All posts by X Teri

Revelation Over Regrets

My first day back at work after emergency surgery.

It’s hard to see, but my brooch is intensely personal instead of light-hearted.

The brooch is a crematory tag of someone who died too young. “Too young” is such a misleading phrase. If you have things left unsaid or deeds undone, especially ones intertwined with your heart, today is your day to remedy it.

Regrets are the poison; revelation is the cure.

Get started.

Love, X
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Secrecy

Yesterday, my long-lost secret sister Carolyn met my remaining sibling Marsha for the first time. I met my long-lost sister on New Year’s day this year. To imagine that she’d meet my other sister Marsha seemed unimaginable to me a year ago. I can’t describe how strange it is to think about how much was hidden. For years, I caught hell from some of my family for pursuing ancestry and DNA; most of them were compelled to silence me due to a misguided sense of family honor. Considering the things I already knew combined with the things I’ve forensically learned through research and stubbornness, I still don’t know what they were protecting. Like many families, the things I unearthed would fill a book. It’s amusing to me that their attempts to discourage me convinced me that there MUST be something they were hiding. It turns out, there were several “somethings.” To know that some of them kept the truth of a sister hidden astonishes me. Part of it for some of them was racism and shame; my Dad took advantage of a young black girl. After she was born, he fled Monroe County, as if he could escape the past. Luckily for all of us, the result of Dad’s misbehavior resulted in a fantastic human being, one who had a big family herself, full of love and stories.

Without bitterness, I still feel that if they would have spent 10% of that energy protecting us from the monstrous actions of some of my family, our paths would have been significantly brighter.

Almost all secrets come out, even 1/4 of a century after someone passes away.

I feel proud that my insistence and curiosity led me to find a sister I never knew I had. She’s smart, humble, and funny. My brother Mike missed the chance to meet the new sister Carolyn. His demons got the best of him. I’m hoping my new sister provides my sister Marsha a template for finding meaning and direction – and for building a new kind of relationship to sustain her.

Most of my family is gone, many of them chased and hounded by addiction into the grave. Soon enough, all of us will be stories and memories.

I’m tickled that I kept my curiosity sharpened; it led to yesterday.

No matter what comes of it, I count finding my new sister as one of my best accomplishments in life. People having access to their stories and truth is essential to make a good life.

Love, X
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Personal

It wasn’t until I sat down with a counselor to recap the last few months of my life that I realized how important the ritual of pushups had become. I started on June 1st, after listening to my cousin Lynette, aka Blue Dress Project. Part of my wish was to start doing only what could be sustainable. Pushups are an effective total-body workout – and they can be done anywhere, require no equipment, and are a tremendous incremental workout. Most of my shoulder pain disappeared as my ability to do a lot of pushups crescendoed. Lynette likes to tease me about my reluctance to add more physical activity to my life. I was cautious about further damage; all of that concern turned out to be pointless, and especially because it wasn’t my shoulder that turned traitorous to me. Isn’t it amusing that we worry about things, only to discover that almost none of what we expect comes to fruition – while the stuff we’d never expect blossoms and distracts us?

My job is much more physical than most people realize. When I was fat, it was hard for people to see me and imagine that I walked miles every day and moved tons of medical supplies. Now that I’m thin, people seem to have no doubts. It’s a lesson in self-image and the oddness of how your body sends messages to other people, even though we don’t like to think so. I don’t take it personally. I wish that we had a way to pull people aside and say, “I’m concerned. You’re overweight, and your health is probably suffering.” Yesterday, I went to work for a bit to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday and retirement. I’ve known her for 16+ years, and her absence will be a strange void, especially at 4 a.m. While I was at work for the short visit, a few people who’d not seen me in weeks were shocked at my transformation. They’d forgotten that I’d lost almost 90+ lbs before my emergency surgery. In the interim, my body shape has changed and become what it’s supposed to be, except, of course, for the permanent scar and reminder of life’s capriciousness. Though people have had months to watch my body melt away, they still have an old image of me in their heads. They laugh when I tell them, “Never again.” The other component of my transformation, the mental one, is invisible to me. That’ll take longer to percolate and replace the old me.

Since my surgery four-plus weeks ago, I haven’t been able to do many traditional pushups. In the last couple of days, I’ve done a few, a very few, carefully. I’ve also done more by leaning on the kitchen counter or deck landing to minimize any potential stress to my abdomen. I’ve given the dumbbells a lot of work, but it’s not quite the same, especially since I have to be extremely careful. A return to work is approaching like a snowball. After a few weeks with post-surgery dumbbells, I’ve discovered that I enjoy the ritual of repetitions and increasing fatigue.

