Time out

Tomorrow, I’m off to follow my dream. Tomorrow, I will be getting in my car to start a four-month road trip in which I karaoke in the 48 contiguous states. Tomorrow, I will begin my MelOdyssey.

I’ll be taking time away from this blog for a few months so I can focus on my new one. I hope you will follow me on my journey — and pursue your own as well.

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Follow your own path

Morning thought

I woke up to answer a text. A friend wishing me a great time on my journey to China. I responded:

“Thanks! Things are starting to fall into place. Or become unraveled. One of those two.”

I put the phone down, continued to lie in bed, and thought:

Or both.

I think that’s closer to the truth.

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My bus ride home from work last week.

I am putty in my hands

Thanks to a recent(ish) TED Talk, I am now playing with the identity of “Multipotentialite” – a person who doesn’t really have one true calling, but is lucky enough to find success in a variety of realms. I say lucky, but also recognize the challenges of this identity. It’s hard to focus. While it’s easy to find something that really grabs me, it’s harder to find something that sticks for long. Simply put, a Multipotentialite is in a potential state of mid-life crisis. The idea of finding that one thing that will keep me happy, settled, and satisfied for a long period of time is probably a concept I should just let go.

With that in mind, I pondered what matters to me today. Many of these things have been the focus of my life for a long time, while others are pretty new to the scene:

Issues I am passionate about (and may or may not have done anything to address them):

  • Incorporating healthy relationships into sexuality education. This goes beyond the new emphasis on teaching “enthusiastic consent” – which I am pleased to see – but to me needs to come from a more strength-based, inclusive foundation that addresses not just sexual and romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds and across all domains (including digital ones).
  • Developing supports for those who have survived their own suicide at There is so little out there on this topic and I want to do something about that.
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth as they navigate their identity development, schooling, relationships, and family life. The idea that young people are at risk for losing their home, don’t feel safe going to school, and suffer abuse just because of who they are attracted to/how they identify on the gender spectrum sickens me.
  • The complex issue of welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. I know nothing about this issue and I have no idea where to begin. But the news coverage and stories of struggle move me.

Note: I’m surprised I am somewhat stalling out here. I have strong opinions on MANY other issues, but nothing else right now – at this moment as I write this blog – really calls to me as something I want to dedicate a significant portion of my life to.

Things that I love/interest me (I dabble in these with varying degrees of success, enthusiasm, and expertise):

  • International travel
  • Road trips
  • Karaoke (especially the idea of singing in all 50 states and anywhere else I go)
  • The NHL
  • Sports talk radio
  • Mystery novels and crime shows
  • Microcars
  • Interacting with people, especially my friends
  • Writing
  • Mindfulness and Buddhism
  • Cooking/food in general
  • Bikram yoga

Things I used to do with great zeal, but have dropped off my radar:

  • Being involved in community theater and improvisational acting
  • Playing hockey
  • Reading tarot cards and horoscopes for others

Professional rabbit holes I have gone down that can still suck me in:

  • Policies related to how youth can successfully transition from adolescence to adulthood, especially those with “system experience.”
  • Respite for those who are taking care of chronically ill loved ones, as well as those in professions that are dedicated to supporting and healing others (this includes teachers).
  • Sexuality education inside and outside of school.
  • Strength-based approaches to incorporating youth voice into issues that matter to them.
  • Social networking to create communities
  • Access to education for women in developing countries
  • Creating culturally appropriate approaches to health care, especially mental health care
  • Policy issues related to women’s reproductive health, especially those related to fertility treatments.
  • The juvenile justice system.
  • Social justice as it applies to youth and young adults.

Work-related activities I enjoy doing:

  • Creating and reviewing surveys/interview protocols
  • Teaching/providing technical assistance
  • Synthesizing data
  • Seeing how different disciplines and theoretical approaches can fit together: Looking at systems and the big picture.

I am sure I could expand on all these lists, but will leave them for now. I both look forward to what my next passions will be, but also hope to be mindful of the fact that no longer will I assume something will be the “one thing” that changes my life and moves me forward. I hope to find comfort in the fact that there will always be a “right now” but not a forever.

endless road

This is not my path, but it sure is pretty (taken in Taos, NM).

Today I am grateful for discovering Emilie Wapnick and her website puttylike.com. To me, her approach to life is one I hope to emulate while following my own path.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty comes at a price

I am currently coloring my hair without supervision*. Dave has gone off to get the oil changed to get ready for our trip to Dubai tomorrow. This leaves me home alone with hair dye and without glasses. The apartment is poorly lit. I can only guess and hope that I covered most of my head. At least it’s henna, which is only semi-permanent, right? Besides, my grey roots made it look like I had two heads of hair, one laid on top of the other. Something needed to happen. Getting my hair done professionally wasn’t really an option. There is no place in our town where a woman can get her hair cut. It’s illegal (or haram at least) to have a man cut my hair, and there are no female stylists here. The best place would be Muscat, but that’s 90 minutes away and requires planning to make an appointment. So, self care it is.

I had tried to see what would happen if I just let my hair grow out and go natural, but I lost patience with that idea when I looked at some recent pictures of me. I thought my hair would grey out evenly since the previous color I had – a dark brown — was all gone, leaving me with  what I presumed was my natural color. It’s so hard to tell what my hair actually is now, given that I have been putting different dyes in my hair for over twenty years – ever since graduate school caused my premature greying. Heck, even before that I was getting blonde highlights to stall my darkening towhead (yes, I was a blonde kid!). And then there was the time (almost two years) when I thought magenta was a perfectly fine color for my locks.

before

So much grey! at least the mountains are super pretty.

