Sunday, October 11, 2015

To Share without Oversharing, That is the Challenge

Until a couple of years ago I posted here often. Probably like bloggers everywhere, my mind continues to automatically work on selecting topics and constructing wording for that next post! But when it does, I lately become overwhelmed. Not that I lack for content, but the task of segueing from what life was like then to what it is now has intimidated me. I have not known how to whittle all of the growth and discomfort and struggle and richness of these years into a single update. So I have avoided sitting down to put anything down at all, because I simply could not imagine when or where I would possibly start or stop.

But I have known that I need to revisit this site. I probably still have friends who I have been out of touch with who are not aware of big changes in my life.

Today’s overdue post was particularly motivated by that I recently ran in to another mom who I once socialized with when my now-five-year-old only child was an infant and young toddler, before I returned to income work. I was visiting the park with my daughter when we saw this acquaintance with her children. Although we were never close, it was great to catch up with her, even if just for a few moments. But embedded there was a now-rare, somewhat uncomfortable encounter. It turns out that the last time we saw each other was at a couple’s event a few years ago, before Randy and I split up. So there, at the park, she asked warmly about “my husband”.

In almost every situation, I have found it best to bring up the divorce briefly, matter-of-factly, early and often if it is anywhere near relevant, regardless of my closeness or unfamiliarity with a person, whether it is a first meeting, acquaintance, coworker or who else have you. Doing so seems to avoid eventual potentially awkward misunderstandings but, most importantly, helps me to compartmentalize feelings away from factual social information; frequent practice saying the words has strengthened my presentation of them as well as my confidence about single parenting as a legitimately positive situation. For example, if I meet someone while I am out who I happen to know is acquainted with Randy, I will introduce myself for the first time or again and point out the mutual connection. Then, in a positive tone, briefly mention our status followed by an immediate and meant-to-put-the-other-at-ease subject change, i.e. “Don’t you work for [local organization]? You know Randy Eccles, right?  . . . I remember him mentioning you! We aren’t married now, but we see each other often because we have a five-year-old. So what ended up happening with . . . ?”

Saying hello for a moment to this friend at the park, though, for some reason I found myself caught off guard. It has been long enough that I thought everyone already knew? We were in the middle of talking about her updates, and I didn’t want to distract from the casual conversation? I did not want to correct her and risk that she would feel an undeserved awkwardness? I wasn’t armed with my usual emotional energy stores? For whatever reason, social practicality or some sort of cowardice took over, and for once I simply smiled and vaguely offered, “Randy is doing well. Staying busy!” That was fine, but the feeling of the situation stayed with me as a reminder of the importance that I extend the information to a larger community.

Before separating at the end of 2013, we had been struggling for awhile. But it was not an all-encompassing struggle. We never stopped extremely liking each other. We cared about each other. We were a family. We enjoyed spending time together. We were still professional confidants. We talked politics and social issues as much as ever. We just aren’t volatile people. We aren’t particularly dramatic. We are neither of us highly emotional. We each, and as a couple, tend to avoid conflict altogether or deal with it in slow, carefully considered, factual ways. And we are each mostly private. (Claims woman whilst blogging on the World Wide Web about her divorce.) Anyway, it is possible that no one suspected we were facing potentially marriage-ending concerns.

On one hand, I am pleased with the way that Randy I handled that time. On the other hand, our silence surrounding our challenges made it even more difficult to finally disclose to family and others that, although we would continue to be good friends (we are) and a closely involved family (we are), we had decided do so from separate households (within generally the same neighborhood). My therapist was extremely helpful in consulting about and helping me practice having those painful conversations. At stake was not only the connection during any given encounter, but the lifetime of mutual respect and positive co-parenting that we aim to accomplish. The coward in each person, myself included, would make it so much easier to justify, to blame, to self-victimize, to demonize. Not to mention that many are not exactly content for us to forego elaboration. Regardless, the official basic explanation that I have come to appreciate so much for so many reasons goes something like, “I have some disappointing news. Randy and I have decided to separate. I know it might come as a shock, because we haven’t discussed this before, but he and I actually have been struggling for some time and ultimately decided this is the healthiest thing for our family and our daughter. We aren’t discussing details in order to respect each other’s privacy and keep [our daughter] protected from misinformation in the future. We each really want ongoing relationships with both sides of in-laws, and the three of us will probably continue to attend certain events together as a family. We would just so much appreciate your support for both of us.”

