Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Answering questions: Downsides of volunteerism

I put some time into recent responses on Quora and figured I'd share them here, too, since I clearly need to work on writing more consistently.
There are not three specific disadvantages to volunteerism but several issues that one must consider before committing their time and effort to an organization or cause.
First of all, not everyone can afford the time to volunteer since it is unpaid work.
Even if one has the time, their organization of choice may not have volunteer opportunities at a time or place that one can commit to. Many opportunities conflict with work schedules or require volunteers to drive long distances.
Not all organizations can accommodate would-be volunteers who have disabilities or injuries that limit the type of service they can provide. I, unfortunately, had to end my time with one organization because running injuries hampered my ability to participate in the capacity volunteers needed to.
Many volunteer positions require significant physical demands of their volunteers and have injury risks even for fit people. These positions can include building and demolishing structures of varying strength.
  • Organizations may provide insufficient tools or tools in poor repair, making the work even more challenging.
  • They may require volunteers to provide their own tools and safety equipment such as gloves and goggles.
  • They may require long shifts in dangerous weather conditions.
  • They may have insufficient shift coverage so that a volunteer cannot even take a moment for water or a bathroom break without leaving their position empty.
Many organizations can better serve their communities or clients with monetary donations than with unskilled volunteer labor.
  • It does cost organizations both time and money to train volunteers and provide supervision until the volunteers can confidently and reliably fulfill their roles.
  • Anyone can organize a food drive, but food banks can help many more people and provide better quality food with monetary donations because of the tax breaks they get and the connections they have for buying food in bulk. And monetary donations also give food banks the resources to buy specific items that their beneficiaries need more than whatever was in the back of a donor’s pantry.
A lot of volunteer work is boring grunt work that someone needs to do: think envelope stuffing, block walking, phone banking, door greeting, and so on.
Social and political issues and how they impact someone’s paying job may prevent them from volunteering for causes they feel passionate about.
  • If one is a public advocate for an organization such as Planned Parenthood, which receives a lot of public censure for providing necessary services, one must consider the potential repercussions if disapproving family, church members, coworkers, etc. hear about that volunteer work.
  • If the volunteer is employed in an “at-will” state, they could even be fired for their decision to publicly support certain organizations.
And it can be frustrating to volunteer for an organization that has not planned well or is not prepared to direct volunteers to where they need to be and could leave volunteers with inadequate resources to serve others, maybe putting the unwitting volunteers at the face of complaints from clients or event participants/attendees.
There are, of course, many more potential disadvantages to volunteerism, but it’s up to each individual to be informed and weigh the possibilities for themselves before committing to helping an organization or while deciding whether to continue that volunteer work.
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Answering questions: How do I know if I'm gay?

I put some time into recent responses on Quora and figured I'd share them here, too, since I clearly need to work on writing more consistently.

How do I know if I'm gay?

Only you know and can decide, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. It can be tricky because not everyone’s sexual orientation matches neatly with their romantic orientation nor with their behaviors or preferences.
The short answer is that it’s entirely up to you to identify as you wish, and it’s totally valid, too, if your feelings change over time.
The longer answer requires asking yourself if you feel physical or sexual or romantic attraction toward people of the same gender as you, and whether you feel those things toward only the same gender as you or maybe in differing degrees toward people of various genders.
Popular discourse rarely separates the types of attraction, instead assuming that people uniformly feel physical, sexual, and romantic attraction in the same way. However, people can find themselves experiencing any mix of heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, homosexual attraction paired with heteroromantic or homoromantic or biromantic attraction or even various shades of aromantic, demiromantic, asexual, or demisexual feelings.
These are the simplest definitions (though each has more individual nuance that you can learn about through your own research) for these terms:
  • heterosexual – experiencing sexual attraction toward people of a gender different from your own
  • homosexual – experiencing sexual attraction toward people of a gender the same as your own
  • bisexual – experiencing sexual attraction toward people of genders both like and unlike your own
  • pansexual – experiencing sexual attraction toward people of any gender
  • asexual – when one generally does not experience sexual attraction toward other people and/or does not desire sexual activity with other people (There’s more info at
  • demisexual – falls under the umbrella of asexual but can mean that one only very rarely experiences sexual attraction toward other people and/or only experiences sexual attraction if there is first a romantic/emotional connection with a person, and many similar caveats (It’s not just “being picky” about sexual partners. There’s more info at
  • heteroromantic – experiencing romantic feelings (attraction/connection/affection) toward people of a gender different from your own
  • homoromantic – experiencing romantic feelings(attraction/connection/affection) toward people of a gender the same as your own
  • biromantic – experiencing romantic feelings (attraction/connection/affection) toward people of genders both like and unlike your own
  • panromantic – experiencing romantic feelings (attraction/connection/affection) toward people of any gender
So it is possible that someone could be both heteroromantic and asexual, someone else could be biromantic and heterosexual, someone could be bisexual and demisexual and homoromantic, and so on.
Most of us have never thought about these particulars and might not know immediately, but knowing there are more spectrums, axes, and nuance to sexual orientation is a great starting point for understanding and determining or defining what our own is.
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Monday, February 12, 2018

