Oscar Re-Cap

Okay…what happened last night? It was AWESOME. It was drama in real time.

First of all…my husband fried chicken from scratch and I promise you if I didn’t see him DO it I woulda sworn it was the ancestors up in my kitchen. I was gonna take a picture of it, but you know how things like that work out.

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I was SO looking forward to the supporting acting categories because I am in LOVE with both  Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis and was really rooting for their victories. Like…I GAVE a shit, okay? On House of Cards Remy is my favorite character, so I’ve been following Mahershalas career as it has EXPLODED. And Viola Davis can bring out emotion in me with so much as a look.

Her speech was long and heart felt. And that’s all I can ask of someone…if you’re going to go long, be true. My brother however had less patience for her musings and started mumbling about…I don’t even know…actors not being artists. Etc. Something that silmultaneously pissed me off and hurt my (albeit pregnant) feelings.

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I work with actors, I build my trust around actors and have seen and admired everything they put into their work. I could never do it, it’s not like just anyone can. It is a craft, a talent, honed and devised as much as any other profession. They are the liaisons from the writer to the director to the world. They translate human emotion and story into personal, edible chunks you can chew on. Something you can recognize from the abstract. Relate to. They spend long hours giving themselves up for their characters, sacrificing their life selves for their work selves, for my sake. And for yours. If just ANYBODY could do it, I don’t even think most would choose it. I wouldn’t. Put myself out there like that? And I’m already out there!

Maybe he was comparing it to being a Doctor like my sister-in-law or a teacher. Arguably, two of the hardest and most important jobs on Earth. I mean, you can’t get more important than a Doctor, really. But there needs to be no comparison. Everything can exist, in its own realm, in its own importance in the ecosystem of our society. And what more appropriate time for an actor to discuss the importance of their chosen field than on an international stage, accepting an award for their tremendous accomplishment?

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I fear, these are the same sentiments shared by thousands across the web. That these artists should stick to entertainment, puppets on a string, not yet a real boy. Devaluing their presence as both people and societal contributors. The same message received from Congress as the Arts and Humanties funded by the NEA, faces the federal chopping block. (A savings of 0.06% of the annual budget. Or, 1.34 per person for programs like PBS kids, NPR, etc) and a sector that employs thousaands of working artists every year, myself included. It’s a hard thing to hear so often that your passion, your art and chosen career really doesn’t matter. As if it’s something you can just put down and move on to the next 9-5. Now, it’s more important than ever to vocalize the importance of art in all it’s varied disciplines. To remind kids growing up in this weird time, their dreams matter, no matter what they are. To think of a world without art, I can’t think of a world at all.

You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place. And that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time: ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell Viola?’ And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big, and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank god I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. -Viola Davis, 2017 Oscars

I WILL say, I divest from her sentiments slightly on the “only” profession to celebrate living a life–but she is in a room of peers and she does know her audience.

But actors face rejection in their field only rivaled by I don’t know…Writers? Hahaha. If you’re seeing them on that stage, you can imagine they’ve gone through incredible adversity to get there. Especially black actresses. I still live in a world where excellence in your field matters to me. I feel that’s slipping away in American culture and only to our detriment. I realized this on a comment page a couple of months ago, when a guy from Cleveland commented on an op-ed from The New Yorker. This piece was written by Noam Chomsky, on the state of the union, and this man asked, “Who the hell is Noam Chomsky and why is his opinion more important than mine?”

I cringe. I digress.

I suppose to think an actor isn’t an artist can be spun. If you’re on the outside of it, you don’t see the tremendous dedication most bring to their roles. You don’t see the WORK, because they made it look easy. So maybe that’s doing the job.

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On a side note; Faye Dunaway was the one to screw that up, not Warren ‘Heartthrob’ Beatty. Congrats to all of the well-deserved winners!

Writing my senator about upholding the NEA budget,

Beaufield

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A tall-tale of Minimalism

SNOW DAY!!

ALTHOUGH WE WORK FROM HOME AND OUR KID ISN’T IN SCHOOL SO IT’S JUST ANOTHER DAY!!!!

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Allow me to get completely domestic for the next 500 words. I have to get some things out and maybe at the end of this, they’ll have more clarity.

I’m into minimalism. Not like, the actual practice of it or anything but like, day-dreaming about it, watching documentaries about it. Podcasts and articles and Pinterest boards and stuff. I’m into it like that.

I’ve had several cycles of “binging and purging” my items. I was a thrift store FANATIC and was dating one too, so at one point my bachelorette pad was FILLED with treasures from 1950-2009. Velvet sofas, and glass lamps, chandeliers and a freaking hair-dryer chair! That actually worked. It was bad ass. I admit.

It was a FAR cry from my days in the mountains, a 400 sq. foot apartment and a suitcase to my name.

