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True Story: My 8-Year-Old Daughter Dresses Exclusively Like A Boy

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Stasia and her daughter Raisa who only wears ‘boy’ clothes.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a 40-year-old momma with two wildly beautiful kids (2 and 8) and a wicked handsome social worker husband, living the good life in Vermont. Last year, I threw caution and pragmatism to the wind, quit my job, and started a biz as a Personal Stylist, and have never looked back. I had no choice… my daughter made me do it :)
Tell us about your daughter. 
Raisa is an 8 years old kid with incredible style :) She’s sassy, bold, cool and charismatic… just not in the way I had envisioned when I was planning out what life would be like with a baby girl. She was born with “special needs”. She’s had hundreds of doctor’s appointments, has been under anesthesia over a dozen times, and sleeps with a c-pap machine every night. She loves to ski, bike, fish, and swim. She would wear a suit jacket and bow tie to school every single day if her closet was abundant enough to support her desires. She’s tough, gentle, bold, sensitive… and she loves her brother more than anything on earth.
At what age did she start wanting to dress like a boy? 
She started trending toward boy clothes around 3 years old, but I didn’t make much of it at the time. I could still get her in dresses though admittedly it was a battle. As she neared 6 years old, we would have throw-down fights around her wardrobe. I would get crazy upset when she outright REFUSED to wear the super fun, cute, whimsical clothes I had purchased for her.You see, Raisa looks different than other kids, and I thought I could combat the inevitable bullying if she wore hip clothes and looked ridiculously cute all the time. Plus, after years of hospital visits and hundreds of doctor’s appointments, I was exhausted, and couldn’t imagine navigating and challenging the roles of gender in our society. I just wanted things to be regular. You know, easy.
What make you change your mind and buy her first shirt and tie?
We were shopping at our local thrift store, and she asked me (as she’s done a million times) to help her look for a “boy” shirt and tie. I said no. She’d had enough “no” from me, so she walked up to the counter and asked the cashier to help her look in the kid’s section for a shirt and tie. They did, and they found the most dreadful Walmart looking shirt and tie combo I had ever seen.I couldn’t say no since the cashier was the one who presented it to me – so I begrudgingly paid $3 for the combo and figured I’d just re-donate it the following day. I wish I could say I “changed my mind”, but unfortunately it wasn’t a selfless act, and I didn’t let go of my antiquated belief systems for another couple of hours…
How did she react when she put on her shirt and tie for the first time?
As soon as we got home from the thrift store, she immediately put on the shirt and tie and stood in front of the mirror. When she first saw her reflection, she became motionless and said to me in a whisper, “Mama, look how handsome I look.” Then she bolted across the dining room and said, “Mama, Mama, look how fast I can run!” and then she jumped and said, “Mama, look how much higher I can jump when I’m wearing a shirt and tie!”I just stood there, ashamed, shocked and in disbelief. She could run faster and jump higher when she was wearing clothes on the outside that reflected who she was on the inside. Though I understood the sentiment of “authentic style” to a degree, she articulated it in a way that knocked my socks off. The lesson was profound, and it changed the trajectory of my life.
Does she ‘dress like a boy’ every day now? 
Every. Single. Day. And most days she’s wearing a bow tie and a blazer :) She’s unstoppable.
How have the people in your life reacted to her fashion choices?
They LOVE it! In fact, she’s become a bit of a local sensation in her bow ties and neckties. Believe it or not, I haven’t heard one single person say anything cross about her boy-like presentation. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
How do other kids react to her choices?
Great question!! Kids are a wee bit confused… “Is Raisa a boy or a girl?” Even her classmates that have known her for years have questioned whether she’s a boy or a girl. But other than that, it’s no big deal. And honestly, Raisa thinks it’s cool that she looks and dresses like a boy but IS a girl.
Has she made any comments about wishing she was a boy? Or does it seem like her interest ends at wearing clothes that are traditionally male?
This is tricky territory. She acts like a boy, dresses like a boy and stays far away from anything girl because “What if people think I’m a girl?” BUT, she’s never said she wishes she were a boy, and trust me, we’ve asked. She has said over and over that she’s happy that she’s a girl, but just likes everything boy, and likes that people think she’s a boy. She loves that her brother calls her “sissy” and loves her very feminine name. So for now, we’re allowing her to lead the conversation and we’ll just keep checking in, supporting her, and loving her.
Raisa has taken the gender binary and tipped it upside down. She resonates with both “boy” and “girl,” and is at ease in that place of “in between”. Gender, it turns out, is a continuum, and she understands that better than most.
Has this changed the way you think about gender? Parenting? Fashion?
It’s changed the way I think about everything!! And I mean EVERYTHING.
I was in the beginning, contemplative stages of starting my biz as a personal stylist when the shirt and tie incident happened. In that moment, my purpose became clear, and my message of “Inside-Out Congruency” became my life’s work. When I meet with clients, the first and absolute most important thing I do is help them figure out who they are on the inside so that we can reflect that on the outside. I want every woman in the world to “run faster and jump higher”.
And really, this philosophy of Inside-Out Congruency transcends everything! Allowing and supporting those around us to fully live in their truest place and space will create a world with greater harmony and less of the us vs them.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
I’ve learned that belief systems and inflexible plans can be dangerous, and the tighter we hold on to them, the more tumultuous and unstable our lives become. Before Raisa was born, my husband and I had crafted and created a wanderlust lives for ourselves and our soon-to-be family. But the moment she was born, we had to say goodbye to our grand plan because now her life was on the line and we needed to plant ourselves near her big city hospital. We settled in Vermont, created community, and have never looked back.

When she was born, I envisioned she would be this hip, sweet, funky, charismatic girl who loved shimmer and sparkle, despite her differences… and this is also something I’ve had to let go of. All those years that I fought, refused and rejected the notion that my daughter was more “boy” than “girl” resulted in nothing more than battle wounds – for both of us. I’ve learned that letting go and flexibility release our hearts from tension and makes space for profound love.

Thank you so, so much for sharing this sweet story, Stasia. Do you guys have any (polite!) questions for her?

