life of m

Sustaining the Self and Beyond

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Free yourself from fear…the world and I will thank you

It has been many years since I have experienced outright bullying. I have been mistreated by those in a place of power over me, to be sure, but I recognize the difference between positive and negative intentions. In my job in Alaska, I knew that my direct supervisor and our division chief felt it their express responsibility to create a community of well-mannered, acquiescing government automatons. Anyone with an independent mind was perceived as a threat to the stability of their tenuous locus of control.


I do not yet feel an authentic sense of forgiveness toward my superiors in Alaska. I can empathize with their intentions, however misguided. I find that I am less and less able to condone cruelness of any kind, particularly over those powerless to defend themselves. We as a species should know better from our myriad past atrocities, but we seem to perpetuate ignorance, fear, and hatred more readily than empathy and open-mindedness.


At the end of the day, we are none of us so very different, and I believe it is important to act from a space of love, however difficult it may be at times due to the limitations placed on our hearts from our own demons.


The world desperately needs more kindness and understanding—our own survival depends on it, of this I am certain.


Sadly, I have experienced enough of the world to know that it is to the darker place that people often move with instinct and reflex rather than taking the time to step back and evaluate whether there is a true threat or merely one perceived by fear and illusion.


It was instinct and reflex, goaded by fear and cowardice, which inspired my flight from Alaska, and it is this same behavior that often causes me to take refuge from the world at large.


I most recently experienced this surprising behavior just before and during the fourth of July parade in downtown Prescott, Arizona. I realize that in a state as conservative as Arizona, I really should not be surprised by outright bullying, but I still cannot help but scratch my head in response.


I arrived at the staging area for the parade a couple of hours before the actual marching would begin. Having already drunk a full glass of water and coffee, my thimble bladder began to inform me early on that it would require emptying prior to the walk around the square. I decided to take a little stroll with my puppy and search for a possible place with a public toilet.


We passed what appeared to be a gas station, and I walked around to the front and toward the door to poke my head in and inquire into the restroom situation. Walking up to the establishment, I had noticed menacing signs (menacing to someone open-minded, that is). Trump signs were sitting in the windows, along with signs claiming to serve only those who had served.


Well, I had thought to myself, I can still make a deposit in such a place.


It was not to be, however. Just as I was walking toward the front door, a woman in a large black SUV came driving up and waving frantically at me through the windshield.


I turned and walked toward her, and she rolled her window down.


You cannot go in there with your dog. You need to get out of here right now, she screeched at me.


I stood there, shock keeping me from responding (at first).


Then, I responded, you could be kinder, ma’am. I didn’t want to be too scathing because she likely armed (this was Arizona, after all), and she clearly felt threatened by me, which I found absurd but didn’t wish to test too much.


She said something in response, but I cannot recall her exact words. It was not an entirely clever retort. She was wearing a sequined top in red, white and blue, so if her level of intelligence and education was any where near her fashion sense, I can’t place judgment on her lack of wit.


I began to leave the premises and then thought I might like to take a few photos in order to immortalize the venue and its inhospitable host.


The woman had parked her jeep and came toward me. It seems I did not fit the bill for those who would be served because she told me she would call the police if I did not leave.


I wished her luck in her police calling endeavors, took a few more photos (just to irritate here), and left. My body was trembling. This seems to happen every time I bear witness to insolence.


When I reported the experience to folks waiting to walk with the democrat float, I was told not to be too surprised because the woman had a reputation for being psycho. I was not surprised, but I still wondered if I should be wearing protection before marching in the parade.


As it turned out, the only protection I needed was my natural defenses for ignoring the ignorant.


As we walked, my husky puppy was a great success and brought mainly smiles and words of admiration.


This IS Arizona, however, and veterans and others waved us away as we walked by them. I could hear parents instructing their children not to pet the husky because it’s a democrat. It was unsettling to watch natural this attempt to overpower empathy and pass on intolerance from one generation to the next.


One man booed over and over again. I stared at him in disbelief. He couldn’t be serious? More open hearts won out, and people in front of him cheered so loud as to drown out his negativity.


