sometimes you climb the mountain, look out into the distance and realize –

shit, i’ve climbed the wrong mountain.

so, you climb down and climb the “right” one.

that’s it. that’s life. you keep going.


I work in marketing.

The job of someone in marketing is to build a story around a brand that is believe-able. A story that resonates and someone can stand behind. For me – those stories need to hold true to my values and they need to hold up over time and the product needs to remain consistent. Otherwise the story is not believable to me and I won’t buy that product.

Take for instance a recent discovery I made, Dogswell, is a pet brand that I enjoy buying for my dogs. It seems to be more natural than buying dog biscuits, their real chicken strips look like chicken, not processed pressed chicken, but real chicken breast dried like jerky. My dogs love those treats.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a competitor brand to Dogswell and looked it over, it was less expensive, the packaging was not as nice – the bag was nearly the same color as the chicken inside the bag. The competitor had not paid as much attention to brand as Dogswell or maybe has bad design sense. Gross.  Anyway, I thought if the ingredients are the same then maybe I can accept bad design. I looked at the back of the package and saw the chicken jerky was MADE IN CHINA.

I turned back to the Dogswell brand and looked at the back. MADE IN CHINA.  Their story unraveled for me. Why am I buying chicken for my dogs, that is produced in China and then shipped here?  I’m not anymore. That’s the answer.

What have we done to our world where this makes any sense?

I normally research a brand, check out what they are about, think through what I want, I’m not much of an impulse buyer, but in this case, I fell prey to marketing. I’m not claiming that Dogswell said one thing and then did another.  In this particular case, I didn’t investigate. I saw a simply designed bag, Dogswell, Vitality, Cage Free Chicken, Flaxseed, Vitamin A and Vitamin E and I thought, that seems more normal than buying biscuits and I went for it. I don’t like the idea of Cage Free Chickens (which means they allow a mass of chickens into one giant cage in area – still no access to outside), but there isn’t much of an option for free roaming chicken treats in the dog food world. Why? Because we haven’t created a demand for it.

In many places we don’t even demand it for humans, in fact in most of the United States we don’t. We turn a blind eye to food production. We eat genetically modified foods filled with high fructose corn syrup. Why? Because marketing tells us it’s okay and a whole host of other reasons I’ll take up some other time.

Here’s what Dogswell has to say about their product.

Why are the jerky treats made in China?
China is a country where dark meat is more popular due to its inherent fat and flavor. DOGSWELL believes it is less wasteful to obtain our white meat in China where it is abundant, rather than sourcing it domestically, where white meat is less available and held at a premium. Not only do we care about your pet’s health by sourcing only the healthiest meat available, we also practice sustainability by reducing as much waste as possible.

I am not buying it. This story is not believable to me.

To change culture we have to create change, if we want something to be different, we have to do something different. Making conscious choices is one way that I create change, starting with ME.

Choose your cause. Be different. Go.

working it.

For the first time in my life I work with sixty four other people – In the same office. I’ve been a part of large and small organizations and sometimes even felt like a contractor in my last job when I was an office of ONE. But I’ve never worked in an office with this many people.

In an office of 65, you don’t have to like everyone, work with everyone, or even talk to everyone. It’s foreign, compared to the smaller places I’ve worked where you kind of have to find a way to deal with everyone’s crazy.  I mean we’re all crazy – right? It’s a matter of whether my crazy works with your crazy or not.

What this new office has made me think about is what makes a good company? What makes people want to come to work everyday, what makes people positive instead of negative?

So far, I’ve realized, nice is better than cool – considerate is better than cool – organized and trying to be a better collective organization is better than fighting the world for the ideas of one influential leader.  The opposite of patriarchy is good. Positivity is good when it’s real.

Smart people doing good work together is cool.

These things seem obvious, but why are so many organizations dysfunctional then?

In a world where we are so conscious about service, why do we sometimes choose to work in environments that are less than employee-centric? Aren’t we the internal customers of the companies we work with?

