Recent Posts by Sunna

Softening All My Edges

By Thursday, February 25, 2016 22 5

I originally wrote this in August but then our baby arrived early and the world as I knew it crumbled in the most delicious/terrifying way. I’m just now getting my act together to finish this piece, I refuse to go through and change the tenses to past, so let’s just play pretend that what follows is current, m’k?pregnancy, things they forgot to mention

For nine months, I have been on the psychedelic mind and body trip that is pregnancy. Considering what my body has done in that time, it’s really not long at all. Considering what my mind has done, it’s been 42 lifetimes. Becoming a parent has meant becoming more than myself. All my edges are softening and the lines I define as me are expanding outward more than I thought possible. It is a slow unraveling of my life, or maybe more like a weaving in of an entirely different thread that changes the structure of what I define life as.

I started becoming a mother before I was even pregnant. In the months leading up to my husband and I “pulling the goalie,” my body began the shift from being just mine. My life began to shift from being just mine. The mothering instinct is so strong in me that it took control even before any baby-making happened and I began protecting our baby before he was even conceived. The things I ate, the products I used, the habits I had all became subject to review.

When I took the positive pregnancy test on New Year’s Day, I was ready to rumble. The interesting thing about being “ready” is there’s no such thing as being ready for something out of your control and beyond your scope of knowledge. I tried to emulate the looseness of one of those inflatable wind tube dancing things, all pliable and open to something taking charge of my body creating sweet dance moves for me. But, when pregnancy did take charge, I was K.O.ed, like completely down for the count and utterly scared. It is an all-inclusive experience, and all I could do was go along for the ride and hope it was gentle.

wind dancer, pregnancy, things they forgot to mention

Me, as I hoped I’d be, and me, as I really was

Four weeks in, it was completely clear I was pregnant. A very powerful switch turned on and, like recent Ivy league grads, ambitious hormones driven by purpose took the reigns. I immediately felt the home my body was making for this child — everything south of my belly button turned into a soft cloud, expanding and breathing. For the first three months, my body didn’t care about me at all. It was quite evident that I didn’t matter, that I was the afterthought. All that mattered was this baby and building everything needed to give him a chance.

This was the first time I grasped that my body is an independent entity that my mind and soul have on a long-term lease. Pregnancy forces women onto autopilot as our bodies become well-oiled machines crafted over millennia with perfectly patented blueprints for replication. Eons of trial and error led to this baby. To put it technically: it’s friggin cray-cray.

While I was in the first trimester, I just got through, hour by hour, day by day, Saltine by Saltine. Weird biological traits kicked in like the thought of large salt granules or our trip to Japan would trigger my gag reflex. The hormones crashing through me created a distracting vibration that didn’t allow me to focus on anything much at all. My spark was snuffed and I was a monotone version of myself. I couldn’t write, be creative or funny. I didn’t laugh but neither my husband or I noticed this until I started laughing again around week 14. It was only when my laughter returned that my husband finally understood that the first trimester rumors are true and I wasn’t just melodramatic. (Special note to the partners of pregnant women: respect the first trimester. It. Is. Real.)

Let me emphasize that in three months, I built a new organ. Or rather, my body did without any thought or work on my part, but I prefer to take credit for it. The placenta — the crazy important placenta, the reason we’re all here — appeared out of thin air (aka nasty hormone production on overdrive). Once that somewhat inconceivable organ was up and operational, I was allowed to come back to life. That’s when the golden part of pregnancy kicked in.

I am one of THOSE people, the ones who enjoy being pregnant. All glowy and blissful and obnoxious in my euphoria. For those mamas who did not share in this glee, I am aware how lucky I am to have had an easy, pleasant, and healthy pregnancy. I marinate in my luck. I love that my body knows what to do and just does it without waiting for further instruction. I love that it is a ride I’m taken on. I love that it makes me feel utterly feminine. I love that I feel 100% powerful and 100% powerless at the same time.

Pregnancy has made me soften all my edges. It has been a slow softening of these edges, of the abs I worked so hard to maintain pre-pregnancy, of letting go of what I expect my body to look like, of the demands I place on it. I learned to cut myself some slack and soften into a new life and not just the one I’m growing in me, but also the new one I’m growing for myself. I finally found someone more important to take care of than myself.

Pregnancy has also made me soften all my edges to the world. While I’ve never gone through anything more internal and personal, I’ve also learned that pregnancy is not personal. Pregnancy is public. We all share in this bafflingly beautiful and humbling miracle — cliché or not, there is no other word to describe it. It is astounding how it all automatically works. I am growing a life. The perfection of it levels me every time I think about it. Every person who sees my belly, whether they realize it or not, takes a little bit of that reality for themselves.

My belly has become public property and I thought this was going to be one of the things I hated about being pregnant, but the opposite is true. I love when people touch the belly. I love when strangers ask how far along I am. I love the secret “hello, fellow comrade” looks pregnant women give each other. I love that bringing a new life into the world is everyone’s business.

It’s a completely solo journey even though my husband is right by my side and I feel more surrounded by family, friends, and strangers than at any other moment. It’s interesting to be a more visible part of society; I am noticed everywhere I go. There is no going incognito or blending into a crowd, but I don’t mind this visibility at all. It has made me nicer to strangers, more patient with grumpy people, more grateful to the kindness people douse me in every day. I am cared for by complete strangers. It’s like the world recognizes my vulnerability, or rather the vulnerability of this child, and everyone instinctively wants to protect us. What is it about vulnerability that makes you actually feel safe? I feel held up by society knowing my baby and I are fully protected, and it has reminded me of the intrinsic humanity in humanity. Aw humanity, there is so much good in us.

