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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Benefits of Speech Therapy

I was diagnosed with a Stage 3 astrocytoma brain tumor three years ago. While many brain tumors can be surgically removed, my tumor is located in the cerebral cortext, which controls speech and reading comprehension, as well as short-term memory. My brain surgeon removed as little brain material as possible to confirm the diagnosis so that my brain would be the least compromised.

One thing that helped me recover from the effects of radiation is speech therapy. Speech therapy is about more than retrieving words. It includes strategies to retain information (secondary memory) and finding ways to communicate when you can’t remember words that make you stumble.  My speech therapist has challenged me to do at least one hour of mental exercises a day. I’m a nerd, so this is a great excuse to do crossword puzzles, wordsearches, and memory exercises. I’m such a word puzzle junky that I’ve decided to start writing my own puzzles and sharing them with others. I’ll be sharing puzzles on my blog. I you have as much fun as I do getting a neuro workout!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Coal vs. Fracking: Dig a Little Deeper

There has been a lot of news coverage in the past few weeks about the environmental and health hazards caused by coal mining, the production of energy from burning coal, and the environmental impact of storing water in retention ponds at power plants. Heck – even the Pope has taken a stance on coal mining and fracking, saying that we are stewards of this Earth and we are destroying God’s creation by strip mining for coal and fracking for natural gas. But what all of these reports fail to mention is the fact that energy production keeps small, rural communities financially afloat.

According to a recent story on NPR, the state of Wyoming is the largest coal producing state in the nation. (The Appalachian Mountains are a close second. In the Appalachian region, strip mining literally removes the mountaintops with explosives in order to extract coal. This poisons the air and can cause black lung, both for the miners themselves, as well as community members who live in the areas surrounding the mines.) Coal-burning power plants produce heavy smog, this contributes to high rates of asthma, lung disease and lung cancer. Coal also has negative health consequences on the heart and nervous system.

Many people have responded to the Pope’s declaration by saying that God and science are mutually exclusive, but I have to disagree. (More on that later.)

Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the pros and cons of energy production and zoom in on rural communities themselves. The low cost of coal has forced many mining companies to go into bankruptcy. This has meant layoffs for thousands of workers. In fact:

. . . bankruptcy will likely mean layoffs for some of its 8,800 miners in five states, including West Virginia. This state already has a higher unemployment rate than any other. Here, it’s 7.4 percent, compared with 5.3 percent for the rest of the country. And the coal losses are hurting the state’s budget.

How does this relate to the oil and gas industry? For starters, one of the reasons why coal is being phased out as an energy source is because natural gas has become the most prevalent source of energy production in the United States. It also reaffirms the need for proper training to make sure that workers are following strict safely guidelines for oil and gas extraction. (This, after all, is what AYUDA is all about.) [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What Does Family Mean?

It’s National LGBTQ Families Day, and I thought I would share my own experience of coming out and finding my “chosen-family” as part of that celebration. I am a dyke. I came out in the Fall of 1998. I had questioned my gender and sexuality throughout adolescence. The murder of Matthew Sheppard was the final nudge out of the closet. I transferred from Brigham Young University to Arizona State University in 1999, shaved my head and started wearing khakis. I registered for my first Women’s Studies class, stopped shaving my legs, discovered Ani DiFranco, and explored defining my identity as a lesbian. I became very estranged from my birth family and started to forge strong relationships with my friends. I met my soulmate and helped him navigate the pathways out of the closet. One of my professors and her partner became my chosen moms. People from the college debate community were like cousins/siblings. We helped each other deal with emotional and financial challenges. We served as role models and confidants to each other. I realized that biology doesn’t dictate who we are or who we can become in this life – everything is open for interpretation(s). I learned that love is not limited to a single definition. I learned that even damaged relationships can be repaired. After nearly two decades of deconstruction and reconstruction, I still embrace the militant dyke label. I’ve also come to realize that it’s OK to embrace traditional ideas of what family means as long as we remain open to alternative definitions.

To me, family is about love and support. It is about embracing our flaws and celebrating out strengths. It’s about finding joy in the little things, like listening to a two-year-old nephew sing cartoon theme songs, or brushing a four-year-old niece’s hair. It’s watching your partner’s eyes light up when he’s around his fairy godchild, or hearing him roar like a lion with his nephew. It’s watching football with your chosen moms, and playing Magic with your lezbros. It’s about taking someone to chemo, or scrubbing a friend’s toilet when they’re unable. Family can be genetic, but family is also about choice. I choose the people I want to share my love with, and I focus my intentions on building positive relationships. Love manifests itself in many ways, and I am grateful for all of the love in my life.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Is Fracking a Feminist Issue?

still-gaslandThere has been a lot of debate over the past decade about whether or not it is safe to drill for oil and natural gas. One of the most controversial methods of oil and gas extraction is called “fraction drilling” (more popularly referred to as “fracking”).

Fraction drilling doesn’t just dig a straight hole into the ground so that a pipeline can be inserted to export gas to the surface. Fracking involves hydraulically fracturing the ground that surrounds shale deposits of natural gas so that gas can be released and captured from a variety of angles. There are environmental issues to be considered, as well as health care issues for the communities that are near drilling sites. That being said, President Obama gave fracking a thumbs up in 2013 when he gave a speech about climate change at Georgetown University, emphasizing the economic and security benefits of natural gas.

“For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America.” –President Obama (emphasis mine)

Fracking foes have used a laundry list of arguments to oppose shale extraction. One notable anti-fracker is Sandra Steingraber, who compares fracking to rape. (I will address the rape analogy in a future article. For now, let’s focus on dollars and cents.) Steingraber argues that fracking is a feminist issue because women are underrepresented in the energy industry. She also states that:

“The jobs for women are ‘hotel maid’ and ‘prostitute’ . . . So when fracking comes into a community, what we see is that women take a big hit, especially single women who have children who depend on rental housing.” (via The Washington Times, 4/6/2015)

That same statement has been mimicked by community members in other states in a very demeaning manner. This is an extremely disrespectful statement that comes from someone who clearly has the luxury of disposable income.  [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Women as Healers: An Interview with Michele Smith

Michele Smith incorporates her fun sense of humor to the acupuncture table.

Michele brings her fun sense of humor to the acupuncture table.

Michele Smith is a licensed acupuncture therapist who practices in Tucson, Arizona. Michele’s clinic is called The Gathering Point Community Acupuncture. Her bright personality and interest in her patients helps set a peaceful tone for a healing environment at the clinic. Many people are afraid to get poked, but Michele’s positive energy helps ease that worry.

Michele has been my acupuncturist since 2011. In addition to seeing Michele for acupuncture myself, I volunteer at The Gathering Point Community Acupuncture one day a week. I enjoy working with her, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about her work.

1. What motivated you to become an acupuncture therapist?

I was motivated to become an acupuncturist because my previous career in the music industry was becoming obsolete and I wanted my next career to be in something that would help people, both physically and mentally. While music is also healing, the corporate world that the music industry had become was not, and is not, healing. My last job in the music industry was at a music venue which was at a great locally owned venue owned and operated by a really nice man, but not the kind of work I could see myself doing ten or so years down the line as I got older. My first thought was to study homeopathy, but it is illegal in the state of Georgia, where I am from, so I decided to study acupuncture with the thought that down the line I could always add homeopathy if I still desired.

[Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail