Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: advice (Page 1 of 3)

X-Ray Vision

When I was a kid, I thought the idea of X-ray glasses was SO COOL. Imagine, being able to see through  anything you wanted! Clothes, wrapping paper, notebook covers, locker doors, the list was endless. Now, of course, I think something like that would be more of a burden than a blessing; imagine if you could see someone’s soul, their fears, their desires, their hatred, before you even spoke a word.

I had my annual mammogram today, pleased that they were open on a Saturday, bright and early. In the hallway, I was delighted and surprised to see the woman who gave me my first mammogram there, 8 years ago. She wasn’t my technician today, but we greeted each other, and while I waited for my results, she stopped by the small chamber to ask me how things were going.

I said, “I’m anxious. It’s been stressful. This election season has been like none other.” And we did that careful dance of words, establishing that we were both on the same side, so we could speak more freely.

See, she’s getting ready to retire. She’s been doing this for about 40 years. That’s what first drew me into conversation with her – what she had to have seen over her career, the advancements in technology alone would be mind-blowing, and knowing that in this gig, you’re going to also have your share of heartache to go with the joy of seeing  some survivors return – and others not survive.  She’s thinking that after she retires, she’s going to try and find a job as a caretaker for people with early on-set dementia, because she watched her son’s MIL decline, and the care out there being expensive and hard to find. She is one of those people that shows you her soul quickly, and it’s the soul of a kind, caring, wonderful human being.

She also told me that in the past year, more women have asked to not have her perform their screenings. Oh, yeah, now is when I’m going to also tell you something else about her, something that shouldn’t have any bearing:  she’s black. And apparently, in these crazy times, people now feel even more comfortable saying to her face, “You can’t know what you’re doing, I want someone else.” Tears of anger and compassion flooded my eyes as I conveyed my horror and shock.  We spoke of how hatred and racism surely have to have been there all along, but marveled at how emboldened it’s become, and how acceptable it now seems to be to show it, speak it,  act on it. She closed her eyes, shaking her head and said, “You know what, all I can do is live my life. I’m a flawed black woman and I will stand before Jesus and be judged, just like they will, and they’ll have to answer for their sins, just like I will.” All I could do was murmur something at that point because I couldn’t scream the invectives and curse words and denials, that they needed their comeuppance on this earth, that they need to be shamed and excoriated for their flawed choices under the banner of hatred.  That they need to learn and be different. That they should have let this kind, capable, experienced woman perform their exam.

I hugged her, because she may not be there next year when I return, because her retirement is on the horizon, and she’ll be somewhere else, giving of her time and wisdom to someone who needs it, giving peace and comfort to that person’s family.

I see what we have become as a nation, and I don’t like it. Hatred may have always been there, but clearly the shame attached to it has been lost. And I’ve picked it up, because I am ashamed on behalf of those women who could be so racist and callous to someone so undeserving. I shoulder the burden of bad choices by others, because when I know a wrong has been done, I feel compelled to try and right it, somehow.

Still, I’m grateful I don’t have x-ray vision, to be able to see so clearly those around me, their basest fears under their sleeves. It’s enough to speak up when you see it and hear it.  Maybe find common ground or understand what the fear is that’s fueling the hatred.  I’m looking at my own fears, and it seems like talking to our elders is a good way to go: every person I’ve talked to this past week who is over the age of 60, has a calmer view on where the election could take us: no matter what happens, we’ll still be here. We’ll get through it. We’ll do what we need to do. We got through the last (X), we’ll get through this.  And in the end, we must only answer for ourselves.

Choose wisely, my friends.

Truth #2

When everyone around you is wrong, the odds are high that the problem actually lies within you.

Reflect. Identify. Resolve.


When we embrace the parts of ourselves that we feel are the worst elements, the ugliest pieces, the parts we ignore because they are so painful to acknowledge, once we look at them and wrap our arms around them in unconditional acceptance and love, that is when we truly find freedom.


You know how it is, when you have a discovery and it’s like the lightbulb actually hovered over your head, illuminated the universe and then exploded into a thousand shards of brilliance?

Well, let me tell you something: The oven door comes OFF.

