Archive for the ‘love’ Tag

Looking Back

Today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. And this past May 19 was the 20th anniversary of her death. I wrote in a recent post, about the unexpectedly emotional response that I had to finding her jacket at the back of my closet, that my grief had evolved beyond needing that physical reminder of her to recall her fondly and reminisce. That’s true. I don’t need an object to remind me of her presence. But pictures, objects she owned, fragrances she wore, even food she liked to cook and eat, are all powerful touchstones for memory. Yet I’m comforted by the fact that I can call up her memory, image, even her words and the sound of her voice, just by thinking about her.

Memory is a fickle thing. For a while there, I wasn’t able to recall her on demand. It scared me a bit and was the source of significant angst for me. My brain would lock up and then start castigating me for my failure. “What kind of daughter are you that you can’t remember your dead mother’s voice!?” My anxiety’s voice is loud and brutal sometimes. But eventually, after intentional effort to both fix her clearly in my mind and to quiet the grief and fear that causes that memory block, I have restored my recall ability.

I think about my mom a lot. Probably more often than I ever expected. Most of the time it’s casual recollections incidental to mundane daily experiences. A particularly juicy bite of tomato in my salad might make me think of the way she so, so enthusiastically enjoyed tomatoes, often eating them like you would an apple (shudder). Or hearing a fragment of an old country song, especially a Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline tune, will make me smile as I remember her singing them as she moved around the house or drove her car. The simple, un-forced recollections of how she was on a day-to-day basis bring me a lot of joy.

Sure, the big, stand-out memories are there. Like the time she appeared in my 7th grade chemistry classroom like an avenging angel to contest an unfair and incorrect grade on a major assignment that my teacher refused to discuss with me. I remember, even today, that while there was fire in her eyes and vigilance in her body language, she retained an impeccable level of calm, civil, professionalism in her voice. That struck me particularly, as my mother was not above raising her voice to get a point across, at least to her children. So that particular example of civil confrontation and negotiation has stayed with me and has had at least as much influence on my own professional demeanor as the negotiation training I received in law school.

Or there’s the numerous memories of her bedside manner when I was sick or injured as a kid. (I was and am a klutz, so these memories are legion.) My mom was a no-nonsense, almost cold medic. When I was in 4th grade and a neighborhood bully yanked me off my bike with a jump rope and the skin on my neck was severely abraded, my mom’s calm, clinical attention in the face of my hysterical, tearful reaction was instrumental in the fast, infection-free healing that followed. But it wasn’t until I was grown and out on my own that I realized that what I thought of with some hurt as her coldness and callous disregard for my suffering was actually her attempt to control her rage and revulsion so that I would freak out less and calm more quickly. Again, she taught me a lot about crisis management that I never would have learned and fully internalized in my book-based management training.

And, of course, there are the more fraught, some might call them traumatic, memories of her in moments of anger and disappointment. My mother could be hard, loud, strict, demanding. When disciplining me, especially with physical correction, I admit that I experienced moments of fear. That was part of the point, I’m sure. But I also remember being sure of myself because of her consistency, knowing what consequences (good and bad) would follow from what types of actions. I never feared that I didn’t know what she’d do or how she’d react. I could count on a firm consistency, even if it was harsh. But I could also count on fairness. I remember getting punished for telling my older brothers where she had stored cookies she’d baked for a church function, when I had done no such thing. And when my mom discovered the truth she apologized and made sure I, in my nascent and burgeoning sense of justice, understood that she had made a mistake because of false information and that she would be sure to do better verifying the facts in future. In that incident I learned that my mom, whom I held in awe, was fallible, but she was honest, fair and accountable to correct her mistakes. It’s easy to describe in this way with my adult brain, experience and vocabulary. As a five year old, all I knew was that my mom admitted a mistake, said sorry, and was careful to not make the same mistake again. That was huge for me then and remains a cherished lesson today.

Her consistency and follow-through really stand out for me and have contributed in material ways to my professional development. For example, she taught me about contract negotiation in high school. When I first learned to drive a car, she strictly enforced a rule prohibiting any other minors in the car while I was driving alone. So when I wanted the right to go out with my friends, we negotiated a written agreement on the subject, setting up milestones that would earn me the right to have friends in my car. She was a stickler, too, checking progress and providing guidance along the way. But when I achieved all prerequisites, she was just as particular in praising my achievements and giving me the privilege I had earned. That trust and accountability played a huge part in my growth and understanding of responsibility and personal integrity and are part of my management style to this day.