It is certainly difficult for many people to comprehend the point of two people who love and appreciate one another divorcing, especially when also raising a child together, and this confusion is certainly understandable. Nonetheless, a surprising number of people have taken the wonderfully moving and refreshing stance that while they may not understand, they do not need to. They respect and believe us about our experience and continue to love and support each of us. The first expression of this and the most important to me was from my mom, one of the first people I told. Through this whole process I have discovered many things so far, but one of the most impressive is how powerfully supportive that message can be when extended without questions. “You don’t have to explain anything that you don’t want to. I am just sorry to hear that you two have been having a hard time. I love you both.”

Eventually I expect to write more about this transition. In the meantime, I should mention that nothing here is meant to be prescriptive. Randy’s and my response to our divorce is entirely a reflection of our particular situation and individual traits. Everyone has a different relationship and context. Inasmuch as staying married is the right answer for many couples but not for us, maintaining involvement is realistic and healthy for us but not for many others. That said, often agreeing to disagree while maintaining a cooperative parenting arrangement and positive family life requires a new level of the type of authenticity and mindfulness that we already believed in. Although certainly never the course we expected or planned, learning to continue to respect one another and work together in the midst of disappointment and massive adjustment have been incredibly valuable life lessons in acceptance and personal peace.

Again, I am so appreciative to those who have been kind and supportive either to me or to Randy. Those who have been supportive of both of us know who they are. But I doubt that they truly know how invaluable they have been.

~ Sarah

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"All Men Are Not Truly Free If One Man Is Oppressed"

At our local Unitarian Universalist congregation this morning, I was fortunate to hear Reverend Mark Kiyimba speak about his international social justice advocacy efforts. Trained and ordained as an Evangelical minister in Uganda, Rev. Kiyimba left the denomination several years ago after he continued to question the church’s stance on the civil rights of gay and lesbian individuals.

Reverend Mark Kiyimba

The reverend, himself a heterosexual husband and father, had his lifelong beliefs about homosexuality challenged by a dynamic theological conversation with two gay university students from a nearby campus organization. In response to the youths’ inquiries about Christianity, the reverend explained that to be homosexual is a sin, but was left feeling unsettled. Afterwards, he accepted the students' invitation to a campus event, where he was shocked to see educated, openly gay and lesbian students living honest, affirmative lives.

Conversely, Reverend Kiyimba’s religious culture had instilled in him that the homosexual’s life was tragic, and held no possibility of a positive future. Beginning to question the moral implications of supporting a theology of discrimination and hate, Kiyimba opened a concerned dialogue with other religious leaders in his church. Already disapproving of his challenges of the church’s subordination of women, he was then threatened with excommunication. Next, the reverend reached out to other Ugandan religious leaders about whether they had had similar experiences after discussing gay and lesbian issues, yet continued to be ostracized for questioning religious and cultural tradition. As a result, Kiyimba chose to transition to Unitarian ministry and has become an active, global advocate for both women’s rights and gay and lesbian interests.

Unitarian Universalism is a multifaith, human rights-centered community that promotes social justice activism.

His response to religious conservatives' argument that traditional marriage is between a man and a woman is based on initial agreement: Yes, traditional marriage is heterosexual, but other, non-majority traditions and lives are deserving of respect as well.

Kiyimba describes homosexual issues as one of the key civil rights causes of our time, likening these and modern racial justice issues to the "Jew or Gentile, slave or free" dichotomies of the apostle Paul's day. The reverend maintains as unnecessary that we be directly affected by another group's causes to support them. Citing violent injustices against and suicide rates amongst the gay population, he cautions that these victims belong to someone like each of us, they are someone's son or daughter or grandchild. Historically, whether the biases are against Jew or Gentile, Slave or Free, Irish- or Italian- or American-born, Catholic or Protestant, Male or Female, Black or White or Brown, Christian or Muslim, Homosexual or Heterosexual, when we remain quiet about discrimination and hate against anyone, we cultivate local and global societies that are not just, are not free, and therefore are only temporarily safe for the presently unaffected:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

          - Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

We must not tolerate hate or oppression of any kind.

- Sarah

Unitarian Universalism's Seven Principles
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Should 'Civility' Be the New, Gender-Neutral Chivalry?

Heard on Q with Jian Ghomeshi (on WUIS, of course!) last week. I especially like Peter Glick's point that approaching interactions with others on a case-by-case basis - instead of based on archaic, stereotypical expectations about "masculinity" and "femininity" - leads to more intimate and authentic relationships:  

What do you think?
- Sarah

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Are You Passionate About?

I was recently asked to discuss my professional passion for a school assignment. Afterwards, I thought I'd share here what I came up with, and hopefully get some responses from others as well:

I have a very strong civil rights and social justice orientation. This has likely been influenced by my lifelong love of reading important fiction; my engagement with learning; my parents’ talks with me as a child about the moral crimes of racism; my own frustration over feeling limited as a female within my family’s cultural values; my interactions with individuals from a variety of ethnic, cultural, national and linguistic backgrounds; my time spent on college and university campuses; and my emerging spiritual identity as a Unitarian Universalist.

