coming out.

Here are things you shouldn’t need to know about me to make any of your decisions on wether you should be my friend, colleague, or acquaintance:

I’m coming out.

I’m 36 years old, I’ll be 37 this summer. (I think? ::checks her math.:: Yes, I’ll be 37.) I’ve got a beautiful not-so-little-anymore 2 1/2 year daughter and I’m mostly happily married. (Hey, raising a toddler can be hard for a couple! MOSTLY happy is still a lot of happy.)

So, why come out now? Am I leaving my husband? Are there big changes in store for me? None that I’m planning. Even though what I’m writing is about myself, this isn’t all about me. Also I’m coming out in a variety of ways. Welcome to the Pandora’s box that is my life - here you go, friends - enjoy!

Lately I’ve been hearing this word a lot more: “Self identifying.” Have you used that word before or heard that term?

As I, along with my fellow nonprofits, work on issues of accessibility and taking down barriers, we collect information on a variety of things. This helps inform the work we do, or at least that’s what we tell our boards and funders. We ask about audience members with disabilities - to which point we might then ask - “Well, do they self-identify as such?” We talk about the diversification of our audiences and “reflecting the community we serve.”

Not everybody with a disability identifies as “a person with disabilities.”

Not every body with a mental health issue identifies as somebody “with a history of mental illness.”

Not everybody that fits in diversity boxes puts themselves in one or the other, not everybody labels themselves in the same way others seek to categorize. Are there books at the library that could go on more than one shelf? If I had a dollar for every time I checked the “other” box I’d have enough money to hire a personal assistant so that I never had to fill out another form again. (Oh my god, that would be great.)

Without further adieu, here are those things.

I am a woman of color.

My father born in Sri Lanka. My mother was born in Poland. They met in this country and that’s where my sister and I were born. No, my name does not sound “exotic” and no, I don’t look traditionally Indian (because Sri Lankans aren’t Indian, that’s a different country.) I am a first generation American citizen of mixed ancestry. I am #HAPA. I might not look like a traditional “woman of color” but I’d really love to hear you describe what that looks like, really. Wanna give it a go?

When I sit at a board and hear people across the table from me talk about how we are not diverse organizationally, or when I sit through staff trainings that describe an organization I work at as an “All White Company” it makes me feel invisible.

Yes, these things happen. You would be seriously so surprised at what I’ve seen and heard come out of board rooms thanks to this wonderful cloak of mixed-race invisibility. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be all that surprised.

This is why I’m coming out as a woman of color.

I am bisexual.

“But aren’t you married?” Yes, and?

This is something my husband knew when we met and hasn’t really affected our relationship - and there’s no reason why it would need to.

“But why bother coming out if you are married?” Therein lies much of the point of this post. Why ever would I need or want to self-identify especially in an environment of hate crimes, bigotry, slut-shaming and tropism? I had it “easier” because I happened to fall in love with and marry the man I fell in love with… but what if I hadn’t? And was it really “easier?” I mean - Have you *seen* Chasing Amy?

When you (or your colleagues) make a comment about sexuality being a “choice,” you are talking about me.

I am not trope. Those that I have told in prior lapses of poor judgement have taken this information and immediately asked about my history, made jokes about my close friends (as though that’s how this works) and questioned my sincerity.

And there are those in my family and my relations that still do not support gay marriage. Who continue to purport the myth that sexuality is a choice. Tell me, is it for you?

This is why I’m coming out as bisexual.

I am of jewish ancestry.

Why did my mother’s family come to this country in post-war Poland? Why did my grandfather have to flee Poland on September 1, 1939? Why is it a little less funny to me when you make jokes about Nazis and liken grass-roots public officials to people that are at least part of the reason I don’t have more first cousins on my mother’s side to rival the serious grip of cousins I have on my father’s side?

It’s certainly not the part of my ancestry that I identify mostly strongly with. I talk about this a little bit more here: (Are you Jewish? But it’s definitely something that I think about anytime somebody likens something to the holocaust, or anytime I read yet another mind-numbing article about somebody who is a holocaust denier. Anytime you make a joke about me being a grammar nazi. (Just kidding, I don’t mind those. This post might lead you to believe otherwise but I’m not entirely without a sense of humor, really.)

Because people ask me if I’m Jewish because of my nose.

Because I have overhead people describe somebody “Jewing somebody down to ____(a lower figure)___” and my jaw dropped because holy shit what decade is this?

Because denying the holocaust is insulting and it happens more often than you think.

This is why I’m coming out as having Jewish ancestry.

I'm agnostic.

I was raised in a religious household and spent most of my formative years in parochial school. After decades of thought and study, after having read the Bible (several times through), the Quran,  and a number of "major" and "minor" religious texts, after studying the history of religion extensively, I have come to only one place:

We don't know far more than we do.

Professing otherwise is arrogant and can be potentially destructive. And it has been deadly.

Agnostics don't really have a home. Atheists are typecast as angry and hyper vigilant. Maybe because those of us that are quiet about our faith (or lack thereof) don't speak up often enough, and only the squeaky wheels are being heard. Atheists and agnostics are not without values. We are not all angry nor are we all anti-faith.