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, pregnancy

Lisa Willis Photography

Now I am preparing for labor and the imminent arrival of this child, which is a truly bizarre kaleidoscope of time. There are obvious parallels between my physical and mental preparations. I carry the literal and the figurative weight of this baby more each day. We have made a space for him to move into our literal and figurative home. I have packed my literal bag of supplies and my figurative bag of strength to get me through labor. My body and mind are both opening for our baby to join us. We are ready. Or so we think since, again, it’s impossible to be “ready” for something beyond you.

Here I sit two weeks from our due date and I wait. One foot firmly in my old life, the other just as firmly in the unknown. It’s pretty much impossible for me to think of anything else. I’m neither here nor am I there. Forgive me if when you see me I seem to be looking beyond you. I am. I’m in the in-between. I’ll see you on the other side.

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Becoming a parent is absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s the best heartbreak I could ever ask for. This is a heartbreak that, through all the breaking, gave me a new heart.

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The Annoying Kid

By Thursday, July 2, 2015 0 4

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about callings – my calling, your calling, the call of the wild, the call of a child.  It made me remember the two moments in my life when my callings called to me (I sure do like the word call when discussing callings).  These calls were more like deafening screams in my ear from two inches away followed by swift slaps upside the head.  And still, while they made themselves rather obvious, it took me years to hear them.

To me, a calling is that activity in your life that brings out the true you.  It’s the activity that when you do it, you are fully alive.  It could be a form of art, climbing a mountain, speaking in public, designing a room, analyzing stem cells…anything really that when you do it, you are engrossed, entertained, inspired, hyper-intelligent and hyper-creative.  Everyone is intelligent but we differ in how we are are intelligent, and our callings bring out those individual specialties.

I think if each of us looks for these calls in our lives, they will be like the obnoxious know-it-all in class always raising his hand way too aggressively with the answer.  Sometimes you don’t want to call on that kid ‘cause it’s super annoying when someone’s right all the time.  But, you have to call on that kid because no one else is raising their hand and you need to hear the answer.  You probably already know the answer, you just don’t want to know it for whatever reason.  The key is you have to be ready to hear the answer.

I’ll describe one of the moments when my calling made itself known so maybe you can relate to the clarity of a calling’s call.

My junior year in college I took a photography course and from the first few sentences the professor uttered, I bolted up straight in my seat, drooling like a pregnant girl near Dairy Queen (in other news: I am currently 7 months pregnant and think about the DQ a lot.  Like, a LOT).  Every sentence from the professor was sweet nothings poured like syrup on the pancakes of my soul.

The 90-minute lecture flew by and I remember being shocked when it was time to head to my next class.  To me, time simultaneously stood still, slowed down, and sped by.  To me, there was nothing besides what my professor was saying and what I could do with it.  To me, it was love at first lecture.

That class turned something on in me; it turned me on and not in a ooo, check out that hot babe way.  It turned me on.  I had always been a good student but this was a completely different level of scholastic focus.  The difference was I was completely motivated.  Anything related to that class gave me endless energy and I was incapable of getting bored or distracted.  It both consumed and fed all of me.  Every assignment was like playtime with a side of seriousness and desire to excel I had never experienced.

That semester I didn’t have classes on Fridays so I would wake up at 6 to get in the darkroom as soon as the doors opened and I wouldn’t leave until the day was done.  I didn’t talk to a soul, barely noticing there were people around.  The entire day, completely alone working this craft, I was thoroughly awake and entertained.  It wasn’t work to me, so I could do it all day long.  To this day, the buzzing amber darkness, the smell of those noxious chemicals, and the sloshing of the development process are some of my favorite things.

When I wasn’t in the darkroom, I wandered through Washington, DC, where I went to school, taking photos.  I would take several film rolls more than assigned (kids, a long time ago photographs used to be captured on physical objects known as “film rolls” that you had to develop to see.  You had to think and compose before you shot a selfie because there was no delete!  I feel like a cavegirl right now…).  There was a feeling of self-exhalation every time I clicked the shutter on a shot I knew was beautiful.  I would feel a spark that got brighter the more skilled I became, taking a piece of me but in a way that gave me more than it took.

Needless to say I did really well in that class and I was the obnoxious know-it-all always talking to the professor after class and crushing every assignment.  I became confident, happy, bold, and free the moment photography was around in any way.  I’m still that way and photography always brings out some of the best and most daring parts of me.  I get high off of it.  Pretty clear calling, right?

What is even more clear is that it is up to each of us to seek out our callings.  No one will hand them to us on a silver platter saying “here, this one’s for you.”  Callings are things we stumble across and it’s up to each of us to recognize when we’ve stumbled upon something worth paying attention to.  What you’ve stumbled upon is you.  Speaking from experience, if you don’t follow that call you will never feel fully satisfied, you will never feel fully you, you will always feel you’re holding back.  What’s so interesting is that for most of us, we are the only thing holding ourselves back.

I think we owe it to ourselves to ask this question: what turns me on? I’m not talking about ear nibbles or Ryan Gosling; I’m talking about what turns me on? What makes me come alive? What are the things I could do forever without getting bored? What makes me bold? What makes time go all wonky?

Think back to those moments when something truly clicked.  Maybe it called to you years ago and you weren’t ready to hear it.  I know that you can still hear that call today because the echoes will reverberate through your entire life.  The echoes are just waiting for you to listen for them.  If you listen, you ARE that annoying kid in class with all the answers.  You already know who you are, so heed that call and be that person.  Turn yourself on loudly, fill your life with it and let the world hear you.  We will all be better because of it.

your-calling

Things They Forgot to Mention:

When the annoying know-it-all kid calls, pick up the phone. That kid is you. It’s you that has the answer.

