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The Year Of Living Differently-Writing For Writing’s Sake

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In our bathroom at work, there is tile. It has no visible seams, just a flat expanse of grays and blacks and whites. From my vantage point (near the sink or well, taking a constitutional) it appears flat and basic. Each day though, I see a sugar ant, tiny and black. This ant meanders across the vast stretch of tile, perhaps it’s a country road or a perhaps the ant is lost wandering in a desert.

I think about this ant (though I’m sure it’s not the same ant each day even though I see an ant each and every day and from the distance it surely could the same one…I’ve never gotten a magnifying glass to seek identifying remarks, amazing coloration perhaps of thorax and leg, eyes lensed in alien flesh and antennae perhaps even wearing a hat…though perhaps I should because it’s rude to assume about someone), when I’m in the bathroom because I wonder what it’s like to walk across what might be nearly a state’s worth of tile to get to where one needs to go.

Is it a state’s worth? If the ant is a millimeter in length and the room is about 2 meters across and I am 5 foot 6 and Oregon is…wait. Perhaps it’s more like a city like walking across Austin, but holy mother what an amount of work to do.

The ground, is it stable for them, that little ant? Is it flat and smooth or are there fissures and gaps, ditches, and fields, that the ant must traverse. The ant never seems to stumble, they just move forward leg by leg by leg by leg by leg and I stand over them and think…I could crush you with my foot.

Should I? Why?

And I decide not to do such a cruel act to a damn ant who is just trying to forage something for their collective, or perhaps was out about town, or perhaps is lost, or perhaps comes to worship the giant moving mountains that frequent the space day in and day out, and then I can’t see the ant because the tile is multicolored and perhaps I’ve lost track and I could have crushed that ant because I looked away for just that one second.

No wonder God gets it wrong. I am not omnipotent. And perhaps God gets pretty damn distracted when they go to the john, you know? And while they could crush you they don’t, in a moment of irrational mercy, but then they hike their skirt down and move their foot and bam, dead.

And the collective waits for the tiny morsel of food. And the collective wails together for the missing one, but they send another one out, day after day after day after day after day and day again, leg after leg after leg after leg after leg after leg.

And I wonder how I’m any different really. How merciful I might be, perhaps how irrational it is to think about the ant, to pause, while peeing, to quietly inquire about their day, and then to try and walk, gingerly, giant mountain feet so clumsy, to let this one, and that one just go about their business.

Perhaps some mountainous and clumsy God will look out for me as well.

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New

creative commons sarahaltendorf

creative commons sarahaltendorf

I drive by a field each day to and from work and that field is beautiful and green. It’s a farm, a small one, with about an acre of crops, some chickens, a stream running through it and the cows. Most of the cows are blue or gray, and it’s soothing to see them each day.

On a walk a few days ago we noticed that one of the cows was quite wide and we wondered if she was pregnant.

Today I drove by and lo, there was a small red calf in the midst of all the blue mothers. My heart skipped a beat, and I was so filled with happiness. I don’t really know why.

I don’t know that the reason matters. Life is new, and the new is beautiful.

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The Year Of Living Differently-Creativity And Other Such Things Edition

flickr creative commons karabrugman

flickr creative commons karabrugman

My son, my eldest son, is 16 and he’s very taken with guitar, singing, rock and roll, and the like. Which of course seems entirely normal to me.

He came to me today with a worry that I immediately recognized-he said, “I had all these ideas for songs last week, but I don’t right now and that seems bad.”

Man, do I recognize that feeling. Sometimes the muse just isn’t interested in hanging out and some days she (it? they? he?) is practically vomiting ideas into your head. And it’s not a consistent situation and you can do everything in the book (daily writing practice, same meals, vitamins, bourbon-and my lord the bourbon) to coax that saucy minx back into your life, and yet the muse is rebellious and rejects you. By you I mean me, of course.

I did tell my eldest he should engage in daily practice-write songs even if they suck! And he was like DUH I DO THAT. And I said…well of course you do.

