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When You’re Standing Naked Over Phoenix

I’ve gotten involved with various types of modeling since this summer and I’m really enjoying it. In the last few months I’ve gotten to do different types of bodyscaping, portrait work, silhouette work, milk bath work, and even an underwater photoshoot. I love the process of modeling itself and seeing the resulting photos.

Recently, a photographer friend invited me over to do a sunset photoshoot at his downtown Phoenix apartment. Sunsets in Phoenix are gorgeous, especially the way the light glistens against the tall buildings. He got some beautiful shots of me standing just inside the balcony door. Then I decided to step out onto the balcony to do some shots of me overlooking the city, channeling my inner Evita in the pink light.

Photo by Ben Ammon

Photo by Ben Ammon

One thing I learned from this experience was, when you’re standing naked seven floors above the city streets, nobody notices. No one on the sidewalk looked up and I didn’t see any eyes peering at me from the hotel across the street. I giggled knowing that there was a lawyer networking even in the first floor restaurant of that hotel – and not one of them noticed as far as I know.

Prior to this summer, I did some figure modeling for an artist-friend in Oregon who sketched a few portraits of me, but I had never done photography work. It’s really fun to see how photographers work with lights, angles, props, and editing. Given my abuse history, you might think that it would be uncomfortable for me to be naked in front of a photographer. That has never been the case. Every artist I’ve worked with has treated me with respect. There is mutual respect that we are collaborating artists, working together to create beautiful images.

The only time I’ve felt objectified as a model is from some of the responses I get when I post my photographers’ work online. Most people say the images are beautiful, but occasionally someone will say something that makes me feel like they’re treating me like a piece of meat instead of a person. Thankfully responding to those people with “Don’t be creepy,” is enough to get them to keep those thoughts to themselves.

Every photographer I know is also a big nerd. The upside to this is they are almost bashful about working with models and they’re never presumptive about their ideas. I think it’s really sweet when my photographer friend sends me ideas for photoshoots. They always come with the vibe of you-can-say-no-but-what-do-you-think-about-this. It’s cute; and he’s never asked me to do anything that made me feel uncomfortable. At my last shoot, we did some bodyscaping where he spread oil on my torso and then dripped water on me. The water droplets stuck together on top of my skin. The resulting photos were gorgeous.

Too Much To Do - Photo by Ben Ammon

Too Much To Do – Photo by Ben Ammon

This may sound weird, but even when I’m doing nude modeling, I don’t feel sexualized or even particularly sexy. I’m thinking about the body line, angles, and portraying emotions. There is a lot of freedom in photo work to channel different types of energy. The slightest shift of the head, the eyes, or a hand can make a big difference in the final image.

Being a model is a lot of fun too. There’s almost always music playing at the shoot so there are usually a few photos of me dancing around and being silly – regardless of what I’m wearing.

Gardening with a Black Thumb

I’ve never said I have a green thumb, or any other green body parts. If anything, I have a track record of killing plants – including a cactus.

My Little Urban Garden - November 2015

My Little Urban Garden – November 2015

Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to get into urban gardening – just a few herbs and edible plants on my patio which mainly serves as Rosie’s sun porch and stick chewing area. A few months ago, I started a little garden – 6 pots of peas, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, and parsley. It had a good start with little sprouts were coming out of the ground. And then I went on a trip to a conference and I was concerned that they got too dry while I was gone so I soaked them water upon my return – and drowned some of the plants.

I warned you I have a black thumb.

I think I had to replant all of the peas and some of the green beans. The second plant times were outside the optimal planting times so we’ll see if these plants produce anything edible. So far, I don’t have a lot of hope for the cucumbers or the broccoli. They’re growing, but I don’t see them producing anything that looks like food. Conversely, I think I spied the start of my first bean pod the other day.

Oh yes, I’m still a big science dork when it comes to my garden. I’m out there every morning when I get up and every afternoon when I come home from work, looking for new growth.

