Failure Doesn’t Lead to Success

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I am cold this morning. Outside my window, the sky spits snow that doesn’t stick. Wind screams. Trees dance. Ravens catch the air drifts. Inside, a chill numbs my hands and makes me long to be anywhere else, but Tuesdays are the days I write in spite of myself.

My most recent book, the one I’ve been writing for months, isn’t good. I tried a new format and failed. The editing feels onerous, like I’m forcing something that refuses to work, and I’m having a crisis of confidence.

Yet here I am, writing again, because showing up matters.

Despite popular conviction, failure does not lead to success.

Work leads to success.

Diligence keeps the creative juice flowing.

Commitment opens the door to possibility.

There are no shortcuts.

There are good days and bad days and days that plod slowly from sunrise to sunset. Days when everything I write gets erased, days when it flows like some greater being is speaking through me and I am just a conduit.

We cannot control an outcome or make a masterpiece from desire alone. We can only control what we give to the process.

Show up.

Do the work.

Eventually, the words we seek will make themselves known.

The Romance Diet Made the Short List

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Very proud to announce that The Romance Diet made the Chanticleer Book Awards short list. It’s now competing for first place. If you haven’t read it, the book deals with all the ways women beat themselves up, how culture impacts even the best relationships, and how we can heal from trauma. Check it out if you get a chance.

 

Shock and Awe

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Bombs fall on government buildings along the Tigris River in the heart of Baghdad, later referred to as the Green Zone.

Last night, feeling overwhelmed yet again by the constant barrage of OMG news coming out of Washington, I had an epiphany. The onslaught of executive orders, appalling cabinet picks, the gagging of Federal agencies, and the use of “alternative facts” to distort and destabilize an exhausted public are deliberate. We are under attack.

Shock and awe is a military tactic based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight. As Naomi Klien pointed out, shock and awe tactics have been applied by economists and politicians worldwide to overwhelm an unsuspecting public until it buckles, grasping at anything that promises stability and normalcy.

These tactics were used in South America, in Poland, in Africa, and even in the USA after Hurricane Katrina and they are effective. Very effective.

As I scan my Facebook feed, talk with customers in my store, and read the news, I am certain that these tactics are being used against the American people right now. Realizing it, I found myself able to think and to breathe.

Trump’s executive orders are not law. Most require congressional action and will take time to be implemented if, indeed, they are implemented at all. A gag order on the EPA is terrifying, but not fatal at this point. There is cause for deep concern, but we’re not drowning yet.

Shock and awe is designed to force a population to react. We don’t have to do that. We can, instead, respond. And respond we will, with discipline, commitment, and clear sighted, fact-checked reason.

If we allow ourselves to be victims of a tactic that is mostly bluster at this point, Trump and his crew will succeed in mounting the most successful, non-violent coup in history and our democracy will fail. If, however, we recognize the tactics and respond accordingly, democracy will prevail.

The Women’s March in DC

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Wednesday: On my way to work, suitcase packed and eager, a murder of crows descended on the frontage road – stopping traffic and waking smart phones. I scanned the asphalt, dull skies, and attending automobiles and found them bare of blood, carcass, garbage, or bones.

The crows strutted on the pavement and swooped low, their black bodies like pepper against clouds heavy, gray, and cold. Out of place, out of time, and orderly, they didn’t belong to the norm. What they were doing there? Why didn’t they go?

Thursday: A glimpse of dawn through burning eyes, then an airport, lines, and rules. I shuffled through them chugging cheap coffee and joined the detritus of sleep deprived passengers at the gate. Suitcases and backpacks littered the floor like a deluge of debris washed ashore after a storm.

Later, dressed in black lace and borrowed pink pearls, I attended the Peace Ball with my love. We danced, listened to heroes, and cheered with the crowd. Finally a man forced us up from our bold seats on the floor in front of the security tape and we went back to an Airbnb condo tastefully furnished and pleasantly warm.

At this point, still, I was numb.

