The Work.

School work - 1946

Self-examination with a weighty purpose

I am white and female. I am privileged. I am Oklahoman. I am American. I come from a place where the past is uncomfortable, painful, shameful, and unspoken. The traditions I come from rely on compartmentalization and denial. The culture taught to me was to cover feelings, to move on to move forward. I have a lot of Work to do.

The Work: the Work is mine. I have to figure it out. No one can tell me what to do for the Work, but they can help me find it. They can help me know myself, articulate my intrinsic knowledge. I find the Work when I find hard truths- the parts of myself and my history that make me cry or shake or freeze or swallow hard. When I identify these places, I have found what I must confront. These are aspects of myself that are scary for me to venture into, but they are same areas that, if not reconciled, make me dangerous and harmful to others. 

What sort of frightening messages do these truths hold (and how do I know when I am close to them)? They tell me I am stupid and wrong (I convince myself I am right). They tell me I am weak and vulnerable (I make myself impenetrable). They tell me I am not good enough (I think, at least I’m better than you). They tell me I am unworthy of love (I project that on to you, too).

It takes courage to do the work of breaking through defenses that I put up to then do even more work on repairing parts of myself that hurt. In the past, I surely tried to breeze by these painful parts of my life or my mind. Maybe I drank. Maybe I shopped. Maybe I busied myself. Maybe I moved away. Maybe I found someone to love me. Maybe I blamed them when the pain resurfaced. Maybe I didn’t want to face it, and I kept reaching outside for something or someone to heal me.

Now is the time to do the Work. My country, my culture, my workplace, and my family are shifting. Hidden internal conflicts are coming to a head all around us.

Collectively, we have to resolve years of festering neglect to our interconnected social and environmental systems. We have to find a way to reshape our world so that we can, quite literally, survive. COVID-19, racism and prejudice, and climate change are threats to us all. Our social structure, our collective uncomfortable history and painful truths must be confronted in order to move forward. To do this, we need brutal honesty and humility at the individual level. I have to do my WORK.

I, along with the rest, am called on to do the Work. As one causing harm, I am called on to do disproportionately more of the heavy lifting. I have to. It can only be done by me, because it is my heart, my mind, and my actions that have to change. It doesn’t mean anything if I try to get the answers from someone else. Deep down, I know what I have to do, or at least where I have to start.

You have to stay focused on the work…Y’all know what the work is. If someone has to tell you what the work is, then you don’t want to know what the work is. Then you don’t want to do the work. You know what the work is. Anybody who wants to do anything knows exactly what the work is. And if you don’t know what the work is, find out. It’s easy to find it out.  -Billy Porter

This however, does not mean that I don’t have support as I go through this journey. I am doing my Work while those around me are doing theirs. Others share their stories, and I share mine, and we learn from one another. I have my therapist, friends, family, teachers, and mentors to help. They help me work through sticking points. They help me say the unsayable, and then it becomes less scary. They help me trade my harmful habits for healthy ones. They help me understand that I am worthy, that I am lovable even with flaws, and that I can overcome my mistakes.

This journey may seem like it is dwelling in the past and stirring up trouble. But it is nothing compared to the prolonged anguish of doing nothing. Of always looking around for a magical antidote for mental unrest. Of feeling shame and guilt in the most unlikely of places. This Work is for me. It is for others. This Work is worth it.

When you burn your hand on a pot handle

dad cooking

Somehow, this is easy to do. For me, it happened when a burner I’d accidentally turned on heated the handle of the pot that was sitting on the burner I’d meant to turn on. I won’t go into details. Bottom line: I full on grabbed a piping hot metal pan handle and scorched the surface of my palm.

When I looked on the internet for specific solutions to this problem, there were plenty of headlines about grabbing a hot pot handle, but I was taken to generic burn instructions that didn’t necessarily speak to my issue. However, I sifted through them to find some sort of pain relief and strategies to limit blistering. I have compiled this list of relevant and helpful guidelines for addressing this specific problem.

First, take off jewelry. Your hand is going to get puffy and red. It’s going to feel like the worst sunburn you’ve had.

