30 June 2009

20. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion

20. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. (4/5)

Not long ago, I read a review of this book (more of a story about how it changed her life really) over at Havi's The Fluent Self. I found a copy through my library, and thought I'd give it a look.

I did take Havi's warning: "It has unbelievably cheesy poetry that will hurt your brain to read. Skip those parts," to heart and I suggest you do the same. Also, don't get too hung up on the title. Personally, I don't care for it, but I'm not sure what else to call it either.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC), or Compassionate Communication, is about relating to people without judgment while clearly expressing your feelings and needs and listening to theirs. The book uses lots of anecdotes from the author's NVC workshops with groups all over the world to exemplify the process. What I like most is the personal accountability of NVC. Though others may provide stimulus for our feelings, they are not responsible for them. Intellectually, I get this, but try describing how you feel about what someone did or said without saying "because you..." and you'll start to see the challenge of NVC. The author also dismisses the use of words like "neglected" or "ignored" as feelings because they are about other people.

The book's approach may come off as hippy-ish to some, so it's probably not something to read if you don't feel open to it. If you are, however, it's pretty amazing. If politicians had to express their campaign views using NVC, for example, politics would be completely changed, and for the better.

Some of the language used in NVC strikes me as formal and awkward, but it is clear and designed to promote compassionate interactions between individuals. Taken all the way, NVC would abolish punishments and rewards as ways to motivate people. I'm not ready to release murderers and rapists based on their compassionate understanding of the consequences of their actions. However, I do understand that punishment doesn't really motivate people to change for the reasons we might like them to.

The other catch for me is that I don't necessarily want to interact this deeply with everyone I encounter. Particularly with people unfamiliar with NVC, it seems the NVC-user ends up as a quasi-therapist for them. In theory, the compassion gets reciprocated at some point, but I'm not entirely convinced or perhaps don't have the patience to wait for it (or interest, introvert that I am).

In some regards, I feel like I've spent the past few years trying to be less compassionate to protect myself. Certain friendships were very one-way which would lead to resentment on my part and passive-aggressiveness which was no good for anybody. However, I'm not sure I could say that I ever clearly expressed what I needed from those relationships.

Clarity of expression is what I hope to take from Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion: to make observations that are specific rather than general (always, never, often, usually...) and without judgment, to recognize my feelings independent of other's actions, and to be clear about what I want.

There's also an intriguing section which talks about applying the technique internally. I'm not convinced depression can always be solved in this manner, but I'll gladly keep another process for resolving internal critical monologues at hand.

There's a lot to this book, and I'll probably try to read most of it again before it's due to help it sink in.

The 2002 Claire

Author's note: I started editing this old piece to polish the writing, but I soon found that my perspective in 2009 was at odds with my perspective in 2002. Initially, I tried reworking it to align with my outlook today, but the undertaking was going to radically alter the story. All this is to say, I probably shouldn't post this, but I will anyway because it reflects my reaction at a particular place and time seven years ago. Think of it as a piece about someone who shares my name, a taller than average tale, if you will.

Now that it's the summer term and parking's not so cutthroat, I've been going home for lunch. It's a welcome change to my usual drive-thru lunch fare followed by lot roaming to find a space so I can eat in my car.

Tossing my backpack over my shoulders, I was about to head upstairs to my apartment when a young African American woman appeared from the house next door and addressed me. In an effort to cultivate my emerging friendly self, I kept up my end of the chit-chat. She commented, "It's weird, y'know? Somebody's door is three feet away from yours and you don't know their name." I nodded though I'd never been bothered by that fact.

"I'm Ingrine," she said. She planned to attend college in the fall but is working full-time this summer to make money. I got the impression that she was new to the area. I answered her queries and explained that I'd already graduated and now work at the university. To my own surprise, I even went so far as to explain that I'd lived in LA for three years and then moved back when she asked how long I'd lived here.

"So what church do you go to?" she asked in complete seriousness.

The question was so ludicrous, as those who know me can attest, that I was stunned silent. I live in the South, right. "Uh… I'm really just a heathen. I wouldn't know where to begin."

She was really quite deft as she invited me to go with her roommates to church that Sunday. I felt like knocking myself in the head; I'd given her the perfect opening within five minutes of meeting, and now my lunch hour was ticking away. She pitched her church as a good mix of young people, not just students but young professionals as well, not just black or white. Man, she has it down.

I said, "Thank you for the offer. I'll keep it in mind," to be polite. She warned me the congregation is very outgoing, welcoming, and loving even to newcomers. I told her I was anti-social to which she immediately identified having had moments herself when she needed to be alone. But she went on to say that it's a great thing to experience the unity and love of this group.

"My hope is that you'll try it not once but twice," Ingrine said. "The first time to get your bearings and the second to really get a feel for it. We don't just go to church on Sundays and then go back to doing whatever the rest of the week. We really try to live by the bible all the time."

Ah. "Live by the bible" was a code phrase for me triggering the absolute certainty that I would never attend even for the heck of it.

Ingrine wrote her name and number on the back of a card she retrieved from her trunk. "If you have questions, you can always talk to me or either of my roommates," she said, handing me the slip. It was a business card for her church. I still have no idea what denomination it is and do not care enough to find out.

"Thanks again for the invitation, but I'm not promising anything."

"That's good, it's means you're a woman of your word. So when you say, 'yes,' I'll know you'll mean it."

Oh brother. As I ascended my stairs finally extracted from our conversation, I thought to myself, I should've just said I was an atheist like my brother did when we were kids.

In the town where we grew up there was an unusual Christian group, BS. Their members were not thought well of by most of the town to put it diplomatically. In a small, white, predominantly Catholic town, they were an easy target for derision.

My parents used to rent out part of our house. A family with two daughters, several years younger than my brother and I, lived there for many years. The father, Jerry, was so strong he could grab on to a small tree trunk or pole and hold his body out horizontally from it. Having him around was like having a strongman/acrobat where we lived: awesome. But then his wife joined BS and brought the girls with her. Jerry didn't join and they got divorced. He moved out, but his wife and daughters remained.

