Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflections in Silhouette: Poems is Now Available in Paperback on Amazon

The journey for the truth of self offers the opportunity for triumph and failure. Often as we search for who we’re meant to be in life, we misplace ourselves for a little while. Even when we’re struggling to reconnect with our misplaced cores, we can’t help but be ourselves. Life is simply a journey to fill in the gaps, to find our truths, to become our best selves. When we embrace the all of who we are, we live richer, fuller lives and avoid being simply reflections in silhouette…

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fearless... or Not

On my best day, I am fearless... Well, unless there are snakes involved and then I'm a shivering, quaking, squealing, screaming, shaking ball of fear wishing I could escape to the top of my laundry room cabinets like my cats do when a stranger steps into the house.  But, we're not talking about that kind of fear.

We're talking about looking at obstacles and knowing you have the power to overcome them, work through them, or just walk away from them. Each reaction serves its purpose in life. Determining which is the best option can be tricky depending on the situation.

So again, on my best day I am fearless. I like those days. On those days I smile no matter how frustrated I feel. I laugh at the absurdity that this thing - whatever it is - in front of me seems so incredibly important and the likelihood I'll even remember it in a month is pretty much nill. On those days, nothing phases me. I tackle obstacles with gusto and conquer challenges without so much as a crack in my smile. Those days you can insult me, criticize me, hate me, or run right over top of me... Well, you can try because your negativity won't phase my positivity or my outcome.

On my worst day, I fear both success and failure! What the heck creates that diachotomy? Talk about a styming state of mind! On those days, I am my own worst enemy. I criticize every move I make, second guess every decision, demand perfection when great would be better, and create obstacles where there are none. Those days someone else's criticism is like a bomb being dropped right into my core. I take it to heart, mind, soul, and body. Those days even a compliment somehow becomes criticism or at the very least suspicious. Luckily, I'm beginning to recognize those days and tailor my activities to match the mood as much as possible.

I've come to a place in my life where I have more fearless days than days where I fear both success and failure, I think. It's still a struggle. From childhood on, I received the message my best would never be good enough but failing wasn't an option, so it's a mantra I've had to rewrite continuously throughout my life. Will I ever be free of it? I don't know. I hope so, but I can only take my life as it comes. I never want to become so fearless that I become arrogant and ignore sound advice or fail to appreciate the encouragement, support, and inspiration others so generously give me.

I know that my best is good enough and that it's really the epitamy of what I have to offer. It has taken me a long time to accept that as truth, but I'm finding my life improves every time I let go of a little more of my need to be seen as perfect, to actually be perfect. The less I care about perfection, the more fearless I feel!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Announcing the Cover for Reflections in Silhouette, My Second Book of Poetry

The journey for the truth of self offers the opportunity for triumph and failure. Often as we search for who we’re meant to be in life, we misplace ourselves for a little while. Even when we’re struggling to reconnect with our misplaced cores, we can’t help but be ourselves. Life is simply a journey to fill in the gaps, to find our truths, to become our best selves. When we embrace the all of who we are, we live richer, fuller lives and avoid being simply reflections in silhouette…

Check back soon for the release announcement!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Listening When Life Speaks

I wrote a post earlier this week that I've been tweaking all week. It's not that it needs that much tweaking. I realized today that it's about timing. While the timing was right to write it, it wasn't the right time to share it. So I've put it aside. I will probably share it sometime next week provided the timing feels right then.

Instead I decided to share a little something else with you.

This week has been a little odd for me. I had it all planned out, BUT life just refused to cooperate with my plans. Now that part isn't all that unusual. The part that was unusual was that I let it go. I didn't stress myself out or overtire myself trying to add the unexpected chores on top of what I planned to be doing. I didn't have a choice but to address the unexpected chores, so I did. I let my schedule just go. I didn't beat myself up - well, not too much anyway. I didn't feel like a failure. I didn't have any of my usual "I suck" attitude just because life decided my attention needed diverted. Instead, I tried to look at it through the advice I recently gave a friend. I told this friend that maybe the desired thing wasn't happening because there was something in the bigger picture that needed resolved or learned first. So I sat back, decided that maybe this minor inconvenience occurred when it did because the bigger picture of my life knew the timing was wrong for my plans for the week.

So what does this delay mean? Well, it means that as much as I wanted Reflections in Silhouette available to you by the end of next week, it likely won't be. It probably won't be available until early next month. It means that I let myself off the hook. It means that I'm working today instead of reading and watching television. It means that I'm not a hypocrite. I actually do believe what I tell others even if I don't always apply it to my life like I should. It means above all else that I took care of what needed my attention without compromising my need to take care of me. Yes, that means my work timeline suffered, but the book I release will be better than if I'd pushed myself to complete it while dealing with my minor inconvenience because I can give it the attention it deserves now that my minor inconvenience is under control, at least for the moment.

Mostly, it means I am human, and that is okay!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sometimes... Love...

I recently published a book of poetry, Love in Silhouette, about love. Problem is I'm not feeling very loving lately. Don't misunderstand me, I live my life from a place of love. I'm just feeling like I'm a little out of sync with the love in my life, but to quote Luther Vandross. "Sometimes love is wonderful, but sometimes it's only love." I suppose I'm in an "only love" state of mind lately.

Love is a journey we take as we travel through life. We find people who offer us love, and we choose whether or not to accept it. Sometimes we love when we it's against our own best interests. Sometimes we love when it hurts more than we can imagine. Sometimes we love against our will. Sometimes we love even when we can't express that love. Sometimes love lives in our hearts waiting for the right moment to be shared. Sometimes love tricks us into making decisions that seem right in the moment but haunt us later in life.

Also on the journey of love, we find love that is rewarding and uplifting. We find love that make us smile. We give love willingly and receive love that is open and real. We love because we deserve the best and the best is offered. We give love because we want the best for someone else. When two people give love from open hearts with honest intentions, love truly is wonderful even when it's only love.

Sometimes the journey of love brings us to a place where we love because we are so drawn to one another, there is no other choice. Sometimes we fight that love for as long as possible no matter how true we know it to be. Sometimes that's the right thing, but usually that's just fear interfering. Sometimes we give in to that love and find it's so hot even ice can't squelch its flame from consuming our hearts and souls.

Sometimes love gets lost in the mix. We think it's love when it's really just the next move on the chess board. We think it's love when it's really just need. We think it's love when it's really just security. We think it's love when it's really just what's familiar. We think it's love when it's really just settling for a substitute for the real thing. We think it's love because the true love we feel can't be expressed.

Sometimes love is only love. Sometimes it's wonderful. Sometimes it's nothing but a substitute that seems real. Sometimes we blind ourselves to reality to keep love. Sometimes we latch on to anything that resembles the love we think we really want. Sometimes we blind ourselves to the love that could be real because we fear it won't be returned.

Sometimes we forget that love changes. It grows. It morphs in to something unrecognizable. It grows stagnant from lack of nurturing. It can even die if not cherished and cultivated. It can revive after years of dormancy. It can be the most beautiful thing in the world and can lead to both our most exalted moments and our most painful ones.

Love is never a sure thing. The risk of love often seems too great, so we deny it, we walk away from it, we pretend it's anything other than love, we blind ourselves to the love that won't let go. And, then love bleeds out of us and reminds us who we are, what are dreams are, and what we denied ourselves.

Sometimes... Love...

For more thoughts on love, check out my book of poetry.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love Never Demands Perfection

My next book of poetry (coming soon), Reflections in Silhouette, is all about the struggle to find, accept, and love one's self in spite of... well, everything life throws at us. It's all about looking deep inside and saying "I don't have to be perfect." It's all about looking at those who demand perfection, even if they don't realize it, and saying "This is what I've got to offer. You don't have to like me. Someone will love me for who I am. Even if no one else does, I love me. And that's a start." It's also about recognizing those in our lives, who really do accept us "as is" and who genuinely think our best is perfect enough. Those people are truly rare.

Whenever someone makes us feel like we need to change to be with them, or we need to "fix" things about ourselves to be acceptable, that person isn't loving us as we are. That person doesn't think our best is enough. Whenever someone doesn't support our growth and our own desires to be our best selves, that person isn't loving us. The person is loving an image he or she has created of us.

Sadly, we do this to ourselves as well. We look at other people and try to makes ourselves what we think they want. We try to fit the image we think they have of us. Everyone loses when we do this. We become inauthentic. Then we build lives and relationships build on deceptions we don't even realize we're committing. When we deceive ourselves into believing someone else knows better who we should be, we deny our own truths. When we deny our own truths, we blind ourselves to the reality we live. When we deny our own truths, we cease to truly live and settle for simply existing.