Friday: Fried clams, cold beer, and talk of politics closer to home.

I woke early Saturday morning to a light drizzle. It had been days since I’d seen the sun. All the way across the nation, the skies reflected my despair as if they had been hand picked for a film. We were extras at a funeral unanticipated and heavily mourned.

We didn’t have pink hats. Instead, anticipating violence, our pockets bulged with swim goggles, filtered masks, rain gear, sharpies, tissues, gloves, and a little bit of cash. Anxiety made my legs heavy, my heart fast. I am terrified of crowds. I’m afraid to defy and resist. I have never been an activist. So that morning, driving to the Metro where we would catch a train to the Women’s March, I couldn’t help but think of those crows. What was I doing here? Why did I go?

Of course I knew. Knew in the way old bones know there’s going to be rain, knew in the way a mother knows her child is hungry or in pain. I had no words beyond the slapdash propaganda of which I read too much. Instead, I had a gnawing that nuzzled against my numb and occasionally caught my breath.

At the entrance to the Metro, small clusters of women carrying signs and wearing pink colored the drab morning with hope. As we moved toward them, my eyes filled and a ball of something warm and alive welled solid in my throat. The clusters of people became a stream. The stream became a river. The river became a flood.

The Metro station was packed. So packed that security opened the gates and let us through without charging our cards. The flood surged in waves as trains cleared platforms. Everywhere, the press of people and pink and cheering hordes.

Afraid of being separated, my love and I held hands. Trains passed, car after car crammed with smiling people. They waved to us as they went by and rallying cries of solidarity rang loud off curved, concrete walls.

Bundled in coats and hats, the crowd grew warm. The air, heavy with rain and sweat and breath, hung thick and wet in the tunnel. It was worse on the train, but instead of complaining, the crowd told jokes and laughed.

Outside, the crowds thinned for an instant and our hearts leapt with the freedom of movement, the excitement of the moment, the love we shared not just with each other but with all the people present. Two beaming women thrust hastily sewn, pink felt hats towards us and we donned them – he over matted hair, me over a Bourbon Street baseball cap. The sky lifted, though it remained overcast, and we joined the throng.

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Signs humorous and serious bobbed through the crowd. It grew bigger, rivulets and streams feeding the flood from every direction until everywhere I looked there were people in pink hats, people of every color, people young and old, in wheelchairs and pushing strollers, and with babies strapped to their backs. Massive video screens loomed over us, the feed from the stage sometimes blurred and at odds with the sound stream that bellowed through speaker towers erected in the streets. Like Moses parting the red sea, a line of police cruisers parted the crowd. One of the officers sported his own pink hat and the crowd roared as he passed.

“Medic,” someone cried and the call was bounced like a life raft until it reached its destination and a team of nurses weaved past us like fish through a shoal – calm and steadfast.

We moved, compelled to get as close to the stage as possible, and found ourselves stuck about three blocks away. Close to a speaker and video screen, we planted ourselves and stayed. For three hours we remained in one place. My legs cramped. My back ached. Yet, riveted by the people on stage, these were scarcely worthy of complaint.

The signs bobbed, rising in unison as a presenter made a poignant point, then sank again like buoys on waves. RISE. WOMEN ARE THE WALL. NORMALIZE THIS! LOVE TRUMPS HATE!

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My fear of crowds forgotten, despair dissipated and I came awake. “Yes!” my heart screamed. “Yes!”

As I chanted and whooped and cheered, the numbness fell away and I felt the stir of possibility where dread had set up shop and would have remained. But here was humanity on full display. Here was hope riding dreams and hurtling through loudspeakers and conversations in the streets. The voices of the marginalized, the empowered, and everyone in between cried together and cried for change. Yes. Yes. Yes. We are not beaten. We are no longer ashamed! Yes. Yes. Yes. We have come here to claim our rightful place. We are the crows in the road. We are the rivers rising above the flood plain. We are trees rooted deep and dancing in the wind. We are women. We are united and we will never be silenced again.