One day my brother and I were playing on our jungle gym and Jerry's daughter Bree, maybe age 5, came over and insisted we be "saved." I was probably 9 which would've made my brother 13. Bree relentlessly insisted we say, "I accept Jesus Christ into my heart." My brother said he was an atheist, made her cry, and wandered off.

I was more of an agnostic at the time and also unwilling to be so brutal. Eventually I caved and said it to get her to shut up. I told her I didn't mean it, but she said it didn't matter because I'd said the words. How can it not matter? It still bothers me and reminds me why so much of religion seems to be a variety of scams.

Turns out BS really was a cult scam. A member of one of the prominent families in town was brainwashed into giving them money; lawsuits ensued and essentially they were run out of town in short order.

Next time: "I'm an atheist." Let 'em cry.

A year ago on TTaT: 1000

28 June 2009

40th Anniversary of Stonewall Riots

Seems fitting to be writing this near 1 AM on June 28th, very near the time the Stonewall Riots began 40 years ago.

If you haven't heard of Stonewall, check out:
Stonewall Riots 40th Anniversary: A Look Back at the Uprising that Launched the Modern Gay Rights Movement

You can watch the video or scroll down to read the transcript. Lots of fascinating first person accounts of the riot and what it was like to be LGBTQ forty and fifty years ago prior to the gay rights movement.

The perception and visibility of LGBTQ people has changed a great deal even since I graduated high school 18 years ago, but there's still a lot further to go. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are still on the books and most states have provisions preventing same sex marriages (e.g., Prop 8 in California). Even in states where same sex marriage is legal, same sex couples are denied the federal benefits extended to opposite sex marriage partners.

The more people are aware that we're out there, as their friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family, that we are part of their communities already, the better our chances will be for attaining equal rights. It may seem a bit much for me to ask since I only recently came out to my family.

I convinced myself that telling my family didn't matter because I'd made a good faith effort to tell them once before; and I was out to my friends, on the blog, and a host of other people. I'm a private person by nature. The thing is, that works against the gay rights movement for equality. Visibility matters. So, come out if you can.

Now for something everyone can do, sign the letter to Support Lt. Dan Choi before his trial on Tuesday.
Lt. Dan Choi, from Orange County, California, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an Iraq War veteran. On Tuesday, he will face a panel of colonels who will decide whether or not to fire him -- to discharge him from the military for "moral and professional dereliction" under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. ...Lt. Choi will submit your signatures and your comments to the Army at 8 a.m. on Tuesday
Read and sign the letter before Tuesday.

Happy PRIDE, everyone!!!

Two years ago on TTaT: Let The Pictures Do The Talking: A Road Trip, ii; I want to be an asshole

27 June 2009

Before dinner...

(Click photos to embiggen.)

Mountain with bright clouds rising above it
Mountain with bright and dark clouds
Even if I had a DSLR that I really liked, I wouldn't have had it with me on my way to dinner tonight. There's definitely something to be said for the camera that's at hand when you see something worth shooting.

The ancient digital point & shoot I borrowed to photograph tonight drives me absolutely nuts with its tremendously long next-shot-delay and parallax (the LCD screen refused to turn on), and yet, I really would've been bummed out if I couldn't shoot at all. Maybe I should go back to looking for a camera that would be easy to keep handy all the time.

A year ago on TTaT: Eight strikes... in a row!

26 June 2009

Gettin' My Groove On... (vol. ii)

...to "Diplo Rhythm" by Diplo, Pantera Os Danadinhos, Sandra Melody & Vybz Cartel:

Claire dancing to Diplo Rhythm
(Click to embiggen.)

NB: Shot before both dancecube talk and my haircut (less curliness present due to it drying while pulled back, plenty of scruffiness though).

A year ago on TTaT: The next five issues

25 June 2009

Brain train wreck

How can I be completely aware of a train wreck happening in my head and yet be unable to stop it or look away from the emotional wreckage?

Of late, I've been reading a book about communication that, honestly, makes me feel a bit like a hippy but also seems dead on in many respects. Among other things the author talks about how we're all responsible for our own feelings. Something external might trigger a response in us, but what we do from there is all up to us. Yes, I thought to myself, that's so true.

I'm about halfway through, and intellectually, I get this book. But if yesterday is any indication, stupid things like hair cuts can still set me off. Even though I understood the various reasons behind the hair cut bothering me, I didn't know how to switch tracks or derail the train before the impending mental wreck. I tried being rational with myself, but it did nothing discernible to ameliorate my frustration. In fact, I was bothered so much, I was literally uncomfortable in my skin. You could chalk it up to heat, but it was more than that, and I have a feeling it was psychosomatic. The best I could manage was to seek out total distraction which was sporadically effective.

But where does distraction get you ultimately? Just a reprieve before the mind returns to the scene of the wreckage.

I even tried to shift my thinking: I can fix this. The catch there is that despite the urge to take a pair of scissors to my hair myself, that won't produce the desired results and would likely make matters worse. Needing someone else to lop off more from the bottom puts me back at square one.

I tried focusing on the positive: it doesn't look scruffy anymore and it looks all right even though I don't care for it. Still wasn't able to let it go for whatever reason. That's one of the catches of depression and anxiety: the repetition of all that is negative. I could see myself doing it all day yesterday, even woke up early today with the same series of thoughts on my mind.

The not knowing how to control and shift my own emotions and reactions is as frustrating as everything else if not more so.

Scrubbed the hell out of my skin in the shower, so physically I'm feeling better today, at least for now.

Without any conscious design, the image of a needle in a groove of a rotating record came to me. There was no sound, but I lifted the arm and set it down further into the album.

And here we are.

