The Best Life Advice I Ever Received

The best advice I ever received came in the form of a lesson in auto repair.

Auto Maintenance Lessons

One afternoon, many years ago, when I was a teenager living on (and working) the family farm, my father approached me and said that he had decided to teach me how to overhaul an engine. Now.

My father was not someone you spoke back to or questioned directly. When he made a decision and gave an order, you were expected to do as you were told. Period. (This was the late 1980s, it was a different world back then.) So, I followed him to the barn, which also acted as a garage, and he proceeded to show me how to overhaul the engine of one of the family cars.

For the sake of clarity, ‘overhaul’ literally meant: take the entire engine apart; clean everything; replace any parts that were malfunctioning, worn out, broken or questionable; and then put it all back together.

The lessons lasted a few weeks. I would join him in the barn and he would show me the official car manual, point to the page he was working with, pull apart that portion of the engine, point to the page again (read: this part is that picture), hand me a tool, flip to a new page and tell me to get to work (read: find this part and do what I did). Sometimes he would send me out to the garage by myself with instructions to locate a specific part in the book, locate it on the engine, and figure it out (remove, fix, whatever) alone.

(Side note: This was the most verbal interaction I had ever had with my father at that time – or since.)

When the car was complete, he called over a neighboring farmer and his sons so that all of us could use a winch, the tractor and sheer muscle to get the engine back into the car. This resulted in some snide remarks about girls overhauling engines and boys doing nothing…it was annoying (read: the boys and their father were angry with me for showing them up) but that’s how things were back then.

After the first car was finished, I was handed the same type of printed manual for the second car – a 1979 Ford Granada – and told to do the same. Alone.

As it happened, due to being blood relations to a member of the military I had full access to a nearby military base and all of the facilities, including the auto hobby shop. In the interests of avoiding another episode of moving car engines by calling on the neighbors (and all of those comments about girls who work on cars), I drove the Ford Granada to the auto hobby shop and availed myself of some wonderful equipment!

That is where I met Woody.

Woody ran the auto hobby shop. He controlled the tools (kept behind a locked door), kept the peace, and provided advice to everyone who used the shop – both the asked for and the unasked for kind.

At one point I was looking up the torque for specific bolts and trying to make sure I got everything tightened properly when he came over and interrupted my work by saying (loudly) – (paraphrased from memory):

NEVER memorize a torque! Always look it up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If you don’t then one day you’ll be tightening the bolt on an airplane, you’ll remember the wrong torque, the plane will go down and it will be YOUR FAULT.

Then he walked away.

My response was a dazed moment of ‘what just happened?’ followed by shrugging it off as ‘just Woody’ and making a mental note to NEVER memorize a torque.

Another time I went up to the tool cage and asked for a hammer. He came out with a sledgehammer and basically dared me to challenge him. I politely stated that I just needed a regular hammer, which resulted in a lecture about always knowing exactly which tool you need – including the size!

On one more occasion I was struggling to either get something apart or together (I no longer remember what). My hands hurt and I was getting really frustrated. Woody interrupted my task with the following – (paraphrased from memory):

When you just can’t get it to work, walk away, stare at the wall, swear up and down a blue streak, and when you come back it will work.

I thought this was funny but Woody insisted it was true and encouraged me to try. After he left (and I’d taken a break) my mechanical problem magically resolved itself.

Auto Maintenance Fails and Wins

As you may imagine, I had both success and failure with these projects. A few significant fails include:

  • Forgetting to unplug the battery while working on the alternator. I connected some wires, dropped a metal tool (with rubber handles) which hit the side of the (metal) car and caused an enormous FLASH BANG. I stared at the car in that state of terror that comes from barely sidestepping death – I was lucky to be alive. The brand new alternator was NOT so lucky. I had to replace it…again.
  • Forgetting to tighten the bolts on the flywheel. Every other dern bolt in that engine was perfectly tightened according to appropriate torque, but a small handful of little bolts at the center of the engine were loose. The car won’t work if the flywheel isn’t bolted down. We had to pry open the engine, just enough to slide in a tool and tighten those stupid things. My father fixed this mistake. I handed him tools while learning a long list of brand new ways to curse life the universe and auto repair.

My massive success came in the form of a 79 Ford Granada with a newly cleaned up engine, done entirely by me!

What Does This Have to Do With Life and Advice?

The following lessons were learned from the experience, and every single one of them has not only stuck with me but has served me well across the decades:

  1. Look it up. Find a reliable, accurate source of information and use it. It could be a book. It could be the guy running the auto hobby shop or a parent. Whatever the source may be – USE it.
  2. Verify – ALWAYS verify. Whether it’s a torque, gossip or a news article, never assume that you just know the truth – verify it!
  3. Communicate. Whether it’s a hammer or the specification for a project at work or your concerns with the current political system, it is extremely important to clearly communicate your needs, concerns and demands. You will never get past the sledgehammer until you learn how to ask for the hammer size you actually need.
  4. Details! Absolutely everything can be perfect, but miss a few bolts on the flywheel and you might as well have never touched the engine. Forget to remove two clamps on a battery and you’ll be lucky to survive! All of the details are important. Pay attention, complete each step before moving on, and double check your work.
  5. Take a break. Trying to force something to work (or happen) just isn’t realistic. When you’re frustrated, tired, hungry or just beating your head against the proverbial wall, it’s time to walk away from the situation and take a break (swear if you need to – or just take a nap or a walk or…whatever). When you come back, there’s a strong possibility that the problem will look different and you will get closer to a solution.
  6. Both Failure and Success are Powerful Teachers. Both the massive fails and the huge successes in this process taught me things about both cars and life. Things that I have never forgotten. It can be painful to fail, but it’s all a learning process.
  7. Haters will Hate, Do It Anyway. The neighbors who felt threatened by a ‘girl’ doing auto repair weren’t the only people with commentary. My female friends from high school also made it clear that what I was doing was ‘weird’ and potentially proved I was a lesbian (this was the late 1980s in VERY rural Wisconsin farm country, on a military base – lesbian was a dangerous word.) Yet, I completed the project and found pride in that fact. Even though my father had made the decision for me (and there was no getting around that) I enjoyed the process and consciously chose to disregard the haters, defy society’s stupidity and do it anyway. In life that is often the best…or only…choice a person can make.
  8. Reaching a Goal is it’s Own Reward. Because of the culture of the times, I couldn’t brag about my success to many, if any, people and it didn’t matter. I’d done it, I knew I’d done it and I was proud of that fact. I didn’t need to tell anyone else about it because I was driving the car that was the (literal) symbol of my success.