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Who Is This Easter Bunny?

By Thursday, April 2, 2015 6 3

It’s that time of year again! The time when I get completely confused by societal traditions we somehow think are totally normal!  The tradition this time of year? The muthah-friggin Easter Bunny.  I mean, what? We are a weird people, people.  What does a secretive and kind of creepy bunny who defies the laws of nature by laying eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? There is no mention of Easter celebration, Easter eggs, or the Easter bunny anywhere in the Bible, so where did it come from? Just like my Santa Claus confusion, I had to do the research to get to the bottom of this trippy bunny trail (epic pun! virtual high five!).

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Easter, easter bunny

Research on this topic was somewhat unfulfilling because it’s not entirely clear where most of our Easter traditions come from.  That’s right, there is no definitive consensus.  What is clear is that most of the traditions we associate with Easter have nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity at all, and most seem to be truly pagan (the heathens strike again!).  Allow me to explain.

Spring Fling

The return of spring has long been a season for celebration, probably since we were weird little amoebas.  Pretty much every ancestral culture has a history of celebrating the end of winter, usually kicked off by the Vernal Equinox on March 21.  The Vernal Equinox is the day when the amount of day and the amount of night are equal.  It’s exciting because from that day on there will be more light and less dark.  Sayonara Snowmaggedon.

Spring is a time for life, birth, and fertility.  To celebrate, many ancient traditions honored common symbols of spring: rabbits, due to their stellar reputations as prolific makers of babies (a female rabbit can get pregnant while she’s already pregnant. A little, uh, loose of you, rabbit girls); and eggs, a globally-shared, long-held symbol of fertility and birth.

The most widely accepted theory on the origin of the word “Easter” is that it was derived from Eostre, the Germanic goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility.  The Anglo-Saxons would celebrate Eostre’s return every spring, honoring her symbols, the rabbit and the egg, and coloring eggs to express appreciation for Eostre’s gift of abundance.

There is suspiciously little written about this goddess, however.  In fact, she is only officially mentioned once by one English monk and historian, St. Bede, in an 8th century book.  He wrote that Ēosturmōnaþ (‘Month of Ēostre’ in Old English), was a time to celebrate a goddess of spring and fertility he called Eostre.  And that’s pretty much it.  No one else talks about her in any other book, before or contemporary to Bede.  Because of this, some theorize that Bede simply made Eostre up as a joke, which would make part of me really happy because that would mean this entire megaholiday came from a few flippant lines written by one man.

Over time, the basic legend of Eostre evolved wildly.  There are many different versions of the legend, but it essentially says that one year Eostre arrived late for spring and to make up for it she saved a bird who was partially frozen by snow.  The bird could no longer fly so Eostre turned it into a rabbit (her earthly symbol), but retained its ability to lay colored eggs (her other earthly symbol), which it did in her honor and gave to children.  And here we have one theory on the origin of the Easter Bunny.  To be continued later…

What is amazing to me is that this whole thing — the origins of the word Easter, the existence of the goddess Eostre, her turning a bird into a bunny, and possibly the Easter Bunny himself — may have been completely fabricated by single individuals with some sweet imaginations.

I love this stuff!

What Came First: the Rabbit or the Egg?

The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs and giving candy eggs has a few origin theories:

  1. To honor the mysterious Eostre’s bird-turned rabbit that laid brightly colored eggs that were given to children.
  2. As mentioned before, eggs, along with rabbits, were widespread symbols of new life and fertility found in many pre-Christian cultures around the globe.  There are many, many old customs that involve decorating eggs and giving them as gifts around the Vernal Equinox.  Eggs were boiled with flowers and other materials to change their color to bring spring into the home.
  3. Decorating eggs are seen by many Christians as a symbol of Jesus’ empty tomb and thus His resurrection, and some dyed eggs red to symbolize Jesus’ spilt blood.

So what came first, the rabbit or the egg? My opinion is that since so many cultures, including as old as the Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, all used eggs as symbols of spring, this pagan rabbit came before the Christian egg.  Research shows that the association between Easter, eggs, and Jesus’ empty tomb came in the 15th century when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany.  It seems very likely, and very natural, that the tradition merged with already ingrained pagan traditions.

Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat

As mentioned earlier, the rabbit was a symbol of fertility and celebrated at the start of spring by many ancient cultures.  Regardless of whether Eostre was a fabricated goddess or not, these animals were always associated with spring festivals and what came to be Easter.

At some point, the Germans took the pagan fertility rabbit, probably smashed with the legend of Eostre, and turned it into Oschter Haws (“Easter Hare”), a hare that lay a nest of colored eggs for good children.  The first mention of Oschter Haws was in the 1600s and when the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in America in the 1700s, they brought the hare with them.  Over time, Oschter Haws evolved into the Easter Bunny and now he’s in a photo booth in a mall near you!

Just like they did with Santa Claus, the Germans took a pagan character to the next level (what were the Germans smoking back then? Impressive imaginations).  Same as the history of Santa in the United States, the Puritans rejected this pagan character for a long time and it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that it was widely adopted, celebrated, and incorporated into Christian traditions.  And just like Santa Claus, the original purpose of the bunny was to bribe children into good behavior with the threat of no candy since apparently candy is somewhat important to children.

The Resurrection of Easter

After all this research, it is clear that the Easter Bunny and Jesus’ resurrection are totally unrelated.  They are two separate celebrations.  And so maybe we can’t thank Jesus for Cadbury Eggs, but we can still thank God or Eostre or the Vernal Equinox or weird fertility bunnies or whatever you honor for the start of spring.