The scariest thing is that we often deceive ourselves into thinking we're happy when adapt to meet someone else's image of us. We believe that because the other person or persons seem to like us better, perhaps even love us, we are better and therefore happier. This type of inauthentic happiness is actually intoxicating and can become resemble a drug. We become addicted to seeing the look of approval in the other person's eyes, and we may even begin to think that approval is love.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Love accepts us even when we're not perfect. Approval only wants us when we do what's acceptable to the person granting approval. That is a setup for inequality in a relationship. When you take back your power by embracing your true self again, you will find the approval will likely disappear and the love you attributed to the approval will also dissipate.

Being one's self may lead to a lack of approval from others, but if it costs you someone's love, even your own, it wasn't love to begin with. It may have been infatuation or perhaps even genuine concern. But love never demands perfection because love realizes perfection is only a dream.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ride-a-Long with the Albany Police Department

I arrived at the Albany Police Department a few minutes early for my ride-a-long. Officer Jason Camillo introduced himself. We exited through the back door to go to his patrol car. The temperature outside was around twenty-nine degrees. The car wasn't much warmer. I suddenly felt very glad I'd opted for warm clothes including my knee high brown boots, calf length tan wool coat, and striped scarf! Oh, boy, I began to second guess doing a ride-a-long in winter!
Officer Camillo got his gear settled. He stashed his duffel bag and some other things in the trunk, positioned his shotgun and assault rifle in their holders between the seats. I thought "I really hope we don't need those tonight, but it sure would be exciting." (Oops! There went my naughty side tempting my nice side.) I said with a little smile "I think I won't touch those."

He showed me the electronic ticketing machine (I forgot if it has an actual name) and explained how much better it is when it's raining since pens and paper are both affected by water. This machine is perfect for the Oregon weather. I'm sure those getting unsmudged tickets might disagree... Those nice, clean copies have to be harder to fight in court.

Our first activity of the evening was to arrest a woman on a warrant. She needed to finishing serving her jail time. It was only a few days on a misdemeanor charge. We went to the address on file for her. Another officer joined Officer Camillo to attempt the arrest. Officer Camillo asked me to stay in the car for my safety. I didn't argue. I had no desire to stand out in the cold. He returned to the car without the woman. She no longer lived there. He entered a quick report.

Then he learned it was possible she was living somewhere else, so we went to that address. He and the other officer approached the house. I sat in the car watching people's reaction to the police car and the officers. It's amazing how many people look the other direction or cover their faces or make some other concealing gesture when they see a police officer or a police car. I wondered if I do the same thing without even realizing it. A little while later he returned. The people at that house said that she was living there but wasn't home.

I kind of hoped she would come walking up the sidewalk while we sat there, so I could witness the arrest. She didn't, so we went on our way. They would try again another night.

We were driving along chatting about "what if" scenarios when we passed a bicyclist who seemed to be trying to avoid being seen. Officer Camillo gave a U-turn that reminded me of the EVOC driving we did during the Albany Citizen's Police Academy. Cool! We pulled over the bicyclist. He had a record, but his only violation for the night was not having a light on his bicycle, so Officer Camillo issued a warning.

Shortly thereafter, we stopped another bicyclist who also received a no light warning. He looked like a teenager but turned out to be in his late twenties.

We drove around for a bit checking out areas where people are known to do drugs, but no one was out. I guess even drug addicts have enough sense to stay indoors when it's that cold.

Officer Camillo was called to help search for a juvenile who'd stolen enough jewelry for a felony classification, but she was long gone.

A domestic dispute call came in. This got my heart pumping. A couple was fighting in a driveway while a child sat in the car. By the time we arrived, the parents were gone. The child was with his grandparents. Any argument was denied. The child was safe.

We drove around again looking at other spots where criminal activity was known to take place.

A call came out for an apartment complex we'd just passed. Someone was sleeping outside in the common area and might have been looking for drugs earlier. Officer Camillo and another officer went to talk to him. After hearing his story, they were able to ascertain he'd done nothing illegal and found him shelter for the night.

We searched for another criminal who'd pulled a knife in a lobby somewhere, but we didn't find him.

We followed a couple of suspicious cars and Officer Camillo pulled license plates to make sure there were no warrants, stolen car alerts, or other criminal activity related to the car or the car's owner. One car showed up as having formerly been listed as stolen but no longer was; however, the female owner had a restraining order out against a male and a male was driving, so Officer Camillo confirmed via photo the driver wasn't the male with the restraining order. We went on our way.

We chatted about family, life, and police work as we drove around Albany. There were many times when I had no idea where I was and then would suddenly recognize something and feel anchored again.

It was an interesting experience. Officer Camillo kept apologizing that there wasn't more action for me to see, but that's not such a bad thing. As much as I would've liked to see more of the police at work, crime not taking place is a good thing. Besides, it was a reminder that law enforcement really isn't anything like what we see on television or read in books. A lot of it is finding the details to make the puzzle pieces fit and that can be quite mundane.

He encouraged me to sign up for another ride-a-long and suggested August, since apparently that's when you get some really busy nights. I just might have to see if I can make that work...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Emotional Quicksand: AKA My Poetry

In a recent Facebook status update, I said:

just realized that I've spent much of this year wading through the emotional quicksand I call poetry while managing to stay afloat though at times it is tempting to just let go and sink...
While some might see this statement as negative for me it was a point of pride. There was a point in my life where the work I did on my poetry this year would've sunk me into self-destructive behavior. There are only a few people in the world who know how truly self-destructive I can be when properly motivated and even fewer who know what it takes to bring me to that place or how to then get me out of it.

But this year, when I felt tempted to let go and sink into that emotional quicksand, I did things I'd never done before. They may seem like no-brainers to you, but for me this was revelatory.

I allowed myself to cry, to sit at my desk and let the tears flow while I worked. I didn't stop working, and I didn't stop the tears. I didn't make excuses for the tears. I didn't question the tears. I didn't analyze the tears. I didn't judge them. I just let them be. I didn't fight them, and they didn't fight me. It was positively cathartic!!

Other times, I called/texted/IMed (oh, today's verbage. gotta love it.) with my friends. Sometimes we talked about the poetry projects and even my feelings about certain poems. Other times my friends distracted me enough that I didn't get bogged down and distracted by the content of the poems while doing more tedious tasks.

My friends chatted with me, analyzed poems with me, reminded me of why I decided to publish my poetry, encouraged me, and reminded me that great is actually better than perfect. One friend texted with me for a couple of hours one night as I worked through a particularly emotional set of poems. It was a light conversation, for the most part, and the friend didn't even know I was working through most of the conversation, but it kept me balanced.

I also turned to my community on Facebook with status updates about my progress and to share poems. This brought encouragement, insight, and support often in ways people likely didn't know they were giving. A silly comment that made me laugh in the midst of a group of painful memories. A word of encouragement about my progress. A "like" about a post related to my poetry or my gratitude statement of the day.

There were times when I also put myself first and disappointed others. This is always hard for me, but it became necessary for me to concentrate and give my own work the attention it deserved. There were those who understood. There were those who respected me for it. There were those who, well, didn't respond so kindly. The unkind responses made me appreciate those who truly care about me and my goals that much more.

As I prepared to release Love in Silhouette, I couldn't help but wonder if some of these poems will make people who think they know me well, question just how well they really know me. I also wonder if some of the people who inspired certain poems will recognize themselves in the poems should they read them. The last two things that occasionally concern me are that someone may misinterpret a poem or assign a poem to an incorrect time period in my life, but that can only happen with people who think they know more than they do about me and my past. Strangers won't care, and those who love me know the truth.

So, I released the poems into the world for judgment because I know that in the end no matter how the world judges them, my friends will be there to remind me of what's important.

I'm nearing completion of the manuscript portion for the second book, Reflections in Silhouette, right now. At least I think it's almost complete. As I rearranged the order of the poems and added a few new poems to improve the flow, I realized that I've learned a lot throughout this process. I've learned that sometimes you have to reach out and say "support me, please." because your friends can't know what you're feeling, but their inability to read your mind and heart doesn't mean they don't care. I've learned that sometimes a distraction that presents itself is there to help you through something tough making it as much blessing as distraction. I've learned that my feelings don't have to be hidden or tempered or changed for those who truly care about me. They will continue to care about me even when I'm sitting at my desk crying tears they don't see while reading their silly texts designed to make me smile. I've learned something about accepting support and asking for help. Sometimes you don't have to ask, sometimes you just have to accept the support offered even when the person offering it doesn't know they're offering it. Sometimes that is the best help of all.

