Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lightening Up ... at the holidays

It's not even Thanksgiving yet and I am already on sensory overload from the way-too-early Christmas music and holiday sales and red and green decorations dripping from store windows.  And, of course, I've already subjected myself to the traditional Festival of Bitching that always begins with an annoyed acquaintance's "I can not BELLLLLIEVE they already have Christmas decorations out!  I'd like to enjoy my Thanksgiving!" 

Yeah, wouldn't we all.

The thing is, regardless of an arbitrary calendar date, I'm no fan of the holidays.  Whether it's October 11th or December 21st, nothing about a front lawn covered in inflatable santas and blow-up snowmen makes me feel jolly. (Though this is fair warning to anyone whose lawn ornaments always insist on leaning just slightly to the left:  If you find me in your front yard some wintry morning straightening your reindeer and tipping your manger folk ever so slightly to the right, I won't hate you for triggering my OCD if you promise not to have me charged with trespassing.).  

Add to the premature, decorative gaudiness the fact that the holiday party chatter has started to permeate the groups and organizations to which I belong, and the result is an avoidant, annoyed, wake-me-when-it's-over Hasky.  Incidentally, as far as the parties go, I have signed up, once again, to bring paper products.  And my holiday Rice Krispie Treats.  Because nothing screams "Get off my back, I've got problems of my own" quite like a package of napkins and a no-bake, M&M-filled, cereal-based dessert.  Hassle-free is how I roll.

Here's the problem:  I would like to enjoy the holidays.  And I believe that such enjoyment can be a learned behavior, like kindness.  And patience.  And sublimating one's rage with copious amounts of coffee.  On the whole, I think there is something joyous and blessed about this time of year, and not because I was conditioned from infancy to give praise for Jesus and Santa.  But because the kindness of others, even if it only emerges a few weeks out of the year, is something I would genuinely like to appreciate, rather than scoff at.  I know many people who spend this season volunteering their time to various causes and charities.  Some donate money and goods while others pray for the suffering and spend time with those who are ill, or lonely, or in need of companionship.  And compassion.

For most of my adult life, I have made it my holiday tradition to avoid the whole scene as much as possible.  And generally, I don't stop to think about it.  Or feel anything about it.  My seasonal gratitude usually sets in around January 3, when everyone else has started their destined-to-fail resolution diets, and life as I know it has begun to settle back into itself - quiet, alone, no expectations, no interactions.  Ahhhh ... the sweet sounds of normalcy.

Right? (She asked, rhetorically.)

I'm beginning to think the holidays are, like everything else, what you make them. For yourself.  They can be miserable and depressing with very little effort on your part.  Because, despite what the miserable and depressed may say (and I have lived inside this world which, from time to time, I still visit on occassion), misery is the easy way out.  It's the default that requries no movement. No growth. No effort.  In fact, it is generally defined by what is lacking: Happiness.  Love.  Connectedness.  Hope.  Spirit.   I have decided that it is possible, not easy, but possible, to inject something positive into an otherwise difficult time of year.  It's not about "contradicting" one's feelings.  Or replacing them with a gingerbread-scented slice of faux happiness.  It's merely about choosing to shake it up a bit.  To let go of the boredom that comes with negativity and cynicism. To genuinely wish someone a "Happy Holidays" and mean it.  Or to anonymously write a check or donate a baked good to someone in need and ask for nothing (including recognition and undying praise) in return.  Maybe it's even about driving by a random house on November 5th and not criticizing the lawnful of sleighs and reindeer and glowing 6-foot elves, but instead glancing out the car window and genuinely appreciating the effort and the time someone else took to add a little more light to the world, instead of embracing the darkness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here's what I believe ...

I believe that what we need comes to us when we need it.  Whether we are open to receiving it is another matter.  Often I am resistant to the solutions and inspirations in front of me because I spend my time seeking support for my bad mood, or proof that the world really is out to get me.  Such that when I do trip and fall (both literally, and as a metaphor for any number of personal and work-related disasters), I almost revel in the victory of being right.  See, I AM a miserable failure!

This journey I often take down Cynicism Lane is nothing more than an enormous cul-de-sac filled with left-hand turns and multiple dead ends.  Hence the default, spin cycle journey from Point A to Point A that inevitably ensues when I simply put myself on autopilot rather than mindfulness mode.  And even though mindfulness is a blessing, it has taken me almost 38 years to understand it and to occasionally, for just a second, tap into it.

