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.”

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifHer 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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Running for Geeks


I’d loved running since I started doing it in 2010, but after my December 2016 marathon, which was miserable, I was blistered, beaten down, and burned out. Now I’m in this weird running purgatory. As of this writing, I’ve run seven times in 2017 and maybe one or two times more than that since the marathon, and most of all that was walking intervals.

I knew it would take several weeks to heal from the physical pounding of such an event, but I hadn’t imagined how long it might take to heal mentally and emotionally. Knowing that it’s not uncommon for a runner to find herself in a bit of a funk and needing a short break or recovery season doesn’t make it easier to deal with.

But instead of worrying over it, I’ve spent the down time lifting weights, developing a personal yoga practice, walking more, fighting zombies, and hatching Pokémon. The Pokémon Go and Zombies, Run! apps got me through the most mind-numbing miles or marathon training, and I have faith that they will help me find the drive to run many more.

Competition is a great motivator, and sure, you can invite friends or coworkers to challenges like logging the most steps per day on FitBit, but that doesn’t interest me these days. I need more creative and interactive fitness-driven games.

So I find myself absorbed in collecting a virtual zoo. In addition to spawning wild monsters, the PoGo app spontaneously distributes eggs to hatch into Pokémon, achieved by walking or slowly running 2K, 5K, or 10K, depending on the egg, up to nine eggs at a time.

Zombies, Run! is an interactive, narrative audio game about YOU saving the world from zombies, mad scientists, lions, and rogues all while collecting supplies to expand, upgrade, and protect your virtual home base. The writing is absolutely brilliant, and the cast of characters is delightfully diverse, including many women and queers, with those identities being merely incidental not integral to the plot itself. Each time, I can barely wait for my next mission; the engaging story always has me wishing I could run more miles or minutes to find out what happens next.

Combining North Texas’ bizarrely beautiful spring weather of late, that Team Valor “gotta hatch ‘em all!” attitude, and the encroaching apocalypse, I’ll find the joy of running again soon enough.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Ambassadorship — Bullet Dodged

I got started running when I joined a women’s walking club in early 2010. One ultra marathoner in the group tried to talk us into signing up for a 10k that summer. We peer-pressured one another into all registering and started running to prepare for that race. And we all did it.

I’ve been hooked (off and on) ever since.

Edited on March 22 to add: A much later confirmation e-mail indicated ambassadors are expected to re-share Run4Life posts twice a week, submit a blog post monthly, and participate in a running event monthly (and would receive a t-shirt and maybe some other miscellaneous branded gear). Which seems excessive. And is expensive.

For comparison:
  • The year-long ENELL ambassador program provided two sports bras, a tech t-shirt, a long-sleeve tech shirt, and a cool tote; paid for three race registrations; and required that I write about those three events and tag/reshare ENELL on social media, though no set number.
  • Moosejaw sent a tech t-shirt, bumper sticker, flag, can koozie, and discount codes in exchange for posting photos of myself wearing the shirt and holding the flag at races and tagging them, no set number.
  • BondiBand requested a 3-month commitment, social media tags, and monthly blog or video posts and sent a pair of compression socks to review (which weren't great) and paid a commission on all sales made via my personal discount code.

Since Run4Life's ambassador program was new, I asked in the ambassadors Facebook group what inspired the requirements for ambassadors and received a  response about someone's illness inspiring the founders to share/promote their love of running. I said, "Thanks, I find it interesting that the social media and racing requirements are more than the other three brand ambassadorships I've completed ... combined." And I was deleted from the group without a word for two days until I reached out to ask about it.

Chat transcript:


Me (Moniqa): Hi, Jeff. I don't know if Facebook is being glitch or what, but I'm having trouble finding the ambassadors' group. Do you have a link for it? Thanks.
Jeff: Moniqe, We decided that our group was not a fit with you.
Me: And is there a reason you chose not to discuss that with me or even inform me of this decision?
Jeff: I just informed you.
Me: Yes, after I sought you out. That is very unprofessional behavior. Please remove my content from the Run4Life site/blog.


