From Tracie

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fearlessness, Ancient Trees, And Giving Blind People Sight With NPR

I've written extensively about my love for public television, but have I ever told you how much I also love public radio? When my family isn't watching PBS, we are listening to NPR. Especially on the weekends, because NPR shines the brightest on the weekends.

More than once Thomas and I have looked at each other and said, "We need a 15 minute detour" when we knew we wouldn't be getting out of the car before the NPR show we were listening to was concluded.

Ancient Trees

Yesterday we spent a lovely hour listening to an interview with the creator of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. As soon as they started talking about the organization, I remembered hearing a story about them a year ago. This made Sunday's interview a nice update. A really nice update, actually, because I think I even made a note to write about them a year ago, and never got around to doing it. Today is a good day to fix that.

Did you know 98% of old growth forests in the United States are gone?

98 percent. How is that even possible?

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is looking to combat this disaster with a three-pronged approach. They will propagate, reforest, and archive the oldest and largest trees. It was fascinating to hear how they are finding life within Sequoias that were cut down in the 1800's, and what they are doing with it. This interview put The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet on my reading list.


My new favorite show on NPR is Invisibilia with Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel. Last Sunday night was a look at fear and fearlessness. The first half of the show was an introduction to a woman who feels no fear. Because of a rare disease, her body is blocked from producing fear of any kind. The second half of the show dealt with the fear that most of us do feel - and ways we can control it.

I really connected with this second half of the show. There were interesting tidbits like studying the sweat of first-time skydivers to see that there was a fear pheromone in their sweat, a look at why people may find snakes so scary, and how rejection therapy is helping people to overcome fear. But the thing that really spoke to me was the discussion around "executive order" - how people are able to logically talk to themselves and stop fear in the moment. I recognized in the technique much of what it is like to deal with a flashback or panic attack.

Listen to the full show: Invisibilia: Fearlessness.

Giving Blind People Sight 

This was the topic of last night's Invisibilia. Lulu and Alix started with a look at expectations and how they effect the people around us. That alone was interesting. Not a new concept entirely, but an interesting look at it. But the next part of the show was where things really heated up - the interview with "Batman" Daniel Kish who is completely blind, but began navigating the world when he was a small boy by the clicking noises he makes with his tongue. He is well-known for being a blind man who rides a bike, but his story was much deeper than that "trick" moment.

Through clicking, Kish is actually able to form mental pictures of his surroundings. Through testing, scientists were able to see in Daniel Kish and other subjects that the region of the brain that is used for sight was being activated when they used this clicking method. It was interesting to note that one of the men interviewed was able to see until the age of 14, and he said that the kind of seeing he can do now through clicking and echolocation is much the same as seeing before, just a little more blurry and without color.

Kish's is mission is to teach other blind people how to do this, and how to live life with more freedom. It was interesting to hear how his mother raised him without limits that would normally be placed on a blind child (or, in some cases, maybe even a child with sight). He was climbing trees, riding bikes, walking to school across busy roads by himself, and other things at a young age.

This brought the conversation of expectations full circle. At the beginning of the program, the hosts asked people if they believed your expectations of people could affect them, and most of them said yes. They then asked if you could change your expectations of a blind person and help them to see, which got a unanimous no. After the science and personal stories were presented (much more in depth than the overview I gave, and bringing in other interesting people), they asked that second question again, and several people changed their answer.

Listen to the full show: Invisibilia: How To Become Batman.

What have you been listening to or reading lately that taught you something, or helped you look at the world around you in a new way?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Place With No Decisions

Her feet felt cold. Like ice inside her socks.

The cold emanated from inside her, and nothing she did on the outside seemed to change that.

Everything felt damp. Wet, her hair stuck to her neck and her shirt to her back.

The humidity was high, but the sweat that escaped from her pores could more aptly be described as tears. When a broken heart cried, those salty tears must fall somewhere.

Besides, she was too cold for sweat.

These thoughts were playing on the edges of her thoughts, but she pushed them aside as she ate her meager breakfast. Dry toast without a hint of butter or jam.