That is why I'm coming out as agnostic.

I am a survivor of abuse.

Jokes about political disagreements and religious differences aside, my family is an infinitely happier and more positive one than what it was growing up. People grow and change and there are things that are culturally normal and accepted in other countries that aren’t (or shouldn’t) be here. These are things that many other immigrant families struggle with in a new country and we were not any different.

Out of respect for my family’s privacy I rarely go into details and will not here - this post is already long and personal enough. But the fact that I am a survivor of abuse is  something that absolutely and unequivocally affects the work I do, even single day. With new immigrant families, with domestic violence victims, with women who have endured abuse at the hands of their partners and caretakers, artists suffering from anxiety and depression.

Because you never know who you are working with or what their struggle is. When somebody flies off the handle or exerts their privilege and power, they’re not always thinking about what type of reaction or post-trauma level stress that might trigger in another.

Because the wounds of emotional abuse run deep, and they create very real scars for those that endure them;

Because YES, all women;

Because yes, these things happen - even though not everybody that endures them talks about them wears them as a label, nor do we need to, nor is it our obligation to educate you about them;

Because I learn that other people I consider strong, intelligent and wonderful have also survived abuse and this has helped me;

This is why I’m coming out as a survivor of abuse.

Why now?

There are a variety of micro-aggressions and deterrents that have kept me from “coming out” in a variety of ways, ways that have thus far outweighed the seemingly unnecessary need to label myself as one thing or another.

- Because sometimes others speak or joke about coming out as “easy now” or “cool” instead of encouraging others to also come out with the understanding that *everybody’s struggle is sincere and all their own;*

- Because sometimes others say people are playing the “race card” when they bring up or speak of their ethnicity;

- Because over the past years since 9-11, when other people ask where my family is from and ask with an eye of suspicion instead of what used to be an eye of curiosity;

- Because for a long time I worried that sharing this or wearing these things on my sleeve wound somehow bring shame to my family (it doesn’t, we’re better) affect my hiring it shouldn’t, I’m awesome) or affect my relationships (it won’t, it shouldn’t, and I’m pretty sure my family loves me a lot.)

Unless my board fires me and my family disowns me (both hopefully quite unlikely at this point) I don’t anticipate my life to change ALL that much as a result of this post.

But at an event last week I found particularly inspiring one of the speakers pointed out that “women tend to make choices that benefit themselves only when others are benefitted as well.” We talked about how our voice is one of the most powerful tools we bring to the work we do. We talked about how what we do and how we act shapes our children as they, quite often, mirror our choices and our identities.

My pledge was this: “In 2016 I will use my voice without apology (or a mile-long justification.)”

I thought about how it helps no-one for me to continue to check the “other” box. How it does not help anybody for me to remain invisible at board meetings without calling the bullshit I see at these tables *almost daily.* How it’s hard to preach about being an ally if I don’t support my own voice and be authentic about my own identity.

When I got dressed today I felt like it was a big day. I picked my dress and put it on and thought jokingly to myself “this is the outfit I will be wearing the day I come out.”

I wore a skirt. I usually do.

Anxiety, Agoraphobia and Altered Esthetics

Every now and again I’ll wake up in the wee hours of the morning, not to roll over and doze back to sleep -- but wide awake, my mind racing and full of thoughts. I’ve come into contact with other creatives frustrated with insomnia -- but insomnia isn’t exactly what this is. There’s a clarity and sharpness about these wee hours that’s unrivaled in the busy clutter of the day. Often I’ll wake up with a letter formatted, a poem aptly carved, a grant narrative more fully fleshed out, or a blog pre-written, emerging from webby corners of thought that need sweeping out. Over time I’ve learned not to fight this, and I’m not the only one. Apparently these “waking hours” are a past product of a bimodal sleep rhythm and have served as the golden hours for many artists over time, responsible for some of history’s great works of literature and philosophical inquiry.

(This post is neither of those things.)

Rather, it is a personal exploration of a dusty topic, shelved for a little too long.

I have a happy memory of an art opening at Altered Esthetics, circa 2006. The show was one of our classic videogame art shows, Level_13. A Mario mural by Lauri Svedberg adorned the wall, a circle of pixelated sculptures centered the room, and Caly opened the evening with some 8 bit glitch. I didn’t wear a black outfit and a beret, nor did I sip wine. Nothing against berets or wine, but instead I wore a Rainbow Brite hoodie, comfy pants and fuzzy slippers. Professional? Questionable. But that wasn’t the point - I was comfortable and the show was warm and open, as was the creative space we had cultivated.

There are certain things I’ve come to terms with as a community organizer, and they seem to be things I must re-evaluate and re-commit to on a regular basis. A commitment to convening and inviting folks to the table, even when the topic is challenging. Sending meeting reminders and reminders and reminders. Project management. (A not to distant memory that you were often *that kid* when you did group projects in college and high school.) But it’s not a bittersweet equation, it just involves an acknowledgement and appreciation that everybody has a different skillset and brings something unique to the table. Some of my favorite projects were ones in which I had little creative role at all, and instead worked within my skill-set alongside a group of talented individuals to make something remarkable happen. Big Funny, Rock Ink Roll, actually Altered Esthetics in general.