Everywhere I looked, as far as I could see, down every street and across every intersection, people in pink.

After awhile, a too long while, the presentation began to drone. Impatient, little trickles of people pushed backward through the crowd. The crowd began to chant, “March! March! March!” The mood shifted. Joy floated away like a balloon untethered. In its place, a surge of discontent. Bodies pressed too close, shifting and shuffling without anywhere to go. I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t quell the sudden shaking in my limbs, couldn’t focus my eyes as panic set in. “March! March! March!”

There was no room to move in any direction. A woman sat small in a wheelchair that bumped continuously against my husband’s shin. He held my gaze. Talked me down. “Look at me. You’re okay. We’re okay.” The crowd surged, wobbled, surged again. He fought his way sideways, pulling me along, until he got my back against a solid sign that would withstand a stampede if there was one. “March! March! March” Louder and louder, the chant drowned out the speakers. The air filled with complaints. The stage seemed to spontaneously birth a new non-profit that needed representation every two minutes and inspiring speeches morphed into anger and hate. “March! March! March!”

“You have the power!” someone proclaimed over the loud speaker and we laughed in spite of ourselves because they had the power. We could not march until they released us. We waited for that permission for over an hour until finally they rerouted us and we slowly scattered. Down every side street, through parking lots, and over walls we poured with relief. Someone caught the balloon. Hope again was in our grasp. We were free.

There were only four calls to police during the event. All were medical emergencies. More than half a million people converged on one place, stayed for more than seven hours, put up with overflowing port-a-potties, chilling temperatures, an over programmed presentation, and a barrage of noise, emotion, and desire without any violence.

At sunset, we left. Long lines stood in front of food trucks, hungry for sausage, pretzels, any form of sustenance. The air was jubilant. Stomachs rumbling, we headed for the nearest Metro and found it near Trump Tower where thousands were dropping their protest signs as a concrete message to our new president.

On the flight home, reading the news and learning about “alternative facts,” the vanishing White House web pages, and more, we wondered if the Women’s March would be able to help cement lasting change. Would people go home to their lives and return to complacency, or would they continue to rise and contribute loudly to our democracy?

That remains to be seen, but witnessing what I did in Washington DC, I now believe. Yes, we can. Yes, we will. Yes, women, rise. It’s our time and we are the change.

Mr. Trump, welcome to my outrage

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Yesterday, the Presidential Inauguration committee tried to silence hundreds of thousands of women by blocking their ability to march and assemble at all public parks in Washington, D.C. The move is unprecedented in American history and I wonder if the protesters were people of color or veterans or any other group willing to riot, would they have done the same thing.

Listen up, Predator-elect and misogynist team.

You will not silence me.

You will not take the voice I have finally claimed.

 

You will not find me compliant

Easily manipulated

Or afraid.

 

Do you think, really, that the lack of a permit is enough to quell my rage?

Do you think I fear your rubber bullets, water cannons, or percussion grenades?

Women are not so easy to dissuade.

Perhaps we will march anyway.

 

Can you see the headlines?

The news clips?

The horror of women beaten in the streets?

 

I am not afraid of your violence. I have felt it already and am no stranger to pain.

You will not rape this country.

Not without a fight from millions upon millions of women like me.

 

We will rise. We will dream our dream and make it a reality. You will see us unleashed and feel the full fury of our outrage.

Just wait, Mr. Trump. Just wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protests are Great, but They Won’t Stop Hate

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I spent the morning in solidarity with One Billion Rising and Love Trumps Hate. The day started cold, uncomfortable, awkward. People brought signs, wore ribbons and pins, and crossed their arms against the chill of November and the coming four years. They sought some kind of connection, peace or a sense of direction, a new way of being in a changed world.

Through all the speeches, impassioned pleas, and heartfelt promises, I felt torn. On one hand, Trump will never be my president. Instead, he is my Predator in Chief. Like it was for so many survivors of sexual violence, his election was a sucker punch, a blow of profound effect. He, and those who elected him, made my agony a joke, reduced me to an object, and denied my humanity and hope.

