Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Skinned Knees and a Declaration of Independence

As a little girl, I constantly had skinned knees. My crashing and burning took many forms and I was sure that when I grew up I would carry hideous scars from my misadventures. I've recently had some skinned knees of a different sort.

Many of you know that at the beginning of Summer '08, my 27-year relationship ended. Suddenly my life had a completely different context. As I made my way through the labyrinth of newness, there was much to learn and once again the possibility of crashing and burning existed at every turn. Risk of skinned knees: HIGH.

While some of these skinned knees can be devastating, others have been northern stars for me. Case in point: You learn much about yourself living on your own. I did anyway. One of the things I learned, as basic and absurd as it sounds, was that I did not know how to make coffee. I limped along for 8 1/2 months mainlining each morning at our local coffee house. Then a very special person sent me a gift box of Peet's coffee. (Peet's -- Berkeley, CA -- is a beloved Bay Area treasure). I stared at that box. The best coffee in the world must be consumed. This was a defining moment. I had to learn how to make coffee.

I went out and bought a coffee maker that does it all (or so I thought). It grinds the beans, has a timer, and looks hot -- the Testarosa of coffee makers!

Now I'm not one to read directions. I mostly just charge forward (hence the skinned knees, I suppose). But this time, I sat down and read the how-to manual cover to cover. I cleaned up the coffee maker, set the clock, and set the timer. I kept the book on the counter all week as I attempted to climb this Mt. Everest of skill sets.

Day One: Not bad. Good coffee. A little weak. (Note to self: Add more beans.)
Day Two: Still weak. Maybe, weaker than yesterday. (Note to self: This is tricky business.)
Day Three: Something's wrong. This is bad coffee. (Note to self: RED ALERT! I'm wasting my Peet's coffee!)

Revelation (aka: skinned knee #1): You have to EMPTY the grounds from the filter each day.

When I finally figured this out and opened the magic door behind which the filter hides, coffee grounds poured out everywhere! This was very embarrassing to me and, in fact, the is the first time I've admitted what I perceived as my incompetence. I cleaned up the mess and learned more about the process of coffee making.

All went well for the next eight months... until this morning.

Last month in Seattle, friends gave me some Seattle coffee -- not whole beans as I'm used to but ground coffee. Being out of whole beans this morning, I decided to brew a pot Seattle-style. I carefully measured, waited, and then poured the first cup. It was water.

Revelation (aka: skinned knee #2): I had put the grounds in the grinder instead of directly into the filter!

As I juggled hot coffee maker parts to correct this error, I thought, "I'm not going to be embarrassed or beat myself up. I'm learning." Noted child development psychologist Jean Piaget said, "A child's mistakes are natural steps to understanding." I think this piece of wisdom is true for all ages. It certainly is for me. I hope to always be trying to understand more and more and that means making mistakes. I also hope that I am kind to myself when, as a natural step to understanding, I fall once again and skin my knees.

My coffee escapades have been a pretty good word picture of the tricky navigation the past year and a half has presented. Now, 18 months later and at a view of 30,000 feet, I see things differently. I see skinned knees as a badge of courage. And I realize that, almost always, the scars fade away and only the adventure, the memory, and the understanding remains.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The "Queer" State of the Union

The LGBT Resource Center kicks off our fall programming with the first of our OnGoing LGBT Conferences this Monday, September 21. We are thrilled to have Sean Kosofsky joining us to talk about "The Queer State of the Union"! I guarantee Sean will rock the house as he brings us up to speed on LGBT politics!


Much has happened at the state and national level since Obama's inauguration. Sean will be discussing issues impacting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and taking your questions as well!


Sean is the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and is former Director of Policy for Triangle Foundation -- Michigan's anti-violence and advocacy organization serving the LGBT communities. For more info on Sean, click here.


Monday, September 21, at 4 p.m. in the Grand River Room, Kirkhof Center. LIB 100 APPROVED! This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Please contact our office if you need special accommodations: (616) 331-2530.

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