It's all in my head, so to speak

So it's been hours and I'm still ridiculously preoccupied with the hair cut I got today, enough so that I'm here writing instead of trying to go to sleep.

The hair cut is not bad, it's just not what I wanted. I've been putting it off even longer than I would've since my quiet tattoo guy, a stylist with near full sleeve tatts, went out of business. (Which of course I feel in part responsible for since I don't get cut my hair often.)

Anyway, the salon that took over his space in the mall was finally open, so I thought I'd give their $10 opening promotion a shot. Yes, I know walk-in places are hit or miss, but if you find someone good, they're gold.

Problem #1: I didn't really know what I wanted except that I was sick of looking so shaggy.

The woman at the front counter told me the wait was going to be five minutes, and I was going to flip through the books (not that they ever have anything I like for curly/wavy hair if they have anything at all), but they don't have a waiting area, so she just took me on back to a chair. She went ahead and caped me, so I felt sort of stranded... and warm.

Anyway, the person who was supposed to "be right back" hadn't shown up after several minutes, so the woman from the counter said she'd cut my hair.

All the while, a large group of people were standing around chatting while two guys from their group got precision trims.

Amanda asked me what I wanted done and I showed her how short I wanted it to be along my jawline. Granted sometimes hair dressers are cagey when you want multiple inches cut off because I gather some people freak out. Then we talked layers and she asked how short I wanted the shortest layer. That threw me because tattoo guy would just say "OK" and cut my damn hair.

By then I could see that it wasn't as short as I wanted, so I told her that I wanted another inch to inch and half taken off. While my head was forward she asked if that length felt OK and I said yes when I should've lifted my head to better gauge the length.

She asked me something else for which I had no answer, so I said, "Do you have any suggestions?"

She sort of gave me a blank look and then said, "How about bangs?"

"Maybe really long bangs."

Well, thank heaven they are long. I said yes because I sort had this idea about what I would do if I kept my hair long (for me) and it involved side-swept bangs, and even though I wasn't keeping it long, the romanticism of that notion crept in and made me say yes.

Amanda diligently cut long layers for me, measuring them out to be even and so forth.

I knew it wasn't as short as I'd wanted overall but didn't feel like going another round. There's a point when you say, "I'd like it cut to here," not once but twice and the person doesn't cut it to there and you say to yourself, it's good enough.

I was frustrated because she was willing to do what I wanted if I described it explicitly. Like someone who has basic skills but not the savvy to take a basic description to levels of personalized awesomeness. Tattoo guy wasn't perfect in this regard but he definitely had skillz and didn't make getting the cut feel like so much work. If I'd told Amanda I wanted layers of 3, 4, and 5 inches, I'm sure she would've done that. But what do I know about layers? Not enough apparently.

When I went to pay, she said it was $12 and I didn't ask about the big banner on the counter below me which said it was $10 for the opening. It's what I'd expected to pay anyway. And I gave her a tip because I think it's not cool to skip tipping even if it's just a walk-in mall hair cut place.

As soon as I left I felt like getting my hair cut again.

When my hair was more dry, I checked it out in a mirror in Target and inwardly cringed. Again, the cut is technically fine but it looks just like my hair from the end of senior year high school and college. Like being confronted with an even more confrontation-averse, confidence-lacking version of myself. It's a reflection that really bothers me, literally and figuratively.

The last cut I got from tattoo guy was a roll of the dice that landed on unexpected cool; I left feeling... sophisticated and confident.

Last thing I need right now is hair that reminds me of wanting to be cool and failing.

Tomorrow I will pull it back to change my reflection to a more favorable one and see what I feel like doing from there. (Which I suspect will be take another stab at this merry-go-round and get it cut somewhere else on Friday. Grr.)

A year ago on TTaT: Oriental poppies

23 June 2009

The unbuttoned twin, for Vahid

Twitter inspiration from last night:
Vahid: At the urging of my hetero life-partner @Blogography I have replaced my raised fist avatar with an actual photo. You're welcome.

Claire: @Iron_Fist Diggin' the new photo avatar. With the hat, it's like you're my twin.

Claire: @Iron_Fist I reckon I'd have to be wearing my Stetson in my avatar pic for that last tweet to make sense...

Vahid: @claireofttat Next post I want to see this Stetson, Claire. Here's the original of Jenny and me: http://flic.kr/p/6imHUf

Claire, Vahid's twinDecide if Vahid and I are twins for yourself.

Jenny and Vahid at TequilaCon 2009
(photo by evehorizon, adapted courtesy of a Creative Commons License.)

Actually, now that I'm looking at the photos next to each other, seems more like I'm Vahid and Jenny's illegitimate offspring. Which would be awesome, of course.

A year ago on TTaT: Not the old bowling metaphor

20 June 2009

It's short for Rococo. Obviously.

Remember the goat my Mom gave me post-trip but prior to my official coming out later that evening?

Allow me to introduce my big gay goat Rocco:

She's awesome.

And has cool lesbian super powers!

Trust me, it's OK if the rainbows get on you. ;)

A year ago on TTaT: Deluge, It's all about the bacon

18 June 2009

A free taste of my favorite cyborg

iTunes has a free featurette about Ghost in the Shell up this week. Creators and cast from the English-speaking version discuss the graphic novel, movies, and television series.

As I've written before, I LOVE the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's beautifully drawn, very smart, and has plenty of action.

The movies Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence are also exquisitely drawn, but they're slower paced and the English voice actress playing Motoko is different and not as good in my opinion. Those two movies exist discretely from the TV series, i.e., the stories do not overlap or even exist in the same timeline as the television show. It's more like they occur in a parallel universe.

The movie Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, however, picks up and continues the storyline from the TV series. So watch it once you're through both seasons of the show.

Or just start with the featurette on iTunes. [adult swim] also has a couple episodes online. I recommend "Cash Eye" since it's pretty much a stand-alone episode. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex also airs on [adult swim], AKA the Cartoon Network, Sunday mornings at 3:30 AM. (Looks like they're well into season two though, and I recommend starting from the beginning if you can. Your library might very well have it on DVD.)