I wish I could say that I expected more from people during an event meant to celebrate every person’s freedom in this country, but sadly I know too well that there are many in this state and beyond who believe that freedom is only for the few who fit into a tidy regulated box that meets their strange and limited standards for existence.


The experience wasn’t so terrible as the time when I in elementary school and riding bicycles with a friend on a side street near their home when two other children on the street came flying at me on their own bikes, insults flying. It was a chase, and I was filled with fear as I was forced to decide to stand before them or to ride my bicycle all the way home on the main street, which had been strictly forbidden by my parents.


I chose flight, as I often have in the wake of intolerance. I have found that there are some people who are so enmeshed in their hatred and cowardice that there is no way to reason with them or to open their hearts. I believe their perspective can change, but I imagine it will take more than words alone to cause such a shift.


For those who cheer and spread the energy of love that this world so desperately needs, I am ever thankful. I set my intention each morning to be one of these beings.




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I try to smile

There are things that simultaneously break my heart and fill me with inimitable fury.


For the past several days, each time I pull out of the side road near my home and onto the main road—which happens to be a small highway—I pass the remains of what was once a javelina. Were it not located in the middle of the highway in a turning lane, I would retrieve its broken body and bring it to a quiet place to bury it. I have to inhibit my desire to do this each time I drive by and instead blow a kiss toward it to honor its soul in this life and wherever it may headed.


I know that I sign an invisible contract each time I get into my car that states I am aware of all the risks I am taking, which include killing thousands of insects and possibly other beings; yet, I still feel such pain when I witness the beautiful female deer dead on the sidewalk, the limp and beautiful body of a cat on the side of the road, and the fallen javelina.


I also feel anger for what my species has become, so many of us heartless, narrow-minded, and intentionally cruel.


My heartbreak and anger often occur while I am driving. I live in a state that prides itself on its conservative views, and many conservatives driving this force tout their values on the back of their vehicles. I would like to think they are not attempting to break the hearts of sensitive beings in their proximity, but it is difficult for me to understand how anyone could bear to sit in a vehicle that shares the views of racists, bigots, and the intentionally or unlucky ignorant and uneducated.


While waiting to pull out onto the highway this morning, I sat behind a vehicle with a bumper sticker that read: “Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing its IDIOT.” Another sticker in the shape of a paw print enveloped the words, “My dog is smarter than the president.”


It’s only a sticker, you might say, and you would be right.


Freedom of speech and all that jazz.


However, I am so unnerved and even fearful of the rhetoric and vitriol behind this propaganda for the right.


For one, there is no factual truth here, if we can agree that some truths are objective. A dog cannot possibly be smarter than our president. If anything, the dog hanging out of the car window did not seem to possess much of a sense of the danger with which it was flirting. In this case, the dog may outwit the driver but certainly not the president.


Furthermore, I cannot embrace any the values of any person who would choose to be malicious and hurtful for no reason other than because they can and because perhaps, they don’t know any better or refuse to be open to the possibility that they may be harboring hatred that derives from fear.


I thought this person might be headed to the dog park, which was my destination as well, and I wondered what I would do when I saw them. I knew that I would want to sneer, but I imagined I would more than likely just smile. I did not get a chance to find out because they turned to go in the opposite direction.


I do know from experience that neither reason nor nastiness in response to ignorance has a beneficial outcome. Smiling may not seem particularly helpful either, but I choose to bring as much heart into the world as I can and to vent my frustrations in more creative ways—like writing and songwriting—where I may help effect change through dialogue.


I can’t say I feel entirely at peace, even after writing about all of this, but at least I have not perpetuated a domino effect of hatred and fear in my own interpretation of freedom of speech.


Maybe next time, I will bury the javelina.


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Health(care) UNprofessional

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. It was not until I began seeing a therapist in my late 20s that I realized that what I experienced as anxiety and panic on a regular basis was not the norm for all people. At the time I started therapy, I had trouble breathing most of the time and could not seem to get through the day without weeping.