Though I'm irritated with this behavior, I'm ultimately glad to have dodged the bullet of providing so much free labor and content for a brand that definitely doesn't offer the "encouragement," "guidance," and "community" it claims on its banner.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Discrimination is NOT a Texas value

I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to state and national legislators/politicians for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.
____________________________________________________________


Dear Gov. Abbott,

As a native Texas, I oppose SB6. Transgender people pose NO threat. Trans kids need our protection, not discrimination.
It is egregious to use me and other cisgender women like me as an excuse to discriminate against other Texans. We don't need potty police protection, and this bill would have the exact opposite of its intended effect: NC has seen an INCREASE in assaults against women by citizen vigilantes who think the HB2 bathroom law gives them license to attack any woman who doesn't look "feminine" enough for them.
Discrimination is NOT a Texas value.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Serendipity, Beauty, Unity: A Day at the Capitol


Monday, March 6 was Transgender Advocacy Day, and the ACLU provided buses from Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston to those interested in going to the capitol to speak to their legislators. Tuesday, March 7 was Abortion Funds Advocacy Day, and the Texas Equal Access fund provided transportation from Dallas. This meant I was blessed with the opportunity to ride to Austin, receive info, training, support, and lunch from the ACLU and to meet up with TEA Fund Tuesday to do the same and catch a ride home.

The final cherry on top was a ride to my car Tuesday evening from another advocate who said it was on her way home instead of my having to call for a Lyft.

Monday evening, Danielle Pellet brought me along to a cookout for some of the advocates that day, and I got to meet so many amazing people, including New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst. Dani also gave me a ride to my friend’s place to crash that night.

I went to boot camp before dawn with my host, and she was kind enough to offer me a ride to the capitol so I could save the cab fee. With her work schedule, though, that put me 2 hours early for meeting up with the abortion party.

This gave me some time to roam the capitol and catch Pokémon. I had the pleasure of running across Johnny Boucher in the halls to chat a bit and offer a hug and encouragement. His family drove down from Dallas that morning to testify against SB6, Texas’s own “bathroom bill.” They signed up and waited over 18 hours before leaving near midnight. A friend said their names were finally called at 2 or 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday was also Space Day Texas, celebrating space exploration. I asked one person at a booth what the event was about and whether I could have one of those spiffy astronaut-shaped stress squeezy things on the table. When he said “Yes, of course,” I told him that silly thing really made my day. He alluded to the stress of the day to come (what with over 400 people spilling into the halls as they waited to testify on SB6).

I remarked that I teared up when I saw so many people here for that, and he responded, “And that is exactly how it should be.” I knew he couldn’t say anything explicit about the issue since he was on the clock representing his company, but we shared smiles and well wishes for the day. Then I nearly cried again at the beauty of such a serendipitous encounter with a stranger.
And the day had barely even begun.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Positive Advocacy Outcomes



I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to my state and national representatives for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.
____________________________________________________________________________

I spent the last two days in Austin advocating for trans rights and abortion access, to varying effect. I may write more about it later (and I did), but for now, here are the thank-you notes I'm mailing today:


Dear Representative Neave,


I want to express my sincere gratitude for inviting Danielle Pellett, Pamela Curry, and me to your office on Monday, March 6 to take a brief rest from our day of lobbying against the SB6 bathroom bill. We’d come down from Dallas that morning, and despite feeling buoyed by the ACLU’s energetic morning press conference on the Capitol steps, our following efforts speaking with our representatives’ staff were met with polite disinterest.

Your staff gave us a warm welcome and offered us all fresh fruit just as we found ourselves hitting an afternoon slump: both emotionally drained and physically fatigued by the humid weather and trekking all over the building, more in need of the snack than we realized.

Thank you for your kindness and all the work that you do in the Texas House.

Warm regards,


 ____________________________________________________________________________

Dear Maria Delgado,
Thank you so much for meeting with a pair of us from the Texas Abortion Funds on Tuesday, March 7. We were visiting from Dallas to garner support for an agenda of expanding abortion access to people most in need, especially people of color, minors, low-income families, and people in prison.

