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Ruth Carter

Urban Camping = Lesson in Minimalism

We had a flood at Castle Carter (aka my condo) in December courtesy of our upstairs neighbor’s water heater. (We woke up to a lake in our condo on a Saturday morning.) It ruined the floors. Earlier this month, after dealing with estimates and insurance, they got replaced – but Rosie the basset hound and I had to move out for five days during the process. We considered an Airbnb, but opted for a hotel.

Minimal Needs = Minimal Stuff

Our hotel was similar to this, except Rosie’s bed was next to the armchair.

Living in a hotel reminded me how little we need to be comfortable. All I need is a place to sleep, a place to work, nourishment in my body, clothes on my back, a bathroom, and wi-fi. I tried not to bring anything that I wouldn’t absolutely need to take care of myself and work on projects. Even then, there were a few garments I didn’t wear, and I didn’t have time to work on the blanket for a friend who had a baby last month.

Traveling with Rosie is like traveling with a toddler in terms of how much space her stuff takes up. We had her memory foam bed with a comforter and sheet. (She’s nine years old and 67 pounds. She deserves to be comfortable.) We also had to bring food, medications, bowls, and treats.

One thing I did that made the trip go smoothly was pre-pack all our meals. Our room had a little kitchen with a refrigerator and a microwave, so before we left home, I pre-packed all my and Rosie’s meals for this adventure (much like Meal Prep Sunday). Meals and snacks were a snap.

Minimal Distractions = Hotel Hackathon

Rosie’s such a trooper when it comes to traveling.

My life while living in the hotel was pretty structured. After work, my life consisted of walking Rosie, eating dinner, and working. I didn’t watch TV, and thanks to slow wi-fi, I couldn’t easily putz around on the internet. So I worked.

Every night I worked on the online course I’m developing on the legalities of being a professional photographer. It’s going to be twenty lessons with two bonus lessons and an introduction, so that means I have twenty-three slide decks to create. With little else to do, I cranked away at this, and put a substantial dent in this project. I brought a pad of Post-it notes on this trip so I could create a mini Wall of Pain next to my desk.

The reconstruction at Castle Carter is almost complete. It’s so good to be home, but this was a good lesson on what I need to do to get work done (eliminate distractions) and how little I need to be happy and comfortable.

Binding with KT Tape – My Experience

If pushed to label my gender, I’d say I’m non-gendered. While I am biologically female, I don’t think the American constructs of man or woman fit for me. I have no plans to surgically alter my appearance, but I do like to be androgynous. Periodically, I wear a chest binder to have a flatter torso. It does the job, and it’s pretty comfortable considering it’s compressing my chest, but it doesn’t work with every type of shirt – the shoulder straps are too wide to wear with a tank top and tops that have necklines that are too wide or too low. Plus, it’s an extra layer of fabric, which I suspect will get hot in the summer.

One strip of KT Tape cut in half

I learned that some people use KT Tape as an alternative to wearing a binder. As a runner, I’ve used this super-stretchy adhesive fabric tape on my shins and feet while training for races. Wearing KT is better than using an ace bandage or other tape to bind, but it’s not ideal. KT is aware that some people use their product to bind and they provide guidance to minimize issues like skin irritation. I decided to give it a try for a day.

Taping myself was easy. I did right after my shower when there were no dirt or oil on my skin. Given the small area that needed taping, I took a single KT strip of Pro-Synthetic tape and cut it in half. I taped myself while laying down because that’s when I’m flattest. I started the strip just inside my nipple, attached with no stretch, then stretched it across my chest, and lay the other end against my skin with no stretch in the tape. I repeated the process on the other side, but I didn’t completely un-stretch the tape before attaching the end on my side. I could feel that pinching and pulling a bit throughout the day.

Overall, it was quite comfortable. I wouldn’t go running in this setup, but I felt confident to walk my dog and go to the office without worrying that anyone would notice. When I took the tape off, there was a bit of irritation where the ends of the tape were, but not bad – and I have super sensitive skin! I would definitely do this again if I wanted to bind while wearing a non-binder friendly outfit. KT recommends using their Original-Cotton tape to reduce the risk of skin irritation. I’d probably buy a roll in their nude tone rather than my usual black.