I managed to stay afloat as the emotional quicksand that is my poetry surrounded me, but I didn't do it alone. And, that's okay. Strength doesn't mean pulling yourself out of the quicksand on your own so much as finding and accepting the resources and support of those who will throw you a lifeline when you need it. Much love and thanks to all my friends who support, encourage, and inspire me whether they know they help me or not as I traverse the emotional quicksand that is the poetry I've written.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yoga & Love: Why I Practice Yoga!

Recently, I posted the following on Writers on the Move as my workout "status" for the day:

Yoga felt really great this morning!! Really great!! My focus was on target, and I even felt some negativity I didn't even know I was holding inside drain away.... And I thought I'd already dealt with those hurt feelings!! Wow!!

I really didn't think much about it until Jackie Dishner, one of the other membersof the group, commented:

I've not experienced that kind of power yet. But I'd like to.

I responded:

You will, Jackie! This isn't my first experience with it. My first experience with it is kind of hard to put into words. It was incredibly powerful and changed my life or at least my perspective on life because it changed the way I viewed myself and also those around me. BUT, and this is important, it can't be forced. That power comes when you need it and you're ready for it and not a minute before. Just be patient with yourself and with your yoga practice!!

As I went about the rest of my day, my thoughts kept returning to my first experience with the power of yoga. I pushed it aside, but it kept interfering with my ability to write and to do my household chores. Finally, I realized I felt a little guilty about saying that my first experience with it was hard to put into words. That was a bit of a cop out.

Truth is I was being selfish. There I said it. I cherish that memory. I want to keep it to myself, so I can use it whenever I need it. I have a little fear it'll lose its magic if I share it with the world. There's also a little part of me that thinks people might think I'm a bit crazy if I tell the story. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized my experience might help someone. Who knows? Maybe my story will encourage someone to try yoga or to stick with yoga. Maybe the magic of that moment will even grow. As for crazy, well enough people already think that, so who really cares?

I don't remember exactly why I decided to try yoga. I'd struggled to find a workout I really enjoyed. I talked about that in another post, Writers on the Move Just May Change My Opinion of Workout Groups. When I first started practicing yoga, I liked how yoga made me feel physically even though I seriously struggled with the poses. I didn't buy into the whole "spiritual, emotional" aspect of it. To me, it was just another fitness routine.

So here I was a few months after I started practicing yoga, moving through my poses. They were going a little better than usual. I still wasn't flexible enough or strong enough to do many of the poses fully, but somehow that day they felt more fluid. I moved through them with a bit more ease. My body felt really good. I felt lighter than usual. I felt almost happy as I moved through the poses. I didn't really understand what was happening, but I liked it. Looking back I now realize it was probably the first time I worked through the routine and was really "in the moment" - not letting my mind drift to my task list, my problems, or meeting expectations.

I reached Savasana, aka Corpse Pose. I hated Savasana at that point in my life. I really hated it. I didn't understand how ending a workout by doing nothing could be beneficial. I didn't understand that being consciously and purposefully still could be as difficult and as rewarding, perhaps even more so, as being busy. I hated it so much I'd even skipped it a few times when I was pressed for time, but that day my routine was going so well I wanted to see it through.

So I moved into Savasana fighting the feelings of vulnerability it always triggered in me. Something about lying on the floor with my eyes closed, my arms stretched out to my sides, my neck elongated, my chest and stomach exposed, and my legs slightly open and relaxed made me feel very vulnerable. One more reason to not like Savasana.

I took a deep breath and followed the narrator's instructions. I closed my eyes. The narrator said something about giving myself to the Earth that I'd never particulary liked, but this time it didn't bother me so much. I felt my muscles relax. The feeling of lightness I'd had throughout the yoga routine linger.

Suddenly, a bolt of pure love hit my heart with so much intensity, my left arm and my left leg jerked up from the floor and returned to position. My body trembled. My muscles tingled. I felt love radiate out of my heart to meet love that blanketed me. It was the most honest love I'd ever experienced. I lay there just enjoying the sensation, just being in that moment, just feeling love and nothing else, just love. In that moment, the thought "I am made of pure love." flitted through my mind. I didn't argue with it. I allowed the idea to settle into my mind. I kind of liked it.

I'm not sure how long I lay there, but when I opened my eyes the video, Ali MacGraw - Yoga Mind & Body, had quit running and the television was a blank screen. I stood up, shook out my limbs, took a couple of sips of water, and walked into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and saw tears on my face. I hadn't even felt tears start. I noticed a fresh one trail down my cheek as I stared at my face in the mirror. Something looked different, but I didn't know quite recognize it.

Something had changed. The pure love I'd experienced had healed something inside me. Or at least it had started me on the healing process. I saw things differently. I saw people differently. I realized that the healing I needed began and ended in the honest love I'd experienced while doing Savasana. It took me a while to truly embrace that and to learn how to incorporate it into my life as is typical of me. I slowly began to trust that if I allowed pure, honest love into my life, healing and happiness followed.

I've experienced the power of connecting with my emotions through yoga since then, but that first time was the most powerful. Over the years, I've opened myself to the moments when the focus and meditation of yoga lead me to breakthroughs or help me find balance when I feel out of balance. I've learned through yoga to be more in tune with my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

It's amazing what treating one's body with respect, attention, intention, and love does to increase one's health and wellbeing in all aspects of life.

I appreciate, embrace, and revel in the power of yoga to help me on my journey to embrace the me I want to be, the me I truly am, and the life I want to share with others. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude & Thanksgiving

It's that time of year when people's thoughts turn to gratitude or as many are currently putting it thankfulness. It's nice that Thanksgiving gives people a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to turn their thoughts to gratitude. I find myself wondering why it takes a holiday to get people to appreciate the good things in their lives, but I wonder this every year. I still haven't found a satisfactory answer.

At the beginning of 2011, well technically the end of 2010, I decided to spend a whole year focused on gratitude. I've blogged about this a couple of times before, but it feels like it's time to say a few words about it again. Maybe because Thanksgiving is today, and I'm having a harder time feeling thankful than I have all year. I know why and a part of me feels like it's completely understandable, but I don't like feeling like this. I prefer my state of gratitude. I really do.

This year has had some strange ups and downs. My life has encountered some challenges that I probably should've seen coming but didn't. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I chose not to see them. A little over a year ago, I told a good friend that "Willful blindness makes the day go a lot smoother." when explaining a particular situation in my life. I've come to realize that simple sentence had become my motto at some point over the years. If I didn't want to see it, I closed my eyes. If I didn't want to hear it, I covered my ears.If I didn't want to feel the pain, I acted like it didn't exist.  If I didn't want it to be reality, I pretended it wasn't. I created a reality that looked like I what I wanted to see even if it only really existed in my mind. In a way I guess I bought into the idea that if you think it, it will happen. But there are some things you just can't think into existence.

In a way, I even became grateful for the willful blindness. It allowed me to smile. It allowed me laugh. It allowed me to in contact with people. It allowed me to be a wife. It allowed me to exist. It allowed me forget what I wanted to forget. It allowed me to ignore the truths that didn't fit with the paradigm I'd created. It allowed me to pretend I actually had a fulfilling life. It allowed me to maintain a certain level of happiness I even believed was real as long as I never looked below the surface, so to speak.

When the blinders were suddenly ripped from my face, I grabbed them and tried to put them back on. I rather liked the reality they'd created. I didn't want to face that that reality was a pretense. I'd worked hard to create it. I wanted to believe that happiness was real. I really did. I was grateful for the happiness I felt. So what if it was only surface happiness?

As I accepted that the blinders weren't my friend, I began to feel resentful and angry. I felt like too much about my life was false, and I didn't know what to do with those feelings. My gratitude for the life I had began to disappear.

I decided I needed to get back in touch with my gratitude in an effort to reconnect to my happy state of being because as my blinders came off I realized I wasn't as happy as I thought, but I didn't realize my former happiness had been surface level only. That took a while to discover and even longer to accept.

As I focused on gratitude, I discovered something that surprised me. There are things about my life I love. There are things about my life I don't like in the least. I feel genuine happiness and genuine sadness in my heart. I have needs and desires that are important. I discovered that I could be happy without denying who I am. I discovered I could be happy and still be loved. I discovered that pretending didn't help anyone. I discovered that being myself might cost me, but that not being myself had cost me more.

Focusing on gratitude lead me to understand that I want positive people in my life. I want people who are optimistic and loving and caring and supportive and encouraging and inspiring in my life. And just as much as I want people who give me those things I want people who allow me to give the same back to them.I want people in my life who are real. I want people who can say they're having a bad day without blaming the whole world. I want people in my life who can acknowledge both the good and the bad in themselves. I want people in my life who are honest not only with others but first with themselves. I want happiness. I want other people to be happy. I want people who want me to be happy without changing me. I want to laugh. I want to have fun. I want to continue my writing. I want success.  I want balance.