Second, run hand under cold water faucet. Experts say 10-15 minutes (click for link). If you fully grasped the pot/pan handle, you’re going to need more time than this. I felt bad about wasting water, so I put cool water in a bowl and just moved my hand back and forth.

If possible, take an ice pack out of the freezer and let it sit out at room temperature during this time.

Third, stay away from putting stuff on your hand. I tried a few products with aloe in them and then just straight aloe, and each one seemed to intensify the burning. Though internet searches said these would help, anything that covers the burn limits its ability to dissipate heat. Cool water is best.

Fourth, the cooled ice/water pack is helpful for moving about. Ideally, this wouldn’t be an ice pack because very cold temperatures on the skin after a burn can further damage tissue (see link here). When my pack was a bit too icy, I wrapped it in a towel that made it feel the temperature of cool water.

Fifth, if this happens at night, sleep at the edge of the bed with your hand in a bowl of cool water sitting on something below bed height (chair, tiny table, etc.). I tried this two ways, first on my back with my left (burned) hand off the left side of the bed. This is tricky because I had burned my palm and had to turn my arm in an awkward position. The second way worked better for me. I laid on my right side and let my left hand rest in the bowl of water that was on the right side of the bed.

When I woke up the next morning, my pain had subsided and my hand was out of the bowl.

Sixth, if there are no blisters, leave hands bare. While the rest of the day there were still some hot spots (pre-blister) on my hand, they were mostly gone, at least smaller, and healing quickly.  If there are blisters, don’t pop them and keep them covered to reduce risk infection (see link here). I didn’t have this issue, but I trust traditional first aid knowledge at this point.

Luckily, our skin is amazing (see here) and can heal quickly when we take care of it. Give it some TLC while its healing, and you’ll be back in business in no time.

How to Write a Reflexivity Statement (for professional or personal purposes)


One little trick can help you gain more accurate research results, improve personal relationships, and avoid professional pitfalls. All it takes is answering questions you inherently know the answer to and then taking a few steps to make those answers useful.

How do you see the world? What paradigms structure your life? How are you influenced by the people and places around you? And vice versa?

These questions are part of what are answered with a reflexivity statement. They are crucial to understanding yourself and your place in the world around you. In research, best practices mandate that you write a reflexivity statement before penning a proposal  or stepping into a community.  You must understand why you are asking particular research questions, how your perspective may be limited, and how you may be prone to bias. Though knowing your inner workings does not prevent them from playing a role in research outcomes or conclusions, it does help to limit their influence and gives you the power to correct for your own shortcomings. Continue reading

What’s the Status Quo on Cheating?


Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer on the set of War and Peace, by Milton Greene, 1955

Enter a caption

For whatever reason, we don’t talk about cheating. We don’t know where everybody stands on the topic or what their experience with it is. It’s often a shameful experience for both the cheater and the cheated on, so maybe we cautiously avoid it out of a concern for other peoples’ feelings. When I respectfully disregarded that respectful distance, I found out that broaching the topic is welcomed and oftentimes needed.


Asking seven fairly simple questions about peoples’ experience with and views on cheating, I entered into conversations that lasted anywhere from 3 to 45 minutes (transcribing was a beast!). Everyone I approached was willing to partake in the survey, and most were curious about my findings. ‘What did other people say?’ was a common question I received when mine were finished.

Below is a summary of what I found, meant to be reflective of the 54 responses I received. Each participant was generous in sharing their views on such a personal subject, and they warrant more space than I can give in one article. Thank you to all who shared your experiences with me.

The participants were 30 males and 24 females of various adult ages. The interviews were done on the street, at coffee shops, in bars, on trains, in FedEx lines and anywhere else I found myself in conversation with people willing to chat. Participants were from 6 different countries and interviewed in a few different states and countries.

