30 Days of Happy Songs

Because why the fuck not.

I’ve been working on my write-up about this year’s Faerieworlds Festival, and just feeling pretty glowing and good after a fun weekend of camping and frolicking.
I want to keep the good vibes going, but also help deflect some outside negative energy I’m being exposed to right now, which can be exhausting. So a happiness challenge seems like a good motivator to keep positive and dance in my kitchen more.

I’m familiar with the 100 Happy Days thing that’s been going around, and that’s lovely. I’d like to tailor the concept to a shorter period of time and make the focus something that inspires, like music.

So for the next 30 days, I will be posting a happy song to my twitter feed every day, and I’ll do song round-ups on here every one or two weeks.

If you’d like to join in a post your favorite up-beat songs, please do! Or, you can just listen and smile (and shake your head at my sometimes odd taste in music).

Find my tweets: #30DaysofHappySongs

And my twitter—> @cypressmatrix

And here is the first song, inspired by a camping trip by the ocean with my mom and boyfriend the other week…

Omission is the Bane of My Gluten Free Beer Drinking Existence

You can file Omission beer under Things-That-Say-They’re-Gluten-Free-But-Are-Really-Not.

(And you can also file this post under “First World Problems”.)

Omission claims the gluten in their beer is removed enough to be safe for people with celiac and gluten sensitivity to drink, but I disagree. And new FDA regulations actually prohibit them from calling the beer “gluten free.” but they dance around with language in their marketing to still make the beer seem gluten free, or safe for celiacs. Additionally, stores and bars continue to sell it as gluten free. Crazy pants.

Why do I care that it’s not really gluten free? I could just not drink it, right? There are plenty of other GF beers out there. But, sadly, this beer is so popular that’s it’s often the only gluten free option at many bars, restaurants and stores. 

And before you assume that I’m being a trendy gluten-free hypochondriac who has to go crazy about my food just for the hell of it… I urge you take in these factoids:

– If you have celiac disease, or severe gluten sensitivity, eating or drinking even a tiny bit of gluten really, really sucks. It can cause projectile vomiting, major intestinal distress, neurological symptoms, or, as in my case, can cause you your whole body to freak out and then you’re couch-bound for 2 days, with a longer full recovery period. Some (lucky) people don’t feel the damage happen, but it can seriously damage their intestines regardless.

– Some research suggests that people with celiac disease that eat gluten even just once every month have a 600% greater chance of death. Other research suggests it takes up to 6 months to fully recover from being glutened. Seriously.

So my concerns about drinking this beer are not due to me being a hypochondriac. I wish I was one, really. Then I’d just get some therapy and go back to drinking real, gluten-filled beer. Preferably a porter. A glass of Fat Tire’s 1554 would be AMAZING.

Oh, how I miss you, real beer….

But back to why I can’t stand Omission.

Omission is made with gluten-containing grains, then they take out just enough gluten to pass the legal gluten free standards. (or some say it just fractures some of the gluten particles and makes them harder to detect by the tests… who knows.) It apparently makes it taste more like “real” beer than other brands, which is why it’s so popular. But I’m not touching that stuff with a ten foot keg hose. No sir, no way. Omission is probably  great for people who are just a bit sensitive to gluten and want a beer. And yay for them.

But, you say, one of the CEOs of Omission Beer actually has celiac disease! Well, I can’t speak for this person, but I think they are probably nuts. Around 41% of people with celiac disease are actually asymptomatic. So he might not react severely like some of us do, and the silly man might be damaging his intestines with this beer without even knowing it. Or maybe he’s a masochist. I have no idea.

The internet is full of people saying they’ve gotten sick from this beer. And I believe them more than I do someone who is trying to sell me something.

Honestly, the existence of this beer would not bug me if it weren’t for the fact that it’s the beer every grocery store and bar and restaurant has decided to offer as their gluten free selection. It’s often the ONLY ONE they offer.

It’s like a sick joke the universe is playing on celiac sufferers.

Everywhere I go this beer is all I have to choose from. And when I tell the bartender or clerk why I won’t drink it, they look at me like I’m nutters. Then I get all Sad Panda and have to order cider. I like cider, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want cider when what I really want is a beer.

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There are so many other yummy gluten free beers out there. Like Harvester (made in Portland!), Bards, Green’s, etc.. So there is no excuse for this take-over by the fake gluten free beer.

Okay, now I’ve vented, and I’m going to go cry in my cider.