-Originally posted to Quora in answer to the question What is the best life advice you have ever received?

I have The Power (of the Internet)!

After three weeks of problem solving and negotiating with internet service providers I can now say – I HAVE INTERNET!

I feel like I should stand outside (in the snow) with a sword over my head and shout “I have the power!”

Antisemitism In The Midwest

The following is created from, and inspired by, answers I have posted to questions on Quora.com.

Whether it’s racism or Antisemitism or classism (or sexism or gay bashing or whatever else) Midwesterners need to break the silence and get past the ‘it doesn’t happen here’ mythology. To this end, I am posting some of my own, personal, experiences with these issues. I am not going to post the worst experiences I have had because I’m not ready to go there, but these are a few examples from my own life:

The Name Adora Myers

The reactions people have to my name are frequently tinged with racial and antisemitic undertones. It’s not unusual for perfect strangers to respond to my name with a pregnant pause, an uncomfortably open examination of my physical being (including peering at my face and scanning my entire body like I was a bug or an animal on display at the state fair), and a growled question that is clearly fishing for proof of ethnicity. The most common questions include:

  • Is that a FAMILY name?
  • What kind of name is that?
  • That’s…different. where are you from?

When people see my name written, the reaction is similar, but they’ve already made their own decision about my ethnicity because of the way my last name is spelled. In the Midwest, this surname is most frequently spelled Meyers and Miers. The spelling Myers is both unusual and presumed to be exclusive to Jewish communities (this is not true).

In my case, the name is a modification of Mayotte, bestowed upon my family by United States government employees because my father’s family arrived to the United States (from Canada) illiterate and speaking only French – it’s a classic American story. Unfortunately, it’s a history I did not know until very recently, so I was unable to respond to conjecture with fact.

My first experience with direct antisemitism occurred in the first grade, when a teacher decided to help me along in life by ‘fixing’ my name.

My name is pronounced Adora (uh DOOR uh) Myers (MY ehrs)

The teacher pulled me aside and explained that I needed to spell it like this:

Andora (AN door uh) Meyers (MY ehrs)

This effectively erased the perceived non-white ethnicity and ‘Jewishness’ from my name.

A short time later, my mother was going through my school work, per her usual habit, when she stopped, pointed to the ‘Name’ field and said “Who is this? These aren’t your papers.”

“Yes they are,” I replied.

“This isn’t how you spell your name.”

“I know, but that’s what the teacher said I had to do.”

My mother had to walk down to the school and explain, in person, that her daughter knew how to spell her own name. The teachers stopped making me change my name on school work, but they never (over 12 years of k-12 school) stopped expressing their…opinions…of my ‘weird name.’

Interestingly enough, my school mates (the children) had no problem with it – until high school when adult/teacher/parental opinions had fully seeped into their perceptions.

Religion

I was raised a mish-mash of Christianity but the neighbors were convinced they knew what were ‘really were.’ We had no social connection to a Jewish community, so these perceptions were based on physical appearance and naming conventions. s illustrated in the example above, I had an unusual name by Midwestern standards. However, it was the early 1970s and ‘unusual names’ were something of a fad. My mother liked unusual names and my father didn’t really care, so we all had names that were real, pronounceable, reasonably easy to spell AND just outside the acceptable norm for Midwestern children.

Out of all of my siblings, my physical appearance is the closest to the stereotype of a Jewish person – as defined by people who hate Jewish people.

Children in the neighborhood would call me things like ‘Yid’ and ‘Kike’ and ‘Judas Priest’ (the rock band was big back then) to let me know they knew my family was lying about who and what we were – and they were angry and offended by both the perceived lying and what we ‘really were’.

These anti-Semitic slurs were short lived because people in the Midwest don’t say things like that to your face. Obviously, they were being said behind our backs with consistent regularity because the children knew all about it. However, the ‘we know what you really are’ comments continued with regularity throughout the Midwest and in other regions of the United States (I have done some traveling) for the rest of my life.

My best childhood friend was raised in a family that was ultra extreme far-right Christian. They made a point of aggressively recruiting me for religious events out of ‘concern for my soul.’ This resulted in several…interesting…encounters with the Christian community, but one stands out from the rest:

I agreed to attend a teen retreat. It was an all-day-Saturday thing with meals served, games, movies and prayer sessions (the usual). I attended these things mostly to support my best friend, but I generally tried to suspend judgement and hold on to a small hope that I would make some connections with truly good people. The kind of people religious-types (of ALL religions) are always claiming exist only within the halls of the faithful.

By this point I had started to notice a trend in the prayer sessions and revivals I was dragged into. There was always a point in the service when new people were expected to go up to the front and ‘accept Jesus’ in front of the community. During the first event I attended, I followed protocol (because I was an outsider) and went up to the front and did the whole thing. The next time I was expected to do the same thing, again; and I noticed I was the only person being pushed into doing this multiple times.

