Tuesday, February 16, 2010

just in time for the ides of february

It's official! After a couple months of tinkering and lots of help from patient (and extremely knowledgeable) friends, www.katiebeth.me is up and running! Finally. Huge huge huge thanks and #tacklehugs especially to David (@DavidLutzy) and John (@nortoons).

I'll still be blogging at blogs.zherpa.com/notfearless, especially now that skydiving and climbing season are starting, but my permanent blog will be at katiebeth.me. If you happen to follow or link to Beautiful Moments from your blogroll, please update if you get a chance. (I'm working on learning how to forward automatically from Blogspot to Wordpress. Hang tight, that will happen eventually!)

Yay for new things!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

heavier things

Confession: I'm not always bright and shiny and energetic and full of tacklehugs. Sometimes I have to be reminded of this the hard way. For all the bouncy and enthusiastic KatieBeth that takes up space in my personality, there's some capacity for deep sadness in there too. That's hard for me to say.

Because of the nature of counseling as a professional endeavor to be exercised in confidence, we often speak frankly in most of my classes, understanding that what is said in that room doesn't leave the room. This can create a very honest atmosphere. And since my classes this semester are psychiatric rehab, group counseling, psychosocial aspects of rehab, and work & disability, there's a lot of honesty and heaviness going around.

Both last night and this afternoon, in class, I struggled with the groupthink that started to develop surrounding negative statements and feelings. Today in work & disability, we explored issues regarding social justice and situational ethics, and my classmates didn't hesitate to talk about what irked them. Last night in psychiatric rehab, the discussion of stigma and statistics and mental illness was explored by the comments of my peers.

Don't get me wrong. Social injustices and poverty and unemployment and disability and misunderstandings and misjudgments are all issues that make my little heart well up with frustration, but frustration will only get me so far. In fact, it mostly just serves to make me visibly upset, like it did in class today, with nowhere to put those feelings except into flushed cheeks and occasional hot tears.

So then what do I do when I feel like we're all so very susceptible to convincingly presented and emotionally wrought information, perpetuating the negativity of hopelessness? I accept that I might actually be more of a cynic than I'd like to admit, but only inasmuch as it spurs me toward movement and action. I'm patient and positive, but I can't handle the kind of pessimism the world wants to hand me sometimes.

But...I haven't yet given up on that whole “change the world” dream. I find joy in briefly exchanged smiles and random acts of kindness and honest conversations and hugs. I think those are the things that change the world...mine at least. Because what is my world except for an assembly of my perceptions of it?

What do you think?

stories and stitches

I knit. I'm not a good knitter, but I knit. I like the way it feels to be moving while I'm sitting still. When possible, I keep a knitting project or the means to start one with me (along with whatever book I'm reading and a notebook with ample blank pages--those two things have been part of my leaving-the-house assemblage since grade school). Sometimes I listen to music while I knit, and sometimes I let the activity around me dictate my accompaniment.

I find the rhythm of stitches and rows soothing as I let my thoughts wander. I take frequent breaks to look around, to read a page in a book, to respond to a text, but I'm always glad to return to the progress of my project.

When I picked up the afghan that Grandma Kay had sent to me, I found myself quickly lost in its story. Grandma V (who recently passed away) crocheted it. I don't know when she made this afghan in particular, and I don't know why Grandma Kay chose this one to send to me. I like the way it smells and feels and looks, and I wonder at what its existence saw before joining my growing army of blankets (I kind of have a problem with excessive blanket acquisition that started at least two decades ago). I don't know what Grandma V watched or saw or listened to or thought about while she was making it, but the possibilities give me chills. It may have enjoyed a quiet, tv-in-the-evenings sort of life before, or it may have covered a cold lap during a warm conversation. Maybe it was tucked into a closet after it was made, or maybe it was intended for a recipient it never met.

I wonder, and I wonder if maybe I'm just far too inclined to ascribe significance, but that realization has never stopped me before. Brings a new meaning to handmade gifts from friends, doesn't it?

Monday, February 8, 2010

non-resolution update no.1

For the month of January, I tried to practice love. I tried to practice it in the way that doesn't discriminate or hold back or pretend, but allows for each moment and person and interaction to come as it will--to love myself and to love others. I won't say I succeeded at January's principle (see this entry for reference), but it went well, even if it means I cried a little more and felt a little deeper than I'm accustomed to. I loved. I'll keep on loving.

For February, the plan is to DO something about the things that I find upsetting, to not stand idly by and complain about how rotten the world is, and to not waste energy on petty frustrations. I've already found myself a handful of times this month having to talk myself down, rationally, when I realized I was wasting energy on being upset about things that don't matter.

