Friday, October 20, 2017

Tribe of kick ass women

As I have said many times in this space, I believe your life is only as good as the people around you. My life is excellent even when it's shitty because I have the good fortune to be surrounded by amazing people. That includes, of course, my husband, some family members, and friends. But nothing in my life has carried the weight of my female friendships. They are sacred to me. I am the person who does not trust the women who have no true female friends.

I have found women for my tribe in every stage of my life, starting at birth and continuing through today. Most of them know each other. Most of them are now friends with each other even though they come from different Stephanie eras. There have been some throughout the years who I thought belonged but in the end did not. They are rooted out relatively quickly, falling into one of two categories: friends for a reason or friends for a season.

The ones who stay are lifers. They are so different from me and from each other but they all have some things in common: they are fierce ladies who would do anything for me and know without asking that I would do anything for them, they provide me with a safe place to be my smallest self without judgement, they hold me up, they're people I am comfortable with in silence or noise, in laughter or tears. I have never felt alone in my life because I have these women. I click with all of them. They are my people. I find this hard to write about because my bond with them is so strong that at this point it is more something I know intrinsically than something easily put into words. It's a part of my bones. I'm too close to it and have never operated without it. These women are a part of who I am.
 And today one I've had in my tribe since birth celebrates her birthday. It is hard for me to put into words what a tremendous impact Lori has had on my life. Officially my aunt, she is also my friend, fairy godmother, and someone I am so comfortable in the presence of that it's like sitting with myself except we are quite different people. I couldn't begin to say how many times she has helped me in the time we have been together on this earth or how much her unconditional love has meant.

Happy birthday Lori, and to the other two triplets Dawn and David!

Wherever and whoever you are, I hope you have a strong crew around you that you value and that values you.

Peace, love, and Friday.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday Thoughts - for your consideration

1. Conservation: wearing an outfit for three hours on Sunday then wearing it again Monday. Unfortunately there was an over 25 degree temperature difference so I left the house feeling like Miss Smart Conservationist and returned feeling like Miss Inappropriate Clothing which is of course a job for a pair of big warm sweatpants to fix.

2. Dedication: Emailing Dunkin Donuts once a month requesting that they sell a reusable cup that fits a large iced coffee. I know this is possible, Dunkin Donuts.

3. Elation: The universe has answered my call and re-stocked these in my size. They're on their way to me.
4. Beautification: three new nail polishes (OPI Suzi & The Arctic Fox; Excuse Me, Big Sur!; and Less is Norse - sorry for the shit lighting here) and two new Lipsenses plus a gloss (Sassy Z, Bella, and gloss in sand). Sassy Z is my daily color and they've brought it back, hopefully forever. It was previously unavailable and I felt like I was looking for this stuff like people look for drugs - y'all got some of that Sassy Z hidden?
5. Hibernation: Mae will see us at the end of May since she hates anything below 74 degrees. She's extra cranky because she went to the vet Tuesday (where I wore an outfit that resembled Ronald McDonald) and we think we finally figured out what's going on with her - she has chronic contact mucocitis in her mouth.  It's not common, the vet had not seen it before and actually had to call a vet in Wisconsin to see if he'd give her info on a case of his she found online while we were in the room. Mae is on prednisone right now, but I need to find a way to manage this as it is chronic. And rare. Of course it is. I have a call in to my acupuncture vet to see if she can help with some ancient chinese remedy. These dogs, I fucking swear. Anyone have any dealings with this in their dogs? Or a dog autoimmune issue that you manage with diet and supplements? 

6. Appreciation: Gladys sent me this and I was so surprised and touched and love it so much I cried for five minutes after opening it. Gladys sent this post to the artist (Vita Kobylkina) she had heard on a podcast and the likeness is freaking amazing (see below). Soon after opening this gift the dogs went to sleep and there was an extra snore coming from across the room. I hear you Geegie boy. I know you're around. Thanks also to Aunt Nancy for her donation in Geege's honor that we got notified of via mail this week. Last weekend at the shore I was sitting on my porch listening to the Geege chime Amanda and Frank sent and thinking of all the love and kindness people have shown us through this loss. We are so fortunate to know tremendous people.

