29 May 2009

Plans for summer, and beyond.

I am feeling content today. Had no controversial conversations of any sort while the family was here. I did not attempt any confrontations like I fantasized. And boy, am I glad. Sweetie and I spent alone time with our respective parental units, and we had ample gatherings as a group, and it was pleasant all the way around. Note to self: There are more important things than being right, and being able to show off the rightness. Duh.

In the last few days, I've managed to commit myself to enough activities to keep me busy for the rest of the year. Thanks to Team in Training, I'll be doing the Nike Women's Half Marathon again. Only this time, I signed up for the RUNNING team. I met my new coach last night at an alumni registration party. Not sure what he thought of this 40-something former walker, who is still a good 70 pounds overweight, deciding she can safely run 13.1 miles. But that's what HE's there for - to make sure I finish! Yay, Coach! The major kick off is this Sunday, then training starts on Tuesday. Yikes!! I did not realize the season was already here; I'm going to miss the first two Saturday runs while I'm out of town. So while my teammates will be running locally, I'll be doing some running in Center Valley, Pennsylvania and San Diego, California. More likely, I'll be doing some powerwalking - I don't want to injure myself from the get go! Doing the Nike in 2007 was such a great experience, even though I was functioning at about 70% in the months leading up to the race (it was a very stressful, depressing time). I'm really looking forward to training and fundraising at 100% this time around. GO TEAM!!!

Back to school this fall: Monterey Peninsula College has an offering that will get have me there late on Friday afternoons. ROBOTICS. The instructor is a great teacher; I had him for a programming course, and he was very inspiring to this non-math-head, wanna-be-geek girl. Before that, I'd taken a unix course with him, one of the many courses which I never finished. I used to be very good at starting courses for fun that got dropped when the initial enthusiasm wore off. Generally, I would un-enroll when the homework started interfering with my main hobby - consuming copious amounts of beer and/or wine. Nice not to have THAT distraction any more. The course catalog says the only prerequisites are basic intro to computer science (check), and eligibility for the intermediate algebra section (check). Not that I have used much algebra in the last two years. The course description also notes "no prior electronics experience needed." So I'm up for it. Goal #2 - make a robot by December. Cool.

Since I really have no idea what robotics entails, I decided to do some study on my own in the intervening months. Stanford offers the course materials for their Intro to Robotics course online - for free. I'm going to watch the lectures and read the notes. I even found a refresher trigonometry course so I can review the math, in case I want to tackle some of Stanford's homework assignments. Yeah, right. If nothing else, at least I'll end the summer able to tell my sine from my cosecant, and radians will be my friends. Although as of this moment, I have no fucking recollection of which is what and how to find it; I just recognize that they're trig terms... Ooh, I just realized the best part of trig as a summer project - getting to use my fancy-schmancy calculator that's been collecting dust for two years!!!

Those are the long-term goals - in the immediate future, I have the Women for Sobriety Conference in Pennsylvania next weekend, followed by a girls-only quickie trip to San Diego. I have to add some Total Rewards credits to my Harrah's Gold Card, so we're staying at Harrah's Rincon casino hotel, where they have my favorite slot machine: Hexbreaker. I'm getting one night for $99, and the second is comp'd - it's like I couldn't afford not to go. The flight was a pretty decent deal, too, and I get to fly out of Monterey instead of taking the $40 shuttle to San Jose or San Francisco.

My immediate goal is to get in two hours of billable work, so that today's actual output matches the estimate on my timesheet. Now engaging worker-bee mode *CLICK*
(Sound effects make it more official.)

Enjoy your week/end.

22 May 2009

The Word of the Lord? Apparently, it's buggery.

Must give credit where due - the title came from my Sweetie after I shared some details of the Irish catholic church abuses.

I've been in a haze of very busy work, at work, including doing work at home, and not getting my domestic chores done. Then I was locked out of facebook for about 12 days. And then I had a birthday - that just gave me license to be irresponsible about proper nutrition and household chores. Cheesecake for breakfast, anyone? Don't worry, here's a clean ladle, and this catfood dish works as a plate...

I reconnected to the Interwebs last night, and caught up with the lastest church abuse scandal via vjack's post. Just astounding. This article at The Guardian is followed by readers' comments that I think mirror US reaction following revelation of priests' abuse. Only it is even more shocking to read that the abuse (physical and sexual) was institutionalized, at care homes and facilities, and went on for generations.