I can say I’ve never been too attached to STUFF. By nature, I lose or break things. I up and leave them behind. When I broke up with Goodwill guy, I invited another Goodwill guy over to my house and via phone (I was in New York, my friend let him in) I sold him just about everything I owned. Asta la Freaking Vista. I even threw this giant portrait in the dumpster outside my place…two weeks later it was in my mothers house! A dumpster-diving friend of hers had found it! One womans trash…

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Every 27-yr old single girl should have one of these in their place. I miss it.

Anyway, obviously things change with family and with a house and kids. I’m perpetually in “I may need this mode”. Or I go crazy and box a bunch of stuff up and then that box NEVER leaves the house, until I find myself digging into it again and these things are reintroduced into our lives!

With two home offices, a toddler, a baby on the way and no desire to be Suzy Homemaker, something around here has to give. And I think it’s all the stuff. I KNOW it’s all the stuff. Where did it all come from? WHY did I think I needed it? Could we be better organized? AB-SO-FREAKING-LUTELY. BUT, wouldn’t that be WAY easier with like 70% less things? We even rented a 12-foot dumpster, filled it, and I can’t even tell you what changed.

Old clothes, unused toys, endless papers, random tools…and on and on forever.

I bought one of those IKEA Kallax shelves and it has been amazing as far as organization and tidiness. I have rows of baskets at the bottom for Shines toys, the row above with kids books, and then the two rows above that house our laptops, my books, mail and things we need to reach regularly but also need to be out of the way. Things that could take up five random places in the house instead of one organized one.

Maybe that’s where it all starts–IKEA.

I’m not making any grand pledge to become the minimalist mom…I’d be lying to myself and the universe. Alls I’m saying right now is; I need to get some crap out of here, it’s easier said than done, my house is eating me, and the Kallax is worth the shipping price.

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Free foot massagers!!

ALSO, tip: For LESS Play-Doh jars and dried out pieces around your house, try giving your kiddo professional modeling clay. We did that with Shine, and it’s awesome. It’s not all of the awesome colors BUT it  does NOT dry out, it’s so resuable and you can get a GIANT block of it for $14.

See? One step closer. Any tips? I’m open.

Crying into piles of stuff,

Beaufield

2016 Celebrity Deaths-A Rant

I have miraculously made it through this year without blogging anything about the election or politics in general. That would be a slippery slope that I don’t want to go down. I don’t want to reflect on this year in general. For me, it was a landmine. Jump right, youre safe. Jump left…shit blows up. So I am happy to be moving into 2017 with myself and my family intact. That is something HUGE to be grateful for. I’m coming out on top.

What I DO want to talk about as the year wraps is something I noticed in spades this past week and that really got under my skin.

Obviously we’re all aware we lost a LOT of entertainment and progressive icons in 2016. Being kicked off by David Bowie and ending with the surreal loss of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. In between, Prince, Natalie Cole, John Glenn, Muhammed Ali…literally keep going…forever.

It seemed like a record year of artistic, creative, scientific LOSS compounded by our politics moving in anti-progressive, anti-scientific way. I mean, the polar opposite of anything sane.

ANYWAY–

I saw many tributes to these artists as their names were called. What they meant to people, how they first fell in love with them, favorite songs, and facebook became like a digital funeral. What I also saw, (less of for sure, but prominent) were, for lack of a better word, haters. Hahahaha. These snotty, holier than thou attitudes TOWARD people who give a shit about celebrities passing away.

From–“who cares?” to “you don’t know what happiness and self worth is”–to “people die in _______ everyday.” I remembered why I hate facebook and have spent so much time away from it this year.

EVERYONE THINKS THEIR OPINION IS IMPORTANT AND WORTH HEARING. It’s not.

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I was really disgusted by literally ALL of these thoughts spewed out–for no real reason.

If you don’t care if someone died, when is it ever not totally rude to say it? Unless they’re a terrible fucking person. It’s still a life. And THESE people have SHARED their lives for OUR benefit and entertainment. Why should we be able to connect with them in life but not mourn for them in death? Because people die everyday across the world? Really? And what exactly are you doing for those people, anyway? You’re PROBABLY not actively thinking about them, until someone is sad about Prince and you decide to be an asshole and remind them that the whole world is tragic.

WE KNOW THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD IS TRAGIC.

There is room for all types of tragedy. For me, in my own sensibilities, I can donate money to Aleppo, pray for the Paris, give blood for Orlando, vote AGAINST the death penalty, bury my Guinea Pig in the backyard AND give an absolute fuck that a person I used to listen to or watch with my grandparents is no longer with us, along with another chip from my childhood memories.

To me, this serves as a token of the further dismantling of human empathy.