A year ago on TTaT: Something I didn't know

17 June 2009

Move More

Of late it seems there are quite a few bloggers trying to lose weight, workout more, generally get healthier.

Throughout my life, I've gone through cycles of working out regularly to not exercising at all. The idea that I must do something rarely plays out well for me. Knowing that I should work out to stave off depression doesn't mean I'll do it. Even knowing that not stretching would cause old knee and shoulder injuries to act up wasn't always enough.

What's made this stretch of exercising endure a year and a half was starting small: taking stairs two at a time, stretching during commercials, moving my legs while brushing my teeth, generally embracing as my philosophy 'Move More.' For me, incorporating small things consistently worked better than more intense sporadic workouts for creating a habit I could build upon.

Along those lines, I came upon this cool site today: Fit-in 15, the 15 minute fitness habit.
Fit-in 15 has been developed by Canada’s Doctors of Chiropractic, experts in muscle and joint function, and champions of healthy living. They recognize that it can be hard to find time in a busy day to focus on physical activity. That’s why they created Fit-in 15, an easy and manageable way to start the habit. Once Fit-in 15 becomes a regular part of your day, you may find yourself fitting in more.

If you go to the My Fit-in 15 section, you can get specific information on cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises. They make it easy to mix up your routine. The diagrams and descriptions of the exercises are also quite easy to follow. If you need encouragement, you can sign up for email reminders & motivation. You can also keep track of your progress with their online calendar.

That's pretty awesome; I write down my physical activity each day in my calendar and it definitely helps my motivation and sense of accomplishment. And since perception may matter when it comes to the efficacy of physical activity, stuff like scrubbing the tub and lugging laundry gets listed to.

Being motivated to work out can still be a challenge for me, particularly now that I'm working out for longer blocks of time, so I'm always grateful to discover something new to keep me going.

On a day I'd decided to bail on working out, serendipity lead me to the vlog, Jennie McNulty Presents: Walking Funny With... Jennie McNulty is a comedian, also lesbian, who interviews performers and athletes while they walk. Hearing Jennie say, "Get up and walk with us," was enough to get me up and then into the workout I'd planned to skip. She says it in each vlog and it continues to help motivate me; also, the vlogs themselves are a pleasant distraction while I work out.

AfterEllen.com also hosts Advanced P.E. run by trainer Briana Stockton. There are new episodes to come, but for now there are 11 episodes that trace a group of women going through bootcamp training to get ready for The Dinah this past spring.

Some of the workouts looked insane, but watching the women persevere has motivated me to push myself harder. Also, most episodes include small routines of exercises that you can do at home or while traveling. (If you're interested, I've made notes of when those tutorial sections come up.) There's also an episode about nutrition and switching to a raw diet.

Food is definitely a weak link for me. I'm starting to approach it with the same small changes approach I used for exercise. If I know something's bad for me, it's gotta taste amazing for me to eat it. So not just any junk food any more. I still fail miserably at this sometimes, but it's a start. Also, no snacking past midnight (or ~2 hours before bedtime). I've been pretty good about that and have kept off a couple pounds as a result.

Brunch With Bridget from AfterEllen.com
In this episode of Brunch With Bridget, Briana Stockton demonstrates planks and some other ass and abs exercises starting at 10:18. I do the series of planks she describes every other day. They're still hard for me to do even after a month (albeit easier than when I started), but I feel strong after doing them.

What else? I keep clipping out the fitness exercises from Jorge Cruise in the Sunday paper's magazine. (I don't think it's called Parade anymore, but if you get a regular Sunday paper, you know what I mean.) He demos the exercises online in short clips. (There are also several "food swap" clips that I haven't checked out yet.)

I usually do a set of crunches in the morning because I hate ab work and it gets it out of the way. Again, starting small.

I don't know if any of you will find this post helpful; mainly I want to convey: you can do it! Find something you like. (I played a couple rounds of DDR to warm up today.) Don't beat yourself up if you backslide. Just start again. Let small changes in your habits grow into big changes over time. Keep at it.

And please share if you have any exercises you love or tips for staying motivated!

Another not my dog

(FYI, these not my dog posts were inspired by some tweets from @Neilochka last night. Thanks, Neil! If you're so inclined, you can check out my latest tweets in the sidebar or @claireofttat.)

Here I am with Uncle K.T.'s dog Katie:

Claire and Katie
Go ahead, say "K.T." and "Katie." It's not just me, is it? As far as I know, I was the only one who found it confusing. It was all about waiting for context. Random name calls to get his or her attention were always harder to peg. I suppose you could chalk it up to my Yank ears and their thick Virginian drawls. Always took a little while to adjust, "get my ears on" as we used to say.

And now, purely for vanity's sake, probably my favorite shot of myself with long hair:

Ah, Izod.

Looks like the key to rockin' long waves/curls for me is to always be leaning forward. Hmm.

A year ago on TTaT: Hibiscus

16 June 2009

Not my dog

But he's still my favorite.* Kody was my ambassador to dogs after being bitten, chased up trees, charged, and lunged at. Kody could get his bark on, but he was mellow. I learned what he was trying to communicate, helped him up when he needed it, and he would actually listen to me sometimes if I pulled out my best alpha-dog voice.

The only other time I leaned over a dog this close--I was five--I got my forehead chomped, and I've still got the scar to prove it.

*I can't believe it's been 5 years since you passed away. I miss our walks, buddy.

Damn, I really didn't set out to write a post that would make me teary. Sniff. OK, I'm good now.

A year ago on TTaT: Humid!

15 June 2009

Target, take 2

Clearly helpfulness isn't a Sunday night sort of thing. Actually, all the staff I saw seemed to know each other pretty well and were having their own conversations.