Maybe a better way of saying that is – isn’t there something in it for the company you work for if you get better at your job and become a better human being? I think there is.

Working for a company that so far embraces me for who I am and what I bring to the table and allows me to play to my strengths is where I believe the future of successful businesses is going. It makes such good sense that I find myself mistrusting it every day, I keep thinking, this can’t be real. But so far – it is.

Employer got you down? They most likely aren’t going to change unless you do. Nothing is static, everything changes, start with yourself – it’s the only real control you have.

In any good relationship as you change so does your partner, you communicate, you talk about change. If you’ve changed and your work/boss/environment hasn’t or can’t come along with you, maybe it’s time to find a new place to work. As painful as that can be, it’s worth it, you’re worth it.

If you’re a business, you might want to think about how you treat people, how you engage with them, how you influence them, or stifle them. Are you thinking only about what you’d like? Or are you asking the tough questions about what the people who work with you actually want?

The world is changing to be more inclusive will you keep up with that change?

July 1976_searching

It’s my birthday.

For my birthday, I’m putting up this writing session which makes me sad, but at the same time, it makes me happy. I look back at the little me at five and think, you’re amazing. GO! I also look back and think, THAT HAIR! And a pink shirt!?

I am pretty certain that my Mom must have cut my hair for this photo and for some reason it looks orange. My sister always argued with me about this photo and one other saying it was her, but I know this was me. So there. Regardless, it could have been any of us.

We’re human, we’re amazing, it’s what we do with it that matters.

~ July 1976 ~

“Momma, I can sing real good if you want me to.” I said. She looked down and said “No girl, singing’s not going to get you anywhere. Learning is what you need.”

“But Momma, I’m big when I sing.” I stand up tall. She shakes her head back and forth, short curls swaying close to her head. ”No girl, singing’s not for you.”

“I’ll be right back, don’t come looking for me either.”

I know she is not coming back, the little feeling that I’m choking comes up in my throat.

“How long Momma, how long will you be gone?”

Looking down at me she lifts a hand, the back of it brown from sun, she slaps her leg and laughs a little. Her mouth is empty, only a few teeth left, those are black and brown and broken on the edges, she has one gold one in the back. We aren’t that bad off if she hasn’t had to sell that tooth yet.

“I can’t find peace with you Gaaddamn kids”. She mostly smiles with her lips pursed straight across, so that she doesn’t have to show her teeth.

I need to know how long she will be gone.

“How long will you be gone Momma?”

Her serious sad face, her saggy skin hanging down “Just a few minutes.” Turning to the door

“Is a few more than a couple?” I ask. “A couple means two right Momma?” “Yes a few is more than two.” she says “Like five?” “Yes, three, four or five is a few.” “No more than five, right Momma, that would mean many and you said a few. Do you promise Momma? Do you promise it will only be a few?”

“Yes, only a few minutes.”

I throw my arms around her leg and take hold.

When she lies, I feel all tingly on the inside, I can tell so I ask more questions to see if I can figure out the truth.

“How long, how long, how long, don’t leave, don’t leave.” the rhythm of the words choking back tears. Please just tell me “5 minutes, 10, an hour.”

“Now let go of my leg and behave” her polyester pants scratching me as she moves her leg, her hands pushing me down and away. My hands turn cold and as she gets close to the door; I run to it pressing my hands against it as it closes.

I run back to the couch and sit stiff like a board.

“Three, four, five, she’ll be back in three, four or five.” I sing, “3, 4 or 5. 3, 4 or 5 is a few, means more than a couple, that means 2.” I watch the clock. I always watch the clock when she is gone. “Sit still, very still or you might cry. Watch the clock. Watch the clock.”

“3, 4, 5.” I sing, in a small and quiet way.

At three minutes I am hopeful. I can move a little now because I know she’ll be back soon. Four feels good, hopeful. Five is very long but by six she’ll be home, she said so. Five comes and goes and I am not sure what to do. My head says she is not coming back. Five, five, five, she’s not home. I rock back and forth, running my hand along the seam of my pants. They are my favorite pants, purple pants. What if she doesn’t come back?

