Third Time’s a Charm

The past month has been a series of ups and downs for me, primarily because of my recent MRI results. A gurl gets giddy when she thinks she’s done workin’ the pole. Sadly, that’s not the case for this cancer survivor. After a month of research, pondering, and prayer, I’ve decided to do another round of radiation, rest, recoup, and start doing chemotherapy again in September.

This wasn’t an easy decision. After four years of treatment with the same physician, I went to another cancer treatment center to get a second opinion. I got the same information that my current oncologist gave me. It felt good to have her opinion reaffirmed, but to be honest, I felt like I was cheating on my doctor. Does that make sense?

Today I am going to the radiologist to get fitted for my mask. I’ll be starting my third course of radiation in two weeks. I don’t mind radiation. In fact, I find it fascinating. I love the crew, I get to bring in mixtapes for them to play while laser beams vanquish tumor cells, and I’ll ham it up with silly hats. I’m a nerd. What can I say?

I’ve spent the last month hiding under a blanket and snuggling up with my dog and cat. My partner has been an awesome support beam, and my friends and family have helped me feel loved. It’s time to put on my Polka Face and make the most of every day.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

carrie big break upHave you ever broken up with someone, crossed paths with them somewhere down the road, rekindled your flame, then doused it, vowed to keep the flame at bay, and then run into the double ex AGAIN? I have. Twice. Both literally and figuratively.

When I first came out as a lesbian, I didn’t know many queer folks. I didn’t know how a relationship should function – gay, straight, or otherwise. I’d never seen an example. I also didn’t know if I was a butch or femme. I only knew two other lesbians. Where would I fit within the lesbian matrix? Did my attraction to a particular gender type define my own gender? (To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

I dated my first girlfriend on and off again for about two years. At first I was afraid. Shoot, I was petrified. I had never had a serious relationship because I could hide behind my religious beliefs about “waiting until marriage” to avoid getting intimate with someone. I eventually figured out that I didn’t have to put up with anyone’s expectations about how I performed by gender, and that my attraction to someone was not restricted to their performance of gender or sexuality. I realized that love is not dictated by body parts, and that true love has nothing to do with sexual intercourse. Once I recognized who I was and what I was looking for in a partner, the dating process became much easier.

Online dating was a perfect mechanism for meeting potential partners. If someone didn’t bother to proofread their own profile, click. Move onto the next profile.

I met my partner/spouse eight years ago. We spent over a month chatting online before we actually met in person. We shared an interest in feminism, queer theory, and Family Guy. We went to Long Beach Pride for our third date. A round-trip drive through the desert gives you lots of time to get to know someone. It’s a make it or break it kind of situation.  By the time we got back to Arizona, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Shannon.
[Read more…]

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Wonder Women Crossword Puzzle

whm_banner2Happy Women’s History Month! I’ve crafted a puzzle all about fabulous females to help kick off the celebration. The answers will be posted tomorrow, so be sure to come back for more!

Click here to download.

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The Common Link

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, this week’s puzzle deals with common links. We’ve all heard of the six degrees of separation. Lucky for you, this puzzle isn’t that complicated. There are only two degrees of separation between the people/objects in this game. For example, the link between the words “marching” and “saw” is band. Click here to download the puzzle and see if you can identify the common link.

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Paula Aboud: An Optimistic Voice of Reason

paula aboudI live in a very conservative state. It’s a fact. Despite living in a state full of households who hang Tea Party flags on their porch, I have hope. One of the reasons that I feel like Arizona isn’t a lost cause is because we have political representatives who defy the odds by speaking out in favor of women’s reproductive justice and equality for the queer community. Former State Senator Paula Aboud is a prime example of a rainbow-flag-flying feminist role model in the middle of a sea of red.

Paula Aboud was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She attended Tucson High School and earned a BA in English from the University of Arizona. After graduating from UA, Aboud taught English and coached volleyball and tennis coach at Rincon High School. Paula’s devotion to education and sports eventually motivated her to get involved in local politics, and she served in the Arizona Senate for six years.

Senator Aboud explains that her involvement in politics was not a conscious choice. She left teaching at Rincon High School and moved to Maine. Soon after relocating, a high school student was beaten up by his peers and thrown over a bridge. He died just because he was gay. This ignited Paula’s motivation to get involved with the gay community in Maine. The gay community decided to form a community organization that was dedicated to passing laws to protect the civil rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Although she wasn’t teaching anymore, Paula was still coaching sports. She realized that coaching and teaching provided an opportunity to make a difference for young people, but that she could make an even bigger difference by getting involved in local politics. [Read more…]

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Go Hillary!

HRCLast week I talked about my love of word puzzles and the value they’ve had in my recovery from chemo brain. Last week’s puzzle was a simple word search. This week I’m kicking it up a notch by introducing cryptograms dedicated to Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’ve loved Hillary since high school. She’s the reason I’m a feminist. Hillary told the UN Human Rights Council that “women’s rights are human rights.” There’s no arguing with that. These cryptograms are a tribute for the woman I hope to see in the Oval Office next January.

For readers who aren’t familiar with cryptograms, these puzzles use code. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years. Hieroglyphs were used by the ancient Egyptians to provide graphic information for people who were illiterate. Ancient Greeks used ciphers as a way to keep information secret. Fast forward to the 21st Century. Cryptograms are a form of entertainment and mental exercise.

To decode a cryptogram, start by looking for coded single-letter words, such as “I” and “a.” Then look for groups of common three-letter words, such as “the” or “and.” Look for repetition within the puzzle. Once you identify common words, the message will be revealed. (If you need more tips on deciphering a cryptogram, check out Cryptograms.org.)