Other people have said this before, and I definitely agree, that maintaining a garden is therapeutic. Unlike other aspects, gardening is something I can never and will never do perfectly. All I can do is provide sun, soil, and water, and hope that my plants will grow. And there’s something calming about working in the dirt. There was at least one night this fall where I felt extremely agitated but 15 minutes of gardening (replanting seeds after the accidental flood), I felt so much better.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I’ll get any crops to harvest and applying the knowledge from this experience to my winter plantings. I wonder if squash and peppers will be more resilient to neophyte gardener mistakes. My patio doesn’t get as much sun as I’d like so I may expand part of the garden to the area just outside my patio wall that gets more direct sun – especially if I want to try to grow raspberries and cantaloupe.

Lunch with Jeff = Change in Writing Plans

In my last post, I told you about my plans to write two new books next year.

Then I had lunch with Jeff, and now my plans have changed significantly.

Partners in Crime (Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission)

Partners in Crime (Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission)

Jeff Moriarty is one of the most creative people I know. He has a gift for developing and executing ideas. He is the founder of Ignite Phoenix and a co-founder of Improv AZ. I often refer to him as my partner in crime. (Note: We are partners in crime, not partners in life. I have no idea how his wife puts up with all of his puns.) Jeff is also a talented writer and has substantial knowledge about indie publishing. He and Evo Terra ran a company called ePublish Unum that helped indie authors (including me) write and release their books.

I told Jeff about my ideas to write two books next year, and he made the brilliant suggestion that instead of writing two comprehensive books, I could write several shorter ebooks where each one tackles a smaller subtopic within social media law. This would allow me to create and release more book-quality content throughout the year and delve into specialized topics for niche audiences. After releasing several of these short books, I could create a compilation of material from several books and release that as an ebook or in print (most likely print-on-demand).

This idea makes perfect sense for my ideas. I have been struggling with how I was going to fit so many different topics into two books – especially social media law for small businesses because there are so many different groups within that audience I want to help.

In listening to Jeff, my brain was already cranking out ideas – like using a similar cover design for each book, but in a different color, much like what ePublish Unum did with their books about indie publishing.

Originally, I thought I wanted a traditional publisher for my next books, but now I’m thinking of going back to my indie publishing roots. I will still have an editor and a graphic designer; and I may hire a company to format my books. But beyond that I can release my work myself, on a schedule that I set, with total autonomy regarding the topics I cover. And if I don’t have a traditional publisher, there will be no question or debate about who owns the copyright (me) and I can set my own prices. (Translation: I can charge less than what a traditional publisher would charge because I won’t have to share the profit with them.)

So now my next step is to decide what topics I want to cover in my next batch of work, and start figuring out how many e-books I will be writing next year as a result. I have a feeling this means I’m going to have a wall covered in sticky notes in the near future.

Preview for 2016: Back to the Writing Lifestyle

I feel the pull to write again, and not just blog posts – but books.

I’ve been mulling over some ideas for the last few weeks and I think I have at least two books that are starting to formulate and gel in my head.

This is going to be me in 2016 - 6:365, Photo by eren {sea+prairie} from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This is going to be me in 2016 – 6:365, Photo by eren {sea+prairie} from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I love the writing process. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my experience with my first big writing project. I was in graduate school and working with someone who lived on the other side of the country. So every night after I finished studying, I would work on our project and send him my latest draft or notes before going to bed. By the time I got up the next morning, he had read my work and sent me feedback which I would review over my morning coffee.

Getting back into writing books both excites and frightens me. When I wrote my first three books, I was at the beginning of my career as a lawyer and I had a lot more free time. I could easily devote half a day Monday-Friday working on a book. Typically, I created detailed outlines on Monday, wrote two chapters between Tuesday and Friday, and took the weekend off from book writing to write blog posts.

Now, I have a full client load and a busy speaking schedule. I am honestly not sure how I’m going to do this while staying in sane and making enough time to sleep. There is no way I can write 3,500 words a day with my current commitments. I will probably have to create a schedule where I only write 1,000 words each day, and still take the weekends off to rest and let ideas percolate.

Oh yes, there will be a writing schedule. Actually, one of the hardest things about working on these projects right now is I’m still trying to figure out what I want the final products to look like. Once a figure that out, I can work backwards to create an outline and from that a writing schedule so each week I will know what topics I need to cover.

The process for writing my last two books was insane. I signed two book contracts where I was committed to write both books over the course of six months. I remember finishing my first of those books on a Friday, sending the draft to my editor, and starting the next book on the following Monday. And while I was writing the second book, I also had to review edits on my first book. It was a crazy schedule, but I loved the creative process.