Developing Diversity Awareness for World Peace

I am not content with the status quo. I am not content with enjoying personal social privileges doled out arbitrarily to persons according to physical traits. I am not content with accepting my own freedoms when others are not free. I am not content with social messages that convey to my daughter manipulated values about her purpose and identity as a female. I am not content with a public education system that consistently fails culturally and linguistically diverse learners. I am not content with a starkly polarized political system that cannot facilitate civil, meaningful and productive dialogue. I am not content with our country’s nativist and linguistically intolerant education and immigration policies.

So, apparently, I am sort of obsessed with injustice. However, I believe my obsession stems from love. I love meeting new people and learning about their lives and beliefs and work. I love engaging in cultural exchanges with unfamiliar others. I love learning about all of the natural phenomena of Earth and the Universe that we are a part of. I love stories of triumph over adversity. I love collaborating with others to enact meaningful changes.

I feel optimistic and enthusiastic about humanity’s potential. I envision a future, several generations from now, where humanity has not put aside, but embraced difference to overcome prejudice and oppression and injustice to realize remarkable common goals.

What are you passionate about?

- Sarah

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Risk of Progress

We all have the responsibility to be leaders.

Take action.


Be vulnerable.
They're Worth the Risk

- Sarah

Thursday, January 17, 2013

World Peace Begins at Home

I realize now that when I had less respect for myself, I treated others with less respect.

Inner Space

And, as I have learned to love and value and respect myself more, I have come to expect others to love and value and respect me, too. Then, I decided it was unacceptable for people in my life to treat me with anything less than love and respect, and therefore I left those relationships behind.


As a result of eliminating toxic relationships and environments from my life, every other area of my life has improved.

So it began within, with loving myself.

Then I created a peaceful home.


Next, I was able to develop closer friendships, and involve myself in increasingly rewarding and meaningful work.

One empowering experience has led to another, in ever widening circles. I have freed myself to promote the empowerment of others.

Chain Reaction

I don't think we can skip steps. World Peace Begins at Home.

Lots of Love,

Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins 
the disruption of peace of the world.
~Mother Teresa

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Do Parents Reconcile Concerns about Violence with Child Care Needs?

It was difficult for me to relinquish control over my toddler's daily care a year ago. I struggled for months beforehand with the idea of trusting that others might be able to see to her safety and well-being as well as I could. However, since returning to graduate studies and income work, I have discovered that I love our current arrangement. For our family, having the additional income security has been critical. Also, having my studies to retain and develop my identity as an advocate has invigorated and sustained me, and I look forward to the example I will set for my child by earning this degree. Finally, I have been so pleased to watch my daughter develops academic skills and a more vibrant social life.

Then, Friday's terrible news proved devastating to me and everyone I know. Violence of such a nature and magnitude is overwhelming and heartbreaking. Like most others, I certainly would have experienced a powerful response even if I were not a parent. As a parent, the scenario presents additional layers of complicated feelings and concerns to process. I feel like I all the progress I had made toward feeling confident that my family had arrived at a safe and ideal balance between income needs, educational goals and child care needs has been undone.


Gun violence in the United States is significantly higher than in other developed nations. In 2005, 11,346 people were killed by guns and another 477,040 were victims of non-lethal crimes committed with guns ( In comparison, the annual number of people murdered by firearm in Canada, for example, is approximately 200. "America sees far more gun violence than countries in Europe, and Canada, India and Australia," as well as Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and many others. In fact, "the United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries . . . among developed countries." U.S. violence statistics seem to represent a complex confluence of unique factors including journalism ethics, mental health awareness and funding, and gun legislation. In such a society, it is difficult to essentially send my child each day into a public workplace setting without me where regardless of the background checks of staff, their family members, friends, and romantic acquaintances all present unknown risk factors.

I do recognize my anxiety these last few days as being a natural response to the grief we all share in the wake of an almost unimaginable event. That said, the parent in me grapples with where to draw the line on the continuum ranging from recognizing my fears as being not entirely rational, to considering alternative child care arrangements like shared care with other parents, working nights, reducing income needs, eventual homeschooling (which I otherwise wouldn't prefer), or even relocating to someplace with lower violent crime statistics.

Am I normal, or thinking too much?

- Sarah

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eating for Weight Management

I have recently lost a considerable amount of weight, and several people have asked me to share my eating plan and general guidelines. I am happy to do so.

