Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Photo Challenge: FUN

I can feel my brain mushing about. I didn't get to enjoy summer until right about this week and now that I can enjoy I'm unable to do much else. So, please forgive me for the way I wasn't entirely together about this challenge.

Turned out great anyway, though!

I think Our Alisun meant this for the REFLECT challenge and somehow I messed up. I think it's a FUN reflection, though, so I like have it kick this off. I'm all about a good segue.

I figured this one would be easy for Our Cindy. She has FUN wherever she goes!

Our Janet's Dave is always hilariously FUN. Apparently so is the rest of the family!

There were plenty of official photographers at BlogHer but I couldn't help capturing a couple shots of just how much FUN people were having! Even people I didn't know.

Seriously, did Our Bethany trap FUN in an image or what?

I almost want to do the same prompt again but that seems wrong. Oo, I know! FRESH. Let's do that.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday August 11th for posting on August 12th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and FRESH. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Partial Adulthood

Today I was standing in a mercifully short line in the deli watching my neighbor, D. He's about 6 and he was waiting for his mother to check out, feeling the oscillating fan on his sweaty face. As she loaded their fruit salad supplies into her shopping bag he turned, spied something, pointed and cried out to his mom. "I already bought everything, D, I'll get it later." Then they started out and he touched the disgusting garbage can with both hands and she good naturedly shuffled him out of the building.

It got me thinking about being an adult.  Kids say so often, "I can't wait until I'm grown up!" I did. I'm sure you did, too. Everyone I know did or does. We adults nod sagely and say, "Just you wait." It's kind of mean.

Before I saw D and his mom I peeled my sweaty self off the couch to feed another neighbor's cats. Very adult of me. I remembered to bring my wallet because I wanted to treat myself to something for lunch. That was also a pretty grown up move.

Once the cats were cared for I walked down the block thinking about what would taste good. That was the only criteria in the decision. I settled on deli sushi even though I was walking the long way but it didn't matter. Before I saw D I picked out my sushi and checked out the ice cream selection. They didn't have any of my favorite flavors. I could have just gone home but right across the street is a deli that almost always has my favorites. I jaywalked because I know right from wrong but I'm an adult and I can decide how I deploy that knowledge. Paid for my favorite flavor, walked home, ate my sushi, took a nap, ate some ice cream.

That's what kids mean. That snippet of my day encompasses all the great things about being an adult. I make my own choices and I don't have to consult anyone on them. There's a little ice cream left. If I wake up tomorrow and decide to have it for breakfast no one can stop me.

All of us adults know that basic vision isn't the whole picture. The rest of my day covered many of the less enticing aspects of grownupedness. For that brief run, though, I thought, "You're right, kid, you're gonna love it."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Photo Challenge: REFLECT

This was a goodie! Man, I just love doing this so much. Thanks again, everyone! They're actually all so lovely that I'm just going to let them stand on their own and not comment. That's a version of REFLECTion, too.

Tomorrow, after one client session, I'll be immersing myself in BlogHer 2015. I'm doing my best to treat it as a vacation and I'm really excited. So, I'm sure we've done this prompt before but it's the only one I want:: FUN!

Have FUN with it!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday July 28th for posting on July 29th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and FUN. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Compare and Contrast

I promised myself that I would write about race. People I respect are asking us all to speak about it. I know I need to listen since my race is the default but once I'd listened some I would write. And then I didn't write. I shared things on social media, I waded into conversation in comments sections, I had email exchanges that I deeply wanted to get out of but I stuck with it.

I didn't write about race, though.

As I postponed writing again today by reading what others have set down I thought about what a privilege it is to be able to postpone it and about how it's really, really not about me.

In the town where I grew up there were three black people who were permanent residents. Our town had a fancy private school so there were other black people around but they weren't part of the town fabric. The B family were close family friends, two kids and their dad. Their mom was white. It was easy to be put out by all four of them because they were exceptional. It wasn't their race it was their talent. All three of them were intensely intelligent, unquestionably beautiful, and stunningly musical. No qualifications. I could never measure up and our smallish group of friends was often held up in contrast to each other.

Now I think about it and realize that, of course they were exceptional. They had to be. When you are the one example in your world of the thing that others use to define you then of course. Of fucking course. You have to do it all better, faster, and in a kinder way.