True Story: I’m A 35-year-old Virgin + I Intend To Stay That Way

his is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Kat and why she doesn’t ever plan to have sex.
Tell us a bit about yourself! 
I was born in Maryland. I now reside in Virginia. I’m 34 years old (almost 35). I work from home for a Fortune 500 company. For fun I listen to music, read, knit, spend time in nature, travel, and watch
sports.
Growing up, how did you think about romance? 
My parents separated when I was 8 years old. I didn’t see any romance or fighting. I only heard one argument while they were together. When I read romantic books or watched movies, I knew the female character would never be me. I would never have a prince charming. I knew that from a very young age. I told my mom when I was 8 that I would get married at 88 years old. Now I say I’m never getting married.
What’s your romantic history like?
I wasn’t allowed to date while I was growing up. I was asked on one date in high school. I wasn’t attracted to the guy so I came up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t go out with him. I have been
attracted to guys over the years but never in a sexual way. 
I briefly dated one guy 15 years ago. We went on a date to Taco Bell! lol. It was a one-time thing. It didn’t end well. He kept talking about sex and I knew I didn’t want to do it so when I got the chance to escape, I did. I left him stranded at his friends house. (I was the one driving).
Other than that, I have never kissed anyone or been kissed. I have not gone on a date since then. I haven’t even been hugged by a male (except maybe once or twice by my dad).
How do you feel when you think about sex?
When I think about doing it, it repulses me. Not to sound immature but “ewww” is the best way to describe it. Genitalia disturbs me.
Do you think you’re asexual?
Yes, I probably am. The attraction is sort of there, but I have no interest in sex. I’ve known since I was about 10 that I would never have sex. I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew I didn’t want to do it.
Do the people in your life know about this?
I think my family thinks I’m a virgin or maybe that I’ve had sex once. No one knows for sure because I don’t talk about it. They don’t ask. No one mentions it so I don’t know how they feel. I think my mom thinks I’m gay because she has made snide comments about it in the past. I don’t have close friends so it isn’t something that comes up a lot. I rarely think about being a virgin. It isn’t an issue in my day to day life.
Do you have any interest in having a partner to navigate life with – even if that relationship doesn’t involve sex?
No, I’m not interested in having a partner especially a live-in one. I love living alone. Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to date someone without sex and living separately. That is the only way I’ll ever date someone. I haven’t completely ruled that out, but I’m definitely not looking for it.
I’m not interested in cuddling but maybe if I found the right person, that would change. The same goes for emotional intimacy. With the right situation, I may be open to that.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kat. Do you guys have any (polite!) questions for her? Are any of you happily sex-free?
Photo by Jessica Lok // cc

True Story: I Lost Both My Parents Before I Turned 30

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is one reader’s story and what she has learned through losing both her parents before turning 30.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I’m from central Scotland, near Stirling (a small town often associated with Mary Queen of Scots and William Wallace!). I’m 30, and work in student administration at a university in the capital, Edinburgh. I love walking, reading (especially Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle books), weightlifting and hanging out with my boyfriend and our two cats.

Could you give us a snapshot of family life when you were a kid?
Family life was pretty good when I was little – we lived in a big, old house. We often went for walks together in the glen near our house. My parents were both working full time from when I was 6 and my sister 10, so I had a child minder (who was like a second mum). Mum was definitely my favourite, and my sister was a daddy’s girl. Mum was loud, funny, very loving and bossy. Dad was wistful, hard working, musical, and loved being silly.

How did your mother pass?
My mum died after about two weeks of illness over the Christmas holidays – a bad virus became flu, what doctor’s didn’t realise was that a blood clot had developed in her leg. It travelled up her leg to her lungs and she stopped breathing (Deep Vein Thrombosis). She died 10 days after the New Year, 2000.

How did your dad deal with losing his wife? How did you and your sister deal with losing your mom?
Dad went on autopilot when mum died, and then went back into work mode (he was always quite a workaholic). I also went on autopilot; she died the first day of school so there was all this normal stuff happening at the same time. I remember I kept stroking dad’s chin and telling him he needed to shave.

About three days later I decided to go to classes because I couldn’t think of anything else to do and I wanted to be with my friends. My sister had it worst – she was actually travelling in Australia when my mum passed, she had to travel half way across the world and didn’t get the chance to see mum before she was taken to the funeral service (we had a Humanist service, and mum was cremated).

How did your mom’s death change your family?
We pretty much lost the root connection when mum died; she tied us all together and was especially good at helping translate between what were then too very emotional teenage girls and a man who had no idea how to handle that. Without her we had to find a whole new way of talking to each other. When dad was home with me it often felt like I was living with a stranger, I preferred him to be out of the country working (a lot of anger now I realise looking back). My sister stayed in England for about 10 years, she couldn’t settle back in Scotland for a long time.

When did your dad discover he had Lymphoma?
I’m not really sure; he preferred to deal with things himself rather than be ‘a burden’ on others. I think he had really bad skin problems for about a year and a half before he was diagnosed. For a long time, he just through he had an allergy.

How did you react when he told you?
I acted like we were having a normal conversation (on the outside), but inside my heart skipped a beat when I heard the word Lymphoma. I just asked lots of innocuous questions. Our family are masters of autopilot! It was only when we had to cut a walk short because his feet hurt so much that I realised he must have been in a lot of pain (my Dad LOVED walking, and had such a big stride I used to have to run and skip just to keep up).

Was your dad’s death different for you than your mom’s?
Definitely – mum’s felt really sudden, Dad got progressively worse over a few years and then took a dive over two weeks. We could sense his death coming, and our relationship was a lot more complicated so it was a confusing time emotionally.

How have you coped with this?
With A LOT of talking – although I only really did this properly after Dad died (I really wish I’d done it when mum passed away). For me counselling sessions at one of my local centres was the break through – I felt safe to be angry, sad, ridiculous, and moany and not feel self-conscious about that. People kept telling me how strong I was being, but I was just walking through life like a zombie. I’d kept my emotions bottled up until I went to see someone.

