Long ago I decided to openly share my political leanings on my blog and business website.

Mainly because folks who disagree with the work I do are going to assume I’m a bleeding heart liberal  (do people still say that?), or an “elitist”, or a Commie, or a Socialist, or whatever pejorative is au Courant. It’s simpler to be clear.

If you’ve worked with me as a coach, or participated in one of my workshops, you’ve heard some version of my core beliefs:

  • We are all good people doing the best we can – and we can do better.
  • Assume ignorance before malice.
  • To know the good is to do the good.
  • The common good is worth individual commitment.

These are beliefs that inform my thinking and my actions. The language may change depending on the audience, but the guiding principle is static.

Maybe its 6 weeks of isolation, or maybe its my over-dosing on the news, but I am struggling damn hard today to live my values.

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified behaviors that once upon a time in our society would have been unthinkable. The one that’s getting to me today is the appropriation of the language of civil rights struggles to promote a fringe, anti-quarantine agenda.

It is twisted and cruel.

Some may call it framing or spin, but I fully believe “words create worlds” to paraphrase David Cooperider.  So calling “Stay-at-home rules” a “Lockdown Order” makes space for all kinds of outrage and false equivalence.

Citizens unhappy about actions meant to protect the majority – to which they belong – are posturing as if their civil rights are being trampled. I want to know:

  • Who is marginalized?
  • Who is disenfranchised?
  • Who is being sacrificed because “we” are more important than “them”?

There’s a big difference between believing you are marginalized or disenfranchised, and demonstrated evidence that you, in fact, historically and currently, have fewer rights and less power.

Anti-quarantine rallies have appropriated phrases like “My body, my choice” to support not wearing a mask. The same “choice” that they would withhold for a women’s personal reproduction decisions.

When I say “My body, my choice” I mean I will fight for everyone’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and I won’t interfere with your choice.  Appropriated that phrase means “My choice will be your choice too.”

Anti-quarantine folks equate their “struggle against injustice” and loss of their liberty to shop, dine out, and watch sports, to Rosa Parks’ fight for integration and civil rights after slavery and Jim Crow.

Even though public safety is a common good, not evidence of oppression, anti-quarantine folks are falsely equating pandemic safety measures to actual genocide – to Hitler putting “Jews on trains”.

I support Free Speech because I value my rights enough to fight for your right to express your views even when I find them morally reprehensible. Like the statement about Hitler.

Today I can feel myself struggling to find my balance and grace in the face of the appropriated language and the many inflammatory, falsely equivalent headlines.

So I am reminding myself right now, out loud and in front of you,  “I am a good person doing the best I can, and I know I can do better.”

I know we can all do better.

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

I’m updating my website with the help of a super talented, visually oriented friend.

An unexpected response to the necessary questions like “who is your audience?”, and “what do you want people to feel when they visit your website?”, is my deep and sincere sense of panic at answering them.

Do I tell the truth? Or do I stick with my default of describing my work with simple, practical language in as spare a way as possible. The goal is to convey a professional persona that makes people think “reliable”, “serious”, “focused”, “knowledgeable”… “Let’s hire her!” and so forth.

Along the way I completely stripped out that I am any fun or even have a personality.

I could justify this mode of communication because of the need to be professional, and blah, and blah and blah. Truthfully, it was a fear based choice.

I was afraid that if the messy bits of who I am get out again they would undermine the image I should portray to the world. Yeah I said “should.”

The reality is that its a lot of work to live up to “shoulds”: to monitor and suppress parts of yourself that you or society deem “unacceptable.” My little problem stems from years of being told that my personality was “too much”, “too big”, and “intimidating”.  That I needed to “tone it down”.

I believed the criticism and developed a serious style as a form of self-preservation and as a way to fit in where I was told I didn’t.

The serious style stuck because there is a risk to being complex and nuanced in a sound-bite world. A world where we can know and share everything instantly and no communication is immune to a well-timed screen shot.

As I am now writing descriptions to represent how and what I do when I coach & facilitate, I’m looking for ways to create a more authentic picture of myself that includes the flash and flamboyance, the irreverence and humor, that I (mostly) keep wrapped up and out of site.

The reason for the change is at this point in my career I prefer to work with people who know and accept who I am as a whole person, rather than continue to squeeze myself into a non-threatening, low-risk, “toned down” black suited shape.