You don’t care that a famous person died and you think the people that do care have no self worth. Hmmm. (Well, THAT sounds incredibly happy and well adjusted) You don’t care that a famous person died because there’s a terrible war right now…but they both exist, one isn’t a reason to denounce the other.

Listen, no one has to care about anyone else dying. That is true as true can be. But why put your apathy on display?

When Lemmy from MotorHead died, it didn’t affect me in the same way as some of the others. But I watched other friends be truly heartbroken. Because to them, he was an artist that taught them MORE about themselves. That opened things inside of them, that may have stayed closed forever without his contribution to the world. And THAT’S why this matters. These aren’t just “famous people” they are citizens who have given back to us in remarkable ways, ways that go beyond their art and affect us personally.

How many trans and queer kids felt the courage to be themselves because of Bowie, or Prince or George Michael? Who may have never thought there was anyone out there like them, until they saw Purple Rain or a WHAM! video?

How many young black men found strength in the poetry and beliefs of Muhummed Ali?

How many kids dreamed of going to the moon to walk in John Glenns footsteps? Grew up watching Dave Mirra ride his bike to the sky? Or watching Garry Marshalls sitcoms with their families for years and years?

I know at least ONE Celine Dion OBSESSED 14 year old girl who visited the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, where Celine got married, (and walked up the aisle slowly, tears streaming down her face) who watched Celine’s husbands funeral in that very same church this year. A surreal full circle.

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Beau (and Celine) were here

I imagine for some people the best memories of their lives have more to do with Gene Wilder and Alan Rickman, than with the reality of their surroundings. I’ve read many stories that start with childhood escapism through entertainment to eschew problematic home lives.

I told people Chuck Norris was my father for MANY years, since I didn’t have one…god, the confessions roll. And you better believe I’ll be a wreck when he dies. I barely made it through The Expendables 2.

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My Dad

To say that WE don’t even know these people, is unjust in my mind. I feel like many artists speak to my soul in a more intimate way than most of my loved ones. The parts that you don’t put on display for the world and the parts that they did.

The public mourning of celebrities is in no way to be an “F you” to the tragedies that happen everyday. They don’t trump the loss of our loved ones, or local change makers. They’re not MORE WORTHY of life than the people who are strangers. It’s not about that. But their fame should not dehumanize them either. They’re still just flesh and bone.

Music, movies, TV, books–these are the things people use to escape the worlds atrocities, the things we (think we) can’t do anything about. It makes every sense to me that we would openly mourn those points of view and artistry forever gone from us. And, the parts of ourselves that go with it.

And if we don’t connect with them, we give respect to those who do. Their reason for caring may be bigger than they’ve shared with you. Because you were judgmental, when Bowie wasn’t, so they can’t talk to you about it, but they can listen to Ziggy Stardust and feel recognized.  ; )

This year, I hope to stay even further away from facebook and the collective unconsciousness of a platform for verbal and mental diarrhea. I hope to live and breathe mindfulness, clarity and empathy and be surrounded by like-minded souls, who teach and challenge me. I want to keep my kitchen clean, stay away from political poison and excel in my lifes roles.

I want the same (or your version of the same) for all of you.

Happy New Year.

The Anxiety of Lies

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in almost 2 months.

This is a place I come to REALLY pour my heart onto the page…I promise the times between these posts are happier than the posts themselves.

I have anxiety.

I mean, who doesn’t?

I can just mark mine, down to the day that I realized it. There is a before and an after. And that after was after my son was born. Since then I have been a ball of stress riddled, anxious, insecurity. Something SO FAR removed from pre-mommy Beau, it makes my head spin.

This post ISN’T about that anxiety. That organic uprising in the chest at inopportune moments.

But rather the anxiety that arises in reaction to the action of others.

With me?

How other people’s actions inform my reaction…and what, if anything, I can do to control the emotions surrounding that.

Okay–

I had someone very close to me get caught in a lie. A magnanimous lie. A lie that hurt people, that spread like a cancer through their circles. A lie that gained weight and traction until it exploded in their face, upon a key player discovering what we all thought was truth-was fiction. This person thrives on their integrity. It’s one of the top things people associate them with. Integrity, honesty and  humor probably. Generosity of time. They are always there for their friends. Anyway…this destroyed that for some. Including me.

Ugh, I have to say it. For the sake of transparency and my own healing.

This person was my husband.

And underneath this secret, I guess, lied even more subversive truths that he was hiding, including from himself. It’s okay…he’s getting help.

This post isn’t even about THAT. Right? You would THINK that the biggest thing I’d have to talk about would be the state of my marriage…it’s not.

I’m an open book–but that struggle is still pretty private.

That same week–like the next day or something. I hear through the ever chugging rumor mill–that a former friend has brought my name up–AGAIN- in a negative way. This time it was…I don’t know…using me as a scapegoat for something that had nothing to do with me. And I literally exploded. THAT took precedence over this very painful, domestic issue.