So this morning, as I was wading through an Inbox of endless (mostly insignificant) emails, I found an email from one of my MFA instructors that described the new graduate course titled Mindfulness Communication.  Even though I don't think I can actually take the course, since it requires attendance on campus, two hours away from where I live and work, the professor's reading list provided some valuable new (to me) resources, and her narrative presented an interesting approach to integrating mindfulness into writing.  And reading.  And creating. 

I quickly (as if the email were threatening to vanish) wrote down every book and author and idea the professor suggested in the hopes that I would find some key to unlocking an even deeper artistry inside myself.  Finding missing puzzle pieces of my self is always invigorating ... and a little overwhelming.  Which is why it is most helpful to connect the outside pieces first; the insides will eventually match up once I build the frame.  Or so I am told.

All of this gets me to the real point of my post - and that is the quote that sat at the bottom of the Mindfulness Communication professor's email.  It read:  

Concentrate on what you do now,
just here and now.
And quite naturally,
you will find the way.

~~ Zen Master Rinzai

I realized, in that moment, that if I do, indeed, have a religion, a faith, a spirituality - a system of beliefs that can be categorized and packed into a label -  then the overarching theme is Mindfulness.  Rather ironic, since I often actively avoid mindfulness. At times I fear it. I judge it. I hide it and I hide from it. 

But ... and this is all that matters, I think ... I am aware of it.  I finally know what it means.  And I finally appreciate what it is.  That doesn't mean I can explain it today any better than I could a year ago, because it is still in its "essence" stage for me - it is a feeling and a presence and an awareness.  But it is there, even when I dodge it and try to manipulate it away.

I have been exploring the connections and differences between "religion" and "belief" lately, and feeling rather orphaned in both areas. I was born and raised Catholic, and I still struggle with inviting any new faith-based ideas into the part of me that feels compelled to do business as usual.  And no, I am not an anti-Catholic.  Or a "recovering" Catholic.  I was raised with a solid religious foundation and don't see any value in condemning an entire faith.

That being said, I am a questioning Catholic.  And sometimes that is just as sinful. 

For example, I believe that every person should be allowed to make decisions regarding his/her body. This applies to a man’s right to refuse medical care as much as it does a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.  I also believe that every human being should have the right to marry (even as I simultaneously wonder who the hell would ever want to.)  Neither of these personal perspectives gels with the belief system of my childhood, however.  And that often feels a little like abandonment ... if I am not 100% in, am I faithless?  I used to think so. 

But now I realize that tapping into the disconnect has proven an essential exercise in self awareness. With age, and time, and experience I have not abandoned my learned beliefs, but have instead expanded them, added to them, fine tuned them into a more personalized collection of Heatherisms. 

Since my feelings and challenges with this issue are nothing particularly new, I'm not sure what led me to write this today. Maybe it's because with the approaching "holidays" comes my struggle with the awkwardness of wishing people a "Merry Christmas" only to unintentionally offend them.  Maybe it's because I have had a rough week of feeling more drained and less supported than usual. Or maybe it's simply because I decided to respond to a reaction I had in a single moment, as I read Zen Master Rinzai's quote, embedded in a professor's email. 

All I know for sure is that beliefs need not be fixed or finite.  They need not fit neatly into a single category or meet the strict criteria of someone else's label.  I think the only way to truly locate oneself is to do the work (sometimes rewarding, sometimes painful) of concentrating on the "here and now." Because I believe that some day, when someone asks me "Who is your guru?" I will be able to answer, simply and honestly: "I am."

Winners never quit. Or do they?

My local radio station has been running another one of their gimmicky contests, and this one was actually quite cool, I thought. 

The ChallengeIdentify the six celebrities whose garbled voices are embedded in an audio recording.
The Reward: An all-expenses-paid trip for 2 to the American Music Awards this weekend.
The Winner: A very excited woman who plans to take her 11 year old daughter with her for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

The Problem (at least for me):  The mother admitted, on the local radio station, that her daughter (and co-traveller) has the lead in the local school play this weekend.  Mom's close-to-exact words were: "She's playing the role of Pinnochio in Pinnochio. Oh well, I guess they'll have to find an understudy."

I'm just going to let you sit with that for a minute.  Because maybe I rushed to judgment on this one.  So take a sec.  Grab some coffee.  Check an email.  Make a phone call.  I'll wait ...

Ok, so now that you've sat with it for a little longer than I did at the traffic light, is it more palatable with a little time lag? Or does this still reek of irresponsible mother? Ungrateful child?  Total lack of accountability and committment? 

Yes, I'm labelling.  Harshly. 

Because I have been doing theater most of my life, and I know a few things about how this child was probably cast in the coveted lead role.  Especially at such a young age:
  • No doubt there were tears - because nobody loves drama more than artists. 
  • There were ass-kissings -- because nobody can kiss ass better than a person with a wish. 
  • There was merciless gossip (among parents and children) about the other kids who tried out - because the saying "the best way to make yourself feel better is to make someone else feel bad" came from somewhere.  And I'm wagering a bet it actually came from a theater audition.
  • And, as I know from every play I have ever done, there was certainly a "Date Conflicts" sheet provided to all auditioners.  Let's be clear: most directors base a significant amount of their casting decision on the information provided under the "Please list all date conflicts here" section.  Generally, an unavoidable conflict during any major rehearsal, tech and orchestra run-through, and/or Hell Week means one of three things: 
    1. No hard feelings but you're out of the running,
    2. You still stand a chance if you are related to the director, or
    3. You are so unbelievably gifted, so incredibly made for the part, that it wouldn't be possible, in fact it would be insane, to even consider casting another person in the role. So no worries. The part is yours. 
No, I can't say for sure that this particular local theater passed around a "Date Conflicts" sheet.  But it would be unusual if they didn't.  And it would be highly unusal for a director to be ok with the student he/she cast in the lead role missing not a rehearsal, not a run-through, but the Saturday night performance, with no advance warning, because "something better came up."  Community theater is gruelling.  It requires a lot of work and full committment, and the added pressure of knowing, especially as a lead in the show, that a lot of people and money and community resources are depending on your 110%.

There's no arguing that this is a total bummer of a situation. An all-expenses-paid trip to the American Music Awards is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  But guess what?  So is the lead role in a local play when you're eleven years old and performing in front of hundreds of people.  My guess is, months ago, during the Pinnochio audition process, this child would have given anything, absolutely anything (because you know how eleven year olds love their hyperbole) to be cast in the lead.  And as most dedicated and supportive parents do, my guess is that her parents drove her to the auditions and coached her at home and got swept up in the possibility of their child becoming a local star, too.  In fact, I truly hope that happened ... because every child should feel like a star at some point in her life.

But now, what could have been a harsh life lesson, an invalable teachable moment about honoring committment and consideration of others has become this ... this "something better came up" situation with mom literally announcing to the whole Capital Region that the theater would need to find an understudy.  It almost sounded too close to a "not my problem" kind of dismissal.  And yes, her daughter was sitting right there, absorbing everything with her impressionable, eleven year old ears.

I make it my policy to never give parenting advice.  I also try to make it my policy not to criticize parents, but sometimes I choose to override that one in favor of sharing an opinion that is stronger than my belief that I should probably butt out.  But even as I write this, I don't quite know how I feel.  I don't know that I want to "criticize" this woman, per se.  But I do want her to explain to her daughter why it is not possible to bail on a committment (any committment, but certainly not a committment in which a lot of people have invested a lot of time and money).

So is this one of those "You have to be a parent to understand" moments?  I must confess, I am a little sick of humoring parents through those moments, as if somehow fertilization has baptized them with super human knowledge or special powers that I couldn't possibly possess.  Or understand.

This seems to me to be about integrity, and nothing more.  And integrity begins with modelling. I believe it.  I have experienced it.  And for you cerebral types out there, I can produce a few compelling domestic/family violence studies that corroborate it.

Maybe I'm wrong.  But it makes me kind of sad to know that this little girl who should be walking out onto a stage of her own Saturday night, standing in her own light, taking her own curtain call, will be settling for an anonymous seat in an ocean of people who won't even glance twice at her.  She will watch the stage instead of taking the stage.  She won't have the commaraderie of the post-show get together or the pictures of her shining moment to last her a lifetime.  She may create a memory at the Awards show, but it will certainly fade much quicker than her spotlight would have. And I guarantee that her castmates and her community will remember her decision long after the red carpet has rolled itself up and the bright lights of Hollywood have gone dark.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Porn Star Reads to Children ... nothing more.