Knowing what I truly want makes it so much easier to set goals. Accepting what I truly want makes it so much easier to express my desires and needs. Embracing what I truly want makes it so much easier to push forward. Letting go of the fear that my desires don't line up perfectly with the image others see of me or with those of the important people in my life is scary but leads to much more honest communication. The vulnerability may lead to pain, but at least the pain will be honest. I am grateful that I've come come to recognize, accept, and embrace my true desires in life.

I find I'm grateful for all the people who've contributed to my life's journey. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am. I'm grateful for the friends who helped me uncover my truth and supported me along the way. I love them more than they know.

If nothing else, I can say that my experiences have inspired my writing resulting in short stories, my novel, All She Ever Wanted, and my poetry including my recently released book of poetry, Love in Silhouette. So even when I think about lost moments or mistakes made, I have to concede my body of work wouldn't exist without the experiences I've encountered.

So, as I think about Thanksgiving, I realize that I have much to feel thankful for even if it's not the things people generally feel thankful for. Instead, I'm thankful that I'm facing my life - both the good and the bad - once again. I'm thankful for the growth I've experienced in the last year - actually all the growth I've experienced in my life. I'm thankful for the work inspired by my experiences. I'm thankful for real feelings even when they're not always happiness...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Final Thoughts

I signed up for the Albany Citizens Police Academy to enhance the crime scenes and the investigations in my novels. I realized even before class started that the purpose of the class was to build better relations between the community and the police department, so I knew my needs wouldn't be the focus of the academy. I resigned myself to this and decided to garner what I could from the class because every insight, every new bit of knowledge helps, every observation can lead to something.

When I started the class, I also hoped to make a new friend or two. But then again, I go into every situation hoping to make a new friend or two. I'm of the mindset that one can never have enough friends. Well, I can say I made a few acquaintances, so it's a start!

As a writer, I also hoped to make some contacts within the department. That I'm fairly sure I accomplished. I have business cards of several members of the department, and Chief Boyd sought me out after my talk on the last night to give me his card and encourage me to contact him if I had any questions he could answer for my upcoming books! Wow, nice!

I found the Albany Citizens Police Acadamy rewarding. The EVOC rides and the shooting simulation were certainly enjoyable and enlightening. I loved seeing the K-9 unit is action even if they were only excercises. Wearing the Fatal Vision goggles was enlightening, and seeing the drugs firsthand surprising. And, that only hits aa few of the memorable moments already detailed in various posts on my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the department and getting a better understanding of their roles.

Small town departments work differently than departments in large cities, and I think that's important for writers and readers as well as citizens to keep in mind. One of the main differences being that everyone in a small department is expected to pitch in when needed and that Detective, at least in Albany Police Department, is a lateral, temporary assignment not a lifetime promotion as is the case in larger departments and usually on television and in books.

Also, there is no law enforcement department that is as well-equipped as the CSI shows might lead one to believe. Often, between limited resources and the backlog at state forensic analysis offices, evidence takes months to be processed creating delays in investigations and prosecutions. That is reality!

The members of the Albany Police Department and law enforcement community who taught the classes and demonstrated myriad aspects of the job seemed to truly enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with the class. They were always positive about their jobs even when describing the challenges. At times, the instructors took topics that seems mundane and made them interesting and engaging.

Shortly after one particular class, my husband and I were driving home in the evening and saw a police vehicle parked off the road and empty. As we stopped at a stop sign, we saw an officer walking in our lane toward us with his flashlight shining right at our car. In the past, I would've started wondering if we'd done something wrong and probably gotten nervous. Having taken the class and just days before that learned that many times officers are just looking for help, I didn't even give it a second thought. As he approached the driver side window, I tilted my head down so I could see him from the passenger side. I recognized Seargent Drum from our EVOC training. He asked us if we'd seen anyone pass us as he scanned the light over the interior of our car. Before I would've thought the light scanning the car was because he considered us suspicious, but thanks to the class I realized he was just making sure there were no surprises in the back seat. We said no. He thanked us and resumed his search. End of conversation. We went on our way.

The moral of that story is that you shouldn't always assume you've done something wrong just because a police officer approaches you. He/she may just need any information you can give them. Perhaps even a lack of information can be helpful. You never know. I have to admit, I wished for a minute that we'd seen someone, so we could've pointed him in the right direction, but who knows perhaps us not seeing the person was helpful in its own way. Maybe that helped rule out a direction. Maybe not, but who knows.

What I know is that I better appreciate the work our Albany Police Department does with limited resources and in conjunction with neighboring law enforcement agencies. It takes a whole community to create a safe environment that is mutually beneficial to all its citizens. The police have a function to serve and so do the citizens of any community. I am now more aware of what goes on around me, and I was already fairly aware. I am also more cognizant of the fact that I may not know what's going on around me. For example, I had no idea just how large the drug problem is in the Albany area or how much the police departments in the area have worked together to bring it under control.

If your city, or town, or a neighboring town offers a Citizens Police Academy, I encourage you to take it. You'll be surprised at what you learn about your community, your role as a citizen, and the job of the police. If you're a writer just don't expect the class to cater to your specific needs. That's not what it's designed for. (There is an Academy for that as well called the Writers Police Academy. It's in session once a year.) The Citizens Police Academy is designed to create a better relationship between the police and the citizens they serve. If you live in the Albany, Oregon area, check out the Albany Citizens Police Academy.

I think we could all benefit from understanding each other's roles in society a little better. We often forget there are those who work tirelessly to make sure we enjoy the comforts of the lives we build. None of us succeed or fail on our own no matter how much we think we do. It just isn't possible.

So, thank a police officer for giving up his/her weekends, holidays, and family time, so you can spend that time with yours safely.

My thanks to all the police officers in the communities surrounding mine as well as the communities where my loved ones reside for doing your part to keep combat crime and keep us all safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Graduation!

The Albany Citizens Police Academy Class 2011
The Albany Citizens Police Academy graduation took place last night.

The evening started with dinner catered by Izzy's Pizza. Mayor Sharon Konopa sat at the table where I was sitting while we ate. She chatted everyone at the table easily.

After dinner, Chief Boyd spoke briefly about the importance of the Albany Citizens Police Academy and its role in bridging the gap between the community and the department thanking the class for participating in the Academy. Lieutentant Casey Dorland then spoke briefly about how much the department appreciates those who participate in the class. Mayor Konopa spoke for a few minutes about how valued the police department is and the importance of the Citizens Academy. She encouraged class participants to spread what we learned from participating in the class.

Then it was my turn to speak. I'd spent some time reviewing the blogs I've written over the duration of the Albany Citizens Police Academy and making some notes. As I sat there, notes in front of me, I changed my mind. I looked around the room and decided I didn't want to give the talk I'd planned. I ditched my notes and followed my instincts. As I felt it was my responsibility to represent the class, I decided to include them by asking them to share their thoughts interspersed with my own comments. I had a little fun with it!

Larry Rowson spoke after me. He told us that he used to live in the spot where the building we were in stands. He talked about how well the instructors taught and how he enjoyed learning about how they did their jobs and the various responsibilities. He also offered a suggestion that the Citizens Academy include someone from the fire department in the future. I thought that was a good idea.

Posing with certifcate and mug
after graduation!
After Larry concluded his comments, we moved on to the graduation portion of the evening. Community Education Specialist Carmen Westfall, Chief Boyd, Captain Carter, and Captain Dorland stood in the front of the room. Carmen presented a certificate and class photo to each student, and Captain Carter presented a Albany Police Department coffee mug to each student. Handshakes all around!

After the presentation of the certificates, cake was served! Then we all spent a little time socializing and chatting! A very nice little party to end the Albany Citizens Police Academy!

Stay tuned for one more blog post about the Albany Citizens Police Academy! I have a few more thoughts I want to share regarding the class!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Love in Silhouette: Poems is Now Available on

Love in Silhouette: Poems is now available on in paperback. Kindle version coming soon!
Read, enjoy, review!!

Love. We long for it. We feel the sting of love’s loss. We give love in hopes of receiving love. We withhold love out of fear it won’t be returned. Love connects us. Love disappoints us. Love distinguishes us. Love extinguishes us. Love abandons us. Love disappoints us. Love creates expectations. Love fulfills lives. Love is always a risk worth exploring even when it fails. Love is poetry… Poetry is love… Love becomes a silhouette.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lessons in Memories of War Now Available

New poem, Lessons in Memories of War, now available for your reading pleasure. This poem is based on an inteview I did with my Grandpa Stamm for my American History Class in high school.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Standing in the Moment

We stand in this moment. Then we'll stand in the next moment. Then the next. Then... Well, you get picture.