My counselor knew I’d started doing pushups because my therapy slightly overlapped the date I started back in June. She looked at me in surprise when I told her I had made it to the point I could do 1500-plus in a day. I also told her that the irony was that I decided to limit myself to 500 a day three days before my emergency surgery. “Just 500?” she said and laughed.

I find myself shaking my head at the irony of spending a year eating healthily and getting in the best shape of my adult life, only to find myself hospitalized for the first time as an adult.

Until I had to stop doing them after surgery, I hadn’t connected the dots explicitly about how pushups are exercise and meditative. They incorporate counting, breathing, and a bit of simultaneous mindlessness. For anyone reading my posts about them, I admitted countless times that I often used them to counteract anxiety. Over the last five weeks, I realized that the habit and instinctive desire to do them was always in the back of my mind. I realized that I had been so successful early on because pushups were my single-best anxiety tool.

One of my most effective tools to help cope with anxiety was taken from me. I have a lot to be thankful for, regardless. Like so many other non-physical ailments, stress can quickly derail anyone, partly because it’s invisible to other people until it manifests itself with undesirable behavior.

It’s evident to me that pushups became an addiction. People scoff at the idea that something perceived as so healthy can be an addiction. It’s one of the reasons I’d already decided to reduce my maximum to 500 a day. It’s still a lot – but not crazy. Going back to work, there’s no doubt I will get more exercise than I probably want for a while.


I’m going back to work on Monday 4 weeks and 6 days after my emergency surgery.

People ask me about my most significant setback during my recovery.

It wasn’t the pain, the staples, regrets, or the disconnectedness I often experience.

It was the unexpected vomiting spell I had last Saturday. Don’t worry; it wasn’t physical. Because I’d hit my physical limit with exercise for the day, I didn’t have the easy tools to trick my mind into quietness. I WANTED to do several hundred pushups, don’t get me wrong. The stress and anxiety hit me like a brick. It was over relatively quickly. I knew immediately I’d oddly strained the muscles on the left side of my stomach, away from the vertical scar running down the valley of my middle. Though the external stressors hadn’t diminished, my focus shifted immediately to damage mode – and my mind sidestepped ongoing anxiety. After abdominal surgery, the surgeons give you constructive advice such as, “Don’t sneeze too much. Or cough. And especially don’t vomit. Or force yourself as you go to the bathroom. Don’t worry about a ‘little’ blood.” Thanks, Doc – now that’s all I can think about.

It was a moment of clarity.

The foolishness of letting external stress affect me like that washed over me. After losing all the weight and getting into surprising shape, I’d already survived an unexpected physical setback with the surgery. Even doing things well, the universe needed a laugh at my expense.

And so it was after I vomited. It reinforced my decision to see a counselor again. People are stressed more than ever, or so it seems. I don’t want to point fingers at the circumstances that led me to be quickly sick. The truth is that it is on me to continue to learn new habits and not internalize things, no matter how crazy, dramatic, or wild they may be. The world is inevitably going to shock me, and people will behave in self-destructive or ridiculous ways. (This explains why some people like rodeos or fashion shows.)

I have to learn to stand quietly, even if I’m in the eye of the storm.

I have to learn to stand quietly, even as people act disturbingly.

There will always be storms and also people to cause anguish.

To expect otherwise is both a form of attempted control and surrender of my peace. I’d forgotten to take control of the thoughts running through my head, justifying it because my concern was for someone else who couldn’t pull up out of their flight path.

I don’t want to disengage from people. Most people are pursuing their interests without inflicting damage. Now, more than ever, I need other people to share moments.

During this most prolonged dormant period of my adult life, I tried to take advantage of the downtime and channel my loneliness. People roll their eyes when I tell them I don’t understand boredom. There is SO much to do, books to read (all non-fiction in this irregular period), TED talks to watch and listen to, colorful art and projects to finish, and a universe idly waiting for me to engage. Not to mention my favorite, writing. I accidentally wrote a 100+ page story in the last few weeks, one so intensely personal that I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. I became friends with the lengthy spiderweb of streets around my apartment, including many dogs who need attention.

I laugh when I think of all the surprises I’ve done within a few miles of my apartment. Some were noticed, but not all. Some undoubtedly caused happiness or laughter. Others? Probably confusion. I tried to do random acts of kindness (and many not so random). I can see a couple from the landing outside my apartment, one of them ridiculous. I can’t believe no one noticed or asked me, “How?”