As previously mentioned, I've got a religious background and family. My parents are very faithful Catholics and were very dismayed by the US scandals. They are dismayed by US Catholics in general ('cause, you know, the liberal ones aren't "true Catholics" and they especially abhor Catholic politicians who are pro-choice. I mean, uh, "anti-life.") Vjack had another great post on catholics' reactions. I gotta get me some of that real catholic reaction: Mom & Dad are spending this weekend down here. I want to have a nice visit, and we will (especially 'cause my mother-in-law will also be in town!). But I'm very interested to hear what Mom and Dad have to say about those generations of children being abused in the name of the lord, and how protection of abusers by THE Church, the OFFICIAL RC Church fits in with its mission of doing the lord's work. Hello, supposedly the church IS the body of christ, right? Apparently his dick has been in Ireland this whole time.

My dad was a probation officer and corrections specialist his whole career, for FSM's sake! He trained probation officers and counselors; he worked in institutions that housed dependent and delinquent children. The last years of his work was at the state level, developing hiring and training standards for staff who worked in correctional institutions. If any of those institutions had allowed a single instance of abuse to go without consequences, he would have been the first to clamor for prosecutions, protection of the children, and accountability by the managers. Even the "really bad" delinquent kids, not just dependent kids needing shelter, have strong protections (thank you, Constitution and Bill of Rights). I was a counselor in juvenile hall for a brief time; besides the hours and hours of training in the "how tos" of custodial work, there were hours and hours of the "why fors" - i.e., even children in custody for alleged or proven crimes have rights and protections, and the law AND your institution will punish you (the custodian) if you violate their rights.

So now, here is Dad's church, committing acts 180º from everything they officially teach, let alone 180º from what he knows about institutional care. And I don't mean to imply that the abuse committed by "rogue" parish priests is "less bad" than that of the bands of them running abuse factories. What I'm hoping is this institutionalized wrong will connect for him, flip the rational switch in his head. I mean, come on, he's smart, he's educated, but he turns off that part of his brain when he puts on his true-believer glasses. As a former supervisor and manager, hell, just as a lifelong bureaucrat, he MUST see that this corruption taints the ENTIRE church. If a juvenile hall or camp has staff abusing wards, management is liable. Management is responsible for the staff - their hiring, training, supervision. So why can't he apply those standards to his church? He MUST question how the church bureaucrats let these atrocities go on for decades. And their response now is motivated by self-protection, not helping the people. Dad and Mom raised five kids in the church. They taught us to do right, and if or when we do wrong, we are to make it right. And it worked, as far as I can tell. So how can that same philosophy not fucking apply to the entity that he credits for teaching it to him?? What is this blinder he has?

Now, I'm really glad I came out to my sister recently - I don't have to pretend to respect their church anymore. Note to Sweetie: Don't worry, I'm not going to pick a fight and ruin the weekend! But maybe on Monday evening, after dinner, over coffee, I will quietly ask Dad a few questions, point out the analogy, just to see if he is prompted move beyond a "good priests I have known" defense and look at the church as he would a "normal" bureaucratic institution. But no drama. Especially not in front of the mother-in-law (that would really mortify Sweetie!).

Whew, got to get to vacuuming now. Good luck, people of Ireland, in throwing off your blinders and walking into the real light!

10 May 2009

On being an ex-drunk lady

It occurred to me to share this part of my life today. I don't want to make this a sappy confessional or AA 8th step thing (warning: I detest AA as much as I detest astrology, but will try to keep disdain level to a minimum; lots of alternatives out there.) In a few weeks, I'm traveling to Pennsyvlania for an Ex-Drunk Lady conference, my first one, so the topic is on my mind.

I started getting drunk when I was 14, binge-drinking, which habit I maintained through high school with little consequence beyond one 3-day suspension from school, frequently getting grounded or put on restriction, and lots of sloppy making out and sex. In my early 20s, I started gaining weight and having hangover-related attendance problems at work. Coincident with the last year of my first marriage, I quit drinking cold turkey. I did attend a few AA meetings at first, read the "Big Book," etc. but found it too depressing and full of people who liked to rehash/relive their mistakes and problems - they couldn't move past their past. Oh, and they liked to tell other people how to get sober - their way, the AA way, the only way. Yeah, well, I got out of there pretty quick. I abstained easily for about four years but eventually started drinking socially. Which eventually turned into regular binging. I was what is known as a highly functioning... drunk lady. I'm averse to using "alcoholic" not because I don't think I am one, but it's such a loaded word, along with "victim" "disease", "suffering," etc. My take on it is that the drinking started as something I did to be social, relieve stress, or escape, whatever; routine reliance on it as self medication (i.e. for numbing) gave me high-capacity tolerance, which turned into a physical addiction. I never lost my job - I was stressed but appeared to be thriving - nor did I ever get a DUI or go to work drunk, but for sure my work suffered, and so did my ever-lovin' Sweetie.