For me, the fact that Easter is the amalgamation of pagan traditions, Christian traditions, and maybe even certain individuals complete fabrications doesn’t do it any disservice.  I think it gives it even more depth.  Celebrating the beginning of spring is reason enough for feasting, pastel party dresses, and jelly beans.

And that makes me so very — don’t do it, Sunna — egg-cited. *groan*  For Peeps sake!

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, The Pecking Orders, pecking orders, Easter, peeps

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Our traditions are much stranger and mishmashed than they appear. They began rooted in nature, hobnobbed with religion, and ended covered in chocolate. It seems that the Germans have not only provided us with delicious beers and brats, but also two of our most celebrated holiday characters. And let’s just forget about that one guy with the mustache…

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We Will Never Ever EVER Break-Up

By Friday, March 27, 2015 2 5

I recently went to the wedding of one of my oldest friends.  I’m not talking old as in elderly blue hair, I’m talking old as in decades long.  We’ve been besties since we were 14 and that was – *gulp* – 21 years ago (no need to do the math, thank you).  For those of you with old friends like this, the ones that started before you could (legally) drive, then you know how special they are.

I have the additional pleasure of having two old friends, which is actually just one friendship binding three of us.  This dynamic is even more special because we have to balance multiple people / multiple crazies in one relationship.  When I say “special,” I’m using a loose definition of the word special.  I’ve seen Big Love, polygamy ain’t easy.

Old friendships are the best.  You don’t have to pretend or guess or do anything but be yourselves.  You accepted each other just as you are a long time ago, so there is no explaining because you already get it.  Old friends know who you are but also who you were.  They know all the things that have happened in your life that changed you, all the angels and all the skeletons.  And you know that they will always be there, no matter what you do or how far apart you live.

Old friendships are also kind of the worst because they’re like a mini-marriages.  Once you pass a certain threshold of friendship years, you become family and the relationship becomes permanent.  Once you seal that deal, you have no choice but to weather the hard parts…which is essentially the definition of marriage.

You go through the same waves as marriage: you get the most beautiful example of human interaction and partnership, but it also requires work, patience, understanding, and commitment.  You get all the good stuff: closeness, memories, love, laughter, and knowing each other so well.  But you also get fights, predictability, irritation, butt-hurt feelings, and knowing each other obnoxiously well.  You know so much about each other that you can’t get away with anything, they know what you’re going to do before you do it.  Annoying! Stop reading my mind! Rude…

My two besties and I are all living our own lives now, separate and far away, so it seems it would be easy to disconnect.  When you go down different paths and don’t talk everyday, it’s easy to temporarily forget the reason you signed up for this commitment in the first place.  Like marriage, at some point you will probably think the phrase: “maybe we’ve just grown apart.”  But like marriage, really letting go of that person is a big, BIG deal.  This relationship is binding and that person is family.  It’s forever, in sickness and health, in distance and closeness, till death do you part.

Now we are getting married (as in real life marriages to real life people) and having babies, so our family is growing.  I see each of us opening our hearts without question to these new additions and they are automatically added into our mutual marriage.  We come as a package so whoever marries one of us, marries all of us.  Sorry dudes.

I know that our paths will continue to diverge.  But the roots are there and the roots are deep.  A little wind can’t knock us down; we’ll just bend, adjust, and stay upright.  I know that when life throws something at me and I need them, my two old friends will be there.  If someone pisses me off, watch out for my besties — angry mama bears protect our own.

So, while old friendships do come with unique challenges, I speak from experience that they are worth it.  Old friends will always come home to each other, we will always be waiting, we will always be there.  We are the lucky ones.  I can’t wait to see what the next 21 years hold for my two besties and I.  And the 21 years after that…

To close, on homage to a tradition that started when we were 21 and decided to take the below photo of us making our biggest smiles ever:

biggest-smiles-possible_web

Oh what sweet little, round baby faces.  Since then, we’ve taken this photo at every important occasion.  It’s actually quite physically taxing and results in our necks being sore the next day.  Every time.  Here’s one taken of us last year:

Old-Friends_web

You can guarantee that we’ll be taking this photo for the rest of our marriage.  Love you girls!

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Old friendships, like marriages, require patience, love and commitment.  If you’ve got those things, then you get the good stuff and that stuff is GOOD.  Trust us.

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Skiing as a Metaphor For Life

By Thursday, March 5, 2015 2 3

Four years ago, I tore my ACL while skiing.  It was a long road of aggravating self-doubt to get me back to where I am today.  The mental fisticuffs that went on after the accident was a complete parallel to life.  What I learned through getting over my fear of skiing translated directly to getting over my fear of life.  Let’s examine the metaphor, you guys!

The Fundamentals of Skiing

IMG_4913

(1) To state the obvious, skiing is a controlled fall.  The challenge is to be the one in control of the fall and that requires you to push beyond what is comfortable.  It feels safer to lean back to be closer to the mountain and the solid ground you know so well.  But doing that gives the mountain control, not you.  Instead, you have to completely ignore your comfort zone; you have to lean away from the mountain and into the fall.

(2) Staring directly in front of your skis, another basic human instinct, doesn’t work either.  You do this because you want to know what you’re about to encounter.  But if you stare at the tips of your skis, your body tenses up to react to every tiny undulation coming at you.  You won’t be planning where you want to go, preparing for the obstacles, or seeing the big picture — you’ll be relegated to always being reactive.  As soon as you lift your head up, your body relaxes, those tiny undulations aren’t significant anymore and you roll right over them.  You have to look down the mountain and into your future to take charge of your path.