I suspect if I am going to pull this off, my life next year may have to be based on a strict schedule, possibly similar to my a lifestyle while I was studying for the bar exam. I may dabble with ideas of only responding to phone calls and emails during specific times and spending more time in seclusion, eliminating outside distractions to focus on my work.

Yes, I know writing books may be counterintuitive given that I was told to cut myself some slack or risk having a heart attack only a few weeks ago, but when I feel compelled to write I have to honor that. This idea has been gnawing at me for a few months now. And my history shows that when I’m creating, I’m often the most happy. Back when I was working on that first project, I was exhausted but also so exhilarated and excited to start and end my day writing and reviewing feedback. It never felt like work.

Because I Said I Would

Rosie's Dog Beach

Rosie’s Dog Beach

Happy Puppy by the Sea

Happy Puppy

Earlier this year, Rosie’s lost an eye to glaucoma. When the vet told me that it was only a matter of time before she went completely blind, I decided to make sure her life is awesome. I’ve always wanted to take Rosie to the beach and see how she reacts to the crashing waves. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I started looking for off-leash dog beaches in southern California. When I discovered Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach, I took that as a sign and made a reservation at a dog-friendly hotel to celebrate her upcoming birthday. (My baby girl is turning 8 this month.)

Rosie and I spent two days at Rosie’s Dog Beach and she loved it. She loved laying on the sand and walking up to strangers to request pets and belly rubs. She wasn’t too keen on the water at first. I think the crashing of the waves scared her a bit, and there’s was so way she was going to go swimming like some of the other dogs. By the end of the second day, she was happily running along the water’s edge with my friends’ dog and didn’t seem too upset when incoming waves brushed her paws and undercarriage.

Long Beach is a remarkably dog-friendly city. Several businesses on 2nd Street had water bowls next to their doors and many restaurants had dog-friendly patios. One restaurant, The Attic, even had a dog menu so Rosie enjoyed some sliced sausage while I had a veggie burger. We also stopped by Pussy and Pooch where Rosie was treated to a birthday paw bowl of duck with pumpkin sauce and chia seeds.

Sleepy Puppy

Sleepy Puppy

The main downside of Long Beach is its lack of parking. Rosie was so tired from playing at the beach that I put her in her utility wagon and pulled her the three blocks to Eggs Etc. from our parking spot because she seemed too tired to walk. (She had the spring back in her step after downing two bowls of water, resting at my feet, and eating the bacon from my combo meal.)

This was a wonderful trip to give Rosie. Every night when we got back to our room, she fell into her bed for a long deep sleep after the day’s excitement. (Yes, I brought her big plushy bed with us. I swear traveling with a dog requires almost as much stuff as traveling with a toddler.) It was so cute to watch her crash out after having so many adventures.

Fixing the Jury Duty System

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure/obligation of serving jury duty at the Phoenix Municipal Court. In general, I’m in favor of the jury duty system. Having a case decided by a jury of your peers with a judge in place to ensure that the case is conducted properly is formula for fair results. My friend and colleague who is a judge told me that most of the time in his opinion and experience, juries make the right decision.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Even though I was unhappy about having to give up a day of work to be there, I understand why jury service is important. I appreciated that the prospective jurors were given free parking and access to a free coffee and cocoa machine in the jury waiting room. They even tried to make it entertaining by playing movies and having handouts of word searches and Sudoku games available.

The problem with jury duty is related to the fact that many cases don’t settle until the last minute. The court doesn’t know how many cases will actually need a jury. They only know how many cases might need a jury. There was a screen in the jury waiting room that kept us abreast of how many cases were left to start or settle that day.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

One of the most frustrating aspects of the day was knowing that I couldn’t serve more than one day. I work in an eat-what-you-kill environment so if I don’t work, I don’t make any money. I cleared my calendar for one day of jury duty but the next was as full as ever with client work and meetings. If I wasn’t selected for a jury by lunch, the chances of a case selecting a jury, presenting all the evidence, and the jury deliberating and reaching a verdict before 5pm was low. I felt like my afternoon was a waste because I knew I couldn’t serve on a duty for a 2-day trial and the environment wasn’t conducive to getting any real work done.