What do all of the following have in common?
  • A Catholic priest.
  • A little league coach. 
  • A scout leader. 
  • A teacher. 
  • A bus driver. 
  • A doctor.
  • A police officer. 
  • A politician. 
  • A celebrity.
If you answered:
They all work in "helping" professions, you are correct. 
They all demand a certain degree of power and authority, you are correct. 
They are all capable of abusing children, you are correct. 

Now, Let's take a closer look at that list again:
  • Father Carl Urban.
  • Coach David Hartshorn. 
  • Scout Leader Shannon Sourmail
  •  Ms. Jenifer Stitzel
  •  Mr.William J. Tappy
  • Dr. Zahid Nazir
  • Officer Paul D. Pierce
  • Mr. Chris Ortloff
  • John Philips.
Every one of them has been accused, and most of them found guilty, of child sexual abuse. 

I'd like to say that this post (a momentary but necessary deviation from my "Lighten Up" theme) was inspired by the recent Penn State situation - an unspeakable case of decades-long, institutionally condoned, community supported child sexual abuse.  In this case, former (thankfully!) Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky was supported and encouraged in his abuse of multiple child victims over a period of decades.  When his superiors became aware of his criminal behavior, they continued to provide him with keys to the men's locker room - a silent but clear message that they accepted his behavior and were willing to provide him with the unfettered access that would ensure its continuation.  No questions asked.  No accountability imposed.  And I certainly share the global nausea that most of us (minus a few thousand Penn State students) feel at the mere mention of Penn State these days - the images, the horror stories, the children who should have been spared, protected, saved. Or at least believed and rehabilitated.  The criminals who should have been punished. The professionals who should have been removed from their positions of authority long before now.

But what moves me to action today is something that disturbs me even more than the Penn State case.  And that is the story of a young woman named Sasha Grey.  In a recent interview, Ms. Grey stated: "I am an actor. I am an artist. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a partner."  And, in addition, (and perhaps most important to the parents of the Emerson Elementary community), Ms. Grey is a former porn star "who outraged Los Angeles-area elementary school parents after she was invited to read to students last week." 

I get it.  Porn is not for children.  And I am perfectly ok admitting that porn is not for me, either.  But neither is eating meat.  Or consuming alcohol.  Or worshipping in a synagogue.  Or becoming a parent.  I have preferences about how I live my life today, and like most of us, I have both regrets and pride in how I have lived my life up to this point.  I have held jobs that have filled me with gratitude and positive energy, and jobs that have left me feeling defeated and ashamed at the end of the day.  The same goes for the people with whom I have associated, the places I have lived, the things I have done.  Like everyone, I am a hybrid, an amalgamation trying to avoid life's black-and-white categorization obesession.  I am neither "all good" nor "all bad." I am not my job.  I am not my associates.  I am not my possessions.  I am simply myself.

And herein lies my anger over the Sasha Grey attack - she is open about her past.  She is not putting on a suit or an official uniform.  She is not masking predatory behavior with a special license or certification.  She is not camoflaged by celebrity status.  She is not hiding behind morality or spirituality or empty promises of redemption.  She is saying "I have a past that some people may not agree with, but it does not define who I am. I will not live in fear of it.”  And she is also saying something that should motivate our under-educated, underachieving, unproductive country to appreciation when she insistes that literacy is “an effort that is close to [her] heart."

Ms. Grey, by virture of her very public past profession, is not likely to be left alone with children in a classroom.  Her honesty has alerted an entire community of parents.  The same parents who are sending their children to Sunday school.  And putting them on little league buses.  And sending them on scouting trips.  And turning them over to the guidance and supervision of their teachers. The same parents who turn to doctors for help and who expose their children to celebrity scandal without considering its impact.

I leave you with two bits of research and a little bit of data: 
All I'm suggesting is that perhaps focusing all our anger and judgement on a woman we may consider "unacceptable" by our own personal moral standards is distracting us from educating our children and truly keeping them safe. And I ask you to consider whether it is possible that, while you are lashing out at the former porn star who is reading to your child in a monitored, supervised classroom, you should be paying more attention to the local "pillar of the community" who may be nothing more than a predator in nice clothing. Or a winning football coach in a Penn State uniform.

