Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Nana

Dear Nana,

Here I sit, watching you sleep in your hospital bed; my eyes red from crying, my nose raw. I wonder if you still dream, and my brain is flooded with memories of you comforting me from my nightmares when I was a little girl.

You're here because you're sick, but you've been sick with something far more sinister for much too long. A disease which I curse every day because it has robbed you of what I know you cherished most. Your memories.

I find it interesting that every Christmas from the time I was a teenager, I would buy you a new journal and ask you to write in it for me, knowing someday they would be mine. If only I knew then just how important they would become...

They're mainly filled with simple stories from your day to day life, tales of the trips we took together and you regularly writing about missing me. If only I'd grasped how quickly it moves. Youth warps our perception and reality of time, and parties and careers take the place of being rocked on our Nana's laps. I miss the sweet space of your lap and can still feel your arms wrapped around me.

Nana, I love you. I love you from a place so deep and pure that my only comparison is the love I feel for my own children. I love you fiercely and sweetly and your comforting voice is etched into my being.

And I know you love me too. I know, because every so often, even though you no longer remember my name or know I'm your granddaughter; there is a look of presence and knowing. Sometimes it happens just when you hear my voice. I know there's a spark there, buried beneath the blackness of your brain eroding disease.

It happened several times today.

I know I was a mess from the time I walked in your room. I was crying long before I even walked in. When you handed me the box of tissues this afternoon I couldn't even believe it. There isn't really a reason to question if you were aware. You just did. I said "I love you, Nana" and you smiled. It was a two second moment. The knowing looks are gone as quick as they happen. A lot can happen in two seconds and I'll take what I can get. And then of course I wept even harder.

I got the call from my mom and got here as quick as I could. They still don't really know what happened. One minute you're stealing people's rolls off their plates- then you face plant in your potatoes - and then you're here.

Thankfully you're stable now, and they think you may just have pneumonia. It's one of the two things your regular doctor said will probably do you in because you've always been in such excellent physical shape. That really pisses me off as I know how much you'd prefer a better adventure. But alas, only time will tell, and thankfully today isn't the day. Somehow I knew it wouldn't be, which made this fast trip out that much more important to me.

I needed to smell you and hold your hand. Your skin is still so soft and the great beauty you once were is just below the surface. I needed to lay next to you in your hospital bed and tell you all my secrets and hopes and fears, just like I did with Grandma Grace before she died. She was like your mother, and I feel blessed to have had the two of you in my life and there to nurture me. Silent strength- both of you. I told Grandma Grace I wanted to say my thanks and goodbyes while she was still alive which made her happy. I know you'd tell me the same thing if you could.

I guess in some ways, that is what I'm doing here now with you, even though your body may carry on for some time still, though my gut tells me it won't.

There's a baby crying here in the ICU which breaks my heart. Fragile, fragile life...You love children and babies so much. Your face still lit up when I showed you videos of Zane & Zoe earlier.

Nana, life is scary. I'm an only child and our little family is almost gone.Your parents, siblings, step-parents, husband- and of course your memory. Part of me feels like I lose you over and over again. Alzheimer's Groundhog Day. It really fucking sucks.

Really, I just hope you can feel my love. I hope you can feel my energy wrapping around you in big, deep purple, warm, calming waves.

Nana, did I mention how much I love you?

Because I do.

All my love,


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Where the Rubber Meets the... Rubber Chicken. A Hope, A Rant and Some Bullsh*t

Being a sane, logical human isn't very easy on most days in Arizona.

Much of what I do, both for a living and for my soul, is centered around sustainability. I've been in this state for 15 years now, and plan to be here for at minimum another 10 to get the youngest chick through school. I've built my life here, my business here; it's the only home my children have known.

Because of my tenacity to make positive change, I've found myself becoming more and more immersed in politics over the past 10+ years. In Arizona, it's where the rubber meets the... rubber chicken I guess. You find yourself muttering
"Is this a f***ing joke?!?!"
Knowing full well it isn't.

Politics here, like most places, are kind of dirty and slippery. Slippery in an oil spill kind of way. When I venture down to our state capitol, I leave feeling like I need a good loofah scrubbing and a few shots of whiskey. I do good community deeds to cleanse my being and try to make some weird amends for all of those in power who I fear lack any sort of human decency at all.

It's pretty weird...