I don’t know what is worse-the moment when you are in a staff meeting and you have a million ideas THAT JUST MUST BE WRITTEN DOWN or when you are sitting at your home office (which for me is the love-seat and my laptop) and you are have hours of time with which to indulge and zip, nada, nil, zilch.

Both hurt.

It’s a process, I remind myself. Just like moving across the country and getting used to being in a new place.

Moving is an inherently creative and destructive act. It’s the Alpha and Omega all wrapped up into a U Haul trailer and it’s exceptionally hard on the old psyche.

For two months now, we’ve lived in Ashland and not Austin (where we spent 18 years enjoying tacos, hot weather, mosquitos, and extremely bizarre politics) and I’m experiencing things.

Things.

Things like…dreams, finally, about tacos. Things like, taking non-traditional roads to get home (and if you’ve moved you know what I mean-you have all the very straightforward routes but then you learn how to cut through neighborhoods, you get lost and then you don’t get lost and it’s something that is an immersive kind of experience but all of a sudden it’s “there” in your head and you know it), things like realizing you think about the people of Austin but have somehow built an absolute block in your mind about places and surely that’s a kind of defense mechanism, things like finally going shopping for clothes and realizing it’s a whole new world of snow and wet weather and it’s just not quite yet home and won’t be for awhile.

It’s odd.

It’s creative though, in it’s way.

We went to First Friday last night, where art galleries open up late and you stroll along and well, look at art. I didn’t feel well, so I left early and walked home (because things are small here and the distance is small) and cut across the railroad tracks and it was cool and felt like fall used to feel when I lived in Seattle, and the light was not quite like Seattle as the sun was setting (but certainly it wasn’t like Austin) and I looked ahead at the mountains and just thought…

I live here now.

And it felt so very odd.

Today we cleaned the house, this 3rd of September now just two full months since we arrived, and we dug up the backyard garden and went to the Ashland Greenhouse (a ways up a hill and out of town and is a huge plot of land with every plant imaginable) and looked at things to plant. We passed the neighborhood cows (and they are such lovely cows-with one that is practically BLUE in tone and the farmers there were watering their garden).

The cows were hanging out and watching in what seemed to be a very sweet and gentle way, and I realized that I was most definitely living differently.

Most definitely. Creatively. And lovingly.

And it’s good.

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The Year Of Living Differently-Different How Edition

jendubin flickr creative commons

jendubin flickr creative commons

You may be asking yourself, Julie? What is this year of living differently? What does it mean? Why is it for? How does it work.

A year ago today I posted this:

Seasonal Change

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Ok. So, at that point it had been clear for a while that how I was living wasn’t really always working well for me (and for us if I were to speak for the entire family eco-system which this blog does not) and I wasn’t taking such good care of myself and I was seeming more successful on the outside than I felt on the inside.

And often, when I feel that way, (which is often part imposter syndrome, part only child perfectionism that manifests in half-assedry, and part lingering grief and probably unhealed various traumas from my past and god knows what else) I have in times past done this thing where I’m like, “You know what? I should start raising chickens and painting or maybe farming and throwing pots, I’ll meditate and be still.” Which is mostly a symbol/fantasy for this idea that there are different ways to be in the world.

The problem is of course, that I don’t have any dextral art talent whatsoever, and I mean it, I mean my attempts at painting or sculpting have been LAUGHABLE and I just lack whatever that neurological alchemy is that makes perspective happen or see varying shades for coordination and impact and my god I can’t even make a cube out of a BabyBel cheese wax.

Also, I don’t hear what plants say. Some people do. Like my mother in law who can basically create life out of dust and spit and a few seeds. At this point, she may not even need the seeds, she’s so good.

We have a lot of amazing room in our new backyard and we moved in and I had all these ideas and now I go out there and look at them for 5 minutes and get overwhelmed, and then just go back in the house to post political rants on FB. I’m sure the plants are screaming WATER ME!!!!!!!