However, I have diabetes, and do not endorse my particular eating plan for others with diabetes or other special medical conditions. For example, diabetes care and treatment must be customized, and people with diabetes should develop a personalized eating plan with a professional dietician in order to ensure appropriate mealtime ratios of protein, carbohydrates and fat to facilitate carbohydrate metabolism that are compatible with insulin use. Furthermore, I use moderate amounts of butter and cream that may not be appropriate for those with cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease or other concerns.

All of that said, following is what works for me right now. Enjoy.

- Sarah

Limited Carbohydrate Eating Plan

General Guidelines:

      Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and
      fruits. Avoid refined carbs and sugars, like those in white bread, white
      potatoes, white rice, and sweetened items like cookies, candy, and soda.
      You’ll feel better, have more and sustained energy, feel fuller longer, and
      improve your metabolism.

      Use predominantly fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, with rare exceptions.          
      Every day include healthy fats, like from nuts, olive oil, or avocados.
      At each meal be sure to balance carbs, protein and fat. Calorie counting
      is generally not necessary. 

      Eat approximately every 3 hours, drink plenty of water, and do not skip meals.

      Move a bit. I go for a few walks a week, and fit in mini-walks as
      possible throughout the day.             

Breakfast – 30 grams carbs


         Two slices whole grain toast with butter, 1 egg

         1 slice whole grain toast, 1 egg, and 1/2 piece of fruit (apple, banana or

         Whole grain English muffin with butter, Greek or plain yogurt with almonds

         Greek or plain yogurt with whole grain oatmeal and almonds

         Whole grain oatmeal (not Instant) with berries and walnuts  

         --> Occasionally, if extra hungry, add sautéed vegetables and cheese to egg
             and toast breakfast.

Snack – 15 grams carbs


         Whole grain pita and hummus

         Raw veggies and hummus

         Raw veggies and cheese

         Celery and peanut butter

         String cheese, whole grain crackers (like low sodium Triscuits)

         String cheese and ½ apple        

         Cottage cheese and fruit

         1/2 fruit and low sodium nuts

   + Coffee with unsweetened half and half, unsweetened green or black tea, or
     sparkling water with 2 tbsp. lemon or other fruit juice.

Lunch – 30 to 45 grams carbs


         Large salad with chicken or turkey and lots of veggies and your choice
         dressing (remember to count dressing carbs), 1 slice whole grain bread with
         peanut butter and ½ banana, Milk

         Whole grain sandwich with meat, veggies, etc.

         Marinara meat sauce on steamed veggies instead of pasta, Whole grain
         English muffin with olive oil

         Marinara meat sauce on steamed veggies instead of pasta, A whole orange

Snack – 15 grams carbs

   See morning snack examples

   + Coffee with unsweetened half and half, unsweetened green or black tea, or
     sparkling water with 2 tbsp. lemon or other fruit juice.

Dinner – 30 grams carbs


     Grilled chicken or steak or fish, ½ sweet potato, Veggies, Whole grain
     toast or English muffin with butter    

     Grilled chicken or steak, Veggies, 1 serving whole grain pasta or brown rice
     with olive oil and parmesan

     Flat bread pizza:          

        - Whole grain pita, naan or tortilla(s)

        - Olive oil or marinara spread

        - Chicken, beef, seafood or tofu

        - Favorite veggies

        - Fresh garlic

        - Cheese

        - Broil for 5 minutes

For an occasional dessert, go for approximately 20 grams of carbs 1-2 hours after dinner; ½ a bar of 85-90% dark chocolate, with a side of roasted almonds or milk, is a good option. A graham cracker with peanut butter is another good fix. Although natural is best, there are many low calorie, low fat frozen dessert options, too, like Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches or Greek frozen yogurt popsicles. I suggest having dessert not more than once a day, and not every day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Wins. Who Did You Vote For? (a.k.a. Which Guy Do You Hate?)

Reading through others' social media responses to the election results, a familiar theme emerges. Upon reflecting I realize that, while not a Romney supporter, I do not and never did hate him, although I have deep concerns about and disagree with many of his political philosophies. So instead of becoming accustomed to it, I am always alarmed again when I encounter the hatefulness others can have toward those they disagree with. Interestingly, comments of this nature rarely seem to center on issues, but are instead generally vague on details yet full of fear and disgust. 

These attitudes are deeply disappointing. (I also suspect a negative correlation exists between the amount of time an individual spends venting about issues on Facebook, for example, and the amount of time spent actually doing meaningful work in the world.) But today was always bound to be a difficult day, whatever the outcome of the election. Ultimately, I remind myself that the loudest voices aren't the most representative. Most people - regardless of their political affiliations – have worldviews that are calmer, more educated and more reasonable than these outliers, and are probably making a positive impact with their language and their lives.