(3) The final piece is knowing that you have everything you need.  Trust that your legs and your equipment can handle the obstacles as they come.  Know that your muscles are strong and trained to carry you through the bumps.  Know that your equipment is designed and fitted specifically for you to handle the terrain.  They are more than capable, but you have to believe in them.  Relax your legs, let your skis run, and allow them to do what they are meant to do.

When you have these fundamentals down, your likelihood of a humiliating yard sale scenario (illustrated below) is far diminished.

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, ski, skiing, faceplant, yardsale

Sucks to be those guys.

The Fundamentals of the Fight

For three years following my accident, skiing and I fought, and everyday skiing won.  I was terrified, leaning back, staring directly in front of my skis, with nothing to stabilize me.  I was so scared of falling that I micromanaged every turn, knuckles white, smile fake, toenails continuously falling off.  I did not have any fun — like none.  Yet I kept skiing, determined to get over this gigantic fear and crippling self-doubt.

Then one day everything changed.  This was the day I gave in.  I was so tired of insecurity and micromanaging and overthinking.  I was done with fear and felt utterly drunk (I wasn’t, not a single sip of delicious mountain whiskey!).  I had an out of body view where I finally saw what I was doing.  The words: “What are you so scared of??” screamed at me.

And for the first time since the accident I relaxed and let myself, my legs, and my skis go.  My whole body loosened, even my vision, and instinctively I leaned forward.  My core showed up to hold me steady and I knew without a doubt that I had everything I needed.

Surprise, surprise, that was the best ski day of my life — even prior to the accident.

Driving home that day, I thought about what changed and I realized that I wasn’t afraid to fall anymore.  Obviously I’m not into being concussed, but avoiding a fall was no longer my main focus and once I let go of fear, I regained control.  I saw that falling can be a good thing.  Falling means I’m trying, I’m reaching, I’m pushing.

Since then, skiing and I have become buddies again.  We still have our setbacks but I know how to regain control.  I know that if I don’t take control; the mountain, gravity, and inertia will.  I would still get down the mountain, but I wouldn’t really be skiing, I would just be falling.

The Fundamentals of Life

To really ski, you have to lean forward, widen your perspective, know that you have everything you need, and then just let go.  What else can be said for life in general?  If you live your life through fear, you won’t be driving.  If you are so afraid to fall that you don’t push your boundaries, life will just happen to you.  If you don’t look into the future, you can’t plan or dream.  If you think you don’t have everything you need, you won’t have everything you need.  If you lack a belief in yourself, any setback will take you to the ground.  Because above all, if you don’t control your life, someone else will.

So there you have it: you can learn everything you need to know about life from skiing.  Well, except for solving the Pollock octahedral numbers conjecture, that you have to learn the advanced additive number theory.  But maybe skiing has an answer for that too…

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Skiing well, like living well, requires you to know you have everything you need, you’ve always had everything you need, so relax and just drive.

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You have to promise not to tell anyone…

By Thursday, February 19, 2015 0 3

I was recently told a secret.  Oh man, it was a good one.  Once it was told to me, it became my secret, my burden.  Instantaneously, I was faced with the tortuous challenge of holding the secret in.  It became mine to keep or mine to tell.  Stupid, tortuous secret.

Secrets take up space inside you and once you have one, something has to be done with it.  The secret is like the alien creature, Edgar the Bug, from Men In Black that stuffs itself inside a human host but never quite fits.  You try to play it off like everything’s cool and normal, but the whole time the secret is trying to burst its way out.  You have to conquer it before it conquers you.

Let’s be honest, 99.9999% of people tell at least one person another person’s secret.  If you have a significant other, it’s a given that you get to tell them (unless specifically forbidden by the secret blabber at the time of the secret blab).  It’s like our “get out of jail free” card!

There are a few secrets we know not to share with anyone, and these we guard easily.  But these are rare.  The bulk of secrets are just gossip and bound to come out eventually anyways.  You know why they’re bound to come out? Because everyone tells at least one other person, that’s why.  Duh.

As I’ve been consumed by thoughts about secrets, I now hear the same phrases everywhere: “I just HAD to tell someone,” “I couldn’t hold it in,” “I feel soooo much better after telling someone.”  It’s like we instinctively have to let the cat out of the bag.  That cat does NOT want to stay in that bag.

It always starts out the same: “I have to tell you something but you have to swear not to tell anyone…”  We hear those words and start salivating.  We lean in, cross our hearts and hope to die, ready for the sweet, sweet juice.  The good times really start when you’re around people that don’t know the secret and you get to exchange sneaky eye glances with those that know.  Deliciously secret eye glances.

Telling someone a secret forms a trust between you — even though it’s a break of trust with the source of the secret, but somehow we overlook that.  A bond forms by sharing something you shouldn’t share.
I find it interesting that feelings get hurt if you don’t tell someone your secret.  I’ve been hurt myself by being left out of a secret.  “Why didn’t you tell me?” we whine, obligating the person to feel guilty and apologize for not spilling precious beans.  But that’s forgetting the basic tenet of a secret — it’s supposed to be kept, you know, secret.

Acknowledging this human need, the internet has provided.  Places to anonymously divulge secrets are everywhere and PostSecret is a fantastic example of this.  PostSecret is an ongoing project where people mail their secrets anonymously on a postcard, then some are posted on the PostSecret website, published in books, or displayed in art exhibits.  Frank Warren, who started the project, has received more than a million from around the world.