Fine really since I wasn't looking for help and would've interrupted if I had been.

A'right. I should be good and shut things down now since in addition to the ever increasing thunder rumbles, I just saw a bit of lightning. Cheers.

A year ago on TTaT: Growth spurt, Random Scan Sunday 4: Yearbook

14 June 2009

Obama administration defending DOMA=EPIC FAIL!

The entire legal brief is here.

For several excerpts of the brief and an excellent, concise breakdown, read this article: Obama defends DOMA in federal court. Says banning gay marriage is good for the federal budget. Invokes incest and marrying children.

This bit of the brief really gets me:
Plaintiffs also maintain that DOMA discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of their right to the equal protection of the law, see Complaint, ¶ 20, but DOMA is not subject to heightened scrutiny on that basis. As an initial matter, plaintiffs misperceive the nature of the line that Congress has drawn. DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits. To the contrary, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in federal employment and in a wide array of federal benefits programs by law, regulation, and Executive order.... Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage.
Even though they argue elsewhere in the brief: "To deny federal recognition to same-sex marriages will thus preserve scarce government resources," they also say, "DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits." The idea that DOMA doesn't discriminate against same-sex couples who are married or would be if they could is crazy to me.

During his inauguration speech, President Obama said:
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
What happened to everybody being equal? I guess the catch is that it's a "God-given promise." Too bad we as a country have never been that good about keeping Church and State separate.

During his acceptance speech, President Obama also said, "I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination." Not so much with the lives free from discrimination then?

In the meantime, remember I'm not a Democrat; I have no party affiliation. My vote is not a given. It's really not when you piss me off on LGBTQ issues.

A year ago on TTaT: Where the goth kids are

12 June 2009

An introvert, yes

Last Saturday, I was checking out some books at the library when a woman next to me at the counter said, "Claire?"

I turned towards her, trying to connect her brown face and short black hair with a name. Blank. Within seconds, she let me off the hook by saying her name, "Endi."

It was all I needed. I knew exactly who she was, or perhaps more precisely, who she had been. "Endi! Hey!"

"I knew it was you, Claire. What a surprise! Do you have a few minutes or do you have to go?"

Endi had been a friend and classmate in high school: smart, gullible, more naive than I was, and shy though I think that was more of a cultural thing. Her father was Indian and always favored and supported his annoying youngest son over his two daughters. Endi didn't seem shy anymore.

We'd done plays together and hung out with the same group of friends. Her family had moved away during junior year, and we'd lost touch. She'd filled out as an adult and now looked more like I remembered her outgoing, worldly, older sister, Daksa.

Daksa and I had worked at the very library I was now standing in back in high school. Our sensibilities just clicked. She was two grades ahead of me, and when she graduated, we exchanged letters and postcards sporadically for several years before losing touch. Daksa had that most admirable gift of being a great letter writer. She wrote one of my favorite things ever as a sign-off: Stay with clarity.

Endi, on the other hand, I hadn't seen or heard from since I was 17. Another lifetime had transpired for each of us since last we saw each other.

We moved our conversation to a bench outside and she peppered me with questions. "How long have you been in the area? ... I heard you were in California making movies. No, wait, start at the beginning. Where did you go to college?"

In chronological order, I started describing the last 18 years in condensed form: college, grad school, cross country moves, filmmaking. She listened with an attentiveness that I don't often encounter (if I exclude myself), making the occasional interjection. "That's fascinating. There are a lot of parallels between your story and mine."

I said, "It can be your turn any time," because I didn't want to dominate the conversation.

"No, I want to hear the rest. Then I'll tell you mine."

When I got to living in Tallahassee for the second time in my story and said, "My therapist said she never tells people this but...," Endi interrupted with a laugh and said, "I guess we're not holding back."

It hadn't really occurred to me. I was just describing my life as it came to mind. Having been in therapy for depression years ago didn't seem like a big deal to me at all.

She said, "This is the most real conversation I've had in ages. I hate small talk."

"Me too. I'm not good at it, so why bother?"

All tolled, my second life's story took about twelve minutes, as did hers. When Endi mentioned a significant breakup during her story, I realized my past relationships and being bisexual hadn't come to mind during my recounting. You'd think the ex-fiancee would've been worth mentioning, but honestly, I was proud of the fact I hadn't thought of her. In so many ways, she isn't an important part of the story any longer.

As for being bi, it's not something I did, it's something I am. There's always more people to come out to, I reckon. Another time.

Before parting, we exchanged numbers and email addresses. After all these years, her handwriting looks the same. With all the typing I do, my handwriting has gotten much sloppier, except for mathematical notations.

I'd felt fine, at ease even, while we were talking, but once I got home, I was quasi wired. Amped up on adrenaline from being that social, or perhaps an onslaught of nervous reactions after the fact, or nervous about possible future interactions. All three probably. It took about a day to smooth out. Really, I think it's a wonder sometimes that I'm not an alcoholic or a drug addict.

A year ago on TTaT: Yard art

11 June 2009

Is that my free time I see slipping away?

Yup, I'm on Twitter now, @claireofttat.

Just posted a more extreme makeover pic over there. Do individual tweets have permanent links? That'd probably be too complicated. You can see it here.

A year ago on TTaT: To Be King Again

10 June 2009

Damn, I should've changed my eye color...

Hmm, then again, just as well I didn't. Looks pretty freaky.
Turns out I pinned too many haircut hopes on Lifetime's virtual makeover, but I was entertained by it. Not only can you try out slews of hairstyles and colors on a virtual model or on a picture you upload, you can also mess with a variety of makeup, accessories, and backgrounds.

I confess I was thrown because I consider my hair dark brown but the closest color to mine they had was "natural black." Then again, I once told someone I was thinking of dyeing my hair black and she said, "Isn't it already?" I maintain, no, not really.