With a wonderful therapist, I learned several techniques for how to cope with my anxiety. Eventually, I went on medication to help temper the effects and to give myself a little chemically induced boost in the direction of grounding. My intention has been and continues to be to create a routine of natural practices that bring my anxiety to a more manageable level that will allow me to stop using medication as an aid.


To those who do not suffer from extreme anxiety, this may seem like a non-issue. I mean, it is just anxiety, right? Life is stressful. It’s all in my head. Chill out.


For me, anxiety manifests and is triggered in many ways, and it is not an easy condition to live with. It is not also an easy condition to communicate to peers, colleagues, or even to medical professionals. It feels somehow shameful to me to explain why I take certain medications, as if I have somehow failed as a human specimen because I have trouble with the most basic of human functions without medication.


An even greater frustration is that I recognize on a cognitive level that I should be able to breathe and function without anxiety. I live a wonderful existence and am loved and supported by many people. Why the anxiety? And why can’t I just get over it.


I recently called to a doctor, who had been recommended to me by a friend, to see if they were accepting new patients. The secretary asked me to answer a survey that the doctor would then review. I finally received a call back four days later and was told that the doctor would not see me because she did not feel qualified to help with my needs. When I asked what that meant, I was told she did not feel comfortable filling a prescription for my panic and anxiety. The prescription medication I take is quite common and one prescribed by my previous therapist. I asked the secretary if it would help for the doctor to connect with my therapist. She told me that the doctor would see me if another health professional would prescribe my medication.




It occurred to me that this was a dance with the universe I was not going to finish, so I ended the call.


I reflected in the silence for a while, wondering why I felt so shocked by the rejection and realized that I had been rejected without ever even being considered. I was being discriminated against for a condition I could not help and for which I was seeking medical assistance.


I have been under the impression all of these years that medical professionals were both professional and in the healthcare realm for help and to care for people who reached out to them. Isn’t there a Hippocratic oath that doctors proscribe to? More and more, I am finding that healthcare for any being in this country has become an industry and a business and more about the ego of the medical professional than about the wellbeing and regard for those in need.


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Je ne sais rien

December 13, 2015 ~ Phoenix, Arizona

I begin this piece from a hotel near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Early the following morning, my new husband and I will rise in the dark to begin an only slightly belated honeymoon, thanks to the generous donation of miles and financial hugs from many friends and family. This will be my second honeymoon for my second marriage, and I head into it with heart open and vulnerable.

December 19, 2015 ~ Bordeaux, France

This evening, I write from a loft in Bordeaux, where my husband and I will stay until Tuesday morning. Already, we have spent several days in France. We have covered many miles and seen some things of great beauty and others I would un-see if I could.


At the airport Charles de Gaulle, we waited with baited breath for my checked luggage to appear on the baggage carousel. Bags and ukulele in hand, we headed for the train.


Maybe, we should find a bathroom before we get on the train? I suggested.


You just went ten minutes ago, came the reply, accompanied by a look of exasperation.


It was twenty minutes ago! I pleaded. The look I received was enough for me not to insist. Instead, I harrumphed inside and furrowed my brows for a long time. I swear, people with large bladders will never understand how us tiny-bladdered people live. Sometimes, it is minute to minute. There just isn’t enough room in my body for all of these organs plus a bladder. The second I empty it, there is plenty of liquid just waiting to rush in to take the place of what was once there.


December 15, 2015 ~ Gare de Lyon

Can you tell us where to find the Hertz location de voitures? I ask a third person.

Oui. Vous tournez a droite, et continue.



We had already attempted the right turn and straight ahead option a couple of times. Apparently, turning right gives one many options in this particularly spacious station. Finally, we find the tiny car rental office. To get our car takes what feels like ages. Many French people come and go while we wait. We are offered insanely high insurance rates, which we refuse, and I hope we have made the right choice.


Traveling in France already feels so different from previous visits and longer stays. We have intelligent mobile phones that bring the United States with us and tell us where we are at all times.


Except when underground.


Settled into our burgundy Renault rental car with soft black interior, we quickly realize with increasing angst that there is no cell service underground. How will we figure out which way to go once we leave the garage?