I also smoked weed consistently from the year after my mum died until I was 29 – which I used to numb the pain.

Internet chat rooms were great, I could find people going through the same things but not need to be in the same place (and could still hide at home in my pyjamas if I wanted to!)

How do you feel when you hear people complaining about their parents?
Bemused. Heartbroken. Caught between wishing I had a parent/parents to moan about and knowing if I did I’d probably be bitching in just the same way without thinking about it for a second! I try to remind myself of the latter, especially when I’ve had the 20th FB post about Mother’s Day.

Has this changed the way you feel about having kids or building a family of your own?
To be honest I’m weary about ever raising a family, it was heart breaking to lose mum and dad so the idea of losing someone else (or them having to go through losing me) is terrifying. Both my parents died at hospital too, so the idea of giving birth in that kind of environment has underlying anxieties for me. At the same time I know I’d love any family with all my heart.

If we know someone who has lost a parent, how can we best be supportive? What are some things we SHOULDN’T say or do?
Like all grief it can be so different from person to person. I’d say – most important to offer your support, give lots of hugs if they’re hugging people, or just sit with them if that seems about all they can take. I also valued doing ‘normal’ things, even if it was just playing the Playstation or watching the Matrix for the umpteenth time. I LIVED off tuna pate and bagels for a while and cups of tea (comfort food). In Scotland cups of tea are like an automatic solution for most of life’s problemsJ.

If a person is religious saying ‘they’re at peace’ or ‘in heaven’ might be a comfort, but if they’re atheist or humanist and you’re religious try your best not to impose your own beliefs (even unintentionally, and the grieving person knows this, it can still jar).

Most of all be patient, emotions can spill out in lots of unexpected and weird ways. After losing my parents I often got really upset about tiny things that had nothing to do with what I was actually doing at the time. It meant a lot not to be judged for that.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
Life can be very hard; there are a lot of things that you have no control over. You could be in a great place and suddenly hit a rough patch and vice versa. It can be hard to accept this, but try if you can. Realise the value of those close to you (friends, family or both). Don’t fear trying something new, and don’t follow the path you think you should just because that’s what you were taught.

P.S. I met my birth mom & My parents got divorced when I was 6 – and got remarried when I was 24


photo by Vanessa Kay // cc

True Story: I’m A Recovering Asshole

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story my friend Jina and how she went from an angry, self-medicating asshole to a happy, centered human.



Tell us a bit about yourself! 

My name is Jina. I’m 34 and I’m a recovering asshole. This is an anonymous meeting… right? No? Okay, double-knot those laces, I’m going for it anyway. 
I’m originally from a really small town (population 700) in central Minnesota. Currently I live in Minneapolis with my forever guy and my sassy wiener dog. For fun I like to go out on dates, eat tasty food, listen to music, watch soap operas, and wander around my neighborhood as my wiener dog sniffs everything at a snail’s pace.
For work I write on my blog The Happy Healthy Truth, publicly speak on getting happier and healthier, hold Lifestyle Design Camps with my biz BFF Katie Lee, and I have online programs for meditation and creating intuition about food choices and motivation. 
I’m sure we’ve all got our own definition of ‘asshole.’ What’s yours?
An asshole is someone who brings down the crowd with their words (complaints, judging, shit-talking, blaming), with their actions (throwing a beer bottle across the bar) or just their energetic vibration (you know those people who just walk into a room and bring down the mood).
What were some of your more asshole-y behaviors?
Growing up, if I saw someone picking on another person, I would go after the person doing the picking. In elementary school, I would organize a small group of friends to hold down a bully and I’d punch them over and over. As I grew older I would confront people (usually the initiator in typical mean girl stuff) and I would rip into them with my words.
If we had a substitute teacher in junior high or high school, it was my goal to see if I could break them into tears by the end of the class time. Insults, pranks, lipping off… anything to get under their skin. I was usually successful. 
I’d bust the chops of the high school principal if I felt like anyone was preferential treatment. I’d call him out in front of a crowd of people whenever I could to make a bigger impact.
On graduation day that principal came up to me to me and said, “Change your attitude or you’ll never go anywhere in life.” I was speechless – probably for the first time in my life. 
In college, I did all the cliche things like lying, cheating, stealing, and then I’d drink beer and laugh it off.
Why did you do these things or behave this way?
Like years of therapy will tell anyone, I did all of these things because I was unhappy. 
I grew up in an abusive home. My dad beat up mom and us kids learned that wild form of communication well. That minor issue (sarcasm), along with other family issues that my parents were dealing with, trickled down and gave me quite the asshole complex. 
Deep down, I never felt good enough or wanted. As you can imagine, truly feeling this way causes heavy sadness. I’ve learned along my journey that anger is the mask for sadness. I completely agree and see it in my own past.
Of course, back then I never thought I was sad. I only felt angry.