 

I’ve colored my own hair a million times before and now in five different countries with varying degrees of success. I remember one time back in the US when the outcome was mixed at best. I stood in the mirror as I watched the dye saturating my hair turn brighter and brighter orange when the phone rang. My friend Meg was seeing if I wanted to take my dog Brody to the park. He and Lizzie were great friends back then, both now lost to cancer.

“I can’t. I’m dyeing my hair”

“Neat! What color?”

“Not sure. The box said “Fire Red, but, I look like a construction cone. I’m getting nervous….”

“Then rinse it out if you don’t like what’s happening and come to the park with us.”

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? If I don’t like it, get rid of it! Was it a good idea? No matter, the color choice wasn’t a good idea in the first place, so might as well add to the dubious decisions. I hopped in the shower, rinsed my hair and went off to the park – at least that part was a good idea in the minds of Brody and Lizzie. My hair was still wet and I wore a hood to protect myself from the cold and possible humiliation, but despite the head cover, people could tell something was up.

“You colored your hair.” Duke’s mom was making a factual statement and nothing more.

“Yes – about 5 minutes ago.”

“Ah.”

I don’t recall anyone saying it looked nice/good/beautiful that evening. And for good reason. I got home and my hair was indeed bright orange. I was OK with that, even though it wasn’t my favorite. I had a good job, a good relationship, good friends, and good life. Ruined hair wasn’t about to stop me from anything. I had a laugh over my appearance and went to sleep, aware that I would most likely cause a bit of a stir at work. My suspicions were confirmed when the next day a student of mine looked at me and said, “I like the color of your hair. It’s almost within the normal range of hair colors. But not quite.”

That about summed it up.

So now I sit with my hair soaking in the muddy henna (the box called it “Burgundy”): the natural and cultural way to color hair while here in Oman.  I like how it smells sweet and earthy as opposed to the chemical smell of the dyes back home.  I know there is no way I got all the parts of my head, especially the back. I have a thick head of hair and it’s hard to see back there, even when I am wearing my glasses. The henna starts to dry, creating a fine layer of sand all over my bare shoulders and chest. I guess it’s time to rinse off.

I forgot about how weak the water pressure is here. I stood under the shower for a solid fifteen minutes as streaks of orange poured down my body. I worried about staining the drain, the grout, my face, my feet. Slowly, the water began to run clear. I looked in the mirror and learn that my hair is much brighter where it was once grey. And Burgundy my ass – my hair has a bright orange tinge to it. Then I remember the stuff was manufactured for those with black hair – maybe the Burgundy part is relative to darker tresses. I sigh. Nothing I can do about it now, anyway. At least I am not quite a construction cone.

* Note: The above was written in real time. The rest was written the day after.

Dave comes home and we assess the damage. The color job is uneven, and the top of my head is indeed bright, though no longer grey (except for the parts I missed). But, it is what it is – bad hair in Oman. The fact that it hasn’t been cut in almost seven months is even more apparent now. Maybe this is a sign I should start wearing a hijab. Or be a little more forgiving of my hair and myself – until I get to a place where I can find a good stylist.

new hair

My hair in “burgundy”

top

…complete with missed spots and bright orange top. Sigh.

 

 

Everything old is new again

Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, ResearchGate, and now add Goodreads to the list. These are the social media platforms I am on where I publicly admit that I am a writer. Or at least trying to be one (again).  Or something. While I am not sure exactly what it is I am trying to do by getting my Goodreads profile up and running (Friend me! Become a fan or whatever), I do know that it signals a merging of an older part of myself with what I am doing today.

I published my first book almost twelve years ago with the hope that it would be a book that people, well, read. I suppose a few have indeed read it (or at least bought it), but I know not many have given the meager royalties I have earned from it. Yet, I am fortunate, for each year a check for about fifty bucks comes in the mail and I treat myself to a new shirt or I buy a round of drinks when some friends and I meet for happy hour. Each year I have to fill out a particular part of my tax return that acknowledges that I have earned royalties – the word itself becoming humorous when the dollar amount is entered.

my book

I learned today that my book was re-released in 2013 in Kindle edition! So nice of my publisher to tell me…

 

 

Back then, I wrote about sexuality and youth identity. Now, I write about my experiences in the world and in me. These disparate topics do not make good bedfellows on a social media page. My profile ends up looking like I have no idea who I am or where I am going. This is, to some extent, true. But in a lot of ways, it just shows how things can change in a decade. And how complex people really are. I am sure my favorite authors have as many varied interests as I do. They too can be hockey fans, feminists, karaoke queens, travelers, sexuality educators, striving cooks, and best friends all in one being. Yet somehow, when we “get to know them” online, their identity is much more refined, as if it was purposefully stripped down to make it easy on readers to understand the person behind the words we love so much.

But if I wanted to be included among those considered authors in Goodreads, I had to prove that I had written something worthy of publication. So I bring back my past in hopes of inspiring my future. But that’s not even it. A few of my most recent publications have been about youth sexuality, so this part of me is not completely gone, and I don’t want it to be. In fact, I go out of my way to be involved in this work. I write things, remain involved in collaborations, and conduct a little bit of research in my off time so I can hold onto this part of me – the part that can still claim to be a sexuality educator. A sexuality educator in a country where uttering a few incorrect words could result in losing my job. A sexuality educator who cannot ask the very questions of her students that she thinks about daily: What do you know about sex? What does a healthy romantic relationship look like to you? How many children do you really want? If you had your choice, would you choose who you were going to marry? What would that person be like? How would you get to know them?

It’s a good thing that us authors are more than the sum of our words. And that inspiration comes from so many places and experiences. I’d hate to feel that my writing was limited to one form, genre, or topic. Perhaps one day I will fall in love with an idea that keeps my writing focused again. Today I am grateful for the many outlets I have to express myself, even if they can seem overwhelming at times.

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