Also I hate meditating so far as the traditional methods go. I don’t pray well. I have ADD and sitting still is BO-RING.

In any regard, the post I posted a year ago was just that, the beginnings of an examination of living differently and of course we went to Oregon over the holidays and decided to move.

And then we moved. And now we are living…the same?

I mean, I get up do my thing and go to work, I am producing BPC shows, and going to conferences, I’m reaching out and getting involved and and and other than the location? Is it different?

Is it all about patterns? I mean…I didn’t take a job that was that much different than other jobs. I didn’t move into a house that was that much different than our last house. I’m not experiencing a desire to give up activism or vote for a party I never have voted for. I’m still on Facebook.

Is it that hard to change patterns? I mean, the self care stuff has been relatively easy (oddly), but I’m very aware that the “different” part, the really living differently, might just be some kind of inner issue on my part. Though I will say going from a region of two million to under 200,000 is different.

That’s certainly different.

There are no farm animals (except the cows down the street). There is no me in a cardigan and boots, strolling placidly through the fields tilled just yesterday whilst the dogs abound and I pen jots of poems into my moleskin. No inner quietude.

I have a hard time being quiet.

But then, I always did.My first grade report card notes that I talked too much. I was always reaching out, getting involved, performing, doing my thing.

My thing is my thing and honestly the time I feel the most “flow-space” the times I get into some kind of meditative groove where the focus is both acute and blurred, peaceful and solid and sure is when I’m performing or producing an event.

And yet…those are the moments that then give me fits afterwards, as if I’ve exposed too much, spent too much energy (and a weird kind of energy as well, unnameable and deep) and then it’s like I’ve robbed Peter to pay Paul and I wind up, especially after a few months of said activity) and I think..I should just GIVE IT ALL UP Because isn’t that meditative action supposed to nourish you? Why does it then feel like a drain? Or maybe I’m just getting old and need two days to recuperate for any given event.

At the point of throwing my hands up in surrender, my brain will then begin hosting a wide variety of romantic barnyard fantasies about living differently. Of course, over the course of this past year we have, I have, made those motions to differently live. We are, I am, living in somewhat different ways, with different patterns and rhythms and flavors.

I mean, I dreamed about Migas last night, y’all.

So maybe it’s like water over stone, and the differences will build up. And maybe too much change would be detrimental to the cause. It could be I don’t have the temperament for isolated life. Prayerful pilgrimage on some mountain side where I sit and poetical myself into wisdom? Nah, running around downtown and rallying against injustice with others for me, please.

Maybe I’m just supposed to find it another way, that peace. If I’m set in certain ways which wind up being doubly rewarded by natural talents what’s wrong with that? Perhaps I simply would rather support those who live that wild romantic life while I live figure out my own.

I still think it would be cool to have chickens. Or a dog. Dogs are pretty awesome.

And thankfully, the weather here in this different state will support a cardigan and boots. I can always walk with the cows down the street.

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The Year Of Living Differently-Orange Haze Edition

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The region of southern Oregon is beautiful, as noted. It’s also dry at various times during the year and does not receive the same copious rain as it’s sister Portland to the North. Because of that, things can catch on fire in the woods.

Mostly, the woods can catch on fire.

The drier the weather the drier old wood gets, and the woods are also full of plants that have flammable properties like Juniper, Cypress, Rosemary and others, and and if there are things like say, Fourth Of July shenanigans, or a camping trip gone wrong (or evil), or lightening strikes, things can catch ablaze and before you know it, you have over 5000 acres burning and raining ash in your neighboring city.

Like today.

Often, you can smell it before you even open the door to a hazy orange sky. A fire. Usually, you’ll have heard emergency helicopters and planes overhead. In cases like this people get evacuated. Where we are, we are safe, it’s just that the air is bad, and you can’t help but think about how scary it must be where the fire is, how damaging.

(to be fair, the photo above was from a fire three years ago that happened north of Ashland and made the entire valley look like the apocalypse was happening).