It wasn't a diet. It wasn't even a choice for frugality, as she had both butter and jam in the refrigerator. The lack of flavor on her toast was more about avoiding the decision. Butter or jam. Raspberry or strawberry. With peanut butter or without.

Sometimes it was easier to do nothing.

Nothing but think. Daydream. Question old decisions.

She heard a noise outside, but did not move. That wold was not a part of her anymore. Or, she, not a part of it. She was much happier in this place with no decisions, heavy socks on her feet and a damp, cotton shirt clinging to her back.

Comfort means little in a world of dreams. Comfort is what you imagine in your mind, and if you concentrate hard enough, those imaginations might become more.

She had become expert in blocking out the things that were really real, just like she shoved aside the thoughts that did not fit her story lines and the questions that...questioned. She drank deeply of a glass of water that might have come from a mountain spring (it didn't) and imagined herself deep in the woods. Alone.

These woods would be her world for the day. A place of quiet and peace.

This imagination would be her comfort.

snowy woods | peace

What brings comfort to your world?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Don't Let Pie Become The Defining Moment Of Your Motherhood

My friend shared a picture on facebook. It was a pie with one piece missing and a quote from Tenneva Jordan, "A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."

berry pie

I've thought about this for a couple of days now, and I'm still bothered by it. Setting aside the fact that no one who knows me would ever believe I never cared for pie, I just can't find myself in this quote.

Here is a mother proving her motherhood by pretending to not like pie, so the other four people in the room can have it. Presumably these other four people would be her children, since it is a question of her motherhood, but maybe not. Maybe motherhood makes you self-sacrificing in the face of anyone in danger of missing out on a piece of pie? Otherwise, how would anyone know you are a mother?

Here's the thing I want to tell all the judgmental pie-counters.

A mother is a person who cuts the pie smaller so everyone gets a piece.

A mother is a person who waits to pull out the pie until the kids are in bed, and then shares it with her husband by candlelight.

A mother is a person who does't tell anyone else about the pie, and eats it all herself.

A mother is a person who makes a run to the store to buy another pie when the first one runs short.

You see, motherhood has very little to do with your response to pie. It is a poor reflection of motherhood, this definition based not on what you give, but on what you give up. This quote is nothing more than judgement cloaked as inspiration. It is not really an affirmation of you in any way.

Pie is certainly not the most important thing in life. But in this quote, I see more than pie. I see a diminishing. A woman disappearing.

Although you may find yourself making sacrifices for your children, as most parents do, becoming a mother does not mean you are doomed to a pie-less life. Sacrifices can come from a place of love and be beautiful things, but it is the entirety of your love that your children desire and will remember, not your moments of unnecessary sacrifices.

Don't allow yourself to become less, to give yourself less, to ask for less, to demand less, because you are a mother. Your needs, and even your wants, are still valid. Your response to a pie shortage does not define you as a woman or a mother.

Do you agree? Tell me how this quote makes you feel.
Or just tell me about your favorite kind of pie. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

This Is About The Women

"Forget those women." That was what Phylicia Rashad was reported to have said about the women who have come forward to tell the world that Bill Cosby raped them. Forget them.

She later claimed this was a misquote in an interview with ABC's World News Tonight.
"That is not what I said. What I said is, 'This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy.'" 
Rashad is concerned with the legacy of Bill Cosby, and she believes there is an orchestrated plot to keep him off the tv. She says she doesn't want to talk about the accusations, "I can't speak to those things and wouldn't want to." But she has already spoken. Her dismissal of the women who have spoken out about their experiences, some of whom have been trying to talk about this for many years, is a strong message.

Words carry great weight. Words have power, and whether right or wrong, when spoken by someone with a large platform, they echo even louder. "This is not about the women," is not much better than "Forget those women." Not really.

If Bill Cosby did drug and rape women, it is their lives which are important in this moment, not his legacy.