But even short of blatant hate, I also find the sports-like nature of politics in our society distasteful. The us vs. them, winner/loser, ra-ra-go-team paradigm and atmosphere of discourse polarizes the issues and the candidates and the electorate into two competing teams, when the issues at hand are actually far more complex and critical than should be able to be so divided. So maybe, if you're an Obama supporter (and I am), consider not inciting passions and the worst in others today by referring to the Romney camp as "losers," or even as "the other side." Let's be gracious and dignified today and every day.  

Be the change you want to see in the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Okay, let's go do some good work. 

- Sarah

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The iPhone 5: Five Years in Real Life Is Like Five Decades in Tech Years

I have been waiting for the iPhone 5 for a very long time. I was already completely ready to turn mine in for an upgrade last year at this time. Why? I have been using the original since 2007. No joke. Today, it's a beautiful, sleek, antique metallic phone on which I can receive and place calls but effectively use very few other features. I don't tend to be in a hurry to have the latest, greatest thing. For examples, I resisted upgrading to the 3G, the 3GS, the 4 and the 4S. But unfortunately, by waiting until I was entirely fed up with mine, I finally became determined to upgrade just when the whisper on the street was that a new model was on the horizon. I decided to wait... and wait... and wait...

Historically, I am not particularly a gadget enthusiast; my phone was a really nice gift, and I was quickly won over by its practical applications. (No game apps for me, thanks.) I loved being able to pull over if lost while driving and access maps and driving directions, use the Internet on my phone to find locations or phone numbers or otherwise Google needed info on the go, have a high-quality camera on me at all times, and catch up with emails during occasional slivers of downtime - like in a waiting room - instead of necessarily needing to formally sit down for personal computer time each day. So I am not concerned with whether the new model is 18% thinner (it is) or has a 20% larger screen (it does). I just need to be able to use the device's extra-phone features without a wait that has me longing for the Internet rapidity of the old dial-up days.

Five Years in Real Life Is Like Five Decades in Tech Years

One review called the 5 boring, uninspiring, so-so, pedestrian and even - catch this - "samey," clearly heartsick for the line's early "magical" and "revolutionary" days. Sure, we were all captivated the first times we encountered the futuristic touchscreen, the little end-of-list bounces, and the amazing orientation-adjustability of the picture. Those days brought on something akin to the delightful paradigm shift - albeit a fiction-based one - Sci Fi fans experienced with The Matrix. It was such a jolt, really, that who then could help but be disappointed by its highly anticipated sequels? So to the technology thrill seekers who look to their smartphone device to provide something more than convenience and a slightly heightened sophistication of lifestyle: One can never watch The Matrix for the first time again. That doesn't make its Universe any less compelling or worthwhile. Critics can sniff at the 5 all they like; I'll be taking the red pill.

- Sarah

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We Have Each Other

Life has been busy! Since last posting, I have resumed income work, am still enrolled in school and am experiencing all the mixed feelings and other tribulations of having a toddler in day care (partial translation: we are all sick a lot). Things are intense, but rewarding. Randy and I often reflect on how pleased and relieved we are that we do work (of both the income generating and the academic varieties) we enjoy and that is meaningful to us, making the personal benefits generally outweigh the stresses that come with having hectic schedules.

Lately, I have encountered so many different things I could vent about or ponder here. For example, I have certainly gained some interesting insights by having recently experienced both full-time parenthood and full-time doingotherworkaswellhood… but today these will have to be saved for another time, because they guarantee a very long post. Plus, another recent experience has been on my mind.

A few weeks ago, Randy and I had one of the craziest weeks ever. I can’t even remember now what made it so chaotic. (Which is a good reason to keep the Drama of the Moment in perspective - for it is usually just that.) It may have been the week we had something like two to three trying health issues at home, six related appointments with professionals, and an extra megaproject for school on top of the usual weekly load. Anyway, I remember so wanting to decompress from the week, but instead staying up until midnight on Friday after work to finish the school project, while feeling heaps of guilt and dread for having so thoroughly neglected the house for several weeks, particularly because at some point we had been so ambitious as to invite friends to dinner for twenty-four hours later. More than once, I considered canceling, disbelieving I could possibly pull off a presentable house and behave like a pleasant person after such a week. However, part of me realized that an evening with friends was probably exactly the stress relief we needed.