Nearly everything I do when coaching and facilitating starts in a place of discomfort for participants. Its a risk to engage in personal development, or talk about race/gender/LGBTQ bias, equity and inclusion, and discomfort accompanies progress.

So with less attention on the risk of my being “too much”, I’ll work with my friend to see if we can get my website to authentically reflect who I am, how I work and what to expect when you hire me as your coach or facilitator.

With or without the black suit and serious expression.

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There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

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Watching the students who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School become activists has both been beautiful and heartening. Seeing their grief and outrage evolve into a national movement that is shifting thinking and promoting action makes me feel hopeful for the future of our democracy.

Last week I read a blog post about those students that shook me up. It wasn’t the nasty vitriol accusing the students of being crisis actors or “deep state operatives”, whatever that means. It was a point of view that I hadn’t even considered. And it made me feel ashamed of myself.

Ashamed that I was guilty of exactly what the writer described.

Ashamed because I could see I had a blindspot.

Shame is something that we not only generally avoid experiencing, but we try not to talk about it either.  But shame is a really useful feeling that helps us to understand when we are wrong, or when we act wrong.

I mulled over this vague feeling of shame in the days after I  read the blog post. I might still be mulling except I happened to have a conversation this week that helped me put my finger on it. We were talking about how blindspots are part of implicit bias which reminded me that my discomfort – my shame at my behavior – meant learning.

I am glad to now have perspective that I was previously blind to. I’ll try to keep shining a light on my blind spot in the future as well as trying to remember to dig around occasionally and see what I’m missing. We are all only human.

I invite you to read the blog here.

Why It Hurts When the World Loves Everyone but Us

 

I discovered years ago that when my thoughts are racing too fast, and for too long, that I lose complete touch with my body. I become a head in a jar.

This is different from the “brain in a vat” of Matrix movie fame. Which, on some days, seems really pleasant – float in your isolation tank while the imaginary world takes care of itself through the computer.

What I’m talking about is my habit of living from the neck up. It creeps up over the course of months until I’m caught off guard by some physical reminder that I have a body. Usually in the form a crick in my neck or a swollen knee.

My go to method for finding my whole self again is to get a massage.  In some fantasy one-percenter future I would indulge in a massage once a week rather than once a quarter.

Over the twenty years that I’ve enjoyed massages I have only used a male masseuse twice. They made me uncomfortable and I’ve skipped getting a massage if only a men were available. I felt like a male masseuse couldn’t really understand how to work on me and they wouldn’t have that Zen, I-am-communicating-with-your-body-through-my-hands thing that I look for in a good masseuse

A couple weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore and needed someone to put my trapezius back in order and rub all that cortisol out of me. My usual person was not available so I ended up agreeing to use the man.

All the reservations I just mentioned were compounded when I met him at the salon and discovered he was very big and powerful looking. Oh no! I thought, not the dreaded “sports massage” that’s “good for you” and leaves you sore rather than relaxed.

Fortunately for me, what I experienced instead was the massage I have been dreaming of since the woman I preferred ran off to Bali ten years ago. (Part of the salon name is “Dream Spa” so its fitting.) Carlos’ hands managed to put my head and body back together and I’m grateful I changed my mind and tried him.

And that’s how bias works my friends. It’s as simple as that. Preconceived notions, possibly from limited experience, left un-examined, and used for decision making. Happens in everything from casual interactions to business decisions every day.

So what’s the answer? For me, its reflecting on choices and calling myself out when I notice I’m operating from bias.

And also being an ally in situations where bias might be present. Sometimes being an ally is complicated because I’m not “speaking from a place of cultural authority”, but, I hang in there and try to be appropriate rather than appropriating. The reality is we can’t can make progress reducing bias if only those who experience it are considered capable of countering it. In some circles that’s still a standard position.

I know I can’t know the reality of lived oppression, but I feel – perhaps incorrectly – that I can still stand up, say it exists, and fight to change it. And of course admit when I’m wrong. Going a little deeper than just calling #WhitePriviledge or #FirstWorldProblems.

The upside of this small personal revelation is I now have a fabulous new masseuse I can go to. Who works on Sundays!

May he never quit the salon.