7. Condemnation: this lying liar president who tells blatant lies about his predecessors that are so easily shot down and his sick as fuck "joke" about his gay hating sidekick wanting to hang gays which the White House tried to walk back as fake news as they always do, everyone who railed on Benghazi but is radio silent on the imposter president's non-response to Niger, people who walk and type on their phones, anyone who reads InfoWars for anything other than to study crazy people, people who ask women to answer for the reprehensible behavior of men instead of focusing on that reprehensible behavior

8. Explanation: I thought my iPhone camera was fucked but guys...there was a dog hair too close to the lens. Insidious dog hair. I didn't discover that in time to have a super clear photo with Lauren who I was so pumped to meet for coffee before work on Wednesday. After talking solely via email and text and reading each other's blogs it was nice to sit together and be ladies who have coffee and talk about random shit. I did make us move from the couch we were sitting on because I feel like it smelled. I like people I can wave my freak flag in front of and Lauren is in that group.

9. Contemplation: You know my answer is freedom. Thanks to Gena for bringing this across my path.

10. E-card of the week: I found the perfect e-card for the week but it had a grammatical error and neglected to use the Oxford Comma so I had to burn it. This will do.

What do you have to present to the class today?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What living my best life looks like

As I get older, the concept of living my best life is one I think about a lot. That can mean different things depending on the day but mostly it's things I do or ways of being that are in the best interest of my mental health and enable me to look in the mirror without disappointment at the end of the day.

Living my best life is doing what actually makes me happy, not what should make me happy

Living my best life is pursuing happiness and not getting caught up in bullshit

Living my best life is being a helper

Living my best life is not finishing books I don't want to finish

Living my best life is spending as much of my time as possible at the shore and continuing to make my life bigger there

Living my best life is eating the cupcake

Living my best life is not waiting for tomorrow or next week or next year or the right time because sometimes there is no right time

Living my best life is being open to things on my path

Living my best life is knowing how crucial my tribe is to who I am 

Living my best life is being okay with people not liking me because I am not for everyone

Living my best life is wearing lounge attire a large percentage of the time

Living my best life is encouraging and empowering others

Living my best life is buying the sunglasses

Living my best life is saying no to something in order to say yes to myself

Living my best life is saying screw the to do list, I'm going on a bike ride 

Living my best life is being invested in other people 

Living my best life is not defining myself by my appearance because I will look a lot of different ways in this life so I can't tie my identity or worth to that 

Living my best life is playing to my strengths while recognizing the limits of my weaknesses

Living my best life is appreciating everylittlething

Living my best life is stretching as far between hair washes as I can

Living my best life is not being a people pleaser or aspiring to be described as nice

Living my best life is sleeping at least seven hours a night 

Living my best life is alone at dawn feeling peace settle down into my bones while watching the sunrise 

Living my best life is choosing every day whether I'm going to be a good person or a shitty person, knowing one feels much better than the other,  not always making the right choice, and trying again the next day

Living my best life is letting go of things and people that interfere with my energy. Nothing occupies space here unless I allow it and I don't owe space to anyone regardless of who they are

Living my best life is growing and changing a little bit every day 

Living my best life is living as me according to my own definition, not anyone else's, and allowing myself to be who I am, warts and all

What are some of the ways you live your best life?