But there are other things that were a harder pill to swallow that seemed to be necessary parts of the equation. Public speaking. Shameless self promotion. Small talk.


Oh god, the networking.

Especially when I was on the board of the gallery I felt obligated to go out to other events - making appearances is part of the protocol, after all. But openings in particular were challenging. For one, it’s hard to actually see the art at a crowded opening. But then, there was the crowd itself.

j-me box head

j-me box head

So while working a crowd was one thing - there were always things to be done, places to tuck away and take a mental moment. As I learned more about myself, I came to know better when I had the energy to put myself out there and when it was a better option to stay home. I learned more about what exactly a panic attack was and how to avoid triggers. It was a weird thing to dissect, and a weirder thing to admit. I can be quite calm at as an event organizer... but what is it about other people? Was Sartre right this whole time?!

The longer I worked in the arts, the more that I met other people that felt *exactly* the same way. We found each other in crowds. We had conversations in bathrooms, relieved to find somebody else feeling a little bit out of place and awkward. Not quite introverted, not quite extroverted, but not quite good at whatever this social scene experiment was - but mostly, little by little, we discovered we weren’t alone. But I watched as these anxieties manifested themselves in a variety of ways.

I’ve left events early with artist friends that have spent all their social energy and need to remove themselves from the crowd.

I’ve worked with curators that have missed their own openings because their anxiety was so severe.

I’ve worked with more artists than I wish to count that stopped creating art or music because they couldn’t handle the social requirements involved, and that is a fucking tragedy.

I've had friends who have decided that enough was too much, and that one is almost too heartbreaking to list.

I once worked with a board member who was set on making sure artists had marketing skills so they could be better about self promotion. I countered that especially for some of our most talented artists, that wasn’t a part of their skill-set, nor was "getting themselves out there" a part of why they were creating. “Well, they should know how to do this” the board member said.


The older I get, the better I know myself - and all my flaws. I can be dry and humorous on occasion. I can be warm and thoughtful. I can also bring the awkward pretty hardcore. But I haven’t had a panic attack in more than five years, and I’m quite proud of that. I re-affirm my commitment to being the hardworking girl behind a spreadsheet and I’m far more comfortable with that role than I am schmoozing in a crowd, and I’m okay with that too.

Okay so - is there a point to this late night ramble? Telling these bits of my story is a rather long context.

I think if we want to be really successful as an art community - and I believe we’re getting a lot better at this already - we need to be more willing to accept everybody at their level. That includes cultivating a better understanding of anxiety and depression (among others,) and creating a variety of engagement opportunities for everybody active in this field, along with a willingness to accept those that for whatever reason may not engage in a traditional sense. There are more than 40 million Americans that suffer with an anxiety disorder annually and over 20 million suffer from some type of depressive illness. ( From my experience in the arts I would also hypothesize that a disproportionately higher number of artists suffer from these things, however I don’t have the statistics to back that theory up.

Statistics or no, here are a few small suggestions on how we can be a continually more understanding and welcoming creative village:

  • Artists, consider providing other opportunities beyond crawls and openings for friends and patrons to visit your studio. Regular open hours, drop-in windows, etc. Not everybody can handle a crawl and the truly shy might not call for an appointment.

  • Share your stories, your personal struggle or achievement, your awkward moment... There is safety in numbers.

  • Keep inviting your artist / caretaker / socially challenged friends, and try not to take it personally if they don’t make it out. It’s (usually) nothing personal.

  • Extend the welcome by including quiet spaces at your events for artist or guests. Places for conversation, thought, (nursing!)

  • Be kind and tend towards forgiveness rather than judgement. The adage “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” is apt here.

  • Do what you need to do to be comfortable and don’t let anybody guilt you about your choice.

  • And last but not least, it’s cliche but important. Be yourself. Let your freak flag fly! People are often compelling and relatable because of their flaws, not in spite of them.

And now, I sleep.

Some resources of interest:

Setting up the story

There I was getting ready to write about my trip to Glacier when I realized I hadn't written much about the first trip I made this summer, or mostly the decisions that preceded it and the turbulence that ensued. So before I write about my more recent trip, I probably need to do a little bit of explaining. My last day of work at Bicycle Theory was June 10th, 2009. Long story short: As many of you know, I'm in graduate school full time (in addition to running the gallery.) Things have been going really well, but time was getting tighter and tighter. Though most of my classes up until this point took place on evenings and weekends, several of the classes I need to take this fall are right in the middle of the workday. On top of that, I'm also planning/hoping to take a double load and begin the application process for PhD programs. In order to make all of that feasible, I need(ed) the work/school/gallery balance to shift in favor of school's direction pretty tremendously. So I made the difficult decision to give up a good job with people I love and focus on school. Not necessarily the most "responsible" decision in this economy, but I felt as though it was the right one. Little did I realize that decision was going to give me the time to focus on even more than school as the summer progressed.

