About the trying

August 23, 2011

It’s confusing to attempt to control your destiny, because when you have success in controlling certain parts of your life, it makes it seem like you should have a say in most other things, too.  In the past year, I’ve had control over the completion of my thesis, control over the types of jobs I applied to, and control over the way I presented and expanded my photo business.  I’ve even had some control over whom we’ve chosen for our sperm donor, when we decided to start trying, and how we would take care of the logistics.  But alas, as is undeniably true, I simply am not allowed to have control over when I get pregnant.

It’s a lesson that takes surprisingly long to sink in.  After the first month, in which I thought, just maybe… magically… it would take on the first try; after the second month, when we had an Insemination Party with our closest friends; even after the third month, when I found a Scrabble letter outside our sperm donor’s door and wrapped it in red ribbon and held it against my heart to give good wishes to the Maybe Baby…  Even then, nothing.  Intentions do not a baby make.  And yet, even as I begin to admit that I cannot decide when the baby will come, I am still altering logistics  to increase its chances.

I find I can’t give up caring completely.  As painful as the two-week on, two-week off cycle of hope, awareness, and dreams into sadness, failure, consolation is, I find that I have to keep hoping.  The third month, after the day of sadness, I thought I’d could go into the next round with as much apathy as I could muster.  But it quickly felt wrong.  How could I possibly feel apathetic about this potential life growing inside of me for the only first time?  So the fourth time I resigned myself, quite happily, to unabashed hope.  And it still hurt when it was for naught.  But, I think that’s ok.


what do I do?

March 6, 2011

Well, I’ve been on the job about a month now… and although this isn’t the first time I haven’t written in a while, I’ve definitely noticed that a full-time job makes it harder for me to find the time to write!  I know I just need to prioritize it (along with a few other things, like seeing Kels, reading and meditating on spiritual ideas, and exercising on non-derby days.  Also sleeping.)

But despite less personal time, I really am loving my job.  I didn’t have a full grasp of what I’d be doing before I started, but the more I found out about what they’d like me to do, the happier I was.  It’s kind of a neat combination of things I know I love (planning events, doing community outreach, designing visual materials, and managing media output) and things that are new and challenging (working with municipal leaders to pass resolutions in support of state legislation).

I’ve also been delighted to find that there are some quality-of-life aspects to the job that definitely make up for the less-than-ideal salary.  Being able to work flexible hours (9-5 some days, 10-6 others… and I can also work extra on some days and less on others, as long as it evens out) has been invaluable to my derby schedule.  Also, I can bring Harriet in one or two days a week, which saves both money and worry.  And I especially like the folks I’m working with.  I really connect with my boss and the coworker I work with the most, which makes it feel like I’m just working with friends.

Finally, I’m so, so please to have a job in which I can truly believe in my work, and which is teaching me skills I want to use further down the road.  This organization (or at least my two co-workers) is extremely adept at teaching process, and I already feel like I’ve learned more here than I would have through a year or more of the ‘learning by doing’ I was engaged with at the EJ League.  I still appreciate my experiences with the EJ League… I think that was (and is… I’m still on the Board) a valuable way to learn, but I can appreciate the different teaching style of Clean Water Action that much more because of the contrast.

Can I take this moment to explain the campaign I’m working on?   I’ll try to keep it brief.  Also, if it gets you down to think about our waste, just focus on the fact that there are so many good things happening all over the world to change how we do things.

The concept of “Producer Responsibility” is that manufacturers are required to take-back their products after the consumer is finished using them.  Think of mercury thermostats or electronic waste, which presents a big problem in a regular landfill.  Part of the idea behind this is that if the producer is taking back their products, they’ll have more incentive to design products that are recyclable, durable, or less toxic.  A bonus is that it relieves a huge financial burden on the municipalities, who can now use that former waste-management money for more useful things, like schools and infrastructure.