Mr. B was the band director in the Junior High. He was deeply beloved as were all the fine arts teachers. In a town without a lot of culture they opened doors a lot of residents didn't know existed.  My father was the band director in the high school and the head of the entire department which encompassed the school district. My father yelled at his students when they stepped out of line. Sometimes he slammed his music stand down with both hands. He threw erasers and sometimes chalk. Auntie Blanche, who was a little old lady in tennis shoes even way back then, threw more than one eraser herself when a student was disrespectful. In all my knowledge of the music department lore and all the time I spent with Mr. B I remember him jiggling his music stand forcefully a couple of times. I remember him looking musicians in the eye and speaking to them sternly. I remember him laughing in a rueful, disappointed way at how badly behaved or rehearsed we were.

Which of those three teachers do you think that people often said they were afraid of?

I honestly thought it was just because Mr. B was more authoritative. I hate that I didn't realize how much more went into it.

But it's not about me.

I was always impressed by their family. Now I am even more so. It shouldn't have taken me so long to realize.

Photo: Mark & Earl in New England a very long time ago. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Photo Challenge: Whew!

The entries this time are few and, as we've come to expect in this series, heartfelt. I really do think you'll love them.

I know that the road trip was long to get Our Cindy and her family to the beach. I can feel the relief of the sand between my toes and the sea breeze in my nostrils from this shot!

As I've said before, this year has seen my schedule mock a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to slide into Alita's birthday weekend. Imagine my relief when we went out for cupcakes and sushi and she smiled in our birthday photo.

With all that's been happening in the world the last couple of weeks (Charleston shootings, SCOTUS rulings, personal hurdles) I wanted a prompt that reflects the mind, body, and soul work we are doing these days. And so I chose REFLECT. Please take that in any way you desire.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday July 14th for posting on July 15th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and REFLECT. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stories All Stacked Up

I used to date a preacher's kid. I hadn't done that before and I haven't done it since. No reflection on the kid or the preacher. It's a life event that bears noting, though. We were together several years. We came to love each other's families.

The first time I met the family was a Sunday. We went to church and Tom, the preacher, was giving the sermon. I thought we'd sit up front and people would watch our every move but that's not the way his wife, Yvonne, rolls. She sits in back so no one can stare at her. Sometimes she balances her checkbook before the offering but she always listens and writes down the theme of the sermon in her program once she's heard it even though she probably spent the week before editing it.

After the service we got a tour of the building because it was state of the art with a brand new lighting and sound system that, as theatre people, J and I would appreciate. Then on to brunch at a local place where I had my first taste of grits. I didn't want a taste of grits but when your boyfriend's father, who has a direct pipeline to God apparently, holds a perfectly buttered and salted forkful of grits in front of your mouth you eat them. They were ok.

At that point on a Sunday the family lets their hair down. We headed back to the manse and sat down in the living room. In short order Tom asked me something about the Presbyterian church and I let fly my ignorance leaving him a wide open door. He stepped into the space where my knowledge should have been with delight. I learned of the beginnings of the church, the split, the sort of reunification, how you could tell one side of the split from the other when you looked at a church's sign....I learned a lot. Well, I heard a lot at least.

We joked when I was part of the family that my first meeting included an 8 hour seminar on the history of the Presbyterian Church in America. Yvonne left the room only a few sentences in. I assumed she was using the bathroom or getting a drink or changing her clothes. She never came back. J left the room not too long afterward. He must have come back at some point because I'm not still in that living room today but it was a long time.  Later up in J's room he asked why I was so interested in all that. I explained that, while it was interesting (really, it was), I wasn't exactly interested but his dad started to talk and I was brought up to be polite and then you and your mother abandoned me there! "Oh, well, you should have left."

How in Presbyterian hell was I supposed to do that?

It wasn't funny then but it's really funny now because now I know that that's just the way that Tom tells stories. He takes you on a long and winding road and there's a lot to learn but some of it you maybe already know and some of it you never needed to know and some of it is fascinating but if you ever want off the ride you just step off. He won't mind.

Here's another thing he said a lot, "I told you that story to tell you this one."

Tom died a couple of weeks ago. He'd been sick for a couple of years. He was expected to die a month or so ago but rallied and spent a little more time with his family. I haven't seen or spoken to him in over a decade. I still quote him and have fond memories of him and ask after him on Thanksgiving, the one day of the year that J and I still see each other. If you'd asked I certainly would have told you that I missed Tom but not in a pressing way. News of his decline obviously didn't spur me to action.