If I could tweak the jury duty system, these are some of the changes I would implement:

Secondary Screening of Potential Jurors. Upon arrival, jurors should be given the chance to complete a form explaining why they couldn’t serve on a multi-day trial if requested. Those forms would be reviewed by an appropriate person at the court who would determine who has a valid reason. If those people aren’t selected before the lunch break, they will be released. Knowing that certain jurors will be released if not selected in the morning might motivate lawyers and defendants to start their case in the morning.

Decide on Trial the Day Before. The parties have until the last minute to decide if they will take a plea and whether a jury will be necessary. If the parties are forced to decide the day before, the court will have a better idea of how many potential jurors are needed for the next day. On my day of jury service, there were seven cases that might need a jury, but only one panel was called.

Courthouse Co-working Space. With movies playing in the main jury waiting room, it was too loud for productive work. There was a “quiet room” but it was too small and much of it was like a medical waiting area rather than a practical work space. The quiet room at jury duty should be more like Co+Hoots with copious table space and outlets and soundproof walls so outside noises won’t cause disruptions.

I never made it out of the jury waiting room during my day of service. I impatiently watched the screen showing how many cases were left to begin that day, especially in the afternoon, since I knew I wouldn’t be selected for jury service. As soon as the person in charge of the jury waiting room announced at 3:30 that we were being released, I was out the door in a flash.

National Coming Out Day Still Matters

Happy National Coming Out Day! For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time or up and living under a rock, I am bisexual. If you have a problem with that, well then, that’s your problem.

Still Fighting by  aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Still Fighting by aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A few days ago I wondered if this holiday is still necessary. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states and it seems like every year, I hear about a high school selecting a gay teen homecoming queen or an LGBT duo as the cutest couple. It’s clear as a country we are making progress.

I kicked this question out to my friends on Facebook, and the overwhelming response was, “Yes, National Coming Out Day is still necessary.” Even though same-sex marriage is legal (and really we should just start calling it “marriage”) discrimination is still a big problem facing the LGBT community. Even in Arizona you can be fired because of your sexual orientation – so your employer’s wedding gift to you could be a pink slip.

It seems that more families are accepting when a loved one comes out as LGBT, but there are still a lot of people who face abuse, abandonment, and violence as a result. People who are LGBT make up at most 10% of the population, yet up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

It is my responsibility to determine what is right for my life; and as long as what you’re doing is not illegal or harming anyone, I’m not going to tell you what you should do in yours. I won’t tell you what religion to follow, whether you should have a child, or what you find attractive, but unfortunately, there are still closed-minded people who think that everyone should live as they do and that the government should enforce it. These tend to be the people who support the First Amendment except when it conflicts with their agenda.

As I thought about this post, I was reminded how lucky I am. I have an education and I work in an industry where my sexual orientation has never been an issue. (If anything, it’s been an asset.) I am part of an amazing community that loves and supports me. But there are lots of people who are not so lucky, who are dependent on their family financially because they are under age and those who will be ostracized from a community that claims to love them if they ever disclose that they are LGBT.

I’m glad to say on this National Coming Out Day that the U.S. is making progress towards equality in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, but we are not there yet. (As a planet, there is still much work to be done as homosexuality is still a crime that is punishable by death in several countries.)

Yoga Review: Easy Yoga – The Secret to Strength & Balance

Part of my half marathon training is a weekly stretching session. (Yes, I stretch before and after each run too.) I generally suck at stretching, so I’m borrowing yoga DVDs from the library each week to force myself to do it.

PC YogaThis week I did another Peggy Cappy DVD, Easy Yoga: The Secret to Strength and Balance. It should have been called “Yoga for Patient People.”

This workout is from Peggy’s Yoga for the Rest of Us collection, so it provides instruction for people who have limited mobility or balance as well as people who can do regular yoga. Because of all these modifications, everything took longer than other yoga workouts. And Peggy has you breathe between everything – which may be a standard yoga practice, but her video seemed excessively long.

I will admit there were several times I checked my phone because I was bored. The video is 76 minutes long, and I felt like we barely did anything during that time. I didn’t even finish the full workout. The last section is a guided relaxation, but by then I had reached my limit of my patience, so I turned it off.