Click here to download the Hillary Cryptograms puzzle. Check back next week for the answers.

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Star Wars Word Search

star-wars-the-force-awakensI have a brain tumor. That’s a fact. It doesn’t mean my brain can’t function. I had laser beams (aka “radiation”) shooting my brain (from multiple angles) for six weeks in the Fall of 2012. Although the laser beams weren’t attached to a light saber, they did cause serious damage. My tumor is located in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This controls speech and reading comprehension, as well as short-term memory. Thanks to The Force (aka “speech therapy”), I did my mental work outs, sometimes spending anywhere from 3-5 hours a day. I did word puzzles, played memory games, and started to feel like the Jedi inside me was back.

I am about to hit the four-year anniversary of my brain tumor diagnosis. I’m happy to say good-bye to the chemo pole and get back to kicking ass. I’ve graduated from Padawan to Jedi, and I’m ready to put the Dark Side in its place.

I will be posting a new word puzzle of my own creation each week. Get your Force on by solving the puzzles. Answer sheets will be provided at the end of each week. This week’s puzzle is a Star Wars Word Search. Have fun!

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Hard Hats are Women’s Wear

MelindaTraynor056-214x300Melinda Traynor is the President and CEO of Ayuda, LLC. Her company provides hands-on, personalized operator qualification training for people in the oil and gas industry. AYUDA’s crew goes directly to construction and pipeline sites to ensure that contractors are following safety and environmental regulations. Melinda’s name hit the industry headlines when she secured a contract to train pipeline operators for Pemex, Mexico’s state-run oil company. Since then, Melinda has expanded her business around the US and has also started training government workers in Peru on pipeline safety standards for oil and gas extraction.

I have the privilege of working with Ms. Traynor. I’ve maintained her website and social media accounts since 2008. I have learned so much from her about the oil and gas industry; leadership; how to be a woman business owner; and how to mentor others. Melinda marked some time out from her very busy schedule to chat with me about what it “women’s work” means to her. [Read more…]

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Esperanza: Choreographing Body Love

beth-braunBeth Braun is a woman who knows how to move. Beth is the Director of Dance at Rincon and University High Schools in Tucson, as well as the Artistic Director for the Esperanza Dance Project. The Esperanza Dance Project seeks to eradicate the stigma, secrecy and shame associated with childhood sexual violence. They also work to raise awareness about childhood sexual violence and deliver a message of hope, strength, and empowerment. I caught up with Ms. Braun to talk to her about the inspiration for her activism and what dance means to her.

Beth grew up in Long Island, New York. She started dancing when she was five years old. Beth started out learning ballet, tap, and jazz-style dancing. Her first dance teacher wanted to share his love of dance. Beth says that the dance studio had a very positive environment. She knew that she wanted to grow up and be a professional dancer because she felt like she had a sense of weightlessness and freedom when she was dancing.

Beth auditioned when she was ten years old to attend a ballet school that had a very competitive atmosphere. It didn’t have the same supportive environment that her first dance school did, but she still wanted to be a ballerina. The instructors told her that she couldn’t be a professional dancer because she didn’t have the right body type. Beth started dieting when she was just ten years old because of the pressure she felt from her dance instructors.

Braun eventually gave up dancing because she didn’t love it anymore. Beth explains that she realized it was more important to be alive than it was to dance, so she started to focus on other creative outlets. Beth took up visual arts in high school. After graduation, Beth moved from the East Coast to California because she could be “anonymous” and just do things for herself. She started taking dance classes again. Beth says that the classes were fun and that she started to feel like herself again. [Read more…]

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Family is About Love

Toni Nielson and Bronwyn Grant NielsonJune 1st was National LGBTQ Families Day. Last week I talked about my own definitions of the word “family.” Family can be genetic, but family is also about choice. Two people who have helped me form my own definition of the word “family” are members of my chosen family, Bronwyn and Toni. I have been lucky enough to know them for sixteen years. Despite our NFL rivalry (I like the Niners, they like the Cowboys), we’ve leaned on each other for support. I love having Toni and Bronwyn in my life. I caught up with them to ask them what family, marriage, and parenthood mean to them.

How did you meet?

Bronwyn: Dixie College debate team in St. George, Utah (1997). I was the debate team president. Toni was by far our best debater, but she didn’t come to class much. Lol. Spring semester we finally recognized each other. She was so funny, sincere, genuine.

Toni: We met on the debate team. Bronwyn was the team president and I was the team’s “bad child” (assuming they even thought I was on the team). I had a habit of showing up on my own schedule, but always the week of the tournament so I could go. In the spring semester, we went to a tournament together and I got a chance to watch Bronwyn in one of her events. It was a theater piece on modeling. At the end there was a section where each person spoke about their perspective on beauty. Bronwyn said she had a complicated relationship with beauty. What she said was deep and powerful. I needed to know if it was scripted, or is these were her real thoughts. I marched up to her and asked. Once she said the thoughts were her own, I felt like I had to know her. She wasn’t the Mormon preppy president I thought she was; there was more to her. After that night, we spent a ton of time together and have ever since.

When did you get married?

B: October 8, 2000; later legally recognized July 26, 2013; legal partnership happened shortly after the wedding.

T: To add to Bronwyn’s account, we had a domestic partnership in grad school, probably around 2003. We don’t know the date because it wasn’t emotionally significant to either of us. We registered with the government because Bronwyn worked for the county and they decided to offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners. I was in grad school and needed insurance. We have been through every phase of gay marriage together. Honestly, I’m not sure what the date of the legal wedding was. The legal wedding felt like a triumph and we treated it as a celebration, but our wedding was on October 8, 2000. [Read more…]

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