When you were in the thick of it, did you realize that you were acting like a jerk?
There were a few times where I felt like I had gone too far, but I would justify it away with all the reasons why acting like an asshole was okay in that moment. At that time it was everybody’s fault but my own!
After I started working to get happier and healthier, I would see myself acting like an asshole and that helped me check in and think about what I could do differently to deal with this difficult person or situation the next time I ran into it. 
How did your behavior affect the rest of your life? 
Like I said, at the root I was really sad. However, because I didn’t know or believe that, I was focused on external things to give me hits of happiness. Actually, I say “hits” of happiness now, but back then I thought they were the key to my happiness. You know, it’s the, “I’ll be happy when…”
When I get that new job, find a better place to live, move to another state, buy that shirt or those jeans, get that cute SUV, find someone better to date, or change the colors of my walls or rearrange my furniture to make me feel better at home.
All of these things cost a lot of money. And the happiness they give is temporary. Sadness and blame are expensive habits!
Not to mention the energy that goes into finding the next guy to date, interviewing for the next job, test driving cars, shopping for jeans (ugh), painting, rearranging… Phew! 
When did you realize that you didn’t want to be an asshole anymore? 
It was definitely a gradual dawning. I started to see a common theme to my job switching, car buying, dating, and time in the dressing room. I was the common denominator in everything in my life that I didn’t like.
ME.
Around that time I had also read somewhere that if you want to change your life you need to take ownership over everything in your life – the good and the bad. Taking ownership means no longer blaming anyone for anything.
So I took ownership and started researching how to become happier and more peaceful. 
Once you decided to change, what changes did you make? Where there any tools/books/epiphanies that really helped you in your process?
The biggest change for me was studying yoga. Yoga wasn’t my complete answer, but it opened many doors alone my journey. In 2005, I started training to be a yoga teacher. A suggested reading of one of the courses I took was Growing the Positive Mind by William Kent Larkin. It taught me the science behind feeling happiness and gave me specific exercises to increase the happiness I felt on a regular basis. 
I kept reading on happiness, spirituality, and anything else that could change my perception to become more joyful and peaceful. I learned how to eat to balance brain chemistry for better emotional health. I started meditating. I saw a therapist (a few of them). I had neurological chiropractic work done. I recited affirmations. I journaled. I did chakra work and Reiki. I cleansed my aura and kept healing crystals close. Most recently I’ve done hypnosis and past life regression. Some of these practices worked better than others. Some I still use today.
How did the people in your life react to the changes you made?
There are some people who naturally faded away as I become happier and less destructive. Some people were interested in trying the methods I used to create positive changes. And, of course, there have been some tough conversations with people that go something like, “You’re gonna have to clean up your shit. I can’t deal with it anymore.” Like that, but a little more loving or laughable depending on who is on the receiving end. 
What’s your life like now? What do you think your 20-year-old self would say if she could see you now?
My life is f*cking amazing. Really. I’ve worked hard to get here and I’ll never be done with the effort to grow and have a positive outlook. Which is just fine, because the work pays off 100 fold.
Having a solid relationship rooted in love and compassion, a job with killer returns in money and joy, a great place to live, and supportive and fun friends is not an accident. I am the other half of every good thing in my life. If I get lazy, stop being mindful, avoid tough conversations and don’t put in the work, the entire thing would fall apart.
Sure, it takes effort, but it feels better to act like the person who deserves this life. 
The old me? Outwardly she’d act like she didn’t care. Secretly she’d be a little intimidated. Overall she’d be really proud.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jina. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you moved past self-destructive, asshole-y behaviors? 

P.S. Why you should hang out with + date people you admire and How to get over your mistakes

True Story: I’m A Lady Geologist Living + Working On An Oil Rig

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Rachael and how she came to be a geologist if a very male-dominated field.



Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Rachael. I’m 29 years old from Lafayette, Louisiana and I love to travel. I’ve been to 11 countries and 38 states. I’m an avid gardener and am currently restoring a 125 year old Cajun home in the country with my husband. I’m also a mother of a one year old daughter. 

You’re a Logger aka Mud Logger aka Logging Geologist aka Surface Data Logger. What do you, well, do? 

When you just look at the bare bones of the job, Loggers are the eyes of the well. We have sensors hooked up to the most critical pieces of equipment and we monitor and document them 24-7. We are the first to see if something isn’t right and can call the driller if we see a kick. We have tons of equipment to maintain… A good Logger is someone who can troubleshoot, make good lists, and be well organized.
What sort of training did you need to get this job? 


To become a Logger you typically need a STEM degree – that’s a B.S. in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. I have a B.S. in Geology, and a minor in Music. Most of the training is on the job, but my employer provides many training classes.

What drew you to this type of work? 

Money and half of the year off is what drew me first to the job. My husband stays at home with the baby and I work. As soon as we’re done with fixing the house we’ll be able to go traveling again. A Logger at my company who does a good job makes about $70k a year at the least and can make over $100k as a Lead (the one in charge). Keep in mind, we only work half of the year.

What’s your work schedule like? Can you tell us about a typical day?

I work 14 days on, 14 days off, and a 12 hour tour (pronounced tower) with a relief worker (also my roommate) working the opposite tour. I fly out to the rig in a helicopter, which is one of my favorite things ever. 
A typical day for me starts with waking up at 10:30am and heading down to the galley to eat and chat with the fellas about rig activity, football, hunting, trucks, and babies. 11:30am we all go to the pre-tour safety meeting and discuss the various planned activities for the day. I then go up to the “logger’s shack,” the metal unit where I work, and talk with my relief about what happened during his tour and discuss ways to fix the thing that broke. 
I then spend the next 12 hours monitoring the well, identifying the rock types coming out of the hole, and telling them if we’ve hit oil or gas. At midnight my relief comes, we have a handover discussion, and then I go back down to the galley and joke and laugh with the fellas as we eat dinner together. Afterwards I will either hit the treadmill for 30 minutes or hit the shower then spend an hour or two on the internet seeing what’s going on in the world before I go to sleep and do it all over again.
Are there any other women on your team? Have you encountered any issues working in such a male-dominated environment?


I am almost always the only female that doesn’t work for housekeeping or the kitchen and usually am the only woman on board. It has it’s pros and cons. 
The older fellas typically look at me one of two ways. It’s either I’m a girl who’s not going to pull her weight, not know what’s going on, going to get myself hurt, and distract the guys so much that they’ll get hurt, OR (usually the really old ones 70’s +) they see me as a sign of the future and try to dedicate a little extra of their time to make sure I know where I’m going, what’s going on, or how things work. The younger guys rarely think like the first set of old dudes that I described. 
They are a close knit group who see each other like brothers and once I make them laugh, I become part of the family too. They pick on me when I have bed-head, but will go out of their way to help me if I need help. I show them all that I’m a hard worker and can not only do my job, but I do it very well. 

How have the people in your life reacted to your career?

I am the oldest sibling of 3 with 2 younger brothers. My mother is the oldest of 4 with 3 younger brothers. All of the men in my family work in or for the oil field. My uncles still ask every time they see me if I like my job and I always say that I love it. My girlfriends (all gardeners, musicians, artists, and environmentalists) always encourage me and seem to be impressed with my brave and strange decision to work offshore with all those men. Ha. 
When I travel and talk with others outside of the South about what I do they always have the look of shock. I then tell them about the huge benefits, and how I am responsible for the lives of everyone on board and the environment of the gulf around me. That usually does the trick. 
Has your work affected the way you think about gas and oil prices? 