So, Saturday morning, I opened the windows, turned up some favorite music, and focused entirely on enjoying the process of beautifying the house for our entertaining pleasure that evening. Finally won over at this point in my life by my wise husband’s keep-it-simple philosophy, I rejected my natural masochistic urges to prepare a six-course dinner, instead throwing ingredients into the crock-pot for all day simmering and the delicious, home permeating aroma of a one-bowl meal, while Randy went to the store and bought some good bread and wine to accompany it; crackers, cheese, hummus and olives for an appetizer; and a frozen pie and ice cream for an a la mode dessert. Therefore, after filling the crock-pot at 10am, my dinner preparations were complete. Now I was free to clean the house at a nearly leisurely pace, relax in the shower, and look forward to our evening, which turned out wonderfully.

This is not the dinner I made! I included the picture not to be misleading,
but to accompany the story with a visual representation of dinner,
of which I do not have an original image. Looks lovely, though, doesn't it?

We all choose our work for different reasons. Of course, income is a factor. Hopefully it isn’t the only one. Personally, I have some lofty ideas about the sorts of social change I’d like to help bring about. But as passionate about, committed to, inspired or overwhelmed by our work as we might be, hopefully it doesn’t comprise much more than thirty percent of our lives. Another thirty percent or so must be spent sleeping, and the other third, hopefully, is reserved for a personal life. Having such a good time with our friends those few Saturday evenings ago was a reminder of the importance of keeping the purpose of our work and daily struggles in mind. Why do we go to work every day? Why do we need an income? Not just so that we won’t get fired, or will merely have a roof over our heads. Hopefully, amongst other things, we work to have the means with which to establish the home that should be our personal haven from the world, where we can spend time with and enjoy family and friends. We all know struggle and stress and disappointment and doubt and exhaustion and frustration... These are inevitable elements of the human experience. But we can discover, enjoy, support and nurture one another along the way. I am so glad Randy and I didn’t miss the opportunity to see our friends simply because we'd had a challenging week; it helped me recharge for another few. Whatever else we have in life, the most important thing we have is each other.  

- Sarah

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Dizzying Experience

As of last week I have officially lost 30 pounds. At first I considered whether to celebrate, because it has happened as the result of a disappointing development in my life. I visited some friends recently and one of them said, "You look GREAT!"  My response started off just how I wanted it to, with a genuine, "Thank you!"  I meant to stop there. But then, feeling guilty, I immediately tacked on, "I found out I have diabetes."  Then, feeling tackY for divulging too much information to someone I hadn't seen in several months, I laughed, and apologized, "I guess I don't have to tell everyone that - I just feel guilty accepting a compliment for something I'd probably not have had the motivation to do otherwise!" She gave me good advice. "Well, you still had to do all the work! So you can accept the compliment." (Love her.)

Needless to say life has been strange for me lately. I have been so tired for a long time, but believed fatigue to be an expected aspect of being a new parent. Then I started feeling dizzy almost all the time. Seeing the doctor spun off weeks of appointments and testing and the receipt of intermittently partial, false negative and ultimately disappointing information. My doctor's interpretation of the results ranged from hypoglycemia, borderline diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, not diabetic at all, replay of the original glucose test in case of a fluke, diabetes again, more testing and, finally, a definitive diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. (Luckily, I eventually found a great specialist who knew how to properly diagnose my problem.)

So, I don't have I-can-prevent-the-real-thing-if-I-eat-a-balanced-diet borderline diabetes. Nor do I have family-history-and-my-moderate-overweightness-induced Type 2 diabetes, which can often be managed with diet and exercise. Instead, I have what I had least preferred of all the possibilities. Type 1 diabetes has usually been referred to as "juvenile diabetes," but inaccurately so because it can apparently develop at any age. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs independently of personal choices, caused when the body's immune system strangely decides to attack insulin producing pancreatic cells. (In Type 2 diabetes, for the most part the body doesn't appropriately use the insulin that it does make.) Eventually, the pancreas of an individual with Type 1 diabetes can't make any more insulin at all, ever. Because the human body cannot survive without insulin, people with Type 1 diabetes need insulin injections (or, as of recently, one of a couple of other forms of administration) for the rest of their lives.

Having complete information has definitely brought my stress level down. I am not worried about being able to manage the new diet, which I have done successfully for a while now (hence the weight loss). I am also not worried about using needles on a regular basis in the near future. (Becoming a mom has toughened me up a little.) I suppose the things that concern me most have to do with whether the personal changes I make will be effective enough to prevent the eventual complications for which people with diabetes are at risk, i.e. kidney problems, blindness, amputations, etc. (See why the diet is so easy to follow? There are bigger concerns at hand than missing desserts or white potatoes!)  Then again, none of us has any guarantee of being able to avoid major health problems for the rest of our lives, but we don't generally go around fixating on the possibilities. Plus, chances are that by controlling my blood sugar like I have been, I will not experience these issues.