I’m not sure what the message of this is supposed to be. And that’s okay. Not all sharing can be tied up with a bow.

Maybe you learned something about me. I learned something about myself. Not all of it is good. Anxiety is a real issue, and if you suffer from it, sleeplessness, or depression, or just want to feel better in life, there is help. All of it starts from within, in an attempt to be who you’re supposed to be. If you have a day or thirty years ahead of you, you might as well try to live in the best way you can. All of it centers on being honest and being surrounded by people who light you up.

Go find your fire. Start with an ember if you must. Just start.

Love, X
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The Bravo Rule

One of the reasons that so many have problems with social media is that they don’t understand the psychology of argument, much less see themselves as other people do. You’re not going to affect someone’s opinion by using a megaphone. Or harsh words. Your volume will be heard – but never absorbed. You become background noise in a world that already has sufficient static to dishearten us. People need truth to be whispered to them, preferably with a velvet glove. Addicts don’t hear love, angry people don’t respond to outreach, and most of us must approach new information sideways, like human crabs. It takes time and compassion to affect someone. I hate that I only learn many of my lessons after the class of life is already over. I know I’m wrong about so much, because as confident as I was when I was younger, it is painfully clear that my ignorance held me captive. That process surely still continues, with future days looking back at today in surprise at my slow evolution.

Words are an important component of the process. Actions are another. If you’re polarizing, you are shouting on the internet. People will tune you out. Whether you’re blind to this truth or not, you should pause and consider what kind of conversations and communication have an impact on you. I’ll bet that your vision doesn’t include anger, shouting, or aggressive insistence. Communication requires comprehension. By being tersely aggressive, you’ve short-circuited your ability to not only reach people, but also to put a little bit of ‘you’ inside their heads, much less their hearts.

If your goal is to reach a person’s heart and mind, you must take the time to share a little piece of yourself in the process. People might respond if they recognize a bit of vulnerability in your words. It’s easier to accept someone if the listener observes a bit of humanity. People respect doubt, as it provides a common avenue for us all to recognize that we don’t have all the answers.

Take the time to share yourself. Include your opinions in the process. It’s social media. If you understand the social component, you’ll wisely avoid the urge to do the equivalent of standing on the street corner shouting. You’ll get further by shaking hands, hugging, and relating to people in a way they can understand.

If you can find a way to express yourself with love, it will shine through in your words. Everyone will be richer for it.

We want to get to know other people. We feel like we already know you if your tone and tenor is not tender.

I’ll give an example: I wish we had universal health care for everyone. Life can hammer any of us to the point of bankruptcy, whether we’re lucky enough to have insurance or not. Not only would providing healthcare be cheaper per capita, but it sends the message that we are willing to collectively help one another. It is the purest practical expression of love and compassion. “Do unto others” compels me to agree that everyone should have health care equal to me. Health is the often ignored common denominator to a happier life. In the last year, I abandoned so many bad habits and transformed my life and body. Despite doing it right, my body still threw me a red flag and almost killed me. People don’t deserve the physical terrors of cancer and a list of other diseases. When I hear arguments about universal health care, I don’t hear practical arguments: I hear a lack of “do unto others.”

Don’t “@me” that you don’t know how to write. It’s not about that. It’s about openly sharing your thoughts and yourself. Language is never an impediment to sentiment and feelings that brim over and out of your heart. You will always find a way to express the best emotions. We’re hard-wired to do so. All of us.

P.S. If you want to really break free, open your closet of secrets. So much of our anguish is contained in the things we don’t want other people to know. You’ll never be authentically loved if your secrets and locked in a closet.

Love, X

Evenfall’s Arrival

Though I start by talking about a movie, these words aren’t really about the movie. Most of the things that strike a chord in us are really about recognizing something magical or true in ourselves as if we’re hearing an old truth in a new way.

“Arrival” is already a thought-provoking movie about language, time, and destiny. I loved that the main character was seeing her own bitter future and lived it anyway.

Last night, I watched “Arrival” again, this time in Spanish. I intended to spend just a few minutes immersed in it. Instead, I watched a movie that initially fascinated me in its approach to language. Ingesting it in Spanish lit my curiosity zone on fire. Before I knew it, the film was over. I curled up with my bear Azon as my cat Güino laid next to my hip, an unusual place for him. Dreams hit me like an avalanche.