Answering questions: Can you be healthy but not fit?

I put some time into recent responses on Quora and figured I'd share them here, too, since I clearly need to work on writing more consistently.

Yes, but we need to define our terms first.
Americans in the US typically use “fit” to describe physical fitness and athletic capability, whereas other English-speakers in the world may use it to describe people’s appearances and level of attractiveness. The juxtaposition of “healthy and fit” implies the former definition (physical/athletic ability).
“Healthy” has myriad definitions, but I assume the questioner means metabolic health, which includes measures of blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, etc.
There are, indeed, many people who test in the “normal” and “healthy” ranges on such metabolic measures but who do not exercise regularly and/or may have physical limitations or disabilities that limit fitness endeavors. Metabolic measures are frequently influenced by genetics, so that “health” is not entirely within our control. But those influences can result in good metabolic health or poor metabolic health independently of physical fitness, which takes action and training to achieve.
Physical fitness can influence metabolic health, as metabolic health can influence physical fitness. If a person has naturally high blood pressure, it might not be safe for them to undertake an intense exercise regimen in pursuit of physical fitness. However, researchers have found that “even low levels of physical activity have a beneficial effect on metabolic fitness and the overall health of the individual.” (
Many doctors erroneously mistake weight/BMI as a proxy for health. From the article “Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift”:
  • Yet using BMI as a proxy for health may be more costly than addressing health directly. Consider, for example, the findings of a study which examined the "healthy obese" and the "unhealthy normal weight" populations . The study identified six different risk factors for cardiometabolic health and included subjects in the "unhealthy" group if they had two or more risk factors, making it a more stringent threshold of health than that used in categorizing metabolic syndrome or diabetes. The study found a substantial proportion of the overweight and obese population, at every age, who were healthy and a substantial proportion of the "normal weight" group who were unhealthy.
  • Psychologist Deb Burgard examined the costs of overlooking the normal weight people who need treatment and over-treating the obese people who do not. She found that BMI profiling overlooks 16.3 million "normal weight" individuals who are not healthy and identifies 55.4 million overweight and obese people who are not ill as being in need of treatment. When the total population is considered, this means that 31 percent of the population is mis-identified when BMI is used as a proxy for health.
So athleticism, metabolic health, and body size are all different variables, and while any one of them can influence another, none definitely determines or defines another. A person can be healthy and not fit. A person can be fit and have poor metabolic health. And a person can be either of these at any size or weight.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Sorting through documents, I found this thing I'd written about my Nana shortly before she died.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Last night my mom told me my grandmother has 2 months at the very most. I was supposed to go see her today but hadn't the energy left to drive there and back tonight. I felt absolutely terrible, but I got to talk to her on the phone which made me feel a thousand times better.

She was baptized this morning as a Catholic. For 20 years she's been a Protestant in a Catholic family and I am so happy for her. She was very sad and emotional on the phone, but she was so happy to be baptized this morning. That's so wonderful for her.

