindsight it would gnaw at him - all those falsely won victories at the price of your balls and almost your life.

On the face of it, it looks as though:
He cheated to win - and if you're cheating you're not really winning, you're just cheating.
He gave himself cancer.
He lied over and over.
He screwed over his friends.
And he kept it all up for years and years.

Perhaps he rationalized it all with the creation of LIVESTRONG.  No one denies that this organization does amazing work and is a literal life saver for so many who are facing the toughest battle of their lives, but at the end of the day that's an organization run, not by Armstrong, but by others who believe in what they're doing and back their talk with their walk.

To my mind, there must be something wrong with someone who thinks that because you did a good thing you don't have to be responsible and culpable and APOLOGETIC for the things you've done that were not good.

For the intentionally bad things you have done.

A sane person might be driven crazy by having to keep all that going for 20+ years. 

Of course if a person was crazy....

Below is Dr. Robert Hare's psycopathy check list (Rev.), considered the "gold standard" for assessment of psychopathy.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
Facet 2 Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Facet 3 Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsibility
Facet 4 Antisocial
  • Poor behavioral controls
  • Early behavioral problems
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility.
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

What I would really love to know is where Lance falls on the scale.  According to Jon Ronson's book, "The Psychopath Test", many leaders in business and politics are high functioning psychopaths.  It would be so interesting to know if Lance is diagnosable.

In some ways, if it turned out he was crazy, that would make everything a bit more palatable for me.  I would have more empathy for him and his current situation, because, like the scorpion who kills the turtle that gives him a ride across the river, he is only doing that which is in his nature.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Checking in

It's a new year so I'm checking in with the intention of writing more regularly. 

Except that I've been really sad since the Newtown shooting.  It's like reliving the loss of Laura all over again.

The empty seat at the table, the hole in your life, that's forever even though life does go on.  My thoughts have been with all of the families who've lost someone to gun violence, but my imagination has been in the houses in Newtown as those people had to negotiate the holidays and, literally and figuratively, the longest nights.

I want to write about my thoughts and feelings, but not in a melodramatic wail which is where I went in those first days, and not from a dark place of helplessness, although that is a completely appropriate place to be when 20 children and six adults are gunned down while doing their day.

I'd like to have a conversation about how we make it different and about how we all deal with sadness and anger and fear.

But I'm still so sad it's hard to take a breath.

On the lighter side I'm writing about only good things over here:   yumyumgivemesome.blogspot.com

Wishing the whole world a new year filled with some of the best days ever.