On the other hand, I want to understand. I want to know the hearts and minds of those who voted for him. I want to build bridges and end the divide. I want fear to stop ruling this country. I want there to be no “other” that rises like a bogeyman and sends us scurrying to our insulated social media bubbles so that we may, for a time, feel safe.

I have no idea how to move forward because I am conflicted at core. Love Trumps hate is at odds with my deep rage and desire for war. This is new. It’s real. It’s not going away.

I love my country and my community, but maybe it’s time for me and all women to finally love ourselves more.  It is my prayer that we rise strong and finally achieve the equality and respect we deserve.

 

 

#yesmetoo

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Like most, I’m looking for a path forward, a way out, a different way of doing things. I want hope to be sturdy, love simple, peace possible, and change easy. I hunger for thunderclouds, a storm surge that might wash the muddied plains of despair momentarily clean.

I hope for revolution.

Pray for justice.

Read the news and weep.

Democrats have nominated a woman to be President, but Brock Turner got six months.

The statement of his 23-year-old victim went viral for its brutal, beautiful humanity, yet she remains anonymous – a figurehead, an ideal, a faceless poster child for what some consider a lost cause.

We hide her to protect her, to save her from additional shame, but I want her to be a hero.

I want her face plastered across my Facebook feed.

I want to celebrate her resilience and free her from the stigma of rape.

Rape happens. It’s awful. But it’s not something of which we should be ashamed.

If we’re going to challenge rape culture, if we are really going to make concrete change, then the victims of rape need to be seen, stand straight, and reject shame.

Can you imagine #Iwasraped? Can you imagine a flood of photographs accompanied by #yesmetoo? Can you imagine a world where the reality of rape and the faces of its victims become that surging storm that wash clean the muddied plains?

I wish every woman who has experienced rape or sexual assault would come forward and inundate the media with their humanity.

We are not abstract statistics. We are not faceless victims. We are not damaged irreparably or victims in perpetuity.

No.

We are strong.

They would deny us our dignity, but it is not theirs to deny. Today, in solidarity with the faceless victim in the Stanford case, I share my face. Maybe you will, too. #yesmetoo #Iwasraped #nomoreshame

The Path Forward

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I’m starting to think about my next book. I won’t be able to start writing seriously for another couple of months, but I’m taking some steps in that direction. Here’s a speech I recently gave that touches on the new book’s thesis and I’d love to know what you think. Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

A New Way of Looking at Things

Today, I’m going to give you a bit of history. This is a subject I always liked. History makes a neat package of names and dates, causes and effects. It’s job is to make some sort of sense out of things and I’ve always wanted that. I mean, who doesn’t?

Isn’t that what we’re after? A predictable outcome? A known quantity? A reason for why stuff happens and the ability to control what happens next?

I was a thirteen year old sophomore when my father was killed by a drunk driver.

When I was a sixteen, I lived in a college dorm with a population bigger than my home town.

At nineteen, I was dating two men. One hurt me. The other rescued me and I married him. He was my hero.

By twenty four, I had three sons. We had no money. Once, I bought cheap dishes at a garage sale, shattered them with a hammer, and buried them near a two hundred year old wall in the woods so my children could discover them in a manufactured archaeological dig.

My kids were elated when they dug up the shards, but, to my chagrin, they didn’t want to glue the pieces back together again. They wanted to watch Power Rangers.

I wanted control. Of my life. Of my heart. Of my husband and children. I had imagined what having a child would be like. I would sit in a rocker next to a window. The curtain would be lace. The breeze would be soft. I would hold my child to my breast and sing while he nursed. That didn’t happen. I had twins. While I nursed one, the other screamed. If I tried to nurse them both, my arms fell asleep.

I imagined marriage. Soul mates. Best friends. I just didn’t imagine what ended up mattering to him. As it turns out, heroes require victims.

