Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Curse of RBF

The Curse of RBF

            It is said that most of our communication is non-verbal.  What we see when we look at someone—especially for the first time—even before they speak—determines our attitude towards them and our willingness to listen carefully, put up a defense, or dismiss altogether.  First impressions are lasting.

If this is true, I’m in trouble.

            First, I have blue eyes and poor vision.  Blue eyes have less melanin, less color cells, less protection from bright lights.  And although I go to the optometrist regularly and wear my bifocals faithfully, I squint a lot.  Squinting doesn’t lend to a pretty face.  I’ve squinted since I was a child—there are photos to prove it.  In one, I am a blond-haired, blue-eyed four year old hugging a cat and looking at the camera.  On my face is that classic distorting squint that encompasses all of my face muscles.  I even earned the nickname “Squint” in high school.  Granted, it was after I was in a roll-over car accident and got a concussion and black swollen eye, but still. 
            Second, when I’m concentrating, I unintentionally chew on the inside of my cheek.  It must be genetic, because my great-grandmother did the same thing.  My mom would see me concentrating with my jaw churning, and she’d say, “Gotta hold your mouth right, huh?”  I don’t do this consciously.  I’ve noticed I grimace at even the smallest of uncomfortable issues—like lifting heavy things off the floor (okay, heavy for me is 5 pounds!), putting my socks on when my body is sore, combing out tangles in hair….you get it. 

But most of all, the thing that affects me the most:

I have a resting bitch face (E calls it RBF). 

            When I am not visibly emoting, my face rests in such a way that I look pissed off and mean.  I’m not grumpy, I’m just not smiling all the time.  This is something E AND my boss have not caught onto yet.  Since I am quite expressive and downright manic at times, people evidently get used to my bounciness.  But I can’t be wide-eyed, eyebrow-raised, grinning all the time.  Sometimes I just want to relax.  Or I’m thinking, but not angry.  I don’t intend to look irked—my face just rests naturally that way. 
            When E says, “What’s the matter?” and insists I’m mad, dismissive, or annoyed—THAT is what pisses me off.  Don’t get me wrong—I have my angry, pouty, bitchy moments.  Quite a few of them, actually.  And when I’m truly pouting or sad, I do like someone to acknowledge it and try to remedy my sour mood.  But I do believe, as a naturally erratic personality, it won’t be much of a guessing game when I’m actually, truly in a bad mood. 
            In my professional world, I’m very serious and almost stoic.  I’ve tried being light-hearted or more relaxed, but it just doesn’t always happen.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a female in a male-dominated profession, and many people are still biased enough that I need to work hard to be taken as seriously as my male counterparts.  Perhaps it’s because I concentrate with determination.  Perhaps it’s because I am temperamental, and afraid that, if left naturally to my own devices, I’ll do or say something extreme that will leave a scar so big it shows years later.  That’s happened before, especially during my manic phases—I become so obsessed with something and I react in the extreme to even the smallest things that it just isn’t funny.  It’s exasperating!
            E says I feel things more strongly than others.  Some doctors say many of those diagnosed with manic depression (that’s me!) have obsessive tendencies.  Whatever it is, I have to keep myself in catch more so than the average person, and it must show on my face.  And I’ve become so good at it and done it for so long, that, even though I don’t go to extremes anymore (hopefully mellowing out in my old age….), I still suppress the emotions that go with my ups and downs. 

            So the next time you see me—or anyone else that has a bitch face on—and think we’re having a bad day or someone’s got the best of us or we aren’t happy with our lot—remember to ask first.  Those first impressions aren’t always correct.  Never assume.

Julie Soaring Eagle Paschold
October 12, 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017


            I was in church the other day, and our pastor referred to Jesus as our “rock”…it reminded me of the hymn that says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand”.  In our Lutheran magazine for August 2017, the reflection talks about Jesus being the “living stone”—and God being the rock from which we were “hewn”—as Isaiah in the bible tells us to look for (51:1). 

           You can rely on a rock to steady you.  It won’t budge.  It’s strong.  It’s dependable.  It’s sturdy.  You can lean on a rock, rest on it, build with it. It won’t move.  Rocks are what we make foundations with—our cornerstones of our life are the people and things that secure us, steady us, keep us finding home again and again.
            We study rocks and where they came from.  What they’re made of tells a story of time so long ago we weren’t even a dream.  Our soil, our homes, our lives are built and steadied on rock.  What do we call the rock that a soil came from and sits on?  Parent material.  Bedrock.  A bed holds us.  Cradles us.  We feel comfortable, safe in a bed—we feel safe knowing our parents are behind us all the way.  Parents are what we begin our lives on—what we grow our lives relying on to sturdy us.  We want rocks. 