That’s right. Off! I suppose there are models where it doesn’t, and maybe really old stove/ovens require some sort of rare tool or brute force, but all I could think when I discovered this fact and did it for myself was, “DID EVERYONE KNOW THIS AND NOT TELL ME?” Because I’ve scrubbed plenty an oven floor in contortions, back in the day, and trying to work around an opened oven door is precarious, as if you lean on it, you very well could bring the whole damned thing toppling over onto you, or at the very least, scare yourself with some tipping.

Basically, you open the door all the way, and then look at where the hinges connect to the body of the oven. USE A SCREWDRIVER to do the next part, because some video I watched that had you flipping the little locks up with it cautioned that you could lose a finger if it snapped back. Ours is a newer oven, so it just required pushing the hinge guards down. Then, you take the oven door and shut it partway, as if you were going to broil something, and then grab the sides and lift up. Try not to drop it in your shock at succeeding at this! Now you can clean the oven quite easily and if you are inclined, you can also take the whole door apart and clean in-between the glass, if, say, someone you know accidentally hooked a shirt sleeve on a whole pan of cooled cooking oil, kept walking, and then launched said pan into the air, drenching the entire area with oil, much to the enthusiasm of a couple black labs. HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING YOU SEE.

Now, if you’re going to take the door apart, learn from me. Get some post-it notes, number them, and put the little screws you take out into piles and keep them separate and orderly. Also consider taking some pictures as you go, because you will have to flip back and forth and while you’re taking it all apart, sure, you’ll think, “this is completely logical and easy, I’ll just keep going.” And then when you go to put it back together, you’ll realize it took you three hours to get to that point, between watching a video, checking your steps, cleaning things, drying them, and having some lunch. And it will take you 7 times as long to get the door back together. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES, GRASSHOPPER.

I’ve referenced a video for cleaning the door – here it is. It’s not the greatest quality? But it’s definitely informative, thorough, and it felt a little like having your grandpa around, showing you how to do a complicated project. I also was hooked by the opener, talking about what to do with a dirty oven door: “Three ways to solve it! Hang a decorative towel over the glass, buy a new stove, OR – clean it!”

And THEN, once you’ve gotten it all cleaned and the gunk is off the bottom and not threatening to set the smoke alarm off, you have the greatest sense of satisfaction you can imagine. And then? THEN? Someone should cook a frozen pizza in it without a pan or anything below the rack, and drip a nice big spot of cheese onto the bottom that you discover two days later, and you dance around in crazed disbelief, wielding a knife and trying to scrape the now-smoking burnt cheese out while the oven still preheats. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) (Penance was paid. Hypothetically.)

Be Here Now.

Someone posted one of those pictures everyone likes and shares – a stack of cell phones, sitting on a restaurant table. The type over the picture said something to the effect of, “First one to check their phone picks up the tab.” A funny, if not completely enforceable, reminder that the whole point of connecting, staying connected, and building connections has everything to do with being present, in the moment.

I first encountered the Horrid SmartPhone User in a former boss, who would look away from every conversation to check his phone whenever it beeped or buzzed. Not an actual incoming phone call, mind you, but an email notification or a text message alert. Entire meetings could pass while he kept his nose pointed at his phone’s screen, and while one can argue in every meeting there are times your contributions aren’t required, it’s different when you’re in a one-on-one meeting, and you continually send the unspoken message, “Something else might be more important than you, right now, and I’m going to disrupt what we’re saying by allowing this device to interrupt us.”

So in those days, and because I have a tendency to wander forward in my brain, anticipating the next steps, or the next 20 steps, or what might happen, I would mentally stop myself and say aloud, “Be here now.” It doesn’t mean I don’t also fall victim to my phone’s siren song of buzzing and chirps, but I try to be acutely aware of the fact that if I’m sitting at lunch, or dinner, or in a meeting, or having a one-on-one conversation with someone, I want to put them first. Just as I want them to put me first. Just the act of glancing at one’s phone’s screen is an interruption, a distraction, it is the equivalent of the pause button. Don’t even get me started on the people who are talking or texting at the movies, good grief. Seriously? Rent a movie and stay home. Nobody wants your inability to sit still, your need to multi-task encroaching on their enjoyment of being completely engrossed in the sights and sounds of a good story.