All of the evenfall (another word I love) and the penumbra of the night held me captive, my dreams bursting in Spanish. In one of the best parts, my Grandma Nellie and I sat in her house on Shumard Street in Brinkley, both of us speaking only Spanish. She’d scoff at the idea of her ever speaking another tongue. But our conversation was about life and love and a little bit about salt pork and bacon for breakfast. (She was one to concern herself that no one was starving in her house – or so full we could barely walk to the front door, for that matter.) Though I knew I was dreaming, my heart sang as I sat with her. She died in 2000, at 91. It’s been a while since I dreamed about her or heard her voice so expressively in my head. Though she would have never done so in life, she asked me to drive her to Monroe to see the old haunts. As we drove, my dream shifted to early morning. As we neared Rich and Monroe, I noticed that we’d moved in time, too, traveling through an odd mix of several decades. Monroe was once again a bustling place, with farmers and passersby everywhere. We stopped at the Mercantile, once a hub of life in the small community. “I’m going to get out here if you don’t mind. I need to visit. Call me when you get home!” she said, always one to insist that we let her know we’d arrived at home alive. “If I’m dead on the roadside, how will I call you?” I asked her. It was an old joke that I loved telling her.

When Grandma exited the car and shut the door, I woke up. A few tears pooled in my eyes. It was 12:15 a.m. I felt like I’d lived a year in the dream. Güino was still next to me, his body heat oddly comforting.

This morning, I wandered around the apartment, my brain still in a slight fog, listening to my internal voice whisper to me in Spanish.

Even though I did so inexpertly, I attempted to colorize a picture of her and my Aunt Betty. I love that it’s not complete; it’s an evocative mix of black and white and color. I let my imperfections have the last word. But Grandma’s face is revived, so many decades later. The picture was probably taken 60 or 70 years ago. For a moment, last night, time became a bridge, and I walked across it.

I feel like a little bit of me is still back there in the imaginary place where time and geography became fluid.

Love, X

Ghost Prank!


Modern ghosts use higher thread count – and certainly more stylish colors.

I pranked my neighbor by carefully walking across the apartment landing and triggering both of her cameras as I wore my stylish ghost costume.

Long live Halloween. (And goofiness, too!)

Love, X

P.S. My cat Güino has commandeered my ghost suit. I was going to go to the other end and knock on the neighbor’s door and say something clever.

Catch Up!

I’ve been working on my new album. I have to finish it before Adele drops hers. Live focus groups, however, have been giving me mixed critiques!

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My latest painted rock. Would it be funny to conspicuously place this at the local convenience store gas pumps?

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“Trivial Pursuit” would be an ideal and sarcastic name for my autobiography. And each chapter should start with a question; by the end of the book, you could calculate your correct guesses. .

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Fayetteville is getting a little out of hand with these personalized signs. 🙂 I noticed this one on my early morning walk today.
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My counselor said, “If you don’t like having a mortgage, then you have an Apartment Complex.”

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In this modern world, the best enemies are the Amish, because they’ll never see you talking smack about them on the internet.

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My application for entry into the Seminary was rejected. One of the questions asked was, “Give an example of how the Church might save a lot of money.” I answered, “If you’d bless the water filter, you could make a lot more holy water with each blessing.”

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My neighbor told me he couldn’t figure out why people stopped honking at him while he drove. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d placed a “Student Driver” sticker on his bumper.

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Note: the spelling error is intentional on the above picture!

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Microsoft now offers bedding. I went online to the Microsoft Store and bought myself a set of nice Excel spreadsheets for $20.

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Therapy With Humor

When I arrived at the counselor’s office, I texted her in Spanish: “I’ve arrived. I hope the clown suit doesn’t bother you.” (She’s learned a decent amount of Spanish) I don’t think she would have been surprised if I had a clown suit on.

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I drew a picture of my money.

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I won’t inundate your feed with too many pictures of my cat Güino. However, people ask, “What’s with his name?” When he came home from the Springdale Animal Shelter in 2008, he was VERY young. When I visited him at the shelter, all he did was make this strange cry. It sounded like a penguin! Since I love Spanish, I shortened the word “pingüino” to “Güino.” It’s also fun to use a name with an umlaut in it. It’s pronounced “Gwee-no.” .

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My counselor said, “If you don’t like having a mortgage, then you have an Apartment Complex.”

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An edit I did for a meme I see all over the internet.

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An edit for a friend’s beautiful view…

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(Another edit for a friend…)

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