            But sometimes rocks are heavy.  Extra weight.  They sink in water.  They drown us if we cling to them.  Rocks can crumble—can be worn down for such a long time they turn into the sand (little rocks!!) that we sink in.  When we are trying to “keep our heads above water”, the last thing we grab onto is a rock—it doesn’t float!!!  When it’s time to move on, a rock doesn’t come along.  When Peter tried to walk on water with Jesus, he “sank like a rock”!  When we have problems, we don’t always have elephants in the room—sometimes we have rocks in our backpack.  What do we do when we want to lighten our load?  To stand taller?  To worry less?  We drop a rock from our “baggage”.  We let go of a heavy weight that we don’t need—and what are you doing with a bunch of rocks in a backpack anyways?!?!?  Let them go!
            A bunch of rocks can be a landslide, can roll over us, can bury us.  No one wants to stand in front of a rolling rock, not to mention a whole mountain-side of them! 

            So what function does a rock really have in our life?  Is it an anchor or a dead weight?  Is it a foundation or something we need to let go of?  Something to steady us or weigh us down? 
            I suppose it depends on the function our “rock” is playing in our life.  Are we trying to build up or swim away?  Is our rock a “good” aspect or a “bad” influence?  How do we assess this?  Can a “good” rock turn into a “bad” rock, or vice versa?  When we think of our rock, does it give us anxiety or relief?  Hope or resignation? 

            I am in the process of evaluating the rocks in my life—letting go of the ones in my backpack, and building with the ones that steady me. 

Julie Soaring Eagle Paschold
September 30, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017


It is an evening in late June, and I am restless.  E is lazing on the couch, enjoying his immobility and the cacophony on the television; he is soon to be snoring.  I am too agitated to read, and the weather just happens to be beautiful.  So I drive to the local park, where the Cowboy Trail begins, a recreational route that reaches over 300 miles westward to the Nebraska panhandle.  Of course, I mean only to walk a couple of miles; perhaps one mile out and then back again.  I lock everything in the trunk of my car, including my mobile phone, and stuff my car key in the only place a woman can when she has no pocket.
            There aren’t many people on the trail, but most of them are friendly, and smile or say “hi” as we pass each other.  In this small city, people are usually in such a hurry they barely notice others are even around; in the small town where I moved from, we wave at each vehicle and person who crosses our paths.  The reactions of people on this trail prompt a nostalgia for my old neighborhood.  I am soon lost in my own thoughts. 
            I begin studying my surroundings.  I am an agronomist.  I have the responsibility of scouting almost 2,000 acres of crop ground spread over 100 miles for critters, pests, diseases, weeds, dry soil; anything out of the ordinary.  I am trained to observe the nuances in plant growth.  I have just established a herbicide-management plan for various soybean fields, and weeds are on my mind.  I begin identifying the plants along the side of the path.  Giant ragweed.  Lamb’s ear.  Curly doc.  Ditch weed.  I realize I have walked past the first mile, past the wooded area, past the meadow, past the wetlands.  My view expands out to the corn and soybean fields now in my midst.  I’ve walked 3 miles already, and I turn to go back. 
            I think it curious that we value a plant when it is where we want it, and endeavor to extinguish it when it grows out of our boundaries.  We call them weeds.  We pull them, spray them, mow them.  We curse their little leaves when they peek through the soil somewhere we just quite frankly don’t want them to be.  A corn plant in a corn field growing aggressively is a good thing, but put that same plant in a soybean field, and we bring out the corn knife.  An amethyst colored, trumpet shaped flower blossoming on a vine that climbs up a garden wall is a welcome ornament for a horticulturist designing landscaping or someone who wishes to appreciate color and languish on an adjacent bench, but name it morning glory to a farmer and watch it curl around the crops, choking and suffocating his livelihood, and we speak of chemicals and tillage—we want to burn it or rip it out.  Kill it.  Remove it.  Stifle growth. 
            Is it not humankind that makes plants this way?  Nature will create her own soil, leaving the plants to grow as they may, their seeds to wander about and happen to land on fertile earth.  Nature plans for diversity; a prairie has many species growing within.  WE create the weeds.  One kind of a plant was not meant to completely dominate a single area of land.  WE decide plants do not belong wherever they grow, and decide to kill them.  Which is fine for plants.  We need to eat, and we eat what they grow.  We need to cultivate the soil, borrow it from Mother Nature for a while, in order to civilize ourselves and settle down.
            Not so with people. 
            Why do we treat people as weeds?  We categorize each other, create borders and boundaries, group each other and stick to those just like us.  We are fields—a monoculture of fellow “plants” that we grow with.  Anyone different, that doesn’t fit in, we “weed” out.  We chastise them, push them away, encourage them to move on and find their own group.  Our hatred and dissention are our herbicides, the chemicals we use on one another. 
            Variety is scary.  Differences are strange.  Learning how we grow and how “our kind” are taken care of is quite enough, thank you.  Leave those who don’t fit in our mold on the side of the road to fend for themselves already.  Just look at the average high school—jocks with jocks, nerds with nerds, the outcast to cluster with each other, the popular cheerleaders clique only with the chosen ones.  You don’t see the grease monkey dating a model, or a poet languishing over a football player.  The thespian doesn’t join the math club, and the chess club president doesn’t engage in wrestling. 
            What if we were to grow as a prairie does; celebrate that Mother Nature is creative and artistic and easily bored with the same thing?  Let’s mix our bunch grasses and daisies and wildflowers, our strawberry stolons and annuals and biennials and perennials.  See where that takes us.  Why do we need such gated boundaries, such permanent lines in the earth?   This is not to say we need to accept the noxious weeds; the ones that parasitize and dominate and feed on others.  But if we expand our understandings beyond our front doors, start tolerating our differences, appreciating our personal nuances, we night just find a more beautiful world.  Take “weed” out of the human dictionary, and we all can be a part of the landscape. 
            I found in my musings that the corn and soybean fields had turned back into the wetlands, the meadow, the wooded area.  The trail’s ecosystems transitioned well into one another, and I am once again at the trail head.  I have come full circle, as it may; or gone out and come back again.  But perhaps I’m not precisely in the same place I was before.  Perhaps the world has changed, if just that little enough to create a new perspective. 