I punch my leg hard. Maybe I won’t think about her never coming back if I do something else. I hit the place where the bruise is deep, black and lumpy.

The bruise is from Peggy and a game she plays with me to see how much I can stand before I cry. Peggy hits me over and over. I don’t even feel it anymore. It’s just about being strong enough to not cry.

Last week when Momma was in the kitchen making noodles, I was on the couch, watching the black and white TV. Peggy sat beside me and hit the soft fleshy part of my thigh. I winced, but no crying. Pausing, in between the balling up of her fist, she pinched. I looked straight ahead, no crying. My face hot, not saying a word. It could have been worse she could have been kicking me or hitting me with the brush or broom handle, or threatening to stab me with a knife, which is much more scary than this.


“Ready to cry yet?”


Smack. Sucking in air, holding my breath

“How about now”


Smack, smack, smack.


No longer able to hold back the breath, chest rising and falling, the tears came, giving away the pain. I couldn’t stop them once the bruise was deep enough.

I didn’t want her to be able to make me cry.

She turned away happy, smiling, her wavy brown hair flying behind her bee-bop walk into the other room. I got myself back together and just as she was about to leave the room, I laughed and I couldn’t even stop myself from doing it. I laughed and laughed, which brought her back and the hitting and asking started again.

Today, when I hit myself, it doesn’t hurt much. The tears are already welling up because Momma is never coming back. The punching makes me wince, but I’m not afraid of that hurt. Only afraid she is not coming back. It’s 8 now. I want to go looking for her. She said not to, but I have to.

I know when I go looking for her I don’t like what I find.

I can’t wait any longer. Ten minutes is too long for me, I will check with Granny to see if she knows where Momma is. She’s not really my Granny, but that is what everyone calls her. She is smaller than Momma and bent at the shoulders, her blue and pink flowery housedress is always pressed and clean, small glasses shade her eyes, her thick panty hose sag at the ankle. I don’t know her real name. She lives next door and I like that she only has a basin and a toilet, no bathtub or sink in the bathroom. I would like it if I did not have to take a bath. There is a sink in the kitchen, but none in the bathroom. If Momma is not there Granny will give me a cookie, she always does, the kind with jam in the middle from the store, not the kind we have at home.

I peek out the front door though the plexiglass window. It used to be glass-glass but has been broken too many times from angry slams. Every time it broke Momma started crying, someone cleaned it up and put cardboard in the window. Whoever broke it was always long gone and the rest of the day we’d all try to be quiet to not make Momma cry anymore.

After checking the front door, to make sure no one is lying in wait, I open the door, the handle jiggles because it is loose. The smells of summer, grass, lilac, rough wood siding, slip through me. I run down the stairs and across the cement that was replaced earlier in the summer, but has already shown wear because one of my brothers didn’t know how to mix cement. There’s always something half way finished around here.

Running fast across the two driveways, ours and Granny’s, touching the big maple tree that stands in-between them. Hand hitting bark, rough, it’s not smooth like a birch. The gravel is hard on my bare feet, but I am a fast runner and I don’t care.

I hear them after me already, my brother Bobby and his friends, Phil, Joel and Pat, like a wild pack of heathens. Momma calls them that. I am not sure what a heathen is, I imagine it as some sort of monster, gray like a rat with yellow teeth and the legs of a lamb, where you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get the good side or the bad.

Yelling, they chase me.

“Yeah, get her, we’re going to pound you AmyBeth.” They say my name as if it is one word all strung together. Stomach lurching, eyes darting back and forth searching for an exit, I run faster.

At Granny’s door, I know I should knock and wait for her to come but if I knock they’ll be here before I get in. And today they might wring my neck good. I reach and grab the doorknob, lungs pumping, hands slippery wet with sweat, open the door shove myself through and quickly but gently close it behind me. I slide my back down against it, breathing out fear.

I hear Momma laughing in the other room, a laugh that comes from the belly, the kind like you really mean it.