Full article:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today's random thought ...

Holding a grudge is like putting your anger on layaway. 

(And refusing to pay it off.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Public restrooms: Not so restful

I frequently find myself trapped inside socially awkward situations struggling to breathe, it takes a lot to make me blush these days. I've pretty much done it all - toilet paper tucked into (and flapping wildly from) my waistband, essential buttons missing from my shirt without my knowledge, completely overlooked pants zippers, and (no I am not exaggerating for effect here) forgotten Velcro rollers stuck to the back of my head an hour or more into my workday.

I guess my point is - I am a heavyweight when it comes to potentially embarrassing situations. For me, embarrassment is relative: if I haven't already lived through it, I've probably lived through worse. Unless it involves ... a public restroom. Nothing disarms me quite like this communal experience every time I find myself reduced to pitiful displays of pathological germophobia and social inadequacy that only a shared stall can inflict.

First, you should know that I don't particularly enjoy "bathroom talk." I'm not a fan of body function humor, and I almost resent the necessity of having to subject my shy bladder to countless strangers on a daily basis. On top of that, nothing disgusts me more than the women's public restroom. In fact, I am willing to wager a hefty bet that the men's public restroom is generally cleaner than its estrogen-beckoning counterpart. Probably because men, in general, just take care of business without turning every experience into a social event. Women, on the other hand, turn the bathroom into their own personal playground, so that every time I try to sneak in and out in record time, I am forced through the following process:

1.    The Hunting Expedition. Why is it that most days, in a 5-stall bathroom, I'm lucky to find ONE stall that doesn't require a Haz Mat label and an Anthrax suit?

2.    The Radio City Rockette High Kick. This is a big shout out to the nonhygenic of my gender: Thanks ladies! Thanks for requiring me to do everything with my FOOT! Hitting the Flusher. Turning the sink handles. And you know that hunting expedition from number 1 above? Yeah, how many doors have you had to kick open today?

3.    The Streamers. Look, I know budget cuts have necessitated scaling back on luxuries like expensive soaps. Complimentary lotions. Toilet paper that actually gives up more than a single, one-ply square at a time. But may I ask where all the shredded toilet paper streamers are coming from? Was there a celebration I didn't know about? If so, congratulations! If not, please pick up your sandpaper confetti so I don't have to wade through it before kicking my way into and out of stall number five.

4.    The Extended Primp. I get it: you're washing your hands. You look up. Mirror alert. You smooth that one flyaway hair, and another hair pops up. Then you notice that eyeliner streak. And suddenly, what's this? A pimple? And oh lord, where are those tweezers? Before you know it, you're lost in your own personal spa day while those of us who hold our breath with the ultimate goal of escaping as quickly as possible stand quietly behind you. Waiting. For those of you who put people like me through this kind of torture, I should tell you that I'm proposing pay-by-the-minute public restrooms. And you're the reason.

5.    The Phone booth. Yes, I know. I know. We're multitaskers who never get a break. As a single non-parent who rents an overpriced "townhouse," I guess most of my multitasking occurs in the form of self-induced anxiety about things that will never happen, rather than tangibles that actually require my energy. Even so, I understand the necessity of personal calls and I sympathize with the "lack of time" phenomenon - you gotta do what you gotta do when you have time to do it. But here's the thing: Cell phone calls in a public bathroom lead to unwanted responses from those of us who assume your questions are directed at ... us. So unless you want your own personal bathroom version of Single White Female, either hold your calls or hold your bladder. Because I was raised to politely answer "I'm doing fine, thanks" when you ask "How's it goin'?" It doesn't matter whether your question is intended for me, a complete stranger on the other side of a bathroom stall, or the person in your cell phone that I am apparently (and unknowingly) interrupting.

Above all, please remember this: civilized society does not stop at the bathroom door. Be courteous. Be polite. And please, for the love of all that is holy, be quiet and be quick. Life is too short to be wasted in the bathroom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OCCUPY ... this.

This whole OCCUPY movement has got me thinking about a few things, not the least of which is that whole "strength in numbers" concept.  Group mentality has long been a source of inspiration, motivation, momentum, and of course debate.  And the OCCUPY situation is no different.