Our own representatives did not return our requests for a meeting, so it was especially impactful for us to get to speak with a friendly Representatives’ Chief of Staff and share personal stories of suffering under Texas’s restrictions.

Since it can be such a contentious topic, our organizations have so far been unable to find support for legislation and are taking a different tack with seeking support for the Abortion Funds Agenda in order to show legislators there is wider agreement of shared values than they may think. Whatever one’s individual thoughts on abortion, most will agree that women and other pregnant people deserve factual medical information and access to safe health care.

Thank you again for your time and the work that you and Rep. Hernandez do.



Warm regards,





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2016 Races I Ran

For posterity, I'm going to make a blog post for each year listing all the races I've completed. I meant to post this at the end of last year but forgot until now. It's still interesting to see the variations in my running/racing interest and motivation from year to year.

Here is 2016: 

Date Name Type Distance
1-31-16 Too Cold to Hold road 10k
2-06-16 Dash for Beads road 5k
3-13-16 St. Pat's Tri triathlon sprint
3-19-16 Dash Down Greenville road 5k
4-10-16 Zombies, Run! virtual race 10k
4-12-16 Spring Duathlon virtual race 10k/5k run/bike
4-17-16 Zombies, Run! virtual race 5k
4-30-16 Run for Human Rights road 5k
5-06-16 Super Mom virtual 5k
5-08-16 JCC Bagel Run road 10k
5-19-16 Kickoff road 5k
5-22-16 Texasman Triathlon triathlon Olympic
6-25-16 Meaningful Miles road 10k
8-13-16 Cobra Brew road 5k
8-14-16 Hottest Half /10k road 10k
9-25-16 Plano Balloon Festival road half marathon
10-23-16 Tough Mudder obstacle 10-12 mi
10-29-16 Shannon Brewing Monster road 5k
11-13-16 Trinity River Run trail 10k
12-11-16 BMW Dallas Marathon road marathon

That’s 20 total.

2010-12 Races I Ran
2013 Races I Ran 
2014 Races I Ran
2015 Races I Ran 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Spiritual Skepticism

Recently in a Facebook status, I wondered what the overall overlap between women and non-men who are skeptic/atheist/freethinkers and also witches/wiccan/pagan looks like. Because I do know quite a few of us just locally. And why.

Thinking about “the why,” this is what I came up with: community, ritual, shiny rocks, fire, fashion, queerness, and upsetting the patriarchy/kyriarchy.

But how can skepticism and belief in the supernatural coexist? I don’t necessarily mean belief, but the witchy/new age practices are common in my circles, for some of the reasons mentioned above.

I’m atheist but find meditative and creative-thinking value in reading tarot cards; community, connection, support, and grounding in a monthly women’s full moon circle; and personal empowerment in creating art, personal rituals, and altar design. I don’t have to believe the supernatural aspects to find that focusing my thoughts on something helps me foster calmness, reduce anxiety, explore and process complex feelings, and work through personal trauma, struggles, etc.

The Truth behind any practice matters less than the effect. The mind is very powerful, and we're constantly seeing new and fascinating studies that validate many things previously thought to be “woo woo.” Meditation, for example, is often viewed or practiced with a spiritual bent but has buckets of data showing its impact on mitigating stress, anxiety, depression, and more.


Also, skepticism does not invalidate belief in one’s self, one’s choices to practice rituals that provide structure, focus, and community.

Independent of supernatural accuracy and prediction, to learn or receive a tarot reading requires concentration and creativity to identify the ways that different symbols and ideas connect to your life and your world.

Belief in an all-powerful deity and community worship at a church may not suit us, but community and the belief that we CAN affect our world does. Especially as women and read-as-women people.

Community and ritual have value independent of belief in any one thing. Many of these ideas are the reason that Unitarian Universalist churches exist. Various belief systems share common threads, but rigid dogma drives people away. No matter your path, your experience of the world and relationship to whatever deity or power is going to be totally unique, because we are all individuals.

Many witches of yore were just pharmacists and physicians anyway. And a second component of community is not just seeking it for oneself but feeling driven to support others as well. [Something something paradigm of healers, caretakers, mothers, sisterhood, etc. — a thought that won’t fully coalesce just now.]