Monday, October 16, 2017

TWTW - the one with the chill

Friday night was a slow mover, I packed up and sailed down the shore for a 9:30 arrival. Saturday I read, painted my nails (OPI Black Dress Not Optional), made some daily shower spray, took myself out for coffee, road my bike all over town, and took the dogs to the beach. Gus had a sidewalk shitting incident that I cleaned up with leaves and my hands basically and during the cleanup a man thought it would be a good time to come close with his dog and make conversation while Gus and Mae went nuts and the puppy cried. Laura and Chris arrived late afternoon and we had lunch at Jon & Patty's, walked the boards with Bruce Springsteen, sat on the beach, and had dinner at Luigi's. My pizza is aglow in the neon window lights but it was freaking good - all manner of Italian meats on a pizza with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. 
Sunday morning we hit the Sunrise Cafe for breakfast before they were off. It was so good to have facetime with them even for a short time just bumming around unshowered. They wouldn't even let me pay for a meal. When they left I cleaned our apartment up a little and rode my bike to the library before packing it in for home. It soothes me to be in a relatively empty quiet shore town off-season even though the weather both days was different than the forecast. Hashtag should've been a weather person.  

I was home at 2 with the laundry and food prep and dishwasher going shortly after. Weekly food prep: breakfast is crockpot breakfast casserole from Steph only I made it in the oven and cut the potatoes; lunch is spinach salad with walnuts, cranberries, feta cheese, and red onion with an olive oil and balsamic sauce and a squirt of lemon (made nightly because I hate when shit sits); dinners are maple dijon chicken thighs over rice with steamed broccoli (planned on making Sunday but someone who shall remain nameless did not defrost the chicken thighs as requested) and baked chicken breasts served with butternut squash. Snacks are honey crisp apples and cherry and vanilla noosa yogurt. I'm also making healthy three ingredient flourless pumpkin brownies with this frosting that I saw Amy share on IG
Sunday night we went to the Peace Center Gala. A few months ago I was like hell yes but as Sunday early evening rolled around I was like whyyyyyyy. I'm sure some of you feel me on that. MFD was a sponsor though and the Peace Center is a freaking phenomenal organization that does such crucial work in the Bucks County community. It was a wonderful event. If you're not familiar with the Peace Center, I urge you to check them out. They put on workshops frequently. Unfortunately Bucks has recently had a spike in hateful acts like the N word on school signs and carved into cars and rampant anti-semitism. The Peace Center responds to these events and helps support and heal the community. They also do a lot of work in schools with bullying prevention.

How was yours?

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.

What is today? What did I do last night? What do I have to do at work today? What do I have to do tonight? Is it Friday?
Me all week

So happy Friday, for real. Friday the 13th.

Here's a video of Bruce snoozing and snoring from last night with Mae growling at Thor barking over the fence. Far away. Not bothering her.

 Bruce report: He's insane. He goes up the stairs by himself - he is not yet eight weeks old. He walks on a leash, he goes outside with the other dogs, he loves food and already knows where Gus's is kept... right now all three dogs are eating different food. I'm transitioning Bruce to dry food and he's fine with it because he wants to be just like Gus. He loves to fuck with Mae and thinks it's funny when she growls at him. He was doing great in his crate but now does not want to be apart from the pack so he is doing the terrible terrible screaming and thrashing against the crate for more than five minutes so we're trying to get back on track with that.

I think I'm getting a cold or I'm just tired from keeping puppy hours, but I do feel better than yesterday because I got some shit organized last night and will attempt more on Sunday. MFD did indeed move his boxes out of that basement room is still a fucking mess and my kitchen needs a good purge too.

This weekend I'm going to chill the fuck out at the shore, drink a lot of coffee, lay around, read, play with my dogs, hopefully see my BFF Laura, and avoid the news because it has been fucking soul crushing. What is happening - or not happening - in Puerto, we have the world's largest and most robust military who is more than able to drop food off so people don't starve to death. Our OWN people. But we're not doing that. That kind of order comes from the top. Does the president not know he needs to give that order? People are dying. And the recent executive order designed to take healthcare away from the most vulnerable Americans: the poor, the working poor, the elderly, and the ill. I'm just sick. I know, I'm a broken record.

I'm also off of Twitter today in solidarity with Rose McGowan and any woman who has been assaulted, spoken up, and then silenced. If you stand in solidarity with those people, I hope you're off it too for the day.