I was open with my doctor about how much I was drinking, partly 'cause of the side effects - my weight went up every year, as did my blood pressure, blood sugar, etc., I had to start taking prescriptions, blah blah blah. Two or three times a year, over the next three (or four or five?) years, we would have the same discussion: she would tell me to knock it off, and I would say I was trying; she would thank me for being honest, and I would be proud of myself for not lying about it. Like that was my rationalization - I may have a problem, but at least I'm not hiding it from my doctor!! I would back off or try to moderate, and had more than a bit of that fabled Augustine attitude - I wanted sobriety, just "not yet". Without going into sad-sack, gory details, let's just say I reached a point where I transitioned from Augustine to Popeye: I'd had all I could stands and couldn't stands no more. I made (and kept) another doctor appointment, and asked her what she recommended for treatment. She told me "outpatient rehab." Cue jaw hitting floor, anguish, embarrassment, disbelief, and other not-so-nice feelings. No, shit?! Rehab - f'realz?! Wow. That really scared me. Not enough to go actually go to outpatient rehab, because the only one available was AA-based (I did have an intake meeting w/a counselor, who gave me the old "AA's the only way..." speech, which I knew then & now is not true - people who use it successfully can have it, but it's not me.)

I really was scared for my health, and my marriage, and wanted to make the sincere effort to change. What I didn't want was to have the same conversation with her in another three-to-six months. I just decided that was it, and I wanted to change enough that I would go cold turkey again while doing whatever it took to stay out of AA. I Googled AA alternatives and found Women for Sobriety. I vaguely recalled having seen their site somewhere before. Hm, oh yea, it was during one of those late nights up by myself, when I was drunk and seeking the self-help site that would tell me how to cut back so I could get to work everyday, but not where I had to quit so I could still get drunk on weekends, holidays, and most Thursdays, and Sundays. Really, I drank a lot, and frequently. Yikes.

Ah, the beauty of Women for Sobriety, aka WFS. Founded by a woman, it's an organization of women, for women, with a woman-centered philosophy, with autonomoous self-help groups in (mostly) North America. It seemed the opposite of AA to me - taking personal responsibility for the problems caused by drinking, extending that to everyday life's problems, recognizing strengths along with the weaknesses, and growing from it all. Acknowledging the past, but not living in it - learning from it and moving on. Wow, could I relate to that, I wanted that. I didn't go to any actual meetings for about nine months - was afraid I'd meet people I knew - but I devoured everything from their newsletters and online community (message boards, chat rooms, links to medical opinions/articles, etc.). I read the autobiographical writings of the founder, Jean Kirkpatrick. Learned about post acute withdrawal (PAW), which explained why I suddenly wanted sweets all the time (before then, I'd always preferred cheese to chocolate, being more of a savoury girl). Eventually I worked up the nerve to attend a F2F (face-to-face, or friend-to-friend) meeting. There, I made friends with some other ex-drunk ladies. And wow, all the talking about life's issues, problems, joys and sadness with other chicks who had also coped (poorly) with life for a while, but who were focused NOW on GROWTH and TOMORROW'S OPPORTUNITIES, not beating themselves up over past behavior - it was really helpful! I don't have a "sober birthday" or count the days/months/years, because I refuse to any "magic power" to a unit of time. I just don't drink anymore, and I won't, no matter what. I don't want to go back to that preoccupation with whether or not I'm going to "get to" drink on a particular day; I just abstain. And between the WFS stuff, a little personal counseling, lots of naps & cake & cookies & Prozac & self love, I worked out a whole mess of baggage. With the in-progress result of being totally fucking happy with my life a good deal of the time, satisfied nearly all the time the time, and accepting of whatever happens 100% of the time, it's crap. It's my crap, and I can handle it. *Big sigh* What a relief, especially the getting over trying to be perfect, a typical feature of overachieving drunk ladies.

