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Introducing My First Poetry Book, "Horizons"

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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