Thankfully I do know politicians and plenty of activists who are truly fighting the good fight, but God damn it feels like we're the minority on most days!!!

My token word has become bullshit instead of something sweet and sugary, and I say things like:
"Do you really want to talk about being a minority on City Council? If so, minority is owning a vagina."
I say those things - and I'm writing them here. Because I mean it and because after being here for 15 years, my gray hair has started to come in faster than I can slap some color on it without fear of it falling out in clumps. I've earned every one and am wearing my big girl panties so can say bullshit if I want to.

When I talk about sustainability I'm using it in a big picture sort of way, not just pushing you to use no VOC paint (though that's important too).

  • I'm talking about social and civil justice and education and women's rights.
  • I'm talking about preserving what little history we have here.
  • I'm talking about not approving more and more unnecessary parking lots when you know we have a major urban heat island problem.
  • I'm talking about giving the low income neighborhoods the same love and respect you'd give the rich ones by not knowingly dumping pollution into their air, soil and water.
  • I'm talking about having respect for the Native tribes who were here before us living in harmony with nature.
  • I'm talking about the fact that "perceived haze" is made up of microscopic particulates (usually less than 2.5 microns in size) that are dangerous to health so go open up a frickin' science book or make friends with a real scientist before opening your mouth and pretending to have a clue what you're talking about.
  • I'm talking about conservation and stewardship and being a good human being.
  • I'm talking about helping our neighbors and those less fortunate.

All of the above is tied into politics in one way or another. Hence my rant here tonight.

All we can do is try our hardest while we're on this planet for our brief blip. And hope that others will try too.

"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so." — Noam Chomsky

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Take a Ride on the CRAZY Train with Senator Burges

Well it's BAAAAAACCCKKKKK! The Anti-Agenda 21 bill from last session (previously SB1507) now SB1403.

I wrote ad nauseum about this bill last session.  You can read my Triple Pundit piece HERE, watch some news footage HERE, and read about the victory of the bill finally dying HERE.

UGH.  It's just like a ZOMBIE, and according to Grist, it's hungry for your BRAAAIIIINS!

Please help us kill it- AGAIN- by signing this PETITION (revived from last session, just like the batshit crazy bill.

Also, someone really needs to do a reality show based entirely around the bills (and testimony) by Senator Burges.  You really can't make this shit up...  Watch for yourself.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Community vs. Corporation - How a Unified Voice Works

It's not often the underdogs win when going up against a giant corporation, but that's just what happened yesterday for a downtown Phoenix community - which I'm proud to be a part of.  My hope in writing this post is to give other communities ideas/tools to use when faced with a similar situation in their own neighborhoods, as well as to drive home the point that normal, everyday citizens can indeed have a voice and be change makers in their own communities.

Remember the wise words of Margaret Mead:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Circle K wanted to abandon their current 4 gas pump store to build a mega 16 pump station on property just across the street from their current location on the NE corner of 7th St. & Roosevelt Streets in downtown Phoenix.  There is currently a Shell station across the street and a smaller Sinclair gas station half a block away.  They also applied for a use permit to sell alcohol.  More than 80 of us attended the use permit hearing at Phoenix City Hall which was granted by the City of Phoenix with stipulations.  It seemed they were on the road to having everything fall into place, even though numerous residents were opposed.

We were opposed for a multitude of reasons: increased crime (which was highlighted in this ASU report on crime & disorder in convenience stores) sustainability setbacks with regard to pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, Circle K's lack of of being a good neighbor in the past and the community feeling strongly about it being the wrong type of development for a gateway corner in downtown Phoenix in a transitioning neighborhood.

Vice Mayor Michael Johnson who serves in District 8 where all of this was taking place agreed to take part in a community meeting.  The room was full and I was happy to see Channel 5 who I had contacted covering the meeting.  You can view the coverage here.  It is my opinion that media involvement can play a crucial role with activism.  It's not difficult to blow off a room of 80 people who aren't a billion dollar corporation.  Throw an interested reporter and video camera into the mix and those 80 people suddenly have a much stronger chance of being heard.  I've experienced this time and time again.

Circle K Corp. hired a public affairs firm to run a campaign called Friends of Circle K - or FOCK.  I'm sure this acronym was muttered under the breath of many of us...  FOCK paid canvassers to collect neighbor signatures for a support petition.  These canvassers misrepresented facts and I was told by several people they were offered gift cards to sign.  Hardly neighborly...  We were told there were 300 supporters of the project.