The things that do matter to me, though, I need to talk about. I'm not just a climber/knitter/skydiver/future-cat-lady. I'm someone who's VERY passionate about the potential people have to be good and to feel good and to make and reach goals. This is something I talk about in my classes as a rehabilitation counseling student. Individuals with disabilities get pushed aside and expectations and standards get lowered and accommodations can be nonexistent. We discuss these issues in my graduate classes every day--the reality of disability and the potential people have to live full lives not defined by diagnoses and doctor visits. Lives full of adventure and accomplishment. All people deserve that.

We all know someone with a disability, and we encounter disability on a daily basis. A lot of disabilities are invisible...and some aren't. We're taught our whole lives that diversity is good but something that I'm pretty sure gets deeply engrained at about the seventh grade teaches us being different is scary. For my part, having to wear a back brace for a few years right smack dab in the throes of adolescence made the decision for me, kind of. It was probably all in my head, but I felt different. At a time when I wanted to fit in, I was different.

However, no one told me that I couldn't be anything I wanted or do anything I wanted, jacked up spine or not. Some people aren't that lucky. I want to have a voice, to be a voice, to encourage and empower and to make a little bit of a stink about how this human condition in all its broken parts is pretty incredible. If there's one thing I am passionate about, it's that the people I come into contact with, disability or not, feel loved and heard and important. And since I can't change anyone else's actions and reactions, I have to start with me. So that's exactly what I plan to do.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ain't that Mister Mister on the radio?

"'Well,' said Pooh, 'what I like best,' and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called." --A.A. Milne

The last 50 yards before I was greeted by the Baca family, just past the revolving doors at the Sunport arrivals gate, I remember smiling in anticipation, reveling in that moment just before something really really good. It's one of my favorite things, that moment. And this one didn't let me down.

Let me backtrack a little. I've been lucky...er, blessed enough to have gotten to know the Bacas over the last six months or so, first via goodnaturedly-sarcasm-soaked Twitter @replies and eventually email, text, chats, phone calls, and mail. Somehow, in all the stilted communication that is characteristic of this digital world, there was some connection. We made friends. For weeks, we talked visits until I finally opted to purchase a plane ticket good for one long weekend at Casa de Baca. I think the countdown was just over 30 days at that point...not that I was counting.

The last few days before the trip were the hardest...I could hardly concentrate on anything but being excited to finally hug my friends. In the middle of all of it though, there was the convincing others and myself that I wasn't crazy for flying across the country to visit people I'd never actually met. Would they be like I expected? My mom expressed concern about receiving a phone call asking her to please come to New Mexico to secure my remains. I assured her that was highly unlikely, but it raises the issue--how bold is too bold? Yes, I love and live and play and feel very boldly and fully. I'm a both-feet-at-once kind of girl with a tender heart and an open mind. I'm aware that my decision to practice optimism and believe the best about people whenever possible leaves me vulnerable. And so far, it's been worth it.

Back to the Sunport.

Can I just say that the Bacas are one good-looking bunch? Their photos and videos and likenesses across various social networking interfaces do them no justice. Somehow, I managed nervous hugs as we made our way to their truck, trying not to let my sleep-deprivation-induced tendency to get over-stimulated get the best of me. While PB and I waited for the Mexican take-out lunch we picked up on the way home, he confirmed what I suspected. It was totally fine to just be me. I mean, I knew this, but it was important to me to hear and believe that if any of it was too much--the excitement, the activity--that it was okay to say the word. All of it is a lot to take in, especially after a night of no sleep and lots of travel. I needed to absorb for a while before I settled, and this was okay.

Later that afternoon and into the evening, we went climbing, marathon-session style. I was pleased to find that a) I am not the only one who enjoys marathon climb sessions, b) I am not the only one who frequently forgets meals during said sessions, c) climbers are pretty consistently similar from town to town, and this helps a new girl settle a little, and d) there's nothing quite like spicing up yoga class with a little mischief. The post-climb beers were appreciated, as were more hugs...specifically from the ever-hug-receptive Doni. Needless to say, I slept very well that night.

Briefly the next morning, I fought for lucidity and then was quite happy to realize I was still in New Mexico, with breakfast waiting in the kitchen and tacklehugs in the hall. We took our time getting ready for the day, and I was treated to a tour of the JCC and the local museum, as well as some gallivanting about Old Town, where I fruitlessly tried to convince the Bacas the overcast, slightly chilly weather really wasn't that cold. Sigh, and I come from CA, where we don't exactly have Arctic winters.