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I have been writing too much for the last month to write a blog post in case that’s an acceptable excuse. No time to rant, rave and pick apart the midterm elections, misguided legislation, or the multitude of other irritations that constitute my daily life in 2014.

I am making an exception today for those of you who missed #shirtstorm because it’s never a good idea to let sleeping pigs lie.

A re-post from Dame Magazine (for women who know better)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that wearing a busty-babe-embellished top on a media tour was a bad idea.
Written by Jess Zimmerman
This week, the European Space Agency pulled off two extraordinary feats: a historic and exciting probe landing on a comet, and an act of bad taste so extreme that it manages to show up the worst of exclusionary science culture in one ugly garment.
ESA scientist Matt Taylor, perhaps emboldened by the viral success of mohawked NASA dreamboat Bobak Ferdowsi, made the dubious choice to do his media interviews in a shirt covered in bustiered cartoon ladies. This met with moderate outrage, as a number of science journalists pointed out that going on TV bedecked with the entire contents of a Heavy Metal magazine is maybe not the way to send the message “science is a respectful and supportive field for women.” That’s where the REAL outrage started.
With their usual immunity to irony, men on the internet got very, VERY angry about the “overreaction” to Taylor’s shirt. In particular, they latched onto a tweet by science writer and editor Rose Eveleth (full disclosure: a friend of mine and an awesome person). Rose’s “overreaction” featured mild sarcasm: “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.” The Internet Men Collective’s entirely proportional response included “kill yourself,” “quit your bitching,” the inexplicable “sometimes try sex, you’ll be better,” and a sigh-inducing “get back in the kitchen” cliché.
But the “jump off a cliff” responses were larded with a huge portion of something even more insidious: a whole battalion of helpful men sniffing that Taylor obviously didn’t MEAN to offend. He just wanted to wear his funny fancy shirt! He didn’t intend to make a point about how science and scientists view women, or the role that women play! He wasn’t even thinking at ALL about how women might feel!
Well, yes. That’s actually the problem. Taylor’s shirt sends the message that women aren’t welcome in the science community not because he was intending to send that message, but because he didn’t care.
If you asked Taylor directly, he’d probably say he was a big supporter of women in STEM. Most advisers and lab directors and tenure committees would tell you the same. Overtly misogynist throwbacks certainly exist, but one of the paltry nice things about 2014 is that by now, very few male scientists would tell a woman “you’re not welcome here.” Not to her face.
But that’s not the only way sexism works. No, sexism in science doesn’t mean advisers take their students aside and say “don’t worry, you’ll pass your thesis defense, because I’ve noticed we both have a penis.” It doesn’t mean tenure committee meetings include the action item “DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S A WOMAN? INAPPROPRIATE? DISCUSS.” It doesn’t mean lab doors have signs saying “no open-toed shoes and no chicks.”
Here’s what male scientists and historically male-led departments do instead: Offer little or no maternity leave for graduate students. Evaluate women employees on their personalities rather than their competence. Make jokes that cause women colleagues to feel left out and belittled. Go on national television in a shirt that shows women as decorative, sexualized semi-nudes. Hire people who just seem to fit in with the culture that thinks all of this is okay.
These aren’t targeted, conscious, deliberate acts of discrimination. They’re a miasma, a stench that settles over the science building and tells women: “This place isn’t for you.” And it’s a stink that men can’t even smell—that’s what privilege means. They’re not trying to make a noxious cloud; they support women in STEM! They just aren’t equipped to notice it, not unless they’re looking. Not unless they get out their sensors and analyze everything like a Ghostbuster walking around the New York Public Library. Who has the time?
Well, if you don’t have the time, then congratulations: You do not support women in STEM. You don’t want them there. If you did, you’d make a micron of effort to detect and dispel the Man Only fumes settling over your lab. Instead, you’re sitting at your microscope in the middle of a dense fog of poison you’re immune to, telling women “come on into the gas cloud, I don’t see why you wouldn’t, it’s fine for me.” And the sensor is inches from your hand, but you’re too lazy to pick it up.
If you actually do want to support women in STEM—and I believe that many men believe they do—then yes, you have to pay attention, and think, and care about how your culture treats them and how it makes them feel. I know this is hard. It’s unfamiliar, and unfamiliar things are often uncomfortable. It doesn’t come naturally right away. It may not come naturally for a while.
But it sure isn’t rocket science.