Anyway, the hair options were a bust because they didn't really have any options for my hair type. Most were for people with thick straight hair, with some for thick super curly hair. Nothing really in the curly/wavy fine realm. Ah well. It was enough to convince me that I should probably go short again instead of continuing to grow this mess out. Course even though I say that I'm having a sporadic good hair day today. We'll see.

I kinda do like the haircut pictured, but I also know my hair won't really do that. The straight pieces around the face? Never going to happen. Even the nice oh-so-smooth waves are a real long shot. Damn.

Haiku: Irony

Oh, Irony, I
jump through hoops, while you snicker
at the denouement.

(Written for Jenny after her recent clothing adventures: the setup, the payoff. )

A year ago on TTaT: Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody in theatres, 2 nights only!

09 June 2009

Boys are weird, or maybe it was the time of day

After a fairly insane dinner--I got the seafood sampler with blackened salmon, a crab cake, a skewer of grilled spiced shrimp, rice, and french fries in lieu of cole slaw, but I also partook of nachos, a Southwest eggroll, and a baby back rib: the meal was all kinds of awesome--I headed into the mall to look for a camera neck strap for my dad's birthday next week.

I was trucking down a main aisle in Target, heading for the camera department, when a young guy stood up from the endcap he was working on and said, "Can I help you find anything?"

Surprised by his helpfulness, I slowed to a stop in front of him and said, "Uh, yeah. I'm looking for a neck strap for a digital camera."

"I can show you where that is." His voice was eager and borderline too high.

He lead me to the accessory shelves in the camera department and handed the neck strap option they had to me. I said, "Thanks," dismissing him so I could peruse the package and shelves.

I didn't think it was what my dad had in mind, so I walked down to Best Buy. A woman speaking Spanish into a cell phone and two men were in front of the camera accessories. I thought I recognized one word she said since it was similar to Italian, but the rest was a blur of phonetics. I spotted a neck strap in front of the men, reached over to pull it off the rack, and then stepped around them.

One or both of the men said some things in Spanish to the woman. She must be off the phone, I thought to myself. Then they exchanged some sentences in English which caught me off-guard. The man standing next to me worked for the store, I realized. The Spanish-speaking couple nodded to him and then walked away.

He turned to me and said, "Can I help you find anything?"

With the neck strap in hand, I said, "Is this the only kind of neck strap you have?"

He looked at the rack for a moment and then said, "Yes, that's it."

"OK, thanks."

He walked away.

Not five seconds later, another guy in a blue polo--he looked like a frat boy--walked up to me and said, "Can I help you with anything?"

"I'm set, thanks."

Maybe their attentiveness can be chalked up to being after dinner staff. I'm more accustomed to the staff that vanishes when they hear the footsteps of customers, or the ones who refuse to look up from what they're doing. Or maybe the guys from this evening were all extroverts.

Claire's mall cruising ensembleBecause I don't see how this ensemble would attract that kind of attentiveness.

12. Storm Front

12. Storm Front by Jim Butcher (4.5/5)

Chicago, present day. Mob bosses, gangs, drugs, some savvy women: a hard-nosed detective and a persistent tabloid reporter; and Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the yellow pages.
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment

When things go bump in the night, like the vampiress who runs an escort service, Harry is the man to call. Harry Dresden is the only openly practicing wizard in the country. Practitioners and creatures from the magical world tend to stay hidden, but a lot of regular people have a sense that more is out there, that science can't explain everything.

Storm Front is the first book of The Dresden Files series. You may recall that the SciFi channel made a short-lived series based on the books. I enjoyed the show, and my brother is a fan of the books, so I finally got around to reading one.

Fantasy is not a genre I really read, but Butcher's novel is really a P.I. story, told in engaging first person. The characters are well-drawn, distinct, each with her/his own motivations. If you like mysteries and enjoyed the Harry Potter movies but were completely unimpressed with the books, then Storm Front is well worth checking out. (It probably is if you liked the Harry Potter books or disliked the movies too. It's not exactly a fair comparison since Harry Potter is for kids and Harry Dresden is an adult with an adult's story. I mention it more for the somewhat similar flavor of the books' universes.)

In any case, I know I'll be reading more of the series.

A year ago on TTaT: Just put your lips together and blow

08 June 2009


The painters are done. It's a good thing because I was so very close to throwing my window open and yelling, "How fucking long does it take you to set up a ladder!?!" to the guy outside my window this morning.

There's the initial bang when the top of the ladder hits the house. Then there are adjustments to make so that the ladder is at the proper angle, so it won't fall over laterally or backwards: I get that. But after the seventh or eighth full-bore bang in the space of a couple minutes? Come on.

He was just painting window trim so there'd be a few minutes of quiet and then the bangs would start all over again. Oh, and the heavy clomping of boots up and down the ladder, of course.
When I was visiting my brother a couple weeks ago, I helped his wife move some stuff up and down stairs. As I walked up the stairs to get another load, she said, "Oh, you don't have to be quiet. T stomps up and down them all the time. I'm used to it."

I gave her a quizzical look and then said, "I wasn't trying to be quiet. That's just how I walk."

Some people are naturally stompers it seems; I favor a light step when possible.
At some point, I drifted back to sleep and had a dream that I didn't wake up until 4 PM. I was lucid enough to wonder if it really was that late, but after a few moments I decided I didn't care if it was.

Eventually I got up--well before 4--and took a shower. It was my intention to take a quick shower, but it turned out to be the longest one I've taken in ages. There is definitely a linear relationship between how tired I am and how long my showers last. Another reason it's good that the painters are done.

A year ago on TTaT: Random Scan Sunday 3: Yearbook

06 June 2009


For the first time all week, the curtains were open when I awoke this morning. (Damn painters.) It was still early enough in the day that there was a lot of sunlight spilled across the mass of green maple leaves in the woods behind the house.

A steady mist seemed to be falling. I blinked, trying to decide if it was raining. The devil beating his wife, something my dad would say when it's raining while the sun is out, what a bizarre saying.