Here’s another photo from a year ago.

photo credit Carlotta Lucas

photo credit Carlotta Lucas

Medford, the city just to NW of us gets the smoke pretty badly. When I left work today it was hard to see the mountains as I was driving. Hopefully, rain will come soon and with it, inoculation from the danger of fire, the oppressiveness of smoke.

The ash was spooky and brought to mind Mt. St. Helen’s, which my husband lived through. They were about 30 miles away in the absolute right direction. They drove through a snowstorm of ash trying to get radio signals, avoiding aftershocks and panic.

It’s different here. Wilder and new. And sometimes dangerous.

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The Year Of Living Differently (TYOLD) Self-Care

creative commons rayani

creative commons rayani

I hate the phrase self care because it sounds, to my ears, pretentious. Or entitled. Or…I’m not sure. Mostly it’s because I learned somewhere if I was the one to do the caring of the self, that it didn’t count for much. I was trained early to help others and not get much. It’s a lesson that stuck.

Put your oxygen mask on first right? Nope, not me. I’d be running around the plane passing out while smashing O2 masks onto strangers. Maybe not. That’s a bad example. I might have enough self preservation and pure fear inside me to be like I’M FIRST.

But self care sounds either like something you have to do if no one else is around to help you, or it sounds like something that is costly, like a spa trip, or grooming experience that the upper 5% percent consider a necessity. Like paying someone to dry brush or exfoliate you. Which I have done, just saying.

I’ve got issues.

All this to say, when I was living in Austin, especially after my mother died, I was not taking care of myself in a lot of very important ways. I had no patience with my body and it’s needs. I didn’t drink enough water. I ate strangely and at odd times, even if I wasn’t hungry. I certainly slept poorly, but wanted to sleep all the time. I drank, not even to excess, but with need. Need, you know? She knows. This was a great article about women and drinking.

There were some other ways I wasn’t taking care of myself and most of those were about emotional boundaries. And about the “why” of what I was doing, and that goes for activism, performance, work you name it.

I’m pretty nice most of the time. Very diplomatic. I often am angry though. That probably means I’m not saying things that I’d prefer to say, not being pushy with people I should be pushy with because my needs are important.

I find I have a lot less patience for that since I’ve moved. It might be the altitude. It might be that patterns are stripped away and so I’m like..WAIT WHAT?

I digress.

So self care. I’ve decided that the core pieces of self care are enough water, enough sleep, vitamins, and some near-daily type of physical activity. And dry brushing. Because I heard somewhere that’s good for your lymph system and it sounds like something one would do on the west coast.

All I have to do is do those things, and check them off-no amounts, no goals, just awareness that they’ve been done or not.

It’s a nice little routine and interestingly I’ve been seeing some changes I didn’t expect. Like my arch and ankle pain, that’s been plaguing me, has lifted. I mean…it could be the daily walking or it could be I just broke something in my feet during the move because there was one day when I thought I might fall down my arches hurt so bad. Who knows! It’s a win, either way!

I like knowing I’m drinking more water. That feels good.

I have found a sweet spot for sleeping. I think everyone in the house is sleeping differently, and I think it’s good. Isn’t that strange?

I will say it’s plain easier to exercise here because we run between 10-40% humidity and it cools off into the 60’s each evening. And there are a lot of trails, as I’ve mentioned. And they are beautiful. The walking is beautiful.

I can see that taking care of myself is a good thing, but I wonder just how far afield I got. How I got there. Why. It’s probably going to be a long reclaiming of the body, from a place of distrust and abandonment to living it fully and with abandon.

But I still like to drink. I’m ok with that.

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The Year Of Living Differently-Hiking Edition

hike

If you want to go hiking in Ashland, you are in luck. There are trails and mountains everywhere-from a adorably Alice In Wonderland themed group of trails running across the top of the town (from Lithia Park all the way to Park Street) and I assume this is about 4 miles?

