Taking Stock at Solstice

winter solstice astronomy stones

Christmas time is coming, yes, but Winter Solstice is also almost here: December 21st, when we have the longest night of the year, and the Northern Hemisphere is tilting the most away from the Sun.

The dark of midwinter is a great time to sit quietly and think about things. Not wanting to spend money is also a good motivator for listening to the silence, and mulling over what 2016 has taught me.

People are doing the best they can.

People need to feel heard.

I want to be more open to possibility.

Yak Trax are awesome for walking on ice.

Ha! But they are

I’ve puzzled over why I seem to have a stream of short relationships, intense but guttering out quickly. I go in cycles of protecting myself against hurt by not allowing myself to be vulnerable, then slide into my natural vulnerable state and get whomped upside the head.

It affects my writing life less than it used to, but it is still a challenge. This winter, I am issuing a two-part counter-challenge to myself: to be open to more things that can tell me about myself, and to let my heartlight shine forth, no matter what others appreciate about it or don’t.

#1 I have always scoffed at astrology. As Brene Brown says, ‘I’d roll my eyes so far back in my head, I’m surprised they didn’t get stuck back there.’ I just got out of a system that has a pat answer for why everything happens; I don’t need to jump into a new one!

But my woo-woo friends in Portland tell me that it’s less of a belief system than a searching out of signs, a listening to intuition, and delving deeper to understand your and my human needs.

Well, that sounds good!

So I looked up my sun sign, moon sign, and ascendant sign. I invited a couple friends to talk to me about how they see astrology, how they use it, how it helps them see better into their own dark corners.

Maybe it will show me a new way.

#2 In addition to the December reading of Brene Brown, I feel drawn to the approach of Tosha Silver. In her book Outrageous Openness, which I borrowed from a friend, she gives lots of fun, satisfying stories to show her approach to life, which is:

“Divine Order says that the perfect solution to any problem is already selected if you allow yourself to be guided;”
And for which she had a mantra:
“Please show me your Divine Will in this matter and send a clear sign that gives the proper direction. And if for some reason I’m about to head the wrong way, please, please stop me.”

I’m going to give it a try.

Do you have an intention for 2017? Do you plan to make New Year’s Resolutions? Or do you do an Annual Review?

Done well, these are all ways to take stock and reflect about your year, and remind yourself what you really want out of life. They all have three basic components: remember the past, evaluate it in relation to how you want your life to be, and form a goal for how to help it get there.

I’ve got two intentions and a Word (from The Soul of Money book). What have you got?


Images via Pinterest

The Election

(cross-posted on medium.com)

sad disappointed Anna Frozen do you wanna build a snowman face

I’m sad and disappointed that we’ve elected a man who no one should rightly admire. A president should be a person with dignity, judgment, and a conscience. Is that too much for a minimum?

So I’m stuck here wondering why we are where are in America. Deeply divided. Deeply compromised in our choices. What’s wrong with the system? Perhaps the electoral system: proportional representation and compromise might serve the U.S. better. Perhaps the electoral college, which makes some states’ voters more critical than others. Perhaps the election rules, which require vast sums of money be used to sway people, and endless footage be played to brainwash TV-watchers, with little responsibility to check the facts.

OK, but that’s the system. How did the President-Elect’s message convince so many folks to vote for him, despite all his offenses? Let’s look at both:

message 1: Anti-immigrant (offense: ‘build a wall against Mexico’ and ‘ban all Muslims coming in’ and ‘Mexicans are rapists and murderers’)

message 2: Anti-women’s equality (offense: ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ and ‘not a 10’ and ‘blood out of her wherever’ and ‘fat’ and ‘abortion should be punished’…)

message 3: Ignorance and Inexperience are better than knowledge and hard work (offense: touting his never holding office as an accomplishment, promising to replace or fire federal government workers en masse)

message 4: Outdated gender and sexuality roles and categories (offense: allowing room for hate crimes and discrimination against LGBTQ folks in the form of a law, and generally toeing the Republican line on social equality issues)

message 5: Anti-underdog (offense: ‘mocks disabled reporter’ and ‘likes people who weren’t captured’ and ‘calls PTSD veterans not strong’ and criticizes dead war hero’s parents and inciting violence against journalists and general bullying)

message 6: Anti-black equality (offense: championing stop-and-frisk policy, assuming black=inner city=poverty=violence, failing to disavow the KKK or David Duke’s support)

message 7: Science-denier (offense: calling climate change a hoax by the Chinese, boosting fossil fuel development, walking away from international agreements on clean energy development)

I’m getting these a bit mixed up, and they do overlap. I’m not writing this as an academic or expert, but I am trying to cite sources. I’m sure I’m missing some of his egregious offenses, because I’ve blocked them out or managed to tune out his massive plays for media attention. Others should feel free to add on where they feel most threatened or offended by the President-Elect.