I focused on the steady pervasive mist. Yellow particles.

Not rain, pollen.

Oh, fuck.

Two years ago on TTaT: Leaf density II

05 June 2009

20 self portraits from 1996, day 20, ii

(Previous days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20-i)

Day 20, ii:
September 5, 1996
September 5, 1996

Now that I'm looking at this photo with a more distant eye, it occurs to me that it's kind of odd. Is that just me? Did my knee/leg register as such to you?

In any case, this is the last of the twenty self portraits from 1996 series. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm partial to the shots from days 2, 3, 10, and 13. Did you have any favorites?

On a final note, going through these old photos has given me some photographic inspiration. We'll see what comes of it.

A loser with perfect eyebrows

"So what do you write about?" she asked.

"Mostly autobiographical stuff" was my cagey response.

She paused, looking at me, and I could see her opinion forming in real time. "So you write about yourself?"

It wasn't really a question. I mean, it was, but she just wanted me to confirm that I was really that self-centered. I should've said short stories, but I hadn't been in the mood to get into any specifics. Not cagey enough. I smiled and said, "Yeah."

She nodded, taking it in. She was just an acquaintance, but I could tell I'd gotten another loser strike, my second in this encounter and third overall.

Not long after that, I found myself calmly stating, "I know. I should be ambitious and motivated and more together than I am," even though I wasn't responding to something she'd said.

She just smiled at me neutrally. The mild loser judgment vibes I was sensing from her highlighted the need for change in my life that I feel. I just don't know what to do next right now, not that that ever seems to change.

She looked at me for a moment and said, "Do you do your eyebrows yourself?"

The question caught me off-guard. The last time someone had asked about my eyebrows, I'd been shamed by him. I thought of the few stray hairs below my right eyebrow. If I plucked those, it would perfect the line, but in doing so, my whole right eyebrow would look unbalanced with the left one. Every time I get out of the shower lately, I consider those few plucks on the right but decide against them because I know I'd have to go to town on the left which would hurt like a motherfucker.

I looked at her warily and said, "Why?"

"Because the curve is just right."

"Oh," I was really surprised by her compliment. "Thank you. It's just the last time someone commented on my eyebrows, I was in San Francisco; I was with a friend of mine at a friend of hers', this gay guy, and he took one look at my eyebrows and said, 'We've gotta take care of that.'" I tipped my head back and mimed the motion of him plucking my eyebrows.

For a second, shock registered on her face. Then she said, "I was just going to ask where you get them done. They're perfect."

"Thank you very much." I meant it: "perfect" has to be about the nicest thing you can say to a perfectionist. "I don't go anywhere."

"But do you pluck or tweeze?"

"Yeah, a little bit."

"Everyone says mine are too thin."

"But that's the fashion. Everyone on film or TV has thin eyebrows. If it didn't hurt so much, I'd thin mine out."

"Do your glasses cover them?"

I didn't know offhand, so I pulled my sunglasses off my head and put them on.

"Nope," she said.

I pushed them up again. "That's probably because I raise my eyebrows a lot."

She misunderstood what I was getting at and said, "No, they're perfect."

Regarding myself in the mirror with 20/15 vision, I'm acutely aware that my eyebrows are imperfect. Stray hairs break the curves, and another spot is a bit overplucked while overall they are quite a bit thicker than all the women's eyebrows I see in media. But to an acquaintance a few feet away not engaging the personal eye of scrutiny, they were perfect. I thanked her again and made a mental note not to view them so critically.

A year ago on TTaT: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..., Rhubarb 2!

04 June 2009

20 self portraits from 1996, day 20, i

(Previous days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18)

Day 20, i:
September 5, 1996
September 5, 1996

The observant reader may have noticed that there was no day 19. Grad school had started up again by this time, so September 4th got away from me.

As you can see, I was pissed that I screwed up and missed a day. The perfectionist in me considered re-titling my posts so I wouldn't be highlighting this error, but I was already several days in when I noticed it. I think it actually shows some growth on my part that I've been able to leave it alone.

Rest easy--there is one more self portrait to come, so the series will have the complete twenty. I know the wait's been keeping you up nights.

A year ago on TTaT: 25. David Plowden: Vanishing Point

03 June 2009

Making it official: coming out to my family

I've been linking to the saga of coming out to my family quite a bit of late, so I thought it'd be handy to have all the links in one place.

  • Best DVR frak-up to date: the TV show/vlog that got me thinking and made the "visibility matters" argument to me.

  • One identity of many: the role model I didn't even know I needed, and how I tried and failed (?) to come out to my family when I was 23. Be sure to read the post's comments, that's where I debate whether or not to try again and ultimately take my first action.

  • Well, it's out of my hands now...: While I wait for a reply to my email that says I may attend a Gay Pride event, I muse about what lead me to send it.

  • While I'm waiting...: return receipts, Pride, and being anti-after-school-special.

  • A bondage pony and other adventures: the official coming out to my parents post.

  • Compelled to add: why my parents deserve extra credit for their low-key reaction.

  • Done and done: Three and a half weeks later an opportunity to tell my brother comes up that is too perfect to ignore.  AKA, the official coming out to my brother post.

  • Easy was a long time in the making: a bit of an overview of the whole coming out journey.

  • Today is a month to the day since I officially came out to my parents. My bisexuality hasn't come up once since then, but they haven't treated me any differently either. I'll take it.

    20 self portraits from 1996, day 18

    (Previous days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

    Day 18:
    September 3, 1996
    September 3, 1996

    I still have the chest of drawers in the upper left corner.

    What I really miss, however, is beyond my feet: the walk-in closet. I don't think I've had one since I lived there the second time for a few months in 2000. Having had one during my formative years has eternally biased me, I think. I am probably one of the sloppiest dressers you'll encounter: loose t-shirts, jeans, cargo pants; but I'd love to have a full out dressing room like Holly Hunter's competition for William Hurt in Broadcast News has. Or for a more current reference, like the one Mr. Big has made for Carrie in the Sex and the City movie, but bigger.