The same thing happened during the service at this retreat. This was the third time in a row and (being who I am) I refused to leave my seat. There was no reason for me to be placed on display over and over again, and I did not like this trend, so I decided to test the situation by quietly and pointedly remaining in my seat. I was just like 90% of the teens in attendance who did not ‘feel called’ to go to the front of the church and acted accordingly.

After the service I found myself surrounded by a group of adults and teenagers, all of them were male and my best friend was among them. My friend was angry and started almost-shouting at me about my ‘poor behavior’ during the service. What did I do? Refused to go up in front of the church and ask God for forgiveness.

I remember looking around the group and realizing that these adults had pulled together the teenagers and pressured my friend into fixing ‘the problem.’ I had to be dealt with and it was their responsibility to make sure ‘people like me’ were properly addressed. How did I know this? The teenagers kept looking at the adults for confirmation and/or direction.

My best friend was completely worked up into an emotional tantrum, throwing his finger in my face saying (and I quote): “You! You of all people should be BEGGING God for forgiveness!”

As he walked away, clearly furious with me and the situation he was placed in (I knew him well enough to figure that part out), he growled under his breath “we all know what you really are.”

That was when I stopped associating with any form of Christian-right community. I did not like what it did to my best friend and I refused to be used as proof of the Christian superiority in any from, most particularly through the performance of weekly public-humiliation-of-the Jew ceremonies.

High School

I attended two high schools. I could tell stories from both. This story is from the school I graduated from.

It was the home stretch. I was months…weeks!….away from graduation. I had been planning my escape from Wisconsin farm country for months, including putting great effort into researching colleges. This was during a time before the internet, so researching colleges required an encyclopedia-sized book listing colleges and/or assistance from a school counselor. I pestered my counselor repeatedly, despite his adamant refusal to provide assistance because (and I quote): “the best you can hope for is technical school and marriage.”

My grades were good enough to get into college (despite the odds – but that’s another story) and my ACT scores were actually quite high. I’d managed to secure the contact information for exactly one college and had my acceptance letter tucked away among what little I owned back at the family farm.

In short, life had been tough for a long time but I was finally seeing a small glimmer of light in the form of college.

Then HE entered the picture. My home room teacher was one of many adults who did not approve of my existence (in general) or my presence in their community (specifically).

7 weeks before graduation, he started openly and blatantly handing me detention slips for the actions of other students. On several occasions he actually stood up and announced that I was getting another hour of detention because THAT KID, on the other side of the room, was making noise.

I am an introvert who loves to read and used study hall to finish homework and help my friends study and/or understand assignments. My life as a poverty survivor was difficult and working part-time jobs and the family farm took away a lot time. I needed study hall to complete catch-up work. I was NOT a problem student. If anything, I was entirely to quiet.

Rgardless, I was given detention for things I did not do, EVERY SINGLE DAY for several weeks. This quickly added up and the school had a serve-detention-or-do-not-graduate policy. In other words, anyone who had unserved detention was denied a diploma.

One particular morning, this homeroom teacher handed me yet another pink slip for the actions of others with a sneer, a little reminder of the graduation policy and the words: “We don’t need any more of you people in the colleges.”

Luck came my way in the form of the vice principal. When I was called into his office, I sat in the bad-student-chair looking around at all of the football trophies and though we are not going to get along.

He went over my file, explained the policy to me, tated that I was very close to having so much detention that it would not be possible for me to graduate, even if I spent the rest of the school year serving it out. He was doing the tough-man-talks-to-wayward-teen routine and I’d reached the point of being beyond done with this situation, this town and all of the crap these people insisted on dumping on me and my life. This resulted in my getting uncharacteristically tough in return.

I explained exactly what happened, who committed the acts recorded on those slips and how I had absolutely no intention of serving detention for things I did not do. I fully expected to be expelled and was already beginning to rack my brains for GED resources – maybe I could take the test and continue on with college as planned.

Unexpectedly, the vice principal responded with stunned shock and proceeded to negotiate with me. I had to serve two weeks of detention, because he couldn’t get away with clearing it all out. Thoughts of completing a GED eliminated what fight I had left. I agreed to the deal.

The teacher was replaced in my homeroom for the rest of the semester. To the best of my knowledge, he was never fired or disciplined outside of that one change during that semester.

So, I got lucky and was allowed to graduate.

Racism in the Midwest

The following article is created from (and inspired by) a collection of answers to questions originally posted to Quora.

Racism and Narcissism

People who perpetrate hate crimes do so based solely on their own interpretation of race. If the perpetrator hates community X and you are a member of community Y but, according to the perpetrator’s definition of X, you ‘look like x’ then you will experience the full brunt of hate crimes committed by the perpetrator against community X. In other words, when faced with race-based crime, ‘race’ is defined by the perpetrator’s perceptions.

Racism At A Wisconsin Roller Rink

I was in the 7th grade, so it was the 81-82 school year (if my math serves me). All of the girls in the 6th-8th grade classes were going on a field trip with the 6th-8th grade teachers, who were also all-female. It was an official girls-night out! The plan was to go roller skating and out to eat (pizza, if I remember correctly).

I was attending a small private school, so this was a rather small group. The racial makeup of the group was white women, white girls, 1 black girl and me.

We were standing in line at the roller rink, waiting to buy tickets to get into the building, rent our skates and hit the rink. The man selling the tickets leaned out the window. He was a white man with blond hair, angry eyes and one of those no-one-gets-anything-past-me smirks. His eyes fell on the black girl…and me.