Weekend plans?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Thoughts - I might have only one match but I can make an explosion

1. I'm at a very disorganized point in my life right now and it feels so far out of my comfort zone and not in a good way like yay you are really out there outside of your comfort zone living your most fearless life. More like you have gone too far out in the ocean and you will die out there alone, thirsty, tired, and when found people will talk about how you were pulled in in dirty underwear. I'm looking to spend some of Sunday getting shit under control. I hope MFD knows I'm serious when I say the boxes I've mentioned to him like 50 times are getting thrown out. This man must forget that I once got so pissed at his dishes in the sink that I put that shit on a tray and left it out on the front stoop for him to either step over or deal with when he got home. Crazy can work if you work it.
2. Tuesday morning at 3:50 am I fell on my goddamn knee carrying the puppy up the stairs. The same knee that was giving me grief all weekend, the same knee which has never given me grief before in life. By 7 am I had pulled my lower back lifting Gus up from the side. By 8 am I decided to work from home in lieu of hobbling around like a dick and carrying a backpack around the city. Forty year old bodies are not as elastic as 25 year old bodies.

3. I have cried four times over Geege this week. Short unexpected bursts of tears. I think it might be like that forever? I don't know. I do know the puppy is helping me heal. I think he's helping all of us. Things I forgot about puppies: how much they pee and bite and the tremendous energy they expend in a short period of time before falling asleep at the drop of a hat.
4. Every once in a while I re-realize most of my Instagram is dog photos. I'm that person and I'm not going to stop being that person. Although recently my pictures are shit because the camera on my phone is not working well.
5. I lost my fucking mind over this this week. This Harvey Weinstein thing has provided the perfect example of systemic misogyny and rape culture from all angles. From men wondering why Hillary has a problem with this because hey her husband got his dick sucked in the oval. From women. Oh yes, women too were raised under this system and society has taught us to forgive or explain away the behavior of men at all costs. Regardless of who you are, if your first instinct is to ask why a victim didn't do something in response to harassment or abuse or assault or rape, you're doing it wrong and I hope someone who hears you victim blaming lights you UP. The focus should be on the behavior of the attacker. NOT the victim. And definitely not other women - we do not get to blame Harvey's wife for not knowing and we do not get to blame Hillary Clinton for not making a statement quickly enough or for taking campaign donations from him. And we do not get to say BUT EVERYONE KNEW especially those Obamas and Clintons and act like they're assholes for doing nothing. Well, not to poke a stick at a sore, but we all know trump is a sexual abuser and it didn't stop nearly 63 million of you from voting for him to be POTUS, so...

Everyone says oh my gosh this should never happen to women / I'm for women. Are you? If you are, let's spend our time talking about how this stops. Opening your eyes and seeing how it is not even just the actual act of rape or abuse itself but the attitudes we hold towards victims and women in general. Men act horribly and we turn our attention to women who should have spoken up or done something or known or or or. We put victims on trial and our first instinct is not to believe them. We  ask women to answer for the behavior of men. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in people (women included) that our first impulse is to find ANY way we can to hang a man's terrible behavior on a woman. It comes out about this man's horrible past with women in the workplace and we're talking about who accepted his campaign donations instead of, you know, how to stop it from happening in any work place? It's the same as telling women not to walk alone at night instead of telling men not to prey on women who are alone on the street at night.
Rape culture is all around us. It is anyone talking about sex or rape and interspersing the terms as if they are the same. It is politicians in this country using terms like "legitimate rape" when trying to legislate women's bodies and not being immediately removed from office or even remarked upon by most of the population. It's the people who tell her she must have misunderstood something for a sexual advance in the workplace. It's people who infer she asked for it. It's people who ask what she was wearing or if she had too much to drink or if she said no loud enough. It's mothers who blame girls for posting sexy selfies and luring their boys into sex instead of talking with boys about their responsibility. It's teaching girls to say no and teaching boys no means no but not talking or teaching consent. It's calling victims liars right off the bat and accusing them of wanting money or to ruin someone's career or life. It's rape jokes. It's brushing off tales of sexual assault as locker room talk. It's assuming that false reporting for sexual assault is the norm, not the exception. It's feeling less safe on the street at night as a woman. Etc etc etc. It is way more than the act itself. And for those ladies out there like me, who haven't had many personal encounters with this shit, let me remind you - none of us are equal and safe until all of us are equal and safe. We must use our voices to amplify those who cannot speak for themselves right now. We must raise a generation of daughters without the small cuts to their psyches. We must raise a generation of sons we don't subject to toxic masculinity.