Ancient goddesses are fascinating characters and a joy to learn about, belief or no. Studying these characters, cultures, and myths is more than entertaining; it’s educational, too. Same goes for learning about crystals and other shiny rocks, plants, herbs, and oils. And who doesn’t like to smell nice things?

I mentioned queerness above. We know that the holy texts of the biggest religions condemn homosexuality and other queer existence even more than they subjugate women. When the religions we grew up with make it clear they don't want us, where do we go?

As for myself, Catholicism drove me away in my teens, though my dissatisfaction with being a second-class person because of dogma began when I was 8. In college I briefly read about pagan practices but felt they were still too rigid and too similar to Catholic practice and Mass. I found my way toward movement atheism, but it’s not as if movement atheism is super welcoming toward non-men and POC. Turns out that skepticism ≠ empathy.

Eventually, I meandered into my own skeptical spiritualism, which includes tarot, meditation, creating art, learning about and wearing shiny rocks, and meeting monthly with a group of women and non-men for ritual, support, and cathartic release.

We rarely hear about this skeptic/spiritual overlap in part because it’s intimidating to identify as both practitioner and non-believer. One fears her skeptical friends will react with disdain and that her pagan friends will take offense to her disbelief as perhaps invalidating or disrespecting their practice.

Below, I’m sharing some comments from friends on the topic:

N. “I was a jerk about tarot before. I finally got a reading from a friend and it blew my mind. It just gave me so much to think on and work on within myself.”

M. “I kinda bounce between pagan/wiccan and atheist, kind of a hope there are gods and goddess at there. I am very much a skeptic though. Why: for me its the accepting nature, the rituals, the spiritual side, shiny rocks, fashion, it’s just idk comforting.”

N. “I know a lot of women who are either or but not both. I like incorporating candle lighting and contemplation to my "spiritual" practices. But i don't consider myself witchy. I am very drawn to it though.”

Z. “I am. Most (if not all) pagans I know subscribe to a non-religious pantheist "it's all the same, depends what you do with it" approach. That fits perfectly with questioning hierarchies and manipulations of control in most things. If you can manage to not believe in patriarchal monotheism in a society flooded by it, the rest will likely follow.”

H. “I've incorporated a lot of rituals, especially meditative ones, into my life and have always enjoyed tarot as a tool of introspection.”

J. “I'm agnostic and paganish, really just pretty MEH on the whole cosmos/binding philosophy front in general.”

C. “Once I would never have been able to fathom an overlap. But now I'm a faithiest who goes to UU services on occasion. I like the introspection that some of these practices can bring. It's not at all what I thought it would be.”

J.D. “Raised catholic but realized science wins over human stupidity. Dating a Native American has brought out my dormant Taino Indian juju, but I still feel like more of a Jedi; we're all connected somehow.”

K. “I consider myself a past Pagan, current atheist. But even when I was a practicing and believing Pagan, I was a skeptic.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Learn stuff. Make stuff.


Make art. Even and especially when the world is ugly.

Today's Google Doodle honors Edmonia Lewis, the first black female sculptor to achieve international acclaim while slavery was still legal. Google is being beautifully subversive, saying, “Today, we celebrate her and what she stands for — self-expression through art, even in the face of [adversity].”

Learn stuff. Make stuff. It will make you feel better.

Even selfies, doodles, and scribbles are art. Your words and actions can be art. Do something today to spread a little light and/or enlightenment in the world.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Letter writing

I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to my state and national representatives for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.
____________________________________________________________________________

1-27-17 letter to US reps:

I’m writing today about health insurance in Texas and the U.S.

In 2001 my mom suffered a traumatic brain injury when was hit by a teenage driver and thrown from her motorcycle one night on her way home to her 6 children, ages 3 to 19. She spent three days in a coma and even her surgeons didn’t know whether she would survive.

She did, and after months in rehab, she finally came home with a shattered wrist and leg that would leave her physically disabled for the rest of her life, and permanent brain damage that prevented her from working full time and made it difficult to hold down a job at all.

An irresponsible driver ended the life that she had known.

