Jun 182019
 

“It’s Pride month and I’m the only kid in America whose parents are disappointed in him for being straight,” one of ours once quipped. He knew we were not disappointed in him for any reason but probably didn’t feel comfortable asking either of his parents why we celebrate Pride. We’re not gay, either.

Just last weekend — at the request of town officials — our little Bible belt community (and new home town) held its first Pride celebration. Organizers were well aware that the purpose of the request was to change the narrative that erupted last June when a Pride flag was raised at City Hall. Despite the challenge raised, I don’t believe the council expected an event would take place; the island’s first annual Pride celebration included a parade followed by a day long, family-friendly festival. And, while there were some who showed up for education, some to sneer, and others to satisfy their curiosity, protests were almost non-existence.

Why do the hetero members of my family celebrate Pride? I have some reasons. Click To Tweet

But why does this matter in my family? There are so many reasons, the first being our basic belief in the Christian directive to “love one another, as I have loved you” along with that part of the Declaration of Independence that speaks to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For everyone. Injustice tends to piss us off.

Many years ago, when I worked in an inpatient addiction treatment center, one of my lesbian clients was going on and on about how she’d have to spend time in bars because that’s where her culture was based. I told her I didn’t buy it and that she’d need to connect with sober lesbians to find out where they socialized without getting around alcohol. The next week the facility director announced I’d be running an ongoing group for our LGBTQ+ patients. Apparently, I was one of the few clinicians who did not think being gay caused addiction. A few years later, a company owned by the man known around the internet as Favorite Husband founded the Pride Institute — the country’s first addiction treatment center for the LGBTQ+ community.

And while those things are important, they’re not “it” for me. I went to college in a time and at a place that “gay is OK” and came of age during “the gay plague.” At one of the biggest crisis points in my life, the only person who stood by me was someone whose family member had been in my “gay group” and stayed sober. And one of my closest high school friends: a gay man I’ll not name here. I’ll not out him, even posthumously, because that’s not my part of the story. It’s his.

I'll not out him, even posthumously, because that's not my part of the story. It's his. Click To Tweet

My part of the story includes finding one another at a hormone-rife time of life, thereby removing Sister Roma judges a Hunky Jesus contestant during The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence 35th Anniversarysexuality from our friendship equation, and always having fun. Always. He taught me to dance, to drive
a stick shift, to laugh off serious wardrobe malfunctions, and how to weaken the knees of almost anyone with a thousand-watt smile. I don’t remember teaching him anything but, if he were here, he’d say there was something — even if he had to exaggerate. Because he was incredibly kind and went out of his way to lift others. Always.

And then he died.

It was a violent, bloody suicide. I don’t know “the” reason but there were factors: first-generation American, lots of pressure to succeed, former altar boy, and possible abuse of power by one of our teachers. Maybe he had GRID. I don’t know. Nobody should die because of who they are or who they love. It broke me.

So I celebrate Pride. And the right to be. And to love and be loved. Always.

Jun 042019
 

As kids, we played follow the leader. Writers and other creatives have followers on their blogs and various social media platforms. And some of us have been followed by an idea. That idea could be anything from free beer to permaculture. A kegger or a system of natural farming with appealing such appealing foundations as:

– care for earth

– care for people

– fair share

I’m a fan of systems thinking. Making decisions in a vacuum has never appealed to me; I’d be hard-pressed to think of a choice or decision that didn’t impact more people, places or things than initially meets the eye. So, to do what we can to make healthy choices for the earth makes sense — and, for the most part, is good for people. And most gardeners already have a handle on that second one: they share extra produce with their neighbors — especially all that yellow squash and zucchini!

Most gardeners already have a handle on caring for people: they share extra produce with their neighbors -- especially all that zucchini! Click To Tweet

And, finally, once we’ve shared with our neighbors, the surplus is reinvested to make the system stronger. Favorite Husband was known as the King of Compost long before we recognized permaculture. It’s not always pretty but, for us, it is the right way to go and produces results in the next planting season.

But, while I try to farm organic, I’m starting to think the garden slugs and sugar ants are going to drive me to defoliants and DDT. Soon. Did you know that, while benign-looking,  those slugs can eat the living hell out of young plants? They make holes. Big holes. They’re almost as destructive as deer.