As with most things, it took me awhile to catch on to what this was all about.  I remember seeing some "OCCUPY Wall Street" message all over Facebook one day, and thinking ... Why?  Who would want to do that?  Then, true to form, I started researching and reading and talking to people, and I figured out what was going on.  What the overarching point seemed to be. According to The Forum, the Occupy Movement is "a collective of members representing the “99 Percent,” or the vast majority of Americans who are not considered “rich” and feel their voice has been underrepresented"  (

Excellent.  I'm in!  A club without an application process.  A club without membership dues.  A club based on the requirements that I be less-than-wealthy and consistently muted.  Not since I pocketed my new Sam's Club card have I felt such a sense of access and belonging, despite how unfamiliar I am with the inner workings and the minute behind-the-scenes details.  And yet, as I learn more and more about this movement, as I watch it branching out from its orginal Wall Street origin into smaller local communities nationwide, I am tempted to jump on the OCCUPY-go-round and propose a few OCCUPlans of my own. 

1.  OCCUPY Common Sense.  This is a hard one, since those already in possession of common sense require no elaboration, and those lacking it will be hard pressed to understand even the most basic explanation.  Even so, the march is underway. And ongoing.  I urge everyone to join in - and bring banners.

2.  OCCUPY Compassion.  This is challenging because I can count on one hand the instances where I truly see human compassion at work these days.  Most of the time, I am shocked by the sheer lack of interest, awareness, and concern that exists between people.  And I'm not talking about the annual holiday charity donations or the public displays of gift giving - I'm talking about those small, private actions we take to make someone else's life (or their day) a little better, a little more pleasant, a little more connected to the larger community -- all without asking for gratitude or recognition in return.  Incidentally, if you find this one helpful, no need to thank me.

3.  OCCUPY REAL Food. What the hell is with all the fake foods?!  Honestly, are we so fat-obsessed, so body-panicked, that a piece of white bread is the thing that can bring us crashing to Earth?  As a newly-diagnosed food intolerant (to pretty much every major food group), there is nothing I regret more than my first diet at 11 years of age.  It started with a spoonful of lowfat blueberry yogurt and a promise to be perfect.  But let's face it, food is meant to be eaten, and the body is meant to be fed.  So for goodness sakes EAT.  Enjoy.  Live.   And remember Hasky's two food rules to live by: (A) if you wouldn't bathe your outsides in it, you shouldn't be bathing your insides in it and (B) If you can't prounouce it, it doesn't belong in  your body.

4.  OCCUPY Talking. I think this one speaks for itself, so I'll leave you with this - Life is too short to spend endless hours trying to decipher a text or an email or a Facebook message. Call me.  Or (and this is a little progressive) come see me.  And for the love of all that is holy, do not walk by me only to send me an email 5 minutes later.  Not if you want me to take you seriously. 

5.  OCCUPY Happiness.  Misery is easy.  I guess that one explains itself in a nutshell.

6.  OCCUPY Grammar.  I know we all learned "there/their/they're" in school, people.  I used to teach English.  I've seen the New York State English curriculum.  No amount of stress or anxiety should relieve you of basic human literacy requirements.  The comma, the semi-colon, and proper sentence structure are your responsibility.  And while you're at it, hit up Spellcheck every now and then, and stop dangling your participles - they're blocking my view.

7.  OCCUPY  Action.  Yup, it would be great if that new idea were implemented.  And it would totally rock if that water bottle got changed.  I would love to see that food provided.  This, my friends, is what we call passive language.  And it has a function - it is used by passive people to indicate passive action.  And yes, there is such a thing.  At least in my world.  Passive action exists when, in the absence of actually DOING anything, people offer great ideas and then wait for them to get done.  Keep waiting ...

8.  OCCUPY Individuality.  Trends.  Fads.  Group mentality. No one seems to exist anymore.  We move as a collective.  We think as a collective.  And this is why public restrooms have officially become the least comfortable place on Earth.

9.  OCCUPY Belts.  As someone close to me frequently points out, "belt loops are not a suggestion."  Buckle yourself into that message, my friends.

10.  OCCUPY Hope.  Because even when we struggle, there is something propelling us forward into the next day. The next hour.  The next moment. Don't embrace the idea of hope, imagine what it means for you, and then pursue it.  And if you are blessed enough to find it, for goodness sakes share it as widely as you can.  The world needs hope more than it needs marches and banners.  The world needs hope more than it needs slogans.  The world needs hope more than it needs just about anything.