As we stand in each moment we choose how to act and how to react. We can stand in love. We can stand in anger. We can stand in resentment. We can stand in sadness. We can stand in happiness. We can stand in disappointment. We can stand in satisfaction. We can stand in ectasy. We can stand in gratitude. We can stand in isolation. We can stand in togetherness. We can stand in openness. We can stand in closedoff-ness.

Often it feels like we don't have a choice of what we stand in due to outside circumstances. The words someone says to us hurt our feelings. Someone's attitude towards us cuts deeply. Someone denies us something to which we feel entitled. Someone makes us do something we don't want to do. (Yeah, yeah, we all say no one can make us do anything we don't want to do, but if that was true there would be no victims in this world. There would also likely be very few clean houses and very few people working at menial jobs. So there.) Someone takes something away that we love. Someone leaves us behind through death or a relationship ending. Or myriad other little hurts we encounter through typical human interaction.

Sometimes the place someone leads us is even positive. Someone says something that makes us smile. Someone mentions a memory that brings a sense of togetherness. Someone give us a reason to laugh. Someone reminds us of the power of human touch through a hug or a kiss lifting a bad mood. Someone reaches out when we hurt and reminds us life will get better.

It dawned on me this morning that sometimes when I really should feel like all is hopeless, I find I stand in hope and happiness. Is that weird? I don't know. Maybe it's just realizing that wallowing in self-pity or becoming self-destructive, as I've tended to do in the past, isn't going to have positive results. So I find something else to cling to, to look forward to, to rejoice in.

What I do know is that when stand in love, I find tackling the hurts of life much easier. When I stand in anger or resentment or sadness, I find it harder to find my way back to happiness even when things look positive or someone reminds me I'm worthy of happiness and love.

I'm not encouraging the idea of denying our true feelings. I say feel what you feel, embrace those feelings, even celebrate the bad feelings, then grab on to what motivates you to improve your life and move forward.

My forthcoming book of poetry, Love in Silhouette, explores the positives and negative aspects of feeling and sharing love in romantic relationships. Reflections in Silhouette, my second book of poetry to be released soon, explores the idea of learning to love and accept one's self. These two books of poetry explore my ongoing struggle to stand in love no matter what barriers I encounter. Both books explore my desire to always choose to stand in my truth whatever the truth of the moment may be. I hope you'll join me in doing so!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 10 - Computer Forensics and Narcotics

As per usual, class started with a few words from Community Education Specialist, Carmen Westfall. She asked for volunteers to speak at next week's graduation. I felt my hand go up before I even realized it, so I guess I'm speaking at graduation.  Oh, boy, maybe I can use these blogs to pull together something interesting... Oh, well, at least I enjoy public speaking.

Then we posed for the class picture... Okay, think high schoool, the whole class stands together in a group and snap, snap, snap. Now there's a pictire of you with a bunch of people you may never see again, some of whom you likely won't remember, truth be told. Only in this instance, there are some people in the class I've not exchanged more than two words with. And, yet, we've spent our Tuesday evenings together and two Saturdays together over the past ten weeks. Oh, well! Apparently, we each get a copy, so I'll share once I've got it in my possession!

Next, Detective Dawn Hietala explained the vital role of computer forensics in police investigations. Her job is to find evidence on computers. She trained in techniques to pull information from computers without altering or disturbing the evidence. She preserves, identifies, extracts, analyzes, and documents the evidence, so that the criminal can be successfully prosecuted and the victim validated. She explained the process for removing the hard disk, imaging it, replacing it, and then searching for the evidence. The training to become certified is time consuming and expensive, so there aren't a lot of computer forensic experts. The numbers are growing though.

Detective Hietala searches deep into the computer to find things including things people often think they've deleted or erased from the computer. Even damaged hard drives can reveal their contents. Completely erasing files from a computer is nearly impossible. It can be retrieved with the right training and by an expert who knows how to find it!

A large portion of Detective Hietala's job is locating child pornography on computers belonging to child molesters. This helps to validate the stories of molestors' victims and to prove the person is a pedophile. She sends the images she finds to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC runs the images against those in their database to find the ones who've been identified through other cases. The identifications help to both identify that a child was actually a child when the picture/video was taken and aids in prosecution. This database also helps to identify patterns of behavior between videos identifying both victims and perpetrators.

Important note: if you don't want something discovered, your best best is to never put it on your computer because even if you delete it or use an erasure program, remnants remain. This is easy to forget in today's world of instant communication and digital sharing.

Following Detective Hietala's presentation, Detectives Justin Alexander and Alex Johnson explained narcotics investigation. They spent a significant amount of time explaining the effects of various narcotics. They also explained how the law allowing medical marijuana use has complicated enforcing the law because so many people abuse the law and thwart the system.

The detectives explained heroin's close relationship to oxycontin. Both are opiates. Oxycontin can be manipulated to be used in a manner similar to heroin. Suddenly, I understood why in Kentucky oxycontin has earned the nikcname "Hillbilly Heroin" better than I did before. I wish I didn't. Another one of those moments in life when I wish I could remain ignorant to make myself feel better. - Willful blindness seems to be a habit of mine.

They discussed the drug dog with obvious affection and admiration expressing that the dog easily pays for himself in finding drugs that would otherwise go undetected.

Protecting the children who are trapped in drug riddled environments is a strong motivator for the both detectives. Sadly, they explained that most of the time children living in these homes test positive for whatever drugs the adults in the house are using. This is usually through accidental contact.

They talked with pride about a large bust where weapons and a significant amount of money was seized, but, without hesitation, said they'd trade those large busts for saving a child in danger any time.

Many may be surprised at what it takes to establish probable cause to enter a house suspected of drug possession/distribution. Most investigations take multiple months just to gain entry. There are also undercover buys and the like to help establish probable cause.  Confidential informants who have a prior relationship with the dealer are often the easiest way for the detectives to gain access to the evidence needed to get probable cause and to make arrests.

Detectives Johnson and Alexander brought in several different types of drugs and drug paraphenalia to show us what the drugs and the paraphenalia look like. I was surprised how normal the psychodelic mushrooms looked. They would be easy to mistake for something nonthreatening. One marijuana pipe amused me. It looked like someone had removed the cylinder from a six-shooter and placed it on top of the pipe. Detective Alexander explained that it was designed to put in marijuana for up to six smokers. Each person would smoke from his/her slot. The next would rotate the cylinder and smoke from the next. Yet, I found it slightly amusing that they were all using the same mouthpiece. Germs! Yuck!

They also allowed a few of us to perform the field test for meth. I volunteered. Detective Alexander had us put on black gloves. Then he handed each of us a little plastic bag with three vials in it. Next he dropped a small piece of meth into the bag. It looked like rock salt. We each sealed our individual bag with a little plastic clamplike thing. We crushed the first vial and swished the bag around. Then we crushed the second vial and swished again. Then we crushed the third vial and swished. The contents turned an inky blue-purple color almost before I started the final swishing. That was kind of cool.

Okay, I know I've complained a bit about the focus on drug investigations throughout the Academy, but the presentation on narcotics was interesting, well presented, and very informative. It's not necessarily something I see needing for any of my planned projects, but who knows maybe the knowledge will inspire a new project...

Friday, November 4, 2011

The "Proofs" of Love in Silhouette

Last week, I shared the cover of Love in Silhouette with you. This week, the proof! Two typos have delayed the release date I'd hoped for! It should still be available for your reading pleasure by the end of next week! In the meantime, here are photos of the proof - both the front and back cover!!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 9 - Detectives and Major Cases

I was late for class tonight, so I missed the information/introduction. Oh, well, sometimes life works that way...

Captain Eric Carter (remember him from way back - our first class) talked about the detectives unit including who the detectives are, the structure of the department, and the role detectives play in the Albany Police Department. Detectives in the Albany Policy Department work on a rotation. They apply for 2, 4, or 6 year terms. At the end of the term, they return to patrol duty. Patrol officers and Detectives are lateral on the heirarchy at the Albany Police Department. Many patrol officers have or will have detective experience, so they are equipped to handle cases. The small size of the Albany Police Department dictates that all police officers be able to help out on major cases.

Captain Carter also talked about evidence collection. He explained that it's important to have a wide perimeter around the crime scene to make sure all the evidence is uncontaminated. Every person who comes in contact with the scene leaves something behind and takes something away even if it's only the dust on their shoes. Crime scenes are limited to essential personnel only. If an officer or detective doesn't have a reason to be there, they are kept out of the scene.  Many photos are taken as they may show things that are missed or initially thought unimportant or unrelated to the crime. A small item may be found to be important, so all items are taken from the scene.