A Letter to the Man Who Liked My Dress

Dear man who complemented me on my dress on 1st street,

I know the act of complementing a woman on her outfit seems rather harmless and arbitrary in of itself.

You were going about your day, and decided to compliment a pretty girl by telling her you liked her dress. Harmless, right? And the fact that she ignored you means she’s just a stuck-up bitch, of course.

I know you were quite miffed at the fact that I ignored you, as evident by your choice to then shout at me from the Dairy Mart parking lot.

I had chosen to wear a dress that is above the knee in public and therefore I should expect attention, right?

But I am writing this letter to explain that you, and men like you, need to know that these supposed compliments are not randomly harmless. They are a form of sexual harassment. Yes, of course, you can argue that you were just paying me a compliment on what I was wearing, but believe me, there’s more to it than that. And yes, on the list of things said to me by random men on the street, this doesn’t rank highly. But any harassment is not okay.

The thing is, I knew from the tone of your voice that it was not my dress that you were commenting on. It’s really just an okay dress, plain black racerback, knit material, and it falls just above my knee. It’s really nothing special. What I knew you were actually saying was that you liked my body IN the dress, how it showed my shoulders, and draped loosely over my very curvy hips and butt, but not so loosely that it didn’t compliment their shape.

I had debated wearing the dress before I left the house, because wearing any kind of dress by myself outside makes me anxious. But it was the first day of summer, a gorgeous sunny Saturday afternoon, and I wanted to walk a few blocks to the coffee shop and sit outside in the breeze to read my book and sip an iced drink. I just got the dress, and it’s quite comfy and cute, seemed perfect for a summer day.

I always have to think and strategize what I wear outside, as a woman. If I’m walking alone, sometimes I’ll wear one thing, if I’m going with a male, I’ll wear something else, if I’m going with a lady friend, it’s perhaps a different outfit.
But even all this strategizing sometimes has little effect on the outcome. I am still a target when I walk in public, even covered head-to-toe. I have been harassed an incredible number of times in my life (and also threatened and attacked)… the first time I was harassed was at the age of 4 (I’m not kidding.) So I’ve tried lots of different sorts of outfits and been able to test their effectiveness of making me feel safe or not. And I never, ever, walk by myself at night. I could be wearing clothing that has the same coverage of a burka and I’d still be putting myself in harms way, believe me, I’ve tried it many times. I’m lucky to still be alive.

I’ve gone through times when I’d wear whatever I wanted in public, riding buses in Oakland in mini skirts, feeling confident and sassy, my pepper spray tucked in my purse, comments and stares be dammed. Then, I’ve gone through other periods, where perhaps  a particular encounter with a random man had scared me to the core, and those times I feel like wearing a trash bag, I wrap myself in dowdy clothes and try to fold into myself while in public. But, even then, I’ve found that I still get harassed. Wearing that baggy outfit that’s covered in cat fur can’t save me from men like you… because it’s not about my outfit, really. It’s about power. It’s about socialization and how men and women act in the public sphere.

When a man came up from behind me and put me in a choke hold  at 8am on a Monday morning in 2001, I was wearing pants and a loose t-shirt. I screamed, and no one acted like they heard me, even though I was on a main street.

So, I figure, why not just wear the dress I want to wear?
Some terrible sexual harassment actually happens in Egypt, where women wear a lot of clothing, so clothing isn’t actually the main issue.

Walking to the coffee shop, I even purposefully avoided the main street for as long as I could (as I always do while walking alone in any outfit). I took the back streets through my neighborhood, which was actually a far more beautiful walk, everyone’s gardens are in full bloom this time of year. Even there, in this lovely lush green wonderland, I have to focus on calming my anxiety about walking by myself. PTSD is a bitch.

Walking in public as a woman often feels to me like a scene from some nature show, where the little gazelle is approaching the watering hole. She’s so thirsty, but she knows watering holes are a dangerous place, there could be a lion waiting in the brush, ready to leap out at her. So she creeps to the water’s edge stealthily, her eyes are wide and panoramic, her ears twitching, looking for any tiny sign of movement, ready to bolt. I am a woman and I have lived my whole life in a sea of potential predators. I hate thinking of men this way, but it’s due to life experience, sadly. And this alertness and mistrust has, actually, saved me from getting attacked at the watering hole many times over.

Then that day I cut up to the main street, which I had to cross to get to the coffee shop. It’s a busy thoroughfare, and it took me a moment to be able to find a break in the traffic. As I got to the end of the crosswalk, I saw you approach coming the opposite way on your bike. You had to pause while I crossed, and I knew that situation was ripe for you to linger and take in my shape and notice my aloneness.