So that's where I came from. Back to where I am now. Uh, still an ex-drunk lady. :) And I love my little euphemism. (Aren't euphemisms great? My favorite euphemism for a whatchamacallit is "package." *tee hee*)

I missed out on last year's conference for of lack of travel funds, even tho' I got a scholarship for the registration. This year they couldn't offer scholarships, but two of my WFS friends are sponsoring me - so cool!! I'm excited and a little nervous to be going. The nerves come from uncertainty - it's just me and a couple hundred other ex-drunk ladies, at de Sales University, for 2-1/2 days. I know from the boards that there are (or were) a few atheists among us, but don't think we're in the majority by any means. (The online group has a thread just for invisible sky-fairy thank-you notes, as well as plenty of woo scattered among general topics. Yeah, I don't go there too much since meeting F2F.) The official WFS position is non-religious, non-higher power - it's focus is woman-centered, (but not necessarily hetero-centric) self empowerment and building self esteem, so I just hope the talks and events reflect that. My goal is to meet some more people like me - not just ex-drunks, but free-thinking, well-coping, generally positive chicks. Especially if they have a blasphemous sense of humor and know how to use the f-word. And please, FSM, let there be some childless ones, too! No offense to breeders or wanna-breeders - just need the company of my own kind, ya know?

p.s. Almost forgot - speaking of breeding - Happy Mother's Day. In our house, the one I share with Sweetie & Otto, we've declared it Happy Motherfuckers' Day, and celebrated with a beef-based lunch with onion rings and mud pie for dessert. For the people; Otto gets his own kitty treat. Fuckin-A :)

02 May 2009

Openness, Part 2.

So, as previously mentioned, I "came out" as an atheist to my sister, and by extension (i.e. family gossip), my parents. It was on Good Friday (tee hee.) Really, the timing was not intentional. Things just happened to come to a head that day; a passionate but civil exchange of emails between us led to her direct question of my beliefs, and I gave her a direct response.

It started with her email re the April 17 Day of Silence events; her forwarded message (from this place) encouraged parents to keep their children home from school that day to avoid "homosexual activists" interference with parental rights (whatever!). My response started a courteous email dialogue, which boiled down to this (grossly abbreviated, of course):

ME: [Channeling Kathy Griffin] I'm down with the gay. Duh. You know that, why do you send me this stuff, I'm bummed my family feels this way. Also bummed you want to hurt public schools, me being married to H.S. teacher and all. Luv U! J.
SC: [Ignores school teacher part] With love, I respond: Compelled to act against others' sin, and homosexuals are conflicted, in pain, "love the sinner not the sin," me and the Church are here to help them overcome temptation. BTW, do you believe in God or what? Luv U2! SC.
ME: Here's a brief explication of my 35 years of spiritual searching, which ultimately led me to NO; no gods nor superstitions nor ghosts. And astrology buffs just piss me off. Don't mean to ruin Easter for you & Mom & Dad. Luv U! J.
(I'm still waiting for some kind of response or feedback that addresses the "atheist question," either from her or my parents. She had to have told them - they live close to each other and visit multiple times a week, between grandkids' activities, appointments, babysitting, etc. Plus M&D practically command a prayer army, with all their church friends and ministry activities.)

Unfortunately, day or so after this exchange, my dad sent a note saying SC had an ultrasound that revealed her unborn baby had died. Made me feel like a creep. I offered my condolences, and heard mostly nothing for two weeks. But the other day, we had a good conversation via phone - no religious talk on my part, just concern for her, and over her oldest who was recently in Mexico. The nephew wasn't going " oink-oink-achoo," she was okay, and the fetus had "passed" a couple days before. She said she got her cry in when she first got the ultrasound results, and they let their kids know that night. Interestingly, her second oldest (a boy, age 14) was quite upset about it, and really questioned why "god" let the baby die. SC got to give him a "god works in mysterious ways" speech. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "All RIGHT, dude's asking the right questions, maybe his mind is salvageable!!" I did NOT say this out loud or otherwise contradict her beliefs - I may be a social boob, but I've learned to have some sense of discretion when it comes to others coping with loss and grief!

Just for fun, I took screenshots of our exchange, so I could share her question and my response. They're below the post.

I like my response a lot. And I truly am relieved to have gotten her direct question so I could give her that direct answer. The other sibs, my co-workers, FB & twitter friends/acquaintances all know I'm an atheist. And if it comes up, I'm out there, as an advocate of rationality and skepticism. But my folks, SC and I have passively sidestepped the issue for over 10 years, so I am relieved that it is over. I would just like to know if they're going to respond in any way, besides praying for me. They may cut me off; my previous fear of that kept my mouth shut until now. My dad shunned me once before, at age 20, when I moved in with my then-boyfriend, later-first-husband. It lasted two or three months, then he heard the "Prodigal Son" sermon at church and loosened up (he's such an obedient little Catholic). We since have the understanding: he knows he's right; he's got god on his side; he doesn't approve of some things I've done, but I'm his daughter and he loves me. Well... me completely rejecting not just their religion but the deity, too, gets me sent to hell. SC already discourages contact between her kids and her gay bro-in-law; an atheist must be worse. But this last controversy just made me realize, hey, I'm up for it. I'm tired of suppressing my side of the story, or my feelings, or my valid political arguments in the name of family accord. They do not hesitate to attack my political stance or favored causes - I guess they do not consider my feelings, because they are, well, they're just right, 'cause they're on god's side. So, to borrow their argument, I have accepted them in spite of their unacceptable ideas. If they can't love *this* sinner while hating my sin, I give up!

