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a lifetime of stories

a lifetime of storiesLetting go is hard to do, as we all know.  But today I found how liberating it can be!

It’s probably pretty obvious that I love writing.  I’ve been working on a story for the past year.  The characters have journeyed with me through some very difficult times.  They’ve been a comfort and an outlet for my painful past, my confusing present and searching future.  With each line I’ve watched them grow, heal and deal with things that I haven’t been able to yet.

Today I shared my work.  The suggestion: complete rewrite.  At first my heart stopped.  Then I realized that these characters will always be with me.  They are a part of me and they have stories to tell which can be shared in the future.  I don’t need to tell all my stories right now.  They have time.  I have time.  My story doesn’t end here.  It’s always growing, always changing.  I’ll never arrive at “The End,” and as a writer, I never want to.

I was able to let go.  I was finally able to let go.  It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a perfect piece of work.  It doesn’t matter that I have to start all over again.  I can set it free.  I told a story and now I can set it free.  And now I’m free.  I can move on.  If I want to come back to the story and rediscover it, I can do that, but it no longer has to hold me back and I don’t have to force it to be something it’s not.

It felt good to let go.  And I’m learning to trust myself, that I will have more stories to find and to tell.  We all have a story to live and to tell and it doesn’t start and end today because we’re all stories at work…


a happy girl is a pretty girl

a happy girl is a pretty girlEver come across something so shocking that you just can’t even wrap your mind around it?  That’s what happened to me a few days ago when shopping for a gift for a new friend.

I started at a Hallmark store, figuring that they would be the most likely place I’d find just the right something for this occasion.  It was to say goodbye to a foreign exchange student I’d just met this semester.  So I looked in the area of more inspirational gifts for women.  And this is where I found it.  The plaque which said, “A happy girl is a pretty girl.”

Okay, did we just go into a time warp?  “What?!,” I said perhaps a little too loud in the store.  I quickly hauled my butt outta there because there was no way I was giving my money to someone who sold something like that –and as a gift to give to some poor girl!  What does that even mean?

How can we make sense of this phrase?  Is there any positive way of receiving a phrase or gift such as that?  I mean, here are the translations I came up with:

A happy girl is a pretty girl            =             You are pretty only because you are happy

Be happy otherwise you won’t be seen as pretty

If you’re not happy you are ugly

Being pretty is very important, so even if you are not happy, act happy so that you have a shot at being happy                                                                                      because you can’t be happy if you’re not pretty

Ok, so maybe I embellished on the last interpretation a bit.  But really?  I mean, is this the message we’re still sending to girls and women?  If that is the case, we are in big trouble because we have been thrown back to the Cold war era and we’re still recovering from the damage of that time period.

It just scares me when I see things like this which seem all harmless – hand painted, with pink and purple flowers surrounding it, being sold in a reputable gift shop next to a miniature of Jesus Christ.  But these are the messages that sink deep into a girl’s heart, form and shape her and are never forgotten.

So what other messages are we sending to each other and have even been embedded in our own hearts and minds which we need to replace with the truth?


Getting lost

get lostEver get lost driving late at night?  Take a wrong turn and you have no idea where you’re headed and no options on how to get back to where you came from?  This just happened to me.

So I’m driving home after a long day, it’s about 10PM so traffic’s pretty manageable on the freeway.  Then I start listening to the radio and a terribly engaging story comes on.  Before I know it, I’m distracted by the story and trying to get around a truck that pulled out in front of me so much so that I don’t notice that I’m in an exit only lane.  Even worse than that, the exit is onto a toll road!

Thankfully I had cash to pay the toll, but once I got on, there were no exits – not for another 20 miles! I began to panic because there was no visible safe place to pull off the road, so I called my husband (the directions guru).  It was pretty embarrassing to explain what happened and the predicament in which I found myself, but he directed me onto a safe path home.  Unfortunately my seemingly minute error ended up taking me an hour out of my way that night.

As I drove by the dreaded exit of no return tonight, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.  My experience which appeared so dangerous and desperate at the time was now comical.  It also made me look at that exit differently: not as some unknown and scary path leading to nowhere, but a familiar place that contained a memory.  I could now say, “I know where that path leads.”  And it also made me look at all of the other exits I hadn’t taken (or accidently taken) as exciting new opportunities for adventure and exploration instead of the land of the lost.