With all of this, (and partially because of all this) there were still a few things I still needed to figure out next. Traveling has always been really helpful for me both creatively and philosophically speaking. The second leg of Nick's tour was taking him eastward, the first stop was in Boston. After playing in Boston the band would tour additional cities along the east coast. Not having seen my Boston cousins in five years, I decided to take my own trip while he was gone. I planned to tag along for the first part of the tour until they hit Boston and spend a week with my cousins while he finished out the remainder of the tour.

Preparations for the trip were not seamless. On Monday afternoon we had a little hiccup, car accident style. As we turned left to enter the freeway, a car ran a red light, racing straight towards us. As Nick speed up and tried to avoid the collision, the car in question accelerated towards us, and I was fairly certain it was going to smash right into my side of the car. But every second counts in an accident, and instead of smashing into me the car swerved, smashed past the back of the car and raced away - only to run yet another red light and speed off onto the freeway, headed in the opposite direction.

Nick, with a surprising amount of calm, pulled over to the side of the onramp and began a discussion with a few witnesses to the accident. A little shook-up, I came outside a few minutes later. Bumpers working as they should, there was only a little damage to the car. A report needed to be filed and somebody had already called the police, so we waited. While we waited, I thought.

I think more or less sometimes the inhabitants of the world shake themselves out into many "kinds" of people... and we probably shift categories from time to time. Sometimes after an accident, tragedy, or significant event people show some of their "categories" with a bit more color.

The helpers: A woman who witnessed the accident immediately pulled to our section of the road, gave us what information she recollected of the other car. She gave us her information as well, in case we needed witnesses. Here's what else she did, which for some reason stands out to me more than the rest. As I exited the car and stood by the side of the road, clearly dazed, she looked at me, looked me in the eyes and with complete sincerity asked me "are you okay, sweetie?"

A gentleman on a bike managed to get the license number of the car. An Awesome Dude in a beat-up pickup truck pulled over to ask if "ya'll need any help?" A woman in a responsible car pulled carefully over to the side and, clearly nervous to walk out in a somewhat traffic-y area, asked us if she could help in any way. A young lady and her friend saw the accident as they entered the freeway, exited, and drove all the way back around to give us their information - "just in case."

This may sound like an overstatement, but I want to say it anyway: The Helpers help redeem my faith in the human race. Sometimes the world is so crazy that you can start to think everybody is selfish and in their own little world, oblivious to the others around them. Then something happens and The Helpers emerge, reminding you that there are enough people out there that random acts of good and kindness do still happen, often when you least expect it and most need it.

The Important Person: Then there are the Important People. The world revolves around them, you know. We encountered Important People on both legs of our trip, pretty much everywhere we went. Texting while going 90 on the NY interstate (no, seriously.) Speeding past construction workers on the side of the road (70 in a 40.) The list could go on. During our accident the Important People made themselves known by: honking at us and telling us to "get off the road" (we were off the road, pulled over to the side until the cops came), speeding past us and burning rubber once past to get in the freeway, and I suppose I should also include our Hit and Run friends in this category too. Important People are everywhere.

The Extras: While our world stopped, theirs didn't. That's okay - they are our extras, and we are theirs. The Other People on the freeway, the Other People on the road, the People walking on the other side... "We each play a starring role in the story of our life..." Sometimes we have smaller and larger roles in the cast of Another Person's Life... and sometimes we are just an extra.

Sometimes hours go by quickly, sometimes they take forever to pass. While we waited for the cops to arrive, I contemplated these things, the accident, my situation, the upcoming trip. When the cops arrived (over an hour after the accident) they gathered information quickly and sent us on our way.

As we left the scene of the accident, I couldn't help but feel a little bit anxious. Driving had all of a sudden become a little bit scarier and less-fun, and I was about to take the longest road trip I've taken since the move to Minneapolis itself.

He's a musician, and I'm an artist.

The past few weeks have been pretty intense. I've been doing a lot of traveling, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking. (But not a lot of posting. Sorry.) I went to Chicago for the first real (more than a few hours) time. I saw Niagara Falls. I drove past Mystic but didn't stop for pizza. I slept in a creepy MOTEL in the middle of nowhere straight out of Psycho but didn't die. I ate 10 canisters of Pringles. The barbeque kind are the best.

I'm home now and even though I'm not working at a "real job," I'm busy all the time. School, gallery, family, house. Not in that order. But there's one less thing on my list, and it's keeping me sane for the most part.

(Other things are making me insane, but that's beside the point.)

Here's what I wanted to post about.

While sitting at the beach in Humarock, I had a small personal revelation.

Figuring out my employment situation has been a constant struggle over the past few years. I decided a long time ago that I would rather make less money doing something fulfilling than make more money doing something not congruous with my own personal ethics. In other words, I would rather make half as much doing the accounting for a small nonprofit with a mission I believe in than work at a large corporation at which I felt alienated and disengaged, or worse - felt like I was doing harm to my community and the global environment.