I miss my mom. I’d have loved for her to see the kickass house I now own and enjoy her pride in my professional accomplishments. I’d like for her to see that my maturation into, and acceptance of, my gender identity has been an enormous blessing, a freeing of my spirit that I worried as a teen and young adult would never happen. I’d like to know what she would think about so many things in my life and this world today.

But even though I can never be sure of the exact words she would use in those conversations, I am unshakably confident in three messages she’d make sure I received: “I love you”; “I’m proud of you”; and “You can do anything you put your mind to”. Those were the three most common sentences that she said to me in my youth. I took them for granted a lot as I grew up. But I never doubted their truth, then or now. (“Shut the door”; “In or out, but don’t stand in the doorway”; and “Not so loud” all vie for next most common sentences of my youth, for those who wonder. 😉)

Looking back, there are a lot of things about my upbringing that my inner child might wish to improve – our family’s financial position, the frequency and severity of punishment, my dad’s work schedule, among others. But my current adult self knows that, although it was far from perfect, my upbringing was full of blessings for my current life. My parents’ love for and commitment to the welfare of me and my siblings produced a family life that nurtured and educated and comforted and encouraged us to do and be good, to strive for excellence, to help others and give of ourselves.

If I am so fortunate that my family and friends who survive me look back at their time shared with me and see half the good and positive memories that I experience looking back on my time with my mother, I’d count that as a mark of a successful life.

Tidbits and Rage

I can’t think long and critically enough to research and write something substantive. I’m struggling, like so many of you, with the toll this pandemic and the social distancing and isolation has taken on my cognitive acuity. The isolation is necessary, I know. But still…My concentration is shot, my patience is thin, and I’m not sleeping well. So deep thinking about things other than my job is a big deal.

Yet, I have a desire to keep this blog going and have something to say. While the “something to say” may be of dubious value, I am going to do it anyway. In list form. Sort of stream of consciousness-style. Here are ten random things from my head that I want you to know.

⁃ I wore at least one thing rainbow every single day of June.

⁃ The facts on Snapple lids are an incentive for me to stay hydrated.

⁃ Achievement unlocked: I ordered something off eBay and it took so long to arrive (9 weeks!) that I forgot I ordered it, ordered it again several weeks later from another supplier and received it 3 weeks before the first one. 🙄

⁃ I managed to set myself an achievable chore list for every room in my house and completed all but one task in the time I set for myself. I’m feeling proud about that, especially since the one task undone was a last-minute add that was not essential.

⁃ I have discovered, in the process of cleaning out my old house and getting it ready to sell, two Christmas gifts that I received two and three years ago, respectively, that I completely forgot I owned. It was like Christmas all over again!

⁃ I am hopelessly in love with my motorized tie rack. I purchased it for my new dressing room a couple months ago and installed it a couple weeks ago. It’s so freakin’ cool! And it holds every bow tie I wear regularly. There are five bow ties that didn’t make it onto the rack because I never wear them and they’re going in the next batch of donations.

⁃ I got some schmancy new shoelaces from a horribly niche online seller. I’ve installed one pair and am loving them! Can’t wait to try the other pairs in some other boots. This could be my next sartorial addiction!

⁃ It is ridiculous how guilty I feel when I don’t wear a tie for work, even though I’m working from home. I normally do – I’ve been dressing for the office every day as if nothing has changed. But this week has been so blistering hot that even in my comfortably air conditioned home, my dress shirts have felt stifling. And since all my short sleeved shirts are patterned, I’m hesitant to try pairing bow ties with them. Feels like a Butch Fashion Fail.

⁃ I was asked to advise the Crisis Management Team at my work in regards to various issues attending the re-opening of some of our global offices. In the course of the call I had to physically stop myself…seriously, I put a hand over my own mouth…from verbally slapping our head of physical security as he spouted nonsense that he believed was substantive contribution to the discussion. I exercised restraint, I remained courteous, I corrected numerous misstatements of fact and disabused many urban legends masquerading as science. All without jeopardizing my job. I feel like a bona fide adult professional.

⁃ Lastly, I need you all to know, internalize, and live the following pieces of irrefutable truth: science, not pandering to politics or economics, is what will bring this pandemic under control; wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and maintaining social distancing and isolation save lives and the inconvenience of masks and remote work and distancing is an abysmally poor excuse for sacrificing those lives; racism and racial violence thrive in an environment of ignorance; police brutality is real and killing people daily – yes, even though you know and love someone who is a cop; black, indigenous, and trans lives matter and are being systematically jeopardized, both intentionally by racist, misogynist, patriarchal systems of power, and by the ignorant, would-be eloquent, language of harm, hate and pseudoscience spewed by privileged people with a public platform who choose to persecute difference, rather than embrace and celebrate it; love is love, love wins; and no one is free until we all are free.