I’ve been through this before — feeling sucker-punched and betrayed by people you thought you knew. It’s called 2004.

But what about Hillary’s offenses? Aren’t they ‘just as bad’? I’ll take the things I’ve heard about her too, one by one, and explain why they’re not at the same level of ‘bad’’.

charge 1: She’s unlikable. The presidential race is not a popularity contest. This is a commander-in-chief.

Would you choose a general based on their joviality? No.

Just like with W. in 2000/04, I am mystified by people’s willingness to put ‘attractiveness to have a beer with’ over the ability to do the job competently. Perhaps it has something to do with being able to see yourself in the officials you elect, and people can’t abide a strong woman in that position.

Also, is the President-Elect likable? With his strident hand gestures, name-calling, 3rd-grade vocabulary of taunts, and disrespectfulness? It’s a reality that women are held to different standards when it comes to assertiveness, and here is one place where it has certainly come into play.

charge 2: She’s an entrenched interest. Here is a legitimate argument. She’s been in government in many different roles. She’s seen what kind of compromise it takes to get to the top (spoiler: a lot, just ask Ted Cruz). She’s maybe had to change her policies based on the majority of opinions she works with. Just like Obama, once one gets inside the snowglobe, a politician skews right. Maybe it’s because of how they get reelected, or maybe it’s the dealmaking required with people you don’t agree with.

Whatever it is, Hillary did move right after being in government longer. We can’t compare her to the President-Elect because he has no record. Just a long trail of flip-flopping and pandering.

The legitimate part of this argument is that a voter wants a change to business as usual. They are unhappy with how policies (most likely the economy, but also perhaps foreign policy) have been going, and want someone who will shake things up.

Behind this, I sense anger and bitterness at being left behind or ignored. And that’s legitimate, too. Bringing attention to this population of voters is important.

But doing it by endangering women’s rights and the planet’s ability to digest our waste CO2, threatening immigrants and the adherents of a whole religion, and allowing someone thoughtless and narcissistic to be the mouthpiece of America in the world, that is irresponsible. It’s chopping off your nose to spite your face, when your nose is millions of frightened Americans whose views or backgrounds you may not agree with or understand, but who are American, nonetheless.

charge 3: She lied about her emails. In the same way that Colin Powell and Jeb Bush had a private server and/or used private email accounts, Hillary kept private emails on her own server. Federal agency employees must submit their email correspondence to official record due to the FOIA, while Congress does not. Loophole. Federal employees also must adhere to security protocols that advise against the mixing of private and work emails and the keeping of one’s own server outside federal firewalls.

‘The emails’ were a minor issue that showed Hillary’s resistance to technology and her reliance on her own judgment as to security risk. They became an election piñata when she tried to hide this one aspect of going rogue on her job’s responsibilities. The FBI has found nothing criminal in the bajillion emails it had to scan.

charge 4: She’s a hawk. She voted for the war in Iraq. Well, based on the information that Congress was given at the time, that is the decision she made. And I’m sure she regretted it when the falsified evidence was made public. But the fault for misleading the public lies with the Bush administration. If you think you’re too liberal to handle this part of her record, listen to this tale of how devious people can smear someone’s reputation.

I know a person who fought for the underdog in her county like nobody’s business — tooth and claw. She was running for the state legislature in 2004. A few years before, the county where she worked had downsized their public hospital capacity. General Hospital, where I was born, was targeted by conservatives and closed because it was where most people went who had no insurance, costing the county a bundle.

This woman fought to find places to relocate those services provided to people who couldn’t pay, voting no each time on the closure until this was accomplished. Finally, when she couldn’t get any more support to keep General open, she voted with all the rest of the board to close it.

In the legislature campaign, her opponent ran ads featuring sad children and dogs in black and white, claiming she closed the hospital single-handedly, putting these poor creatures out in the street.