6. I'm not going to go nuts on the birth control shitshow because I just put all my money down on #5, but I'll just leave this here and say if you've never struggled choosing to spend $50 on either birth control or food for a week or two in a month here and there (or every month), that's privilege. Recognize it and stop acting like bitches are complaining over nothing because the trump administration will allow employers to choose to cover it or not. Also, can I say I'm fucking sick of men weighing in on this? Seriously? Shut the fuck up. Also, this is a slippery slope, guys. Maybe it's against a company's religion to cover mental health services. Or vaccines. Or or or. You get it.
7. This leaves me too tired to discuss pence's divisive rage stoking publicity protest stunt costing the taxpayers a zillion dollars, the fact that I wish trump and pence cared as much about actual American ideals as they do about symbols of those ideals, my feeling that Tillerson and trump are actors in Billy Madison with the freaking IQ challenge, the time I spent WTFing over the fact that Congress found time to pass an abortion ban after they let CHiP expire, and my intense disgust and rage over trump's self-defeating EPA repealing the clean power plan that was good for absolutely everyone living and breathing just because a black president put it into place. Hold my hoops, I need to put several hexes on people.

8.  Since some people are still not getting it about the protesting: It is every single person's right to demonstrate against racism. The sooner we recognize systemic racism, the sooner we move towards a better life for all of us. Fellow white people, stop resisting this. We are all racist in some way because we live within a systemically racist society. None of us are perfect and we are not expected to be. But we are expected to recognize how society is working unfairly, help to dismantle that system, and move the fuck over to make room at the table for other people who are not white and who are not male. Giving other people the same rights we have always had does not take our rights away. Why are we so threatened?

9. Reminder:

10. E-card of the week:
Have an extra $5 or $10 this week? Help Puerto Rico. Who has a solid charity or group doing work on the ground for people affected by the fires on the left coast? Anyone?

And of course a happy belated National Coming Out day. People are people and love is love. Carry on, warriors.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The future is female - Pennsylvania Conference for Women

The Pennsylvania Women's Conference is the most hopeful I have been since Election Day in November. I truly believe women will lead us out of the political and social mess we are in in this country. I feel that in my bones and this day reinforced that times a million. We are going to get more seats in government and at the tables of our workplaces. We are going to forge a future that is better for us and our families. We are going to do these things because if we don't we cannot move forward or even tread water.

It's funny how many people take offense to the phrase the future is female. Listen up, frail men: it's been your world since the beginning of time. History and all that. So excuse me if we are reclaiming our time and not being quiet about it.

The crowd felt largely progressive. It also felt diverse and powerful. I definitely got more out of the keynotes at the opening session and lunch than I did out of the sessions. It was also great to meet a lot of smart, strong women. The exhibit hall was excellent also.
I am a copious note taker and I'm about to lay a lot of text on you. Here are some things that resonated with me and might resonate with you as well:

Sandra Leung from Bristol-Myers Squibb:
-None of us can afford to be invisible in the workplace.