Desperately, I try to plug in the address for the friend we will be visiting in Bretagne, the rainy northwest corner of the country.




I open our Michelin guide to France, take one look at it, and fold it back up. There is no way in hell I have slept enough to try to figure out how to get around this crazy city, known for its predictably unpredictable drivers.


My husband turns right, turns once more to the right, and then thankfully pulls over and parks in a no parking zone.


We sit and fidget with the phone. Technology is wonderful when it works, but when you have been traveling for more than 24 hours and it doesn’t, it can be painful. Not that we were really complaining. A GPS not working is clearly a ridiculously decadent problem to encounter, especially with the current state of the world.


Finally, GPS up and raring to go, address plugged in, we pulled into the realm of Parisian vehicles. And we survived, arriving in Quimper well into the evening, 42 hours of travel after leaving our Phoenix hotel at 3am the previous morning.


December 15, 2015 continued ~ Loin de l’Arizone/Far from Phoenix

We spent two fairly wet but lovely days visiting with French friends who are like family. We wandered the streets of the Centre Ville, walked along the river Odet, drank a lot of wine, ate a lot of bread, cheese, and the most delicious olives in all the world, and talked for hours with dear friends.


Visiting Quimper and La Bretagne is like returning home, and I felt full of joy and sad to leave. Being there was also bittersweet. I was reminded of friends with whom have lost contact, an ex-husband in Wisconsin, and the many years that had passed since I lived there, ten and a bit to be nearly exact.


I have sometimes envied people I know who have settled in one place and who have a community of friends. I have moved so many times that I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable people, people who are full of life and love; but I often feel as though I have no friends at all when I am sitting at home on my couch. They all seem far away, both in body and spirit.


But then, when I imagine living in one place for years and years, I feel a sense of being imprisoned. I wonder if this desire to keep moving stems from the belief that I can somehow grow older more slowly if I just keep moving.


Lately, I am beginning to realize that this may be the case, and I am growing ever aware that it is as far from the truth as anything may be.


It was more than ten years ago that I wandered the streets of Quimper. A lifetime has passed since that time, one that has encompassed a Master’s degree, a marriage, a doctorate, a divorce, and a second marriage.


December 18, 2015 ~ Loin de la Bretagne/Far from Quimper

Five hours after leaving the familiarity of Quimper, we joined a line of cars attempting to slowly enter the center of the city of Bordeaux.


We knew that Bordeaux would present us with the challenge of parking, but we didn’t think about being tired, hungry, and super cranky while attempting to find parking.


Had we spent only one night in this strange city, I would not have fond memories to recall. Nightmarish parking, super expensive shops downtown, and fatigue combined to flood my body with a feeling of being completely out of place and out of my element.


What was I doing here? What was I doing with my life? Why would I want to travel when I could be comfortable, snuggling with my cats and dog in my home in the desert.


After a good night’s sleep, I felt restored. We woke up early to rescue our car from possible ticketing or towing and walked in the dark, following the signals of our GPS to find our way.


As we approached the car, I saw a woman and a man in the distance. I couldn’t tell if they were arguing or if she was laughing. The man wore a green jacket with a hood pulled over his head.


When I heard him call out, Donne moi le monnaie, I knew something was not right.


Give me the money, he had said, as if this were a movie.


It seemed that she gave him her wallet, but he was not satisfied and tugged at her purse.


Mais, non! I heard her respond. But he did not stop.


Arrete! I called out. Stop!


But he didn’t stop.


We walked toward them, but it was too late.


I was in a daze as I attempted to provide directions from the GPS while we drove away from the center of the city of Bordeaux.


Don’t let me out of your sight, I told my husband as we left the scene behind.

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It’s just not necessary

I find it really interesting—not the good kind of interesting—when I am judged before a person has even met me. I have been contacting local galleries about performing for a Prescott’s 4th Friday Art Walk performance. This is a volunteer gig where you play for tips.

I emailed back and forth with a fellow from one of the galleries about a time to meet. I had something come up last minute the day we were scheduled to meet and contacted him right away. I didn’t have his telephone number, so I emailed him. In response, he sent an email reprimanding me for being a flakey musician. I apologized and wished him well, and he sent yet another hostile message.