I drive a Prius C, so gas prices don’t really matter to me, and I don’t like politics. They are not discussed offshore outside of a joke here and there and that’s the way we all like it.
Do you plan to do this for the rest of your career?


I’m planning on sticking with this. My goal is to work my way to Lead and work in the gulf for 3 – 5 years. After that transfer to work internationally (Russia I hope) and work 28 on 28 off and live in Seattle. I’m going to retire from the oil field in 21 years and then get a job identifying rocks and minerals in the back of a museum or something awesome like that.
What’s one thing you’ve learned on the job that any of us could apply to our daily lives?


One thing I’ve learned working out here is how much making lists can help any situation in work or life become less scary and goals more attainable. I write out everything and I get it all done. Lists turn goals into life.

Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you work in particularly male-dominated fields? 

P.S. Two more interesting career interviews: I lived + worked on the South Pole and I’m a long haul trucker

True Story: I’m a woman who plays on a men’s sports team

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Amanda and how she came to be part of an all male rowing team.




Tell us a bit about yourself! 
My name is Amanda Dillon, and I’m from Palo Alto, California! I’m currently a senior and full-time student at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, which is how I got started with crew in the first place. For fun, I write and design for my blog, Ex Vitae, which I launched at the beginning of this academic year. I’m also writing a senior honors thesis, so it’s safe to say that I’m pretty busy most of the time :)
For those of us who don’t know, what does Crew consist of?
I like to describe crew as the quintessential team sport. Crew, also known as rowing, is basically the sport of rowing boats. At my college, we row boats of either 8 or 4 rowers with a coxswain, who steers the boat and commands the crew. The coxswain – that’s me! – doesn’t actually row; we drive the boat and execute race strategy. In the fall, races are between 4-6 kilometers in length, and are usually done against the clock with different heats starting at different times. In the spring, however, the races are 2K and done head-to-head. Very exciting!
How long have you been rowing crew?
I’ve been rowing crew for three years now. When I was a freshman in my first few weeks of college, I was approached by a very tall man in my dining hall who looked down at me and said “Hey you! Want to be a coxswain?” And the rest is history!

Does your university have a women’s crew team? 
Yep. I was actually on the women’s team for a semester in my freshman year after being on the men’s team, but decided after that experience that my coxing style was probably better suited to the guys. Coxswain placement is about fit with the crew and weight. Right now, I weigh around 123 pounds, which is right around the men’s weight minimum (the women’s minimum is 110 pounds). Any less, and I would have to carry sand with me in the boat to level out. Coaches generally like their coxswains to be right at the weight minimum, so I’m pretty well-suited for the men’s team at this point. 
What did you have to do to get a spot on this team? 
Crew is a classic college walk-on sport, so I didn’t have to try out to gain a spot on the team. However, right after I joined, my coach pulled me aside and asked me to jump right on the men’s varsity team due to a shortage of varsity coxswains. This is pretty unusual, as most freshman row exclusively with other freshman on the novice team for their first year with the sport. I was skeptical and extremely nervous, but I decided to challenge myself and take the plunge.
How did your teammates react when they discovered there would be a woman on their all-male team?
It was certainly peculiar for the guys to have a freshman girl (who didn’t know anything about crew!) bossing them around, and they were understandably a bit rough with me at first. My first week on the water, I cried every single day in the boat because I had no idea what I was doing and the guys had a tendency to get vocally frustrated with me. However, after we all got used to each other, we ended up having a fairly successful season.

My family didn’t understand what I was doing at first – it took a whole semester to convince my sister that I was actually on the team, considering that I didn’t actually row! After explaining about the weight and fit components of being a coxswain, I think they started to understand how I could be a girl on the guys’ team…although they probably still think I’m crazy!

When your team competes, how do the your competitors react to you?
Crew is definitely a gentleman’s sport – I’ve never been treated with anything other than respect by my competitors. It’s harder, though, to explain my position to my friends and family. For the first season I was on the team, a number of friends asked me if I was on the men’s team because I wanted to date the rowers. Nothing could be farther from the truth – that would be like dating a brother! – but it’s a question I still get asked fairly frequently. It’s too bad, because I feel that this assumption devalues my position in the boat and completely ignores the dedication and hard work that I put in every day for my sport.
Tell us what an average day at practice looks like.
For my team, practice consists of a 2.5 hour row, 6 days per week, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Our boathouse is located 7 miles off campus on the Connecticut River, so we generally load up vans a half an hour before practice actually starts and head over together. From there, we offload the boats, launch from the dock, and go through a series of technique drills and power pieces.

Rowing is considered to be a complete exercise – almost every muscle in your body is worked in the course of one stroke – and it requires strict attention to both muscular and cardio strength. Some days are spent working solely on particular technique, and others are made up of mock races to get the rowers into shape.

What have you learned from this that you can apply to other parts of your life?
Being a coxswain has definitely provided me with valuable assertiveness training that I wouldn’t have received otherwise. As a freshman girl, I struggled with voicing my opinion and standing up for myself. Being a coxswain, especially on the men’s team, essentially forces you to be strong and decisive. Otherwise, you degrade the trust between you and your rowers, and the results are not nearly as strong.

Being on the crew team has also been a lesson in collaboration. To make a successful boat, you have to have 5 or 9 people who are willing to put their differences aside and work together toward the common goal of speed. It can be difficult to reconcile the personalities of 4 other people! However, the natural leadership ability that you gain from coxing is incredibly beneficial in situations where two rowers don’t see eye to eye. I wouldn’t trade the hours I’ve spent with my team for anything, and I am grateful every day for this motley crew of a family I’ve cultivated at school. Almost nothing could be better!

Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda!  Do you guys have any questions for her? Have you ever played a non-traditional role on a sports team? 

P.S. Two more sporty interviews: I’m a professional athlete and I broke a world record – I was the youngest woman to run a marathon in every state

True Story: I Have Narcolepsy

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of my friend Katie and her Narcolepsy diagnosis.


Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Katie G. Nelson and I’m a 28-year-old journalist, photographer and adventurer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before finding my purpose in storytelling, I worked as a humanitarian aid coordinator in Kenya while also dabbling in human rights activism in the United States. I also have a master’s degree in public health, which I promptly abandoned for a career in journalism. Currently, I’m a political reporter in the Land of 10,000 Lakes but am attempting to break into the international reporting field focusing on aid transparency issues in East Africa. 
I also have narcolepsy. More on that below. 
For those of us who don’t know, what is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that causes the inability to regulate one’s sleep/wake cycle. About 200,000 Americans have narcolepsy making it as common as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis.
There are two main components of narcolepsy: 
* Extreme and unrelenting exhaustion that can’t be solved by more sleep; we’re constantly tired yet unable to get true, fulfilling rest. 
* Cataplexy: Sudden muscle weakness following a strong emotion such as sadness, surprise or fear. Cataplexy can range from a slight face droop to a complete collapse on the floor, all while being completely conscious. About 70 percent of people with Narcolepsy also have Cataplexy. I do not.
There are also several less prominent symptoms of narcolepsy such as:
* Sleep paralysis: an inability to talk or move before falling asleep or waking up, which creates a sensation of being trapped in your own body. 
* Hypnagogic hallucinations: vivid and oftentimes violent hallucinations before falling asleep or waking up. 
* Automatic behavior: performing normal behaviors (talking, eating, driving) but having no memory of such activities afterward. 
There is likely a genetic component to narcolepsy that, when coupled with an environmental trigger like an acute childhood illness, causes the neurological disorder. 
I should note that many people with narcolepsy, including myself, don’t suddenly fall asleep without warning. Rather, we’re always exhausted and never feel completely refreshed no matter how much sleep we get or how much medication we take. 
When did you realize that you weren’t just … really tired?
I was initially skeptical about having Narcolepsy – thinking more it was congruent with a movie plotline than my 25-year-old self. But three years later, I can clearly see the trail of breadcrumbs pointing toward a sleep disorder, though it took many years of missteps before I got to the end. 
As a child, I was always the first to fall asleep at my girlfriend’s slumber parties, always becoming the designated guinea pig to a plethora of late-night hand-in-water tricks. In middle school, I was the last to finish in the annual one-mile running exam because I was just too tired to keep up with the pack (I attempted to salvage my reputation by pretending I was just too cool to run.) Shortly before high school graduation, my sleepiness became so acute that I often escaped to a private restroom in-between classes to collapse in a stall and sleep for a few moments. 
But despite these hints and my marathon sleep sessions later in life, which at one point lasted 22 hours out of each day, it took over ten years to be diagnosed and treated for Narcolepsy.

How does your diagnosis affect your life on a day-to-day basis? 
Medication management and a strict sleep regime determine my day-to-day success. 
Generally, my day goes something like this: 
6am: I take a combination of three different stimulants, then wait until I’m awake enough to get out of bed (usually an hour later). 
7am: I head to the kitchen and drink a small glass of orange juice, which helps my body absorb the medication faster. I brew my coffee (quickly) and head to the couch to sleep for another 30 minutes. 
7:30am – 11am: This is my awake period when I’m most creative and able to process complex subjects. I try to do my heavy lifting during this time slot. 
11am: I take another stimulant that will last me the rest of the day. 
4pm: Find a place to take a short nap and clear my busy mind for 30 minutes. 
9pm: I take sedative to sleep (many people with Narcolepsy don’t sleep well at night) as well as other medications to deal with the side effects of my stimulant medications. 
On the weekends, I sleep. Period. If I’m feeling well enough, I’ll go out one of the nights but always end-up feeling like a pile of old bones the next morning. 
What would your life look like if you WEREN’T on medication?
What people don’t understand about Narcolepsy — and sleep disorders in general — is how sleep deprivation can impact someone’s mental health and emotional stability. 
Over the course of ten years, I was diagnosed with dozens of different medical conditions including depression and anxiety, which medications couldn’t seem to lift. I was profoundly and desperately depressed for many years and truly believed that my sadness, lethargy and detachment from the world were caused by some intangible and ever-present haze of despair. 
By the time I saw a neurologist, it was clear that I had a severe sleep disorder and he promise me that medication would help. He was right. Within one hour of starting my Narcolepsy treatment, I was an absolutely different person. I was awake, engaged and interested in the people around me – able of seeing a future outside of my bedroom and other than sleep. I literally got my life back. 
Obviously, it hasn’t been exactly a cakewalk since then. Some days my medications work well, some days they don’t at all. Sometimes I operate at 85 percent of my potential, sometimes at 40 percent. And on my really bad days, I sometimes grieve; ruminating over the moments I missed in the past and the ones I’ll miss in the future. Sometimes, I feel like everyone is living their lives around me and I’m still in bed, unable to move because my body aches with exhaustion. I can’t lie, those days are excruciating. 
I imagine one of the more challenging things about having a chronic disease is figuring out how/when to tell the people in your life about it. When you meet new friends, are on a date, or are starting a job – do you tell people? How long do you usually wait before you tell someone?
When I was first diagnosed three years ago, people would always tell me, “Narcolepsy doesn’t define you” like I shouldn’t put so much weight into this condition, like it shouldn’t be such a significant part of my life. 
But I refuse to deny that Narcolepsy hasn’t shaped me. It has. That’s why I believe my diagnosis merits a conversation with the people around me, despite the social faux pas of discussing such things with friends, dates or peers. 
I’ve also chosen a career has flexible hours so I can work when I’m most sharp and awake the need to tell my employers is mostly a non-issue these days. 
How have the people in your life reacted to your diagnosis?
Most people are inquisitive about my diagnoses, though some think I’m making an off-color joke about being really tired. I usually just deadpan those moments until people realize that I’m serious. 
What something you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
I applaud people who say that their chronic illness has made them a better person or that they’re grateful for the experience but I am not one of those people. Narcolepsy has been the single most challenging and heartbreaking part of my life, and I wouldn’t wish this condition on anyone.
That said, I am profoundly grateful for finding a concrete diagnosis and for the ability to access and afford my medication. That is a privilege I will always be thankful for. 
And as a final token of appreciation, I want to thank all of the caregivers, the well-wishers and the people who have backed me and patients like me over the years. Despite all of our cancelled plans, vague excuses to stay home and painfully sleepy encounters, you have stood alongside us. Thank you. 
More information about narcolepsy:
Narcolepsy Network // Center for Narcolepsy, Stanford Medicine // Julie Flygare: Wide Awake and Dreaming

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katie. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you struggled with something similar? 