I want to help make the world a better place. That has been a primary goal.

When I was in Humarock, I spent a lot of time with my family. I also wrote a paper for school and took a lot of long walks along the beach. One afternoon I sat on the shore and watched the waves crash against the pebbles along the shore.

"What can I do to make the world a better place?" I thought to myself.

I thought about that for a very long time. I've been thinking about that for a very long time. As I sat on the beach, my toes in the sand, I realized something.

The world is a better place. The world is actually a pretty fantastic place. It isn't perfect, but the world is beautiful, and amazing, and overwhelming.

The world is a better place... but it's how we perceive, process and interact with it (and each other) that is flawed.

When Nick and I crossed the border into Canada, the lady at the station asked us what we do for a living. Recently unemployed, at first I didn't know how to respond, so I blurted the first thing that came to my head. "Um, He's a musician, and I'm an artist."

I can run a business. I'm a good accountant. I can office manage the bejeezus out of any small business. I can build walls. I can stucco. I know how to use power tools. I can't play football. I can write grants and create development plans. I can facilitate strategic planning. I can work hard and be on time and be a good employee.

but I am also an artist, and sometimes it is all to easy to set that part of me aside for more "practical" things.

I'll be turning 30 in about a week. One of the things I wanted to do this summer is to realign myself with the things that matter the most. Over the next few months, I'll be doing just that.

Are you Jewish?

On Saturday night Nick and I went to The Cabooze to see our friend Erik play. I saw an artist-friend there and as I went to great her and give her a hug, somebody-it-seemed-I-should-have-recognized-but-didn't-recognize also greeted me, gave me a hug, and almost immediately proceeded to ask me what nationality I was. "Are you Jewish?" He said. "We weren't sure what nationality you were, and I thought you looked Jewish."

("Why?" I thought to myself? "Because I have a big nose? We'll that makes sense. All Jews have big noses, right? Of course! If I have a big nose, I must be Jewish." But that's not what I said.)

He had, in fact, used my nose as a measure for guessing my heritage. Interesting. I proceeded to tell him a little bit about my mixed ancestry, the condensed/bar version.  (For here, I can be a little bit more detailed.)


I have a big nose, yes. See? You can see my profile pretty well here, in this picture of me and Nick.

However even though I'm part Jewish, my nose isn't. My nose is my father's (thanks Dad!) and he's Sri Lankan, born in Sri Lanka. Let's see if I have a picture of my dad...

Perfect- here's me, my mom, and my dad at the cabin last fall. See the similarities? Of course in general, but also the nose in particular. My dad's nose is slightly more crooked than mine because he's been punched in the nose before... I think he used to box, just like Who's the Boss.

Sometimes people wonder about our last name (Schumacher) as it is not typically Sri Lankan. "So, you're Sri Lankan?" somebody might think. "Then what's with your name, and your nose?" Well, my family is Dutch-Burgher Sri Lankan. Our Sri Lankan roots go back to Deutschland, hence our German last name. My father came to this country in the 60's, where he met my mother and years later, had my sister, then me.

My mother is Polish. Her story is a little bit different.My Grandfather Chaim was born in Poland. He was raised in Poland along with his many brothers and sisters.On September 1, 1939 he fled to Russia (the Ukraine, to be specific.) It was there that he met my Grandmother, and they stayed in Russia throughout the war. Most of my Grandfather's brothers and sisters died in the war. At this point, I'm not sure how many (if any) are alive... but as I learn more about my family this is one of the areas I'm researching more. After the war my Grandfather and Grandmother returned to Poland, where they had my Uncle George and my mother. In the 1960's they moved the entire family to the states, and began a new life here. My father met my mother's brother, then he met my mother, my grandfather passed away, my uncle and grandmother returned to Denmark, my mother stayed here and the rest is history.

So, that's longer-than-the-bar-version-but-still-condensed-version of my family history... triggered in part by Saturday's interaction.

I'm not easily offended, in fact I've got a pretty dark sense of humor and will laugh at a lot of things normal people might not. So it isn't that this interaction offended me in any way... However, the interaction as a whole seemed funny to me, and not funny ha-ha.

My "jewishness" is a strange experience for me. When I was younger, I always just considered myself Polish/Sri-Lankan - American, because those were the countries where my parents were born, and America is where my parents became citizens, where I was born. It wasn't until I began investigating my heritage that I learned about the Russian/Ukraine, Dutch-Burgher and Jewish components of my ancestry.

If somebody asks me how it is that I'm Sri Lankan even though my last name is Schumacher I assume they're curious and will happily explain to them the intricacies of my unique heritage, of which I'm quite proud. However, if somebody asks me if I'm Jewish and it seems like they are only guessing that because I have a big nose I'll may just assume they're ignorant.