What I find even more intriguing, albeit disheartening, is that the awful energy and hostility from this one person has successfully overshadowed the kindness and light I have received from countless others on this very same day.

Why is that? I have asked this question time and again in my life.

I can recognize that each person who sends such negative intention my way seems to have suffered from a past or current trauma. This particular individual told me that other musicians had not shown up for gigs in the past. One violinist decided to go on a picnic instead.

I tried to explain that I was not that violinist. As I am reflecting on this experience while I write, I am realizing that I don’t really need to explain myself to him or anyone else. I have learned with time and experience that there are some individuals with whom it is not worth wasting time and effort trying to engage in a dialogue because their idea of dialogue is a one-way lecture of sorts. To even be heard or seen as having an opinion of value is next to impossible.

As with so many weird encounters with other beings, I don’t think the person’s behavior was really about me. He will, however, be added to the list of individuals I hope can find peace and joy in their lives and not direct whatever unhappiness they are holding onto toward other people.

The world needs more kindness and understanding, so I am doing my best to empathize with him and to recognize that he had been spurned by musicians in the past and thus felt that I, too, had spurned him.

I hope he can come to understand that not all musicians or people are flakey and that no person deserves this kind of treatment or judgment.

Rainbow over the Dells

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Maybe, we are in Kansas?

Last night was one of those episodes that are so bizarre that you wake up in the morning wondering if it really happened or if you dreamed it all. An exercise in the hilarity of life, to be sure.

I was not expecting that I would sleep very much. My partner, who enjoys a quiet home, gave in to my desire to bring home a new fur baby after our beloved husky/malamute/question mark passed away. The criteria for bringing baby home: she is my responsibility at all hours of day and especially night.

When he asked me this past weekend, Are you sure you are ready for a puppy? I had responded, Right now I am. If you ask me the day after, I might have a different answer.

Well, my answer has not changed, I am just a bit more groggy than I was a couple of days ago.

I have raised puppies before, but it has been a while. I remember vaguely that they are a lot of work. I remember bringing home two labrador siblings from the tender age of 5 weeks and then reading in a dog training book that if you want two dogs, adopt one, train it, and then get another when dog #1 is a year or two old. There was also a clause about how challenging it can be to potty train two puppies as opposed to one.

There I was, a puppy under each arm. Damnit, I thought. Too late now.

At the time, I lived in a pseudo-renovated barn in the upper Skagit Valley of Washington state, a few feet shy of the North Cascade mountain range. Glacial view from my tiny bathroom window, water flowing into my home through a rickety backwoods system

from a creek that likely derived from a glacial lake somewhere up in the mountains.

To get puppies outside to potty, I had to scoop them up just as they were getting into position, lift a trap door that was attached to a cable that ran from the front room, along a line just below the ceiling, out through the back of the house, and then held down with an enormous weight, run down the stairs and out the front door. My partner at the time and I opened and closed that trap door so many times during potty training that one day the cable snapped and the door came crashing down.

When people wished us luck our first night with puppy this past Sunday, I vaguely recalled crying puppies in a crate at the foot of my Washington barn home.

We put little fur baby Naih in a large cat carrier and got into bed. Yipping, barking, and tiny but powerful howling commenced only moments later.

Knowing that it was counter to training recommendations, baby came out of the carrier and onto the bed. She went to sleep but woke up several times and plodded around between us, from one pillow to the next and back again to lie in the valley created by our two bodies.

After this sequence had been moved through several times, my partner groaned in irritation. Knowing that I had signed on for this, I picked up baby, put on a robe, and wandered out (stumbled was more like it) into the living room. We ran back and forth, went out to potty, and settled onto the couch until morning. All in all, it wasn’t the worst night.

The next day, I researched how to get puppy to sleep through the night and realized I had instinctively done just about everything wrong possible.

Do not respond to crying baby by taking her out to play. This will set the expectation that nighttime is playtime rather than sleeping time.

Do not praise the shit (my choice of words, not Google’s) out of baby when she goes potty outside in the middle of the night. Nighttime potty time is business and not playtime.