I don’t plan to bind myself with KT on a regular basis, but I’m glad to know it works. I could see myself going to a beach and opting to wear KT tape instead of a top. Yes, I could wear classic pasties, but given their typical shapes and colors, those are made to be stared at; and sometimes, I really don’t want to deal with being objectified. I just want to be comfortable.

Can’t in Good Conscience Watch the Super Bowl

I used to like football. I thought I wanted to play football in high school, but I was overruled by the adults in my life. But I played in the powder puff games in high school and played intramural flag football in during undergrad. It was fun.

Football was fun to watch . . . sometimes. The guys who play at the college and professional level are incredible athletes. And then I saw the movie, Concussion:

This film made me more aware of the dangers of repetitive head trauma facing football players. It can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that led to several players’ emotional downfall, and several committed suicide. I knew concussions were a risk in this sport, but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the film, estimates that 90% of NFL players have CTE. Unfortunately, this disease can only be diagnosed after death. What’s repulsive is the NFL seems to care more about the money than protecting players’ health and safety. I was pleased to see several players retire early after learning about the risks of CTE.

Knowing what I know, I can’t in good conscious support full-contact football. I can’t even attend a Super Bowl party because it’s based on supporting a sport that’s killing people.

I could support football again if they changed the rules to flag football. It would change the strategy of the game and what skills and abilities are valued in players. Baseball and basketball are comparatively low-contact sports and people enjoy them.

Goal Post 2 by Matt Denton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I asked my friends what they thought of the idea of changing all American football leagues (pop warner – professional) to flag football rules. Some of their reactions were disconcerting:

  • Millions of Americans would lose their favorite means of acting physically aggressive by proxy.
  • I honestly think the vast majority of football fans are like the casual hockey fan – they watch to see the “hits”.
  • There would be way fewer head injuries. Many rabid football fans would also cry about their sport being corrupted by liberal worrywarts, no doubt.
  • It would not be worth watching.

I don’t understand how anyone can endorse and enjoy a sport that is slowly and painfully killing its players. Thankfully some of the responses had a different perspective:

  • It would probably be considerably less popular. But it also might attain a following a “strategy” game.
  • It would stop being a professional sport in the U.S. but would still be a popular sport for kids. I’m thinking something like volleyball in the U.S.
  • The sport would die (and it’s about time it did).

If that’s the price for keeping people alive, I’m ok with that. So, what will Rosie and I be doing this Sunday?

Yes, I’ll be gleefully working on my taxes.
“Gleefully” may be overstating it, but I’ll be happy when they’re done.

Trump’s Tweets Analyzed

In my life before law school, I was a licensed mental health counselor. One of the lessons we learned in our masters program was that anger is almost always a secondary emotion for sadness or fear. If a client came into my office and was fuming mad, it usually meant they were sad or scared.

Donald Trump – Caricature by DonkeyHotey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Do you read Donald Trump’s tweets? Have you read them since he took office? He seems to be spewing anger, which I think is a sign of his own insecurities and fears. (It doesn’t surprise me that his actions and statements have led to accusations that he has a micropenis; he seems to be excessively compensating for something. It’s so over-the-top.) Looking at his tweets just since January 20, 2017, I produced a list of things he appears to be afraid of:

  • New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • CNN
  • Barack Obama
  • Chicago – or being murdered
  • Mexico – or being labeled as someone who can’t keep their campaign promises
  • Chelsea Manning – or people who will expose his secrets
  • Anyone who isn’t a U.S. citizen
  • Anyone who voted against him
  • Celebrities who oppose him

Looking at this list, I wonder if Donald Trump is afraid of the Constitutional rights to free speech, assembly, and religion – all of which come down to freedom of thought and expression. I would not be surprised if he’s afraid of anyone he can’t control, especially anyone who might cast him in a bad light.

Reading Trump’s tweets reminded me of the documentary, Tough Guise, which examines how boys are socialized in the U.S. and what it means to be a “man.”