It was the opposite of the truth, but they had taken her vote out of context and convinced people it meant something very different. So please, review someone’s voting record, but be cautious about passing easy judgment.

What’s the President-Elect’s voting record? Oh wait, he doesn’t have one.

I’m sad and disappointed because a vote for the President-Elect was a vote for the rights of one class above all others. It was a vote against protecting the vulnerable. So the fighters among us have our work cut out for us for the next four years.

Since I drafted this, I saw the first episode of a short series by Van Jones called The Messy Truth, which I found encouraging. In it, Jones journeys to Gettysburg to hear from Trump voters why they voted for him. I hope this article can show people in a similar way what this Hillary voter was thinking when she voted.

Image via Griffin and Her Books

Luminaries: Laura

This is the fourth in my 2015 series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who seem to be guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1, Interview 2, and Interview 3.

quasar luminary wiki commons  We have a bit of a switch-up at this juncture!

Laura Stanfill, gracious interviewee #4 for this series, tugs the covers in the complete opposite direction from my other subjects in terms of life path-taking.

If Ward is on one end of the spectrum, with his do-everything curiosity for life, Laura is on the other end, with her insane commitment to being the best writer she can be, no matter the assignment, no matter the time pressure. But let’s start at A Beginning…

Our beginning was at Stumptown Lit 2014, where I was having my first book exhibited as a member of Oregon Writers Colony — so exciting! I was searching for less-cliche, less-network-y ways to engage with people at the event, so when I arrived at the Forest Avenue Press table, I asked Laura, “What made you decide to become a publisher?”

And she had a wonderful, self-aware answer, johnny-on-the-spot. I made a mental note: this gal is the Real Deal. So I was over-the-moon delighted when she agreed to do an interview for Taste Life Twice. I was also delighted to find out that her own publishing career started off with a series of similar interviews with a wide variety of writers in the Pacific Northwest (Brave On The Page).

Coincidence??? I hope not…

laura stanfill pub photo red chairLaura has achieved success in every arena she has entered. That comment I made above, about “no matter the assignment”? She once had a freelance job writing for a school district that needed more funding from the local Board of Supervisors. She turned it into a 296-page school district masterpiece, resulting in the Association of School Business Offices’ Meritorious Budget Award, but more importantly, the first time the schools received what they asked for in recent memory!

When I sat down to pelt Laura with nosey questions last month, I realized that she must possess some sort of crazy magic substance (like lembas) to sustain such a drive for excellence and constant innovating: from overachiever school newspaper editor at Vassar College to Publisher of her own press for the last four years, it’s always been about writing. She neglected to mention a source for the lembas (darn!), but said that she’s been a perfectionist forever, and motivated to exceed people’s expectations since before that.

Thankfully, as a parent, she’s learned to turn on her personal ‘Creativity Valve’ when she has a spare ten minutes in order to edit, write, report, or otherwise grow her business, an effort that has always been about strengthening the literary community here in Portland, her adopted city.

One of the points that some of the other ‘Luminaries’ have expounded upon is the breaking away from other people’s expectations as a break for freedom. For Laura, it seems to be more of a synthesis: when the expectations align with her own desire to write, she puts love into the project, and great things happen.

Lucky duck!

laura stanfill pub photo zany authorOne of the most important questions for Laura was the one about balance: What balances you out in life? At first, she couldn’t think past her perfectionist tendencies. But then the little things, those activities that can seep into the cracks of life, showed themselves. Reading for pleasure. Writing her own fiction. Knitting (in a community of knitters). And oh, what’s this in my back pocket?

That’s right: an annual retreat with a few women writer friends, where they isolate themselves in individual cabins for several days, coming together for lunches and dinners to discuss their current works.

Doesn’t that sound divine? (If you are interested in such a thing, DO NOT HESITATE to contact me. I’m totally starting my own!)

One of my other regular questions is about a defining moment, some memory that points the way to what you know you’re meant to do. For Laura, this occurred very early on, and she had a beautiful anecdote about how her passion was lovingly reinforced:

For a 4th grade writing assignment on an everyday object, she chose a red rubber ball. And what did it do? It went on a journey to the Black Forest of Germany and had adventures. The Schwarzvald, people! The teacher conspired with the school librarian to get the story ‘published’ for the school library.

Ms. Stanfill has been writing ever since.

laura stanfill pub photo blue hat


Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Laura Stanfill