Peace, my friends.

Sorrowful, but not idle

Once again, we find ourselves in a fresh wave of violence and upheaval.  I’ve written before how these grotesque surges of hate and vitriol are nearly debilitating – the rage and sorrow and defeat, by turns and often all at once, and accompanied by so many more acutely intense emotions are crushing.  But I know my weariness, stress, anxiety are vastly different from and, in many ways immensely lighter, than that permeating the Black, Indigenous and Trans communities.  There is simply too much going on and too much that needs to change.  It is overwhelming and demoralizing.

But, as the late, black American novelist, James Baldwin, is quoted as saying: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

So, without pretending that I alone can change anything or that what I say is in anyway original or significant, I am compelled to write some things that are on my heart. I write because even though my ways of contributing are small and not as visible as the brave and necessary justice activism taking place in the streets, I can’t risk my black, trans, indigenous, disabled, queer and other marginalized friends thinking that I am silent and idle while they suffer and die.

Here are some things I know:

  • Black lives matter. BLACK LIVES MATTER.  Indigenous lives matter.  Trans lives matter. And don’t, DO NOT, even attempt to come at me with any “all lives matter” bullshit. That over-simplification erases the irrefutable truth that black, indigenous, trans, queer and other lives of marginalized populations are being oppressed and extinguished AS IF THEY DO NOT MATTER by a racist, exclusionary system that disregards their most basic human right: the right to live. And at the pinnacle of this genocide are black lives.  BLACK LIVES MATTER.
  • When working within the system of oppression fails to relieve that oppression, action in the form of protest and uprising is the remaining tool of justice. For those shouting “protest peacefully”, have the integrity to acknowledge that that has been tried and been met not only with dismissal, derision, harassment and scorn, but also with violence by the majority whose position of privilege and power is threatened by being called out for reform. Have the honesty to acknowledge that every BIPOC celebrity and activist who has used their platform to voice the plea to end racism, police brutality and the murder of these black, indigenous and trans humans *WAS* the peaceful protest and call to action that you ignored or didn’t support.
  • DO NOT TELL BLACK PEOPLE, INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, TRANS PEOPLE, OPPRESSED PEOPLE HOW TO MOURN OR PROTEST. Hear their lived experience. Honor their struggle. Support their work.
  • Not everyone, including me, is able to be an activist in the streets. But there are ways to support the fight for justice.  A very quick Google search turned up this article that has links to some programs doing exactly that. https://www.thecut.com/2020/05/george-floyd-protests-how-to-help-where-to-donate.html Another few minutes’ work will turn up other groups or individuals in your particular area or with causes more specifically in line with your values. The point is that you can spread the word, donate if you’re able, make calls, write letters, lend a supportive shoulder and ear. There are ways you can help, even if you don’t have it in you to hit the streets.
  • Privilege in our system of oppression is the root of the evil we’re facing. Very many dimensions of privilege are gained passively, without intention on the part of the person enjoying that privilege. Recognizing it, acknowledging it and working actively on yourself to minimize your adverse impact on others out of your privilege – indeed  to use your privilege to raise others up with you – is also a necessary facet of “facing” the thing that must be changed.  I recently saw the following circulated on one of my social media feeds and it resonated with me on this point, so I updated the first sentence to apply to my identity and shared it. Look at this tragic litany. Examine how you can help those with less privilege.

“I have privilege as a white-passing Latinx person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper).

I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).

I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).

I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).

I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).

I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).

I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).

I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).

I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)

I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).

I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).

I can go to church (#Charleston9).

I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).

I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).

I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).

I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).

I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).

I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).

I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .

I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).

I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).

I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).

I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).

I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).

I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).

I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).

I can run (#WalterScott).

I can breathe (#EricGarner).

I can live (#FreddieGray).

I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED. (#GeorgeFloyd)

White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter

**These are NOT human rights if only white people have them.

*I copied and pasted this…please do the same.”