DNA is crucial evidence as it identifies the suspect. Captain Carter talked about the process for collecting DNA from a suspect. Collecting DNA from a person requires either consent or a search warrant. Six swabs are used to take samples from the inside of the mouth - three on each side. The samples are then sent to the crime lab for analysis. Due to the backlog DNA generally takes several months to garner results for the department. During that time, the suspect is often roaming free. In special cases, the department can and does ask for expedited results. Oregon only has one crime lab, so their case load is huge and many departments may be asking for expedited results meaning it can still take a significant amount of time to get results back.

Lieutenant Brad Liles added a quick comment about collecting DNA at the crime scene. He explained that six swabs are still taken. One is water only. One is the substrate alone. Another is water plus the substrate of the item on which the evidence lies. Three swabs of the actual evidence are taken. All this is sent to the lab for testing. The control samples help to eliminate anythng that is in the water or on the item on which the evidence lies.

They referenced a major arson case vaguely as there's not a lot about it they can mention other than what's already been in the news. One problem with arson cases is that much evidence gets destroyed by the firefighters doing their job to put out the fire.

They also explained how important footprints are in solving a crime as there is a large database of shoe treads that can be referenced to narrow down suspects.

Types of injuries and the patterns of injuries also play a large part in finding and convicting criminals.
Lieutenant Liles described the role of the detectives in two major cases. He explained the crimes committed, the evidence collection, the investigation, and the sentences after conviction.

The first case was a kidnap/rape case.

The second was a double homicide that started as a missing persons case. The missing persons case originated in Albany, but the double homicide took place in Benton County. Jurisdiction for the prosecution went to Benton County rather than staying in Albany.

Both cases illustrated how important evidence collection, interviews, and tenacity are in making arrests and obtaining convictions.

Both speakers were engaging and interesting. They really brought the crimes to life by illustrating that involved in these crimes are real human beings with family and friends.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Your Feelings and Mine Hold Equal Importance, Really They Do

Today I read a statement that stopped me cold - just an innocuous little statement in the middle of several others. Johanna Garth is doing something she calls The Fulfillment Project to make her already good life a little better or something to that effect. Today, on her blog, Losing Sanity, she's talking about a reward system of marbles she set up for her children. She lists a few of the things for which they can earn marbles. One of those things is what made me pause and think. She included "put someone else's feelings before your own" as a behavior that earns a marble. In theory, I don't disagree, but alarm bells started going off in my head. When we teach children to put others feelings before their own, we have to be careful to not teach them that their feelings aren't important.

It's one thing to value someone else's feelings, but it should never come at the expense of one's own feelings. I learned this the hard way. In many ways, as a lot women I know were, I was raised to put everyone else's feelings first and consequently to believe that my feelings didn't matter, or at least were less important. I don't think this was necessarily the intended message, but it was the lesson learned.

There's a fine line between putting someone else's feelings first and devaluing your own. For a long time, I thought it was one or the other, so I would swing between devaluing my feelings and demanding that others value them. I think it's very important that we as human beings learn to value other people's feelings without devaluing our own. It has taken me years to truly know this beyond a conceptual idea and even longer to implement it in my life. I still struggle with this, but I'm getting better at it.

When we value our own feelings, we learn to own them. We learn to understand them. We learn to accept them. We learn that no one can dictate them to us. We learn to share them appropriately and without fear. We learn that every feeling we have is not only our right but our responsibility.

It's only when we truly value our own feelings, that we can even begin to honestly value someone else's in a healthy and productive way. Until that moment, all we're doing is sacrificing our feelings, perhaps our very being, in order to value someone else's feelings. And, that person may never value our feelings like we value his/hers. In a perfect world they would, but this world is far from perfect.

So, I say let's all learn to value one another's feelings without devaluing our own. Your feelings are just as important as mine. My feelings are just as important as yours. Think how much better we'd treat one another if we all lived by that simple concept...

Okay, today should've been the Albany Citizen's Police Academy post, but this felt more important, so you get the Albany Citizen's Police Adademy tomorrow. Hope your feelings are okay with that!

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Attitude? Old Attitude? What's in an Attitude Anyway?

I'm not particularly fond of the word attitude. It has to do with my history with the word, but I don't want to go into that at this point.

I have been making an effort to confront things that I would normally avoid, so I am going to talk about why the word attitude is on my mind lately. See, I've recently realized my attitude has undergone a change. At first this scared me because I felt an attitude emerging that I haven't felt in probably twenty years. And, there's a huge part of me that doesn't want to be who I was then. There were things about that girl that I really didn't like, even then. There were other things about her that I loved.

Crazy thing is that as I embraced the attitude I've been feeling over the past several weeks, I realized this is just more of me stepping into who I am. I can face - perhaps even embrace - having a new attitude even if it is an attitude rooted in an attitude I abandoned long ago.

For so long I pushed aside anything that reminded me of that girl because I thought she was the cause of every problem in my life. I thought if I could erase everything about her, everyone around me would have a better life. So I abandoned the good along with the bad.

Over the last several weeks, I've felt my attitude shift. It's a little hard to explain, but I'll do my best. I hadn't even realized my attitude had become so passive, so malleable, so scared... Then I started feeling more like I used to feel. I started feeling like I can do things again, like I can accomplish whatever I want, like I'm worth everything I ever wanted for myself. I started feeling confident and strong. I started feeling like no one can touch who I am at my core. I started feeling like if people can't see what I have to offer when I show them, they're not worth my time. I shrugged off the feelings, but I kind of liked them. I say feeling because I already knew these things I just didn't feel them.

Recently, while I was shopping, I tried on a couple of outfits and stared at myself  in the mirror. I liked what I saw. I saw a strong, sexy, vibrant woman staring back at me. I was tempted to ask her who she was. I liked her. I remembered her. I recognized me in her and her in me.

My attitude is shifting to one of like me or leave me because this is what you get. My attitude is shiftng to one that says you will treat me like I deserve to be treated or you can exit stage left, or right. Who cares? Just go. My attitude is shifting to one that says I am worth the very best and I know it, so give me your best or go away. My attitude is shifting to one that says I'll reach out, but if you don't reciprocate, I'm done. My attitude is shifting to one that says if you want me in your life, prove to me you deserve to have me around. My attitude is shifting to one that says I will give all I've got, but only if you do the same. My attitude is shifting to one that says I'm not chasing you, but I'm not turning my back on you either. My attitude is shifting to one that says if you can't be here for me when I'm hurting and I need you, don't expect me to jump when you're ready to re-engage. Maybe I will and maybe I won't. It's my decision. My attitude is shifting to one that says only I get to define me, and if you don't like that definition, well, no one says you have to...

Yeah, those of you who knew me in college and haven't seen me in years, are saying "Huh? That's always been your attitude."

But the truth is I pushed that attitude down deep in an effort to be "perfect" or at least to fit other people's image of the "perfect" me. I became what I despised, someone willing to deny herself in order to keep peace. I gave up thinking I even had the right to what I wanted in life. I gave up thinking I could do this or that or the other just because someone else voiced a negative opinion about how I did something. Well, no more... My way may not be your way, but if it works it still counts. It it doesn't work, then I'll learn and move on. If I need your help, I'll ask. And when I say help - I mean help. Don't take over. I'm an intelligent, capable, attractive woman, and I'd advise you not to forget it.

Oh, and if I feel like crying, I'm going to cry. It's not a sign of weakness, and it's not a manipulation. They're tears, and they serve as a release of emotion. Get over it.

If I want to laugh, I'm going to laugh. I don't care if you get the joke or not. It isn't about you.

I've written a lot of poems about the struggle to grow into the person one is meant to be. My poems encompass losing one's self, pretending to be someone "better" by someone else's definition, the events in life that define who one is, and embracing one's true self. I've compiled a number of these poems into my upcoming book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette, in hopes others will find them inspiring and encouraging while on the journey to grow into their true selves!

This is my life, and, guess what, you're a part of it because I choose for you to be. I can change my mind at any time. I don't say that to make you feel insecure. I only want to make sure you know that I know I am enough on my own; however, I am better when surrounded by people who love me, lift me up, inspire me, and cherish me and allow me to do the same for them.

So, that's the way it's going to be from this day forward.

Yeah, I like this attitude. It suits me...