His faced twisted in disgust when he looked at the black girl. He stared at me for a long time. He had very angry eyes. He turned to the nearest teacher, pointed to the black girl and said she couldn’t enter the roller rink. No blacks allowed.

Then he stared at me for a long time…again. The other girls physically stepped away. It was an instinctual action on their part. I had no choice but to face this man down, alone. Fear compounded by confusion was tangible. He made another face of disgust. Less twisted but no less ugly, and gave his permission. I could enter.

The teachers looked at each other, clearly stunned, confused and completely at a loss for what to do. One of the teachers volunteered to take the black girl home. The rest put not-real smiles on their faces and returned to ushering the remaining girls into the rink.

I spent the rest of the evening skating with the feeling of eyes glaring at my back. It was just a feeling. I don’t know if I was actually being watched. I also spent most of the evening skating alone. I wasn’t the only one feeling the fear and it directly and negatively affected the experience for everyone involved.

How This Illustrates White Privilege

  • The undeniably white girls got in without question.
  • I got in after uncomfortable scrutiny.
  • The black girl went home.

Midwestern Mores

What the teachers did in this situation was wrong, there is no denying that, but I hold no ill-will towards them. I do not condone the choice they made but my memory of these events is one of floundering not malice – they really and truly did not know what to do.

Having said that, I believe this is an opportunity to explore one of the reasons why racism and antisemitism are so difficult to address in the Midwest: Minnesota Nice.

Mid-westerners are highly non-demonstrative and indirect. People in general, and women in particular, do not make a spectacle of themselves. They do not (generally speaking) address problems in a forthright manner or say mean things to another person’s face. They put on a smile, drop hints, use Midwestern-talk to issue warnings or establish boundaries and talk behind closed doors (or gossip behind your back).

For example, among Midwesterner’s the word ‘different’ is an insult. If someone declares someone or something to be ‘different’ then (make no doubt about it) both an insult and a warning have been issued because you are standing right on the edge of the proverbial line. If a Midwesterner declares someone or something to be ‘weird’ then you have crossed the proverbial line and gone knee deep into the danger zone. For most of the rest of the United States ‘different’ and ‘weird’ barely register as insults, much less warnings.

This lends power to overt racism because people do not know how to handle someone being so…obvious. It also fosters a culture of racism that can be hard to see or define. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say dreadful things in private conversation and…when I called them on it…toss off my concern with comments like “we all know [nasty statement] is true but we’re not going to tell [race/community] that.”

As illustrated by the roller-skating story, some people express overt racism; but (generally speaking) this kind of behavior is discouraged because it is overt. Midwesterners don’t act like that in public. The knee-jerk cultural response to this kind of situation is to find a way to bring things back to acceptable non-demonstrative social behavior. Therefore, these teachers put on their smiles and did what it took to make it appear as though nothing was wrong.

Despite the name, Minnesota Nice is a cultural norm throughout the Midwest. The association with the state of Minnesota is primarily due to the popularity of the National Public Radio program Lake Wobegon Days.

For more information on Midwestern culture and racism see:

What Are You – Really?

adora

This is me in the late 1970s.

If you are looking at this photo and wondering how or why anyone would think I was anything but white – that’s good. Sit with that for a minute.

By Midwestern standards my physical appearance is considered borderline.

Another fact that the average Midwesterner will refuse to discuss: Those who don’t like People of Color (POC) almost invariably include Jewish people in the POC category. Anyone who is considered borderline (like myself) tends to be placed in the ‘Jewish’ category.

Many years ago I learned to never EVER bring up the hate crimes, racist activities or antisemitic actions I witnessed or direly experienced. Since my physical appearance is close enough to acceptable or “real white” (so I’m told) I am allowed to ‘pass’ as white most of the time. During those times when I was dealing with the aftermath of a negative experience I was always told that people are going to do these things to me (teachers and other adults: “Of course they did that!”) but it didn’t count because I’m not really Jewish or a Person of Color (POC).

I guess that makes me target practice. (Lucky me.)

Clearly placing some people into an in-between racial racial category, creates fertile ground for enforcing the particular type of racism that exists in the Midwest. This is done (very effectively) through surprising and terrorizing people who make the mistake of trying to befriend someone whose appearance is borderline. For example:

I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, taking a lunch break at work, when a coworker sat down beside me and pulled out an envelope of family photos. She started showing them, one-by-one, and commenting on how similar I looked to her relatives. Honestly, she was right, I did look like many of her family members.

A secretary interrupted our pleasant conversation with some nasty commentary about my family lineage, implying both mixed racial heritage and Jewish culture. It was unusually overt for Iowa (where I lived at the time) but it was effective.

The woman with the photos got very nervous and started trying to discretely slip everything back into her purse. After getting everything packed, she made a stuttering denial of my physical similarity to her relatives and left the area as quickly as she could. No, my family isn’t that. No need to look here. she never spoke to me again.

Technically, I could have (and probably should have) reported this experience to my employer’s human resources department, but I was still operating under the belief that I was not allowed to address these things because I’m not ‘really’ a Person of Color (POC) or Jewish. Therefore, I did not have a right to report a problem because the problem couldn’t possibly exist.

Another fact about the Midwest: Violent hate crimes occur with far more regularity than anyone realizes and those crimes are perpetrated against anyone who is considered POC, including those who are perceived as being Jewish. These crimes frequently go unreported, or unrecognized (by the police and other authority figures), so they remain off the official books.

No REALLY…What ARE You?

For those who simply must know my ‘real’ racial identity, feel free to review the genealogy postings on this blog (Genealogy | Adora Myers) and make your own damned decision.

If you decide you hate ‘what I am’ then get in line.

(grumble)

Remembering The Early Morning Bear

The following memory was originally posted as an answer to a question on Quora. I’ve decided it is worth displaying here on my blog.