We were informed  FOCK planned an event (free pizza, a free FOCK t-shirt and free bus ride to City Council) on the day City Council would determine if the liquor application would go to the State Liquor Board with a stamp of approval or not.

Our community kept fighting.

The effort took a lot of work, both behind the scenes and in the public eye.  Strategy meetings, finding common ground and talking points, media involvement, research and data collection, letter writing, petition creation, social media, meetings with elected officials and telephone calls.  It involved neighborhood organizations, non profits, small business owners and community activists.

When we got word yesterday that Circle K was withdrawing their liquor license application and backing away from the project, many of us could hardly believe it.

I popped down to the FOCK pizza party to see how many of their 300 supporters would be out to support what we were working hard to try to stop.  There was a young couple in their 20's with their child and a woman in a pink sweater who had brought three Pizza Hut pizzas and a couple of stacks of the t-shirts you see above.  When I asked her if she lived downtown, she answered "No I don't."  Extra lame...  There was one FOCK'er at the City Council meeting, bringing the grand total of supporters who I saw to 3.  Perhaps that 300 was a typo...

At the end of the day, Circle K did indeed withdraw their liquor license application.  Councilman Johnson had some really nice things to say about the community.  Community members had some really nice things to say about Councilman Johnson.

I had this to say to Channel 15.

Then we all went to Carly's to have a beer and toast our community victory.

“It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi


Love and laughter,

Msss. Champion

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Response to Hume: Can Phoenix rise from the car era’s ashes?

This past Monday, a man named Christopher Hume wrote an article about Phoenix which you can read HERE.  As the article didn't allow commenting, this was my response to his article.

Dear Mr. Hume,

In response to your recent article on Phoenix, I would like to say the following:

I’m sorry to admit that much of what you say about Phoenix is true.   In fact, just this morning, I witnessed two historic buildings (built in 1909 and 1929) in the warehouse district be demolished so the PHX Suns VIP’s can have a surface parking lot for valet parking.  Yep, another parking lot.  Just what we need in the bulls-eye of climate change – another parking lot to add to our ever-growing asphalt jungle that is a major contributor to our little urban heat island effect problem we have going on here.

But when you speak of “locals,” I get the sense that you never actually conversed with one, or explored the vibrant areas of our downtown community such as Roosevelt Row, or took the time to do a bit of research on the local happenings offered in our downtown community – of which there are many.

I’m guessing you didn’t witness our Critical Mass bike ride, or walk over to the pop up park that is a creative temporary use project on 2nd St. & Roosevelt or check out the always full bike rack at the Crescent Ballroom.

I have a sneaking suspicion you made some very broad assumptions and looked for only those things to back them up.

I don’t really blame you, because Phoenix is a truly unique city.  I feel I can make this statement as I’ve lived in several other major metropolitan cities in the U.S., and Phoenix is indeed an odd bird.  It’s the kind of city that doesn’t slap its cool across your face, but makes you go on a bit of a treasure hunt first.  It’s the kind of city that’s full of hidden gems and interesting people and innovation.  Believe it or not, it’s easy to be creative and innovative in this city.

I’ve had numerous coming to Jesus moments about living in Arizona for the past 14 years, but can honestly say I love this place and consider it my home.  Phoenix has grown on me.  I can tell you that we have one of the most tight-knit communities I’ve ever encountered – especially in a city of this size.  I can also tell you that we collectively are working to make improvements on a daily basis, with regard to sustainability, vibrancy, walkability, placemaking, policy improvements and community building.

It’s really a shame you didn’t talk to us – the people who live here.  Many of whom don’t own cars but bike and rely on public transport such as the light rail on a daily basis, which in my experience as a resident is heavily utilized.

As a strong community advocate and activist; I find your pessimism insulting and your lack of foresight and hope as depressing as the poor planning and greed which got us into this mess in the first place.  I would make the suggestion that in the future, when you write off a city of nearly 6 million people and banish us to the abyss of stucco and strip malls that you at least first try to connect with a real local to see things from a different perspective.

I’d be more than happy to give you a tour any time.


Ms. Champion

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

What do you need?