As I said, I’ve been harassed by men countless times. I’ve gotten to the point where I can sense when a man will harass me even before it comes out of his mouth. So every time my inner alarm starts to sound around a man, I always try to will him not to do it… I think “don’t harass me man, don’t do it…” And then, of course, they almost always do.

So I knew you were going to harass me even before you did. And that, really, made it all the more irritating, because I was quite disappointed in you.

“Hey, I really like your dress…”

Now, you may wonder why I didn’t just thank you for telling me my dress was pretty. This is a conundrum I’ve often faced. It depends on my mood how I’ll respond to men like you, and I’ve also found that it really doesn’t matter, because either way it could go wrong. 

Your tone was creepy, and I knew it was my body you were commenting on, not my dress. I’ve responded with a “thanks” to comments like this before, just to try to deflect the perv.
But, if I say thanks, that can be seen as an invitation to keep talking to me or to follow me. I’d like to skip that annoying and potentially dangerous interaction if at all possible. Having to shake you off is even harder than just not engaging in the first place.

If I say nothing, that can be seen as an affront. But often silence deflects. Not always though.

I’m not really the one in control there, which is the entire point of harassment. It can escalate because of any little thing. Heck, I’ve been chased and threatened by men I didn’t even know were there 2 seconds before. So no, I know it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d acknowledged you or not.

This time, you were offended by my silence, as if I was obligated to engage with you.  I am not obligated to do so. So you yelled aggressively  “I could have at least gotten a smile!” from the parking lot of the Dairy Mart.

No, I will not smile at men like you.

I love smiling, I’d love to skip down the sidewalk in my pretty dress and smile at everyone who passes by. My prickly exterior has been layered on my skin from years of abuse. I want so bad to take it off. But I won’t, because I don’t feel safe. Because of men like you.

Your comment shattered the secure, calm feeling I was trying to cultivate while walking to the coffee shop. These comments are not compliments, they effect a woman’s whole experience while walking outside. My senses became heightened again, I hoped you wouldn’t follow me on your bike, which you luckily didn’t.

The story of an acquaintance’s experience popped in my head. She ignored a harasser on the bus recently and he followed her home and beat her up in her own front yard. All cuz she didn’t smile at him when he wanted her to.

I sat outside the coffee shop and enjoyed my iced coffee and read my book, “Savage Beauty” (I totally covered up the title of that one while I was walking, didn’t want it to elicit any comments from anyone) the biography of Edna St. Vincent Milay, an amazing, brazen, intelligent writer. Edna wouldn’t put up with shit like this either.
I enjoyed my afternoon at the coffee shop, my icy drink and book and cigar. You didn’t ruin that for me, I’m used to finding joy even in unsafe places, I’m a veteran of this war.

Walking home, I cut a different direction, avoiding the Dairy Mart, as I’ve figured that’s probably not a good place to walk by alone, too many random men getting beers and smokes in the afternoon. I tried to center and breathe while walking, doing my metta meditation:
“May I be free from danger
May I have mental happiness
May I have physical happiness
May I have ease in living.”

I tried not to tense when I saw any other men or cars pass by. But I did a little anyway.

Experiences like these won’t keep me from wearing dresses when it’s hot (I will not swelter in a muumuu when it’s 80 degrees outside) or keep me from taking walks by myself. I am so sick of this shit, but I’m gonna live my life. And I’m going to get my story out, create dialogue and affirm that all the women who feel like I do are not just paranoid or over-reacting.

I just hope that one day, men like you will get it. You will stop it. You will let me be so I can happily stroll down the sidewalk.

Then I will smile.

In the mean time, here’s a guide to properly complimenting women without objectifying them.

And this awesome video:

Louise Brooks Memes

I’ve decided the world needs some Louise Brooks quote memes.

Louise Brooks, if you’re not familiar, was a modern dancer, writer, follies girl and silent film actress.
She was a brilliant, but troubled woman who came from Kansas and became a smashing success in Hollywood, her charms seducing many, including Charlie Chaplain and Greta Garbo. Eventually, crossing the wrong people got her black-listed from Hollywood, and her life fell apart, only to be resurrected in later life  when she bloomed as a writer.

I’ve adored Louise ever since the age of 16 when my mom found her biography at a yard sale and brought it home for me to read. Her image was my first tattoo.