I left him, kids in tow, on my 29th birthday. The kids and I flew home. Through the woods and over the hill, to grandmother’s house we’d go. Literally. I mean up a three mile dirt road from hell into a canyon removed from the world.

My kids couldn’t watch Power Rangers. Really. There was no TV. Or radio. Or internet. Just the sky, the mountains, my kids and me.

I tiled my mother’s bathroom.

I borrowed her truck, filled it with regular gasoline instead of the diesel it took, and ruined it.

My mom wasn’t ready to be a grandmother yet.

Coming home wasn’t as I imagined it.

I’d given up on control by this point. Safety was the only alternative. I’d have given anything for that, but it, too, proved elusive. Right now, if I had a sound system, I’d play you a snippet from the Doors.

“People are strange…”

The truth is, I’ve done a lot of things. I regret many of them. Not because I did them, but because I missed the important part. While I pursued control, safety, and personal need, I ignored the one thing that really mattered because my drama was way more interesting.

The trouble with drama is that it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a nice way of not being boring. When we create drama, we think we matter in some way.

I’m sorry.

We don’t.

Not through drama anyway.

I digress. We’re doing history here. Making sense out of chronology and determining cause and effect.

By thirty, I’d taken a local non-profit from a small organization running 60,000 in the red to a successful organization operating comfortably in the black.

I didn’t do that all at once. It took about a year and half and I had some serious help.

Some of you may remember Owen Lopez, the former ED of The McCune Foundation.

One morning, a long time ago, I walked into Owen’s office with a twenty four year old boss who had recently graduated from UNM and didn’t really know anything.

College can apparently do that.

I wouldn’t know. I didn’t graduate.

Ok. So. Here I am. 29 years old. No degree. No real work history. I’m running an after school program because I won’t let anyone else take care of my kids (that control thing again) and I’m teaching 18 kids about how to carve soapstone with a dremmel and write their own mythologies. We catch snakes and lizards. We make snack. We imagine ruling the universe.

Remember. I’m good at imagining stuff.

So on this morning, accompanied by my younger boss, I make a pitch to one of the biggest granting organizations in the state. Owen Lopez is dry. He’s obtuse and somewhat abstract. He listens politely to my pitch. He makes a joke that goes beyond my 24 year old, recently graduated boss, and asks a question about my proposal.

He says, “Ok. Your idea sounds sexy. It’s bold and might work, but I have to ask, who’s going to teach this kind of stuff for $8 an hour?”

Good question, right? Back then, this was 1997, $8 an hour was the going rate for childcare directors.

I looked at Owen Lopez, stepped in front of my young boss, and said, “I am.”

Owen gave us the grant. $40,000 dollars was a lot back then.

Somehow, some way, that grant and my fake archeological dig lined up in my mind, but I wasn’t listening to me then.

Fast forward.

My young boss lasted less than six weeks.

I talked my way into her job.

That’s the thing about parenting. You’ll sign yourself up for almost anything to make sure your kids are adequately fed.

I got a raise. I was making a whopping 10 dollars and 30 cents an hour. Oh. My. God. I should buy a house.

Make an investment.

Put some money aside for my kid’s future.

I still was pretty big on control.

Yeah. Safety mattered, too.

And wow, with the money I was making, I thought I could afford some stuff.

I looked all over town. I applied for mortgages. Turns out, my ex husband’s credit was way more important than my lack of credit.

I was blank out of luck.

I’d be working poor as long as I was willing or capable of work. My kids ate a ton.

And then, this thing happened. Nothing I could have foreseen or planned.

My crotchety, old landlord offered me a gift. “Buy this house.” He said.

“I don’t have a down payment or credit.”

“That’s okay,” he said. We’ll make it work.”

Well, he did. He made it work. He pretended to be my uncle, gifted me $80,000 in equity, and arranged a mortgage through a friend.

Yep, you’re looking at it. I was one of those sub-prime mortgage holders that brought about the end of the world.

No, I wasn’t responsible for the collapse of Lehman Brothers. I paid my mortgage. On time. Every month because I owed it to that man and my kids to hold onto that house.