My life has been a lot like this – in the sense that I’ve had times that circumstances have caused me to travel in directions I hadn’t planned and I have had to spend a lot of time finding my way back home.  Or times I’ve risked taking the more dangerous path which lead to great surprises along the way.  Life is full of so many choices so many possibilities.  There are many detours which can bring fear because they are unplanned and traverse new territory.  But sometimes “getting lost” can be the best way to find yourself.


Can’t we all just get along?

stop smell rosesWhy can’t we all just get along?  A naïve and idealistic question, right?  In light of recent events in my life, those being my husband’s accident back in December and my dog’s diagnosis of cancer this week, it makes me wax even more philosophical than normal.  Life is short.  Are we going to spend our lives trying to get ahead by putting others down or celebrate the fact that we all share this singular experience called humanity?

Okay, so my dog is not human, but she has taught me so much more than many humans have about living life to the fullest – being in the moment (not my dog in the pic).  As my husband and I walked her around the block in our small neighborhood today, I incessantly rambled on about all the possible complications and plans of action needed for after our dog’s leg amputation this week.  What if she has an adverse reaction to the medications?  What if I can’t give her all the care she needs?  What if she starts having problems and I can’t carry her to the car to get her to the vet?  What if, what if, what if!  Meanwhile, my dog has literally stopped to smell the flowers, tail merrily wagging, oblivious of what’s to come.

Trusting ourselves and trusting others that in the moment we will rise to the occasion.  My dog trusts me with her life.  It can be difficult to trust each other when we have all had different experiences, perspectives and values.  I think of the countless tragedies that have occurred within the past decade or more when humanity united for a common cause:  hurricane Katrina, Indian Ocean tsunami and the Earthquake in Haiti.

So why does life have to be threatened for us to remember each other?  Why do people have to continue to live and die in oppression?  How can we unite to raise the quality of life for all people before it’s too late?  I don’t know what may happen to my husband, my dog, my friends, my family, my world. But I do know I want to love them all with no regrets, fighting to give them the best quality of life while they are still here.  Can we trust others to do the same for us?  Let’s not forget.  Life is short.  Can’t we all just get along?


Life or death

Does anyone have the right to choose to end or prolong someone’s life?  This question applies to the death penalty, resuscitation, assisted death and in my case, my dog who was just diagnosed with cancer.  Her life or death is in my hands.

With every decision comes risk.  Risk that the end result will be the same no matter what course of action you take.  Risk that in the process of saving death comes unexpectedly.  Risk that what you do or don’t do will bring regret.  I don’t want to decide.  I don’t want this power.  Didn’t I ask for this when I took her in as part of my family?  Don’t we automatically become the guardians of those who cannot make decisions for themselves?  But how do you make life or death decisions when the one at stake cannot speak or doesn’t have a voice?

I can’t help but relate this to women and oppressed minorities.  The people in power hold the lives of so many people in their hands.  They determine how they live and how they die – both directly and indirectly as they form society.  And didn’t they take this responsibility when they took their position?  Meanwhile, those without power just try to survive – trading quality of life for quantity or vice versa.  Always trying to speak up, but perhaps never being heard because their voice is smothered by the shadow of those standing over them.  Hoping they can trust them to make the best decision for their lives in this democracy.

We cannot just accept our fate at the hands of others, can we?  Or make hasty or indifferent decisions about the lives of others?  Whatever the risk, we must listen.  Whatever the risk we must always try to improve and save life.  We are responsible for our life and by choosing to speak out or not, for the lives and deaths of others.  That may seem a bit dramatic, but we are all connected.  Even those voices which seemingly went unheard in the past paved the way for where we are today.

So I will take this responsibility as a privilege, knowing that my dog completely trusts me with her life.  And I will not let her down.  I will defend and fight for her, willing to take the risks and pain along the way – knowing without regret that I did everything I could to give her the best life possible.

My Dog Sam

My Dog Sam


Breaking the routine

Why is it, that when we are in a routine we want nothing more than to break out of it and when we are out of it, we want nothing less than to get back in?  I have been thinking about that a lot lately – really, for the past six months or more.  It’s been a tough year for my husband and I – he was in a motorcycle accident which has rocked our world.  Needless to say, that quickly delivered us from a “routine.”  He recently had to have another surgery for an injury he sustained from the accident six months ago.  Just when things seemed to be getting back to “normal,” into a routine again, we were thrown out of the loop.

In the midst of difficult times and frustrations, it is easy to long for the comfort of routine and structure.  But too much routine, too much structure can also be life draining, if not life threatening.  Things that were built for our “safety” and function become oppressive, suffocating.  Yet, those same things make us feel that we are somehow, more in control of our lives, when really, someone else is.