WHY? Where the fuck are my priorities? image

I think that had the timing been different, I wouldn’t have had the infuriated reaction that I did. But the time was the time. And I was exhausted. I picked up my phone and took her to task, immediately. Because at this point in this broken relationship, it’s like she’s a faceless entity of darkness to me, instead of an actual person who I used to know well and care for.

You know how that can happen? When you have a falling out with a person, but you never actually talk about it WITH them? Just around them, through texts and emails, other people…it’s not the ideal way to do life, in my opinion. It’s easy to forget humanity, when you never hear a voice.

Anyway, all of these things CHARGED with a deadlined play–that I didn’t know how to finish. And I found myself completely numb but in the angriest, most woeful way.

I’m still processing all of this. I’m still drinking down paranoia. What else do I not know? What else is he hiding? What else is she saying? Who is he talking to? Who is she talking to?

I’m making it ALL ABOUT ME.

The actions that THEY have embarked upon, ultimately have nothing to do with ME. They can mention me, they can hurt me…but these decisions are theirs to make, alone. And those decisions have poured over into my life and my decisions. They are constantly on my mind. I,E; Anxiety.

How do I handle that?  How do YOU handle that?

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Being forced to make choices (or not) based on other peoples influence on my psyche, heart, love, loyalty, reputation, ego, what have you…

I want freedom from ALL of that. I want separation from the affects of the poor or malicious decisions of others. I don’t want their  crud seeping into the way I feel about myself. The person I know I am. The heart I know I have/had…for both of them. I want to be ABOVE that. Untouched by things that aren’t true. That aren’t made of soul.

Is that isolation? Is that putting walls up?

 I’ve ALWAYS been a blindly trusting person. Even though the world has done it’s best to thwart that…my heart beats bigger than my history.

I want to remain the vulnerable self, but have a greater understanding that things they say, do, rumors spread, lies told–have a greater impact on the one imparting it. Says more about their character, than it ever could about mine. Hurts their own trust deeper than it could mine. Is that possible? Isn’t that like thick skin 101?

My skin is surprisingly translucent…

But I’ve worked really hard to own my own life, I don’t know why I would give that up now.

Okay, thanks.

Good Talk.

-Beaufield

 

 

No answers, just questions.

How do you say sane?

How do you stay soft?

Is your softness also strength?

How do you protect your children?

How do you protect yourself?

What do you do to help others?

What do you contribute to your community?

What relationship takes from you more than it gives?

Is it still worth it?

Is your self-reflection an honest one?

How do you handle fear, pain, guilt, anger?

Do you know how to express yourself?

What are you attracting to yourself with your thoughts?

Does your outside behavior reflect your internal thoughts?

Do the people who are important to you, know they are? How do you SHOW this?

Are you grateful?

What’s your prayer at night?

What’s your most common emotion?

What do you want to change?

Does the wide world rock your world?

Whats your favorite word?

What do you stand for?

What do you bring to the table no one else does?

Can you face the future with bravery and kindness?

What values still matter to you and your peers?

How can you survive the day and make it beautiful?

The Apathetic Empath

I’ve taken such a long hiatus from the blog. There’s been a lot going on the past few weeks and I’ve let many things slide. Blogging, working out, whatever else hasn’t been of dire necessity. The world moved on.

Now, I’ve gotten the notion to come back here, my husband and baby sleeping peacefully during my restless late night hours, I take pause thinking of how many other families lives have been recently uprooted. How their own late night awakenings may be happening for different reasons. Not the luxury of being a night owl but the pain of a loss, the nightmares that may haunt them. From Orlando’s tragic shootings to the loss of a little boy from my town on vacation–to the multitudes of personal losses that aren’t televised and media spectacled. The quieter tragedies that will at one time befall us all as price for being human–I recognize we may all be awake right now.

I have a problem with empathy. These stories (maybe) touch all of us (hopefully) in deeply moving ways, but I  know that that’s not true. I know in the wake of others hopelessness, we still battle over guns, or their religion or their lifestyle–offering thoughts and prayers and not much else. We still blame parents-hoping to create a false sense of security by telling ourselves WE could do THAT better. The seemingly endless grids of faces we’ve accumulated over the past several years as the victim toll climbs higher, becomes more familiar, so we take it for granted. Oh, the 9 blacks, that’s right. The 49 gay club ones. Oh, yeah the 20 kids. Man, it’s been that long already? We scroll past to a meme, to something less painful, something more current, relevant.

Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. article-vics-all-0614-gthmb

I don’t stop there. Do you? I google their families, I look up their facebook posts, I go through their pictures, I imagine their mothers weeping, I think of their last breaths. I wonder if they thought like me. I think about the transition from human to corpse. I think about them as babies–sometimes they are babies. I think about the horrible things people say online so removed from the experience of face to face confrontation. Screens and keys and miles between and you can say the worst things to and about a person. I think about their hearts, their innermost thoughts, the dreams they had, the things that died with them. The things that would die with me. I am that person. I tell myself we are the same. I put my child’s face, my husbands face, my brothers face on them and then I dig in from there.

This is paralyzing.

I CRY almost everyday thinking about this. Ultimately about strangers. Some days, I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to face the world, I’m scared of it and sad for it and grateful for it all at once. I freeze up and my emotions go on ice for those around me because I’ve given everything I have to the grief of others I experience in my own body. There is no real control over this, other than shutting everything out. It’s the only way I can separate the feelings I’m experiencing for myself from those I am experiencing for others.

This doesn’t translate well in my personal life.

I’m short-tempered, impatient, easily annoyed. The empathy I have for the world I can’t have for my own husband when he is sick, when we are arguing. When my baby whines, I kiss him and then I tell him to “knock it off.”  I don’t have any feelings toward my dog.. I have been cold, at times, to the people I hold the closest. Perhaps, and I don’t know for sure, but maybe to defend my heart from anything that may actually shatter it.

After my grandfathers passed away, years ago,  I pulled away from my family, I didn’t want to be close to them anymore, that I may have to face loss of another member. If I shut down around my husband, if I close off, I can’t be hurt, I can’t be touched. The same with friends. Iciness as a coverup for the fire of feelings I can never actually get away from. The closer something may be to me, the more I approach it with an apathetic lens. The “safer” I am, the more it can hurt.

Shine, though.

Can’t get away from that one. He makes everything about living more worth it and more terrifying, and I HAVE to put myself in those other shoes to remain completely grateful and humble to have him with me.

This is nothing more than a small revelation and like all the other ones, I am blessed to have the time to explore it. I want to practice what I preach and be more vulnerable with the people in my life, approach them with an open being instead of self-serving the ME, afraid of being affected. I also want others to realize the butterfly effect of losing so many fellow humans at once, here, (everywhere) affects us all, whether we scroll past their pictures, know their names or not.

Off probably crying,

Beaufield

 

Mothers Day thoughts

Mothers Day was yesterday.

And it was awesome.

Along with so many revelations I’ve had being a mother, cherishing everything, is one of them. In the 20 months since Shine has been born, I’ve awoken to countless possibilities. Good ones and tragic ones. I’ve become more aware of the absolute randomness and fragility of life. Things I only knew before in the abstract. Perhaps, I still know them in the abstract…but I’ve learned to fear and respect them I guess.

Yesterday FELT like Mothers Day to me. I felt special. I feel singled-out and valued and celebratory. The boys brought me new tumblers and a coffee to go mug, I worked in the garden and became more like my mother, I ate my weight in my husbands french toast, I bought a guinea pig.

I Mothers Dayed all damn day and it was glorious.

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But in my revelry, there was a sadness. And I wish it hadn’t been there and I could just relax and enjoy MY family. But hearts don’t often work like that, and they never shut off when you tell them to.

There’s a girl who gave birth right before I had Shine, to a sweet little boy whose birthday fell right between hers and her husbands. She was a twin, a wife, a business partner and she just wanted to be a mom. She gave birth to her son and kissed him and nursed him and named him and passed away shortly after of a rare case of complicated preeclampsia. Her story stayed present during my labor. Not fear for myself, but the ultimate gift she gave, to become a mother. My good friends adult son passed away last year. A son she would talk about every time I sat with her. She was proud and loving of him. Several of my girlfriends have lost their mothers, some of them recently…I just, finally SAW just how devastating this day can be for some. The ones left behind to remember. Watching floral bouquets line their Facebook feeds and athletes send love during basketball games.

I always say that a Mothers love is universal. It transcends lines and rules. I trust other Moms, I know I can be trusted to Mom their children in the event I would have to. I know we’re all exhausted and proud and probably feeling guilty and needing caffeine and a massage. I know we love those adorable little bastards more than anything, literally more than life itself. (I’m being exclusionary to “good” moms–not toxic ones) So if Mothers Love is universal, I think that Mothers Pain must be too. You feel it every time you hear a tragic story and say “I couldn’t imagine.”

No, you COULD imagine. And that’s the source of all your worry, fear and anxiety. Knowing the biggest pain and worst fear you COULD imagine, another Mom is somewhere living. It stops your heart a bit. It makes you think things, we are designed not to think, to stay sane. To survive. Those thoughts have taught me to cherish–everything. This entire existence, that I took for granted for far too long. This toddler taking up space in my bed, my Mom with the unwanted items and outdated advice, the husband–no comment, the house that’s eating us all alive–

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I never want to be complacent in the idea that I “deserve” all this and more. That life is unfair, why don’t we have a pool, nothing will ever go wrong, I’m special and invincible–ANY of that. Even in my most light and free moment, do I not think that way. All that I have is a gift. It was given, it can be taken, and I must be grateful in every second that is possible. If I believe that we are all divinely connected (and I do) then that mothers pain, is my pain. Her loss is all of our loss. Etc. The root of empathy.