She lived without health insurance for nearly a decade before the ACA eliminated pre-existing conditions as a barrier to coverage and finally gave her the medication she needed for the chronic pain and depression the accident gave her.

Please protect the Texas families who need health insurance and who face impossible odds with exclusions due to pre-existing conditions.

It is your job to represent us and our families. It is your job to protect us. I hope you do.
____________________________________________________________________________

1-27-17 postcard to Texas state reps:

Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States. More than 4.3 million Texans—including 623,000 children—lack health insurance. Texas’ un-insurance rates are 1.75 times the national average. Without an alternative health care plan in place, it is no hyperbole to say that millions of Americans will die when the ACA is repealed.
____________________________________________________________________________

1-30-17 postcard to state senator:

Don’t mess with Texas women.

Sexual violations are already illegal. Sexual predators are already prohibited from preying on women. We’ve already seen what damage that bathroom bills like SB 6 do to local businesses as in the massive boycotts in North Carolina.

Trans women ARE WOMEN, and the people just want to pee.

This Texas woman, and every Texas woman she knows, is against SB 6 and any bathroom bills like it.
 ____________________________________________________________________________

1-30-17 e-mail to Texas’s US reps

I urge you to oppose Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, whose confirmation hearing proved that she lacks both the experience and qualifications to lead the Department of Education. 

I’m a local reading tutor as well as a content and copy editor for Dallas-based Istation, an education technology company producing programs that help struggling young readers. What these kids and these communities need is change from within and help from people who are familiar with the public education system and its opportunities for positive change. DeVos does not fit the bill.

Our young learners deserve a Secretary of Education who has experience with public education and who wants to see schools succeed.

Thank you for using your voice to represent Texas students and the educators and community members who work to enrich their education experiences.
 ____________________________________________________________________________

1-31-17 letters to US reps:

Abortion is health care.

And it has enabled millions of women to not only start families when they are physically, financially, and emotionally able to but also allows millions of women to continue caring for the children they have. The Guttmacher Institute found that 61 percent of women who terminate a pregnancy already have at least one child. They already know whether they can care for a baby.

Medical decisions are for patients and their doctors, not politicians.

No matter your personal feelings about abortion, women and children—teenagers and girls even younger— deserve access to medically sound information and safe procedures. The World Health Organization found that banning abortion does not decrease the numbers of abortion; it increases unsafe abortions and kills women.

Abortion is health care. Abortion saves lives. And it allows women to raise safer, healthier, happier families.

Banning abortion kills women and children.

The majority of voters are pro-choice. And it is your job to represent them. It is your job to protect us.

I hope you do.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Talking about Anxiety

Inspired by a friend's Facebook status, this is a bit more stream-of-consciousness musing than narrative or informative.

"Religion was a wonderfully effective cloaking mechanism for the obsessive, racing thoughts," my friend wrote. "Oh, good god," I thought. I was raised Catholic, and I'll never know how being indoctrinated with incessant guilt precisely influenced my growing up with constant anxiety, but I'm still mad as hell.

Getting treated for depression (wellbutrin now) and self-diagnosing adult ADD (both within the last 3 years) has helped me A LOT in managing my anxiety. Learning about executive dysfunction and that I'm not just a fuckup has been key. When I feel on the verge of a meltdown, I can now recognize it for what it is, treat myself with compassion, and work through it, and often avoid it.

Regular mindfulness meditation sometimes helps me, yoga definitely helps, developing specific habits as a reaction to ADD has helped: training myself to put my keys, glasses, phone always in one of two places they belong; training a habit of making a mental note of the location of my car in relation to the building I'm entering EVERY SINGLE TIME; and perhaps others I don't even consciously recognize.

Learning to treat and act upon "maybe" feelings as if they are a "No" in physical/romantical situations has been HUGE.

I feel like Orlando broke me, and I had to pull WAY back from SJ/political posting and engagement on FB. My mood/anxiety have been a lot better because of that choice, but there's still that old guilt.

Completely quitting web dating for 8 months at a time was AWESOME for my anxiety and stress levels.