She told me how she'll always love me and everything you'd expect from your dying grandmother. My throat caught when I had to say good-bye though. Last time I saw her, I knew I'd get to see her again. I'm going home tomorrow, but I don't feel so sure anymore.

I want to remember her forever just as I saw her the last time on Easter. You might have seen a sick old woman lying in a cold hospital, but I didn't. She was so beautiful to me and so amazing. She was a vision of perfection that day, and I could swear she was an angel. Perhaps it was the white gown she wore and the white lights around her in the room or my memory exaggerating and perfecting as it sees fit, but I don't think so. She glowed with that inner light which I've only seen in a few people I'm close to.

The love I felt from her in that room, surrounded by all her children and grandchildren and her husband was so strong and enveloping. I don't know if you would have seen it, but the world did not exist outside of us.

I want to remember my Nana shining as she did that day, with the light of the love of her family, all flowing and intermingling and connected to all of us.  I want that image burned into me forever.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fun at Fugitive Fitness

Last night I had a great first Functional Strength class at Fugitive Fitness - Parkour Dallas. I've done a couple Parkour Foundations classes there, but the scheduling is sometimes tricky, so I wanted to check out the strength class.

Since no one else signed up for that hour, I got a one-on-one session with the instructor and a personalized workout. It was very challenging, but I *just* completed it in the allotted time.

I definitely could have gone heavier on the deadlifts but wanted to start conservatively because I don't practice them and had never seen the large ball weights before. I rocked the push-ups (no knees!) with only minor wormy-wobbling near the end. Hated the crunches but got through with only a very few poorly done.

My resistance band pull-ups were admittedly pathetic, but I've never attempted nearly so many at once, so I'm okay with what I managed—especially since I did keep going until the end and did more than a shoulder shrug on every rep.

I should try to find more creative ways to do core work since it is definitely my least favorite.
I definitely want to attend more parkour classes, but I think I'll also attend the strength class again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Eat a damn vegetable

If you’re at all like me, then you’re also one of the 9 out of 10 Americans who don’t eat enough fruits and veggies and for whom no amount of PSA messaging is likely to change that.

The reasons hardly matter, be they access, preparation, taste, or disinterest. There’s no need to judge ourselves harshly for this “failure” either.  I’m sure we all have enough other stress in our lives—between work, training, commuting, kids, partners, art, chores, volunteering, activism, etc.—that fretting over finishing your peas just isn’t worth it.

But (again), if you’re at all like me, then you probably also go through cycles of trying to increase or diversify your veggie intake—a week, a month, or more at a time, you might find the motivation and determination to make it happen. Even then, it may take A LOT of energy to plan and execute.

Here I share some ideas for the in-between times when you have interest in getting more produce but have limited time, energy, desire, or funds. These are my favorite ways (or “hacks” if this were a clickbait listicle) to eat a damn vegetable, specifically simple ways to sneak them into my usual diet.

  • Fruit smoothies: Preparing your own breakfast smoothies is an easy way to get both fruits AND veggies. My go-to recipe includes 1 or two bananas, a handful of baby spinach, ginger, granola, almond milk, vanilla yogurt, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder (because I also struggle to get enough protein). The great thing about spinach is that it has a mild flavor easily covered by the other ingredients and adds a lot of important nutrients to the mix. Pinterest of course has a lot of recipe suggestions, and you can add any variation of fruits and veggies that you like.
  • Frozen Steamfresh veggie and protein mixes (or whatever brand you like): Technology has come a long way such that flash-freezing produce is the norm, and the method preserves nutrients just as well as canning. Supermarkets offer lots of tasty vegetable mixes, some with light sauce or seasoning and/or added protein items. And you can just throw the whole bag in the microwave for five minutes and pour out a fresh, hot bowl full of veggies. Hawaiian style is my favorite: whole grains, shelled edamame, carrots, pineapple, and white beans with a pineapple ginger sauce.
  • Baby food: I actually got this idea when I was pet-sitting my sisters’ sugar gliders once. They get a tub of baby food each day, but I splashed a bit when I opened the food and licked it off my fingers without a thought. Turns out that baby food fruit and veggie mixes are freakin’ delicious (especially when chilled). So I buy the pouches with a cap from the grocery store to snack on during the day, and I get a wider variety of produce than I’d ever buy and prepare myself: pumpkin, squash, beets, and even kale masked by yummier things like mango and raspberry.
  • Subscription boxes: I don't know yet whether I'm recommending these, but next week I'm starting my free trial of Blue Apron, so I'll be back to write more about it.
Balancing your eating habits doesn't have to be a chore and doesn't require cutting out all sweets and restricting your favorite foods. Just add some variety and nutrients when you can.