You also can hike from the bottom of Ashland to the Pacific Crest Trail and pretend you are Cheryl Strayed.

Here’s the thing about hiking in the mountains. You have to go up and you find a flat place but then you either have to up again or down to find another flat place. Some of the up sections are very steep and of course, some of the down sections are also similar.
The flat places are really nice though, if a contemplative walk is on your agenda. The up and downs are also nice if you are focusing on breathing and taking your life step by step. I’m sure it’s a metaphor. Also, they help make your quads really strong. The hills not the metaphor.

Luckily all these up and down places are on trail maps which I do not have any idea how to read. I figure I go up? And then I eventually go down.

In our region, there is poison oak. This is like what would happen if poison ivy had really bad menstrual cramps and decided to not give a fuck about your needs. It can be low to the ground. It can grow up like a goddamn tree. If you think it’s poison oak it probably is poison oak so don’t touch it.

If you climb up to a certain elevation (which means the up sections have to be REALLY STEEP) poison oak is denied a chance to live and so then you can frolic with abandon. Or you can hike NW in Portland and avoid the noxious weed.

Once you think you’ve gotten into Poison Oak, you need to take a bath with Technu, stat. Technu is the shit that helps you avoid the shit that is Poison Oak.

We’ve mentioned deer a few times in posts. Apparently there are also bear. My mother in law has witnessed one coming down the creek near their house which is in civilization, but on the edge of the mountain so it’s pretty likely the bears live up where the trails are. I think the bears are pretty much trying to avoid the goddamn deer, or like, lying around eating blackberries so I’m not too worried.

Still, I’d like to have a dog to take with me because I’d like to hike alone and having been person in what is identified as a woman-type-body, I have issues with hiking alone. I probably should be more frightened of the bears or say, an angry deer, but I’d like to have a big dog and some mace.

I don’t know how Cheryl Strayed did it but I’ve read Wild twice. She probably just kept walking. It’s a metaphor I suppose. Maybe I can rent a dog.

Right now it’s 106 degrees and super dry which means dehydration is a risk. We hiked a short hike today but I’m relishing the idea of 70 degree weather and long hikes alone.

It’s part of the live differently plan, hiking long distances. I know Cheryl did it first, but doesn’t mean I can’t join that club.

I’ll need more Technu. And yeah, read trail maps.

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The Year Of Living Differently Part 1

Graham Lewis Images

Graham Lewis Images

Since I’ve moved to Ashland, I haven’t really spent a lot of time writing or telling stories about the journey. I’ve been super busy with work, with Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit and trying to unpack. So I thought I’d tell you a bit about the region, if it’s a story you’d care to hear.

Ashland is part of the Rogue Valley which encompasses Jackson and Josephine counties and the cities of Grant’s Pass, Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland for a combined population of (and I’m guesstimating) 200,000. Ashland has about 20k and Medford about 70K.

The Rogue River runs through the valley and is a gorgeous rough water destination that people raft down, paddle in, and generally freeze their ass in because it’s goddamn cold. Nearby-ish is the profoundly beautiful Crater Lake, and Mount McLoughlin for hiking, as well as numerous mountain lakes and reservoirs near the Pacific Crest Trail.

Fun fact, we went for a walk downtown today and came across a dude who had walked down from the PCT and everyone cheered for him.
Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is an adorable town. It’s cute and precious and has views on one side of big green mountains (to the west) and rolling tan velvet looking hills to the east (which on the other side of which is Eastern Oregon.

It’s also filled with Jackson Hot Springs and a lot of 60’s age hippies and 70’s age wanderers, and modern age seekers who like Kombucha, hot yoga, art, and seasonal weather. Unlike Eugene or Portland, Ashland has 4 distinct seasons. Right now? It’s 105 but 30% humidity and about 55 at night. It snows in the winter. I expect chilly air, boots, and hot cider come Halloween. There is a huge Halloween parade. Ashland loves parades.