I'm slowly learning to recognize earlier when I'm becoming overwhelmed in a place or situation and giving myself permission to turn down invitations, cancel plans, and leave abruptly (as needed), trusting that good friends will understand and not take it personally.

I worry I'm framing this all as happy successes, but the truth is that it's taken a lot of damn work to get here, and I still go through cycles of needing to see a therapist regularly and not infrequently taking mental health days from work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Learning about refugees


Last night I attended a panel presentation on refugee camps around the world. I learned some interesting things that everybody ought to learn as well.



There are 65 million displaced people in the world and 23.1 million refugees. For reference, the population of Texas is just under 27 million. In order to attain (obtain?) "refugee" status, it must be ruled that a person, for their own safety, CANNOT return to their country. Period.



And there are countless stories of people denied refuge who obviously need/deserve it, so that 23M number is egregiously small.



On misconceptions: Refugees aren't illegal immigrants pouring across borders. They go through months and years of paperwork, vetting, and red tape to be "refugees." Sometimes the UN grants the status and/or it goes through the State Department of the US. It isn't easy to prove one's identity (when one has, for example, escaped in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs) or provide any proof that they would be harmed or killed if they returned home.



The refugee camps that the speakers described were pretty horrific. Some of them went from living in modest houses in areas just like our towns to immediately living in dirt-coated camps without electricity, running water or even clean water, or any kind of safety or security. Many people in the camps suffer and die from diarrhea and dehydration on a regular basis.



Violent combat continues just adjacent to camps and spills over into them as well. Some of the speakers' most vivid memories are of seeing bullets and bombs light up the night sky just above their heads when they were children.



They come to America to save their families, to start a new life, and to escape the violence—not to perpetuate it. They are VERY THOROUGHLY vetted before being settled here.



Maybe you can share some of this when family members speak disparagingly of refugees as vermin rather than human beings who are suffering and afraid for their lives.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Losing My Balance


I have run three times in the month that’s passed since finishing my December 10 marathon. I’ve done a bit of yoga and parkour as well and more walking than usual, but it’s still a marked difference from my previous activity level.

I believe strongly in choosing enjoyable movement to benefit your mind and body, not as punishment or a chore.


Yet I’ve been struggling not to struggle with anxiety regarding the change as it relates to generally recommended amounts of exercise, the amounts I’ve relied upon to manage my stress and mental health, and the amount of weight-bearing exercise I need to specifically counteract the detrimental effects my birth control has on my bones.


Race training was difficult and riddled with aches and pains, minor injuries, and illness. The race itself was pretty awful. I knew I would need a break from running for my emotional and mental health, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fill that hole to maintain my physical and mental health, or if I even wanted to fill it. I’d missed spending hours sitting and making arts and crafts, and I was so SO tired for so long.


I met my goal of finishing my first marathon, but the process of getting there wrecked the balance of exercise in my life.



I no longer want to train or race. I don’t want to keep hurting from the sheer volume of pounding the pavement. And I don’t know how to find joy in running again.

I’m letting my pool membership lapse because I hate having to drive to another city to swim laps at 5 AM in order to get a lane and get back before morning rush hour. I really want a membership for the rec center across the street from my house, but I cannot stand the idea of tolerating January-resolution crowds. I can and do use the fitness center at my office, but it has limited hours and I have to split the work day to get equipment and space to myself.

I enjoy yoga and weightlifting and walking and hiking, but will these be enough for my bones and my brain?

I have a strong interest in parkour and hip-hop dance classes, but the evening schedules are hard for me to attend, and I had to cancel last night's parkour lesson because of a migraine (which is likely to happen again).

I hadn't run in two weeks but woke today to a glorious 60-degree morning and laced up my sneakers to go hatch some Pokémon. I ran more today than I had the last two times I tried (both were shockingly challenging and painful and quickly turned into very long walks), and it felt really good. I don't think it necessarily marks a significant transition, but it is one good run, one good day. And that ain't nothin'.


I'm working hard to trust my brain and my body to do what they need to do for now.


And I'm meeting each day one at a time, adopting a bellydance teacher-friend's classroom rules as a personal mantra:


This body. This day.


A photo posted by Moniqa Aylin (@fierymon) on