“I see this secret every time I go to my mailbox. I always see it expressed a different way,” Warren said in an interview with BuzzFeed. “It’s basically a story about trying to find that one person who you can tell all your secrets to. There’s that common thread, that search for intimacy, that search for the one person we can be our whole and true selves with.”

As I struggle with this secret I know, I’ve been thinking about what we get out of sharing secrets.  Spreading a secret seems to fulfill an almost biological need, but what is that need? Is it societal connection? Is it a social rank thing to know something others don’t? Is holding something in contrary to our nature?

I think we need to divulge, we need to take the weight of the secret and pass it on.  It’s like the more people that know, the more the weight is dispersed, the more shoulders carry its burden.  I’ve known people to tell strangers a secret simply because the weight was too much.

Long, long ago when our crusty but big brained ancestors ventured out of the jungles and onto the savannas, many traits allowed them to evolve and thrive.  One of these was the ability to form speech, the ability to communicate verbally.  As human relationships became more involved and important, human societies became more complex and connected.  “We moved from a primitive ‘live fast and die young’ strategy to a ‘live slow and grow old’ strategy and that has helped make humans one of the most successful organisms on the planet,” said Tanya Smith, Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology.

This is where I think our need to divulge secrets comes from.  Being all up in each other’s business was good for survival.  A tight group meant that when things got hard and the mammoth pickins’ were slim, we stuck together and helped each other.

So here I sat, isolated under the weight of my secret and reading about the catharsis of passing my secret along.  I decided to mail my secret into PostSecret.  I HAD to tell someone, right? Might as well anonymously tell the world.  Don’t ask me what it is, I already told my one person (aka the world…I also told my husband but that’s allowed).  Shhhh…

To end today, here are some juicy secrets I found on PostSecret worthy of further spreading:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, secret, postsecret, skittles

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, secret, postsecret, celebrity dad

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, secret, secrets, postsecret, 911

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, secret, secrets, postsecret, dog poop

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, secret, postsecret, wrong sibling, affair

Things They Forgot to Mention:

We all think we have secrets.  In reality, the secrets have us.

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The Best First Impression

By Friday, January 9, 2015 0 4

I wrote a piece on the horrors of first date impressions for Meet Mindful, an online dating site to serve the mindful lifestyle.  If you want to hear about how my crappy car saved a first date, go here:

woman-portrait-first-impression-red-gaze-stare

The Best First Impression: How My Crappy Car Saved a First Date

 

If you’re single and ready to mingle, check out Meet Mindful, started by a great group of people with their hearts in the right place. MMlogoHeader

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This Can Be Your Year

By Thursday, January 1, 2015 0 4

Things They Forgot to Mention, Happy New Years, New Years, Resolutions

Well, hello again, New Year.  How are you here already? Clearly 2014 canceled a few months because it went by faster than what Einstein would find legal.  I was hoping for a little more quality time with 2014 but here you are, 2015, staring at me with your arms crossed in expectation.

Your first day is always so intimidating; it’s seductive in its freshness yet melancholy in its retrospect.  You make me paraphrase John Lennon while humming this with only minor heart palpitations:

So this is 2015 and what have you done?

Another year over, and a new one just begun.

Today is the most overt line in the sand you get.  It’s an undeniable request to look at that line, to examine the sand, to see if there are any amendments you would like made.

Today also tends to make you feel like a loser.  You can’t help but remember this time last year and all the stuff you said you were going to do, the long list that remains unchecked.  Your palms get sweatier, the tick of the clock gets louder, and the unfinished list gets shoutier.

There is a phrase called the “normative power of the actual” which essentially says that whatever exists, seems right.  It is used most often in the context of legal precedence and how that which is law generates a sense that it should be law, that it’s correct because we’re used to it.

As part of the human experience, we are all too familiar with this concept.  Whatever way we are living seems right.  We are creatures of routine and comfort.  Our habits are carved slowly like grooves on a vinyl record.  We go round and round, the grooves getting deeper, their paths more permanent.

The song your vinyl makes sounds fine to you because it’s the background music of your life.  It’s soothing because you know it.  It seems right because it exists.  But, it’s hard to truly hear your music when you are the one making it.  Maybe the grooves you carved don’t suit you anymore.  Maybe you really want to play a different song.  Maybe smooth jazz should be out and hip-hop should be in.  Days like today help you stop and really listen.

I’ve been waiting to do a lot of things my entire life.  I suffered from a common affliction I call the mañana factor: “Mañana (tomorrow) I’ll do that, it doesn’t feel right today.”  For years I waited for so many things.  I justified the inaction because I was “waiting” therefore it felt out of my hands.  I wasn’t ready, the time wasn’t right, it seems hard, so-and-so has to do this-and-that first, blah blah blah.

What I finally realized was I was waiting for me.  Just me.  I was the only piece missing.  I was waiting for me to show up to break free of the normative power of my actual.  It finally registered that life is entirely up to me, no one else can get me the life I want, and no one else can make my grooves.  That is the harsh reality of growing up.  I am responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen to me; no one else gets credit or blame.

We all need to remember that life is happening now.  Like, right NOW now.  The more you delay, the deeper the grooves in your vinyl record.  You only get this one record so make it play the song you want, the music you deserve, the life that is you.

So, let’s say goodbye to 2014.  Let’s do it with pride and with respect.  Let’s remember all the things we did last year that made us wonderful.  Let’s think of all the things we want to do this year to make us even more wonderful.  Let’s try to forget we probably had a very similar list last year.  And, let’s really do it this time.  Go Team!

Here are a few motivations that may induce helpful panic attacks:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspiration

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspirationAnd one final quote that seems to contradict the last quote, but actually it doesn’t at all.  I’ll leave it up to you to decipher them:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, inspiration, buddha

Happy New Year, lovies!