I was camping in the boundary waters of northern MN (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). I was a Volunteer In Park (VIP) through the Student Conservation Association (The Student Conservation Association), so was living out of a tent, on an island, for the better part of a summer. Our team’s only contact with the outside world was a walkie talkie and transportation between worksites (islands) was a small collection of canoes. In short, I wasn’t just in bear territory, I was camped out in their living room.

The good thing was this: it was so remote and so seldom used by the general public that the bears were appropriately afraid of human beings. Do something stupid, and they will attack. Leave food out in the open, and they will eat it. Conduct yourself in a proper manner and, for the most part, they’ll leave you alone.

One night, I crawled out of the tent to take a pee. I’m one of those people who will try to ignore nature in favor of staying in my sleeping bag for as long as humanly possible (so nice and cozy warm!) so this was a serious need. As soon as I made my rather noisy exit and stood up, the first thing I noticed was a mother bear and two cubs.

They were close. Way to close for comfort. If I’d been less awake or observant, I would have walked right into them on the way to our communal outdoor toilet – so 25 yards, give or take.

They appeared to be passing through, but the noise and movement created by me caught the mother bear’s attention and all three bears stopped while she moved her large head from side to side, looking around. I froze out of sheer instinct.

What little I know about hunting in the Midwest immediately followed instinct and I made sure to NOT look the mother in the eye. The night was reasonably dark and there was no wind, so my groggy half-awake and (therefore) mostly animal-instinct driven brain decided my best chances for survival were silence, no-movement and no eye contact.

The reason for the emphasis on no eye contact is this: whether you are hunting prey (e.g.: a deer) or predator (e.g.: a bear), no amount of camouflage will work if you make the mistake of looking the animal in the eye. Even while using a set of binoculars from the upper branches of a tree, the animal will sense the connection and take off. This was something they taught in the hunter’s safety course I took during elementary school, but I’ve never been hunting (before this moment or since) so this was one of the only opportunities I’ve ever had to test the theory – and there was only one option I was willing to try.

After a few long moments of patient statue-standing and waiting, the mother bear made a soft snorting sound, the bear cubs went back to the happy tumbling walk that bear cubs have and the three continued on their way.

As soon as I was no longer able to either see or hear them, I relaxed, took a much needed pee, and escaped back into my tent. That tent seemed terribly flimsy and felt entirely non-protective. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before I was finally able to go back to sleep.

It was scary.

It was AWESOME!

Yeah, I know – I’m a little weird.

Chronic Pain and Strength Training

This is something that I rarely talk about: I’ve been dealing with chronic pain since I was a kid.

Until my early 20s it was officially dismissed as ‘growing pains.’ In my 20s I was ‘to young for that problem’ and officially categorized as having a tendency towards hypochondria. From that point on, every medical concern and question were conveniently ignored by doctors who were more than willing to charge outrageous prices for doing nothing – and that was when I had access to medical care at all.

Over several decades it progressed from pain and minimal migraines to occasionally disruptive pain and regular headaches/migraines. From there it eventually (inevitably?) progressed to near-constant debilitating pain. In short, it was real, unavoidable, physical pain; and it wasn’t going away. Sometimes I was fully functional but most days I was swimming through a tortuous fog.

Like most people dealing with a physical illness/problem without support or assistance from the medical community, I did my own research and tried everything I could financially afford that sounded reasonable. Some worked temporarily, others did nothing or made the problem worse. All of it provided clues about the size, scope, origin and cause of the horrid pain monster whose nasty teeth were piercing deep into my life.

Fast forward to the beginning of my current fitness journey. Two years ago, I started working with a personal trainer. I was honest about my reasons for trying to get in shape: I was in pain pain PAIN! Most of it was concentrated in my back and neck, and I had good reason to believe it was (at least partially) a direct result of being out of shape. We talked about bad posture, limited mobility, overly-tight chest muscles, over-extended back muscles, and general weakness throughout my back, hips and legs. We talked about old sports injuries and the kinds of exercises I habitually used when working out and why (read: they were the only exercises I knew how to do).

For the first time in my entire life a personal trainer (or a gym, for that matter) didn’t freak out over the words ‘back pain’ and immediately dismiss me as both a legal liability and a physical fitness lost cause.

Better. It was the first time someone took my reasons seriously and actually developed a workout routine focused on addressing everything we discussed.

This is going to sound like a bad commercial but I swear…pinky swear, girl scouts honor…by the end of three weeks the workouts were noticeably reducing the pain! It was happening in little tiny chunks, but that horrible pain monster was getting smaller.

After many months the pain reduction plateaued. The workouts maintained the reduction already achieved but did not reduce it further. That was when I found a chiropractor. I didn’t realize how badly locked up and out-of-alignment portions of my neck and upper back were until he cracked them back into place. It took a few weeks and a lot of ice, but I finally reached a point where my head and spine moved freely – like they’re supposed to.

Here it is, about two years later, and the pain is completely under control. There are days when it returns but a workout at the gym usually takes care of it. When that doesn’t work, a visit to the Chiropractor does.

It’s amazing. I’m convinced my chiropractor and personal trainer are miracle workers! For purely financial reasons, I’ve stopped working with the personal trainer, but I visit the gym regularly and put what I learned to good use.

Magic Fight-The-Pain Workout

The Magic Fight-The-Pain Workout

For those who also struggle with chronic pain, I am including my pain/stress workout. These are the things I do, at least twice a week, without fail.

It is important to note that these are not the only things I do. There are other exercises and stretches that I use to work on (or stretch out) different muscle groups and change things up a bit. This is merely the absolute core of my fitness routine – everything else builds on these exercises.