Julie SE Paschold

August 23, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


 "If you saw an elephant, would you take it home?"

I moved out of my huge 5 bedroom house in a small town (only 600 people!!) in which I lived for over 10 years last November (2016). I had a 16 year history with rescuing and owning cats. 

I've been a cat lover since birth. As a child, I would carry cats with me everywhere--even in our kiddie pool! And they kept coming back. To this day, my dad has a meowing cat as my ring tone. They called me the cat whisperer. 

When I got divorced, my kids AND 4 of my cats moved out of the big house. I then rescued 2 more, but these cats basically destroyed my house. My other cats were depressed. One cat was terminally ill. One cat was old and had troubles eating and caring for herself. My chronic illness was rearing its ugly head, and I couldn't keep up with the house, the cats, a full time job I needed to pay my bills, living alone, and living 50 miles away from a good doctor. 

After a near death experience in April 2016, it really started going downhill. In October 2016, I decided to move away from this little town and into a house in a small city 50 miles away, where my doctors AND my boyfriend lived. But to do this, I had to get rid of my cats. The terminally ill one passed away. The elderly one, my original "Pooky", my favorite, is now buried under a flowering tree in the yard of my small town's house. Other cats were sent to a client's farm. One cat, my poor Fizzgig, went to an apartment. For some reason, he still haunts me in my dreams. I tried to find him again, to no avail. 

I am still having trouble with adjusting to all that has happened in my life in the past couple of years. I've lost 3 family members (2 of them the matriarch and patriarch of our family), gotten divorced, my kids moved out of my house, I started dating again, I started working full time for the first time in...well, I don't know how long. My chronic illness caused a near death experience. I moved to another town. Need I go on? 

I'm not asking for sympathy, or a "poor you" reaction. We all go through tough times in our lives, and this is just what has been put on my plate for now. It isn't what happens TO me, it is what I DO when something happens to me. I'm fighting the nightmares and racing thoughts and nausea and headaches and anxiety. I'm in a good place in my life. I have loving people around me. I have a good job. 

But I still haven't fully forgiven myself for letting those cats down. Perhaps it's because domestic animals love unconditionally and are so vulnerable. Perhaps it's because they trusted me and I feel I've abused that trust. Perhaps because I feel like I wasn't a good owner/mama. 

I still have the urge to have a furry someone curl up next to me on my bed and my couch. I was talking to my mom about this feeling, and she asked me, "If you saw an elephant, would you take it home?" Of course not. She asked, "Why not?" Because it is too big, and I can't care for an elephant. She then replied, "Well, next time you want a pet, tell yourself that it is an elephant. Remind yourself that although you have love for animals, you don't have the money or the time or the health to keep one". 

This is true for many things in my life. Not just pets, but social engagements, some friends and relationships, expectations, unrealistic goals. I have to tell them--"You are an elephant. I have to leave you alone. I can't handle you." Things aren't perfect, but they ARE more manageable. If I let my "elephants" go, there is less weight on my back. I can go on.