I don't remember when or where it was but I have an absolutely clear memory of Tom telling us about a visit to a hospitalized congregant. Her family was gathered around and they were, of course, heartbroken at the prospect of losing her. Each person in the room held her hand and reminded her of the past and begged her not to go. Tom prayed with them and blessed her and told her that if she had to go she should. He explained that she needed to hear that and she needed to hear it from someone she respected so that was his job for anyone but especially for someone whose family couldn't manage it.

I feel as though I've always known that the right thing to do with a dying person (or, frankly, pet) is to tell them that it's ok to go if they need to. Yet that is the only time I can think of where someone said out loud to me, "This is what needs to be done." I've had some opportunities to use that lesson since and it's present in my mind whenever I'm visiting with or even thinking of someone who won't be around much longer. I thought of it when I thought of Tom before he died.

I hope that if I'd been standing next to his bed I'd have whispered, "Thank you. I really don't want you to go but if you have to please do." On the other hand maybe I'd have asked him to wait until I'd finished telling just one more story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photo Challenge: SEARCH

These challenges are a real light for me. As some of you know I'm doing some continuing education as a dog trainer and we're well beyond the cute puppy stuff. The reading is heavy, the homework is intense, my brain and my heart are challenged. I'm loving it but to take a short break and look at the moments shared here is blissful. Thank you.

Our Sue's beloved Goldie enjoyed nothing better than to SEARCH for critters!

Our Skelly thinks he's invisible, right Janet?

Our Misti was searching bouquet making techniques while I loomed over her with a camera. I'm helpful.

So envious of Our Laura's experience. I have only spent a little time researching the work dogs can do with their noses but I'm fascinated.

Our Cindy searched and searched for a cloud and came up empty.

There have been a lot of close shaves in my world lately. Not my own necessarily but things lost and found in highly emotional ways. So let's go with WHEW! for a prompt. You ought to get a kick out of that.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday June 30th for posting on July 1st. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and WHEW. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday in the Borough of Churches

Brooklyn is the Borough of Churches. I found out recently that's because there were government subsidies for churches to move there as a plan to encourage community building.

Now, though, to the untrained eye, it seems that no one goes to their neighborhood church. Everyone I see on the street is hustling out the door very early all pressed and dressed to go somewhere else or arriving in cabs and Access-a-rides and on foot from far flung boulevards and avenues.

If you know me even a tiny bit you know that church is not my thing. Religion is not my thing. A whole lot of not. My untrained eye is only there at that time of day because I have a dog. I prefer not to rise early but I've gotten used to it (I know some of you are having a hearty guffaw at my characterization of 7:45am as early) after so much canine companionship and I can tolerate it because I don't have to shower or put on fancy clothes. I, sometimes literally, roll out of bed, throw on yesterday's clothes, and hit the bricks with my top notch terrier.

I've written often about how I came to realize after Emily died that walking a dog was integral to my mental health. Emily was reactive to other dogs when she was on leash and I was careful not to have headphones in when I walked her so that I could avoid any conflict. I could spot a yorkie at 1,000 paces. Still can! After a few months without a dog I felt extremely unsettled. My brain wasn't organizing itself properly and I wasn't processing emotions well. It finally dawned on me that I spent my walks with Emily letting my mind do its own thing so that the important items could bubble to the top and I could work on them. A lot of people do this in the shower, and I do too, but it turns out I have problems thorny enough to benefit from more contemplation.

This wasn't solved the minute Ed showed up. I dwelt less on the fact that I was having trouble because all of my concentration went to handling this basketball-sized bundle of fury that was living in my house. Walks were not quiet or calm or slow. I was still watching for dogs and for a long time every second of our walks were work, hard work, work that I often failed in.

Things are different now, though. I've learned to really listen to my dog and to break out of patterns that were more for me than for him. A lot of good things have come of that. A happy dog is not the least of them.

Yesterday I (not literally) rolled out of bed and into some clothes that I'd sweated in hard the day before. I loaded up my pockets with poop bags and dog treats. I checked the weather. I clicked Ed into his harness and we headed out the door. For the next hour we walked wherever the scents of the pavement led him. We walked in places we see once a week, once a month, once a year, and at least one I'm pretty sure I've never been on before. The walk was quiet and calm and interesting. My brain had space to wander, bubble, and re-set itself.

It was like church.

If you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Photo Challenge: HELP

Man, I've felt like a needed a lot of help lately. It worked out nicely because spending time with these images helped me to get rid of that feeling. Everything's gonna be all right, you know?