Occasionally when somebody does find out I'm Jewish, they'll ask about my history. "Oh wow, did any of your relatives die in the concentration camps?" It reminds me kind of when people ask about my family in Sri Lanka - When they find out I still have family there, they ask if any of them died in the Tsunami... As though it legitimizes my heritage to be tied emotionally to the tragedies of a particular people. It isn't that I don't want to talk about these things - I think we should talk about them, understand them, heal and learn from them. But the conversation itself can at times seem absurd. "Did you see that movie? Oh, I totally saw it too, it was great!"  "Did your relative die of some type of tragedy? Mine too, high five."

Then again, we connect with people all sorts of different ways. I suppose tragedy has a different way of bonding people, at least more than liking the same shoes. I guess one thing is just a bit more transparent than the other.

An Exercise in Detachment

I haven’t been doing the country blogs because my mind has been a bit elsewhere. I plan to get back into it, but wanted to take on a more personal project for now. I actually began this process a few years ago, though I never fully completed it. I did complete one phase of it, enough to finally take the space in the house that had been portioned to me-and-just-me. I created within that space an “art room,” one where I can go to create, stretch, think, etc. It is simple, clean and somewhat tranquil in a house where elsewhere,animals rule. Now that I think about it, I probably don’t use it as often as I should.

Anyway, when I went through the process last, I sorted through about 10-15 boxes that remained from my move to Minnesota and from STPL to MPLS. These boxes contained more art supplies, books, etc - almost totally neglected for years. As I went through this process before I don’t think the procedure was fully fleshed out... and I think I have some additions that will help me have greater and more holistic success as I go through this again.

Life gets busier and busier and I constantly hope to accomplish, simplify, organize within it. (you should see my little lists!) Have you ever read the analogy of rocks, pebbles, and sand? That analogy, in combination with the buddhist concept of suffering and desire, applied to one’s life, can potentially allow room for more meaningful life experience. At least, that’s my underlying assumption here. Starting tonight begins the next phase of an exercise in detachment. I will journal as I go through it, but who knows - maybe this blog will be the next thing to go. (Just kidding.

  • Step 1 - Identify “stuff.”
  • Step 2 - Identify process (I think these first two go hand in hand, actually.)
  • Step 3 - Create timeline for process
  • Step 4 - Proceed with process
  • Step 5 - Re-evaluate
  • Step 6 - Proceed again
  • (rinse, repeat.)

We’ll see how this goes.

About the Stuff

Initially I would think that I have much “stuff” - as I don’t really think I like “things.” I don’t collect crystal cats or anything like that, I don’t really like getting trinkets for gifts. I think me and my niece are like that in a way, though our homes are full of things, we really don’t like clutter and avoid it when we can. However, I’ve identified a lot of “stuff” I do have, and in order to simplify I plan to go through it and possibly - get rid of it. As I move through this “Stuff” I’ll do one of the following:

  • Keep it (only if I can create with it, engage others with it, or if it is a USEFUL tool.) Examples: a deck of cards, a cooking pan, a paintbrush, a set of thank-you cards.)
  • Re-purpose it (maybe it could be useful but isn’t in it’s current state)
  • Give it away (if I think it will bring joy to somebody else or if I want to share it with somebody else or if somebody else can use it. For example: I have a set of books that I read when I was a little girl, my nieces read when they were little girls and I really want to give to Gracie, but I always forget them on the shelf.)
  • Sell it (if it has value and I can pay down my debt from selling things I don’t need, why not?)
  • Simplify it (I have something in mind here, this may make more sense later)
  • Goodwill (give it away to a charity if I think it has value elsewhere than with me or with a direct connection.)
  • Recycle it (Reduce, reuse, recycle!)
  • Throw it away ( if it doesn’t fit into any of the categories above. I hope I don’t have much here in this category. )

So far, here is the list of “stuff” I have.

  • Books
  • CDs
  • Photos
  • Clothes
  • Artwork
  • Files
  • Keepsakes
  • Games/Toys
  • Art Supplies/Tools
  • Transportation
  • Toiletries
  • Cooking Supplies
  • Movies
  • Furniture
  • STUFF-Stuff. (This is the stuffiest stuff I have.)