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The power to define yourself rather than allowing society to define you by your gender or sexuality is the foundation of feminism. Mean people wear tie dye too.

Attention Cranky Hippie Ladies: you are promoting the wrong kind of feminism.

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I re-post this as a salute to my friend who is brave, kind and more than just a pretty-good Mom.


A Mother’s Day Essay

A Pretty Good Mom

An ugly third-degree burn scar covers most of my left outer thigh. This is one legacy my mother left me. I was two years old and, the story goes, I climbed on top of our stove, turned it on, and sat down on the red-hot electrical burner while my mother vacuumed upstairs, unable to hear my screams. Neglect? An accident?  It’s a strange story, but it’s possible. I also knocked out my front teeth around the same age, falling down the stairs. Again, it’s possible. Nothing strange or unusual about a toddler falling down the stairs, especially in the late 60s before baby proofing was common.

Another legacy my mother left me was her voice, first in my ears, later in my head, telling me I was a mistake, an accident, that I was not loved but tolerated, and that I was capable of ruining lives (well, hers at least) by merely existing. I wasn’t even supposed to be alive, so I’d better watch it. It throws the accidents into a different light, this admission from her that I was not loved, was not wanted. It puts a small, scratching doubt in my head, enough to make me wonder what really happened.

It’s hard not to think about these things around Mother’s Day. All the stories in social media, newspapers and magazines that idealize and praise mothers and mothering, stories of bonds between mothers and daughters, are powerful triggers.

It’s also hard not to think about these things because I am a mother.

I like to say that my mother helped me become a good mother by demonstrating what NOT to do. I don’t yell, I don’t belittle, I don’t insult,  I don’t shame, I don’t slam things, I don’t break things. I’m not saying good mothers don’t lose their tempers and do these things sometimes. They do. But good mothers who do those things make up for the mistakes with love and affection, even apologies, that hopefully balance it all out.

Looking back, though, I think what was worse than what she did do was what she didn’t do. She did not cuddle, she did not praise, she did not thank, she did not protect, she did not apologize, she did not love. She fed, she clothed, she cleaned, she tolerated, grudgingly. When she wasn’t angrily doing housework, slamming cupboards and drawers, she was smoking and drinking coffee in the kitchen, one eye pinched against the smoke curling from the cigarette clamped in one side of her mouth, the other fixed on the pages of a Harlequin Romance.  I knew better than to seek attention from her, and usually just watched her from the kitchen doorway, trying to gauge her mood.

My most vivid memories of her from my childhood are saturated with feelings of fear and guilt. One afternoon she tried to show me how to clean my room. I know I was very young because I remember the vacuum cleaner was too heavy for me—try as I might I could not push it under the bed where I had been told to sweep. When she returned to find it unswept, she raged at me. I cried, feeling worthless. She eventually left me alone.

Another dim memory, playing Candyland, the only memory I have of her playing with me. I must have cheated, as very young children do–maybe trying to move my piece ahead without her noticing? Who knows. The game was put away very dramatically, with huffing and puffing and scolding and slamming and indignation. I cried, feeling worthless. She eventually left me alone.

That was our pattern.

And so it went. The fear and guilt morphed into loathing and guilt when I was a teen, and eventually pity and guilt when I was an adult and finally had a child of my own.

Oh, the waste of love. Until I had my own, I had no idea how eager children are to love and be loved, how easily it happens. It would have taken so little for her to have it, to give it. But for a variety of reasons (the subject of a future essay, perhaps), she could not. And as much as I tried to love her, I could not overcome my fear enough to do it.

I cried when she died, not because she was gone but for the life she had wasted. I do not miss her, and I am, if not exactly happier, at least relieved that she is gone.

Her voice is still with me, but it gets quieter as the years pass, crowded out of my head more and more by thoughts of my son, my husband, my friends, my work, my world. In spite of her, I give and receive love easily, even fiercely, especially with my son.  And I am grateful for that every day, but especially today.

Happy mother’s day.

speak truth to power

 

 

 

Many years ago when I was studying Ancient Greek we used a primer about a farmer and his family. It was the Dick and Jane of the classical era with many simple phrases and repetitive descriptions.