So like Patti LaBelle sang in the 1980s, I've got a new attitude. Or maybe I've got a new old attitude... Either way, this is what I've got to offer. Like it or don't, it's your choice.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cover for Love in Silhouette

Love. We long for it. We feel the sting of love’s loss. We give love in hopes of receiving love. We withhold love out of fear it won’t be returned. Love connects us. Love disappoints us. Love distinguishes us. Love extinguishes us. Love connects us. Love abandons us. Love disappoints us. Love creates expectations. Love fulfills lives. Love is always a risk worth exploring even when it fails. Love is poetry… Poetry is love… Love becomes a silhouette.

Check back soon for the release date!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 8 - Use of Force & Jail Tour

This week's Albany Citizens Police Academy started with Community Education Specialist Carmen Westfall started the class with a few reminders about upcoming classes. Then introduced Lieutenant Hyde.

Lieutenant Hyde explained the law surrounding use of force. He explained the effect that case law has on state statutes. Use of force is always determined by the situation but is governed by five rules:

Self Defense
Defense of Others
Effect an Arrest
Overcome Resistance
Prevent Escape

In determining the amount of force to use, the officer must interpret the suspect's intent as well whether the suspect has the means and the opportunity. All three elements must demonstrate all three elements in order to be an immediate threat. The level of force the officer uses must then be a level above the level of threat the suspect is using and must be reasonable for the situation. Reasonable is determined by what other officers would do in the same situation.

Officers must be mentally prepared to use deadly force, so they train for it extensively. Even with training, the use of force, especially deadly force, is never an easy decision to make.

Officer Hyde discussed using a taser. He explained how a taser works and passed around a cartridge. He spent a significant amount of time explaining how the taser affects the body. The taser incapicitates rather than creating a pain reaction. He finished by shooting the taser into a piece of cardboard to demonstrate how it worked. Then he tore out the wires and passed them around, so we could feel and see them up close. Following that he removed the batter and cartridge from the taser and passed it around, so the class would see it, feel the weight, and hold it. I pulled the trigger. What could it hurt? It was completely disarmed. Felt like a toy gun.

Several items used in force of use training were in the front of the room throughout the presentation. After the presentation and before we went to the Sheriff's Office/Jail, we had an opportunity to look at and handle the items used for training officers in proper use of force.

Officer Hyde provided insight into the thought process of officers in determining how and when to use force was quite informative and interesting.  This is information I can definitely use in writing crime fiction!

The jail tour was led by Deputy Hedrick. We saw the video room where prisoners do televised court. We saw the rooms where prisioners are monitored. Deputy Hedrick took us to the Intake area and explained the process in detail. After that he showed us the jail's dentist office, the medical office, and the visitors' area. After that we saw the cell blocks where the inmates live including the towers where the jail is monitored.

Deputy Hedrick answered every question the class asked and provided details and examples to clarify the role of the jail in the juvenile justice system.

The Linn County Jail is much larger than I expected but otherwise it wasn't all that different from the jail I toured several years ago when I was in college.

The chemical odors from the cleaning supplies gave me a headache reminding me why I gave up chemical cleaning products and started making my own several years ago.

I actually considered skipping the jail tour, but I'm glad I didn't. The information Deputy Hedrick shared and being immersed in the environment might prove useful in a future writing project.

Many of the classes haven't really provided direct information that I find useful for my foreseeable writing projects, but both portions of this week's class did. I'm always pleased when I learn something useful for my writing! In case you're wondering there are two more classes and then graduation, so there will are three more scheduled blog posts about the Albany Citizen's Police Adademy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Albany Police Academy -Week 7 - Class Two - Evidence, Records, Dispatch, & Firearms Training

Saturday's Albany Police Academy class started with a tour of the evidence room lead by Property & Evidence Specialist Debbie Buchert. She explained the different evidence storage techniques and apparatuses including paper bags, plastic bags, and boxes. Plastic bags are never used for anything wet that could mold. Boxes are often used for handguns and other weapons that fit in them boxes. Some weapons are too big for a box or a bag. She talked about the process for logging evidence and how it's improved with the use of a computerized system. She explained the process for disposing of property from the evidence room. Evidence that isn't returned to the owner can be sold with the proceeds going to the department (see or destroyed by fire once it is no longer needed and the designated time period it must be kept has passed. Some evidence must be kept for many years.

One discussion that seemed particularly disturbing to me was regarding anonymous rape kits which in the state of Oregon must be kept for twenty-five years. I didn't find this nearly as unreasonable as some other members of class did. I understand that the kits take up space and that there is no case without a complaintant, but I also understand how devastating it can be for a rape victim to come forward, to put herself to be in the position to be judged by something that wasn't her fault, to be forever placed in a role publicly she can never change. To me it makes sense that a woman might feel more likely to come forward after learning she wasn't the only victim of the person that raped her. This might seem unlikely to happen, but it's not impossible. With the kit in evidence, at least there's something. Okay, twenty-five years might be a tad excessive, but I understand the idea behind it...

Once Buchert finished explaining the way evidence is handled, processed, and destroyed, she turned us over to Mike Peaslee, who explained how the records are handled and accessed by police officers and others.  We then visited dispatch to hear a little about what happens when a call comes in and to watch dispatch at work. Then Peaslee explained the role of those who work the reception area and showed us the records area and explained the process of storing, keeping,and digitizing records and how they are handled.

Finally, we made it to the highlight of the day - Firearms Training - lead by Officer Dezi Meza. Okay, it was simulated shooting, but we used the actual training videos the police officers use to train. Each class member took a couple of turns. After each students' turn, Officer Meza would point out what the student did right and what the student missed. All was handled with a fun attitude keeping the excercise enjoyable.

When my turn came up, I took the "gun" in my hand and realized not for the first time that I'd never shot a gun. I grew up around guns. My Daddy, my Grandpa, and my Uncles hunted. I grew up on a farm. Guns were always around. Daddy had a gun cabinet full of them. Yet, Daddy never let me shoot one. I probably never showed any interest. I really don't remember. The point is as I settled my hands around the gun, I was surprised how natural it felt. Okay, I'd held guns before, but never with the idea of shooting.

Officer Meza told me I was going to face a mentally ill person. As soon as the woman in the video stepped out of the house holding the gun, I had a flashback to a time when I really looked down the barrell of a gun pointed at me while the person threatened to shoot me. I blinked away the image but realized I'd missed the woman's actions. In a real life situation, that likely would've cost me my life. Anyway, Officer Meza stopped the video and asked me what I noticed. I snapped out of my reverie and answered that I noticed she had a gun in her hand but that she hadn't pointed it at me. Still, I realized I should've pointed my weapon at her, so I did as soon as the video restarted. I told her numerous times to put down her weapon and to calm down. Then a point came when she started to move the weapon up so it wasn't pointing at the ground anymore. I shot her in the stomach and took her down with one shot. I couldn't believe it and from the surprise in the instructor's voice neither could he.

He asked me why I chose to shoot when I did, so I explained my reasoning. He said that many officers wouldn't have waited that long and that I'd instructed her to put the gun gun more than enough times to know she wasn't going to. Still, I didn't regret waiting until I saw her start to raise the gun, and he didn't say I was necessarily wrong...

Somehow this simulated situation made me realize how recklessly I'd acted all those years ago when I faced a real gun and talked the person holding it and screaming at me out of shooting me. It would've only taken a moment, a simple squeeze of the trigger she had her finger on to end my life. At the time, I hadn't even been frightened. I'd been so sure I could convince her not to shoot me that it hadn't even occurred to me to be afraid. Geez, I keep asking myself what I was thinking that day...

He started my second video, a suspicious vehicle under a bridge. As I watched the video which simulated approaching the suspicious vehicle in a car, getting out of the car, and approaching the vehicle, it reminded me of Boise. Funny the things that pop in your head when you're waiting for the action. Two girls walked around the suspicious vehicle. I quickly glanced at them and decided they were up to something but were a distraction and not an immediate threat. I'm not sure why. I kept my focus on the car. As soon as one of the girls said something like "Now" toward the car, I focused my gun on the car's door. A guy stepped out. I pulled the trigger as soon as I saw him and the weapon in his hand. I wasn't even sure what weapon he held, but it's glint and the position in his hand made it clear it was a threat. I hit his knee, so it definitely wasn't a kill shot.  I was ready to shoot again, but the video ended.

Oh, well, I was just happy I hit my target at all!

The rest of the class took their turns. When everyone had had a turn and the instructor asked if anyone wanted to go again. I was tempted to say yes, but I didn't. I'm not sure why I didn't. Oh, well!