What are your favorite ways to prepare and eat fruits and vegetables?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ego and Fragility

[CN: Weight loss, surgery, assholery]

I subscribe to a weekly e-mail list that provides creative art prompts for the whole year. One week’s e-mail frivolously lauded weight loss:
“Back in November I had a major surgery.  One of the positives about that was that I lost 26 pounds.  I have needed to buy a lot of new clothes as a result.  Last weekend, I ran out of room in my closet because I was still hanging on to my pre-surgery clothes.  In order to bring anymore new things into my closet, I was going to have to let go of what didn't fit anymore........I was going to have to release what was no longer serving me in order to make space for wonderful new things.
“That experience left me in a week of inquiry about other places in my life that I needed to do some releasing.  What else could I let go of that wasn't serving me?  People, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, stuff.......what needed to go to make room for new possibilities?  The best time to do releasing work is during the full moon energy....which is now!”

After hesitating and revising a few times, I sent the artist some feedback:
“Weight loss (and lauding it) is a very serious topic that can easily trigger those who’ve dealt with weight cycling, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders, which are far more common than most know. I'm disappointed there wasn’t a content note at the top of this week’s e-mail to give readers a heads-up. It would have been just as easy to tell the story without going into the weight loss info; it’s common for people to hold onto clothing in older sizes that no longer fit and to need to buy new clothes, no matter whether larger or smaller in either case.” response?
“M, I don't appreciate your lecture.  If you have been triggered by my subject matter I would suggest communicating with your therapist and take steps to self regulate.  Attempting to shame me is ineffective and of no value.
“I had most of my stomach removed. The weight loss was secondary. The point of the post was about letting go. Im sorry you missed that. Blessings.”

Since she decided to be a major asshole, I decided it wasn’t worth my time to respond. I wasn’t triggered. My point is that such dialogue is actively harmful to others. I’m sorry you missed that, lady.

A short, fair and dispassionate critique is not ‘an attempt to shame and lecture.’ If I wanted to lecture and shame you, I’d strongly suggest you practice letting go that aggression, self-centeredness, smug attitude, self-righteousness, and ego. But that would be ineffective.

It isn’t fucking about YOU, lady. Oh, wait. You’ve just clarified that this art prompts workshop that you’ve SO generously provided is NOT, in fact, about guiding, inspiring, teaching, or lifting up others or building community—it is only all about you, almighty art guru.

Oh, boy. And then she went and posted this to the Facebook group for the e-mail list subscribers/participants:
"Hey ya'all. A little mercy please. There are occasionally typos and errors in my emails, things that make you uncomfortable, etc. It isn't necessary to email me before dawn to tell me I'm imperfect....I got five today. I already know and I'm ok with that. And you are responsible for managing your emotions if something triggers you. Attempting to shame me or project your shit onto me...Never ok."

I sent the message at 10 a.m. CST, and she responded within minutes. And she generally sends the prompts at 3 or 4 a.m., so I don't know what that is about. But if FIVE people tell you there’s a problem, maybe you should think about the people you’re hurting.

And talk about projection. The irony: it burns us.

You don’t have to put up with people being inconsiderate and deliberately being jerks when asked to think about it. And you probably ought not be giving regular advice about self-reflection that you cannot take.