Nearly every chapter started with a phrase that translated as either the word “first” or “on the one hand”. While I have forgotten all the Greek I struggled to learn, the phrase “on the one hand” always reminds me of that class.

While not quite the Acropolis, I was talking to someone recently who described a freedom of information request as being used to “strangle” a government office. Now I am a big supporter of the freedom of information act, and have written often in this blog about free speech, so I had an automatic biased reaction that the the “strangling” comment was an overreaction. As the conversation went on it became apparent that this was an actual a quote from an email.

It was suggested in a group email that records requests was a strategy that could stop a government project the group opposed. Foolishly (or perhaps as a threat?), the email described how they would make hundreds of record requests, tie up the legal department, grind everything to a halt and then put out the message that their requests were being denied.

The intention of the strategy was to create the public perception of an uncooperative government office withholding information from citizens. The emailer said the accusation didn’t have to be true, people just had to believe it.

On the one hand: I know it’s their right to request as much information as they want. Sunshine Laws (Open Public Records and Open Meetings Acts), provide a way for citizens to have oversight of their government outside of the ballot box. Free speech and free press necessitate access to public records. A more politically engaged citizenry is a good thing.

Who is to say that the suggested strategy was not prompted by repeated denied requests? Possibly equally obstructionist behavior on the part of the government office/officials? One would assume you ask for a government record because you want/need it, not to create obstruction.

On the one hand (the book never did say “on the other hand”): Using the Sunshine Law as a tactic deflates me. I don’t want to be reminded anymore than necessary that politics is a game and the side with the best marketing wins.  These kind of stunts get pulled out and pointed to when folks want to undermine perfectly good and useful laws. The “unnecessary burden” of transparency. That doesn’t feel like activism to me.

Maybe the emailer’s strategy was scuttled by others in the group. Maybe its hearsay. Maybe I’m naive.

And so I end Sunshine Week 2014 with the Beatles.

Happy Spring.

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The word Queer is one I have not used in a very long time. When I was in middle and high school we (meaning the girls) used it as a pejorative for anything “odd”. In hindsight the “oddness” was easily translatable to outside the heterosexual norm. Haven’t thought about that in years.

The association I have with Queer now, which only came to the surface because I was taking a SafeZone training at work, has to do with AIDS activism from the 1980’s and 90’s. HIV/AIDS was a new and ugly scourge. A death sentence.

In those days I was in the midst of activists and performance artists raising awareness, fighting against stigma and ignorance. I wore a Silence = Death pin, marched at PRIDE and knew people flying to France for experimental drugs they could not get here. And they are no longer here.

Now I know HIV positive people who are continuing to live their lives and Queer means something different. Far from the NEA Four days, the word Queer is being reclaimed in Queer Theory and Queer Studies.

I wonder how much the early activism is forgotten in the face of progress? I hope it remains part of the narrative as we continue to fight for legal rights in the face of counter legislation advocating discrimination.

I would love to direct a staged reading of the play Bent somewhere locally. I think its time to remember.

So we don’t forget.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion and Pro-Reproductive Justice. The objections people raise about other people having an abortion don’t move me. I find it ludicrous that a stranger can disagree with, and try to influence, a medical procedure I elect to have.

Given this is an issue I have been championing for 30+ years, I thought I had read and/or heard all possible arguments for and against abortion. I was wrong.

I recently found myself listening to a broadcast called “Station of the Cross” while driving through a rural area. A project I am working on is requiring a bit of driving and when I am alone in the car I tend to cruise the radio stations rather than listen to music or pod casts.

Station of the Cross is a Catholic station that alternates call in talk shows with liturgy and religious music. The talk show I came in on was talking about a demonic possession in Gary, Indiana. A reporter, and supposed eye-witness, was relating the exorcism preformed on two boys under ten who it turned out were being infected by a demon that was actually possessing their mother.

The possession, with its details of children talking in demonic voices and floating to the ceiling at the pediatricians office was bizarre enough, but the explanation the talk show folks gave for the cause of the possession was even more bizarre.

The host asked the reporter how the priest discovered that the mother was the conduit for the “The Evil One” and she related the following story.

The mother had been engaging in extramarital sex with a boyfriend who was not the father of her children. This created a moral crack in her soul that allowed “The Evil One” to come in. It was this kind of sin that the demons were looking for when they were flying around trying to find a host.