This film also examines the impact of race on notions of masculinity and how white men have been in a place of privilege in society for much of American history over women and men with other skin colors. Some white men find moving towards social equality threatening because it means that they will be on equal footing as others whereas the fact that they were born with pale skin and a penis previously gave them an advantage. To them, equality means losing their status, which they find intimidating because it means they have to compete with a larger pool of people. It means losing their advantage.

I would not be surprised if Trump has this mindset – not that I expect him to admit it or be self-aware enough to acknowledge it. I suspect he sees everyone who isn’t like him or does not agree with him as a threat. If he wasn’t in a position of power, I would feel sorry for him. Unfortunately for him, Trump was hired for a temp job and the American people are his boss. We have an obligation to continue to corral and correct him, regardless of how many tantrums his throws on social media.

The Next Four Years . . .

It’s still a bit surreal that Donald Trump is the next U.S. President. While part of me is still reeling from the fact that he won the election, I’m trying to be forward thinking and looking for ways to be realistically optimistic. The night is darkest right before dawn and there can be good that comes out of the worst circumstances. Instead of dwelling on my frustration and apprehension for what’s to come, I tried to shift my perspective to see where there are opportunities with this new administration.

Naked Trump by Len Smith from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Betting on the Trump Presidency
If you are the betting type, you can place bets on the Trump presidency at casino sport books and other betting establishments throughout the world. I suspect there’s an over/under bet for the number of days he’ll actually be in office. (Right now, my gut feeling says he’ll survive at least one year, but not three.) I wonder if you can place a bet on whether he’ll build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Deliveries to the White House
I believe in sending letters and calling your representative to tell them what you want and what issues are important to you. I also endorse campaigns that send a powerful message, like sending crocheted vaginas to representatives to endorse the Violence Against Women Act and the Postcard Avalanche opposing Steven Bannon’s appointment to Trump’s cabinet.

With the suspected Trump kompromat, I would not be surprised if there’s an influx of packages to the White House from rubber sheet manufacturers. If you’re going to set him a set as a housewarming present, please select an American company – support the economy.

And since Trump is Trump, and there is a Republican majority in both Houses, I hope there’s an increase in deliveries from Dicks By Mail (gummy penis candies) to elected officials from their constituents if/when they act against what’s in the best interest of the public.  Ditto for Glitter Bombs and Poop Senders.

Micropenis Greeting Cards
Although there are a few options out there, there is an untapped market for greeting cards and postcards that communicate the message:

We get it.
You have a small penis.
Please stop acting like a dick.

I’d love to see what The Oatmeal could create in this genre.

EDIT: I couldn’t wait to see what someone else would create. I created it myself.

American Flag by Daniel Zimmerman from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Donations to Civil Rights and Health Organizations
There have been drinking games and bingo card incorporated into the watching of the presidential debates and other political speeches. But instead of buying booze, there could be a better way to put our dollars towards causes we care about.

I loved he influx of donations to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name following the election. To continue this trend, I endorse the idea of making a donation to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Anti-Defamation League, or similar organization every time Trump makes a racist, homophobic, or misogynistic statement.  For someone who extremely generous, expand this to everyone in the Trump Cabinet.

Increased Political Activism
Since the election, I’ve seen people become more politically involved, even friends who have shied away from doing anything political besides voting. (If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch.) With this new administration, we’re going to see more people being diligent and fervent about calling out elected officials when they do a poor job. (Don’t forget to applaud them for a job well-done too!) If you want to vote with your wallet, and boycott companies that carry Trump products, here’s the list.

If you hold public office, you work for us – and it’s a temp job. Expect more than annual review. I haven’t seen such a large population of people be this angry and motivated to take action. It’s exciting to see so many people putting their time, energy, and money where their mouth is. It’s going to be an exciting four years.

First Week in Invisalign

Part of my year of investing in myself includes resetting my smile with Invisalign. I have a deep overbite that needs to be corrected or else I’ll be at risk of pushing them even further out of alignment and breaking my teeth. I’ll be fixing my teeth over a 53-week period with new trays each week. I never had braces as a kid, just a head gear and a wireless retainer, so I’m grateful for all the helpful advice from friends who survived braces or Invisalign before me.