    Part of me is ready for a new look, or perhaps a revised look. The largest t-shirts are all sitting on a shelf out of circulation these days, for example. I keep them because they're from films I worked on, concerts, and so forth: irreplaceable. Stacey, Clinton, Trinny, and Susannah would not approve of the wasted closet space.

    For the longest time, there's been a divide between good adult clothes and everyday wear in my head. Like some things are too good to wear if it's not for work or some occasion. That thinking contributes to a mental divide.

    In any case, I'm developing an image of a wardrobe I'd like to acquire. Think Bette from The L-Word, but with less sleeveless, halter? tops. So rockin' slacks, jackets...some kind of shirt. What? It's a mental work in progress. Besides, even when I know what I want clothes-wise, I'm rarely able to find it.

    Hmm, I just remembered a pair of fairly awesome slacks I have that I wore to my college graduation. They are, of course, on the "good" side of my closet that I rarely slide the doors over to see. I wonder if they still fit. No pockets though, if I recall, which is problematic for a non-purse-carrier such as myself.

    The flip side of acquiring a new look is how often of late I've heard the message "be true to yourself," from so many varied sources as to be uncanny. Even in the action/drama anime series Bleach that I watch, one character recently told another that it was "essential" that she be herself instead of wanting to be someone else. I love clothes that are comfortable. Why deny that to achieve some look that will make me better fit into society?

    The catch is how you define comfortable, I reckon. If it's characterized by complacency and fear, then it's no good. Revision is the way to go I think. Avoid augmenting unflattering choices a la What Not To Wear, but pick stuff I still really like. Too bad I have such little patience for clothes shopping with visions of items I either can't find or can't afford. I wish Chala lived on this side of the country; she's a masterful shopper. I'd have to be strong to...I was going to say, "keep my agenda prominent," but I don't regret anything I've bought while out with Chala. Also, I have a better idea of what I want so I think I'd make stronger choices now instead of deferring to her savvy.

    I can do this.

    If I can just make myself tolerate stores and lots of looking without seeing what I want.

    Damn, it's after 1. The carpenter and painters will be here again in five and a half to six hours, banging away and making all sorts of racket, so I should try to get to bed.

    A year ago on TTaT: Rhubarb!

    02 June 2009


    Speaking of things I'd rather buy than a new comforter, I present:

    Lucky Dog Leather
    Lucky Dog Leather accessories are made to make you feel like a rock star. Every item is meant to be an outward expression of the super cool, sexy mother f*cker that lives inside you.
    How can you argue with that?

    Belts, cuffs, bracelets, rings, t-shirts--they all call to me. A somewhat pricey calling though, especially if you were to buy multiple pieces. I'd just buy a shirt, but she has a 10% welcome discount on first orders, so if I were going to buy more eventually anyway, that's worth keeping in mind. Maybe one of the smaller cuffs/bracelets...

    A year ago on TTaT: Comic Book Guy's back room

    01 June 2009

    3 fucking tenths

    So I went to donate blood today. It's been several years, I admit. The last time I donated I was living in Tallahassee and they were kind of jerks. Left me and my arm wrapped with the rubber tourniquet thing for over ten minutes among other things. Hell if I was going back there, y'know? (That donation center wasn't run by the Red Cross.)

    Anyway, two states, a couple cross country drives, and several years later, I thought I'd give it another shot. No matter what else is going on for me, I've always liked that giving blood feels like I'm making a positive tangible difference for someone.

    I also vaguely had my sights set on the gallon donor pin. I don't even know if they give those out anymore, but I always thought it was cool. Once you've donated 8 pints, or a gallon, you'd get the pin. Has to all be through the Red Cross if I recall correctly though which I think puts me one short. Couldn't find my donor card though. I took it out of my wallet some years ago because it had my social security number on it. (Of course, much later it occurred to me where it probably is.)

    Don't think it would've mattered since they couldn't pull up my old record online. Apparently records from other states don't show up.

    Of course, it really didn't matter because my iron was too low. They ask for your dominant hand and do a prick of your middle finger to test your blood. I butched it up and watched, not that I could even see the needle in their small rectangle prick test thing. When it was too low, they asked if they could try testing my other hand's finger. Why it's statistically more likely your hemoglobin would test higher in your dominant hand, I have no idea. I foster ambidexterity when I can though, so I said sure. They even up your chances by having someone else test the second time in case it was a technique issue.

    The blood from my left hand did test higher but it was still 3 fucking tenths too short to qualify for donation. I'm annoyed because I even meated it up for dinner last night and lunch today. I'm still within normal ranges for women, just borderline anemic it seems. Which pisses me off because that's long been true but I've never been disqualified from donating before.

    And they were so effing nice about it.

    She sent me over to the snack table. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down feeling like a jerk. An old female volunteer came over and gave me the rundown: sign here, have a snack. I told her, "I wasn't eligible to donate today."

    She said, "Oh, I've got some goodies and a sticker for you."

    I really didn't want a donation sticker, but I laughed when I saw the red heart that read: "Be nice to me! I tried to donate blood today." She handed me a coupon for free chocolate covered strawberries and pointed out where I could enter a raffle for baseball tickets. (I passed on the latter since I know there are people who really care about baseball around here.)

    I thanked her and got up to leave.

    "Don't you want a snack? Go on, take something," she urged.

    There were people on stretchers actually giving blood right in front of me, so it didn't feel right, but the staff and volunteers were really pressing the hospitality on me, and I didn't want to be impolite. I flipped through the basket of snack packs and lifted out a bag of animal crackers.

    "That'd be my choice too," she said, smiling.

    I said, "Thanks again," and retreated out the door.

    A year ago on TTaT: Random Scan Sunday 2: Movie records; Don't forget the Venture Brothers!