The host went on to discuss at length how “The Evil One” especially hates and targets women for possession because the Virgin Mary defied him. Because he hates Mary he goes after women and tells them its okay to kill their children. He sets traps for women by making them think that killing your baby while its inside you is okay. He uses the so called Women’s Movement as a way to create cracks in women’s souls.

Women have to fight “The Evil One” by refusing to use birth control or having abortions, which lets him into your body.

That was a neat trick getting from possessed children to don’t have an abortion.

What really struck me about the discussion was their matter of fact acceptance of the existence of devils juxtaposed with feminism being a tool of Lucifer. I knew in theory that people literally believed in these things but I had never heard anyone in real-time admit it.

There is no space for rational discussion of reproductive rights if your belief system supports sins as means for the devil to enter your body and steal your soul.

That, my friends, is the ultimate reason that abortion must be protected by law.

Happy Valentines Day.

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Every once in a while when I am coaching a client I get to witness a moment when they realize possibility. An almost audible “click” as thoughts crystallize and the top comes off the box.

Most people who come to me for coaching are looking for some way out of their box. That box, which keeps them from change or risk or hope, is usually constructed out of fear.

Usually there is a density to fear that prevents people from seeing possibility, potential or any way forward. It clouds the path, minimizes the value of the goal and maximizes the potential danger. Fear can seep in and color all rational thinking. What I’ve discovered, personally and professionally, is that many of us need help to see past the fear. Friends, spouses, partners can help but sometimes you really need a coach.

My coaching – poking with questions and nudging with insights and reframing the words to clarify meaning – sometimes works as a lever under the lid of a client’s box. I’m always upfront with clients that I can’t and don’t actually apply any pressure to their lever, but I’m happy to stand next to them and hand them the tool.

When it works it’s a beautiful thing.

I selfishly enjoy these moments like I accomplished something when the client has actually done all the work. It’s why I coach. Its addictive. When someone finally gets the lid off that jar they keep themselves in (it was a jar not a box btw) they discover, like Pandora, that what’s inside that box is hope.

All in all a good day.

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The other night I watched a movie about lateterm abortion. It was a documentary called “After Tiller” that followed four doctors who were colleagues of Dr. George Tiller the abortion provider that was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in May 2009. These four doctors perform abortions at 25 weeks and later.

The procedure is controversial because a baby might be considered “viable”, or able to survive outside of the uterus, after about 27 weeks. But viable is a word with a lot of room for interpretation.

The movie showed the women, often with their baby’s father, seeking this procedure because their baby had horrific fetal anomalies discovered through testing. I remember from when I was pregnant that bone-deep fear during scans if the technician hesitated a moment too long.

These women were living that nightmare fear.

They were grieving and distraught and very relieved there was a clinic and a doctor that could help them. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not just Pro-Choice, I’m Pro-Abortion. This movie reinforced those beliefs and made me notice where and when my judgement kicked in. When I thought a woman was making a bad choice, or a doctor should have been more authoritative, or what I would have done.

That’s what the question always comes down to when we cut through the rhetoric. What would I do in that situation? My answer won’t be the same as yours. My decision today may be different than what my decision would have been 10 years ago.

And why exactly should my decision about my life and my baby have any impact on your decision? I will never understand that bit.

The thing that really struck me about what I saw going on in those clinics was the mercy and compassion offered to these women in profound need. A stark contrast to the judgement and ugliness they passed through on the sidewalks outside the clinic.

You hear people say sometimes “No one wants an abortion” but I think that’s backward. What no one wants is an unplanned pregnancy. What no one wants is a baby with profound complications. Lots of women want an abortion.

And when they do want an abortion, for whatever reason or no reason at all, having a kind, compassionate doctor trust that they can make their own decision is a mercy.

See “After Tiller” if you can.

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The discussion, debate, screaming and posturing over the Edward Snowden leak   about the NSA Prism program is at a fever pitch. I haven’t met anyone yet that doesn’t have an opinion on what “trade offs” are acceptable for the ongoing safety and security of the American people.

I don’t happen to come down on the side that thinks you should willy-nilly violate civil liberties with laws, policies and presidential powers that will never, ever be undone. If you have read my previous political rants this isn’t news. My inherent liberal biases aside, the case against Snowden deserves extra attention for a number of reasons.