We spent a pleasant evening in that night, playing the Wii and chatting and enjoying the company of friends. One of my favorite occurrences of the weekend was late-night chatting with E, the first of which took place after PB and the Chickabiddy had called it a night on Friday.

By Saturday, it was clear that I should have no qualms about frequent and unsolicited hugs, and I didn't. Now, you should know that a KatieBeth requires an inordinate amount of hugs and snuggles, and the Baca family didn't miss a beat. Ah, to be surrounded by equally contact-oriented friends! More climbing gym time ensued that afternoon, with a rushed exit so we could make it to church on time. Church was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend, save for the unfortunate (and literal) run-in I had with a cactus plant on the way home. Lesson learned: do not trip over cactus plants.

Upon arriving home PB & E set to work preparing for the upcoming #woofup of sorts while the Chickabiddy and I took great care in performing intricate medical tests on Bunny and petting the puppycats. Soon, friends arrived and conversations were woven. Hugs were exchanged and stories told. Girl pile snuggles followed late night #tpups, and I couldn't help but feel just utterly blessed and loved and lucky and full.

Sunday, we dragged our very tired selves to yoga, fighting for energy through bouts of sillyness. Sunday afternoon held more climbing and the evening was enjoyably mellow, tinged with the reality that the visit would soon be over. Another late night chatting with and hugging E.

The next morning, I reluctantly packed my belongings as we prepared for one final jaunt through town and up to to the foothills to see the city from up a little higher, as well as a visit to the bookstore. The last hour, spent at the Sunport, was intermittently very joyful and very sad. My visit had turned out even better than I could have planned, and leaving was very very difficult. It hurt. I was glad for my sunglasses as I boarded the plane.

I learned a few things. The vulnerability of loving wholeheartedly and moment-by-moment being happy to be who I am is totally worth it, even if it means making the goodbyes that much harder. It is possible (and even okay) to make friends through unconventional means. Sometimes those friends turn out to be more like family than friends in the way that makes you realize you're unusually blessed. And that is pretty darn awesome.

Thank you, @paukku, @Binkibear, Biddy, @orbiteleven, @emilysusanjones, @dynomightdoni and all the rest for sharing your lives with me for a weekend. You touched this CA girl's heart pretty deeply.

Monday, January 25, 2010

my non-resolutions

I haven't made a list of goals for the year. I actually did make one at the end of January of last year, and was quite surprised to realize I had reached many of them by the time the clock struck midnight on December 31st. Some will continue, and some may fall by the wayside. I think eventually I'll write some down for this year, but it's not a priority.

My project for 2010 is a little different. I want to focus on the following principles--one each month. For me, these have a strong religious connotation and connection, but I think that they can apply no matter your beliefs. I don't anticipate mastering any of them, but merely practicing them, thinking on them, and carrying them with me into coming years.

January: Love with sincerity.
February: Don't stand by & watch. Do something about the bad things in the world.
March: Hold “things” loosely, and cling to what is good.
April: Be selfless. Give preference to others.
May: Know where I'm at--live with zeal and passion.
June: Look for opportunities for grace--to give and receive it. Be hopeful.
July: Pray often.
August: Practice hospitality.
September: Bless those who speak ill of me.
October: Don't be afraid to be part of others' lives. Laugh and cry with them--even if it's messy.
November: Practice harmony.
December: Practice humility.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

beautiful moments

February 2008 (dance rehearsal--Day 1):

In my undergrad, and for a couple years in high school, I danced. This was one of my favorite pieces, and my first semester back after busting up my ankle (I'm the one in the ankle brace). I miss this a lot. That day, I felt like a dancer, more than most days before or since.

August 2006:
there's beauty in being
old enough to know
and young enough to forget
to get lost in those moments
where it seems morning will never come
the blind innocence of believing
that we are infinite impenetrable indefinable
we watch the sky as the music softly wanders across the night
'cause we're the stars and constellations
burning bright twinkling fading
plummeting through deep black skies
our secrets safe beneath the night
but we'll leave our footprints
and I'll draw pictures in the dirt
so when morning arrives, we'll remember
what it felt like.

The night before school started that semester, we went up into the hills to be kids and in between rounds of the Postal Service I caught myself watching the sky and feeling like it wasn't always going to be this way, and I was sad. So I wrote about it the next day.


These are from a while ago...but since I don't link back to old blogs, I thought I'd share here, with some commentary. It's nice to remember things.