Medford and the region are known for Harry and David. And pears. There is a spring pear festival which I hear is really super fun. I had pears today in my salad at Sunrise Cafe which is a Hawaiian joint right in DT Medford.

Small town life is quieter and there is no traffic. There also are no late night diners or 24 hour grocery stores (unless I’ve missed something) I think there are places like that in Medford. Pizza is still a puzzle. There are loads of bougie wonderful foodie restaurants with names like Alchemy and Amuse. I am happy about this and intend to spend a lot of money there.

Ashland has epic parades, as mentioned above. SO PRIDE is in October and apparently it kicks ass. BPC will, with any luck be performing.
There are few mosquitoes, and fewer flies. Not that many wasps that I can see but loads of honeybees. The Ashland Goddess Temple is devoted to bee-keeping so that’s cool.

There are however, spiders. Lots of them. Like..every morning there are silvery frothy webs in all the bushes and plant life even though I rarely see the spiders. The spiders I do see are black widows and they live under rocks and on the back sides of houses and general have ugly ass nests that scream DON’T COME OVER HERE. I don’t. I avoid them at all costs.

Lavender plants are ubiquitous. I mean…everyone has them all over everything, along with rosemary, and succulents. But seriously, if you like lavender, Ashland is your jam.

And deer. There are deer. There may be more deer than people as there are very few natural predators. They just amble about having lunch on various plants. They walk down the street. They hang out in the front yard. They look at you like….what? We have one buck in the neighborhood that I’ve dubbed Mr. Tumnus because while he’s not a faun, he was a fawn. And there is a lamppost right next to our house so I wonder.

There was a deer that somehow got all caught up in the 4th of July parade (see?) and nearly lost it’s mind trying to figure out how to get out.

The deer hate lavender so there may be a connection with its popularity.

Oregon is a very white state. Medford was one of the first places to initiate a KKK person in Oregon. Oregon had sundown laws on the books for a long time. The first black actress at OSF had to be escorted in and out due to those laws. OSF? The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is doing huge amazing things with intersectional theater making and I love them. The city has had two Unpacking Racism meetings with 200 people per event and they have been GREAT.

It’s beautiful here, achingly so. I feel healthier than I have in a long long time which makes me feel a bit guilty to say, but who can deny health?

We’d welcome visitors. We have our own little airport in Medford and everything!

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Leaning Out. Way Out.

mattmcgillivray flickr creative commons

mattmcgillivray flickr creative commons

Sermon time.

My friend and neighbor, Allison wrote this and posted it on Facebook recently:

“I haven’t worked full time for about 12 years. It was part time, then freelance, then run own business, then school, then more freelance. Full time this week has taken a village to pull off. Thank you all for helping. Starting 30 hours next week till Mid-June. I’m in awe of parents (and jeez, single parents) who do this all the time. And how the heck did I do it before? With toddlers? It feels like there has to be at least one parent in the household with flexible time to deal with the million things you have to do for kids/house/life. This week I’ve been feeling so much empathy for the working poor as my list of things I take care of during business hours fell off the schedule and onto my worry list. And low-paying jobs are the least flexible. Want to take care of that parking ticket/doctors appt/teacher meeting? Those things happen during the day and they require more than a lunch break. At best, it’s time without pay, at worst lose your job. Another way being poor makes you poorer as fees accrue, and the high price of convenience makes planning impossible.”

I’ve been lucky enough to have a neighborhood filled with families who have kids of the same age as mine, all of whom have grown up together like cousins. The parents have a Facebook group to coordinate support and keep track of where they all are, and I’ll tell you, it’s been invaluable to know that my children can show up on any doorstep and be fed, watered, and kept safe. It’s delightful to return the favor when one or more “cousins’ show up to raid the pantry or play in the backyard. It was incredibly important to have this support when I was taking care of two small children and a dying mother, while working full time with a husband who was working and finishing a PhD.

I’m often surprised we survived at all.