“Who’s there?” Granny calls, she sounds like the voice on an old record.

“Probably one of those gaaddamn kids looking for me.”

I walk through the kitchen, the dining room, and into the sitting room. Passing the cookie jar, which seems to smile at me as I walk past. Standing up tall and proud, a fake smile across my face, maybe they’ll think I’m pretty.

“I found you Momma.” I say as sweet as I can.

She looks angry and rolls her eyes. My shoulders fall forward, head down.

“I told you not to come looking for me.”

She nods to Granny “I can’t stay away for not one minute.”

Granny who smells like liniment, laughs and smiles at me as if to say you’ll be ok.

“Now gaaddamn it I told you I’d be home soon now get the hell out of here, I’m having a quiet time with Granny.”

It hurts me in my heart, more than punching my bruise, when she says things like that. I turn around and run but know I can’t go back outside, I don’t want to get beat up just yet.

I’ll wait until I hear Momma leaving.

I pretend to leave, opening and closing the door and then shuffle into Granny’s bathroom, lifting the lid of the white wicker hamper, I hike one leg up and pull using my back to push forward, I slip down into the hamper and close the lid. The rubber rim around the lid does not make a sound when it closes. I sink down into the dirty clothes. It is musty here, but it feels safe. The smell is like the hair from Granny’s trash that we burn on the burn pile. She wears her hair in a bun, when she lets it down it’s down to her waist. When she brushes it hair gets trapped in the brush, she pulls it out in little bundles and throws it into the trash that we collect, because we are always helpful to Granny. I like to watch the long gray hairs burn, bright red at the ends, winding around through paper. The smell of it is nice and bad all at the same time and I like it.

In the hamper, I get nervous that if I don’t go home Momma will hit me with the paddle for coming to look for her, I wait for a while longer, which is probably only a minute or two and scramble out of the hamper, head first, hands out, the whole thing tilting behind me. I make the few steps from the hamper to the door silently. I stand on tip-toes looking out the glass-glass in Granny’s window. No one is around. Bobby, Phil, Joel and Pat are in the backfield. I grab the handle and turn it as quiet as I can. Sliding out the door, this time not running at all. They may not hear me if I walk soft. I pass through gravel, tree, dirt, broken cement, uneven stairs that creak which reminds me. Momma says they’ll need to be fixed by winter and where the hell is she going to get that money?

I’m not tall enough to see in the door window from the outside. Most times no one is home during the day but me and Momma, so I don’t feel too much worry going back into the house.

It’s quiet inside and smells of dust and plaster.

Maybe if I can sleep, I will wake up and she will be here. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll sleep, close my eyes.

To be safe, I move the couch out just a little using my hip and leg to push with force. I grab a wadded up blanket from the chair and slide behind and under the couch. The heathens can’t find me here. Momma will know to look for me if she comes home though. She knows all my hiding places. Lying there, I stare at the wall. She might be gone forever. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sing your song. Sometimes singing makes me sleepy. Go on sing. I know that singing makes me feel better especially if I get all the words right. Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin? I sing quietly, the words rock me back and forth. I use one finger from each hand to talk to the other.

It takes a long time to fall asleep during the day, especially if when Momma is gone forever and I don’t know where I’ll get any food. But, if I am behind the couch with a blanket it seems like a cocoon and that is good. I know I can’t get up and look at the clock because she is still not home and it makes the lie seem bigger the longer she stays away.

I pick at the plaster and at the peeling off wallpaper. No one can see it here, it’s ok if I peel it off. I won’t get yelled at. The paper is brown on the edges. It used to be tan, now its ugly and torn like someone peed on it. I am sure someone probably did or spilled some slop on it. The carpet behind the couch smells like dirt and old things. It’s red and yellow with a wavy curly design in it. It has been worn thin, even here behind the couch. Yellow fibers show through where there should be red. Sometimes the dusty smell makes me sneeze. I know how to sneeze real quiet so no one will hear me or find me back here. As long as I am hiding, no one can see me, they can’t bother me.