I’ve chided people who give their attention to their phone in my presence. “Are there three of us here right now? You, me, and all the people in your phone?” Because I just want to make sure it’s clear that our time is being shared by an inanimate object. If it is, maybe I’ll get out my phone, start giving semi-distracted responses, too. It’s fine, if the stage is set beforehand (I’m waiting to hear from the client, I am waiting for their response to an email, I need to make sure they got XYZ.) I suppose it’s technically fine if everyone’s on their phone, though I fail to see the point of being together if you’re going to all be absorbed by your 3″ screens. And again – I’m guilty of it myself, but I’m working on reviving that mantra, Be Here Now, because if we’re not Here? We’re slowly forgetting how to converse, how to engage, how to be polite and respectful, how to immerse ourselves in the world around us.


Your friends will thank you. Your employees will appreciate you. Your brain, which doesn’t need to do 20 things at once, might actually breathe a sigh of relief. And you will not miss anything. You might actually get even more than you expected.

New Year’s Day

I say those words, and instantly hear Bono crooning the U2 song…. I … will be with you again…. It was a nice day, spent with the hubby, then after he went off to play backgammon, with more episodes of Deadwood and knitting. We talked about 2012, and what’s important, and how it was overall, a pretty darned good year. We’re each others’ rocks, our dogs are good and provide us with loads of entertainment, work is good, the house is good, the garden is good, and our hobbies delight and fulfill us. I still obsess and scramble with my thoughts and am far, far, far too hard on myself. If I really were the center of the universe, it would make sense. After all, I would need to be excellent all the time, just to keep order in the universe! But I am not, yet I never fail to find fault or construct my failings as the cause of everything that isn’t precisely perfect. I just got a couple poisoned apples along the way and they excel at creeping in and dismissing all that is good or true or kind to my soul. The irony is that there’s no way I would let someone else speak to me the way I speak to myself. Ball peen hammer, I have it. I hope this is the year I put it down, because I’m really going to try. It’s the only resolution I’m making, frankly. Find more self-compassion. Be as kind to myself as I am to those I love.

The other thing to remember? Most people are doing the best they can, with what they have, right now.* It usually has nothing to do with you, or me, or the universe or the moon. And that’s ok. (that’s directed at the voice that comes up and says, “You could do better.”)

*”If he coulda done better, he woulda. (hat-tip to my wonderful Auntie, because I had already written most of this before our chat tonight!)

Under Re-struction

1. My blog has been jacked up. For quite a while. I apologize, but the efforts I made with my host to restore it ended up failing. I thought I had at least one database that could back up everything at least through October, but that also proved fruitless. Data data everywhere, but not a point restore.

2. THANK GOD for Google Reader. Kids, this saves the universe. Yes, I’ve had to rebuild everything – but all my lost posts were still cached & sitting there on Google Reader.

3. So all the posts just got back. I still don’t have a home page (WTF) but all the posts are back – sans comments, unfortunately, and it breaks my heart, because there were a couple posts with some heartfelt, treasured comments.

4. Always do regular backups!

I’m too busy to blog…

because my job is awesome and keeps me hopping.

Oh and yeah, today? I’m fucking madder’n a hornet’s nest. Here’s a sample of my writing – you can read both my emails to my Senators as I lose my shit over the idiots in Congress trying to hold Planned Parenthood funding hostage:
Dear Ms. McCaskill,
I know we share the same beliefs and outlook on women’s rights, and their right to healthcare. I sent the following email to your colleague, Senator Blunt, and I urge you to fight and do whatever is necessary to help bring this heinous affront to Missouri women and the women of our country to a close. To de-fund Planned Parenthood is to set our rights back countless years. I am utterly astonished that presumably educated men, with wives, sisters and daughters, would even consider this restriction and the resulting impact on the low-income and poor women who NEED the medical and health care provided by Planned Parenthood. You have my support 100% and I hope your voice can help bring reason and resolution to this ridiculous battle.

Email to Senator Blunt, 4/8/2011:
It is completely unconscionable to hold up the entire budget of the United States over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Mr. Blunt, we do not share the same views on abortion, but surely you can recognize the services provided by PP to low-income and poor women throughout our state? Needed, necessary services including family planning, cancer screenings and medical treatment? Not one penny of the budget that hangs in the balance goes to fund abortions. Not a one. I urge you to speak to your colleagues and stop this all-out assault against the women of our state and our country, because allowing this budget battle to hang on this issue? Is a travesty and will put our society back by 100 years in terms of equality, medical services and women’s rights. Thank you.