Claire and Cliff Huxtable
I understand the importance of Cosby's work in the community and on television. I enjoyed The Cosby Show. I liked the character of Cliff Huxtable, even more, I loved Rashad's character, Claire. She was a feminist icon for me. I saw in her a woman who was strong, smart, motherly, successful in business, sexy, funny, and opinionated. Someone I would not expect to make dismissive statements about survivors of sexual assault. I always thought Claire was pretty amazing. But, this isn't about legacies, and it isn't really about my personal disappointment in Phylicia Rashad.

The Huxtables were television characters. The people behind those characters are not one dimensional. They do not act the same in every circumstance or with every person. This is true of rapists as well. Rapists have jobs, families, friends, lives, and they don't rape every person they meet. I don't doubt that Phylicia Rashad loves Bill Cosby, and she is speaking from the experiences she personally had with him. But just because someone never raped you, it does not mean they haven't raped someone else. That is not a viable standard for determining someone's guilt or innocence.

Due to the statute of limitations, we will probably never have a definitive, legal, determination about this case. So we are left with just words. The words of the women. The words Cosby isn't saying. The words his defenders are saying. And these words of Phylicia Rashad that dismiss out of hand the experiences, the stories, and the lives of women who are publicly sharing their traumatic stories.

Sadly, sexual assault survivors are used to these kind of dismissals. We are used to being forgotten, set aside, and silenced. We are used to seeing the doubt and denial in people's words and actions. We have come to expect it. We are exhausted from dealing with the internalized messages and the rape culture that surrounds us.

So today I want to speak to all of those survivors who hear words like Rashad's, and feel the pain rising up again.

To the young girl who was called a liar when she spoke out about abuse and assault, even if she didn't have those words to explain it... I believe you.

To the girl who was told to keep it a secret, that it was family business, or that good girls don't talk about those things...You were so brave to tell someone what happened. You did nothing wrong.

To the teen girl who was raped by her boyfriend... You certainly didn't owe him anything.

To the college student who went to a party... You didn't deserve it.

To the woman whose rape kit has still not been processed... You do matter.

To the woman who accepted a ride home from a coworker, went on a date, met someone who seemed nice, went to a bar, trusted a friend, wore a business suit, attended a family reunion, walked somewhere by yourself during the day or night, wore a pair of jeans, met a celebrity, stayed home on a Tuesday evening, had a drink, attended a convention, told your boyfriend or husband no, wore a skirt, took your dog to the park, said something people didn't agree with, interviewed for a job, or spoke to a neighbor... You were not asking for it.

To every woman, and every man, who has been harassed, molested, touched inappropriately, abused, drugged, coerced, assaulted, raped, victimized, or violated... It was not your fault. You do not own the blame, or the shame, for what happened. I believe you, and I believe in you.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Unsolvable Mysteries

There are things about life that are like cut diamonds. No matter how hard I stare at them, there is always another view. Another facet. Another angle. Another way to look at it.

Today I stand above and look down at this diamond. I can almost see through it. Yesterday I could. Tomorrow I will be off to the right side, slowly turning.

And yet, I can not seem to grasp it in my mind. The totality of it.

The meaning.

The inner heart of the stone.

No matter how much I study, I will not remember how the light hits that corner just perfectly, or how this angle shows the dark places within the stone. Tomorrow I will have forgotten all of these things, and will wake up to look at it as with new eyes. It will be the rock blocking my path, or the beauty distracting my walk, or the small pebble I pass unnoticed. Always different, always changing, these diamond-issues.

Sometimes it seems like there will never be enough emotional realizations or moments of clarity to conquer this puzzle. I think with time, with silence and peace, with the veil of distractions falling away, I could come close, but then the light shifts and I realize the mysteries of the stone, like the mystery of life, is unsolvable.


As I look out over a new year, and I think about choosing one word (I'm still undecided) or making resolutions, I'm hit with the reality that there are some things that can't be planned or perfected. Some mysteries that can't be solved. And some lessons that have to happen over and over again - and maybe even then we don't really learn them. Not fully. So, while I know some of the simple answer like what 2+2 equals and how many doughnuts to eat (all of them), I'm giving myself grace on those bigger questions and harder lessons today. They will still be there tomorrow, and I can try again to fully understand their mysteries.