One of the other students asked Officer Meza to demonstrate how it should be done. He did, and it was rivoting. He did a video from earlier in the class, and the way he handled it seemed so much more reasonable than what any of us had done. He talked to the people, gave warnings, and seemed perfectly confident. It made sense because he has training in diffusing situations, and those of us in the class really didn't. I'd had a little training many, many years ago when I worked in a group home, but I remember very little of it.

I went into today's class expecting to learn how a police officer feels when facing a situation that demands s/he decide whether or not to use his/her weapon. Instead, I learned something about myself. I actually thought I'd freeze even though I knew it was a simulation. I didn't freeze. I learned that I can and will protect myself if I have to, but that I could never take a human life without being absolutely sure it was the only option. It's why I gave the woman who wasn't pointing a weapon at me but only at the ground a chance and why I shot as soon as I saw the flash of weapon from the man exiting the suspicious vehicle.

Oh, and I also realized, I might actually be able to handle a gun with a fair degree of accuracy if I had to or at least with a little training...

I just keep learning that I can actually do things I never thought I could do for one reason or another.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 7 - DUII & DRE

Community Education Specialist Carmen Westfall passed out our Albany Citizens Police Academy t-shirts as we arrived! She gave us a quick update about to expect in the next few classes.
Next OfficerRobert Hayes took over to talk about Driving Under the Influence and being a Drug Recognition Expert.

Officer Hayes began by clarifying the answer to a question from when he taught the traffic class two weeks earlier. Apparently when any part of a person or any extension of a person (i.e. a walker, dog, weekchair) steps from curb to crosswalk with intent to move forward that person is considered crossing the street and people in a vehicle must wait for them to cross. As someone pointed out, intent can still be subjective.

Moving on to discuss DUII, Officer Hayes discussed statistics, penalties, and other reasons to demonstrate the dangers of drinking and driving. Officers work to keep drunk drivers off the streets for safety.

Officer Hayes demonstrated the "walk and turn" test and the "standing on one leg" test for the class as well as explaining that the reason officers ask multiple questions when pulling over a suspected drunk driver is that the driver's ability to multi-task and converse can be affected by alcohol. The eyes of people who have overconsumed alcohol or used drugs show a distinctive involuntary jerking motion called nystagmus that can't be concealed.

He then chose a class member to put on the Fatal Vision goggles and attempt the walk and turn test to demonstrate how alcohol affects one's ability to take the test. Anoher class member put on the goggles and demonstrated standing on one leg test.

During the break, he put the goggles in the back of the room, so the class could try them on and see how alcohol effects the body. I tried them on and tried both tests. The .06 BAC goggles I could still do both tests. The .08 BAC goggles not even close. They even made me feel a little nauseated. Some people had a really strong effect to putting them on and described seeing their legs to the side of them. I didn't have that sensation exactly, but I did recognize the off-balance feeling from the times I've over-imbibed. I found it strange to things through drunk eyes while sober.

Officer Hayes discussed the training for Drug Recognition Experts and the importance they serve. Drug Recognition Experts are trained to see and understand the effects of myriad drugs on the body. The body has a homeostatis line that it strives to maintain. As the body adjusts to the effects drugs inflict on the body to find its homeostasis line, physical and behavioral changes take place providing both the euphoria people seek and the clues to the drug that was used. Over time the body adjusts the homeostatis line meaning that it requires more of the drug to get the same effect but the blood saturation amount stays the same.

The Drug Recognition Expert uses 12 components to determine if someone is under the influence and what they are under the influence of.

They are:
1)  Blood Alcohol Content Test
2)  Interview the Arresting Officer
3)  Preliminary Exam
4)  Eye Exam
5)  Divided Attention Psyhcophysical Test
6)  Vital Signs
7)  Dark Room Examinations
8)  Muscle Tone
9)  Injection Sites
10) Suspect Statements and Other Observations
11) Opinions of the Evaluator
12) Toxicology

All twelve steps only take about 45 minutes to the Drug Recognition Expert to complete.

Officer Hayes presentation kept the class engaged and interested. He answered questions, told stories to illustrate his point, and conversed with class easily.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friends, Enemies, Breasts

As I see all the attention given to Breast Cancer Awareness because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I find myself squirming in my seat. I didn't understand my reaction at first. I really didn't. I'm all for encouraging women to take control of their health and to take better care of themselves.

Then it dawned on me... I keep wanting to scream  "Can we please, please, please have Breast Health Awareness Month?"

It's not that I don't understand the need to raise awareness about breast cancer and the devastation it can cause. I've seen it. I've had family members suffer from breast cancer. I've had scares of my own. I understand that early detection saves lives and that self-exams are important. It's not that I'm against any of that.

Let me reiterate, I am for self-exams and early detection. I am for finding a cure for breast cancer. Above all, I am for women having healthy breasts

But, here's the thing, too many women aren't taught to love their breasts, to cherish them, to revel in their uniqueness, their beauty. Instead we're taught to see them almost as enemies. We're taught to alternately flaunt them and hide them. We're taught to avoid showing cleavage because showing cleavage makes us look cheap or slutty or whatever. What we're never taught is the true beauty of cleavage when shown just right. We're taught that they're never perfect enough regardless of size: - large, small, or medium. We're taught to see our breasts as feeding apparatuses for babies, pleasure sources for men, or items for competition amoung ourselves.

Many of us are taught not to mention them because they're part of our private parts except they're not really very private. We're taught not to talk about them because that's equivalent to talking about sex. That is unless they're feeding apparatuses for babies, then not talking about them is discrimination  - unless we talk about them inappropriately. We whisper the word breasts when we talk about their health. Most of the time we avoid discussing breast cancer - well, that is unless it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And, again, we whisper the words when we do discuss it. And we avoid discussing self-exams or the best ways to keep our breasts healthy even with our closest friends and spouses. Think about it for a minute. We've created a convaluted matrix around our breasts where there really is no need.

It took two cancer scares for me to learn to appreciate my breasts - to, dare I say it, love them. I'm not going into the details of my scares here because it isn't germain to my point. I will only say I'm lucky because both my scares turned out to be nothing but scares. I hesitate to call them cancer scares though the abnormalities detected certainly raised that fear in me between being told of the detection and having the diagnostic mammogram come back normal.

I've actually come to be grateful for those scares because they got my attention. They made me do some research. They made me think. They made me realize the importance of my breasts to me. They made me want to be healthier overall and design my life to live as healthy as I possibly can.

I finally learned to see and touch my breasts with love instead of annoyance or fear. I stopped caring if someone criticized me for showing a bit of cleavage or because my nipples showed through my blouse on a cold day. I even started buying bras to show off their best assets and give them comfortable and proper support. I finally stopped giving a damn if someone else didn't like their size or shape or whatever.
I finally took the time to really get to know my breasts. I became intimate with them. Now I know every nook and cranny of both my breasts. I don't just examine them once a month but often enough to know that most of the time, they feel and look exactly the same. Once in a while, they change slightly. Then return to normal. Hormones will do that. Those minor changes no longer scare me.

I've learned that whenever I feel soreness, it is likely the result of one of three things or a combination of them: poor dietary choices, an ill-fitting bra, or exercising without proper support. A return to a healthy diet corrects the first one easily. The ill-fitting bra gets immediately adjusted for a better fit or removed from rotation if the adjustment doesn't work. A more supportive exercise top/bra for my yoga routines corrects the support issue. I've learned to listen to my breasts the same way I listen to the rest of my body.

During my last scare, I wrote a poem, Friends, Enemies, Breasts, about my lifelong struggle to love and accept my breasts.When I wrote it, I swore I'd never let anyone read it. It was therapuetic, but as I came to terms with loving and accepting my breasts, I decided sharing it might do some good. You can read it in my upcoming poetry collection, Reflections in Silhouette.

When I realized how much better I feel about my breasts since I gave myself permission to become intimate with them and cherish them, I wanted to share the idea with other women. I searched for something from a medical professional to back up my theory. I found two articles I want to share with you. They are both on Dr. Christiane Northrup's website. Please, go read them. Maybe they'll change the way you care for your breasts. One is called Transforming the Breast Self-Exam and the other is Wonderful Self-Care for Breasts.

I love that Dr. Northrup's approach aligns with what I discovered on my own after my last scare. So, ladies, next time you do your self-exam, perhaps you can concentrate on simply knowing and appreciating your breasts. It might even make you more likely to perform your exams more consistently because you'll no longer be going into it fearing what you'll discover. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.

This year I'm actually looking forward to my professional exam. I won't be holding my breath fearing my doctor is going to detect something I missed because I didn't know my own breasts well enough to recognize a change. I'm even looking forward to my mammogram. It's all part of loving and cherishing not only my breasts but my body. I would even go so far as to say it's part of loving and cherishing my life - my self.