That biography is an amazing read, I highly recommend it: Louise Brooks, by Barry Paris 

And, there are a few biography films around, this is one:

And now, some delicious memes for your enjoyment. Feel free to take them a re-post where ever you like.

Louise Brooks Conquer

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only Louise Brooks

Frolicking at The Oregon Country Fair

There is a place, in the woods of central Oregon, where thousands of hippies, mystical creatures and weirdos (and some cute suburbanite tourists) converge for three days out of every year. Music, vaudeville, dance, juggling, and performance art of every shape happens on several stages simultaneously, not forgetting the buskers in every nook and cranny. I have attended The Oregon Country Fair for the last 3 years, and it’s now on my must-do list forever more.

Aside from art and performances, part of the fun of the Fair is just the people-watching. It’s hotter than all get-out, but everyone dresses-up just the same. Some people’s costumes are mind-blowingly amazing, or just hilarious. Groups of these costumed people also create random parades along the pathways of the fair. This is one of the most entertaining things there.

Whilst walking to get to another stage, find the bathroom, or buy a glittery unicorn horn headband, you may run into jugglers, drummers, a bunch of  people stumbling in the wilting heat, dressed in brown bananna costumes…

Or really tall clowns…

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Or a pod of orcas…

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Or a roving pool party complete with cocktails…

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Or a ferocious dragon.

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The fair also has booths with every manner of amazing art, costumes, clothing, instruments and the like woven throughout the huge piece of land. This year I b-lined to my favorite feather booth to stock-up on amazing vibrant blue and purple facinator hair clips, and I bought a stunning black and gold parasol at another booth.

Here is my new fabulous parasol, and my sassy Fair outfit:

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Here’s the fantastic hand-painted leather mask my mom picked-up:

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And the food is nothing you’ll find at any other Fair, it’s actually healthy and delicious, with a vast multitude of choices. My favorite meal this year was a heaping plate of Cajun red beans and rice with riblets and watermelon, it fueled me up to frolic for the entire day. And of course in the mid-day heat we HAD to also stop at the Coconut Bliss booth for a coconut ice cream bar. Delish. There are tons of options for a variety of diets, from gluten free, to vegan, to paleo, etc.

But I have to say that, hands down, one of my very favorite places to be at the fair is the Gypsy Caravan Stage. It’s a small stage area on a side path where you sit on pillows in the straw and watch some of the most amazing belly dancers on the planet.
I know most of the people in that audience have no. idea. how famous and amazing these dancers are. It’s like they’re watching Jimmy Hendrix but have never heard of him. I always want to tell them all: “DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!? SERIOUSLY. YOU HAVE NO IDEA…. WHAT, HOW DARE YOU GET UP TO LEAVE DURING ZOE’S SET… SIT THE FUCK DOWN.”

You can watch the likes of Rachel Brice, Colleena Shakti, Zoe Jakes, Sharon Kihara, and many more on a tiny stage. (and ALL of the performances at the fair are free. Just for a $22-$25  per day ticket, or $58 for all three, gets you access to everything.)
My first year I spent HOURS just sitting there, wide-eyed, mouth agape, watching the belly dancers and zagareeting my heart out.
And, at the end of each set, just to make any belly dance fan-dork’s heart leap out of their chest, the dancers walk around in the audience and collect tips in baskets. You then try to act really really normal (don’t act like a fan dork!) while giving them cash and telling them you loved their performance.

This year I had the pleasure of seeing Zoe Jakes (which was awesome because I wasn’t able to get anywhere NEAR the main stage during her band Beats Antique‘s set), Colleena Shakti, Sharon Kihara, and an amazing local dancer named Claudia.

This year’s videos aren’t up yet on youtube, but here is a recording of part of the show from 2013.

There is also camping around the fair grounds, to which I would highly advise:
a) Book early.
b) Be very, very mindful of whether you want a party camp or a family-oriented camp. There are some crazy all-night parties in some of them. Read the camp descriptions carefully.
c) Cell phone reception sucks, so camp near your friends.
d) Bring wet wipes, because your feet will look like this at the end of the day:

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So if you’re ever in Oregon in July and want to have an amazing time, dress like a wood nymph, and get all sweaty dancing with a bunch of weirdos in the woods, come to the Country Fair.