Friends, as painful, exhausting, worrying as it is to engage, to face the situation we find ourselves in, we must, we must, we must do something so that this condition of hate and violence and oppression ends. Please, find a way to add to the solution, not the oppression.  Silence in the face of oppression puts you on the side of the oppressors. My donations, my boosting the signal, my imperfect, timid and yet no-less fervid discussions with those who would shout down the message, these are some of my ways of standing in solidarity with all black, trans, indigenous, queer, disabled, and otherwise marginalized people who are living under and fighting oppression. To all of them I say: I see you, I honor you, I mourn with you, I stand with you.

Little Joys

This week was marked by ups and downs both big and small, both personal to me and touching the world. When emotions are as strained as they have been this week, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal and get lost in the weeds of distraction. And when there is a huge weight of emotional burden, it is sometimes hard to see the lighter, more joyous points in life.

But, as wise ones have pointed out throughout history, taking joy in the small things, relishing the richness found in the details as well as the big picture, makes life worth living. So, as I continue on my determined path of self discovery and improvement, I make an effort to acknowledge some of the good little things that alone carry no profound weight, but in aggregate easily out mass the creeping sludge that threatens to taint every lovely thing.

Here are three good things that I’m clinging to this week that help keep darkness at bay and lets the light of the little joys shine the brighter:

  1. Yesterday began in the dark hours with more news of more senseless tragedy for the world to cope with. But, as is the dispassionate way of the universe, the planet continued to rotate and revolve. And by the time I reached my office building, the sun began to rise. The beautiful sight was a balm for a troubled heart. I hope you find it soothing, as well.
  2. Sometimes a kind word or a quietly supportive message from someone whose voice you respect can be better medicine than any treatment devised by science. A friend gave me the great gift of letting me “be real” with them, without judgement and without trying to fix me, in a moment when my spirit was at a low ebb. That kind of validation of one’s vulnerability is a precious commodity in my experience.
  3. Other times you just need a new pair of shoes. Or, in my case, boots. I ordered and received these weeks ago, but haven’t wanted to wear them in the snow and muck. But the snow is gone and today there is sunshine and birdsong and a chance to make this a good day. So I’m wearing new boots and my favorite bow tie and venturing out for coffee in the presence of other humans.

Have a happy Saturday, friends. May you find small joys to make the big moments rich.

Learning from Disappointment

Everyone gets disappointed from time to time. Sometimes it’s mild, like when you have your tastebuds all set for the remembered flavor of some particular favorite treat (such as apricot filled croissants), only to find them sold out for the day. Bummer, but you move on without true damage. Sometimes it’s so significant that it almost doesn’t count as disappointment anymore; rather it’s basically trauma.

But then there’s the middle ground, where the bulk of everything in life happens. Disappointment is no different. There’s this bulk quantity of circumstances that fall between those two extremes, the disappointment that has lasting meaning in your life. These are the ones that change your outlook on things, that make you change behavior and sometimes aspects of your personality.

Teaching moments, they’re sometimes called. Lessons that last…if you’re willing to learn. And that doesn’t have to be bitter or hard or sad. Being wiser and better equipped to deal with the same or similar circumstances in the future can still be a positive outcome.

Yet, the positive outcome doesn’t change the fact of your disappointment. The disappointment still stings. It’s initial bitterness is no less sharp before any mellowing that assimilation of the lesson may provide. This is particularly true when the disappointment comes from people close to your heart, when it’s their actions or words that deliver the blow to your hope or steal the joy from your soul.

Lessons from hopes dashed by changed circumstances or from the ugliness of the anonymous world in general can be hard and painful, sure. But there’s a special flavor of heartache when someone you love, respect and rely on (whether that love is familial, friendly, or romantic) does or says something that cuts you, disappoints your understanding of them and your shared bond, or tramples your beliefs.

I’m struggling with a string of coincidental disappointments, all from people close to me and whom I have respected and continue to respect. Working on separating my hurt feelings from the circumstances so that I can glean the lessons I believe are just under that tangled surface is proving to be very difficult. Not least because a part of me fears that the lessons will include some from of:

  1. Your original beliefs were stupid so your disappointment is deserved.
  2. Your hurt feelings are misplaced because you didn’t deserve a different experience.
  3. What you’re really disappointed about is that you didn’t do/say/act that way yourself because you are too [insert derisive descriptor of choice here].

You see, the nature of these particular disappointments feed straight into the middle of the deepest areas of insecurity lurking in my brain where the traitorous internal critic holds court: a friend who has ghosted me, a rejection from someone I hoped to get close with, a leader’s disparate treatment to the detriment of my team, and a demonstration by a respected elder that racism and misogyny live too close to me for comfort.

All these things fuel my internal critic’s loudest voice: you’re not worthy.