I am encountering that misinformation sometimes leads people to say things that are unintentionally hurtful. Hopefully, eventually I won't be so sensitive. I know that everyone has meant well. But one woman responded to my health information with extreme exclamation, "Diabetes?!?!?!" followed by, "You should have taken better care of yourself!"  Another said, "I am surprised you are diabetic. I thought you ate pretty healthy." The implication of course being that I must not have had a healthy diet after all, because clearly I made myself  "diabetic." (Note: I AM not diabetes, but I HAVE it - a seemingly minor distinction but one that becomes important to most people who have a chronic condition.)  Another asked if I will go back to eating unhealthy when I start insulin treatment. Again, this assumes that my lifestyle was unhealthy before, and suggests that insulin administration will be some sort of hedonistic free pass instead of what it really is: an unpleasant and inconvenient but essential lifeline. Besides, people with T1 diabetes must monitor their diets, exercise, and insulin. Anyway, I think statements like these are particularly difficult to hear because I have always been health conscious (although not obsessed with thinness over the last few years).

Overall, somehow becoming a person with diabetes has actually been a more positively transformative than stressful experience. Learning that my body doesn't function like one's should is certainly a vulnerable feeling. My existence suddenly seems fragile, which was profoundly uncomfortable at first. But stronger than the discomfort is an emerging awe and wonder at being alive at all. My most powerful feelings are of gratitude, relief and even joy, because intimately bound to my new sense of mortality is this heightened appreciation for life. If I had lived a hundred years ago, I would literally have something like a few months or maybe a couple of years left to live... which is a surreal realization. Instead I can most likely go on living until I am old. Because modern medicine will ultimately extend my life, I feel like everything I will get to experience afterward will be an extra bonus, a gift. Not being sure who to thank doesn't leave me any less thrilled.

Which brings me back to my original question: Will I be celebrating my weight loss? Absolutely. In an awesome dress. And I'll be celebrating all sorts of other things as often as possible, too.

- Sarah

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Occupy Wall Street?

Here at Life Flipping, I frequently write about living deliberately. Most of the time, by “living deliberately,” I am referring to the importance of really thinking about our values and goals and inspirations - the elements in our lives that can bring us joy and peace - and continually actively making changes that will allow their realization. Living deliberately involves discipline. Often, it has to do with recognizing when our natural tendencies and intuitive ways of thinking are holding us back from living more freely. Then, instead of telling ourselves, “I know, but…” and continuing along in the same rut, being deliberate means actually finding ways to choose different thoughts, behaviors and paths.

Sometimes, though, approaching life in a mindful, assertive, deliberate manner is not merely about considering the things that could use some tweaking to bring about greater personal vibrancy. Sometimes living deliberately is no more extravagant than simply keeping your life from falling apart.

But more about that in a moment.

The Occupy Wall Street movement of late has at times been criticized for having a seemingly scattered stance because the cause means different things to different activists. However, I don’t think that the movement's breadth compromises its value. What matters is that, because of the movement, Americans are starting to engage in a real dialogue about the extent to which our individual rights are at risk (for sale?) in the face of the ever-increasing social and political status of corporations. And hauling an issue out into the open is always better than just hoping that it won’t get too out of control. When, in the name of larger profits, individuals and their rights are carelessly treated as optional and dispensable, we had certainly better start talking, if not marching.

the corporation's 2008 $700 billion taxpayer bailout

For example, when a banking corporation, whether due to greed or its own gross and negligent mismanagement of information, can wrongfully claim a family’s home without having to prove a causative basis, and does so over and over again, people get upset. Some of those people may march for their rights. People riot. Thank Goddess they do; throughout history, filling the streets has often been the only way to enact real change. Because U.S. citizens have gotten on their feet and raised their voices and refused to back down or take no for answer, women can now own property and vote, systematic discrimination and murder on the basis of race or sex in is no longer legal or acceptable, and men and women with contrasting skin pigmentation can marry, to name just a few points of progress in relatively recent years. Hopefully, because of current protests, someday it will also be illegal for a corporation to deceptively appropriate American tax dollars, use them to fund their conspirators' economic hedonism and then, to sustain similar excesses, proceed to buy as many American citizen's mortgages as possible, fabricate as many said mortgages as possible as not having been paid in full, then steal these citizens’ properties

I am grateful there are those committed enough to taking action that this conversation is taking place. I will be more grateful when stories like Kelly's (below) will blow people’s minds instead of sounding all too familiar. Remember when I said that sometimes living deliberately is simply about trying to keep your life from falling apart? Because of Bank of America, recently that is all that Kelly has been doing:

Part Two: 99% Redux
- Sarah 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Is This the Beginning of the End?