1,676 Days

I’ve never been a smoker, but I’ve witnessed how difficult it is to quit. For all of my friends out there who are struggling with it, you have my sympathies.

My dad would have been 67 today. He died at the age of 62, ravaged with cancer they believe started in his lungs. He smoked 2-3 or more packs of unfiltered Camels a day, for over 20 years. He finally quit, but the damage remained. I miss him every day.  It’s been 1,676 days, in fact.   The cancer swept through him like a forest fire, and it took a long time to restore my memories of the vibrant, sarcastic, bushy-haired, bearded father I’d known for 30+ years, from the last weeks where his body became a fragile hollow shell. Mostly I miss being able to laugh with him about things, but the hardest moments are when I want advice, from someone who’s known me for a lifetime.   So if you can, if you can find the strength to quit, or cut back, so you can be there for your own kids, believe me, they’ll appreciate it.

Dear City of Kansas City:

We are in the GRIPS of yet another winter storm (9″ of snow forecast for the area), and based on the pandelerium on the television news, we are all going to die. OK, strike that, we are just all going to be MISERABLE. My husband keeps shouting, “WHITE DEATH! WHITE DEATH!” every time Katie Horner comes on.

Yes, winter weather is serious stuff. As we saw last year, our general approach to the white stuff is “Meh, it’ll melt!” and we saw how well that didn’t work. Including last week’s snowpocalypse, which resulted in snow days and now we have streets that weren’t cleared well last week, packed down with large patches of ice, getting a new layer of snowfall today and tonight.  But really, the solution is pretty damned simple. Our mayor pledged we’d have more snowplowing this year, and I recognize it’s a costly expense (other cities recommend contracting for clearing by the inch, vs. by time, it’s amazing how much faster it gets done…) and I think we need to take it one step further.

We need Snow Emergency rules. I lived with them for five years in Minneapolis, and it is remarkably efficient. The city has to declare a Snow Emergency by a fixed time (it’s 6 pm there), and that is The Beginning of Teh Rulez. In this day and age with internet and mobile, it’s even EASIER. Trust me. I can’t tell you how many times we’d ask each other, “OK, what day is it?” because rules apply by day and how you can park on the city streets. And for those without a garage or off-street parking, don’t panic. It works. I only had my own parking space for a year, and all the other years, I was bright enough to consult a calendar, determine odd house numbers from even, and know which side of the street to park on. So here’s how it works in Minneapolis, where, I think, we can all agree: they know snow.

Snow Emergency Declared, 6pm. From 9 pm to 8 am the next day, no parking on “Snow Emergency Routes”. These would be the biggest main streets in the city. All side streets allow parking on either side.

Day 2, 8am-8pm – no parking on EVEN-NUMBERED sides of the streets. You can park on the odd-numbered side, and on either sides of the Emergency Routes. (God bless ’em, Minneapolis even has a web page to HELP YOU DETERMINE what side of the street is even or odd.) After a street is fully plowed, you may park there (even if it’s still before 8pm.)

Day 3, 8am-8pm – Guess what. Now you move your car to the other side of the street, the EVEN side. If you were smart, you did this the night before after the street got plowed, so you don’t wake up in a panic screaming “OMFG what time IS IT and did I MOVE the car????”  (Why no, I never did that, what do you mean?)

Now, I also know we don’t have the elite Black Ops of Snow Removal here in the city. It might even require an extra day or two for our Snow Emergency Time Frame to allow total street clearing. But I can tell you this: it would solve the issue of our side streets getting plowed in a half-assed manner or not at all. My BFF’s street can barely allow a car down it because people are parking on both sides, let alone a snowplow. So now they’re completely ice-packed, treacherous, and who knows when it will all melt.  And I think we’ve had a couple winters now that show we do need some sort of actionable plan. Yeah, people will bitch. But they’ll bitch anyway, about the roads, about the snow, whatever. Grow up, grab your balls, and force yourself to pay attention for a few days for the greater good.

And if you really wanna rebel and don’t follow the rules, it means you get a ticket and possibly towed – revenue generated for the city. Win fucking Win.

Any mayoral candidate who seizes on this concept and incorporates it into their platform will have my vote!  Well….maybe. I did fall for the no-more-steel-plates platform, and that cost us a lot of moolah in racial slur settlements.  Probably enough to have bought us a couple more snowplows.

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