When I hug and kiss Shine, I can’t tell you how often I say, “This one is for ______,” and I fill in the name of the mother who never got to be one. The family that lost their child. When I hug Shine, I am all mothers hugging their children. When I appease my Mother, I do it in the spirit of all daughters without their mothers. When I don’t want to Mom, I remind myself that it is a privilege. And a fleeting one. And I’m blessed with the task.

I don’t know that the world needs that. Or that it is of any comfort to their loved ones-but I remember and honor these losses through the love I get to show my family and through that, I continue their course of unconditional love for their child/my child.

Happy Mothers Day.

 

WCW: LONDON WOOLMAN pt 2.

So two…very long…weeks ago. I introduced my friend London Woolman (Nebraska Aids Project) as part of my #WCW blog series. When I asked London to be a part of the blog she was more than happy to oblige, but also, she had MORE to share. More to say. About her personal growth and journey that not only led her to NAP, but also to London 2.0.

The phoenix rising story has become somewhat cliche, now that some of us have tattoos of fiery birds rising off the smalls of our backs. Thanks 2004. But holy shit, does it resonate. From the wreckage of personal loss and emotional abolition do we find our true selves. The same selves that once could “never imagine–” made new. Stronger and ready to face the next challenge with a cocked chin and warrior mind. The resilience of women transcends geography and birthright. Our problems are varying in degree but so often the same at the core. Respect. Worth. Rights. Oh my god, Women amaze me.

So London, shedding the skin of her last life and moving full speed ahead to the new one, feeling raw and living vulnerable asked to share in her own words what working with NAP has done for her life. And share something with the world that she could “never imagine” doing before.

LONDON WOOLMAN-“STRIPPED”

When Beaufield Berry contacted me asking if I’d be interested in submitting to an interview on “Women in Leadership Positions at Omaha Non-Profits”, I had a real moment. I’ve held a leadershiprole at the Nebraska AIDS Project for about 8 months now, but I’d never really thought of myself as a person who fit the description of the article, even though it is technically accurate. She sent me a list of questions that included things like “What is your motto/mantra?” and “What are your personal core values?” and it all started to hit me. I am reforming an identity (I’ll get to this in a second) and I literally spent the next 72 hours trying to ponder just exactly how I got here and why I’ll always be grateful for the role I hold at NAP, and why it’ll stick with me for life even if I leave my employment there. Let me back up.

unnamed-1This is a very accurate illustration (drawn by me by the way) of who London Woolman was on June 1, 2015. Each box represented a layer of my life and personal journey, and each layer had a certain level of comfortability and routine. I wouldn’t describe myself as “cocky” per se, but “comfortable” and “confident in my place in life” would be accurate descriptions. A few days later, I listed my home for sale. It was my first home, I bought it on my own in 2005, and I’d lived in it for the past 10-ish years (9 of those with my partner). My home was small and charming, located in Benson, and it seemed like a good time to sell, and we (my partner and I) would move on to something a bit bigger – with upgrades like “a garage that could fit an actual car in it”. Big life event, but it felt like the right time and listing the house happened very smoothly and intentionally. A week later, I interviewed for and received a job offer to work as the Accounting & HR Manager at NAP. A job that I truly wanted, which would also afford me the opportunity to invest some personal funds into a business I owned at the time, which needed capital to fulfill its growth needs. Another life event, as I’d been a solo entrepreneur for about 4 years at that point and hadn’t had to do things like have a boss, or be prepared to fulfill the expectations of other people, etc. I had about a month to wait before my start date, which gave me plenty of time to tie up loose ends at my business, and make sure I had adequate staff to work all the hours I wouldn’t be spending there. Another week later, I received an offer on the house. Big changes all lining up! My world was changing in an exciting way. I started work at NAP on July 13th, 2015. New place, new people! I didn’t have a carved out space in the office just yet, but it felt ok and exciting. I felt no fear since I had a business I was still running on the side that would be easy to fall back on if it didn’t work out at NAP. Fast forward to July 28th. My partner of the past 11 years returned from a project (his work was as a contract employee in the IT world) in Austin and abruptly changed the future of my comfortability by announcing he would be returning to Austin permanently. And alone. I know that break-ups in the adult world are nothing novel, but this was a blow for sure.  “WWWHHHHYYYY is this happening to me?” was a thought that ran through my mind for most of that evening and well into the morning hours. On July 29th, I woke up, bleary-eyed and reluctant to face the world, and I traveled with co-workers I barely knew yet at the time to a place called Camp Kindle. Camp Kindle serves youth impacted by HIV/AIDS. I probably won’t forget that day because it made me realize that my personal struggles aren’t the only thing happening in the world, which is both an awful and refreshingly humbling realization to have. Over the next few weeks, as I adapted to my role as a team member at NAP, I went through the process of moving out of my home, abandoning the love of a partner I’d had for many years, and I inherited a new boss (one that hadn’t hired me) which are all life experiences that happen, although most of them don’t happen in the course of about 14 days. Since most of my co-workers didn’t really know me yet, they didn’t realize the personal smorgasborg of change I was juggling, yet because of what they all do for a living, they offered me support and inclusion anyway. I spent about 90 days juggling a new job, a new home (living in some friends’ converted carriage house, just trying to figure out how to get my shit together) and owning and operating a business. I closed the business on October 9th, and I did so intentionally, in order to save my own sanity. Remember the photo of London from June 1, 2015? Here’s London from October 10th, 2015 (ok, the pink hair actually came in November).