All around the world, states and countries have passed such laws, especially dealing with the worst offenders: mercury products, electronic waste, paint, etc.  But what’s really neat is that RI is trying to pass a framework law.  See, passing a law for each product individually can take a lot of time and effort—multiple years of work, in many cases.  A Framework Producer Responsibility law would provide a policy framework that can be applied to an array of products. By streamlining the process, we save time and administrative costs, create a more predictable regulatory environment, and allow policy-makers to respond more rapidly to hazards as they arise.

I’m happy to discuss this more if you’re interested… one of the most common questions is how manufacturers feel about it (one of the key answers to that is that producer responsibility laws have been in place all over the world for the past ten years… in places like Germany and Canada companies are used to this process; we just haven’t gotten the guts to require it here in the US yet.  Another key part of the answer is that companies can actually deal with their waste more cost-effectively than can municipalities, and can sometimes even make more profit off selling refurbished products.  So, it’s not all negative).  Anyway, like I said, it’s an effort on which I’m really proud to be working.  Hooray!

Even Harriet loves Clean Water Action!


8 months to an end

February 3, 2011


finally congratulations

As most of you know, I’ll be starting a new job on Monday, and I’ve been reflecting this past week on this whole last section of my life. Eight months… from graduation to job offer. I wonder if I would have wanted to know when I started out that it would be this long (or… this short, for all those out there still looking).

eight months: almost enough time to make a new life... (http://www.parentdish.com/)

I wonder how my experience would have been different if I’d known.  I sure wouldn’t have applied to all those silly jobs I didn’t get!  Actually, though, I think I can be grateful for the experience I got with job applications and interviews. I also think imagining myself in each of these potential jobs will help me appreciate the good things about the job I did get (i.e. I won’t have to make the (costly) commute to Boston, I won’t have to work in a fancy office where I have to dress up each day, I won’t have to do work that isn’t fulfilling, etc).  I even think that without things going the way they did, I might not have found as much need for the spiritual ideas I uncovered… I sometimes think I had to get sad before I could understand why and how to be happy.

If I could do it all over again, I would definitely have thrown myself into my photography business sooner. But, at least my family encouraged me to up the intensity while I was home at Christmas. I really needed that push, I think. I needed to hear that what I was doing was legitimate and worthwhile.

my very trusty camera.

Since I embraced it, I realized that I have been absolutely LOVING running my photography business. I love making sample albums, creating pricing/packages sheets, talking with clients, photographing babies, and editing photos. It has been so neat to have the time to throw myself into it all the way. I like the creative aspect of discovering how to market myself, and feeling like I really have a valuable and solid product, and helping folks attain really beautiful images of themselves.  I like the rush of the photo shoot, the first look at my images, and the art of taking a almost-boring photograph and making it about light, texture, and shadow.

album time

But, I also think I’ll be able to keep some of this enlivening creative business going while I do my 9-5. So… with that. I’ll be a Grassroots Campaign Organizer with Clean Water Action, working on the Producer Responsibility Campaign. The idea behind the campaign is trying to get the people who produce stuff to put less toxic ingredients into it, and to get them to do that by forcing them to take back what they made at the end of its life. This whole process requires legislation, and passing legislation requires public pressure. So to the best of my understanding, I’ll be working with community groups to get them to pressure lawmakers to craft and pass some strong Producer Responsibility legislation. More on that as I start the job and figure out just what’s happening!

My two new co-workers!


trying on meditation

February 2, 2011

I haven’t been blogging much lately, in part because I have so much to say about the spiritual ideas I’ve been exploring, and because they are still so new to me that it’s difficult to explain them concisely. Almost every time I happen upon a new idea, I want to share it with Kelsey, but as soon as I start to explain it, I realize I sound a like I have no idea what I’m talking about!

I think what I’ve got to do is keep reading and thinking about the new ideas I’ve happened upon, and talk about them little by little; i.e. tackle smaller concepts. So, today I thought I’d describe the type of meditation I’ve been exploring.