My Next Seven Weeks of Invisalign Trays

Dinosaur Teeth
The way Invisalign works is they glue little anchors to the outside of 12 of your teeth – 6 on top, 6 on the bottom – and the trays snap to them and your teeth when you put them in. When I take out my trays for meals, my teeth feel so weird with the anchors attached to them. I call them my dinosaur teeth. It’s bizarre having extra ridges in my mouth.

Best Diet Ever
The instructions say to wear the trays 22 hours a day, only removing them for meals and brushing. The only thing I can have when they’re in is cool water. I’m definitely going to stay hydrated with this adventure.

Although it’s getting easier to attach and remove my Invisalign trays from my teeth, each time I do it, it’s uncomfortable – and that’s putting it mildly. It hurts. Getting them out the first time was so challenging, I was afraid I was going to have to call my orthodontist for help. Each time I want to eat, I have to decide if what I want is worth going through the process of removing and reattaching my trays.

22 Hours a Day

As a habitual snacker, these trays are changing the way I eat, shifting from eating throughout the day to eating mostly meals. I’m also being more thoughtful about what I eat while my teeth are sore. One friend warned me that she was sore for the first month she wore Invisalign trays. My friends gave me lots of suggestions of soft foods that sustained them during teeth straightening.

Since I’m supposed to wear my trays 22 hours a day, I also have to change the way I drink coffee. I used to sip my coffee all morning, from walking my dog before sunrise until lunchtime. Now that I have to minimize the amount of time I have my trays out of my mouth, I down my two cups of coffee first thing in the morning.

No Relief
Unlike the relief of taking off my bra at the end of a long day, there’s no break from Invisalign. My teeth hurt when I pop my trays in and out and they’re sore throughout the day. I’m told the pain will decrease, but I suspect I’m going to be sore for a few days every week when I switch change to the next set of trays each week and my teeth readjust to their new position. I’ll try not to be too grumpy.

Did I mention wearing Invisalign trays is giving me touch of a lisp? I’ve always said I have an inner gay man, now I have a stereotypical voice to match. I have to be extra thoughtful about enunciating my words. They say this is temporary too.

Looking at my teeth with and without Invisalign – realigning my teeth with be worth it, and will hopefully only take 53 weeks to finish the process. Besides fixing my teeth, I think my new smile will elongate my face and give me a better chin.

Fear is Not an Excuse

The year just started, and I already have a plate filled with big projects – an online course, another book, and taking the California Bar Exam this summer. The primary guiding rule for all of my projects is “Fear is not an excuse for not making progress.”

Photo by Bob Johnson

Truth be told, the prospect of creating this online course, “Lights, Camera, Lawsuit – The Legal Side of Professional Photography,” scares the bejezus out of me. I’ve never done anything like this before. Creating the materials will be a lot of work, and will include doing my first voiceover. Each of the 22 lessons will be a slide deck with a voiceover presentation. There will be lots of opportunities to screw things up.

Despite my apprehension, I really don’t have much to worry about. I’m going to use Jason Zook’s platform, Teachery, and borrow a format that he used in a course I purchased from him. If I get stuck when it comes to the nuts and bolts of creating the course, I know he’ll be there to help. And I already have people who have expressed interest in buying the course once it’s available.

My goal is to have the course materials completed, edited, and tested by a handful of photographers before releasing it to the public by the end of March. There is much to be done between now and then, and being afraid of making mistakes or launching a dud are not excuses. In the words of the great late Carrie Fisher:

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.

Let’s hope so. Right now, my plan is to keep moving forward, without letting fear about how others will perceive the final product paralyze me. Thanks to the Wall of Pain (aka my wall-size color-coded to-do list), it’s easy to break down this project into manageable chunks. I don’t have to worry about the final product – just whatever’s next on the to-do list.

I’m so grateful I don’t have to work on this project alone. I have an amazing group of photographer-friends who provide feedback when needed, an incredible mastermind group with skills I can call upon to help create and market this course, and a loving community of friends who support my crazy endeavors.