Our Janet's grandson, R, is one of the best HELPers I can think of!

HELP! Get me know, never mind it's comfy in here. My boy likes a den

I don't know about Our Alisun but I'm someone who keeps too much stuff already. Free stuff is NO HELP!

One of the basic tenets of Our Bethany's family's HeartLoose adventure is HELPing.

For purely regular, boring, and practical reasons I'm now on the SEARCH for a voice teacher. You know how I am about new stuff. Hate it. So much. But here we are. So please help me make peace with newness by finding fun images prompted by SEARCH.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday June 16th for posting on June 17th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and SEARCH. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Home. Here.

Right after 9/11 my emotional reaction was that I could not leave New York City. It became of paramount importance to stay put as long as possible. If I left, I thought, they (who?) might not let me come back in.

I was not, of course, able to articulate that very well. I had numerous conversations with friends and family where they said, "Just come home." "You're welcome here." "Why don't you come visit?" It made me so angry. Why did they not understand? With time I understood that there was no way they could understand and I wasn't helping them any. I mostly let go of the anger. (I am terrible at letting things go. I'm trying to work on it.)

In the past couple of months several of my friends have gone through some awful stuff. They aren't my stories to tell but they've been my stories to listen to and support and help where I can manage. So often there's nothing anyone can do.

Well, wouldn't you know, I have bitten my tongue bloody on more than one occasion. At some point all I want to say is, "Come home." "Come here." "Sit by me." That's all it means, sit by me so I can keep an eye on you and feed you candy and make sure that you know that you are loved.

Just like me so many years ago, though, they know they are loved without having to sit on my ratty old couch. I have to trust that.

Another Channel

It's been so long since I posted on Kizz & Tell that some of you may not even know what that is. For anyone that needs an intro or a refresher, Kizz & Tell is my sex and reproductive health blog. I thought it might have been on permanent hiatus until a topic came to be (so to speak) this week. Remember that it's a blog about sex written by me. If you even suspect that you might be uncomfortable with those topics (sex, me, me & sex) please do not click through.

If you're comfy cozy with all that, I wrote a post about the cyclical nature of desire and I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Photo Challenge: APPRECIATE

This was a quiet one. I like the quiet ones. I don't mean that like, "Nobody participated" because clearly people did! I mean that the photos rolled in quietly with some peaceful and lovely (or disturbing images) and it all felt very quiet. It was cool.

I'm not sure if, initially, Our Bethany APPRECIATEd the gift of a birthday photo shoot but I hope she sees its high value now. I love this photo.

I hope Our Cindy would agree that it's wonderful to be loved but it's important also to be APPRECIATEd.

As I think Our Janet said over on Flickr, you have to APPRECIATE the clear warning!

This picture represents a middle ground that can't always be summited. My dog tolerates children but doesn't love them. A is a deeply empathetic kid who has been taught about respecting the feelings of dogs. When they get together they play training games and they both have a stupidly good time and really love being together. I APPRECIATE it more than I can say.

This next prompt is purely personal. HELP! That's it. I'm so busy I just need HELP! But you could interpret it in less dire ways. You can do anything you like. That's what's cool about these challenges.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday June 2nd for posting on June 3rd. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and HELP. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Photo Challenge: LEVEL UP

Oh, I think you're going to love these. I do!

Quick shout out to Our Janet for always ALWAYS tagging her photos. I went into the group to draft this post and the only way I could tell where the last challenge ended and this one began was by checking her tags. Thanks for keeping me in check, Janet!

I'm kicking this week off with this photo from Our Bethany for 2 reasons. One is know, let me let her son, Fynn (not pictured), explain. Secondly because I pretty much insisted that she offer up this photo for this specific prompt and then I didn't use it. Sorry!

Our Cindy caught me by surprise with this one. She's been making her own ghee for ages and I was thinking that she'd leveled up in ghee expertise then I really looked at the photo. Leveled up. LEVELed up. Got it.

Many moons ago my mother, who Our Alisun knows, tried to get me to level up my cat guardianship. I still have to hide the leashes in the freezer. Clearly Alisun's cat is more evenly keeled.

Ha! I love it when Our Janet goes literal. Before I embiggened the photo and saw the comment on it I was thinking what a big up-leveling it was to drink one's wine from a crystal goblet!