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What I can say about NAP is that it’s been far more impactful to me on a personal level than any set of interview questions could ever get to the bottom of. I received a boss who tells me when I do great work and offers support daily (I speak on behalf of about 99% of solo entrepreneurs when I say that this is something I hadn’t received in a minimum of 4 years prior), I got to know the people that work at NAP but also those who both support and utilize the services that NAP provides. A former NAP client who regularly volunteers at the office has literally brought tears to my eyes by offering his perspective on life (I’m not a crier, so this shows impact), and I have some of the best co-workers in the entire world. I often refer to them as “my tribe”, not because we all agree on how things should go at all times, but because they’re genuinely inclusive, they are caretakers, and they are like-minded – all here to fight for the greater good. HIV/AIDS is not necessarily uplifting work, and these individuals do not receive million dollar salaries. These people are here because they believe in inclusion and eliminating stigma around the disease. But more importantly to my story, they gave me a reason to get up in the morning during a period of my life in which I would have preferred to abandon hope and cave into depression. I crash landed into NAP, and the folks there unknowingly saved me. I am not HIV positive, so just imagine the impact they have on those they’re intentionally there to serve.

Today, I’m launching a fundraising campaign called #stripped. I peeled away all the layers of my identity and my job at NAP has been truly impactful in helping me to reinvent myself. No matter where I end up, I will always be grateful to those at NAP (past, present, and future) who helped me get here and beyond. So what is my motto/mantra? It’s “reinvent the future”. We can all contribute. Get #stripped. #gettested

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Want to donate to the #stripped cause? Do so here now: https://14770.thankyou4caring.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=298 (feel free to type #stripped in the comments)

How it works: keep the body positivity rolling – you are challenged to either a) post a naked selfie to generate awareness to the cause or b) make a $25 donation to the Nebraska AIDS Project, #stripped fundraiser.

Impacted by HIV/AIDS or know someone who is? The Nebraska AIDS Project is the only AIDS Service Organization serving all of the state of Nebraska, portions of Southwest Iowa, and portions of Southeast Wyoming. NAP has office locations in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Norfolk, and Scottsbluff serving those in all parts of the state. For more information, please visit www.nap.org to help reinvent the future of HIV/AIDS.

 

To the woman in line at Walmart-an essay

Once upon a time there was a woman.

A human woman with friends and favorite foods, great parents who loved her, two small children who needed her, and a husband who worked hard to provide for her.

They had a lot of material things, given over holidays and anniversaries. Surpises and items they saved for. Their house wasn’t ever spotless, but it was warm. Her friends went out on Thursdays for drinks, he golfed on Saturdays. They donated their clothes and sometimes remembered to volunteer.

They were black, and white, or Mexican, or Asian. They lived in California, or Nebraska, or Florida or Ohio. They were the Smiths, or the Jacksons, or the Hernandez’s or the Wu’s. They were us.

One day, her husband lost his job. It was a surprise. Something they hadn’t saved for. It was a lay-off, a cutback, a restructuring…the factory moved, the market dipped. Here is what we can give you. Good luck out there. Goodbye.

And weeks past, or months, or years. They measured them in cold nights, monthly bills, crockpot meals, the cost of childcare, the market dipped, growing kids, red stamps on mortgage papers, boxes in her parents garage, fights, broken leads on maybe jobs.

One day-the end of the line. Her milk isn’t coming in right. There’s a baby now. A surprise. One they didn’t save for. Do you know the cost of formula? Do you remember the cost of diapers? He’s out with resumes and a smile and she’s in line at Walmart with her new WIC card-two cans of formula-and glasses pulled down over her eyes. Her old friends don’t come here–but still. She used to have opinions about these kind of things.