Allison is right that it’s almost nearly impossible to run a household, take care of personal, business, and family needs, offer true attention to your children and help them thrive all while both parents are working a full time job (or more). It’s a relentless and constant race to keep up without letting that one important plate crash to the ground, and they all seem important.

There is something SO wrong with that system and that system is neoliberalism and capitalism. And I’m in it and I suspect I”ll be in it and not much to be done, but damn if I don’t want things to be different FUNDAMENTALLY.

Here’s the thing. Machines can do the same thing over and over day in and day out and not need rest or breaks or emotional support. They are efficient and they are industrial and they cannot ever EVER be the model for human systems. Humans cannot do the same thing over and over. They DO need rest and breaks and my god the emotional support people need. Or maybe that’s just me?

We are often extremely creative creatures, but often very inefficient because creativity doesn’t work on a machine’s time table. Creating is not a straight steady line.

Machines have the same day, so far as we know. Humans have bad days, grumpy days, need to pay a tax bill, need to take kids to the doctor (mine are BOTH quite sick right now and thank god my husband can be there today).

Women, have generally served as the home and family caregiver and it was a full time very important role. And not just for having kids. Some people don’t have kids, but everyone has aging parents, or a sick partner, or their own illness. Life has been so potentially bumpy that it’s been really important to have someone who can be at the home taking care of things. It’s so important of a role that women entering the workforce was seen as a revolutionary act in both directions. People fought for it and against it (still are actually).

Feminism of course is vital and important. Women are human beings. That’s not even a section of the system I want to get into. The one thing that I’ve felt has been perhaps…negative…about women working full time is that men have not necessarily been as free to become at home caregivers. Women have adapted into the working world (which of course they always were working both at home and in many other ways), but men haven’t had the cultural approval to “just” parent. The economic market has certainly not supported one person staying at home.

We are a duel income (and some times more) society and most folks working full time jobs still can’t make ends meet as salaries have not matched cost of living.

I don’t think the answer is that “women stay home and men work (which completely erases trans and gender non binary from the equation)” but I don’t think the answer is “everybody work all the time.”

The system is just built wrong. Well, it’s built wrong for most of us. It’s built pretty darn good for the ones reaping the financial rewards at the top of the heap.

Allison’s post describes perfectly how chaotic my life feels most of the time and I am married to a very non-traditional man who has a job with more home flexibility and I myself have had jobs with more home flexibility. I never feel caught up, I always feel lacking as a homemaker and parent because I’m at work, or I’m trying to run faster and faster to achieve…something.

All of that but I’m privileged as hell. As hell. I’ll say it again, I’m goddamn privileged in this ridiculous system and it’s still exhausting, demoralizing, and confusing often enough that I wonder how in the hell anyone ever thought “Lean In” feminism was a good idea.

It’s a total racket. Now, again, I don’t mean the feminism part. All human beings deserve equal rights, ability to earn income equitably, not to be discriminated against or held to arcane cultural standards about roles.

I mean the lean in part. If I leaned in more and became some high powered high paid Whosiwhatsit CEO do you know what would have to happen? I’d have to hire people, other women more often than not, to take care of my house, my bills, my errands, my kids, my life.

But then who takes care of their houses, bills, errands, kids, and life? How hard then do they have to lean in to hire help. And what about that help? Who helps them?

Do they read Lean In and just work more? Do they watch Oprah and assume they don’t “believe” in themselves enough to “attract” wealth?

Everyone working so hard to get ahead of someone else so that they can farm out life to other people so that they can work harder.

Leaning In seems like a grand illusion to me. Meanwhile kids are growing up, doing wonderful things. And there are meals to be cooked, deliciously. And golly, lying in the dusk in the spring grass while a firefly parade bounces through the yard seems really fucking important.

There was a full moon last night, too.

I know that have odd skills. Here they are:

Pretty much I can get on stage, channel some kind of strange energy (I’m sure there is perfectly mundane explanation for it but it feels energetic) and hold a powerful space.