To entice you even more, here is a gallery of some of the photos of the fair that I’ve taken over the past 3 years:

The Eight of Swords

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Eight of Swords
Indecision

“A woman stands immobilized upon a pinnacle. She has reached a point where she feels that neither advance nor retreat is possible. Irregular waves vibrate through the air. They represent thought-waves of doubt and confusion. The rigidity of this figure suggests fixation, or the inability to directly face a problem, which is largely a mental creation. Her mind has been distracted by unimportant details and now it seems impossible to see the different options available to her. Although surrounded by negativity, she could cut herself out of this trap with the sword of deductive reasoning in her hand. But she must believe that action is possible before she can move. The swords aimed from the left and right represent interference, obstacles, doubt, confusion and misunderstanding, but the sword-like ray of illumination toughing the top of her head is a sign that if she has faith, then she will be guided by a higher force that will help her to view her problem from a higher perspective. Though she is blocked, she can be released by her own powers and those of a higher source.” – The Enchanted Tarot, by Amy Zerner

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I drew this card recently in a really illuminating tarot spread. It is a perfect illustration of my life of late. I’ve been feeling like the woman in this card- stuck and trapped, but knowing I’m not utilizing my own power to get out of the pickle I put myself in.

But now, I’ve had a breakthrough. Finally.

My life has often involved a series of dramatic changes. Like the tattoo of the phoenix that covers my arm,  I have a tendency to burn outmoded parts of my life to ashes, then rise up from them. I’m not afraid of most changes, and I think I handle even the negative ones quite well, I can go with the flow and live off of the energy from shifting tides. But this last year has been a hard one for me. Big changes shook my foundation. Divorce. Living in a new city. Losing my business, losing my financial security, and the future I had mapped out in my mind. Even for a little changeling like myself, this was a lot to recover from.

Luckily I’ve had a lot to feel blessed about. A new relationship, one where I actually feel loved and supported unconditionally. A beautiful city. An amazing new group of people to dance and perform with. I am so grateful for all this. But still, I’ve felt stuck, because my work life and my financial situation is not where I want it to be.

This is the conundrum that a lot of women (and sometimes men) face when we are the giving type, and we veer into co-dependency and  end up sacrificing big things for our partner’s dreams. Sometimes the relationship ends and you’re left in a place where you lost what you helped them build, they never gave you what you wanted in return, and now it’s time to start from scratch again.

So part of this “stuck” feeling I’ve been going through has been the rebuilding of a life dream, and also, my inner self crying out for my own independent route.

I have always been passionate about the arts and alternative medicine. But, these things often don’t pay well! My kind need to either work really hard and be crafty to succeed, or we can give-up and work a soul-sucking day job. I’ve been doing the latter for too many years now. Because of health issues, a mental struggle between what I “should” be doing and what I want to do, but mostly, just plain old fear of failure, I haven’t excelled like I’d like to in career-land. I’ve been worried that if I follow my heart I will somehow fall into economic ruin.

I think I’m letting go of that fear now. Just like the woman in the Eight of Swords card. I’ve just realized I have that big powerful sword in my hands, and I have the light of divine inspiration connecting my mind to the universe. I can use that sword, a symbol of my intelligence, creativity, and fearlessness, to break the other swords that have been imprisoning me. I can kick ass. I can be free.

I’ve spent months delving into myself, trying to figure it out the right path out of this stuck situation. First I scoured craigslist, thinking maybe my escape was in a new job somewhere, but I found nothing, just more jobs that are traps that will leach my spirit. So I delved and delved… What do I really want to do? What makes my soul sing?
So many things do.
I am passionate about maternity care rights, about dance, about healing and learning about nutrition, about creating access to all of that for other low-income people. I want to reach out to the world and give back. I spent so many years of my life sick from a mystery illness and I felt so lost trying to heal myself, until I finally did. I want to find other people that are out there struggling to heal, and I want to grab their hands and show them the way to their path to health.

So… time for the big reveal…

The exciting news is I’ve decided to go back to school for a bit, to get more official “cred” as a healer. I’m going to study Holistic Nutrition. I study it all the time anyway, I might as well be certified! I’ve found an inexpensive program at Portland State, that I can do mostly online. From there I’ll take the exam to be certified by the National Association of Nutrition Practitioners.

Getting this education and certification will be the perfect push to jump start a new, creative, healing, independent career.

Now, for the manifestation. It is an inexpensive program, as college programs go, but I still need help funding it. I am going to set-up an epic Ebay auction fundraiser, and put up a gofundme.com page. I’m gonna promote and promote, and hopefully the beautiful generosity of others will help me get where I need to be.

That sword is swinging, and I am smashing through to my bliss.