P.S. For an interview about the other side of the coin: True Story: My insomnia affects every aspect of my life. 

True Story: I’m A Working Musician

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of one of my favorite local musicians, Haley Bonar.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 

I’m 31 years old and live in St. Paul, MN. I’ve been in MN for 12 years but grew up in the Black Hills, SD. I like to hike, bake cookies, and watch movies for fun.
At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?
I’m not sure I ever made a “decision” so much as just followed this path because one thing lead to the other. When I called my dad at age 19 to ask if I should drop out of school to go on tour, his reaction was positive, and he encouraged that decision. My family and friends have always been very supportive.
For those people who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe it? Who are your influences?
It ranges from delicate and folky to raucous and rocky, but I never like to stay in one musical dimension for too long.
These days you work full time as a musician. Did you ever take side jobs to support your music? Making music for a living is so much more than just being a rock star and going on tour.. everyone has to figure out creative ways to make it work. I’ve worked in coffee shops, nannied for families, and have taught music classes or seminars and write music for ad companies. Whatever it takes to remain creative and keep paying the bills.
Tell us about your song-writing process. Is it a collaborative process? How long do you work on any given song before you feel it’s ‘done’?
I don’t collaborate while writing songs. It’s a super personal process that requires nobody being within earshot! :)
I can work on a song anywhere from an hour to weeks or months. It all depends on the song and how much of it falls into place at first. When I’m satisfied with the lyrics, I’m done.
The music industry has changed so much – even since you started performing. How do you feel about these changes? Have you used any non-traditional models to get your music into your fans’ hands? 
I don’t see the point in ruminating over the changes in the music industry anymore… It is what it is. We forge on, even if it’s more difficult or you have to work harder. The only thing that can never change is good artists making good work- they will exist no matter what because they don’t have a choice.
I used Kickstarter in 2010 to help release my album “Golder“, and I thought all in all it was a super powerful and inspiring way to raise money for music that people believed in.

What’s one thing that has surprised you about making music?
That it can often feel like an abusive relationship. I go from “oh I LOVE doing this for a living” to “I can’t take this anymore, I quit, blah blah blah” very frequently. It’s hard to keep up confidence all the time in such an emotionally driven business. But at the end of the day, I always go back. :)
Has this career choice affected other areas of your life? 
I think, if anything, it has only been a positive in any relationships with people whom I love and who love me back.
How do you feel when you’re repeatedly performing songs that you wrote about a difficult or really personal experience?
I think at a certain point you emotionally disconnect from a song in a way. The original pain or whatever goes into creating a song or an album is put into the actual writing and or recording process. After that, I don’t think it’s ‘ours’ anymore. We release it into the world and then it’s open to interpretation. Of course there is emotion involved when performing, but it is never quite the same as the original moments of the song’s birth.
What’s one thing that music has taught you that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
You can’t fake honesty.

If you guys live in the Twin Cities and want to witness Haley’s talents in person, she’s performing in the Ordway’s gooooorgeous new concert hall on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 pm. I’m going! Get your tickets here

P.S. Two more interviews about music-related jobs: I’m a roadie and I’m on Broadway.

photo credits: the line of best fit // big hassle

May I feature you in a True Story interview?

Guys! I’m filling in this spring and summer’s editorial calendar like a type-A nerd and I’m looking for more True Story interviews!

Is this you or anyone you know? 

* I’m a sex addict
* I’m a sanitation worker
* I was a bully
* I am/was an Olympian
* I left my husband of 30+ years
* My husband is transitioning to being a woman (or vice versa)
* I’m a straight guy and my mom is my best friend
* I work in the oil fields of North Dakota
* I work at Disneyland
* I was a child star
* My fiance called off our wedding after we’d sent out the invitations
* I’m a celebrity impersonator
* I was a teenage runaway
* I married my teacher/professor
* I live + work in a town of fewer than 500 people

Interviewees always have the option of remaining anonymous. 

And honestly? If you’ve got an amazing story to share that hasn’t been covered in previous interviews I’d love to hear from you! Have a look through my archives (or just google “Yes and Yes True Story: [your topic]”) and if we don’t have an interview, I might be keen!

Is there an interview you’d like to see or someone you know who I should interview? Let me know in the comments!

Send me your story at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.

photo by Ranit sanyal // cc

True Story: I Live On A Commune

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Heather and her decision to move to a commune in Costa Rica.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Once a country bumpkin, now even more of one? I spent my childhood in a tiny town southern Maine, and generally hopped around the northern realm until I moved to Montana in my mid-20’s. These days I call northwestern Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Peninsula home- in a community called PachaMama
I wear a few different hats in my professional life: here in the commune I do social media and marketing, as well as teach yoga. On my own, I am a life coach and work remotely with people all over the world. And I kind of can’t believe it, but I’m 30. 30!
For those of us who don’t know, what exactly is a commune?
This is a tricky one- it can mean so many things, depending on the intention of the people who create the space! In our case, we’re international- though a large number of the residents here are from Israel, so we’re kind of modeled after a kibbutz. There are about 70 residents, individuals as well as families, who choose to live together in a community because we are drawn together by a unifying purpose and intention.

I’ve only been here for a little over a year now, so I can only speak to the current expression of the commune- the path of meditation and silence, inner work, living closely to the spirit of the land, and creating a ‘mystic school’ of sorts. We host retreats, workshops, cleanses, and other transformational events and experiences throughout the season.