If you have daunting projects on your horizon, I hope you’re keeping the fear monsters at bay.

The Undeniable Recap of 2016

Wow . . . what a fucked up year 2016 has been, especially the last three months. I’m glad I do The Undeniable Recap every year to take a break from the current chaos and see that not everything in the last 366 days is terrifying and depressing. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2016:

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

1. BlogPaws with Rosie.  Rosie and I went to our first pet blogger conference this summer. I led a workshop on copyright and FTC rules for bloggers and we had so much fun meeting all the people and their pets. It’s been heartwarming to see Rosie bounce back from last year’s surgery and get her confidence back.

2. I Shaved my Head.  I decided to go back to my natural hair color, and instead of dealing with growing out my red hair, I just shaved it all off. That was empowering. Not having hair made me want to embody even more how strong women can be. My friends did a photo shoot right after I shaved my head and the images were so powerful.

Two of the Cool Kids on our Couch!

3. Cool Kids Couch. During law school, it seemed like one of the Cool Kids (Class of 2011, 2012, and 2013) was always sitting on the couch outside Room 116. When ASU Law announced they were moving downtown, we approached the school about sponsoring a Cool Kids Couch in the new building – and they let us! It’s up on the 6th floor, and apparently the current law students ripped the plaque off our gift to them. Hopefully they won’t do it again to the replacement plaque.

4. Flagstaff Ropes Course. I needed to get away for a few days last spring, so I booked a long weekend in Flagstaff and went to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. It was so much fun to climb trees and traverse obstacles. It was exactly what I needed; it got me out of my head for an afternoon. I need to do more stuff like this.

5. Photo Shoots. I got to do some amazing photo shoots this year. On a chilly February morning, Peter Shankman and I got up before dawn to do sunrise photo shoot near Canyon Lake. Those images were gorgeous! In May, I did a photo shoot out at The Domes near Casa Grande where I my chest and face were painted and I wore a 25-foot diameter parachute skirt. We got some dynamic shots right at sunset and some beautiful photos after the sun went down with fire breathers in the background.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Phrase of the Year: “Lawyer Perch.”
When I speak at a conference and there is a table and chair at the front of the room for speakers, I like to plop myself down and sit cross-legged on top of the table. At WordCamp Phoenix, someone in the audience declared that this is the “lawyer perch.”  That works for me.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Firsts in 2016
Court appearance as 1st chair
Trail race (and last)
In-home flood (and second one, unfortunately)
Chest binder
Stay at an Airbnb
Interview on KJZZ (local NPR station)
Replaced the smoke detector in my condo by myself
Foods: Coconut creamer, coconut ice cream, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, vegan “butter,” white chocolate peanut butter
Sights: The Domes, 9/11 Memorial, Vaynermedia, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Telepoem Booth
Events: Women in Travel Summit, BlogPaws, Sober morning rave, Junkyard photoshoot, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Celebrity Sightings
Gloria Steinem
Mark Hamill

In Memoriam
Kevin Layton
Larry Grucky
Mike Calcutti (he died in 2015, but I didn’t learn about it ‘til 2016)
Alan Rickman
David Bowie
Prince
Anton Yelchin
Gene Wilder
John Glenn
Florence Henderson
Alan Thicke
George Michael
Carrie Fisher
Debbie Reynolds
The 49 Victims of the Orlando Night Club Shooting

Learning to Value Myself

My personal theme for 2017 is Invest – investing in myself, my health, my relationships, and my business. Last week, I was challenged to put this into action a few weeks early when Castle Carter flooded.

Photo by Bob Johnson from the Junkyard Photoshoot 2016 – Love this Picture!

I suck at valuing myself. (Is anyone else in this boat?) I treat everyone else way better than myself and tell myself I can make due with less. When our air conditioner went out for a few days this summer, I sent Rosie the pirate basset hound to “camp” (the kennel) so she’d be comfortable until it was fix while I stayed home.