The only time I get really serious about selfies (ussies?) is when I'm hanging out with my younger generation friends. I don't know what they think about it but they seem to have fun. We took a regular one first and then I felt we needed to level up.

Last but certainly not least, in the past month Our Lisa has gotten her braces off and leveled up to her 2nd degree black belt. She's getting more done before June than some people do all year! (People like me!) Congratulations, Lisa!

You know, I was mulling over Mothers Day when this came to me but, really, it could apply to anything. Next prompt is APPRECIATE.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday May 19th for posting on May 20th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and APPRECIATE. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Photo Challenge: SPECIAL

Have I told you lately that I love you? I do! Sorry I don't say it enough.

Our Lisa got her braces off! You can see the special level of excitement in her eyes. Congratulations!

New chickens are always special. Our Cindy's chickens are fuzzy little treasures!

We have a special tradition of making faces in selfies. I forgot about the tradition and still managed to make a weird face!

In a week and a half I start a new level of training for my work with dogs. I'm excited. And nervous. But excited. And, you know, pretty nervous. First day of school is always a little funny. So, I'm calling the next prompt LEVEL UP. That's weird enough for you, right?

Please enter by 9am Tuesday May 5th for posting on May 6th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and LEVEL UP. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Friday Afternoon Flashback

When I was in 4th grade we saw a movie basically every Friday afternoon. Our teacher was a hardass but she teamed up with a few other teachers and, if I remember correctly, each and every Friday at least 2 classrooms full of us squeezed into one classroom and waited for the lights to be turned down low and the excitement to begin.

Even talking about it now brings me close to panic.

We weren't getting the latest Disney fare or a documentary about kittens. We saw movies about pollution, water shortage, disease, environmental decay, fire, and I'm pretty sure brimstone - though no religion. I have vivid images burned in my brain of puffing smokestacks and ankles puffed up by elephantiasis.

To say that I have been anxious since birth is not an exaggeration. Afraid of the dark, afraid of snakes, afraid of making a fool of myself, afraid of nuclear annihilation. I had plenty to worry about on every afternoon of the week and for an entire school year, in the name of education, my teachers poured burning pitch on my little flame of fear and watched it leap 10 feet high and white hot.

In their defense I don't think they actually saw what it was doing to me. It counted as educational material. It was vaguely activist in nature. The crazy gross stuff probably amused and delighted a lot of my classmates (who I can only assume now watch a lot of reality TV) and I sat frozen and silent in the corner and concentrated on not crying or screaming or passing out. From the moment we were told to line up I strategized where to sit and what I could hide behind and began telling myself entertaining stories that could divert my mind's eye while my actual eyes stayed glued to the screen just the way Mrs. Fitch liked them.

I went on to fear listening to the news and, even now, am pretty much unable to turn off my reaction to any sensationalist delivery of even scientific information. I'm smart enough to know I'm being manipulated but anxious enough not to be able to fight the feeling, if you'll pardon the expression.

Last night I went to see Jane Goodall speak. She's the chimpanzee lady, you know? The gorilla lady died so if you're going to hear someone speak you go listen to the chimpanzee lady. The last three sentences should make it pretty clear how much I knew about Dr. Goodall going in. I bought the ticket because I knew a friend really liked Goodall's work and suddenly several friends did and we decided to go as a group.

At dinner as we discussed our anticipation (for the sake of dignity I didn't contribute much). One friend piped up, "I think this talk is going to be a lot about climate change. That's what she's seems to be focusing on."

WHAM! I was right back in Mrs. Fitch's 4th grade classroom being told to line up for the movie. Suddenly I was planning what stories I might distract myself with in my head while still paying enough attention to contribute to the conversation later but not paying so much attention that I'd have a panic attack and ruin everyone's night. When we arrived there was an informative slideshow playing and I watched the panels carefully to glean as much as I could.

When the lights went down I started to cry.

I did not have a panic attack and I was able to listen to the whole thing with all my attention. I could not, however, stop crying. Dr. Goodall is highly optimistic but she's open to the fact that her optimism might be misplaced. She has a plan to do her best to bring her optimism to fruition. She travels 300 days per year carrying out that plan and she's been doing that since the year I graduated from college.

I graduated from college a long time ago.

Climate change is still a thing.

Her program asks activists (mostly kids) to do one thing for people, one thing for animals, and one thing for the environment. She does not ask that you do everything. She does ask that you do something.

I'm still kind of crying over it. But I think I can do something while I cry.