I was introduced to Metta meditation by Helen when she visited recently. My only other experience with meditation had also been with Helen, many years back, when we were visiting a meditation center in Vermont. It had been just the two of us in a small, silent room, and we had been trying to clear our minds… any thoughts that came into our heads, we would just release. This was terribly difficult for me. Also, to be honest, I got rather bored. Helen is a master meditator, so my endurance was nothing compared to hers.

Metta meditation, however, does not ask for this clearing of the mind. Instead, you spend your time sending out love and kindness (‘Metta’ means loving kindness) to someone. There are five stages of ‘difficulty’, so to speak, and you practice them in this order: first you send loving kindness to yourself, then to a benefactor, then to a friend, then to someone neutral, and then to someone with whom you have conflict.

You focus your mind on sending the loving kindness by picking a few phrases that help you focus good energy and happiness their way. Here are the ones suggested by the book I mentioned before (Loving-Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg), which I tend to amend only slightly.

“May I be free from fear.”

“May I have mental happiness.” (or, “May I be happy.”)

“May I have physical happiness.” (or, “May I be healthy.”)

“May I have ease of well-being” (or, “May I live in peace.”)

The self-focused meditation basically comes down to befriending yourself. And, to be honest, it’s almost impossible not to feel pretty happy by the time you’re done. I usually find myself smiling and feeling calm. And it’s nice, because it only has to be about 5 or 10 minutes, sitting however is comfortable, wherever you like.

If you’re new to meditation, it can initially seem kind of funny to spend time on yourself; it can feel kind of selfish or conceited. But really you’re making a commitment to your happiness such that you can then offer genuine joy to others. Sharon Salzberg makes the connection that such an intimate inner life allows us to be intimate with others. She explains, “We see that all beings want to be happy, and that this impulse unites us. We can recognize the rightness and beauty of our common urge toward happiness, and realize intimacy in this shared urge.”

More on this as it develops!


a new me

January 7, 2011


So things were starting to get tough.  The constant searching, the hope and dashing of hopes, the feeling that what I had expected was not coming to fruition… it all started to get to me.  I wasn’t my happiest.

Enter Helen… my best friend since college.  We’ve lived together, traveled together, and gone in and out of touch in various ways over the last seven years.  Recently, she was in town after finishing a 40-day silent meditation retreat, and was able to come stay with us for a few days.

It was perfect timing, because I was able to open up and talk about some of the feelings I’d been having… some of the difficulties finding ways to approach my current situation.  I had started to explore some ideas from Deepak Chopra a few months ago: being mindful of your body, finding true self-esteem separate from the outside world, giving up being right, and focusing on the present.  I’ll talk about those in another post, I think.  But Helen had been studying many of those same ideas (many of which are Buddhist in origin) in her retreat, and she was able to offer a slightly different perspective on them, which helped me really understand them.  Some of them are difficult ideas, and she had some metaphors that really helped me.

One of the key ideas we discussed is that we’re not in control of our lives, yet we spend a LOT of energy trying to be.  As Sharon Salzberg puts it,”The basis of the Buddha’s psychological teaching is that our efforts to control what is inherently uncontrollable cannot yield the security, safety, and happiness we seek.”  But, usually, that doesn’t stop us from trying.  When things are bad, we worry about how bad it is; when we’re in a happy moment, we grasp it tight, fearful that it will leave. I like how Salzberg says it: “The unrelenting flux of life’s changing conditions is inevitable, yet we labor to hold on to pleasure, and we labor equally hard to avoid pain.”

So? Shouldn’t we push away that which is bad, and clutch tightly to that which brings happiness?  Helen had an image that really helped me with this idea.  Think of holding something good in your open palm.  A happy moment, for example.  If you close your palm and hold that good moment tightly, you’re spending negative energy trying to get the happiness to stay… you can’t fully experience the goodness.  Similarly, if something bad has happened, most of us spend energy being sad that we’re sad, or worrying about our worrying, and thus end up just adding negative energy to something that is already bad.  If instead you can just BE with that bad thing… observing how it makes you feel, and working to accept it without trying to change it… it tends to be easier to be at peace with that thing.