Therefore, this is not a goal-setting workout or a get-in-shape workout or even a hot-body workout. This is a fight-the-pain workout. Just pain management and stress reduction. Nothing else.

Strength Training:

Stretching:

If you are dealing with chronic pain and nothing is making it better, then take my story under consideration. I am not a doctor or physical fitness expert, but I can say with absolute certainty that this is the only thing that has worked for me. So, if something like this won’t make your situation worse (read: talk to your doctor) then consider talking to a personal trainer. It might work.

Avoid the Light

This is a blog post made in response to the Daily Post Daily Prompt: Safety First

Before I explore the scary, I just want to tip my hat to Ngobesing Romanus whose blog post Almost burnt to death inspired me to write this.

I don’t often make biographical posts to this blog. If you were expecting a quote or book review, rest assured, more are scheduled for later today. As for this particular posting – everything you are about to read is true.

Avoid The Light

I entered an undergraduate program in 1987 and quickly learned that some people held strong opinions about what kind of students belong in college, and people like me (poor, not-properly-connected, non-military and without a scholarship) were not among them. My high school counselor directly expressed this opinion during my senior year in high school and pointedly refused to help me apply to college (any college). There were other teachers (and adults) who made similar opinions clear…but those are stories will have to wait for another day. Suffice it to say that during my first semester at University, a few authority figures made it clear they agreed with the you-don’t-belong-here sentiment. This prejudiced resistance led to my continued reliance on a long-standing habit of ‘passing’ as the ‘middle class white girl.’

Fast forward to late in the spring semester of  freshman year (1988). The weather was warm and the trees had their leaves. A little after 1:00 AM, I went for a run in the neighborhoods adjacent to the University.

It was late.
It was dark.
I was alone.
I was wearing spandex.

In other words, I was doing everything women are told not to do. It was a risk I’d chosen to (repeatedly) take, despite the dangers, for two reasons: 1) college was a stressful never-ending cycle of very late nights, which made it almost-impossible for me to sleep without an end-of-day run and 2) Oshkosh was the safest place I’d lived in for several years.

I was several blocks away when I spotted them and half a block closer when they spotted me. A group of men were sitting in a car parked beside a playground. Their drunken voices were occasionally interrupted by the sound of empty liquor bottles smashing against the ground. The crash of breaking glass was unmistakable, but the voices were what caught my attention. I couldn’t make out the words, only the sound of drunken men getting excited about something. One of them leaned out a car window and glanced in my direction. We made eye contact and I knew exactly what was coming next.

A potentially fatal moment of hesitation occurred as the street-wise poverty-survivor proceeded to push the ‘proper middle class’ persona into the background. This was not a college classroom or an administrative office, this was a nearly deserted city street and I was faced with an extremely dangerous situation. Predators had spotted me. Action had to be taken, but which action?

Proper middle class female college students choosing to take a risky run, alone, after midnight, all follow the same rules – stick to safe, well lit roads in populated areas. Good girls do not run in shadows.

I was on the appropriate well-lit path…and the drunks in the car were pulling away from the curb.

Proper middle class girls do not leave the lighted path, they keep their eyes on the sidewalk and ‘ignore’ the men until they ‘go away;’ just keep going, trust in the rule of law and it’s ability to protect.

My real self was neither proper nor middle class. I knew better.

Ducking down the first dark side road I came to, I scanned the area for a place to run and felt the first real shock of fear: the houses were built into low but surprisingly steep hills and divided by fences. Being cornered here meant climbing a hill and a fence to get away. Yet, the streetlights were burned out and every house had turned off both interior and exterior lights, making it comfortingly dark – they couldn’t catch what they couldn’t see.

Picking up speed, I made for the end of the street which was equally dark, turned right and felt a moment of relief as the sidewalk leveled out and opened up. This area presented many options for both running and hiding, all of them lit by a small number of street lights. I could make it back to campus, almost entirely in  shadows, in a reasonably short period of time. If the drunks found me, I had options for escape.

This realization was interrupted by a second stabbing of fear as the car slowly drove by the side street I’d just left. I’d seen them watching me when I took the turn. One of the drunks was leaning out a window, craning his neck and peering into the shadows. He was looking for something.

Looking for me.

They kept driving. I don’t know how far they went before giving up, but it was many long minutes before I saw the car double back towards the park at a much faster pace, with voices and music returned to full party-mode.

Later, safe in my dorm, I stretched, changed and re-lived the entire experience. Only one fear remained: what if someone saw?

I couldn’t risk being exposed as both lower class and street wise. I do not have a criminal history, my pre-college grades were (despite all odds) good-enough to get in and remained good-enough to graduate. There were no legitimate legal, behavioral or academic reasons for making me leave school. Sadly, these kinds of facts have no power over prejudice.

Standing there, alone in the dorm, I did not review the faces of potential rapists. What I saw were those specific individuals who had already tried to either prevent or end my college education.

Anyone dead-set on eliminating me from the student rosters had only one real option – create the illusion of scandal out of a toxic combination of truth, fiction and virulent gossip. If enough people believed I needed to be removed, then I would be removed. It was that simple. Thus far, those who disapproved had neither the reason nor the material to take up that kind of campaign. A story like this could provide enough ammunition to inspire wicked action.

Call it paranoia, but I had already lived through and witnessed this exact scenario, and all of it’s devastating results, multiple times. It was possible, but was it probable?

Finishing college was my one and only goal. Literally. I had no post-college plans. That meant convincing the powers-that-be that I belonged there…or, at least, wasn’t worth close examination.

Reporting the incident, talking about what happened and how I handled it, admitting to having the skills required to survive that kind of situation as a direct result of surviving it prior to entering college…this was what I feared.