Earlier this month, my condo flooded. I woke up on a Saturday morning to a lake in my home courtesy of my upstairs neighbor’s water heater that exploded. The floors in my living room and office were destroyed from the water, along with some of the dry wall. It took the dry-out team about 7 hours to remove damaged flooring and walls and set me up with 12 fans and 2 de-humidifiers to dry everything else.

Living with fans and de-humidifiers running full blast 24 hours/day is like living in a wind tunnel. I could barely get any work done with the noise and the heat, and I was sweating buckets every night in my sleep. Friends offered to let Rosie and me stay with them, but I often feel uncomfortable as a guest in someone’s home. And I know my insurance would pay for a hotel, but I didn’t want the hassle of living out of a suitcase, especially with Rosie. A typical dry-out takes 3 days. We could stick it out.

At day 3, the dry-out tech said my home needed 2 extra days and suggested I get a hotel. I was sleeping for crap, not getting work done, feeling agitated from all the noise and disruption (Did I mention I had to cancel my plans to attend ShankMinds Live in New York that week?), I had plans to do a weekend hackathon of work – and I still balked at getting a hotel. In my head, it still seemed like an extreme reaction.

I forced myself act as if I was investing in my best interests. From that perspective, I deserved quality rest and an environment where I could get work done. Fighting back the excuses in my head, I found a nearby hotel that accepted dogs of all sizes, had a desk and a refrigerator in the room (Rosie’s meds need to be refrigerated), and a complementary hot breakfast. The voice in my head said it would be such a pain to pack up our lives for two days. I had Rosie and I packed in 20 minutes – including portioning out each of her meals and bringing her comforter and memory foam bed.

Airlines say put on your oxygen mask first before helping someone else. Those two days in the hotel allowed me the respite I needed from the chaos at home. I slept on a king-size bed in quiet, climate-controlled room, and someone else was in charge of making my breakfast. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, I did about 5 hours of work on the Copyright Law online course I’m teaching for ASU Law next semester. (I’d been procrastinating on that for weeks!)

Rosie and I are home again. The dry-out is complete, and we’re waiting to hear back from insurance so we can proceed with the reconstruction. So far, this experience is giving me the chance to put myself first. I felt guilty checking in to the hotel, but once I settled into the room, that feeling dissipated. I know when I need a break; I just have to be willing to let myself have it.

Christmas Part 2: Phoestivus

One of the best things about the holiday season in Phoenix is going to Phoestivus! I try to take Rosie the basset hound to it every year. Phoestivus is part farmers market/food trucks, part craft festival, and it has the standard Festivus activities (Feats of Strengths, Airing of Grievances, and the Festivus Pole).

Rosie made friends at the Ruff Life booth

I love taking Rosie to Phoestivus. It’s so much fun to watch her take in all the scents and sounds (she can’t see much with her glaucoma) and watch everyone love on her. There are usually a few vendors with the products specifically for dogs, and this year was no exception. She was enchanted by Ruff Life – a company that sells preservative-free smoked animal chews like bones, pig ears, and chicken feet. She was so tempted to jump up on the table and help herself. Thankfully, I bought her a smoked fish to have on the spot and got a pig ear and a chicken foot for later. (By the way, this is an awesome local company that will deliver their products to your door if you live in Maricopa County.)

Over at Peace Dog’s booth, I got her a bag of human-grade sausage cookies. They are shaped like little bones, the perfect size or using a treat to lure Miss Rosie in the direction I want her to move. (Bassets are stubborn.) She also sold buttons and I found one I had to buy and stick on my backpack.

We were both happy to stumble upon a peanut butter vendor: Peanut Butter Americano. They gave us both samples on popsicle sticks. It was so good – so fresh, so simple – definitely healthier than what I usually buy at the grocery store. I had to keep Rosie from plunging her face into the box of discarded sample sticks. I walked away with a jar of their white chocolate peanut butter. It’s the perfect thing to put on a pre-race bagel.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Phoestivus if we didn’t get our picture taken with Hipster Claus.

Hipster Claus!

This is my kind of holiday fun – connecting with the community, seeing friends, and getting the pirate dog out to experience something new.

In case you missed it – Christmas Part 1: Singing in Patrick’s Concert