As parents of a toddler, Randy and I encounter plenty of opportunities to disagree. We both keep an eye on articles about best parenting practices, and of course all parents operate on a certain amount of intuition as well. The separate child development information we both come across each week, combined with that with which we naturally arrived at this stage in our lives, is bound to lead to occasional "healthy philosophical discourse."  No matter, no two people can come to a relationship with identical experiences and values, right? Besides, our views are generally very compatible.

Luckily for both of us, there is one area in which we are a particularly great fit: We both strongly prefer an organized, restorative physical setting and so have taken a minimalist approach to the whole toy thing. By erring on the side of having less, are there benefits we may be withholding from our child? Is it selfish to value maintaining a tiny reminder of our pre-child lives at the expense of a toddler's unadulterated fun? We have decided that, for us, the benefits of our choices outweigh these risks. Of course, all families will come up with different answers to these questions and settle on what sort of setting they are most comfortable with. There are (almost) no "right" or "wrong" answers. I think the most important thing is just that we ask these questions in the first place and respond with deliberately chosen actions, to avoid the instance of one partner waking up some morning and purchasing a one-way ticket for the first train to Someplace Else. Joking aside, we have found that ensuring our home bears some evidence of adult residents maintains our sanity and seems to keep the baby from becoming overwhelmed as well. By limiting the number of toys underfoot, we spend less time cleaning, and feel the baby has the opportunity to actually enjoy one item for a sustained amount of time before compulsively moving on to the next one. She also seems to spend more time with her books than she might otherwise, which we like.

But even this agreed upon minimalism is fraught with plenty of ambiguity. How much is too much? How much is enough?  This is the more difficult consideration. We want to make sure that the quickly developing little human in our house is enjoying life, being exposed to enough stimulation, and not missing out on any tools that can assist her in the developmental of important milestones. Furthermore, we realize that play is a child's work, and certain toys can truly enrich her life. So every couple of months, we try to think of new items she will enjoy based on her current interests and abilities. A few months ago, it was several boats for bath time and a ball. These were good choices and have been thoroughly enjoyed!

A Similar Alphabet Mat
Last weekend, it seemed time for the next toy phase. Randy and I discussed ideas for days, then spent at least an hour in the toy aisle trying to make up our minds. We had several criteria related to age appropriateness. I had one criteria related to ME-appropriateness: As few pieces as possible. Because she loves animals, we chose a sound equipped farm with a little person figure - who quickly thereafter became known as "Baby MacDonald" - and his five livestock. We also purchased a large, foam, alphabet puzzle mat. You've seen them. They're approximately five feet by five feet with jigsaw connected multicolored squares and contrasting colored letters embedded in each. The mat fits perfectly in one of the designated play spaces at our house.

Upon arriving home, we were immediately reminded of how rewarding it is to watch your child make new discoveries. Her delight in the farm "baby" and his animal friends was evident, and she spent hours laying on her tummy on the alphabet mat playing with the figures, making sounds for them, exploring the farm and learning new farm vocabulary like "EE-I-Ee-I-OHHHH," "Goat," and, well, "Farm."

But, somehow, until she provided an extensive demonstration yesterday, it hadn't occurred to me that the alphabet squares actually come apart, the letters remove from each, and the letters' internal pieces (like the triangle in 'A' and the oval in 'O') are separate, removable pieces as well. It turns out that: The Letters of the English Alphabet + A Square for Each + The Tiny Internal Shapes = 60 Pieces. So, the purchase I imagined creating a lovely, contained, visually separate play space will actually instead be a terrific opportunity for me to resist my obsessive compulsive desire to constantly replace each letter and little piece moments after spotting that one has been removed. Besides, that would be an entirely endless, fruitless effort, because her new favorite thing to do has become deconstructing the entire mat and transporting each piece one by one into the next room, creating massive "piles" (another new vocabulary word).  But as much as I appreciate an adult-friendly setting, I am coming to love a certain amount of messy childishness, too. It is such fun to watch her manage to think up a job to do and then - while proudly reciting letters, in this case - take it on with studied, unshakable determination. Occasionally, she spots me watching her march back and forth, and peers coyly through the letter-shaped hole in the square currently in transport, announcing "I Shee Ooo!" (Translation: I See You). Afterwards, she invariably emits a peel of amused giggles. (Happy sigh.) Yes, I suppose I can compromise and allow a several dozen-piece toy...  But just this once.

- Sarah