The exhausting act of ‘passing’ had significantly affected my youth. Here in the halls of higher education it continued to infuse every breath and color every thought. My faux ‘proper middle class white girl’ persona slowly crept back into place and asked one stupid question: how did I know how to do that? Of course, I knew the answer; but I also knew the game. The stakes were too high. It was time to keep silent and, if necessary, play dumb.

Predatory Excuse Making

Over the past few decades, I’ve made a few attempts to talk about this experience with a variety of different people. What I find most disturbing about these conversations are the most common responses provided by other women:

  • Nothing happened so they probably weren’t really after you.
  • If they’d wanted to do something, they would have caught you.
  • You’re being so negative, what if they were really nice?
  • They were probably just trying to help you.
  • You’re looking at it wrong.
  • You don’t know they were after you. Maybe they were looking for something else.
  • You’re exaggerating.
  • You made it up, that didn’t happen; if it had, you’d be dead.

I’ve had similar conversations with men, some of whom were members of various security and protection services (e.g.: police, martial arts, etc.), and the most common reaction was this: you’re lucky to be alive.

I include this information here because I believe it’s an extremely important aspect to rape culture. Not only do we teach our children do not get raped instead of do not rape; we also train women to discount the experiences of others and view potentially deadly situations through a dangerously distorted lens.

This is an example of something I call predatory excuse making. Sometimes people do it will full knowledge and ill-intent (e.g.: accessory to a crime). Sometimes it’s a response to complimentary manipulation (e.g.: I can’t believe that person would do something like that). Sometimes it’s born out of culturally enforced ignorance, naivete or an inability to face facts (see above).

The only people who benefit from predatory excuse making are the predators.

Think about that.

Church and Refusing to Walk The Line

In the United States it’s very common for houses of faith to end a weekly service with a receiving line. The ritual is essentially the same, no matter the location or the religion –  the religious leader in charge of the just-completed service stands at the exit and shakes hands with every participant as they file out the door. It’s something I privately refer to as ‘The Line.’

I refuse to participate. It may seem odd, but I go out of my way to locate an alternate exit route for the sole purpose of not participating in this activity. I’m not the only one. When you are scoping out escape routes, fellow escapees become easy to spot. The people who are offended by this habit are equally easy to identify because they grimace, scowl, point, and make comments to the people around them.

Here in the Midwest, they’ll also make comments to their friends while standing within ear-shot of the offending person. If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘Minnesota Nice‘ and wondered what that was, this is an excellent example. Essentially, it’s culturally required passive-aggressive behavior. Here in the Midwest, no one does (or says) anything directly. Therefore, making comments within general physical proximity of the targeted individual and assuming that target will both hear what is being said and modify their offending behavior accordingly is common practice. In fact, stepping outside of this passive-aggressive pseudo-communication technique can be considered offensive and even taboo, depending on who the target is and the relative mannerisms of the speaker.

Having said that, the point of this post is a particular form of human behavior within a religious context, not Midwestern social mores. Minnesota Nice can be expanded on more fully by another person, or at another time.

I have actively participated in a multitude of religions. I have traveled all of the lower 48 states and made random visits to all kinds of houses-of-faith. The Line, and it’s negative aspects, are everywhere. Every. Where. This is not unique to a religion or a region. It’s a common and nasty aspect to human behavior here in the United States.  (Others will have to comment on it’s existence in other countries.)

The Line is a seemingly simple and harmless tradition. People politely file out, shake hands and exchange a few words with the religious leader. And yet, I have seen it used to commit viscous and brutal acts of social annihilation – over and over and over. The best scientific term for these behaviors is Mobbing, which is a form of group-bullying frequently utilized by adults. Personally, I think of it as modern-day human sacrifice. The community needs blood and the individual marked for death is identified while walking The Line. Yes, that is melodramatic…yet true.

Effectively, what happens is this: a targeted individual approaches the religious leader in The Line. The leader scowls, grimaces, makes mean comments to other (approved) individuals standing nearby and/or simply refuses to acknowledge or shake hands with the targeted victim. This becomes law. The community immediately ostracizes said individual and coordinates to take actions that eventually eliminate the victim from the religious community.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this behavior rarely stays within organizational walls. The victim frequently becomes the target of continued and similar behavior in the community at large, finding themselves effectively barred from most (if not all) houses of faith within the area. Often it continues to spill over into daily life, until it has seeped it’s way into work, civic organizations, professional organizations, volunteer activities, etc.

The same technique is successfully used by ‘pillars of society’ and ‘church ladies’ and ‘popular people’ and other, similar, members of the house-of-faith with the same results, regardless of the religious leader’s opinion and/or participation.

For some reason, these attacks are almost always initiated in The Line.

Granted, boycotting The Line does not fix the behavior. However, it does protect me from becoming an easy target while eliminating the possibility of being expected to willingly participate in an attack on someone else, which I simply will not do. Will. Not.

That’s not just a political statement or a decision to take a stand. I’ve been confronted with similar situations many (MANY) times. Despite all self-preservation logic to the contrary, I find myself going up against the biggest and baddest of them all, making it clear I do not approve. Every time. Every. Dern. Time. As it turns out, even in houses of faith, bullies don’t give a rats-behind about ethics, community or living a non-hypocritical life.

Social annihilation. Ostracism. Fun stuff.

Johnny Cash may sing proudly about Walking the Line. As for me, I refuse The Line altogether.

A Terrible Mistake – Part 3

A few weeks ago, I posted about making a logo mistake. It’s one of those big mistakes that got out into the virtual world and stayed there. No changing it. No hiding it. It was front in center and available to the everyone. As I mentioned in my first posting, there’s only one way to handle such a thing – 1) admit to it, 2) fix it and 3) move on.