Being an only child, occasionally I go through some fairly serious bouts of needing loner time, even though I'm an incredibly social person.  It tends to freak out people who are close to me because I'll drop off the map momentarily.  I use this time to recharge my battery, self-reflect, daydream and ponder.

My kids were gone for 10 days - which was crazy for me.  My house was soooo quiet, and I found myself being really sad.  It spiraled into assessing everything in my life.  Many of my close girlfriends were either out of town or busy with their own lives, and my only "family" here is my surrogate community family (who are some of the most amazing people on the planet) - and of course my Z urchins.  So I cocooned and let my feelings and thoughts lead the way, knowing that whenever I come out of one of these periods it is with renewed passion, conviction and strength.  This is one of the things I really do love about getting older.  We learn how to be better roller coaster riders and recognize what we have control over - and what we do not...

My business is tied into my being.  I've let it evolve and diversify and feed my soul.  Being a true idealist, when I was a little girl, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.  I felt like I was part of the soul and pulse of everything around me.  The energy of what surrounded me flowed in and out of my body - good or bad.  I didn't know how to control it.  I hadn't studied the importance of attitude.  I didn't know how to recognize signs, or say no without feeling horrible, or take the time to recharge my battery.  These are things I'm still learning.  Aun aprendo.  I am a student of life.

So part of my reflection last week was the need to once again re-balance my necessity to make money with my desire to do good.  We lead a fairly simple life at this point, and I honestly prefer the treasure hunt of a thrift store versus the zombie consumerism of a mall.  I drive a messy mom Toyota Rav with 200,000+ miles and appreciate the little things.  But I still have two birds to feed...

As I said, I've learned how to tie profit and my idealistic (though logical) views of the world together pretty well at this point, and will only work with clients who have passion + purpose.  I like to help great people kick ass.  I like to fight for the "underdogs," which is apparent in my community activism.  I like to remind people that everyone's voice counts.

But being self-employed is very feast or famine, and having done it for 8+ years now, sometimes the famine periods get a wee bit stressful.  So when I got a phone call from Wayne Rainey, owner of monOrchid (one of my most favorite buildings in downtown Phoenix) this week, inviting me to set up shop in his building to get away from my home office, I took it as a sign.  It wasn't that hard of a choice really, because the moment he called I was doing a load of laundry and I realized I'd been wearing track shorts that say "Greece" across the ass and a Spam Museum t-shirt for the past two days.  And I hadn't showered either.  An easy "yes" if ever there was one...

After I got off the phone, I looked around and thought about my attitude and momentary pity party.  The "Put your big girls panties on and deal with it" sign in my office (that will move to my new office home next week) jumped out at me.  My attitude immediately shifted.  And just like that, the phone began to ring - and hasn't stopped.  So I went back to being thankful and thinking about all of the things and people I love, as well as the simple things that bring me joy.

The bank account went up slightly.  Not a ton, but enough to keep me from being momentarily stressed out about providing for the Z urchins.  So this afternoon, Zoe and I stopped at Walgreens so I could buy some deodorant.  I can't very well be smelly next week in my new office "home"!  There was a young, pretty girl outside who approached me and was trying to sell jewelry she had made.  She was soft-spoken and polite.  The jewelry was in a large ziplock baggie, and as she pulled each piece out, she told me about the stones she'd used as she gently turned them through her fingers.
"This is coral and real turquoise." 
I looked at her and asked her what she needed.  Why was she selling the jewelry?
"Honestly, I'm just trying to buy diapers and wipes for my baby.  I moved here not that long ago and still haven't been able to find a job."
I asked her what size diapers her baby wore, and bought those two items when I went in the store.  It was about $13.  When I came out and handed them to her she was extremely grateful.  As I was getting Zoe settled into her seat, I heard her say to herself "They're even the expensive brand."  It was the highlight of my week.  It was my moment to try to help shift the attitude of a fellow human.  A fellow mama.

There are always people so much worse off than even our lowest lows, and this was my gentle reminder to give when I am able to give, just because it's the right thing to do.  Just because I would want someone to do the same thing for me.  Sometimes it's important to remember to ask ourselves and others one simple question: "What do you need?"

If we don't experience the lows, we can't experience the highs.

Nobody would ever pay to ride a straight roller coaster...

Love and laughter,

Msss. Champion

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” -Charles R. Swindoll