So untangling the lessons is a more complicated challenge than usual. I’m trying to be as objective as I can, making allowances for context I could be missing or the always-likely struggle of the other person of which I am unaware. Yet the line between making allowances and making excuses that enable the poor behavior is often too fine to detect.

So right now, the only lessons I have been able to bring into focus are: everyone has flaws, so don’t lose sight of the good despite those foibles; and just because you’re not worthy of those specific things, don’t give up on other possibilities. I’m still picking at the tangle, hopeful that one day I’ll have clarity enough to see more of the silver lining in all of it. Until then, just gotta keep trying to keep going.

Happy Holiday

I had a really wonderful Christmas Day, spent with some of my family and supplemented with texts and calls and emails from others who couldn’t be with us in person. My brother, sister-in-law and I surprised my niece and her son by showing up after pretending we couldn’t make it. It was the first Christmas in their new home and it was fun to be a part of that celebration.

Being together, enjoying each other and the gifts of love and laughter shared was amazing.

It’s all too easy to take those things for granted and prioritize the material gifts of the holiday above those essential interpersonal blessings. I am certainly guilty of that. But seeing smiling faces, getting hugs and joy from these precious people, brought that lesson home to me this year more than in recent years past. And that’s a wonderful gift, too.

Whether you have or are celebrating any holiday this winter, my hope for you is that the rich blessings in your life be made evident and you celebrate the gifts of the loved ones in your own hearts.

Holiday Positives

I’ve been on vacation since Tuesday. It’s been a great break from the stressful routine I’ve been living for months on end. Some good things from this trip:

  1. Quick, comfortable, uneventful direct flight to Seattle and an equally peaceful drive over the mountain pass.
  2. Welcome hugs and pampering.
  3. Board games and movies and great catch-up chats.
  4. Wonderful holiday meal with family and new friends, including the best warm hugs from my beautiful new great niece and nephew who just joined our family last year.
  5. Unexpected support and validation in place of the hard questioning I expected from one person in particular. So surprised that I lost my ability to speak for a minute, but regained my composure and had a great conversation filled with gratitude and encouragement.

And because happiness is savored most when the hard bits are acknowledged and then set aside, here are a few no-context things to make the light shine brighter by their dark contrast:

  • 1 year and 20 days
  • Sleeping shouldn’t be this hard
  • Watching people you love age is both glorious and devastating

Thankful

As I get ready for a long awaited, highly anticipated vacation, I thought I’d toss up a quick post to keep the streak alive. Also, I want to try to return to my goal of positivity and gratitude. It is Thanksgiving week in the US and I have much for which to give thanks. So, here is a list of some of the many things and people in my life that I am grateful for and that I count among the best blessings I’ve received.

  1. My loved ones, beginning with my siblings and their families. My brothers, especially, have blessed me with love and kindness and examples of how to be good a leader and a good human. My sisters in law have blessed me with all these things and with tender care and an appreciation for the love that’s uniquely expressed by the labor of loving hands, whether through cooking, cleaning, sewing, art and craftswomanship, even warm hugs when I’ve needed them most. Also my beloved friends who are as chosen family, with their acceptance and validation and solidarity and encouragement. Above all, this love of wonderful people is a treasure for which I am thankful daily.
  2. Freedom. It wasn’t and isn’t free. The physical and emotional and political and psychological labor of so many, in so many capacities and across decades and centuries and in moments as recent as today, these gifts are priceless. And I’m grateful to be the beneficiary of all this work and sacrifice.
  3. Prosperity. Though I have labored hard and long in my life and earned the fruits of that work, I know that my work in isolation is meaningless. For all the work of all whose efforts have contributed, both the seen and unseen, I am thankful.
  4. Challenge. If everything was easy, I could not know the depth of satisfaction of my accomplishments nor the true cost of any achievement. To be challenged intellectually, professionally, politically, socially, even emotionally is a blessing whose worth is viewed in hindsight and measured from the steppes of maturity. I’m grateful to have overcome challenge and learned to welcome new ones.
  5. Leisure. It is a privilege and a great gift to have freedom and means to enjoy free time and the varied and wonderful opportunities for fun and relaxation. I’m grateful for a chance this week to step away from the cares and demands of my work, travel to a beautiful place, spend time with family, and enjoy time doing only things that bring us joy.