As you read the responses to these questions, I challenge you to think about what your answers are for these questions. It’s not all as simple as you might think. So, deep breath! Here we go. Continue reading



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Marilyn demonstrating electric stove, 1949A meal with loads of protein, a superfood, fresh veggies, and Mexican twist? Yes, please! Earlier this year I realized I was missing out on significant amounts of protein in my diet. This simple recipe has become a staple because of its high nutrient value, quick prep time, deliciousness, and reheatability. Continue reading

The time and place for athletes to speak


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        One day last year I was training a client in the gym and a news story about healthcare flashed on the television. My client, a very wealthy business owner, commented that Obamacare was killing small business and that if he had to pay healthcare for his employees, soon enough, he wouldn’t be able to afford personal training, and he pondered, where would that leave me, his trainer.
        After he finished a slew of burpees and planks, I redirected his question. If my healthcare costs weren’t covered by my employer, if I couldn’t receive healthcare when I needed it, soon I wouldn’t be able to afford to be his trainer, and where would that leave him?

Continue reading

Word of the Week: Ilk

Ilk (rhymes with silk)

(noun) a type of something similar to those already referred to.  Often used in phrase “of that ilk” meaning of that kind, origin, designation, or name.


Though she adored the designer clothing worn by Kate Middleton and her ilk, June’s budget demanded a less glamorous wardrobe.

Scott Pruitt and his ilk claim that leading the world in energy innovation is a disadvantage to the U.S., but June knew that position was based on their selfish interests.


How to shift a reality trick #3: Brain teasers and moral dilemmas

A DC Streetcar Woman: 1943

Trolley dilemma takes your beliefs and morality for a test drive

We define ourselves by the hard lines that we will not cross.  As we encounter new challenges and new environments, those lines may shift, reshaping our beliefs right along with them. These lines, these attitudes and morals, build our perception of how the world should be and who we should be while we are in it. So what better way to challenge a reality than to test it with new dilemmas that create some tension on those lines?

This method of reality shifting is more of a warm up for bigger changes and new ideas.  Offering no right or wrong answers, it simply asks questions, begs for discussion, and according to some solid research published in Science, activates areas of the brain used specifically in emotional reasoning.  This type of reasoning slows down thought processes, lessens working memory (as is typically activated in reasoning), and activates three areas of the brain associated with emotion. Continue reading

How to Shift a Reality Trick #2: Put a Face to a Name

Marian Anderson Sings at Lincoln Memorial: 1939 # 4

Singer Marion Anderson shakes hands with Secretary of the Interior Ickes during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.  Interactions like this make a big difference in shaping peoples’ views.

One way that we hold our own identities intact is by surrounding ourselves with like minded people and influences.  This tactic is becoming progressively easier to carry out because the online world gives us more opportunity to connect with people of our specific choosing and to reinforce our deeply held assumptions about the world and the people who inhabit it.  We give ourselves the benefit of distance from opposing viewpoints. While we cannot talk someone out of this reality he’s created, we can introduce them to people whose stories and presence may lead him to his own change of heart.

The key to today’s reality shifting trick is to disrupt a previously held belief by introducing a flesh and blood person who challenges that belief, or who that belief harms. Recent research shows that compassion is an integral part of human nature.  Encounters with those in need or those who need help trigger a compassionate response and build our compassionate nature. Continue reading

How to Shift a Reality Trick #1: Reverse Argument

153 Tyndall Field, Florida WWII

A thoughtful little conversation can lead to big viewpoint changes if you let go of controlling the dialogue and winning arguments.

The beauty of this method for changing minds is that it lets you sit back and guide your target audience through their own thought process.  As we previously mentioned, you cannot talk someone out of their reality or into a new one.  We can, however, provide environments where someone encounters a new situation that offers an opportunity for them to experience a different reality, therefore shifting theirs.  Today’s strategy is based on numerous experiments which asked students to write an essay that disagrees with their personal beliefs.  The results of these studies show that after writing the essays, the students were more favorable to the position they supported in the essay than they previously were.

So, let’s translate these results into something we can use in our daily life.  Finding a way to get your audience to play devil’s advocate to themselves is the key goal. They need to reason through the information in their own brain, no one can do it for them.  You may need to employ some creativity getting them to the point where this can happen, but we have a few suggestions to get you started. Continue reading