On the other hand, they may just ignore the whole thing, like they've ignored all the hints and hems and haws over the years. If I'm not in their faces about it, I'm sure they'll happily ignore it. I'm just glad it's out there. I even put "atheist" on my facebook profile, the one where I'm friended to Dad. Um, but I must confess: I made up a 2nd "vanilla" facebook account for "vanilla" family contacts. I'm not ready to expose them to my openness about sex and sexual politics. Maybe I'll get inspired if I work up a post on how they reacted to me losing my virginity. That was fun. The reaction, I mean. Well, the losing the virginity was kinda fun (I was so proud!!), and a year later, the confrontation regarding the status of my hymen made for an exciting family moment. Now that I think of it, it was a relief when they found out about that, too. See, I just hate to hide things, even if the revelation gets me into trouble.

And hey, I just realized: SC narc'd on me that time, too! Now I'll have to blog it! Wow, history repeating itself - no wonder I still feel like I'm 17!



Openness, Part 1.

Yep, I'm all about the openness lately, open to change, open to feelings, open-minded but not empty-headed...

Virtual Juliana still has a business, but she's not actively marketing or working it. Although I'm only working two days a week for a private firm at a smallish wage (as an employee), it is regular income and enjoyable work. And there is totally a chance to grow with the firm: two new associates came on, and looks like the office manager/paralegal will be on maternity leave come December. Aside from those practical issues and opportunities, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE working with these people. The partners have different practice areas - my friend ("S-1") has the criminal side, his partner ("S-2"), the business/civil side. I have a whole buncha things I want to share about criminal vs. civil clients, but it will have to wait - got too much to catch up on today! (Let's just say I'm still more comfortable with the guys in jail, for philosophical reasons [not personal safety, necessarily!].) I expressed to S-1 my delight at working with and for him, and what a revelation it has been: being in a small, private office with others who work hard, have fun, and respect each others' contributions is heavenly. He asked whether it was really the office, or whether I had changed. Hm.... Yes, I have. Besides being able to see and appreciate the qualities of this office, I'm a lot nicer to myself. I don't expect me to know everything just 'cause others expect it. That was a big trap at the old place - everyone was used to relying on me, I wore many hats, and when I didn't know an answer I knew where to look. But I took it wayyyy too seriously, and had that whole "my work identity IS my identity, and if I can't do it all right now and do it perfectly, I'm a failure." Not a good mindset under which to operate. Yeah, I've gotten over that. So almost daily, I tell my coworkers how happy I am to be there, to be able to help, and to have something productive to do. I like being comfortable with them (and myself) enough to practically bliss out on life over the little things. Oh, and working in Carmel, just blocks from the ocean, helps a lot with the attitude, too.

On a related note, I'm also getting used to be social - learning how to "play well with others." While I didn't celebrate Easter, of course, I did manage to go out to brunch that day with my dear friend Wendy. As a surprise, she brought Natasha, a close friend of hers whom I haven't seen in probably 3-4 years. I've been telling people for ages that I am "not a social animal" and spending "friend time" in one-on-one situations. What I'm trying to say is, I don't hang with chicks much. But guess what: I had a fantastic time. I guess I just have to be in the right crowd, and these two women were it. Ohmygosh, it was so much fun, great food and conversation and company, and NOT talking about shoes (I abhor shopping & related fashion talk, BTW). It's so weird, being almost 46 years old and feeling like I'm just now learning how grownups relate to each other. Like the work thing, I'm getting more comfortable in my own skin when it comes to social relations. But I think I'm also benefiting from being around some outstanding individuals.

p.s. have to add, we ate at the Ol Factory - a coffee house/bar/hangout spot, with a superior chef in the kitchen!! Had eggs benedict with salmon, with to-die-for potatoes, nom nom nom. Glad I was open to the benedict and didn't settle for an omelet!

In Part 2, I share my coming out as an atheist to Sister Christian; it was poor timing but I'm glad that's over with.