We do not live in a black and white world.  Many continue to try to live in one and to make it so.  These rigid rules and restrictions of perception and judgment bring into effect laws and attitudes which reflect a mind longing for control, certainty, a world that “makes sense.”  As a society, we are taught that we need structure, to keep us safe, to keep us humans from chaos.  Each person has their role to contribute in society.  Someone has taught you how to play that role.  And the invisible man is forever watching you, making sure that you don’t step outside of that black and white world and create a mess with your many shades of gray.

Have you ever been some place where you felt like you were completely alone and yet you never felt completely free to be yourself or do whatever you wanted to?  “Don’t pick your nose!  Someone might see you!  Don’t sing too loud, someone might hear you!  Don’t question authority!  Who do you think you are?  Don’t overstep your bounds!”  Society has conditioned and trained us to walk silently in line with the systems of control.  Systems that say that routine is good:  working a 40 or more hour work week every week, for almost 52 weeks a year, year after year, is normal.  Not even normal – successful.

I’m rambling now, but I am trying to make a point, I promise.  My point is this: when we let others tell us how to live or what it means to live, we give them control of our lives.  Now I’m not saying that all rules are bad, don’t hear what I’m not saying.  What I am saying is that conformity creeps up on you and gets disguised as normality.  We slide into a routine and the next thing you know, 20 years have gone by and you haven’t done a damn thing you’ve wanted to do.  Oh yeah, you’re waiting for retirement.

Now bring that into the big picture and how society has controlled women.  It’s “normal” for a woman’s place to be in the home.  It’s “normal” for a woman to make less than a man.  It’s “normal” that a woman not have all the opportunities and jobs like a man.  They have role to play.  That’s normal.  That’s the routine and we’re comfortable with it – right?  Those in control are at least.

These past six months have far from normal for me.  But I have learned about what is most important to me and the kind of life I want to live.  And I don’t want to live by the rules – I don’t want to slip into a comfortable prison built for me by society.  I want to walk in a world of freedom where I can work inside or outside the home if I choose and not feel like I have to do both to “have it all.”  I want to walk along a street alone and not worry about getting attacked or raped.  I want to get a job and expect that I will make what a male counterpart would make.  I don’t want to play a role.  I just want to be free to be truly me, whoever that ends up being.  Isn’t that worth breaking the routine?


Sexism: Alive and Kicking

Ever have this experience when interviewing for a job?:

PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER:  Do you have any retail experience?

ME:  No, but I’ve had a lot of experience in customer service.

PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER:  Do you live locally?

ME:  Yes.  Just up the street actually.  My husband and I just moved here.  I’m a full time student.  Looking for summer employment, but I’m open to working during the school year as well.

PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER:  Oh, so you’re just sitting around waiting all day for your husband to come and you’re bored and need something to do.

ME:  Actually, we only have one vehicle.   So my husband uses it for his commute to work while I ride my bike and take the bus to school.  So I was hoping to make some additional income to get a second vehicle.


ME:  Yeah.  I worked and put my husband through college and now he’s putting me through.

PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER:  Oh.  Well, thanks for coming in.  We’ll be in contact with you about the position.

This happened to me just a couple of years ago.  The prospective employer was a man, perhaps only five to ten years older than myself.  Based on our “interview,” it did not seem as if he even looked at my resume at all, but took one look at me and assessed my “situation.”  More like, dismissed me.  Many of his blunders would have been avoided had he actually taken the time to read my date of birth at the top of the page and the over ten years of working experience listed.

I shared this story with a friend today whose fiancé has been looking for a job and he shared that she’s also having difficulty finding work because people think she looks too young and dismiss her capabilities.  He said, “I think there’s still a lot of sexism in the work force.”

What’s your story?  Most everyone has one.  Perhaps it doesn’t look exactly like this – maybe it’s sexual harassment on the job or bullying or simply making a lower wage than your male counterparts. But how many stories like this must occur before we all acknowledge the issue?  How long will we talk about it and allow sexism to continue – not only in the work force, but in society as a whole?

Think I got the job for standing up for myself?  Showing leadership qualities and strength of character?  Or perhaps the prospective employer actually took a look at my resume and admired my work experience?  I wish I could say all of these things were true.  But unfortunately, I never even received a call notifying me that the job had been filled.  Sorry, no happy ending to this story.