I think I am done with Peggy Cappy’s workouts. She is not a good fit for me. I reserved a different yoga DVD for next week. Even though it is a basic yoga workout, I hope it will be more challenging than Peggy Cappy’s.

Years ago, I did power yoga where you move fairly quickly from pose to pose. That was more my style. Perhaps I will look for a power yoga workout next.

My Family Hugs my Rapist

I woke up at 3am the other night (yay for insomnia), and as usual, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check my messages. When I checked Facebook, I saw that my cousin had posted the photos from this year’s family reunion. I have not attended an all-family event since 2011. That was the year I gave myself permission to stop subjecting myself to the anxiety that comes with being around my rapist-brother if I’m not comfortable being around him. Since then, I have not attended a family reunion, been home for Christmas, and I un-RSVPed for my other cousin’s wedding earlier this year.

Greeting by  Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Greeting by Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My entire family (and the internet-accessible world) is on notice that my brother molested and raped me for years, and yet they still invite him to all the family events. And judging by the pictures, they are happy to see him. The idea of being in the same room with him makes me nervous, but they happily hug him. They even let him hold hands with my 3 year-old little cousin. That churned my stomach. I wouldn’t let him be within 10 feet of my dog.

My family baffles me. I am sure they have no idea how painful and frustrating it is for me to see them hugging him and knowing that he’s a welcome presence in their lives. What the fuck is wrong with them? How can they stand to be around him? It makes me wonder if they don’t believe me. I suspect some of them think, “We don’t know what really happened (we weren’t there), but we love and accept you both.” They don’t understand that by accepting him, they don’t accept to me.

You can’t you say you believe that he raped me and then gleefully invite him to a family celebration. The two don’t comport; and actions speak louder than words.

A friend asked me how common is it for families with sibling sexual abuse to side with the abuser. A quick internet search didn’t yield any statistics on this question. One study indicated that sexual abuse between siblings is 5 times more prevalent than parent-child sexual abuse so I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation. This doesn’t make me feel better, but it’s validating to know I’m not alone.

I wonder if my family actually cares about me or if pretending that everything is ok is enough for them. Based on their actions to date, I suspect it’s the latter.

Worth reading: Responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse: What to do and Why by Boz Tchividjian (written in response to questions he received after the disclosure that Josh Duggar molested his sisters)

Hair on Fire | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This final memory comes from Tavys Ashcroft, one of my classmates from St. Vincent High School. I remember this day from Mr. D’s Honors Chemistry class our junior year. (NEAT STUFF!) It was an experiment that required an acid that was so strong that thick white fumes rose from the bottle when you opened it. Mr. D. selected me to be the one who administered the acid, advising me to hold my breath.

Here’s how Tavys remembers that day:

I think it was 10, maybe 12 molar hydrochloric acid (mid-to-high thirties percent concentration). The kind of acid that could ruin your whole day. There was a story about highly diluted test-tube splatter dissolving pants.  

Only one was to be chosen to dispense this liquid danger. Who among them had the implicit trust of the man at the front of the room?

This was a serious production. Lab coats. Check. Goggles. Check. (Put down your strikers!) Notify all nonessential personnel to vacate the area. Do not reenter the laboratory until the “all clear” is sounded. 

Out came the bottle, a surprisingly large plastic jug. Aitch Cee Ell. The cap only just removed and already a fine mist began to appear. And the clock was ticking.

Bench to bench, beaker to beaker, she carefully administered each allotment.  

Slowly enveloped in a faint fog, the room faded away. Out in the hallway, the wafting swimming pool aroma gave way to burning eyes and tightening throats.

She emerged, lab assistant triumphant. The incongruous wisps from her brow a steaming halo of pride and sublimation.

Was it sugar hydrolysis? Did carbon snakes leap from glassware? I don’t quite recall the purpose of the lab (me neither), but I clearly remember the poison cloud and the smoking hair.

During the experiment, Mr. D. asked if I could smell the chlorine. When I said, “Yes,” he said, “You’re burning your lungs.” I probably damaged all the cilia along my respiratory tract that day. Ah, the sacrifices we make for science.