I can make people laugh, I can see the joke and moment that takes the hard thing and humanizes it, and see the power in story.

I also can listen very well and give people goodness about themselves.

I pay attention to the humans IN systems, and while I can see the systems, for me it’s the humans that matter most.

Finally, I write rambling posts about things I think about and people seem to like them.

Right now? I’m thinking about those skills of mine and how to use them in the world-hard. And about art, revolutionary ideas like empathy, love, connection, slowing down, embracing the skills you have even if they aren’t “valued” the same way other skills are-like making money (which…well money is necessary, it’s unregulated net-liberalist capitalism that is stuck in my craw right now and I suppose I should get over some of my feelings enough to take care of my family but you get my point yeah?).

That’s about the only thing I’m leaning into, right now, is me, and as for the rest of the illusory racket?

I’m leaning out, at least far enough to see the fireflies and the moon.

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Generative

flickr verybabytomato

flickr verybabytomato

It has been a long time since my last post. I’d like to chalk it up to some sort of winter germination, but I’ve just been busy and sometimes when I get that busy, I don’t take a lot of time for self-reflection. Sometimes, when I’m doing a lot of work for others, producing or holding space let’s say, I don’t do a lot of performing for myself.

I’ve been very busy and it’s been very exciting.

Roundabouts January sixth, I posted that I was launching a freelance business of sorts. I attracted some incredible folks, and got started managing several social media accounts, consulting around storytelling for documentary, and helping two fantastic theater companies. While that was going on, BedPost Confessions has been growing and experiencing some pretty rich changes. And then that lead to a full time job at an incredible company, Production For Use, which offers a wide variety of consulting services for films in development-from social media management to Kickstarter Advising, they are truly producers for hire, and damn nice people to boot.

All in all? It’s been a little wild. Through the winter (what passes for winter here in Austin, at least), I’ve felt a little stunned, surprised, and amazed both at where I’ve landed and the goodness of the people I’m working with. Between supporting the stories that come out of BedPost and (un)Spoken, consulting with theaters and promoting their work, and now being a part of a team that gets films out with real impact?

I feel like a veritable midwife, and truly lucky.

In all of that wonderfulness though, sometimes I forget to find time for myself and to do my own work. It was delightful today when I went out to a Garden Party at The Vortex, and got my hands in the dirt, smelled beautiful new blossoms, saw some brand new babies, and played with goats and chickens and rabbits and pups. Played

The sun was gentle, music was jovial and free, jazz punctuated by baby goat cries and ducking peeps. My lungs were filled with the breath of spring-soil, pollen, soft sweat, and green leaves.

A good friend asked me when I was going to do my own one-woman show. I asked her in all earnestness, “Oh, god! What is it about?” She laughed and said, “That’s up to you.” I was reminded suddenly of how little I’ve been writing. How little I’ve been creating outside of creating space for other creatives to create. There is a generative cycle that needs to be respected and I’m not sure how I’ll find the time, but I think I should try.

My question is how? How do you out there (my friends who do both) balance the generative and restorative, the production with the performance, the holding space for others with having room to create? Or do you, can you, see it all as two sides of the same coin?

My father once wrote a book called Teaching As A Performing Art and I wonder if Producing is also an art on it’s own, though one of working with people, places, and things to create a big outcome that can reach so many. He had his own challenges with the balance. He taught and he created music. He swung between those two poles and perhaps at the detriment of both. Perhaps not.

He was a beloved professor (that much is still true-I get emails from former students who learned from him in the 70’s) and a well-respected composer (his music is still played), but was his life a divide? Old letters of his show that the two sides pulled at him and he struggled-when he wrote he longed for teaching, when he taught he heard the song asking to be written. He felt depressed over it and was filled with self-doubt. Maybe it’s about accepting that some of us don’t have one thing to do and that’s ok.

No matter. I’m not sure struggling between poles ever gave anyone anything but whiplash.

So here’s to spring, to creating in all possible ways, to generative action and whatever results that action may bring.

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