The logo is now fixed, so it’s time for step three – moving on.

In business, simply correcting an error and continuing with life-as-usual is not enough. It’s important to evaluate the situation and, hopefully, learn something from the experience. In my case, the process of correcting the logo and replacing it online led to many learning-moments, here are a few examples:

  1. Time is short but quality cannot be sacrificed: Like most people, I have a full-time job, private hobbies/ambitions and side-work that generates a small secondary income. The objective is to increase this secondary income. The challenge is fitting it into my already very busy life. The spelling error in the logo was a direct result of my tendency to multitask at home. However, no one can make dinner, answer email, throw in a load of laundry and appropriately evaluate a logo all at the same time. There can be no excuses and no cutting corners. Time for working the second job must be set aside and appropriately used. Time for make dinner and participating in ‘regular life’ must be managed in the same manner. A time for work and a time for life. The result? Better quality in both work and home living experiences.
  2. Time managed marketing: While updating WildRaccoonPress.com, I noticed many other little things that I’d never gotten around to doing. This was the perfect opportunity to revise the website and address some basic marketing issues. For example, I started posting all T-Shirts/Gifts and Resale items to Pinterest on the advice of several books and webinars (many months ago); and, while revising my website, I discovered that Pinterest provides a code-generation tool that allows a member to post a collection to a website. This allowed me to create an auto-updated image-based selection of recently-created t-shirts and postcards. Clicking on the Pinterest widget take the user to Pinterest, and all items featured on Pinterest are hot-linked to the websites where the items can be purchased (e.g.: CafePress and Zazzle). As it turns out, Etsy provides the same service, with images from my store and hotlinks directly to the items available for sale. No manual updates to my website and easy navigation for potential customers!
  3. Selective and targeted work: Working smarter, not harder, is a phrase that has become both worn out and (frankly) annoying. My frustration with the phrase stems primarily from the number of people who use ‘working smarter’ as an excuse for tricking and/or coercing other people into doing their job for them. Personally, I consider this unacceptable because I do not condone laziness or lack of respect for coworkers and colleagues. That said, my own work habits needed some modification. In my case, working smarter consisted of choosing where my time would be spent. Some of my projects are for-fun hobbies and some are for money. The trick was identifying where the income was being generated and carving out an appropriate amount of time for my primary goals, which (in turn) required some clarification. This is a process and it’s still being developed, but I am already seeing an improvement, so it’s worth the time and energy.

There are many other little things that were learned along the way, but these were the big changes. If you are a multi-job-holding not-enough-hours-in-the-day multitasking employee and/or entrepreneur, these challenges and lessons may ring true for you too.

Adora – Meaning Behind The Name

Adora is a very girly name. It’s the kind of thing that inspires pretend tea parties held by perfectly manicured miniature ‘ladies’ in lacy dresses with matching dolls. It’s a pretty name for a pretty picture of a girl who does not exist.

Well, OK, maybe she does exist, somewhere – just not here.

I have never been a girly girl. While I freely admit to fully enjoying my time wearing twirly skirts (if you don’t know what that is, please post the question below and I’ll fill you in!), those skirts were usually worn over the top of a pair of shorts and accompanied by some worn out sneakers. Remember that girl covered in band aids, climbing a tree and fixing the chains on her friends bikes while wearing her best Sunday dress? Yeah, that was me.

From this you should (correctly) gather that the disconnect between what was expected from a female named Adora and the reality of who I am has been a very consistent source of friction in my life. This has affected me in a myriad of ways – one of which being a tendency to research the history behind my name.

Oddly enough, many people assume this is a form of narcissism. Not so! Here’s why: perfect strangers make a point of quizzing me on the history behind my first name, and the reasons why it was bestowed upon me.

Literally.

Never-seen-you-before-in-my-life strangers will assume the right to usurp lengthy minutes of my time for the sole purpose of asking direct (rude) questions about my racial and cultural history, frequently following those up with further annoyingly obvious implied-questions along a similar vein, all because I have an ‘unusual name.’ (Side note: the racial aspect to these inquiries will be explored later.)

I assure you, the research is a matter of survival not narcissism.

That said, let’s take a look at the research. What does the name Adora mean…really?

Baby Books

The baby books like to focus on the romantic and pretty aspects of the name. They revolve around some form of the words Adored or Adoration, with definitions including terms like Beloved, a Gift, and Glory. It appears in Latin, Greek, French and Spanish (among many other languages).

Bible

Most people don’t know it, but Adora is a Biblical name. It is the name of a town found in 1 Maccabees 13:20. The reason most people don’t recognize it is because of the many names given to this town, including: Adurim, Adoraim, Dura, Dora and Adora.

The literal translation of Adoraim is ‘pair of knolls,’ but the Biblical story about this town makes a far more interesting contrast to the preferred interpretation provided in the baby name books.

The story as I understand it: Adora is the place where a piece of impressive, yet brutal, war-trickery occurred. A Jewish tribe confronted another (non-Jewish) tribe and convinced the enemy (why they are enemies, I do not know), to both surrender and prove their new-found loyalty by willingly circumcising themselves.

Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall during that negotiation?

Soon after, while the men are recovering from minor penile surgery and (therefore) unable to fight, the Jewish tribe attacks and…well…yeah…

It is often listed as the only recorded instance of forced conversion to Judaism. For some reason this short-version always leaves out the mass killing of all men prior to the forced conversion of women and children.

True interpretation of the name Adora

When she was good
She was very very good
But when she was bad…

Final Comment

I did not complete a full and proper fact-checking on the Biblical story of Adora. I relied primarily on my memory of in-depth research completed several years ago. If you have facts to correct or details to add, please use the comment box below.