The next night, we set up a larger kennel and put comfy blankets and a toy inside. Naih was not to be foiled, however. Yipping, barking,and yowling commenced once more. We ignored her, and she quieted down for a bit. Then more yipping, barking, and yowling.

Maybe she has to go potty? I suggested? The article I read said to bring them out to potty if they cry and then put them back in the crate.

Potty trip was successful. Return to crate was less so.

I brought her out to the living room and onto the couch to snuggle.

Hours later, I heard my sweetie’s voice in the night. Looks like she peed and pooped. He scooped her up and brought her outside.

Pee = affirmative. What was thought to be poop = cat puke (not as gross as puppy poop to clean up but still not the most enjoyable)

We traded places outside. I sat quietly while baby Naih wandered around distracted instead of getting to work.

I heard a rummaging sound and looked to my partner’s car. I gave a good kick to the front. Nothing. I kicked a couple more times.

When baby and I returned to bed, I whispered to my partner, I think the packrat is in your car. We had just spent $300 to repair damages from a packrat that had chosen our Honda Fit as the perfect place to store dozens of apples, branches, and nesting material.

My partner got out of bed and walked out into the living room. I heard a zipper and realized he was taking a pellet gun his son had used a few days earlier out of its padded case.

Huh, I thought, and fell asleep.

What seemed like hours later, I awoke and noticed the empty space beside me in our bed. Was that car engine running outside?

A light was on outside. I opened the front door.

The front hood of each car was propped open. My sweetie stood with a pellet gun propped up on his hip. A tiny glass sat atop my Toyota. Was that whiskey inside, I wondered?

I placed little Naih on the ground and instructed her to go potty. She took a tiny branch in her mouth and proceeded to bop around like a baby goat.

What are you doing?

Trying to get rid of the $300 packrat.

Fair enough, I said.

I looked around at the scene. Wandering puppy. Human with pellet gun. This was certainly not an image from my time in Massachusetts, but it was comical nonetheless.

Are you going to stay out here all night? I asked.

I’m going to shoot these rounds and then come back inside.

Ok. I scooped up baby and headed back inside, bracing myself for the sounds. When they came, they were more benign than I had imagined.

Back in bed, Naih fell asleep between us. In the morning, I awoke to find her upper body on my sweetie’s pillow and the rest of her on mine.

Well, I see she has chosen her place on the pillows, my partner said. Should be interesting when she is 60 lbs.

She’s lucky she’s cute, I said.

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(Un)conditional love


I love Arizona at 2:34am and 5:17am. The rest of the time, I can bear Arizona. Our relationship reminds me of a time when I worked very hard to convince myself I was not in love. Before bed, I could convince myself I wasn’t interested, but by morning I had forgotten.

Does this mean I am falling in love with Arizona?

Am I already in love but still trying to convince myself otherwise?

Perhaps, if I left for a time I could find clarity. Absence has a tendency of creating the space needed for lucidity.

My partner asked me yesterday where my ideal place would be to live. It is something we have discussed over the years we were living apart.

Lately, I have been wondering if there is any ideal place for me. I am comfortable in about a ten-degree temperature range. Anything below, and I am freezing. Anything above, and I begin to melt.

What I do know is that I love being near water and mountains. I love being near tall, old trees.

Most of all, I love being able to walk out the door and go for a quiet walk in nature.

It was not until I spent a winter in Arizona that I realized I could be happy during the darker months. The darker months are not so dark here in the Southwest. There is sunshine nearly every day. Intermittent grey skies remind me of much darker times in Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, France, and Alaska.

What would become of my winter psyche should I return to a more “traditional” winter?

I wonder.

It is difficult to imagine winter when there is a blanket of heavy heat that covers the world from morning to night each day, but I know it is out there waiting. I suppose I can let it go for now. I am trying not to worry about things that have not yet come to pass.

So for now, I will relish in the early morning coolness. I will lean back, close my eyes, and feel the cold air on my face. Like so much of life and life itself, it is fleeting and meant to be enjoyed while it lasts.