So, one way to feel peaceful over the long term is to understand that good and bad things will come and go.  One more quote from Salzberg… stick with me here: “Everything in life changes.  The path to true happiness is one of integrating and fully accepting all aspects of our experience.”  If you think of the (albeit trite from pop culture overuse) yin and yang, you get a good visual image of how to do this.  “Even in the depths of darkness, the light is implicit.  Even in the heart of light, the dark is understood, acknowledged, and absorbed.  If things are not going well for us in life and we are suffering, we are not defeated by the pain or closed off to the light.  If things are going well and we are happy, we are not defensively trying to deny the possibility of suffering.  This unity, this integration, comes from deeply accepting darkness and light, and therefore being able to be in both simultaneously.”

This isn’t to say, of course, that we shouldn’t work to make change in the world.  I’ll keep working for environmental justice my whole life, I hope.  But what we’re talking about here are the things you CAN’T change… a death, an injury, a loss of job, how someone around you acts.  It’s the whole “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” idea.

So, anyway, this feels like just the tip of the iceberg as I try to write about it, but I wanted to start sharing these ideas, because they have really produced a noticeable shift in my life.  I feel like I’ve entered a whole new phase.  My way of approaching everything has changed, and it feels awesome.  I’ll try to talk more about it in a post not too distant in the future.


being sick is good for you!

December 15, 2010

Oh life, you’re so funny.  I can’t beLIEVE I didn’t trust you when you got me sick with fever and chills, and then followed up with headaches, no energy, and a hacking cough!  But you knew what you were doing, didn’t you?

This is the photo message I sent Kels the night I got violently ill while she was on call at the hospital. I was a poor sickie that missed and loved her a lot.

While I was sick and, for the most part, in bed all week, my little butt muscle was getting to rest.  No P90x workouts for me!  Then, Life,  just as you thought I might be getting better enough to start working out again, you delayed me a few extra days, just for good measure.  Well played!

sad bruised pinkie

(Value your pinkie fingers…  They are more important than you might think.)

Anyway, I see now that all this time of “rest” has been good for my overworked piriformis muscle, so… good timing, Life!  My physical therapist thanks you!

I’ll leave you with a slightly happier visual image, one that makes me smile every time I see it:

Yup, Kelsey had to write herself a note to remember her pants.  Sure, it was to remind her to get a second pair from the dryer for some important event, but I’ve kept it up because it conjures instead an image of a pantless wife, catching herself just in time on the way out the door.  It also reminds me of my brother, who has always considered pants ‘optional’.  Love you both!


puppy love

December 14, 2010

This past weekend we dogsat for some of our new friends at church.  They have a golden retriever named Bay, who is about two years old and full of energy.  We were thrilled to be able to watch him for the weekend, since we’re going to trade with them and have Harriet stay with them over Christmas.  (We used to send Harriet to kennels while we were on vacation, until we realized we had tons of friends who either a) wished they had dogs and wanted to take her for a weekend or b) had dogs of their own and wanted to trade petsitting.  Since then we save at least $20-$30 a day while we’re on vacation.)

this is Bay.

So Bay turned out to be an awesome playmate for Harriet.  He was much more high energy than her, and enticed her into playing at least four or five times a day.  This pawing, nibbling, and rolling around looked adorable as they did it, and ferocious in still shots!

The best part about having them both around, though, was that they got so much energy out!  It really made us wish we had another dog for Harriet.  Then, you know, Bay ate a Christmas ornament I made when I was five, and barked SO loudly whenever he wanted attention, and grabbed our shoes whenever he could.  That helped us with the wanting.  Thank GOODNESS he was so cute, and made up for his shortcomings by letting me practice my pet portraits.

Another outcome of the weekend was that we realized what a good dog Harriet is.  Sometimes I think we forget how well trained she finally is… we take her calmness and listening skills for granted.  Well, consider us reminded.  I love our dog.

this is Harriet's "I'm being very good and ignoring that crazy, crazy dog!" look