First, for some perspective, its important to know that the Germans are accusing the US of Stasi-style surveillance which gives you an idea of the gravity of the choices our government is making right now. These folks know from privacy invasion! They think our government is getting into dangerous territory so perhaps we should take note. When Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel  scolds Obama later this week, because of political pressure or because of her real concerns, there will be no ambiguity about how folks over in the EU feel about these developments.

The folks who are downplaying the gravity of the NSA trolling through massive amounts of data are doing so by saying Google & Apple are already looking at every key stroke to sell you stuff so whats the big deal? This is a very weak argument that will still manage to reinforce the attitude of millions of average US citizens who just don’t give shit about privacy or civil liberties. I think of this as the “Nothing to Hide” crowd. Their letters to the editor invariably conclude with “If you have nothing to hide, it wont matter if [the government swabs your DNA, taps your phone line, puts you on a terrorist watch list etc.].”

Short-sighted thinking like this is best cured by personal experience.

Most disturbing to me is the post 9/11 idea that we cannot have security and civil liberties at the same time. This is a false dilemma. How can we continue to allow the government to continue to make choices to violate our liberties based on the vague fear of “future harm”? The absurd American privilege of being complacent and uninvolved in politics is changing the landscape of who we can be as a nation in the future.

I anticipate a run of political rants on this blog in the next few weeks.

And just between you and me Diane Fienstein calling Snowden’s leak “an act of treason” is grandstanding. Because she cannot reveal the information deemed treasonous (we just have to trust her) she should be more circumspect with the name calling. Future harm is speculative at best and does not constitute a reason for hyper vigilance in my book. I’m sure I am not the only one reminded of the “Minority Report” poster.

The Future Can Be Seen. Murder Can be Prevented. The Guilty Punished Before the Crime is Committed. The System is Perfect. It’s Never Wrong. Until It Comes After You.

Trusty is one of those words that seems lonely without the “my” as in “I have my trusty…” whatever. Wrench. Horse. Sidekick. Duct tape if you’re Red Green. That thing that never lets us down.

I have never heard anyone say the phrase “My trusty truth-teller” but that is the seed a wise friend planted in my head recently. There are levels of trust, and levels of truth (if we get down to the nitty gritty), but one constant seems to be my impulse to dismiss the truthy-ness of those I trust when they care about me. A school of thought known as “But you have to say I’m beautiful because you’re my mother!!!!”

Their love (or like) makes their opinion suspect.

I think love goggles, unlike beer goggles, only distort the truth slightly. When you love someone their good traits can be magnified – by the same token on a bad day that same magnification can cause you to use words like “throttle” and “thrash” – but neither thing is untrue. And I think that is where the caution lives, for me at least. How much is love, how much is truth and how high are the stakes.

That’s where trusty comes in.

I have a friend I clothes shop with and we have a stringent no-lies-in-the-dressing-room policy combined with a rule about only buying it if its perfect on you and goes with one thing you already own, which means we have had many a “trusty truth-teller” moment at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. But when she tells me how she admires my skills in another area I dismiss a good 70% of it cuz that’s just the luv talking.

The bigger the luv, the less trusty the truth-telling. Its twisted. Should be the other way around. Maybe for other people it is.  My poor long-suffering, trusty husband. He should have read the marriage contract more closely. Speaking Truth to Power is a breeze compared with Speaking Truth to Love.

I am working on changing the formula for the acceptance of praise (P) so that truth-telling (TG) by someone normally trusty (Ty) does not get deflated (-) depending on the ratio of love (%L) the truth-teller has for me. My goal is inverse ratio. So my husband (H), with 95% (the highest possible love ratio available to humans), would normally have a formula like this: [(HTy) + (TG)] – (95%L) = P5% is objectively true, 90% love goggles

The new and improved husband formula would be simply: [(HTy) + (TG)] + 95%L = P95% objectively true, 5% love goggles.

It could work. I may have some some trouble applying the formula depending on the truth, but I am hopeful. I realized that I almost never fudge praise just to “be nice” so I’m not sure why I assume others do. I have several people, in addition to my husband and my girlfriend, that I trust and admire who deserve to be in the “trusty truth-teller” category, so I’ll give it a go. And now of course I have my objective, trusty formula.

It occurs to me that if love goggles were real they would have to be steampunk.