Our commune isn’t entirely self-sufficient in the way that many would think- here in the jungle we’re still learning how to use the wisdom of permaculture to grow our own food. It’s tough going with all the creatures and the extremes of the climate! We harvest a lot of the super foods that grow around here naturally and do our best to make as many of our own products as we can, though. And of course- there is a big emphasis on creating as little impact on the earth with our lifestyle as possible.
I’m sure when a lot of people hear ‘commune’ they imagine polyamory and soy milk. In your experience, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about commune living?
Hah! I think you nailed two of the biggest ones, right there. 
What I actually see most often, to be quite honest, is a total projection of what it must be like to live in a perceived utopia. That everyone always is happy-go-lucky and totally in love with each other. That money grows on trees (yes, we still need money to exist, even in a commune!). That nobody ever gets stressed, or sick, or tired.

In reality, it’s like living in a constant workshop. Every day is an opportunity to look closely at your judgements, your fears, your self-doubts, your communication skills, your personal agenda- because in a small community like this one, it’s in your face, 24/7, being reflected back to you for your care and attention. There’s still heartbreak. There’s still stuff to fix in the house. The kids still throw temper tantrums. We’re regular people living in a magical place, sure- but there’s still Real Life stuff to take care of.

What appealed to you about living in a commune rather than just, say, moving to the country or sharing a house with a few friends? 

It actually just kind of… happened. A calling on the astral. Who knows. I came here a few years back to do a yoga training without any knowledge of the full depth of this place, and completely fell in love. When I left to go back to the US I knew I had to come back for longer to really drop in and meet the essence of the community. I knew there were untouched depths. I wanted to know more and to dive deeper. The energy of an international community really inspired me to expand what I believed to be available to me! I’m fortunate that my work as a coach and yoga teacher allows me to do my work from here.
It’s possible that moving in with a few friends could’ve somewhat scratched the itch, but living in a very dynamic community just feeds a part of me that always craves adventure and challenge. I meet new people constantly as visitors come and go, and I’m constantly learning from everyone’s journeys… it just suits what I need in life. I think a lot of those who live here fall in that category… we’re seekers. Travelers. We’re always looking for opportunities for growth and expansion.
How did you get into the commune? Did you have to ‘apply’? Do they have a set number of openings? What are the logistics surrounding membership?
Becoming a part of PachaMama is more based on staying here for a while as a guest, getting to know the community, the energy, the intention of the place, and learning whether it’s a good fit on both sides. One has to be really, really in tune with the intention and energy of living in a commune for it to be a beneficial adventure!

From there, a conversation is had with some of the longtime residents around making the commitment- it’s a much more heart-centered process than logistical. It’s really becoming a part of the family- sure there are practicalities, like weekly meetings for making decisions and keeping everyone plugged in, but it’s just got to feel right.

Tell us about commune’s lodging and the day to day! 
This is another common misconception, at least here! Although in the early days of the commune everyone lived in tents, now that’s not the case. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful, simple house- since we are in Costa Rica, most of the houses are some sort of open design, sometimes with one entire side of the house open to the forest. With electricity and internet, yes- though those are sometimes subject to the weather and the stars it seems! 
We do have a commune “restaurant” that serves three meals a day, which is especially important for the times of year where we have a lot of visitors here for workshops and retreats. A few of the residents staff the restaurant and, I must say, make incredible vegetarian, high vibration food! We do also have kitchens in most of the houses, so I usually do breakfast at home.
Most of the residents have some sort of job in the community… whether working in the office, caring for the facilities, tending the gardens, or working in the school. And we have a thriving volunteer program- these travelers bring so much life and new energy and teachings to the community and help keep everything flowing, so this program is really vital.
With 70+ residents, I’m sure conflict is bound to arise. How do you guys work through that? 
We use many of the same techniques we use in our group workshops- sharing circles and processes, offering a safe space for people to air their concerns and grievances. You know, I’ve already learned so much from living with so many non-Americans about communicating clearly and honestly. Other cultures aren’t so afraid to say what they mean, clearly and concisely. It’s been a real deprogramming of my American sensitivity to what we perceive as “harsh” truth!
The ‘leader’ question is always an interesting one. We have a teacher, a spiritual guide, and an inspiration named Tyohar. He was the catalyst for bringing this community together years ago, when the original group of intrepid adventurers pitched the first tents, and he continues to be a guide in this grand social experiment. He’s incredibly committed to the vision of the community, and protective of the meditative space. The “Buddha Field”, he calls it.
He’s also an incredible DJ, wildlife photographer, and rabid football (soccer) fan :)
What personality traits does someone need to ‘be good at’ commune living?
You can’t take things personally… otherwise it’s easy to get offended daily because you’re with the same little community through thick and thin, and people are bound to be in a bad mood at some point! Flexibility is also key. If you’re attached to planning and predictability, you’re setting yourself up to go crazy.

 Clear and direct communication is a must, so you need to be willing to express what you really think and feel in a given moment. A desire to live in a constant state of problem-solving and growth. There are always challenges to be addressed, and we’ve got to approach it as a unified community! “Status quo” just doesn’t exist in this kind of community.

What has surprised you about this?
I think perhaps what I underestimated the most was just how differently we all approach daily life. I’d met people from a wide number of countries before but never fully understood the depth of those subtle differences! Like I mentioned before, as an American I’m in the minority here, so I’ve really had to learn how to connect and communicate all over again. Pretty much everyone else in the world communicates way more clearly and directly than we do. That was a challenge at first.

How long do you anticipate staying there?
A good friend of mine says the title of my autobiography should be, And Then, We’ll See. I don’t know, to be honest! At the moment I’m super happy living here. And I could imagine myself being here for quite a long time. But I’m also completely open if life guides me on another adventure along the way!
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
While you’re looking at a group of friends, imagining yourself to be an outsider, they’re looking back at you and wondering, “Why doesn’t she come and say hi?”
Exclusivity is almost always created from within, and projected on others :)

Thanks so much for sharing, Heather! Do you guys have any questions for her?

P.S. True Story: I gave birth at home and True Story: I live with the hill tribes in Thailand