Then, 9/11 cost me my job.

With the economy in a tail spin, and my lack of credentials, I couldn’t get a job. So I created one. I had almost $5,000 in a retirement fund and some unemployment benefits. This was not nearly enough to cover my mortgage or food in the fridge for long, but it was enough to buy me some time.

Time, when you’re in pursuit of control, or safety, is paramount.

Somehow, I managed to leverage the property I shouldn’t have owned, the unemployment benefits, and the favor or a friend into an art career that shouldn’t have happened. Don’t forget, I had no money. I didn’t have a degree. I was a single mom in a time when the PTA president didn’t want me to join because I would denigrate the organization. No. I’m not kidding.

My career as a sculptor astounded most.
It astounded me.

I didn’t think I deserved my success.

How about you? Ever wondered if you deserved what you got? Better or worse?

Fast forward.

I met the man of my dreams in 2004. I didn’t know it at the time, but, as it turns out, he was one more thing I couldn’t control.

We didn’t marry until 2013.

Before we married, and while we were still figuring out how to be partners, I was awarded the title of Santa Fe Business Woman of the Year.

I was blown away.

Really.

I’m not a business woman in any ordinary sense of the word.

I suck at math.

I refund everything.

I’m never looking at the bottom line.

Instead, I’m looking at my customer’s faces.

And that’s why I’m here today talking with you.

The reason I took that award isn’t because of the profit I made or how carefully I managed costs. I took it because of what I did for the people in my community. I created a shopping center with a soul. I required all tenants to give back to the community they served. I gave back. Some thought me nuts. They were wrong.

As of this minute, I can list the following accomplishments:

I successfully raised three children and they have become men I adore.

I married the man I love.

I won multiple awards as an artist.

I was named business woman of the year.

I have authored four books, the last of which I’d give you all for free if I could, and the first of which took a national award.

I co-own a shopping center. I own a store.

Most importantly, I’m here before you now.

Do you know what’s great about history? It’s not the 20/20 vision of what’s transpired before.

It’s the running themes that evolve into outcomes never predicted, expected, or thought possible.

I didn’t graduate college.

I’ve won some awards and achieved a modest wealth.

But here’s what I’ve learned.

There is no guaranteed outcome.

People are strange.

There is only ONE Thing we can control and that determines everything.

What we control is what we give.

To ourselves.

To our customers.

To our children and friends and lovers.

To our community and our families.

What I’ve learned. What I’m on a mission to share. Is that we are NOT in control of anything else.

But when we accept that small responsibility, everything changes.

We’re taught to manage, manipulate, seduce, or coerce to ensure the company is profitable, the children do well in school, the marriage lasts. We’re taught to go after what we need, to GET it at whatever cost. And our focus on getting is a tragedy.

Today, I invite you to imagine with me. Imagine if, instead of waiting for someone else to fill your need, you fulfilled theirs or yours?

If you want loyal customers, imagine giving them something bigger than a discount. What do they need? Is it your time? Is it the music they like on the radio? Is it a warm smile and the promise they can have their money back if they change their mind?

Now, imagine something that makes you happy. Just for a second. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Do you see it? Imagine giving that to yourself. Just doing it, buying it, going there.

Next, imagine dismissing all the reasons you can’t get what you want. Because there aren’t any. There is nothing standing in the way of your happiness except what you’re unwilling to give to yourself.

Here’s the thing. When you wait for someone else to give you what you need and want, you give away ALL YOUR POWER. They are now in control of what you receive. Maybe they like that. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t know how to give to you in way you’re able to receive.

But…

When you give – to yourself, your customers, your children, your friends, family, and community, you empower yourself and give others permission to do the same. There IS NO CONTROL. There is only who you want to be, how you want to live, and what you give to your dream.

That’s what makes an excellent business.

It’s what makes a marriage.

A friendship.

A connection.

When you give, wholeheartedly and without trying to control an outcome, history becomes irrelevant. The story changes.  Life begins again.