  • My goals as I go through this are many.
  • I want to practice detachment. Many of the things I have I keep only because they remind me of people. As I start to do this I usually stop partially through because I am reminded of the person. I’m going to find a way to keep the memory but get rid of the “thing.” I might blog more as a result, be warned.
  • I want to make use of things not in use. I think many of us have this problem - we buy something or get something “useful” but it becomes buried under so much “stuff” we never actually use this. Weeding out some “stuff” might make more room for the useful tools.
  • I believe life changes when we shift our environment. A few years ago, I stopped watching television. As a result, I think I’m able to do more, read more, act more. Less time is stripped away. I feel as though my mind has less “clutter” as far as advertisements and meaningless dialogue goes. (less, but still quite a bit. ;) ) I don’t live in a cave - I still watch things on the internet from time to time. I will watch The Office and Family Guy once in awhile, etc. The main thing is, I removed the “go home and watch TV” routine from my pattern and as a result my life as changed tremendously. I hope to have a somewhat similar result here - if I remove more clutter from my life, maybe I will have time for more creative endeavors.
  • I want to remember. As much as I don’t want things, I do want to remember. I am in the mood to trigger the memories that come from these things, and I want to remember.
  • There can be practicality here too: I think I have a few things that are new and/or unique that I will donate the Ae fundraiser or various other charity fundraisers where they can go to better use.
  • I want to share things with other people. There are things I think that I don’t use that other people could use. I think I like sharing more than I like receiving and I’m excited to surprise people with things they might like that aren't being utilized the way they can.
  • I want to inspire people. If I can do that as I give as well, that’s fantastic. (No, I’m not out to give away junk and glorify it by saying I want to inspire people, haha. I’m not cruel. An example of this may be: a few years ago I had a very nice pencil set I didn’t use frequently. I gave it a dear friend who is a much more active and fantastic artist than I could ever be. I gave it to her and she wore the pencils to nubs. THAT’s what I mean.)
  • Not to sound morbid, but the less stuff I have, the less stuff people have to deal with should I suddenly pass, or when I pass. And no, this is not part of an elaborate plan to off myself.Hopefully this will be an ongoing lifelong change.
  • My life is getting busier and busier. Wouldn’t it be nice if some aspects got simpler and simpler?
  • Through this all, I hope to gain a better understanding of myself without things. (because all too often we really do define ourselves not by who we are, but by the “stuff” we own.)

Sooo.... here goes nothing...

What’s the biggest change that has happened to you as an adult?

Blog Homework! Below you will find my response to the following question, from my class blog:

"What’s the biggest change that has happened to you as an adult? Describe it and talk about how you’ve responded to it."

I'm very interested in how the readers of my blog would answer the above. What is the biggest change that has happened to YOU?


As I thought about what I would write for this post, I first thought through the most obvious changes that have happened in my adult life.

Surely, moving 2,000 miles away from my immediate family to the snowy tundra of Minnesota was a pretty big change. (For the record, my family still thinks I'm crazy.)

Perhaps starting a nonprofit gallery was a big change. It definitely has taken up quite a bit of time! However, when looking at the gallery objectively, it seems like starting it was more of a “process” then a single change, and that the process was triggered by something else entirely.

I think there have been so many events in varying scale that it would be hard to pinpoint one event over another to be the biggest “change.” I think the “change” that has had the most significant change on my life wasn't a job, a move or a relationship, but more of a change in how I view my placement in any given situation. Though might sound rather morbid, the most positive significant change I made was when I stopped viewing situations only through the lens of “what I want while I'm here?” to “what happens when I am gone?”

Death wasn't a stranger to my family, but as I aged the reality that one could die at any age became increasingly apparent. I think we all go through the process of losing the immortality we feel when we are young. We stop doing reckless things and start being more careful with our actions. Though I never felt entirely 'immortal,' I can say that I began contemplating my own mortality at a very young age, with increasing urgency as I grew older. “What about when I'm gone” was never a foreign question really, just one that I attended to with increasing practicality over time.

One of the jobs that I had throughout college was working for a small, family run manufacturing company. Though first hired as a temp receptionist, they realized I had a wide variety of computer skills and quickly put me to work in other areas of the company. Over the next few years, a remarkable thing happened: everybody that could got pregnant got pregnant - at least once. (A few became pregnant more than once and no, not all at once.) Over the course of my 6 years with the company, in addition to my own tasks, I covered for anybody who was out on maternity leave. This helped the company by decreasing potential rollover and maintaining some continuity within the office. It helped me tremendously because in a short while, I had learned all of the various aspects of running an office – from accounting, to human resources, to shipping, and more. I was also able to objectively view how all the little components worked together and I did what I could to streamline systems and computerize processes. (A side note: I also never drank the company water, because it did seem at times that pregnancy was contagious, and I wasn't quite ready for that!) Jokes aside, the most important thing I learned from this process was that sometimes it is not only important to a company what one does on the job while one is present, but what happens when that person is gone as well. The view that “I'll/she/they will always be around to take care of it” can be incredibly unrealistic. What will happen when they are gone?

Taking that “what happens when I'm gone” view and applying it to my own life, I made a series of key decisions. First and foremost, I wanted my work efforts to go toward something positive, something I could die and be content with how I spent my time. Since then, I've tried to incorporate this mentality into how I earn a living by considering with what company I work as well as with what tasks I do.

The gallery is an interesting experiment in this regard. Most people begin a company with the end-goal of being self employed or sometimes, getting rich and not being employed at all. Though the possibility of earning a living through the gallery has been brought to the table at times, the overarching, long-term goal is to develop a sustainable organization that remains a resource for the community even when I'm gone. That's not meant to sound entirely morbid. Perhaps I decide to pursue a PhD and need to move on. Perhaps somebody in my family gets very sick and I have to return to California for an extended amount of time. Life is about more than just what is a part of my day-to-day, and if I plan accordingly neither I nor my organization will be entirely overwhelmed if or when life happens.