The creak of the door scares me, hot air streams in.

Parallel Lives

Amos passed a Hispanic family, the father driving and smoking, the mother looking out the window with a wistful expression on her face. Amos, couldn’t swallow, so dearly did he wish to be one of them…Why does this happen to us? Because we have abandoned an infinite number and variety of pure possibilities, and perhaps they live alongside the choice we did make, immortalized in the cosmic memory. Perhaps there are unknown lives walking alongside ours, those paths we didn’t take, and we reach for them, we ache for them, and don’t know why. We have, none of us, lived our lives as we ought to have and maybe that’s a good working definition of sin.  God doesn’t care, the angels don’t care, no one is mad at us for our failures. But what agony, to know our better selves, the life we might have lived is there, just out of reach! ~ Amos Townsend – The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

It’s not often that I quote a fictional character, but this quote has stuck with me since the first time I read it. It’s as if Haven Kimmel was speaking directly to me when Amos said these lines.

My whole life I’ve wondered these kinds of things – what if I were there instead of here, what if I were born to them instead of these people, what if I chose x, y, or z and what if – I don’t.

I’ve always wondered why we make the choices we do, why we choose red, instead of blue? Choice. What’s behind the choices I’m making?

Some might say it’s destiny/fate/insert some god’s name here behind the choices we make.

Some say that our entire lives are lived in an effort to become more whole, more of our own true selves and if we don’t choose to move forward in life, the universe will catapult us in that direction anyway. How could that be? Some say that our psyche drives us toward the things that will heal us or help us find our piece/peace in the world.

What is not brought to consciousnesscomes to us as fate ~ Carl Jung

What if there are unknown lives living alongside us and we could capture them if we make a different choice?

What if?

What if  – is the question that for me leads to anxiety. Too much information. Overload. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on a loop, in a cycle, where I keep making the same choices over and over.  Why? I take it as a sign that I haven’t learned an important lesson that I’m supposed to learn.

Sometimes I can’t get to the real question because I keep asking – what if?

What if all you had to do was make one choice differently?  What would it be, would I even think about it or choose without thought, to see if destiny/fate/failure/lesson-learning was true? What would you do?

Mercury in RETROgrade

Mercury is in retrograde.

I said this out loud with a group of colleagues once and this guy says “You believe in that stuff? I stopped believing in all astrology when they said Pluto was no longer a planet.”
I paused and replied “Yeah, I believe it. If we know and believe that
the moon pulls the ocean,
why wouldn’t I believe that other planets/stars/things in the sky are
impacting us in some way?”

Boom. Conversation over.

Astrology is a mystery to me, but I do believe in the information it can offer. In the unscientific study of my own life, I can say that the things I’ve learned about astrology do seem to be true.

I don’t know the “science” behind why Mercury goes retrograde, but I have experienced what happens when it does go retrograde. Ever since I heard of Mercury in retrograde I watch for it and watch for what happens during that time. It never fails.

Some might say that because I’m looking for it, that’s why I find it, but the reason I started looking was because I was experiencing periods of frustration and aggravation that seemed to be in a pattern and that pattern aligned with Mercury being in retrograde.

In astrology Mercury is the planet of transportation, trade and communication.  When Mercury is in retrograde, communication becomes a problem, flights are delayed, airports seem more hectic, email doesn’t work quite right, computers break, negotiations stall, that thing I bought turns out to be something that doesn’t work quite right. Everything I say seems to be taken the wrong way – everything I hear, I hear in the way that I want to hear it, not the way it is. Everything is frustrating.

I’m not saying these things don’t occur otherwise, but I’ve noticed in my unscientific study of my own life that these things appear seem to be elevated during Mercury retrograde.

Mercury goes direct on November 26th and I’m looking forward to it.  In the meantime, my patience and understanding are taking a beating and I seem to be super frustrated all the time.

GO! Mercury – hurry up and go direct.

This post is likely full of typos and inaccurate information – thanks Mercury!