And ants? When they’re outside, they are wonderful. They build healthy soil many times faster than earthworms and here in the sandy South, that’s something to appreciate. But, for the first time since we’ve been here, there’s a variety that appears to have decided that being out in the sun isn’t healthy and that underground living isn’t for them. They’re coming into the house. Ewww.

As I said, at this level of frustration, my first impulse is to turn to the heavy chemicals. But I know that’s not good for the people or the (invited) pets who live here. So later today I’ll be using glass jars with holes poked into their tops to make sugar and borax filled ant traps. Slower but safer for Favorite Husband and my four-footed loved ones.

But what about the free beer? The short version is that, just like their human counterparts,* garden slugs like beer — the cheaper and nastier the better. Free beer is best. These guys are going for quantity over quality.

Free beer is best. These guys are going for quantity over quality. At least they die happy, right? Click To Tweet

The like it so much that they will dive into little containers just below the surface of the garden soil to have a drink.  The problem (for them anyway) is that there are no bar stools in the little containers: they are slug-sized vats and, to have their own little keg parties in my garden, the critters need to hop in. Directly into the beer. And they drink and drown and die. (Why do I think about my ex when I set out beer traps?)

At least they die happy, right?

 

*Disclaimer: I refer here specifically to the Original Bad Boyfriend and other lazy sponges I’ve known in my time on the planet. This does not apply in any way to more civilized folk. In fact, some of my favorite people are beer drinkers.

 

May 152019
 

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!

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Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

Apr 302019
 

With the ability to stream TV classics from almost any era, I’m not dating myself too much when I think about Ally McBeal’s quirky characters and their various adventures with theme songs. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a litigator who wasn’t ready for court until he heard bells… and someone who needed the attitude adjustment that came from channeling his inner Barry White. I did some work with Mark Victor Hansen, one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys and saw him come to the front of the room to either You’re Simply the Best or Soul Man.

So I recently asked a bunch of Facebook followers what sort of theme song they might recommend for a person who had a goal in mind but needed a little extra support in the “gigantic butterflies in the stomach” department. They’re some interesting folks and came up with some pretty good additions to a playlist. Or, maybe an entire playlist. You be the judge. And I’ve included a crazy number of links in this post; if you can stand all the YouTube ads, you can hear each of the songs.

What's YOUR theme song? Click To Tweet

Whenever I post about developing confidence or taking motivation to a higher level, I’m not surprised when Avon Superstar (also known as Captain Platinum) Lisa Wilber jumps in first. She gave us Reba’s  I’m Gonna Take That Mountain.

Some of the contributors offered deeply spiritual music: Thirty-one Gifts consultant Patricia Darley chose Made to Thrive.  Roslyn Evans — the co-owner and designer of exquisite jewelry at Earth and Moon Design — is inspired by This Little Light of Mine while another artist, Heather Maria, added Walk on Water.   Rachel Keiffer, the HealthNut Girl introduced some of us to a Hebrew song called the Song of Ascents.

Some of the women turned to their spiritual sides for musical inspiration. Click To Tweet

Intuitive healer and coach Robin Ann Reid offered This is Me.  and Suzie Cheel from down under tossed Happy, as well as Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s beautiful version of Over the Rainbow, into the mix.

And Lore Raymond from Florida’s gulf side led the charge for Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.  I don’t know about you, but “you can bend but never break me, ’cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal” rings true for so many of the important women in my life. And Vatsala Shukla reminded us of another “you’ve got this” anthem: such Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

You can bend but never break me... Click To Tweet

When it came time to pick up the tempo, Colleen added Sly and the Family Stone with You Can Make It If You Try while Michelle dished up a little Uptown Funk.   Author Beverly Golden joined Etta James to advise:  Trust Yourself.  And we can always count on Barb Parcells to bring us classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone.  I hope you like Josh Groban’s version as much as I do.

Many of these women have wonderful projects going; I’ve linked to their sites or Facebook pages so you can get to know them if you choose. In the meantime, I’m off to iTunes to buy a couple of these songs for one of my “you go, girl” lists!

 

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