I hope there is much you can be thankful for this week and always. Enjoy your abundance, my friends and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Conference Goodness

I’ve been in Washington DC all week for the 2018 Women, Influence and Power in Law conference. It’s been an amazing experience. Not only have I been privileged to hear women speakers from the top of their respective professions speak on risk taking, leading with authenticity, and choosing integrity over expediency, I’ve had the pleasure of being surrounded by intelligent, engaged and passionate professional women from all over the nation. And getting to spend time in substantive conversation with a few of these incredible women has definitely been a highlight to a truly great professional experience.

Topping these huge bonuses is the friend time I’ve been lucky to have this week as well. A good friend has recently moved to this area and we were able to get together for dinner and a visit to the FDR Monument in the middle of the week. Enhancing the goodness was the pleasure of meeting my friend’s lovely partner for the first time. She is a kind and beautiful person whose love for my friend glows in every interaction. I can’t be any more deliriously happy for them. I’m looking forward to a great Saturday outing with them as well.

Opportunity to travel for professional development, experiencing world-class speakers, keeping company with hundreds of amazing women, and time with a great friend…what more could I ask for in a business trip? Nothing. It’s been perfect. Heaps of very good things!

Long Weekend Spectacular

Oh, my! I just had the best holiday weekend I’ve had in recent memory. And though I’m facing a particularly stressful few weeks at work, beginning tomorrow, I’m happy, replete with relaxation and fun memories.

Here are some highlights, all of which count high on the “good thing” index:

1. Hours of meaningful conversation with a good friend. We’ve known each other for several years and share similar identities and some life experiences and I never cease to be amazed by her positivity and friendly kindness. This weekend allowed us to catch up on some big life events happening for her and share some moments of real connection that I’ve desperately needed of late.

2. New acquaintances. New friends include a delightful family and the most adorable couple, all friends of my friend. We had lovely meals and incredible conversations with each of them, covering a spectrum of topics that included faith, acceptance, identity, gender, and everything in between. Laughing with these new friends was pure joy and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.

3. Food adventures galore! My friend has a lot of experience living outside of the US, so has an appreciation for a broad array of cuisines. Mediterranean and Persian top the list and I’ve enjoyed trying shawarma, falafel, kubideh, knafeh (a creamy confection topped with something like crispy shredded wheat), and something I believe is called shouiebieh (a sweet, filled pancake-like pastry). We also had amazing, authentic Italian food, and a superb charcuterie board at an amazing art museum. But perhaps the most out-there food experience and the one I enjoyed the most for the fun, relaxed atmosphere, was at the most amazing coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get a huge caffeine buzz from something called pembertino, a drink consisting of a Mexican Coke mixed with cold espresso and vanilla – sublime – but I also had gourmet toast with amazing hand-crafted cream cheese with a Hungarian red pepper spread, and another with pimento cheese spread unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. All of that amazing goodness was served with the warmest smiles from some of the friendliest baristas I’ve ever encountered.

4. Life-affirming and identity-validating attention from a community of people that welcomed me immediately and treated me so well it was hard to leave. The experience was beyond my vocabulary to describe, but warm, caring, fun, frivolous, deep, meaningful, compassionate, and flattering to the point of embarrassment at times, feature prominently among the words I’d use if I tried to recreate what I felt. And despite my deep and immediate embarrassment, I cannot deny that the singular and most flattering experience of being called a silver fox by a beautiful femme who was, innocently, trying (successfully) to make me blush, was an instant ego-boost.

5. A reconnection with faith. Although I was skeptical, I agreed to be open-minded and went with my friend to church on Sunday. It was a non-sectarian denomination I’d never heard of before, but was assured was bible-based and inclusive. Their message and mission, as stated on their website, was encouraging and I’ve been wanting to get back to faith for a long time. The sermon, together with the warm welcome and the obvious love that the preacher and congregation had for God and for each other, went a long way toward helping me find the courage to explore that part of my heart again. I’m not going to put any pressure or expectations on myself about this. But I’m going to think about what I heard this Sunday and keep an open mind about doing more work in this area.

6. Bonus: Table top games & Chewbacca and the Droids I Was Looking For! I love games so much and we played a couple that I’d never tried before. And, wonder of wonders, I actually won a couple!! Woot! And, also, plus! We went to this amazing exhibit of Star Wars costumes at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Incredible experience! Costumes from most of the movies and many of the most interesting characters, including R2D2, C3PO, BB-8 and Chewbacca, my faves!

It’s back to work tomorrow and I’ll no-doubt be under the gun almost immediately. But this last few days was a bucket-load of blessing that has recharged my spirit so much that I’m confident I can float through the rest of the week on the emotional energy…and caffeine…that this holiday weekend provided.

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