Things They Forgot to Mention:

A new year isn’t entirely new.  It takes with it all of the years before.  But you don’t have to take it all with you.  Your new year is waiting for you to show up and tell it where to go.

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The True Meaning of Christmas, Part II

By Thursday, December 18, 2014 0 4

If you haven’t read Part I, please do so now before continuing.  I’ll wait…

I left us last week when Christmas was a drunken Mardi Gras, opposed by many Christians, and barely resembled the holiday we celebrate today.  Before Christmas became something we would recognize, we must add the third element: Mr. Claus.

 

Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop who lived in the 4th century in what is now Turkey.  He gave away a substantial inheritance to help the poor and sick, and he was widely revered for his generosity and piety.

Most famous was when he saved three sisters from being forced into prostitution.  He secretly paid their dowry by throwing bags of gold coins into their home — one went down the chimney and another landed in a pair of stockings hanging to dry.  This is where our chimney and stockings tradition comes from.  While gifts arriving via chimney was common for many pagan figures like trolls, fairies, and Norse gods; it was also part of St. Nicholas’ legacy.

During the Middle Ages, the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death on December 6th was celebrated and children were given gifts in his honor.  In the 16th century, Martin Luther, whose Protestant reform work led to the Lutherans, wanted to increase children’s interest in Jesus, so he sought to change the custom of gifts coming from St. Nicholas to gifts coming from Jesus.  Then the transformation of St. Nick really started…

Over time, St. Nicholas morphed with England’s Father Christmas, a character symbolizing the spirit of Christmas joy, and he became known as Santa Claus (the name evolved from his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas).  Santa Claus also took on shades of Odin, the Norse god celebrated during the yule with a long white beard and an eight-legged horse he rode through the night sky delivering gifts.

The Santa Claus celebration moved to December 25th, and the gift tradition remnant from St. Nicholas and Odin was continued to remind people of the gifts the three magi brought baby Jesus.

All the pieces were now there: Yuletide/Winter Solstice + Jesus’ birth + Santa Claus.  We just had to revise.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

In the 1800s, the upper class had had enough of Christmas.  Many Christmas traditions were pretty crappy for wealthy people as they involved mobs of drunk men prowling the streets, breaking things, and going door to door demanding food and alcohol.  Definitely doesn’t sound like a holiday families could get on board with.  “Children, gather ’round and look at the drunken throngs of dudes damaging property! A Merry Christmas to us all!” said no one ever.

A movement started to domesticate Christmas, to take it inside the home, to give it meaning, and to give it to children.  In 1843, Charles Dickens played a large role in revising Christmas when he wrote A Christmas Carol and the Christmas he described was an intimate family celebration of generosity and reflection.  Santa Claus fit right in with this Christmas revision and the New York elite latched onto him.

Santa further matured with the help of two New Yorkers:

  1. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, a professor, wrote The Night Before Christmas for his daughters and almost single-handily created a modern Santa and a secular Christmas (click here for the poem).  He added even more Odin to Santa when he took Odin’s eight-legged horse and changed it to eight reindeer (Rudolph was envisioned 100 years later by a Montgomery Ward employee as a marketing ploy).
  2. In 1863, Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, was commissioned to illustrate Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly.  Over the next decade, his Santa series changed Santa into a tall, plump man with a white beard.  He also gave us the North Pole, the workshop, the elves, Mrs. Claus, the letters from children, and the naughty and nice list.

Now we had our jolly Santa, and after a Coca-Cola ad in the 1930s where Santa wore a red suit with white trim, we had his outfit.

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, Santa, Santa Claus, Coca-Cola

Although many churches were historically opposed to Christmas and the new Santa Claus, they found Santa, gift giving, the pagan traditions of the Christmas tree and caroling improved church attendance.  So, they adopted them full force.  According to the St. Nicholas Center, “in a strange twist of fate, the new ‘secular’ Santa Claus…helped return Christmas observance to churches.”

 

Silent Night, Holy Night

What I found so interesting in the history of Christmas was how single individuals had such large impacts, how many minds it took to craft this holiday, and how it reflects our culture throughout history.

But, in writing this story, I started to feel like Scrooge Mc(Lame)Duck.  I felt like I was taking something beautiful and trying to prove it wasn’t beautiful simply because it was made of stuff found on earth and not given to us from above.  This would not stand so I went back to the essence of Christmas and I found it unchanged.

Yes, we created Christmas from unrelated traditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.  The things we create reflect the things we value, and with Christmas we value family, generosity, reflection, antiquity, and the high fashion in Wham’s Last Christmas.  After my research, Christmas reminded me even more of the people that came before me, of the light that is bigger than me.  The imaginations of our ancestors can be seen all over our traditions.  They are still there celebrating with us, reminding us to look up.

Do we lie to our children about Christmas? Yes.  Why? Because Christmas gives magic to them and that magic, while fleeting, stays with us for the rest of our lives.  We’ll always remember kneeling on our beds, whispering with our siblings, scanning the dark sky for Santa.  Christmas tells us there is beauty in our imaginations.  It tells us it’s ok to think beyond what is logical, to go beyond ourselves, to look into the dark for the light that is waiting.  That is what the yuletide and winter solstice revered.  That is what St. Nicholas sought.  That is Jesus’ birth.  And that, to me, is Christmas.

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, yule, yuletide, tree

(Sources: I spent way too much time on Wikipedia, the History Channel website, and multitudes of religious websites for this information.  If you want backing, ask and ye shall receive.)