Carla Harris from Morgan Stanley - she was totally amazing. I mean, she advocates celebrating your birthday all month. Her energy was fire. How could I not feel a bond?
-Own your power. Never let anyone make you doubt that which is uniquely you. If you let people do that, you have given away your power.
-If you were invited into the room, you belong at the table. Do not sit at the table and keep your mouth closed.
-In order to grow your power, give it away. When you empower others you amplify yourself.
-Fear has no place in your success equation. If you approach things from a place of fear, you will under-penetrate every opportunity. Fear is false evidence of things appearing real.
-If you meet someone and they tell you you are too much for them, they are right. Do not dim your light for someone else's convenience.
-If you don't ask, you don't get. You are responsible for your career.
-If you don't make a mistake, you're not reaching far enough. Everyone makes mistakes, what matters is if and how you get up. Resilience is important. Do not carry the mistake as baggage - it creates a competitive disadvantage for you. Life is a journey and you have a long runway.
-When life comes to teach you a lesson, if you don't pass the test you will repeat the class.
-Do not use your personal currency on things that are not worth it.
-If you ask for help and are turned down, there is one word - next.
-Always default to TRY. Always play for YES.
-Know that you know that you know you have all the goods you need to maximize your success.

Shonda Rhimes
-Names we call people matter, and we're not talking about given names. Nice, well behaved, pretty, sweet girl is not what we should default to when we talk about girls. Tell your kids they can be anything. Give them naming rights. That is power.
-Names you give ideas matter. Don't say obstacle because then there are obstacles.
-You can't be discouraged or break or give up because of how things are. The reality of life is all male and all white until you walk in the door. When you walk in the door, the future changes.
-How we name something dictates how we deal with it. We let fear name things. We are afraid of brilliance, beauty, wanting something, failing, succeeding, being out of our league. Rename your fears. Put the naming rights in your pocket. On behalf of women, go name the world your own.
-We belong in any room we are in.

Shawn Achor
-Joy can co-exist with displeasure because happiness is not pleasure. It is the joy we feel moving towards our potential. The opposite of happiness is not unhappiness. It is apathy.
-We are afraid of happiness as a society.
-Optimism is great but will not stop reality. If you sugarcoat the present, it sucks. We need rational optimism - the belief that behavior will matter if linked to the right people. Our brains are designed to co-process the world.
-Sustainable happiness comes from using your energy to make others better.
-Happiness does not exist on the other side of success. As soon as I get...I'll be happy. But we keep moving the goal post. If you raise your levels of happiness you will raise your levels of success, not the other way around.
-Re-train your brain to look for success and connection, not mistakes and errors. Many jobs train us to look for mistakes and errors. We have to find a way around that.

Leslie Stiles
-The best way to make a difference in the world is to make a difference in your situation. Push yourself. Develop your strengths. And use them to build a world that is equitable and tolerant and safe for all.

Dr. Brene Brown
-People are hard to hate close up. Move in. We are in a time of rampant de-humanization of people. The line is not left or right. The line is what is human or not.
-Speak truth to bullshit but be civil.
-Don't let someone frame your beliefs. When they do that, you need to call bullshit.
-Walk through the world with a strong back, a soft front, and a wild heart.
-You do not negotiate your worth or belonging with other people. That is yours. That is what you carry in your heart and how you show up.

Michelle Obama - full disclosure, I was basically basking in the comfort her presence brought to a cavernous room and enjoying sitting and listening to her have a conversation with Shonda Rhimes like we were a big audience of girlfriends, so my notes are lacking here. She is powerful, down to earth, strong, and present. She did not talk about her husband, although he did pop in with a pre-recorded message for their 25th anniversary, which was that day.
-There are all these rules that slowly suffocate young girls and give them small cuts: you ask too many questions, put your hand down, cross your legs, sit like a lady, girls don't do that.
-Women worry too much about failing to lean in. Men do not let fear of failure stop them.
-Shame on us if we sit by and let an imposter talk us down.
-Put yourself on the calendar first. Don't give your time away indiscriminately.
-Ask questions, don't make judgments.
An empowering, worthy day. I am worth it. You are worth it. The baby girls and young ladies are worth it. We are all worth it and we are more powerful than we allow ourselves to show.

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