I hope this post didn't come across as doom and gloom. Most of you know me at least a little bit by now, at least well enough to know that I don't walk around like a nihilist saying “we're all going to die, nothing matters anyway.” I also can't say that I'm entirely consistent with this process, and have had to make compromises along the way in order to work toward broader goals. I share this with you mainly because by and large, I think that changing how I view my role and how it affects others “when I'm gone” has had the positive counter-effect of making better decisions, ones that make me happier “while I'm here.”

Thanks for reading,


A footnote: My dog however, does not express the same sentiment towards being considerate of others when she is gone. If somebody in the class might be willing to make copies of pages 301-332 of the Leadership Challenge book I would greatly appreciate it - sometimes the “my dog ate my homework” situation really does happen.

Random Thoughts - Ae and the Future

Ae is quickly approaching its (her?) 5 year birthday. Though still getting our balance financially in a very shaky economy, structurally things are getting better and better.

As we open things up more and as we nurture transparency within the organization, we are rewarded with greater participation and better engagement all across the board. We are seeing more initiative on the part of our board members and volunteers as they assume more active roles and responsibilities. Our interns have become an integral part of our organization, continuing our mission as they go through their own learning processes. Though I am still very much engaged throughout the organization, the additional help and support has freed me up to work more earnestly on infrastructure and sustainability. All things considered, I feel quite fortunate to be where we are currently at.

Though as with any organization there are things to be concerned about, I'm very excited about 2009 and what the end of this year will bring for Ae, both creatively and for the organization as a whole. I'm excited for the day when we will have a communicable version of this construction, one we can hopefully share with other arts organizations in the community.

I've been watching the burgeoning shifts in the business world with excitement. I wonder what the next few years will bring for the business world as a whole, and how the sharing of information and spread of technology will shape and shift the business and education structures we are so entangled in.

About Facebook.

Hrm. And all this time, we thought he was talking about wonderland. Mad People

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or else you wouldn't have come here."


I woke up early today, proofed my paper for class one last time and printed out a final copy. Nick woke up early too, so he could vote before work. As I was getting ready to leave,  Nick offered to give me a ride to work so could go and wait in line together before voting. Nick put my bike in his car and I printed out our voter guides from

We got to the polls before 8:30, and the lines were surprisingly shorter than they were in the primaries (then again, I did my primary voting in the evening.) As we got out of the car I couldn't stop beaming.


As I walked through the door to East Side Neighborhood services I have to admit I teared up just a little. The first East Side Neighborhood services building opened in 1915 to serve immigrant, refugee and low income individuals and families. Our neighborhood has always been diverse, and the new building is another amazing resource for the community.  My mother came to this country from Poland and my Father came from Sri Lanka... and I couldn't help but think about them and their path to America years before they met, years before I was born...

I was a bit wary after reading the news and was pleasantly surprised after I arrived. East Side Neighborhood services was extremely well organized. The volunteers were efficient, friendly and helpful. I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time I was there.

I saw a young Somali couple and the husband translating the volunteer's instructions for her so she could understand where to go and what to do.

I saw a kid's voting booth set up and a bunch of little kids, excited to cast their "vote" too.

I saw a bunch of wonderful volunteers that gave up their day to help people like me have a chance to vote.

I sat down at a table and filled out my ballot. As the volunteers collected unused pens, they respectfully did so without looking at what we were doing. I was so excited I wanted to take a picture of my ballot, but didn't think that would be appropriate as I had chosen to sit at one of the open, non-private tables. Nick finished before I did and waited for me outside. I wrapped up my ballot in the privacy-folder and walked over to the machine. After waiting in another small line, I submitted my votes.  Voter #547 for the day.

I Voted!

Taking a picture of myself with my new phone is tricky... but the point comes across.


First Post

If you're looking for a compelling history or reams of archives, you won't find it here. Many years ago I had a livejournal, and what you read below was my very first blog post. Blogging was a great help for me as I began to carve out my path in life and figure out who I wanted to be. I received a tremendous amount of  guidance and support from my friends on livejournal and in the general blogosphere as I crafted and revised a lot of life decisions. Though I value the time I spent having those online dialogues, I've decided to spare the general public from the earlier conversations. (You're welcome!)

I'm starting a "fresh" blog as I embark on the next stage in my life and career. Thank you for checking out my blog, and happy reading!


As I was sorting through elements from a finished relationship - bits and pieces of things - memories - I felt as though I was sorting through clusters of egg shells - shards and shards- casings of something that isn’t there- I don’t like the little things.

the anniversaries. the trinkets. the cards.

They are all shells.

Shells that are supposed to remind us of something good that was there.

Boxes full of eggshells can’t hide the hollowness inside. Boxes full of casings can’t create something to hold them up.

Either it is there, or it is not.

We create shells all the time. We create shells to feign importance where there really is nothing. We create shells to hide the people that we really are. We create shells to protect ourselves from other people. We create shells to dull reality because for some reason, we often think it is the shell that matters most. We are fooled by shells because we think it is an accurate representation of what’s inside … but it isn’t. I want to remove all the shells from my life, and have only the things that matter. I want to remove all my shells and be myself, whoever that is.

This live journal is either a really bad idea, or a really good idea.

Here is me as I try to be without my shells.