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Christmas was built from the minds of our ancestors and is a beautiful reflection of our cultures changing and melding throughout history.  It reminds us to keep imagining, searching for the unknowns out your window, and never forgetting to look up.

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The True Meaning of Christmas, Part I

By Thursday, December 11, 2014 0 6

Similar to Easter, Christmas causes me much confusion.  It seems to be a mishmash of several unrelated traditions all jammed into one that mostly revolves around buying things, eating chocolate, and lying to children.  I’ve always been confused about how Jesus, Santa Claus, and yule logs have anything to do with each other, so I did a little research.  I found out so much interesting information that this will be a two part series, to be finished next week.  And you can guarantee I’ll be doing the same research when Easter comes around.

I started by writing a list of questions I have about Christmas, which was a hilarious  process since it became quite clear that I don’t understand this holiday at all.  Who is this Santa Claus and why does he have so many aliases (St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas)? What does he have to do with Jesus? Is it wrong that there is a globally sanctified lie we tell our children? When did the flying reindeer and elfin sweatshops come into play? Why is Santa the only person besides certain pimps that can say “ho ho ho”? Is Santa immortal? What is a “yule”?????

I feel I should disclose that I am no Scrooge.  My husband laughs at the magnitude of my Christmas joy.  I am literally listening to Christmas carols as I write this.  My ringtone is “Carol of Bells” this month.  Oh yes, I love Christmas.  Christmas to me is magical, intimate, and feels sacred and heavy with emotion.  It reminds me of the quiet found only in winter that seems ancient and aware.  There is something about this time of year that makes my cells ache for the line of humanity that made me, for the light that is bigger than me.  I love Christmas.  A lot.  Yet our traditions make no sense to me.

From my research, I learned that my Christmas confusion was warranted.  Christmas is essentially the merging of (at least) three separate celebrations with very different meanings:

  1. Yuletide/Winter Solstice
  2. Jesus’ birth
  3. Santa Claus

If you step back and delve deep into the traditions, they don’t seem to make sense combined together.  At first.  But when you look deeper, they have the same basic root: a celebration of life and light.

 

The Yule. The What? The Yule.

Let’s begin with the yuletide.  This is a pagan festival originating in Germany and Scandinavia that celebrated midwinter and winter solstice.  Heathens celebrated this, you guys, heathens!  The yuletide honored the sun and the lengthening of days that starts on winter solstice; it was a celebration of birth and the end of darkness.

The yuletide was celebrated for varying amounts of time between November and January, centered around the winter solstice, December 21.  There was a lot of ale drinking, sacrificing of animals, smearing of blood on walls/people, and supernatural activity.  There was also a focus on, uh how do I say this, female fertility, so…

During the yuletide, people brought evergreen trees indoors and hung evergreen boughs to remind them of the life that would grow when winter ended — the origin of our Christmas trees and wreaths.

Candles, fires, and yule logs were lit to push back the winter darkness — the origin of our Christmas lights and, obviously, yule logs.

The Norse god Odin was honored, who author Margaret Baker, described as: “the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts.”  — remind you of anyone else?

This is also where we get mistletoe, caroling, and eating ham.  These are all pagan traditions that have been assimilated into Christmas and I was surprised to learn how many yule traditions we celebrate without realizing their origin.  The yuletide/winter solstice was a hugely important celebration across many cultures long before little baby Jesus.  Grocery stores and radiant floor heating didn’t exist.  Fireplaces weren’t just fun, crackle ‘n pop, winter accessories; winters were hard.  Celebrating the return of the sun was a significant moment and something that was revered globally by our non-equatorial ancestors.

 

And Then Little Baby Jesus Was Added

Right off I was surprised to learn that (1) Christians didn’t always celebrate Christmas, and (2) there is no mention of December 25th anywhere in the Bible.  No one actually knows the date of Jesus’ birth, although some religious historians believe there is evidence for him being born at other times of the year.

In the 3rd century, Pope Julius I chose December 25th as Jesus’ birthday, most likely since pagan and winter solstice festivals were already celebrated at that time.  By choosing the same time, church officials made it easier for people to embrace Christmas and they also assimilated many pagan traditions into Christmas to ease the transition.  For instance, they adopted the pagan tradition of evergreen trees but added a new Christian twist: they put apples in the trees to symbolize the Garden of Eden, and these apples became the ornaments we use today.

Christmas was not always as solemn, biblical, and family-oriented as it is today.  For a long time it was wildly pagan; it was still the yuletide and it was more like a drunken Mardi Gras celebrated in public, not celebrated privately as families.

There were so many pagan roots in Christmas traditions that it was opposed by many Christians (and still opposed by some today).  The Puritans in colonial New England banned Christmas and in 1644 the Massachusetts legislature fined anyone who celebrated Christmas 5 shillings (I tried to convert this into today’s dollars using my iPhone app but oddly it didn’t know the valuation).  The “war against Christmas” has been going on since like 1644, you guys.

Christmas, Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, yule, yuletide, tree, ornament

To Be Continued in Part II…

I will end the post here and save the rest for Part II where we’ll discuss when Santa came into the picture, how Coca-Cola contributed to who he is, when the pagans finally lost, and how Christmas turned into a massive assembly line of gifts and harmless, little lies for our children.

(Sources: I spent way too much time on Wikipedia, the History Channel website, and multitudes of religious websites for this information.  If you want backing, ask and ye shall receive.)

 

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Christmas is our creation.  A wonderful creation of ancient traditions all mashed into one weird but beautiful celebration of life and light and the stuff bigger than us.  Also heathen stuff, lots of heathen stuff.

Click here for Part II

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