She got up early, pulled on her old Uggs. The $400 dollar shoes she HAD to have that year with the good bonus. Her Michael Kors purse, a gift from her Mother who won it at a fundraiser. Things that reminded her of when she was still Rachel, or Tanisha, or Marguerite or Lin. Things that reminded her that they would pull through. That reminded her to be grateful they still had each other.

Her baby crying on her hip. She hands the blue card over and shhh’s him. “You’re going to eat so soon, my baby,” ignoring her own growling stomach. Thinking of fast food and quarters in her bag. “We will never let you know hunger,” she thinks but doesn’t say. She just whispers it in a kiss on his temple and takes her bags.

So many people live this story. Countless of families that have been thrown from the comfort of their lives, caught in an American middle class struggle for survival.

But this story isn’t about her. Rachel, or Tanisha, or Marguerite, or Lin.

It’s about the woman behind her. Watching her with slanted eyes, a disapproving scowl, shaking her head, immediately formulating an opinion to share on Facebook. Stripping her down to the barest of bones. Looking at her Uggs with disgust and her bag with judgment. The WIC card sends a chill up her spine along with all the words her limited vocabulary can muster. “Eww.” “Gross” “Barf.” “Mooch.” “White Trash.” “Nigger.” “Spic” “Chink” “Loser.” “Poor bitch.” She grips her cigarette pack tighter in her coffin nailed hand. She pets her childs head and vows he’ll never know “welfare food.” She hurriedly throws her cheetos and oreos on the belt and won’t make eye contact. “Can’t wait to share this bullshit.”

Devoid of experience and real world struggle the word Humanity is a four letter one. Forgetting that you are them and they are you. You are always one call away from being “other.” Be grateful for what you have been given and what you get to keep. When it becomes more about politics, about competition, suspicion–than about people–the world becomes more dangerous. More violent. Even in passing. Your thoughts become things.

Compassion, Empathy, Understanding, Solidarity, Kindness…

WCW: London Woolman-Nebraska Aids Project

Nebraska Aids Project was founded in 1984 as a response to the AIDS crisis sweeping the nation at the time. People were full of fear and misinformation and NAP served as one of the few statewide AIDS organizations in the country and the only one in Nebraska.

NAP provides HIV prevention education and works tirelessly in the community (and beyond) in the fight for comprehensive sex education and as a safe haven to people who are looking for answers. Sworn to protect client confidentiality, the NAP team consists of dedicated people from diverse and wide-ranging backgrounds.

Including, one of my closest friends, London Woolman.

Joining the team last year London has been very open about her journey to work with this incredible organization and how in so many ways, it saved her life. Through her emotional honesty, courage to try new things and hilarious take on life-London, is not just a friend to many, but also an inspiration. I have watched her tackle this past year of personal adversity and change with a strong spirit and forward momentum. A constitution that is no doubt needed in the world of tackling HIV and AIDS in Nebraska. Being confronted by the melee of life and persevering, is an incredible trait and one so vital to the work she’s in.

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As part of her contribution to this Blog and her work at NAP, London-entrepreneurial as she is, decided to take things a step further and create a campaign built around transformation and self love. That campaign will be revealed here next Wednesday–complete with an essay from the woman herself as well as…well, I’ll just say…if you’ve never been to London, now’s the time to buy your ticket.

LONDON WOOLMAN, NEBRASKA AIDS PROJECT

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What gets you out of bed in the morning? Basic love of life and the possibilities that are out there to do better each day.

What is your motto/mantra? Reinvent the future.

Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life when it comes to what you do? My co-workers, for sure. I’m in awe of what they do and how they work and advocate for the greater good of HIV/AIDS

What are your personal core values? Honesty and Integrity – I have to live with the person in the mirror and she insists on no bullshit

Why do you do what you do? Great question with an ever-changing answer

3 Things you can’t live without. Food from Amigo’s, an occasional (ok frequent) pair of new shoes, and the love and support of all my homies.

What do you want people to know about your job? That it’s terrific and that it saved me, please read my story here.

Who is your rock? If you’re reading this and we’ve had any kind of raw or intimate conversation in the past 9-ish months about life, you’re on the list! I probably haven’t said thank you enough to all of you, but sometimes it takes a village.

Working at a Non-Profit in Omaha is: the shit? Is that word ok to use here?

What is the biggest unfairness in your world? HIV/AIDS still faces massive amounts of stigma and misinformation in the general public – please take the time to get educated on the subject and help us fulfill our mission to make those unfair attributes less of a burden on those infected or affected by HIV.

Quote that just “gets you.” “You don’t know the new me. I put the pieces back differently.” Credit: @HighPoetsSociety

What is your theme song? Glamazon by RuPaul

How can people be involved in your organization and why is it so important? Read along next week PLEASE.

If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering with NAP please, click here.